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copper promiseThere are some far-fetched rumours about the caverns beneath the Citadel. Some say the Mages left their most dangerous secrets buried there, some say the gods themselves have been imprisoned there. For Lord Frith the caverns hold the key to his vengeance, against all odds he has survived torture and the death of his family, and now someone has to pay. For Wydrin and Sebastian the quest into the Citadel is just another job, the promise of gold and adventure and the possibility of getting a good tale or two that will stand them drinks everywhere they go.

But sometimes there is truth in rumours. Sometimes it pays to listen, pays not to be a reckless adventurer. But Wydrin was never a good listener and soon this trio of adventurers will find themselves the last line of defence against a hungry, ruthless terror that wants to tear the world apart.

But worse than that, they’re not even getting paid.

This is a first for me, reviewing a book that is not even out yet. First a disclaimer, I’ve known Jen Williams via Twitter for a couple of years, I’ve followed her journey throughout the process that started with the novella The Copper Promise: Ghosts of the Citadel and culminated in the publication of this, her first novel.

There is a saying, “books are like the TARDIS, bigger on the inside”. Whilst this is true they are also like the Doctors ship in another way, they are capable of sending the reader back in time. I grew up in the 1970s reading about the adventures of Conan of Cimmeria, whilst my reading tastes may have moved on since, there has always been a special place in my heart for the style of writing Robert E Howard made all his own, his styling’s were my first taste of fantasy. In a way I can see something of Conan in the main character of this book, Wydrin, the Copper Cat of Crosshaven. They are both carefree in their attitudes to personal danger, both have a healthy interest in loot, both know how to use a blade. Wydrin may not be a tall brooding barbarian, but put her toe to toe with one and it would be a hard fight to call.

I not saying Wydrin is a carbon copy, Jen has created a strong and vibrant character, a character that has her own unique personality. Wydrin is the source of much of the humour throughout the story, she is a bottomless well of one-liners, put downs and endless enthusiastic mirth. But she also has an edge, as a daughter of Crosshaven she has piracy in her blood, and has no qualms about killing to defend herself. Wydrin is not your typical heroine, her interests lie firmly in creating havoc and getting blinding drunk.

Alongside Wydrin Jen has assembled a strong supporting cast. The steadfast Sebastian, a fallen Knight of Ynnsmouth, tall and strong, a stubborn mule of a man with principles that are at odds with the life he now leads. Sebastian is a conflicting character, a man who lives by a strict moral code whilst aiding an adventurer and thief. But despite being poles apart the bond between Sebastian and Wydrin is strong. Then there is Lord Aaron Frith, heir to the Blackwood throne who employs Wydrin and Sebastian to lead him into the Citadel of Creos in search of the ancient secrets said to be buried there. Frith initially is not someone you feel you can get close to. He’s a broken man, his family and home brutally taken from him, his life focused on vengeance and his pursuit of power he feels is his. But Frith – of all the characters – has the biggest character curve throughout the book, as piece by piece his shell is cracked away to reveal the man beneath.

The plot is a simple one. A theft leads to a hunt leads to a big battle. But it’s how these pieces are put together and moulded that makes this book such a thrill. At its core it is an adventure story, much like the early Conan stories. Within the pages of this book we get to see the world Jen has created through the eyes of her three characters. It is a big, breathtaking world full of wonders and horrors. It is a world that I hope is explored in greater detail in future books (this is the first in a trilogy). Along the way Jen also manages to expand on her characters, fleshes them out so rather than ciphers going through the motions, each and everyone of them has a purpose and a reason for being there. Amazingly as well she manages to incorporate a chase sequence, in a fantasy novel, a chase sequence unlike anything I’ve ever come across before.

As a fantasy novel this stands its own against any other book I’d care to put alongside it. As a debut fantasy novel it is a gem and breath of fresh air. Whilst the norm for fantasy now is grim, gritty and bloody – not a form of fantasy I’m knocking, I’m a massive GRRM, Abercrombie et al fan – this turns around and shines a light on how fantasy used to be written. It’s very retro in its prose and styling, a rollicking boys-own adventure with a feisty female lead who you definitely would not want to take home to meet your mother.

