At yesterday’s weekly meeting . . .

. . . the first, of course, since the excesses and fun and games provided by Christmas and New Year’s—the team did a bit of head-scratching around their coffees and bacon sandwiches, bought from the splendid fellow in the little blue van permanently parked  almost alongside the PS mailing unit down from the Towers themselves. We’re very close to making a couple of major announcements and I wanted to jump the gun a little with a blast of artwork but Nicky put her foot down and made me wait. We’ve already shown one piece—a while back—so I argued that one more wouldn’t harm so I managed to wrest this from her grasp. More as and when.

Anyway, amidst much munching and surreptitious slurping . . .

It was a good opportunity to get our collective ducks in a row and catch up with what we’ve all been doing over the holidays and to note—gratefully—how last year’s fayre (see the 2017 covers included in this week’s Newsletter) has been so wonderfully received . . . such as this delightful and even glowing review of Ramsey Campbell’s BORN TO THE DARK from Mewsings

http://www.murrayewing.co.uk/mewsings/?s=ramsey+campbell&orderby=date)

from which we’ve extracted below.

BORN TO THE DARK, the second book in Campbell’s Three Births of Daoloth trilogy is set thirty years on from the first. Dominic Sheldrake, a child in THE SEARCHING DEAD, is now a lecturer on film, and married, with a child of his own. Young Toby, though, suffers from “nocturnal absences” —a sort of nighttime paralysis—and when a paediatrician recommends a new treatment offered by the Safe to Sleep clinic, Dominic and his wife are at first delighted, as it seems to work. But Dominic becomes suspicious of the sort of dreams Toby has under the influence of this new treatment, which sound as though they could have come straight out of the journal of Christian Noble, the man who, in THE SEARCHING DEAD, found a new way to raise the dead.

“More than THE SEARCHING DEAD—which mostly concerned itself with dead things lingering too long in the land of the living—BORN TO THE DARK opens itself up to cosmic horror, thanks to the visions Safe to Sleep induces as part of its treatment. And there are hints of a coming transformation or apocalypse, after which human life as we know it will be over forever, though not necessarily extinguished.

“It’s impossible to properly review the second book of a trilogy—and an as-yet uncompleted trilogy, at that. BORN TO THE DARK takes events on from THE SEARCHING DEAD and, far more than that first volume (which could, I think, be enjoyed on its own), leaves me feeling we’re heading for a properly Lovecraftian conclusion. Will the ending be quite as bleak as that of Moore’s Providence? The final volume, THE WAY OF THE WORM, will presumably reveal all—or, at least, all we mere humans can grasp.”

Quite so and the mention is timely insomuch that Ramsey’s first email of the new year informed us that THE WAY OF THE WORM is going to be completed earlier than expected although we’re reluctant to shift from our regular annual convention spot at FantasyCon in the autumn. We’ll see.

We got a nice note from Gayle Surrette, editor/publisher of Gumshoe magazine . . .

drawing our attention to Mario Guslandi’s review of R.B.Russell’s SHE SLEEPS in their latest issue. You can see the review at:

http://www.gumshoereview.com/php/Review-id.php?id=6037

but here’s a taster (for those clever folks who haven’t yet bought it for themselves).

“A skillful British publisher, brilliant writer, and artist, R.B. Russell is the author of several short story collections and novellas and now presents us with his first novel, a peculiar mystery set in the Sheffield area in the late '80s.

“The main character is Lawrence Moore, a young man working in a record shop who has written the lyrics of a number of songs which had become the backbone of the new concept album from a once-famous pop star, Richie Young. Moore's lyrics had been inspired by a number of dark events which had taken place years before involving his old school: the unexplained disappearance (possibly the murder) of his former girlfriend, the tragic death of another schoolmate, and the puzzling suicide of a teacher. Whether these events are linked is anybody's guess, but the release of the album triggers angry reactions among the relatives of the people involved and merciless coverage by the press, artfully elicited by Young himself, seeking publicity for his new record.

“The sad truth about what happened will be finally disclosed in all its terrible aspects, leaving the reader aghast and unsettled.

“The novel is not simply a mystery, but actually a multi-layered work. On one hand, it's also an insightful portrait of the musical world of British pop of that time, when rock bands were very popular and many young people were apparently satisfied to spend most of their time just listening to records and live performances of their musical idols. On the other hand, the novel provides a crude depiction of the tabloids tremendous influence on people's opinions, and of the callousness and dishonesty of a certain type of journalism in distorting the truth in order to sell more copies of their newspapers.”

And while we’re at it, looking back over our shoulders of what we got up to last year.

Here’s a couple of thumbs-up-style nods from Charles de Lint in the review pages of The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. First off, Alan Baxter’s THE BOOK CLUB, about which Charles says “[it} proves that there's still new terrain to explore in even such an old trope as Lovecraftian horror. Baxter does an excellent job of bringing it into contemporary times, and better still, throws in a few twists and surprises that are based on the characters rather than the supernatural elements they encounter."

Also from F&SF . . .

