Author Archive

January 10, 2016

Disclaimer: Renee Knight

by Andre

Disclaimer RENEE KNIGHTDisclaimer is yet another book being marketed with comparisons to Gone Girl on the cover. In fact, this clever debut set in London and Spain has its own distinctive style and deliciously sinister concept. When Catherine Ravenscroft and her husband downsize, she finds an unfamiliar book by her bedside just as she’s settling into a new chapter in her life. To her horror, the story of The Perfect Stranger is apparently her own: a 20-year-old secret about the tragic Spanish holiday she’d tried to forget. Its lurid plot details a holiday seduction by a married woman who’s also a bad mother – a deadly combination to appear in print. To underline the mysterious author’s baleful intentions, the standard disclaimer is scored through with red ink: any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, is definitely not a coincidence.

Catherine is an award-winning documentary maker; perhaps this professional woman who charms her way into other people’s lives deserves this fictional intrusion into her privacy. Disclaimer’s dual narrative pits her against disgraced teacher and widower Stephen Brigstocke, who discovers a fiction manuscript by his wife that reveals his family’s fatal connection to Catherine. When he self-publishes and carefully distributes The Perfect Stranger, Catherine has to fight to regain control of her life – and her story – as the poisonous prose suggests a reckoning is coming. Knight is adept at creating suspense as the gradual revelation of family secrets builds to a shocking denouement in the Spanish sun. Disclaimer is a superior psychological thriller shot through with cruelty, tragedy and insights into the artful nature of fiction, though perhaps not best suited as a beach read.

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September 13, 2015

Trigger Mortis: Anthony Horowitz

by Andre

Anthony Horowitz TRIGGER MORTISJames Bond returns in Trigger Mortis, by far the best of the continuation novels to be penned by a big-name author (it follows official Bond books by William Boyd, Jeffery Deaver and Sebastian Faulks). Anthony Horowitz is clearly a fan of 007; more importantly, he’s captured the relentless cruelty and lean action that make Ian Fleming’s novels such an enduring body of work despite the antiquated Cold War scenario. Horowitz doesn’t mess with the formula – no modern-day setting, inner turmoil or downplaying of Bond’s 1950s opinions. Yet there are some modern touches that ensure this isn’t just Horowitz mimicking his literary hero. He’s also audacious enough to reintroduce Pussy Galore in a story set in 1957, a few weeks after the events of Goldfinger. “The conquest had been particularly satisfying to Bond,” we learn of the relationship between the British spy and the American leader of an all-lesbian crime gang based in Harlem. Perhaps it’s not a union built to last, though.

Luckily for Horowitz, he also gets to play with a recently discovered TV outline for Bond, written by Fleming, that was never used. Murder on Wheels is incorporated into Trigger Mortis and has Bond on a German Grand Prix track attempting to steer a Maserati at 160 miles per hour while preventing a Soviet assassination of a British racing champion. You don’t need to be a fan of Top Gear to find it utterly thrilling. The fiendish Russian plot also involves a sinister Korean businessman, the early days of the space race and rocket technology, though Trigger Mortis is not a re-run of Moonraker. Nor is it replete with boys’ toys like many of the films. Horowitz has remained true to the novels of Ian Fleming with this masterclass in James Bond.

April 23, 2015

The Internet is Not the Answer

by Andre

Andrew Keen THE INTERNET IS NOT THE ANSWERSocial media satire The Circle made you scared about the screens that have enslaved us. Now Andrew Keen’s polemic against the winner-takes-all Web 2.0 will make you angry. It’s a smart, concise exploration of the impact of new technology, but also a howl of rage at the digital disruptors relishing the havoc they have caused. “Failure is success” is the bizarre, Orwellian mantra of the Silicon Valley innovators – and big failure followed by bigger success is the story of Travis Kalanick. He likes to boast that he was sued for a quarter of a trillion dollars by the world’s entertainment companies over his peer-to-peer service Scour. Ultimately, it may have failed but – along with Napster – not before laying waste to the music industry. Now he’s unleashed Uber, a taxi app that’s prompted protests from traditional taxi drivers around the world.

Perhaps that’s just progress. But consider Instagram, which sold to Facebook for a billion dollars when it had 13-full time employees. Around the same time, Kodak was closing 13 factories and 130 photo labs and laying off 47,000 workers. Last year Facebook forked out $19 billion for WhatsApp, which had 55 employees. These are the frightening numbers behind the job-killing digital economy. And those internet giants that do recruit an army of coders to their cults pay hardly any tax and contribute little to the local economy. Keen’s particularly scathing on the segregation in San Francisco (and he’s found an ally in Rebecca Solnit), where the digital overlords travel to work in private buses and never have to leave their plush office complexes. There are plenty more villains – and a few heroes – in this history of the internet. He compares Google with the Stasi, rails against the oddball libertarians who became billionaires and rubbishes the long tail theory, which claims that any creative person can make a living thanks to the reach of the Web (mid-list authors are actually disappearing). As William Gibson said: “The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.”

March 21, 2015

A London Year

by Andre

Paperback now available – £12.99

A LONDON YEAR365 Days of City Life in Diaries, Journals and Letters – compiled by Travis Elborough & Nick Rennison

“With Thelma to the George Inn, Southwark, for a lunch of steak-and-kidney pie, cherry pie and beer. Expected hordes of American tourists but found only English, including three young men with posh accents who went through a repertoire of advert slogans, radio catchphrases and anecdotes about cricket, bloodsports and motors, even calling beer ‘ale’.” – Peter Nichols, Diary, 16 June, 1971

Part of the pleasure of this anthology of diary entries (one or more for each day of the year) is discovering the familiar from a distance. So for Southwark residents like us, there’s playwright Peter Nichols on a certain type of tourist in Borough High Street 44 years ago. Or how about the Quaker merchant Peter Briggins on the retail opportunities of the frozen Thames during the Great Freeze (21 January, 1716):

“Afternoon I went to London Bridge & saw booths & shops as farr as the Temple but they say there is booths to Chelsey, & below Bridge from about the Tower booths & many huts & people crossed over. There was they say 2 oxes roasted.”

