Thursday, 31 May 2012

Reading in the Garden

After almost a whole week of it, the sun has faded in Manchester - and the garden is getting some rain. Here are some pictures to remind both me and you of what it was like to be reading in the garden...

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

The First Review for 'The Ninnies'

'The Ninnies' is out in ebook format right now, and about to be in a limited edition hardback from

And it's just received its first review - a rave! - from the British Fantasy Society's Chris Limb. Here's the link:

My favourite bit is this:

If this is a nightmare it’s one from which the reader awakes feeling invigorated and excited as well as scared.  If you imagine that the ‘League of Gentlemen’ had written an episode of the ‘Sarah Jane Adventures’, which had then been novelised by Roald Dahl, you might come close to capturing the atmosphere and quality of ‘The Ninnies’.

Monday, 28 May 2012

What I've been watching...

How come I'd never seen 'The Adventure of Sherlock Holmes' Smarter Brother' before? I discovered it only recently. It's now my favourite Holmes adaptation ever. I've watched it a few times in the past couple of weeks and it gets better and better. It has the same manic intensity that 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show' of the same year. The same wonderful feeling of being let in on an amazing in-joke.

Speaking of Holmes - last night I rediscovered a particular episode of Brian Clemens' 1970s series, 'Thriller' in which Jeremy Brett curls his lip and purrs and takes glamour shots of Donna Mills. It's an episode about a haunted Rolls Royce and its takes place in Donna Mills' swanky London pad, a trendy bistro with yellow crockery and the study of a glossy magazine owner. It's cheesy and outstays its welcome like a rank fondue - but, like most episodes of this series, it's heaven. But no episode is as good as the one with Michael Jayston, Helen Mirren and Arthur English in the deadly health farm.

Last night I also rediscovered my love of the David Renwick show, 'Love Soup'. A show that championed pessimism, misanthropy and alienation was never going to be a big hit in this era of everyone-joining-in and pretending furiously to be happy, successful and keen. But I thought it was smashing.

Friday, 25 May 2012

'Wildthyme Beyond!' in stock!

It looks as if 'Wildthyme Beyond!' - my brand new Iris Wildthyme novel is now in stock with Snowbooks.

(With thanks to Christopher Mushi Parvin for the photo. He's the official first owner of the finished book!)

Here's the blurb to whet your appetite:

Welcome back to the transdimensional adventures of that incorrigible ratbag Iris Wildthyme as we get  on board her Celestial Omnibus!

In this volume: Iris and her various friends are stranded on the perplexing and magical world of Hyspero. Ruled over by the all-knowing and all-powerful Scarlet Empress, this is a place where seemingly anything can happen. As Iris and her faithful companion, Panda, are drawn into a nightmarish subterranean adventure, their friends are captured by the guards of the Empress herself for nefarious reasons of her own. Iris descends into memories of her bizarre childhood in a universe far from here… a dreadful place that the despicable poet Anthony Marvelle is trying to unleash, convinced that great riches lie in that mythical region known only as the Obverse…

Friends old and new are along for the ride – including Barbra the brave vending machine, Jenny the ex-traffic warden and Kelly, the Goth girl from the bookshop who discovers she has a strange destiny as the mystical key to unlocking the dimensions. Hyspero itself awakens memories inside her… of a magical book she once read as a child… or, perhaps a book in which she once had her own adventures…

And meanwhile on Earth – two or three dimensions to the left, in the realm of fictionality – Iris’s fans and fanfic writers are gathering and quibbling in consternation at the curious turn the lady’s adventures are taking…

'Maybe the Moon' by Armistead Maupin

It's one of my most-reread books ever. I've lost count of how many times I've reread it. Last weekend I found myself buying a *spare* copy, when I happened upon a first edition hardback - exactly the same as my own - in a shop in Lincoln.

I reread it last in the autumn of last year and this is what I wrote then - about the way it just kind of fell off my shelf of favourite novels, into my hands...

"‘Maybe the Moon’ one of my top five novels of all time – perhaps even my favourite, right at the top of the list. I’ve been goading Stuart into reading it recently – and just going on about it made me start reading it all over again.

