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The appearance of any new work by Tibor Fischer is a cause for celebration. Here, are two dazzling new stories that show why he is so admired. The first, Crushed Mexican Spiders, is classic Fischer. Don't be fooled by the title: the poet laureate of London grime is on home ground as a women returns home to discover the key to her Brixton flat no longer works...
Haunting images and crisp one-liners are about all that link it with the second tale, Possibly Forty Ships, the true story of the Trojan War. In a scene straight out of a Tarantino movie, an old man is being tortured, pressed to reveal how the greatest legend of all really happened. (Let's just say it bears scant resemblance to Homer: 'If you see war as a few ships sinking in the middle of the waves, a few dozen warriors in armour, frankly not as gleaming as it could be, being welcomed whole-heartedly by the water, far, far away from Troy, if you see that as war, then it was a war...')
The stories are published in a beautiful small hardback edition, each one illustrated by the work of the acclaimed Czech photographer Hana Vojáková. The book has two front covers: read one way you're in south London at night; turn it over and you’re being burned by the harsh glare of Mediterranean sunlight.
How do you feel about your phone? Or your car? You probably don't think about them much, except when they go wrong. But what if they go really wrong and turn properly bad – evil, even?
Join Terry Jones on a hilariously disturbing journey into the dark heart of machines that go wrong: meet the lift that takes people to places they don't want to go, the vacuum cleaner that's just too powerful, the apparently nice bomb, the truthful phone, the terrifying train to anywhere, and Mrs. Morris, a little old lady from Glasgow who turns out to be a very resourceful heroine...
Brisk and cheerful on the outside, but as edgy and uncomfortable as any of Roald Dahl's Tales of the Unexpected within, Terry Jones's collection of thirteen cautionary fables will make you look at the 'helpful' inventions that surround you in a very different way.
A brilliantly-written and gleefully mischievous book, suitable for Luddites of all ages or anyone who likes a bit of Pythonesque edge to their silliness.
Neuroscientist Dr Yvonne Churcher has problems in the world beyond her lab. One of her students, James, a dangerously attractive anti-science protestor, has set out to challenge her entire philosophy about how the brain works. His friend, Gareth, a brilliant, unstable computer genius, is obsessed with the biochemical basis of memory. When he tries to persuade Yvonne to get involved with a plan to stimulate memory artificially, it sets off a chain of events involving unscrupulous biotech companies, stolen brain-mapping data and a strange brand of eco-terrorism.
A Box of Birds is both a pacy literary thriller set in a near-future world of experimental brain research, and a compelling love story between a neuroscientist and an animal rights campaigner. It brilliant dramatizes the clash between two of the predominant philosophical positions of our age: the materialist view that science has all the answers and that 'we' are nothing more than bundles of nerves and chemical reactions, and the Freud-inspired position that underpins the culture of psychotherapy: that the stories we tell about ourselves and our pasts have the capacity to change our future. Does neuroscience really change our understanding of who we are? Or are we all at the mercy of our own need to make coherent stories?
Neona White is rather extraordinary. The thing is, while she knows that she's very different from other teenagers, she doesn't know quite how different…yet. A traumatic incident leaves Neona without the desire to keep living and a fear that she's not entirely human, and her mother is less than forthcoming. She is soon sent to live with her Grandmother where, after making some unusual new friends, she begins a dangerous quest to unravel the mysteries of her identity. Her supernatural identity.
Neona continues to face the eternal struggle between what people want her to be and who she actually is, as the world she thought she knew begins to disclose its unbelievable secrets.
The world's first gay, equine, military, epistolary romance.
Newly discovered letters written from Wellington's warhorse (Marengo) to Napoleon's warhorse (Copenhagen) and vice versa.
Includes extra material not featured in the Radio 4 series, both elements of the letters cut from the final scripts and additional material not featured in the shows at all, including the letters from Marengo to his hygienist and the horse he plays chess with, and the notes between Copenhagen and the annoying dog he has to share a stall with.
Initially written as a series of letters between the authors (each choosing a stretch of the Napoleonic wars between them to examine and write into the most recent letter). They were then performed with great success at the Tall Tales evenings in Kilburn until the letters were picked up by the BBC for broadcast in autumn 2011.
On Boxing Day in 2004, Edie Fassnidge set off for a day of kayaking off the coast of Thailand with her boyfriend, mother and sister. That's when disaster struck.
She felt a shift in the air; she spotted something on the horizon; and seconds later, the first wave came crashing down upon them. Separated from her family and covered in open wounds, Edie battled for hours to get to safety: colliding with rocks; tumbling underwater as if in a giant washing machine; grappling with overgrown branches and venomous ants... all the while hanging on to the hope that she wasn't the only one to survive.