With the capital as the changing backdrop, this is a remarkable portrait of London penned by more than 200 diarists, including Samuel Pepys, Kenneth Williams, Alan Bennett, Mary Shelley, James Boswell, Virginia Woolf and George Gissing. From the 16th century to the 21st, it’s an eyewitness account of everyday life that takes in grisly deaths in Tudor times, Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee, anti-Vietnam war protests, World War I Zeppelin raids and Derek Jarman’s night out in Soho.

November 23, 2014

Cat Out of Hell: Lynne Truss

by Andre

Lynne Truss CAT OUT OF HELLHumour and horror might seem unlikely bedfellows, but it’s a combination that can be scarily effective in the right hands. Lynne Truss is best known for her comic forays into grammar though she used to write novels. Cat Out of Hell, her first in 15 years, is the latest entry in the Hammer imprint series and it’s a hoot, as well as being genuinely eerie. Alec is grieving for his wife, a fellow librarian, when he’s drawn into a feline conspiracy connected to their library’s collection of occult material belonging to the sinister John Seeward. He committed suicide in the Sixties in the grounds of his stately home, but this diabolist’s power in the mastery of moggies lives on with his disciples.

What might seem silly ends up as a minor comic masterpiece thanks to the tricksy, self-aware structure of Alec’s story, Truss’s imaginative and grisly mythology for felines, and a talking cat called Roger. We know Roger’s smart – he even got to grips with Greek ferry timetables – but he might also be dangerous. Then there’s the threat from a shadowy black cat known as The Captain, who mentored Roger in the art of immortality, and the Grand Cat Master himself (appointed by Beelzebub). Fortunately, Alec has his faithful companion Watson, a dog he addresses with dialogue from the Sherlock Holmes stories. (“You have been in Afghanistan, I perceive,” he says when the dirty dog returns from digging in the garden). The showdown at Harville Manor is straight out of Dennis Wheatley – with a dash of PG Wodehouse. For anyone who’s wondered what their cat is actually thinking, Lynne Truss has come up with some hilarious and horrible speculation.

September 15, 2014

Ruth Rendell & Penelope Lively

by Andre

Ruth Rendell THE GIRL NEXT DOORAmmonites and Leaping Fish PENELOPE LIVELYIt’s a truism that old age brings a reawakening of childhood memories. For almost every writer, memory is a rich resource, but things get especially interesting when they undergo that memory reboot in their seventies or eighties. At the age of 84 – and 50 years since her debut From Doon with Death – Ruth Rendell has written a captivating novel about that experience. The Girl Next Door is nominally a crime novel, though the killer is identified at the beginning and the crime (a double murder) occurred in 1944. The case is brought to light by the unearthing of a pair of severed hands. What’s fascinating is the effect the grisly discovery has on the 70-somethings who used to play on the site as children. Memories are stirred and lives are shaken up at a time when the days, months and years might appear to be predictable and unchanging.

Penelope Lively’s brief, meditative memoir, Ammonites & Leaping Fish: A Life in Time, is a treasure trove of memory – from childhood in Alexandria to the ‘hospital years’ of old age – filtered through her precise and discursive prose. She is especially good on the working of memory and how it becomes “the mind’s triumph over time”, as well as childhood amnesia and the importance of teaching history (our collective memory). At 81, Lively has written a rich, absorbing memoir that has you hoping for further novels from this former Booker Prize winner.

June 14, 2014

Robert Aickman: 1914-1981

by Andre

Robert Aickam COLD HAND IN MINE DARK ENTRIES

Robert Aickman is another contender for the best writer you’ve never heard of, so his centenary (on 27 June) is a perfect moment to sample his ‘strange stories’. Tartarus Press has done valiant work in keeping Aickman in print by publishing handsome hardback editions, and now Faber & Faber is reissuing several paperback collections this summer and a couple of rare novels. His debut collection, Dark Entries, is available now and includes an insightful biographical essay from Ramsey Campbell, Britain’s premier horror author and a friend of Aickman.

Cold Hand in Mine, re-published on 3 July, is the 1975 collection that made his name and includes the award-winning Pages From a Young Girl’s Journal. This cultish author’s admirers include Neil Gaiman; The League of Gentleman’s Mark Gatiss, Jeremy Dyson and Reece Shearsmith; and bibliophile Barry Humphries, who wrote that Aickman’s fiction “…captures the very texture of a bad dream which may start, as such dreams do, beguilingly; until the dreamer (and reader) feels the first presentiment of encroaching nightmare – and cannot wake.” Look out for further collections The Wine-Dark Sea (August) and The Unsettled Dust (September) as well as novels The Model and The Late Breakfasters this month in the Faber Finds series.

April 27, 2014

My Criminal World: Henry Sutton

by Andre

Henry Sutton MY CRIMINAL WORLDTake pity on the struggling, middle-aged crime writer. In the case of David Slavitt, his sales are nothing to shout about, younger rivals are coming up with ever more grisly plots, and his career-focused, academic wife doesn’t really think that working from home is a full-time job. And she might be having an affair. As a confessional account of the life of a crime writer, this novel is indispensable. But our fictional, rather ineffectual author doesn’t seem quite ready to kill off his wife’s academic colleagues who sneer at the detective novel; the story’s crime element is rather more subtle and depends on the blurring of fiction and reality as Slavitt gets further into his latest book.