. . . comes de Lint’s review of Claire North’s THE FIRST FIFTEEN LIVES OF HARRY AUGUST, which we’ve all of us been going bananas over since I read it in Spain a couple of years back. Over to Charles.

“Harry August is on his deathbed. Again. No matter what he does or the decisions he makes, when death comes, Harry always returns to where he began, a child with all the knowledge of a life he as already lived a dozen times before. Nothing ever changes. Until now. As Harry nears the end of his eleventh life, a little girl appears at his bedside. 'I nearly missed you, Doctor August,' she says. 'I need to send a message.' This is the story of what Harry does next, and what he did before, and how he tries to save a past he cannot change and a future he cannot allow."

“It begins in rural England, in 1919. In his first life, the child Harry grew up in poverty—the bastard son of a local landowner, raised by the groundskeeper and his wife—so he's not given much chance to shine. But through subsequent lives he quickly begins to figure things out, helped out by a member of the Club, made up of August's peers, since they all go back to their birth when their lives end. They call themselves kalachakras, and there are branches of the Club in many cities, on many continents.

“The first half of the book is utterly fascinating as Claire North explores all the intricacies of what it would be like to be in Harry's situation. It's told in first person from Harry's point of view so that the language and cadence of the speech all have a charming turn-of-the-last-century feel to them. This is an element that might throw off a reader who prefers the flow of contemporary prose, especially since the story moves a little slowly, with many asides. But that is what I liked about it.

“The second half picks up the pace to follow the plot hinted at in the cover copy. Vincent, one of Harry's fellow kalachakras, has decided he knows how to make the world a better place and begins to work through a Machiavellian series of events over many lifetimes to make it happen. Unfortunately, for all his good intentions, this is exactly what the little girl has come to warn Harry about. The end of the world is coming sooner and sooner, and Harry realizes that it's because of what Vincent is doing.

“The Clubs divide over the issue, and then those standing against Vincent begin to die, which is accomplished by going to before a kalachakra's birth and changing things so that they are never born.

“If you like to think about things as you read—in the sense of the best speculative fiction—you'll find a wealth of ideas and provocative what-ifs in these pages. Harry's growth from a simple rural boy to a highly competent twentieth-century man is a fascinating journey, and Vincent makes an excellent, fully rounded protagonist. He may have the best of intentions, but he has sociopathic leanings and a horrible way of getting things done the way he wants them. Highly recommended.”

And finishing off this week it’s only appropriate—given the last two reviews I mentioned.

Here’s an advance warning of Charles de Lint’s new novel, THE WIND IN HIS HEART, given the bells’n’whistles PS treatment and urrently undergoing art treatment. So take a sneak-peek.

Those days, the prickly pear boys hung around the Little Tree Trading Post during the day, drowsing in the desert heat mostly, but still seeing and hearing everything that took place between the old adobe building and the two-lane road that ran up into the rez from the highway. They weren’t seen, themselves—or at least not as themselves. Nobody gave a second glance to the small grove of cacti crowded up against the base of one saguaro or another. Nobody even noticed that they were rarely in exactly the same place from one morning to the next.
   But Thomas Corn Eyes did. He worked at the trading post and noted their different position every morning when he arrived for work.
  No one in Thomas’s family had ever had eyes the colour of corn, either the green leaves of the tall midsummer growths or the yellow of the kernels. They got their name back when the federal government insisted a surname was required for everybody, without exception. On the rez they had a lot of fun coming up with names the whites thought were pregnant with traditional meaning. Johnny Squash Mother. Agnes White Dear. Robert Twin Dogs.
     No, Thomas had brown eyes, the same as everyone else in the tribe. The difference was he could also see a little deeper into the invisible world of the spirits than most people could, but that wasn’t something he would ever talk about. He didn’t want to risk gaining the attention of the tribal shaman Ramon Morago. For the past decade Morago had been searching for an apprentice, and working with him was the last thing Thomas wanted.
   It wasn’t that he was ashamed of his Kikimi heritage, or even that he didn’t consider himself a spiritual person. But he was only eighteen, and he didn’t want to spend the rest of his life living on the rez, organizing sweats. He didn’t want to be making medicine bags for the aunties, taking Reuben’s dog boys out on their spirit quests, or any of the hundred-and-one other things a shaman did.
    But no matter what he wanted or didn’t, he still saw into the spiritworld, and the spirits knew it.

Watch out for order pages in the spring, both for this and other goodies.

Two final mentions . . .

. . . first to my good friend Andy who took the time to get back to me after my DETECTORISTS ramble a week or so back, which resulted in him and his wife watching the complete run one evening. Oh, pure heaven!

And to another good friend, Paul (who has appeared in reference in these letters before so introductions ain’t necessary) without whose weekly chats about vinyl and CD’s life would be dull beyond belief.

So, once again, happy new year, folks. Good to have you with us once again. Now spend a few minutes to run through what we we rolled out in 2017 . . . and maybe even pick up a few items you thought about but never got around to. Heck, go’wan . . . ya know ya want to!

Have a great weekend, look after each other . . . and happy reading.

Pete

 

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