My Man Magnus Mills

The other day I was checking if any of my fave authors have new books out. 

Dan Rhodes? Nope.
Peter Ackroyd? Yes! A big juicy book on Venice.


Everything is here: the merchants on the Rialto and the Jews in the ghetto; the mosaics of St Mark’s and the glass blowers of Murano; the carnival masks and the sad colonies of lepers; and, the doges and the destitute and the artists with their passion for colour and form – Bellini, Titian, Tintoretto, Tiepolo. There are wars and sieges, scandals and seductions, fountains playing in deserted squares and crowds thronging the markets.

Sounds tasty.

And a new book called Maintenance of the headway by Magnus Mills! Ah Magnus. Thomas Pynchon called him a demented, deadpan comic wonder. And he ain’t wrong. The Mills humour is so dry it’s positively desiccated. His unique style features pithy tales laden with black humour where people are pitted against mad processes. Bureaucracy gone mad.

For a good example of this,  there’s his book  The Scheme for Full Employment. The Independent reviewed it thus:

The story concerns a mythical Scheme whereby people are employed to drive “Univans” around all day, delivering and picking up crates. The narrator is on a circuit of seven depots and spends eight hours a day shuttling back and forth. It’s only about a third of the way through that we discover what’s in the crates: spare parts for the Univans. The work is light, agreeable and well-paid, and everyone’s very thankful to be on the Scheme: “It’s like being in a great big feather bed.”

Much is made of the fact that Brummie born Mills once drove buses for a living (read all about it in the article Why my career is back on route). And find out more about Magnus from his publisher Bloomsbury.

I reckon there’s a shortage of authors writing funny stuff so Magnus is a real catch. Can’t hardly wait to read his newbie.

Book geekdom – new books from Peter Ackroyd and Michel Faber


You know you’re a book geek when you punch the air, yell “YESSSS” and get generally all excited when you find your favourite author is coming out with something new.

And this week I’ve done it twice. First I heard about Peter Ackroyd’s The Casebook of Victor Frankenstein. Ackroyd is amazing – he combines the rich detail of historical fiction with literary style and technique of the highest order.  The first book of his I read was The last testament of Oscar Wilde, a retelling of the last days of Wilde in Paris. These are novels to lose hours in, and he specialises in endings that are almost spiritual and transcendent.

Ackroyd is very much a man of letters, and has written biographies of figures such as Thomas More and Charles Dickens, and books for children and teenagers. Oh, and a biography of the city of London no less.

The Apple
The Apple

Michel Faber has also written a book set in Victorian times – The Crimson Petal and the white is a big, swirling book detailing the life of Sugar, a 19 year old prostitute. The Apple is a collection of short stories that revisits some of the same characters.

His new book is called The fire gospel. It sounds a bit crazy:

Theo Griepenkerl is a modest academic with an Olympian ego. When he visits a looted museum in Iraq, looking for treasures he can ship back to Canada, he finds nine papyrus scrolls that have lain hidden for two thousand years. Once translated from Aramaic, these prove to be a fifth Gospel, written by an eye-witness of Jesus Christ’s last days …

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