As the police procedural he’s writing takes shape – My Criminal World’s chapters alternate between Slavitt’s humdrum life and his grisly book – he keeps spying a shadowy figure on the street and begins to believe the life he’s created with his wife and young children in suburban Norfolk is under threat. Perhaps he has a love rival ready to oust him, or maybe the danger is something that his subconscious has invented as some kind of psychological response to the travails of the mid-list author.

There are plenty of neat in-jokes in My Criminal World, including the unaccountable popularity of Slavitt in Latvia, where Sutton has also enjoyed success. He’s sharp, too, when it comes to lonely, obsessive fans, unglamorous award ceremonies and bullying agents. It’s a clever, captivating novel that will make you feel a little more sympathy towards the nation’s neglected crime writers.

April 9, 2014

Spring Tide: Cilla & Rolf Borjlind

by Andre

Cilla and Rolf Borjlind SPRING TIDEThis startling Scandi-crime debut launches a new series from a couple who scripted Swedish TV hits including Arne Dahl and Wallander. Spring Tide – also heading to television in 2015 – opens with a grisly beach scene on the Swedish island of Nordkoster, then shifts to Stockholm 24 years later where the homeless are subject to random, violent attacks. A trainee cop, Olivia Rönning, is drawn to the 1980s cold case for a class project, which leads her to Tom Stilton, an ex-police detective with issues. But she fears for her safety as the investigation reveals a web of corruption involving big business, call girls and a Costa Rican connection.

Spring Tide is a novel that artfully combines sharp humour, suspense and social issues – shades of Henning Mankell and Maj Sjöwall & Per Wahlöö – within concise scenes that keep you reading. Buy the book before it hits the small screen.

March 8, 2014

A Very Short Introduction

by Andre

For the overburdened reader, ‘a very short introduction’ is among the most welcome of phrases. Now you can browse dozens of books on our snazzy new spinner that will each fill a specific gap in your knowledge, without detaining you for more than a few hours. Oxford University Press has literally hundreds of slim, accessible volumes in its Very Short series, and we’ve got dozens of these titles available in the shop. Click on any book cover below for just a selection of this diverse, authoritative series that’s proved popular with both students and general readers.

February 20, 2014

The Rats: James Herbert

by Andre

40th anniversary – spring 2014

James Herbert THE RATSThe nation’s bookshops have been infested with literary rodents for four decades. The Rats was a horrible hit for James Herbert (read our tribute to the master of modern British horror here) in 1974 and beyond. The book has remained in print and publisher Pan Macmillian will issue a 40th anniversary edition in the spring.

When Herbert’s story about giant, murderous rodents with razor-sharp teeth first appeared, its detractors included a young Martin Amis, who reviewed it for The Observer. Admittedly, The Rats is a fundamentally silly and under-developed novel, but when you read it today its anger at complacent authority feels genuine. Herbert was an East End boy made good (he became the art director of an advertising agency), so he knew the appalling post-war conditions that had never really been addressed: poor housing, dystopian tower blocks, casual violence – and vermin.

Herbert’s horror was a gory rejection of the ghost story and the snobbish novels of satanic terror by Dennis Wheatley, as well as being admirably unsentimental: his rodents nibbled at everyone regardless of class, gender, age or colour. (Stephen King also shook up the genre with his debut, Carrie, in 1974). The popularity of The Rats dovetailed with the rise of punk and they both provided a small shock to the establishment. There’s a strong sense of discontent, industrial unrest and government incompetence in Herbert’s depiction of the Seventies. He went on to write better books (Fluke, The Magic Cottage, Sepulchre), but The Rats still packs a punch. Once you’ve read the horrific scene in the Underground, you won’t be able to descend into London Bridge again without looking out for a dirty rat.

January 19, 2014

Margaret Thatcher & Tony Benn

by Andre

Tony Benn A BLAZE OF AUTUMN SUNSHINE - THE LAST DIARIESCharles Moore MARGARET THATCHER THE AUTHORIZED BIOGRAPHY vol 1Thatcher and Benn were both born in 1925 into separate strata of the class system, and ended up on opposite sides of post-war politics. On the right and the left, they each achieved an enduring political legacy, which ensures these contrasting volumes should avoid the remainder shop of doom, where most politicians end up. Charles Moore’s official guide to the grocer’s daughter from Grantham is a masterpiece of biography; sympathetic yet revealing about her failures, foibles and triumphs. His account of the Falklands War is like a labyrinthine thriller: the US diplomatic manoeuvring, the hapless chicanery of the Argentinian junta and the internal cabinet divisions, all going on while British troops wanted to prosecute a war before winter arrived in the South Atlantic.

Her failings included a lack of strategic vision and abysmal man-management – it was always men – that ultimately led to her downfall. She also had no discernible sense of humour and needed the jokes in her speeches to be explained. Thatcher cut a lonely figure early on, surrounded by patrician Tory Wets, but was sustained by a coterie of admirers and the blimpish, boozy Denis Thatcher. This curious cast of true believers makes for a surprisingly funny biography, especially the footnote revealing the amorous efforts of one of the PM’s fans.

