Thursday, 25 December 2014

So, who were we?

Three Seasons is a book of three novellas, unconnected with each other, but all set in the south of England in the 1980s. It is about the Margaret Thatcher era in Britain, but it is not about politics. These three stories are portraits of a country and its people on the verge of change.

The 1980s were divisive in Britain and remain so in retrospect. The culture wars they left simmering below the surface broke out again when Margaret Thatcher died in 2013; debate on her legacy was spiteful on both sides. I gave my own view on this blog at the time (Thatcher: An Unintended Transformation, April 10 2013); I believe that she profoundly failed in what she set out to achieve. But politicians and the things they do are only part of what defines us. They are not even the most interesting part. Who, really, were we in the 1980s?

I went abroad in 1987, but over the next two years I wrote three novellas, each of about 25,000 words, that were vignettes of the country I’d left. Each of the three novellas looks at different types of people, with distinct roles that changed during that unsettling decade. In Spring, a middle-aged Hull trawler skipper, his great days gone, has one last throw of the dice in a South Coast port. In Summer, an ambitious young man makes his way in the booming Thames Valley property market, unconcerned with the damage he does to others. Finally, in Autumn, the Master of an Oxford college welcomes his two sons home, but they awake difficult memories from half a century before. 

Spring had its roots in the job I had been doing before I left. From 1985 to 1987 I was a reporter and general editorial hand on Fishing News, the weekly magazine for the fishing industry. I mostly edited stories, laid out pages and covered smaller stories on the phone, but now and then drove to ports in southern England to do interviews and take photographs. The work was not well paid, but it was fascinating. The great days of the East Coast deep-water fleet had ended a decade or so earlier, but during my time at the paper a former Hull trawlerman took over as editor, a post he held until only a few years ago. He was good to work for, always encouraging, and ready to share his knowledge. Over beer in the City Pride pub next door to our London office, and on press-day journeys to the Nottingham Evening Post, where we did our final production, he told me a lot about the industry and how it had been to work in it. 

Spring is about a deep-sea skipper struggling to reinvent himself. But while skilled men like the fishermen in Spring struggled, a new class prospered. The Thatcher government’s assault on the old-boy networks in the City meant that working-class, or at least non-posh, Londoners could get on in the world of finance. Members of this new breed were rudely known as barrow-boys. That appellation was sheer class prejudice and was unpleasant. But it was true that there was a certain type of suit-on-the-make that seemed to do well from the 1980s onwards, not just in the City but in management consultancy, banking and, in particular, estate agency (real estate). This was the subject of Summer, and its hero Terry is, in a perverse way, one of my favourite creations.

At the start of Summer, Terry must deal with a knighted publishing grandee. This is the class that interested me in Autumn. Not aristocratic, perhaps; one might be the second son of the third son of a baronet; one’s sons attend a good middle-ranking public (private) school; professions may include stockbroker, diplomat, publisher, columnist, barrister or the Forces. In an earlier generation they might have included the Indian Civil Service. The Master in Autumn is typical of his class. Yet he sees his sons living in what appears to be a different world, and must make sense of them and who they are.

Like all fiction, Three Seasons will be a success only if it involves and moves the reader.  I hope it does. But for me there is a broader theme to these three stories. Three Seasons is about social change – the decline in skilled employment, the rise of the “barrow-boy”, the hollowing-out of institutions and their occupation by newcomers with different aims and different, or no, ideals. Much of this is associated with the 1980s. But people like Terry were not a product of Thatcher’s social engineering. His roots lie in the expansion of higher education some 20 years earlier. The neoliberal revolution of the 1980s did a lot to promote people like Terry. But Thatcher did not create him, or the fishermen, or the Master. They were formed by global change and the slow plate tectonics of the British class system.

Politics doesn’t usually create society. It reflects it. Politicians – even Margaret Thatcher – are a lot less important and interesting than they would have us believe. 

From reader reviews of Three Seasons

“The nuance and body that flavor this work, the depth conveyed in even a few short sentences, could only be written by a man who has lived a multitude of lives.”

“Mr. Robbins is an elegant writer who, should you give him a few quiet hours, will entertain you at an elevated level.

