Saturday, August 31, 2013

Quick Review: BATMAN #20-21, Annual #2 (DC Comics)


Writer: Scott Snyder | Artist: Greg Capullo | Inks: Danny Miki | Colors: FCO Plascencia

Witness The New 52 origin of The Dark Knight in BATMAN: ZERO YEAR! Twists and turns are around every corner as Bruce Wayne takes the final steps toward his destiny! And in the backup story, learn more about how different Gotham City was at this dangerous point in time.

The second chapter of “Zero Year” delves into Bruce Wayne’s past with the Red Hood Gang and his run-ins with aspiring District Attorney Harvey Dent! And in the backup story, a secret moment from Bruce’s training abroad is revealed for the first time!


Covers & Best Variants for #21-22

These three issues comprise the beginning of a new, larger Batman story-arc. I thought I’d pick up with my comics reviewing, again, and this seemed like a perfect place to start. This storyline, “Zero Year”, focuses on Bruce Wayne’s evolution into the Batman. “Wait, hasn’t this been done before?” you may ask. Well, yes, it has. But Scott Snyder seems to have decided to go even further back, and take a little more time investigating Bruce’s change and development of the idea of the Batman.

Scott Snyder did a great job with “Death of the Family” (despite that going on just a teensy bit too long), so I was looking forward to seeing how he would approach the origin and evolution period of Batman. So far, on the strength of these two issues, he’s doing a great job, and I look forward to seeing how the story unfolds.

On Meeting Other People’s Expectations… [A Response]

Over on his website, Abhinav (a great fellow who I have got to know as a reviewer and friend these past couple of years) has written another good post about reviewing and being a part of the online book community. I agree with most of the piece. There was, however, one comment he made that I have long had issue with – he is by no means the only person to have articulated it, but he was the latest to use it. It is also something I think needs to be addressed (and, hopefully, purged from reviewers’ and prospective reviewers’ minds…)

The comment in question:

“You often have to meet people’s expectations of what you should and should not be reading, reviewing, discussing, and so on. I’ve gone through this several times, and is something I’ve blogged on about as well. Because we put ourselves on a pedestal, it gives people the license to call us out. I’ve seen plenty of cases, personally and second-hand, where these instances have gotten out of hand. Not a fun thing to deal with.” [Emphasis mine.]

The text in bold I disagree with. Not because bloggers and reviewers don’t think this, but because they really shouldn’t think this, or approach their blog through other people’s expectations.


See, Shakespeare knew what he was about.
[Image shamelessly pinched from Abhinav’s post…]

Friday, August 30, 2013

“The Eyre Affair” by Jasper Fforde (Hodder)

FfordeJ-TN1-EyreAffairThe first Thursday Next novel

There is another 1985, where London’s criminal gangs have moved into the lucrative literary market, and Thursday Next is on the trail of the new crime wave’s Mr. Big.

Acheron Hades has been kidnapping characters from works of fiction and holding them to ransom. Jane Eyre is gone. Missing.

Thursday sets out to find a way into the book to repair the damage. But solving crimes against literature isn’t easy when you also have to find time to halt the Crimean War, persuade the man you love to marry you, and figure out who really wrote Shakespeare’s plays.

Perhaps today just isn’t going to be Thursday’s day. Join her on a truly breathtaking adventure, and find out for yourself. Fiction will never be the same again...

It has certainly taken me a long time to get around to this series. I’ve always hesitated as a result of my general ignorance when it comes to many of the “essential” classics, fearing that many of the jokes in the series will just be over my head. However, as part of the Hodderscape review project, I finally got my hands on a copy of this novel. It’s pretty good, but also suffers from some debut issues.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Two Years (ish) of DC Comics’ New 52


Someone asked me on Twitter if I was still reading comics (they pointed out I hadn’t posted many reviews of them lately). I have been, but because I’ve been reading them in big chunks, interspersed with work reading, as well as both fiction and (future-work-related) non-fiction books, I’ve been letting the comics reviews slide a fair bit. There is another reason, of course: not all of the comics have been single storylines, or complete storylines, which makes reviewing them really tricky. Once you get to around issue #10, anything you write about the story is likely to throw out spoilers. This, I think, is maybe a weakness of reading and reviewing comics on a weekly basis – and is really why I stopped doing that almost a year ago (that and financial considerations). Regardless, my insatiable need to read All The Things With Words means I have been reading a good number of comics via ComiXology’s app on my iPad. With the exception of the frankly phenomenal Hawkeye, I do not buy any issues full-price. I just can’t afford to. So, as and when things go on sale or are discounted (either one or two months after release), I’ve been collecting issues to read in bursts.

That being said, the number of series I’ve been reading has also been steadily culled. I usually give each series a single “volume” – that is, what would appear in a collected, printed trade hardcover or paperback. It’s been a useful way of separating storylines, as well as providing a “book’s worth” to review. (Ahem, if I bothered to review them, that is…)

So which of DC’s New 52 have I kept reading? Which ones will stay? And which will have to go, and why? Below is a brief run-down (by no means exhaustive) of the titles I’ve been reading, collected by theme/larger series…

[I may add to this, over time, as I remember other titles I’ve tried, or just think of something else I’d like to add.]

“Scars” Episodes I-III, by Chris Wraight (Black Library)

Wraight-Scars(HH)A Horus Heresy Serialised Novel

This is a review of the first quarter(-ish) of the 27th Horus Heresy novel, which is being serialised through Black Library’s website. Reading these, one is left with a bit of a conundrum: how do you review the first three-of-twelve parts of a novel? What constitutes a spoiler, for example?

I’ve decided to approach the installments as if they were the first quarter of a novel, which means all the content is fair game for discussion and mention (although, I have addressed each episode individually, which has made this a rather long review).

I wonder if it might have been better to organise some kind of forum, in which fans of the series could discuss the episodes and novel? There’s so much in these three parts, and given the week-long gaps between each new episode, I think it lends itself quite well to forum-style engagement and discussion.

Anyway, back to the review. First up, here is the synopsis for the full novel:

Jaghatai Khan and his White Scars Legion must choose – the Emperor or Horus? Fresh from their conquest of Chondax and the discovery of Horus’s rebellion, Jaghatai Khan’s warriors stand divided. Long considered one of the less trustworthy Legions, many of the White Scars claim to owe their loyalty exclusively to Terra, and others still to the Warmaster and his warrior lodges. But when a distress call from Leman Russ of the Space Wolves brings the wrath of the Alpha Legion to Chondax, the Khan’s hand is forced and the decision must be made – in the great war for the Imperium, will he side with the Emperor or Horus?

