Thursday, January 29, 2009

Blossom, Bubbles, Buttercup

It's a tricky business, this book reviewing lark.

Too harsh a review and you come across as an embittered never was, a non-writer who's jealous of those who can. Too nice and you sound like a mewling sycophant, the dead spit of some wannabe Who writer falsely praising the crappy books of...well I can't say who. After all I might want to publish a Who book at some point!

Which makes it a relief to review The Beatle Man, a novel by Scott Liddell, my oldest friend in the world (33 years and counting).

Most importantly, I can't come across as embittered because I like the damn thing a lot. And I'm not likely to inflate my best mate's head by saying that unless it was true. I mean - after all this time he could hardly go in a huff if I said it was a bit pants, now could he?

Luckily, it's not pants at all. but rather is an effectively written and tightly plotted thriller somewhat in the Rebus mode.

It starts well, with a firm authorial hand on the tiller as the narrative kicks off in faintly comedic strain. The various characters are introduced in a steady early stream and each proves to be engaging and interesting, while the central conceit of the title (a presumably mentally ill man who speaks only in Beatles' lyrics and the effect his passage through life has on those around him) is just odd enough to hold the attention.

All of which would be worthless if the plot was weak or uninvolving. Fortunately, the story of how Danny McColl collides with the terrible Finch family and appoints himself a sort of weirdly ineffectual protector for those who live in his new stair (including the Beatle Man) is well told by the author and comes to a satisfyingly twisted conclusion which ties up every loose end.

Don't get me wrong, this book isn't perfect (the completely pointless lesbians from the first draft have disappeared for a start) but it's faults are minor. There is perhaps a slight tendency to lean in the direction of caricature (Asian shopkeeper, Glaswegian wideboy, posh lawyer who likes a drink and the ladies and so on) and the writing does at times seem unsure if it wants to be a more chatty, less idiotic Irvine Welsh or a 'proper' gritty crime novel, but these failings - such as they are - are never enough to adversely effect the narrative.

All in all, this is both an excellent first novel and a good novel full-stop. If it had been by a stranger I'd probably have missed out that last paragraph of faults, but since it's by a friend I had to go that extra mile to demonstrate my impartiality.

Finally - The Beatle Man is miles better than JK Rowling. That isn't actually that proud a boast, in my opinion, but I include the claim here in hopes of a pull-quote on the back of the second printing of the book...


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Monday, January 26, 2009

Do you know what cheapies are?

"getting your cheapies": def. being overly pleased with yourself, often as a result of some outside agency

The lovely, tasteful Damon (who I don't even know!) has been reviewing the entirety of the Craig Hinton fanthology, Shelf Life, and got to my own little contribution today.

And he liked it! I am so totally getting my cheapies!

No Place Like Home by Stuart A Douglas
We are on the very edge of Whoniverse here. This is an Iris Wildthyme story although Iris herself is little more than a framing character. This really belongs to a pacifist Cyberman, a pair of individualist Sontarans (who rebel against the clone world by wearing a hat with a feather in it or a leather jacket), and a loner Auton who doesn't want to be part of the pack. In case you hadn't guessed - this is a comic piece that vaults the highest bar by actually being funny. And it gets better on a second or third reading when you can go back and enjoy the little throwaway lines instead of powering ahead to find out what is going on.

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Iris Season 2 Box Set

The quickest of plugs for something very dear to my heart: Big Finish have now released the artwork for the utterly fabulous looking and sounding Iris Wildthyme season 2 box set.

Consisting of all four of the new season stories, and with each disc also coming with Anthony Dry's Official Best Ever Artwork, the box set is available for pre-order from Big Finish now at a fairly sizeable discount compared to buying them individually!

I've read two of the stories and they're brilliant (and I can't believe that Messrs Wright and Scott will have allowed either Simon Guerrier or Mark Magrs to turn in anything less good than that).

There's nothing not to like here - go and buy them now, and whet your appetite for the plethora of Iris related...well, stuff due out this year.

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Monday, January 12, 2009

Smoke Lingers 'round your fingers...

Courtesy of Paul, a great blog with some fantastic stories about London in the last century.

And could this be Iris' bus appearing through the smog?

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