“In each story the author captures the ambience of the 80s brilliantly. The central characters were diverse, an elderly fisherman struggling to make a living around fishing quotas, a Yuppy fully embracing 'Its all about me & loadsamoney' culture and an academic from a privileged background. All expertly drawn and realistically flawed ...The combination of stories that span class distinctions give an excellent snapshot of Britain in the 1980s. The contradictions, unfairness, hypocrisy and sense of monumental change.”

“A great read, very quick but full of substance.”

“...running through the novellas are themes we have largely forgotten twenty-five years later; when speeding was policed by cops in cars rather than by ubiquitous speed cameras, when vinyl records were losing the battle against compact discs, when radiograms were being converted into drinks cabinets, and when people routinely lit up cigarettes in bars, restaurants, and buses.

“These are beautifully told stories with a very strong sense of place- it is easy to get lost in them.”

“I was immediately drawn to the characters: good people, bad people, but all the same people with their good and bad sides like in the real world. Robbin’s writing style is very engaging; his descriptions vivid, and I was able to picture the scenes.”

Three Seasons is available as an e-book or paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, iTunes, GooglePlay and other online retailers, and can also be ordered from your local bookshop (ISBN 978-0991437450). 

Requests for review copies should be sent to thirdrailbooks (at), or to the author.

Monday, 22 September 2014

People's Climate March, 2014

Sunday, September 21 2014 was an overcast, humid day, but that did not stop an estimated 270,000 mostly very cheerful people from marching (well, ambling) through New York City from 86th Street down to Midtown. There were speeches from the great and the good, of course, but everyone on that march was making a statement worth hearing. Here are a few of them.

 All pics © Mike Robbins 2014

Follow Mike Robbins on Twitter (mikerobbins19), on Facebook or on Goodreads
Mike Robbins's collection of travel writing, The Nine Horizons, was published in 2014 and is available as a paperback, as a Kindle download and in other eBook formats.

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Some summer reading

An Amsterdam assassin, a disturbed young Pole, Celts and Vikings, gay angels and vampires, an unhinged backpacker and a moving memoir of 9/11

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I’ve been reviewing quite a few books over the last three months. This has been partly for a review group on the readers’ website, the site that’s essential browsing for any self-respecting book nut. The books I’ve been reading do not, in the main, have well-known publishers behind them; they were published by smaller presses or independently, as many books now are.

It's summer. Read and keep cool (Pic: M.Robbins)
The recent explosion in independent publishing has been further encouraged by the shift to e-books, which are easy to produce. Inevitably, that means there’s now a lot of crap out there. But there are also some very good books indeed. The fact that they have not all found a conventional publisher is meaningless; it may be because they have no obvious genre or market, or because they are short novellas that can’t be sold for much. Moreover, at least two of the books reviewed below would have struggled to find publishers because the subject matter is challenging, or simply because a publisher would be bewildered by them.

Books from independents are also cheap to buy. For one of the books here, Cloud Storage, I got an electronic review copy from the author (US law quite properly requires that reviewers disclose this). For the others, I didn’t bother, as they were very inexpensive or even free.  Cloud Storage itself is currently available for Kindle for $2.99/£1.95 (and is also quite cheap as a paperback; $7.25, and under a fiver in the UK). Meanwhile, mainstream publishers persist in trying to sell e-books at prices comparable to paperbacks.

These books are the pick of those I’ve reviewed. They include a historical romance, a thriller, and speculative, literary and experimental fiction. One of them, Peter Jason Payne’s, has now been republished as part of a collection, Outlier. These are e-books, but several are also available as paperbacks. I've given links to the books' Amazon pages at the bottom of the post.

Reprobate: A Katla Novel (Amsterdam Assassin #1) Martyn V. Halm  A quiet afternoon in Amsterdam. A seedy, greedy dealer in Japanese artefacts opens his door to a young woman who asks to see some antique weapons. But the dealer has crossed the wrong people, and the customer is Katla, a professional killer. A few minutes later he has been neatly killed with one of his own swords. Katla is the reprobate of the title, and Reprobate starts the way it means to go on, with lots of blood.

Reprobate – the first of several Katla novels, the Amsterdam Assassin series – has three main protagonists. One is the Amsterdam office of the US Drug Enforcement Administration, which wants to know who is supplying heroin to American soldiers in Germany. The second protagonist is the Dutch biker gang responsible. The third is Katla. The bikers foil the DEA’s plans to entrap them in a welter of gore, courtesy of Katla. But then they double-cross her. This is a mistake. More gore ensues. The gore never quite gets gross, though. That it doesn’t is a tribute to the skill of Amsterdam-based thriller writer Martyn V. Halm, who does blood with a light touch and some fascinating background detail.

