Category Archives: novels

Announcement – JEKYLL & HYDE: CONSULTING DETECTIVES

Exciting news is the very best way to begin a new year! I’m thrilled to announce that Titan Books will publish my novel JEKYLL & HYDE: CONSULTING DETECTIVES, and I’m very excited about it.

Here’s the Publishers Marketplace announcement:

More details soon! If you’re impatient to know more, please consider signing up to my email newsletter, as I’ll be including additional plot tidbits in the first newsletter, to be sent out imminently…

My writing year 2022

This year I had the following work published:

Sherlock Holmes: The Defaced Men (Titan) – my second Holmes novel (after The Back to Front Murder), featuring cinema pioneer Eadweard Muybridge.

Sherlock Holmes – The Twelve Thefts of Christmas

Sherlock Holmes & The Twelve Thefts of Christmas (Titan) – a ‘Christmas special’ of a Holmes novel, featuring Irene Adler’s ‘advent calendar of crimes’ and with central roles for Mary Watson and Mrs Hudson.

Shade of Stillthorpe (Black Shuck) – a weird, folk horror-ish novella about family, fatherhood and changelings.

The Marshalls of Mars

‘The Marshalls of Mars’ (IZ Digital / Interzone) – a short story about parenthood and isolation, featuring Meryl and Rich, the protagonists of my first published Interzone story, back in 2014.

It’s less than in previous years, but still a substantial enough output overall, I think. Most of all, I’m proud of all of this work.

I’ll be honest: 2022 hasn’t been the easiest year for writing and publishing. The year began with the disappointing cancellation of an anthology that would have included one of my stories, and would have represented a huge ambition fulfilled. It was also the first year in around a decade in which I didn’t begin working on a new original novel, which leaves me feeling that I haven’t made proper progress. Instead, most of the year was spent making revisions and editorial changes to two projects begun last year, and drafting the first half of a commissioned tie-in novel.

While I spent just under 300 hours writing, so much of my time was spent editing that I wrote fewer words than I have since 2018 – just over 172,000 words, compared to 286,000 words last year.

The year also involved a great deal of waiting. Though waiting is a fundamental characteristic of the publishing industry, and usually I’m fairly resistant to it, the long delays for feedback on drafts and submissions hit me hard this year, making progress on new projects far more difficult. It’s the first time I’ve been conscious that my writing career can have a negative impact on my mental health.

Another frustration was that my Christmas Sherlock Holmes title, The Twelve Thefts of Christmas, was affected by the IT software issue that has disrupted Waterstones warehousing and supply since the summer. The book was a month late to arrive in bookshops, and even then it failed to appear in most stores, despite (it seems) copies being ordered by booksellers. Given that it’s very much a seasonal novel, it’s now had its chance.

However – I mention these things not as complaints, but simply as a record of my year. I’m aware that I’m in a privileged position, and that I’m fortunate in that my work is still being published. More than anything, I continue to love writing, and I still have the luxury of plenty of time in which to do it.

The year to come is a little unpredictable, but there is one exciting element: the publication of an original novel that I’m really excited about, and that I’ll hopefully be able to announce soon. In fact, I’m determined to do right by this book in terms of publicising it widely, so I’ll be talking about it a lot. Apologies in advance.

Favourite books of 2022

My favourite book published this year was Candescent Blooms by Andrew Hook. It’s an outstanding, confident, often surreal collection, featuring accounts of the final days of Hollywood actors who died before their time. Despite its strong pitch, it remains difficult to describe – the stories are poetic, subjective, dizzying. Though there’s a huge amount of research in evidence, tone and language take precedence over biography. Normally I struggle to read whole collections from start to finish, whereas in this case I told myself I’d take my time, savour the richness of each story, but then raced through the whole lot in a couple of sittings, so that now they all merge in my mind and I couldn’t tell you which I loved most. It’s a huge achievement and a hell of an experience, and I recommend you get hold of a copy immediately.

Another 2022 novel I loved was Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel. In many ways it operates as an out-there coda to her previous novel, The Glass Hotel, and though I adored it less than that book, its broader scope, multiple time periods and tangents that double back to become relevant at unexpected moments entirely won me over.

Of the other recently published novels I read this year, the one that meant the most to me was Leonard and Hungry Paul by Rónán Hession (2019). I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this story of humble, modest people achieving humble, modest success. You might describe another of my favourites as an antagonistic twin of this book: No One Is Talking About This by Patricia Lockwood (2021), which genuinely made me laugh out loud in the first half and also cry at the end, and I can’t remember the last novel that managed that. One of the most exhilarating books I read in 2022 was By Force Alone by Lavie Tidhar (2020), casting Arthurian legend in bizarre new forms, a 21st-century riff on T H White’s already riff-packed The Once and Future King. I’m saving the second of Tidhar’s Anti-Matter of Britain Quartet novels (The Hood) for a later treat, and I can’t wait to find out which legends the final two novels will address. Other novels that I loved unequivocally were The Rotters’ Club by Jonathan Coe (2001), my first Coe, which sparked a season of reading his other linked books, and Geek Love by Katherine Dunn (1989), a big, bold carnival of a carnival novel which was Very Much My Thing even before the speculative elements showed up.

