Lullaby of the Dead by Lynn Lamb: Book Review

Lullaby of the Dead by Lynn Lamb, available at Amazon, features a big cast of characters from both the living and the dead. Landry Sinclair is in effect a ball-busting corporate down-sizer, keen to distance herself from her dirty work.

She has to meet a quota at her department, and - although she's not happy about it - relieves near-retirees of their positions, often at a distance. A thorn in her side is one of the QBs (or cubicle workers), an ambitious and manipulative slacker whom she would remove if he wasn't quite so good at corporate politics.

Next, the entire office is investigated for murder. Her slacker underling sleeps with her after this tragedy at the workplace. And, as it was Landry who found the body, she falls under suspicion.

In what could have been an industrial espionage / corporate thriller type novel, the focus suddenly shifts to turn the book into a ghost story, where we meet a host of spirits who can observe the murderous goings-on of the psychopath responsible for what becomes a hat-trick of office murders, and then some. Lamb addresses details of the corporate world with great skill, and as the shift to the spirit world occurs, there are echoes of Beetlejuice and The Wizard of Oz

A mash-up of The Hudsucker Proxy and Burton's Beetlejuice, for example, might have felt like an easier fit. But this is more like Michael Crichton's Disclosure, or Mamet's Glengarry Glenross, mixed with a darker Burton flick. And let's not forget the murder investigation. Police procedural, corporate thriller, horror, fantasy, Gothic, otherworldly, soft scifi - the list of genres one could tag in this novel are numerous. It's a commendable venture from Lamb.

On the haunted side of the house we find Serine - an Irish, Famine-era immigrant, Topanga - a Native American who lived on the lands, Sarah - a girl-sized victim of abuse who lived through a world of trauma and died before her time, Ben - a 1980s throwback, and cowboys, hustlers and rustlers such as Jim James and Sideburns, alongside numerous other spirits - who had lived or died on the California property, or its previous incarnations, over the centuries. What is this place's significance?

It's where the killer himself lives today. We are presented with a frame through which we hear all of these characters' death stories, many of them truly horrific.

Lamb introduces a set of rules - these spirits (from disparate eras over a half millennium or more) can observe the world through the mirrors from their (older version of the) home in which the killer now lives, peering into the aquarium of living occupants and observing life like a soap opera. 

Currently the psychopath-in-residence, and whichever victim he brings back on a given evening, are the cast in the world of the living. But the spirits seem unable to breach this fourth wall back into the corporeal - and indeed, the corporate - world, to warn victims of their pending deaths. How is this overcome?

You'll have to read this awesome strange beast to find out.

You can buy Lullaby of the Dead on Amazon.
Follow Lynn Lamb on Twitter or Facebook.

Sign a petition to protect Merlin Woods in Galway

Caroline Stanley and Friends of Merlin Woods are seeking your signature for their petition. She writes:

For fours years we have fought to preserve and protect Merlin Park Woods and its meadows from development.


In Feb 2014, we successfully had a planned bus corridor/road through Merlin Park Woods and its meadows removed from Galway City Development Plan.

Our locally elected Councillors voted unanimously to have it removed and also to wors towards the protection of the woodlands and the meadows by pushing for it to be designated as an SAC, SPA or NHA.


We have built up extensive knowledge of the wildlife in the area and have come to realise even more the value of these lands to all: both people and wildlife, such as such as the Red Squirrel, foxes, rabbits, butterflies, bumblebees, orchids and much more. To our dismay in July 2015, we discovered that Galway Hospice were to purchase 15 acres of land from the HSE who managed half of the woodland and the meadows.

We reached out to the Galway Hospice to explain the work we had been doing and which was ongoing but the reply that came back was that the intention was to proceed with the plans.

When submissions for the development were made public, we then became aware of the land that was offered for sale and development; we had hoped that they would build within the areas of the hospital complex which were already zoned for development but this was not the case.

Some of our local Councillors and Council members were invited to meet with the HSE and the Hospice to ensure that the meadows would be rezoned for specific development for Galway Hospice to build 120 carpark spaces, 50-bed unit and a Conference centre.

At no stage of that process were the public invited or our group giving a voice at these meetings.

