Category Archives: novels

Five Questions for Charlie Raven

Today,  Charlie Raven answers five questions about her new book:

Charlie Raven

1. What’s the name of your latest book – and how did you choose the title?

It’s called The Compact. The title just popped into my mind about halfway through the process of writing it. It came about because one of the themes of the story is the fear of old age. That fear is universal, of course, particularly for anyone who depends on their looks in their work, but back in the 1890s there were hardly any viable careers open to women, so the fear of ageing must have been even more acute.

A ‘compact’ refers first to those pretty little tins of pressed face powder that used to be carried in every woman’s handbag. Another older, perhaps more sinister meaning of ‘compact’ becomes apparent as the story progresses: a contract or covenant. There’s an occult covenant which one of the characters is affected by; and there’s also Alexandra’s contract with Minerva, which persuades her to agree to terrible things.

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest book?

Wow! What a great question. Well, let me think.

Sherlock Holmes does make a couple of brief appearances, but in this story, Dr Watson is the main character from that duo. Somehow, my mind wants him to look like David Burke’s portrayal in the 1984 ‘Adventures of Sherlock Holmes’ series.

Holmes is more difficult, as I have my own inner Sherlock and no actor has yet portrayed him perfectly.

Minerva, with her melodramatic manner, should be played by a glamorous, smouldering 1940s actress, such as Hedy Lamarr. Alexandra: h’mm, maybe a middle-aged Katherine Hepburn? Emma Thompson, as she looks now, with her capable personality, would be perfect for Harriet.

Lastly, I have no idea who I can possible cast as the 22 year old Aleister Crowley and his lover, Jerome Pollitt. Crowley was nothing like the later pictures you see of him, where he resembles Uncle Fester from the Addams Family – in 1898, he had a full head of hair, strangely piercing eyes and, being a mountaineer, was very fit. Pollitt was a gorgeous amateur female impersonator. I could see them played by a young Johnny Depp and a young version of the very camp British comedian, Julian Clary. That’s hilarious to think of. Will that do?

3. What five words best describe your story?

Subtle. Sinister. Crepuscular. Labyrinthine. Surprising.

4. Who is your favourite fictional team/couple?

In the whole history of literature? That’s difficult, isn’t it? If I said Holmes and Watson, that might be true. But from childhood, I have loved Frodo and Sam, so I think I must loyally name them.

5. What song reflects a theme, character, relationship or scene in your book?

I love David Bowie. He layers unsettling lyrics with multiple meanings on top of singable tunes. One of my characters, Albert Burroughs, is really rather weird. I don’t want to give any of the plot away but he makes me think of this track from Bowie’s 2013 album, The Next Day: ‘You Feel So Lonely You Could Die’

The walls have got you cornered, you’ve got the blues, my friend …

Shivery stuff.

About The Compact

It is 1898, the London of Sherlock Holmes. Harriet Day is increasingly worried about the strange influence of a powerful, unpredictable woman, Minerva Atwell, over her dearest friend, Alexandra Roberts. By chance, Harriet befriends Alexandra’s lodger, the gentle actor, George Arden; and when he is wrongly accused of murder, Harriet turns to a lonely, ailing Dr Watson to investigate.

To Watson’s chagrin, his enquiries are aided and occasionally hampered by a strange young man by the name of Aleister Crowley and his flamboyant lover, Jerome Pollitt.

The Compact is an LGBTQ mystery with a touch of Magick.

About Charlie Raven

I was born, studied and live in England. I have three children – the youngest is 13 – and two grandchildren. My life has taken some odd twists and turns and occasionally led me down the rabbit hole. Fortunately, even the worst choices turned out for the best (filed under: children). I inherited a fascination with weird history, ghost stories and liminal places from my mother (and I’m so glad my children are the same).

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Review: Faerie Apocalypse by Jason Franks

Have you ever wondered what’s going on in the mind of people who set about pursuing quests in the worlds of magic? Potential lovers seeking the fairest of them all; mages seeking further power; sons seeking fathers; daughters seeking vengeance; those seeking simple distraction and escape from their everyday lives.

Jason Franks has. And he doesn’t think very highly of them.

Faerie Apocalypse plays with the tropes of quests and fantasy violence. He twists the old storytelling standards of cycles-of-three, cunning humans outwitting faerie malevolance, all the same-old-same olds.

Franks isn’t afraid of being pretty damned gruesome with it, either. Many encounters end not merely with violence but with gore so extreme it’s less horrific and more a form of nihilism. If Shakespeare wrote Titus Andronicus in a spirit of ‘I’ll show YOU a revenge tragedy!’, Franks has said, ‘I’ll show YOU a tide of pointless butchery!’.

Except that it’s not pointless. The purpose, mostly hinted at throughout the brutal excapades of the mortals, the mage, the daughter of the warrior queen and the Bad Little Dog is very pointed, but it’s a spoiler to say what it is.

I loved how the inklings that supposed mortal questers aren’t as noble or heroic as they’re cracked up to be turn into certainties that they’re all pretty awful people with little regard for the consequences of their actions. Where they go, death follows, on a scale that humans in the mortal world have wrought with such horrific abandon.

The level of butchery is a bit much at times, but it’s a deliberate choice that is less gratuitous than it seems, by the time you reach the end and learn why. Though the hint is in the title. It is a faerie apocalypse, after all.

I’ll admit that I have a fonder spot in my heart for the wild and wickedly funny Bloody Waters , but it’s good to be reading Franks again and I’m looking forward to whatever comes next.

About Faerie Apocalypse.

Over the centuries the Faerie Realms have drifted away from the mortal world. But for some, the Doors will open. For some, there is a Way to travel there, if they want it badly enough.

If they dream it hard enough.

In this era, only lovers, poets, and madmen can access the Realms of the Land—and for good reason.

A succession of mortals travel to Faerie: a veteran seeking beauty; a magus seeking power; an urchin seeking his wayward father; an engineer seeking meaning. These mortals bring the horrors of our age to the Land, and the Folk who live there respond in kind.

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