Friday, October 23, 2009

Interview with Gerry Hunt

This week our ‘Five Questions with...’ features Gerry Hunt, writer and artist on Blood Upon the Rose: Easter 1916, the new graphic novel from O’Brien Press. Gerry is a retired architect, who took up creating graphic novels on his retirement, and has previously published In Dublin City and Streets of Dublin.

What are you working on at the moment?

I'm working on the comic I was drawing when O’Brien Press contacted me. It's a continuation of Streets of Dublin in which Johnny and his brother unearth some gold trinkets which Hughie pilfers thus bringing to life the Viking who was laid to rest with it. He is not a happy lad.

Who's the best new writer you've come across recently?

I haven't had a chance to check what is current for years but Frank Frazetta is my favourite artist and there is also Joe Coleman.

Do you have any peculiar rituals you do before you start writing?

I have to spend 20 minutes reading the sport on the daily to wake me up.

Do you have anything like a regular working day as a writer?

Yes, 3 hrs work before lunch and 4 hrs to whatever time it takes after. I work 6-7 days a week and I haven't had a holiday for years.

Who's your favourite literary character?

Bart Simpson. When I see that guy and I think of the elderly lady that does the voice I crack up.

If you could be anything else in the world, except a writer, what would it be?

I would go straight back to Architecture.


Gerry will be signing copies of Blood Upon the Rose in Chapters Bookstore on Saturday 24th October at 3pm.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, September 25, 2009

Interview with Dacre Stoker

On Wednesday 30th of September at 2.30pm we are delighted to have Dacre Stoker, great-grandnephew of Bram Stoker, in Chapters to sign copies of his book Dracula: The Un-Dead, the first official sequel to Dracula itself. I took this opportunity to ask him a few questions about himself and the book.

Pádraig Ó Méalóid: What is Dracula: the Un-Dead about?

Dacre Stoker: Dracula: the Un-Dead is our way of reconnecting with original Dracula fans. We have picked up the story 25 years after Bram's novel ends. We have tried as best we can to utilize Bram's original characters in a similar manner as Bram would have with appropriate modernization.

From our website:

Written with the blessing and cooperation of Stoker family members, Dracula The Un-Dead begins in 1912, twenty-five years after Dracula "crumbled into dust." Van Helsing's protégé, Dr. Jack Seward, is now a disgraced morphine addict obsessed with stamping out evil across Europe. Meanwhile, an unknowing Quincey Harker, the grown son of Jonathan and Mina, leaves law school for the London stage, only to stumble upon the troubled production of "Dracula," directed and produced by Bram Stoker himself.

The play plunges Quincey into the world of his parents' terrible secrets, but before he can confront them he experiences evil in a way he had never imagined. One by one, the band of heroes that defeated Dracula a quarter-century ago is being hunted down. Could it be that Dracula somehow survived their attack and is seeking revenge? Or is there another force at work whose relentless purpose is to destroy anything and anyone associated with Dracula?

PÓM: Am I right in thinking that Dacre is an old Stoker family name? And how should we be pronouncing it?

DS: That is easy, Dacre is an old Stoker family name. I am named after a famous Irish cousin, who was my god father: Commander H H G Dacre Stoker, the first submariner to take his sub AE2 up the Dardanelles in WW1. It was fateful as it happened during the ill-fated campaign of Gallipoli. Once in the Sea of Marmara, the tiny sub was attacked and crippled, and instead of being taken by the enemy, the crew scuttled the sub, and were captured. Many more interesting Stories about H H G Dacre Stoker exist; Irish Croquet champion at age seventy-seven etc etc!

To remember the pronunciation, try ‘Acre’ like an acre of land and put a D in front. Or Day-Ker.

PÓM: Did you have to do a lot of research for the book?

DS: The research for the book was done in a few different ways. I personally went to the Rosnebach Museum in Philadelphia with my wife and spent a day carefully reading through all of Bram's hand written research notes that he compiled for writing Dracula. We were looking for things that he had known about and maybe intended to use in Dracula but were left out for some reason. This helped us decide upon the use of Inspector Cotford as a character in our book. Ian Holt and I also hired Alexander Galant, to do research into street maps, and other important details pertaining to historical accuracy of the period.

PÓM: Have you had the usual list of strange jobs that authors always seem to have had?

DS: I have been a school teacher and athletics coach for most of my life. Since I then I owned and managed an outdoor clothing and gear shop for 4 years. Presently I am the director of a land conservation organization, I also teach CPR, First Aid, and Blood-borne pathogens.

PÓM: Is there any interest in filming the book, or is it too early to say?

DS: That is something we are involved in at the moment, we have two routes to go, the independent and studio route. Right now we have significant interest from a few studios and a group putting together financing for an independent project.

PÓM: Dacre Stoker, thank you very much for your time.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

5 Questions with... Juliet E McKenna

This week, our ‘Five Questions with...’ features British writer Juliet E McKenna, author of the fantasy series The Tales of Einarinn and The Aldabreshin Compass, and no stranger to us here in Chapters, due to her regular visits to Dublin-based SF Conventions. We always have a ready supply of signed copies of Juliet’s books on our shelves!

1. What are you working on at the moment?

I’m putting the final touches to Banners in the Wind, the concluding book of the Chronicles of the Lescari Revolution trilogy. Those exiles and rebels who decided it was time to put an end to their quarreling dukes’ tyranny in Irons in the Fire are dealing with no end of unforeseen consequences after taking the battle to their enemies in Blood in the Water – and I’m expecting the page proofs of that book any day too.

Since I deliver the Banners manuscript in October, I’m already thinking ahead to some other projects that could take me in interesting new directions.

2. Who's the best new writer you've come across recently?

New to me personally or new to publishing? If it’s the former, I’m loving Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano detective novels, set in Sicily. As for debut novels, Kari Sperring’s Living with Ghosts is a fantastic read, showing just how far from formulaic fantasy fiction can be these days.

3. Do you have any peculiar rituals you do before you start writing?

Not that I’m aware of. On a typical morning, I’ll wave the teenage sons off to school and make a cup of tea while ignoring any outstanding housework or washing up. That can wait till the lads get home and do their share. Then I head upstairs to my study. Dealing with email limbers up my typing fingers, and then I’m off into the current chapter.

4. Who's your favourite literary character?

How am I supposed to answer that? I’ve been reading books by the shelf-full for the past forty years! I can’t even decide on a favourite among my own characters, never mind anyone else’s. If you really must have an answer? At the moment, Sam Gamgee from The Lord of the Rings; loyal, brave, whose heroism comes from innate strengths, never mind external appearances. Ask me again next month and it may well be someone entirely different, depending on what I’m reading or thinking. Like, say, Steven Maturin. Oh, or Elvis Cole. Or…

5. If you could be anything else in the world, except a writer, what would it be?

That’s an interesting one. If my life hadn’t taken the turn that ended up with me being a writer, I’d most likely be a Personnel Director by now, and I reckon I’d still enjoy that kind of work.

But anything else in the world? I would be an actor; middling-successful, please, so doing a bit of film work to take me to exotic places, some quality telly so I’d meet the great Sir and Dame thespians and observe their skills, interspersed with the different challenges and thrills of live theatre every few seasons. But without all that paparazzi nonsense, thanks.