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Guest Post: “A Commix of Noir & Sequential Art” by Andrez Bergen

Author Andrez Bergen introduces us to his third novel, Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa?, and talks about his influences and inspirations.


BigSleep-PosterThe first time I saw the 1946 film version of The Big Sleep, I would’ve been about six or seven years of age. My parents were fans – Mum loved Lauren Bacall and my dad aspired to be Humphrey Bogart. With these familial pressures in the mix, at such an impressionable size, of course I was sucked in. Not long later I copped a viewing of the 1941 John Huston vision of The Maltese Falcon, and found myself enamoured with cinematic film-noir years before I even knew what it was.

This affection has been an ongoing affair.

I’ve seen both flicks at least a hundred times apiece, and it translated into the original novels by Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett. That led to poring over still more by these fellows, things like The Long Goodbye, The Thin Man and the Continental Op. I love these yarns, consistently won over – no matter how old I am – by the scathing dialogue, the sarcasm and the oddball characters as much as I am by the “detective mystery” plots involved.

Star-Wars-IV-PosterOn another level there’s always been science fiction, everything from kindergarten days terrified of the Daleks in Doctor Who, through to reruns of classic Star Trek and This Island Earth (1955) in primary school, Blade Runner (1982) in my teens, and Terry Gilliam’s Brazil three years after that. I was smitten with Episode IV when it was just plain Star Wars (1977).

Third cab off the rank is a life-long obsession involving comic books.

I’d say this started when I was learning how to read and my dad subscribed me to British comedy weekly Cor!!, while scouring the pictures gracing Hergé’s Tintin in the local library. Then, again around the age of seven, I was spending summer holidays at my grandparents place in the Melbourne suburb of Richmond. Since my Nan spent so much time cooking and my grandpa was in the living room multitasking with Aussie rules footy on the TV and horseracing on the radio, we were left to our own devices.

In a small shed out the back, covered in old cement sheeting, I uncovered a treasure-trove: silver age Marvel Comics from the 1960s, inside boxes half-eaten by snails and earwigs. These refugees had belonged to my older half-brother Peter, and included Marvel originals of The Fantastic Four, The X-Men and The Avengers – many without covers – along with black-and-white reprints published in British weekly Fantastic.

2000AD-02-FirstDreddAppearanceBy the time I was ten, Melbourne had a mini-renaissance of Marvel reprints via the short-lived Newton Comics imprint, and in 1976-77 I subscribed first to British weekly comic Action (which had sensational, somewhat violent tales like “Hook Jaw” and “Death Race 1999”) and then a title called 2000 AD – the second issue of which introduced Judge Dredd.

And so it goes from there.

This over all mishmash of hardboiled noir, comic books, sci-fi, barely repressed violence, humour and eccentric characters always was going to affect (or should we say infect?) the imagination of an impressionable loner of a kid who wanted nothing more than to grow up to be (a) an astronaut (unlikely since I hated maths), (b) an author, (c) a comic artist, or (d) a film maker.

Funnily enough, despite haphazard attempts to the contrary, I didn't end up being any of these.

After uni I slipped instead into journalism, I started up a record label, and began producing techno and experimental electronic music under a silly alias named Little Nobody (I still use it occasionally). One of the reasons I moved to Tokyo in 2001 was to pursue this muzak and hack journalism. Oh, and the food too.

But the love of writing fiction, of losing myself in other worlds – and an affection for other people’s noir, sci-fi and comic books, regardless of nationality – has continued to hold steady sway.

No surprise, then, that my first published novel Tobacco-Stained Mountain Goat (2011) was an amalgam of detective noir, dystopian sci-fi, and homage to the cinema of both genres and others as well.

Which brings us (more or less) up to speed, and the publication in September of novel number three: Who is Killing the Great Capes of Heropa? It is a beast of a book that I hope brings the influences full circle. It’s my love-letter not just to noir, pulp and sci-fi, but also to American comic books of the golden and silver ages – basically, 1940-70.


We are taken into dystopian, near future Melbourne, Australia – the last city on Earth. But we visit this city only fleetingly; most of our time is spent hooked up to an IV drip and electrodes, with our consciousness in a virtual world called Heropa.

As the name of the book implies, this is a murder-mystery of the Sam Spade kind.

Someone is bumping off the Capes (heroes and villains both) for real. There’re leads and red herrings aplenty, undercut by the relationship between members of superhero team the Equalizers – a group that’s seen far better times, has lost its leader, the members squabble a lot, and they rarely trust one another.

Into this fray steps idealistic Jack, a.k.a. Jacob, a.k.a. Southern Cross, forced to come to grips with his oddball, egocentric teammates while tracking down their killer(s).

Within the context of the story lie nods and winks to the great creators.

Not only Chandler and Hammett or Arthur Conan Doyle and Truman Capote, but bigwigs of sequential art and its spiffy yarns, people at Marvel like Jack Kirby, Stan Lee, Roy Thomas, John Buscema, Jim Steranko, Steve Ditko and Barry Windsor-Smith. Other comic book geniuses such as Will Eisner, Jean-Claude Forest, Joe Kubert, Tarpé Mills, Joe Simon, Katsuhiro Otomo and Hergé. Anime gets a shoo-in, even Walt Disney.

And Little Nobody makes a cameo – as a corpse the same size as Ant-Man.

There’re dozens of other references, but I don’t want to give too much of the game away – in spite of the train-spotter’s refs, or perhaps because of them, the novel is my personal salute to these styles I continue to cherish.

And if it succeeds (on a deceptive sliding scale) of achieving a fraction of the nourishment these genres have imparted to me, then I’ll do a self-satisfied George W. Bush aircraft carrier jig wearing a home-made cape cut from a tablecloth, and sign off with “mission accomplished”.


Friday, August 23, 2013

Upcoming: “The Broken Eye” by Brent Weeks (Orbit)

I have been abysmally slow, keeping up-to-date with Brent Weeks’s Lightbringer series. I read and loved The Black Prism, but for some reason I haven’t managed to get around to The Blinded Knife. Earlier this week, Orbit Books (Brent’s publisher in both the UK and US) unveiled the artwork for the third novel in the series, The Broken Eye. And it’s awesome. Here it is…


The overall design is by the incredible Lauren Panepinto; the Illustration is by Silas Manhood; and the Photography (figure) is by Shirley Green.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t find a synopsis. The author announced in May that the first draft was complete.