Reprobate is, in fact, an engaging read. This is partly due to Halm’s meticulous research into Katla’s killing techniques – and much else besides, including the locations, and Japanese customs that figure in the plot. But he’s also a fine plotsmith, creating interlocking components that never get out of place so that every unexpected twist in the plot seems, once revealed, to have been perfectly logical. This is a harder trick to pull off then it seems, and is the heart of a good thriller. Last but not least, Halm can create atmosphere. Thus, as the book opens, Katla is calmly planning her first murder of the book amid an utterly normal street scene, replete with locals on bikes, tourists, and the normal trappings of a working day.

If the book has a flaw, it’s Katla herself. She caught my interest, but not my sympathy; and many, though not all, readers need someone to root for in a book, otherwise it may leave them cold. In some ways this matters less with Reprobate, as Katla’s victims richly deserve their fate, and it’s quite fun watching them get skewered. Moreover Halm could (and I suspect would) argue that Katla is a fascinating study in amorality. She does show feeling for a lover in Reprobate, and it may be that her character is developed more in the later books.

No matter. Reprobate is good stuff – an intelligent, well-written thriller, tightly plotted, with well-drawn characters, good detail and the twists and turns that keep you reading.

Tackling The Imago Anyer Feanix  Meet Regina – Gina for short. And get to like her, because if you read Anyer Feanix’s Tackling the Imago, you’re going to get to know her better than you know most human beings. It’ll be hard work; but I found, in the end, that it was worth the effort.

Tackling the Imago is set in a provincial city in Poland in the mid-2000s. The country has just joined the European Union, and living and working abroad is starting to look more practical than it did. Gina has come to the university in the town to take a degree in English. She is highly intelligent, but lacks confidence. She is troubled by her difficult family background, with a father who abandoned her (or so she understands) and a mother who blames all her problems on Gina’s existence. And now Gina is about to become besotted with one of her lecturers, Daniel, a greying-fortyish type whose marital status is uncertain.

The book takes the form of Gina’s diary, which she writes in English. This is both the book’s strength and its weakness. Feanix has got into character in a big way. The writing is that of a young student who has an outstanding technical grasp of English but has not lived among native speakers. Sometimes this comes across through words that are correct but that would not really be used. “Sleepless nights shuffle out into darkness like chess pawns. In the quiescence of the passive city, lone, normally somnambulistic ideas bump into occasional binary systems and the tintinnabulation of their laughs... A susurration of snowflakes pellets my skin, perishing against the dying ember in their wafty ballet suicide.” This is what makes the book hard going sometimes. But it also makes Gina very real.

A pretentious student with a crush on a lecturer. In fact, for much of the first half of the book, I found I was wondering why I was supposed to care. Why did Gina matter? Was she going to create great art? End war and starvation? But as the book goes on, Gina gets a lot more complicated, and interesting. Her father, it turns out, did not abandon her in quite the way she thought, and the truth is disturbing. Moreover her feelings for Daniel torture her, to the extent that she has a good vomit before every lecture with him. It doesn’t help that Daniel seems to teasingly encourage these feelings – or is it her imagination? (For what it’s worth, I thought he was playing games. In fact, I thought he was a complete tosser. But Feanix rightly lets you be the judge of that.) By the time Gina reaches her third year, she is dealing with a toxic cocktail of unfulfilled sexuality and low self-esteem. But by this time, you understand what she’s been up against. Then you do want to know whether she will beat her demons.

Moreover, three things attract about Gina. First, she has a gift for friendship. Second, she is deeply intelligent, and unable to resist self-analysis; she throws up before seeing Daniel, but she knows it’s absurd. And last but not least, there’s no self-pity. She’s too funny for that. (The morning vomit before one of Daniel’s lectures. Crouching over the toilet bowl: “‘I’m a ghost of what I was before...’ I was talking to the latrine. ‘I guess it’s cruel of me to moan to you when you get so much crap in your life.’” )

The reader doesn’t know until very late just how this will end for Gina, and that’s how it should be (and I am not going to give any hints here).

It’s a longish book (probably a bit too long, on balance), and not always an easy read. I felt that it should have been a little shorter, and I also thought the author should have given us more reason more quickly to care about the narrator. In the end, though, I did care. Tackling the Imago is an acute but humane psychological study and it, and Gina, are worth your time.

