Friday, 25 December 2009

DEMONICALLY GOOD REVIEWS

Night of Demons has been on the shelves for nearly six months by this time, and the reception from reviewers has been unanimously terrific. Here's a summary of them so far:

"The action doesn't let up for a page as Richards pulls one menace out of the bag after another. Raine's Landing is a playground for (his) vibrant imagination, while the rest of us stand on the sidelines with eyes wide open at his audacity and wonder what he'll do next" -- Black Static magazine

"Richards is a master at suspending disbelief and combining horror, fantasy and humor in a way that will mesmerize readers from cover to cover" -- Romantic Times Book Reviews - sf/fantasy

"Fans of Laurell K. Hamilton and the Sookie Stockhouse novels will thoroughly enjoy this enthralling novel. This urban fantasy horror thriller will appeal to fans of differing sub-genres as a riveted audience finish 'Night of Demons' in one sitting" -- SF Revu

"A fast-paced read with plenty of action. Tony Richards has written a great book with people you just want to read more about" -- Bestsellersworld

"Richards manages a true fantasy -- dragons, swords, magic and a whole town filled with magic users. But he doesn't stop there. By weaving this fantasy into a modern setting, (he) creates something unique. Take that, Harry Potter!" -- The Deepening

"If you are a fan of dark fantasy then you will enjoy 'Night of Demons'" -- Night Owl Reviews

"Well written and entertaining. Urban fantasy fans are sure to enjoy it" -- Shroud Magazine

"Another mind-blowing story in the innovative setting of Raine's Landing. The (town's) adepts are a fascinatingly strange group. The story contains terror, violence -- but no more excessive than warranted by the plot -- pathos, tragedy, and redemption. Recommended" -- News from the Crypt

"The pace was excellent. This is a supernatural suspense story that will keep you turning the pages and waiting to see what comes next" -- Fandomania

"'Night of Demons' is a great story and will be enjoyed by many, including non-fantasy readers"
-- MyShelf.com

"Non-stop action, unexpected twists. The book is a page-turner" -- Mysterious Galaxy

"I enjoyed every page of 'Night of Demons' and all I can say is it matches its predecessor in tension, good characterization, and sheer excitement. Now, of course, I'm begging for a third book" -- Amazon.com

"This is what Modern Dark Fantasy SHOULD be. After reading this 2nd book in the series, I'm officially hooked. I'll be eagerly anticipating more journeys into Raine's Landing" -- Goodreads

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

SEEING RED

The Internet is a great way of communicating with people and, if you're a writer, getting news about your work across. Perhaps the best way ever invented. That is, until something goes wrong. And when that happens, it's usually behind your back, without your knowing, and with little recourse.

A short while back, someone hacked into my website and left a pop-up advert there. And if you think that's the problem, then you're wrong. My site manager, the wonderful Marie, promptly got on it, removed the offending article, and that, so far as I was aware, was that.

Nope. A couple of days later, one of my followers on Twitter got in touch to inform me she'd gone onto my site and her virus protection software (I'll call it VPS from this point on) had warned her that she oughtn't be there. I went on myself and got the same result. During the few days that one unwanted little pop-up ad was present on richardsreality.com, a lot of VPS systems had detected that and deemed my site unsafe.

And I'm not just talking about a mild warning either. This was the full treatment. A red flag. A big X. An advisement to only continue looking at my site with 'extreme caution.' The kind of stuff, in other words, that sends sensible browsers fleeing, quite possibly never to return. All it needed to look worse was a skull-and-crossbones and a message from the Surgeon General.

Which would be bad enough at any time. But this time? My latest novel had gone into the bookstores one month earlier, and was getting great reviews across the board. Many of those were referencing my website, as were the interviews that I was doing. Loads of people would have been visiting my site around that stage, and being chased away by the red flags. Add to that the fact that readers who've enjoyed my latest book tend to go on richardsreality and use the 'contact' button there to email me and let me know they liked it ... and now there was little chance of them doing so. Which was just plain depressing. I rarely complain about the fact that writing is an isolated business, but I value those kinds of emails very much.

I could sit around and wait for the situation to resolve itself, of course. Wait until the VPS companies got around to retesting my site and giving it a clean bill of health. Which might take a couple of weeks or so. But in case you don't know it, when it comes to a mass-market paperback, the first couple of months on the shelves are pretty crucial and, in the case of some bookstores, all the time it really has. And two weeks is a big chunk out of that. So I decided to try and do something about it myself, by visiting the websites of the larger VPS companies.

To give McAfee credit, they provided me with an easy-to-fill-out online form with which I could explain the problem and ask them to retest my site promptly, which they did. But as for the rest? I spent a considerable time trying to figure out who I should contact to get something done, with no success whatever. Download our product? Sure. Customer support? Absolutely. But "we've just messed you over, and here's where you get in touch to put the problem right"? There was no such facility, anywhere I looked.

Okay, I know that the VPS companies mostly do a stand-up job. Without them, let's face it, we'd have computer viruses climbing out of our screens and chasing us down the stairs. And I understand how many websites exist out there, all of which need testing ... around 65 million at the last count. None of which alters the fact that their red flag was causing me considerable grief. So I have two suggestions for the VPS guys.