Friday, September 11, 2009

"Of what import are brief, nameless lives... to Galactus?"

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

I fell in love with Junot Díaz after the first few minutes reading this book. Simple as that. I actually ran to get his collection of short-stories, that's how much in awe of his writing I was.

And why was that?

It's, in a word, fresh. A mix of street-hardened spanglish (not bastardized, mind you, just an abundance of Latin-American Spanish expressions) with nerdcore galore (it's not every book that manages to compare Trujillo with Darkseid, I'll tell you that much!), it just leaps from the page, at times sounding like something that shouldn't be read but lived, if that makes sense.

The main character (for this book deals not only with Oscar but with his family and his people) is, well, a big fat nerd. No two ways around it, Oscar is a gamer, a comic book nerd, a sci-fi geek that simply does not function well within the real world.

And don't we all know someone like that (trust me, I used to work in a comic book shop)?

We are swept in by his family, his problematic sister, his larger than life mother, the saintly grannie (you might call it a cliche, but heck, she reminds me of my grandmother, it's a very Latin trait in a way!), his quasi-brother-in-law but, in the background (the soul of the book itself), there are always the Dominicanos. Their culture, their history, their curses.Díaz makes a point of filling you in on episodes of the Trujillato so that you'll have an idea of how the Dominican soul was broken and how it still affects its descendants to this day, even when they ran away to far off Nueva York.Fukú weights heavily in Oscar and Lola's shoulders. And there's no running away from curses.

This book is undoubtedly a joy to read, although I wonder how other readers will take its usage of Spanish slang and the many, many, MANY nerd references* that more than temper the book marinate it.

A worthy Pulitzer Prize for Fiction winner and a solid 5 stars for me!

*And "Grodd" is spelt with two Ds, Díaz, TWO Ds!!


Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Sumo by Helmut Newton

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of the publication of SUMO by Hemut Newton Taschen have published a new edition of this record breaking book.

Originally published in an edition of 10,000 signed and numbered copies, it quickly sold out despite its €7500 price tag. The book which weighed in at a massive 35.4 Kilos came with its own display stand designed by Philippe Stark. In 2000 the book broke the record for the most expensive book published in the 20th century, when Sumo copy number one, which was autographed by over 100 of the book’s featured celebrities, sold at auction in Berlin for €320,000.

This new edition, while smaller in dimensions and weight is still a big book, and features over 400 pictures covering every aspect of Helmut Newton’s career from his fashion photographs to his nudes and celebrity portraits. A must have for all art and photography fans the book comes with its own display stand and a special “Making of” Booklet and is much more affordable than the original edition

Sumo by Helmut Newton

Published by Taschen

Available in store, priced at €124.99.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Preview - The Left Hand of God

We wouldn’t normally do this, but I’ve just read a proof for Paul Hoffman’s forthcoming fantasy debut The Left Hand of God, due in January 2010 and a word is definitely required. All things being equal this new piece of “imaginative fiction” should prove to be one of next years big titles on the fantasy market and probably the cross-over market as well. International rights sold in a heartbeat after it appeared at the Frankfurt book fair and Penguin Michael Joseph are planning to heavily market what they consider to be a very important new author.

Being touted as a blend of Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose and Harry Potter, the novel follows the adventures of Thomas Cale, a Redeemer Acolyte raised from toodlerhood in a sort of brutal preparatory academy for fanatical warrior priests. I’m not going to give a single plot point away but trust me; this is riveting stuff, artfully crafted and a joy to read. It grabbed me from the first page and it’s incredibly well developed world and dark sheen of danger, adventure and intrigue kept me hanging on until the end.

So be sure that come January next year you get your hands on what might well prove to be the biggest new name in fantasy.


Monday, September 7, 2009

World War Z

It does seem like Zombiemania has taken over the bookstores, but amongst all the new offerings, lets not forget what its probably the best zombie book ever written (sure, in MY opinion, but hey).

World War Z, by Max Brooks (Mel Brooks son, for those cinematically inclined) is an oral history of the zombie war, in which Max takes it upon himself to chronicle the events that lead to the war with the undead, the desperate battles and the aftermath of the biggest threat Mankind ever faced.
And it is simply one of the best, tensest, smartest and most humane books Ive ever read.
Composed of interviews with key-pieces of the action or sometimes just unlucky people that happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time, its breathtakingly detailed and vivid and, clich as it sounds, you will feel like you were there.
World War Z Audiobook
And that is even more impacting in the audiobook version, even in its abridged form. Now bear in mind that I'm not one for audiobooks since I have the attention span of a gnat and I forget everything in 5 seconds, but when the characters are being played by actors like Alan Alda, Carl Reiner, Jurgen Prochnow, Mark Hamill, John Turturro or Henry Rollins you WILL sit up and take notice.

Both versions are incredible and absolutely essential, not just for zombie fans but also for fans of good books, simple as that.
World War Z and World War Z Audiobook are currently in stock and waiting for you to take them home.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

5 Questions with... Suzanne McLeod

This week, our ‘Five Questions with...’ features British writer Suzanne McLeod, author of the series of urban fantasy books, which so far includes The Sweet Scent of Blood and The Cold Kiss of Death. Besides her website, Suzanne also regularly writes on her blog.

1: What are you working on at the moment?

I’m working on The Bitter Seed of Magic, Book 3 in my urban fantasy series. Genny Taylor, the main character, has got an eighty-year-old curse to crack; a couple of relatives who turn up and present her with a challenging (and blood-splattered) problem; and at least one murder to solve. My books are set in London, and some of the most fun I have when writing (apart from devising interesting, magical ways to kill people, and putting my characters in difficult and horrific situations) is choosing which parts of the city to set my stories in. Of course, then I have to have a day out in London to do the research – my next trip will be to the Tower of London, with maybe a detour via the shops... It’s a hard life being a writer sometimes :- ).

2: Who’s the best new writer you’ve come across recently?

Sadly, I’m not reading a lot of new authors just now, as most of my free time is given over to my own writing. And when I do read, I tend to choose authors I love and am familiar with – I have quite a long list – and catch up with their newest books. But the one book which hooked me recently is The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. By about two thirds of the way in, I ended up desperate to know how the main character was going to get out of the problem she was in. I’m eagerly waiting to find out what happens next in Catching Fire.

3: Do you have any peculiar rituals you do before you start writing?

I make a cup of tea, bow down before the writing gods and ask for inspiration, and plug my brain directly into the computer... OK, no just kidding. I do start with a cup of tea, then I have a tweak and edit of the previous session’s writing to get me back into the story, and then slowly make more words. I work either on the computer or the laptop, depending on where I am – I’ve written on trains and in airports from necessity – but I prefer to do most of my writing at home, where it’s quiet, and the kettle’s handy for more cups of tea. But if anyone knows where I can get that direct brain/computer link, please get in touch.

4: Who’s your favourite literary character?

