A Polaroid of Peggy

Richard Phillips
A Polaroid of Peggy by Richard Phillips book cover

New York 1979

Peggy and I wandered back down Fifth Avenue with the rest of the crowd dribbling out of the Robert Palmer concert that had just reached its exhausted finale in Central Park. It was part of the annual Dr Pepper Central Park Music Festival and whatever Robert Palmer may have thought, I, for one, was extremely grateful for their sponsorship, because it was one of those unbearable summer nights in Manhattan – very late summer, it was already September – when the humidity is a thousand per cent and even the most refined of ladies glistens buckets. We grabbed the ice-cold cans that were being handed out as we left the arena and not just because they were free. On a night like that, an ice-cold anything is a lifeline [Read more...] in Reviews


Dogwood

Lindsay Parnell
Dogwood by Lindsay Parnell book cover

Published by Linen Press

Caro is the smartest person I’ve ever known and Collier was the second most beautiful person I’ve ever known. There was always something that’s been real tempting about Collier and the way she was. ‘Can’t blame her wild nature,’ Donna used to say to everyone, but mostly Bart and the other cops. But Collier didn’t have a wild nature, she just liked tempting other people and being tempted herself. Temptation is a funny thing. It crawls at your skin, making you itch for something you know is real bad for you [Read more...] in Authors and Extracts


Deadlier Than the Male

Jessica Mann
Deadlier Than the Male by Jessica Mann book cover

By Jessica Mann

Golden age detective fiction described and grew out of a society with rigid rules of behaviour. Sex before marriage, adultery, children born out of wedlock, homosexuality – all were shocking transgressions, quite unacceptable to respectable people. There was a ‘colour bar’ in Britain until late in the twentieth century, anti-Semitism was endemic in a regulated society, and such things were freely and openly discussed. In this context, the point about all these and other time-expired embarrassments is that they made plausible motives for murder [Read more...] in Reviews


The Secret Arts

Azma Dar
The Secret Arts by Azma Dar book cover

A new novel from Dean Street Press

Saika had always planned on getting married in white instead of the traditional red favoured by brides in India and Pakistan, but when the time came, the lehnga she fell in love with was the colour of the ripest tomatoes. As her cousin and the woman from Murree’s one beauty parlour arranged her hair in a snaky sculpture of spirals and embedded it with rosebuds, Saika looked in the mirror and thought the dress made her look somehow overcooked. Well, she was overcooked, overdone, aged, mouldy, or whatever it was a girl became once she passed the upper marriage age-limit of twenty-seven. At an almost antiquated thirty-one, she had been saved from the grave of spinsterhood by the Colonel’s spectacular eleventh hour proposal [Read more...] in Authors and Extracts


Getting the Picture

Sarah Salway
Getting the Picture by Sarah Salway book cover

A new novel from Dean Street Press

Maureen drew back the curtains and stepped out into the studio. Pat had the gown wrapped tightly around her, and the photographer was stooped over the camera, his back toward them.

“You can take my picture now if you want,” Maureen said roughly. “Not naked though. And if Pat hasn’t used up all the film in the camera, of course.”

Martin put his head to one side and stared at her. Pat did her giggle again as she walked past to the changing cubicle. But Maureen stood still, unsmiling, chin raised, hands fisted by her thighs. She waited until she heard the swish of the curtain behind Pat.

“Just one, mind,” Maureen said. “And you have to take it as I am. I’m not taking my clothes off.”

He lifted the camera, put it to his eye and clicked. Then he reached across and with the lightest touch of his fingertips, he ran them across her cheekbone, backward and forward. A butterfly kiss. [Read more...] in Authors and Extracts


Apples and Prayers

Andy Brown
Apples and Prayers by Andy Brown book cover

A new novel from Dean Street Press

It really all began in June, quite fresh still in my memory, although the sad events had been building all year, like layers of stone in an old barn wall. Come June the meadow grasses were growing up good and strong through that stonework themselves: sweet vernal, fox-tail, brome and rye, wild oat, cocksfoot, timothy. Their tall heads swayed through summer days in the undulant breezes that combed the fields and meadows, waiting for their later reaping in the month’s haymaking. To the back of the Barton, roses climbed the house’s wall in lush display, while others stood singly with perfumed pride in the parterre beds of my Lad.y’s garden. The beginnings of fat berries were forming on the fruit bushes already. Peas and beans were plenty for our pot. At the edge of the spinney we gathered in summer mushrooms for stewing – morels, chicken of the woods, summer truffles – copious and earthy, firmly-fleshed. In my Lord’s woodlands, the leaves on the oaks were opening, signaling the sovereign rule of summer [Read more...] in Authors and extracts


An Everywhere

Heather Reyes
An Everywhere by Heather Reyes  book cover

I think back to the first night of my first stay in hospital. Some time after the lights had been dimmed for the night (it’s never ever dark in hospital), a wailing voice started up from the adjacent ward. I think it was female.
‘I don’t want to die … Oh, please don’t let me die … Please don’t let me die … I don’t want to die … I don’t want to die.
First reaction: annoyance. Impossible to sleep. The voice was disturbing everyone. Even poor little Elsie was shifting in her bed. And it’s undignified, such yelling. You have to be brave in hospital: it’s what everyone expects. Stiff upper lip and all that …
Then I began to warm to the honesty of it. Wasn’t that what we were all doing, inside, yelling ‘I don’t want to die’? [Read more...] in Authors and extracts


The Next Time You See Me

Holly Goddard Jones
The Next Time You See Me by Holly Goddard Jones book cover

That day—the day she would find the body—was October 28, 1993. It had long been Emily’s habit to go on solitary walks in an undeveloped area near her family’s subdivision; she thought of this area as the woods, but it was little more than a tangle of trees and construction runoff stretching like a cocked thumb between neighborhoods, a place where gravel roads started and mysteriously stopped and concrete slab foundations had lain dormant for coming up on a decade. A ghost town, but for a place that had never even come to exist [Read more...] in Authors and extracts


Secrets of The Sea House

Elizabeth Gifford
Secrets of The Sea House by Elizabeth Gifford book cover

There was hardly any moonlight as I crossed the hall to go back upstairs. The new floorboards felt unpleasantly gritty under my bare feet and a freezing draught was coming up from the missing skirting board, bringing with it a clayey odour. I shivered and made for a pool of moonlight on the lower banisters. I put my hand out to take the newel post and felt the cold of the gloss paint under my palm.

That’s when I saw it: a quick blur of movement like a tiny wing caught from the corner of my eye. I saw a hand descending on the newel post just after mine [Read more...] in Authors and extracts


In Times Like These

Maureen Duffy
In Times Like These by Maureen Duffy book cover

‘Well they’re determined to do it,’ Terry dropped her briefcase inside the front door. Seeing the room was empty she went on through the kitchen into Paul’s studio. ‘I need a drink.’
‘Do what?’
‘Go ahead with the referendum.’
Paul put down her brush, half turning towards Terry. ‘What does it mean? I don’t follow. Come and kiss me and explain.’
‘It means,’ Terry said, putting her arms round Paul and kissing her neck, ‘that I’ll have to go up to the constituency this weekend and talk to the committee. See what they want me to do.' [Read more...] in Authors and extracts


Almost Love

Christina James
Almost Love by Christina James book cover

She had intended to leave the hotel dining-room immediately dinner was over and headed for the shallow staircase that led past the maitre d’s desk to where the lifts were. Oliver Sparham suddenly emerged from the small bar where everyone was now gathering. He was one of the more civilized delegates whom she had managed to bounce into acting as conference chairman on the following day. Grasping her elbow, he asked her if she would join him for a drink. She was both too dazed and too polite to refuse; she knew that she owed him for the task that he had agreed to (and, more to the point, which he had yet to perform). She nodded consent and allowed him to steer her, still holding on to her elbow, past the knot of people gathered at the bar’s double doors and into the inner
drinking sanctum itself. She knew that many of the conference delegates would now be ensconced in this room until the hotel closed it at 2 a.m.; she was determined not to be among them [Read more...] in Authors and extracts


The World is a Wedding

Wendy Jones
The World is a Wedding by Wendy Jones book cover

‘Married life . . .’ Mrs Edwards began, then stopped. Flora knew her mother would not advise her on married life; she would be more sensitive than that. ‘I only want you to know that I had a lot of pleasure from married life.’ Her mother was allowing Flora into an aspect of her life that she had not revealed before. ‘And I learned that there was nothing to be gained from holding back.’
Flora tugged at a frond of ivy. She didn’t know if she could let go of the past. Time had passed but the ties of her heart remained. Flora tried to feel within her her love for Wilfred, but it felt hidden quietly beneath the preparations for the wedding and moving to Narberth. She needed a still moment to feel her love for him clearly and strongly again [Read more...] in Authors and Extracts


Dixon Grace: 1.9.7 Hamburg

Alexa Camouro
Dixon Grace: 1.9.7 Hamburg by Alexa Camouro book cover

He zips down the ill-fitting yellow pullover and plucks a pair of glasses from the pocket of his shirt. He has big hands, meaty and swollen, with a couple of the knuckles bulging; fingers once dislocated and not quite put back into place, maybe snapping them in himself and getting it wrong. Heroin addict hands, she thinks. But he’s no addict. She does not want to be touched by those hands [Read more...] in Authors and extracts


Coming Home

Sue Gee
Coming Home by Sue Gee book cover

When they’d first arrived last autumn, setting up house as newlyweds in the old wooden bungalow, Will drove her out to the jungle by moonlight, holding her hand as they walked along the paths. Enormous vines hung from the trees. She and Will made out the shapes of roosting birds, the dark silhouette of a sleeping monkey. ‘I saw a tiger drinking here once,’ he told her, as they came to the glinting bed of a stream. ‘Stayed up all night in a tree to wait for him. The most beautiful creature I’d ever seen.’ He drew her closer. ‘Until I met you, of course.’ [Read more...] in Authors and extracts


Almost English

Charlotte Mendelson
Almost English by Charlotte Mendelson book cover

Almost English is a book about The Ugly Years – the awkward adolescence that pretty much everybody went through. It’s about those searing first crushes; it’s about being an outsider and trying everything you can think of to fit in.