Although the size of acreage was decreased from 15 acres to 7 acres, the original planned building work will stay the same and will destroy most of the Orchid meadow which are also Annex 1 meadowlands, rich in many species of Orchids which grow in their hundreds if not thousands and is an area of International Environmental Importance.


There is no way to mitigate this as you cannot replace what has taken many generations to evolve, the destruction of a whole ecosystem, once it is gone that's it!!

We were also contacted by local people who asked us how we could save this area as this was an important area in their own lives. We reached out to our local councillors some of which have agreed to save the meadows but the majority have voted for it to be rezoned.

We are also aware of the amazing work that Galway Hospice does for the community and the need for more space but we do not see the value in using land that is zoned Recreational and Amenity because it goes against the value of this land for people for their health both physically and mentally.

Everyone needs a place to escape to and in a city this is a rare thing.

Our population in the surrounding communities is expected to expand from approx 30,000 to 60,000 as development continues in this area over the next few years. We have a place to get away from it all here and we would like for it to continue this way and for the Hospice and the HSE to find an alternative site within the hospital complex which will be more suitable for the needs of all the community and will need no rezoning of land as areas of land are already zoned for this purpose.


We would appreciate your support in signing and sharing our petition to help us save this meadow from destruction and to stop further fragmentation of the woodland and its meadows. https://my.uplift.ie/petitions/save-the-meadows-merlin-park-galway

A review of some work of surrealist poet Kevin Bateman



Surrealist poet Kevin Bateman held an event in mid-July in Merlin Woods, Galway, attended by a number of poets and writers, who read their work in the middle of the forest. Kevin read a number of poems himself, and his poetry is impressive, with lines of both humour and vitality alongside an urge to embrace darkness elsewhere.

A “translucent water spirit” visits the narrator of one of the poems, invisible to all, and the narrator “felt calm and had peace”.

“I for one do not believe in delusions,” he says in another, and as a surrealist poet he would seem to re-define the idea. Of what could be an ex-lover, “We awake and look to the other side of the bed and see a pig.” This form of love poetry indicates that we all feel hurt by those who are "selfish" enough not to love us enough – the inclusive “we” suggests that many have been victims in the heartbreak. Indeed, many of us have also been on the other side of the fence; the pig may be potentially a reflection of the narrator.

His imperatives and insistences are powerful and unifying:
“If the will is great we will protect our love.”
“We are peace. We are utter silence.”

And a description of bare feet on grass is beautifully profane:
“I hope no one saw the orgy between grass and toes.”

Want overtly conveys unrequited or unfulfilled feelings and passions. Three men appear to "leave" before bedding three waiting women. Allusions to the Christian Trinity might possibly be drawn, and perhaps the Catholic Church’s treatment of women. Just one of many possible interpretations, another poem contains more explicit Christian themes, suggesting penitents feel the urge to obtain forgiveness but that they will sin again if they are given Penance, in an ongoing cycle of opportunity and forgiveness.

In The Road Home, Mr Bateman implores that “Night falls and bats fly. Let us all belong to the darkness.”

In Trans-Illusioned Illusionist, he says that he would love to be an air hostess; “limited attractive uniform”, “fasten your seatbelts emotion”. The ability or urge to walk through life in such a fashion, in a nine-to-five gig, or something similar – or an apparently more attractive job (to many) as the member of a flight crew, uniformed and under the control and confines of the job, inside an aeroplane, is a great concept, although it’s not necessarily a laudable one. Pointing out that it’s often what we aspire to, highlighting our conventionality - all while Bateman subverts his own gender - is a great touch.
Photo by Aontacht Photography


You can follow Kevin Bateman on Twitter and Youtube, where you will find a recording of the Merlin Woods event which he Periscoped live on the day.

Do YOU qualify for a mortgage?


You. Hey you! I'm talking to you - take off that lumberjack shirt and c'mere to me for a second!
Do YOU have a big beard?

In Ireland, if you have a BIG BUSHY BEARD, then YOU qualify for a mortgage!

 DO YOU THINK I'M KIDDING?





Here's how the banks have worked it out, based on multiples of income and the value of the property:

If you farken have 
                    a big farken bushy farken beard, 
                                             then you farken qualify.