I think it’s a close call between Bram Stoker’s Dracula (as if you couldn’t guess that from someone who writes about vampires) and the Phouka – a shapeshifting faerie – from Emma Bull’s War for the Oaks. He’s a wonderful character full of contradictions and internal conflicts who grows and changes along with a great fantasy story.

5: If you could be anything else in the world, besides a writer, what would it be?

I’d love to be able to play the saxophone and sing. Unfortunately, I never got to grips with music, and I can’t carry a tune. Luckily for everyone else, I know it, so no one will ever be subjected to my – really embarrassing – musical attempts.


Thursday, August 27, 2009

5 Questions with... Sarah Rees Brennan

This week, our ‘Five Questions with...’ features Sarah Rees Brennan, a young Irish writer whose first book, The Demon's Lexicon, was published this summer. You might also like to have a look at Sarah’s blog on LiveJournal, called Sarah Tells Tales.

1. What are you working on at the moment?

I'm working on the third book in my Demon's Lexicon trilogy, The Demon's Talisman, and a romantic comedy I'm co-writing with a friend. Working on two things at once is always interesting - you find yourself accidentally inserting demons into the comedy, and lovers' squabbles into the sword fights, and then realising you really need your morning caffeine injection.

2. Who's the best new writer you've come across recently?

I would have to pick two - Margi Stohl and Kami Garcia wrote Beautiful Creatures, a gothic-to-modern romance set in the deep South which isn't out yet, but which I really enjoyed. I was particularly seduced by the exotic food, though of course being Irish, 'gravy and biscuits' immediately makes me think of someone upending a gravy boat over a packet of Rich Tea digestives.

3. Do you have any peculiar rituals you do before you start writing?

Aside from the ritual goat sacrifice? Heh, no: I tend to check my email, drink three cups of tea, and go to writer town. Some people might consider my continuous listening to country music as a peculiar ritual, though... My flatmates have certainly expressed that opinion.

4. Who's your favourite literary character?

Elizabeth Bennet from Pride and Prejudice. I love her! She's funny and flawed, attractive without ever being the best-looking in the room and without ever minding that she's not the best-looking girl in the room, and really just impossible not to love. I wish I knew how Jane Austen did that!

5. If you could be anything else in the world, except a writer, what would it be?

I think I would be the possessor of an incredibly sophisticated robot suit, which enabled me to fight crime without ever risking being harmed. (I would have lasers in my robot arms, and a comfy chair and kettle inside the suit.) Failing that, there are the options of working in a bookshop, being queen, and being the Official Taster for all the chocolate factories in the world...


Friday, August 21, 2009

Graphic Novel, is it?

The Graphic Novel is the fastest growing literary form, but there has been mixed opinions about the term since it was first used in 1977 by Will Eisner to describe his A Contract with God. So, curious to see how the professionals felt about it, I asked sixteen assorted comics writers, artists, and publishers the same question: What's your opinion of the term 'Graphic Novel'?

Neil Gaiman said:

It is at moments like this Pádraig, that we remember what Dr Johnson said on the subject:

As far as I can tell, GRAPHIC NOVEL was a term coined by YAHOOS specifically to pester, irritate and lykewise get the GANDER of MASTER EDDIE CAMPBELL, such that SMALL BOYS and STREET URCHINS are said to shout it at him in the street (Viz,
Here Comes Master Campbell, Have you written or drawn another Graphic Novel today?). Persons of QUALITY do not utter it, preferring such terms as BIG COMICAL BOOK ALL BOUNDEN TOGETHER WITH A THICK SPINE or even A COLLEXION OF PAGES WITH PICTURES AND WORDS PRINTED IN SUCH A WAY THAT BOOKESHOPPES CAN SELL THEM TO THEIR PROFIT.

Other, more serious, opinions can be found in this blogpost, from people like Bryan Talbot, David Lloyd, and Dave McKean.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

5 Questions with... Abigail Rieley

This week, our ‘5 Questions with...’ features Irish writer and journalist Abigail Rieley, whose first book, Devil in the Red Dress, told the true story of the Sharon Collins ‘Lying Eyes’ Hitman-for-Hire case.

1. What are you working on at the moment?

I'm currently in the final editing stages of my first novel. It's a bit of a change from my previous book Devil in the Red Dress, which came out of my work as a court reporter. This book is a satirical fantasy. OK there might be one or two journos in it but after that it all gets a lot more surreal.

2. Who's the best new writer you've come across recently?

Without a doubt Sam Savage. I read Firmin: Adventures of a Metropolitan Lowlife on the train to and from a sentencing in Galway. It's a wonderful book - funny, tragic and utterly compelling. A book in which the main character is a rat which is also a profound celebration of the richness reading can bring to life. Well, it's one of those books I read and really wish I'd had the idea first!

3. Do you have any peculiar rituals you do before you start writing?

At the risk of sounding boring it's putting coffee on to brew. I discovered a long time ago that caffeinated coffee was a severely bad idea when I was writing. I can easily get through an entire pot in a day and if it's a leaded brew, after a few cups I can't concentrate to the end of a sentence! I'm pretty obsessive about my decaff beans - if I'm having a hard time getting started just the smell of the coffee brewing gets me back on track. I have a hazelnut blend I'm eking out for as long as I can - the place where I used to get them was a casualty of the recession.

I also listen to music when I write. I'm too used to the clatter of newsrooms to work in absolute silence. I have playlists for each of my characters. It helps, when I'm working on a difficult scene, to have the soundtrack for their lives not mine.

4. Who's your favourite literary character?

Since I was a kid I've been a fan of dystopian fiction - possibly something to do with a 70s London childhood. Aldous Huxley's Brave New World was always a favourite and Helmholtz Watson is my favourite character. I always found him more interesting than the other leading men. He's principled but pragmatic and passionate about freedom of thought...although I'm not sure I'd go to the lengths he does at the end of the novel when it comes to finding a quiet place to work.

5. If you could be anything else in the world, except a writer, what would it be?

I've wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember so this is a really hard one. I did flirt with the idea of being a Womble for a while when I was about 5 and living in Wimbledon but I think nowadays if I couldn't write I'd have to get my fix vicariously by running a bookshop.


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Books do furnish a room: Elementary, my dear Reader

Though we're a bookish lot, we're pretty excited by the forthcoming Guy Ritchie film adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. Created by Arthur Conan Doyle, Holmes and his loyal companion Dr Watson have seen countless outings in various book jackets since their appearance in Strand magazine in 1891, and Caustic Cover Critic tackles the various incarnations of the brilliant "consulting detective".

Included are Michael Kirkham's tasteful pipe and swirls of smoke for White's (see also) Vintage Classics's handsome hardcover edition, as well as Atlantic Crime Classics retro patterned jacket. Hats off, though, to Hard Case Crime's "lurid pulp drag" dime store cover that has startled the broadsheets. Says publisher Charles Ardai,
"This is the tradition we wanted to revive with our edition of The Valley of Fear – presenting something 'good for you' in 'bad for you' garb," he said. "We chose Conan Doyle precisely because he does seem miles away from what we usually do – part of the goal was to startle readers with the apparent disconnect between the style of the art and the work being presented."

