- Clair Lamb
September 2021 newsletter
Where has the year gone? In fact, where have the last 18 months gone, and do we get some kind of credit for them down the line? Because frankly, they weren’t up to very much, even if I did manage to finish off a passion project in the absence of anything else to do, of which more anon. So, God, if You’re listening, maybe You could see about tossing a few boons our way. Most of us have tried our best, but we’ve taken a few knocks, and we’re feeling a bit tender. Whatever You can do.
Oh, and thanks for giving us wine. That helped.
Anyway, if you, gentle readers, are looking for some distractions as autumn settles on the northern hemisphere, and temperatures hot up in the southern, I’ve done my best. Come, take my hand . . .
Okay, don’t then. I admit that was a bit weird.
October 12: THE NAMELESS ONES day in the US and Canada
Patience may not always seem like a virtue, especially if you’ve been waiting a while (we are but human), yet patient you lovely North Americans have been, and the wait is almost over: THE NAMELESS ONES will be available in the United States and Canada on Tuesday, October 12. Early reviews have been very kind, with a star from Publishers Weekly (“another intelligent and haunting nail-biter”) and praise from Booklist (“a joy to read”).
The independent booksellers I might have visited in a world without COVID-19 will have limited supplies of tote bags and a rather splendid signed playing card (joker, ahoy!) from the book’s fictional Casino Novákov. Also, the first 1,000 books will come with a specially numbered signed bookplate, so place your orders now to make sure you don’t miss out:
Centuries and Sleuths Bookstore, Forest Park, IL
Fireside Book Shop, Chagrin Falls, OH
Longfellow Books, Portland, ME
Murder on the Beach, Delray Beach, FL
Murder by the Book, Houston, TX
The Mysterious Bookshop, New York, NY
Once Upon a Crime, Minneapolis, MN
The Poisoned Pen, Scottsdale, AZ
VJ Books, Tualatin, OR (online only)
And now for something completely different: SHADOW VOICES
This year’s second book is something unusual, and really does qualify as a labor of love. In fact, it nearly broke me, as love will sometimes do. SHADOW VOICES, all 1,100 pages of it, was conceived out of a passion for genre writing, but also from a frustration with the manner in which some writers and critics continue to discount it as inconsequential, or at best a poor relation of literary fiction. (And Ireland, for very particular reasons, possesses a persistent and vocal critical rump with what is, at best, a deeply regressive attitude to genre.)
This, I have long felt, is a misrepresentation not only of genre literature, but also of the history of fiction itself. So I’ve tried to set out the case for genre writing in all its variations, or as many of them as I could encompass, using Irish writers as a starting point because so many of them have been influential beyond their own shores. Perhaps the Shadow Voices jacket copy explains it best:
The story of genre fiction—horror, romantic fiction, science-fiction, crime writing, and more—is also the story of Irish fiction. Irish writers have given the world Lemuel Gulliver, Dracula, and the world of Narnia. They have produced pioneering tales of detection, terrifying ghost stories, and ground-breaking women’s popular fiction.
Now, for the first time, one volume presents a history of Irish genre writing and uses it to explore how we think about fiction itself. What do we mean when we talk about “genre”? What is a “classic,” and when did we first begin to think about books in that way? Where does the term “bestseller” come from? Why is women’s writing so integral to genre writing, yet so easily and frequently dismissed? And why, after more than three centuries of fiction in English, are we still arguing about the value of genre literature?
Deeply researched, and passionately argued, SHADOW VOICES takes the lives of more than sixty writers—by turns tragic, amusing, and adventurous, but always extraordinary—and sets them alongside the stories they have written, to create a new way of looking at genre and literature, both Irish and beyond. Here are vampires and monsters, murderers and cannibals. Here are female criminal masterminds and dogged detectives, star-crossed lovers and vengeful spouses.
Here are the Shadow Voices.