Also on CR: Reviews of Way of Shadows, Shadow’s Edge & Beyond the Shadows, and Perfect Shadow

“The Magicians” by Lev Grossman (Arrow/Plume)

Grossman-MagiciansUKAn intriguing first volume in a new series

In a secret world of forbidden knowledge, power comes at a terrible price...

Quentin Coldwater’s life is changed forever by an apparently chance encounter: when he turns up for his entrance interview to Princeton he finds his interviewer dead – but a strange envelope bearing Quentin’s name leads him down a very different path to any he’d ever imagined.

The envelope, and the mysterious manuscript it contains, leads to a secret world of obsession and privilege, a world of freedom and power and, for a while, it’s a world that seems to answer all Quentin’s desires. But the idyll cannot last – and when it’s finally shattered, Quentin is drawn into something darker and far more dangerous than anything he could ever have expected...

I’m rather late getting to this novel. It’s been out for a while, and I actually have multiple copies of it – eBook, UK edition, and also a signed US edition (which I picked up in January 2013 in Boston, when Mr Grossman dropped by the MLA conference). There’s been a lot written about this novel already, but I’ve been studiously avoiding any and all reviews. I really enjoyed reading this. It’s not perfect, but it is both clever and engaging. Obviously the first part of something much larger, I would certainly recommend it.

Upcoming: “Stormcaller” by Chris Wraight (Black Library)

Wraight-SW2-StormCallerThe final Upcoming post related to Black Library for a little while, this is for the second in Chris Wraight’s Space Wolves series: Stormcaller. The sequel to Blood of Asaheim (which I really wish I’d had the chance to read by now), I’m really looking forward to it:

As events on the plague-wracked world of Ras Shakeh spin out of control, the Imperium descends upon the world in force. Njal Stormcaller, Space Wolves Rune Priest, arrives to reinforce the embattled Jarnhamar pack, and finds his battle-brothers at one another’s throats, each pursuing their own agendas. Meanwhile, the forces of the Ecclesiarchy arrive to retake their world and uncover the sinister secret behind the world’s corruption, a secret that threatens the survival of the Imperium itself…

One of the first Games Workshop books I ever bought was Codex: Space Wolves. Njal Stormcaller was a pretty prominent special character for Warhammer 40,000 game at that point. Interestingly (at least for me), the first ever issue of White Dwarf, the monthly gaming magazine that Games Workshop publishes, also featured the Space Wolves, as I think they’d just been re-released or something. It was so long ago, I can barely remember the details, expect for the battle report and the fact that Ragnar Blackmane was released that month. Perhaps. This would have been back in 1994/5, I think? [Damn, I’m getting old…] I kind of miss getting the magazine – I always liked looking at the new miniatures and reading the short bits of fiction and background when they were included. (This was before Black Library started, so there wasn’t much Warhammer fiction available at all.)

Stormcaller is due to be published by Black Library in March 2014.

Wraight-BloodOfAsaheimAnd, in case you weren’t aware of it, here’s the synopsis for Blood of Asaheim

The feral warrior-kings of Fenris, the Space Wolves are the sons of Leman Russ. Savage heroes, few can match their ferocity in battle. After half a century apart, Space Wolves Ingvar and Gunnlaugr are reunited. Sent to defend an important shrine world against the plague-ridden Death Guard, the Grey Hunters clash with the pious Sisters of Battle, who see the Space Wolves as little better than the enemy they fight. As enemies close in around them and treachery is revealed, Gunnlaugr and his warriors must hold the defenders together – even as hidden tensions threaten to tear their pack apart.

Blood of Asaheim is out now in Hardcover and eBook.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Upcoming: “Master of Dragons” by Chris Wraight & “The Great Betrayal” by Nick Kyme (Black Library)

Wraight-MasterOfDragonsIt seems like Chris Wraight is having a very good, busy year. Alongside his Space Wolves and Horus Heresy work, he has a couple of Warhammer fantasy novels coming out, too. Today, I want to highlight Master of Dragons, part of the Time of Legends series, which is due to be published by Black Library in November 2013. Here’s the synopsis…

The epic war between dwarfs and elves continues.

For millennia, the elves of Ulthuan and the dwarfs of the mountain realm have been friends and allies. Now that time is over and the War of Vengeance has begun. Prince Imladrik, master of dragons and Ulthuan’s finest warrior, is ordered to leave his beloved homeland and lead his host in a war he does not believe in. Facing the fury of the dwarfs, the jealousy of his brother and the ever-present threat of Malekith’s dark elves, Imladrik must balance his love for his wife and home with the thrill of battle.

I’ve read a fair bit of Wraight’s work, now, and I’m really looking forward to this novel. After all: dragons! I really must catch up with his Space Wolf novels, too (Blood of Asaheim and the upcoming Stormcaller – both of which I’ll post about tomorrow)… If you want a taste of his work with the High Elves, be sure to check out his novella, Dragonmage.

Kyme-WoV1-GreatBetrayal2I think the novel is a sequel (of sorts) to Nick Kyme’s The Great Betrayal, which is also getting a re-issue in the same month. Here’s the synopsis for that novel…

The war between dwarfs and elves that shaped the Warhammer world begins.

Thousands of years before the rise of men, the dwarfs and elves are stalwart allies and enjoy an era of unrivalled peace and prosperity. But when dwarf trading caravans are attacked and their merchants slain, the elves are accused of betrayal. Quick to condemn the people of Ulthuan as traitors, the mountain lords nevertheless try to prevent conflict, but the elves’ arrogance undoes any chance of reconciliation and war is inevitable. At the city of Tor Alessi a vast army stands against the dwarfs. Here Snorri Halfhand, son of the High King of the dwarfs, will meet his destiny against the elven King Caledor as the first blow is struck in a conflict that could bring about the fall of two great civilisations.

Artwork: Guardians of the Galaxy #5, Variant Cover (Marvel)


Really liked this Vintage-style variant cover for Guardians of the Galaxy #5 (new ongoing series).

Written by: Brian Michael Bendis

Cover by: Paolo Rivera

Published: July 31st 2013

Synopsis: Spinning out of the dramatic conclusion of Age of Ultron, dimensions collide and Heaven’s most fearsome Angel pushes the Guardians back on their heels.

Upcoming: “Neferata” & “Master of Death” by Josh Reynolds (Black Library)

A couple more Warhammer Undead novels in the pipeline from Josh Reynolds: Neferata and Master of Death.

ReynoldsJ-Neferata2014Ok, so Neferata is actually already available (in paperback and eBook), but Black Library seem to be re-releasing their Warhammer Legends series with new (and, frankly, better) covers. Here’s the synopsis for Neferata:

The vampire queen Neferata plots to create a new empire.