One: put a clear, obvious link on your sites where people who've been flagged can apply for a retest, pronto. And two: once you have red-flagged a site, implement a system where it is retested more frequently than most to find out if the problem has been cleared up. Because putting the IT equivalent of the Mark of Cain on someone's website and then ambling away for another fortnight isn't exactly helpful behaviour.

Does anyone have any software that can protect me from the virus protectors?

Monday, 23 November 2009

BARCELONA ON MY EYE






















Just recently back from a 3-day trip to Barcelona. So I thought I'd share some of my snapshots with you.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

YES, I KNOW THE WAY TO SAN JOSE!

I'm recently back from this year's World Fantasy Convention in San Jose, CA (pictured). People who have never been to such an event always manage to ask the same question, namely: "Do you get a lot of people going around in costumes?" No, those are movie and TV conventions that you're thinking of. World Fantasy is mostly writers, editors, publishers and the like, and though we might be equally as crazy as those movie fans we hide it a little better and we don't dress up.

The plain fact is, I've been to more that my share of World Fantasies and World Horrors, and location apart they all have a tendency to blend into one seamless event these days. There are panel discussions and readings, a few of which I attend. And I read from my own latest novel, of course, and signed a load of stuff. But what really matters at any con are the people. The parties, the meals out, the chance encounters in the hotel bar. I always sum it up like this ... the real business of attending a convention is hooking up with excellent old friends and making excellent new ones. In my case, those in the latter category have become rather too numerous to mention, although I will mention Chris Roberson and his wife Alison, John Skipp, Cody Goodfellow, and Barbara and Chris Roden of Ash-Tree Press. New acquaintances this time around included debut author John Langan, Doug Cohen from Realms of Fantasy magazine, Ellen Kushner, Brent Weeks, the excellent Jeffrey Ford, who went on to win two World Fantasy Awards, Travis Heermann -- who'll be running an interview with me on his blog soon -- and not least Michael Shea, author of one of my favourite short novels, 'The Color out of Time.' It was a delight to meet them all, and thoroughly worth the eleven hour flight. And believe me, those last six words do not come at all easily.

Robert Morrish, former editor of Cemetery Dance magazine, now writes a column called 'Spotlight on Publishing' for that same publication. And in the current issue, he has some very nice things to say about one of my short story collections from last year, Passport to Purgatory.

And on Fandomania, you can now read an interview conducted between myself and Kelly Melcher, the same smart individual who gave Night of Demons such a glowing review last week.

Monday, 26 October 2009

DEMONS ON YOUR DOORSTEP

At long last, Night of Demons -- the second installment in the Raine's Landing saga -- is on its way to the stores and other outlets. That comes as a huge relief so far as I'm concerned. There always seems to be a horribly long, exasperating wait between reading through the galley proofs -- which look pretty much like a finished book without the cover -- and seeing the completed thing. Frustrating. Like being nibbled to death by mice, as Harlan Ellison once said.

But anyway, the novel will soon be available in all good stores, through sites like Amazon, and through the Doubleday and Science Fiction Book Clubs. Or you can order a copy right here.

A quick Raine's Landing factlet, by the way. When I first started on this second book, the working title was 'Shadow Town.' And when I told my editor, Diana Gill, that I was dropping it she was a little disappointed, since she liked it. It is good and -- who knows -- one day I might get around to using that pairing of words for another novel. But until that day comes, it's all about the demons.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

JUDGING A BOOK

'You can't judge a book by its cover' goes the saying. But the plain fact is that people in bookstores do. Research shows that the majority reason (about 90%) why browsers even pick up books they're unfamiliar with is that the cover attracts them. Cover art and layout, therefore, are much bigger deals than most people suppose.

Which makes what follows rather interesting. Night of Demons, weeks before its launch, has picked up yet another good, enthusiastic review, this time by Kelly Melcher on the website Fandomania. And Kelly starts like this:

"While the saying goes 'one should never judge a book by its cover,' that is an excellent place to start here. It easily sets the mood, and really grabbed my interest. The mood? Dark and ominous. I know I don't normally comment on covers, but this one just caught my eye from the moment I opened the package it came in and tempted me to read just based on the artwork alone."

It would appear artist Don Sipley mixes a little magic with his paints, and that is very good to hear. And Kelly also goes on to say, "The pace was excellent. There was enough action to keep turning the pages and waiting to see what comes next." She liked the book inside and out, then.

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

FIENDS RE-UNITED

Way back at the very start of my writing career, one of the very earliest stories that I sold was a straight horror tale, set in Canada and called Child of Ice. It was bought by an editor called Herbert van Thal for an anthology series called The Pan Books of Horror. The tale saw print after a while, and I was glad to see it out. But other than that, I merely took note that one of the other contributors was a certain Ian McEwan -- impressive! -- and then pocketed my £40 and went on my merry way. How was I to know that, years later, the series would come to be regarded as a classic with a huge cult following.

