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Britain’s only comedy book festival is being staged from 7th to 14th November in Camden, North London and offers a truly impressive star-studded line-up which includes Omid Djalili, Terry Jones, Rebecca Front, Jenny Eclair and Francesca Martinez.

The Chortle Comedy Book festival also boasts a live version of the QI podcast No Such Thing As A Fish; some previously unseen material from Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy and acclaimed comedy writer John O’Farrell looking back at 25 years of ‘writing stupid jokes’.

The hub will be the London Irish Centre, with some additional events at the nearby Colonel Fawcett pub. Tickets are all priced between £5 and £9 and the full list of events can be found here.


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The hardest working man in fantasy Sanderson has such huge output that one community has completely reasonably presumed that some of it has been written by bots. It's the only logical explanation for the amount of stuff that Sanderson constantly pumps out. It's either that or he simply never sleeps. “Steelheart”, first novel in his Reckoners series, which was originally published in 2013, finds Sanderson in a slightly different mood than was the case with his massive “The Stormlight Archive”. While each of the two novel in latter cloaked at over 1000 pages, “Steelheart” is a mere 400 pages long and finds Sandeson writing some of his most imaginative and fast paced stuff yet.

To put it bluntly, “Steelheart” is a superhero book – one you would expect to find in DC or Marvel comics. It set in world where superpowers are all too common and as you would expect, there's a twist. World in question is ruled by Epics, supervillans who, using their nefarious powers, manage to take over everything. Epics are led by Steelheart, a creature of almost unimaginable powers. He can fly, fire off blasts of energy at will and he's supposed to be invincible but David, a teenager whose father was killed by Steelheart in fit of rage when he was just 8, knows better. Because of it he decides not to be detracted by rumors. His passion for revenge is far too strong and he has an ace in his sleeve - he has seen the Steelheart bleed during that horrific night. As such, David is a valuable asset for Reckoners, a resistance movement who will stop at nothing to take Epics down. Together with the rest of the crew which include group's leader Jonathan Phaedrus, known as the Prof, Abraham, Cody, Tia and Megan, Reckoners are convinced by David to have a go at Steelheart. In this Reckoners are help by advanced technology which is supposedly derived from Epics and is often indistinguishable from magic. There's a machine that can quickly heal wounds and one that blasts matter to instantly create tunnels. Reckoners' plan to defeat Steelheart is based on subterfuge and smoke and mirrors and by the time you reach the end you'll be treated to many twists and turns as well as to a bombastic finale.

 

Readers who enjoyed his Mistborn trilogy will recognize many familiar elements in Steelheart. Ultimately it is based on a similar premise - a struggle of few hopeless but brave underdogs against a seemingly invincible foe and their subsequent success against all odds. Sanderson definitely a panache for writing these kind of stories and as far as I'm concerned he does it damn well. His creative and imaginative settings never grow old and this was simply a damn fun ride. Personally, I've enjoyed it much more than I've enjoyed “Words of Radiance” because “Steelheart” punches instantly, without a word too many and personally I'm already looking forward to future installments, first of which, a novella called “Mitosis” just came out from Gollancz.


Review copy provided by Gollancz.
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Years before I started writing THE WHITE VAN, I was working with a woman named Emily Ng, at the San Francisco Public Defenders Office. I was an Investigator, she was a file clerk. She was a nice woman and I liked her name. I thought to myself, someday I’d like to write a story with a character named Emily Ng. Later, when I actually began writing the story, the character wasn’t working as an Asian woman, so I had to change her last name.

Around that same time period, a friend of mine, also an investigator, told me about a case that supposedly involved a ring of criminals taking women to hotels, plying them with drugs, cleaning them up, and making them cash fake checks. I said, “That would make a good novel,” and filed that one away, too. When I finally started writing the story, I realized cashing fake checks was a little anti-climatic, so, I upped the ante, and made them do something even worse. 

Also, during that same time period, I was working on a couple different murder cases where the victims were drug addicted women living in the Tenderloin (a neighborhood in downtown, San Francisco). In those cases, I was helping defend the men who were charged with their murders, but I was spending a lot of time thinking about these women, and thinking about that lifestyle of living in the Tenderloin and being addicted to drugs. 

I didn’t have a plot for my story when I set out. All I had was a character (Emily), and an incident (being taken to a hotel, drugged, and made to do something). From there, I trudged along slowly, and discovered the plot as I went. For example, after I had the characters take Emily to the hotel, I started wondering what happened in their lives to make them do what they were doing. In some ways this was similar to working for the public defender. I was searching for mitigating evidence. I also think this added complexity to the plot, instead of having someone just do bad acts, I tried to understand why they would do those bad acts.  