Neferata is a queen without a kingdom. Lahmia has fallen, her vampire children have scattered and she is reduced to draining blood from the beasts of the mountains. After a chance encounter with a party of dwarfs, she sets her sights on a capital for her new empire – the stronghold of Silver Pinnacle. She calls her allies to battle – but can she truly trust Ushoran, Lord of Masks, and his bestial Strigoi vampires?

Neferata is due to be (re-)published in January 2014.

ReynoldsJ-MasterOfDeathNext up is Master of Death, the follow-up novel (which has not been available before)…

An ancient follower of the Great Necromancer seeks power over death itself.

W’soran, one of the first vampires and former pupil of the Great Necromancer Nagash, plots to unravel the secrets of life and death. But his hunt for power is interrupted by a civil war in Mourkain, the mountain nation ruled by his former ally, Ushoran. Now W’soran must battle old friends and new enemies as he weaves a complex web of treachery and deceit in order to anoint himself the Master of Death…

Master of Death is also due to be published in January 2014.

I haven’t had a chance to read Neferata, yet, but after reading Master of Mourkain, a short story by Reynolds, my appetite was certainly whet for more of his Undead fiction.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Upcoming: “Breach Zone” by Myke Cole (Headline)

ColeM-SO3-BreachZoneUKFantasy Faction had the exclusive reveal, but it’s no secret that I’m a big fan of Myke Cole’s novels – and so, naturally, I decided to share the quite awesome new UK cover for Breach Zone here. The cover was done by Larry Rostant, and prominently features Scylla…

The Great Reawakening did not come quietly. Across the country and in every nation, people began “coming up Latent,” developing terrifying powers—summoning storms, raising the dead, and setting everything they touch ablaze. Those who Manifest must choose: become a sheepdog who protects the flock or a wolf who devours it…

In the wake of a bloody battle at Forward Operating Base Frontier and a scandalous presidential impeachment, Lieutenant Colonel Jan Thorsson, call sign “Harlequin,” becomes a national hero and a pariah to the military that is the only family he’s ever known.

In the fight for Latent equality, Oscar Britton is positioned to lead a rebellion in exile, but a powerful rival beats him to the punch: Scylla, a walking weapon who will stop at nothing to end the human-sanctioned apartheid against her kind.

When Scylla’s inhuman forces invade New York City, the Supernatural Operations Corps are the only soldiers equipped to prevent a massacre. In order to redeem himself with the military, Harlequin will be forced to face off with this havoc-wreaking woman from his past, warped by her power into something evil…

I really like this cover – the composition, the colours, the prominence of Scylla… Even the flame-y stuff (although, I presume that’s meant to be some form of manifestation of her entropy-power?). That being said, while I like this cover overall way more than the US art, I’m not sure anything can truly beat the raised-eyebrow on the latter


“I do not think so…”

Breach Zone will be published in the UK February 2014 (which is so far away!), and in the US January 2014 (by Ace Books).

Also on CR: Reviews of Control Point & Fortress Frontier, Interview with Myke Cole, Guest Post (“Influences & Inspirations”)

An Interview with DAVID TOWSEY


David Towsey’s debut novel, Your Brother’s Blood caught my attention a few months ago, and ever since I have been eagerly awaiting my chance to read it. Thankfully, I recently got my mitts on a copy, so I hope to start it sometime next week. In the meantime, his publisher has set up this interview, in which I quiz David on his writing, how he got into genre fiction, and more. If you wanted to check out the novel for yourself, be sure to read this excerpt.

Let’s start with an introduction: Who is David Towsey?

I’m twenty-eight. I’m finishing a PhD in Creative Writing at Aberystwyth University – where I’ll start lecturing full-time in September. I guess you could say I’m a geek or nerd – if such labels are helpful. I play computer games, specifically MMOs, which I’ve been a regular player of since I was fourteen and first got hold of Ultima Online. I also enjoy playing Magic: the Gathering at a fairly competitive level. But between all that gaming and writing I try and keep active by playing squash and swimming at least twice a week.

Your latest novel, Your Brother’s Blood, was recently published by Jo Fletcher Books. How would you introduce the novel to a potential reader? Is it intended as part of a series?

When people ask me about the book I tend to see if they’ve read or seen The Road. If they have, I say it’s a lot like that. Except Your Brother’s Blood follows a father and daughter. And the the father is a “zombie”. If they haven’t, it becomes more difficult. It’s a novel that sits somewhere between a road-movie and a zombie-western. For me, it focuses on family relationships that come under strain – sometimes through normal situations and sometimes because of more extreme circumstances. Your Brother’s Blood is the first part of a trilogy that follows a central family, the McDermotts.


What inspired you to write the novel? And where do you draw your inspiration from in general?

It’s always a bit difficult to pinpoint where a novel starts for me. That said, a few years ago my girlfriend joined a group in our town called “Transition Town”. It’s an organisation that, as I understand it, wants to prepare communities for a major change in our lifestyles, such as oil running out. This got me thinking about how the modern era might end, not in a fiery apocalypse like many novels suggest, but a slow winding down. Not sure why that had to involve the undead, but still.

More generally, and this is a totally corny answer, but my girlfriend is a constant source of inspiration. We’ve been together for ten years. She’s a novelist and poet. We read each other’s work and bounce ideas off each other. When I think writing is awful and I hate it and it’s too hard, she’s there to help. Bleurgh, right?

How did you set your novel apart from other zombie apocalypse novels available? And, why zombies?

Firstly, I never set out to write a zombie novel. Once I figured the western element I just wondered what it would be like to live forever. That makes for slightly less exciting characters – no tension if no one can die. So I decided on the Walkin’ – a kind of suspended animation where a character is in exactly the state they died in but are able to think and talk, and finally die. This is what makes Your Brother’s Blood different. The reader really gets inside the head of the Walkin’ characters to see what they want, what they’re scared of, and how they form and maintain relationships. This lets me play with different themes and ideas in a way that a traditional zombie narrative might find difficult.

One thing I’ve noticed about zombie texts such as The Walking Dead is that the zombies are arguably plot devices that increase tension. Need characters to move to a different setting? Zombie horde. Need a punchy way to end an argument? Zombie attack. Need a powerful emotional moment? A character has to kill a now-zombie-relative. I’m not knocking it, it’s gripping stuff. I just wanted to do something different. I wanted to bring the zombies into the emotional content. To do that without generating humour (like Warm Bodies), I felt I had to change the rules of the zombie.