Our personal favourites are Coralie Bickford-Smith's acidic, Hammer horror-style covers for Penguin Reds, and available in-store. Created with Mike Topping, you can read both artists talking about the series here.


Monday, August 17, 2009

A room of one's own

Writers are generally solitary creatures, spending most of their time alone in a room, decanting the products of their fertile imaginations into computers, and from there to the printed page. Their rooms are their places of power, shaped to meet their needs, so any glimpse into a writer's room seems like a glimpse into a part of their creativity.

The Guardian have been running a feature called Writers' Rooms since the beginning of 2007, with individual writers talking about where they write, accompanied by a photograph. Here's award-winning Irish writer Sebastian Barry's piece, along with this photograph:


"It doesn't look very tidy, but from childhood I have loved provisionality in a room, something thrown together, as indeed the bookcase on the right was, in the first days after coming here 10 years ago. ... The plain inkwell I dug up in the garden, which seemed an apt thing to find. There's stuff in boxes waiting to go off to the Harry Ransom Center in Texas sometime. The chair was sold to Ali years ago in a Dublin shop. The man swore it was "genuine Georgeen" and it may well be."

Meanwhile, photographer and Who Killed Amanda Palmer? contributor Kyle Cassidy has been taking photographs of Fantasy & Science Fiction writers in their workplaces for a forthcoming book called Where I Write: Fantasy & Science Fiction Authors in Their Creative Spaces. You can see some of the photographs here, including this bird's-eye view of Samuel R Delany:

Given the choice between the two, I'd have to say I much prefer to see the writer in the photograph, rather than not. It's the writer who gives the room its meaning and purpose, after all.


Thursday, August 13, 2009

The Recommendation

Once in a while - interspersed with shelving and pricing, stock checking and reordering, title searches and tidying - a bookseller gets to perform one of his/her primary, and all too often neglected, functions: the Recommendation. Oh yes, the capital 'R' is most certainly warranted. In today's book market the range of titles is staggering and when you walk into a bookstore, particularly one as capacious as Chapters, the task of finding something to take home can be daunting for even the most determined bookworm.

To some greenhorns the hopeful, beaming visage of a customer in need can be a source of great apprehension. “What if they don't like the book I recommend”, one thinks. “What if they never come back, because I promised them a nerve shredding page turner and they fall asleep on page 24?” And so forth. For some of us, however, recommending a book can be one of the most rewarding parts of the job. There is little to compare with knowing that you've gotten the right book for the right reader, and getting positive feedback always makes the day that little bit better.

Of course the internet has made it that much easier to find that book you heard about last week in the café, or read in the Guardian Review but forgot to take the clipping, but in a world of Amazon auto-suggestions and keystroke targeted online marketing there is no substitute for looking someone in the eye, asking the right questions and guiding them to the book that's been sitting on that shelf, quietly and patiently waiting for them to pick it up. So don't be shy, if you're ever in need of some inspiration, a new direction for your reading or even just someone to tell how awful that last book you read was, talk to us. It's what we're here for.


Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Books do furnish a room: Objects of desire

It was the book that caused a scandal, with one reviewer calling it 'sheer, unrestrained pornography'. The book, Nabokov's Lolita; the publisher, George Weidenfeld. And who could resist a copy of Lolita with a pair of cherries cut into the cover? Weidenfeld & Nicolson hope you can't: to celebrate their 60th anniversary, they've issued some dashing looking books, Lolita included.

Pitched as a covetable, tactile collection, each book cover is designed with a "window" (also known as die-cut) on the front revealing a portion of specially commissioned endpapers, reflecting each novel's theme (hence cherries for Lolita). It's a nine-strong list that includes Vikram Seth's A Suitable Boy, designed by Yehrin Tong, as well as J.G. Farrell's Siege of Krishnapur, with endpapers by Mikko Rantanen.

The set is limited, so you should get yours while our stocks last. The list in full:
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov, designed by Louisa Scarlet Gray

One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, designed by James Dawe

The World According to Garp by John Irving, designed by Karl Grandin

The Siege Of Krishnapur by J.G. Farrell, designed by Mikko Rantanen

The Color Purple by Alice Walker, designed by Carl Kleiner

Sophie's World by Jostein Gaarder, designed by Mikko Rantanen

A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth, designed by Yehrin Tong

The Reader by Bernard Schlink, designed by Ann Muir Marbling

The Shadow Of The Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, designed by Micah Lidberg


Tuesday, August 11, 2009

5 Questions with...Juliet Bressan

This week, our 'Five Questions with...' features Irish novelist Juliet Bressan, whose new novel Entanglement we're launching here in Chapters on Thursday 13th August. Entanglement is Juliet's second novel, following last year's Snow White Turtle Doves.

1. What are you working on at the moment?

I'm finishing up my third novel and I suppose you'd call it a romantic political thriller... It's the story of a Dublin A&E doctor who discovers that her boyfriend has murdered one of the patients... This book is taking me a bit longer than the others because I've had to do a lot of research. So I've been spending the summer reading forensic pathology books, talking to A&E nurses, visiting Mountjoy Jail, spending time with ex-prisoners, and talking to all those gangland criminals we hear about in the papers all the time! I've been learning loads and it's been fascinating. I'm also working on two non-fiction books which I'm co-authoring with other writers and I'm way behind so thanks for reminding me..

2. Who's the best new writer you've come across recently?

Conor Bowman is a brilliant, very funny,very talented Dublin-based writer who's just about to publish in America. Michelle Jackson is fantastic, and she's going to go very far. I've just read Amy Huberman's book and I think she's very talented and very funny. . . Oh, and I've just read a fantastic book by Kimberley Chambers called Billie Jo. They are tipping her as the new Martina Cole.

3. Do you have any peculiar rituals you do before you start writing?

You know, I'd love to say yes to this, and pretend I'm one of those writers who sits in a shed in the garden sharpening their pencils smoking Dunhills wearing a nightie and a pair of wellies or something, but I'm so undisciplined, to be honest I just grab whatever opportunity I get and whack away at the laptop. I like writing in bed best of all – which is a bit disgusting and slovenly but I do get lots of privacy there and to be frank, that's all I need, to be left alone. I love going to the Tyrone Guthrie Centre at Annaghmakerrig and I've drafted two novels there and I'm dying to go back. It's a wonderful place to work and meet other artists and I've made some of my very best friends there.

4. Who's your favourite literary character?

What a great question! Can I have a list? Winnie The Pooh, Millie Mollie Mandy, Harriet The Spy, Heathcliff, Mrs Dalloway, Homer Wells, Ruth Cole and Eddie O'Hare ( I'm a huge John Irving fan).

5. If you could be anything else in the world, except a writer, what would it be?

To be honest, if I couldn't be a writer – say, because my brain was all scrambled or something – I'd rather be dead. That sounds awful, doesn't it? But I just know I'd be so unhappy if I couldn't write... oh, well, I think I'd quite like to be a rock musician. If I had the talent...