On my blog you will find my review for the original novella that grew into this novel, at the end of it I said that Jen Williams was a worthy successor to the pulp giants of the 1920s and 30s. I’d like to amend that comment and say that Jen Williams IS a worthy successor. With her fresh old/new style of fantasy storytelling she has hit on a winner, and I hope in some way will herald back into fashion this pulpy style that I so loved reading as a young teenager.

The Copper Promise is due for release February 14th 2014, but the first part – Ghosts of the Citadel – is currently available as an ebook. Jen can be found on Twitter @sennydreadful and on her blog



Not sure how I’ve let this slip past without posting about it here, I mean the title of this blog is Philip Norris: Writer. So anyhoo, without further ado, I’m pleased to announce, after much…..oh bloody hell here this explains it all.


Yep, there you go, it’s big, it’s bold, it has a very 1980ish computer graphic thingy going on, but who cares I only wnet and won NaNoWriMo (snoopy dance). OK, I know I’m not the only one, thousands (possibly tens of thousands?) of other authors won or hit the target they were aiming for. But for me its a personal thing, I had to prove to myself I still had it in me.

Before we go any further we all know what NaNoWriMo is right? November, 30 days, 50,ooo word target, National Novel Writing Month…OK, we all there?

Back in 2009 (the last time I entered NaNoWrMo) I also won, I wrote something that was a little weird, a little alternative and it was a mess. Several times since then I’ve gone back, tried to make sense of what I’d done, wondered what the hell I was thinking, and then promptly closed the file, checked no-one had seen me open it and walked of whistling like nothing had happened. Since then I’ve made several failed attempts at writing another novel, most seemed to lose legs around the 30,000+ mark leaving me thinking perhaps 2009 was a one hit wonder.

Since then I have had had success with short stories (two published and one due to be, though the deadline for that contract expires in January so I may have to place it elsewhere) and I was verging on the decision of abandoning any plans at novel writing and focus instead on short stories and novellas. But then this year I decided to have one more try, It’s my 50th, so how best to celebrate. I planned, I plotted and I set it all out beforehand. This time I was ready.

I planned to move away from my usual stomping ground – fantasy, horror, sci-fi – and this time I trod a favoured path of mine outside of my genre staple. Being a son of a Policeman I’ve always enjoyed procedurals, I grew up watching Colombo, Ironside, The Rockford Files et al. These days I still have an interest, Poirot, NCIS, Law & Order, Ripper Street. All of these show I feel have given me insights and foreknowledge of how the procedural works. To this end my novel is set in the word of a murder investigation that leads the team into the murky world of politics and religion.

A tad over 80,000 words in 30 days, quite proud at that total, a major victory and one that has bolstered my ego no ends. Its still as much a mess as my first novel, but I feel it a redeemable mess. I’ve not looked at it since completion, I have no intention of looking at it for at least six months. I want to give it time to ferment, gain body, grow some.

So there you have it, I has a novel, well will do once I’m done with it.

all-is-fair-by-emma-newmanTitle: All Is Fair

Author: Emma Newman

Publisher: Angry Robot

Published: Out Now

The Duke of Londinium is dead, long live the Duke. The dust has barely settled, and Will enthroned as head of the court before events threaten to overtake everyone. Cathy is gravely wounded and recovering, Will begins to realise he’s been duped and perhaps an innocent man has paid for it with his life.

 Sam, an innocent to the ways of the Fae and the Split Worlds, is made an unexpected offer by one of the Elemental Courts most powerful Lords, an offer he has little choice to refuse, an offer that he realises he can put to some good.

 Max, the last surviving Arbiter of the Bath Chapter, draws ever closer to finding out the truth behind the destruction of his order. But can he stay true to his oath without being destroyed by his master, who’s insanity threatens the stability of all the wolrds.                         

