David Gemmell Remembered

As I’m sure most of the readers of Jack of Ravens will already know, the fantasy genre lost one of its most accomplished and popular writers when David Gemmell passed away on July 28th.

Juliet E. McKenna has posted links to various newspaper obituaries on her blog, and I’ve added links to a few additonal items to the article that I posted on the day, over on The Alien Online. And 418 people to-date have signed the online book of remembrance that will eventually be printed and passed to his family.

Always sad to lose an author, but particularly one who was both so prolific and so consistently good at providing his fans with exactly what they wanted to read – action, adventure, heroism, honour, love, redemption – time after time.


Ravens Reviewed

John Berlyne has posted his review of Jack of Ravens over at

John writes an insightful overview of the book, identifying the main themes, avoiding spoilers, and most importantly assessing the work purely on its own merits – even whilst Admitting that he hadn’t realised it was a continuation of Mark’s earlier work, which he confesses hadn’t read before – and concludes that Jack of Ravens is “a real bravura display from the author, a very successful attempt to offer readers something truly different from the standard fantasy fare.”

A well-written review, IMHO. But then, Mr Berlyne is rather good at those…


Lots going on at Treadwell’s

If you live in London and you’re interested in anything from modern-day magickal workshops to literary readings, esoterica study groups to academic conferences, you should probably check out Treadwell’s Bookshop in Covent Garden.

I have to confess that I haven’t actually attended any of their events myself, but that’s only because it’s a heck of a commute from my place in Manchester. But I have been on their mailing list for quite a while, and there’s never any shortage of fascinating-looking goings-on; just take a look at their list of forthcoming lectures for examples.

Do let us know how you get on if you go along to any events, we might even be persuaded to post a short account of your experiences here on


Sandbrook on the Summer of Love

There’s a review of Dominic Sandbrook’s White Heat: A History of Britain in the Swinging Sixties in today’s Sunday Times culture section.

It’s part political history – looking at the coming to power of Howard Harold Wilson – part cultural history of the era. The reviewer, Peter Clarke, concludes that it’s a “lively narrative” with the central concept that the ‘cultural revolution’ of the ’60s maybe wasn’t so revolutionary after all…

You can read the review in full on the Sunday Times website.


It’s a hard life, being a limp-wristed milque-toast…

Hi all, Ariel here. Mark asked me to keep an eye on the place whilst he’s nipping back and forth in research-mode – do the online equivalent of turning the lights on and off at random intervals, feeding the cat, checking the budgie has enough water, that sort of thing – and I thought Id make myself useful whilst I was here.

On which note, I’d like to point you all in the direction of Mark’s recent piece on the Write Fantastic Blog, which makes for a quite revealing insight into the life and working habits of a full-time professional writer. Just in case any of you were foolish enough to think of pursuing that path yourself…

Fantasy vs SF Round One

John Jarrold is talking about the number of fantasy novel debuts this year compared to the complete lack of SF debuts.

He points out that fantasy has about 70% of the market compared to SF’s 30%, even though SF is performing stronger than it has done for years.

When I started reading, I picked up SF, fantasy and horror, as the mood took me.  It seems today’s readership is much more tribal.


Not so long ago, author and screenwriter Stephen Gallagher was commissioned by the BBC to do a new take on Dracula.  Cue weeks of epic thinking and slaving over the script to produce what was, by all accounts, a scary, refreshing approach.  On the day of delivery, he was called up by an executive to say the project had been cancelled.

Apparently the BBC’s major rival, ITV, had a similar project in a more advanced state of development.  With Martin Kemp as Dracula and the Cheeky Girls as his Brides.  Now that’s something to give you sleepless nights.

Not wanting to appear Johnny-come-latelies, the BBC understandably pulled the plug.  Except the BBC executive had been conned over lunch.  ITV hadn’t even prepared a script.

Stephen maturely chalked it up to the machinations of the TV industry and moved on.  Though he might have felt a twinge of bitterness when Martin Kemp announced in a radio interview that the ITV Dracula was a non-starter because the script ‘wasn’t working’.

To prove the value of Stephen’s Dracula script, the BBC got back in touch and asked if they could use it to teach structure on the in-house script editors’ course.  It’s nice to get that kind of recognition for a fine piece of work.

So why have the BBC commissioned ITV Productions to go ahead with the Martin Kemp Dracula script (now to star Marc Warren) when they’ve got such a fantastic script sitting in house?

Within the last few months ITV also screwed up Stephen’s Eleventh Hour science-adventure drama.  He must be feeling that the BBC and ITV are now teaming up to give him a good kicking.  Ya big bullies, leave him alone!

Not Much To Live Up To, Then

Hearing some interesting things about Winterbirth by Brian Ruckley.  Orbit supremo Tim Holman has described it as the most commercial debut fantasy from a British writer that he’s ever read. 

You can’t say that many times in a career without looking foolish so I’m looking forward to getting an advance copy.  It’s out in October.

Amazon describes it like this: “It is a godless world. An uneasy truce exists between the human clans and ancient races. But now the clan of the Black Road move south, and their arrival will herald a new age of war and chaos. Behind it all seems to be one man, Aeglyss, a man whose desire for power will only be sated when he has achieved his ultimate goal: immortality.”

I’ll keep you posted…

Writing What You Don’t Know

“Magicians-in-training, genies-in-exile, apprentice wizards, belligerent fairies, plucky orphans, kind dragons, kind orphaned dragons—a reader cant enter the children’s department of a bookstore these days without tripping on a wand or falling into a portal. Has the saturation point been reached?”

Editor Terry Whalin has some good advice for people thinking about writing fantasy.

A writer has a different idea.

While Alma Alexander has a good rant about writing fantasy fiction for a living.

But if you’re thinking about carrying your royalties home in a J K Rowling-style wheelbarrow, you might like to think again.