See my July 2017 newsletter here .
See my July 2017 newsletter here .
Anthony Carilla’s debut novel Convergence takes on the core question of our existence. This audaciously ambitious book builds on physics, biology, pharmacology, brain science and theology to create a complex thriller that goes way beyond the mundane. That’s not to say that that the conventional elements are missing: There are dashes of romance and action to balance the slow-burn plot, and the settings are seductive – the jungles of Cambodia, high-tech laboratories in Europe, and the super-luxury playgrounds of a billionaire businessman.
Carilla takes some big risks with this book: A large cast of characters, attention to detail that can sometimes overwhelm, and a lot of science. But the gamble pays off, with compelling portraits of the main protagonists, and a sense of inexorable progress towards an ending that promises to blow the reader’s spiritual socks off. I confess I didn’t see the simple one-sentence conclusion coming, even though the hints – in retrospect – were there along.
Convergence is a book that will provoke a plethora of questions across the spectrum of readers from the faithful to the faithless. Some will question the science, especially the claims for quantum mechanics (but then it is set in 2038), and some will have reservations about the beneficence of big business and the US government in these days of the Trump ascendancy. But the sublime central message of the book will have universal resonance.
Convergence will be published by Austin Macauley Publishers Ltd. in the very near future.
I was given an ARC by the author and asked to provide an honest review.
Crikey, what will they think of next? Two box sets for the price of one? Discount for seniors? Free popcorn?
If the other twelve authors are as good as Bailey and Donovan, then it will be 99c well spent. You can get it on Amazon here.
It’s been decades since I smoked, but I haven’t quite given up the habit. Having no desire to inhale burning vegetation these days, I still enjoy a vicarious smoke using the lungs of my fictional characters. In fact, smoking is a remarkably useful literary tool.
I identify four ways to exploit tobacco in fiction, but there are undoubtedly more.
But let me first offer a caveat: If you’ve never smoked, the remainder of this post might not hit that sweet spot: The hit you didn’t get from the first slim, black Balkan Sobranie outside a club in Soho; the hit you missed from the first gorgeous, toasted lungful of a Gitane outside Gare du Nord; the hit you could never experience from a mean-spirited little Players No. 6 after a meat pie and a pint in the Lawnmowers Arms somewhere west of Croydon.
Whoops, I slipped into nicotine reverie. Anyway, here are the four ways I use tobacco without actually smoking the stuff:
Historical setting: When I was a student at London University in the seventies, there were still ashtrays in tutorial rooms. Smoking wasn’t taboo. It wasn’t stigmatised. It was perfectly OK to inflict second-hand fumes on your tutor, or sit at the back of a plane filling the armrest ashtray with dog ends. But nowadays, only bad people smoke, and the best way to cast a negative shadow over a character is to have them light up. But good characters can reminisce about the Good Old Smoking Days. The shortest sex scene I ever wrote, set in 2011, goes, ‘Thea sat up, flushed and tousled, and pulled the covers around her. I lay back and mentally smoked a Gauloise’.
Social gradation: If you’re working in seventies England, as I am with my current work in progress, smoking is a wonderful index for where your characters fit into society: Working class characters smoke roll-ups and cheap fags (the Players No.6 is the epitome of poverty smoking, especially with a packet of ten rather than twenty). Better class smokers are more of your Benson and Hedges types, and homosexual men puff effetely on menthols. Elderly men in tweeds suck on pipes, and posh old geezers smoke cigars. Lesbians haven’t been invented yet.
Filling in a pensive pause: Want to fill a pause while your characters need to have a think? Let them have a smoke. You can tell that smokers are thinkers when you watch those wretched outcasts having a gasper outside the office block and pretending that they are pondering a takeover bid for CitiBank. The key to blowing a tobacco-induced thought bubble is to exploit the physical and psychological details of smoking: Tapping the packet, finding the lighter, the first delicious puff, the sixth puff when you realise how much you hate being addicted, loathing the stinking ashtray. But what a boon for the writer, when a bit of internal monologue can be slipped into the moments of mental vacuum.
Male bonding: What did two blokes do in the Good Old Smoking Days when, left alone, they could find no words? They had a fag, and busied themselves with tapping the packet, finding the lighter, inhaling manfully, etc. Saves on dialogue!
Time for a Scotch, I think.
I write quirky novels about love, betrayal and redemption. Have a look here.
I’ve got a problem.
I’m writing a novel* that includes episodes set in London in 1975. I want one of my characters to go to a concert by Ravi Shankar and Yehudi Menuhin at Southwark Cathedral. The concert actually took place – I was there, and I remember that it was very long and I was very uncomfortable on the cold stone floor.
Trouble is, that concert was in 1972, not 1975.
Or was it? According to a website that catalogues Ravi Shankar’s tours from 1964 to 2012, the maestro didn’t play any concerts in London at all in the seventies. But then I found a copy of the concert program for sale on Italian eBay, and it’s eerily there in black and purple – 1972.
Should I rewrite history? All my instincts tell me ‘no’ – I was, after all an academic researcher for years of my life, and fiddling with evidence was on a level with shoplifting.
Is that particular concert so important to the book? Well, yes, but I suppose there is some other emblematic event that I could replace it with.
I’ll keep you posted.
*The sequel to Cairo Mon Amour (to be published in London in 2017). The working title is Bury Me In Valletta.
Note on the portrait: I call this my querulous guinea pig picture, but somehow it acquired the title of Arthur or Martha?. For non-Australian readers, the origin of the phrase can be found here.
The Transition of Johnny Swift is completely different. This time, the author throws us into a jangling world of motor racing, dire injury, psychological stress, simmering romance, and family loyalty. The spiralling plot has the reader on edge until a clever resolution in the last few pages. I was unclear about what genre I was in until the ending, but this added to the pleasure! The technical stuff – medicine, neuroscience and some weird physics – was convincing enought to keep me engaged. The style – an urgent, present tense meld of introspection, narrative and economic dialogue – pushes the pace.
Well done, Mr Donovan. More like this please!
Read about Stuart Campbell’s books here.
My September 2016 Newsletter is now out. It’s brief and informative, and I’ll only be sending it out when I have news of a new release or a special promotion. You can get a copy here. If you want to subscribe, click here. I’m not keen on spam, so I’m using MailChip to manage my email list. That means that: