Friday, March 30, 2007

The Moscow Times reviews the St Petersburg novel.

I was thrilled by this one. It's a wonderful review by Saul Austerlitz. I say wonderful not just because it's positive, but because the writer just seems to get what I was trying to do. What's more, he's really engaged with the book. So I'm very happy.

It's been a crappy day in other respects. A lot of stress, mostly self-induced and in fact still on-going (I shouldn't really be here). But I had to share.

Oh, and another truly marvellous thing happened - possibly even better than getting a great review in The Moscow Times. Daughter Claire and her friends won the overall egg decoration prize in their school's eggy diorama competition. You may remember it was for Yoka from Egg Wars.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

the san francisco chronicle reviews the axe (HELP MY CAPS HAVE GONE MAD!!!)

Sorry I don't know what happened with that header - I couldn't get the pc to do caps, then everything was in caps. It's been a long day.

Somewhere around the midpoint of it, a couple of emails pinged into my inbox from New York. One from my American editor and one from my American publicist. Both telling me about a review in the San Francisco Chronicle - my first US newspaper review. (I was reviewed by a US blogger here.) I sort of hoped the simultaneous transmission was a good sign. But you know, I don't assume anything and I am naturally pessimistic.

Anyhow, they seemed quite pleased. One of them described it as a 'rave' review. The other used the word 'fantastic'. Yeah, yeah - I know how people in publishing tend to exaggerate. I could tell they were just trying to build me up so I wouldn't take the bad bits to heart. Still, it gave me the confidence to take a peek.

The SFC reviewer is Stephen Lyons. And yes, he seemed to like the book: "The story is told ably in the classic whodunit twisty-arc style, reminiscent of the sleuthing of Nick Charles, Sherlock Holmes and Columbo, the mussed-up character based partly on Dostoevsky's trench-coat-clad Petrovich. Dirty Harry could easily be referenced, too..."

Have to say, I'm very pleased with those references, though if I'm honest the Dirty Harry one strikes me as a bit left-field! But hey, I'm not complaining.

He does a quick summary of the story, then observes: "In addition to the splendid dust-off and resurrection of Petrovich, the strengths of "The Gentle Axe" are its characters and scene construction." He then goes on to quote from a scene that he particularly liked, calling it "wonderfully written". The scene is sort of about gambling, which allows him to conclude: "Tip to readers: Bet on Petrovich."

I've read the review through a few times now. Haven't found the bad bits yet.

The terrible knotted feeling in my stomach relaxed slightly today.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A hand yell for MJ Rose!

Well, I'm not entirely sure what a hand yell is. But I got one from MJ Rose over at buzz, balls and hype, so I thought I'd return the favour.

Buzz, balls and hype is a highly influential as well as entertaining blog, which features a range of valuable information for writers, including tips on marketing, and even advice from a psychologist on topics such as overcoming writer's block. There's a great essay by Barry Eisler about the different kinds of resonance in titles.

MJ Rose herself is a thriller writer with a string of acclaimed novels to her name. She doesn't do reviews, but if she reads a book she likes, she's not afraid to give it a good hand yell. Whatever that is.

Thank you, MJ.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

The Axe, snapped in California.

Some photos, courtesy of the impressively determined David Isaak.

Monday, March 26, 2007

David Isaak, Axe-spotter extraordinaire.

My thanks go to the indefatigable David Isaak. Indefatigable is only one word you could use to describe the man and it hardly does him justice. But I chose it today, as opposed to any other epithets (e.g., generous, engaging, perceptive and frequently laugh-out-loud funny) because of his efforts in tracking down a copy of the American Axe. You can read all about it on his blog. His post even features an intriguing photo of the soon-to-be-bestselling author of Smite The Waters (Macmillan New Writing, September 2007), in a Magritte-style pose with his copy of The Gentle Axe. If you haven't bookmarked TOMORROWVILLE yet, I advise you to do so immediately. You won't regret it.

Anyhow, thank you David. Your efforts really were above and beyond the call of duty. And the photos you sent are helping me get my head round the fact that this is really happening, after all.

By way of a gift for David, and for everyone who has stumbled onto the plog today, I thought I would share with you an eggy diorama made by my daughter and two of her friends for Easter. It's a depiction of a traditional Easter scene, featuring Yoka from Egg Wars. I hope you like it.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Are you sitting comfortably?

Then I'll begin. Well, actually, Simon Vance will begin. He's the narrator of the American audiobook of The Gentle Axe and you can download a sample of his reading here.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Back story.

Thanks to MJ Rose, of Buzz, Balls and Hype fame, for inviting me to contribute mine.

The Axe is out (in the USA)

From today, The Gentle Axe is available to buy in American bookshops. Allegedly.

