To The Last Word Blog & News

From Warrior Cats to English Detectives

Cherith Baldry, who as Erin Hunter is one of the authors of the best-selling Warrior Cats novels, has long had a love of the classic English detective story. When I asked her to write a story for the anthology I was editing, Improbable Botany, she penned the delightful Sherlock Holmes homage ‘The Adventure of the Apocalypse Vine; or, Moriarty’s Revenge’. Now Cherith has launched her own series of detective novels featuring amateur sleuth Gawaine St Clair. I’m currently reading the first novel, and it is a very English sort of affair, deliberately evoking the classic detective novels of yesteryear. St Clair comes from aristocratic stock and the story unfolds against the background of a 30 year old murder at a fictional Oxford College. Without spoilers, here is a sample of the deliciously dry wit on offer: After a while he found his way into the college gardens, where he wandered...

Literary Landscapes

Frankenstein – Persuasion – Literary Landscapes Coming In October

Literary Wonderlands proved to be a great success for publishers Modern Books and Black Dog & Leventhal, which means that a follow-up is coming out this autumn. Edited by Professor John Sutherland (Lives of the Novelists), the new book is called Literary Landscapes, and I was delighted to be asked to contribute to it. Consequently I have written the chapters on Jane Austen’s Persuasion and Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. The latter especially was a real privilege; Mary Shelley is buried not four miles from my office, so it’s perhaps inevitable I’ve long been a fan. So much so that in 2011 I organised a screening of the 1931 film Frankenstein, together with Ken Russell’s Gothic (a wild drama about the events in 1816 which led to the writing of the novel), as a special closing night crossover between the Poole Literary Festival and the Purbeck Film Festival. Before the screening I was part of an...

Just Be Yourself by Ellen M J Deaville Published

Just published is Just Be Yourself, a slim but very useful little volume by Ellen M J Deaville, a book on which I did some developmental editing a year or so ago. The author writes based on her experiences as a careers advisor to thousands of teenagers, and the result is, as Professor David Putwain says, ‘Invaluable reading for anyone who wishes to get the best out of young people.’ Ellen has kindly said of my work for her: ‘Gary’s advice was so valuable in shaping my first book and turning it into a professional piece of work. Full of essential points, Gary’s feedback was thorough and sensitively put – offering suggestions for change but being positive and encouraging.’ You can buy Just Be Yourself through Amazon in print here and for Kindle here.  

Debut Children’s Book Raises Money for Blind and Deaf Charities

I am delighted to say that a debut novel I worked on as an editor last year, Marco and the Pharaoh’s Curse, by Paul Purnell, is out now as an e-book. Very generously, Paul is donating all profits to two charities, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and Hearing Dogs for Deaf People. Marco and the Pharaoh’s Curse is a thrilling fantasy adventure for 7-12 year old readers. Available for Amazon Kindle now, a physical edition will follow. Here’s the official blurb:   The Beatrice sank in the Mediterranean Sea two hundred years ago. Lost to the world – until now. Divers are preparing to plunder her ancient treasure, unaware that any interference its the unusual contents will trigger a catastrophic event. The terrifying consequences of the divers succeeding are unimaginable. Twelve-year-old Marco and a mermaid, Lois, are the only ones who can prevent it. Have they overestimated their abilities? They...

Three Come Along At Once

This has been a most unusual week, in that three books I worked on as editor have arrived in the space of five days. On Tuesday the physical copies of speculative fiction anthology Improbable Botany were delivered. Beautifully illustrated by Jonathan Burton, the book contains excellent stories by Rachel Armstrong, Cherith Baldry, Eric Brown, James Kennedy, Ken MacLeod, Simon Morden, Stephen Palmer, Adam Roberts, Tricia Sullivan, Justina Robson and Lisa Tuttle. Then, two days later, Lynne Chitty’s debut novel, Out Of The Mist was delivered, a quiet, thoughtful story of coming to terms with the past and new beginnings. And this morning it was the turn of the autobiographical Find Another Place by Ben Graff. I was thrilled to see the acknowledgement, which reads, in part: ‘My editor Gary Dalkin helped me to better navigate this story than I could have done alone. His care and precision have played a...

Find Another Place, by Ben Graff

One of my clients, Ben Graff, has his first book, Find Another Place, coming out on March 28. I worked with Ben helping him find the structure for the book, which as it says on the cover is: An autobiographical meditation on family, focusing on childhood, parenting, the passage of time, loss, love, faith and memory. I encouraged Ben to dig deeper into himself, writing additional chapters and finding the essence of material, a complex tapestry of autobiography and family history. I’m very proud of the resulting volume, and I know Ben is too. Find Another Place (Amazon link) will be published by Troubadour, priced £11.99. Here is the text from the back cover: “Families are their stories,” said my grandfather Martin that late autumn day in 2001, as he placed a clear plastic folder containing his journal into my hands. Part historical meditation on people now gone, part detective...

