Friday 30 July 2010


Hail Mighty Readers,
Here's this months round up of previously reviewed titles that have either been released in PB format or have undergone new binding/artwork. (Covers in review may differ from current incarnation.)

This month you'll find:
The Other Lands - David Anthony Durham
Bryant and May: On the Loose - Christopher Fowler
Wings of Wrath - Celia S Friedman
Traitors Gate - Kate Elliott

Hopefully you'll find this feature of use,


MUSIC REFERENCE: Play Better Guitar - David Black


This inspirational, fully illustrated guide to playing the guitar provides a sound framework for the beginner and reinforces basic knowledge for the more experienced player. Arranged in three sections - The Basics, Moving On and Learning from the Experts - it builds into a progressive course, with exercises, useful tips and examples designed to enable you to play better. The comprehensive coverage ranges from mastering first chords, simple tuning and fingerpicking, to improvising and composing, creating effects and matching the sounds and styles of the guitar greats.


Having been taught myself to play the guitar, I’m always looking for ways to improve my skills as well as techniques. Whilst going to a crossroads to make a deal with the devil isn’t quite on the cards just yet, I love it when I find a title that is useful not only to the established but the novice musician as techniques, styles and of course how to read the music sheets, are a real life saver at times.

Add to the mix that this offering also deal with acoustic alongside electric guitar and put together in a ringbinder format (so you can use it at the same time as trying the tips, tricks and lessons out) and you know that its something that is going to be a valuable tool.

ART BOOK REVIEW: Ink Bloom - Jim Pavelec & Chris Seaman


Create an array of fantastic alien creatures, landscapes, ships and background elements, while being entertained by the story of a strong female character and learning how illustration and story work hand in hand. Readers will follow Hachi, a 17-year-old girl of Chinese-Japanese descent immediately following WW-II, as she discovers herself and her innate powers while traveling to futuristic worlds, encountering new friends and terrible foes that will push her newfound powers to their limits.


Inspiration is something that is often thought of as something that has to be located deep within the mind of the creator. Be it writing, art or even musically. Here in this offering from famed artist Jim Pavelec is a title that not only aids the reader to create fuller piece but also gives them something a little different to work with.

In this case a story that can be used for either roleplay or to act as the artists muse. Add to the mix a step by step guide to aid in creating the original pieces and you know that its probably the only type of book like this in the world.

What also makes this title something worth purchasing is the way in which the artist explains how they go about creating each piece of artwork from tips on managing light sources to also learning which medium works best for on a personal level.

Whilst a number of these titles are suitable for artists of all levels this one really needs to be handled by people who have some experience as well as talent. As an instructional its solid, it’s helpful but it’s also great fun but for people who want a more comprehensive guide that deals more with the basics then there are other titles that are perhaps better suited for your need.

Thursday 29 July 2010


Having had the pleasure of interviewing Scott a few years ago, we thought it was about time that we caught up with him to see how things have changed alongside how he has adapted as a writer.

What better time to do it than with the release of a new novel? So here, for your reading pleasure, Scott Oden, laid bare about lifes little addictions, which of his "babies" he loves most and author superstitions...

Falcata Times: How would you say that your perspective has changed about selling your own work with multiple novels under your belt?

Scott Oden: After three books, I think I’m more confident about where I stand in the publishing food chain. I am by no means a “major player”, but a track record even as marginal as mine fosters a certain sense of self-worth: I can deliver a manuscript of publishable quality and a segment of the reading population will purchase it. For a raging neurotic like me that’s an awesome feeling.

FT: How would you sell yourself as an author?

SO: As an historical fantasist. I write books that I hope will bridge the gap between pure historical fiction and 30’s style pulp fantasy—bloody, rollicking action set in a historically accurate milieu with just a touch of sorcery and mysticism.

FT: How would you say that your experience of writing and publishing has changed your methods of writing?

SO: I wish I could say it has made me faster and more effective, but I remain a very slow—and somewhat chaotic—writer. And, oddly enough, the very act of publishing has bolstered rather than banished some of the fears I had as an unpublished writer. Namely, the fear the words will stop, dry up, vanish. With every book, devilish little voices in my head try to convince me that this will be the book that reveals my true colors: an untalented hick with literary pretensions. It is rough going, sometimes, but I’ve always been adept at ignoring naysayers . . . even when the naysayers reside in my own skull.

FT: With the experience that you've gained now, what do you wish you could have told yourself when you were starting out that you now know?

SO: I would have told myself to fight tooth-and-nail to hang on to the subsidiary rights for my first two books. Subsidiary rights have the potential of being a very lucrative stream of income for otherwise impoverished writers, and some publishers tend to rely on said writers being desperate or uninformed. It’s almost predatory. Publishers are purveyors of books; why on earth do they need merchandising rights, video game rights, or movie rights? I wish someone would have told me to fight harder to keep them . . .

FT: What characteristics of your protagonists do you wish that you had yourself and why?

SO: All three of my protagonists possess decisiveness and an absolute clarity of purpose. I think I wrote them that way because I’m the polar opposite. I’m wishy-washy. I dither. Hell, even something as simple as answering these questions fills me with a fearful sense that I might answer them improperly. No, if I could have any of their traits, it would be the ability to decide and follow through on the decision without a second thought.

Though I wouldn’t mind the ability to fight like the Devil, himself, either . . .

FT: Which of your characters are most like you and why?

SO: Callisthenes from MEN OF BRONZE is probably most like me: he’s bookish and timid, though he possesses a surprising core of strength with a temper that’s slow to boil. I like to think I have a similar core, and his temper is in every way my own.

FT: What of life’s little addictions could you not live without and why?

SO: My fiancé, though one could argue my addiction to her is in no way a little thing. Honestly, though, it’s probably my addiction to pen-and-paper role playing games. I am a dice-rolling, goblin-killing junkie. I love sitting around a table with my friends, telling interactive stories of times and places that never were. And when the fate of a beloved character rests on a single throw of a twenty-sided dice . . . that’s the definition of drama, my friend!

FT: With regular trips for book tours around the country as well as to various Conventions, what is an absolute travel essential that you couldn't do without?

SO: I don’t travel much, but when I do I make sure and pack a little makeshift tea set; I love nothing more than to relax in my room with a good cup of Earl Grey (with a dollop of honey and no milk, please!). It’s hard to find good tea here in the States. Oh, and if it’s a hot evening, I pour the Earl Grey over ice! A facet of my Southern upbringing is an affinity for sweet iced tea . . .

FT: Previously you've had some problems when others have criticized your work, how do you think you've changed to adapt to it or would you say that you're just the same?

SO: I’ve not changed in that regard. But it’s not legitimate criticism—from those well-versed in the art and who have read the book—that bugs me. It’s the Amazon-style opinion bits from people who, in fact, haven’t even read the book which truly irritate me. For example: one Amazon reviewer took me to task on my second novel, MEMNON, for changing Memnon of Rhodes to a Caucasian! This so-called reviewer hadn’t even bothered to read—or perhaps didn’t understand—the basic synopsis of the story. He assumed I’d appropriated the mythical king of Ethiopia, Memnon, for my own nefarious and anti-African purposes. Luckily, other reviewers thrashed him soundly.

FT: On long journey's, reading is often the pleasure of choice, who's work will you grab at the airport to ensure a good journey?

SO: I always pack ample reading material in my carry-on: Mary Renault’s THE PRAISE SINGER or THE MASK OF APOLLO; Steven Pressfield’s GATES OF FIRE, or a compilation of Robert E. Howard’s CONAN tales. If I’m in a non-fiction frame of mind, I always have with me my dog-eared copy of THE HISTORIES by Herodotus.

