Friday, 23 September 2011

Anne Zouroudi: The Whispers of Nemesis

'It is winter in the mountains of northern Greece and as the snow falls in the tiny village of Vrisi a coffin is unearthed and broken open. But to the astonishment of the mourners at the graveside, the remains inside the coffin have been transformed, and as news of the bizarre discovery spreads through the village like forest fire it sets tongues wagging and heads shaking. Then, in the shadow of the shrine of St Fanourios (patron saint of lost things), a body is found, buried under the fallen snow - a body whose identity only deepens the mystery around the exhumed remains. There's talk of witchcraft, and the devil's work - but it seems the truth, behind both the body and the coffin, may be far stranger than the villagers' wildest imaginings. '

I'm a great fan of Anne Zouroudi's immortal detective Hermes Diaktoros.  I love the Greek setting and the writing never disappoints - in fact she seems to be growing in confidence.  This is detective fiction of a very literary character.  Her latest plot concerns a poet who, tired of the poor returns of his profession, decides on a drastic course of action to boost his sales.   That is, until the Greek gods decide to take an interest.  Nemesis will always find you out.

This is the first of the series that I've read on Kindle - very reasonably priced.  But I'll also be buying the printed version because I love the covers!

Buy from Amazon or on Kindle.

Buy from the Book Depository in paperback or other E-book formats - postage free internationally.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

E-Books, Linda Gillard and The House of Silence

Another respectably published author whose publisher didn't think her latest book was 'commercial' enough, so Linda took the business into her own hands and has already sold 12,000 copies of her novel over the internet without any hype, reviews, or marketing campaign.

Linda Gillard is one of my fellow authors over on what used to be 'Kindle Authors UK' before Amazon complained and is now 'Authors Electric'.

I liked the plot summary of House of Silence (Rebecca meets Cold Comfort Farm) so I downloaded a sample and was soon captivated enough to buy the book.   Like a lot of E-books, it's an affordable bargain at £1.90, unlike the outrageous £11.49 you have to pay to read Philippa Gregory on Kindle - twice the price of her paperbacks. How do they justify that?

This is a very well written novel, easy to read with a fascinating plot.  Gwen,  an orphan, meets Alfie, the actor, on the set of a BBC TV historical drama and begins an affair.  Things get a little sticky when he goes home for his annual Xmas visit and Gwen insists on being taken along too.

Alfie's mother is a famous children's author who has written a best-selling series based on her son.  She has four daughters, all outrageously neglected and is currently a senile figure confined to her bedroom (the mad woman in the attic).   Home is a 17th century manor in Norfolk (the aptly named Creake Hall)  and the family turns out to have more secrets than the Pentagon. 

I enjoyed every minute of  this book.  It's written with considerable panache and humour, despite the fact that there's a very serious underlying thread to the book - how do we, as individuals and families, deal with tragedy?

If publishers are going to turn down sure-fire bestsellers like this one (as they seem to be doing) then I'm afraid the industry is in for a crisis.  Authors don't need publishers any more.  Not when they can do it for themselves as successfully as this.

If you're interested in E-books and authors doing it for themselves, check out

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Minor Characters: Women and the Beat Poets

Minor Characters by Joyce Johnson

The girl friends of the beat writers (Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs etc) didn't really get a look in at the time - usually off camera and in the small print.  On the book cover, you can just see Joyce deliberately blurred to the left of Kerouac in this iconic image.  But, they were poets and novelists in their own right, pioneers of female liberation, often with tragic consequences.   Unlike the men, the girls weren't having the swinging, brilliant time we might imagine, but instead trying to have relationships with lovers who were commitment phobic, and leading lives maimed by drink, drugs and abortion. Joyce's best friend, the poet Elise Cowen, finally jumped out of a seventh storey window after several failed relationships, including one with Ginsberg, and a botched abortion.

Joyce Johnson, now a successful  award-winning author, but not the household name of her lover, Jack Kerouac, tells the story of those lives with insight and compassion.  Of her own life she says:

'If time was like a passage of music - you could keep going back to it until you got it right.'

But there are no rehearsals - you just have to improvise and learn to live with the wrong notes.

This book is a very good read if you want to know the flip side to the romantic story.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Some Light Summer Reading

I’ve been working quite hard recently, have Italian exams looming and so not had much time for books that need a lot of concentration.  So I’ve been enjoying a bit of frivolous reading.
I read about Dee Weaver’s novel ‘The Winter House’ on the Strictly Writing blog and was intrigued enough to download a sample and then buy the book at the generous price of £2.14.

Dee is one of a new breed of Indie authors by-passing the publishers and going straight onto Kindle and other E-book platforms.   The Winter House is a gothic romance with elements of the supernatural and the pagan.  Dee is a pagan herself and knows the world of alternative relation well.  While not a believer in religion of any kind, re-incarnation, or the supernatural, Dee made me suspend my disbelief for the duration of the story.  It brought back the rather guilty pleasure I used to feel reading my mother’s Victoria Holt novels  - but Dee’s are very, very, much better written and the comparison should probably be with the Mysteries of Udolpho, Castle of Utranto, Northanger Abbey and others in that genre.   I notice from my trawls around the book world that novels with elements of the paranormal are coming back into fashion again.

The plot is quite complicated, involving a haunting and a state of possession, but begins when two people glimpse a house through the bare winter trees and become determined to own it.  Both are convinced that they have been there before, and then .......  very strange things begin to happen.

The Glassblower of Murano,  (a much pricier £4.67 on Kindle) by best selling author Marina Fiorato, was recommended by DoveGreyReader, so I approached it with great anticipation.  It had all the ingredients I like - a 17th century Venetian story of mystery and suspense involving a famous glass blower called Corradino Manin, and his beautiful 21st century female descendent  who goes from England to Venice in search of a new life.  The novel weaves back and forth between the two stories and quickly lost my interest.  I found the structure a bit clunky and the writing less than satisfying.  There was a distinct absence of rich historical texture and an unwillingness to go deeper into the issues and ideas the subject matter raised (unlike the Venetian novels of Michelle Lovric for instance).   The plot was just a bit too much Mills and Boon for me (another blog reviewer has described it as historical chicklit!) and the writing nowhere near as good as Dee Weaver’s.    Mainstream publishing really lost out here against the Indie E-book and I won’t be buying any of Marina’s other books.    Apparently she secured a £250,000 advance for her Venetian series, so my small abstention won't make any difference to her at all!