Review: The Compact by Charlie Raven

Late last year I read and thoroughly enjoyed A Case of Domestic Pilfering by Rohase Piercy and Charlie Raven. That book had originally been written by Raven then reworked by Rohase.

Raven’s style is clear in her solo effort The Compact,  set in London and England of 1898 – a paranormal queer adventure where real people meet fictional ones and detection meets ghosts.

The action revolves around two extremely close friends, widows Harriet Day, who teaches piano, and artist Alexandra Roberts. The lifelong friends share an undercurrent of romantic attachment, but their lives are about to be turned inside out. First, Alex falls under the unhealthy influence of the wealthy Minerva Atwell, whom she has been commissioned to paint. Then one of Alex’s boarders dies in a horrible accident.

Their lives ares entangled with Roberts’ boarders, including the unpleasant Albert Burroughs, and the childlike and ethereal George Arden. George is fey and vague and sees ghosts. He’s also falsely accused of murder by Burroughs.

Real life figures Aleister Crowley, occultist and magician, and his lover, poet and female impersonator Jerome Pollitt, become involved with George’s situation, as does Dr John Watson, who is recovering from illness while Sherlock Holmes pursues a case in Russia.

It’s a large cast which Raven deftly handles with charm, elegance and excellent pacing. The story has plenty of humour as well as creeping dread, while the story slow-builds towards the discovery of grisly crimes, horrible secrets, Atwell’s disturbing schemes and George’s strange history.

Dr Watson’s efforts to be a detective in his friend’s absence are naturally not as brilliant as Holmes’s, though he does his best in partnership with the brilliant, unpredictable, substance-abusing Aleister Crowley. The comparisons he (and the reader) makes between Holmes and Crowley are inevitable and entertaining.

Watson is only a small player in the tale, however, which focuses on Harriet trying to discover Minerva Atwell’s power and clear George Arden’s name. She and Alex are both strong characters, as is Minerva and all her mystery. Crowley and Pollitt are lively, too, as are all the supporting cast.

The action reaches its climax of mystic threats, ancient Sumerian tablets, the unquiet dead and deadly intent at Minerva Atwell’s creepy spa in the country.

Raven’s prose is lively, her period detail light and evocative, and even the most minor of her cast of characters is distinct and fresh. She’s also made me keen to read more of and by Aleister Crowley!

The Compact is engaging good fun. After enjoying A Case of Domestic Pilfering so much too, I’m hoping I won’t have to wait too long for some more from Charlie Raven.

Buy The Compact

Five Questions for Jason Franks

Today, Jason Franks answers five questions about his new book.

For our interview, Franks is wearing a pair of classic-cut Levis that are probably Costco fakes. His black t-shirt is frayed at the collar but the Black Sabbath logo looks crisp as if it had just been printed. He hasn’t shaved in a couple of days and his glasses are smudged. He has terrible posture and a very small head.

(Descriptions supplied by Jason Franks.)

Jason Franks

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

The book is called FAERIE APOCALYPSE. Originally it was going to be LOVERS, POETS AND MADMEN, which sums up the seed inspiration for the story, but does not give much of a clue as to what the book is about. So I went looking for some other options.

The book is set mostly in the fairy realms and deals with the nature of the place and the people who venture there, so FAERIE seemed like an obvious place to start.

I was reading about Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian—a key influence on my book—and I came across the phrase ‘apocalyptic prose’. That immediately seemed to fit not just the style of my own work, but also the story. So there it was.

Faerie Apocalypse.

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

I have this one already sussed from IFWG and I were working out the cover art. In the end we opted not to show any characters on the cover, but here’s what I came up with. There are five leads, as follows:

  • The Veteran: Contemporary Christian Bale. Long hair, bearded, a bit haggard, a bit spaced-out.
  • The Magus: Contact-era long-haired, crazy-eyed Jake Busey.
  • The Warrior Queen: Carey Lowell circa 1990.
  • Malo: A teenaged Benicio Del Toro.
  • The Engineer: A CGI rendering of a youngish lady, designed not to stand out in a crowd. A bit pixilated and well inside the Uncanny Valley.
  1. What five words best describe your story?

Dense, circuitous, violent, occulted, and reflexive.

  1. What faerie creature would you most like to meet – or be?

Out of all the creatures in the book I’d most like to meet the Queen of the Ore-lands. She wouldn’t have much time for me, but she’s also less likely to try to trick, murder or eat me than any of the other characters.

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

The book references a number of songs quite explicitly. There’s a couple of Hendrix songs that flag key plot points. One of the monsters is a Blue Oyster Cult song given flesh. But the last part of the story is called Black Wings, after the Tom Waits song, and I think that perfectly sums it all up.

If you want a second helping, try Earth Died Screaming, also from the Bone Machine album:

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.

About Jason Franks

Jason Franks is the author of the novel Bloody Waters, the Sixsmiths graphic novels, and the Left Hand Path comic series. His work has been short-listed for Aurealis and Ledger Awards. He lives in Melbourne, Australia, where he is widely known as a person of low character and wicked intent.

Follow Jason

Buy Faerie Apocalypse

 

Words are like oxygen

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