Following Thatcher’s death, Tony Benn writes with admiration from across the political divide in The Last Diaries, describing her as a “signpost not a weather vane”. The former Viscount Stansgate comes across as a steadfast figure himself: marching against war in his eighties, attending picket lines and railing against Tony Blair. As his health fails, his powers as a diarist wane a little: Hazel Blears didn’t actually go on TV with “a large mock-up of a cheque” to announce she was paying back her expenses, although it’s a pleasingly surreal image. Amidst the name-dropping (Kofi Annan, Jimmy Carter, Natasha Kaplinsky) his curiosity about ordinary lives shines through. And while his arguments may have been defeated at the ballot box, Benn’s career is not the forgettable failure of so many politicians. His volumes of diaries will be read, studied and enjoyed for many years to come.

December 15, 2013

Books of the Year 2013

by Andre

Books_of_2013We’ve expanded our trawl of the literary pages for the books of 2013 to come up with a definitive list of the 10 favourites (click on the image for a clearer view of the books – all available at the Riverside, of course). Here’s our top 10 poll of polls based on the books with the most nominations from critics and fellow authors in The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph, Evening Standard, The Spectator, Financial Times, New York Times, Metro, The Independent, Daily Mail and Sunday Times.

1 The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
“…a deliciously compellingly dazzling jewel about beauty, fate and life.” – Simon Sebag Montefiore, Evening Standard

2 Margaret Thatcher – The Authorised Biography: Volume 1 – Not For Turning
“…an exceptional political biography with dozens of incidental pleasures — it is full of Dickensian walk-on parts and deliciously redolent of its period.” – Philip Hensher, Spectator

3 Tenth of December by George Saunders
“The stories are clever and moving, and the title story is the best piece of fiction I’ve read this year.” – Roddy Doyle, Guardian

4 The Pike: Gabriele D’Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War by Lucy Hughes-Hallett
“…an extraordinary story of literary accomplishment, passionate war-mongering and sexual incorrigibility.” – John Preston, Spectator

5 The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton
“I read… The Luminaries three times in my capacity as Man Booker judge, and each time round it yielded new riches.” – Robert Macfarlane, Guardian

6 Love, Nina: Despatches From Family Life by Nina Stibbe
“…no book this year made me laugh more.” – John Lanchester, Guardian

7 Harvest by Jim Crace
“…easily the best-written novel of the year.” – Philip Hensher, Spectator

8 Penelope Fitzgerald: A Life by Hermione Lee
“…charts a life that travelled the full 360 degrees on the wheel of fortune.” – Helen Simpson, Guardian

9 Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
“…her most challenging, complex and compelling novel yet.” – Ian Rankin, Guardian

10 Power Trip: A Decade of Policy, Plots and Spin by Damian McBride
“Bankrupt of morals and bankrupt of style, it is a nonpareil of peevishness, and self-delusion shines from it like a Christmas star.” – Hilary Mantel, Guardian

Several of these titles were, in fact, level pegging but at the top The Goldfinch did just edge out Charles Moore’s richly rewarding – and surprisingly funny – account of Thatcher up until the 1982 Falklands victory. The P-Fitz biography did well to make the top 10 as it was only released in November. Stoner by John Williams got plenty of picks as a favourite of 2013, even though it first appeared in 1965. And bubbling under: The Circle by Dave Eggers, The Childhood of Jesus by J M Coetzee and All That Is by James Salter (“no question, the best novel I read this year,” said Richard Ford of the senior American author).

December 7, 2013

Tenth of December: George Saunders

by Andre

Paperback now available – £8.99

George Saunders TENTH OF DECEMBERHoping to read Tenth of December by George Saunders in a handy paperback format on 10 December, 2013? Well, if you call at the Riverside you can indeed enjoy this moment of literary synchronicity; or at the very least get hold of this acclaimed collection before all your well-read friends. We’re happy to report that the publisher has supplied us with the paperback edition ahead of its official January 2014 release date. Given the half-dozen mentions for Tenth of December in the end-of-year newspaper round-ups, it means we can satisfy the many curious readers who’ll be seeking out George Saunders this month. The hardback has slipped out of print and a certain retailer, perhaps distracted by developing its drone technology, is still listing the Tenth of December paperback as being on sale on 2 January, 2014.

Frankly, you can’t wait until then for this book, which has cemented Saunders’s reputation as the finest American writer of short stories at work today. Saunders can be funny, surreal, bleak and humane on the same page. Take his 1998 story Sea Oak which features a male stripper who’s working in an aviation-themed restaurant, while also trying to deal with the reanimated corpse of his Aunt Bernie and her concerted efforts to restore the American Dream for her penurious family.

Saunders’s Royal Festival Hall event this summer ended up being a master class about one particular story he read from (Victory Lap, which opens the new collection) that had nascent authors in the audience scribbling away feverishly. George made it look easy, but it’s really not. As Zadie Smith puts it on the cover of the paperback edition – did we mention it’s already on our shelves? – of Tenth of December: “Not since Twain has America produced a satirist this funny with a prose style this fine.”

November 17, 2013

Live From Downing Street: Nick Robinson

by Andre

Updated paperback out now – £8.99

Nick Robinson LIVE FROM DOWNING STREETThe BBC political editor is one of TV’s most familiar faces – and one of the most annoying if you accept Alastair Campbell’s assessment of Nick Robinson (“a jerk”). Well, I’d rather read Robinson’s engaging, witty history and insightful memoir than Campbell’s obsessive, late-night scribbling. It’s not an autobiography but it does begin – after a perfectly worthy, BBC-style introduction – with a revealing chapter on his youthful fascination with current affairs (Today presenter Brian Redhead was a neighbour) and his dogged research as BBC producer for a Dimbleby. Even when he switches to reporting, Robinson still seems to write a lot of memos and happily describes himself as a “pointy head” in contrast to BBC Rottweiler interviewers (Paxman, Humphrys, Neil).