What else floated my boat? Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders (2017), certainly, but I was late to that party. I thought The Devil and the Dark Water by Stuart Turton (2020) was superior to his excellent The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle, mainly by virtue of several of its high concepts remaining concealed from the reader. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (2019) was one of my favourite fantastical fables of the year. Circe by Madeline Miller (2018) is another novel everybody else read before me, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Similarly, A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (2011) was one of those novels that seem to be everywhere for a time, which makes me contrary about refusing to read – which makes me an idiot, as it’s terrific. Three SF novels that I loved this year were The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas (2018), Skyward Inn by the always wonderful Aliya Whiteley (2021) and I Still Dream by James Smythe (2018), an excellent AI novel that seems far more prescient now that my social media feed is full of people opining about AI compositions.

On to older novels. I was blown away by the restrained energy of Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson (1980), and the inventiveness of the Jekyll and Hyde-inspired Two Women of London by Emma Tennant (1989) – I must get on to reading more of her work. I found The Woman in the Dunes by Kōbō Abe (1962) thrilling in spite, or perhaps because of, its claustrophobia.

Alongside the Stuart Turton mentioned above, my favourite crime novels this year were The Honjin Murders by Seishi Yokomizo (1946), which features a murder mystery with the most terrific explanation, and The Riverside Villas Murder by Kingsley Amis (1973), which is startling in its plotting but also its inversion of various mystery tropes, and an unlikely 14-year-old detective.

A list of wonderful novels I read this year and that I should have got around to reading much sooner includes: the amoral The Murderess by Alexandros Papadiamantis (1903), the lively Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh (1928), the unexpected pleasures of The Club of Queer Trades by G. K. Chesterton (1905), the proto-SF The Machine Stops by E. M. Forster (1909) and the intense and startlingly modern The Awakening by Kate Chopin (1899). Even odder, and somewhat embarrassing, omissions until 2022 were the wonderfully bizarre The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz (1934) and The King in Yellow by Robert W. Chambers (1895).

Most of the non-fiction I read this year represented writing research of one form or another. My favourite non-fiction book that I read purely for pleasure was The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions by Mark Lewisohn (1988).

In total, I read 51 books in 2022. I’m a bit ashamed to say 36 of them were written by men; I’m determined to equalise the ratio next year.

Recommendations aplenty

As anybody browsing my previous blog posts can deduce, I love lists. Yes, they can be reductive, sometimes elitist, but they work amazingly as catalysts in terms of recommendations. Find a top-ten list of any media that includes some things you love, and the chances are you’ll also love the list items you don’t yet know.

On that note, I was recently asked to complete a book list for Shepherd.com. Given that my headspace has been so occupied with Sherlock Holmes recently, I opted to put together a list of ‘The best books containing satisfying mysteries’. I don’t think it’s too spoilery to show you this image of my choices, and you can read the whole article if you’d like to know my reasons for selecting them.

Tim Major - satisfying mysteries book listIf there’s one thing better than making a satisfying list, it’s being included on someone else’s. Having your work noticed by an amazing editor like Ellen Datlow goes some way to staving off the imposter syndrome (for a while) – so I’m delighted that Ellen included my story ‘The Cardboard Voice’ in her longlist of 2021 recommendations, alongside many writers whose work I love.

The story’s available to read in Nightscript vol VII, edited by CM Muller. It’s about identity, deepfakes and old audio technology.

Most importantly, if you’re interested in the state of horror fiction right now (and in my opinion, it’s in a wildly healthy state), I’d recommend you scour Ellen’s list from start to finish. That’s what I’ll be doing.

Publication day: Sherlock Holmes and The Twelve Thefts of Christmas

My new Sherlock Holmes novel, The Twelve Thefts of Christmas, is published today! Here’s a picture of me in an unironed but halfway-festive shirt to celebrate.

Sherlock Holmes and The Twelve Thefts of Christmas
There are plenty of knotty mysteries within the shiny golden covers of this beautifully designed hardback, but I’ve also tried to make the tone like a sort of ‘holiday special’. It features loads of Holmes favourites in prominent roles: Irene Adler, Mrs Hudson, Mary Watson, Inspector Lestrade, even good old Toby the dog.

Here’s the description:

Sherlock Holmes’s discovery of a mysterious musical score initiates a devious Christmas challenge set by Irene Adler, with clues that are all variations on the theme of ‘theft without theft’, such as a missing statue found hidden in the museum gallery from which it was taken.

In the snowy London lead-up to Christmas, Holmes’s preoccupation with the Adler Variations risks him neglecting the case of his new client, Norwegian arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who has received a series of threats in the form of animal carcasses left on his doorstep. Could they really be gifts from a strange spirit that has pursued Nansen since the completion of his expedition to cross Greenland? And might this case somehow be related to Irene Adler’s great game?