Gay & Genderqueer Speculative Fiction Peter Jason Payne (now sold as part of a collection, Outlier)  Two young men are in Starbucks one evening. One of them is, he says, an angel. The other challenges him to prove it. “Whoa! What are you doing, bro?” Jack hears the beating of wings as the Starbucks cafe fills with turbulent air. Jack drops his latte, spilling it across the tabletop. “Holy shit!” he says, tumbling from his chair, falling to his knees.

But then they’re kicked out, because Starbucks is closing. The server assumes the two guys are into Dungeons and Dragons role-play and anyway, she’s got a date.

Peter Jason Payne’s Gay & Genderqueer Speculative Fiction is not erotica (anyone who buys it for that will be very disappointed). It is a series of fantastical stories that challenge established attitudes to gender norms, and to those that are in general somehow different from the mainstream.

It’s a most unusual book, and at its best a brilliant one. The quote above comes from the first of these stories, Your Light. It sets a high standard. A high-school kid in suburban Florida discovers that he is an angel. It seems a miracle; when he finds out what being an angel actually means, though, he has second thoughts. In this story, the supernatural or paranormal is set within such mundane surroundings that it has startling credibility.

It’s a theme that continues in the second story, Hemostasis, in which we meet Craig, a vampire living an oddly normal life in Florida and working as a supervisor at a DIY supermarket. Craig hurts no-one, and has weaned himself off blood by using blood products. But vampires are discriminated against, and he cannot get promotion. His life falls apart and then he is kidnapped for medical research. It is a story that will resonate with anyone who is, like me, old enough to remember the early days of AIDS and remembers the treatment meted out not only to those who were HIV-positive, but also to people were gay and were therefore suspected to be. In another story, Payne twists this neatly to show us a world run by zombies in which people are discriminated against because they are living.

Most of these stories involve this blend of the paranormal and the mundane. One or two, however, are not rooted in the familiar world. The last in particular, Mitra, is an allegory set in a city that Payne calls Ur, in which society lives by a militaristic and masculine religion that does imply resemblance to the Mithraic cult of ancient Rome. But the city is convulsed by a confrontation with Hermaphroditus, the androgynous god that also inspired a cult in the ancient world. There are references also to Hindu and Hebraic belief systems, and the Rudra Tandava, the dance of Shiva; this expresses violence, but is here used to destroy those that espouse it. Payne is arguing for a balance between the feminine and the masculine, the austere and the hedonistic.

Mitra is an ambitious story and the ideas behind it are fascinating, but for me it did not quite come off. Neither did another story, Illusions, in which Payne attacks consumerism; in that one, his message was just a little too upfront. Even these two stories, however, have some great moments. (In Illusions, the hero must slay a dragon. “Are you the would-be Dragon Slayer?” “Yes I am. But what is it to you?” “Your arrival has been foretold.” “Bullshit. Adolf phoned you and told you I was coming.” The Queen smiled. “You are not as naïve as you look. You have passed the first test.”)

Not all of these six stories work well; at their best, though, they subtly and skilfully subvert our perceptions. There can’t be many books in which a vampire drives a beat-up ’01 Saturn and sits on phone directories because the seat springs are broken. Payne uses the sheer normality of the abnormal in order to present an argument for tolerance and compassion. This is an original, courageous and deeply subversive book. Anyone who thinks of themselves as a liberal, and takes pride in that fact, should read it and see if they really are.

Manannan Trilogy  Michele McGrath  “He came in a long prowed boat, sea mist trailing after him like a swirling cloak.”

This, the first sentence of Michele McGrath’s Manannan’s Magic, told me that I was going to read something just a cut above the average. The Manannan Trilogy is a series of three historical romances set in the Isle of Man at the time of the Viking settlement and incursions (about the year 900). The first book, Manannan’s Magic, concerns Renny, a Celtic girl of 16 who sees the arrival of a stranger, Manannan McLir (the name has significance in Celtic myth). Her life will be profoundly changed by her contact with this strange and brilliant man, who arrives alone but for a huge dog. Exiled from Ireland by a tragic quarrel, hunted by an enemy, he slips from place to place around the Irish Sea, using the medicinal skills his father had learned in his travels to the Mediterranean, where the medieval Arab civilization is at its height.