There’s just something about the voice of Cadence Roth – the showbiz dwarf whose diaries the book is made up of – something that has stuck with me throughout the 18 years since i first read this book. It’s a funny and defiant voice – sassy and feisty as the cliches would have it. On this re-re-reading i’m remembering how much i love her guest-starring cast, too – her kind but dopey housemate, Renee, who is obsessed with the fantasy movie Cadence Roth starred in ten years before the book begins. I also love her other best mate, Jeff, who treats his one-night stands (and any one else) to extended readings from his memoirs-in-progress.

It’s a good-natured novel – which sounds stupid, but what i mean is that… its heart is absolutely in the right place. It’s a kind of tribute to those who get trampled underfoot in everyone’s race to grab their dreams.

I think I use my favourite books – this one, Anne Tyler’s ‘Saint Maybe’, Susan Cooper’s ‘The Dark is Rising’; Nina Bawden’s ‘Carrie’s War’ – as a kind of highwater tidemark. I return to them because they’re at one level soothing and grounding – it’s like checking in with old friends … but also i like to be reminded of how great they are… they surprise me again, each time, with how easy Maupin and those others can make it seem. This isn’t about flashy writing and ‘look at me’ carrying on from the author – it’s virtuouso storytelling that sets out to entertain and puts the reader first… and it’s good for me to touch base with that sometimes."

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Mad Dogs

I just wanted to post this.  It's one of my favourite book covers ever - 'Doctor Who - Mad Dogs and Englishmen' from 2002. I still remember opening the envelope containing the print-off and getting a fantastic surprise. I was sitting in Velvet, a cafe bar on Canal Street in Manchester. I couldn't believe that the imagery was so exactly right for the book. 2001 was a strange, unsettling and in some ways horrible year - and my adventure with the pink poodles of Noel Coward as they pitted their wits against Doctor Eight was a very nice thing to have running through that year.

Anyhow - it's ten years later (!) and it's an exceedingly sunny day in Manchester and i'm working outdoors today. i just popped back to share this image with you - as i was adding it to all the others in my pages about the Doctor Who novels and audiobooks I've written over the years.  (It turns out I'd written even more Doctor Who stuff than I'd thought!)

'Summer Daydreams' by Carole Matthews

Blurb: “What if you had always dreamed of something more …? Nell McNamara has a happy life: her boyfriend Olly adores her, their four-year-old daughter Petal is the centre of their world and Nell has a steady job in the local chip shop. When the chippy needs a makeover, Nell jumps at the chance to unleash the creativity fizzing inside her. Inspired by what she can achieve – and encouraged by the best friends a girl can have – Nell is determined to try something new. Waving goodbye to the chip shop, she starts up a new business making her own line of must-have handbags, which are soon flying off the shelves! It seems Nell’s dreams are finally coming true, but her success doesn’t come without a price. Before too long, Nell has to ask herself if it’s really possible to have it all …Full of fun, love and laughter, soak up the sunshine with Summer Daydreams.”

The thing is, when I read novels by Carole Matthews, Jill Mansell or Julie Cohen, I recognise the characters. I know these people. They’re familiar. I see them in everyday life. And when I see those people in fish and chips shops or the supermarket, or wherever, I know that they’ve got exciting or unique or secret things going on in their lives. They’ve got dramas going on. That’s one of the joys of contemporary romantic / comic fiction / chicklit / whatever you want to call it. It’s fiction that acknowledges the secrets and desires and disasters in the lives of people you feel like you know. This could be about you or people you care about.

Nell and Olly in Carole Matthews’ new book seem very real to me. I like the way we’re introduced to their hectic, hard working and rather modest lives right at the start – and how their stints in the chip shop and the pizza factory are organised around childcare. it’s Nell’s artistic talents that kick-start the plot, however, when she rallies her co-workers into giving the chip shop a make-over, which proves a huge success. After an attempt at enrolling in adult ed (which is disastrous – and would put anyone off going back to college to do Art…!) Nell winds up designing and creating her own range of handbags. They are a huge success – but success is not without its pitfalls and temptations. There are plenty of stumbling blocks to come – erotic, aesthetic and financial. And there is a wonderful, shocking reversal of fortune that sees her and her family almost ruined.