Find out more about the book here.

US publication day – Sherlock Holmes: The Defaced Men

I was away on holiday when it was published in the UK, so failed to post about it here, but as today is the publication date for my Sherlock Holmes novel THE DEFACED MEN, I thought I’d take the opportunity to celebrate its release!

In this novel, Holmes’s new client is Eadweard Muybridge, the godfather of cinema, whose life is under threat. Holmes and Watson will need to draw on technology associated with cinema in order to solve a mystery that continues to grow and grow.

I had such fun incorporating my love of early cinema into a Holmes adventure! Hopefully it resulted in a satisfyingly knotty mystery, too. You can find more details about the novel here.

Announcement: Sherlock Holmes & The Twelve Thefts of Christmas

I’m very pleased to announce that my third Sherlock Holmes novel, and my second to be published by Titan Books in 2022, will be published in October. This one’s a bit of a ‘Christmas special’ (Irene Adler! Mrs Hudson! Mary Watson! Inspector Lestrade! Toby the dog!) called THE TWELVE THEFTS OF CHRISTMAS. Here’s a description:

Sherlock Holmes’s discovery of a mysterious musical score initiates a devious Christmas challenge set by Irene Adler, with clues that are all variations on the theme of ‘theft without theft’, such as a missing statue found hidden in the museum gallery from which it was taken.

In the snowy London lead-up to Christmas, Holmes’s preoccupation with the Adler Variations risks him neglecting the case of his new client, Norwegian arctic explorer Fridtjof Nansen, who has received a series of threats in the form of animal carcasses left on his doorstep. Could they really be gifts from a strange spirit that has pursued Nansen since the completion of his expedition to cross Greenland? And might this case somehow be related to Irene Adler’s great game?

It’ll be published in hardback on 18th Oct 2022 by Titan Books. Here’s the cover:

Sherlock Holmes & The Twelve Thefts of Christmas

My Writing Year 2021

There’s certainly been a sense of things having come to a standstill in 2021. I’ve left the house a lot less than usual (even when it was allowed), and my starting point on that score was not much at all. However, in terms of my published work, I have to remind myself that things actually did happen, even though there was relatively little feedback when they did.

Sherlock Holmes: The Back to Front Murder

Despite having had no opportunity to speak to anybody in person about it, I published a novel this year: the Sherlock Holmes mystery The Back to Front Murder, which has gone across well, and seems to have satisfied Holmesians and casual readers alike, as far as I can tell. I’m particularly pleased that the consensus is that the novel captures Conan Doyle’s style and Watson’s voice, as this was the aspect I found most daunting, though it turned out to be the most satisfying to tackle.

Universal Language

And there was a novella, too: Universal Language is a locked-room mystery set on Mars, and I’m very proud of it. This is the publication that’s most suffered from the lack of conventions this year, and I hope it’ll find its way to more readers when things open up again.

It’s been a good year for short fiction, with fewer publications overall, but all stories I’m proud of having written, appearing in venues I really like and respect. They were:
– ‘The Andraiad’ in Interzone
– ‘The Living Museum’ in Shoreline of Infinity
– ‘Goodbye, Jonathan Tumbledown’ in Out of the Darkness (Unsung Stories)
– ‘The Cardboard Voice’ in Nightscript

While writing fiction has often seemed trivial compared to world events, I’ve done a lot of it in 2021 all the same. In fact, I wrote far more this year than I have in any other year to date – I’m honestly not quite sure how! I didn’t write at all in January due to lockdown and home-schooling, and all but gave it up during the summer holiday, too. Despite this, I spent more than 350 hours writing, and wrote more than 285,000 words. As always, I’m aware that quantity is relatively meaningless, and yet I’m proud that I’m dedicating so much time to my favourite activity.

The chart above shows my progress with longer projects. The dark red, dark blue and green data lines show three completed novels. One of these is my upcoming second Sherlock Holmes novel, The Defaced Men, which will be published in August 2022, one is a non-Holmesian Victorian mystery novel, and the third is a difficult-to-classify contemporary novel that’s currently with beta readers. The light blue line shows continued work on a huge, mad novel that I began during last year’s lockdown, which I’ll keep fiddling with in between other projects. The light red line shows the first 20k words of a commissioned novel I’m currently working on.

So, 2022 promises to be busy. After I complete the commissioned novel, I’ll return to the two other almost-finished novels to make changes before sending out to publishers, then perhaps I’ll return to the enormous novel that’s been running in the background for more than a year. After that, who knows? But it’s nice to know where I’m going for the time being. In terms of publications, there’ll be Sherlock Holmes: The Defaced Men in August, and my current project later in the year, plus a short story in an anthology I’m really excited about – in fact, getting to write this story is one of the most exciting things that’s happened to me as a writer so far, and one of the best Christmas presents I’ve had in adulthood. More details soon, I hope.