How were you introduced to genre fiction?

Tolkien-HobbitMy introduction to genre isn’t a very original story. I was on a family holiday where I was the only child and extremely bored by lots of driving and visits to cathedrals, etc. My mum gave me The Hobbit and I devoured it. I was annoyed whenever my family forced me to go on walks or eat meals that meant I had to stop reading.

How do you enjoy being a writer? Do you have any specific working, writing, researching practices?

Being a writer is okay. I find it difficult to agree with people who say it’s the most amazing thing ever, or a painful and traumatic experience. I get to decide when I wake up. I can wear whatever I like “to work”. I try and keep myself fairly disciplined to a 9-5 working day, but I’m flexible. I don’t beat myself up if I miss a morning due to a dentist appointment.

As for practices, I always write to music. I blogged about why recently on my website. I find cups of tea too distracting – I have to do one or the other, or one suffers. I have a seventeen button mouse, but that doesn’t really help me write. Research in a creative sense is mostly reading a lot. Reading is key – plenty of better writers than me have said that.

When did you realize you wanted to be an author, and what was your first foray into writing? Do you still look back on it fondly?

Dave Towsey
Jan 15 2013

photo ©keith morris
07710 285968I first thought about seriously trying to become an author at the end of my undergraduate degree. My friends were all talking about what they wanted to do, jobs they were applying for, etc. I was kind of at a loss. I’d enjoyed the writing part of my degree and wanted to avoid a real job at any cost. I worked some dead-end jobs, like everyone does, and then went back into academia to do a Masters degree. Being an author was always the goal, but I didn’t really believe it would happen. These days there’s no shortage of people telling you have difficult it is to become a published author. And then you have more people telling you how difficult it is to live off your writing. They’re right. I kept going back to university, hoping that the combination of more qualifications and more time to learn about writing might help. It did, a little. But like every published author I needed my share of luck.

The start of my undergraduate degree was my first foray into writing. I didn’t write as a kid – which makes my “story” less Disney-appropriate. I started out writing horrendous fantasy short stories. Thankfully, a lecturer pointed out that many fantasy texts were a thousand pages, not a thousand words. With this revelation in mind I tried realism, got bored, and ended up in SF. SF seemed more appropriate for the short form. I still have many of the stories I wrote during these years, some of which I managed to place in small magazines. I do think of them fondly – they were an important part of getting where I am now.

What’s your opinion of the genre today, and where do you see your work fitting into it?

I think SF/F is in a great place at the moment. The high profile successes of recent times have made more publishers keen to expand their lists into genre. It’s easy to be cynical about moves like that, and it is probably healthy to maintain some level of cynicism, but it’s hard to argue that the genre is suffering due to more interested publishers. Your Brother’s Blood was taken on by a relatively recent imprint, Jo Fletcher Books, and I was fortunate enough to find such enthusiastic and professional people to handle my début. New imprints such as JFB have a real drive to find new and diverse voices – which to me sounds like a basis for a healthy genre.

I like to think my work fits into a tradition of considered experimentation within SF/F. The genre and its readers seem to be more tolerant of less successful experiments than work that plays it safe and sticks to a formula. With Your Brother's Blood, I’ve tried to blend two distinct genres in the Western and the Zombie novel, and I’ve tried to do it with care and respect. A lot of “mash-ups” lean towards the comical – generating humour from unusual juxtapositions and playing with expectations. I wanted to avoid that comedy; not because there’s anything wrong with that kind of work, but I relished the challenge of tackling ideas in a way that might surprise a reader. It seemed to me that SF/F was the perfect genre for this kind of work.

What other projects are you working on, and what do you have currently in the pipeline?

I’m currently working on the third book of the Walkin’ Trilogy. The second is in the editing stage, which is really when the hard work begins. I’m also organising my PhD novel for publishers, which is a bit different from the Walkin’ books. There’s certainly plenty to keep me busy.

What are you reading at the moment (fiction, non-fiction)?

My reading time is all tied up by my PhD at the moment. Fiction-wise I’m reading books by the authors who will be my external examiners. I just finished George Green’s Hawk, and I’m about to start Gerard Woodward’s Nourishment. I’ve also recently finished Before the Legend: The Rise of Bob Marley by Christopher John Farley – also PhD related. There’s been a lot more reggae played in our house of late...


What’s something readers might be surprised to learn about you?

I’m pretty much addicted to ice-cream. It’s a bad day when I don’t have any. But it’s been a good year with Ben & Jerry’s introducing new flavours to the UK market. I’ve been to the States and the pictures of me in front of a freezer stocked floor-to-ceiling with different flavours are... surprising.

What are you most looking forward to in the next twelve months?

It’s a close call between my girlfriend and I buying our first house and season four of Game of Thrones. I’m pretty sure she’s looking forward to GoT more…


Your Brother’s Blood is published by Jo Fletcher Books on August 29th 2013. For more updates, news and whatnot, be sure to follow David on Twitter.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Tumbleweeds… Normal Service Will Resume Shortly…

Just a very quick post to say normal posting will start again hopefully soon! Just been very busy this week, and transitioning back to inconsistent internet service. Sigh. One day. One day, I will live somewhere with uninterrupted internet connection again…

Instead, here are a couple of silly pictures…


And Skeletor waxing philosophical…


Sunday, August 18, 2013

Books Received (Three Weeks’ Worth! ’Twas Like Early Christmas…)

I was away for a couple of weeks, and when I returned home, I had a veritable jackpot in books waiting for me:


In the spirit of full-disclosure (and just in case it takes a while for me to get around to reading and reviewing them), here’s what turned up, and a few preliminary, pre-reading thoughts…


ArmstrongK-OmensUKKelley Armstrong, Omens (Sphere)

Twenty-four-year-old Olivia Taylor Jones has the perfect life. The only daughter of a wealthy, prominent Chicago family, she has an Ivy League education, pursues volunteerism and philanthropy, and is engaged to a handsome young tech firm CEO with political ambitions.

But Olivia’s world is shattered when she learns that she’s adopted. Her real parents? Todd and Pamela Larsen, notorious serial killers serving a life sentence. When the news brings a maelstrom of unwanted publicity to her adopted family and fiancé, Olivia decides to find out the truth about the Larsens.

Olivia ends up in the small town of Cainsville, Illinois, an old and cloistered community that takes a particular interest in both Olivia and her efforts to uncover her birth parents’ past.