There is a definite feeling, with this third book in the Split Worlds series, of things coming to an end. Threads, that started with Sam veering from the walk home to take a drunken piss, and finding himself embroiled in the schemes of the Fae and their puppets, have reached a sort of conclusion. But things are not that clear cut with this story, whilst everyone – Cathy, Will, Sam, Max and the Gargoyle – all come to the fore and have their moment to shine. The ending we get to this opening trilogy in what looks to be an epic tale is more of a beginning. Due to the events in the closing half of the book the balance of power across the Split Worlds shifts, old institutions fall and the treaty that holds everything together seems to be paper thin, leading me to think that open war is not that far away.

It’s been a slow build up, Emma has taken her time to establish her world, and the characters that inhabit it. Whilst some authors might have been tempted to have had certain major events take place earlier in the series, Emma has held back and let the story unfold naturally, let circumstances evolve so the characters find themselves in the right place – physically and mentally – to force the major events to happen, and to live through them. I’d been hoping for a while that Max and his soul-locked Gargoyle would have more to do, here finally they do, and in some ways are instrumental in events enfolding as they do.

There has been little to fault along the way, Emma has a gift at creating a colourful world out of the drab, monochrome world of the Nether. She has also chosen characters that can be moulded into something more than your run-of-the-mill heroes and heroines. Like the previous book she also covers some dark themes within the narrative, slavery, persecution, rape and murder. Not what anyone would have expected after events in the first book, where Society and the puppets seemed twee and time-locked in a gentler way of life. It was a great piece of misdirection, whilst Lord Poppy was obviously not someone to be messed with, he was by far the lesser of the evils that would follow. The hierarchy of the Fae is still unclear, but the schemes and games they play through their puppets are equally as dangerous to them as everyone else.

In this third book we also get a better insight into the Sorcerers, as Erkstrand continues his investigations to what happened at the Moot. And we get to meet another of his kind (or two), whose way of doing things differs so much from Erkstrand’s that they are chalk and cheese. The subplot surrounding these two characters highlights the problems in policing the Split Worlds, and making sure the treaty is enforced. It also helps to highlight what a disjointed group the Sorcerers are, and also how their power is subverted so easily.

All the characters have grown from our initial introduction to them, but one more than others. Will started out as every inch the product of his culture, and after his marriage to Cathy, and dalliance with Amelia, seemed to be heading towards becoming the sort of man that Cathy had been trying to run away from all her life. But Will’s eyes are opened in this third book, I’m not saying he changes his colours totally but there are glimmers that perhaps the union between him and Cathy may be the most important – and pivotal – in the history of the Split Worlds. For whilst this third book has many endings, to threads that begun in book one, it also has many beginnings. Two new characters introduced – I’m sure – will prove to be important as the series continues. Their very nature makes them important as, in a way, they are the last of their kind. And in order for the Split Worlds to survive, and for Mundanus not to be overrun, they will have to come forwards and make their stand.

On top of all this there is Sam, who has come across as the comic relief for much of the story so far. Always in the wrong place at the wrong time. But Sam may well be the only person that can link all the worlds together, he inherits a position and power that seems to be able to trump everything else, he becomes something the Fae cannot deal with, but something they will have to because Sam has set himself a mission, and he intends to see it through no-matter who tries to get in his way. After having been the stooge for Lord Poppy’s schemes and games it was good to see Sam make him cringe and get some form of payback for all the suffering he has endured.    

As a debut fantasy the Split Worlds nails it, and Emma pins her colours to the mast as someone who can weave a great story, that can grow and evolve as events within the story dictate.   

ace of skullsTitle: Ace of Skulls

Author: Chris Wooding

Publisher: Gollancz

Published: Out Now

RRP: Print £20.00 – Kindle £12.99

All good things come to those who wait, and this is it, the last stand of the crew of the Ketty Jay.

 They’ve been shot down, set up, double crossed and ripped off. They’ve stolen priceless treasures, destroyed a 10,000 year old Azryx city and sort of blew up the Archdukes son and heir. Now they’ve gone and started a civil war. This time they’re really in trouble.

 As Vardia descends into chaos, Captain Frey is doing his best to keep his ship and crew out of it. He has his mind on other things, mainly the fate of Trinica Dracken. But wars have a way of dragging people in, and sooner or later you have to choose a side.

