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Utterly Dark & the Face of the Deep

It was always at sundown they were seen. In that twilight hour, when the walls between the worlds grew thin, strange things might slip through the cracks. Sometimes then, so the stories went, enchanted islands would appear in the empty ocean to the west of Wildsea…     I have a new novel coming out in September! The cover (above) is by Paddy Donnelly (who is also working on some chapter-head vignettes), and it will be published by David Fickling Books . Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep takes place in the early 1800s on the remote island of Wildsea. For centuries, the Dark family act as Watchers, keeping a look-out for mysterious islands which are believed to appear from time to time on the western sea, and guarding Wildsea against a terrible monster which is said to live on them. When the current Watcher mysteriously drowns, his young ward Utterly takes over his duties. Gradually, she starts to discover her strange connection with the forces which dwell in the deep ocean. It'
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The Dig

  I don’t tend to associate 21st Century British films with a deep sense of landscape. Don't @ me - I know I’m probably ignoring all sorts of bracingly challenging art house offerings, and I’m aware there’s a whole genre called ‘folk horror’ built around the deep unease which grips townies when they find themselves anywhere that doesn’t have street lights, but most of the more mainstream Brit-pics that cross my radar are set on estates. Sometimes they’re estates of the council variety, where chipper youngsters fresh from drama school are struggling against homophobia or racism to make a name for themselves as dancers, footballers, or singers. Sometimes they’re estates of the Balmoral, Sandringham, or Castle Howard sort, where slightly more established actresses in empire-line frocks are emoting their way through another Jane Austen, or Judi Dench is being Queen Victoria again. But whichever sort of estate it is, the setting is seldom much more than a backdrop: I don’t think the fir

On Adam Curtis

  Adam Curtis is back (with a new six part series on iplayer, Can’t Get You Out Of My Head ) and a lot of us seem to have had enough of his nonsense - all I’m seeing on my corner of social media is people disparaging him as pretentious, boring, or a charlatan. Pretentious he may be, and boring he can be (when his films were shown on TV rather than relegated to iplayer-only they definitely benefited from having to be squeezed into 30 or 50 minute time-slots). But a lot of my favourite artists are at least partly charlatans and none the worse for it, so I feel moved to spring to his defence. I think a lot of people approach Curtis’s films as if they’re documentaries, and find their arguments tenuous and unconvincing. But while they use a documentary format, and Curtis’s sonorous voice sounds like that of a reliable BBC narrator, I think they’re really best appreciated as a sort of surrealist collage or William Burroughs-style cut-up fiction. Assembled entirely out of odds-and-ends of ar

Two Recent Interviews, and Mortal Engines hits Netflix

  Here's a link to an interview I recorded back in the summer with Tim Taylor of the Time Team website - the online successor to the long-running and fondly remembered Channel 4 series of the same name.  The website archive features loads of interviews and much more - it's well worth checking out. I should have cleared all the DVDs out of my bookcase and filled it with more learned-looking volumes, but I forgot. And here's another interview , this time audio only, for Andrew Hall's Dead Hand Radio , a podcast which deals with the Cold War but branches out sometimes to encompass sci-fi and UFOs. I havent had a chance to listen to any of the other episodes, but I really enjoyed talking to Andrew and we covered quite a lot of ground. And finally, Christian Rivers's film of Mortal Engines has arrived on Netflix in the UK and Ireland. The story is much changed from the book, but it's full of good things and good people, so if you can approach it as a different take

Bookplates for Christmas

The author Holly Bourne has come up with a neat way for authors to support indie bookshops this Christmas , in a year when those shops have been forced to shut for months on end and even more business than usual has been going to the online giants. Holly is encouraging authors and illustrators to supply free, signed bookplates to any customers who purchase one of their books from an independent bookshop. If you check the #SignForOurBookshops hashtag on Twitter you'll find a lot of big names have already pledged their support, so if you're planning to give books as presents, or just buy a big old stack of them for yourself, this is a nice way to personalise them. Naturally Sarah McIntyre and I wanted to get involved, so Sarah has designed 100 exclusive Reeve&McIntyre bookplates. They feature Kevin, the roly-poly hero of The Legend of Kevin, Kevin's Great Escape and Kevin and the Biscuit Bandit, but all our characters share the same universe so they'll look just fi

The Queen's Gambit

Walter Tevis was an interesting writer, and an exceptionally good one. I don’t think he’s exactly a household name, but several of his books were turned into movies which are - The Hustler (and it’s sequel The Colour of Money ) and The Man Who Fell To Earth . As a teenage sci-fi afficionado I knew him for the latter, and for a handful of good SF stories. Which must be why, sometime in the eighties I picked up a copy of The Queen’s Gambit. I don’t recall much about it except that it was a real page-turner: a memory of the grotty living room of my student house where I sat up all night reading it came back to me powerfully when I saw that it’s been adapted as a Netflix series. Since The Hustler and The Colour of Money are about the lives of professional pool players there’s an obvious thematic connection to The Queen’s Gambit , which is about a world-class chess player. But it also has a lot in common with The Man Who Fell To Earth , another story about a not-quite-human genius laid l
  Sarah McIntyre and I had the honour last week of hosting this year's Children's Book Awards, organised by the Federation of Children's Book groups, and voted for by young readers the length and, indeed, longth of the UK. Since the ceremony had to be online for obvious pandemical reasons we recorded our intro and links at my house when Sarah and her husband ventured down to visit us a few weeks back. (We had planned to do it in the garden, also for obvious pandemical reasons, but it was a bit blustery outside, so we retreated, slightly windswept, to my well-ventilated office.) You can see the ceremony here, including the announcements of the winning titles by the children of North Somerset Children's Book Group, and speeches by the winners themselves. Spoilers: here they are... We also wrote a special book awards based Kevin story for the occasion. If you'd like to read it yourself rather than listen to us do so, Sarah's put the full text up over on her blog .