I spent about three years, sneaking away whenever I could and trying to write for an hour a day. Almost all of those days were filled with intense self-doubt. Luckily, one of my friends taught me that feeling self-doubt was normal, and he told me to just keep on writing. I hand wrote the first draft. I knew I was finally getting somewhere, when, on the day of one of my best friend’s wedding, I had to sneak away, before the party, to spend an hour writing. That day, I wrote in the margins, “Nathan and Gina’s wedding.”

There are, of course, other characters in the book. There is a dirty cop, named Leo Elias. I named him after a lawyer I worked for, Cindy Elias. I thought it would be funny to name a cop after her. She’s known for being particularly hard on the police. I wanted this cop to be desperate: for money, alcohol, friendship, acceptance, recognition. But I also wanted him to be a social misfit, the kind of person nobody likes. (Which, just for the record, is nothing like Cindy Elias). 

There is another female in the book, named, Sophia Kamenka. She is probably the closest thing to a traditional “villain.” But, with her, I wanted to create a different kind of villain. I was tired of clichéd bad guys. I wanted my character to be middle-aged, a slightly plump woman who looked like a “nice mother, or aunt.” I can’t say who I based her on, because I will get in trouble and possibly killed. 

I was also tired of the heroes I was seeing in popular thrillers. Too often, they seemed to be extraordinarily smart computer hackers, or super virtuous dudes who could kick anyone’s ass. I decided my hero would be a crack-addicted woman from the Tenderloin. But I wanted to treat her with respect, and honestly attempt to get into her mind.

I used to drive a white city van at work. It was covered in graffiti. Sometimes, at lunch, I would park the van and write for an hour. There also happens to be a white van in the book; whenever it shows up something bad happens. I feel like white vans have a bad reputation. People seem to get suspicious when they see one in their neighborhood. I decided very early on that I would call the book, THE WHITE VAN. 


Patrick Hoffman
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The inspiration for each of the Tom Mariner books has come from a different source. For the first few books, what came first was a strong premise, usually a ‘what if?’ scenario. The Worm in the Bud, which was the first in the series, was based on a ‘what if?’ arising from my experiences working with children on the autistic spectrum: what if the sole witness to a murder was a man with autism who was unable to communicate what he’d seen? Quite often there will be a ‘scene’ to accompany the idea that lodges in my mind. In that case, it was a couple of bewildered police officers attempting to interview a man who they believe must be ‘out of it’ on illegal substances.

‘Dead of Night’ had a different beginning and I think reflects my increasing tendency towards using multiple viewpoints. I’ve long admired other writers, like Kate Atkinson, who do this very successfully. This time inspiration came in the form of a number of characters who seemed to present themselves, and in the first instance, they arrived by air! Birmingham, where the Mariner stories are set, has everything a crime writer could possibly want. This includes the nationally renowned Queen Elizabeth Hospital, which has one of the country’s top military medical facilities. For several years now this has meant the regular presence of Chinook helicopters, flying low over the south of the city as they bring in wounded personnel from Afghanistan. Perhaps because of what the Chinooks represent, they seem somehow to be a much more imposing and sinister presence than the more familiar Police surveillance and Air Ambulances, and I quickly found myself very attuned to the distinctive engine sound, itself louder, deeper and rather ominous. Each time a Chinook flew over, I couldn’t help imagining the people and drama surrounding its arrival; and from that curiosity emerged Private Craig Lomax and critical care nurse Dee Henderson. At around the same time I was getting another recurring scenario in my head; of a small girl waiting outside school at the end of the day, for a mum who never appears. That child became Dominique. Finally, the confident and rebellious teenager, striding along Broad Street flicking a defiant cigarette, was Grace Clifton. As the characters began to emerge, the central narrative that would link them together also began to take shape. I find it’s never quite possible to predict the exact direction a story will take, although most times I have a good idea of where it will end up, and in Dead of Night my perpetrator was known to me right from the start. There have been exceptions; in Mariner 2: Blood of the Innocents I realised about two-thirds of the way through writing the book that I had put the wrong person ‘in the frame’ and some substantial rewrites were needed to make sure that justice was done!