I love the way that Nell has real resilience and drive – building a business out of nothing and being brave enough to give up her ordinary job in order to take her destiny in hand. One minute she’s shovelling chips and scraps – the next she’s flying out to China to audition factories. It’s to Carole Matthews’ credit that she makes these leaps and bounds seem believable. She has her readers believing that they would be as resourceful and brave as Nell.

Terrific secondary characters in this, too – including the chip shop co-workers Constance and Phil and Jenny – who all have dramas of their own. In fact, I’d like to see more of all those characters (but then, I always think that, don’t i? with any book i enjoy?) And the villains in this are terrific, too. The slimy french fashionistas who steal Nell’s designs are a hoot (i love the punch-up on the cat-walk. I want to see it filmed!) The Miami fraudsters at the end are sinister and horrible – and the whole episode with Olly heading to the US for reparation and revenge is great. It’s like we’ve stepped into a Carl Hiaasen thriller for a chapter or two.)

Whoever thought I’d get so involved in a novel about making handbags? But I loved it. And I love the fact that Carole publishes two novels a year – Christmas and Summer. So it’s not *very* long until the next.

Reposted from the old blog, from the time of the hardback - reposted now to coincide with the paperback - and the START OF SUMMER!!!

Wednesday, 23 May 2012

My Back Pages

I've been learning to add pages to this new blog of mine! To the right you'll see a list of pages - and I've been adding covers and blurbs for my books. Please do have a look at them.

Many are out of print - (aaarrrgghhhh) - but should still be findable, I hope.

So far I've catalogued the Brenda and Effie books, my YA books and my novels for adults. I shall be posting Iris Wildthyme and Doctor Who covers and short story collections and anthologies quite soon. Let me know of anything else you'd like me to post!

Also - let me remind you about repostings on here. If there are any posts or reviews or anything from my previous blog and its three year run that you'd like to see reposted - please get in touch, or leave a comment.

Two Julie Cohen novels

 Continuing my reposts of reviews of favourite novels from the past three years...


Julie Cohen’s novel is published as part of the Little Black Dress imprint for Romantic fiction and that could be enough to put many people off. It was off-putting to me, too, until I read the blurb and dipped into it and saw what was going on. This book follows all the Romance rules and regulations, but it does it all with such panache and wit. There’s a full cast of wonderfully enjoyable characters here and we get to know and care about them all. It is set in a very recognisable world of London house-shares and comfortable friendships. It also gives us a fantastic insight into the world of comics artists, writers and fandom. There’s something extremely touching about these adventures of the tomboyish Fil and her bunch of hapless male friends.
The book begins with them in the midst of a weekend-long X Files-watching marathon and ultimately making a pact never to split their tribe by falling in love with anyone outside of it. The mechanics of their friendships are so well-observed, as are the details of their particular forms of geekiness. I loved it when an outsider asks, ‘How many Star Trek DVDs do you have, then?’ and are answered with a blandly unperturbed, ‘All of them’. This is a gang of friends with the fan-collector-gene (as it’s known) in overdrive.
Everything changes with the advent of Dan – the hot american film director whose grandfather invented Fil’s long-running and hotly-protected strip, Girl from Mars. It first seems that Dan – complicated and grief-racked as he is – is simply dabbling in comics writing and Fil and others are resentful of him. There are further complications to do with unrequited love, secret passions and misread signs and the novel bumps along quite merrily though some stock Romantic territory – but here’s the main thing: every single secondary character is wonderfully drawn. Even very peripheral figures, such as Fil’s bewilderedly intellectual parents are beautifully pencilled in (I loved the picture of her mother sitting with a pile of comic books, slowly being sucked into the narrative and trying to analyse her pleasure as she goes). The playing-out of the dynamic between Fil and Dan through the medium of comic strip writing is brilliantly done. They communicate with each other through the work itself, and revisions to the cliffhangery storyline, as their collaboration becomes richer and more resonant, and they inhabit the same tension-filled workroom inside the comics company building.
I love the fact that these are characters who absolutely believe in comics and in the power of even the seemingly trashiest of science fiction tropes and ideas to communicate vital and complex ideas. At some points in this romance, it’s as much about the romance of making up stories about the Girl Girl from Mars and falling in love wit your work, as it is the sloppy stuff. The sloppy stuff itself is very well and sexily done, however. The relationships at the heart of the book are handled tenderly and wittily. And the happiness is not without its repercussions and its negative effects on the lives of others close to the lovers. I won’t give anything away plotwise – but there’s some extremely tense and dramatic stuff in the later chapters.
So! There I am – reading Romance novels in the Little Black Dress range! I really do roam quite happily across the genres, don’t I? I enjoy books that zigzag through genres – and it seems, looking at her other titles, that Julie Cohen likes to bring in supernatural or sf ideas, here and there. I’ll definitely be reading more of her.
I think, also, that I’ll read anything in any genre, so long as it’s a book that *means it*, and has heart and a bit of gumption and style. And takes some risks with its generic boundaries.
Made me wonder, though – all over again. Where’s all the gay male Romance novels with a hint of the supernatural or the spacey…?  Shouldn’t there be a UK imprint for them..?