It’s a funny feeling, being quite glum about the future in wider terms, yet remaining so excited about writing and work. Perhaps we all need to be a bit introspective and self-centred in order to get by at the moment – is that fair to say? Either way, I anticipate having my head buried in work as much as possible next year.

Sherlock Holmes: The Back to Front Murder Published

My Sherlock Holmes novel, The Back to Front Murder, was published by Titan Books in the UK this week, and will be available in the USA a few days from now. Holmes’s client is a mystery author whose latest murder plot has been enacted in real life… before her novel has been written.

Sherlock Holmes: The Back to Front Murder

I’ve had a such a good time writing Holmes and Watson – particularly the latter; there’s a lot in this novel about Watson as an author, and I think I’ve projected a lot of my imposter syndrome onto him.

Another thing I’ve discovered this week is that it’s a relief to have written a novel that’s easily categorised. Do you like Sherlock Holmes novels? Then maybe you’d like this Sherlock Holmes novel.

As well as (positive!) reviews, a couple of articles relating to The Back to Front Murder appeared online this week: CrimeReads hosted my article titled ‘The Joys and Difficulties of Writing a Faithful Sherlock Holmes Novel’ and Trans-Scribe conducted a really good Q&A covering the challenges of channelling Arthur Conan Doyle, Watson as narrator, female characters in the canon and favourite Holmes stories. More articles will be appearing soon.

Other than that, visit this page to find out more details about the book.

Announcement: Sherlock Holmes – The Back-to-Front Murder

Holmes and Watson

Publication news! I’m happy to say that my Sherlock Holmes novel THE BACK-TO-FRONT MURDER will be published by Titan Books in August. In fact, it’s the first of two, with the second due out at the same time next year, both classic tales in the Conan Doyle style. Here’s the blurb for this first one:

May 1898. A new client arrives at Baker Street – Abigail Moone, a wealthy, independent writer of successful mystery stories under a male pseudonym. She presents an unusual problem. Abigail claims that she devised a man’s death that was reported in that morning’s newspaper: that is, she planned his murder as an event to be included in one of her mystery stories. Following real people and imagining how she might murder them and get away with it is how Abigail comes up with her plots, but this victim has actually died, apparently of the poison method she meticulously planned in her notebook. Someone is trying to frame Abigail for his death, but with the evidence stacking up against her, she turns to Holmes to prove her innocence.

I’ve had so much fun writing as Watson and attempting to channel Conan Doyle. Completing this novel has been one of the most straightforwardly happy writing experiences I’ve had (though the plot is anything but straightforward, of course), and I hope it shows.

My writing year 2020

It comes as something as a surprise to discover that I’ve written more this year than during any year to date. How I found time to put down 215,000 words, despite long weeks of being unable to write anything at all due to coronavirus-panic paralysis, self-doubt and the requirement of homeschooling two young children for six entire months, I really can’t explain. Still, that’s what happened, and I must have put in intense sessions during the weeks in which I did write, as this was also the year I spent most time at my desk: 290 hours in all.

This year, I wrote:

  • An as-yet-unannounced commissioned novel, 70,000 words
  • Shade of Stillthorpe – a 30,000-word novella, a mishmash of folk horror and Patricia Highsmith-esque ‘wrong man’ thriller
  • 70,000 words of a novel begun as a response to lockdown – it’s likely to be huge, with three separate strands in different genres and more than thirty characters
  • ‘The Cardboard Voice’ – horror short story, 5000 words
  • ‘The Marshalls of Mars’ – SF short story, 7600 words
  • ‘The Andraiad’ – horror SF short story, 7000 words

BSFA Tim MajorAnd this is what I published in 2020:

  • Hope Island – my horror novel about creepy children, parental fears and sound was published by Titan Books in June (unfortunately, at a point when bookshops were still closed), but which went down well with reviewers – you can read reviews and find out more here
  • ‘The Pea’ – fairytale horror story (850 words), Fudoki, Jan 2020
  • ‘Red Sky at Morning’ – horror short story set on a lighthouse (2900 words), Unsung Stories, May 2020
  • ‘Simulation’ – horror short story set on a plane (2300 words), Strange Days anthology (Midnight Street Press), May 2020
  • ‘Praying To Her Thumbs’ – horror short story (2700 words) STORGY, Jun 2020
  • ‘The Slow King’ – folk horror short story set on a folk horror film set (5000 words), The Fiends in the Furrows II anthology (Nosetouch Press), Aug 2020, then featured as an audio reading on Pseudopod podcast, Dec 2020
  • ‘Into the Wound’ – YA SF short story (3000 words), Voyage, Oct 2020
  • ‘Dear Will’ – ETA Hoffman-esque horror short story (3000 words), Vastarien Vol 3, Issue 2, Dec 2020
  • Also, two stories were reprinted in year’s-best collections: ‘O Cul-de-Sac!’ in The Best of British Fantasy 2019 and ‘Concerning the Deprivation of Sleep’ in Best of British Science Fiction 2019 (both NewCon Press)

Next year, the certainties are the publication of a short story in an anthology I’m really excited about, plus the first of two commissioned tie-in novels and a Martian murder mystery novella, Universal Language, which will be published by NewCon Press. In terms of writing, I’ll be plugging away at my enormous lockdown manuscript, which may yet turn out to be an actual novel, and I’ll be completing a much saner second commissioned novel.

