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Brutal Terminations by Cherith Baldry

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…...

Roger Moore in The Man Who Haunted Himself

RIP Roger Moore

Farewell then to Sir Roger Moore, icon of large and small screens, and by all accounts a very decent man. Noting his passing, here’s a piece I wrote a few years ago about my favourite of his films, The Man Who Haunted Himself.

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...

Literary Wonderlands published today

Just a quick note to mention that Literary Wonderlands is published today in the US. Click here for a preview including the Introduction and contents pages which show a complete list of the books and fictional worlds covered.

Literary Wonderlands cover

I am thrilled that I have received a high quality image for the cover of Literary Wonderlands.  I have written four chapters for the book, my chapters being on I, Robot by Isaac Asimov, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens by J.M. Barrie, Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino, and Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson. Here is the official blurb: Literary Wonderlands A Journey Through the Greatest Fictional Worlds Ever Created by Laura Miller, General Editor. Contributions by Lev Grossman, John Sutherland, and Tom Shippey A glorious collection that delves deep into the inception, influences, and literary and historical underpinnings of nearly 100 of our most beloved fictional realms. Please note: The ebook edition is text-only, illustrations are not included. Literary Wonderlands is a thoroughly researched, wonderfully written, and beautifully produced book that spans two thousand years of creative endeavor. From Spenser’s The Fairie Queene to Wells’s The Time Machine to Murakami’s...

Shoreline of Infinity interview with Simon Morden

I’m very pleased to announce that the new issue of Shoreline of Infinity (No.5 / Autumn 2016) is now out and features my extensive interview with the Philip K. Dick Award-winning author, Simon Morden. We talk about in-depth about his latest series of novels, which began earlier this year with Down Station and continues with The White City. The packed 132 page issue also features stories by Iain Maloney, Jack Schouten, Adam Connors, Nat Newman, Daniel Rosen, Thomas Clark, Rob Butler and Craig Thomson. SF Caledonia, the series on classic Scottish science fiction, continues with Monica Burns on George MacDonald’s Phantastes. There is a new comic from Stuart Beel, a freshly minted column by Ruth EJ Booth, and poetry from Andrew Blair and Ruth Aylett. Shoreline of Infinity is available both digitally and as a gorgeous physical magazine printed on real paper.  

Do It – Cycling Around The World For A Laugh

In May last year Adrian Besly set out to cycle around the world. He kept a diary along the way, and when he came back he wrote a book about his amazing adventures. And then I edited it, and I’m delighted to say that Do It – Cycling Around The World For A Laugh is published this week. A print edition will follow soon. Adrian really has a way with words, and the subtitle is entirely appropriate. Throwaway lines like ‘I have a photo in my wallet of my kids where my money used to be’ regularly made me laugh, and if you find that amusing then this book is for you. It’s not all fun though. Adrian came close to death on several occasions on some of the world’s most dangerous  roads and his journey ranges from the surreal to the frankly hair-raising. The Kindle version is available from...

The Conscript

I’m very excited to announce that one of my recent projects as an editor, The Conscript, the first volume of the adventures of Azi Garza, is out as an ebook over the next few days through Amazon (Kindle), iBooks, Barnes & Noble, Google Play and Kobo. The print first edition will follow soon. The Conscript is the debut novel by American writer Nate Kirtis, and is the first of a Young Adult science fiction quartet. I thoroughly enjoyed working on The Conscript, and am intrigued to see what adventures await our hero over the rest of the series. The Kindle version is available right now, in the UK (The Conscript) and US (The Conscript). You can check Nate Kirtis out at his website, though first feast your eyes on the very striking cover.

August 2016 Writing Magazine, Kei Miller

Writing Magazine article – What’s It All About?

The new, August issue of Writing Magazine, features my article on getting to the essence of your novel – ‘What’s It All About?’ The star interview is with award-winning poet and novelist Kei Miller, and there are features on Peter Breakspear and Jemma Wayne, while Sophie Beal explores the relationship between realism and fiction – ‘True Lies’.

