Acceptance Notes – no.10 in a series


Hi, Edoardo–


We’d be pleased to accept the story, “From Here to the Northern Line,” for inclusion in Third Flatiron Publishing’s spring 2014 anthology, with the working title,  “Astronomical Odds.”

Please let us know if the story is still available.

We found the story about an autistic boy who spots Tube stations to the stars to be very entertaining.

We’d want the exclusive e-rights for six months. If this sounds good, please let me know, and I’ll get back with a contract. The anthology is scheduled for e-publication on March 15, 2014.

Rejection notes – no.22 in a series

Dear Edoardo,

Thanks for the kind comments about electronic submissions. I’m glad it gave you a chance to submit “Ghost of Mars.” I enjoyed reading this, but the end didn’t quite win me over so I’m going to pass on it. Best of luck to you placing this one elsewhere, and thanks again for sending it my way.

If I do this again I hope to see more submissions from you.

Emperors and Sultans

This article first appeared in the Time Out Guide to Istanbul a few years ago.

On the face of it, wielding absolute power as the emperor of the Byzantines or sultan of the Ottomans might seem like a good job. You got to be the main man in what was, for much of the time that both empires endured, the most magnificent city on earth. The Imperial reception rooms of the Byzantine Emperor had golden lions that roared and golden birds that sang. The Ottoman sultans were certainly not outdone in ostentation, although their displays could sometimes take rather charming turns, such as when Selim II wrote to an official in Aleppo: ‘I need about 50,000 bulbs for my royal gardens… I command you in no way to delay.’

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Book review: Innocence by Dean Koontz


** spoiler alert ** The engine driving this story, and the key to one’s enjoyment of it, is the mystery of the protagonist. Addison Goodheart lives in isolation in the tunnels under New York, and has done so for 18 years, only venturing out in the quietest times of night, or when the city’s normal inhabitants are driven indoors by particularly bad weather. He sequesters himself – as one of the Hidden, and we learn there are, or were, at least two others – because, on seeing him, people try to kill him. The midwife tried to smother him at birth, his own mother came near to killing him and, in the end, banished him from their home because she could bear the sight of him no longer, strangers seeing him, assault and try to murder him, but Addison remains innocent of wrongdoing. So, the question driving the book, and the reader, is why? One’s initial thought is some physical disfigurement, but it quickly becomes apparent that is not the case. I did wonder, as I’d reached near five sixths of the way through the book (which retains Koontz’s normal narrative flair although in retrospect there may have been some authorial handwaving to drive us past some plot points), whether Koontz would simply leave it open; I was beginning to suspect that he’d dug himself a hole from which there was no escape, other than ignoring the fact he was in a hol in the first place. But doing this would have been a complete authorial cop out.

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Why Do Writers Do It?


The last two sentences of The Box of Delights by John Masefield.

‘Have you had a nice dream?’

‘Yes,’ he said, ‘I have.’

Why? John Masefield, why did you do it? I’d followed Kay Harker through 308 pages of adventures, from mysterious strangers, who apparently remembered this land from pagan times, warning him that ‘the Wolves are running’, through trips in time, changes in size, encounters with talking animals and medieval philosophers, flying cars, pompous policemen – and I’d even read the poems you’d stuck in the text, word for word, and how many readers do that and don’t just skip the poems and carry on with the story, and then, and then, you go and spoil everything.

It was all just a dream.

Is there any more pathetic, more deal breaking, more deceitful and fraudulent phrase in the whole of literature? I, as the reader, have accompanied the writer through the story, accepting it and embracing it, and then, at the end, the writer turns around and spits in your eye: Ha! Fooled you! It was all a dream.

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Book review: Johnson’s Life of London by Boris Johnson


Johnson writes with the chutzpah of a tabloid journalist and the allusions of a Classical scholar. The book, a history of London through portraits of notable Londoners through the centuries, is vivid and shot through with the sort of one liners that would not be out of place on ‘Have I Got News For You’. It may be an act, but what a finely honed act it is – and I can’t imagine Ken Livingstone writing a book nearly as readable.


Book review: London: the Concise Biography by Peter Ackroyd


Ackroyd’s biography of London comes garlanded with accolades and they are well deserved: beautifully written, with a telling eye for detail and stuffed full with anecdote and incident, it is a meditation and discovery of an almost infinitely varied city. Calling it a ‘biography’ rather than a ‘history’ is not, in fact, an affectation but a description – Ackroyd treats London almost as a living creature, obeying the primal impulse to grow and spread (although London does not reproduce itself but, like the Borg, assimilates). My only real criticism is that while Ackroyd argues for the essential paganism of the city, he often brings up but then ignores the many expressions of radical religious dissent that have arisen in London – it’s the only major lacuna I noticed in the book.

Book review: Daily Life in Anglo-Saxon England


The only reason this is not a five-star book is that for the price (£32!!!!) I’d have expected lots of illustrations and a colour section: there’s a few black and white photos, and 25 or so illustrations, but that’s it. Leaving that aside, the actual text provides a wealth of information about the culture and environment of Anglo-Saxon England, from birth to death to burial (a lot on this, of course, as dead bodies are among the most eloquent of remains). A must read for anyone interested in the period.

Who is Tom Bombadil?

“Old Tom Bombadil is a merry fellow;
Bright blue his jacket is, and his boots are yellow.”
The Fellowship of the Ring I 7,
In the House of Tom Bombadil.

Who on (Middle) earth is Tom Bombadil? The question has vexed generations of fans and probably produced more speculation than any other aspect of the mythology of Middle Earth. The Good Professor himself is little help in answering the question. ‘… and even in a mythical Age there must be some enigmas, as there always are. Tom Bombadil is one (intentionally).’ The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien p174.


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In the Pink on Yeavering Bell

Yeavering Bell is an Iron-Age hillfort in Northumberland, one of the largest in the country. The tumbledown ramparts, still clearly visible in the photograph below, were originally 10 feet high and they enclose an area of  some 12 acres.

Yeavering Bell with ramparts clearly visible.
Yeavering Bell with ramparts clearly visible.

The hillfort looks over the site of Ad Gefrin, Edwin’s royal palace and the place where Paulinus baptised for thirty days in the River Glen at the bottom of the valley. Ad Gefrin is now a wind-swept field of grass, but it remains a hugely evocative place.

The field of Ad Gefrin, with Yeavering Bell in the background. 'Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair.'
The field of Ad Gefrin, with Yeavering Bell in the background. ‘Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair.’

The rock that was used to build the ramparts of Yeavering Bell is a local andesite that, when first quarried, is bright pink, before lichens and weathering grey it. Where a stone has tumbled, revealing a previously hidden face, it’s possible to see just how Barbie-esque the fortifications would have been when first built.

The salmon pink of fresh andesite - once all the hills were laced with it.
The salmon pink of fresh andesite – once all the hills were laced with it.

There is, to my mind, something wonderful about the thought of these grim hills – almost all of them had hillforts on them – necklaced in salmon pink.