Nevertheless, he’s a tenacious reporter who was bloodied early in the Blair years when, he claims, Mandelson tried to get him sacked, as well as being – for the most part – a staunch defender of his trade. While he acknowledges the soundbite culture’s gone too far, he reminds us of Draconian restrictions on reporting parliament from the 1600s to the 1950s. Politicians wouldn’t even deign to be interviewed. (In 1955, Clement Attlee was asked if there was “anything else you’d care to say about the coming election?” His answer in full: “No.”)

Robinson draws perfect sketches of the political pas de deux between each prime minister and the Beeb. Churchill loathed the BBC, which had (wrongly) denied him a platform in the 1930s; Wilson was a paranoiac who preferred ITV; Thatcher was positively hostile. He gets angry about propaganda during the Falklands War and regrets his failure to give Robin Cook’s opposition to the Iraq war airtime when employed by ITV (Robinson avoided the Blair-BBC death duel). Of course, this impartial correspondent’s candour becomes cloudier the closer he gets to the present but his profound questions about the future shape of British broadcasting make this essential reading for students of politics and the media.

November 7, 2013

Happy birthday, Albert Camus

by Andre

Albert Camus PenguinToday we’re celebrating the centenary of Albert Camus (born 7 Nov 1913), a writer whose sense of the absurd has only grown in relevance since his death in 1960, while other thinkers and philosophers have waned in terms of their influence. Even if you’re already familiar with his classic The Outsider, there are plenty of other Camus-related titles in stock with which to mark the occasion. We’ve got Penguin’s centenary publication of a brace of Camus essays in The Sea Close By (£1.99 – find it on the Riverside counter); The Boxer v The Goalkeeper: Sartre vs Camus by Andy Martin, an investigation into the feuding French thinkers; and there’s Penguin’s Great Ideas series of £4.99 titles including Camus essays The Myth of Sisyphus and Fastidious Assassins. And, of course, we’ll have The Outsider and The Plague in stock until 2113 if we possibly can.

November 3, 2013

Doctor Sleep: Stephen King

by Andre

Stephen King DOCTOR SLEEPGiven the trend for profitable literary sequels – the oddest of which has to be a follow-up to The Woman in Black that isn’t written by Susan Hill – the watchful reader approaches Doctor Sleep with caution. At least Stephen King’s penned his own sequel to The Shining, his 1977 novel about a booze-soaked family nightmare among the ghostly guests in the Overlook Hotel that is perhaps his most terrifying and affecting book.

Still smarting from the movie version 33 years on, King reclaims the characters for his sequel. Quite right, too, because Stanley Kubrick’s butchery (in every sense) of Dick Hallorann, a key character in the book, was unforgivable. So it was heartening to encounter the Overlook chef, who shared the young Danny Torrance’s psychic abilities, in the first few pages of Doctor Sleep. The familiar King tropes are also present and correct: an astute portrayal of small town America, an old-fashioned notion of good and evil, and the terrors of childhood playing out in grown-ups. For Torrance, that fear is accentuated by the gift of the Shining – he sees ghosts, as well as flies on the faces of those stalked by death – and it’s led him into alcoholism just like his father.

King draws on his own experience of Alcoholics Anonymous and he’s good on the psychological baggage sons inherit from fathers. Most of all, he’s a master of terror – both subtle chills and all-consuming horror – as he pits Dan and a psychic schoolgirl protégé against a community of peripatetic vampires who feed off the essence of dying children touched by the Shining. There are pleasing allusions to another King classic and even his son Joe Hill’s latest novel, NOS4R2; plenty of revelations for fans of the original; and there’s a cat that may have a touch of the Shining too. Every good horror novel needs a cat. And Doctor Sleep is a very good horror novel indeed – perhaps King’s finest work in the genre since Misery.

October 24, 2013

The Luminaries, The Goldfinch

by Andre

Eleanor Catton THE LUMINARIESDonna Tartt THE GOLDFINCHIf you’re in the mood for autumnal immersion into a big book, here’s a brace of blockbuster novels – a Booker winner and a long-awaited comeback. The Luminaries by Eleanor Catton is back in stock after publishers Granta reprinted the Booker-winning, 830-page literary novel that doubles up as a homage to Victorian sensation novels. A gripping mystery and a structurally innovative work, The Luminaries is a sprawling tale of unsolved murders in 19th century New Zealand. Look out, too, for the Kiwi author’s debut novel, The Rehearsal, which is currently reprinting to meet the surge in demand for her work.

Catton’s Booker triumph occurred in the final year of its restriction to writers from the Commonwealth, Ireland and Zimbabwe. With the award opening up to English language authors from the rest of the world, US author Donna Tartt is in the running for the 2014 Man Booker Prize with her third novel, The Goldfinch, which came out this week and weighs in at 784 pages. With themes of art, loss and alienation, it’s a literary novel that’s not afraid of plot. Devotees of The Secret History have been anticipating a new book from Tartt for the past decade – thankfully, the reviews suggest it’s been worth the wait.

October 17, 2013

Morrissey: Autobiography

by Andre

Penguin Classics paperback out now – £8.99

Morrissey AUTOBIOGRAPHYWe’ve had a lot of big titles out this month including Stephen King, William Boyd’s Bond and the new Bridget Jones. But Steven Patrick Morrissey is shaping up to be the biggest of the bunch. Even before it was out, the media was awash with commentators opining on the fact his autobiography was being published as a Penguin Classic alongside Homer, Tolstoy and Oscar Wilde. “I don’t see why not,” said the former Smiths singer, when asked in 2011 if Penguin would meet his demand for the book to be issued as a distinctive black classic.

