Coffee and Conversation with Hegel and Manfried Grossbart – by Jesse Bullington

bullington jesse sad tales

Jesse Bullington – Good morning, and thank you for agreeing to this interview.

Hegel: [Mutters something incomprehensible to Manfried]

Manfried: [Mutters back. This goes on for some time, until:] Uh huh. Mornin.

Hegel: Sure. Good mornin. What’s this?

Boomtron, upon whose behalf I’m conducting this interview, was hoping to gain some insight into the novel I wrote—

Hegel: So he’s the one.

Manfried: Thought he looked shifty.

Hegel: Where’s our royalties, boy?

Manfried: Look at’em squirm. Didn’t think we knew bout them nobles’ words, did you? Own up, and quick.

This…this isn’t really the time, and besides, plenty of books are written where the subject is not compensated and—

Manfried: Unauthorized is what you’s talkin bout. Lies, in other words.

Hegel: Thought a smooth-chin like you’d be keen to get validation from your betters.

So you’ve read it?

Hegel: Is he takin the piss?

Manfried: Are you takin the piss?


Hegel: We’s waitin on hearin it audio-like. Recounted. Maybe get John Hurt to read it, he’s an honest enough sort. Or John Goodman, him too.

Manfried: Bide, brother. At a glance I can tell by his fidgetin this book ain’t nuthin but lies, so he can count on gettin somethin other than an official endorsement.

Hegel: A beatin.

Manfried: A lawsuit and a beatin.

Right. We’ve got a lot of ground to cover, so if we could just run through some quick questions and return to all this later I would very much—

Manfried: [yawns] Ask away, ponce. Only one door outta here, so reckon on entertainin some questions a ours afore this is through.

Hegel: Could I get some more a this, ah, khave? Coffee? Black stuff.

[Refills Hegel’s mug] First off, what are your thoughts on the tried and true formula of interviewing fictional characters?

Manfried: Well, I always been a mind that the trope, when used with genuine—[Hegel splashes hot coffee in the interviewer’s face]


Manfried: What in Hell, brother?!

Hegel: He was disparagin us!

Manfried: Was he?

[Clutching face] No! Christ, no!

Hegel: Oh. No hard feelins, then. Could I get another cup?

[Retires to the bathroom to clean up. The burns are superficial but the shirt is soaked. Upon returning, the Brothers Grossbart are conversing in their incomprehensible dialect. They are smiling far too widely for anyone’s liking] Next question?

Hegel: Next question.

What are your thoughts on the current global financial crisis?

Hegel: Seein’s how we come up in the 14th century your question strikes me as bein a bit dunderheaded, but what the Hell, ain’t like we can’t adapt. Got us a deal with the Fox News in the works.

Manfried: Foxes is what it is, brother. To answer your dumbass question, it seems to me the problem is you been lettin Reynard mind Chanticleer and his hens, and so it’s only natural the born-thieves set to theivin. Real problem is instead a hangin them whats ruined the lives a countless innocents you give’em a swat on the bottom, maybe take back a little a that loot they been stealin—don’t discourage no one, Hell, makes’em see that even if they’s caught it won’t be so bad. If you’d taken that N. Ron gang and set up a gibbet I guarantee things woulda gone different down these years since.

Enron? I suppose it is interesting that we continue to demonize the small-scale criminal, the citizen who murders their neighbor, while those who destroy the lives of thousands are spared the same revilement because their crime is not physically violent, though the result will still be pain and suffering, and, in some instances, death.

Hegel: Huh?

[Getting excited] But you also mentioned Reynard, who is of course the folk hero fox of the middle ages, and Chanticleer, the rooster he tormented and ate in many of those tales. That you would bring him up is especially interesting, considering that for people of your era having a folk hero who abused children, raped, murdered, tortured, lied, cheated, and blasphemed was perfectly acceptable, but in our modern age having a fairly objective tale about two criminal brothers who are nowhere near as bad as Reynard is still seen as championing “irredeemable” and “despicable” characters.

Hegel: [Rolls eyes] Cause everyone from Pope to pissboy thought Reynard was an alright sort. Why you think this crumb’s so thick, brother?

Manfried: Maybe he et somethin ill, or maybe he’s just a born moonfruit. Reynard’s a piece a shit, son, and don’t you forget it—that bitchswine’s no more honest than you, and I hear another string a words tyin us to him you get your pate pâtéd, hear?