Juliet will be signing copies of her new novel Entanglement in Chapters this Thursday (13 August), from 6.30pm - 8.00pm.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What we're reading

Reputedly written as a result of a friend betting him that he couldn’t write a classic murder mystery with an historical setting, The Name of the Rose is Umberto Eco's first and most popular novel. Set in an Italian monastery in the year 1327, the story follows the Franciscan friar William of Baskerville and his apprentice, Adso of Melk, as they attempt to unravel the truth behind a series of murders plaguing the Benedictine monks of whom they are guests. William refuses to accept that demonic possession can explain the increasingly bizarre deaths, and must instead apply the deductive reasoning of the "scholastic method" to solve the mystery and reveal the murderer before he kills again.

Incorporating all the classic trappings of the whodunit genre – a closed community, a limited range of colourful suspects, obscure clues that inspire the detective to exquisitely executed leaps of logic – The Name of the Rose is both a brilliant crime novel and an erudite work of historical fiction. Amidst the flurry of dead bodies, we are also treated to an examination of "the question of poverty" which threatens to split branches of the Church, the appearance of real historical figures such as the Inquisitor Bernard Giu, and the strange allure of a labyrinthine medieval library.

You can read it for the gripping plot alone, and still be dazzled by the literary allusions to semiotics, biblical analysis and the nature of story-telling itself.


The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco
Available in various editions, including the Vintage Classic from €9.75 and the Everyman hardback at €11.99, while stocks last

Friday, August 7, 2009

What we're reading

Dan Rhodes, author of Timoleon Vieta Come Home: A Sentimental Journey once said that
"it isn't easy writing about dogs. I can understand why Mark Haddon put a garden fork through his in chapter one. It isn't always easy reading about them either – I've met several Paul Auster fans who needed reconstructive dental surgery after attempting Timbuktu."

It isn't always easy reading about any animal story pitched at adults: animal narrators, though common (and often beautifully executed) in children's books, can be a difficult thing to pull off for grown-ups. For every Fup (Jim Dodge's tale of a duck) you have a Timbuktu, for each Timeoleon Veta Come Home, a Life of Pi (didn't like this one, sorry). Sam Savage's Firmin thankfully falls into the latter category (that is, an animal story for adults that is very, very good).

Born the runt of a litter of rats and having to fend for himself, Firmin takes refuge in an independent bookshop and, nibbling on his bedding (a shredded copy of the "Great Book"), discovers he can read. Thus Firman begins a lifelong love-affair with literature. He'll ingest anything as long as it does not contain other rodents: "I despise good-natured Ratty in The Wind in the Willows. I piss down the throat of Mickey Mouse and Stuart Little. Affable, shuffling, cute, they stick in my craw like fish-bones." Savage has a background in philosophy and while Firmin raises more questions than it answers ("Firmin"is a play on vermin and furman), this little book is a bibliophile's dream.


Firmin by Sam Savage
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson, available in-store

Thursday, August 6, 2009

5 Questions With...Peter Murphy

We continue our mini-interview series by putting 5 Questions to Peter Murphy, journalist at Hotpress and author of the dark coming-of-age novel John the Revelator, highly recommended by Chapters and described (by Cathi Unsworth no less) as "blues noir...with shades of William Faulkner, Flannery O'Connor and Harry Crews."

1. What are you working on at the moment?

Another book. Please excuse the vagueness. I'm superstitious when it comes to blathering on about work in progress for fear it might inhibit the desire to tell the story. William Gibson likened it to taking the lid off a kettle that's trying to boil.

2. Who's the best new writer you've come across recently?

I very much liked Kevin Power's book Bad Day in Blackrock.

3. Do you have any peculiar rituals you do before you start writing?

Cup of tea and a roll-up and I'm good to go.

4. Who's your favourite literary character?

Huckleberry Finn, The Chief from Cuckoo's Nest, Boo Radley, Riddley Walker, Francie Brady, Judge Holden from Blood Meridian, Euchrid Eucrow, Brother William from The Name of the Rose, Preacher Harry Powell, Ida Richilieu from The Man Who Fell In Love With The Moon, Hazel Motes from Wise Blood... the list goes on.

5. If you could be anything else in the world, except a writer, what would it be?

Carny. Burlesque organ-grinder. Revivalist proselytizer.

Peter Murphy soundtracks his book for Largehearted Boy, plus go have a look at the book trailer for John the Revelator. "Well who's that writin'?"


Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Books do furnish a room: White's Books

We all judge books by their covers; we may not mean to, but we do. A recent article in the London Independent on the art of book cover design raises many valid points, not least "there's no doubt that recent years have seen a golden age of book design."
Partly this is a case of big publishers relying on brilliant design to make their goods stand out in an increasingly difficult market; but partly, too, it's a case of small, independent publishers springing up to provide a certain kind of reader with what they want, more than ever: the book as beautiful, covetable, keep-able object.

And none more covetable than White's Books. Set up by Penguin designer David Pearson (he of the Great Ideas series), White's Books are redesigning the classics, commissioning illustrators as diverse as Radiohead's cover artist Stanley Donwood and fashion illustrator Petra Boner (for Louis Vuitton) to produce exquisite fine hardcover editions that can only become future collectables.

You can read an interview with Pearson talking about White's Books in Creative Review, while Apartment Therapy share some of the wonderful covers. Better yet, Chapters have a selection of White's Books in store. Why not treat yourself to some affordable luxury?


Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Man Who Sold The World

Stieg Larsson

If the name Stieg Larsson doesn't mean anything to you, then we have one question: Where have you been?

Riding high in sales charts all over the world, translated into around forty languages so far, dubbed "the virus from the north" in France due to their staggering success, the books of Swedish journalist, activist and crime-novelist Larsson's Millennium Trilogy - The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and, due for release in October, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest - have landed on bookshelves and promptly enjoyed an explosion of popularity akin to a small nuclear device.

Alas the man himself cannot enjoy the fame which his three-volume blockbuster has brought him: he died suddenly and unexpectedly from a heart attack in November 2004 at the age of 50. Founder of the anti-racist EXPO Foundation in 1995 and editor in chief of EXPO magazine, Larsson possessed a life long commitment to counteracting racism and right-wing white-power extremism. He was also among other things a successful graphic designer, chairman of the Scandinavian Science-Fiction Society and publisher of two sci-fi magazines. A man of many parts indeed.

Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

So, a new popular crime/thriller series, in and of itself nothing extraordinary there. However the exciting thing about Larsson's books is that they are, and continue to be, appealing to an unusually broad range of readers: men and women, young and old, hard-core crime readers and holiday readers alike are champing at the bit to get their hands on the final volume this October. As to their plot, well without giving anything away, the books centre largely on Mikael Blomkvist, down-at-heel journalist and editor of the controversial Millennium magazine, and Lisbeth Salander the spiky, troubled, mysterious hacker-turned-private-investigator and titular girl with the dragon tattoo. Mystery, violence, romance and sexual politics are the order of the day, and while Larsson does take time to stop and reflect - on the scenic wonder of his home country, on the moral dilemmas of his main characters - these books are all about fast-paced, page-devouring, eye-tiring action and mystery.

And with a Swedish film already successfully released and rumours of a Quentin Tarantino-helmed adaptation with Brad Pitt in the lead role, the hype surrounding the Millennium Trilogy shows no sign of letting up anytime soon.


Millennium Trilogy V1: The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo & Millennium Trilogy V2: The Girl Who Played with Fire
Published By Quercus, In Store now

Millennium Trilogy V3: The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets Nest
Published By Quercus, released 1 October

Monday, August 3, 2009


You knew this was coming...

Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters

After the incredible publishing success that was Seth Grahame-Smith and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice and Zombies it was obvious that the editorial world would be eager to capitalise on the mash-up/zombie trend. So what does the future have in store for us?

Grahame-Smith will return to the fold with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, but Quirk Books already has a new Jane Austen mash-up planned for later this year (October in the USA), Sense And Sensibility and Seamonsters. And look, there's even a trailer!

The USA will also see the release in September of Amanda Grange's Mr. Darcy, Vampyre, where the Darcy family are all vampires (because, frankly, why not?) while in Europe mid-October will see both A.E. Moorat's Queen Victoria: Demon Hunter (which I assume will do exactly what it says on the tin) AND Adam Robert's I Am Scrooge: A Zombie History for Christmas (an excerpt from the description: Can Scrooge be persuaded to go back to his evil ways, travel back to Christmas past and destroy the brain stem of the tiny, irritatingly cheery Patient Zero?).

And that's not even mentioning Alan Goldsher's Paul Is Undead: The British Zombie where The Beatles are, well, zombies.

What great times for lovers of gonzo fiction!

(Although, I should write a follow-up on how the serious literary world is only now catching up with comics. Hum...)


Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Seth Grahame-Smith
Published by Quirk, available in-store

Friday, July 31, 2009

Man Booker 2009 Longlist

The Booker Longlist announced this week has seen an unlikely battle emerging for one of literature's most coveted prizes between some of fictions finest writers and a book purporting to be the biography of the chimp from the Tarzan movies of the 1930s & 40s.

The 13 strong longlist features two former winners JM Coetzee, who won in 1983 with The Life and Times of Michael K and again in 1999 with Disgrace and AS Byatt, who won the 1990 prize with Possession.

Four previously shortlisted authors are also named on this years longlist including Colm Toíbín for Brooklyn; William Trevor for Love & Summer; Sarah Hall for How to Paint a Dead Man and Sarah Waters for Little Stranger.

First-time novelists Samantha Harvey, James Lever & Ed O'Loughlin are also named on this years longlist. But perhaps the strangest book to be nominated in recent years is Me Cheeta by James Lever, originally published purporting to be the autobiography of the hard-living chimp movie star it surprised many to see the book nominated for a major fiction prize.

In Ireland however, most attention will be on our trio of nominees - Colm Toibin, William Trevor and first-time novelist Ed O'Loughlin. Many would feel that this year may be the turn of Toibin or Trevor, both having been previously shortlisted two & three times respectively, but they face serious competition from JM Coetzee, who is the early favourite with Summertime.

The shortlist will be announced on the 8th of September and the winner will be revealed on the 6th of October.

Full Longlist:

AS Byatt - The Children's Book

JM Coetzee - Summertime

Adam Foulds -The Quickening Maze

Sarah Hall - How to Paint a Dead Man

Samantha Harvey - The Wilderness

James Lever - Me Cheeta

Hilary Mantel - Wolf Hall

Simon Mawer - The Glass Room

Ed O'Loughlin - Not Untrue & Not Unkind

James Scudamore - Heliopolis

Colm Tóibín - Brooklyn

William Trevor - Love and Summer

Sarah Waters - Little Stranger


Thursday, July 30, 2009

5 Questions With... C.E. Murphy

Here’s another in our series of our ‘Five Questions with...’ mini-interviews, this time with Urban Fantasy writer CE Murphy, universally known to her friends as Catie. Originally from Alaska, but now living in the wilds of rural Longford, Catie is a regular attendee at all of the Irish Science Fiction Conventions, where she is always popular, and she has rapidly made a name for herself as one of the finest writers in her field. So, over to Catie...

1) What are you working on at the moment?
Well, when I got this email I was working on fitting "The damned weather is changing from brilliant sun to pissing rain every forty-five seconds and I can't decide what clothes are appropriate. Maybe I'll just forego them entirely. Except that would be cold." into the 140 character limit on Twitter...
On a slightly grander scheme, though, I've just finished the revisions on Truthseeker, first of a new fantasy duology due out next fall. Today I'm going to finish writing the proposal for its sequel, and then try to convince my editor that it actually needs to be a trilogy.
This week, I'm doing revisions on Demon Hunts, Book Five of the Walker Papers. (Book Four, Walking Dead, is due out September 1st!) Then I'm writing the proposal for the sixth book.
This month, I'm writing an Old Races short story featuring Janx and Daisani.
Then I'm writing another book. :)

2) Who's the best new writer you've come across recently?
That would probably have to be Sarah Rees Brennan, and not just because she's a friend of mine. Her debut novel, The Demon's Lexicon, hit the shelves in June and I really truly loved it.

3) Do you have any peculiar rituals you do before you start writing?
I used to play three games of Solitaire, but that became "well, okay, five, maybe I'll win one, okay that sucked maybe just seven, okay well nine or eleven or hey how did it get to be 4 in the afternoon without me writing a single word?" So I took Solitaire off my computer and now I don't even miss it WHY DO YOU ASK *claws fingernails into keyboard*

4) Who's your favourite literary character?
Gerald Tarrant from C.S. Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy.

5) If you could be anything else in the world, except a writer, what would it be?
An actor. Failing that, an artist. Failing that, a musician. Failing that, an astronaut, though that would really be for the "out of the world" experience, rather than the "in the world". :)

You can Find Catie Murphy on Twitter, on LiveJournal, and on her own website. And you’ll always find a full selection of her book on the shelves at Chapters!


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

What we're reading.

Sum is probably the best book I've read this year. Simple as that. Written by David Eagleman (who, being a neurosurgeon and a writer, is a rock star step away from being Buckaroo Banzai), it's a little book of short stories (one could almost call them vignettes) on what happens when you die.

The fact that it's published by Canongate is almost a guarantee of quality per se, but this truly is one of the most original and thought-provoking books I've laid my hands in recent years. Every tale just crackles with uniqueness and it's no surprise that it's championed by people like Philip Pullman and Brian Eno, who went as far as to write a score for it for a live rendition at the Sydney Opera House.

There is a lot I could tell you about Sum, but this absolutely is a book you need and deserve to discover by yourself. But don't trust my word on its own sake, here, read a few excerpts and tell me what you think.


Sum: Forty Tales From The Afterlives by David Eagleman
Published By Canongate, available in-store

Monday, July 27, 2009

Who Killed Amanda Palmer

In February we were lucky enough to have Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer in Chapters, where Neil read and Amanda sang songs, accompanied by her Ukulele, which was followed by a reeeeeally long signing session. (If you missed it, you can see photographs and video footage of the whole thing here.

The book Neil was reading from on that occasion was Who Killed Amanda Palmer, a collection of photographs of an apparently dead Ms Palmer, featuring all sorts of interesting and odd locations and causes of death, which included a number of short stories Neil had written, to accompany some of the photographs. The book was finally published a few weeks ago, and we just got a consignment of them. And here they are...

If you want a copy of the book, you can ring the shop on 01 8723297, or just call in.


Friday, July 24, 2009

What we're reading.

What’s the first thing you think of when you hear the name Robin Hood? Merry Men, Maid Marion, Errol Flynn fencing his way up a circular staircase, tights, feathers and Bryan Adams songs? Whilst modern interpretations of the Robin Hood myth have pervaded popular culture for over two centuries in poetry, literature, theatre and cinema, Adam Thorpe’s latest novel Hodd, is a completely different animal.

The time is thirteenth century England and the tale that unfolds is related to us by Thorpe’s narrator, the elderly monk Matthew, scribbling his confessional memoirs by candlelight around the year 1305. Ridden with guilt for popularising Hodd as a hero of the common man in his younger days, Brother Matthew attempts to set the record straight with a ‘true’ account of Hodds doings. We follow his misadventures as a young would be jongleur, a singer and player of the harp, and companion to Brother Thomas a gluttonous, blasphemous, drunken monk (there‘s always one), who is taken captive by the enigmatic outlaw Robert Hodd (or Robyn Hodde, or Robin Hood) . But none of your feather-in-the-cap-bright-green-merry shenanigans here.

Thorpe’s Hodd is a brutal anarchist, a man who is as at home with acts of sudden motiveless slaughter as he is among the grey, misty confines of his woodland hideout. Not a whisper of any charitable handouts to be found within these pages, Hodd is a man who believes himself above any law of Man or God, fired by his belief in the Doctrine of the Free Spirit (a familiar heresy in medieval Europe which places him beyond sin), Robert and his not-so-merry men selfishly pillage and rape as they see fit.

Little John (another member of Hodd’s criminal brotherhood and a constant competitor for the mantle of leadership) is here too as is Will Scarlett but no sign of the eponymous Marion or indeed many of the other characters that are considered central to the Robin Hood canon. Yes, Hodd goes armed with his famous English Longbow but rather than piping the ace at royal archery contests, we have him, in one early episode, using a well aimed arrow to staple the hand of a helpless quack doctor to a tree branch. Thorpe has much to say about the inequalities of life in the middle ages and paints an unflattering picture of the clergy and landowning nobility of the day, however those of you looking for clearly defined good guys and bad guys will be disappointed.

Overall Hodd presents us with an absorbing and disturbing re-imagining of a familiar folk hero. Thorpe’s use of a pseudo-Chaucerean English and fast lean narrative add much to our immersion in a world where beauty and simplicity of life went hand in hand with constant danger and a keen awareness of the nearness of death. If you like your fiction uncompromising and your novels historical, then Hodd is definitely for you.


Hodd by Adam Thorpe
Published by Jonathan Cape, in store now

Thursday, July 23, 2009

5 Questions With... Iain Banks

A regular feature we hope to have here on the Chapters blog is ‘Five Questions with...’, a series of mini-interviews with writers and others in the book business. To start us off, we sent our Five Questions to bestselling Scottish author Iain Banks, famous for both his mainstream literary fiction, and for his science fiction featuring The Culture, which he writes under the name of Iain M Banks. So, over to Iain...

1) What are you working on at the moment?

Tomorrow's hangover! (Thank you for starting with the easy ones first.)

2) Who's the best new writer you've come across recently?

Still David Mitchell and Alan Warner.

3) Do you have any peculiar rituals you do before you start writing?

Not really. I do find that several months of fairly intensive forward planning (as though there is such a thing as backward planning) helps though.

4) What's the best thing you've written?

This. Definitely. I retain all film rights, yah? Talk to my people.

5) If you could be anything else in the world, except a writer, what would it be?

A Culture GSV*. Or GCU**. I'm not fussy.

* General Systems Vehicle
** General Contact Unit

And there you have it. Iain Banks’s next book will be Transition, published by Little Brown, which will be available September 2009.

For more information about Iain, visit his website.


Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Books do furnish a room: The House of Faber

London publishers Faber & Faber are celebrating their 80th birthday this year. Founded in 1929, and counting poet TS Eliot among its former editors (though he did drop the ball in rejecting George Orwell's Animal Farm, citing it as “Trotskyite” and “not convincing”), Faber have an impressive roster of writers on their books, not least in the field of poetry: Ted Hughes, Sylvia Plath, Philip Larkin, Simon Armitage. As part of their birthday celebrations Faber have issued six hardback volumes with specially commissioned woodcut covers. Designer Miriam Rosenbloom talks about her contribution here.

But that's not all, Faber Firsts are ten classic debut novels from the likes of Orhan Pamuk, Hanif Kureishi and Paul Auster, republished with new covers that reference past book jacket designs. And what great novels they are. Those interested in book cover design will want to check out book collector and writer Joseph Connolly's new book, reviewed recently in the Sunday Business Post:
‘And the covers! Oh my goodness, the covers!” Before he finished school, Connolly became a book collector, and later bought a specialist art and literature bookshop in London in 1975. He describes how his pulse quickened by the arrival of a Faber book.‘‘Sometimes I’d buy a book on pig breeding, say, or marrow growing or nursing - simply because it was published by Faber and had such a fabulous cover,” he writes. Paying extended tribute here to Berthold Wolpe - Faber and Faber’s resident book jacket designer from 1941 to 1975 - Connolly delights in Wolpe’s penchant for simple, striking graphics which complemented his artistic instincts and his love of rule-breaking.

And I haven't even mentioned the new Samuel Beckett's, have I?


The full range of Faber Firsts and Poetry Classics are available in Chapters now.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Cunning Man

Every so often, you may be lucky enough to read an author that makes you think, why have I not read this until now? One such writer who came to me through a friend’s recommendation some two years ago is Robertson Davies. Born 28 August 1913 in Thamesville Ontario, Davies was one of Canada’s premier novelists and literary figures until he sadly passed away in 1995. He was a man who wrote of art, love, theatre, music and literature with such genuine joy and witty skill that I couldn’t help but be bowled over.

Having inherited a love of books from his parents Davies also acquired a love of the theatre from a very early age. Studying at Upper Canada College, Queens University Ontario and Balliol College Oxford, in 1940 he worked at London’s Old Vic theatre playing small roles and working in a literary capacity for the director of the theatres repertory company. After writing amongst other things several successful plays, in 1951 he published the first novel in his Salterton Trilogy, Tempest-Tost.

His fantastic Cornish Trilogy, The Rebel Angels, What’s Bred in the Bone andThe Lyre of Orpheus deal with the central themes of literature, painting and opera consecutively. Absolutely steeped in wry humour and a deft exploration of the interrelationships of the various characters these novels are rare in the apparent ease of their execution. Without reservation I would highly recommend Davies books to anyone for whom reading is one of the central pleasures of their life, bearing in mind the words of the great man himself:
“A truly great book should be read in youth, again in maturity and once more in old age, as a fine building should be seen by morning light, at noon and by moonlight.”


Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack

In these dark and gloomy days (one can say its the recession, one can say its the Irish summer) we all need a laugh to lighten up.

The Perry Bible Fellowship was easily one of the funniest and strangest comic strips online, a popular and critical darling.

And then one day Nicholas Gurewitch, the author, decided to just call it quits.

Luckily Dark Horse stepped in, taking the initiative of collecting all the comic strips in one handy volume.

I cannot recommend this enough if you're looking for something unique, smart and funny, but heck, don't just take my word for it, check out the entirety of the strips by yourself and then tell me if that's not a collection you want to own.

Be aware, though, some of the strips are NSFW and might contain mature situations.


The Perry Bible Fellowship Almanack by Nicholas Gurewitch.
Published by Dark Horse Comics, available in-store.

Friday, June 12, 2009

What we're reading.

From the outset I should confess that ever since seeing Pan’s Labyrinth three years ago I have been an avowed fan of Guillermo Del Toro’s films. Few directors I have come across seem to have such an understanding of fable, myth, and the traditional tale of wonder. So when I first heard about the forthcoming novel from the Mexican Marvel, written in conjunction with video-store-clerk-turned-best-selling-thriller-writer Chuck Hogan I was, naturally, a little excited.

So does this tale of viral vampires in modern day New York hit the spot? Whilst Booker Prizes obviously won’t be beckoning, this cracking piece of sci-fi horror will certainly keep fans of the genre entertained from start to finish. With plenty of gore, wry humour, and some genuinely creepy moments (one scene in particular, where an evening visit to a neighbour’s house goes badly wrong for one wealthy suburbanite, had me quite unnerved), The Strain does exactly what it sets out to do. With plenty of nods to its source material and a palpable sense of nerdish enjoyment, Del Toro and Hogan are clearly out to frighten and entertain diehard vampire fans and newcomers alike.

The high concept biology behind The Strain’s unique brand of zombie-like Strigoi adds a truly engaging element to the narrative and in a literary landscape where the vampire-as- icon has become increasingly domesticated and friendly, thanks to the runaway success of the Paranormal Romance genre (authors like Stephanie Meyer, P.C. Cast, Sherrilyn Kenyon and Charlaine Harris numbering among the biggest sellers of the past twelve months), it’s refreshing and fun to meet Creatures of the Night who most certainly don’t want to be anyone’s boyfriend, and are solely interested in the one thing a blood-sucker should be interested in, sucking your blood!


The Strain by Guillermo Del Toro & Chuck Hogan
Published by Harper Collins, in-store now, €13.99

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Around the world in a book

We all know a good book can transport you to another place: to India with Vikas Swarup's Q&A (a.k.a. Slumdog Millionaire) and Aravind Adiga's White Tiger, to Nigeria with Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half of a Yellow Sun, to Afghanistan with Khaled Hosseini's Kite Runner. Inspired partly by these books, and also by the Jules Verne classic Around the World in 80 Days, Chapters Secondhand would invite you to take a trip to another country with us, without leaving Ireland.

For the month of June we are focusing on all-things travel. You can read (and we can recommend) Michael Palin's numerous globe-trotting adventures, Hector's World, the expolits of Bill Bryson, Jonathan Raban and other seasoned travel writers, not to mention the selection the travel guides we always have in stock. We currently have a taster of what's available in our window, but do call in for more titles.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

What we're reading

If you are a man like me, you’ll be, well, scared of a book that people describe as a romance. We’re manly men, we don’t have time for romances, right?! But what if it’s a romance with time-travelling? Ah, I see your attention perked up.

The Time-Traveller’s Wife, by Audrey Niffenegger, is such a thing. Sure, it’s too melodramatic and lovey-dovey at times, but it’s a darn good book. Niffeneger manages to write a good time-travelling tale (although in a more personal scale, it’s all done only along the time-lines of the main characters) where we have the clichéd boy meets girl but in this case, Clare first meets Henry when she’s 6 and he’s 36, and Henry first meets Clare when he’s 28 and she’s 20. Don’t worry, it will all make sense.

I don’t want to give out too much about the book (here’s a wikipedia link, but be warned, spoilers ahead!) so I’ll just say that I was surprised with how much I was able to enjoy this romance and still be a manly man.

There’s a film of it coming out soon, if you’re more visually inclined, with Eric Bana and Rachel McAdams, but this is a book I definitely recommend reading before you watch it. Who knows, you might find that them romances can be good books too.


The Time Traveler's Wife
by Audrey Niffenegger
Published by Vintage Books, available in-store

Saturday, May 30, 2009

What we're reading

The first novel by the creator of the Lemony Snicket series and musician with indie guitar band The Magnetic Fields is a black comedy charting the downfall of Flannery Culp, a world-weary high school senior. The Basic Eight of the title refers to her elite gang of friends, from the glamorous, to the kind, to the jadedly cool – but when the Basic Eight are infiltrated by Flannery’s rival and nemesis, her life spirals out of control, with fatal results.

Written in the form of a journal with faux study questions at the end of each chapter, The Basic Eight is both a witty satire of the American high school genre and a thrillingly cool twist on the Columbo-style murder mystery where the murderer is revealed at the beginning, and the mystery revolves around how the killer got caught. And just when you think the twists can’t get any more treacherous, Handler springs his biggest surprise…


The Basic Eight by Daniel Handler
Published by Allison & Busby Books, available in-store at 4.99 (while stocks last)

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

War, what is it good for?

Fantastic retro comics, is what. Just arrived in Secondhand, old (and highly collectible) issues of Commando, plus Conflict Libraries, War Picture Library and Combat Picture Library series, not to mention some volumes of the Cowboy Adventure Library and Sabre series.

The pocket-sized Commando, or Commando War Stories in Pictures to give them their full title, were launched by DC Thomson & Co. in 1961 and celebrated its 4,000 issue in 2007:

Classic World War II movies are one source of inspiration for the stiff-upper-lip Tommy, but for those who came of age during the 60s and 70s, memories of childhood comics are perhaps as great a contribution.

Writing in the Observer, Will Hutton made the link: "For those who lived in the world of Commando comics, in which the dashing squaddy or Spitfire pilot always heroically triumphed in a trial of honest Brit against foreign evil, the contrast is bitter..."

In their heyday, British war comics, like Victor ("True stories of men at war"), Valiant and Warlord, shifted by the Bedford lorry load. Commando, which began in 1961, is all that remains of this history, and continues to sell healthily to this day. Four editions are published per fortnight, and this week the 4,000th issue goes on sale, snappily titled "Aces All".

Each pocket-sized edition houses a 63-page black and white saga of square jawed heroes and dastardly villains (mostly Teutonic types typically exclaiming "Achtung!" when surprised, "Schnell!" when in a rush, and "Aieee!" when shot), clashing mostly on the WWII battlefield.

Available at Chapters Secondhand while stocks last.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Iain Banks signing

We would like to thank everyone who braved the rain and came along to the Iain Banks signing yesterday. Everything went off without a hitch and the long queue of fans were taken care of in record time.

Iain has a new book, Transition, coming in early September, which he talks about in an interview here. Until then you can enjoy his fantastic back-list of both sci-fi and literary fiction novels, all available in-store.

A big thank you to the inimitable Mr Banks from all here at Chapters. Hope you enjoy the whiskey.