It’s too early to anoint it as a classic, but dipping into this much-anticipated volume on publication day has been an utter joy: a terse encounter with a lady at the Stretford Jobcentre who wants him to clean canal banks; the 50 pence purchase of a New York Dolls single in Rumbelows; the history teacher who “sniffs out burgeoning transexuality” as the teenage Morrissey dyes his hair and declares his allegiance to Roxy Music (at least until he discovers that Bryan Ferry dines on veal). Media reports have already picked up on his hilarious mocking of Judge John Weeks as “the pride of the pipsqueakery” (the judge described Moz as “devious” during the 1996 Smiths royalties case). Yes, there’s going to be some score settling but the first part is a droll, beautifully written memoir of his Seventies childhood. If his account of The Smiths is as good as his early years, this may surpass Bob Dylan’s Chronicles as the finest musician’s autobiography of recent years.

October 13, 2013

The Testament of Mary: Colm Tóibín

by Andre

Colm Toibin TESTAMENT OF MARYNovels that are barely novels have sometimes managed to win over the Booker Prize judges: Julian Barnes won for The Sense of an Ending a couple of years ago and Penelope Fitzgerald’s Offshore was triumphant in 1979. (Both are excellent, slender novels that are suited to reading in a single sitting.) So perhaps The Testament of Mary, in which Colm Tóibín enters the mind of the aged mother of Christ over 100 lyrical, heart-wrenching pages, will be named the best novel of the year this week at the 15 October prize ceremony, which takes place just the other side of London Bridge at the Guildhall. The Irish author would certainly be a deserving winner.

The Testament of Mary is such a rich work of the imagination, you’d have to be Richard Dawkins not to be moved by this depiction of Mary’s memories of her sanctified son and the violence, cruelty and duplicity that encroached upon her daily existence. This is a subtly daring work of fiction, in which Jesus (though his name is never uttered) and his followers are portrayed with a degree of ambivalence by his mother, as she recalls the world-changing incidents that sent her into exile. The Son of God is serenely powerful yet distant with her, and preoccupied during the wedding banquet where his followers claim he has turned water into wine. In the months and years after his murder, these early Christians busily fashion myths about his life, death and rise that confound his mother. His death may have redeemed the world, but for Mary it was the tragedy of losing a son.

As she tries to make sense of it all in later life, her account swells with a sadness that is, at times, overwhelming. ‘Memory fills my body as much as blood and bones,’ says Mary. Read this remarkable book in one sitting and Tóibín’s insistent, poignant prose will have a similar effect.

October 10, 2013

BBC National Short Story Award 2013

by Andre

£7.99 – available now

THE BBC NATIONAL SHORT STORY AWARD 2013Congratulations to Sarah Hall, who was named this week as the winner of the BBC National Short Story Award 2013. Her story, Mrs Fox, is an earthy fable about a complacent husband whose wife undergoes a shocking transformation.

Hall emerged as the winner of the £15,000 prize from an all-female shortlist (stories were submitted anonymously) that also included tales of quiet grief and vivid imagination from new and established authors Lisa Blower, Lavinia Greenlaw, Lionel Shriver and Lucy Wood. Settings for these stories range from the haunted corners of an old Cornish house to the panic-stricken streets of New York in Shriver’s Prepositions, which takes the form of a resentful letter looking back exactly 10 years earlier at the distinction made between the people who died on 9/11 but not in 9/11. All the shortlisted stories have been published in the annual anthology that is now available for those readers who, like Edgar Allan Poe, appreciate the power of a literary work that can be read in one sitting.

Sarah Hall is the author of the Booker Prize shortlisted The Electric Michelangelo, the eco-feminist science fiction novel The Carhullan Army and a short story collection, The Beautiful Indifference.

September 7, 2013

Standing in Another Man’s Grave: Ian Rankin

by Andre

Ian Rankin STANDING IN ANOTHER MAN'S GRAVEIan Rankin SAINTS OF THE SHADOW BIBLEThe return of John Rebus has been one of the great comebacks of the past 12 months, along with that of The Rolling Stones – one of the fictional Edinburgh detective’s favourite bands. (Ian Rankin even named Let It Bleed and breakthrough novel Black and Blue after albums by the Stones.) Having retired Rebus after 17 books, Rankin started on a new crime series featuring the reformed alcoholic Malcolm Fox, an internal affairs police investigator.

Fox is a cold fish and readers have not relished the series as much as several hours in the company of the bloody-minded Rebus. So it was a cunning move by Rankin to bring Rebus back as a civilian working cold cases with Fox as a minor character, who’s cast as the ex-cop’s nemesis and determined to prevent him taking advantage of the raising of the police retirement age to re-join the force. Standing in Another Man’s Grave begins with Rebus contented – he still enjoys a drink in the Oxford Bar and listening to classic rock on vinyl as he nods off in an armchair – and coping with boredom by winding up the young, ambitious boss in cold cases. He’s even reached a truce with arch-enemy and local villain “Big Ger” Cafferty.

This routine’s disrupted when Rebus is persuaded to follow up on the case of a missing girl by her mother. Soon patterns are emerging with that disappearance in 1999 and recent cases of missing women, and Rebus leaves the familiar Edinburgh streets (and pubs) for a road trip along the A9 to the Scottish Highlands. He’s also reunited with his English protégée, DI Siobhan Clarke, and their relationship, fractious but with an unbreakable bond, is at the heart of a novel that has some sly references to the upcoming 2014 independence referendum. Rankin and Rebus are on fine form here – and it promises good things for the next book in the revived Scottish crime series, Saints of the Shadow Bible (out 7 November).