Literary Wonderlands US hardcover

Literary Wonderlands again

Literary Wonderlands now has a release date on both sides of the Atlantic. It will be out in the US on 1 November, and on 25 November in the UK. Here is the blurb from Amazon: A glorious collection that delves deep into the inception, influences, and literary and historical underpinnings of nearly 100 of our most beloved fictional realms. Please note: The ebook edition is text-only, illustrations are not included. Literary Wonderlands is a thoroughly researched, wonderfully written, and beautifully produced book that spans two thousand years of creative endeavor. From Spenser’s The Fairie Queene to Wells’s The Time Machine to Murakami’s 1Q84 it explores the timeless and captivating features of fiction’s imagined worlds including the relevance of the writer’s own life to the creation of the story, influential contemporary events and philosophies, and the meaning that can be extracted from the details of the work. Each piece includes...

Literary Wonderlands pormo draught cover

Literary Wonderlands

I’m thrilled to announce that I am contributing four chapters to the book Literary Wonderlands. The book is being edited by Laura Miller (co-founder of Salon.com), and contributors include Adam Roberts, Julia Eccleshare, Lev Grossman and Lisa Tuttle. The book is to be published by Elwin Street Productions this autumn. Literary Wonderlands will ‘trace the power of the written word to transport us from ordinary time and space to previously unimaginable new worlds, exploring the most fantastical, mysterious and awe-inspiring lands ever created in literary fiction.’ My chapters are on Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (JM Barrie), I, Robot (Isaac Asimov), Invisible Cities (Italo Calvino) and Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson). Here is a very rough promotional version of some possible cover artwork.

Dead Leaves – award nominated

I’m delighted to see that Dead Leaves, the new book by Andrew David Barker, for which I provided a developmental edit, has been declared runner up in the This Is Horror 2015 Awards for Best Novella. The book has received great reviews from The Eloquent Page, Mark West and James Everington. Andrew was kind enough to say ‘Gary Dalkin’s work on my second book, Dead Leaves, was invaluable. He was precise, succinct, with a fine attention to detail. Dalkin guided my story to publication with fair and balanced criticisms and queries, and picked up on things I probably wouldn’t have ever noticed. In short, his sharp critical eye improved my words and my book. An excellent editor.’ Above is a photo of Boo Books beautiful limited edition, designed like a 1980s VHS tape. And here is an interview I did with Andrew last year.

Boo Books limited edition of Dead Leaves, beautifully presented as a 1980s VHS tape

Interview: Dead Leaves & The Electric author, Andrew David Barker

Andrew David Barker was born in Derby, England, in 1975. I first heard about his novella, Dead Leaves, when He asked me to provide some developmental editorial input on a draft of the manuscript, which he did as a result of this interview, originally conducted with him for Amazing Stories. The interview coincided with the paperback publication of The Electric, Barker’s first novel, a ghost story steeped in a love of movies, especially genre flicks from the old Universal classics to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Jaws. The Electric is also a nostalgic, bittersweet coming of age story, a resonant, evocative, deeply moving tale with shades of vintage Bradbury and King. It is quite an achievement. Dead Leaves is equally nostalgic, though a much gritter story about a group of teenage friends in Barker’s hometown of Darby in the early 1980s coming to terms with young adulthood while trying to find a copy of the horror film The Evil Dead at the height of Britain’s moral panic over ‘video nasties’. Dead Leaves it is not a horror story, but is an autumnal tale suited to October country, informed by a love of horror movies and the power that film can have to inspire a youthful imagination. It is perhaps therefore no surprise that Andrew David Barker is also a filmmaker …

Book Review: Echoes From The Macabre: Selected Stories, Daphne du Maurier

As a follow up to my posts about Daphne du Maurier’s fiction and her adopted county of Cornwall, here is a review of her 1976 collection Echoes From The Macabre: Selected Stories (Gollancz), a reprint collection focusing on some of the author’s more horrific tales. The stories date from the period 1952-71. They are: ‘Don’t Look Now’, ‘The Birds’, ‘The Apple Tree’, ‘The Old Man’, ‘The Pool’, ‘The Blue Lenses’, ‘The Chamois’, ‘Not After Midnight’, and ‘Kiss Me Again, Stranger’. …

The New Media Writing Prize

Recently I was a guest at the 5th New Media Writing Prize awards ceremony at Bournemouth University. The Prize was originally established in conjunction with the Poole Literary Festival, and as part of the Festival I was involved in promoting the Prize in its first year. This year was the first time since then that I have been able to return, and it was gratifying to see how, under the enthusiastic direction of Dr James Pope, BA English Framework Leader at BU and competition director …

