Note: not in any way critical reviews, just my own rambling enthusiasm.
Save the Cat was recommended to me by Ben Aaronovitch in the pub. A book on screen writing may not be an obvious choice for a budding novelist but there are lots of tips that make this a worthwhile read. Blake Snyder’s approach to the beats of a story are worth the price of this handy-sized tome alone. A novel is a sprawling thing, written over months, so any guide to structure and planning is a God send.
There are also The Immutable Laws of Screenplay Physics. I particularly enjoy the ‘Double Mumbo Jumbo’ rule – don’t mix two elements of the fantastic. Have aliens, have magic, but don’t have both or the audience will struggle to suspend their disbelief. It’s also useful should you decide you ever want to try your hand at scriptwriting.
This book gave me a booster shot of confidence when planning book 3 of The Erebus Sequence, and I’d recommend it to anyone, novelist or screenwriter.
Back to fiction in the shape of Jon Courtenay Grimwood’s The Outcast Blade. I absolutely loved the first book of the Assassini – The Fallen Blade – and don’t mind admitting it was a huge influence on The Erebus Sequence.
This is Venice re-imagined, steeped in politics and heady with concealed agendas with an added dash of supernatural. Beset from without by foreign Empires, seething within from the many intrigues. Tycho is a riveting protagonist and the turns come thick and fast. The cast of characters really blossom in this part of the trilogy and Venice itself is lovingly rendered in all its filth and grandeur. I’ve been a huge fan of Jon’s writing for while now; the prose is measured, economic and brings with it a tension that makes even the most simple dialogue exchange feel taut. Nothing is wasted.
Desperate sword fights at night, doublets and hose, unrequited love, witchcraft and familiars. This book is essentially cat nip to me. It was particularly interesting to see motherhood portrayed in a Fantasy novel. Young children and families are so often overlooked.
And more fiction. Decidedly less Fantastical but still fantastic. I met Tom Winter at a party thrown by my agent last December and I’m pleased to say we got on extremely well. His debut, Lost and Found, tracks the lives of Carol and Albert. Carol is trapped in a loveless marriage with an eternal man-child and a daughter who can barely tolerate her. Trapped in a hum-drum corner of Croydon she struggles to stay sane. Carol takes to sending letters full of the feelings she has been holding onto for decades.
Albert is a postman nearing retirement. A widower he has very little to look forward to, unaware of his own loneliness, Albert is an old soul even by his admission, struggling to make sense of a career ending in a world much changed. Albert’s own world changes dramatically when he finds Carol’s undeliverable heartfelt letters.
I loved this book. It balances council estate grimness with a scathing yet understated humour. I really couldn’t put it down, even reading it behind the till at the bookshop when there were no customers around. The characters are unremarkable people, perfectly drawn, absolutely believable. The plot moves with the canny assurance of a writer who knows exactly what they are doing, throwing all sorts of emotional gut punches and clever twists along the way. Ultimately there is a beautiful warmth to this book that makes it worth the turn of every page.
Until next time,