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review 2018-07-11 10:54
"Full Dark House - Bryant & May #1" by Christopher Fowler - DNF - reluctantly abandoned at 37%
Full Dark House - Christopher Fowler

The premise behind this book was intriguing: a Peculiar Crimes Unit, set up during the Blitz quietly to handle crimes that might undermine civilian morale, leaving lots of room for Mulder-meets-British-stiff-upper-lip humour.


The Unit is led by Bryant: an eccentric, ostentatiously intuitive, tactless, scarf-wearing, driven twenty-two-year-old who is more comfortable with exotic books than with ordinary people. His newly-hired first-day-on-the-job side-kick is the enthusiastic, scientifically-minded, charming, good-looking nineteen-year-old May, brought in as a detective despite his lack of experience because all the experienced people have left to fight the Germans.


The overall effect was that of a frenetic young "Dr Who" meeting "Endeavour".

I liked the spirit of it. It would make great television. It didn't hold my attention as a book.


The opening, in London in the 1990s when Bryant and May are still serving officers although they are both beyond the normal retirement age, didn't quite work for me. It asked me to care too much about characters I'd barely met. I had no context and so didn't get the emotional impact of the devastating fire-bomb.


Once the story flipped to London during the Blitz it hit its stride. The writing was strong on visuals, a little predictable on dialogue and way out there on the weirdness of plot.


The problem I had was that this retrospective visit to London felt a little too cosy and too nostalgic, a feeling that was amplified by the "Mystique of the Theatre" riff. The murder was surprisingly gruesome but carried little emotional impact.


I abandoned the book when my irritation with the changing points of view, sliding timelines and self-consciously look-how-clever-but-quaint-we-were-back-then technology innovations overwhelmed my interest in who had what to whom and why.


I'm sure many people will enjoy this. Maybe I'd have ridden with it more easily if there was an all-cast audio version but the text by itself didn't hold me.

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text 2018-07-09 22:38
Reading progress update: I've read 15% and it's getting there after a slow start
Full Dark House - Christopher Fowler

I think this has the makings of a good retro series. The opening didn't quite work for me as it asked me to care too much about characters I'd barely met.


Once it went back in time to London during the Blitz it hit its stride. 


The writing is strong on visuals, a little predictable on dialogue and way out there on weirdness of plot.


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review 2017-12-03 15:38
Im abgefahrenen Horror-Zug
Der Höllenexpress - Horror-Roman: Spannung, Abenteuer, Fantasy (German Edition) - LUZIFER-Verlag,Christopher Fowler,Stefan Mommertz

Eine Zugreise in Osteuropa während des ersten 1. Weltkriegs. Vier Passagiere steigen in einem Zug um den herannahenden Truppen zu entgehen. Doch sie ahnen nicht, dass auf dieser Reise der Horror erst seinen Anfang nimmt. 

Es handelt sich um einen Horror-Roman, der die typischen Filmelemente des Genres zu einer abgefahrenen Reise vermischt. Christopher Fowler spielt mit sämtlichen Elementen, die man aus Filmen kennt. Er nimmt eine Prise Dracula, mischt menschenfressende Käfer dazu, lässt Geister auferstehen und stiehlt mit einem Grinsen dem Teufel den Kochlöffel aus der Hand.

Die Rahmenhandlung ist in der Blütezeit der klassischen Horrorfilme angesiedelt. Ein Drehbuchautor stellt sich bei den Hammer-Film-Studios vor und wird aufgefordert, einen neuen Film zu schreiben. In diesem Abschnitt erlebt die Welt der alten Horrorfilme eine Wiedergeburt. Man sieht, wie Filmkulissen kreiert und umgestaltet werden, erfährt, wie in den 1960er-Jahren Schauspieler und Filmschaffende familiär zusammengearbeitet haben, und wie sich der Horror-Film langsam schon schwer getan hat, weil es an frischen Ideen gemangelt hat.

Kernstück der Handlung ist natürlich das Drehbuch, also die Fahrt im Höllenexpress. Hier steigen vier Passagiere in das dampfende Ungetüm ein, weil sie sich vor Soldaten retten wollen. 