NaNoWriMo Blues – What Do I Do Next?

If you spent November obsessively engaged with National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), you weren’t alone. It’s estimated that worldwide in 2013 around 400,000 people took part in the challenge to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. One of the ideas behind NaNoWriMo is to help writers get into a daily writing habit by simply getting a lot of words down, and to that end the project emphasises quantity – an average of 1667 words a day – over quality. Polishing can come later, and while inevitably many of the thousands of novels written as part of the annual event are, let’s say, not very good, excellent work can result. Novels which began during NaNoWriMo have become bestsellers – titles including Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen, Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and Persistence of Memory by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. But note that I wrote, ‘novels which began …’ The...

Literary Wonderlands – UK edition photos and raffle prizes

The UK edition of Literary Wonderlands is now out, published by Modern Books. Here you can see the UK edition, the beginning of my chapter about Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by J.M. Barrie, and the US edition playing spot the difference. I also wrote the chapters on I, Robot (Isaac Asimov), Invisible Cities (Italo Calvino) and Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson). I will be taking two copies to Sledge Lit 3 at the Quad in Derby on Saturday (25 November), where they will be joining many other fine books as prizes in the raffle.  

Improbable Botany – Jonathan Burton Illustration reveal 1

I’m delighted to share one of Jonathan Burton’s superb illustrations for Improbable Botany. Check out the Kickstarter for this anthology of new stories about fantastical flora by Cherith Baldry, Eric Brown, Ken MacLeod, Simon Morden, Adam Roberts, James Kennedy, Stephen Palmer, Justina LA Robson, Tricia Sullivan, and Lisa Tuttle, plus the opportunity to obtain A2 art prints of all six of Jonathan’s illustrations and the cover artwork. This particular illustration is for Lisa Tuttle’s story, ‘Vegetable Love’.  

Improbable Interviews: Tricia Sullivan

I have recently edited a new anthology of science fiction and fantasy stories about fantastical flora. The book, Improbable Botany, features authors who between them have won the Arthur C Clarke, British Science Fiction Association, John W. Campbell Memorial, Philip K. Dick, Nebula and Prometheus Awards, and been nominated for many more. The writers are: Cherith Baldry (co-author of the New York Times best-selling Warrior Cats series), Eric Brown (The Kings of Eternity, the Langham and Dupré crime novels, the most recent of which is Murder Take Three), Ken MacLeod (Intrusion, The Corporation Wars), Simon Morden (the Metrozone series, Down Station / The White City), Adam Roberts (The Real-Town Murders, The Thing Itself), James Kennedy (The Order of Odd-Fish), Stephen Palmer (The Factory Girl Trilogy, Memory Seed, Beautiful Intelligence), Justina Robson (The Quantum Gravity series, Natural History, Switch), Tricia Sullivan (Occupy Me, Dreaming in Smoke, Maul), and Lisa Tuttle (The...

Review: The Mysteries, by Lisa Tuttle

Lisa Tuttle’s story, ‘vegetable Love’ appears in the anthology I have recently edited, Improbable Botany. Here is a review I wrote for Vector of Lisa’s 2005 novel, The Mysteries, reissued last year by Jo Fletcher Books.   A detective novel requires a mystery. The title of Lisa Tuttle’s novel is as up front as can be. However, two things soon become apparent, that in this novel people are themselves ‘mysteries’, and that this is no conventional detective story, in that so far as anyone can tell, no crime has been committed. Ian Kennedy is an American expat in London, barely making a living as a private detective specialising in finding missing people. On the verge of middle age and thinking about a career change, another American, Laura Lensky, asks him to find her daughter, Peri, who disappeared two years ago in Scotland. While Peri has abandoned her old life of...

Improbable Interviews: Eric Brown

Eric Brown is one of the UK’s leading science fiction writers. Since making his first sale to Interzone in 1986 he has published more than 50 books. His novel Helix Wars (2012) was shortlisted for the Philip K. Dick Award and two of his short stories have been honoured with the British Science Fiction Association Award. Murder By The Book (2013) marked a departure, being the first Langham and Dupre Mystery, a crime novel set in the 1950s. His latest titles are Jani and the Great Pursuit, the second volume of a Steampunk series set at the height of the British Empire, and Murder Take Three, the fourth Langham and Dupre novel. He writes a regular SF review column for The Guardian. Eric Brown has written the story ‘The Ice Garden’ for Improbable Botany, the new anthology I have edited. Here we talk about all manner of things, from fantastical...

