Monday 27 June 2016

Publication week

A Tiding Of Magpies by Peter Sutton

On Tuesday A Tiding of Magpies will go on sale on Amazon (the eBook is already available) and on Thursday there'll be a launch event in Bristol at 7pm at St John-in-the-wall - there will be readings & music & free booze

Te other book being launched at the same event is Silence Rides Alone by Charles Millstead (Bristol writer Ian Millstead pseudonymously)

Silence Rides Alone by Charles Millsted

Monday 20 June 2016

Rogue -not a book, but great writing nonetheless

OK so I came to Rogue late, the first series aired in 2013 and I've only just watched it. If, like me, you missed this until now it is a Canadian-British TV show set in San Francisco starring Thandie Newton. Newton plays Grace Travis, an undercover cop embedded in Jimmy Lazlo's Mafia-style organised crime organisation. Her son is killed in a drive-by shooting and Grace sets out to uncover the killer, who seems to be linked to Jimmy's crime empire.

The first series has 10 episodes and the first couple are OK, they are entertaining enough and set up the premise well. Then the characters start to come alive and by episode 7 it becomes a must-watch. And yet. The Wikipedia page states - "Rogue has received mixed reviews. Review aggregator site, Metacritic, has given the first season a "mixed or average" score of 47 out of 100, based on 14 critics.[5]On another review aggregator site, Rotten Tomatoes, it holds a 38% rating with an average rating of 4.9 out of 10, based on eight reviews" I don't know about series two as yet, only just started watching that one.

Why is this if I loved this show so much? Many of the reviews by people who also liked it say "give it more than 3 episodes" or "it's a slow burn" so maybe it has a pacing problem. There are accusations of it not being "real" mainly based on Newton's character being too skinny to be a cop (I kid you not). And, the main one I'll address, that it is too dark.

Series one is a tragedy. It is a story about revenge versus justice. Character arcs tend towards downward spirals. It's 'gritty' (several reviews are negative about the swearing and nudity) and it examines a grubby subject. The cinematography is deliberately dark and the tone is not, to be blunt, happy.

But as a character study it is compelling and well written and although the first few episodes may feel a little slow they do an amazing job of setting up the payoff later in the series. I think it's worth watching. But what do I know, a lot of shows I like get cancelled...

Friday 17 June 2016

Review - Neil Williamson's Secret Language

Secret Language by Neil Williamson

I thoroughly enjoyed The Moon King, Williamson's novel published in 2014 and eagerly awaited more from the author. So when I saw that he was bringing out a collection of shorts I jumped at the chance to grab an ARC in return for a review. Sadly my own writing has mean that this review is coming slightly later than planned, but not because I had any problems with the book, just purely time to put my thoughts in order.

Williamson says that he was obsessed with secret languages as a child and some of that has obviously bled into his prose. No more than in The secret language of stamps a very effective and menacing tale about stamp collecting. He also mentions that he's a musician and music plays in the background of many of his stories and takes centre stage for stories such as Arrhythmia which was shortlisted for the BSFA award.

But there is much more to enjoy with these stories than these obvious notes. Williamson has a knack for effective prose and le mot juste and for that alone his stories are a pleasure to read. However it is in the realm of ideas that any true writer of speculative fiction will be judged, and if this collection is anything to go by Williamson passes judgement, with flying colours.

I think my favourite in this collection if I can be so crass to pick a favourite amongst so many quality stories, is Lost Sheep. With a few deft swipes of the writing brush Williamson conjures an entire universe. And you don't see many stories that feature a spaceship full of ruminant nuns!

I enjoyed it so much I'm going to buy it in hard copy. If Williamson is speaking a secret language it is one that resonates, surprises and entertains and one that it would be worth your while learning by picking up a copy.


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