East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

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Tudor Ghosts (or maybe worse)

There is no doubt Phil Rickman is currently my favorite horror/thriller author, a title he shares with Peter Straub. I like his language and his style of storytelling, his settings and his characters, his ability in mixing tradition and modernity. His The Man in the Moss is one of my favorite horrors (and I will have to re-read it one of these nights) and I normally keep a few Rickman books in one of my emergency boxes, and when the moon is high and the nights are cold, I happily go looking for one of his chillers.

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Night in Glastonbury

While I go through the usual mix of frustration and bad mood that hits me when I have a new story (or a series of stories, really) growing, I am spending my nights reading The Chalice, a supernatural thriller by British author Phil Rickman.

I first discovered Rickman in the ’90s with the novel The Man in the Moss, and I had acquired his whole back catalog of standalone horrors a few months back. Rickman can be classified, probably, as folk horror, and he’s very good – tight, twisting plots, interesting characters, and a strong sense of place.

The Chalice is set in Glastonbury, the alternative spirituality capital of the UK, and hinges on a number of local legends and historical characters. It is a fun read, and it also struck a strange chord.

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December, a review

Phil Rickman is an English author with a background in music and a deep knowledge of the traditions, legends and atmospheres of that region of the British Isles straddling the England-Wales border.


In this territory Rickman has set his series of novels focused on the Anglican exorcist Merrily Watkins, mixing detective fiction with a supernatural that is more hinted at than made explicit. In this Rickman is admirable author in his ability to intercept two sectors of the public – that of horror and that of the British-style mystery (not necessarily a cozy), which are usually considered to be mutually exclusive.
Rickman is also the author of a series of mystery novels set in Elizabethan England and featuring Dr John Dee and the Earl of Essex as a team of sui generis, sort-of-X-files investigators.
At the same time, Rickman produced a number of stand-alone novels, more frankly horrific and generally ascribable to that typically British genre of “folk horror” or “rural horror” that is going through a renaissance in these last years1.
December belongs to this batch of stand-alone books. I originally reviewed it last year, for an Italian magazine – a friend borrowed me her copy, and I was able to meet the publisher’s expectations. I recently bought the book (together with four other stand-alone Rickman books), and here goes my review – suitably expanded and updated. Continue reading

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Unexpected book haul

android-developmentYesterday we had a little celebration, because yesterday my brother got his Nanodegree as an Android Software Developer, a professional certificate he’d been working on now for two years thanks to a Google scholarship he was awarded.
It was hard work, and there were a lot of frustrating moments because we live at the edge of the map, and there were often some very silly hang-ups; for instance, yesterday my brother had problems actually getting his certificate because the delivery system required a photo of his digital ID Card, but hereabouts we are still routinely issued with a non-digital, paper ID card. You can see how crazy it is.

I am very proud of my kid brother’s achievement, and I hope this new professional qualification will give him a ticket out of Astigianistan.
Anyway, we had a celebration (we also plan a night out and a dinner, but that’s yet to come), and I ended up splurging on some books, and as it usually happens, I bought more books for myself that I did for the guy that was the one being celebrated.
So here’s a quick overview of my unexpected book haul, that doubles as a collection of recommendations. Continue reading