And now all that is being drawn together by man-about-horror Johnny Mains, who is bringing out a book on the subject, has compiled a massive website, and has several other projects on the go into the bargain. One of which is BACK FROM THE DEAD: The Legacy of the Pan Book of Horror Stories. It's an anthology which brings back together some of the best contributors to PBoH. They provide new stories where they can, and where they can't one of their old-time classics is included. There's to be a Forward by Shaun Hutson, an introduction by David A. Sutton. Oh yes, and there's a brand-new tale of terror by yours truly on the contents list.

BACK FROM THE DEAD will come out from Johnny's own publishing company, Noose & Gibbet, and will be released -- you guessed it -- just in time for World Horror in Brighton. And the cover appears here by the man's kind permission.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

OTHER TALES

Most of my time is centred on the Raine's Landing novels these days. But they're not the only thing I do, nor the only books that I see published. Take a look at my bibliography, and you'll realise that I've written a sizeable number of short stories down the years. And the number one publisher of collections of those in the U.S. these days is the very excellent Dark Regions Press, who turn out great looking and reasonably-priced books and have a catalogue of fine authors that is continually expanding.

They've already released one bumper-sized collection of my work, Shadows and Other Tales, which was extremely well received. Peter Tennant at the great British horror mag Black Static said of it "For the sheer pleasure of reading a story by a master of the art, Shadows and Other Tales is hard to beat." While Trevor Denyer of the highly-regarded indy journal Midnight Street added "Shadows is more than worth the entrance fee and the journey. Highly recommended."

And now I'm in discussion with editor Joe Morey about publishing two more collections of my work. I'll let you have the details just as soon as they're ironed out.

BITES OF THE APPLE

Louise and I are recently back from a flying three-night visit to NYC. The occasion? The wedding of Louise's 'baby' cousin, Samantha, now in her early forties and a trainee cardiologist. A whole load of other members of the clan flew in from Toronto with their friends, and it was great to see them. Sam and her charming partner Jeremy live in the West Village, just about my favourite section of Manhattan, and the whole shindig took place there. The ceremony was on Charles, and then we went on to the Perry Street restaurant on the corner of Perry and West, right next to the river and with beautiful views of the Hudson. The terrific lunch we had there didn't stop a bunch of us from heading across to Mulberry Street that evening for some pasta.

Which meant that when Diana Gill, my editor at Eos, took me out to Papillon on 54th for another lunch the next day, I wasn't exactly hungry. It's always a pleasure to see her, though, and I finally got taken around the HarperCollins offices and met her assistant Will Hinton and the publicist assigned to me, Greg Shutack. Worth the trip.

Monday, 3 August 2009

BACK IN HARDBACK

This is something of a late night posting, time differences between London and New York being what they are. But Diana Gill, my editor at Eos, has just got in touch with me -- all pleased, thrilled and whatnot-- to tell me that both the Science Fiction Book Club and the Doubleday Book Club are going to be bringing out editions of 'Night of Demons.' And it seems they like it even better than 'Dark Rain' ... they've offered me almost twice as good a deal as I got last year. This would be a cigar moment, if I smoked them (which I don't).

And for some even later breaking news ... as well as this blog and my regular website, I also now have a 'microsite' at HarperCollins.com. It's full of quirky features, is informative and fun. You can visit it by clicking here.

LOCAL WEIRDO

Louise and I have recently got back from a ten-day holiday in Sopot, a beautiful little town near Gdansk on the Baltic coast of Poland. Not only did we have a terrific time; we also made an interesting discovery. Namely that, though most people think of him as German, Sopot is the original birthplace of the great Klaus Kinski, sometime muse of Werner Herzog and best known for his leading role in the remake of Nosferatu. The accompanying photograph is of his home on Koscluszki Street, now a bar dedicated to his memory and called the Galeria Kinsky. On two storeys, with balconies up top, it's as dark as a cave inside, littered with Kinski photographs and memorabilia, and just to add a final macabre touch there are funereal crimson drapes throughout the entire place. The perfect Goth hangout, in other words ... except that Sopot doesn't seem to have any Goths. What a waste. Maybe some of my black-clad, mascara-wearin' buddies could stage a convention there.

You'd think that there'd be more around town regarding the famous man than just a bar. A statue, maybe? But poor old Klaus doesn't seem to be held in very high regard by the otherwise kind and friendly locals. The tourist guidebook -- Sopot in Your Pocket -- refers to him as a 'nutter.' And that's not just an idle snipe; Kinski actually did spend time in an asylum at one stage. He fostered most bad habits in the book. He ... ahem .. 'dated' several hundred women, and was apparently quite proud of that, because the first draft of his autobiography had to be scrapped for being overly graphic. He even once attempted throat surgery on himself. Yes, I'm afraid you read that correctly. How wasted or deranged does someone have to be before that begins looking like a good idea? But Klaus was either very hardy, very lucky, or had natural talents with a scalpel, because he managed to survived it.

Here's the tale about him that I really like the best, though. When he finally did pass away, in 1991, someone asked a friend of his, "What exactly did Mr. Kinski die of?" The friend thought about it a few moments, shrugged, and then replied, "A little bit of everything." Now that's a life well lived. Next time I'm in Sopot, I'll head for the bar again and raise a glass to him in tribute. Cheers, Klaus!

