We’re past the main phases of trip-being-over. The “wow, that was a long flight, let’s shower and sleep a lot” phase, the “enjoy making a cup of tea in one’s own kitchen” phase, the “let’s catch up with friends and tell stories and pass on presents” phase, the “so this is where I work, I wonder if I can remember where my desk is” phase. There’s still plenty to do, but I can’t help feeling a bit aimless at times.
In that spirit, and since the big parcel of books we posted home from Brighton arrived a little while back, here’s a representative sample of our English book-buying.
Werewolves by Nigel Suckling.
A pocket hardback history of the werewolf myth and its history. One of the final presents I need to get around to passing on.
Debrett’s A-Z of Modern Manners. I bought this at Chatsworth, because wandering around a statters-aitch can make one feel so uncivilised, don’cher know, and in need of coaching.
Ley Lines of Wessex by Roger Crisp.
I don’t buy into geomancy as an actual practice, but I think it’s a wonderful conceit for fantasy so I bought a few bits and pieces on it at Avebury. This is a quick guide to the Wessex region, with lots of aerial photos, maps, and admonitions to keep an open mind. Hm.
Death of an Unsigned Band by Tim Thornton.
Novel about the struggles of a fictional four-piece rock band. This was an impulse buy in Bath based on an entertaining sweary rant on the back cover and a quick skim of a couple of scenes flipped to at random.
Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain, 1942. A little hardback version of same, reprinted by the Bodleian.
Boy in the Blitz – the 1940 Diary of Colin Perry. I can’t find a cover pic for the edition I have. The jacket copy claims that it’s “the only diary written spontaneously during the 1940 London Blitz”. Which may or may not be true, but it seems to be the only one that survived the Blitz and made it to publication, at least. Should be good.
The New Moon’s Arms by Nalo Hopkinson.
D and I both got signed copies of this at Cheltenham. I posted mine home; she kept hers as part of her on-the-road reading kit. She was reading it in the train station and looked up from it a moment after our departure time was announced over the PA to ask me if they’d announced our departure time over the PA yet. That’s how good this book is: your other senses get disconnected while you’re reading it. I’ve now finished all the books on my current reading rotation so I plan to get into this one very soon.
Ration Book Cookery – Recipes and History.
Part of a series on British cookery through the years, done by English Heritage. Recipes adapted from dishes people were making during the wartime ration regime, adapted for modern kitchens. Another present for a foodie friend.
How to Read the Landscape – A Crash Course in Interpreting the Great Outdoors by Robert Yarham.
This is a counterbalance of sorts to the leyline books, I suppose, and a handy fallback for information when Russell isn’t around. It’s an encyclopedia of various landforms – mountains, tors, fens, waterfalls, you name it – each with a little treatise on how they’re formed and how the landscape works around them. Should be a good worldbuilding reference.
The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, March 1984.
I’d actually have guessed earlier than 1984 given the startling haircuts on the young couple modelling F&SF T-shirts inside the front cover, but there you go. I do like picking up old magazines like this when I can, but I’d probably have left this on the shelf in Hay-on-Wye except that it has a Donald Westlake story in it. I love his caper stories but had no idea he’d ever done any SF.
Visual Aid 2: You Can Never Know Enough Stuff.
Also bought in Chatsworth because it looked cool, I agree with the sentiment and hey, I was already buying about four books and I was on a roll. Lots of weird tangential information portrayed with photos and diagrams. Prison populations, all the different ways to serve coffee, cryptozoology, a New York City subway map, how to fold a towel into a swan. I love stuff like this.
The Hard-Boiled Detective: Stories from Black Mask Magazine, 1920-1951, edited by Herbert Ruhm. Ain’t no cover images to be found on these mean streets, see? Black Mask was the home of the classic hardboiled crime and PI stories and several of that form’s most eminent authors have stories in this. It’s a banged-up second-hand copy from a crime and thriller bookshop, a consolation prize for the old copy of The Maltese Falcon that I found in a second-hand bookshop in Darwin and managed to lose by the time I got on the plane the next day.
Mystery title. Oooh, secretive! It’s going to be a Christmas present for someone who may read this, and I’d like it to be a surprise. Let’s move on.
The Metatemporal Detective by Michael Moorcock.
I’ve been a Michael Moorcock fan since I was about nine years old and his fantasies were probably the single biggest influence on my imagination as I grew up. There was no way I wasn’t going to jump at this, particularly not in this glorious sexy hardcover.
Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Z. Brite.
I had the good fortune to meet Poppy, albeit very briefly, at Continuum 3 in Melbourne a few years ago. At that point she’d already moved out of the taboo-busting horror that she was famous for, and into a much gentler stream of fiction. I’ve read quite a number of her stories but none of her novels. This is one of the one’s she’s best known for, and there it was on the shelf.
The Royal Line of Succesion: The British Monarchy from Egbert and 802 to Queen Elizabeth II.
We did buy more books than this, and we bought plenty of things that weren’t books, but the bag next to my chair is empty and it’s late, so that’s all my showing off for now.