Improbable Botany interior art by Jonathan Burton

Yesterday I posted about the launch of the Kickstarter for the new anthology of fantasy and science fiction stories I have edited, Improbable Botany. The book contains stories by writers who between them have won every major award in the fields of science fiction and fantasy: Ken MacLeod, Cherith Baldry, Eric Brown, Simon Morden, Adam Roberts, James Kennedy, Stephen Palmer, Justina LA Robson, Tricia Sullivan and Lisa Tuttle. The book has cover art and six full colour interior illustrations by the award-winning artist Jonathan Burton. Above is a promo image for the interior art. Find out much more about the book, support the Kickstarter and get an edition with a limited Jonathan Burton art print at: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/waywardplants/

Improbable Botany Kickstarter launch

I’ve been looking forward to announcing this for a long time. And now it’s finally here. I’ve edited an anthology of stories about wayward plants. Improbable Botany contains stories by a roster of writers who between them have won every major award in the fields of science fiction and fantasy: Ken MacLeod, Cherith Baldry, Eric Brown, Simon Morden, Adam Roberts, James Kennedy, Stephen Palmer, Justina LA Robson, Tricia Sullivan and Lisa Tuttle. The book has cover art and six full colour interior illustrations by the very popular Jonathan Burton. There will be an exclusive e-book edition in which I interview all ten authors. The interviews will appear individually elsewhere, but this is the only place they will ever be collected together. Improbable Botany is published by Wayward, a London-based landscape, art and architecture practice – an award-winning collective of designers, artists and urban growers – through Kickstarter. There are various...

Authors for Grenfell Tower critique auction

As part of the Authors for Grenfell Tower charity initiative I’m offering a critique of a short story or opening chapters of a novel up to 5000 words, raising money for the British Red Cross to go to residents affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. If you know anyone who might be interested, please pass this on. Bidding closes on 27 June. Here is a bit about this project, from the official Authors for Grenfell Tower website: This online auction is raising money for the British Red Cross London Fire Relief Fund, for residents affected by the Grenfell Tower fire. Around 1:00 a.m. on 14 June 2017, a fire in this residential tower block in west London spread to engulf the entire building. Despite the heroic efforts of the fire service, all 120 flats in the building have been destroyed. The death toll stands at 58 and is expected to...

Rebecca voted nation’s favourite novel

Interesting to see that today WH Smith has declared Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier to be ‘The nation’s favourite book’. In a post here WH Smith announced ‘…back in January, we put it to our followers on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram to nominate their favourite books of the past 225 years to be considered for our shortlist. The recommendations were fantastic, and with the likes of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, George Orwell and the Bronte sisters making their mark on literature within our 225 year history, we ended up with one heck of a mighty shortlist to choose from. And now that the votes are in, we can finally end months of speculation and announce the book which you voted to win the title of the Nation’s Favourite Book of the Past 225 Years! Read on to find out who won the hearts of the Nation… And the winner is…...

Do It – an interview with RTW cyclist Adrian Besly

In May last year Adrian Besly set out to cycle around the world. It was nine months before he returned to England, his two-wheeled adventures ranging from the comical to the hair-raising. He kept a diary along the way, and when he came back he wrote a book about his epic journey. It was at that point that Adrian contacted me to edit his manuscript. The result is Do It – Cycling Around The World For A Laugh, now available in print through Amazon and as a Kindle ebook. Here I talk to Adrian about his travels, writing and his experience of working with me to transform his manuscript into the finished, published book. Gary Dalkin: The most obvious question that comes to mind is, why? I mean, why cycle around the world? It’s not something most people would think about, or if they did, they wouldn’t seriously set out...

Dangerous Score – out now in paperback

Last year I worked with author, actor, businessman and guest speaker Michael Bearcroft on a reworked, revised and updated version of his football novel, Dangerous Score. The book is out now in paperback, and here is the official blurb: Football hero Jason Clooney is riding high, until a date with a beautiful woman lands him in trouble with the media and into a battle with the criminal underworld. Now against a backdrop of an uncertain professional future, Jason has to confront disturbing revelations surrounding his new girlfriend’s family. From football action on the pitch to behind the scenes plotting, to battles with a criminal gang and constant media attention, all add to the toughest challenges he has ever faced in life and love, as a player and a man. And a few quotes from early reviews… “As nail biting as a Merseyside derby with just as many twists and turns! One not...

Mythological landscapes – an interview with Alex CF

Alex CF is a noted fantasy artist. He has recently written his first novel, Seek The Throat From Which We Sing, a dark fantasy epic in a very British tradition which includes such animal fantasies as Richard Adams’ Watership Down and the deep-time pastoral fantasy of Robert Holdstock’s Mythago Wood. Over the last year I worked with Alex as his editor through the process of refining the novel into its published version. The book was issued in 2016 as a signed, illustrated, hardback, and is now available in paperback. Here I talk to Alex about the novel, its background, and a little about how we worked together.   Gary Dalkin: Seek The Throat From Which We Sing is a very ambitious and complex work for a first novel. When I read it I was particularly impressed by both the complexity of the world-building and the intricacy with which the story...

%d bloggers like this: