Mike Robbins – update on a timely essay

Mike Robbins has visited Reading Recommendations a couple of times previously, here and here. He’s back now to tell us about a very timely essay he has just published. (Mike also answered my recent call for book reviewers, for which I am extremely grateful!)

Such Little Accident: British Democracy and its Enemies
by Mike Robbins
Published by Third Rail
Genre: Non-Fiction Essay

“When the people shall have nothing more to eat,” said Rousseau, “they will eat the rich.” But the rich are rather good at getting the poor to eat each other instead. In this provocative novella-length essay, Mike Robbins looks at how the British electoral system, social media, bullying by business, and a growing gap between rich and poor have led to deep fissures in British society. These have been exploited by those with an agenda of their own. As a result, democracy is now fragile. To repair it, we must look hard at the way information cycles through our society, and how our opinions are formed.

Cover picture: J.M.W. Turner (1775-1851), The Burning of the Houses of Lords and Commons, 16th October, 1834 (Detail)
Philadelphia Museum of Art

Where to purchase copies:
Amazon UK
Amazon US
(also available on the other Amazons)
Google Play
Barnes & Noble
Scribd
Kobo

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Mike Robbins – an update on a new book

Mike Robbins was previously featured on Reading Recommendations in Feb. 2015 and is back now to tell us about a new novella.

Dog cover image

Dog!
by Mike Robbins
Genre: Fiction, a novella

So you think you know your dog?

Bazza is an easy-going middle-aged college lecturer with a taste for weed, porn, beer and redheads. When he adopts a rescue dog, he sees nothing odd about the animal. Then a Himalayan monk comes to visit, and senses something strange.

Dog is a powerful story of love and loss, sin, redemption and dog mess. You’ll never see your pet the same way again.

For more information about the book see Mike’s blog.

Purchase Mike’s book from:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK
Barnes & Noble/Nook
iTunes
Kobo
Indigo
Scribd

Mike Robbins Recommends Eddie Mark

The Garden of Unfortunate Souls cover

The Garden of Unfortunate Souls by Eddie Mark

What genre is it? Literary/Contemporary Fiction

Quick description: Eddie Mark’s The Garden of Unfortunate Souls opens on a wet and very stormy night in Buffalo, NY. The Mayor, Cornelius Brooks, has a problem. And his high-living wastrel of a son, Audwin, has just lost control of a car while in a drunken stupor. He has careered through someone’s garden and into their porch, in a run-down, crime-ridden part of the city. Cornelius goes straight there in the small hours to give the house’s occupant, Loretta Ford, 500 bucks to shut up about it. She does. It gets out anyway, from a source closer to home. Meanwhile, Cornelius is just about to find out that his daughter’s in trouble too, and Loretta has her own story. Over the next ten or fifteen years, the lives of Cornelius and his family, and Loretta and her young son, unfold as they deal with the world as best they can. Eddie Mark pic

Why I recommend this book: The characters’ lives are almost all deeply troubled. Mark shows us why. He doesn’t major on drugs, poverty or race; instead he shows how these people’s troubles began at home or school, usually back in childhood. It’s shrewdly and humanely observed.
Given how troubled the characters are, this book could have been a depressing read. It isn’t. Mark makes them come alive, and you find yourself caring about them pretty much from page one. There’s also a certain sly humour in the way some of them are portrayed – a lecherous church elder, for example; Mark could have simply made him a monster, but he’s too good a writer for that. Also, the book is written in an unshowy but quite elegant style that makes it easy and pleasant to read.

Links for people to buy it:
Available in e-book or paperback format
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon United Kingdom

headshot smallGuest reviewer’s latest title or project: My latest is Three Seasons: Three Stories of England in the Eighties, published at the end of 2014. It’s a book of three novellas, unconnected with each other, but all set in the south of England in the 1980s. In Spring, a middle-aged Hull trawler skipper, his great days gone, has one last throw of the dice a South Coast port. In Summer, an ambitious young man makes his way in the booming Thames Valley property market, unconcerned with the damage he does to others. In Autumn, the Master of an Oxford college welcomes his two sons home, but they awake difficult memories from half a century before. Three Seasons is about the Thatcher era in Britain, but it is not about politics. These three stories are portraits of a country and its people on the verge of change.

I have three projects currently in progress – a novella with a supernatural theme, a novel set in postwar England, and a non-fiction series of ‘think’ pieces built around the literature on a variety of topics. The novella may see the light of day in 2015; the other two in 2016-2017.

Mike Robbins has been previously featured on Reading Recommendations.

Mike Robbins

headshotMike Robbins

What is your latest release and what genre is it? Three Seasons is a book of three novellas, unconnected with each other, but all set in the south of England in the 1980s.

Quick description: It is about the Thatcher era in Britain, but it is not about politics. These three stories are portraits of a country and its people on the verge of change.

In Spring, a middle-aged Hull trawler skipper, his great days gone, has one last throw of the dice a South Coast port. In Summer, an ambitious young man makes his way in the booming Thames Valley property market, unconcerned with the damage he does to others. Finally, in Autumn, the Master of an Oxford college welcomes his two sons home, but they awake difficult memories from half a century before.

Like all fiction, Three Seasons will be a success only if its characters involve and move the reader, and I hope they do. But these stories are also about social change – the decline in skilled employment, the rise of the ambitious young suits, the hollowing-out of institutions and their occupation by newcomers with different aims and different, or no, ideals.

Three Seasons cover

Brief biography:
I was born in London in 1957, and brought up in Oxford. I was educated expensively up to the age of 14, at which point I was thrown out of boarding school; this was a good move from everyone’s point of view. I passed through a number of schools and colleges and became a journalist of sorts, and worked in rock music publishing and as a traffic broadcaster. In 1987 I signed on with VSO, the British equivalent of the Peace Corps, and spent two years in the east of Sudan in the wake of the 1984-85 famine. This led to a book, Even the Dead are Coming, which was eventually published in 2009.

I stayed on the road for many years, living in such diverse countries as Ecuador, Bhutan and Syria. My travels inspired another autobiographical book, The Nine Horizons (2014), and a novel, The Lost Baggage of Silvia Guzmán (2014). I am also the author of Crops and Carbon (2011), a scholarly work on climate change. Three Seasons is my fifth book and was published in December 2014. For the last few years I have been working as an editor in New York.

Links to buy Mike’s book:
Three Seasons is available as an e-book or paperback from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Scribd and other online retailers. It can also be ordered from your local bookshop (paperback ISBN 978-0991437450).

Mike’s promo links:
I blog now and then on science, travel and books.
Goodreads
Facebook
Twitter

What are you working on now?
Too much, really! Since 2011 I have been working on a novel set in postwar Britain, but the research and the writing have both been tough. But it’s half-written now, and I hope I’ll finish it in 2015. I am also writing a short non-fiction book about 1930s aviation, which I hope to publish in 2015. Further ahead there is a novel set in New York, a collection of “think pieces” and book reviews, and a piece of speculative fiction.

Mike’s reading recommendation:
I very strongly recommend two books I read in 2014: Cloud Storage by Samuel Astbury, and Manannan’s Magic, the first part of the Manannan Trilogy by Michele McGrath. My best-loved novel of all time is J. B. Priestley’s Bright Day. The links are to my reviews of these books.