In a tiny flat in West London, sixteen-year-old Marina lives with her emotionally delicate mother, Laura, and three ancient Hungarian relatives. Imprisoned by bizarre rituals, foods and expectations, by her family’s crushing exuberance and their fierce pride, she knows she must escape. Only the place she runs to – Combe Abbey, a traditional English public school – makes her feel even more of an outsider. [Read more...] in Authors and extracts


Unfaithfully Yours

Nigel Williams
Unfaithfully Yours by Nigel Williams book cover

Dear Mr Gibbons,

I fear it will not be possible for us to meet face to face. I am not horribly disfigured and am not more noticeably hideous than other late-middle-aged women of my acquaintance. I am, however, trying to keep our relationship as secret as I suspect my husband has been keeping his extra-marital activities. Although you may think you are adept at snooping, Mr Gibbons, you have no idea of the talents of the women of Putney in this area. Very little escapes their notice, and, were you and I to meet, even at a prearranged location many miles from this area, it would not take them long to rumble us. [Read more...] in Authors and extracts


The Skull and the Nightingale

Michael Irwin
The Skull and the Nightingale by Michael Irwin book cover

It was a breezy day in March when I returned to London from two years of travel, my age 23, my prospects uncertain. I refreshed myself with coffee at the Roebuck before making my way to Fetter Lane, and the office of my godfather’s agent, Mr Ward. Conceivably, this gentleman might be about to determine the future course of my life in twenty words. I paused at the entrance to his premises to assume unconcern [Read more...] in Authors and extracts


Prelude in E Minor

Anna Immanuel
Prelude in E Minor by Anna Immanuel book cover

He – Tom – (into her next story she would fling, rebelliously, as many dashes as possible) – neglected to say, ‘So, how did it go?’ and Karen therefore sulked for the rest of the day. She turned to the solace of drudgery and, dragging out the vacuum, hoovered in places generally left undisturbed. She tried to block out the image of someone, perhaps a treble-chinned someone, with a paunch like a mudslide tucked into perma-press – or a rigidly thin, long Venetian nosed someone, with little sense of humor and a cold coming on – glassily regarding her neatly-typed pages. She shivered and winced as though they were leafing, with their tongue-moistened fingers, through layers of her own, excessively thin skin [Read more...] in Reviews


Outsiders

Outsiders book cover

I force a smile and sit down with the day’s third cup of coffee. On a tray in the centre of the table are some inviting-looking chocolates, but when I bite into one I discover they are cubes of coated Parmesan (or perhaps I should say ‘in disguise’). It’s difficult to know if they’re a delicacy for connoisseurs or a cruel initiation rite. Everyone’s eyes are pinned on me. I take a deep breath and swallow, trying to forget the experience [Read more...] in Authors and extracts


The Aziz Bey Incident and Other Stories

Ayfer Tunç
The Aziz Bey Incident and Other Stories by Ayfer Tunç book cover

Women kept calling Turcan on his mobile. He exchanged smutty banter, roared with laughter and belched every now and then. His forehead sweated as he laughed, and when he wiped it away his wig moved. While he was speaking to women, to the women I imagined to be virtually boneless and so very pale, I thought how very many and beautiful women there were in the world. My wife never once came to my mind while thinking about the beautiful women in the world.. [Read more...] in Authors and extracts


Sea of Ink

Richard Weihe
Sea of Ink by Richard Weihe book cover

On one occasion his father made him step barefoot into a bowl full of ink and then walk along the length of a roll of paper. To begin with Zhu’s footprints were wet and black; with each step they became lighter until they were barely visible any more. Then he hopped from the paper back on to the wooden floor.
His father took a brush and wrote at the top of the scroll: A small segment of the long path of my son Zhu Da. And further down: A path comes into existence by walking on it. [Read more...] in Authors and extracts


When She Woke

Hillary Jordan
When She Woke by Hillary Jordan book cover

Hillary Jordan is back with When She Woke, another story exploring the impact of politics on women’s lives, which, with its oppressive scenario – updating The Scarlet Letter to a futuristic USA – inevitably invites comparison with Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. American reviews have ranged from warm to angry. bookoxygen readers can sample the first chapter for themselves [Read more...] in Authors and Extracts