This novel has Gothic touches of the overt kind, in that when its eponymous heroine is forced to go and stay in her dead uncle’s Highgate flat, it’s a dank and spooky dump shared with scary-looking neighbours. It’s a gothic novel also in the sense that we’re on the edge of our seat throughout, shouting at the heroine to look out, watch out, don’t do that… look behind you! Even in the daylight, Nina Jones keeps walking into horrible danger.
First of all it’s from sexy celebrity chefs – her boss, Edmund, and his rival, the Spaniard Juan. Escaping from what seems like a futile situation with Edmund, Nina sells up everything and puts all she has into opening a doomed restaurant in Spain with Juan – who we just know is flakey right from the start. Somehow though, I never lost patience with Nina, even when she was doing outrageously daft things. Daft things such as, when everything hits the fan, pretending to her family and best friend that everything’s fine. She goes to the huge effort of pretending that she’s living in spain when she’s moved back to london and living in her uncle’s mausoleum. The psychology of all the characters really works – we know why they’re behaving like this.
It’s a novel that takes her from the bright, superficial world of celebs and swanky restaurants, all the way into the bosom of a new, sometimes rather odd, family. The set-up in the Temple of Gloom is marvellous, and I loved all the characters there. It’s a place where our heroine finds out a few home truths and learns some proper values from characters like the outrageous, ancient Evangeline. There’s a sequence when they all decamp to the uncle’s funeral and it’s wonderfully funny.
Like the Julie Cohen novel i read last year – ‘Girl from Mars’ – this is again, too complex, too distinct, too funny to be just a romance novel. In a run-of-the-mill romance novel it’s all about the two main characters falling in love and that’s it – but in the Julie Cohens i’ve read so far, it’s also the reader who gets to fall in love — with *all* the characters.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Camp Travesty Revisited

Here's another blog repost. This time it's from last month - and for Catherine Spooner. It was all to do with my reaction to some of the negative comments I'd seen regarding the Tim Burton 'Dark Shadows' trailers. It sent me off on a think about horror, darkness and camp.

I still haven't seen the movie, but I've carried on thinking about it all - through the Bram Stoker conference at Keats' House ('Open Graves, Open Minds') at the end of last month, when Catherine actually quoted bits of my rambling blogpost in her talk. Also I've been thinking about all this business of being a 'camp, Gothic travesty', through a period when i've received various suggestions that my own novels should become *less* camp and cosy and *more* dark and 'serious'. (See? I even place 'serious' inside inverted commas, as if I can't help it...)

Anyhow - here's the post (I'll put it all in italics for extra pertinence. I wish I could make the words pink for you.)