Daphne du Maurier Country – Rebecca to the Macabre

If Dorset’s most celebrated writer is Thomas Hardy then Cornwall’s is surely Daphne du Maurier. So never having read it before, I decided to prepare for our holiday by reading her most famous novel, Rebecca. I was familiar with the Hitchcock film, and with the 1997 TV mini-series, but the only du Maurier I had previously read was the novella ‘Don’t Look Now’ and the short story, ‘The Birds’. The former, of course, provided the basis for the great Nic Roeg film …

Film Review: Mr. Nobody

Mr. Nobody is the best film I’ve ever seen that hardly anyone has ever heard about. If you are interested in great cinema, or simply in imaginative storytelling and story construction then you owe it to yourself to see this unknown masterpiece. Mr. Nobody is a 2009 Belgian, German, French, Canadian co-production, set in England and Canada and filmed in English. It was made on a budget of around $47 million, but looks like it cost at least three times that. …

Cloud Atlas, Skyfall and the McDonald’s-isation of Storytelling

This post is a follow-up to Cloud Atlas Shrugged – or let the Skyfall. The first post was written in February 2013, this one that December. Both were originally published on Amazing Stories. The subject of both posts is the death of originality and creative storytelling in Hollywood cinema, but it applies equally to the drive to publish books as franchises rather than self-contained, individual novels. Back in February, I wrote about the difference in the …

Cloud Atlas Shrugged – or let the Skyfall

Here is something I wrote a while ago, back in February 2013, and which was originally published on Amazing Stories. It still seems relevant, and with David Mitchell’s latest book, The Bone Clocks, now out, in case you missed it before, here it again. Cloud Atlas paperback coverOn Monday the latest James Bond film, Skyfall, was released on Blu-ray and DVD in the UK. Tomorrow Cloud Atlas will open in UK cinemas. Two films, poles apart. Skyfall, the 23th entry …

Exploring Daphne du Maurier’s Cornwall

In June we went to Cornwall, to Daphne du Maurier country, so here are some photos relating to all things du Maurier from our short holiday. One day in 1936 the young Daphne du Maurier was out riding on Bodmin Moor with her friend Foy Quiller-Couch. They became lost, but eventually found their way to the Jamaica Inn. While recovering from their ordeal Daphne and Foy heard tales of long ago smuggling adventures and du Maurier was inspired to write her fourth novel. …

Interview: Jonathan Oliver, editor-in-chief, Solaris Books

Jonathan Oliver is one of the UK’s top genre editors. He is also a novelist, short story author and creator of shared-worlds. Recently I interviewed him by email. – Gary Dalkin: “You are editor-in-chief of three imprints – Solaris, Ravenstone and Abaddon Books – all published by Rebellion Publishing Ltd. What is your background and how did you end up in your current position? Perhaps for readers who are not familiar with Rebellion you could outline the idea behind each of …

Book Review: The Kings of Eternity, Eric Brown

The Kings of Eternity is a novel with one foot happily in the mainstream and one in genre. As such it is a book which may baffle those who don’t ‘get it’; a novel written unapologetically for those of us who have grown-up with genre fiction but who also read and appreciate writing sometimes classified as ‘literary fiction’. Not that such a distinction holds much water, is rather a false dichotomy; genre being delineated by content, ‘literary fiction’ being assumed by some as involving …

Book Review: The Fictional Man, Al Ewing

Niles Golan is an ex-pat Brit in Hollywood. Never grown-up, he narrates his life with an internal monologue transforming his everyday inadequacies into triumphs. Niles is his own fictional creation: to himself, a genius novelist akin to the young Thomas Pynchon; to everyone else, the hack who writes the popular Kurt Power adventures novels. His ambition is to launch a movie franchise, but to get the chance he has to pitch a remake of his teenage-self’s favourite film. …

They Do Things Differently There

The original version of the article was written for Amazing Stories and published as ‘Doctor Who and the Strange Victorians’. The starting point was the 2012 Doctor Who Christmas Special, ‘The Snowmen’, in which a young woman, the Doctor’s new companion, falls down a metaphorical rabbit hole in Victorian London. As Doctor Who approached its 50th birthday (celebrated in 2013) executive producer and writer Steven Moffat appeared to be transforming the programme into …