Monday, 27 July 2009

AND HERE'S THE COMPLETE PICTURE



Just left double-click on this image to enlarge it.

COVER STORY

The cover for last year's Dark Rain was not half bad ... but, in retrospect, it made the book look too much like a traditional horror novel, which it certainly was not. This year sees a big improvement on that situation. Because this year, Eos/HarperCollins have commissioned the amazing Don Sipley to do the cover. The same terrific artist who's been painting the covers for Jocelynn Drake's bestselling Dark Days adventures. I'm delighted with the end result. My editor and her wonderful, hard-working staff are all ecstatic. And now you can see it for yourself.

Night of Demons is now due to be launched on October 28th, just before World Fantasy and, appropriately, Halloween. And I'll be sending out some review copies soon. If you seriously want to write a review, get in touch and let me know.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

TORCHWOOD

I've never watched this show before, which is pretty odd when you consider that not only am I into all things fantasy and science fiction, but I know several of the people who write the Torchwood novelizations. But the prospect of a five day running mini-series -- Children of Earth -- finally tempted me. And to my own surprise, I was not in the least bit disappointed. There were a couple of lame jokes, and some -- er -- 'borrowing' from other films and shows. But overall the cast was good, the plot was strong and menacingly creepy, and there was even some unsubtle but rather timely social comment around the question of who's important to society and who is not, what used to be called Social Exclusion and was supposed to be reduced instead of getting worse.

Should Captain Jack re-appear on our screens, I'll definitely give him another look. But if I have one major gripe, it's that the good guys resorted in the end to defeating the villain by announcing something along the lines of "if we defribrillate the varg blaster and reverse the polarity of the neutron blerks, we can create a sonic resonance that will disrupt ..." etcetera and so forth. Um, yuh, why didn't I think of that? But if Torchwood does that regularly, then it's not the only show that's guilty. Doctor Who does it a lot, and so for that matter did TNG. Personally, my own heroes mostly beat the bad guys by punching them repeatedly or shooting them, preferably both. The simpler solutions are so much better ... and more fun.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

GUILTY PLEASURES

We all have them. Forms of entertainment that we know should be a little low-brow for our taste. But we enjoy them anyway. Except … you know what? If there’s one type of person that I’ve really come to hate, it’s the type who only ever reads, watches, listens to serious stuff, and then waves all that around as a symbol of how smart he is. How dumb does a person have to be not to recognise the value of straightforward fun?

On the book front, in my case, I’ve read almost every single one of Peter O’Donnell’s Modesty Blaise novels, and enjoyed them thoroughly. To give O’Donnell proper credit, they’re a good sight better written and characterised than you’d suppose.

And in TV terms, it’s Alias. And US visitors to this blog are going to have to bear with me a few moments, because the fact is it’s a show that’s barely known in the UK. It got broadcast on Sky, but back in the day when a lot of people didn’t own a satellite dish. As for terrestrial TV, it was so incredibly badly scheduled (always late, at wildly different times) that it never picked up an audience. But in North America, the show ran five seasons, from 2001 to 2006, and was so wildly popular that its guest stars included Christian Slater, Isabella Rossellini, Quentin Tarantino, Joel Grey, Ethan Hawke, Faye Dunaway, Richard Roundtree, Rutger Hauer, and our own John Hannah and (in a straight bad-guy role) Ricky Gervais. And this was well before the day when movie people began emigrating to TV en masse.

At face value, Alias looks just about as daft as it gets. A James Bond style female secret agent gets done up in a new disguise, whizzes around on wires, kung-fu kicks some bad people, and saves the day every week. But -- rather like the equally daft-sounding Buffy the Vampire Slayer -- the show had a lot more going on than that.

Razor sharp scripts. A superb cast led by the award-winning Jennifer Garner (pictured) and added to regularly by Lena Olin (a terrific actress Hollywood never made enough use of). The male side of the line-up ranged from young turks like Michael Vartan and David Anders to distinguished older thesps such as Victor Garber and the incredible Ron Rifkin.

And -- like Buffy -- once you get past the high-kicks and high jinks, Alias has a deeply human side. You find yourself becoming drawn into the interplay between the characters, and a pretty mesmerising bunch they are. Carl Lumbly’s brooding black giant. Kevin Weisman’s burbling, bumbling ├╝bernerd. Rifkin as Arvin Sloane -- only a TV show be damned -- is one of the most complex and fascinating villains who has ever been created in a work of fiction. And Garber’s emotionally distant Jack Bristow is a masterpiece of multi-layered subtlety and understatement.

What I love about the show, as well, is the way it doesn’t recognise the usual limits. It pushes over into science fiction sometimes, as do other spy series. But, by way of the Rambaldi section of the plot, it pushes across into the realms of the supernatural as well, and I’ve rarely seen that done before. If you’re going to have fun, why not have really BIG fun? Go the whole nine yards? This was back in the day when the word ‘entertainment’ referred to something more intelligent than a bunch of slapstick and action sequences heaped together with no rhyme or reason … I’ve just stumbled back from the latest Star Trek wondering what on earth the fuss was all about. I won’t be going to see the sequel of that movie. But I’m just finishing up watching my Alias box set for the fourth time. And it won’t be the last.