Isabella ist eine osteuropäische Schönheit vom Land, die vom britischen Gentlemen und Abenteurer Nicholas errettet wird. Thomas wird von seiner herrschsüchtigen Frau Miranda - die sich von ihrem Eheleben mehr als die Tristesse an der Seite eines Pfarrers erträumte - in den Zug geschleift, wodurch alle auf der gleichen Reise sind, die in den Schlund der Hölle führen wird.

Diese Reise ist von altbekannten Monstern, schaurigen Käfern und einer ausweglosen Situation geprägt. Das Mysterium des Zuges schlägt zu. Die Passagiere können nicht entkommen. Und der Zugführer zeigt sich an deren Elend nur leidlich interessiert.

„… das hier ist mehr als ein Zug. Es ist eine Sammlung von Schrecken, die sich bis in die Unendlichkeit entfalten können.“ (S. 85)

Durch das Aufflammen klassischer Horror-Elemente hat mir die Reise sehr großen Spaß gemacht. Der Stil und die Handlung ist an die alten Horror-Klassiker aus der Filmwelt angelehnt und ich habe mich ausgezeichnet unterhalten gefühlt. Es dauert bis die Passagiere ihre Misere begreifen, bis sie das Geschehen verarbeitet haben und man weiß beim Lesen, dass wohl bald Endstation ist. 

„Der Höllenexpress“ ist ein wahnsinnig unterhaltsames Werk, das durch das hohe Tempo und seine horrormäßigen Figuren brilliert. Christopher Fowler hat sich mit seinem „Der Höllenexpress“ von der Masse abgehoben und die Zugfahrt hat mir sehr großen Spaß gemacht!

Wer also alte Filme und Monster mag, sich auf eine abgefahrene Reise begeben will und keine Angst vor Ekelszenen hat, sollte den nächsten Zug nehmen. Es ist eine Fahrt, die man nicht so schnell vergessen wird.

Source: zeit-fuer-neue-genres.blogspot.co.at
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text 2017-11-26 12:48
16 Tasks of the Festive Season - Square 10: Pancha Ganapati
The Invention of Nature: Alexander von Humboldt's New World - Andrea Wulf
A Is for Arsenic: The Poisons of Agatha Christie - Kathryn Harkup
William Pitt the Younger: A Biography - William Hague
Metamorphoses - Denis Feeney,Ovid,David Raeburn
The Daughter of Time - Josephine Tey
Treffpunkt im Unendlichen. - Klaus Mann
Making History - Stephen Fry
Gilded Needles (Valancourt 20th Century Classics) - Christopher Fowler,Michael McDowell,Mike Mignola
Risiko: Roman - Steffen Kopetzky

Tasks for Pancha Ganapati: Post about your 5 favourite books this year and why you appreciated them so much. –OR– Take a shelfie / stack picture of the above-mentioned 5 favorite books.  (Feel free to combine these tasks into 1!


Inspired by Murder by Death's post this morning, I've pondered over my morning coffe which reads qualify as myfavourite books this year. Although there is still time for a truly great read to come up in the next month (I am looking at you, Winter by Ali Smith), below is my list of 5 (or, erm, 6) favourite books of 2017 (I have not considered re-reads for this, btw.):


The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf.

Although, I knew of Humboldt (and his brother), I had no idea of the extent of his influence on the sciences and of the adventures he went on to gain the deep understanding of the world that he did. I am still amazed at both. I am still amazed at the difficulties he faced. I am still amazed at everything I learned about his and his times from Wulf's extraordinary book. 


A is for Arsenic by Kathryn Harkup.

I love the works of Agatha Christie and I also love a good bit of science mixed with history - and this book had all of it. What is more, I particularly enjoyed how this book started a discussion with my mom (a retired chemical engineer) about all things chemistry and how scientific discovery changed crime fiction. For that alone, this book deserves 5 stars.


William Pitt the Younger by William Hague. 

One of the biggest surprises this year, not because of the subject (Pitt had been on my radar for quite some time) but because of the author. What I learned from Mr Hague's excellent account of Mr Pitt and the political landscape of Georgian Britain is that I may not agree with the author on everything (especially political outlook) but that this doesn't lessen my appreciation for the excellent work he has produced with this book. The sheer amount of research that must have gone into this is staggering. 


