Interview with TITUS CHALK

ChalkT-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Titus Chalk?

A literary chancer with a new book out! Otherwise, a typical Berlin implant; a Brit taking advantage of the city’s cheap rent to work a bit less and write a bit more. I’ve recently left a decade or so of sports writing behind me to spend time in the library learning to write fiction – that’s currently what I am hoping to with my life, having taken Generation Decks from initial idea to a bookshelf near you soon.

Your new book, Generation Decks, will be published by Solaris. It looks interesting: How would you introduce it to a potential reader?

It’s the story of the world-changing fantasy game Magic: The Gathering and a memoir of my time playing it. But more than that, it’s a look at the way business, culture and community changed with the advent of the internet age. It tries to capture that transition in the early 90s where everything was turned on its head as more and more people plugged in their dial-up modems and logged on to this strange thing called the web. Although Generation Decks is ostensibly about a very complex and rich strategy game, it’s absolutely not a specialist book – it’s for non-gamers and gamers alike. And for anyone with an interest in the way pop culture evolved in the digital age. Continue reading

Review: CRIME SONG by David Swinson (Mulholland)

swinsond-crimesongusFrank Marr is back!

Marr, a retired D.C. police detective working as a private eye for a defense attorney, has a serious problem. He is secretly a drug addict, and his long-time supply of cocaine is about to run out.

While staking out an upscale nightclub in an attempt to target the stash-houses of dealers from whom to steal for his fix, he settles on a target: a young college student. After a long night in pursuit of his quarry, Marr returns home to find he has been burglarized. Though his drugs are safe, several items are missing: his .38 revolver and his cherished music collection (with dozens of albums belonging to his deceased mother.) Marr immediately begins investigating the crime himself.

But when the dealer Marr had been following is stabbed to death in his own fortified home, Frank is certain that the burglary and murder are related. With good cops, bad cops, and exceptionally dangerous drug lords on his tail, Frank is determined to find out the truth, even if it kills him. This time, it just might.

I started reading Crime Song only a few hours after finishing The Second Girl, Swinson’s superb first Frank Marr novel. I’m very happy to report that Crime Song is yet another excellent crime novel, easily cementing Swinson among the ranks of favourite crime/thriller authors. This is a must-read series. Continue reading

Review: MY FAVOURITE MANSON GIRL by Alison Umminger (Atom/Flatiron)

UmmingerA-MyFavouriteMansonGirlUKA lost teenager looking for purpose in all the wrong places…

Anna has had a miserable year. Everything feels wrong with her life. And rather than stay and face the mess, she steals a credit card and books herself a seat on the first flight out of town to Los Angeles, to crash with her sister. But soon after she lands, cold reality soon dawns on her: Hollywood isn’t the escape she needs. She is trapped in a town full of lost souls and wannabes, with no friends, no cash and no return ticket.

When she’s offered a job researching the murderous Manson girls for a dubious film, she reluctantly accepts — she needs the money. But soon enough, among the fake smiles and glitter-fuelled parties, things turn from strange, to dark, to dangerous…

This is not going to be the summer Anna had in mind.

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel. I’d heard some very good pre-publication buzz, and was interested in reading something different to my usual fare. What I found was not quite the novel as described, but nevertheless an interesting, engaging and sometimes thought-provoking novel. I enjoyed it. Continue reading

Interview with MARGARET KILLJOY

KilljoyM-AuthorPicLet’s start with an introduction: Who is Margaret Killjoy?

I’m an author who comes out of the DIY tradition of zines and has recently been making headway into traditional publishing. I’m recently-out as a transwoman and I’m a longtime anarchist organizer. I’ve spent most of my adult life traveling but just recently decided to hang my hat in the mountains of Western North Carolina.

Your new novella, The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion, will be published by Tor.com in August. It looks rather fascinating: How would you introduce it to a potential reader? Is it part of a series?