Aided by her mother’s former lawyer, Gabriel Walsh, Olivia focuses on the Larsens’ last crime, the one her birth mother swears will prove their innocence. But as she and Gabriel start investigating the case, Olivia finds herself drawing on abilities that have remained hidden since her childhood, gifts that make her both a valuable addition to Cainsville and deeply vulnerable to unknown enemies. Because there are darker secrets behind her new home and powers lurking in the shadows that have their own plans for her.

I’ve only read a couple of Armstrong’s novels – and, strangely, not the ones I always wanted to… I discovered her Women of the Otherworld series around the time I started receiving ARCs from publishers, which meant I could never really justify buying them for myself. Then the later books in the series started turning up, and my sister pinched them (she did buy the first ones, you see). I did, however, read Armstrong’s two non-supernatural thrillers, ?? and ??, which I enjoyed a great deal. This novel is the start of a new series, so I’m hoping to read it very soon (and prevent my sister from liberating it first…).


CooperB-RS2-DiamondDeepBrenda Cooper, The Diamond Deep (Pyr)

What if a woman as strong and as complex as Eva Perón began her life as a robot repair assistant threatened by a powerful peacekeeping force that wants to take all she has from her?

The discovery ship, Creative Fire, is on its way home from a multi-generational journey. But home is nothing like the crew expected. They have been gone for generations, and the system they return to is home to technologies and riches beyond their wildest dreams. But they are immediately oppressed and relegated to the lowest status imaginable, barely able to interact with the technologies and people of the star station where they dock, the Diamond Deep.

Ruby Martin and her partner, Joel North, must find a way to learn what they need to know and to become more than they have ever been if they are to find a way to save their people.

I have sadly been unable to keep on top of all my reading from Pyr Books. I feel pretty bad about this, given how willing they are to send me review copies (not to mention how much I like their authors…). The previous book in this series, This Creative Fire, is one such missed book. I’ll do my best to catch up ASAP.

Also on CR: Interview with Brenda Cooper


SW-Crucible(Denning)Troy Denning, Crucible (Century)

Han Solo, Leia Organa Solo, and Luke Skywalker return in an all-new Star Wars adventure, which will challenge them in ways they never expected—and forever alter their understanding of life and the Force.

When Han and Leia Solo arrive at Lando Calrissian’s Outer Rim mining operation to help him thwart a hostile takeover, their aim is just to even up the odds and lay down the law. Then monstrous aliens arrive with a message, and mere threats escalate into violent sabotage with mass fatalities. When the dust settles, what began as corporate warfare becomes a battle with much higher stakes—and far deadlier consequences.

Now Han, Leia, and Luke team up once again in a quest to defeat a dangerous adversary bent on galaxy-wide domination. Only this time, the Empire is not the enemy. It is a pair of ruthless geniuses with a lethal ally and a lifelong vendetta against Han Solo. They will stop at nothing to control the lucrative Outer Rim mining trade—and ultimately the entire galactic economy. And when the murderous duo gets the drop on Han, he finds himself outgunned in the fight of his life. To save him, and the galaxy, Luke and Leia must brave a gauntlet of treachery, terrorism, and the untold power of an enigmatic artifact capable of bending space, time, and even the Force itself into an apocalyptic nightmare.

I’m rather behind on my Star Wars reading. I have to finish Fate of the Jedi, and then read Mercy Kill before I can get to this. Hopefully soon-ish. Interestingly, I was also able to find an early draft version of the cover. I think it’s rather good, so I decided to share it again here…


I may actually like this one better…


Hodder-SecretOfAbduElYezdiUKMark Hodder, The Secret of Abdu el-Yezdi (Del Rey UK)

Burton & Swinburne return in a new series!

The Beast is coming. History will be remade.

Since the assassination of Queen Victoria in 1840, a cabal of prominent men-including King George V, HRH Prince Albert, Benjamin Disraeli, and Isambard Kingdom Brunel-has received guidance from the Afterlife. The spirit of a dead mystic, Abdu El Yezdi, has helped them to steer the empire into a period of unprecedented peace and creativity. But on the eve of a groundbreaking alliance with the newly formed Greater German Confederation, scientists, surgeons, and engineers are being abducted-including Brunel!

The government, in search of answers, turns to the Afterlife, only to find that Abdu El Yezdi is now refusing to speak with the living. Enter the newly-knighted Sir Richard Francis Burton, fresh from his discovery of the source of the Nile. Appointed the king's agent, he must trace the missing luminaries and solve the mystery of Abdu El Yezdi's silence. But the Beast has been summoned.

How can the famous explorer fulfill his mission when his friends and loved ones are being picked off, one by one, by what appears to be a supernatural entity-by, perhaps, Abdu El Yezdi himself?

I’ve never read any of Hodder’s series… I’m not entirely sure why. Maybe this will be the first? Anyone know if that’s not a good idea? Should I start from the very beginning, or can I just dive straight in?


Karpyshyn-ChildrenOfFireUKDrew Karpyshyn, Children of Fire (Del Rey UK)

Long ago the gods chose a great hero to act as their agent in the mortal world and to stand against the demonic spawn of Chaos. The gods gifted their champion, Daemron, with three magical Talismans: a sword, a ring, and a crown. But the awesome power at his command corrupted Daemron, turning him from savior to destroyer. Filled with pride, he dared to challenge the gods themselves. Siding with the Chaos spawn, Daemron waged a titanic battle against the Immortals. In the end, Daemron was defeated, the Talismans were lost, and Chaos was sealed off behind the Legacy—a magical barrier the gods sacrificed themselves to create.

Now the Legacy is fading. On the other side, the banished Daemron stirs. And across the scattered corners of the land, four children are born of suffering and strife, each touched by one aspect of Daemron himself—wizard, warrior, prophet, king.

Bound by a connection deeper than blood, the Children of Fire will either restore the Legacy or bring it crashing down, freeing Daemron to wreak his vengeance upon the mortal world.

I’ve mentioned this on the blog before. I’m certainly interested in seeing what Karpyshyn has come up with. I enjoyed his Star Wars novels (at least, the Darth Bane books, which are the only ones of his that I’ve read). Hopefully get to this pretty soon.


Polansky-SheWhoWaitsDaniel Polansky, She Who Waits (Hodder)

Low Town: the worst ghetto in the worst city in the Thirteen Lands.

Good only for depravity and death. And Warden, long ago a respected agent in the formidable Black House, is now the most depraved Low Town denizen of them all.

As a younger man, Warden carried out more than his fair share of terrible deeds, and never as many as when he worked for the Black House. But Warden’s growing older, and the vultures are circling. Low Town is changing, faster than even he can control, and Warden knows that if he doesn't get out soon, he may never get out at all.