Look it up online if you still don't believe me.  


 See?

EXACTLY.

SO GROW THAT BEARD OUT!








 





There's no need to do a big song and farken dance about it UNLESS YOU WANT TO!


 YEAH! That's what it's all about!

Go on! DANCE! DANCE! DANCE!







SO PUT DOWN THE FARKEN BONG THIS MORNING, FELLAS, AND GO GET YOURSELVES A FARKEN MORTGAGE, YOU BEARDY FARKEN BASTARDS!!!

Banks are regulated in such a way that they can arbitrarily give bearded men and women money.

THE DEVIL’S FEAST by M. J. Carter: A BLAKE & AVERY MYSTERY

From the Crime Writer’s Association New Blood Dagger Award shortlisted author of The Strangler Vine
Published by Fig Tree
 Thursday 27th October 2016 | hardback | £14.99

THE DEVIL’S FEAST
by M. J. Carter

A BLAKE & AVERY MYSTERY

London, 1842. There has been a mysterious and horrible death at the Reform, London’s newest and grandest gentleman’s club. A death the club is desperate to hush up.

Captain William Avery is persuaded to investigate, and soon discovers a web of rivalries and hatreds, both personal and political, simmering behind the club’s handsome façade – and in particular concerning its resident genius, Alexis Soyer, ‘the Napoleon of food’, a chef whose culinary brilliance is matched only by his talent for self-publicity.

But Avery is distracted. Where is his mentor and partner-in-crime Jeremiah Blake? And what if this first death was only a dress rehearsal for something far more sinister?

Praise for The Printer’s Coffin:

‘An entertaining stew of blackmail, murder and incomprehensible slang... Like Dickens, Carter's righteous anger at Victorian hypocrisy does not prevent her from revelling in it with infectious glee’
Sunday Telegraph

‘Vividly realised... the second outing for [Blake and Avery] is even more fun, with the same blend of derring-do and elegant writing’ Financial Times

‘While the relationship between the dynamic duo Blake and Avery evolves in a nuanced, tender way the real star of the show in this complex, clever novel is London itself’ Evening Standard


M. J. Carter is a former journalist and the author of the Blake and Avery series, The Strangler Vine, The Printer’s Coffin (formerly published as The Infidel Stain) and The Devil's Feast. The Strangler Vine was shortlisted for the Crime Writer’s Association New Blood Dagger Award and longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction. M. J. Carter is married with two sons and lives in London.

For more information please contact Sara D’Arcy: 0207 010 3251 / sdarcy@penguinrandomhouse.co.uk

Barbed Wire Cage by Natasha Helen Crudden: Poetry Review

You've got to love the idea of the sole remaining member of the old gang now being a gatecrasher.

Natasha Helen Crudden's thematically diverse collection of poetry, Barbed-Wire Cage (available at Amazon), is full of rich imagery like this.



In a piece that could be characterised as love poetry, an addressor appears to take responsibility for the addressee’s heartbreak, heartache or mistreatment. In another piece, the speaker appears to express gratitude at having known the addressee. There's a respect here for the feelings of others, and the emotional intelligence of these lyrics gives other pieces - where she is less generous about the subject or target - more depth through contrast.

There's a personal authenticity to most of the poetry - with any overt politics rare. Each piece has its strengths and its rhythms. Natasha uses alliterative and assonant (frequently internal) rhyme, combining clever phrases that often confound expectation and play down cliché.
The poet identifies as "punk". Her aesthetic as a performer ties in with this concept - and these poems are no doubt great live performance pieces. Natasha draws on the theme of gatecrashing more than once. Chrysalis suggests that the current generation of artists will form a palimpsest over the last, using TippEx and markers of various kinds. Although a statement of artistic endeavour that each generation makes, Natasha articulates the view with a unique take. Herein lies the punk sensibility, but all is conveyed with the decency of - say - Joe Strummer, rather than the ostensible obnoxiousness or outright anarchy of Johnny Rotten.

You can get Barbed-Wire Cage at Amazon UK and US. You can follow Natasha Helen Crudden on Facebook and Twitter.