The Lamb Will Slaughter the Lion is the first book in my Danielle Cain series, which follows a group of squatter-punk demon hunters. In the first book, our protagonist heads to a utopian town to figure out what happened to her dead best friend and stumbles upon magic and demons. It’s hard to describe the themes of a book without offering spoilers, but it’s a book about the ways in which we wield power over one another and it’s a book about a traveler trying to find home.

Continue reading

Quick Review: SHOPGIRL by Steve Martin (Hyperion/W&N)

MartinS-ShopgirlUSAn interesting, enjoyable novella

Mirabelle is the ‘shopgirl’ of the title, a young woman, beautiful in a wallflowerish kind of way, who works behind the glove counter at Neiman Marcus, selling things that nobody buys anymore…?

Mirabelle captures the attention of Ray Porter, a wealthy businessman almost twice her age. As they tentatively embark on a relationship, they both struggle to decipher the language of love — with consequences that are both comic and heartbreaking. Filled with the kind of witty, discerning observations that have brought Steve Martin critical success, Shopgirl is a work of disarming tenderness.

I picked this up on a whim the other week, and started reading it right away. It’s an interesting, short glimpse of a Los Angeles life. Mirabelle’s story is not one of Hollywood or celebrity life/excess. Rather, it is a calm story of a young woman looking for a place in Los Angeles life. She’s working a job that is not, to say the least, scintillating. She is dating a rather dull, narcissistic wannabe, but falls into the orbit of a wealthy Seattle businessman who lives part-time in LA. It’s an endearing, well-told story that I very much enjoyed. Continue reading

Review: MAGNUS THE RED by Graham McNeill (Black Library)

McNeillG-HHP3-MagnusTheRedOn a fracturing world, Magnus and his Sons’ powers are unleashed…

Lord of the mystical and uncanny, Magnus the Red has long studied the ancient crafts of sorcery. A psyker without peer, save only for the Emperor himself, he commands his loyal followers of the Thousand Sons Legion in the Great Crusade, though also vigilant for any lost knowledge they might recover from the remains of dead human civilisations.

Now, fighting alongside his brother Perturabo of the Iron Warriors, Magnus begins to foresee an approaching nexus of fate — will he remain true to their mutual aims, or divert his own efforts towards furthering his own mastery of the warp?

This third novel in Black Library’s Horus Heresy: Primarchs series offers readers a glimpse of insight into Magnus the Red and his Thousand Sons Legion. Framed as a reminiscence of Magnus, it tells the story of a particular campaign and the terrible foe the Thousand Sons and Iron Warriors faced together in the early years of the crusade. Continue reading

Review: THE SECOND GIRL by David Swinson (Mulholland)

SwinsonD-SecondGirlUSOne of the strongest crime series beginnings in many years

He’s a good detective… with a bad habit.

Frank Marr knows crime in Washington, DC. A decorated former police detective, he retired early and now ekes out a living as a private eye for a defense attorney. Frank Marr may be the best investigator the city has ever known, but the city doesn’t know his dirty secret.

A longtime drug addict, Frank has lent his considerable skills to hiding his habit from others. But after he accidentally discovers a kidnapped teenage girl in the home of a local drug gang, Frank becomes a hero and is thrust into the spotlight. He reluctantly agrees to investigate the disappearance of another girl — possibly connected to the first — and the heightened scrutiny may bring his own habits to light, too.

Frank is as slippery and charming an antihero as you’ve ever met, but he’s also achingly vulnerable. The result is a mystery of startling intensity, a tightly coiled thriller where every scene may turn disastrous. The Second Girl is the crime novel of the season and the start of a thunderous new series from an author who knows the criminal underworld inside and out.

I was rather slow getting around to reading this novel, and damn was that a stupid idea. The Second Girl is easily one of the strongest starts to a crime series that I’ve read in years. The characters, story, pacing… all of it worked perfectly. I was hooked from the opening scene, and all I wanted to do was keep reading. Continue reading