 Cities will fall, deamons will rise, old secrets are uncovered and new threats exposed. But, when the smoke of battle clears, who will be left standing?

I suppose first off it might be worth a little back-story for those that have never read the three previous books in the Tales of the Ketty Jay series. We were first introduced to Captain Darian Frey, his beat-up-seen-better-days ship and his crew of misfits – Doc Malvery, navigator Jez, engineer Silo, ships cat Slag, and the Ketty Jay’s two out-fliers Harkins and Pinn – in Retribution Falls, next up was The Black Lung Captain and thirdly The Iron Jackal. Its best to describe these books as secondary world science fiction mixed with fantasy, a smattering of horror and huge helpings of steampunkesque ship on ship action. I know a lot of people that have likened the stories to Firefly, having never seen it I can’t comment, but I do know that based on that comparison I do feel perhaps I should seek the series out.

The adventures of the crew of the Ketty Jay are over the top rip roaring fun, there is plenty of action, plenty of humour and each book is full of skin of their teeth escapes. Originally planned as an ongoing series there was a lot of foreshadowing throughout the previous books to a larger conflict and a greater world than what we the reader was exposed to. But suddenly early on in 2013, author Chris Wooding announced that this fourth book would be the last outing for Darian Frey and his crew. That meant that this last instalment had a lot of ground to cover, and a lot of loose ends to tie off.

I’m not sure the reasons behind Woodings decision to finish the story now. I had heard he had concerns  that the format would get stale and outlive its popularity. I can understand if that was his reasoning, best to finish with the story still enjoyable, the characters still likable. But unfortunately for me, a third of the way into this fourth book, things were already getting stale. I’m not convinced trying to finish the overall story arc off in a single volume works, there is way too much to be done, too many subplots to address. I’m not saying this isn’t a good finale, there is still plenty of the trademark action, humour and daring-do. But it was the abundance of this that stunted the story as a whole.

There are a dozen too many last minute escapes from death, too many times Frey proves what a selfish bastard he is and how unfit he is for command, too many battles for battles sake. The odds are almost always insurmountable, most of the situations individual crew members – or the crew as a whole – find themselves in are easily got out of, most times without a scratch. I found this frustrating, it was almost like Wooding did not have the nerve to generate real threat by having something really bad happen to any of them. I’m not saying I want to see characters I like get maimed or killed, but a real sense of jeopardy is need in order for the reader to feel there is an outside chance not everyone will make it through. I guess I’ve become hardened reading the likes of George RR Martin and Joe Abercrombie, become accustomed to the possibility someone might die. I lost count of the number of times during reading this book that I thought “Oh, another near impossible to get out of situation” but knew they would. I to be honest when I reached the end I did feel slightly robbed.

In a way the best way to describe this book is it is very like the A-Team TV series, the characters are colourful and brash, the action loud and big, the injuries minor. Whilst it does round off this individual story well, and the overall series arc suitably, I do feel there could have been more. All of the characters get their chance to shine, even the ships cat gets its crowning moment, but that was it, everything was very workmanlike and ticked all the boxes.

If Wooding does ever decide to return to this world I would pick up the book because despite this ending, it has been a good quartet of books covering an exciting set of characters and setting. But if he does come back, I for one hope he concentrates on the Century Knights.

First off an apology to all those people who have chosen to add this blog to thier list of blog’s to follow. Also sorry to those that have read and liked my reviews, titbits of TV and movie news. I like to keep up with what’s going on, what’s new and what’s of interest to people like me that like SF/F and horror.

Also sorry to those of you that have read my ramblings on the uphill slog that is being an aspiring author, and those that have read the flash and short stories I’ve posted. If you’re wondering why I’m apologising, well look at the gaps between my posting, the lack of up to date reviews. For the past few months I’ve let this blog stagnate and neglected those people who have taken the time to read what I say.

There have been a few changes in my life over the past month or so, mainly the breakdown of my marriage and inevitable split leading me to now renting a room in a shared house, and having to go through the mindfield that is changing my contact details (there’s always someone who will be missed).