FT: Out of all your novels, which is your favourite and why?

SO: I’m fond of them all, for different reasons: MEN OF BRONZE because it was my first-born; MEMNON because it was the book of my heart. But, as I write this, I have to say I’m proudest of THE LION OF CAIRO. It’s written in a more mature voice, with a better sense of pacing and structure; I wove little homages to Robert E. Howard into the narrative—my way of saying thank you for all the inspiration he’s given me over the years.

FT: With everyone having their own personal view as to who should be cast in a film version of their work, who do you think should play your principle protagonists and why?

SO: I cast the various roles in my mind as I write, so I have a pretty good idea of who I’d like to play the protagonists, were I given the opportunity. Hasdrabal Barca from MEN OF BRONZE reminds me quite strongly of Oded Fehr (with Rufus Sewell as Phanes of Halicarnassus); from MEMNON, Eric Bana would make a fine Memnon of Rhodes. And Assad, the protagonist from THE LION OF CAIRO, I based on Mido Hamada, after his turn as the Afghan hero, Ahmed Shah Massoud, in “The Road to 9/11”.

FT: Authors are generally a superstitious lot and upon completion of novels follow a certain ritual, what is yours and how has it changed from the original?

SO: I actually wrote a blog post about this very subject earlier this year (15 April 2010). If you’ll allow me to quote myself:

“I am a superstitious writer. Like an ancient Roman haruspex, I begin every writing day by reading the omens in my sacrificial toast and egg-substitute; is the pulp in my orange juice trying to tell me something? Can I divine the arc of my day by observing the movements of my folks, just as the ancients observed flights of birds? Yet, regardless of the omens, I always start work by burning a little cone of incense in front of my collection of writing totems.

“Like I said: superstitious. But, I’m not alone in this. Especially in the collecting of totems. Steven Pressfield enumerates his in the opening paragraph of THE WAR OF ART; agent and author Betsy Lerner lays out hers on her blog. These totems are to writers what the tiny figurines of his family were to Maximus in “Gladiator”. Little household gods that channel creative energy (if you believe that sort of thing). For me, at least, these totems give me a tangible link to the worlds I write about.

“Some of my totems are pictures clipped from books or magazines; some are postcards or geegaws picked up by tourists. For MEN OF BRONZE, it was a little stone skull (representing mortality), a picture of an Eye of Horus amulet, and a Corinthian helmet. Nor do I discard these after a particular book is done. I add to them. For MEMNON, I added a vial of sand from a beach on Rhodes, a postcard of Santorini at twilight, a replica coin of Alexander, and a high-res copy of an Egyptian wall fragment depicting Alexander as pharaoh. With THE LION OF CAIRO, I added an Afghan salawar (not a replica, but the real thing), a watercolor postcard showing a desert oasis, and a David Roberts print (‘Boulak’).”

FT: What was your impression of an author’s lifestyle and status and how has that interpretation changed since you've published a number of books?

SO: I’ve never really harbored any illusions about the lifestyle or status of authors, perhaps because I’ve known several who “hit the big time” before I ever published. Most authors I know, both published and not, live their lives more internally than externally; everything we experience becomes fodder for a story. I didn’t realize to what extent I did this myself until I happened to be interviewed by a local newspaper. What most struck the reporter was the starkness of the walls in my workspace. They were, and remain, a bland, featureless white, like an empty canvas. And though I might stare at them for hours upon hours, I don’t see what that reporter saw. To my eyes those white walls become vistas of ancient grandeur, pyramids and sand-scoured ruins, or bustling markets that reek of the mysterious East . . .

As for status, authors remain a curiosity, as envied as the scribes of ancient Egypt. I do wish strangers would stop asking me how much money I make, though.

FT: What are the best words of wisdom or tip that you'd give to a new or soon to be published author?

SO: Patience is less a virtue than it is a necessity. Cultivate patience, as well as professionalism and grace in the face of adversity. As a newly-published writer, I believed the hardest part of the process lay behind me once I typed “the End”; in reality, a finished manuscript is but the first step in a journey that’s just as likely to make one swear off this business of books as it is to inspire confidence.

Oh, and get a good agent. A well-connected agent is worth his weight in gold . . .

To keep up to date with all of Scott's Books please visit his website: HERE
To keep up to date with news and titbits of information please visit his blog: HERE

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Waking the Witch (Otherworld 11) - Kelley Armstrong


Columbus is a small, fading town, untouched by the twenty-first century. But when three young women are found dead - victims of what appear to be ritual murders - things start to get very dark, and very dangerous ...Private investigator Savannah Levine can handle 'dark and dangerous'. As the daughter of a black witch, she has a lot of power running through her veins, and she's not afraid to use it. But her arrival in Columbus has not gone unnoticed. Savannah may think she's tracking down a murderer, but could she be the killer's next target? Of course she could always ask her old friend (and half-demon) Adam Vasic for back up. But Savannah has her own - very personal - reasons for keeping Adam well away from Columbus. And in any case, she can rely on her own powers. Can't she ...?


You’ve waited a long time for the next new otherworld and my god, what a ride you’re in for. It’s beautifully scripted, Savannah Levine comes into her own and proves that she’s not just a kick ass heroine but a witch with a capital W.

Whilst I do enjoy my Kelley Armstrong, I did feel that more recent offerings in her Young Adult series were stronger than her main Otherworld series but that has changed, she’s back on form and ready to stomp Urban Fantasy beneath her boots. Add to the mix great dialogue and a top notch supporting cast and you know that you’ve got one hell of a ride. It will be interesting to see what Kelley comes up with next for Savannah although you can bet your bottom dollar it will be one hell of a ride and we know that the way will be paved with good intentions.

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: The Lion of Cairo - Scott Oden


Cairo, 1167 AD. On the banks of the river Nile, from a palace of gold and lapis lazuli, the Fatimid Caliph al Hadid rules over a crumbling empire. His city is awash with intrigues and in the shadow of the Grey Mosque, generals and emirs jockey for position under the scheming eyes of the powerful grand vizier, Jalal. In the crowded Souk, these factions use murder and terror to silence their opposition...Egypt is bleeding and the scent draws her enemies in like sharks: the Sultan of Damascus, the pious Nur al-Din, whose master is the rival Caliph of Baghdad; Shirkuh, the swaggering Kurd who would lead the armies of Damascus to victory and then, of course, Amalric, Christian king of Jerusalem whose insatiable greed knows no bounds. Yet the Caliph of Cairo has an unexpected ally: an old man who lives in a place that even eagles fear. He is Shaykh al-Jabal, called the Old Man of the Mountain, and it is he who holds the ultimate power of life and death over the warring factions of the Moslem world, and it is he who sends his greatest weapon into Egypt, to serve the Caliph. He is but a single man but he is an Assassin: the one they call the Emir of the Knife...


As a long time reader of historical fiction, I originally came across Scott’s writing set in ancient Greece. It was solid, it had great plot and above all else it had all the combat that the reader could handle. So I expected pretty much the same from Scott in this, his latest offering. What unfurls within not only brings the authors strengths to the fore but also gives the reader a touch of other magical elements, part Prince of Persia, part Assassin’s Creed and also part political intrigue, this offering really does bring everything together. It’s beautifully written, has some great lulls as well as peaks and takes the reader on an emotional journey. Great stuff.

Wednesday 28 July 2010

CREATIVE FUN: Paper Wonderland - Michelle Romo


This is a collection of super kawaii-like paper toy templates--ready to be cut out, built and played with or displayed. So sweet they make your teeth hurt, Michelle Romo's cute style can be summed up as Japanese-influenced cuteness with mid-century modern flair. Her characters can be brought into 3D life with only an X-acto knife and some glue. Besides people and animals, the collection also includes an adorable house, a sweetly spooky ghost and moustaches that can be assembled and worn. Includes characters that are begging to be brought into 3D life with an craft knife and some glue.