Favourite fiction of 2020

Films

The Lighthouse

Like everyone else this year, I saw very little at the cinema in 2020. My favourite of the few films I saw was the wild, disturbing ride The Lighthouse (Robert Eggers), partly because it’s been my lingering memory of what it’s like to watch a great film in the cinema, booming foghorns and all – and I loved the alienating square aspect ratio. Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Céline Sciamma) was no less an intense depiction of people trapped together, and, equally, Parasite (Bong Joon Ho) contained foreshadowing of lockdown and a lack of fresh air. Steve McQueen’s films from his Small Axe TV anthology series were no less rich and rewarding than his cinema fare. The first two, Mangrove and Lovers Rock, were outstanding – particularly the dazzling choreography and soundtrack of the latter. On a similar note, the short film Strasbourg 1518 (Jonathan Glazer) is entirely choreographed dance, and was the most alarming film of 2020 that I saw.

The SouvenirOf more recent films (i.e. from the last decade), my absolute favourite was The Souvenir (Joanna Hogg, 2019), which I couldn’t stop thinking about for all sorts of reasons, and the knowledge that there’s an upcoming second part is tantalising. Bait (Mark Jenkin, 2019) was delightful in all respects, the best film about film that I’ve seen for a while. I found Pain and Glory (Pedro Almodovar, 2019) surprisingly affecting, particularly Antonio Banderas’ performance. The Personal History of David Copperfield (Armando Iannucci,  2019) was the most fun I’ve had with a recent film, in part due to the pleasure of spotting favourite TV character actors. I loved Aniara (Pella Kågerman & Hugo Lilja, 2018) – exactly my sort of setup, about a Mars migration that turns into an endless voyage – the intertitles signalling greater and greater timescales alone were powerful. And though I loved A Bigger Splash (Luca Guadagnino, 2015) in every respect, Ralph Fiennes’ creepy dancing remains its most memorable moment.

High and LowI watched a lot of classic films this year, partly as a response to lockdown, but also partly because I’ve developed new habits: I no longer fret about not finishing a film in a single session, and I’ve been watching them via BFI Player and MUBI on my (admittedly large-screened) phone, often starting at 5.30am after being woken by my youngest son. Watching films like this, with chunky headphones, in bed in the dark, has been the closest simulation of a cinema setting.

One of my biggest ‘discoveries’ this year was the wider work on Akira Kurosawa, in particular The Hidden Fortress (1958), Yojimbo (1961) and High and Low (1963), all of which rank as some of the best films I’ve seen this year. I finally watched, and loved, the long version of Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982), but surprised myself by enjoying Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman, 1955) equally as much. Other classic films I watched for the first time and adored included La Strada (Federico Fellini, 1954), Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945) and The Battle of Algiers (Gillo Pontecorvo, 1966), all stunning. I was blown away by Tartuffe (F. W. Murnau, 1925), particularly its framing story and metatextual elements. Two of my favourite finds were Cairo Station (Youssef Chahine, 1958) and Intimate Lighting (Ivan Passer, 1965), and I adored the ‘fake news’ docudramas Punishment Park (Peter Watkins, 1971) and the lesser-known Alternative 3 (Christopher Miles, 1977). For tense pulp thrills, my favourite films were the incomparable Night Tide (Curtis Harrington, 1961), the near-perfect thriller Breakdown (Jonathan Mostow, 1997) and the fantastical short film Quest (Saul Bass, 1984), included on the recent Phase IV bluray. My favourite horror film this year was the woozy masterpiece The White Reindeer (Erik Blomberg, 1952).

Books

The Easter ParadeMy immediate response to the announcement of the first lockdown was to panic-read substantial classic novels I’d always intended to read. Middlemarch (George Eliot, 1872) worked as intended: I found it totally absorbing and entirely reassuring. I suspect that Candide (Voltaire, 1759), Mrs Dalloway (Virginia Woolf, 1925) and Lanark (Alasdair Gray, 1981) and The Third Policeman (Flann O’Brien, 1967) will each be influential on my own writing in the coming years. My favourite horror novel was Thérèse Raquin (Émile Zola, 1867), which packed a punch partly because I didn’t realise it was going to be a horror novel. My most important reading discoveries in 2020 were the novels of Richard Yates, my favourites so far being The Easter Parade (1976) and Revolutionary Road (1961), the latter being as great a Great American Novel as The Great Gatsby. My most exciting discovery of 2020 was the Jorge Luis Borges-endorsed, proto-SF novella The Invention of Morel (Adolfo Bioy Casares, 1940).