Because of the split the writing side of my life has suffered. Although I’m still reading (I have to have some escape), I find it hard to find anything to say apart from short reviews on Goodreads. I have several reviews prepped and started. Blue Blazes and Under Empyrean Skies by Chuck Wendig, the Broken Empire trilogy by Mark Lawrence, The Long War by Terry Pratchett and Stephen Baxter. I will probably eventually get round to posting these reviews, but unsure when.

I do post reviews over at Fantasy Faction, something that I have managed to keep up and keep at.

Alongside the downslide in reviewing is the stalling of my novel writing. The main WiP I’ve been working on since early in the year – Life In The Fastlane – has stopped. Parts 1 & 2 are done, one has been beta read and I’ve done a second draft that came in nearly at twice the length of the first draft. Part two is out with beta readers and I made a start on part three. But then it stalled, barely a chapter in and I hit a wall. I’ve not added to it for over a month and a bit, I open the file up but nothing happens, I just stare at the words wondering where to start.

I’ve tried to break the blockage, I’ve started in on a novella based around an idea I’ve had on the go for a couple of years now. It has helped, I have managed to make progress on it and it is loosening up the old grey matter. But unfortunately my love of writing is lacking of late and I fear it will scupper my 2013 plan of having a fully drafted novel ready to send out to agents by my 50th birthday at the beginning of December.

I’ve rambled, what I’m trying to convey is I’m still here, battered and bruised and in need of some inspirational sign that life is not totally shit and there is something worth all the effort. But I will carry on, never been a quitter.





How do you follow the re-imaging of Snow White, why with the re-imaging of Cinderella. Both have a similar core story, wicked stepmother, distant father, girl dreaming of something better. All the elements are there, but as with Poison, with Charm Sarah Pinborough has turned the story on its head and attacked it in a different way. Here Cinderella is a headstrong wilful young woman, she is independent, brazen at times. She lives with her father, step-mother (who, although ambitious and ever-so slightly obsessive, is not wicked at all) and step-sister (only one as the other has been married off) in the lower end of town, eking a living out of what little her father earns after her step-mother has spent it. The situation is not good, but it could be worse, and despite the Spartan lifestyle they are helped along the way by the kindness of a Robin Hood/Artful Dodgeresque young man called Buttons.

But Cinders dreams of a better life, a life in the castle, with the prince as her husband and the world at her feet, a fantasy she lives out as often as she can, spending her days dreaming and her nights fantasizing, about what life with her handsome prince would be like. But for Cinders there is no fantasy life, no masked balls, with fine dresses and handsome men to dance with. Those delights are all for her step-sister Rose, a plain but kind sibling who is little more than a tool, used by her mother to re-ignite a lifestyle that was lost to her when she followed her heart. But then – as with all good fairy-tales – Cinderella’s wish comes true, a woman appears offering her the chance to go to the ball, a chance to taste that life she so dearly holds onto in her dreams. All she asks in return is that Cinders search every room in the castle and reports back with what she finds. Cinder’s asks if the woman is her fairy godmother, the woman does not say yes or no. With the aid of the woman’s magic Cinders is transformed and goes to the ball, but she finds that dreams don’t always come true.

Cinders captures the prince’s heart, and with an obsessive step-mother going into melt down, verbally abusing her father and step-sister for all their woes, Cinders realises that perhaps the cost they are paying for her to be happy maybe too high. But then, as she prepares for her wedding she realises that the prince is not the fantasy figure she dreamed of, instead he is a shallow, selfish man, who has a secret that he shares with no-one. Cinders begins to realise that rather than a fairytale ending, she is facing a nightmare and a future without love.

