Category Archives: Fiction

Ray Connolly – Sorry, Boys, You Failed The Audition

Ray Connolly – Malignon £7.95 “I’d like to say Thank You on behalf of the group and ourselves and I hope we’ve passed the audition.” John Lennon on the roof of the Apple Building on January 30th 1969 at the end of the last public Beatles performance. It had been the Greatest Show on Earth, but what if it hadn’t happened? What if the Beatles had not passed the vital 1962 audition with George Martin at Parlophone which got them their recording deal? As well as being a friend of the Beatles, Ray Connolly is exactly contemporary with them, and comes from the same part of the world. He has … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Randy Ross – God Bless Cambodia

A man can travel well and he can travel badly*. The hero of Randy Ross’s God Bless Cambodia is on the ‘badly’ end of the scale. At 48 Randy Burns is tired of ‘the miserable game’ (dating). He has been laid off from his job. His friends are getting paired up and unavailable to him. And then in a bookshop he comes across a travel guide that promises marvels and delights if he were to take a four month tour of the world on the cheap. It is lying. A succession of red-eye flights takes Randy through South America, Europe, Africa and the far east, searching for romance, but more … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction, Humour | Leave a comment

Grady Hendrix – Paperbacks From Hell

You might think it eccentric to speak of a golden age of satanic possession, murderous infants, flesh-eating crustaceans and Nazi leprechauns, but for enthusiasts of paperback horror novels, the 70’s and 80’s were the glory days.  This was a time of the most lurid nightmares spawned, it seemed, from the very bowels of Hell. This was a time when books were proud to be horror rather than ‘chiller’ or ‘thriller’, and when the word Satan on the cover was a guarantee of sales (even if there was nothing supernatural inside). Grady Hendrix has written a hugely entertaining history and celebration of this splendid time. We talked to Grady via skype from a restaurant kitchen in … Continue reading

Posted in Cultural History, Fiction, History, Humour | Leave a comment

Christopher Fowler – The Book of Forgotten Authors

Christopher Fowler is a good friend of this site, having appeared with us three times already. But then, he will keep writing books that we find irresistible. This time he has assembled an Aladdin’s Cave of writers who have been neglected in one way or another. Some of them have been completely forgotten, as the title suggests – Rosalind Erskine anybody? –  but then there are the writers whose names are familiar, but whose books we have forgotten to read – Ronald Firbank, Leslie Charteris? – or who have fallen out of favour (or print) – Dennis Wheatley, Sven Hassell, Barbara Pym? This is catnip to Tim. He dived into … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ben Aaronovich – The Furthest Station

You might think a man who had a couple of Dr Who serials under his belt (1980’s – the Sylvester McCoy era), might rest on his laurels, but like the rest of us Ben Aaronovitch has a living to make. Ben has a solid CV of writing for television and TV spinoffs, but he has recently been making serious waves with his series of supernatural police procedural novels and graphic novels, starting in 2011 with Rivers Of London. He allows that the success of these Peter Grant books has considerably exceeded his expectations. But we’re not surprised. There is always room for well-written, funny, urban fantasy, right?. We met Ben … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction, Humour | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Tim Haigh – Z is for Zeugma

“Since his death in 1960, Timothy J Haigh has been widely recognised as the least gifted of the great mystery novelists of the golden age of travel writing…” So begins the introduction to Z is for Zeugma. Yes, Tim has killed himself off for fun. Switching chairs for the purpose, he finds himself as interviewee rather than -er, for this playful little book. John Mindlin is obliged to step and ask the questions just this once. In this not-really-a-novel-at-all Tim gives free rein to his propensity for embracing any joke that occurs to him in a loose narrative that sends up every cliché of crime writing, and quite a lot … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction, Humour | Leave a comment

Lawrence Block – The Girl With The Deep Blue Eyes

We last spoke to the great American crime writer, Lawrence Block, nearly two years ago. Although Larry is one of the world’s great travelers – he has visited something like 135 different countries – he was at home in New York on this occasion, while we are in London, England. We toyed with the idea of going to the shore and rigging up a transatlantic telephone with two tin cans and a very long piece of string, but opted instead for the technological wizardry of Skype. The new book finds Larry very much on form: The Girl With The Deep Blue Eyes is a steamy noir thriller of sex and … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment

Mike Ripley – Angels And Others

I first met Mike Ripley at a beano in 1990 to celebrate Collins Crime Club, for which occasion a special collection of stories was published. I can prove my claim about my whereabouts on that nefarious occasion in 1990, and by way of evidence we present  Exhibit #1, the bloodied corpse of my contemporary account of the assembly of (literary) killers for Collins Crime Club. I barely escaped with my life! I still have that book (well, of course I do!), and it contains the story which was my first encounter with Fitzroy Maclean Angel. It says something about the story that I have a remarkably vivid recollection of it. … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Toby Litt – Lifelike

If your taste runs to the dead-pan, you could do worse than read Toby Litt. By turns funny, scabrous, touching, serious, playful and obsessive, his twelfth book, Life-like is presented with an absolutely straight face. How are you supposed to take this? Are you intended to laugh? Is it OK to be aroused? Does that passage really belong in this book? Toby never blinks. Toby’s interest in form and experimentation is well-established, and so this book is neither properly a novel nor a simple story collection, with the focus flying apart from the starting point of the marriage of Agatha and Paddy, with whom we are familiar from Toby’s eighth … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Christopher Fowler – Nyctophobia

Callie is a young woman with a bit of a past (and a mild case of nyctophobia), an adoring husband and a home filled with light … but where there is light there must also be darkness… Christopher Fowler made his name with chiller fiction, and Nyctophobia is a splendid return to the genre. It takes a gleeful inventory of the elements of the ghost story, and finds new ways to creep up on you, and most importantly of all – it is scary. Tim spent the night he read it nervously going round his house turning all the lights on. http://media.blubrry.com/timhaighreadsbooks/p/www.green-shoot.com/podcast/green-shoot_thebookspodcast_christopherfowler-nyctophobia.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download | EmbedSubscribe: … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Anne McCaffrey from the archive – Renegades of Pern

Anne McCaffrey was the first woman to win the prestigious Hugo award for science fiction, and also the first woman to win a Nebula award. In her Dragonriders of Pern series she created one of the great fantasy novels sequence. It comprises more than thirty novels, most of which include dragons, and is notable for pioneering the inclusion of strong and effective women in science fiction. Anne McCaffrey died in 2011 at the age of 85, but back in 1990 Tim had the great pleasure of meeting her to discuss the  fourteenth book in the series, Renegades of Pern. They got on like a house on fire.   http://media.blubrry.com/timhaighreadsbooks/p/www.green-shoot.com/podcast/green-shoot_thebookspodcast-archive-annemccafrey.mp3Podcast: Play … Continue reading

Posted in Archive, Fiction | Leave a comment

Margery Allingham’s Mr Campion’s Farewell: the Return of Albert Campion Completed by Mike Ripley

In Albert Campion, Margery Allingham created one of the timeless golden age detectives, often spoken of in the same breath as Lord Peter Wimsey and Inspector Alleyn. When she died in 1963 her husband and collaborator Philip Youngman Carter continued the series for two more books. A third was left incomplete. Well, we say incomplete. There was merely a fragment, four chapters kicking off a new Campion novel, but with no plot outline or notes for how it was supposed to continue. Mike Ripley made his name with the brilliant comedy thriller ‘Angel’ series. In 2012 the Margery Allingham Society asked him to finish the incomplete Campion book, which he … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment

Lawrence Block – The Burglar Who Counted the Spoons

Bernie Rhodenbarr is the owner of an antiquarian bookshop in New York City. He is best friends with a lesbian who owns the nearby dog grooming parlour, and they eat lunch together every day. He is nearly friends with the local cop, Ray Kirshman, who regards him as an unofficial consultant. But most of all, Bernie is a burglar. When a man named Smith comes into the store and asks him to steal an original manuscript of an F Scott Fitzgerald story, Bernie finds himself embroiled in a couple of tangled webs, which he is uniquely qualified to untangle. Lawrence Block is a past master at this kind of thing, … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment

Larry Watson – Let Him Go

“I’d follow you anywhere. If you don’t know that, what do you know?”. So says George to his wife Margaret as they journey, at her behest, to try and get back their grandson. In a beautiful and utterly memorable novel, Larry Watson takes us to the bleak and unforgiving landscape of the Badlands of North Dakota in 1951 and into the lives of complex and vivid characters. The book is the road trip and the confrontation at the end of it. It is a journey that Tim was thrilled to follow every step of the way. http://media.blubrry.com/timhaighreadsbooks/p/www.green-shoot.com/podcast/green-shoot_timhaighreadsbooks_larrywatson-lethimgo.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download | EmbedSubscribe: Android | Email | Google … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment

Iain Banks from the Archives

Yesterday, we heard the sad news of the death of Iain Banks at the unacceptably young age of 59. Iain was never the darling of the literary establishment, but he was the favourite author of hundreds of thousands of passionate readers, and Tim had rated him one of the best of his generation since his stunning debut with The Wasp Factory in 1984. In 1995 Tim interviewed Iain on the occasion of the publication of his fourteenth novel, Whit. Iain was unfailingly friendly and forthcoming whenever we asked for access to him. With grateful thanks to Iain for his kindness to this site, we present this slightly edited version of … Continue reading

Posted in Archive, Fiction, Religion | Leave a comment

Martin Amis from the Archive – London Fields

London Fields is in many ways the quintessential Martin Amis novel. At the end of the Twentieth century – ten years in the future when Tim interviewed him in 1989–there are looming portents of global catastrophe, which stand in for Amis’s fear of nuclear annihilation. There is sex, there is mystery, there are post-modern games with authorship, there are degenerate underclass characters, including one of Amis’s immortal creations in Keith Tallent, the would-be darts magus, and there are bucketloads of scabrous humour. But there is also tenderness and a heartfelt investment in children and the future. If Amis has never written anything better than London Fields since then, there is no shame … Continue reading

Posted in Archive, Fiction | Leave a comment

John Mortimer from the archive – Rumpole And The Angel Of Death

John Mortimer occupied positions at the very top of not one but two professions. He was a great writer – we need think no further than A Voyage Around My Father, and he was one of the most eminent barristers and QCs of his generation. The happy collision of these two strings to his bow was of course Rumpole of the Bailey, and in 1995 Tim had the pleasure of discussing with him the tenth collection of stories, Rumpole And The Angel Of Death. http://media.blubrry.com/timhaighreadsbooks/p/www.green-shoot.com/podcast/green-shoot_timhaighreadsbooks-archive-johnmortimer.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download | EmbedSubscribe: Android | Email | Google Podcasts | RSS | Subscribe BooksPodcast

Posted in Archive, Fiction | Leave a comment

Salman Rushdie from the archive – The Moor’s Last Sigh

Salman Rushdie is one of our most distinguished writers, having made a shattering entrance with Midnight’s Children (now coming out as a film). He ascended to an unwecome level of notoriety when The Satanic Verses provoked Ayatollah Khomeini to issue a fatwa against him. But despite the terrifying contingency into which his life was pitched, he continued to write novels of seething vitality and, in 1995, Tim spoke with him about one of these: The Moor’s Last Sigh. http://media.blubrry.com/timhaighreadsbooks/p/www.green-shoot.com/podcast/green-shoot_timhaighreadsbooks-archive-salmanrushdie.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download | EmbedSubscribe: Android | Email | Google Podcasts | RSS | Subscribe BooksPodcast

Posted in Archive, Fiction | Leave a comment

Terry Pratchett from the archive – Maskerade

Sir Terry Pratchett is a legend. The Discworld series set the gold standard for comic fantasy. Tim has been a fan since the very first book, and in this rare interview from 1995 he talked to Terry about the eighteenth Discworld book, Maskerade. Tim was delighted with the return of Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, but the book really takes off when Agnes Nitt decides that she wants to become a diva, and we are treated to the grand guignol Discworld take on the world of opera… http://media.blubrry.com/timhaighreadsbooks/p/www.green-shoot.com/podcast/green-shoot_timhaighreadsbooks-archive-terrypratchett.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download | EmbedSubscribe: Android | Email | Google Podcasts | RSS | Subscribe BooksPodcast