Monday, 18 May 2009

MORE CONCERNING VAMPIRES

I have caught up with the movies that I promised I would. Despite reading some awful things about it on the Internet, I thoroughly enjoyed Twilight. The characters were interesting, the whole tone of the film was nicely moody, using the local weather to great effect. It segued pretty neatly from humour -- the baseball game -- to the threatening arrival of the bad vamps. And, despite the fact that we've met vampires who are on the side of good before now, it's still rare to meet any who are positively likable the way the Cullens are. What surprised me most, though, was that to my mind Twilight had a distinctly Sixties feel. Maybe it was the rather psychedelic soundtrack. Maybe it was Kristen Stewart's hippy-chick look. Maybe it was the way the Cullens -- who aren't related, after all -- reminded me more of a small commune than a family. But mostly, it was Robert Pattinson's dense-eyebrowed moodiness, which put me instantly in mind of James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause. Times change. Even vampires have changed over the last handful of decades (see my earlier posting 'Red Xmas'). But teenagers don't seem to change at all.

Let the Right One In turned out to be another take on adolescent encounters with bloodsuckers, but a completely different one, with the emphasis on the frigid gloominess of a Stockholm suburb. Whether you think it the better film is purely a matter of taste. But it turned out to be the more seriously-minded of the two movies that had a lot more gore. It's not the first time that an arthouse movie has approached the subject of vampires. But 'Let the Right One In' is a superior example and, writing horror as I do, it was nice to see a theatre full of intelligent people treating the whole subject with attentive respect. Something else always amazes me too, and both films prove it. Even decades down the line, with thousands of such efforts behind us, some inventive mind is always finding a brand new twist on the vampire theme. And I expect that, years from now, I'll still be noticing that.

I'm currently looking through the page proofs for Raine's Landing Book #2, 'Night of Demons,' by the way. Which means the Advanced Readers' Copies should be available during the next few months.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

A PARTY TO END IT ALL

Usually, parties are thrown for happy reasons. Birthdays, anniversaries, seeing a new government come to office (and we regret that last one soon enough, don't we?). But after doing business for nearly forty years, The Fantasy Centre on the Holloway Road, London N1, is due to close at the end of this month. The lease has run out, and will not be renewed -- it's as simple and brutal as that. And considering that the store is Europe's oldest second-hand trader of science fiction and fantasy books, that is slightly tragic.

But proprietor Erik Arthur responded to this sad turn of events with typical aplomb, throwing a party for all his regular customers. Bonhomie and a community spirit prevailed throughout the evening. The shop is still open a few more weeks, and since you can find a lot of books there that are pretty hard to find anywhere else, I'll doubtless be dropping in. If you live in or near London, try to make a last pilgrimage too.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

MATTERS CONCERNING VAMPIRES


For most of the last couple of years, I've been chained to my desk a lot meeting deadlines for the first two Raine's Landing novels. Which means I missed a lot of movies that I otherwise would definitely have gone to see. But thanks to the magic of postal DVD technology -- as I've pointed out earlier -- I have finally been catching up. And there's one horror flick I was absolutely kicking myself about having missed. Until I finally watched it, that is.

Friends have told me that they liked the thing. But 30 Days of Night, I'm afraid, left me pretty cold. Okay, maybe it was supposed to ... it's set in the far north reaches of Alaska, the premise being that while the sun's away all month, the vampires get to play. Not so bad a concept ... until you start to realise that it's basically just a bloodsucking rehash of the excellent SF chiller Pitch Black. And there are holes in the telling of the story you could drive a hearse through -- sideways! These vampires are supposed to have hidden themselves from human beings for centuries ... except they are such startling and gruesome creatures, it is impossible to see how they could manage that. And once they've killed most of the inhabitants, why don't they take the trouble to search the houses in this very small town for survivors properly?

But the problem that really rankles is, at which point did a lot of horror movies stop having a real, recognisable plot? The Descent? The unappealing Creep? When did this genre of films turn into just a series of frightening or gruesome scenes all clumsily stapled together? Compare '30 Days' with Kathryn Bigelow's excellent 1980's vampire effort Near Dark and you'll see precisely what I mean.

I'll hopefully get to see Let the Right One In before it disappears from our cinemas. And Twilight has just turned up in the mail. So I'll be talking more about vampire movies on this blog before much longer. Let's hope I have better news to report.

As I mentioned earlier, there've been some good things being said on the Internet about the first RL novel, 'Dark Rain', particularly on Horror Mall's forum 'The Haunt'. So I thought I'd reproduce a little of it here. Gene said "Tony Richards is a fine writer. I would recommend his work." A guy calling himself wcr01gsr went further, proclaiming that "Tony Richards is a fantastic author!" And Jim opined "I can't wait for his next book to come out involving the town of Raine's Landing." Thanks for the kind words, guys. And as for the next Raine's Landing novel, happy to oblige!