OK, what about the situation in the Middle East?

Hegel: I heard bout this. Iraq, right?

Well, not just Iraq, but—

Manfried: Sounds simple to hear tell. They come over here with swords flashin, and you puttem down proper. Someone comes out they door swingin you got an obligation to burn that house, make sure no one else a similar mind comes lookin for vengeance.

Actually, it’s been pretty well-agreed upon at this point that Iraq didn’t actually have anything to do with the attack on the United States.

Manfried: Hmmmmmmmmmmm…

Hegel: Hmmmmmmmmmm…[They begin talking in their dialect. It is difficult to tell if they are arguing or not. Eventually:] These Arabs—

Iraqis. The citizens of Iraq are called—

Hegel: Regardless. Them what dwell there, they pay tribute to the Virgin?

In addition to the large Chaldean Catholic population in Iraq, the Muslim faith actually puts a great deal of importance on Mary, or Maryam alayhis salam as she—

Hegel: Hold, hold…I hear you say Moslem? There a lot a them on this rock you talkin bout?

Iraq. The majority of the population of Iraq is Muslim, yes.

Manfried: Arabs, is what he’s sayin [The pair visibly relax]. Changes everythin. How’s we supposed to offer an informed opinion if you’s withholdin information?

Hegel: So you lot went in and swooped up them ancient treasures what the Infidel was keepin warm for you. Sounds fair.

Actually, as soon as the invasion got underway a looter culture flourished, and the vast majority of the antiquities and artifacts that were being held in museums were stolen and are now in the hands of private—

Manfried: What?!

Hegel: Another fuckin fiasco [shakes head].

Manfried: You bungled the whole operation! What the Hell’s the point in goin in if you lettem scoot to the loot fore you do?

Hegel: Shoulda hired us on in a, whatsit, advisory capacitor.

Manfried: So what’s the score, then? A bunch a dead folk what never heard the word don’t please nobody but the Old Boy, the Scratch, you know, and he’s got his kilns fill to burstin without you addin to it.

I didn’t do anything.

Hegel: Course you didn’t; nobody ever does, do they? Always the other loaf’s fault. You wouldn’t be wearin that wine sack round your waist if you’d done somethin.

Manfried:  Mighta grown a beard if you’d gotten out a your chair.

[would like to point out that he is in decent shape and has no problem growing facial hair, when he is inclined to do so. He hikes regularly, as well as bicycling] Fine. So something I’d like to come back to is Manfried’s answer to my question about the financial crisis. You had some hard words for what you called “born-thieves,” but how is digging up a grave and taking what you find any different?

Hegel: [Tries to fling more coffee but the cup is empty] Could I get another cup?

It’s, ah, percolating.

Manfried: That’s the kinda question what grinds an honest man’s teeth. Dead folk ain’t folk, they’s meat, and meat don’t get no say in what happens to its fat.

Hegel: Buryin treasure is an official relinquishment a rights a property. Plain as fuckin day to them what’s born with eyes. If you want it, do not bury it. Simple.

You go into foreign lands and rob from the dead, that’s what you do. Things that belong in museums—

Hegel: Shut it, Doctor Jones, fore you find yourself in a bad way.

Manfried: Even if it was the same as robbin, which it ain’t, what’s the difference who takes it bein domesticated or alien? You get cracked in the head and your purse is cut, you really give a damn if the thief was rich or poor, foreign or local? Your purse is gone just the same, ain’t it? Only one who puts much stock on the place a origin a the perpetrator is them what’s lookin to work an angle. As in, you hate Jocks—

I don’t! I’ve never even been to Scotland! I’m of Scottish descent and—

Manfried: [Draws a knife, is allowed to continue] So on account a you hatin Jocks you take a Jocko nippin your purse to be a rallyin point for gettin those what’s thick enough to listen to a biased bastard like you sayin “Jocks is thieves, so let’s hang the lot.” And if the thief weren’t no Jock in the first place, who’s the wiser? Only people who care if a thief is local or not is thems with interior motives, is what I’m sayin, so you implyin me diggin up thems what was born beyond my borders is somehow worse than stickin spade in my backyard and no further is just as ignorant as thinkin so many pounds a rotten dead man got some kinda claim to the mineral bands what might adorn they bones.