Renny has no wish to meet the man she has seen arrive, and her village is suspicious, for the Norsemen are a growing threat and a stranger may be a scout they have sent ahead. She is forced into contact with him when she falls from a cliff in a storm and is rescued by him from the water’s edge. He shelters her in his cave and heals her injuries. He also teaches her his lore. Manannan’s healing is not, in fact, magic but learning. Later he will save villages from a terrible illness by using what we would now understand as antibiotics. But he does have an ability to see into the future, and he foresees trouble. Soon another stranger arrives, and this time he really is a Norse spy. Moreover Manannan’s enemy has learned that he is on the island, and is coming for him.

Manannan’s Magic is a fine achievement. It is a historical romance, but in fact it transcends genre through its well-paced storytelling, and through the well-judged use of historical details. McGrath clearly understands the era she describes, but presents her knowledge only when needed for the story. Best of all, the book is written in the sort of clear, straightforward, attractive English that has become somehow hard to find. McGrath has paid attention to the sort of detail that the reader doesn’t notice unless it’s been neglected – but does then; good sentence structure (short without being abrupt), and a lack of superfluous simile or adverbs. This is an author who has read some extremely good books and the odd bad one, and knows the difference.

The two remaining books in the trilogy (all three can be bought separately) are told from the viewpoint of Manannan’s daughter and grandaughter, Niamh and Emer. Both have inherited the gift of second sight. In the second book, Niamh of the Golden Hair, the heroine, unwanted by her extended family, is sent to marry a local Celtic notable, but never makes it; after some adventures, she is captured by the Viking raiders and is claimed by one of their warriors, Olaf. But he treats her with dignity; she comes to love him, and stands by in his hour of need. In the final volume, Emer’s Quest, the daughter of Niamh and Olaf must pledge herself to the son of a Hebridean Viking chieftain to release her father from captivity in the Faroes.

Neither book quite reaches the standard of Manannan’s Magic. In particular, the plot of Emer’s Quest moves just a bit too fast; there are times when you do want the author to slow down and elaborate – for example, there are a number of sea voyages, between the Isle of Man and the Hebrides and the Faroes; there is also a voyage, which the heroine herself does not make, to Iceland. Here, a bit more historical detail could have been useful, and it would have been good to feel more of what such voyages really were like a thousand years ago. But the two later books are still a good read. Even Emer’s Quest, the weakest of the three, has some arresting moments – including a strange, quite appalling murder, which Emer, with her gift of clairvoyance, sees, and must try to prevent. If these two books don’t quite shine the way Manannan’s Magic does, they’re still enjoyable; and besides, the trilogy is good value for Kindle at $5.99 (£3.72 UK).

But it is Manannan’s Magic that has made me rate this trilogy so high. It is a well-judged, stylish and believable historical fantasy, and best of all, it is written in straightforward and elegant English of a quality that now seems all too rare.

The Blue Suit  Michaela DiBernardo It’s before dawn on what promises to be a fine day, and a young woman from New Jersey has begun her long commute to New York’s financial district, where she works in an office very close to the World Trade Center. She frets about the prized blue silk suit she is wearing; she has had a child since she bought it, and is not sure it still fits the way it should. The fabric feels tight on her and the skirt rides up her legs. It’s her main concern this morning. But because today is September 11, it very soon won’t be. 

Michaela DiBernardo’s 9/11 memoir The Blue Suit is hard to classify. It’s not a book; it’s 10,000 words – a longish short story, or short novella. It is narrated in the third person, but it is actually an account of what happened to DiBernardo herself.  

I live in New York, but didn’t come here until some years after 9/11. Thanks to DiBernardo, I think I do now understand a little better what that day, and those that followed, were like for those who were there. I think I can also understand why someone might wait 13 years before writing about it.  At times this story is extraordinarily vivid. There are many telling details. Firecrews arrive at the scene and get into the gear, quietly, quickly, without drama. Caught in a panicking, stampeding crowd, the author falls over; for a moment she is trampled, but then two strangers, without stopping, haul her to her feet. As the author struggles uptown with a pregnant colleague, a shop-owner wants to charge them for water, but a passer-by will not let him. A stranger lets them use their cellphone. A cab-driver who looks Middle Eastern is threatened.  