August 10, 2013

Winter: Adam Gopnik

by Andre

Adam Gopnik WINTER“Winter is coming,” as the Starks say in A Game of Thrones. It may not be uppermost in our minds during this balmy August, but New Yorker writer Adam Gopnik’s wonderful, wide-ranging meditation on winter will prepare you for the diminishing December days by stirring an appreciation of our 19th century taming of the season, which went from “being seen as bleak and bitter to sweet and sublime”. Raised in Canada, the essayist knows what a real winter means; his subject is also an excuse to introduce us to ice hockey – a “dross of brutal messiness” in John Updike’s phrase – and its emergence in Montreal.

Gopnik glides through a variety of aspects of the season with all the grace of Goethe on his ice skates (an engraving shows the German poet looking smug on the ice in the 1850s, when the pastime became “essentially social and overtly sexual” according to Gopnik). And while Germans such as the artist Friedrich are credited with transforming winter in our imagination through a “Romantic resistance to the Enlightenment idea of reason”, it’s heartening to see that the British played a part in everything from early ice skating (Pepys writes of this “very pretty art” in 1662) and fashionable Alpine holidays to stiff-upper-lip polar expeditions and, in the 1830s, even central heating. “North Americans who have spent a winter in England and who, clutching teacups and shivering in shaggy sweaters, wonder if they will ever be warm again, may find it hard to believe that this was the first warm modern place,” writes Gopnik.

He’s also good on the “ambiguous festival” that is the Dickensian Christmas and the clamour for the festive season to be less commercial, which is nothing new: US newspapers have been calling for Christmas to be “dematerialized” since the 1880s.

August 4, 2013

The Lowest Heaven, Memory Palace

by Andre

LH_PB_7Hari Kunzru MEMORY PALACE

We’re used to book tie-ins for films, TV shows and grasping celebrities but fiction inspired by an exhibition is a more engaging combination. Alongside Hari Kunzru’s dystopian Memory Palace, written as part of a new V&A exhibition, there’s The Lowest Heaven, a science fiction anthology to coincide with Visions of the Universe at the National Maritime Museum (until 15 September).

If you’re enraptured by photographs of nebulae and Martian landscapes, it’s well worth a trip to Greenwich. And the collection of stories, each themed around a body in the Solar System with an accompanying image from the Royal Observatory collection, is a rich assortment of contemporary SF set in our little corner of the universe. The Lowest Heaven ranges in style and subject from space colonising and voyaging to more psychological and fantastical treatments, taking in obvious planetary neighbours as well as dwarf planet Ceres (Saga’s Children by E.J. Swift), the Voyager 1 explorer (James Smythe’s The Grand Tour) and Jupiter’s moon Europa (imagined as the plaything of an oligarch obsessed with Roman antiquity in the epic escapism of Magnus Lucretius, by Mark Charan Newton).

Golden Apple by Sophia McDougall contains the majesty of the Sun within a devastating, domestic drama; Jon Courtenay Grimwood riffs on the paranoia of Philip K. Dick in The Jupiter Files; and Adam Roberts essays a proto-Wellsian lunar adventure of derring-do in the 18th century that demonstrates a facility for amusing, gentlemanly dialogue. Even the more ‘traditional’ SF spacefaring has a dizzying quality, from Alastair Reynolds’s cyborg artist colony on Mercury to WWBD by Simon Morden, a murky mission to Mars that’s haunted by the ghost of Ray Bradbury. It’s a story that makes you want to seek out more of Morden’s work; in fact, that’s an imperative that might apply to several authors in The Lowest Heaven (edited by Anne C. Perry and Jared Shurin). Only a few irritating typos intrude on the wonderment experienced on this absorbing literary journey through our Solar System.

July 27, 2013

The Cuckoo’s Calling: Robert Galbraith

by Andre

Robert Galbraith THE CUCKOO'S CALLINGThis debut novel by Robert Galbraith was published in the spring and attracted admiring notices from fellow crime writers Mark Billingham and Val McDermid. It’s since emerged that it’s J.K. Rowling using a pseudonym and there are certainly plenty of clues this is an author who might not be a fan of the tabloids (Rowling was a witness at the Leveson Inquiry). Her crime novel about the death of a supermodel begins with sardonic description of the media feeding frenzy in the days after Lulu Landry falls from her Mayfair balcony. Yet Rowling avoids striking a high moral tone by virtue of being wickedly funny. “So many columnists made allusion to Icarus that Private Eye ran a special column,” she writes of the coverage of the suspected suicide.

The first book in a new series introduces the gruff, ale-drinking, ex-army private detective Cormoran Strike and his young temp Robin, whose nascent ability for investigation contrasts with the burden of sensible career expectations she expects will consign her to an office “full of gossipy women… all engaged in activities that meant nothing to her”. But I suspect we’ll see more of this double act.

The Cuckoo’s Calling is an ingenious, evocative mystery that takes in London high-life and low-life and Rowling tackles celebrity and wealth with a sly wit. Her insight into football and media rights shows a less sure touch: somehow Strike manages to watch Spurs v Arsenal live on a Saturday afternoon on a portable TV he’s just installed in the Soho office where he’s been camping out since splitting with his girlfriend. And I’m almost pedantic enough to investigate the appearance of handstraps on the Bakerloo Line in Rowling’s novel, though it is set in 2010. A braver editor might have cut some of the descriptive passages but this is still a stylish reinvention of the classic whodunit and a gripping read that will keep you guessing until the end.