The inspiration for the book I am currently working on, which will be the next in the Mariner series, came from out of left field. Titles are something I generally struggle with, but this time it was the title that came to me first and is driving the narrative. It’s a little frustrating, as I have a couple of other series ideas and had planned to give Mariner and his colleagues a rest whilst I developed one of these. Then this title took up permanent residence in my head, so I have to do something about it.

While I’m writing, further inspiration for the Mariner books comes from my surroundings, chiefly (though not exclusively) Birmingham and the midlands. Like Mariner I’m a keen walker, both inside and outside the city, and I will often come across a location that will prompt certain aspects of a book. It’s only a matter of time I’m sure before someone reports overhearing a suspicious conversation between my husband and me, as we discuss the logistics of disposing of a body at a particular site! Of course, in addition to these real locations, I also take a great deal of artistic licence with the city. I have a kind of my map in my head of the key landmarks, but I deliberately leave the bits in between ‘blurry’, so that I can insert specific features where I’d like them to be. It’s always fun (and flattering) at local book talks when people tell me they know some of these (Mariner’s canal side home is a favourite) and I have a reader who is convinced that she’s visited a café in London, featured in ‘Written in Blood’ that is pure fiction!

The themes of the Mariner books are naturally rooted in ideas that interest me, due to experience or reading – what I would call the ‘write about what you know’ stuff. Like other writers I keep a folder of cuttings; news stories and magazine articles that have piqued my interest. And sometimes it can be a chance conversation that sets me thinking along a particular thread. When I was starting out, one of the main ingredients – the process of policing – was relatively unknown to me, and so was an area where I really had to focus my research. Having absolutely no contacts in the police at that time, I took what seemed the most logical approach and phoned our local police station, about a quarter of a mile away. After a slight false start (the press office were too busy), I was quickly put in touch with a DI who happened to be on duty, and have never looked back. I’m always grateful for the generosity of officers who are willing to share their time and experiences. I have developed a good working relationship with one particular contact, whom I meet at least once per book. Fortunately for me, although he ‘retired’ a couple of years ago he has returned as civilian support role and continues to work on the front line of murder investigations. When we meet I always have a list of specific questions relating to the book I’m working on; for example, for Dead of Night, I needed to establish how the police would work with other services when a young child is discovered to be ‘home alone’. I always end up with pages of detailed notes, but not all will be used. Authenticity is important but can’t eclipse what should be a compelling and entertaining story, so again artistic license plays its part. With the recent growing emphasis in the police service on admin and record keeping, some details have to be adjusted or ignored: ‘Mariner completes a CP451B’ would hardly make for gripping reading. One of the biggest tensions is around the need to have a protagonist who is involved in the action, at a time when an officer of Mariner’s rank of DI (and acting DCI in Dead of Night), would delegate groundwork such as questioning and interviewing to more junior officers. However, some things still surprise me. Knowing that the brand new mortuary at the QE includes a high tech viewing room with high definition screens, I wondered if perhaps the preference might now be for police officers to observe a post mortem via these, but I was assured that most would still prefer to be ‘in the room’ standing alongside the pathologist to see everything first hand. During these meetings we also chat more generally about current real life cases and often some detail will lodge in my mind that can be drawn on at a later date. A particularly gruesome incident in ‘Stalked by Shadows’ is based on one of these chance discussions.

My process for writing the books from start to finish is rather a mix-and-match approach. I’d like to think this is due to increased experience and maturing techniques, but suspect that it has more to do with what else is going on in wider life at the time. As I haven’t yet taken the plunge to be a full time writer, I also juggle a day-job alongside fiction writing. However I do have a number of strategies that work for me. I make sure that I write something every day; I identify times when writing has to come first and stick to these (family and friends have learned to be accommodating), and, when I can, my real luxury is to take the occasional weekend ‘retreat’ to a holiday flat in a town about an hour’s drive away, where I can hole up to work more intensively for a couple of days.  


Chris Collett
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When "A Vision of Fire", Gillian Anderson's science fiction literary debut co-written with Jeff Rovin, was announced I've initially thought that someone surely must be making a bad joke. After her recent stint Young Vic's A Streetcar Named Desire and endless string of impressive roles such as The Fall and Great Expectations, last thing I would've expected from her was to go back to her science fiction roots, no least by a book written together with Jeff Rovin who's writing credits include books set in Tom Clancy's Op-Center universe and multiple movie novelizations including Mortal Kombat and Re-Animator. A series of reviews in lead up to its publication weren't encouraging either so, all in all, whole situation wasn't very promising but I was still hoping for the best.