As a huge fan of putting things together to create something special and new I absolutely love this book. Whilst its tricky (hey I said I like putting them together, I never said I was good at it), the rewards for completing a project are well worth the effort. Even better you can scan these pages into your computer and have hours of fun making the different creations that will allow you to create your own menagerie of epic proportions. With something for everyone within this title it’s definitely a book that will keep more than just children amused.

Monday 26 July 2010

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Dervish House - Ian McDonald


In the CHAGA novels Ian McDonald brought an Africa in the grip of a bizarre alien invasion to life, in RIVER OF GODS he painted a rich portrait of India in 2047, in BRASYL he looked at different Brazils, past present and future. Ian McDonald has found renown at the cutting edge of a movement to take SF away from its British and American white roots and out into the rich cultures of the world. THE DERVISH HOUSE continues that journey and centres on Istanbul in 2025. Turkey is part of Europe but sited on the edge, it is an Islamic country that looks to the West. THE DERVISH HOUSE is the story of the families that live in and around its titular house, it is at once a rich mosaic of Islamic life in the new century and a telling novel of future possibilities.


Ian’s current series has been something of a whirlwind, the writing is something unequalled from what he’s done before but what really makes this title is the sheer scope of the plot outline. The characters stand on their own, they are fully rounded and the author is not above giving the cast traits that could have driven the average man mad. A great title and a wonderful third addition to Ian’s series. A real must own book.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Black Lung Captain - Chris Wooding


Darian Frey is down on his luck. He can barely keep his squabbling crew fed and his rickety aircraft in the sky. Even the simplest robberies seem to go wrong. It's getting so a man can't make a dishonest living any more. Enter Captain Grist. He's heard about a crashed aircraft laden with the treasures of a lost civilisation, and he needs Frey's help to get it. There's only one problem. The craft is lying in the trackless heart of a remote island, populated by giant beasts and subhuman monsters. Dangerous, yes. Suicidal, perhaps. Still, Frey's never let common sense get in the way of a fortune before. But there's something other than treasure on board that aircraft. Something that a lot of important people would kill for. And it's going to take all of Frey's considerable skill at lying, cheating and stealing if he wants to get his hands on it . . . Strap yourself in for another tale of adventure and debauchery, pilots and pirates, golems and daemons, double-crosses and double-double-crosses. The crew of the Ketty Jay are back!


Having had major problems with the original title in this series, I really wasn’t looking forward to starting this book. As with the original it did contain elements that are very similar to Firefly although this time round the crew didn’t feel that they were quite as obnoxious or unlikeable. Whether that’s because I weathered the original storm I’m not sure, but here in this tale, Chris takes the elements within to a more pleasing novel. Whilst I’m still not the biggest fan of this series it has improved and the reader may well be better starting with this title than the original.

Friday 23 July 2010

THRILLER REVIEW: Deadlock - Sean Black


His mission should have been straightforward: to keep one man alive for one week. One prisoner - Super-intelligent and brutally violent, Frank 'Reaper' Hays is a leading member of America's most powerful white supremacists prison gang. One bodyguard - Ex-military bodyguard Ryan Lock has been hired to protect him. His mission is to keep Reaper alive for a week until he can be brought to trial. One week to stay alive - But Lock soon realises that he faces the toughest assignment of his career - just to survive ...


As a fan of the concrete thriller, I was more than intrigued by the latest offering from Sean Black after being tipped the nod about him, by a friend last year. What unfurls within this offering is something a little different to a lot of the books out there. You have a white supremacist group, you have government departments and have course the obligatory all action, no holds barred hero.

The pacing of this piece is incredibly fast and soon leaves the book blurb far behind as the whole tale speeds along to an explosive conclusion in its almost unbelievable plot outline that could have come straight from Hollywood (and probably will at some point shortly.) It is fun, its incredibly fast and above all else it was a tale that I highly enjoyed due to its unrelenting pace and moralistic stand. Great fun.

CRIME REVIEW: The Taken - Inger Ash Wolfe


'Nightmare': When fact and fiction collide. Detective Inspector Hazel Micallef is recovering from a bad year, and a traumatic back operation that has left her in the care of her ex husband and his new wife. But Hazel is lured back to work when a body is pulled from a nearby lake: a discovery that eerily mirrors a disturbing story printed in the local newspaper. The author of the tale can't be found, and when gruesome, taunting clues begin to arrive Hazel realizes she's dealing with a master manipulator, a crazed soul who knows her every move...


OK, you want a tale that will chill you to the bone, will not only scare the bejesus out of you and will leave you worrying long after the final page is turned, then look no further than this offering from Inger Ash Wolfe.

It’s a tale that will sate the blood gods, will please the sleuths and will ultimately give you exactly what you’re looking for. Add to the mix an author who also fully understand the human psyche and one who manages to manipulate not only the characters but the reader and you know that its going to be something special.

Finally add descriptive prose, idealistic characters and above all else, a real treat to the reader and you know that this is definitely a title worthy of your finances. This book will cause more than one sleepless night, will also reawaken those deep routed fears and perhaps find chinks in your own personality that you didn’t know existed. Definitely a joie de vie title.

Thursday 22 July 2010

HISTORICAL FICTION REVIEW: Warrior of Rome 3: The Lion of the Sun - Harry Sidebottom


It's Mesopotamia, AD 260. Betrayed by his most trusted adviser, the Roman Emperor Valerian has been captured by the Sassanid barbarians. The shame of the vanquished beats down mercilessly like the white sun, as the frail old emperor prostrates himself before Shapur, King of Kings. Ballista looks on helplessly, but vows under his breath to avenge those who have brought the empire to the brink of destruction with their treachery. One day, maybe not soon, but one day, I will kill you ...But first he must decide what price he will pay for his own freedom. Only the fearless and only those whom the gods will spare from hell can now save the empire from a catastrophic ending. Ballista, the Warrior of Rome, faces his greatest challenge yet.


Having read a number of Harry’s books (well the previous two in this series) before I pretty much knew what to expect. You gat an almost classical education as you read through his work, backed up with charactes that leap from the pages of history to defy the rules and history makers of the day.

Its reasonably paced, the descriptiveness descent and bound together with an outline that does what it says on the tin. Whilst perhaps not as imaginable as Cornwell or combat based as either Scarrow or Cameron, this author does bring a book to the table that many a reader will enjoy.

Definitely a title to take your time with in order to fully digest what’s happening within. Good fun, solid back up and perhaps most importantly a sustainable quality for all of his writing. Whilst you can read this without having read any others in the series I would really recommend against that course of action and suggest that you start at the beginning in order to get the most out of this title.

THRILLER REVIEW: The Genesis Plague - Michael Byrnes


At the dawn of civilization ...An exotic stranger appears in a Mesopotamian village and is venerated as a goddess ...until she unleashes a horror beyond anything humankind has ever known. At the sunset of civilization ...A mercenary unit in northern Iraq, led by Sergeant Jason Yaeger, has trapped radical Islam's most wanted target in a mysterious cave that sits at the heart of the Genesis story. When a Marine platoon seeks to control the extraction mission, a threat far more ominous is found lurking beneath the mountains. Meanwhile in Boston, Massachusetts, Agent Thomas Flaherty helps archaeologist Brooke Thompson escape assassination by a Las Vegas televangelist intent on using the cave's deepest secret to bring the Middle East to its knees.