Thursday, 23 April 2009

AN AMERICAN FRIEND

Robert Morrish bought five stories of mine — ‘Yesterday, Upon The Stair,’ ‘Siafu,’ ‘A Place in the Country,’ ‘Misdirection’ and ‘Nine Rocks in a Row’ — during his editorship of Cemetery Dance, and I never once got to meet him. Now that he’s recently quit the magazine, I finally did. Bob was over in London on business from California, and we got together for drinks in Covent Garden before heading across for an Italian meal in Soho. Great guy … a real pleasure to spend time in his company. Writing’s not all hard graft, I’m relieved to say.

There's currently some on-line chatter, by the way, about the first Raine's Landing novel, 'Dark Rain,' here.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

ON A MIDNIGHT STREET


If you've never heard of the much-praised British magazine Midnight Street, here's your chance to put that right. Edited by Aldershot-based good guy Trevor Denyer, it carries science fiction, fantasy, supernatural tales, horror ... in fact, every kind of fiction that is speculative or paranormal. There are interviews, articles, even poetry, as well as reviews and a Showcased Author every new edition -- I was one such back in #6. And all of this for a remarkably low subscription rate. Check out the link if you don't believe me.

Oh yes, and the cover story for the current issue -- #12 -- is called 'The Crows' and is by guess who. I think that it's one of the most frightening tales I've ever written in my life. It will be interesting to see if anyone agrees. (The cover of Midnight Street #12 appears here by kind permission of Immediate Direction Publications).

Saturday, 11 April 2009

THE AMAZING ALAN PRICE

To a packed to the rafters Bull's Head, Barnes, this week to see one of my musical heroes, singer, songwriter, and virtuoso pianist Alan Price. Price first came to the public's notice as the outstanding keyboard player for hit British 60's band The Animals ("House of the Rising Sun"; "We Gotta Get Out of This Place"). He then went on to form his own group and duetted with Georgie Fame, before launching out on a solo career the high point of which was probably his writing and performing of the classic, award-winning soundtrack for Lindsay Anderson's O Lucky Man. And the man was in buoyant form this week, bantering with the audience and launching into memorable numbers from throughout his career, including a couple from my favourite album, Between Today and Yesterday. As a songwriter, he shares many qualities with Paul McCartney. He understands how strong a tool simplicity can be, and recognises the power contained in local and traditional forms of music, weaving all of that into his compositions in a way that lesser artists couldn't manage. And as a singer? Well, the guy's sixty-six, and took a little while to get properly warmed up. But by the second set, that familiar Geordie twang was filling the whole room, to the delight of his audience. He's due to go on tour soon, so look out for him around your way.

Wednesday, 8 April 2009

RETURN TO RAINE'S LANDING

Louise and I just had house guests over the weekend, the terrific vampire writer Nancy Kilpatrick and her partner Hugues over from Montreal for a week's visit to Merrie England. Nancy spent half her time trawling around London's more interesting cemeteries ... looking for vampires, I'd presume! Otherwise, it was a real pleasure to have them here. But now it's back to work.

And that means Raine's Landing Book #3 -- 'Midnight's Angels.' I'd love to tell you more about it, but that would involve giving away too many details about Book #2, 'Night of Demons,' which isn't even out until November. Suffice to say that by Book #3, a lot of characters that you've been introduced to are encountering a string of 'problems.' Cassie's not her normal self. And Lieutenant Saul Hobart is decidedly not well. More headaches and trouble for our brave and even-headed hero Ross Devries to put right. But that's what heroes are for, isn't it? Although ... Ross would never admit he is one.

This blog is now linked to SF Site, by the way. Thanks, Rodger! And for the last couple of months, the news page on my website was down. It's now up and fully functioning. Oh, and there's more news about 'Dark Rain' currently up on the Eos Blog.(*Photograph copyright (c) Tony Richards 2009.)

Thursday, 26 March 2009

ARE BOOKS LIKE A GLACIER GLOBAL DUMBENING MIGHT MELT?

I recently put this piece on my Wonderlands blog, and it aroused a good amount of lively comment. So I thought I'd post it here as well:

In the most recent issue of Cemetery Dance magazine, British horror editor Stephen Jones repeats his assertion that 'almost no one reads books any more.' In fact, he repeats it at length, opining that, because of competition from the visual media, mass market books will go 'the way of the vinyl record,' reading will revert to being 'a gentleman's pursuit,' and there'll only be the independent presses left to pander to it.

Now, I've known Steve for more than twenty years. He generally goes in with both guns blazing on most issues, which is one of his strengths. And he's right to be concerned about the state of modern culture. But I think he's over-shot the mark this time. Except he's not alone in that. I've been hearing almost all my adult life how movies, TV, and now computers are going to leave us with a world where no one bothers to pick up a paperback any more. Which, I think, is to ignore some basic facts. Let's look at this calmly for a moment.

FILM has been around as a very popular form of mass entertainment since the early Thirties, almost ninety years by now. And there's no sign yet of Barnes & Noble closing down because of it. Yes, film plus TV -- namely videos and DVDs -- has made some inroads into people's reading habits. But on the whole, films and books have enjoyed a reasonably cosy symbiosis. How many people, for instance, will read The Kite Runner because they saw the movie first. On a personal level, I might never have read a word by John O'Brien -- a superbly powerful author -- if I hadn't been to see the movie of Leaving Las Vegas. Films, then, do not seem to be the problem you might first suppose. It only takes a couple of hours to watch a movie, after all. Plenty of time left for reading.