"A Vision of Fire" is opening novel "The Earthend Saga" and follows the story of child psychologist Caitlin O’Hara as becomes embroiled in a strange case of Maanik, daughter of India’s ambassador to the United Nations. All of the sudden, Maanik has started speaking in tongues and is suffering from violent visions. Caitlin's initial diagnosis is that Maanik is suffering from a severe case of PTSD because of recent failed assassination attempt on her father's life. However, soon it transpires that Maanik's case is not unique. All across the world teenagers are suffering from similar outburts and Caitlin begins to notice a strange pattern. And it seems that humans are not the only species suffering from this strange phenomena. Before she realises what's happening, Caitlin is thrown a race against time to uncover the link between these seemingly unconnected incidents. Consequences of failure would be dire both for her patients and the world she lives in. To make things even worse, assassination attempt on Maanik's father Ganak has sparked an international nuclear crisis and it against this backdrop that Caitlin must find a solution.

The unavoidable and unfair question on everyone's lips is how does "A Vision of Fire" compare to Anderson's work on "The X-Files". Luckily, the answer is almost impossible to give - these two works are a completely different kind of fish though fans of latter will find plenty to enjoy here. "A Vision of Fire" is written on global, epic scale which has a potential to grow to even bigger proportion in the future and while both works have a strong female leading characters, Caitlin is just an ordinary mom who accidentally finds herself in larger-than-life situation. And no matter whether you like it or not, there's no denying the fact that "A Vision of Fire" is a very brave novel to put out, especially if you come from Anderson's background. It's definitely not a perfect novel but these few kinks that need to be ironed out hopefully can be sorted out in subsequent installments. Until then you should try to enjoy "A Vision of Fire" for what is it - a thrilling supernatural romp with a dash of psychedelic mysticism and philosophy.  


Review copy provided by Simon & Schuster.
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I'm ashamed to say that when “The Island” originally came out I've discarded it as a sugary historical potboiler without opening a single page. I can't exactly remember why as I'm usually addicted to intelligent historical novels but it must have been something to do with chosen cover art and synopsis playing at similarities with Captain Corelli which I really dislike. I've only caught the Hislop bug when eventually I've received a review copy from her American publishers, together with glowing recommendations and so I decieded to give it a go. I haven't looked back since. In fact, her 2012 short story collection "The Last Dance and other stories" is one my most cherished books ever. These short, subdued glimpses into everyday life are worthy of continual rereading.

If you're constant reader of her work you'll know by now about her panache for discovering little known aspects of European history and building a story around them. Her latest novel "The Surprise" doesn't disappoint in that aspect. Set in the summer of 1972 in Famagusta in Cyprus, "The Sunrise" goes straight to the heart of the still ongoing conflict between Greece and Turkey. Back then tensions between these two nations were still on the cusp of an extremely volatile affair that will unfold in 1974 when Famagusta sadly took the brunt of it. Before then this small city was a popular tourist destination and was generally known to be one of the most desirable resorts in the whole Mediterranean. The future held promise for its residents and Famagusta stood as a beacon of hope in stark conflict to the rest of the island which was embroiled in the bloody ethnic unrest. Savvas Papacosta and his wife Aphroditi build "The Sunrise", a luxurious new hotel and their little piece of heaven on earth.

 

It all changed in 1974 when Greek committed a coup and Turkish forces invaded in return under the guise of protecting the Turkish Cypriot minority. Famagusta was soon under continuous shelling and quickly the city is abandoned by its residents. The idea was that the international forces will soon be involved and before long everything will return to normal. 40 years later this still hasn't happened and the line is sand still stands. The Turkish immigrant moved in parts of the city but vast parts of Famagusta are still abandoned as they were on that fateful night. The story of this ghost city is one of the darkest episodes in recent European history and it is in this abandoned town that Hislop weaves her tale. With everyone gone, two neighboring and conflicting families are left behind - the Georgious and the Özkans. They take refuge in "The Sunrise" where they worked before everything went downhill and feed using scraps found in abandoned shops. As the troops are approaching, amidst all the chaos, an unlikely love is born. One that has a chance to bridge the divide.

Similarly to the rest of her opus, "The Sunrise" is a fictionalized account of everyday lives of small people living through a tumultuous historical event. Set in two parts, before and after invasion, Hislop's characters are confused by what's going on around them. They can't make sense of it and they're often lacking sense of nationality that's powering the conflict. Mostly they just want to live their lives in peace and are more interested in love than war. This is exactly the thing that makes me enjoy Hislop's work so much. She never lets us forget that amid all the ruin there's some beauty to be found. Sure, as a species we're mostly illogical and senseless but there's always some hope left.