Hegel: Told you this weren’t nuthin but a wind-blowin exercise. Let’s get on with what we came for; seein’s we got the confession I ain’t a mind to nibble any more a this roadapple pie.

Confession? What are—

Manfried: Libel, plagiarism, call it what you will, you was keen on exploitin our circumstances for financial gain. Ain’t proper.

Hegel: Ain’t honest.

Now hold on—

Hegel: And why you keep fiddlin with this witch-box? Ain’t honest a’tall—[recorder is turned off. End of interview]


Jesse Bullington spent the bulk of his formative years in rural Pennsylvania, the Netherlands, and Tallahassee, Florida. He is a folklore enthusiast who holds a bachelor’s degree in History and English Literature from Florida State University. He currently resides in Colorado and can be found online at

His novel, The Sad Tale of the Brothers Grossbart, was published by Orbit on November 16t, 2009

bullington-sad tale brothers grossbartt


Hegel and Manfried Grossbart may not consider themselves bad men – but death still stalks them through the dark woods of medieval Europe.

The year is 1364, and the brothers Grossbart have embarked on a naïve quest for fortune. Descended from a long line of graverobbers, they are determined to follow their family’s footsteps to the fabled crypts of Gyptland. To get there, they will have to brave dangerous and unknown lands and keep company with all manner of desperate travelers-merchants, priests, and scoundrels alike. For theirs is a world both familiar and distant; a world of living saints and livelier demons, of monsters and madmen.

The Brothers Grossbart are about to discover that all legends have their truths, and worse fates than death await those who would take the red road of villainy

World’s Worst Interview with Victor Gischler

victor_gischlerIn case you haven’t noticed, over the past few weeks Boomtron has been republishing Victor Gischler’s World’s Worst Interview series, which he conducted on his old blog at the end of 2004 through the middle of 2005. Needless to say, I’ve been getting more than a few belly laughs out of the series, and after reading Gischler’s interview with George Pelecanos, I thought to myself,

“Ya know, self, you’re a pretty awful interviewer. You should try writing one of these things.”

And I said to myself, “Ya know what, self, fuck you. But you’re right. I bet doing one of these things would be a blast.”

So, I decided to go right to the source of the World’s Worst Interview—critically renowned pulp novelist, Victor Gischler.

I hope you enjoy.

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Dragon Age: Origins (PlayStation 3) – First Impression Review

When was the last time you took a nose dive into the Rabbit Hole? Or maybe allowed yourself the slight indulgence of a 150+ hour jaunt through a haunted landscape? If the answer to that question begins with the word “Neverwinter,” you need to finish reading this enlightening first impression, then get to your local video game watering hole and pick this gem up.

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Notes from New Sodom | On Blood, Bad Boys and Bottoms by Hal Duncan

the stess of her regard

The Inner Inhumanity

I’ve got a theory, one that’s been brewing for a while really, ever since I first read Anne Rice’s Interview With the Vampire and Poppy Z. Brite’s Lost Souls. It’s one that’s been partly informed by my… exposure to the Twilight phenomenon, to the general prevalence of the vampire trope these days. And after coming across one of those internet kerfuffles over a recent article in Esquire by Stephen Marche that made a rough stab at advancing a similar idea (and largely got shot down in flames) I thought it might be a good time to get my teeth into it, so to speak.

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SYNERGY – Childhood Scare Stories

moneys pawSynergy is back! This is the fourth installment of the feature, and the first under my dictatorship as BSC’s editrix. If you haven’t seen this column before, the basic idea is that we put the same question to a variety of professionals (and sometimes amateurs) who interest us to create a plateful of amuse bouche interviews. This time around we took the question straight to some of the hottest names in horror, comics, urban fantasy, and more.

The question? What was your favorite scary story as a kid? The answer could be anything from an urban legend to “vampires” to a specific book or movie or comic. Anything at all…as long as it was something especially striking to you….

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Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry | Review


When one thinks of modern crime comics, specifically the art, there is probably one word that never comes to mind. Lush. Yet I can think of no other word to describe the art of Britten and Brulightly. In fact, it might be the rare crime comic in which one talks about the art first and the story second instead of the other way around. But there is no better place to start.