A Cosmology of MonstersIn terms of more recent works, my favourites were A Cosmology of Monsters (Shaun Hamill, 2019), which has one of the most absorbing first chapters of any book I’ve read, Annihilation (Jeff VanderMeer, 2014) which I can’t believe it took me so long to get around to reading, and The Wall (John Lanchester, 2019) which made me seethe with envy. I read a lot of non-fiction for writing research purposes, but the factual books I enjoyed most for ‘fun’ were High Static, Dead Lines: Sonic Spectres & the Object Hereafter by Kristen Gallerneaux (2018) and Deep Fakes and the Infocalypse: What You Urgently Need To Know (Nina Schick, 2020).

TV

SuccessionIt’s been a great year for TV drama. My wife and I binged both series of the hysterical (in all senses) Succession, I was entirely won over by the calm pace of Normal People, and the decidedly more frenetic I May Destroy You seemed to redefine the possibilities of TV drama with every episode. Staged was an impressively comprehensive and complex response to the first coronavirus lockdown, and was very funny to boot. Upright was the TV show that most upset me, offset by all the tremendous joy, and was probably my favourite TV show of the year. Armando Iannucci’s space workplace comedy Avenue 5 turned out to be far better than expected, and I hope there’ll be more to come. The most exhilarating TV I saw this year was World’s Toughest Race: Eco-Challenge Fiji, closely followed by the meticulous, gorgeous and subversive Anaïs Nin adaptation Little Birds. And, likeeveryone else, I thought The Queen’s Gambit was staggeringly good all round.

Games

FirewatchAfter around eight years without videogames, purchasing a half-decent laptop this autumn has allowed me to dabble in games I’ve missed in the interim period, though anything particularly open-world or particularly recent stutters like crazy – for which I’m grateful, as I’m terrified of losing too much time to gaming at the expense of work. Still, I managed to work through Portal-esque puzzle game The Talos Principle (2014), Tomb Raider (2013) and Rise of the Tomb Raider (2015) (the latter better than the first in the new trilogy but representing an almost unsurmountable graphical challenge for my PC). I enjoyed Sherlock Holmes: Crimes and Punishments (2014) far more than expected, appreciating the slow pace. I admired a huge amount of What Remains of Edith Finch (2017), which as well as providing a compelling story, acted as a showcase for the possibilities of videogames – particularly the scene involving slicing the heads off fish on a production line whilst simultaneously guiding a prince around a kingdom whilst also learning about the fragile mental health of the factory worker in question. But the only game that I truly loved was Firewatch (2016), in which the player fulfils a patient role as a lookout in a Wyoming forest, whilst developing a relationship with your supervisor over walkie-talkie. The landscape is stunning, the nudges along the path of the narrative subtle, and the story is deeply affecting, perhaps partly because the game is over within three hours or so.

MACHINERIES OF MERCY now available

Machineries of Mercy by Tim Major

My YA SF novel MACHINERIES OF MERCY is published by Luna Press today! It’s a bit Westworld, a touch Battle Royale, a smidgen Existenz… but set in a tranquil English village that’s really a virtual-reality prison.

You can buy it direct from the publisher here, or from Amazon UK here, or from Amazon USA here, or even better, you could order it from your favourite independent bookshop.

You can also find more information about the novel on this site here, including a video introduction, a video of me reading an extract, and even a Spotify playlist soundtrack to the story.

Hope Island reviewed in The Times

I’ll be honest, I hadn’t expected this. Yesterday my new novel, HOPE ISLAND, was reviewed in The Times! There it is, alongside books by David Mitchell, Cixin Liu and Chris Beckett. I’m very chuffed, not least because the write-up is so positive. It concludes:

“Tim Major is not yet a 21st-century Alan Garner but he’s getting close, creating an unusual mystery centered on the island’s soundscape, a thing of whispers, screams, susurrations, keenings and — thanks to the presence of the artists’ community — doppler and volume effects and binaural wizardry. Hope Island is arty, arch, chilling, and utterly cock-sure of itself. It is also the only novel I have ever read that made my ears tingle.”

Hope Island Times review Hope Island Times review

Book birthday: HOPE ISLAND

Book birthday! HOPE ISLAND is published today in the UK.

It’s obviously not the ideal time to be launching a book, and it feels really strange that none of us can wander into a bookshop right now. So, here’s a convincing simulation of HOPE ISLAND on the shelf, not least so that you can appreciate Julia Lloyd’s terrific spine design. (I don’t normally alphabetise my books, FYI.)

Hope Island on shelfHere’s the back-cover blurb:

Workaholic TV news producer Nina Scaife is determined to fight for her daughter, Laurie, after her partner Rob walks out on her. She takes Laurie to visit Rob’s parents on the beautiful but remote Hope Island, to prove to her that they are still a family. But Rob’s parents are wary of Nina, and the islanders are acting strangely. And as Nina struggles to reconnect with Laurie, the silent island children begin to lure her daughter away.