TELEVISION has undoubtedly made inroads into reading habits ... no slightest question of it. But as badly as some people would have us believe? It hasn't been around as long as movies, but it has been around since the Fifties. Barnes & Noble is still there. And remains there despite the fact that several generations -- including my own -- have grown up being suckled at the glass teat. I'd suggest the following. That whatever damage TV might have done is, well, done. We've seen most of the worst of it. And the figures seem to bear this out. Ask any US mass market editor, and you'll be told that the numbers of people who read dropped about a decade ago, but then levelled out. Reading has not, in other words, gone into freefall becase of the boob tube. I'd suggest something else as well -- that, although there are some good shows out there, so much TV these days is cheap 'reality,' 'talent,' or 'celebrity' junk that the only people who'd watch it non-stop are the type who have only a 50-50 chance of holding a book the right way up in the first place.

COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY falls into two basic areas, the INTERNET and VIDEO GAMES. And I do concede that there's cause for concern here. Both activities are obsessive and time consuming. Neither activity taxes the more intellectual part of the mind, the part you need for reading. But even to this dark cloud there remains a silver lining, namely the large sections of the Internet given over to books and reading. There are publishers out there on the web, booksellers, review sites, online magazines and novels, readers' social sites like Library Thing and Goodreads (not to mention this one), hundreds of sites given over to matters relating -- especially -- to fantasy fiction. And that's not even mentioning the thousands of blogs written by avid readers, some of whose book consumption is truly phenomenal. All of which provides some kind of counterbalance to the guys out there playing Grand Theft Auto over and over again (and who I hope stay put behind their PCs, because I don't relish the idea of meeting them in any dark alley).

The fact is, every time that I get on a Tube train -- that's a subway train to most of you -- every time I go on a beach or sit beside a swimming pool, I'm surrounded by people who are not only reading books, but a wide variety of different ones. And therein I think lies the real problem. It's not that people do not want to read ... it's that the pace of modern life leaves them with little time to do so. When they get a chance to devour a novel -- commuting, or on vacation -- they tend to grab it with both hands. Which gives me hope. What do you think? Why not enter the poll at the top of this page, although I'd welcome longer opinions as well.

RAINE'S RAVES

 Here are some reactions to 'Dark Rain,' both from reviewers and general readers. An appropriate click will get you the complete review.

"This is a modern day Gothic urban fantasy that mesmerizes the audience into a one-sitting read. An exhilarating dark thriller" -- Harriet Klausner.

"A tense, thrilling story. The ending practically says 'Sequel on the way!' and I certainly hope that's true because there would seem to be much more to the story of Ross Devries and the others, and I know readers are going to want to see it" -- Toni V. Sweeney.

"What a fascinating book! Builds to a really pageturning ending, one that I couldn't stop reading. Bravo to Mr. Richards! Now where's the next volume?" -- Kathy.

"Raine's Landing is a place of magic, and it's one that instantly sucks you into its wild heart" -- Marie O'Regan, Total Sci Fi.

"A great read! Richards is a great writer, and I can't wait to read more by this author" -- Sarah.

"Gripping tale. I could not put the book down. I hope there will be a sequel" -- D.

"It's got magic, mystery and mayhem, with a cool noir feel" -- i-Newswire.

"An innovative, compelling novel of dark fantasy. I recommend it" -- Margaret L. Carter.

"It will keep you on the edge of your seat. A definite must read for those into dark fantasy, paranormal fiction, or just a good book" -- Colleen Cahill, SF Revu.

"The narrative is never less than compelling as it hurtles towards a resolution. All that remains is to wait patiently for the sequel and find out what else Richards has in store for us" -- Peter Tennant, Black Static.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

MO' GARDOT

As a footnote to the LADY SINGS posting below, I opened my copy of the Observer -- one of the UK's leading Sunday broadsheets -- today to find a large advert in it for Gardot's latest album, 'My One and Only Thrill'. And according to a friend, there's a piece on her as well in London's top listings magazine Time Out. A year ago, I hadn't even heard of her. As for you, dear reader? Remember where you heard about her first.

ON LINE

Raine's Landing might be an old-fashioned kind of town, with very little in the way of computers. But I don't live in such a place, and neither does anyone else much in the Western world (the rest of the world soon?) these days. And so I've just claimed a page on the HorrorWorld site. And I've joined the relatively new fantasy social site Wonderlands, and immediately got some replies. What friendly people!

Saturday, 14 March 2009

LADY SINGS ... WONDERFULLY!


Went out last week -- with my old friend music writer Andy Snipper -- to see Philly-born jazz/blues songstress Melody Gardot, the second time I've attended one of her performances in less than a year. And it might seem unusual for an American singer to visit our shores so frequently, but Ms. Gardot -- who has a very interesting background --lives in Paris these days. So hopefully, we will be seeing a whole lot more of her during the next few years. That's great news for fans of real music and real talent, rather than the manufactured garbage that gets thrust on us so much these days via The X Factor and similar shows.

