Posted by: billpurdue | June 13, 2009

58 Espionage with Flair, Evolution and the Yorkshire Bobby

Devil in Amber“He’s tall, he’s dark and, like the shark, he looks for trouble” – that’s a description of Lucifer Box, the central character in a series of quirky espionage novels by Mark Gatiss. I’ve just read Devil in Amber [Pocket Books £7.99 9780743483803] and thoroughly enjoyed it, though the plot became so incredibly complicated as it went on that there’s only space here to give you a rough idea of what it was all about. It takes place sometime in the 1920s or’30s (it’s left intentionally vague) when Box is asked by his employers (known as the “Royal Academy” – a sort of MI5) to eliminate a chap with the unlikely name of Olympus Mons. Mons is determined to take over the world with the help of the Devil himself and Lucifer Box’s sister Pandora (Lucifer and his sis don’t get on). The book begins in New York and finishes in North east England via Norfolk. Lucifer encounters, and is helped by, a most unlikely collection of characters. It’s action packed right from the start.

Mark Gatiss is of course one of the League of  Gentlemen (the award winning TV series), so it’s not surprising that his novels might be very offbeat. He says that most of his inspiration comes from the Flashman novels, but I would describe it as a sort of James Bond with a touch of Bertie Wooster.  To see a short video of Mark talking about the third – and probably the last – Lucifer Box novel (Black Butterfly Simon and Schuster £15 9780743257114) go to the publisher’s website.

Incredible..but true?

Alice RobertsThere’s just one more episode to go for the fascinating series presented by Dr Alice Roberts: “The Incredible Human Journey” on BBC2 on Sunday night. Dr Roberts takes us all over the world to some of the most unlikely places in search of clues to the reasons why homo sapiens was the only species of human being to survive. Of course there’s a book to go with the series, out now: The Incredible Human Journey [Bloomsbury £20 9780747598398]. I’m hoping that Nottinghamshire Libraries will stock it, but from past experience TV tie-ins are not always purchased.

Echoes of “Heartbeat” ?

Mike PannetThis next title reminds me of an uncle of mine who was a country bobby in Northamptonshire, who used to regale us with tales of his exploits. In those days anyone caught doing wrong (usually a poacher or petty thief) was more likely to get a good hiding than be arrested. Somehow I don’t think Mike Pannet will have similar tales to tell about his life as a country policeman in rural Yorkshire. His new book You’re Coming with me Lad [Hodder and Stoughton £12.99 9780340918760] is more likely to remind people of the books by Nicholas Rhea (Constable on the Prowl, Constable around the Village etc) except that Mr Rhea’s books are now regarded as novels rather than non-fiction. (Nottinghamshire Libraries moved its stocks of “Constable” titles from the biography shelves to the fiction quite a while ago). In the publicity for Mike Pannet’s books (his first one was Now Then Lad [Constable £7.99 9781845298111]) he is being compared to Gervase Phinn and even James Herriott, so he’s one to watch out for.

You’re Coming with Me Lad will be published on 25th June and not long afterwards  Mike Pannet will be at W H Smith in Mansfield for a signing session – I’ll give the date later. My thanks to Margaret of W H Smith Mansfield for the information

New from Peter James

Former film producer and horror novelist Peter James is now firmly established as a good whodunit writer. His latest police procedural novel is out this week: Dead Tomorrow [Macmillan £16.99 978-0230706866] has been hailed as one of his best yet.

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