books monthly january 2018 adult fiction

New Adult Fiction titles for January 2018 including a fair few from classics experts, Alma Books...

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Arthur Machen: The Great God Pan and Other Horror Stories

Published by Oxford World's Classics 28th January 2018


Something pushed out from the body there on the floor, and stretched forth a slimy, wavering tentacle...

Perhaps no figure better embodies the transition from the Gothic tradition to modern horror than Arthur Machen. In the final decade of the nineteenth century, the Welsh writer produced a seminal body of tales of occult horror, spiritual and physical corruption, and malignant survivals from the primeval past which horrified and scandalised-late-Victorian readers. Machen's 'weird fiction' has influenced generations of storytellers, from H. P. Lovecraft to Guillermo Del Toro-and it remains no less unsettling today. 

This new collection, which includes the complete novel The Three Impostors as well as such celebrated tales as The Great God Pan and The White People, constitutes the most comprehensive critical edition of Machen yet to appear. In addition to the core late-Victorian horror classics, a selection of lesser-known prose poems and later tales helps to present a fuller picture of the development of Machen's weird vision. The edition's introduction and notes contextualise the life and work of this foundational figure in the history of horror.


In the late 1950s and early 1960s I was an avid collector of horror stories, and Pan Books published a whole series of them, edited by horror expert Herbert Van Thal. For me, Arthur Machen was just another name in those books that also contained stories by such authors as M R James, Conan Doyle etc. I never paid much attention to who had written the stories, I just wanted to be scared.  R James was my favourite, and although I know the name of Arthur Machen, I'm not overly familiar with his output. This superb new edition of his tales from OUP is generously full, with expert guidanceand biographical notes. A magnificent addition to anyone's library, and the stories really will give you the willies...


Anonymous: Dirty Limericks

Published by Quirky Classics 2017


Inside these covers you will find a collection of licentious limericks which have been handed down from generation to generation by word of mouth, some of them for over a hundred years. Until quite recently, few of these verses had ever appeared in print for public consumption, although many had been privately printed and circulated from time to time. This definitive collection of the world’s rudest, lewdest limericks will perhaps finally bestow respectability upon stanzas long venerated in oral tradition. Most of them are bawdy, some are wickedly clever — all are guaranteed to raise a laugh. There was a young man from Kildare, Who was having his girl on the stair; On the forty-fourth stroke, The banister broke And he finished her off in mid-air.


Should probably come with an "18" label - I know a fair few dirty limericks, some of which I've made up myself, some inherited from Uncles and friends - but this book has quite a few that made even me blush!




Charles Dickens: A Tale of Two Cities

       Published by Alma 2017

As the Revolution is still raging in France, in London the barrister Sydney Carton and the exiled French nobleman Charles Darnay find themselves rivals for the affections of Lucie Manette, the daughter of a political prisoner who was released from the Bastille and moved to the English capital. Through a chain of events, they both end up in Paris, where they are caught up in the anarchic forces of the Terror and find themselves facing the looming threat of the guillotine. Representing a departure from the social satire of most of his other novels and deemed by Dickens himself to be 'the best story I have written', A Tale of Two Cities is a powerful historical novel about the repercussions of major world events on the personal lives of people on both sides of the Channel.


Once upon a time, Penguin started to publish a new series of English Literature classics which cost just a pound each. The paper wasn't very good quality and the printing wasn't always topnotch, but each book had a full colour cover, normally a classic painting depicting a scene that you might find in the book. It was a golden opportunity to fill your bookshelves with classics you might one day get around to reading - they looked good and they were ridiculously cheap. Alma Books do a very similar job, but their production values are so much higher, whilst they might not look like part of a uniform set, they do all have the Alma symbol on the spine. At the moment, they are my favourite "classics of English Literature" publishers, and they kindly send me the titles I ask for to feature in Books Monthly. Charles Dickens's A Tale of Two Cities is one I haven't yet tackled, but now it's there on the shelf, I will definitely get round to it. The simplicity of the imagery on the front cover is stunning. It looks good, it's on highest quality printing stock, it's all you can ask of a paperback classic. Brilliant!


Lewis Carroll: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass

       Published by Alma 2017

Published to coincide with Alice in Wonderland's 150th anniversary, this volume includes John Tenniel's iconic engravings, the sequel Through the Looking Glass and a facsimile of Alice's Adventures Under Ground, the early manuscript version of the novel illustrated by Lewis Carroll himself. Originally conceived by its author as an entertaining story for Alice Liddell, the daughter of an Oxford dean, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, the fantastic tale of the young Alice's encounters with the White Rabbit, the Cheshire Cat, the Mad Hatter and the Queen of Hearts, has captured the imaginations of young and old throughout the world since it was first published in 1865. In addition to the vivid and unforgettable characters, it is the book's experimental style, linguistic inventiveness and myriad of jokes and puzzles that account for the timeless fascination it inspires.


This is a beautiful and keepable version of Alice, featuring the original John Tenniel engravings, and both stories involving Alice. A superb addition to the Alma Classics label.


Virginia Woolf: To The Lighthouse

       Published by Alma 2017

When Mrs Ramsay tells her guests at her summer house on the Isle of Skye that they will be able to visit the nearby lighthouse the following day, little does she know that this trip will only be completed ten years later by her husband, and that a gulf of war, grief and loss will have opened in the meantime. As each character tries to readjust their memories and emotions with the shifts of time and reality, this long-delayed excursion will also prove to be a journey of self-discovery and fulfilment for them. Rich in symbolism, daring in style, elegiac in tone and encapsulating Virginia Woolf s ideas on life, art and human relationships, To the Lighthouse is a landmark of twentieth-century literature and one of the high points of early Modernism.


Virginia Woolf is one of those legendary turn of the century authors that everyone's heard of, but few ordinary people have read. Alma describe it as a landmark of 20th century literature - I will let you know once I've had the chance to tackle it. Again, the simplicity of the graphic design on the cover is superb.


Yevgeny Zamyatin: We

       Published by Alma 2017

We takes place in a distant future, where humans are forced to submit their wills to the requirements of the state, under the rule of the all-powerful Benefactor, and dreams are regarded as a sign of mental illness. In a city of straight lines, protected by green walls and a glass dome, a spaceship is being built in order to spearhead the conquest of new planets. Its chief engineer, a man called D-503, keeps a journal of his life and activities: to his mathematical mind everything seems to make sense and proceed as it should, until a chance encounter with a woman threatens to shatter the very foundations of the world he lives in. Written in a highly charged, direct and concise style, Zamyatin s 1921 seminal novel here presented in Hugh Aplin s crisp translation is not only an indictment of the Soviet Russia of his time and a precursor of the works of Orwell and the dystopian genre, but also a prefiguration of much of twentieth-century history and a harbinger of the ominous future that may still lay ahead of us.


This looks like a cross between Aldous Huxley's Brave New World and George Orwell's 1984. As such, it intrigues me immensely, and it's now sitting on my bedside cabinet, next to read... The Art Deco cover is simply stunning!

M M Purkess: All Change

       Published by Matador 28th November 2017

James, a young, aspiring writer, rents a tiny flat in Mrs Mangalino s seedy apartment house, recommended by Dame Sybil's best friend.

Without warning, James is abducted and beaten up, but reappears the following day with no recollection of where he has been. Soon, others have similar unpleasant experiences and are viewed with disbelief and suspicion.

Who are the black-suited heavies swaggering through the action, and who is the mysterious Wise One?

In James home village, all appears normal, with petty squabbles over preparations for the usual end-of-term festivities at the old school and the village fate. Drama unfolds even before the show goes on and what a show it proves to be!

Frightfully funny... Hideously hilarious.



Steven Neil: The Merest Loss

Published by Matador 28th November 2017


When Harriet Howard becomes Louis Napoleon's mistress and financial backer and appears at his side in Paris in 1848, it is as if she has emerged from nowhere. How did the English daughter of a Norfolk boot-maker meet the future Emperor? Who is the mysterious Nicholas Sly and what is his hold over Harriet? Can Harriet meet her obligations and return to her former life and the man she left behind? What is her involvement with British Government secret services? Can Harriet's friend, jockey Tom Olliver, help her son Martin solve his own mystery: the identity of his father? The central character is Harriet Howard and the action takes place between 1836 and 1873. The plot centres on Harriet's relationships with Louis Napoleon and famous Grand National winning jockey, Jem Mason. The backdrop to the action includes significant characters from the age, including Lord Palmerston, Queen Victoria and the Duke of Grafton, as well as Emperor Napoleon III. The worlds of horse racing, hunting and government provide the scope for rural settings to contrast with the city scenes of London and Paris and for racing skulduggery to vie with political chicanery. The Merest Loss is historical fiction with a twist. It's pacy and exciting with captivating characters and a distinctive narrative voice.


Michael Baum: Aaron's Rod

Published by Matador 28th October 2017


At During the archaeological excavations of Lachish in 1938, James Starkey discovers a copper scroll in a clay cylinder buried under a pyramid of skulls dating back to the Assyrian conquest in the 7th Century. The contents of the scroll are so sensitive that he hides the find in a cave at Maresha where his body is found the following morning. Just over 70 years later Professor Joshua Black, professor of surgery at London University, is discovered hanging from a tree on Hampstead Heath; an apparent suicide. But Olive Hathaway, an elderly genteel lady has reason to suspect that his death was not a suicide at all. Dr. Sanjay Manchandra also has reason to believe that Professor Black had not taken his own life. The English widow and the young expatriate Indian surgeon, link up as an unlikely pair of detectives. The amateur sleuths follow the trail from London to the Holy Land, and on to the secret scroll hidden all those years before. This in turn leads them to a treasure trove in a vault deep underground at the site of the Temple of the ancient northern kingdom of Samaria near the Syrian border and the Golan Heights. The climax of the story is the battle for the possession of Aaron s rod between the allies and the so-called Islamic State


Mary Withall: Disruption

Published by Matador 28th November 2017


The year is 1843 and after the Disruption in the Church of Scotland James Bantrie finds himself dismissed from his comfortable life, like many dissident clergy members, and obliged to seek employment elsewhere. James and his family move to a small parish on the island of Orchy off the Argyll coast where the inhabitants are engaged in quarrying slate rock.