There are times when I really want a fast moving, action packed thriller adventure and that’s exactly what I got in this offering from Michael Byrnes. Add to the mix a touch of biblical mystery, some modern science belief alongside a touch of military paranoia and you get something pretty damn hard to put down. Ideal holiday material and one that won’t let you go, the sheer pace could leave you feeling exhausted at the end of the day. A real joy to read and one that has definitely made sure that I’ll keep a careful eye on this author in future.

Wednesday 21 July 2010

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: Undead and Unfinished - MaryJanice Davidson


Vampire Queen Betsy Taylor is fed up of trying to decipher the strange things prophesied in The Book of the Dead. At the end of her tether, she strikes a deal with Satan who promises to help - if she and her half-sister Laura pay a visit to Hell. Hell, it would seem, is more terrifying than Betsy could have ever imagined - a waiting room with bad carpeting, re-runs of 70s TV shows and ancient Good Housekeeping magazines. But when Betsy and Laura find themselves catapulted back and forth through time, they realise they could seriously screw everything up for good...


Whilst I do like Urban Fantasy, I am not a huge fan of a number of titles that appear to be humorous rather than solidly built from the ground up. I seem to miss something as what occurs within a number of these seem to be almost puerile and leaves me wondering exactly what the author is trying to achieve.

What Mary does within this title is something that neither works for me not is something that I’d recommend to any friends o the genre as it feels a little too jokey with a lead female character that really doesn’t seem to be anything other than a 2d cut out. The humour is low in places and I felt that it was aimed more for fans of this series than in any real serious attempt to aid newcomers to enjoy the offering. Back this up with a similar sort of style to Nina Harper and it really was a title that I didn’t get anything out of and was more than happy to see the back of. A great shame to be honest.

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: On the Third Day - Rhys Thomas


Society is on the brink of collapse. The Old World is vanishing, the New World is taking over. There are no rules. Not now that a deadly disease is spreading that causes its victims to turn violent. Previously loving people become murderous. No-one can tell who will turn and who will not. This is a work of force and dark brilliance - the perfect expression of the terrors of the 21st Century.


To be honest this offering is pretty similar to David Moody’s Haters (or rather it’s similar in outline) as urban fantasy meets Science Fiction in a world gone to hell in a handbasket. What the author does well in this offering is guide the reader by the hand through the eyes of Miriam as she learns about the way the world has turned. It’s got good characterisation, solid descriptiveness but concentrates on the emotional aspect of the events that make this tale worth reading. It’s creative and where Moody slips up, this author really keeps the title together creating a more cohesive end product. Very well done and one that I will be recommending to friends and fans of the whole Romeroesque/Survivor’s type world.

Tuesday 20 July 2010

FANTASY REVIEW: The Reluctant Mage - Karen Miller


It's been months since Rafel ventured over Barl's Mountains into the unknown, in a desperate bid to seek help. With his father's Weather Magic exhausted and Lur ravaged by polluting magics, there seemed no other hope. Now this too has died. Only Deenie believes Rafel still lives, sensing her brother in tortured dreams. She also knows she must try to find him, as only Rafel's talents could heal their land. The prospect terrifies Deenie, yet she sees no other choice. But she finds the lands beyond Lur blighted with lawlessness and chaos - and here Deenie and her companion Charis find the dark sorcerer Morg's deadly legacy. As they travel they learn of a dangerous new power in the land. Deenie comes to suspect that not only is her brother involved, but that the evil their father destroyed is somehow reborn. And if she can't save Rafel then, through him, Morg's vast power could once again command their world. THE RELUCTANT MAGE is the sequel to THE PRODIGAL MAGE, and set in the same world as Karen Miller's bestselling debut THE INNOCENT MAGE. With her cast of unforgettable characters, and masterful storytelling, Karen Miller has once again created an irresistible drama of political intrigue and magical adventure.


To be honest here I’m a huge fan of Karen’s writing and in particular this descent fantasy series set within the Kingmaker/Kingbreaker world. It’s creative, it has all the elements that will please fans of fantasy and above all else it’s the characters that really bring this piece to life even with a huge amount of fantastical elements added.

Add to the mix an author who also has a great grasp of plot pace alongside action/adventure and the reader is promised a real tale to keep them glued to the last page. Whilst you can technically read any of the offerings in this series without having enjoyed the previous it’s a great shame to miss something so special when there’s way too many books that are all the same out there. This is a real quality piece and one that deserves the readers time, attention and of course their finances. Great stuff.

FANTASY REVIEW: The Sword of Albion - Mark Chadbourn


1588: The London of Elizabeth I is rocked by news of a daring raid on the Tower. The truth is known only to a select few: that, for twenty years, a legendary doomsday device, its power fabled for millennia, has been kept secret and, until now, safe in the Tower. But it has been stolen and Walsingham's spies believe it has been taken by the Enemy. This Enemy is not who we usually think of as our traditional opponent. No, this Enemy has waged a brutal war against mankind since time began, and with such a weapon they might take terrible toll upon England's green and pleasant land...And so it falls to Will Swyfte - swordsman, adventurer, scholar, rake, and the greatest of Walsingham's new breed of spy - to follow a trail of murder and devilry that leads deep into the dark, venomous world of the Faerie. As Philip of Spain prepares a naval assault on England, Will is caught up in a race against time in pursuit of this fiendish device...


Mark is one of the stable British Writers of Fantasy today, you can virtually guarantee a reasonable novel that will not only win the reader over but of a level that will please the majority of Fantasy fans.

Departing from the fantasy set in modern times, we see an offering set in the Elizabethan period that seems to be coming very popular with other author. Add to the mix a touch of humour (with a Q like character) an international (or rather European) man of mystery and a whole host of villains from the fae world for the hero to over come and you know its going to be something a bit different. It is well written, the descriptiveness pretty tight and dialogue that will definitely win the reader over. A solid offering that will open a new branch into the fantasy world, I just hope he can maintain the quality with his second release.

Monday 19 July 2010

MEMOIR REVIEW: 90 Day Geisha - Chelsea Haywood


Step into the surreal world of a Tokyo hostess club and gain an exclusive underground pass courtesy of Chelsea Haywood as she sets out to explore a vocation where GBP400 dinners, Harajuku shopping sprees and first-class trips to Kyoto are just part of the job. This is the true story of one girl's immersion in the world of hostessing, a late-night entertainment for wealthy Japanese men drawn from the traditional institution of the geisha. In an attempt to make the foreign familiar, Chelsea's initial fascination takes an unexpected turn as she struggles to maintain sanity in an illusory world full of empty flattery, unrelenting temptation and material excess.


Coming across a new publisher is always something special, as you get to find a whole host of new talent that you didn’t know about before. For our first offering from Mainstream Publishing we selected 90 Day Geisha which from the blurb looked like it was going to be something special.

However what we discovered was something else entirely. First of all the author came across as a self centred, greedy ex model who had set her eyes on writing this book before even applying for the position of a hostess. She then headed off to Japan during the time of a Hostess Murder trial and then just happened to work in the same club (although renamed) as another hostess victim. During this novel she alluded to acting as the hostess for the murder suspect, grabbed as much as she could do and appears to have wanted to add a bit of spice to the second part of this offering by claiming that she fell in love with one of her clients. Add to the mix that she snorted drugs in a hotel and proceeded to glamorising the whole lifestyle and it left you feeling that she was damn lucky not to have become a victim herself.

Finally the author also claimed that as a hostess sex wasn’t on the menu and yet she’d spend nights in a hotel with clients and then proceeded to contradict known events about the Geisha and you really have to wonder who she was trying to convince. As a title it wasn’t that successful as I’d have preferred to have read this offering more as a Belle De Jour Memoir rather than what was presented here.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: New Model Army - Adam Roberts


Adam Roberts' new novel is a terrifying vision of a near future war - a civil war that tears the UK apart as new technologies allow the worlds first truly democratic army to take on the British army and wrest control from the powers that be. Taking advances in modern communication and the new eagerness for power from the bottom upwards Adam Roberts has produced a novel that is at once an exciting war novel and a philosophical examination of war and democracy. It shows one of the UKs most exciting and innovative literary voices working at the height of his powers and investing SF with literary significance that is its due.


Science Fiction has always looked forward as a genre, so it’s always interesting to see what new innovation each author brings to the genre. What Adam Roberts brings to the reader in this new offering is a tale that takes the reader into the New Model Army, one that doesn’t rely on the antiquated chain of command but of a cohesion that few others can match as each trooper is an army on his own under his multiple roles. This is achieved through the use of a computer chipped democratic process where each member gets a vote and with a handy wiki available for all to use, they manage to fulfil each roll with ease.

What Roberts also does with this tale is to keep the voice of the principle protagonist as something that is not only brusque but matter of fact which adds a layer of believability to the tale that others fail o achieve. That said there are problems with this tale. For example the author announces two thirds of the way through that the “hero” is gay, not that I’m against it, but it wasn’t required, it didn’t add another layer, it didn’t do anything to further the story and it seemed more as an after thought to try and fill up some space. Why? Was it a homage to the Ancient Greeks or just to try and help bring the tale to another area of the literary market?

All in all, its well written and does bring a whole new option to table. So for that alone it’s a worthy read.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: No Man's Land: Black Hand Gang - Pat Kelleher


On November 1st 1916, 900 men of the 13th Battalion of the Pennine Fusiliers vanish without trace from the battlefield only to find themselves on an alien planet. There they must learn to survive in a hostile environment, while facing a sinister threat from within their own ranks and a confrontation with an inscrutable alien race!


If you’re on the lookout for something a little more Warlord (those of you of a certain age know to which I refer) than a lot of modern fiction then this title is the one for you. Soldiers from the First World War are thrust into a foreign world and have to fight to survive in a bug eat man world. Almost Starship Troopers meets Charlies War. Beautifully written with some top notch combat, some great dialogue and above all else characters who you just can’t help but support as they try to survive as a unit as well as personally in this alien world. A great offering from Abaddon and one destined to scratch that war tale you’ve perhaps not realised you’ve been searching for.

Sunday 18 July 2010

NEWS: Competition from Transworld & Sir Terry Pratchett

Sir Terry Pratchett and Transworld Publishers are proud to launch a new award for aspiring debut novelists, The Terry Pratchett Anywhere But Here, Anywhen But Now Prize. Transworld will offer the winning author a publishing contract with a £20,000 advance.

The award will be judged by the esteemed Sir Terry Pratchett, the wise Tony Robinson, the savvy Mike Rowley from Waterstone’s and two members of the editorial team at Transworld Publishers.

Sir Terry Pratchett had this to say:

“Anywhere but here, anywhen but now. Which means we are after stories set on Earth, although it may be an Earth that might have been, or might yet be, one that has gone down a different leg of the famous trousers of time (see the illustration in almost every book about quantum theory).

We will be looking for books set at any time, perhaps today, perhaps in the Rome of today but in a world where 2000 years ago the crowd shouted for Jesus Christ to be spared, or where in 1962, John F Kennedy's game of chicken with the Russians went horribly wrong. It might be one day in the life of an ordinary person. It could be a love story, an old story, a war story, a story set in a world where Leonardo da Vinci turned out to be a lot better at Aeronautics. But it won’t be a story about being in an alternate Earth because the people in an alternate Earth don’t know that they are; after all, you don’t.

But this might just be the start. The wonderful Peter Dickinson once wrote a book that could convince you that flying dragons might have existed on Earth. Perhaps in the seething mass of alternate worlds humanity didn't survive, or never evolved -- but other things did, and they would have seen the world in a different way. The possibilities are literally endless, but remember, it’s all on Earth. Maybe the continents will be different and the climate unfamiliar, but the physics will be the same as ours. What goes up must come down, ants are ant-sized because if they were any bigger their legs wouldn't carry them. In short, the story must be theoretically possible on some version of the past, present or future of a planet Earth.”

The deadline for submissions will be 31 December 2010 and a shortlist of six entries will be announced on the 31 March 2011. The winner will be announced by the end May 2011.

Entrants must be over 18, have no previous published full-length works of fiction and live in the UK, Ireland or the Commonwealth. Submissions should be emailed to:

NEWS: Titan Books Website Relaunches

Hail Mighty Readers,
Our friends over at Titan have let us know about their brand spanking new look and to be honest with you, its pretty hot.

The new format (designed by the web specialists Zone) has something for everyone, you want great competitions, you got it, you want to concentrate on specific series or titles, you got that. In fact theres something for everyone be it finding out about the brand new Green Lantern film or if you want to find out about other links or special future previews.

It's nifty, it's quick loading but above all else Titan have set themselves up for one hell of a future. New site has now launched to coincide with the San Diego Comic Con. For more info and to get a peak at this phoenix, go here.

Friday 16 July 2010

CRIME REVIEW: The Sacred Stone - The Medieval Murderers


1067. In the desolate wastes of Greenland, a group of hunters discover a strangely-shaped meteor which has fallen from the sky. At first, the mysterious 'sky-stone' seems to bring them good luck, healing a lame boy and guaranteeing a good catch of furs. But violence and murder soon follow in fortune's wake, as the villagers fight and struggle amongst themselves to get control of the precious stone. Over the next six hundred years, the Sky-Stone falls into the hands of crusading knights, the wicked Sheriff of Devon, a group of radical young kabalists, the dying King Henry III and a band of travelling players. Each time, the stone brings treachery, discord and violent death to those who seek to possess it.


A cracking offering from a group of top notch historical fiction crime writers. Here in this offering they take the reader on a journey through time following one artifact in each of their own indomitable writing styles. Each story is a great offering on its own and when read as a whole was a great overall story that I thoroughly enjoyed. Add to the mix the real talent of so many authors backed up with a good overall arc and cracking dialogue and it’s a book that really will keep fans of historical crime satisfied.



The world has suffered a catastrophe of unknown cause, dividing humankind into two: the Haters and the Unchanged. Each group believes the other to be the enemy; each group is fighting for survival. Only by working together can the enemy - whoever that enemy is - be defeated. There are no other choices. Danny McCoyne has managed to break free, and after days of indiscriminate fighting and killing, he is determined to make his way home, to recalim the only thing of any value to him in this strange new world: his daughter Ellis. Unlike his wife and son, Ellis is like him, and he knows, in his heart of hearts, that she is not dead. His dearest wish is for Ellis to be fighting for the world at his side - but Danny soon discovers his daughter is worth far more than just another fighting body. Others like him have discovered that children are absolutely vital to the cause. They are strong, small, fast, and they have no inhibitions. They are pure Haters ...


A sequel to David’s original novel Haters and one, that I’ll let you know now, has to be read in sequence. IE Do not try and pick this up without first having read the original or you’ll be pretty scuppered.

Danny McCoyne returns as the principle protagonist searching for his missing daughter Ellis who is also afflicted with the same disease as himself, ie she’s an Hater too. Not wanting to get involved with the whole war between Haters and Unchanged he finds himself drawn into the fray. Whilst the first was pretty darn good, this novel however felt a little flat due to it feeling like more of a novella that could have been added onto the original rather than drawn out over the course of a secondary title which made this pretty tedious at times and felt more than a little padded to hit required length.

The Fight sequences were pretty much identical, the subsequent cast members were forgettable and to be honest it was pretty depressing and not up to par of the original. Had I not been asked to review this book I’d tell you now that it’s a title that I’d have quit quite early on and with the titles blurb pretty much explaining what happens you could save yourself a lot of time and cash by just getting that gist. Add to the mix a pretty poor twist at the end (which at this rate I suspect will make the author a third title) and I suspect that this once great idea is about to sink fast.

Thursday 15 July 2010

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes: Seance for a Vampire - Fred Saberhagen, The 7th Bullet - Daniel D Victor


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's timeless creation returns in a new series of handsomely designed, long out-of-print detective stories. From the earliest days of Holmes' career to his astonishing encounters with Martian invaders, the "Further Adventures" series encapsulates the most varied and thrilling cases of the world's greatest detective. When two suspect psychics offer Ambrose Altamont and his wife the opportunity to contact their recently deceased daughter, the wealthy British aristocrat wastes no time in hiring Sherlock Holmes to expose their hoax. He arranges for the celebrated detective and Dr Watson to attend the family's next seance, confident in Holmes' rationalist outlook on the situation. But what starts as cruel mockery becomes deadly reality when young, beautiful Louisa Altamont appears to her parents in the flesh as one of the nosferatu - a vampire! The resulting chaos leaves one of the fraudulent spiritualists dead, Sherlock Holmes missing and Dr Watson alone and mystified. With time running out, Watson has no choice but to summon the only one who might be able to help - Holmes' vampire cousin, Prince Dracula. Alternately narrated by Watson and the charismatic Dracula himself, Seance for a Vampire demonstrates that heroes are sometimes found in the most unlikely places. Saberhagen has recast Bram Stoker's paragon of evil into a noble, witty and chillingly powerful character.


Titan, whilst famed for their graphic novels, is definitely one to watch for a number of their fiction titles, in this case the new adventures of Sherlock Holmes that have an urban fantasy twist. Within this offering is a tale worthy of the great detective and his sidekick Watson, as they embark on a tale full of blood curdling terror and revenge. Well written with a story arc that beautifully bounces along with the reader as the tale is told from two points of view. A great offering and one that will bring the detective to a new generation, especially with the imagination of this author. Outstanding.


Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's timeless creation returns in a new series of handsomely designed, long out-of-print detective stories. From the earliest days of Holmes' career to his astonishing encounters with Martian invaders, the Further Adventures series encapsulates the most varied and thrilling cases of the worlds' greatest detective. Sherlock Holmes' desire for a peaceful life in the Sussex countryside is dashed when true-life muckraker and author David Graham Phillips is assassinated, leaving behind little clues as to why he was murdered. The pleas of his sister draws Holmes and Watson to the far side of the Atlantic, where a web of deceit, violence and intrigue unravels as they embark on one of their most challenging cases.


As a fan of Holmes from his modern movie expeditions alongside the classical novels of Doyle, I’ve always had a weakness for a well told crime tale and that’s exactly what is presented to the modern reader here. Taking Holmes and Watson across the pond, this mystery is one that feels to me, as a reader, that it could be something that could happen in modern times (and possibly already has.) Its well executed, the characters similar to the ones in the previous title that I read in this latest series and above all the dialogue along with problem solving is consitant. However my major gripe with this is that I predicted the end before it happened which to be honest upset me quite a bit as I felt a little cheated. It is a fun title, its quite short and would make a reasonable travel companion for a few days. Great stuff.

Wednesday 14 July 2010

URBAN FANTASY REVIEW: The Infernal Game: Ghost Dance - Rebecca Levene


Morgan is sent on a new mission for the Hermetic Divi­sion, investigating the murder of the world's foremost expert on Elizabethen alchemist John Dee. Her killer - an agent of Mossad with superhuman powers. In the US, Alex, a powerful medium, is employed by the CIA to invesitage a new cult called the Croatans who seem to be able to possess animals. Alex and Morgan's path cross when Morgan is drawn to the US in pursuit of Dee's greatest treasure - and the dangerous young man who plans to use it to achieve immortality!


Having loved the original by Rebecca, I’m always a little apprehensive when it comes to a second outing as they either hit the spot or sink without a trace. This one continued to build upon the success of the original although took it in a different direction to the one I expected it to follow. Whilst the original was more of a Cold War type tale this one explored the mythos of Eden alongside the dreamwalker from the native American stories. It did add something different, it did bring a whole set of new options to the fore and it did give the reader a fair amount of surprises along the way. Yet I felt that it was missing something that made the original so gripping that you couldn’t just put it down. Whether it was due to the loss of a favoured character I can’t say but it just didn’t feel complete to be honest and a little lack lustre. It is still a fun offering, it does continue the world building and I hope that the third outing will get back to more familiar territory.

HORROR REVIEW: Apartment 16 - Adam Nevill


Some doors are better left closed...In Barrington House, an upmarket block in London, there is an empty apartment. No one goes in, no one comes out. And it's been that way for fifty years. Until the night watchman hears a disturbance after midnight and investigates. What he experiences is enough to change his life forever. A young American woman, Apryl, arrives at Barrington House. She's been left an apartment by her mysterious Great Aunt Lillian who died in strange circumstances. Rumours claim Lillian was mad. But her diary suggests she was implicated in a horrific and inexplicable event decades ago. Determined to learn something of this eccentric woman, Apryl begins to unravel the hidden story of Barrington House. She discovers that a transforming, evil force still inhabits the building. And the doorway to Apartment 16 is a gateway to something altogether more terrifying...


In recent years, Brit Horror has taken more of a backseat against a lot of titles from American authors such as Stephen King and Joe Hill. Here in this offering, the book is set in an apartment block called Barrington House and features two principle characters. Apryl, an American who is left her Great Aunt Lillian’s apartment and Nightwatch Man Seth. The tale centres around the long empty Apartment 16 and as Seth gets into his stride at work, he notices that the empty apartment has a lot of activity happening within. One night he summons up the courage to look through the letter box only to feel a ghostly wind upon his face which then sets up the tale for his investigation.

Apryl, on the other hand, notices pretty soon that her Aunt’s apartment is missing paintings and mirrors, only to find out why when she brings up a mirror from the basement. A vision which terrifies her. Upon finding her Aunt’s journals she also embarks upon her own investigation about the mysterious apartment.

The book itself is very well written with the descriptiveness better than a great many established authors with a good story arc but at times it can feel a bit tedious in places. Definitely a title I’d recommend to those who enjoy a good spine-tingling tale.

Tuesday 13 July 2010

FANTASY REVIEW: Shadow's Son - Jon Sprunk


Treachery and corruption lurk at the end of every street, in the holy city of Othir. It's the perfect place for a freelance assassin with no loyalties and even fewer scruples. Caim makes - or perhaps more accurately, takes - his living on the edge of a blade. Murder is a risky business, but so far he reckons he's on the right side of it. Or he was ...because when a short-notice contract job goes south, Caim finds himself thrust into the middle of a sinister plot in which he seems to be one of the primary marks. Pitted against crooked lawmen, rival killers and the darkest kinds of sorcery, it's going to take more than luck if he's to get through this alive. He may lack scruples, but he's still got his knives, and his instincts, to rely on - and a developed sense of revenge, or should that be justice? - to fall back on. But when his path leads him from the hazardous back streets of Othir and into the highest halls of power, will instincts and weapons alone really be enough? If Caim is really going to unravel the plot which has snared him, to unmask a conspiracy at the heart of the empire, he will have to finally claim his birthright as the Shadow's Son ...


