news & reviews

4Mar

Macmillan Visit

So, yesterday I took the train down to the Big Smoke to see my agent and visit the offices of Macmillan. It was one of those really, really cool moments. I met up with John for a coffee before hand, and had the usual chat about the world with him. Then, we meandered to the offices of Macmillan in North London, not too far from King’s Cross Station. Very plush reception, with fancy LCD screens of book covers, and for the more traditional folk, actual books themselves in smart, sleek display cases.

Then Peter Lavery popped open the door full of handshakes and smiles, and I instantly liked him. Well, I did before really, but you know what I mean. This was the guy who published China Miéville, Peter F. Hamilton, Hal Duncan. Stunningly talented writers. So I was rather in editorial awe of the man. He took us on a brief tour of the building. We passed a chorus of spectacularly charming publishing ladies on their way out to lunch—where did they come from and where did they go? (This made even more bitter-sweet, by the fact I must face Christian and George at Solaris on my return to work.)

Then I met the rights people, the digital chap, the cover design chap—all people who I’d be involved with in one way or another, because it’s a big, big operation there—Rebecca and Steph who flank Peter’s main office and handle their own list of authors, and who used to work with him on the Tor list, and of course, the hub of Tor itself, Peter’s office. Plenty of books on them shelves. Unsurprisingly, a couple went home with me. Alan Campbell’s Scar Night, and a signed Vellum, by Hal Duncan. A moment later, one of the ladies announced she had porn on her desk; an eyebrow raised, I glanced over to investigate, only to find one of those new trendy-sex-romp-style fiction books, and I’m still not sure what I was expecting to see there.

I’m not sure I could ever bore of being referred to as “our new author”. Nope. Felt like a star of sorts.

I signed the contracts, and John, being a super-agent, brought along the invoice! That’s efficiency for you. Then, off for a very long lunch, the way they used to do ’em, with plenty of red wine. John and Peter go way back, so there was much gossip and banter of publishing through the ages, all of which kept me very entertained. Peter has a great sense of humour, and a frightening ability to put back the wine without seeming to change mood at all.

Well, I’m delighted to be part of their list. Certainly a day I’ll remember fondly. I’d better get to writing the next one now…

29Feb

Updates, And Some Music

Okay, it’s the weekend. I’ll be busy. And on Monday I go over to the offices at Macmillan/Tor to meet the legendary editor Peter Lavery and my agent, Sir John Jarrold. I’ll update about that on Tuesday, and report from the inner sanctum of a major London publisher. There’ll be all sorts of contract signing stuff going on, you know, selling my soul, that kind of thing. There may be wine involved. Maybe even some pilfering of paperbacks, which reminds me, I must take an empty suitcase.

Some music. This one, by Yorkshire band One Night Only, has all the hallmarks of an indie-pop hit. It’s the kind of things indie funksters love to get drunk on Red Stripe to, and they dance to it on sticky rock club floors, next to girls in Converse shoes, whose moves are well-worked postures, too cool for the likes of you, all in a haze that just flies right by until Sunday morning and you wonder, suddenly, where the weekend went.

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BITmOiWOHeQ]

And here’s a little retro trip-hop from Portishead (whatever happened to that movement?). Anyway, isn’t Beth Gibbon’s sexy, in a 1990s kind of way?

[youtube:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=imrfo-uRjcE&feature=related]

Apologies to those using certain browsers. We have some ‘technical issues’ transferring WordPress blogs to this site.

5Feb

Nights of Villjamur

Reviews page

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I’ve had quite a few questions about this, so in case anyone’s wondering what the book is about, here’s a summary (and to be read in a deep Hollywood voice, please):

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An ice age comes to a chain of islands.

Villjamur: a city of ancient spires and bridges, where banshees declare the dead. You can see dodgy magic from hidden alleyways where cultists use ancient technology for their own spurious gain. Refugees seeking sanctuary from the weather find the gates closed, and the city’s councilors are the last people you should listen too about the matter. Sometimes you might hear a little jazz from certain quarters. A little further out, the dead are seen shambling across the tundra. Into the city comes a young woman to claim the throne of the Jamur Empire after her father commits suicide. Around her, politicians hover. There are garudas. There are hominid species, the rumel, a tough-skin cousin of man that can live for hundreds of years.

Meanwhile an officer in the city inquisition must solve a high-profile and savage murder of a city politician, whilst battling within his own private and work life. A cocky womanizer cheats his way into the Imperial Residence with a hidden agenda. A once-immortal man, preoccupied with the notion of death, sets a chain of events to unsettle the fabric of this world.

A group of elite soldiers are sent to investigate a bizarre genocide on the northern fringe of the Empire. And in this land under a red sun, it seems the bad weather and ice sheets are bringing more than just snow…

Everyone’s stories are linked, and they all have secrets.

Trust no one in Villjamur.

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Teasers one, two and three.

Extract at Pat’s Fantasy Hotlist.

Reviews @: Speculative Horizons, The Wertzone, A Dribble Of Ink, Fantasy Book Critic, SFF World and more.

Oh, and important to credit the artist: Benjamin Carre.