Book Review: Falling Over, James Everington

Falling Over was the first book I read by James Everington, and this is a revised version of a review I wrote for Amazing Stories last year. Since then I have interviewed the author and reviewed his first two self-published books, The Shelter (a novella) and The Other Room (a story collection), again for Amazing Stories. On his website James Everington says that his main influences are writers such as Ramsey Campbell, Shirley Jackson and Robert Aickman, and that he enjoys …

Blu-ray Review: The Man Who Haunted Himself

The Man Who Haunted Himself is, as the title suggests both a ghost and a doppelgänger story, and as such is a rather unique tale of the uncanny, unfolding perhaps much as one might imagine a feature-length, British Twilight Zone. The film starts with business man Harold Pelham (Roger Moore) leaving his London office and driving west out of the city, but then…something happens to him. He starts to speed, driving ever more recklessly. There are shots of another …

Book Review: The Prisoner of Heaven, Carlos Ruiz Zafón

The Prisoner of Heaven is, according to the forward, ‘part of a cycle of novels set in the universe of the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, of which The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game are the first two installments. Although each work within the cycle presents an independent, self-contained tale, they are all connected through characters and storylines, creating thematic and narrative links. Each individual installment in the Cemetery of Forgotten Books series …

Film & CD Review: Wakolda (The German Doctor)

Wakolda (retitled The German Doctor in the US) is the latest film from Argentine writer-director Lucía Puenzo. Little known in the English speaking world, Lucía Penzo is the daughter of Luis Puenzo, celebrated for La historia oficial, which in 1986 won the Oscar and Golden Globe for Best Foreign (Language) Film, as well as sweeping nine of the Argentinian Film Critics Association Awards, including Best Film. Lucía co-wrote her father’s best work, La Puta y La Bellena, which …

Book Review: Night Film, Marisha Pessl

Night Film is the second novel by Marisha Pessl, the follow-up to her 2006 award-winning bestseller, Special Topics in Calamity Physics. It recounts the quest of disgraced investigative journalist Scott McGrath to uncover the truth about reclusive film director Stanislas Cordova. Some years previously Scott was manipulated into making a serious allegation against the director on the TV news programme Nightline, an unsubstantiated claim which seriously damaged …

Book Review: Stardust, Nina Allan

Stardust is one of three books by Nina Allan published so far this year. First was the story collection Microcosmos. Next came the novella, Spin. Now we have Stardust, published as a very striking hardback by PS Publishing as PS Showcase #11. Stardust is subtitled The Ruby Castle Stories, but who (or what) is Ruby Castle? Actually Ruby Castle is a person, rather than a place. But these six stories and a poem tell us very little about her. She only appears in one story, and then …

Book Review: Spin, Nina Allan

Nina Allan’s Spin is the second in a series of novellas published by the Third Alternative Press, home of leading UK genre magazines Interzone and Black Static. I should mention that the book was sent to me by the author because she liked my Amazing Stories review of her collection, Microcosmos. She also sent me a copy of her other new book, Stardust, which I review here. So I am predisposed to like Spin. Set in an alternate Greece, Spin is a reworking of the myth of Arachne. Layla is a weaver, a …

Book Review: The Peacock Cloak, Chris Beckett

Chris Beckett has been publishing short stories since 1990. His debut novel was The Holy Machine, followed by Marcher, and last year, Dark Eden,which won the Arthur C. Clarke Award for the Best SF novel published in the UK in 2012. His first collection of short fiction, The Turing Test (2008), won the Edge Hill Prize. The Peacock Cloak is his second collection, bringing together a dozen stories first published between 2008-12. Most of these stories originally appeared in Asimov’s or …

Book Review: Growing Pains, Ian Whates

Growing Pains is a new collection from the highly talented British author and editor Ian Whates. Whates is the author of the Noise series of space operas and the urban fantasy trilogy City of 100 Rows. He edits the on-going Solaris Rising anthologies and various entries in the Mammoth Book of series, including the Alternate Histories and SF Wars volumes. Whates also manages his own NewCon Press. You can read my review of the recent NewCon Press edition of …

Book Review: Intrusion, Ken MacLeod

Some decades from now, Hope Morrison is a young woman living in London with her husband, Hugh, and four year old son, Nick. Health & Safety laws have driven most women from the workplace, so Hope works from home answering enquiries, translated into English, for a Chinese website. Solar panel farms in Africa have ended Hugh’s first career as a wind power engineer – his father Nigel still works on the family home island of Lewis, now dismantling the giant …

The Mirror of Our Dreams

There is a curious phenomenon not exclusive to science fiction fandom, it is prevalent in pop music worship and other places, by which those afflicted feel a need to establish rivalries. The Star Wars fan who vociferously attacks all things Star Trek. And vice versa. The Star Trek fan determined to argue against every facet of Babylon 5. Those who can not enjoy both The X Files and Fringe. New Who vs Old Who. It goes on. These rivalries exist almost exclusively in the minds of fans. It is …

Book Review: Bellefleur, Joyce Carol Oates

As I mentioned in my post Stephen King – A Beginner’s Guide I became interested in the work of Joyce Carol Oates because of her association with King. As early as Danse Macabre (1981) King was writing admiringly about Oates’ work. The compliment was returned when Oates introduced King’s speaking engagement at Princeton in 1997. Bellefleur is the first book I have read by Joyce Carol Oates. She has written a vast number of titles, rivalling King in her output. So many …

Book Review: Joyland, Stephen King

In Stephen King’s best novel in years, 11.22.63 (2011), the veteran author revisited the period of his youth, the 1950s and ‘60s. A character from the present, our present, went back to 1958, encountered love, tried to stop a killer. In King’s Joyland it is a decade after the fall of America’s Camelot. In the summer of 1973 Devin Jones, a young man working his way through college (University of New Hampshire) takes a dogsbody job (pun very much intended) at an old style amusement park. On the …

Book Review: Microcosmos, Nina Allan

In the forward to Microcosmos Nina Allan explains that, having forgotten the finer details of the requirements for the collection, with her stories tending to ‘run away with themselves’ and being rather long for short stories, she had amassed considerably more material than the book would be able to contain. She had intended a survey of her work from the publication of her first book, A Thread of Truth (2007) up to The Silver Wind (2011). However, with a target length of 60,000 …

Stephen King – A Beginner’s Guide

For a long time I paid no attention to the writing of Joyce Carol Oates. But I kept seeing her mentioned in the context of modern American Gothic, being recommended by writers whose work I loved, particularly Stephen King. The admiration was mutual. In 1997 Oates introduced King when he gave his first reading at Princeton University. That day she described him as a great writer of Gothic horror. At different points in their careers King and Oates even had the same editor …

The Invention of Iain M. Banks

This piece was originally posted on 18 April, 2012. I’m reposting it now in memory of Iain Banks, who died on Sunday 9 June, 2013. I have recently reread Iain M. Banks 1988 novel The Player of Games. I did so because I have been selected as a World Book Night book giver, and of the 25 available titles the one I chose to give away was the Banks. I had a hard time picking, and I want to explain why I selected this particular book. But first, if you don’t know about World Book Night take a look …

Book Review: Objects in Dreams, Lisa Tuttle

Lisa Tuttle has long been one of the masters of the deeply unsettling tale. Last year her short story Objects in Dreams may be Closer than they Appear opened Jonathan Oliver’s excellent anthology, House of Fear, a collection of haunted and otherwise strange homes. That was one of my favourite books of the year, and that Tuttle’s tale was chosen to open a volume containing new work by such writers as Chaz Brenchley, Eric Brown, Christopher Fowler, Garry Kilworth, Joe R. Lansdale, Tim Lebbon and …

Book Reviews: This Shared Dream & In War Times, Kathleen Ann Goonan

Kathleen Ann Goonan’s In War Times, originally published in 2007, won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award for Best Novel and the ALA’s Best Science Fiction Novel of the Year. A complex exploration of the political implications of alternative history, In War Times begins in 1941, with Sam Dance being given documents that lead to the opening of a parallel world in which Dance’s brother, Keenan, survived the attack on Pearl Harbor to work for a better future — as does Sam in “our” …