Rinse, Spin, Repeat is a graphic memoir depicting Edie's experience of surviving the Indian Ocean tsunami that claimed over 200,000 lives and changed hers forever. Using simple illustrations and concise text, she unfolds her feelings in the hours and days of pain and uncertainty that followed. She also reflects on her struggle to find peace in the aftermath of the tsunami, which ultimately empowered her to become the person she is today.
It is a simultaneously devastating and inspiring story that will capture the heart of anyone who has wondered how it is possible to keep going after life has crumbled to pieces.
In a ruined world, what survives are the tales we tell.
Tatterdemalion is a uniquely original post-apocalyptic novel rooted in fantasy and folklore. It begins when Poppy, who speaks the languages of wild things, travels east to the mountains with the wheeled and elephantine beast, Lyoobov. He’s seeking answers to the mysteries of his birth, and the origins of a fallen world.
Up in the glacial peaks, among a strange, mountainous people, a Juniper Tree takes Poppy deep into her roots and shows him the true stories of the people who made his world, people he thought were only myths. Their tales span centuries, from three hundred years in the future all the way back to our present day. It is through this feral but redemptive folklore that Poppy begins to understand the story of his own past and his place in the present.
Tatterdemalion is a brilliant collaboration between the visual artist Rima Staines and the author Sylvia Linsteadt, and it features 14 original colour illustrations which inspired the story.
Archaeologist and detective, Alan Cadbury, returns for his second adventure. In The Lifers’ Club, he unravelled the background to a violent death on an archaeological dig in the Fens, a wild marshy region in the east of England. The Way, the Truth and the Dead takes us to the black peatlands of the south, around the glorious cathedral city of Ely. It’s a watery landscape where the many ancient dykes, drains and rivers conceal dark secrets.
Alan finds himself the Director of an important Roman and early Medieval excavation at the little hamlet of Fursby, not far from Littleport. But shortly before he starts work, he is contacted by his old friend, Detective Chief Inspector Richard Lane. Lane needs help – a body has been found in a river near the dig. And the dead person is an archaeologist, an old friend of Alan’s.
It soon becomes clear that this will be no ordinary excavation: the remains are of national importance and their preservation is outstanding. So it comes as no surprise when a major television series decides to adopt it as a flagship project, opening the dig up to the public at a time when the rural community would rather keep things quiet…
Epic Space is a hilarious take on contemporary culture as viewed through the twisted prism of ‘Martin’, amoral architectural consultant with a penchant for a long lunch and powerful friends, including members of the Cabinet and HRH the Prince of Wales.
Written in weekly diary form, Martin’s world is a mad and woozy version of our own: one in which Martin and his friend, the nanofuturologist Beansy, can invent Kryptogel – a new building material developed using ‘hard air’. It’s a world where the property wing of the Church of England builds buy-to-let almshouses while ‘bouncy mega-mosques’ have helium-stiffened minarets. An arts correspondent is sacked by a Sunday newspaper and replaced with his own overdressed architectural dachshund. Soot becomes a valuable stock market commodity. A hipster skyscraper is called the Blard. And an ambitious plan is hatched to turn the North around so that it faces south.
Big questions are asked: Is Texture The New Fragrance? Is Modern Modernism Just Post-Modernism But With A Neo-Modernistic Coat On? How Fat is Your Faceprint?
And, reassuringly, there are still plenty of boozy lunches.
Moffat is an indiscriminate killer and verbose criminal thriving in the underbelly of 19th-century London. When he unexpectedly inherits Gibbous House, an expansive estate in Northumbria, he heads north on a journey that raises questions about his own identity and quickly leads to issues of morality, addiction and murder.
Gibbous House, Moffat discovers, already plays home to a motley cast of characters: the beautiful and seductive Ellen Pardoner, the conniving attaché Maccabi and the arrogant scientist Enoch – manager of the mansion’s esoteric ‘collection’. Moffat’s greed-fuelled pursuit of his inheritance takes him deep into a crazed, conspiratorial plot and a series of tense, psychological showdowns.
Gibbous House is a dark, Victorian thriller told with modern wit and brimming with historical detail. Rich with atmosphere and intense psychological drama, it brings modern irony to the rich texture of the classic gothic novel.
Windsor Castle, 1714. Queen Anne has known her share of tragedy and grief: betrayed by her father; plagued by illness and obesity; cursed to lose all seventeen of her children.
Now she is dying with no living offspring, and the question of who will succeed her hangs over the court, fuelling political intrigue and fear. There are two likely successors: James Stuart, the half-brother she has always refused to acknowledge, and George of Hanover, the cousin who once turned her down for marriage.
Neither is ideal. She hates them both.