The master that this art serves isn’t style, at least not in the way that other Frank Miller-inspired art does, but rather atmosphere. The world of Britten and Brulightly exudes atmosphere. On the many rain-filled panels, you will at least once be certain that your fingers are going to come away wet.

The use of secondary materials as a device in Britten and Brulightly, such as case files, notes, and a personal, handwritten diary, shape the story and add a depth to the story in a way that other crime comics can’t come close to. There is almost a secondary world quality to it.

Britten and Brulightly panels 2

The past of the main character is alluded to but kept from the reader, as its reveal wouldn’t serve the story, though the reader is left to wonder. One of his quirks is revealed in the identity of his partner, Brulightly. If this odd coping strategy is indicative of his mental state, then perhaps he’s not as well off as he appears to be on the surface.

The book ends with the line “But at least I have saved one person from the truth.” It almost flies in the face of the idea of order over chaos and the prevailing of justice that many proclaim to be the backbone of the mystery genre, and it does so in a way that only a good noir can.

Britten and Brulightly is a deeply moving and richly rewarding experience that all mystery, crime, and comic readers should make time for.

An Open Letter to Those Terrified of E-Piracy | by Gary Gibson

There are many pro writers out there worried by piracy, who see the internet as the greatest illegal intellectual land-grab of all time. Here’s the deal:  if you’re worried enough to want to stop it, you’re not only going to have to stop people’s internet connections, you’re also going to have to ban photocopiers, computer scanners, OCR software, and computers. At the least.

The vast majority of those books floating around on bittorrent sites were derived from print copies of books. You scan the pages with a scanner and run OCR software that creates an unedited, error-filled file that is then saved as a PDF – surely the most unwieldy ebook format ever created – and uploaded. No professionally edited ebook files were involved.

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West Coast Blues by Jacques Tardi and Jean-Patrick Manchette | Review

West Coast Blues

Jean-Patrick Manchette was a French crime novelist who wrote 10 novels. He is held in the highest possible regard by his English-speaking audience. To date only two of his novels have been translated. Let me say that again in the off chance that, among my limited readership, a publisher is reading this. Only. Two. Books. To say that crime readers who love the full dark style want more Manchette would be a gross understatement.

West Coast Blues is an adaptation of one of those two novels, the 1976 novel 3 to Kill.

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Greatest American Rock Band…REVEALED!

A couple of weeks ago, I asked you guys who you thought the Greatest American Rock Band of All Time was. I got some interesting responses (Guns N Roses, Melvins, Van Halen) and some completely off-base ones (no offense, people, but FOO FIGHTERS ARE NOT THE GREATEST AMERICAN ROCK BAND OF ALL TIME and are actually getting worse over time because Dave Grohl has a creeping case of the taking-himself-seriously).

But I must respectfully disagree with everyone who sent in comments, because the real answer is…

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Badass Moments in Sci-Fi History by Ben Thompson

I probably don’t need to tell the readers here that science-fiction is probably one of the most badass genres of fiction to ever explode out of someone’s brain.  I mean, any genre in which genetically modified cyborgs, hyperdrive-capable spaceships, chest-bursting aliens, disintegration death rays, handheld nuclear bombs, mutant apocalypses, and skimpy gold bikinis are the norm is OK in my book, and anybody who doesn’t think that stuff kicks more ass than an alcoholic donkey-herder really needs to get their priorities straight.

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You Have Killed Me by Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones | Review

you-have-killed-me1Too often crime fiction feels like a period piece. Like the author is a child playing dress-up and the era is her parents’ clothes. The shoes clomp, the sleeves are too long, and the fit is just off. It’s my belief that the mystery/crime genre is largely a conservative one, or at the very least is going through a conservative phase. One where past settings or evocations of past times are increasingly more common. Rather than inundate the reader with loads of researched facts that scream look-at-all-the-research-I-did, or throw a tantrum with oh-my-God-I-wish-I-wrote-for-Gold-Medal half-baked pulp theatrics, You Have Killed Me feels much more naturalistic and less forced.

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CSI: Miami | “Bad Seed” Review

Eric leavesIf I learned one thing about tonight’s CSI: Miami episode, “Bad Seed,” it’s this: always wash produce before eating.

