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Friday, 28 October 2011

Publication day

It's a big day for us on Monday. That's when Fabled Lands LLP are officially launching their book imprint Spark Furnace with the publication of John Whitbourn's classic ghostly series The Binscombe Tales. These were originally written in the early 1990s and have been collected in many anthologies such as DAW's Year's Best Fantasy. To celebrate, Jamie, Tim and I are being taken to a publication day lunch at Wiltons Restaurant off Piccadilly by Fabled Lands LLP's head honcho, Franklin L Johnson. (Must remember to dress smartly for a change.)

Talking of slap-up meals, here's the skinny: Spark Furnace are releasing the stories as three paperbacks (UK here, US here) and in ebook form via Smashwords - or, if you'd rather sample them in chapbook form, as six Kindle books (UK and US).

One of the things that's amazing about the Binscombe Tales is how many now-famous horror and fantasy concepts appeared first in these books. John Whitbourn's story "Eyes" is virtually a prototype in low key for the entire Final Destination series of movies, and this excerpt from the story "Hello Dolly" anticipates the Amy Pond storyline on Doctor Who by almost two decades:
Linda Disch applied her scarlet lips to a Bloody Mary before proceeding. ‘One morning,’ she said, ‘I was playing there with all my dollies and that, when I felt something strange. The wall behind me seemed to have some give in it. It shouldn’t have. It’d always been just a nice plain, solid wall, it made me safe and protected. I wasn’t worried though. Children don’t have much fear, do they, Mr Oakley?’

You obviously didn’t go to prep school, I thought—but kept it to myself.

‘Leastways, I didn’t have much scare in me,’ said Linda. ‘I just took things in my stride in those days.’

‘But what about this wall?’ I asked (she seemed to be dallying).

‘It wasn’t a wall anymore, Mr Oakley. It was a door.’ Linda was wide-eyed with wonder, as if the incident was only five minutes in her past. ‘I looked up and saw there was a big brass doorknob above my head. When I got up I found the wall was now a great oak door—keyhole, panels, the lot.’

‘And when you tried the handle?’ I asked, urging her on once more.

‘Oh, I didn’t, Mr Oakley. I was brought up to knock before I entered rooms, and somehow I didn’t fancy doing that. What I did do was have a quick squint through the keyhole.’


‘Nothing. It was all old and grimed up. You couldn’t see a thing.’

‘I see.’

‘Well, I couldn’t. I was just standing there and gawping, wondering how I’d missed noticing this room before. Then I saw that the door was a poor fit. There was a fair gap at the bottom, half an inch or so. Straight off. I shimmied down on to my tummy and tried to see into the room.

‘There was light in there from a window or something, because I could see bits and pieces of what was beyond. A ray of sunshine was lighting up the gloom. “There’s no carpet,” I remember thinking. “How come Mum stands for that?’” It looked dirty and dusty, all neglected and forlorn. There was faded wallpaper starting to curl off in places and sheets of yellow newsprint lying about. It occurred to me that perhaps even Mum and Dad hadn’t found this room yet. But there again, how could that be? They knew everything. They wouldn’t miss a part of their own house, surely.

‘Then a pair of feet crossed my line of vision, great grey slabs of feet, slowly pacing up and down the room, in and out of that beam of sunlight. I must have gasped or something, because the feet stopped in their tracks as though I’d been heard. They changed direction and headed straight for me...'
STOP PRESS: (I always wanted to say that.) If you live in Surrey, England, pick up a copy of local newspaper the Surrey Advertiser this week, as it features an interview with John Whitbourn in which he talks about his writing, his forthcoming novel (based at the time of the Gordon Riots) and his roots in real-life Binscombe, where his family have lived since the Civil War.


  1. Glancing over at Amazon (I have a gift voucher...) I see that Volume 2 of The Binscombe Tales is available, but that the others aren't yet. Odd, no? But then, even Volume 2 is 'usually dispatched within 9 to 14 days' which, in my experience, often translates to significantly more than that.

    I'm talking about print versions here - they're all there as downloadable ebooks, too. And they're cheap as hell, if you go that route.

    I see they've already picked up some good reviews on Amazon, too...

    Enjoy your meal.

  2. I recommend ordering from the Book Depository, PW:

    The Book Depository have all three paperbacks in stock and they deliver free to most of the world. And it's good to use alternatives to Amazon like them because, if we don't encourage competition, it'll be the customers like us who suffer.

  3. Amazon US seems to have all three books in stock for immediate delivery.

  4. I've just been told that although books printed via Lightning Source (our printer) are often listed on Amazon as taking 9 to 14 days to deliver, they actually usually arrive in less than a week.

  5. Mr Disvan will be picketing this event.
    Don't be surprised if the oysters and clams mysteriously refuse to open.

  6. Lucky I'm ordering the steak, then ;-)