As courtiers, politicians and sycophants plot to steer the succession to their own advantage, Queen Anne must finally face the past. For nothing can be resolved until she comes to terms with her children's deaths and repairs the terrible wrong she committed many years before . . .
With familiar characters – including three of the most important writers in English literature: Daniel Defoe (Robinson Crusoe), Jonathan Swift (Gulliver's Travels), and fashionable poet Alexander Pope – and a gripping plot, What If the Queen Should Die? is the thrilling historical tale of Britain's most tragic queen.
Meet the richly eccentric Burton family: reigned over by the steadfast matriarch Harriet and surrounded by an equally peculiar cast of characters, their exploits are narrated in alternating voices by Wag, a World War I veteran, and his nephew Jack.
But the ever-evolving London of the twentieth century is as much a character as the Burtons themselves, with the narrative taking us on a journey from the Western Front to World War II, through post-war 'civvy street' to the 1960s gangster era of the sadistic Richardson Gang, and ultimately to the political tumult of the 1970s.
Drawing on his own uncle's handwritten World War I memoir and his recollection of family stories, author Paul Sidey has created a seamless fusion of family history, fact and inspired invention.
At times funny and tender, at other times violent and dramatic, The Book of Wag is the portrait of one family as they navigate the multi-faceted landscape of the London of another time.
Daniel's father wants to kill him. It's something of a family tradition.
Daniel's 32-stone psychotic police sergeant father is constantly concocting ever-more obscure methods of killing him and his mother has abandoned the family to live out her life as a mermaid.
Together with child genius Ferris and school bully Dorsal, the unlikely trio must set out on an epic adventure to reunite Daniel's family and find out exactly why his father is so emotionally illiterate.
Ex takes you on a riotous and bizarre voyage down the Thames on the world's largest and most deadly wooden potato. Along the way you and Daniel will meet an outrageous array of characters including a flock of swearing ducks, a superhero-murdering grandmother and a cappuccino-swigging lion.
If you're squeamish stay far away but if you've ever seen the funny side of a bad situation, Ex will transport you to a bizarre topsy turvy world where childhood has gone so wrong that the results are gothic.
Meron Lemma couldn't know there was a fate worse than wasting away as a poor teenager in the Ethiopian slum where she was born.
Desperate to create her own destiny, and drawn by the irresistible possibility of earning real dollars as a maid in Beirut, Meron leaves her devout mother and family behind to join the many other Habesha migrants searching for a better life in the Middle East.
Only once there does she realise the ugly truth: instead of opportunity, she has found captivity. Instead of freedom, subordination. Trapped and mistreated by the harsh Madame, Meron lives in constant fear – fear of the daily onslaught of Madame's vicious spite; of her cruel and callous daughters; of the sexual advances of her predatory son; and most of all, fear of losing her sense of self... her Habesha spirit... even her life.
Rich in cultural detail and exposing the ongoing, under-reported horrors facing domestic workers in Lebanon today, No Lipstick in Lebanon is a harrowing account of the unremitting hell of modern slavery. Told through the escalating plight of our heroine, this is not just a fictionalised report of one maid's ordeal, but rather the uncovering of a larger issue plaguing a generation of women.
Winner of the Gordon Burn Prize 2014 and The Bookseller Industry Book of the Year Award 2015. Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize, the Desmond Elliott Prize and the Folio Prize and shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize.
A post-apocalyptic novel set a thousand years ago, The Wake tells the story of Buccmaster of Holland, a free farmer of Lincolnshire, owner of three oxgangs, a man clinging to the Old Gods as the world changes drastically around him. After losing his sons at the Battle of Hastings and his wife and home to the invading Normans, Buccmaster begins to gather together a band of 'grene men', who take up arms to resist their brutal invaders.
Written in a 'shadow tongue' – a version of Old English updated so as to be understandable for the modern reader – The Wake is a landmark in historical fiction and looks set to become a modern classic.
At first glance, Jonathan Meades's 1993 masterpiece Pompey is a post-war family saga set in and around the city of Portsmouth. This doesn't come close to communicating the scabrous magnificence of Meades's vision.
He writes like Martin Amis on acid, creating an obscene, suppurating vision of an England in terminal decline. The story begins with Guy Vallender, a fireworks manufacturer from Portsmouth (Pompey), who has four children by different four different women. There's Poor Eddie, a feeble geek with a gift for healing; 'Mad Bantu', the son of a black prostitute, who was hopelessly damaged in the womb by an attempted abortion; Bonnie, who is born beautiful but becomes a junkie and a porn star; and finally Jean-Marie, a leather-wearing gay gerontophiliac conceived on a one-night stand in Belgium.