More than a quarter of the book consists of my own general introduction and essays, some of which are longer than the stories themselves. (If you’ve read “I Live Here” in NIGHT MUSIC, you’ll have some idea of the tone.) While they use Irish writers as a starting point—easy when one can draw on figures as diverse as Bram Stoker, James Joyce, C.S. Lewis, and Maeve Binchy—many then veer into more general territory to discuss the origins of science fiction, the romantic novel, or the Gothic, as well as the development of publishing, the changing nature of physical books, and, most particularly, the role of women in fiction, both as writers and readers.
If this sounds like hard going, rest assured that it isn’t. In the general introduction I quote Sleary, the circus master from Dickens’s Hard Times. “People,” says Sleary, “must be amused,” and SHADOW VOICES, like genre fiction itself, places a premium on entertaining the reader. When I describe it as a “history in stories,” I’m referring not alone to the pieces of short fiction it contains, or even the lives of the writers themselves, but also to how the book is constructed. I have no shame or ambivalence about storytelling—I wouldn’t be a novelist otherwise—and SHADOW VOICES tries to tell the story of genre fiction in a way of which I hope Sleary might have approved.
Because of the size of the book, and the time of year in which it is being published (booksellers find their storerooms packed with books coming up to Christmas), the first printing will be quite small, the smallest of any book I’ve published with Hodder, and all copies will be signed, so it is effectively a limited edition. But the first thousand—essentially the pre-orders from the lovely, supportive booksellers below—will come with something a bit special: a SHADOW VOICES tote bag adorned with replica signatures of some of the authors, and a little SHADOW VOICES envelope of ephemera related to the book.
With the easing of COVID restrictions, it may even be possible to have an event or two for the book, but for now I’m going to hope for the best while preparing for the worst, hence the links below for those who’d like to be assured of nabbing one of the special copies.
For the present, I hope you enjoy SHADOW VOICES. As a taster, here’s the entry on one of the greatest, and most distinctive, Irish writers of supernatural fiction, Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), followed by one of his stories.
You can preorder SHADOW VOICES from these booksellers, and they will all have totes/envelopes for early orders. More stores may come on board, as long as the stock of special stuff lasts—which won’t be for very long, I should imagine; as they do, we will add them to the website and share that information on Facebook and Twitter.
· Alan Hanna's Bookshop, Dublin
· Bookstation, stores throughout Ireland
· Bridge Books, Dromore (email@example.com or via Twitter @BridgeBooksDro1)
· Dubray Books, stores throughout Ireland
· Goldsboro Books, London
· The Gutter Bookshop, Dublin
· Kennys, Galway
· No Alibis, Belfast
· O'Mahony's Books, Limerick
Campaign for world domination/possibly benign despotism continues
Spanish-language readers can now buy ANTIGUA SANGRE, the translation of A BOOK OF BONES, from their local retailer or directly from the publisher, Tusquets Editores.
IL LIBRO DI OSSA, the Italian translation of A BOOK OF BONES, goes on sale on September 16th from Fanucci TimeCrime.
Presses de la Cité, my French publishers, will release the translation of THE WOMAN IN THE WOODS, in February 2022. That’s a bit later than we’d hoped for, et je vous remercie de votre patience.
A surprising number of people have been asking whether THE DIRTY SOUTH was the final Charlie Parker novel — or indeed, whether A BOOK OF BONES was, since THE DIRTY SOUTH is a flashback to a much younger Parker. I hope nothing I’ve said has caused any confusion about this, but let me reassure anyone who was worried: the Charlie Parker book for 2022 is finished and in its publishers’ queues, and I’ve begun work on the Parker book for 2023. We’re not done with each other yet, I hope.
Meanwhile, the slow progress of Parker to the small screen continues. I spoke a little about to Pat Carty of Hot Press in this interview, but can say no more. We live in hope . . .
Finally, my weekly radio show, ABC to XTC, continues to stream every Saturday at 5:00 p.m. Dublin time on RTÉ Gold, and is available for playback via the RTÉ mobile app. I’m still trying to limit my online time, but you can find me on Twitter @jconnollybooks, and Minion Clair posts the latest news to the official Facebook page.
Thank you, as always, for your support.