Out Now: Hard-Boiled Witch 5 – Impractical Magic


Out at last, the latest Hecate Sidlaw adventure. Click the image or here to pick up your copy (adjust to your region). As always if you want to order direct, buy me a cuppa (button to the right) and get a PDF as a gift.

Hecate Sidlaw would rather wrestle with her mugwort and nettle tea recipe than battle with a faceless corporation, but somehow she and her familiar Henry always get drawn into magical shenanigans around town. This time there’s something strange going on in the local farming community — do the crop failures have anything to do with the ritual revival of the old Dundee city arch?

Enter the dark streets and weird magic of HARD-BOILED WITCH and your life will never be quite the same.

This 33-page ebook single is the fifth in the series from the author of WHITE RABBIT, UNQUIET DREAMS, DREAM BOOK, OWL STRETCHING, and the CHASTITY FLAME thriller series.

“Laity has been proving for quite some time now that her noir prose ranks right up there with the likes of Meg Abbott, Dorothy B. Hughes, and Sara Paretsky.”
~ Vincent Zandri

On the Road Again

It’s Easter so the pop culture scholars gather at PCA: this year it’s in Indianapolis so my big plan is to finally see the Vonnegut Library. I’m rooming with gal pal Miss Wendy and we’ve already caught up with some friends the first night. Busy busy, busy, as Bokononists say.

Spreading the word of my wandering women as I go, of course! I’m giving a paper on Elisabeth Sanxay Holding’s The Blank Wall and the 2001 adaptation The Deep End.

FFB: The Driver’s Seat – Muriel Spark

Was she asking for it?
Was she asking nice?
If she was asking for it,
Did she ask you twice?
Hole – Asking For It

2018-01-07 15.32.47It seems redundant to call this a lean novel from Spark — her novels are singularly lean. I always feel as if they have been sanded fine. I’ve been on a kick since the winter break before and after seeing The International Style of Muriel Spark exhibit with Miss Wendy at the National Library in Edinburgh, which I highly recommend you see. I loved it in the nosy way writers always want to peek at the process of others, but also damn, the woman had style — and chops. I feel like I need to cut my own prose to the bone like her or I’m just dithering too much. But you can’t miss anything: you have to absorb every clue. The thing is you don’t always realise what is a clue. You have to become hyper-vigilant and note everything which leads to a kind of madness rather like the heroine of this book.

coverThe Driver’s Seat is a great example of this. There is not one word in excess. This is a crazy book, off-putting to many I’m sure (I looked at some of the contemporary reviews) but both brilliant and searingly insightful. The blurb on the back (and what a marvelous cover, Penguin) from David Lodge calls it not only a ‘tour de force’ but ‘a crime story turned inside out’ which is a great description. Within the first few pages, you know that Lise is going to die. With mordant zeal, the narrator points out the clues that will be put together at the end of the investigation.

Many of them will puzzle the police forces. They’re both vivid and seemingly inexplicable. Like the clothing captured well in this cover: ‘the necessary dress’ as she calls it. the colours are so garish the porter of her building laughs at her.

She says, ‘Are you going to join a circus? Then again she throws back her head, looking down through half-closed lids at Lise’s clothes, and gives out the high, hacking cough-like ancestral laughter of the streets, holding her breasts in her hands to spare them the shake-up. Lise says with quiet dignity, ‘You are insolent.’

How marvelous is that? This whole world is at a slant, Lise’s particular slant, from her model of efficiency modular flat to the sudden and violent reaction to being informed that the dress she’s trying on is ‘stain resistant’ (‘I won’t be insulted!’). The alternation between helpless laughing and crying quickly leads to the deduction that the ‘months of illness’ that punctuate her sixteen years at the same job are definitely related to her mental health.

Now, here’s where it might get a little spoilery if you don’t want to know more about it than the fact that she’s doomed. She heads off on her holiday telling people she’s meeting a boy-friend though she doesn’t seem to know who and constantly lies about what she has done and plans to do. Even the narrator draws back at times, shying away from true omniscience at the most interesting junctures yet with chilling suggestions that have to be carefully sifted.

