Author Archives: Frank Brinkley

The Name’s Zakhov

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

For years I’d known that a scathing review of Dr No, the first James Bond film, had been published in Russia. But where? No one could tell me. It was not until I took over the editorship of The Book Collector and made contact with James Bond book dealers that I discovered. The piece, by […]

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Dr Mohammed Al-Roken

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

On 15 November, PEN centres the world over marked the fortieth Day of the Imprisoned Writer by highlighting the cases of several writers and journalists who are imprisoned or facing prosecution. These include Dr Mohammed Al-Roken, an author, academic and human rights lawyer from the United Arab Emirates. According to a recent report by Human […]

December 2021 / January 2022 Crime Round-up

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

My crime novels of the year Phosphate Rocks by Fiona Erskine (Sandstone Press). A fascinating mixture of detection, science and memoir by chemical engineer Fiona Erskine. Beautifully written and clever. Edge of the Grave by Robbie Morrison (Macmillan). This impressive first novel provides a colourful, moving and shocking portrayal of crime and class, deprivation and […]

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Happy Days

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

This breezy noir, set in contemporary Los Angeles, begins with the titular narrator, a private detective named Happy Doll (his real name; some people call him Hank), receiving a visit in his office from an old friend wanting a favour. Lou needs a new kidney but, as a lifelong smoker (‘his open mouth was like […]

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Larval Marvel

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Pupa is the first novel by J O Morgan, a Scottish poet who has published seven collections of narrative poems. Set in what Morgan calls an altopia, the characters are human but not as we know it: they must decide if and when to progress to the next stage and transform from larvals into adults.

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Fifteen Minutes of Fame

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

A friend of mine observed recently that some people tell stories in a way that is ‘all event’. Sammy Wright’s debut novel, Fit, is the novelistic equivalent. It is a fascinating and visceral portrait of child poverty and social division, subjects on which Wright, a teacher and member of the Social Mobility Commission, is a […]

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Witches & Worry Dolls

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

At its core, the gothic novel – like its offspring, the horror film – is a collection of familiar tropes rolled up in a patchwork quilt of tension and unease. Sally Hinchcliffe’s Hare House begins ticking gothic boxes on the very first page, where the unnamed, unreliable female narrator notes that names have been changed […]

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Creative Tension

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Two women going away to realise their creative projects; two small islands within a short distance of each other; two narratives running in parallel until they converge on an uncertain ending. Such is the basis of Alison Moore’s engaging fifth novel, in which things recur, mirror and nestle within one another, filling the pages to […]

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Trogs versus Big Tech

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Dave Eggers’s The Every is a David and Goliath story in which a techno-sceptic infiltrates a digital behemoth in order to destroy it from inside. In writing this novel, Eggers himself seems to be taking on the role of David, using his analogue slingshot to ping rocks off an impervious and often invisible giant. Most […]

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Stranger Things

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The advice for musicians compiling an album – open with your strongest track, knock them out with a killer – can also be applied to short-story collections. If an author’s opening tale doesn’t strike and stun the reader, why should they continue? With her slim debut collection, Vanessa Onwuemezi both has and hasn’t followed the […]

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Human, All Too Human

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The Austrian writer Adalbert Stifter was an apostle of humanity’s moral, biological and geographical interconnectedness. When a person aids the weak and oppressed, a balance is restored and the helped individual is able to rejoin the social fold, Stifter explained in the preface to his mid-19th-century novella cycle Motley Stones, now available in its first […]

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In the Land of the Rusalki

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Jadzia, the jealous wolf-girl in Teffi’s story ‘Leshachikha’ (the name of a female forest spirit), causes a gigantic tree to fell her prettier sister and offers a warning of a similar fate to her widowed nobleman father when he fails to reciprocate her passion. Two young sisters – clearly modelled on Teffi and her sibling […]

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Like a Rolling Stone

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Alan Garner is best known for the fantasy novels he wrote in the 1960s, which drew on the oral traditions and enchanted landscapes of the Cheshire village of Alderley Edge. These have made him a much-loved and respected voice in modern literature. His first novel, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, lodged itself strangely in the minds […]

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Messiah Complex

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

The central figure in Olga Tokarczuk’s The Books of Jacob is Jacob Frank, an 18th-century Jewish merchant from the eastern borderlands of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth (today in Ukraine) who left his homeland for the Ottoman Empire and returned a self-proclaimed messiah. The sect that grew around him rejected the Talmud and embraced the kabbalah, espousing […]

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Journal of the Plague Years

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

A third or so into To Paradise, a terminally ill man who has arranged to end his own life through assisted dying is asked if he is scared. Not of pain, he replies. ‘I’m scared because I know my last thoughts are going to be about how much time I wasted – how much life I wasted. I’m scared because I’m going to die not being proud of how I lived.’ The sting of mortality, the craving for a legacy, the fallacy of redemption: such are Yanagihara’s preoccupations. Her 2013

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Petal Power

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

In 2006 the BBC conducted a poll of viewers to find Britain’s favourite flower. The rose won hands down, taking 37 per cent of the vote. The nearest contender was the sweet pea, with 29 per cent, while the iris, lily and tulip were way behind. The rose is actually England’s national flower, though not […]

He Changed His Tune

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Karl Hermann Wolfgang Scherchen, fondly known as ‘Wulff’, inspired two of Britten’s early masterpieces – Young Apollo, for piano and strings, and ‘Antique’, which saluted the ‘gracious son of Pan’ and was one of Britten’s settings of Rimbaud’s verse that make up the song cycle Les Illuminations. These are indelible monuments to a young male […]

Ode to an Ashtray

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Far from running smooth, the path of technological progress bristles with dead ends and aborted possibilities. It is quite possible to spear yourself on these snapped-off futures. Around the turn of the century, enjoying the disposable income that came with my very first job, I decided to invest in a home music system. Naturally I opted for the most advanced and ostensibly future-proof technology

A Question of Inheritance

Posted on by Frank Brinkley

Sir Ewan Forbes, a Scottish aristocrat born in 1912, had a boyhood much like any other. His mother, Gwendolen, was an indefatigable woman who exhibited at the Chelsea Flower Show and whose dahlias were admired by Queen Mary. His father, ‘the Auld Laird’, was a resolute eccentric, given to dark and combustible changes of mood. […]

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