Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Currently Reading: Red Country

They burned her home.
They stole her brother and sister.
But vengeance is following.

Shy South hoped to bury her bloody past and ride away smiling, but she'll have to sharpen up some bad old ways to get her family back, and she's not a woman to flinch from what needs doing. She sets off in pursuit with only a pair of oxen and her cowardly old step father Lamb for company. But it turns out Lamb's buried a bloody past of his own. And out in the lawless Far Country the past never stays buried.

Their journey will take them across the barren plains to a frontier town gripped by gold fever, through feud, duel and massacre, high into the unmapped mountains to a reckoning with the Ghosts. Even worse, it will force them into alliance with Nicomo Cosca, infamous soldier of fortune, and his feckless lawyer Temple, two men no one should ever have to trust.

Monday, 29 October 2012

The BBC 6 O'Clock News Regional Bias report: Month 2

Salford - City of Light!
Last month I reactivated my project to determine, entirely to my own satisfaction, whether the rest of the UK (but mostly the North and Scotland) were ignored by an excessively London-centric news media.

 Another month(1) has gone by and while I think it is far too early to make conclusions there is little sign of a London-centric bias so far. On the contrary Scotland, Wales and North-West have dominated. 

Starting with the raw figures in minutes of coverage per region/nation.

September October Total
North West        42.66        18.76        61.42
Wales        14.55        24.46        39.01
London        18.31        18.99        37.30
Scotland        13.59        21.35        34.94
South-East        24.07          9.91        33.98
Yorkshire +        19.76        11.08        30.84
South-West          5.60        22.88        28.48
East          3.43        13.81        17.24
West Midlands          0.92        10.57        11.49
Northern Ireland          7.37          2.88        10.25
North East          6.55              -            6.55
East Midlands          1.97          1.72          3.69

London comes in 3rd behind the North-West and Wales, which has had a particularly news worthy month what with mad hit and run drivers etc. If we then adjust for population size we find London dropping down the chart to 7th place behind the South-West.

September October Total
Wales          4.75          7.98        12.73
North West          6.05          2.66          8.71
Scotland          2.59          4.06          6.65
Yorkshire +          3.74          2.10          5.84
Northern Ireland          4.07          1.59          5.66
South-West          1.06          4.33          5.38
London          2.24          2.32          4.56
South-East          2.79          1.15          3.94
East          0.59          2.36          2.95
North East          2.52              -            2.52
West Midlands          0.16          1.89          2.05
East Midlands          0.43          0.38          0.81

 One thing is indisputable though there are regions of the UK that seem oddly neglected by the news media it just so happens it's neither Scotland, Wales, the North-West or Yorkshire.

Still, given the difference one good solid sex scandal or murder can make to a region, it's far too early to draw any conclusions from this data.

(1) I'm doing this, for my convenience, in 4 week blocks. At some point it will get horribly out of sync but I'll worry about that  when I get there.

Friday, 26 October 2012

At Last The Truth! They Wrote What?

Readers often ask me whether such and such a book was an influence or not. Occasionally people can be quite insistent that obviously such and such a book was obviously an influence and can provide close textual analysis to back up their claim.

For my last blog about the influences on Rivers of London I thought I'd talk about those books that would have been an influence if only I'd read them before I wrote it.

Neverwhere (and Anansi Boys and American Gods)
Neil Gaiman is one of the writers most frequently attributed to me as an influence. Alas I'd caught about ten minutes of the original TV series back in the 1980s but I've never read the book. Like alot of books on this list I read Anansi Boys a while after I'd started writing Rivers of London after someone pointed out, in those fatal words - that's a bit like what your book sounds like innit?

I had thought China Mieville had struck out for the more lucrative shores of literary fiction and the good opinion of the broadsheets but he surprised me by producing his own London based mystery - the bastard.

61 Nails
I was about halfway through the first draft of ROL when Mike Shevden came strolling into the Covent Garden branch of Waterstones, where I worked, bold as brass and slapped an ARC of 61 Nails down in front of me. 'Get a load of my new book,' he said. 'It's an urban fantasy set in Covent Garden and draws heavily, and rather brilliantly if I say so myself, on the mythology of London especially stuff you've never heard of because your research mojo is just that pathetic - I pity the poor sod that tries to follow in my footsteps for he shall be subject to much ridicule.'(1)

The Sweet Scent of Blood
I mean you wait ages for an urban fantasy centred around Covent Garden and then two come along at the same time. Suzanne McLeod was another of those reminders that however original you think you are somebody else has already arrived and grabbed all falafel off the buffet table. Although in Suzanne's case she ran off with the kitchen sink as well.

Bryant and May
Fortunately the Bryant and May books didn't register with me until after I'd finished the manuscript otherwise it might have been all over for yours truly's literary career.

Christopher Fowler's Roofworld was an important influence on Rivers of London but while I'd gone onto read Rune, his next book, I'd sort of lost track of him. I remember shelving the Bryant and May books and thinking I should get round to reading them but there's so many books, so little time. We share a similar obsession with the nooks, crannies and secrets of London but luckily a different approach to writing about them. well different enough anyway.

Street Magic
Obviously at some point in time, presumably a couple of years prior to me working in a bookshop, a memo had gone out suggesting that what the world needed were fantasy police procedurals set in London. Caitlin Kittredge hearkened to this call and produced the Black London series in order to throw me deep into a depression. Fortunately, just as with Bryant and May and Felix Castor, London is a diverse enough city for me to get away with being Johnny come lately.

The Wine of Angels
I heard about Phil Rickman's rural fantasy/mysteries when his agent rejected me and cited him as the reason. They said that they already had their supernatural mystery writer, thank you very much, and wouldn't be needing another. I immediately rushed over to the relevant shelf in my crime section and plucked the lone Phil Rickman that had been languishing there and read it. Then I ordered his back catalogue - they sold quite nicely as well.

The Atrocity Archive
This really would have been a seriously major influence had only I had heard of it in time. Charles Stross' fantastic mixture of office comedy, spy thriller and Lovecraftian horror is how I like to spend my afternoons.

(1) He didn't really say any of this because he is, in fact, a very nice gent but that's how it sounded to me.

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Coming Up!

UPDATED: 29/10/2012


One of the great things about success is I now get to go to places I've never been before. 

Portsmouth Book Fest
Tuesday 30th October

Orbit Books and Gollancz present: Urban Fantasy and the City Setting

What? A fourway slugfest between Jon Courtenay Grimwood, Ben Aaronovitch, Kate Griffin and Benedict Jacka.

Where? The  Menuhin Theatre
3rd Floor
Portsmouth Central Library
Guildhall Square
7.00pm. Tickets: £5

Why? Because London is only big enough for one urban fantasy series. Four writers enter only one leaves!

Currently Reading: Jack Glass

Jack Glass by Adam Roberts

Blurb: Jack Glass is the murderer. We know this from the start. Yet as this extraordinary novel tells the story of three murders committed by Glass the reader will be surprised to find out that it was Glass who was the killer and how he did it. And by the end of the book our sympathies for the killer are fully engaged.

Riffing on the tropes of crime fiction (the country house murder, the locked room mystery) and imbued with the feel of golden age SF, JACK GLASS is another bravura performance from Roberts. Whatever games he plays with the genre, whatever questions he asks of the reader, Roberts never loses sight of the need to entertain. JACK GLASS has some wonderfully gruesome moments, is built around three gripping HowDunnits and comes with liberal doses of sly humour.

Roberts invites us to have fun and tricks us into thinking about both crime and SF via a beautifully structured novel set in a society whose depiction challenges notions of crime, punishment, power and freedom. It is an extraordinary novel.

I'm looking forward to this one.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Currently Reading: Sparks

Sparks by David Quantick

Blurb: When Paul Sparks is dumped by Alison, he decides to use a gateway into a million parallel universes to look for a new girlfriend - an Alison who won't dump him. It's a simple plan - he's a simple man - except for the forces of the Random, a man called Joseph Kaye, and a cockroach that doesn't exist. Sci-fi comedy. 