Alexander Beaton, a young doctor, has returned home to Eisdalsa expecting to inherit his father s medical practice only to find his elder brother has already secured not only the practice but also the hand of Alexander s childhood sweetheart. With his aspirations for both marriage and career thwarted, Alexander responds to an advertisement for settlers in the newly established colony of Otago in the South Island of New Zealand. Appointed ship s surgeon for the voyage he is surprised to find James Bantrie and family, together with the recently widowed Jessie Dundas and her son Tommy, amongst the passengers.

The voyage is not without incident and the Otago settlement in the new town of Dunedin is far from ready to receive further settlers. Many trials await the newcomers before they can truly call themselves citizens of their new homeland.

Fred Onymouse: Quick and Quirky

Published by Matador 28th November 2017


In his debut collection of short stories, Fred Onymouse takes a humorous and light-hearted glance at life. Quick and Quirky draws from Fred s unique sense of humour to produce a read that leaves readers chuckling as they enjoy the quips inside the book. In the book, Fred writes hilarious stories about all aspects of life, each with a memorable protagonist and accompanied by fun illustrations by the author s wife, Ann Onymouse.

What happens when a couple find their holiday crashed by elephants? How can a blind artist and his colourblind dog produce the most desirable paintings in the world? And will two competing neighbours ever resolve their issues? Each story in the book concludes with a light-hearted moral that readers are guaranteed to remember.

Comparable to the work of Spike Milligan, Quick and Quirky is a unique read that will appeal to all readers that enjoy humorous fiction. The book will have wide appeal from younger readers aged 9 years and over to a more mature audience.

David Hamilton: Storyteller

Published by Matador 28th November 2017


Storyteller is the third collection of stories written in verse by David Hamilton. Each story is told by a historical figure to convey allegory, symbolism and metaphor, with the author as the overarching narrator. The book takes readers on a journey through imaginative worlds where the reader witnesses experiences and meets people they would meet in their own lives. Listeners live this as a communal story, a shared history that makes us part of it. Isolation is filled in, emotions link the community. Would our communal lives Make an interesting play? David s unique collection aligns contemporary content with traditional poetic forms, linking the two together to provide a social commentary on the modern world. Such technique can be witness in The Lotus Eaters , a story that first appeared in Homer s Odyssey. Circe s transformation of men into swine is here presented as escapism through drugs. David has also updated other traditional stories such as Reynard the Fox to tell the story from the fox s point of view, and Chaucer s The Hall of Fame. The collection concludes with a sequence of seven Pastorals, featuring myths and deities from classical times telling practical stories of husbandry. David s latest collection of poetry is wordly and not academic, and presents readers with a unique combination of traditional forms and contemporary content. The book will appeal to fans of poetry, as well as readers that have enjoyed David s previous works, King Alfred's Jewel (Matador, 2014) and Concept Poems (Matador, 2016). David has contributed essays to the New English Review and Storyteller is advertised in the Literary Review.


Dermod Judge: Two Jam Jars For The Manor

Published by The Book Guild 28th November 2017


Johnny has a passion for the movies and a dream of becoming a filmmaker. In Dublin in the 1950s, this seems impossible, especially when he is forced to leave school. However, he manages to attract several mentors with charm and defeat and win over his enemies with ingenuity. The world which Johnny lives in - that of movie plots - is so romantic and safe that it acts as a shield for the rest of the sorely stressed family. His telling of the movie plots to his family turns into therapy for them. The clear-cut morality of "movieland" seems to be the only sure thing in their world of poverty, deceit and betrayal. His relationship with the beautiful daughter of a rich Major is just one of the complications which conspire against him finishing his school and learning how to get involved in film-making.





J R Bonham: Fireworks to Thailand

Published by The Book Guild 28th November 2017


Young mother, Jan, had expectations of a happy family life but was disappointed at every turn. With little option, she settled into married life with a possessive and controlling husband with whom she had very little in common. Her friends were content in their relationships but happiness seemed to elude Jan. However, she strived to make the most of what she did have, two lovely children. Many years later and a chance meeting was about to turn her life upside-down in more ways than one...






The small print: Books Monthly, now well into its twenty-first year on the web, is published on or slightly before the first day of each month by Paul Norman. You can contact me here. If you wish to submit something for publication in the magazine, let me remind you there is no payment as I don't make any money from this publication. If you want to send me something to review, contact me via email and I'll let you know where to send it.