What I Read in September

Well, I briefly had a plan to blog about other stuff, but I’m sure you’ll be pleased to know that I am devoting most of my writing energies to Book 3 in the Mathematical Mysteries series, leaving me very little time for anything else. Which is a shame, because I did actually write half of a post responding to my friend Kate Nash’s Twitter thread on What People Are Reading (basically because it seemed to be saying that no-one’s reading anything funny and I found that more than a little disturbing) but I didn’t have time to finish it before the show had moved on out of town.

Anyway, the Fractal Monks are proceeding well, and if you feel me buzzing slightly, it’s because the writing speed has just temporarily increased to 2000 words per day. It definitely has some good bits in it, but whether or not they add up to anything like a whole yet, I cannot say. But if you like alpacas, you’ll definitely go for this one.

So here’s what I read this month.

The Unseen by Dave Weaver. Full disclosure: Dave is a mate of mine from Verulam Writers Circle days (and, yes, I know the name’s changed to Verulam Writers, but it’ll always be a circle to me, so there). I remember him reading some palaeolithic drafts of this back in the day when I was still a member of VWC and it’s really good to see it in print. Excellent, really creepy stuff with plenty of authentic chills.

Off the Map by Alistair Bonnett. Non-fiction book about weird, uncharted (can I say “liminal”? Oh go on, then, liminal) places, ranging from places like Sealand (which, as readers of A QUESTION OF TRUST will probably have realised, is a source of great fascination to me), through cruise ships for the super-rich, to the dogging sites of the A31. A slightly more discursive and intellectual version of the sort of stuff that Simon Garfield does so well. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

The Drover’s Wives by Ryan O’Neill. Oh, this is fun. It’s basically an updated version of Raymond Queneau’s famous Exercises in Style, whereby O’Neill takes a (frankly pretty tiresome) famous Australian short story, The Drover’s Wife, and re-tells it in more ways than you can possibly imagine, including the colours on a paint chart and – every author’s favourite – a question posed by an audience member. As with his previous book, Their Brilliant Careers, it’s a neat idea executed perfectly and with impressive attention to detail. Also like TBC, it’s a book that I wished I’d written myself, but I’m quite glad that I didn’t, because I wouldn’t have done it a tenth as well. Incidentally, as well as Queneau’s original, Matt Madden’s graphic novel 99 Ways to Tell a Story: Exercises in Style is also worth checking out.

The Apollo Guidance Computer by Frank O’Brien. Ah. I’m a bit embarrassed by this, because I failed to complete it. In fact, I hardly got anywhere with it, which is particularly bad as I was given it for Christmas by my son (sorry if you’re reading this, Mark). It should have been the perfect gift as it combines my teenage passion for the moon landings with my fascination with early computers. However, despite the memories it brought back of machine code programming on a PDP 8/e, I have to say it was a very, very dry read and I ended up thinking that life was probably a little too short to be spending too many more hours on it.

The Devil’s Tune by Fran Kempton. Full disclosure: Jean Bennett aka Fran Kempton is a friend of mine and also a fellow Austen botherer. Fascinating historical novel of murder and revenge involving everyone’s favourite lunatic psychopath and chromatic composer, Prince Carlo Gesualdo. Also features a cameo by Caravaggio, so really what more could you ask for?

The Philosophy of Beards by Thomas S. Gowing. Mad Victorian treatise in support of the wearing of beards, apparently originally given as a live lecture and then turned into a book before being resurrected a century or so later as a toilet book by the British Library and given to me a few Christmases ago. It will join my already absurdly large collection of daft toilet books, but I’m not sure I’ll be spending much time with it again. It was quite short, anyway.

Now I happen to have a spare hardback copy of Ryan O’Neill’s Their Brilliant Careers (basically because Eye/Lightning books sent a free one out along with The Drover’s Wives, and I’ve already got one), so I am offering it free of charge to one lucky person from the UK. Usual rules – either RT my tweet about this blog post or add a comment below, and you’ll be put into the draw at the end of the month.

Until next time, bye!

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