The narrator is 'Jonathan Meades', cousin to Poor Eddie and Bonnie, who tells the story of how their strange and poisonous destinies intersect. And although there is no richer stew of perversity, voyeurism, corruption, religious extremism and curdled celebrity in all of English literature, there is also an underlying compassion and a jet-black humour which makes Pompey an important and strangely satisfying work of art. Prepare to enter the English novel's darkest ride….
Imagine a piece of technology so valuable that it turns the world's two most powerful lobbies – the oil industry and the arms trade – against one another.
Yavlinsky, a brilliant Russian scientist has created a piece of wonder-technology; a drilling process that uses the forces of supercavitation. Named 'Version Thirteen', it enables oil explorers to take 40 per cent more oil out of the ground – it's worth trillions.
But there's a problem. Supercavitation is also the basis for highly sophisticated weaponry – submarines and torpedoes that can travel at hundreds of kilometres per hour beneath the sea. Russian arms dealers have been selling this technology to Iran since the 1980s. If the revolutionary oil-drilling technology works, the weaponry is rendered useless.
When Yavlinksy is found dead, the designs for the revolutionary drilling process are stolen or destroyed. Except one set of design plans does still exist. The one lodged in Samuel Spendlove's head. Spendlove, an Oxford academic now working as a spy, is the novel's hero. Blessed (or cursed) with a photographic memory, he suddenly finds himself the most wanted man in the world… The story of his pursuit takes us from the Middle East to Moscow to the Kamchatka peninsula, a land of no roads and many active volcanoes, one of the most remote and spectacular places on the planet.
Fans of Robert Harris and Martin Cruz Smith will love Martin Baker. Combining painstaking research with the forensic storytelling skill of a Hollywood screenwriter, Version Thirteen marks the arrival of a master of the genre.
21st December 2012 was not only the date on which the Mayan calendar ended. In astrological terms the Solstice, at exactly 11.12 am that day, was also the moment when the sun was aligned with the centre of the Milky Way for the first time in 26,000 years. A moment at which the sun's energy streamed towards Earth, focused precisely on Stonehenge.
Solstice follows the stories of seven characters, three women and four men, who are initially unaware of their mystical powers or of their past lives in the legendary city of Atlantis. They must come together to perform a vital ceremony at Stonehenge to rebalance the planet. 21st December 2012 is the only date for thousands of years when it can take place successfully. It's a race against time and a terrifying adversary from their shared past.
Beneath the gripping, fast-paced story Hilary Boyd and Barbara Roddam deliver a serious parable for our times. Solstice explores the unequal balance between male and female energy – the Sun and Moon energy that Stonehenge was built to honour equally – that pervades our time. Men dominate the world, women are oppressed, technology (male energy) is supreme and our planet is violent and failing. New Age wisdom holds that only a rebalancing of these energies can save us.
Nothing much has ever happened to Rev Arnold Drive, the meekly quiet vicar of St Tobias's. Feeling safe only within the walls of his church and the gentle rules of his faith, Arnold is ironically a man utterly without drive; a man content that nothing much ever happens.
Nothing, that is, until the day his church is sold off to property developers. Ejected from his church and his home, Arnold is thrust out into the modern world – a world for which he is utterly ill-equipped.
Suddenly, life presents Arnold with a series of moral dilemmas that test his faith, his judgement and his understanding of human nature. His first experience of love and sex, a surprise confession of murder, a suicide, the prospect of unexpected wealth, the discovery of a hidden family history, all cause Arnold to reassess the certainties he has taken for granted. Then, a near-fatal car accident forces him to face up to the fragility of sanity and of life itself...
Arnold Drive is the story of a man's journey from innocence to experience where he discovers his moral compass isn't always pointing the right way.
Brenda Monk is a true hardcore stand-up, it's itching under her skin; bubbling up. She's addicted to being on stage, looking out at expectant faces, waiting for the first laugh to hit. She sees potential material in everything and gets sweaty-palmed if she hasn't been on stage in more than 48 hours. It doesn't matter where, it doesn't matter when. No distance is too great, no slot too late.
But she wasn't always this way. The on-off girlfriend of a successful comedian who spends weekends hundreds of miles away telling gags about their relationship, she realises his best stage material consists of recycled versions of her own restless, smart-arsed energy and decides she might be better off keeping her jokes for herself. Before long she makes her very first walk to the mark on stage in front of a bare brick wall, with just a spotlight and a PA system for cover…
As much about the thrill of performance as it is about what goes on when the microphone is switched off, Brenda Monk is Funny is a whip-smart, devastatingly candid snapshot of the reality, the brutality and fragility of the comedy industry from an exciting new voice in fiction. It's enough to give anyone butterflies…