I know David Quantick primarily as the creator of the Blaggers Guide To... on the radio so when I heard he had a book I rushed out and downloaded it onto my kindle(1).

(1) Okay so I rushed out in a metaphorical sense.

Monday, 15 October 2012

The D-Word: delinking exercise.

A CCE can strike without warning!
Every morning I heave my tremendous bulk around the Heath for about an hour of brisk walking.

Up until recently I did this as part of my weight loss programme. The theory is sound, eat LESS calories, burn MORE calories LOSE more weight.

The trouble with this approach is that the moment you have a CCE (Catastrophic Cake Encounter) and gain weight you lose all incentive to continue to exercise. 'What's the point of dragging yourself round the circuit if you remain the same porky bastard as before?' 

The answer, according to the New Scientist, is that exercise is good for you regardless of whether you lose weight or not. In fact a fit fat person (not an oxymoron apparently) is better off than an unfit thin person - take that you skinny wretch!

But how can this be? I hear you cry. What follows is a summery of the summery of the research as outlined in New Scientist 25th August 2012 page 39.

The most robust evidence comes from the Exercise is Medicine Initiative pioneered by the American College of Sports Medicine. Their baseline for physical activity was 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity (brisk walking etc) or 75 minutes of vigorous activity (running, swimming etc) a week. That's 2 and a half hours a WEEK!

The reasons, the detail is in the article, is because exercise; flushes all manner of shit out of your system reducing the risk of heart attacks by 30-50%. It alters the structure of fatty triglyceride particles (bad for you) making it easier for the body to break them down. Lowers the chance of developing type 2 diabetes by 58% (by helping the body deal with glucose in various ways) and helps burn off excess sugar.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, exercise is good for you - we get it - so what?

 You have to de-link exercise from weight loss. The exercise is doing you a ton of good regardless of whether you shed a single kilo or not. Thus diet failure (and all diets like all political careers end in failure) is not an excuse to stop exercising. So now when I'm struggling up Kite Hill I no longer tell myself that I'm doing it to lose weight I tell myself I'm doing it so I can outlive those thin bastards who sit in front of the TV all day.

Two and half hours a week - please, I spent more time on twitter over the last two days than that.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Now Available in Brazilian Portuguese

Which I'm reliably told is different from Portuguese Portuguese.

The series is being called Enigma's of London and the first book is Spirits of the Thames (I think).

Blurb: E se a magia fosse real? E mais: e se ela fosse controlada por um departamento da polícia e utilizada para proteger as pessoas de espíritos mal intencionados e entidades maléficas?

Após descobrir que a única testemunha de um crime é na verdade um fantasma, Peter Grant torna-se aprendiz do enigmático inspetor Thomas Nightingale e logo aprende a controlar magias e feitiços que o ajudarão a resolver uma série de crimes.

Através dos olhos cínicos e sarcásticos do detetive recém-assumido, somos introduzidos aos seres sobrenaturais que habitam as partes soturnas da cidade de Londres, assim como às regras do submundo de trolls que vivem embaixo de pontes, famílias de vampiros, ninfas dos rios e guardiões do Tâmisa.

Com uma história repleta de mistério e humor, Espírito do Tâmisa é uma fantasia urbana em que o leitor ficará preso até o último minuto.

Strangely the Diana Gabaldon quote seems to have cross fertislised with the iO9 quote from the American edition - not that I'm complaining you understand.

Friday, 5 October 2012

German Covers

Coming in the Summer of 2013
Ein Wispern Unter Baker Street

 I love these German covers, I particularly like the way this one uses an old non-schematic map of the Underground.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Currently Reading: Brighton Belle

Brighton Belle by Sara Sheridan
1951. Brighton. With the war over and the Nazis brought to justice at Nuremberg, Mirabelle Bevan (Secret Service, retired) thinks her skills are no longer required. After her lover's death she retires to the seaside to put the past behind her and takes a job at a debt collection agency run by the charismatic Big Ben McGuigan. But when the case of Romana Laszlo - a pregnant Hungarian refugee - comes in, Mirabelle soon discovers that her specialist knowledge is vital. With enthusiastic assistance from insurance clerk Vesta Churchill, they follow a mysterious trail of gold sovereigns and corpses that only they can unravel.
I shall be talking to Sara Sheridan at Blackwell's Charing Cross on the 12th of October in case anybody happens to be passing.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Rivers of London - Soon to be in Korean!