July 24, 2013

Booker Prize Longlist 2013

by Andre

The longlist for the Man Booker Prize 2013 is out although several of the selected books are not (update: publishers have rush released titles to meet demand). This year the judges have picked an unpredictable, international list of 13 books for the literary prize and we have them in stock here at the Riverside. Click on the images below for a gallery of the nominees and look out for The Lowland by Jhumpa Lahiri, the final title published in September. The £50,000 prize is awarded on 15 October.

July 19, 2013

Jack Glass: Adam Roberts

by Andre

Adam Roberts JACK GLASSAdmirers of Adam Roberts have suggested his clever, playful prose might earn him a Booker Prize nomination if it wasn’t for the fact he writes science fiction. His latest book is a mash-up of SF and Golden Age detective fiction with the exuberance of Anthony Burgess and the self-aware intricacy of academic crime author Michael Innes. Teasingly, the novel is introduced with the revelation that Jack Glass is the murderer in each of its three ensuing mysteries, though his methods and ultimate culpability may be less clear-cut.

After that Dr Watson-style teeing up of our tale, the reader is propelled into a disturbing and ingenious narrative set on an asteroid that’s both prison drama and locked room mystery. As well as being a remarkable display of Roberts’s imaginative power and ironical tone, it also introduces some running themes: the burden or absence of gravity (try cleaning up blood in zero g), the meaning of murder when life is cheap, and a Marxian perspective on intergalactic economics that perhaps places Roberts somewhere to the left of Iain M. Banks. “We’re always the cheapest option, we’re losing absolute value with every generation,” is how humanity’s economic fate is summed up under the authoritarian, trade-obsessed Ulanov regime.

However, Jack Glass is ultimately a dazzling futuristic romp that adroitly negotiates theoretical concepts such as Faster Than Light travel alongside explosive action sequences and cunning crimes. Glass is a gnomic anti-hero with the steel-trap mind of Sherlock Holmes and sagacity of Obi-Wan Kenobi. In part two he comes to the aid of a teenage dignitary, who finds herself tasked with solving what is effectively a country house whodunit (with gravity a key part of the investigation). It’s another virtuoso novel by Roberts and a deserving winner of the John W Campbell Award in the US and the BSFA award in the UK.

July 12, 2013

Summer Reading 2013 – £2 off!

by Andre

We can help with all your summer reading requirements – and we’ve got £2 off dozens of selected paperback titles in fiction and non-fiction including novels by Zadie Smith, Hilary Mantel and A.M. Homes. The £2 discount applies while stocks last – and we’ll be adding new titles to our Summer Reading so come and have a browse. Click on the book covers below to view a gallery of just some of the books on offer.

July 12, 2013

Buy eBooks from the Riverside Bookshop

by Andre

The Indie eBook Shop banner

Readers still love real books. But we understand that for some of you there’s also a time and place for reading on a screen. So we’ve partnered with The Indie eBook Shop to enable you to purchase eBooks from a website that supports independent bookshops.

The Indie eBook Shop is an online store you can trust – it’s managed by the people behind National Book Tokens – and you can even purchase eBooks with your Book Tokens. We also sell eBook Cards from National Book Tokens in our shop if you’re looking for a gift for someone you know is dedicated to digital reading (the cards are still valid for physical books in bookshops nationwide if they do want to try the real thing).

There are a few rules with The Indie eBook Shop – the main one being that it does not support the Kindle, which is a ‘closed’ device limited to its own online store. Otherwise, The Indie eBook Shop allows you to browse by genre or search by title for eBooks that will work across many tablets, eReaders, phones, PCs and Macs. Click on the banner above to start browsing and check out this page for any queries. We may not be able to answer any technical queries in store – but we do know quite a lot about books.

July 6, 2013

A Shed of One’s Own: Marcus Berkmann

by Andre

Marcus Berkmann A SHED OF ONE'S OWNNicholas Lezard BITTER EXPERIENCE HAS TAUGHT MEMarcus Berkmann’s one of those eminently amusing writers I’ve been stumbling across for a couple of decades. So opening his latest comic memoir, A Shed of One’s Own: Midlife Without the Crisis, feels a bit like finding a familiar face in a reassuringly fusty pub where you’ve both retreated to escape the vicissitudes of modern life. He’s a little older, a little more resigned to greengrocers’ misplaced apostrophes and the decline of personal ambition but essentially the same amiable humourist.

Berkmann’s chronicled his cricketing obsession in multiple volumes and featured in the late Harry Thompson’s marvellous Penguins Stopped Play about village cricketers on a quixotic tour of seven continents; he’s a Private Eye regular; and he used to review TV in the Daily Mail back in the early Nineties, which was actually just a few months ago (that’s according to Berkmann’s theory of Decade Erosion among the middle aged). As I recall, he once had a ponytail, and indeed he addresses this hair episode in a chapter called ‘Mutton’, which also features the World’s Oldest Punk and such seismic sartorial shifts as the expunging of slacks and the “universally distressing phenomenon” of the T-Shirt on the Fat Man.

Berkmann wears his wisdom lightly in an engaging read that knows its (crumbling) audience without ever feeling cynical. Yes, he will make you guffaw on public transport but there are also moving passages about the mid-lifer’s filial duties, as well as a philosophical enquiry into the plight of the middle-aged hermit, tucked away in his shed and nurturing an obsession with facts (news websites, military history, true crime) in place of people. In the acknowledgements, Berkmann thanks Nicholas Lezard, a fellow mid-life memoirist whose new book Bitter Experience Has Taught Me promises more of the same –  creaky cricket, excessive amounts of red wine, a glimmer of Wodehousian wit – but with added penury.