The first time I saw her, at the Bloomsbury Theatre, she performed with a three-piece backing band in front of an audience that had struggled in despite a Tube strike taking place that day, and was so brilliant she brought the house down. On this occasion she was at the Union Chapel, N1, a stunningly beautiful church in Islington which continues to hold Sunday worship, but which doubles as a music venue during the less Godly days of the week. It wasn't quite as great a show as the previous one. This time, along with the jazzmen, Gardot was backed up by an eight-piece string section, and the formality of that arrangement hampered her a little. But make no mistake, she is a terrific singer, with the lyricism of a Julie London and the fire and passion, when needed, of a Peggy Lee. And she's no mean songwriter either. If you get the chance to check her out, then take it. And in the meantime, here is Andy's review of the evening's performance for Music-News.com. (*The album cover displayed is from Wikipedia, and appears here under the Fair Use rule.)

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

THE DEMONS ARE COMING


I've just got the final confirmation from my editor -- Diana Gill at Eos -- that Raine's Landing Book #2, 'Night of Demons', is good to go. In fact, that was pretty much a foregone conclusion, since I've already seen the back cover blurb and the front cover artwork. And the latter is brilliant, so very good that I can't wait to post it on this blog. I'll have to wait, though. Publishing can be a slow business, and all kinds of people have to give the nod to things like covers before they are finalised. But as soon as I can, I'll share it with you.

I can't tell you too much, either, about the plot of 'Night of Demons'. But suffice to say it continues the story of Ross and Cassie, introducing a lot of previously unknown detail about Cass's troubled past. It brings in several brand-new characters I personally like a lot, as well as fleshing out some who only got the briefest mention in Book #1. And there's a spectacularly nasty and murderous new villain, with a good sized repertoire of unpleasant tricks up his sleeve, for our heroes to face down. The book will be out in November of this year.

Saturday, 21 February 2009

I'VE BEEN WIKI-ED

In earlier days, when I needed to do some research, I'd drag my shoes on and walk down to the local library to rummage through the reference section there. But for a good while now, my shoes have needed re-soling much less than they used to. I've used Wikipedia for everything from the mythology behind Manitous (Saruak in Dark Rain) to the likelihood of there being a Jewish family in Massachusetts in the Sixteen Hundreds (Judge Samuel Levin in the same book). Additionally, there are dozens of links to the great online reference tome on this very blog. And now there's a brand-new entry ... Tony Richards (author). Ah, true fame at last!

Thursday, 19 February 2009

SKETCHES OF SPAIN


No, this isn't another entry wholly about movies, although it is inspired by one. Went to see the latest Woody Allen last night. And thank heavens, after the disasters of Match Point and Scoop, the Grand Chief Nebbish has stopped setting his films in London ... my home city, sadly, doesn't seem to inspire him in quite the right way. Vicky Cristina Barcelona marks a partial return to form. It's nothing like his greatest hits -- but hey, the guy is in his seventies by now -- and is structured rather more like a short story than a movie, which might be intentional. But it's beautifully filmed and acted and enjoyable to watch, a meditation on the old Chinese curse 'may you live through interesting times' viewed through the medium of (what else?) tangled interpersonal relationships.

But the real point is this. The film is largely set in two Spanish cities, Barcelona, which I've visited and set fiction in, and Oviedo, which I haven't yet, although having watched this movie I plan to change that as soon as possible. People tend to think of Spain merely in terms of its beach resorts, the costas, with their massive commercialism and their pandering to British diets/drinking habits. But the fact is, get away from these artificial constructs (which the Spanish don't even regard as a genuine part of their nation) and you'll find yourself in one of the most unique countries in Europe, with amazing architecture, great food and wine, terrific culture and an enviable lifestyle built around staying up half the night and enjoying yourself amongst friends ... and that's the case if you're seventeen or seventy. I know people in several cities out there, and have been lucky enough to visit (several times in some cases) Madrid, Seville, Valencia, Bilbao, Granada, Toledo, Segovia, Cordoba, Tarragona, the astonishing Salamanca, and the aforementioned and utterly wonderful Barcelona. If all you've ever done out there is fried on a beach then, believe me, you don't know what you're missing. If there are any other Hispanophiles out there, why not drop in with your thoughts? (The accompanying photo -- mine -- is of the Gaudi House in Barcelona, and there are plenty more from all around the world in the photo gallery on my official website.)

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

BLACK STATIC


I've contributed more than a few short stories to first the excellent, groundbreaking The Third Alternative, and then to its new incarnation Black Static, the UK's leading dark fantasy magazine. But in Issue #9 of the latter, I have the honour of being the Featured Author, with reviews of both the first Raine's Landing novel, 'Dark Rain', and my collection 'Shadows and Other Tales', plus a lengthy interview ... I just can't stop my lip from flapping sometimes ... with the magazine's reviews editor, Peter Tennant. If you haven't yet come across this superb publication, at least give it a look. The links are right here. And I know that times are tough at the moment. But where else can you get so much entertainment for so little money? If you're into dark and supernatural fiction, a magazine like this one deserves your support. (The cover of Black Static #9 is reproduced here by kind permission of TTA Press).
Oh, and news about all this has just been posted on the Eos Blog.