Socrates Adams, ‘Everything’s Fine’

First published on The Huffington Post (23rd February 2012) //

In his first novel, Socrates Adams doesn’t seem that bothered about giving you an easy ride. Yes, there’s the humour, a requirement for the ‘alt lit’ canon, and the thread with which he pulls you into his yarn, to have you wince for his characters and cringe through the situations they create for themselves. But it’s not the laughs that make this debut an impressive one.

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Mel Bosworth, ‘Freight’

First published on The Huffington Post (24th January 2012) //

You might remember those books – they probably still make them (I just checked, they do) – called Choose Your Own Adventure where you read a bit, then there’s a little action, then you make the hero’s choice at some bifurcation of the story. I’m opening the first pages of Mel Bosworth‘s debut novel, Freight, and I see it is a little like that, but after my first diversion it seems it isn’t so much the story’s action you’re diverting, but your own mood and feeling. Is that possible?

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John Warner, ‘The Funny Man’

First published on Spike Magazine (23rd January 2012) //

John Warner’s debut novel, about the rise and fall of an unnamed American comedian known only as “the funny man”, is a mulchy broth of satire, cultural commentary and La-Z-Boy philosophy that simmers away on lukewarm, only ever threatening to come to the boil, though not without ambition, before bubbling back into quiet soup, despite a satisfying crouton rising to the surface now and again.

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James Sallis, ‘Drive’

First published on Spike Magazine (21st December 2011) //

If Camus had been at all interested in the crime or noir genre, then you could imagine he might produce something vaguely comparable to James Sallis’ novel, Drive. Trotting in at a similar duration to Camus’ classic, The Fall, Sallis also plays with the unfolding napkin of time in this narrative, in what he might be hinting is the only time-signature we’ve come to understand, that of film; intercuts and reversals, flashbacks and action sequences. Cinematic, in a word, which seems understandable that it was made into “a major motion picture”, as my copy reminds (yes, I’m five years too late). But that word ‘cinematic’ wouldn’t really give enough of what is due when considering Sallis’ steady metronomic delivery. He is far less erratic than a camera-toting Hollywood director, or his subsequent intercut-loving editor.

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Iain Sinclair, ‘Ghost Milk: Calling Time on the Grand Project’

First published on The Huffington Post (15th December 2011) //

There haven’t been many coherent voices speaking out against the impending money-splash of the London Olympics next year. Most have been swept away by the shiny promised land of the new Westfield, or the dubious pledges buried in tonnes of polished glass and metal, said to be invested in our potentially athletic children’s futures. All of which is, for me, accompanied by the mental vision of a dreary Lord Coe giving a perpetual thumbs up, a sight that greets my every thought relating to the Games.

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Jonathan Walker and Dan Hallett, ‘Five Wounds: An Illuminated Novel’

First published on Spike Magazine (28th November 2011) //

Not every book looks and feels like an artefact when you pick it up. Oftentimes it is just words printed across cheap paper, the literal form of it separated from its content, cased in a merely functional cover with some gluey binding. But with Five Wounds, an “illuminated novel”, the very object itself is part of its mythology and there is a sense of something big, something heavy within it, if you have the time.

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Dan Fante, ‘Fante: A Family’s Legacy of Writing, Drinking and Surviving’

First published on Spike Magazine (14th November 2011) //

Opening with the familiar visions of snow from the likes of Wait Until Spring, Bandini and Dago Red (‘Bricklayer in the Snow’), Dan Fante kicks off, like Svevo and Arturo of his father’s novels, buried in an image of purest white. But this is a damned and dark tale, swirling in sweat and alcohol, of depression and addiction, with some genuine pain and angst behind it.

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‘Tequila Tales: An Anthology of Short Fiction’ Book Review

First published on Spike Magazine (2nd November 2011) //

The Tequila Tales anthology (edited by Millie Johanna Heur and Roy Anthony Shabla) is an eclectic mixture of genre, style and content that unites a well-published group of writers on the single and divisive subject of, yes, tequila. All of the work has in some way been licked by the liquid sting of the Mexican favourite and, like a night on the stuff, there are ups and downs in the success of each tale’s telling. But it has the kind of lively, straight-talking touch of some of the better literary magazines circulating today, the sort that these writers appear in regularly and consistently.

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