But this is a Sarah Pinborough story, and when you buy into one of her tales you know you’re getting a rollicking ride and usually a little smut thrown in. Cinders is naughty, very naughty at times. Buttons a bit of a perv and the mouse a voyeur (yes I said mouse). But as with Poison, here it’s the other characters you have to keep an eye on, alongside the main players there is another story running its course. Those with a sharp eye, and have read the previous book, will spot three characters that have come before, and that this tale is just a continuation of a greater one started with Poison. But as with that previous tale, here you’re left wondering where you’re being taken, and what endgame Sarah has planned. From early on I guessed that the prince was the same one from Poison, mid-way through it became obvious who the coach driver who took Cinders to and from the Ball was, but it wasn’t until right at the end that I knew who the fairy godmother was, and what she was looking for hidden away in the castle.

But again, at the end, as with Poison we are served a curveball, there is another didn’t see that coming moment. Does this moment signal the end to three of the characters story? Quite possible, there is one story untold, and I think that one might be the one that is out of sync chronologically.

I assumed that the overall story would not be told in a chronological order – my initial thought was we would get something along the lines of Sin City – I was wrong to some extent. Charm does follow Poison, as is obvious by the characters and what the fairy godmother is looking for in the castle. It is the true story that Rose demands of her new husband that is the one that’ll be out of place – or perhaps parts of it will. I’m guessing that Beauty will cover events that happened before Poison, events that led the prince and the Huntsman to being lost in the forest and pursued by unknown enemies.

any other name

Title: Any Other Name

Author: Emma Newman

Publisher: Angry Robot

Published: Out Now

RRP: Print – £8.99 / Kindle – £5.49


Lady Rose has fallen, all those associated to her were taken by the Agency, and the lucky ones have escaped into hiding. Londinium is in turmoil, the Duke – a Rosa – is gone along with his Patroon, leaving a power vacuum. William Reticulata-Iris is told upon his wedding that he has been chosen to take residence in Londinium and take the throne. But William has doubt his new wife – Catherine – is up for the task. Catherine knows she isn’t, she has been forced into an arranged marriage, sent to a city she does not know, and finds herself part of a family that expects its members to follow orders unfalteringly, no matter what.

The Arbiter Max, along with the gargoyle that houses his soul, continues his investigations into the murder of everyone in his Chapter House. Those investigations take him north and the secret base of the Agency, where he uncovers deeper mysteries surrounding fallen houses, and those that do not conform to what is seen to be acceptable in Society.

Sam, the unwitting Mundane who seems to have the protection of the mysterious Lord Iron, sees his life implode, his marriage fail and his job gone. Becoming embroiled in the events surrounding the Master of Ceremonies of Aquae Sulis kidnapping have left him a man unsure what is real and what is not. And also leads him to once again become involved in the plots and games the Fae and their Puppets enjoy.

With this second story set in the Split Worlds Emma has upped the stakes considerably, she has also altered the tone, highlighting the plight of women in the patriarchal society of the Fae touched. Arranged marriages, suppression of expression, hints at honour crimes and the disturbing subject of marital rape. This is a much darker tale, gone are the whimsical fairies who took such joy at making the Fae touched puppets dance, now we are presented with a society where women have no rights, except the right to perform properly for their husbands, and uphold the standing of the family in Society.

As much as I’d like to think of William, on some levels, as a sort of good guy, overall I can’t get away from the fact he’s every inch the product of his society as Catherine’s abusive father. He may not have physically hurt her, but he still expects the devotion to Society, and family, her father expected. Also his reaction to the possibility she may love another – despite him having a mistress – showed how he views Catherine, and his mistress come to that.  Despite this he is still the only one of all the Fae touched male characters who shows any indication that he could change, his experiences on his Grand Tour seem to have opened his eyes to the larger world, beyond the Nether. But there is a long way to go for the William now to become anywhere near the hero of the piece he could be.

As for Catherine, she is a different character from the one first encountered in Between Two Thorns, she is less confident, in fact for the first part of the book this change in her did become testing, but I can see why it was done. Emma had to get Cathy into a place where she realised something had to be done for all the women of the Nether, and not be selfish and only think of her own needs. Her arc in this book is the most striking, we see her grow into her role, realising that in order for there to be change, change has to come from within.