Filed under: Uncategorized — Paul Magrs @ 12:45 pm
Since before the weekend i’ve been mulling over a couple of things where my reaction has been completely different to others’. In both cases i’ve been surprised by the outrage and vitriol sprayed in the general direction of the artefact in question.
Firstly, my current read is ‘Dracula: the Un-dead’, which is the apparently ‘official’ sequel to Bram Stoker’s vamp classic, written by descendent Dacre Stoker and Ian Holt. I’m about halfway through and thoroughly enjoying this livid and vivid romp; finding out what became of the various characters from the original, and revelling in the acrid, vintage cheesiness of it all. However, browsing idly through online reviews – notably Amazon – I’m not finding a lot of love for the book. There was one review in particular, in which a rather stuffy-sounding Amazon customer berated the book for how unlike its predecessor it was. How tacky it was, to include prolonged scenes of sadomasochistic lesbian sex, and how Bram would never dream of such a thing! (Really..?)
Lots of umbrage was seemingly taken, anyway, when Dracula rose again back in 2009. It struck me that people were slagging the sequel for what it *wasn’t* and not what it was. This seems to be a problem with reviewers of certain books and films. They have an idea in their head of what the thing should be like; they invent it for themselves, and of course, the thing as it is can never live up to that. I really think it’s best to take on board these things for everything they *are*, instead. Much better to see Dacre Stoker and Ian holt’s novel as a rollicking good adventure story – shot through with a modern horror sensibility, though set back in the nineteenth century. I think it’s a very clever weaving-together of the imagined future lives of these haunted characters – and (so far!) it’s doing all sorts of interesting stuff, such as bringing in Bram Stoker himself as a character, which adds an almost metafictional tinge to the bloody proceedings.
Another thing that’s been getting old-time fans online worked up is the newly-released trailer for Tim Burton’s upcoming a’Dark Shadows’ feature. I was agog with delight when I first saw it. I was cockahoop to discover that he’s camped it up to a dizzying degree – with a T Rex soundtrack and a blissfully breezy rewriting of the solemnity (the ‘failed seriousness’) of the original. Again, i was amazed at some of the vitriol dished out – hearing this ‘campery’ dismissed as ’snide’ and ‘vile.’ To me it just looked like a lot of fun. Why does camping something up necessarily mean it’s being disrespectful? As Susan Sontag told us in her 1966 essay, ‘Notes of Camp’ – camping something up is a way of venerating it; of lavishing it with love and breathless praise.
Various fandoms have a hard time with camp. They view it very distrustfully. Goodness knows, I’ve had enough flack myself from some quarters, because of pink poodles and Iris Wildthyme and Mrs Wibbsey in Doctor Who. I wonder why camp is something to get so fretful about…
One more thing. I've refound something on the internet. It's a personal essay by the late Craig Hamrick, from 2005. I never met him, but I read this lovely memoir piece back then, and I thought it was lovely. It's about growing up gay and a fan of the Dark Shadows novelisations by Marilyn Ross - and, in later life, writing Dark Shadows-related books himself, coming out, and taking part in fandom. 
And Nick Campbell's 'A Pile of Leaves' today is about reading an extremely camp-sounding non-Dark Shadows Gothic Romance novel by Marilyn Ross -