"The Sunrise" is an enlightening and touching read which I wholeheartedly recommend.


Review copy provided by Headline.
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Hop-tu-Naa and the Inspiration Behind DARK TIDES

( To win one of five SIGNED copies of DARK TIDES send an e-mail with your details to info @ upcoming4.me [UK Only] )

As with so many of the best things in life, DARK TIDES began with Stuart MacBride.

A couple of years ago, I was giving Stuart a tour of the seaside village of Port Erin, way down in the wild south of the Isle of Man. It was a grey day in September and Stuart was visiting the island to take part in a crime author panel at the inaugural Manx Litfest, together with Ann Cleeves and myself. I’d been chatting with Stuart about possible future book ideas – namely, that I didn’t have any just at that particular moment in time – when we happened to pass by the front window of a newsagent’s shop with a display of Halloween masks.

I can’t remember exactly what happened next, but it went something like this:

Me (and yes, I’ve tweaked my dialogue to make myself appear a little smarter and a lot more cogent than normal): ‘Here’s a funny thing, Stuart. The Isle of Man doesn’t celebrate Halloween. It has Hop-tu-naa instead, which is similar in a lot of ways, but also has a bunch of distinct and pretty unique customs. Some of them are quite sinister. Actually, come to mention it, it could be fertile ground for a crime novel.’

Stuart: looking at me, not for the first time, as if I was just a tad slow. ‘You THINK!!

Now, I might not be the fastest guy to recognise a story idea when it’s staring me in the face, but I do know one thing: when Stuart MacBride says you may just have something to work with, you listen.

So I paid attention to what he’d said (and that look he’d given me) and I went home and I did a little research. That night, we had our crime panel (which I seem to remember we managed to negotiate without disgracing ourselves completely), and afterwards I went to dinner with Stuart, Ann and my wife. I’d been thinking about Hop-tu-naa a lot by that point (in truth, I was having difficulty thinking of much else) and I couldn’t wait to share some of the things I’d found out.

For instance, I’d learned that Hop-tu-naa, roughly translated, means, ‘This is the Night”, and that it was originally a kind of new year’s festival (like Hogmanay) that had been associated with the end of the agricultural year and the shift from summer to winter. So far, so unremarkable, I guess. But the revelation I’d been truly gripped by was that a lot of the older, mostly forgotten customs linked to Hop-tu-naa were related to divination.

The custom that particularly fascinated me was this: on the night of Hop-tu-naa, a Manx family might put out the fire in their hearth and spread the ashes to cool, in the hope that the following morning they’d wake to find a footprint had magically appeared in the ashes. If a footprint appeared pointing in towards the hearth, custom suggested that there would be a birth in the family during the coming year. If, however, a footprint appeared that pointed out towards a doorway, somebody in the family would die.

Spooky, right? Not to mention a pretty great plot device for a thriller. Throw in another couple of facts and ideas and I was pretty sure I had the glimmerings of a novel. Stuart and Ann thought I probably did, too.

But there was more still to come. Children on the Isle of Man don’t go trick or treating. Instead, Manx kids go from door-to-door in all manner of scary and not-so-scary costumes to perform “nonsense” songs, entertaining homeowners in return for coins or sweets like groups of squat, oddly disarming carol singers. I was especially taken with the lyrics to the most popular song, Jinny the Witch:

Hop-tu-naa,
My mother’s gone away,
And she won’t be back until the morning,
Jinny the witch flew over the house,
To fetch the stick,
To lather the mouse ,
Hop-tu-naa,
My mother’s gone away,
And she won’t be back until the morning.

So now I had mother’s disappearing, I had witches and masks, I had sinister footprints and more besides. Suddenly, I had a book to write, and that book became DARK TIDES.

Let me finish by saying that there are plenty of people on the Isle of Man who will tell you that Hop-tu-naa is where Halloween really originated. I don’t know if that’s true. I’m not certain that anyone can say for sure. But one thing I can tell you is that any idiot can see – eventually – that Hop-tu-naa provides some terrific material for a crime thriller. And if I’m lucky, and you happen to pick up a copy of DARK TIDES, I really hope it captures your imagination in the same way Hop-tu-naa snared mine.