Things Fall Apart

Yesterday I read three articles worth considering for anyone serious about writing fiction. The first was The Widening Gyre: 2012 Best of the Year Anthologies by Paul Kincaid, written for the LA Review of Books. This piece looked at Gardner Dozois’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction : Twenty-Ninth Annual Collection, Richard Horton’s The Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy : 2012 Edition and the Nebula Awards Showcase 2012. Kincaid begins his lengthy and extremely well-argued article thus: ‘The overwhelming sense one gets, working through so many stories that are presented as the very best that science fiction and fantasy have to offer, is exhaustion. Not so much physical exhaustion (though it is more tiring than reading a bunch of short stories really has any right to be); it is more as though the genres of the fantastic themselves have reached a state of exhaustion. In the main, there is no...

Book Review: Adrift on the Sea of Rains, Ian Sales

Adrift on the Sea of Rains is the first volume in Ian Sales Apollo Quartet. Available as a limited edition hardback (75 signed copies), paperback and ebook, this science fiction adventure falls between alternative history and parallel world story. It is the late 1980’s, the Cold War has gone nuclear and all that’s left of the human race is the crew of the US moon base Falcon. Colonel Peterson is looking for a way home before the food runs out. Hopes lie in a partially understood piece …

A Game of Pride and Prejudice

An interesting piece by Amanda Craig has appeared on the Telegraph website. The article, centered around the HBO television series of George R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones novels, joins the vast pile of opinion pieces addressing the debate ‘can fantasy fiction ever be any good’. Which is to say, should authors use their imagination or confine themselves to looking out the window and typing? These opinion pieces begin by stating the default premise, that fantasy …

We Need To Talk About Lionel (Shriver)

When it comes to literature men in the UK, US and Germany are reportedly in a tiny minority, reading just 20% of all fiction. Or so, writing in the Guardian, says Lionel Shriver. I don’t know if this is true. I know lots of men who read lots of fiction. Perhaps they are not representative. But then I assumed Lionel Shriver was a man. It’s an easy mistake to make. Shriver, a woman who changed her name from Margaret Ann, and won the female-only Orange Prize for Fiction for We Need to Talk About Kevin, offers what starts out as an excellent article about sexism in book marketing and cover design. She argues that despite the content of her novels having appeal to both sexes her publishers insist on trying to market her books to an entirely female audience using covers more appropriate to chick lit. Shriver describes one proposed...

A day with Jane Goodall

We spent Saturday with Dr Jane Goodall. Afterwards Jane asked me to write an account of the day. So here it is. Jane Goodall is excited. “Have you heard?” she says, as we eat lunch in the restaurant at Compton Acres in Poole. “We’ve been shortlisted for an Oscar!” She is referring to the film about her life, Jane’s Journey, which had its first UK showing at Bournemouth University. The scientist, conservationist and UN International Messenger of Peace, Dr Jane Goodall, DBE, spends …

Some notes on Christopher Priest’s The Islanders

Yesterday morning I received a signed copy of Christopher Priest’s latest book, The Islanders, direct from the author. This is Priest’s first book length fiction since the Arthur C. Clarke Award winning The Separation, and since the release of the film The Prestige, based on the author’s James Tait Black Memorial Prize winning novel of the same name. What follows is not a review but some spoiler-free notes. In the first 22 pages of The Islanders Christopher Priest uses the word ‘adjacent’ three times. By some counts The Islanders is Christopher Priest’s **? book, if one includes works of non-fiction, chapbooks and works written under a pseudonym. Do we count  chapbooks, small publications such as The Song of the Book? Does The Book on The Edge of Forever count? – an account of the non-publication of another book (Last Dangerous Visions) by another author which if it did exist would...

Gary Dalkin, editor and writer

Welcome

Just a test and welcome message. My old site, garydalkin.com, was hacked, and rather than struggle with the horrors of 1&1 hosting any longer it seemed a good impetus to move completely over to WordPress. So here I am with my content ported over, slightly revised and prettified with more pictures. It was a steep learning curve, but if you don’t count the design of WordPress and the template I’m using, then it was all my own work, and all the more satisfying for it. I’m certainly glad I kept complete backups of my content. You never know when they will be needed. So if you haven’t already done it, backup your online content now. Believe me, it’s worth the effort.