But Warden must finally reckon with his terrible past if he can ever hope to escape it. A hospital full of lunatics, a conspiracy against the corrupt new king and a ghetto full of thieves and murderers stand between him and his slim hope for the future. And behind them all waits the one person whose betrayal Warden never expected. The one person who left him, broken and bitter, to become the man he is today.

The one woman he ever loved.

She who waits behind all things.

Possibly my most-anticipated novel of the year. Ever since I read Straight Razor Cure/Low Town, and Tomorrow the Killing shortly thereafter, I have been impatient for this novel. Expect it to be read and reviewed very soon. If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly recommend that you do. It’s superb.

Also on CR: Interview with Daniel Polansky


RansomC-OrphanUKChristopher Ransom, The Orphan (Sphere)

The truth is more terrifying than you can imagine. Darren and Beth Lynwood always dreamed of having a son, but when young amnesiac runaway Adam enters their lives, he brings with him a creeping darkness that threatens to engulf their family and everyone around them. When Adam's memories claw their way to the surface, Darren finds himself haunted by thoughts of his own childhood – and of a boy very much like Adam who was done an unspeakable wrong. As buried secrets are unearthed, the Lynwood’s happy home becomes the hunting ground for a relentless evil and an obsession that will not die. There’s no point locking the door. There’s no use shutting out the night. Because the orphan is already inside. Dare you read to the end of The Orphan? Discover the chilling new novel from the author of The Birthing House and The People Next Door.

I’ve never read anything by Christopher Ransom. Sounds pretty cool, though…


crowntower-2-5Michael J Sullivan, The Crown Tower (Orbit)


A warrior with nothing to fight for is paired with a thieving assassin with nothing to lose. Together they must steal a treasure that no one can reach. The Crown Tower is the impregnable remains of the grandest fortress ever built and home to the realm’s most valuable possessions. But it isn’t gold or jewels the old wizard is after, and this prize can only be obtained by the combined talents of two remarkable men. Now if Arcadias can just keep Hadrian and Royce from killing each other, they just might succeed.

Loved the Riyria Revelations, Sullivan’s original six-part series set in this world. The Crown Tower (and The Rose and Thorn) takes place prior to that series, and introduces us to Hadrian and Royce as they meet for the first time.

Also on CR: Interview with Michael J. Sullivan, Guest Posts – Gritty vs. Heroic Fantasy and History & Riyria


Tchaikovsky-9-WarMastersGateAdrian Tchaikovsky, War Master’s Gate (Tor)

Relentlessly advancing towards Collegium, the Empire is again seeking to break down its walls. The mighty imperial armies have learnt from their failures, and Empress Seda will brook no weakness in her soldiers. However, Stenwold Maker has earned his title, and the War Master has strategies to save his city. His aviators rule the skies – but the Wasp Kinden Empire has developed a terrifying new aerial weapon.

Yet the campaign may be decided far from marching armies and the noise of battle. In an ancient forest, where Mantis clans pursue their own civil war, the Empress Seda is seeking lost magic. Some dangerous shadow of old night is locked up among these trees and she is wants its power. Cheerwell Maker must stop her, at any cost, but will their rivalry awaken something far deadlier? Something that could make even their clash of nations pale into insignificance...

A series I have shamefully left un-caught-up… I plan to do a mega catch-up at some point in the near future. Perhaps one a month or something (I overdose easily). Hopefully in time so I am ready for the final book, when it’s published. Really enjoyed the first book in the series, Empire in Black & Gold.

Also on CR: Interview with Adrian Tchaikovsky, Guest Post


Lavie Tidhar, The Violent Century (Hodder)

They’d never meant to be heroes.

For seventy years they’d guarded the British Empire. Oblivion and Fogg, inseparable at first, bound together by a shared fate. Until a night in Berlin, in the aftermath of the Second World War, and a secret that tore them apart.

But there must always be an account... and the past has a habit of catching up to the present.

Recalled to the Retirement Bureau from which no one can retire, Fogg and Oblivion must face up to a past of terrible war and unacknowledged heroism, a life of dusty corridors and secret rooms; of furtive meetings and blood-stained fields, to answer one last, impossible question:

What makes a hero?

It’s Lavie, dealing with Super-Heroes and 20th Century history. Of course I’m interested in reading this. I’ll be reading it very soon. I’ve also seen a mock-up of the cover art, which I think is really cool. Can’t wait to see the final version.

[Disclaimer: I work for Lavie’s agent. Which means this is also ‘work’ reading. It’s a hard life…]


TowseyD-YourBrothersBloodDavid Towsey, Your Brother’s Blood (Jo Fletcher)

Thomas is thirty-two. He comes from the small town of Barkley. He has a wife there, Sarah, and a child, Mary; good solid names from the Good Book. And he is on his way home from the war, where he has been serving as a conscripted soldier.

Thomas is also dead – he is one of the Walkin’.

And Barkley does not suffer the wicked to live.

I’ve mentioned Your Brother’s Blood on the blog before (as well as hosted an excerpt), and it’s one of my most-anticipated of 2013. Hope to get to this ASAP. The novel is due to be published in the UK on September 26th 2013.


Helene Wecker, The Golem and the Djinni (HarperCollins)


If you were bewitched by The Night Circus…

If you were mesmerised by A Discovery of Witches…

If you were enthralled by Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell…

You will be enchanted by


Chava is a golem, a creature made of clay, brought to life by a disgraced rabbi who dabbles in dark Kabbalistic magic. When her master, the husband who commissioned her, dies at sea on the voyage from Poland, she is unmoored and adrift as the ship arrives in New York in 1899.

Ahmad is a djinni, a being of fire, born in the ancient Syrian desert. Trapped in an old copper flask by a Bedouin wizard centuries ago, he is released accidentally by a tinsmith in a Lower Manhattan shop. Though he is no longer imprisoned, Ahmad is not entirely free – an unbreakable band of iron binds him to the physical world.

The Golem & The Djinni is their magical, unforgettable story; unlikely friends whose tenuous attachment challenges their opposing natures – until the night a terrifying incident drives them back into their separate worlds. But a powerful threat will soon bring Chava and Ahmad together again, challenging their existence and forcing them to make a fateful choice.

Having read none of those comparisons, I really don’t know what to expect from this novel. But it was available through Amazon Vine, so I thought why not? I’m certainly interested in reading it, as I try to mix up the genres I’m reading and featuring on the blog. The title is slightly (pointlessly) different in the US: The Golem and the Jinni (also published by Harper).


From the Library…


A new additional component of the Books Received posts – I will now include mention of anything I’ve picked up in the local library. Because… well, why not?


Adobe Photoshop PDFRichard Kadrey, Kill City Blues (Voyager)

James Stark, aka Sandman Slim, has managed to get out of Hell, renounce his title as the new Lucifer, and settle back into life in LA. But he's not out of trouble yet. Somewhere along the way he misplaced the Qomrama Om Ya, a weapon from the banished older gods who are also searching for their lost power.

The hunt leads Stark to an abandoned shopping mall-a multi-story copy of LA-infested with Lurkers and wretched bottom-feeding Sub Rosa families, squatters who have formed tight tribes to guard their tiny patches of this fake LA. Somewhere in the kill zone of the former mall is a dead man with the answers Stark needs. All Stark has to do is find the dead man, get back out alive, and outrun some angry old gods-and a few killers-on his tail.

I love this series. It’s dark, irreverent, funny, and has plenty of action and weird goings-on. This is book five, and each of the previous four was a strong addition to the series. Everyone should read it. Go on, what are you waiting for?


AstroCity-Vol.1-LifeInTheBigCity-ArtAstro City, Vol.1 – “Life In The Big City” (DC Comics)

Welcome to Astro City, a shining city on a hill where super heroes patrol the skies. Each chapter in this collection is a standalone story, highlighting different aspects or characters in the Astro City world. The city's leading super hero tries to be everywhere at once, and berates himself for every wasted second as he longs for just a moment of his own. A smalltime hood learns a hero's secret identity, and tries to figure out how to profit from the knowledge. A beat reporter gets some advice from his editor on his first day on the job. A young woman tries to balance the demands of her family with her own hopes and desires. Despite the fantastic settings, the characters in these slice-of-life stories feel like real people, and that gives the stories real power.

This series has just been re-booted/-launched by DC, so I figured it was a good time to start at the very beginning, and see what it was like before investing in the new series (which I think has reached #3).


BlackOrchid-CoverBlack Orchid (Vertigo)

Before introducing the modern version of The Sandman, Neil Gaiman wrote this dark tale that reinvented a strange DC Comics super hero in the Vertigo mold. Featuring spectacular art by Gaiman's frequent collaborator, Dave McKean, BLACK ORCHID is now collected in a deluxe trade paperback

After being viciously murdered, Susan Linden is reborn fully grown as the Black Orchid, a hybrid of plant and human, destined to avenge her own death. Now, as this demigoddess attempts to reconcile human memory and botanical origins, she must untangle the webs of deception and secrets that led to her death. Beginning in the cold streets of a heartless metropolis and ending in the Amazon rainforest, this book takes the reader on a journey through secrets, suffering and self-rediscovery.

I’ve never read this, but I’ve heard a lot of great things. After reading my first volume of Sandman, too, I’m interested in reading a lot more of Gaiman’s comic-work. So when I saw this on the shelf, I picked it up right away – after all, where better to start than at the beginning?

Saturday, August 17, 2013

On Strong Female Characters & Sherlock Holmes’s Modern Successor?

First up, a hat-tip to Abhinav for sharing the link on Facebook, which is where I spotted it [everyone should check out his reviews on his blog, on Founding Fields, and follow him on Twitter].

Sophia McDougall has written a very good piece for the New Statesman, with an attention-grabbing headline: “I hate Strong Female Characters”. It’s an interesting article, and addresses what a lot of society views as a ‘Strong Female Character’, and the double-standards that exist when characterising a hero or heroine as ‘strong’. The whole article is well worth reading, so off you go and read it…

One paragraph in the piece got me thinking. Not really about the topic of the article, but something related to an example McDougall used to make part of her argument:

“Is, say, Sherlock Holmes strong? In one sense, yes, of course. He faces danger and death in order to pursue justice. On the other hand, his physical strength is often unreliable – strong enough to bend an iron poker when on form, he nevertheless frequently has to rely on Watson to clobber his assailants, at least once because he’s neglected himself into a condition where he can’t even try to fight back. His mental and emotional resources also fluctuate. An addict and a depressive, he claims even his crime-fighting is a form of self-medication. Viewed this way, his willingness to place himself in physical danger might not be ‘strength’ at all – it might be another form of self-destructiveness. Or on the other hand, perhaps his vulnerabilities make him all the stronger, as he succeeds in surviving and flourishing in spite of threats located within as well without.”

This made me wonder if there were any female characters that I’d read (recently or otherwise), who maybe adhered more to this archetype of (anti-)hero. And, I actually think I’ve come up with a speculative-fiction contender for the modern successor of Sherlock Holmes. There is, after all, a female character who can be described similarly to McDougall’s Sherlock. To reiterate:

“Sherlock Holmes gets to be brilliant, solitary, abrasive, Bohemian, whimsical, brave, sad, manipulative, neurotic, vain, untidy, fastidious, artistic, courteous, rude, a polymath genius.”

Who am I talking about? Chess Putnam, from Stacia Kane’s Downside Ghosts series (published by Voyager in the UK and Del Rey in the US).


Downside Ghosts UK Covers

Chess is an addict, she is a gifted (supernatural) detective, she can be alternately abrasive and vulnerable, she can handle herself in a fight (against ghosts and against corporeal antagonists). She sometimes manipulates those around – on the job, but also as a way of hiding her substance abuse. She’s certainly brave, charging ahead into situations that would make me bug out, screaming like a petrified kitten. Even regarding the more ‘mundane’ elements in the above description, Chess can tick them off: Bohemian (she lives in a converted church on the wrong side of the tracks), vain, neurotic, untidy, and fastidious (in her spell-making, for example). I haven’t yet seen anything that suggests Chess is quite a “polymath genius”, but she has a considerable breadth of skills. At the same time, sometimes Chess needs help from “sidekicks”, and has a couple of her own Watsons – most notably Trouble Terrible,* who she does not always treat well or fairly.

So. There we have it. Chess Putnam is our contemporary Sherlock Holmes. Anyone have any other suggestions who could fill that role?

Downside Ghosts Series: Unholy Ghosts, Unholy Magic, City of Ghosts, Sacrificial Magic, Chasing Magic

Downside Short Stories: Finding Magic, Wrong Ways Down, Home, Close To You


* Update: The original version of this post got the name wrong. Apologies to Stacia!


Incidentally, Sophia McDougall is the author of the Romanitas trilogy – Romanitas, Rome Burning, and Savage City (published by Gollancz) – which you should all be sure to read, as well.