A new author and one that picks up the gauntlet of the fantasy assassin from Brent Weeks. What unfurls within this is a tale of murder, mayhem and above all else. Add to the mix a touch of Hitman (the film) alongside intrigue which makes this a real gem of a title. What Jon does different is his take on the mythos of the assassin and clearly demonstrates that whilst the loyalty of a hired killer is assured for the length of a contract their wrath is something truly fearful to behold. A great tale by this author and one that will definitely hit the spot for a number of readers who have yearned for the return to a darker killer in a similar vein as Gemmell’s Waylander.

FANTASY REVIEW: Warhammer Heroes: Sword of Justice - Chris Wraight


Fresh from the slaughter of the Emperor's enemies in the north, Ludwig Schwarzhelm, Emperor's Champion, is sent to Averland to oversee the inauguration of a new elector count. Beset by greenskins, and hampered on all sides by the ambitions of rival magnates, he is soon fighting to keep the fractious province together. But the rot runs deep. Powerful forces in Altdorf seem determined to see him fail, and suspicion falls on even his most trusted allies. When all is at its bleakest, the mark of Chaos and the full horror of his task is finally revealed. Alone, doubted by those closest to him, this will be Schwarzhelm's greatest ever challenge, one on which the destiny of the Empire itself depends.


The Warhammer world is not only a war torn battlefield through strength of arms but also through the desolate lands of the mental sparring. Which is what Chris Wraight bring’s to the table in this offering. Where many are famed for their battlefield prowess and in particular the hero of this offering its to the mental battlefield that a the battle hardened warrior is most challenged. Beautifully written with something for all fans of fantasy as the mental sparring is just as good and at times better than the physical battle descriptions. A great title and one that I really want a sequel for.

Monday 12 July 2010

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: Enforcer - Matthew Farrer


Enforcer Shira Calpurnia maintains a tough line on law and order in the Hydraphur system. Home to Imperial warfleets, this area of space is riven with violence and corruption. Calpurnia's duty is to protect the innocent and punish the guilty - with extreme prejudice. This omnibus collects the novels Crossfire, Legacy and Blind as well as new content from the author.


Fans of the 40K Universe will more than likely have visited at least one of Shira’s adventures prior to this omnibuses release. What you get is something a little more mystery based, with double dealing, bounties and above all else a dog eat dog world that the principle protagonista has to negotiate her own way round. Beautifully written with top notch entertainment backed up with action that is pure high octane. Add to the mix the fact that its an omnibus so you know its value for money and it’s a pretty tight offering all round.

SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW: The Restoration Game - Ken MacLeod


There is no such place as Krassnia. Lucy Stone should know - she was born there. In that tiny, troubled region of the former Soviet Union, revolution is brewing. Its organisers need a safe place to meet, and where better than the virtual spaces of an online game? Lucy, who works for a start-up games company in Edinburgh, has a project that almost seems made for the job: a game inspired by The Krassniad, an epic folk tale concocted by Lucy's mother Amanda, who studied there in the 1980s. Lucy knows Amanda is a spook. She knows her great-grandmother Eugenie also visited the country in the '30s, and met the man who originally collected Krassnian folklore, and who perished in Stalin's terror. As Lucy digs up details about her birthplace to slot into the game, she finds the open secrets of her family's past, the darker secrets of Krassnia's past - and hints about the crucial role she is destined to play in The Restoration Game ...


Definitely an interesting tale that brings to the fore a whole range of themes that some would perhaps wonder whether or not it would have been best to have left well alone. What occurs within is a tale of computer games, of dark dealings behind an old spy network and of course a slight blending of the unusual through the use of ancient tales. It is well written, it does have some cracking pieces of inventive prose as well as a decent pace, but some of the themes within don’t quite meld and I did feel that it went a little bit too far and would have benefited more had it not gone quite as far as it did. Still a reasonable read and whilst I don’t think its going to end up on the best of this years Science Fiction it is entertaining enough provided you don’t take it too seriously.


Hail Mighty Readers,
Well we love receiving comments from people who read out reviews, however in order to get your POV published on the site you really need to include a name and link, after all those who leave Anonymous posts are not only wasting thier own time but also not allowing others the chance to be able to join thier own site in case they feel that the person has a legitamate point and wants to follow them.

The other thing that we're going to be attempting to do is to make sure that titles are reviewed as close to thier release date as we can, obviously titles that land sooner will be prioritised and titles that land later will be reviewed as and when we have a break in our schedule.

Hopefully this will meet with our readers approval,


Friday 9 July 2010

BIOGRAPHY, The Nine Lives of Otto Katz - Jonathan Miles


He was one of the most effective agents ever to work for Soviet Russia. For the first half of the twentieth century his fingerprints can be found on one world-changing event after another. But who was Otto Katz? To the FBI, he was 'an extremely dangerous man'. The British Secret Service wondered if he was the 'Director of all Communist policy in the West.' In Prague and Berlin he was a drinking companion with the likes of Franz Kafka and Bertolt Brecht. To Marlene Dietrich, he was one of her many lovers. But to others, Katz was a passionate anti-fascist who witnessed Hitler's rise to power and was among the first to alert the world to the Nazi threat. He was a staunch Communist, part of the Soviet infiltration of England during the period when the Cambridge spies were being recruited. In Hollywood, he was a playboy socialite, political mentor to director Fritz Lang and a star among stars. His example inspired the character of Victor Laszlo in Casablanca and Kurt Muller, the hero of the Academy Award Winning Watch on the Rhine. To Noel Coward, he was a potential double agent. In the Spanish Civil War, he did Stalin's dirty work. Years later, some even blamed him for the assassination of Trotsky. In a captivating detective story, Jonathan Miles goes in search of the real Otto Katz - a brilliant, daring charmer, a double-dealing man with an unquestionable taste for the finer things in life who, nonetheless, served one of history's darkest masters - Joseph Stalin. Using recently released FBI, MI5 and Czech files, Jonathan Miles has created an action-packed story of the life (or lives) of one of the world's most intriguing, influential and successful spies.


As a huge fan of books based on real larger than life characters, I was pretty surprised at this offering from Jonathan Miles who investigated the curious character known as Otto Katz, a soviet spy. It not only was fascinating but brought a real sense of a 007 to the modern day reader from the last century. Beautifully written and above all well researched this offering really did hit the spot to me as a reader and allowed a glimpse into a man who must have been an absolutely fascinating character at a dinner party. A real triumph and one that I hope that many will pick up if only to learn about a character that shouldn’t have met the grisly end.

WRITING ADVICE: 179 Ways to Fix a Novel - Peter Selgin


This thoughtful new writing resource breaks down the fiction writer's process into four levels: soul, substance, structure, and style, and shows how misunderstandings at any of these levels can result in failure, and that the key to success lies in avoiding such misunderstandings. The book explores such topics as melodrama and violence, the use of autobiographical elements, plot, point of view, character development, false starts, flashbacks, suspense, symbolism, metaphors, tone, overwriting, and more. 150 to Save a Novel offers technical solutions while simultaneously helping writers to think more deeply, more wisely, and more carefully about their choices, big and small, so they make the right choices - the choices that will result in a work of art.


As an amateur writer (or rather scribbler in my case) I’m always looking for ways to try and fix the problems that I’ve hit in order to get that mythical beast, a finished first draft. So when this offering came my way I felt that I’d have a chance to see where I’ve not only made a hodge podge of the situation but to see about ways to not only patch the error but move the overall story forward.