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It’s a a dying earth fantasy, which is an excellent vehicle to play with the concepts of death and decay, something which fascinates me. Maybe even a noir fantasy, deeply in the sense of crime noir and film noir, not merely ‘dark’, which I think can be a misleading use of the word in fiction. Although it is certainly dark. I wanted to bend genres around each other, fantasy, crime, horror, even tools and elements of mainstream fiction. Noir in the sense of the dense characters, the subtleness, the erotic, and the strange. There’s someone who’s paranoid about death; a major character is a gay man in a world that forbids homosexual acts; people who are fuck-ups.

There are references to Gene Wolfe, Jack Vance, M John Harrison to name a few; let me know if you can spot them.

3Feb

New Blog

Kind of irrelevant posting this piece on here, but I’ve moved home from the old blog and am now at this site permanently. Just so we grouped everything together nicely. It looks exactly the same, just the bit at the top is different.

28Jan

Two-book Deal With Tor UK / Macmillan

This is going out from my agent today:

John Jarrold has concluded a two-book World rights deal for new UK fantasy author Mark Charan Newton with Peter Lavery of Macmillan/Tor UK, for a good five-figure sum.The first book is titled NIGHTS OF VILLJAMUR, and will be published early in 2009. An impending Ice Age looms over all other events in the book, which include the death of an Emperor and his daughter’s return to claim the throne, a crime noir plot that involves the city’s Councillors in high-profile murders and a cocky womaniser who is acting as dance tutor to the new Empress’s sister…it will appeal to the readers of both George R R Martin and Scott Lynch. 

‘I’m delighted for Mark,’ said John Jarrold. ‘He was one of my first clients when I started up the agency back in 2004, and this is really the fulfilment of a great deal of thought and hard work on his part. And this is the first deal I’ve done with Peter Lavery, who I have known for twenty years – and who is one of the UK’s best and most respected editors in any form of publishing.’

Mark Charan Newton is 26 years old, and lives in Nottingham. He previously worked as an SF buyer in an Ottakar’s bookstore. 

1Jan

Review—Sidetracked, by Henning Mankell

Fancied a bit of crime reading this festive period, so I went to the old faithful writer, someone who has never yet disappointed me, Henning Mankell. The Kurt Wallander mysteries are superb novels, set in the bleak countryside of Sweden. Miserablist fiction here, a particular favourite of mine, and done superbly. Wallander is a superbly crafted character. Middle aged, likes his drink and opera, failed relationships everywhere, you cannot help but like this creation. There’s irony all over him. He’s also struggling to understand what is happening in his country over recent years. And it is into this bleak picture of modern Sweden, that Sidetracked starts.

And it starts with a bang. A teenage girl stands in a deserted field. Wallander is called in to see what she’s doing, but when he approaches, she sets fire to herself before his eyes, and dies soon after. Left miserable by this sight, Wallander is drawn into investigate a murder of a once-senior political figure. The body was scalped. All of this as Wallander prepares for his summer holiday. It’s soon apparent that a serial killer is stalking this tranquil setting of Skane, as another body is found, also scalped.

The pacing of this novel is relentless. Mankell is superb at not only generating a stark atmosphere with minimalism (be this through the translation or otherwise), but he never lets the movement of the characters or their plots slow down. It is this sort of thing that shows a master is at work, and is so far his finest novel. And there are plenty of serious comments on the world of the Swedish police, on child prostitution, and on corruption of high political figures. Not only that, but he offers comment and symbolism on the nature of childhood—a potent theme in this novel. He provides solid doses of literary writing, but with a solid engine behind it. Never shying away from those aspects of human nature which are truly gruesome, but also somehow explaining a motive as almost rational (to a madman, of course).

I was left breathless by this one.

20Dec

Bruce Springsteen, London

Last night I went to see Bruce Springsteen play at the O2 Arena, in London. And what a mighty concert it was too. There’s been so much talk of various bands reuniting in recent times, and with all the hype you forget sometimes who the truly great musicians are. Then you get talk of the next big thing, commercial hype, and sure you might get good albums out of them, but until they can prove it live, it’s just talk in my opinion. Last night, Bruce came along and showed everyone how it should be done. He worked the crowd into a frenzy, had true charisma. A pro who’s been touring for decades, always thinking of the fans, and showing a love of musicianship. I saw the tour for the Seeger Sessions last year, an album of folk songs and roots Americana, which was also great fun. A talented musician doing something totally different, never afraid to experiment. And back to the more traditional songs last night, you still saw a band who were on top form. The set list was a mixture of new and old, with the killer riff at the beginning of Radio Nowhere getting 23,000 bums off seats right away, to the harsh, raw blues of Reasons to Believe, from the lo-fi album Nebraska. And there was the anti-war, anti-George W speech that was backed up by quality lyrics to hammer the point home. How many modern bands can cope with the complexity of such lyrics? None spring to mind. Reckon I’ll be looking for tickets for the stadium tour next Summer…There’s a reason this man keeps selling out across the world with the same demand for tickets that reunion gigs get.

There’s also a great blog posting here on why the Boss still rules. And better reviews of the O2 concert here and here. Both full of praise, I note.