In what may be Eric Delko’s swan song, the show focused on him to a great extent tonight. He and former ME Alexx are chatting about leaving MDPD when paramedics barge into the ER. A young woman is on the cart, her boyfriend, Ethan, trailing behind. In the short scene that follows, the camera lingers on Eric watching Alexx do her thing as a doctor. To me, I think Eric was wondering if he was making the right decision to leave MDPD. Unfortunately, the woman dies on the table. Ethan’s pretty distraught–he was going to propose and shows Eric the ring–but Alexx is having none of it. With the steely glare that make her corpses feel just a little deader, Alexx tells Eric to call Horatio because the girl was murdered and, in her experience, the number one suspect is right over there.

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Template by Matthew Hughes | reviewed by Kurt Busiek

template matthew hughesPut simply, this is the kind of book I’d like to read more of. A lot more of.

It’s got swordfights and spaceships and sea-dwelling clan cultures. It’s got murder and bureaucracy and philosophical arguments and ruined castles and robots and masked aristocrats and dancers and secrets and feuds and more.

Template is one of Matthew Hughes’s Archonate novels, set in a far, far future highly-reminiscent of and clearly inspired by Jack Vance’s Dying Earth stories, but not quite that “dying” yet. Call it the Fading Earth, perhaps. A world where humanity is scattered to the stars, but where things are decaying and have been for so long that no one remembers a time when they weren’t. Across The Spray, the sweep of human civilization, mankind is splintered into thousands of arcane and obsessive cultures, locked into rigid social, political and philosophical codes, often in stark disagreement with one another. The rich are sumptuously wealthy, the poor are desperately abject and the many worlds of humanity are places where idle play and the grueling fight for survival go hand in hand, all observed with an arch sense of wit and satire, an eye for detail and a deft and confident way with narrative.

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Top 50 Favorite Novels of the Decade: 2000-2009

Not too long ago I decided to make a list of my top 10 favorite books of the decade, from 2000-2009. I easily knocked out a list with a couple of dozen titles then decided that a decade was a long enough period of time to warrant a list of 50. I pretty quickly got to 49 then realized that two of the books on the list had hardback releases in 1999 so they got cut. I added to the list and had almost 60 books. 50 is a nice round number so I cut, cut, cut and brought it down to 50.

top 50 books of decade

This is by no means a list of the best books of the decade. This isn’t a record of the most influential, those that had the most impact or even the most popular. Just my favorites. I would gladly grab any one of these books today and read it again. And in some cases I have.

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Escaping into Fiction | by Sharon Shinn

sharon_shinnWhen I was having an interesting time of it in college, I was seized with the notion that I was reading an incredibly long and detailed story about a woman named Sharon Shinn, and at some point I would reach the end of the book, look up, and find myself to be a wholly different person. (A friend of mine says this is an idea that would only occur to a writer.)

Recently, as I was devouring Curtis Sittenfeld’s American Wife, I found myself so engrossed in the story that I actually came fairly close to experiencing this phenomenon. Except, of course, I had started to think I was a woman named Alice Lindgren, but when I looked up I discovered I was really still Sharon Shinn. I read the middle hundred pages while sitting in an airport in Austin. So strong was the storytelling voice that I actually believed I was sitting in an airport in Wisconsin, probably Madison. It was something of a shock to set aside the book and find myself still in Texas instead.

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Speed Caravan ‘Kalashnik Love’ | Review

Speed Caravan Kalashnik Love

It’s pretty easy to get jaded as a reviewer. Everything is boil-downable into its so-called component parts: “Like X meets Y on acid,” or “good but not as good as Z, which you probably never heard but I did ha, ha,” etc. I’m guilty of it; we’re all guilty of it sometimes. But then every once in a while something comes along that just feels fresh and new and all sorts of sui generis, and it’s really hard to make any kind of connection at all. This right here falls into the latter category.

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The seven-part interview series with R.A. Salvatore continues at Boomtron today

Salvatore-R-AWhen you think of the most popular character from the Wizards of the Coast stable, I do not think there is much debate.  Drizzt Do’Urden leads the pack.  Today we have R.A. Salvatore answering some questions we had for him regarding Drizzt, some underlying moral lessons, how it was writing with his son Geno, as well as a few others.   I want to give special thanks to Philip McCall II for helping with the questions.  Also, be sure to check back in Wednesday for my review of The Ghost King.  Without further interruption let us get into the questions.