'The Daemon Parallel' by Roy Gill

Blurb: “It was over coffee and biscuits that Grandma Ives offered to return Cameron’s father from the dead…Cameron never came to visit his grandma when his dad was alive — and he’s just found out the reason why. Sent to stay with her after his father’s death, Grandma Ives soon reveals their family’s extraordinary abilities, and introduces him to the dark side of Edinburgh he never knew existed — the Daemon Parallel. Cameron is sent on dangerous missions in Edinburgh’s daemon underworld to find the ingredients for an ancient spell that will bring his dad back to life. Cameron befriends a werewolf, bargains with a giant bat-like beast, and struggles to escape the clutches of a powerful spider daemon. But will he survive long enough to finish the resurrection spell? And who can he trust in a world where nothing is what it seems?”
Really good kids’ adventure books with supernatural elements always give away the things their author loved as a child. There are ‘reading footprints’ all over their books. It’s like how we can tell CS Lewis adored E Nesbit, when the witch Janis is transported into 19th century London in an echo of the Queen of Sheba’s adventures in ‘The Magic Amulet.’ And there’s a delicate link from Will’s growing awareness of magic in ‘The Dark is Rising’ that takes us back to Kay in Masefield’s ‘The Box of Delights.’ Kids’ books talk to each other across the generations like this – and I think it has something to do with the magic of how deep those tropes and images are planted when we read them first.
Anyway – this is all to say that when I was reading Roy Gill’s first novel this week, I was delighted by a sense that this was a writer who had read and loved the same things as I do. There were footprints in the snow. Little shivery echoes of Susan Cooper and others in this tale of two worlds – of Daemons and humans – that touch and intersect at certain points in the year. We’re in the genre of liminal spaces between shadowy worlds that only certain children can see and understand. We’re in the world of magic powers shared by kids who have to learn to be brave, and older people who will stop at nothing in their quests for magic and immortality.
Heady, wonderful stuff. Also, all of this rang bells for me, because it is set in one of my favourite places in the world. Edinburgh is conjured brilliantly and beautifully here, and we can really believe in it as a place suffused by magic. Whenever Cameron steps sideways into the Parallel, the world around him alters and shifts and familiar places are strangely transformed. I loved the scenes in the old department store on Princess Street – which becomes a kind of forest cathedral, where antlered beings tend to a sleeping Winter God. All of these moments are touched with the Celticy atmosphere of the Herne the hunter scenes in both Masefield and Cooper – and I just adored them.
There are some wonderful characters here – including Morgan the wolf boy, who lives in an abandoned cinema, and who becomes Cameron’s friend. Cameron’s gran is an ambiguous and magical being – drawing him into this weird world of alternate dimensions. She reminded me a little of the granny in Robin Jarvis’ ‘Whitby Witches’ books – but with a touch, perhaps, of that Mrs Coulter in Pullman’s ‘His Dark Materials.’ This is much, much more readable than Pullman, though, I think. The kids here speak in a wonderfully realistic way – slapdash, slangy and cod-Californian, like kids everywhere.
I don’t want to give much away about the plot. It’s a quest story ranging over the layered streets and stories of the city; a story about returning the missing dead to life, and finding the arcane means to do so, through a series of scary encounters with mythical beings all over the Old and New Town of Edinburgh. There are mythic underpinnings and a mythos that we believe in completely – and we don’t get too much fussy backstory to weigh us down. Also, all the magic isn’t mystical and wishy-washy. It’s all about action and keeping the story moving, and hurtling towards a fabulous climax up in the hills above Holyrood Park.
I adored this novel. I really, really want it to be the first in a sequence. I want it to be a boxed set of novels that are just about falling apart with repeated rereadings. That’s how much I enjoyed this first one.

Monday, 21 May 2012

'Casper the Commuting Cat' reviewed by Fester

Like I’ve got time to go reading and reviewing books. There’s loads of good stuff to do, specially in our garden at this time of year. There’s drinking pond water and sleeping on cushions on the veranda of my beach house. And there’s sitting on planks and glaring at squirrels to be getting on with. And trotting in now and then for a snack. J and Paul, who share this place with me, they’ve got this running buffet going for me most of the time and it’s pretty good. Pouches and fancy biscuits and all that.
Anyway, this was Paul’s idea. We were sitting in the beach house and he was like, hey, you should review this for my blog. It’s a book some woman’s written about her cat, Casper, and how he became famous for travelling around on buses. And i was like, what? What are you on about? I narrowed my eyes at him in that way he thinks is me being friendly, but it’s usually more like, ‘What the hell are you on about?’
He fetched out that book, which wasn’t easy, because i was lying full stretch on his chest along with his laptop, on top of the fold-down settee in the beach house. i didn’t move much to help him, because i wasn’t keen on this book he was on about. It was probably just some bloody awful sentimental piece of crap like that Dewey thing he loved so much last year, and just about wept over. Did you read that? About the cat who lived in some library and made everyone fall in love with him. It was rubbish. That cat couldn’t even talk or anything.
I can say a few things. I can say ‘ham’ very loudly, when i know they’ve got some in the fridge. And I can shout, ‘paul’ too, in a bloodcurdlingly loud way when i’ve lost track of him around the house.
You could do a guest blog spot about it, if you like? Paul said. Well, i’ve seen his blog and it’s just rubbish. Except when he has a picture of me on it, which he does sometimes. But it’s mostly boring – mostly about those crappy lightweight novels he reads. And it’s even worse when he gets onto the lightweight shite he actually WRITES! As a cat, i can’t STAND writers who use the internet / twitter / facebook and all that bollocks to publicize themselves and their own rotten work.
It’s like cats who spray all over the place. See? Common.
So i had a flick through this cat book anyway. It made me sigh with impatience on just about every page. There were chapters written from the point of view of the cat and you could tell they weren’t real. It was cracking on like it was the cat writing it all up in heaven. Sitting on a rainbow bridge or summat. Well, i’ve got a plank down the middle of our garden and that’s pretty good. Very comforting, planks are. Maybe that’s what this rainbow bridge thing is, but really, it sounded a load of shite to me.
I’m a materialist, I think. I think you have your bit run around the garden and you lie out in the sun, waiting pointedly for a tummy tickle or your ears rubbed or whatever. But when it’s all over, it’s over. I mean, christ, if there was a cat heaven, could you imagine? it’d be fuller and noisier than the home of the wife who looked after Casper. It sounds like she’s down the cat home every year bringing back more unfortunate moggies.
Well, that made me warm to her, actually. i liked her for that, even if she sounds a bit soft, like. Cos I was a stray, you know. I was nowt when i came round here the first time. Fur falling out, skinny as a get. So, really, i appreciate people who take cats in. Mind, i wouldn’t like to be in a home with loads of cats. I can’t stand other cats. I didn’t mind Aunty Bessie (with the great big bollocks) when she moved in here for  bit. And poor little Barrie, of course. But most of the other cats you see round here? Forget them. Rough as owt.
Huh. Paul’s had a look over my head and he reckons i’m not saying enough about this frigging book. Well, it’s all right if you like that kind of sappy-dead-animal-funny-habits-heart-warming crap. I don’t think i’d like going on the buses like this Casper fella did. Specially round here. You get all sorts on those buses into town, i hear.
Yeah, i’m not bothered really about getting out and seeing the world. I had enough of that when i was a stray. I can’t see the appeal of sitting on a bus with all those strangers. Some of them can be quite stinky and rude. You’ve got to watch out with humans, i reckon. I mean – everyone was supposed to love Casper and he was a big fave around town, the book says. But some bastard taxi driver still ran him over, didn’t they?
So I’ve had a good flick through, anyway, and I thought it was all right. I suppose Casper was pretty good, really, and i thought it was sad at the end. And he was black and white, wasn’t he? So, course he was all right.
I’ve done now. Paul better put a nice piccy of me at the top of this.
See ya.

