Sunday, July 27, 2014

Barry Lancet's 2-Minute Book Pitch for "Japantown" (delivered to Clueless Movie Mogul)

(Movie Mogul is on phone as Barry Lancet walks in)

Sure, J.J. Let's have lunch and we can talk over my concept for Fast and Furious 22. You're gonna love it. 

(as he punches out of the call, he hits the wrong button and the speaker says 
"At the tone, the time is..." before he can shut it off.)

That Abrams, always the joker. Heh, heh. OK, young man, I'm warning you. Don't waste my time. I'm a very big fish in this town and I'm used to making sushi out of punk writers like you. You've got 2 minutes to sell me on this Japantown nonsense. Don't waste it.


Why did you pick this title?

Japantown is the one that stuck, from a list of about fifteen. It’s where the book starts—with murder—and the challenges of what happens in San Francisco’s Japantown and elsewhere become symbolic by the book’s end.


What’s the logline?

Japantown opens with the perfect murder—and one clue that no one can read. 


What’s the Teaser Pitch?

Everyone in Hollywood wants to do their Japan picture. This one bounces from San Francisco to Tokyo and beyond. It has potential. 


So you think you know all about this town, huh? We'll see. Who is your hero and how does he change in the book?

Jim Brodie is a Japan expert based in San Francisco who grew up in Japan, born to Caucasian American parents. He knows the culture, the country, and the people. He sees things about Asian cultures none of us can. As the story progresses, he faces increasingly overwhelming threats against himself, family, and friends, and must change and adapt. 


How did you come up with the idea?

After twenty-five years as an expat American in Japan, I wanted to show what I’ve seen and experienced—and chose the form of a mystery-thriller. 


Why should I, the Incredibly Rich and Handsome Movie Mogul, buy this book?

You already did—for a television drama. And your name is J. J. Abrams. 


 Really? J.J. bought it? (coughs) I mean, I knew that. As a matter of fact, we were going to talk about it over lunch. Speaking of which, can I buy you lunch? 


Love to but I'm meeting with Spielberg in 10 minutes about my next book. Ciao.

(Lancet leaves. He snaps his fingers at the pretty receptionist 
on his way out. He is whistling as he gets into the elevator.)

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Great, Great, Great! A Review of The Bullet-catcher's Daughter.

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter: The Fall of the Gas-Lit Empire, Book 1 [Kindle Edition]

Rod Duncan Rod Duncan is a published crime writer. His first novel Backlash was shortlisted for the CWA John Creasey Dagger, and he has since written three other novels (all Simon & Schuster UK), and had his first screenplay produced. His background is in scientific research and computing, and he lives in Leicester.

( Available for Pre-order. This item will be released on August 26, 2014.  I downloaded a review copy from

(Disclaimer:  I dowloaded this out of a feeling of solidarity with Angry Robot and the great authors on their list. This was, of course, before Angry Robot discontinued MY publisher, Exhibit A, without warning. I will attempt to be "fair and balanced" as one of my many previous employers would say.)

First, the headline. 

The Bullet-Catcher's Daughter is a wonderful book. Great writing, believable and enjoyable characters, clear and different alternate universe, and a story line that actually goes somewhere. Buy it, enjoy it.

Now, the precis of the book from Angry Robot. 

Elizabeth Barnabus lives a double life – as herself and as her brother, the private detective. She is trying to solve the mystery of a disappearing aristocrat and a hoard of arcane machines. In her way stand the rogues, freaks and self-proclaimed alchemists of a travelling circus. But when she comes up against an agent of the all-powerful Patent Office, her life and the course of history will begin to change. And not necessarily for the better…

 Finally, the review.

First off, I am really going to miss the artists and cover designers at Exhibit A/Angry Robot. The cover for my book, Courier, is probably the reason for half of my total sales. The cover design for Bullet-Catcher's Daughter (henceforth known as BCD,) is even more original, visually startling, and still ties directly to the story,

Gotta love dem Limey artists!

On to the story. I haven't read any of the other books by Rod Duncan but now, I plan to find all of them. BCD is the story of a brave, intelligent, and resourceful heroine (and a virtually identical hero) who are trying to make a living as Private Intelligence Gatherers in an England that ended the Civil War between the Cavaliers and the Roundheads with a peace treaty that divided the country in half. (In reality, the Roundheads chopped off the King's head, the Cavaliers fought back and won the war, and the Roundheads becames the Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock.  Didn't get that tidbit of history in your high-school history?)

In addition, Ned Ludd, the semi-mythical weaver who became famous for destroying an automatic loom and gave us the term 'luddite' (which is only used in arguments between tech pundits these days.) led a successful uprising against the types of technology that put people out of work and made their lives a living hell, (In real life, the machines won and millions of workers were unemployed and starving until Margaret Thatcher forced them back to work.) To enforce the elimination of technology that was not in the interests of the human condition, an International Patent Office was established to rule on every invention and, at this point (which is 1973 as far as I can tell,) the entire world has signed on and the Patent Office is an Empire in all but name.

[By the way, I'm reporting the history in the book seriously but fooling around with my descriptions of reality. Go figure.]

OK, that's the world. It's an original and tight alternate universe that makes sense and allows for a great mixture of enormous balloons carrying people instead of trains, carnivals where the carney's live in brightly colored horse-drawn wagons, and very modern bureaucracies. You've got smuggling, pigeon post, religious humility facing aristocratic arrogance across a border and many other cool mazes for the author to run his characters through.

And he does run them. It's all centered on Elizabeth Barnabus and she's one of the best female characters I've read in a long time. Smart, tough, resourceful and determined, she is still capable of honest emotions and practical solutions. A refreshing change from the blood-soaked heroines of too many noir titles and the sex-obsessed wimps of too many romance novels.

The plot involves a normal intelligence assignment that grows into a life-threatening disaster that requires our heroine to race down country lanes and across international borders. It's reasonable and yet has twists at the end that which will catch you by surprise.

More than anything else, I enjoyed the writing. It was simply excellent: descriptive without being cloying, alien without being silly, and, I have no idea where Duncan learned so much about traveling carnivals and their unique language, customs, and signals.

Bullet-Catcher's Daughter is a great read. I looked forward to picking it up on my iPad every time. I never cringed at some phrase or description and I ended up lost in the adventures of Ms. Barnabus.

With any luck, Angry Robot will have better luck than Exhibit A and we can look forward to many more "Gas-lit Empire" novels.

(Damn you Marc Gasgoigne!!)

Sunday, July 6, 2014

A Kill In the Morning - A Wonderful Surprise!

A Kill in the Morning by Graeme Shimmin 

(Transworld Books Co. UK 2014  Click on book cover to purchase from Amazon.)

  OK, I'll start off with the criticism. This has got to be the worst cover I've ever seen. It's bad at first glance, second glance, and by third glance, you can't look at it any more. It's clunky, junky, and over complicated and it seems to scream, "Don't Read This Book!"

  Here's my advice. Immediately after you purchase this book (and you absolutely should,) rip the cover off, and dispose of it properly. By properly, I mean in a specialized toxic waste facility properly certified for used power rods from nuclear power plants. In a couple of thousand years, the new races that occupy Earth will dig it up and probably be wiped out, but that's what they get for ignoring the warning signs.

   Here's where the Wonderful Surprise comes in.

   The book is tremendous.

    Graeme Shimmin's debut is an alternate history speculative fiction novel that manages to avoid the pitfalls of the genre: the different world that grows out of the alteration of a single event is completely believable and the characters are fully developed and not just animatronic figures acting out Shimmin's concept. The protagonist is a British secret agent and assassin fighting in the 1950's Cold War between Britain and a Germany run by victorious Nazi's that now dominates Europe. Yes, there was a peace agreement instead of a Battle of Britain, the USA never entered the conflict, the British Empire still stands, and a Jewish State exists as a British colony.

  All-in-all, a fascinating concept and Shimmin makes the most of it. The Nazis are even more arrogant than reality circa 1943 and have spent years building kitschy monuments to themselves and their Aryan beliefs. The British are more down-at-heels and their technology never benefited from the innovation of the later war years. As happened between the US and Russia, the peace is maintained by a balance of terror backed by British and German atomic weapon stockpiles.

  The protagonist isn't really a hero, he's a man emptied of emotion and ideals by years of brutal combat in the shadows. He's a precision machine built for killing and Shimmin never allows sentiment or emotion to break in and shatter the character. There are two strong female characters, a pacifist member of the German resistance and another agent cashiered because she's grown too old--for a woman, that is. It's nice to see such strong portrayals in a genre all too often dominated by female characters who are defined by bra size and degree of willingness to bed the hero. The other characters are equally well-drawn; Nazis, both power-crazed and lost in the savagery that can arise out of total domination, a Jewish spymaster with wit and guile, and the inbred, elitist spymasters of a very Old School British Secret Service.

  A Kill in the Morning is a thriller and thrills is what you get--not a lot of explanation and blather. The action is crisp, well-written, and intense. Shimmin moves the hero (or anti-hero, if you prefer) through well-described locations across Europe and the Middle East and in and out of a intensifying series of dangerous situations. Fans of real and imagined post-war weaponry and airplane design will be particularly pleased with Shimmin's meticulous descriptions. One thing I appreciate (because so few authors do it) is that his battle scenes are done with bullets that don't always miss, guns that occasionally misfire, and injuries that don't conveniently heal after a day in bed.

  The writing is fluid and readers will be swept along with the action--do not start this book if you have an important meeting the next morning. I'm not going to spoil any of the twists in the plot--I mean, you didn't expect twists with an alternate history thriller?--but they all make sense and the characters live within this alternate world as completely as you live in yours. An excellent job, especially for a new author, and one that promises more to come. Expect to hear a lot about Graeme Shimmin in the future--I can see a long line of titles on the shelf (what, he's the only one who can have an alternate universe?)

  Just don't ask him to design your cover.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Goodreads | Charles Stross's Blog - Stross at the top of his game--which is to say, few do it better.



I'd like to take this opportunity to remind you that "The Rhesus Chart" is officially available from next Thursday, July the Third. And to whet your appetite, it got a starred review in Kirkus:

Laundry regulars by now will be familiar with Stross' trademark sardonic,provocative, disturbing, allusion-filled narrative. And, here, with a structure strongly reminiscent of Len Deighton's early spy novels, the tone grows markedly grimmer, with several significant casualties and
tragedies, perhaps in preparation for Angleton's feared CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN.

Stross at the top of his game--which is to say, few do it better. Pounce!
You can buy the US edition—and other Laundry titles—here, or the UK editions of the series here.

And tomorrow I'll be posting the first chapter here, on my blog!

Goodreads | Charles Stross's Blog - One week to go to THE RHESUS CHART - June 26, 2014 07:55