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The Greatest American Rock Band Ever Is….

My boy J—- did a Facebook thing the other day about how he was sitting around at a dinner party talking about music. Okay, this really pisses me off right off the bat, because J—- lives in Sweden, and the idea of him and his Swedish buddies chatting over fondue and dark beer makes me kind of nauseous with envy. But then he went on to say that, okay, obviously the Beatles were the greatest British band ever (which opinion, you will remember, I do not necessarily agree with)–but who is the Greatest American Rock Band of All Time? I happen to know the answer, but I’d like to get your opinions first, so I’m opening up the floor to nominations.

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Sharon Shinn | Interview

sharon_shinnSharon Shinn is the author of nearly two dozen fantasy novels, including the bestselling Twelve Houses and Samaria series.  She has won the William C. Crawford Award for Outstanding New Fantasy Writer and was twice nominated for the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

I could make a strong argument for being Sharon Shinn’s biggest fan, so it was an absolute thrill for me to get to interview her and ask all–and I mean all–the random questions that have built up over 13 years of reading her books.  We talked about everything from her writing process to Joss Whedon, plus, of course, her newest novels and what might be up next for her.

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Quatrain by Sharon Shinn | Book Review


Quatrain is a collection of, as the name suggests, four all-new novellas from Sharon Shinn.  Each is set in a distinct world established from previous books, and each story stands firmly against the others.  Shinn did an excellent job of varying the up four short pieces, not just the setting but also the characters and even the type of stories themselves.  Two are love stories, and two are friendship stories (although one has intimations that more is possible); one involves a girl still discovering herself, one focuses on a young woman firmly grounded in her goals, and two feature women past the first reckless blush of youth; two are from blatant fantasy settings (read:  full of magic), and two are from fantastic science fiction settings; two are sequels and two are prequels to other books; there are lost loves, new loves, and loves that have always been there but never bloomed; there are characters we’ve seen before and completely new personalities.  In short, it has just a little bit of everything.

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Notes on Inherent Vice by Thomas Pynchon | The Electric Mayhem

inherent viceI’m picking my way through Inherent Vice, and I’m not even quarter of the way through it yet but I wanted to post some informal thoughts.

By the end of the first chapter I was largely underwhelmed. I thought that the main character, Doc Sportello, was a doofus, and I didn’t care at all what he was going to do or what was in store for his future. This can be a problem when we are talking about a protag.

What is on full display is Pynchon’s ability to bruise a comma with detail-laden, paragraph-long sentences like few others can. This and this alone will probably be what people dislike about the book. For me, I love these descriptions and the details they present and the full range of senses they reach. One paragraph like this can, in some ways, paint a picture of a place and time better then something 10 times longer. It’s condensed and it’s concentrated but not diluted.

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The Ghosts of Belfast by Stuart Neville | Book Review

Those who believe that the short story is dead and/or irrelevant, and those who don’t see the value in publishing stories in e-zines that pay very little, if at all, to a circulation that is in all likelihood no more than a thousand would be well served to pay attention to the rise of Stuart Neville, because there are lessons to be learned there. Stuart Neville’s story in Thuglit was read by agent Nat Sobel, who signed him and sold his manuscript. Do people read the ‘zines? Yes. Do we know who is reading them? No, it could be anyone. And the more subtle of the lessons is that you never know who is checking you out online.ghostsofbelfast

Crime fiction is filled to the brim with characters who are haunted by their demons and the ghosts of their past. Crime fiction is also filled with the coping strategies in which these characters try to deal with them. At the top of that admittedly not too long list is self-medication. In other words drinking to forget. One of the prime things that Stuart Neville does in The Ghosts of Belfast is approach this device from a different direction, which enhances all of its features. Simply put, he literalizes the metaphor. The ghosts of Fegan’s past aren’t his conscience clanking away at Jacob Marley’s chain, with such a dismal and appalling noise, demanding to be heard, never to be forgotten, nor are they figments of his imagination; they are instead very much real. They haunt, they scream, they demand their pound of flesh as vengeance. By being willing to take a peek into the fantastic, Stuart Neville has created a powerful, haunting, and moving engine that drives this story.

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