Posted in Archive, Fiction | Leave a comment

Iain M Banks – The Hydrogen Sonata

The Gzilt came close to being one of the founding civilisations of the Culture, but they have come to the point where they are ready to Sublime to the next level of existence. You might think that their minds would be on higher things, but there are still political shenanigans to stir the pudding before they’re ready for Nirvana. Not least, there is the vexed question of which of the competing scavenger species lays claim to the technology and territory the Gzilt are giving up. Iain M Banks thinks of the Culture as his virtual train set, which he periodically takes out to play with for another five hundred pages. … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment

Christopher Fowler – Bryant and May and the Invisible Code

A woman dies for no apparent reason in a church in Fleet Street. A pair of children were playing Witch-Hunter nearby and they placed a curse on her. This is meat and drink to Bryant and May, the superannuated detectives in Christopher Fowler’s entertaining series. Further equally inexplicable deaths follow, but the detectives are obliged to undertake a job for their political boss whose glamorous, foreign wife is showing increasing signs of instability. Christopher Fowler gained an enviable reputation as a writer of what he calls ‘dark fiction’ and his brilliant feel for the underside of life feeds in satisfyingly to his more recent persona as a writer of cheerful … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment

Larry Watson – American Boy

Larry Watson is better known in his native America than in the UK, but Tim has been a fan since Larry’s first novel Montana 1948. Eight novels have followed, each one telling a compelling story in Larry’s characteristic limpid prose. His new book, American Boy, is a luminous coming of age story set in the early 1962 when grown ups had the sex and the teenagers were envious of them, the exact reverse of the present day. Larry in Wisconsin and Tim in Finchley discussed the book via the magic of Skype. http://media.blubrry.com/timhaighreadsbooks/p/www.green-shoot.com/podcast/green-shoot_timhaighreadsbooks_larrywatson-americanboy.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download | EmbedSubscribe: Android | Email | Google Podcasts | RSS | … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment

Russell Hoban – Angelica Lost And Found

Russell Hoban defies comparison with other writers. There is nobody else writing books like his. If his readership is select, he is nonetheless one of those writers whose new book we read as a matter of course. You never know what you’re going to get, except that it will delight and tease and intrigue, and take you in unexpected directions. A Russell Hoban novel is mysterious. You will think you have got hold of it, and want to share it with your friends, and then when you try to pin it down and tell someone about it, you will find that its solidities and vivid themes have escaped you like … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment

Iain Banks – Surface Detail

Is Iain Banks our best novelist? If our criteria are muscular prose, brilliant plotting and an apparently effortless manipulation of character then he certainly has a claim. At any rate he is among our most entertaining, robust and inventive writers. On the occasion of the publication of his new science fiction novel, Surface Detail, he talked to Tim Haigh, discussing such questions as why advanced civilisations would create Hells, whether continuity of consciousness is necessary to personhood, and whether suffering and anguish have any significance in virtual reality, while not neglecting big explosions in space, laser cannons, artificial intelligences of dubious sanity and why spaceships ought to have extravagantly strange … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | 1 Comment

Iain Banks – Transition

Iain Banks is one of the most successful and productive British novelists of his generation; a writer of apparently boundless invention and self-confidence. Since 1984, with the publication of The Wasp Factory, he has reached a huge and devoted audience with his mainstream books and his series of science fiction novels. Tim met Iain Banks in a hotel room in Central London and set about the job of talking to him about the his writing, his career and in particular about his new novel, Transition; although before that he felt obliged to check that Iain was happy to be Scottish. http://media.blubrry.com/timhaighreadsbooks/p/www.green-shoot.com/podcast/green-shoot_timhaighreadsbooks_iainbankstransition.mp3Podcast: Play in new window | Download | EmbedSubscribe: Android … Continue reading

Posted in Fiction | Leave a comment