I think this might be their logo could someone let me know if it isn't.
Rivers of London has just been sold to HYUNDAE MUNHAK a Korean publisher. This marks a major milestone for me - the first time one of my books will be published in something other then Roman script. Hurrah!

Turbulence Event Rescheduled

Samit Basu
Ben Aaronovitch

In a knock down bare knuckle conversation in what is already being called 'the clash of the people that write books'.

 Waterstones Picardilly

Tuesday, 9th October 2012, 7:30PM - Tickets £3/£1.50 for Waterstones Cardholders and NUS cardholders

Because it's going to be AWESOME! or at the very least educational and mildly entertaining.

Monday, 1 October 2012

The BBC 6 O'Clock Regional Bias Report

A perennial complaint by non-Londoners is that the BBC News was relentless 'metrocentric' and gave much greater time to events that happened within the capital.

As a Londoner I've always felt that this claim was utter bollocks but sometimes it's important to check out your assumptions.

I decided to track the weekday News at 6 broadcast on BBC 1 and break down it's coverage by nation and English region. The first run was interesting but exposed flaws in my methodology so I decided to restart the project in September. Each weekday I log the news and break it down into; International, National, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and then the English Regions. Where a story has two or three different foci I divided up the time equally.

I then strip out the National and the International stories (about 65% of all the news stories) and calculate my percentages based on the stories that have a regional foci.

Please note: that this is done entirely to satisfy myself and my methodology would not stand much scrutiny from a social scientist. However I believe results should be interesting.

1 Month In

      Pop        %  Tot-Mins
North West 7.052 11%        42.66
South-East 8.635 14%        24.07
Yorkshire + 5.284 8%        19.76
London 8.174 13%        18.31
Wales 3.064 5%        14.55
Scotland 5.254 8%        13.59
Northern Ireland 1.811 3%          7.37
North East 2.597 4%          6.55
South-West 5.289 8%          5.60
East 5.847 9%          3.43
East Midlands 4.533 7%          1.97
West Midlands 5.602 9%          0.92

Pop: population in millions.
%: percentage of UK population.
Tot-mins: coverage in minutes so far.

A fairer way of looking at this data is to see how many minutes of coverage there is per million population.

Pop Min/Mpop
North West 7.052          6.05
Wales 3.064          4.75
Northern Ireland 1.811          4.07
Yorkshire + 5.284          3.74
South-East 8.635          2.79
Scotland 5.254          2.59
North East 2.597          2.52
London 8.174          2.24
South-West 5.289          1.06
East 5.847          0.59
East Midlands 4.533          0.43
West Midlands 5.602          0.16

Now in the first instance this looks like my position is totally vindicated, far from dominating the news London is strictly mid-list, the North-West is dominant and the Midlands sadly neglected but...

My experience from my last run at this is that there be a large variation from week to week and month to month. The North-West got a lot of coverage due to the shooting of two police at the start of the month, Northern Ireland because of the rioting in Belfast, Wales and Yorkshire+ because of the floods. I believe that I will need at least six months worth of data before I can be confident of the results.

UPDATE 1/10./2012

Pop km2 m/kkm2
London 8.174        1,572 11.65
North West 7.052      23,837 1.79
Yorkshire + 5.284      15,420 1.28
South-East 8.635      19,096 1.26
North East 2.597 8,592 0.76
Wales 3.064 20,779 0.70
Northern Ireland 1.811 13,843 0.53
South-West 5.289      23,837 0.23
East 5.847      19,120 0.18
Scotland 5.254 78,387 0.17
East Midlands 4.533      15,627 0.13
West Midlands 5.602      12,998 0.07

Somebody suggested I rank by minutes per 1,000 square km. London of course dominates but then it is the only fully urban English region. Interestingly the North West continues to outperform the rest and the Midlands are still at the bottom.