DARK TIDES by Chris Ewan is out now, £14.99 (Faber & Faber)
To win one of five SIGNED copies of DARK TIDES send an e-mail with your details to info @ upcoming4.me [UK Only].


Chris Ewan
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Long ago when I was young I read a fairy tale based on the ancient Irish story known as “The Wooing of Etain”. To put it simply (which I hate to do, because it is a deliciously detailed and complex romance) it is a love story involving reincarnation and interactions between humans and the legendary immortals known either as the Tuatha De Danand or the Sid or Sith (pronounced shee).

Later, I read the whole complicated story in a black-backed Penguin Classic called Early Irish Myths and Sagas, my copy of which is now falling apart. In the original, Etain is one of the immortals, married to Mider, but taken from him by sorcery; after more than a thousand years she is reborn into the human world, grows up to be the most beautiful woman in Ireland, and marries a chieftan named Echu. She has no memory of her previous life, and when Mider comes to her one day looking like a handsome young stranger, she is quite naturally not interested in abandoning her rich and powerful husband to run away with him as he proposes. The two men soon enter into competition with each other until finally Mider tricks Echu into granting his right to Etain. Although the fairy tale ended with Etain and Mider flying away, magically transformed into swans (birds known to mate for life), the myth continues with Echu’s pursuit of Mider – by digging into the mounds that are a feature of the Irish landscape and which were known as the dwelling places of the Sith – until Mider gives Echu another chance. He sends out fifty identical women and tells Echu to find his wife. He makes his choice and takes her home. Later, Mider appears again, and reveals that when he took her, Etain was pregnant. She gave birth to a daughter, and it is that daughter that Echu has unwittingly chosen. The real Etain is still in the Otherworld with him.

You may agree with me that this is an unsatisfactory ending. Why didn’t one of the women say something? What was the whole experience like from Etain’s point of view? We never have a clue as to what she really wants. And what about that identical, silent daughter?

Myths, no matter how useful Freud, Jung and others have found them for describing psychological states, do not contain much psychological content. They are not about characters, but story – people do things because these actions are required of them. And in this one, the woman might as well be a cow or a piece of land the two men are fighting over. But the origins of this tale may extend back to the Neolithic; the theme of alternating lovers is connected to the changing of seasons, and although it was told for entertainment, it also had a deeper meaning to its earliest hearers, one we can only guess at.

Novels, unlike myths, are all about character – not just what people do, but what they think they are doing, and how they feel about it. I had already used the idea of a lost lover reincarnated in a novel of psychological suspense (Gabriel) but that wasn’t enough; I was still haunted by “The Wooing of Etain.”

The power of myth remains even when you don’t understand it – maybe expecially when you don’t – and it remains for every reader to reinterpret, to use it. When I finally began to write the book that eventually became The Mysteries I wanted to write a contemporary fantasy that would import some of the magic of ancient Celtic myths and legends. I wanted to tell the story of a modern Etain, through her own eyes. But the story resisted me. What happens when you meet a powerful, immortal being who tells you you’ve had a life you don’t remember? What could I say about anyone’s experience of the Otherworld? Being there would not be like life in another country; I certainly did not want to reduce it to that. If it was not mind-blowingly different to dwell in the kingdom of the immortals, my character, Peri, might just as well have run away with a foreign exchange student. Writing about the Otherworld, I thought, would be like describing a drug-trip, or a dream, utterly absorbing to the person experiencing it, but not quite so interesting to a reader, or comprehensible as story.

So I ended up writing about it from the outside, from the point of view of someone who started as a minor character in an earlier draft, a detective hired to find a missing girl. And once I had his voice, the novel became as much about Ian Kennedy, and his obsession with searching for people who disappear. This allowed me to go back to other stories that had haunted me since I first encountered them as a child, in “Ripley’s Believe It Or Not!” and the books of Charles Fort. I revisited some of the great unsolved mysteries of the past, such as the story of the man who walked around the horses, and the three lighthouse keepers on the Flannan Isles. I’d also long been intrigued by the similarities between modern “close encounters” with aliens and UFOs, and the much older stories about people abducted by fairies – so all of these things became part of my detective’s history, and of The Mysteries.

My novel takes the form of a detective story, but even when he solves his cases, questions remain. I’m very fond of a quote from “For Want of a Golden City” by Sacheverell Sitwell, used by one of my favourite writers, Robert Aickman as an epigraph in one of his collections – I was tempted to use it myself:

“In the end it is the mystery that lasts and not the explanation.”


Lisa Tuttle
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