But events are working against everyone – mainly William and Cathy – and no matter what they both feel and want forces outside of their control are moving pieces into position for a conflict that may have been in the planning for a long time. This time round we see that maybe the Sorcerer’s are not as all-powerful as first suggested, in fact Erkstrand seems even more distant, out of touch, than he did last time. There are some serious turns of events for the Sorcerer of Wessex, and Max and the gargoyle. In fact the gargoyle is fast becoming my favourite character, his childlike enthusiasm to believe the best in people is infectious. But I do feel he is wasted, there are several times when I wished he would bash heads, but perhaps Emma is saving that for the coming conflict?

This time out Emma has opened up the world of the Fae touched, there are glimpses of the power struggles, the schemes and hints at the dark deeds driving this story along. As with her first book don’t expect a tidy package, this is so evidently part of a wider story, a story we have yet to pass the opening section of. She is sparing in the information she shares, but gives you enough to keep going, and when you turn that last page enough to make you think “damn, that’s it!” For cliff-hangers to work – whether on TV, or in comics and books – they need to give enough to grab the reader, but hold back enough to make you come back. You get that in spades in the closing chapters.

Great news in my inbox yesterday, after the sad demise of Pill Hill Press earlier this year the newly formed Embry Press have now released Use Enough Gun: Legend Of The Monster Hunter III

use enough gun


Originally due for publication late 2012 by Pill Hill, the Monster Hunter series is now under the Embry Press umbrella. Miles Boothe – who runs Embry – also plans to release another anthology – Both Barrels – later in 2014 that will feature stories from parts I and II of the Monster Hunter series. This collection will feature my first published short story Groundhog Day. As and when I have publication news I’ll share.

Use Enough Gun features stories about hunts that have gone wrong, hunts where the hunter has to visit dark places within themselves to survive. My short story titled Jack features with its pages.

Really pleased to be published again.

nos4r2Title: NOS4R2

Author: Joe Hill

Publisher: Gollancz

Published: Out Now

RRP: Print £18.99 – Kindle £9.49

No matter what Joe Hill does he’ll always be compared to his father, and those comparisons in NOS4R2 are there for all to see, highlighted by big neon signs with arrows pointing to them. But this is not a bad thing, I’ve been a Stephen King fan for a lot of years (OK we did fall out over that ending to The Dark Tower but that’s in the past now), and to date I’ve read and enjoyed all of Joe’s work because of the comparisons to his dad. That’s not to say you’re getting a clone of something that has been done before, Joe’s work is unique, the stories original, but they all have that magical “King” ingredient.

With NOS4R2 I feel Joe Hill has found his stride, whilst Heart Shaped Box and Horns were great stories with fantastic characters, here you have a story with a grand vista, a rich history and characters that will be with you long after you put the book down. Also there are seeds sown, subtle single line seeds that begin the process of joining the worlds Joe has so far created together in their own multiverse. This is the most striking comparison to what his father has already so brilliantly done, and it’s left me wondering if – maybe – in Charlie Talent Manx III Joe has found his Randall Flagg?

In Charlie – and his associate Bing Partridge, aka the Gasmask Man – Joe has created dark twisted characters to rival any that have gone before. Both have no redeeming qualities, they are totally rotten to the core and no act, no depravity, is beyond them. And the depravities they relish are there for all to see, in glorious technicolour. Manx is old, over a hundred years old, he drives around the country in his vintage 1938 Rolls-Royce Wraith – with the vanity plate of NOS4R2 – taking children and transporting them to his own personal wonderland, called Christmasland, where they never grow old and slowly lose their humanity.

To counterpoint the bad we have the good, in the shape of Victoria McQueen, child of a broken home, with a gift that enables her to travel across The Shorter Way Bridge – a bridge that was destroyed years before – to find that which is lost, objects, people and ultimately someone else who shares her gift. But a gift can be a curse, especially when she asks the Bridge to take her to find a person no-one else has been able to find, someone no other sane person would not want to find.

