Thursday, 26 March 2009


I recently put this piece on my Wonderlands blog, and it aroused a good amount of lively comment. So I thought I'd post it here as well:

In the most recent issue of Cemetery Dance magazine, British horror editor Stephen Jones repeats his assertion that 'almost no one reads books any more.' In fact, he repeats it at length, opining that, because of competition from the visual media, mass market books will go 'the way of the vinyl record,' reading will revert to being 'a gentleman's pursuit,' and there'll only be the independent presses left to pander to it.

Now, I've known Steve for more than twenty years. He generally goes in with both guns blazing on most issues, which is one of his strengths. And he's right to be concerned about the state of modern culture. But I think he's over-shot the mark this time. Except he's not alone in that. I've been hearing almost all my adult life how movies, TV, and now computers are going to leave us with a world where no one bothers to pick up a paperback any more. Which, I think, is to ignore some basic facts. Let's look at this calmly for a moment.

FILM has been around as a very popular form of mass entertainment since the early Thirties, almost ninety years by now. And there's no sign yet of Barnes & Noble closing down because of it. Yes, film plus TV -- namely videos and DVDs -- has made some inroads into people's reading habits. But on the whole, films and books have enjoyed a reasonably cosy symbiosis. How many people, for instance, will read The Kite Runner because they saw the movie first. On a personal level, I might never have read a word by John O'Brien -- a superbly powerful author -- if I hadn't been to see the movie of Leaving Las Vegas. Films, then, do not seem to be the problem you might first suppose. It only takes a couple of hours to watch a movie, after all. Plenty of time left for reading.

TELEVISION has undoubtedly made inroads into reading habits ... no slightest question of it. But as badly as some people would have us believe? It hasn't been around as long as movies, but it has been around since the Fifties. Barnes & Noble is still there. And remains there despite the fact that several generations -- including my own -- have grown up being suckled at the glass teat. I'd suggest the following. That whatever damage TV might have done is, well, done. We've seen most of the worst of it. And the figures seem to bear this out. Ask any US mass market editor, and you'll be told that the numbers of people who read dropped about a decade ago, but then levelled out. Reading has not, in other words, gone into freefall becase of the boob tube. I'd suggest something else as well -- that, although there are some good shows out there, so much TV these days is cheap 'reality,' 'talent,' or 'celebrity' junk that the only people who'd watch it non-stop are the type who have only a 50-50 chance of holding a book the right way up in the first place.

COMPUTER TECHNOLOGY falls into two basic areas, the INTERNET and VIDEO GAMES. And I do concede that there's cause for concern here. Both activities are obsessive and time consuming. Neither activity taxes the more intellectual part of the mind, the part you need for reading. But even to this dark cloud there remains a silver lining, namely the large sections of the Internet given over to books and reading. There are publishers out there on the web, booksellers, review sites, online magazines and novels, readers' social sites like Library Thing and Goodreads (not to mention this one), hundreds of sites given over to matters relating -- especially -- to fantasy fiction. And that's not even mentioning the thousands of blogs written by avid readers, some of whose book consumption is truly phenomenal. All of which provides some kind of counterbalance to the guys out there playing Grand Theft Auto over and over again (and who I hope stay put behind their PCs, because I don't relish the idea of meeting them in any dark alley).

The fact is, every time that I get on a Tube train -- that's a subway train to most of you -- every time I go on a beach or sit beside a swimming pool, I'm surrounded by people who are not only reading books, but a wide variety of different ones. And therein I think lies the real problem. It's not that people do not want to read ... it's that the pace of modern life leaves them with little time to do so. When they get a chance to devour a novel -- commuting, or on vacation -- they tend to grab it with both hands. Which gives me hope. What do you think? Why not enter the poll at the top of this page, although I'd welcome longer opinions as well.


 Here are some reactions to 'Dark Rain,' both from reviewers and general readers. An appropriate click will get you the complete review.

"This is a modern day Gothic urban fantasy that mesmerizes the audience into a one-sitting read. An exhilarating dark thriller" -- Harriet Klausner.

"A tense, thrilling story. The ending practically says 'Sequel on the way!' and I certainly hope that's true because there would seem to be much more to the story of Ross Devries and the others, and I know readers are going to want to see it" -- Toni V. Sweeney.