Unfortunately what this title has to offer really isn’t what you’d expect, it felt more like a title that is being used to allow the author the chance to privately have a dig at a lot of successful authors as well as mock their writing style. Not only did this “writer” proceed to tell everyone exactly what the successful tales have done wrong but told the reader what rule’s they’ve broken and why the title isn’t really literature. The author in my opinion is unfair in their judgement and just because the things that these others have done isn’t exactly text book, writing a novel isn’t either. It’s something that has to be done by the individual and done so that what they end up with is the type of tale that they love to read.

All in all this title was less than helpful and I personally felt it was a case of sour grapes and the old adage of those who can’t, teach.

Thursday 8 July 2010

INTERVIEW: Anthony Riches

Friend of the blog and soon to be epic wall walker (see our earlier post), Anthony Riches has kindly taken the time to answer some more of our questions. Here he goes into detail about the long road to success, how to deal with critics and above all else, why a good red wine and a great scotch are the cure for most ills...

Falcata Times: How would you say that your perspective has changed about selling your own work with multiple novels under your belt?

Anthony Riches: I'm a lot more relaxed about the whole process than I was during the delivery of Arrows of Fury. I had no idea if I could do it again, despite all the bravado with which I faced down my inner uncertainty. Having seen AoF get accepted with only minimal changes to sharpen the plot I’m pretty comfortable in my writing skin now, and ready to take Marcus from 182ad through to 211, in what I plan will be a series of novels set across the late 2nd century Roman Empire’s magnificent diversity.

FT: How would you sell yourself as an author?

AR: Hmmm. How not to demean one’s work whilst making it clear that it’s not exactly literary fiction? Let’s put it this way: I write the kind of stories that I enjoy reading. My novels are about duty and comradeship in difficult times, and the history comes a close second to the plot action. I’ve been described as a ‘Roman Andy McNab’, and if I could achieve anything like the sort of sales that he routinely manages I’d be a happy man! Oh, and my business partner Graham says I have to use his strap line – ‘Gore Galore!’ There you go, my writing summed up in two words!

FT: How would you say that your experience of writing and publishing has changed your method of writing?

AR: That’s a simple one. In the days before I got into print I could decide not to write for a month if I felt out of sorts. Now that I understand the industry’s need for routine and dependable delivery of product if the author is going to build a readership, I can’t allow myself that sort of luxury. Nothing else has changed apart from my recently acquired discipline of writing regularly, but then my books have pretty much escaped any serious surgery to date. If that were to change I suppose I’d have to take a hard look at the nature of my output, but that hasn’t yet come to pass.

FT: With the experience that you've gained now, what do you wish you could have told yourself when you were starting out that you now know?

AR: Just to push the first manuscript harder and earlier. I dithered over the damn thing for years – well, over a decade in point of fact. It’s a lot easier to get through the publishing maze if you have a well known name, or a relevant and prestigious expertise in the era about which you’re writing, which means that there must be many great authors festering down dead ends due to lack of contacts, confidence or perseverance. I would have told myself to stop being so pathetic and get the script out there.

FT: What characteristics of your protagonists do you wish that you had yourself and why?

AR: Ambidextrous and expert sword fighting skills would be pretty near the top of the list, closely followed by the stamina to march long distances in heavy Roman armour – and there’s a great chance to mention the Wall Walk that Robin Wade and I are undertaking between 30th May – 3rd June for Help for Heroes. ( Apart from that I’d like the ability to hand out abuse as inventively as some of the harder edged centurions in my stories – I’m much more one dimensional in my everyday choice of rude language.

FT: Which of your characters are most like you and why?

AR: I’m not sure any of them are very much like me…perhaps my cynicism creeps through every now and then, and the choice of language is a lot like me. I write my characters from what I see in the people around me, not about me…I think.

FT: What of life’s little addictions could you not live without and why?

AR: Good red wine with dinner, great Scotch whisky after it, but most of all, the high performance internal combustion engine.

FT: With regular trips for book tours around the country as well as to various Conventions, what is an absolute travel essential that you couldn't do without?

AR: What book tours and conventions? Come back to me when the Empire series has raised that sort of interest! However, my absolute travel essential given that I spend quite a lot of time on plane has to be the iPod Touch, absolutely the best single device I’ve ever had.

FT: Previously you've had some problems when others have critcised your work, how do you think you've changed to adapt to it or would you say that you're just the same?

AR: Look, every author gets criticised, it’s just part of being published, and anyone that can’t take a joke shouldn’t have joined! I recall getting two crits in short succession on Amazon, one of which pretty much said I was a low brow gore merchant with absolutely no grasp of the period, the other one bemoaning that fact that all the history in ‘Wounds of Honour’ was getting in the way of the action. I don’t think I could change the way I write very much, even if I wanted to, and indeed I believe that the formation of writing style is something that’s more about evolution than revolution. I’m sure there are people who can receive formal training and promptly make something different happen on the page, but I’m not one of them. Sure I’ll be writing differently in ten years time in some way or other, but probably not from conscious choice.

FT: On long journeys, reading is often the pleasure of choice, whose work will you grab at the airport to ensure a good journey?

AR: The usual suspects (for me): Iain M Banks, Richard Morgan, Lee Childs, any good looking thriller and anything that looks interesting, whether fiction or fact, about the Romans. And I buy a LOT of books at airports!

FT: Out of all your novels, which is your favourite and why?

AR: That has to be ‘Wounds of Honour’. Well I’ve only written two (three if you count the almost completed ‘Fortress of Spears’), and I lived with that script for over a decade. ‘Wounds’ is my first literary child, and I love it dearly. Mind you, I’m probably prouder of ‘Arrows of Fury’, given the short time I had to write it in alongside working in Glasgow, Paris and Heidenheim (the back of beyond in Germany) - and sitting on planes two or three times a week.

FT: With everyone having their own personal view as to who should be cast in a film version of their work, who do you think should play your principle protaganists and why?

AR: That’s tricky. I’m not really in touch with young male film actors – not my bag! – but I have imagined a few of the main characters with famous faces as I write; Ross Kemp as First Spear Frontinius , Ray Winstone as Tiberius Rufius, Gerard Butler as Centurion Julius and Dolph Lundgren as Centurion Titus. But as to Marcus…I have no idea. A younger Ioan Gruffudd might fit the bill, but aside from that I’ve not a clue. Film producers, please feel free to surprise me with a few ideas!

FT: Authors are generally a superstitious lot and upon completion of novels follow a certain ritual, what is yours and how has it changed from the original?

AR: Post completion ritual? Not really. I tend to say ‘thank **** for that’ and start the next one…and…err…that’s it. Well, I might have a few scotches to celebrate getting the monkey off my back whilst reaching for the next one…

FT: What was your impression of an author’s lifestyle and status and how has that interpretation changed since you've published a number of books?

AR: I’m not sure I had any real perception of author’s lifestyle, never mind status, pre-publication – my yearning to get published was far more about ego and drive to achieve than any expectation of fame and fortune (and neither of which were ever going to be desperately likely), but I can tell you what I think it is now. For the favoured few I think it’s a probably a doddle, and rewarded with money beyond their expectations when they hit the rich seam of teenage buyers that spend a fortune on wizards and vampires (and probably vampire gangsters, sigh). For the rest of us, whether ‘amateur’ or full time writers, it’s hard work, punctuated by periods of elusive creativity and uncertainty, albeit something that most of us could probably never stop doing it even if there was no reward at the end of the process.

FT: What are the best words of wisdom or tip that you'd give to a new or soon to be published author?

AR: What are you wasting your time reading this for? You’ve got to deliver another one in six months time for Christ’s sake! Get on with some writing! And seriously…ignore the critics and keep doing what you’re doing. Your story was good enough to get published, so get on with turning out some more of the same. Make it better, funnier, more thrilling and surprising by all means, but stop dithering and get writing!