Metamorphoses by Ovid (tr. by David Raeburn)

This is the book that has taken me longest to read this year, but it is a book that demands a slow and deliberate read. Becoming reacquainted with the myths and legends of Ancient Greece and Rome has brought home how far we've come as a society, how much we still face the same issues, and how much I miss reading the "classics". 


The Daughter of Time by Josephine Tey.

As it turns out, my 2017 seemed to be geared towards a history side - and I loved it - with a mix of murder mystery thrown in for balance. Tey's book takes both and showed how a good "vintage" mystery can actually take a serious turn. Tey loved history and it shows when she used her laid-up Inspector to investigate not just the murder of the Princes in the Tower, but also how history itself is subjective and prone to be re-written for the benefit of propaganda ... and how easy it is to fall in line believing anything by virtue of it being repeated as truth over and over. 

A timely read for 2017.


Treffpunkt im Unendlichen by Klaus Mann.

I've been a fan of Klaus Mann's for a while, and in this book he shows how spot on his powers of observations were when he wrote about the times he lived in. Treffpunkt is one of the best books I have read to bring to life the Lost Generation in the late 1920s / early 1930s. Loved it.




Of course, there are some honourable mentions too:


Making History by Stephen Fry. 


Gilded Needles by Micheal McDowell (I'm still in love with basically every single book of McDowell's that has crossed my path.)


Risiko by Steffen Kopetzky 



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review 2017-10-18 14:50
The Book of Forgotten Authors - Christopher Fowler,Christopher Fowler,riverrun

This book is a bibliophile’s dream. It is a cornucopia of potential hidden gems ripe for re-discovery. There are authors you will have heard of, surprise inclusions that make sense when you read about the wealth of writing they are no longer associated with. There are those authors who you will never have heard of, with none of their titles ringing any bookish bells, overshadowed perhaps by far more famous contemporaries. Then there will be those that will surprise because whilst the author’s name may have slipped from the collective memory their stories are household names.


It is extremely easy to read. The short, two to three page chapters dedicated to each of the 99 authors, interspersed with essays, mean that the reader can soon find themselves 10 or 15 authors in. It is a book that you can dip in and out of, oftentimes having to be put down so that the reader can research the books of an author they have just read about.


There are so many authors in the novel whose work sounds so appealing that I’ve had to create a list of those I want to read. In fact, this book arrived the day after I bought a copy of Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, who’s author, Winifred Watson, features in The Book of Forgotten Authors. I stopped reading the later to pick up the former, and fell in love with the tale of a down at heel governess and her new accidental friends (but that’s another story). Having had the feeling that I will discover some new favourites by reading some of these forgotten authors already validated I can’t wait to discover more.

Christopher Fowler writes in an engaging, informative and fun style, one which draws the reader completely into the lives of the writer whose life’s work is summed up in a few pages. His love and passion for literature shines through, making the book the more entertaining for it.


This look at forgotten authors is of course subjective. There were over 400 discovered by Christopher Fowler, condensed to just 99. There may have been many others in the remaining 301 that someone else would have held in higher regard. There are some of the authors selected whose work I know I will probably not enjoy but others whose novels I know will fit perfectly with my bookish bent. Don’t be disheartened if not all of the authors appeal, the other benefit to this book is that you will find an author to re-discover just as much as you’ll find an author that won’t be gracing your bookshelves.

This is a brilliant reference book but is also a look at the vagrancies of the novel, the fads and fashions of different periods in history. Hugely popular authors have now vanished from the reading public’s conscious. This book will open the doors to a wonderful array of authors whose novels are waiting patiently to be read again.


Luckily some publishers are realising the joy to be found in older titles, with Persephone and the British Library being at least two who are re-publishing long forgotten favourites.

An informative reference guide but also an ode to the lost authors of bygone eras, The Book of Forgotten Authors is an entertaining look at the world of writing. It should perhaps come with a warning – this book will cost you a pretty penny in new to you titles you find you simply must have.

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