Meanwhile, Nina tries to resist the scoop as she is drawn to a local artists’ commune, the recently unearthed archaeological site on their land, and the dead body on the beach…

You can find much more information about the book, and endorsements and reviews, here.

If you’re in the UK, the book is available for only £7.99 on Hive.co.uk, and part of the money goes to an independent bookshop of your choice.

HOPE ISLAND published in the US

HOPE ISLAND is published in the US today! Here it is, modelled by my youngest son, who I can assure you is nothing like the creepy (murderous?) children in the novel.

The first reviews of the novel are starting to appear online, too. Starburst said there’s ‘a dash of John Wyndham and a soupcon of The Wicker Man in the richly-atmospheric latest novel from Tim Major’, and To the Ends of the Word blog concluded that ‘you should definitely check out this novel if your idea of horror is the psychological type, where the eeriness creeps upon you slowly but surely.’

HOPE ISLAND is out today (5th May) in the US, and 8th June in the UK, published by Titan Books. More details here.

HOPE ISLAND available on NetGalley

Here’s a new way for bloggers, reviewers, librarians and booksellers to read HOPE ISLAND ahead of publication – Titan Books is now on NetGalley! Click here for all the details if you fit the bill.

HOPE ISLAND is described as:

Hope Island by Tim MajorA gripping supernatural mystery for fans of John Wyndham’s The Midwich Cuckoos from the author of Snakeskins. Workaholic Nina Scaife is determined to fight for what remains of her family after her partner walks out on her. Relocating to the beautiful but isolated Hope Island is not the fix she had hoped for. Struggling to reconnect with her daughter, the island’s strange silent children begin to lure her away. And then Nina finds the dead body.

By the way, like some other Titan titles, HOPE ISLAND will now have a staggered publication: 5th May in the USA, 8th June in the UK.

It’s not just my novel available – there are five titles in Titan’s initial batch of releases. I’ve been lucky enough to have read two of the books already (as well as the one I wrote, obv). I described EDEN by Tim Lebbon as ‘visceral, cinematic and utterly wild’ and A COSMOLOGY OF MONSTERS by Shaun Hamill as ‘a staggeringly good debut novel, by turns warm and terrifying, tender and devastating’. And while I haven’t read James Brogden’s BONE HARVEST yet, his earlier novels HEKLA’S CHILDREN and THE PLAGUE STONES are some of my favourite recent horror novels. And DESCENDANT OF THE CRANE by Joan He sounds truly awesome too!

MACHINERIES OF MERCY to be reprinted

My young adult SF novel, MACHINERIES OF MERCY, was first published in November 2018. It’s about young offenders trapped in a virtual-reality prison modelled after a sleepy English village. It’s creepy and fun!

It was originally published by ChiZine. In late 2019 various revelations came to light about ChiZine’s business practices, which turned out to be… well, all sorts of awful. I won’t summarise them here – you can find various accounts by googling, or start with the Writer Beware overview. While I wasn’t affected as profoundly as many other writers – just a series of very long delays between acceptance and publication – I’ve yet to receive a single royalty statement, and who knows whether that’ll happen now. It goes without saying: please don’t buy copies of this edition.

But – good news! First off, I’ve now regained rights to publication of the book. Secondly, and more importantly, I’ve signed a contract with the wonderful Luna Press, and a new edition of the novel will be published in Autumn 2020. I’ve worked with Luna Press before on my first story collection, and they’re friendly, professional and just all-round excellent.

I’ve updated the MACHINERIES OF MERCY page on this site – where you’ll also find a Spotify soundtrack to the book to act as a teaser for the new edition – and you can read my introduction to the many influences on the novel on the Luna Press blog. More info soon, including a new cover!

HOPE ISLAND cover reveal

My next novel, HOPE ISLAND, has a cover! Once again, it’s by the wonderful Julia Lloyd, who also designed the SNAKESKINS cover.

The novel features a remote island, creepy children, ethereal cave songs and, after a fairly quiet start, quite a lot of dead bodies.

Hope Island by Tim MajorThe Barnes & Noble blog hosted the cover reveal – if you click through to the announcement you’ll also find a short extract to whet your appetite…

HOPE ISLAND will be published by Titan Books in the UK and USA in May 2020.

Another SNAKESKINS review and a ‘best of’ pick

I figured that the review cycle for SNAKESKINS was probably at an end, but it seems I was wrong. Last week the novel was reviewed in the Sun newspaper, of all places, and very favourably too! Take a look at the (slightly grainy, sorry) scan =>

Not only that, but following the Financial Times review of the novel at the end of May, the same newspaper has now selected SNAKESKINS as one of its best books of the summer! It’s only one of four SF titles selected, alongside Arwen Elys Dayton’s Stronger, Faster and More Beautiful, MG Wheaton’s Emily Eternal and Tade Thompson’s The Rosewater Insurrection. It includes only a short summary of the book, but featuring on this list, with those authors, is something that makes me feel enormously proud.