The writing varies; it’s not always perfect, but it is usually straightforward and undramatic. This is surely the best way to tell this story. And at its best, DiBernardo’s writing is very good indeed. For example, commuting into the still-smoking city by ferry in the days that followed: “All left the boat in silence, their footfalls loud on the pier... Some days, tools hanging from the belts of the metal workers knocked together and rang softly, like chimes, making the only sound in the dark. They walked to their work, past weeks of uncollected trash and rotting restaurant food being feasted upon by rats too bold to run.” A lot is conveyed here.

 The story ends with the final fate of the blue suit. No need to spoil things by giving it away here – but what happens to the suit pulls the story together well, and gives it a satisfying, and affecting, end.

Cloud Storage Samuel Astbury  This might just be my book of the year. It opens in the northern English city of Manchester. The narrator, a man in his early 20s, wanders the city by night and day. He passes row upon row of familiar chain stores: Costa Coffee, Tesco Metro. There is a stream-of consciousness style. Masses of Chinese students in this dank piss mill town. Gigantic white headphones bobbing up and down. ...Four gastro pubs. Eight gastro pubs. ... A wave from a pink limo stuffed with morbidly obese hen-doers. 

The English riots of August 2011 break out around him. He decides to work as a volunteer for three months in Vietnam. He goes via Hong Kong and then Thailand, where he joins the backpackers on Ko Phi Phi. Now it’s a pill-popping nightmare, a horrific cavalcade of ladyboys and bar-girls and fast food drowning in fat and herds of sunburned sweaty young Westerners dancing mindlessly on the beach, zonked out on Es and Red Bull and booze. 20,000 gurning crab meat clubbers. A calamitous sea of boiled gyrating devils. ...Septic. Flaccid. Peeling. Obese. ...Seated Buddha necklace tracing the orange peel neck of a Brixton Capacity & Scheduling Manager. He craves food, Western food, and goes to an old lady’s fast-food stall for a burger. I stood and watched it fuse with the film of fly carcasses and coagulated fat. I had forgotten my name again. The old lady offers him her granddaughter for the night.

He moves on. Whitney, an American girl he meets in Osaka, says to him: “With the internet, we won‘t have to do any of that stupid shit for much longer. It’s like… We’re slowly getting there, we’re slowly becoming one…glorious whole.” Are we? Is that what Astbury is saying, or questioning, or dreading? No time to ask; after a dystopian look at Japan, with some clubbing thrown in, he’s off again, to Shanghai, with Michi, a strange young Japanese misfit the narrator has met in a hostel. More clubbing and drugs and booze and then they move on to Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, where there is more alcohol and drugs and clubbing and instead of the volunteer programme he’s come to join, he makes money with Michi by taking earnest tourists on tours of the slums.

By this stage I was completely captivated by Astbury’s prose style and by his descriptive ability, which is heroic. Then the story took a strange turn. A series of accidents brings the narrator by riverboat to a weird lost world; a city of glistening ice-white headphones and iPads and Burger Kings full of smart Asian consumers who treat him politely but refuse eye contact and will not engage. He finds he is trapped; he can check out but he can never leave. It is a sort of hole in time, rather like The Village in Patrick McGoohan’s 1960s mystery series, The Prisoner. How this ends is a further surprise. 

What on earth is Astbury up to? He never really tells us. There are what might be clues. Whitney’s statement about us all becoming one; the faux Buddhists on the beach; the sinister homogeneity of Burger Kings and ice-white iThings, climaxing with the consumer city that the narrator can’t leave. The climax (which I won’t reveal) suggests that Astbury does have something he wants to say, about globalisation and an oppressive, homogenous culture, and where it might end. Yet it could also be that Astbury means nothing at all; that he has simply stuck a USB stick in his brain and done an enormous data dump. 

If this bizarre but compelling book meets with the success it deserves, there will one day be discussion pages on which people debate its meaning ad nauseam, just as they do for Catcher in the Rye and Lord of the Rings and, indeed, The Prisoner. It doesn’t matter. Good books ask you questions. Books as good as this make you ask your own.

Links to book pages on Amazon 
(These books should also be available on and from other retailers)

Mike Robbins's own novel, The Lost Baggage of Silvia Guzmán (Third Rail), is available as a paperback (ISBN 978-0-9914374-0-5, $16.99 USA, or £10.07 UK) or as an eBook in all formats, including Amazon Kindle (ISBN 978-0-9914374-2-9, $2.99 USA, or £1.85 UK). Requests for review copies should be sent to