'Casper the Commuting Cat' is by Susan Finden and Linda Watson-Brown

Perfect Book Shopping Days

 We had a wonderful weekend staying with friends in the East Midlands. We had two days out bookshopping and cafe hopping - all our favourite things. It's all about the company, really, and mooching about as a gang - much more than it is scoring that pile of curious paperbacks from a series of eccentric, run-down shops. (Or, in Jeremy's case - a large boxload of books - mostly vintage home decor manuals.) I was picking up my usual pile of weirdo sf, obscure fantasy and historical romance - and serendipitous finds by Margery Sharp or Michael Bond.
 And there always has to be a fancy teashop as a place to gather an assess your spoils. At the top of Lincoln's steep hill up to the cathedral we found a trendy teashop in a rather tidy catacomb. They brought us fancy teas in Dalek-shaped pots. Best bookshop of the weekend, though, was near Newark, and it was in someone's back garden and garage. Generations of endless books were heaped seemingly willy-nilly in layers of boxes ten deep. Funny, how in a place where you think you'd have to spend your whole life rummaging, you can suddenly find exactly the book you're looking for. In a matter of minutes I'd found the precise Penelope Lively I was after - as recommended by Adele in a comment after my last post.

Anyhow - fantastic company and fun. And a drive home on Sunday with a carful of old stuff - ready for the week.

I meant to ask - since I managed to salvage most (i hope!) of the text of my old blog - are there any old reviews or posts you'd like me to repost here? I'm thinking I've picking out the bits I wrote about my favourite reads of the past few years. What do you think?  This month it's exactly three years since I started that blog, and maybe I could mark the anniversary by picking out some best bits? Let me know!

In the meantime - back to work on Monday morning - and two current projects I hope I can tell you about soon.

Friday, 18 May 2012

The Stones of Spookiness

 On our way back through Oxfordshire at the weekend, after the Utopia convention, Jeremy, Panda and I stopped at the famous Rollright Stones to have a look. Although I love 'The Children of the Stones' by Trevor Ray and Jeremy Burnham and the splendid David Fisher Doctor Who story, 'The Stones of Blood', I don't think I've ever actually visited a stone circle before.

Panda was delighted because they all turned out to be Panda-sized.