The official publication date is given as Monday, but the books go out today, I believe. So if there are any Americans reading this (David?), I'd really appreciate knowing about any bookshop sightings.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Shotsmag reviews Axe.

"[A] pretty impressive achievement which succeeds on its own terms as a well written literary thriller with loads of chilly Russian atmosphere and even plays fair as a murder mystery."

Read the full review here.

I'm back to just posting review excerpts. Sorry.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Fancy a bit of 'lurid'?

According to Doug Southard, who has reviewed The Gentle Axe for the Library Journal, "[r]eaders with an appetite for the occasional lurid scene will enjoy". Let's face it. Which one of us doesn't have the appetite for a bit of lurid now and then.

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Porfiry and me.

I've written an article on that subject for Shots Mag.

By the way, you can download an extract of A Gentle Axe here.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Why no blog posts?

Yes, yes, I know, I've been neglecting the plog. Just lazily pasting in quotes from reviews. (Only the good bits, mind. I'm not daft.)

I do have an excuse. There was this small matter of another book to finish. One that was due in to my publisher on the same day that A Gentle Axe was published. I managed to do it, more or less. Though excessive plogging throughout the time I was supposed to be writing it slowed me down considerably and meant a mad sprint for the finish. Oops.

Thankfully, I did manage to get it written in time, though the spamfilter at Faber snagged it, so my editor didn't get to see it until a couple of days after the agreed due date. That seemed to be fine. The sky didn't fall in. Nobody came to cut a pound of flesh from my side.

Mr Ed (not his real name) got back to me pretty quick. Here is a man who reads three manuscripts over a single weekend. Anyhow, "It seems to be in very good shape," was his verdict. Still he did have some comments. Then some more. Then a few more. Oh, and a few more. That's what's been keeping me busy over the last few weeks. Well, actually, what's really been keeping me busy is the very important job of staring sullenly and fearfully at this big wad of paper wondering just how bad it is. Oh, that and chewing my nails down to the quick.

I finally steeled myself to look at the damage last week. Friday, to be exact. There was nothing major, as he had promised. Just a lot of minor stuff. More than usual for me, which I think was partly due to the fact that I didn't have time to do as many read-throughs as I normally like to. I did reach the point where I needed an editor's input for the big stuff, to check whether the story was working. And, I have to say, he is an exceedingly good editor, so why not use him, I thought?

So what else has been keeping me from the plog? A daughter with a broken arm. This amazing book. The day job. Googling my title(s). And a strange debilitating tension that seems to lock my shoulders into rigidity whenever I contemplate opening up blogger. Can't explain it.

Book stuff to report

I've signed 500 hardbacks of A Gentle Axe at Goldsboro Books. It's the only place you can buy the hardback, which is indeed a beauteous object. It even has the pic and bio of me lacking from the trade paperback. And a lovely quote from Alan Furst on the back.

News came in of a sighting of a spectacular window display of Axes at the Waterstones on Piccadilly. By the time I got there, they'd moved me from the window to the 'curve' - an area inside devoted to books they are promoting. I may return with a camera to capture the evidence.

I also seem to be published in Canada. There was a review in the The Globe and Mail, which I'm assured is Canada's main national paper. It wasn't too bad. My Porfiry "retains both the intelligence and doggedness of the original" apparently. But I'll let you read the whole thing if you like.

Monday, March 05, 2007

The York Press reviews the Axe.

Lovely review from Stephen Lewis in the York Press.

"Morris has dug deep into the Russian soul in this book, and his dark, dank, dangerous St Petersburg, with its snowbound, windswept streets and stinking slums, is brilliantly recreated.

The hunt for the murderer is tense and atmospheric: the denouement brutally shocking and moving.

A worthy sequel to one of the greatest novels ever written: and a cracking thriller in its own right."

I think he liked it.

Read the whole thing here.

Friday, March 02, 2007

The Agony Column reviews the Axe.

The Axe isn't published in the States yet, but it seems one literary blogger couldn't wait to review it.

The review, in a blog for some reason called The Agony Column, is themed around the idea of books you're made to read (at school) and books you want to read. A couple of extracts:

Morris has all the grace notes right for a fine historical mystery...'s an auspicious debut, with enough details and period observations to keep you immersed in the alien worlds of history and enough plot to keep you reading. At 305 pages, this is a nicely sized book and perhaps the start of a very good series. At this point in your life, chances are you're out of English class, and there no novels that you have to read. 'The Gentle Axe', my friends, is no 'Crime and Punishment', to be sure (nor does it pretend to be), but neither is it 'Silas Marner'. It is in fact a novel you might very well want to read.

Read the whole thing here.

Thursday, March 01, 2007