Vic McQueen became famous at an early age, she was the only child to escape the clutches of Charlie Manx. But that escape was only the start, a quarter decade later Vic must again face the horror, must again travel the United Inscape of America, and visit Christmasland to try to finally end the horror that is Charles Talent Manx III.

mayhemTitle: Mayhem

Author: Sarah Pinborough

Publisher: Jo Fletcher Books

Published: Out Now

RRP: Print £14.99 – Kindle £4.12

 When a rotten torso is discovered in the vault below New Scotland Yard, it doesn’t take Dr. Thomas Bond – Police surgeon – long to realise there is  a second killer at large in the city, where days earlier, Jack The Ripper brutally murdered two women in one night. Though this new murder is just as gruesome, it is at the hand of a cold killer, one who lacks Jack’s emotion.

 As more headless and limbless torsos find their way into the Thames, Dr. Bond becomes obsessed with finding the killer. His investigations lead him into an unholy alliance with a vagabond psychic and religious zealot. And as the terror grows Dr. Bond begins to wonder if it is a man who has brought mayhem to the streets of London, or a monster.

 Sarah Pinborough has a deft hand at taking a known story and turning it on its head. She did it with creation itself in The Dog Faced Gods Trilogy, and is doing it now with Poison (Snow White), Charm (Cinderella) and Beauty (Sleeping Beauty). With Mayhem she turns her eye on the legend of Jack the Ripper, except this isn’t totally a story about him. In fact Jack is a bit part player, a side effect to other events. This is a story about an age old horror that comes to the streets of London with a taste for blood, and about the men who must face it.

 There is an interesting mix of characters, fictional and real. The main character – Thomas Bond – is real and was a Police surgeon who worked in and around Whitechapel during the time of the Ripper murders, he even wrote a paper on the psychology of the killer. Here he is a driven man, obsessed with tracking down the so called Thames Torso murderer and proving the two sets of killings are not by the same hand, he is also battling near crippling insomnia and drug addiction that see’s him walking the streets at all hours. Alongside him is Polish refugee Aaron Kominski – another real life character, and a onetime suspect in the Ripper killings – and a Jesuit priest tasked with tracking and despatching something that is not human. Other characters include Inspector Moore and his assistant Andrews, like Bond they were both real life Policemen (though in real life Andrews was an Inspector as well) in and around Whitechapel and worked on the Ripper case.

 Sarah has worked her story within known events and managed to make the two seamlessly gel. London is suitably dark and dismal; the wretched streets of Whitechapel are vivid to the point that you can smell the waste that fills the gutters. Likewise the people are equally wretched, their desperation palpable. Along with Dr. Bond the reader is taken through the dark underbelly of London, the Opium dens and gore drenched murder scenes. And all along the reader sits inside Dr. Bond’s head, knowing his inner thoughts, inner conflicts, slowly throughout the course of the book piecing together the clues that will lead to the killer.

 The, surprisingly for a murder mystery, the killer is revealed halfway in, it came across all very Columbo and I did have to go back and re-read that part again thinking I’d suddenly skipped a wad of pages. But outing the killer so early in the book made the rest more interesting, now you get chapters that show you where he came from, what he was about. I do like stories that get you inside the mind of the villain, one of the reasons I like Dexter Morgan I suppose. The second half of the book now became a race against time, with the killer known and his reasons suspected Bond and his cohorts had to prove their suspicions, not only to themselves but to others when they had the proof they needed, and stop the killer before he struck again.

 The whole process of telling this story is helped by the different styles Sarah uses to get her characters experiences across. Dr. Bond is told in the first person, the rest is in the third. An interesting mix that frees up the flow giving insights not only into the main character but also helps fill in the blanks about anything else that’s going on. I personally like first person storytelling, it is one of the easiest to read and to write – for me, but there are limits, there are always blanks where the reader is left wondering what is happening elsewhere and only get the briefest of insights when other characters relate events. Here you get the best of both making a stronger story and an easier understood one.     

 You are left – after all this – with an exciting murder mystery with strong supernatural elements. Alongside the main story the Ripper investigation quietly bubbles along, there are hints, snippets that lead the reader in the direction of one character. Sarah doesn’t set out to name Jack, but the implications are obvious as to whom she identifies, and you are left wondering what happened next.

 You think you know about the Ripper, well you don’t know jack.