"What a fascinating book! Builds to a really pageturning ending, one that I couldn't stop reading. Bravo to Mr. Richards! Now where's the next volume?" -- Kathy.

"Raine's Landing is a place of magic, and it's one that instantly sucks you into its wild heart" -- Marie O'Regan, Total Sci Fi.

"A great read! Richards is a great writer, and I can't wait to read more by this author" -- Sarah.

"Gripping tale. I could not put the book down. I hope there will be a sequel" -- D.

"It's got magic, mystery and mayhem, with a cool noir feel" -- i-Newswire.

"An innovative, compelling novel of dark fantasy. I recommend it" -- Margaret L. Carter.

"It will keep you on the edge of your seat. A definite must read for those into dark fantasy, paranormal fiction, or just a good book" -- Colleen Cahill, SF Revu.

"The narrative is never less than compelling as it hurtles towards a resolution. All that remains is to wait patiently for the sequel and find out what else Richards has in store for us" -- Peter Tennant, Black Static.

Sunday, 15 March 2009


As a footnote to the LADY SINGS posting below, I opened my copy of the Observer -- one of the UK's leading Sunday broadsheets -- today to find a large advert in it for Gardot's latest album, 'My One and Only Thrill'. And according to a friend, there's a piece on her as well in London's top listings magazine Time Out. A year ago, I hadn't even heard of her. As for you, dear reader? Remember where you heard about her first.


Raine's Landing might be an old-fashioned kind of town, with very little in the way of computers. But I don't live in such a place, and neither does anyone else much in the Western world (the rest of the world soon?) these days. And so I've just claimed a page on the HorrorWorld site. And I've joined the relatively new fantasy social site Wonderlands, and immediately got some replies. What friendly people!

Saturday, 14 March 2009


Went out last week -- with my old friend music writer Andy Snipper -- to see Philly-born jazz/blues songstress Melody Gardot, the second time I've attended one of her performances in less than a year. And it might seem unusual for an American singer to visit our shores so frequently, but Ms. Gardot -- who has a very interesting background --lives in Paris these days. So hopefully, we will be seeing a whole lot more of her during the next few years. That's great news for fans of real music and real talent, rather than the manufactured garbage that gets thrust on us so much these days via The X Factor and similar shows.

The first time I saw her, at the Bloomsbury Theatre, she performed with a three-piece backing band in front of an audience that had struggled in despite a Tube strike taking place that day, and was so brilliant she brought the house down. On this occasion she was at the Union Chapel, N1, a stunningly beautiful church in Islington which continues to hold Sunday worship, but which doubles as a music venue during the less Godly days of the week. It wasn't quite as great a show as the previous one. This time, along with the jazzmen, Gardot was backed up by an eight-piece string section, and the formality of that arrangement hampered her a little. But make no mistake, she is a terrific singer, with the lyricism of a Julie London and the fire and passion, when needed, of a Peggy Lee. And she's no mean songwriter either. If you get the chance to check her out, then take it. And in the meantime, here is Andy's review of the evening's performance for (*The album cover displayed is from Wikipedia, and appears here under the Fair Use rule.)

Tuesday, 10 March 2009


I've just got the final confirmation from my editor -- Diana Gill at Eos -- that Raine's Landing Book #2, 'Night of Demons', is good to go. In fact, that was pretty much a foregone conclusion, since I've already seen the back cover blurb and the front cover artwork. And the latter is brilliant, so very good that I can't wait to post it on this blog. I'll have to wait, though. Publishing can be a slow business, and all kinds of people have to give the nod to things like covers before they are finalised. But as soon as I can, I'll share it with you.

I can't tell you too much, either, about the plot of 'Night of Demons'. But suffice to say it continues the story of Ross and Cassie, introducing a lot of previously unknown detail about Cass's troubled past. It brings in several brand-new characters I personally like a lot, as well as fleshing out some who only got the briefest mention in Book #1. And there's a spectacularly nasty and murderous new villain, with a good sized repertoire of unpleasant tricks up his sleeve, for our heroes to face down. The book will be out in November of this year.