A sobering, startling satire set in an alternate UK where a privileged few live lives that are longer and healthier than most by means of generating clones of themselves — “Skins” — which instantly disintegrate. When Caitlin Hext’s Skin doesn’t die as planned, terrible truths about her world come slithering into the light.

You can see the growing list of reviews for SNAKESKINS, and read blog posts and listen to the book soundtrack etc, here.

SNAKESKINS reviewed in the Financial Times

This is a cheering end to publication month… SNAKESKINS has been reviewed by James Lovegrove for the Financial Times, and he seems to have enjoyed it very much! Here’s the final paragraph of the review:

“Tim Major masterfully weaves his plot strands together, studding Snakeskins with images of duality and metamorphosis to create a dark and compelling vision of corruption and conspiracy with a subtly satirical edge.”

You can read the full review online here.

Update: It was also published in the FT Weekend edition on 1st June! Click the image to enlarge.

 

SNAKESKINS – two weeks in the world (almost)

SNAKESKINS, my novel about a group of people who produce spontaneous clones, was published by Titan Books on 7th May. That seems a long time ago now! Today marks the end of an intense and intensely fascinating period – a fortnight-long marketing blitz which involved huge numbers of book bloggers and Instagrammers posting information, snippets, Q&As, giveaways and responses to the book. It’s been unlike anything I’ve experienced in the past. As I noted in my previous blog post, it took me a while (that is, all of launch day, which I frittered refreshing webpages obsessively) to understand that this process didn’t directly involve me – though of course I’d generated interview responses and blog posts etc before the event.

Snakeskins Interzone review May19As I’d hoped, week two has been markedly more casual and enjoyable. As well as my easing up on the F5 key, this was also the week in which a greater number of reviews began to filter through – culminating with the new issue of Interzone popping through my letterbox yesterday. The Interzone review is very positive and I’ve been buzzing ever since I read it. The fact that the reviewer is so enthusiastic about the novel is incredible (‘unflinching characterisation and at times deadly prose’ … ‘he’s set the bar high if he’s going to top this’), but just as incredible is the fact that Interzone contains a full-page review of my novel at all. When I first started writing fiction in 2013, my stated ambition was to receive a rejection slip from Interzone. Seriously, a rejection slip, rather than publication, because it would signal that I was giving this writing thing a real shot. I was delighted with that rejection slip. Then the next year my first story was accepted for Interzone – my first big sale, and the moment when I felt like I might have something to offer as a writer. To have graduated to a full-page review of my new novel feels equally as significant a milestone.

So, that was a big moment. What else? I was tipped off that a full-page ad for the book appeared on the back cover of Locus magazine (the US genre trade mag), which is pretty ace (thank you, Titan!). But while I wait for more reactions from readers and reviewers, the main activity has been updates on various book blogs. On top of the interviews and guest posts I mentioned last week, these pieces were published this week:

Oh, and I recorded my first radio interview! If you’re in the Manchester area you can listen to me talk at length to Hannah Kate on her show, Hannah’s Bookshelf (Saturday 18th May, 2–4pm). After the broadcast I’ll share links to listen online. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation, but I’ll be wincing in embarrassment when I listen to the show, no doubt.

And there have been more reviews. Here are just a few:

Snakeskins has so much more in it than you might first imagine. It’s packed full of slowly revealed alternate history, it has mystery that unfolds at a great pace, and characters who aren’t superheroes but real people with believable motivations and personal stories. I read Snakeskins in one day because I couldn’t put it down, but the story, the world, and those who inhabit it will stay with me much, much longer.” Set the Tape

“Snakeskins is an excellently crafted and often horrifying look at identity and what it means to be human. … A keen look at human nature and the workings of a corrupt government” Pythia Reads

“I really went into this one not knowing what to expect, and ended up devouring it in two days! It’s fast-paced, the characters are well developed, it’s weird, and it’s totally British … I think folks who are into things like The X-Files or Orphan Black would love this!” Grimdark Dad

“This is an intriguing SciFi conspiracy novel which, as with all good SciFi, uses high concept ideas to explore prescient issues about our society’s treatment of people, and it’s bloody good too.” The Hebridean Reader

There are a lot more reviews besides those – I’m doing my best to collect them all on the dedicated SNAKESKINS page.

On top of this, I’ve been keeping an eye (okay, checking twice a day) on the Goodreads page for the book. It’s looking okay, I think! As of today there are 20 ratings, with a mean average of exactly 4 stars. If you do read the novel, I’d be grateful if you could post an honest review on Goodreads and, even better, Amazon. I’m told that amazing things happen if you get to 50 reviews, and I daren’t even imagine what that might be.

So, in short, all still going well. I suspect I’ll feel slightly adrift next week, without the tangible evidence of book blog updates. I’ve have to keep reminding myself that I have proof that people are reading the book right now, because that’s what this is all about, isn’t it?