I'm sure there was a bigger set of them somewhere - but time was getting on and we had to head north. Very nice to see, anyhow. Though it would have been nice to find Amelia Rumford and her suspect friend Vivien doing a bit of lurking about. A sausage sandwich and a cup of tea would have been smashing, too.
 Just this week I've been reading Penelope Lively's first two children's books - 'Astercote' and 'The Whispering Knights' - both of which deal with rural menaces and legends that start creeping back to life in the modern age of 1970. 'Astercote' is about an ancient plague village, hidden by woods - and a curse apparently returning to life. 'The Whispering Knights' takes its cue and its title from the ancient site that we didn't get to see on Sunday - and feels wonderfully mysterious and ominous.

On Tuesday evening I was returning to Manchester on the train from London with both these books - having a wonderful time, so that the journey evaporated into the darkness outside. Penelope Lively writes so beautifully and atmospherically. Outside of 'The Ghost of Thomas Kempe', I don't think I've read her before. Now I want to read them all, in order.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Wildthyme in Person!

I wanted to share with you these pics from Utopia - the Doctor Who convention last weekend put on by Fantom Films at Heythrop Park Hotel in Oxfordshire. It was a brilliant do - with lots of brilliant moments for me, involving meeting many friends old and new. But best among those moments was the Iris Wildthyme event that I did with the sublime Katy Manning who (for those who don't know!) portrays that transdimensional ratbag in the audio dramas produced by Big Finish. 

The freewheeling, improvised, slightly crazy and surreal afternoon consisted of my beginning a talk about writing Iris... and then the fictional character herself gatecrashing the function room, which ended up in a bizarre, double-entendre-stuffed and fourth-wall-smashing interview - which then turned into Iris and Panda (who appeared from seemingly nowhere) hi-jacking the entire audience, parading them through the stately home hotel, out onto the main driveway (stealing a golf buggy on the way) and ending up with everyone piling aboard the bright red double decker that was waiting for us. Where more hi-jinks ensued and I gave a reading from 'Enter Wildthyme.' 

It was all over too fast... but, for me, it was one of those magical episodes where you're left afterwards wondering whether what just happened really did...!

I love these Gallifreybase forum quotes from people who were there to see Iris:

the Iris Wildthyme experience, which was something truly special which I'm sure will be remembered for years by everyone who was there. It really was possibly the best panel of any convention I've been to, let alone this one.

My highlight was the brilliantly surreal Iris Wildthyme talk with Paul M, Panda and the bus! More of this kind of "experience" please. And next time you visit, Iris, don't boot me off the bus - take me!

Wednesday, 16 May 2012


Hello! This is the new blog of the British writer, Paul Magrs. Magrs with a silent 'g' and pronounced 'Mars' for those who don't know yet!

I write fiction for adults, YAs and children - in a variety of genres - fantasy, mystery, science fiction, magical realism - and sometimes a strange blend of them all.

I write the Brenda and Effie Mystery series of novels - of which, so far, there are six. These are comic Gothic mystery adventures set in the town of Whitby on the North Eastern coast of England. They are essentially about Brenda - a 200 year old owner of a Guest House - who gets into spooky investigations with the help of her neighbour and best friend Effie, who owns the junk shop next door.

I also write the Iris Wildthyme series of novels. Iris is a time-travelling adventuress who roams the cosmos in her double decker bus along with her best friend, an Art Critic called Panda.

I write various other things - including tie-in Doctor Who audio adventures.

This blog is to let my readers and friends know what I'm up to - what I'm writing and publishing, and where I'm going to be, reading and signing and meeting people, on those days when I'm not writing at home. When I'm writing at home I'm in the constant company of our fantastic black and white cat, Fester - and occasionally brought cups of tea by my partner, Jeremy, who I've been together with for sixteen years now. We live in south Manchester and have been here for eight years.

As in my old blog, I'll also probably talking a lot about what I'm reading and watching and thinking about.

Please update your bookmarks and leave comments! I love getting them and hearing from readers. And, if you're into what I'm doing, please tell your friends and spread the word about my books. I need every one of those sales in order to keep on putting the stuff out there!

I've got a fantastically loyal and vocal readership... I love my readers - especially the Brenda and Effie, and Iris and Panda devotees.

Once you're on that Celestial Omnibus - you're on it forever!