Lise is lifting the corners of her carefully packed things, as if in absent-minded accompaniment to some thought, who knows what?

The narrator seems uncertain what’s really going on, yet knows a great deal of facts –they’re just impossible to explain.  The novel reads like an assemblage of facts that took some time to put together, yet still don’t add up. Lise buys all the items used in her murder, deliberately and particularly. She even urges her befuddled killer to murder her: ‘She told me precisely what to do.’

Was she asking for it?
Was she asking nice?

I suspect that like many of us, Spark may have heard one too many times about a ‘girl who was asking for it’ and wondered what sort of woman would ask to be killed, really. A mad woman, an insanely driven woman who is both consumed by lust and gravely puritanical — and utterly deranged. Asking for it?

I have bookmarked the Liz Taylor film version, but I dunno…

I admire her hugely. Check out all the FFB over at Patti Abbott’s blog including Evan Lewis’ post on Bill Crider’s celebration of life.

Spark Satire

Out Now: Madonna of the Wasps 5 #WiHM

41r0rlouarlWhat better way to wrap up Women in Horror Month? The final chapter of The Blood Red Experiment is out now! Read the exciting conclusion of Madonna of the Wasps and all the gialli in this collection. The breakneck pace whips along to the unexpected end — how will all the threads be brought together? It’s a mystery!

Buy it here.

Out Now: Madonna of the Wasps 3

Blood Red Experiment 3Yes, one last story published in 2017. It’s the latest issue of The Blood Red Experiment that includes the third chapter of my neo-giallo ‘The Madonna of the Wasps‘.

In the first chapter ‘Love’ we met a killer wielding an ancient bone knife. In the second chapter ‘Frost’ the young artist Mira faced the most frightening night of her life.

In the third chapter we learn who the mysterious ‘Swan’ is: who can inspire such a blood-thirsty cult?

FFB: Bill Crider’s Sherlock

Thanks to Patti and Todd for cajoling me into doing this special round of FFB. Many of you know that Bill Crider is doing poorly, so it’s great to have a chance to celebrate him and his vast catalogue of work while he can still appreciate our accolades. It’s always a joy to celebrate someone who seems universally regarded with genuine fondness. I’ve only met him briefly myself (not being much of a networking type) but he was just as kind and self-effacing in person as he has always appeared to be online over the years.

35433206 I chose the unconventional Crider: his Eight Adventures of Sherlock Holmes from Crossroad Press. If you’re a fan of the detective you will be pleased by how well Crider gets into the head of our famed narrator Dr Watson. Clearly he has had a lot of fun immersing himself in the style of Doyle’s doctor.

Then there’s the celebrity ‘guest stars’ that include everyone from Bram Stoker and his own Van Helsing as sidekick, Oscar Wilde, and even a descendant of Ebeneezer Scrooge making this a good holiday gift giving choice for ‘The Adventure of the Christmas Ghosts’.

The suggestion of the supernatural is ever present but purists shouldn’t worry too much. This is Holmes after all and he will get to the bottom of what seems to be unnatural. Crider manages to capture the fun and the cleverness of Holmes without being too slavish to the originals, giving them a chance to breathe.

The bonus story by Patricia Lee Macomber and David Niall Wilson is more Lovecraftian and clashes quite distinctly with the other stories: less homage and more pastiche.

Thanks Bill for your camaraderie on line, your fine books and your VBKs. Happy to salute you on the long trail.

See all the entries over at Patti’s blog.

Out Now: Madonna of the Wasps 2

TBRE2The second issue of The Blood Red Experiment is out and it’s a doozy. Includes the second chapter of my giallo novella The Madonna of the Wasps. Great stories by some other geezers, too! You know their names and quality is always the game.

The Blood Red Experiment Issue 2 is out now for purchase on Kindle. If you like Giallo Horror, then this magazine will be for you. We have the talents of Richard Godwin, Kate LaityKevin BergTom LeinsJim ShafferMark Cooper and Jack Bates in each issue. Issue One is available to read if you haven’t read it already. The episodes run sequentially so read issue 1 first, you won’t be disappointed!