Thursday, December 23, 2010


Endgame: The Spectacular Rise and Fall of Bobby Fischer by Frank Brady

Despite predominantly reading fiction, every six months or so I will go on a nonfiction binge, exploring a subject that interests me. Past obsessions have included the Golden Age of Magic, Game Theory, Origins of Colours (mainly just to confuse's suggested reading algorithms). These bursts of interest fade as quickly as they came, as my retention of knowledge is notoriously lame.

One of my areas of interest, which I explored a couple of years ago, was chess. Now I have to come out and say that I don't particularly like chess, and the idea of playing it fills me with some dread (all that planning ahead...). But the idea of the evolution of chess, and its almost mythic properties, was something that fascinated me. In the course of exploring this interest, I stumbled across one of the most engrossing pieces of nonfiction I'd ever read, namely David Edmonds and John Eidinow's Bobby Fischer Goes to War, a riveting account of the lead-up, duration and aftermath of American chess wunderkind Bobby Fischer's and soviet world champion Boris Spassky. It is a fascinating and thrilling story, even for those not interested in chess. It's hard to get these days (only available as an import title in Australia), but keep your eyes out in second-hand shops.

Anyhoo, reading that book gave me an insight into what an interesting/insane personality Bobby Fischer actually was, and Murdoch Books are bringing out this biography in February and I, for one, am very much looking forward to reading it.

1Q84 by Haruki Murakami

Did I just say that The Pale King was 2011's most anticipated literature release? What we talk about when we talk about anticipated is Haruki Murakami's 1Q84, which I have been awaiting for quite a while now. It's fair to say that the first time I read Murakami (in my case, A Wild Sheep Chase), it was like nothing else I'd ever read. And, despite bingeing on his fiction perhaps a little too much afterwards, I am REALLY looking forward to this book. It's out in September (look, it even has an ISBN now!) and I shall be first in line. I don't think I'll be alone. On their first day of publication in Japan (two volumes printed simultaneously -- here it will be a single volume) they sold out their first print run, reaching sales of one million copies in a month. It will be interesting to see the splash it makes in English-speaking countries.

And, because I'm getting tired of writing in the Brisbane heat, and, if you're like me, you just prefer lists anyway, here are some more titles I'll be watching out for in 2011:

The Tiger's Wife by Téa Obreht (April) - For a debut novelist, she has received praise from the likes of Colum McCann, Ann Patchett and T.C. Boyle. Should be big.

There is No Year
by Blake Butler (May) - For pure literary hipness, you need to be seen with this book. Blake Butlerwrites for the irrepresibly cool/unintelligible blog HTMLGIANT, and blows us away with his short fiction in The Lifted Brow and in this book. Can't wait to see what he'll do with the novel.

Stone Arabia by Dana Spiotta (July) - Dana Spiotta wrote one of my favourite books EVER, Eat the Document, and I can't wait to read this one (despite the infuriatingly small amount of detail about it available).

And as always, some will succeed, some will fail, and others will come out of nowhere to capture our imagination. Here's to 2011!

Monday, December 20, 2010


I love books, and I love lists, so when you can combine the two, even better. And sure, everyone's got a "Best Books of 2010" list (except for Chris Flynn, who has compiled an ace round-up of the year's best short stories) but what really gets me excited is lists about books NOT EVEN RELEASED YET. As a bookseller, there is nothing we love more then getting our hands on the hottest book that either
1) everybody wants (I actually hid the advance copy of Jonathan Franzen's "Freedom" in my bag after I got it), or
2) nobody knows they want yet but yeah I read that a few months ago and it was pretty good but what you really should be reading is... You get the idea.

With the horrific death-screech of Christmas retail almost at an end, I'm starting to cast my eyes into the crystal ball of 2011 publishing, and thinking about the books that are going to excite me most. Here are some that have grabbed my interest in recent weeks.

An Uncertain Place by Fred Vargas
During one of my numerous and ill-advised trips to a discount book store I stumbled across a crime book called Have Mercy On Us All by some French dude. Read it, loved it, and discovered that the dude was a lady. Fred Vargas is the pseudonym of French author, historian and archaeologist Frédérique Audoin-Rouzeau, who has won the Crime Writers' Association's International Dagger a record three times, with the 2007 win coming for her astonishingly good book Wash This Blood Clean From My Hand (just about my favourite crime novel ever).

I don't go out of my way to read crime, but the prospect of a new book featuring Vargas's shambolic-yet-somehow-Zen detective Commissaire Adamsberg is too good to refuse. Plus, this one contains severed feet left in shoes, and Serbian vampire hunters. What more could you want?

The Pale King by David Foster Wallace
What can I say about this except I will be killed by a marauding pack of hipsters if I get my hands on an advance copy of this. Literary Journal "nice guy" Ronnie Scott has already admitted to me that if he saw me with a copy of this book before its release date, he would "cut up my pretty face real good" and steal it (the book, not my face). For those of you who can't wait a moment longer to get a taste, I would suggest you cut up the pretty face of anyone who owns the sold out 6th "Atlas Edition" of The Lifted Brow, which contains within it an excerpt from The Pale King. Or you could read this book to get you good and ready for what promises to be THE international literary event of 2011.


Past the Shallows by Favel Parrett
Favel is a dear friend of mine, but that is about to change. Her brilliant, brilliant book (which I have actually read, after hounding my Hachette rep over and over for an advance copy) is coming out at exactly the same time as mine, and I wish it weren't, because I want May 2011 to be a literary wasteland, save for one book. Unfortunately for me, Past the Shallows is a haunting, lyrical story set in the unique coastline of Tasmania, teaching us of the boldness and fragility of growing up. If you like the writing of Tim Winton, you will love this book. And just look at this freaking gorgeous cover:

Part Two of my 2011 picks coming sooooon.....

But until then, what 2011 books are YOU looking forward to?


Well, it's been a while since the Furious Horse has raised its head, but I thought it was time, seeing as I've got a book coming out soon, and this blog seems to be mentioned quite prominently in the promotion. Maybe there should be a sign saying "OKAY, SO THERE'S NOT MUCH HERE NOW EXCEPT A DUDE RAGGING ON BOOK COVERS, BUT ONCE UPON A TIME HE POSTED A SHORT STORY, LIKE, EVERY DAY. CAN YOU BELIEVE THAT? CRAZY, RIGHT" but that sign seems a bit aggressive and we all know what happens when you use too much capitalisation.

Anyway, here is the cover to my book, which I really like (which is a surprise, as I have pretty strong views about book jackets), and which was designed by the incomparable W. H. Chong.

Stay tuned as I get back in the upside-down saddle for some more book-themed blog posts soon!

Monday, August 2, 2010



I have just been reliably informed that Allen & Unwin have decided to ditch their proposed cover for Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story, and have decided to adopt the UK cover. I'd like to think the Furious Horses Effect is responsible, but more likely all the company reps and booksellers who saw the first cover just shook their heads enough times.

Hopefully this means many more sales for an excellent book. And it give me an excuse to show another piece of Shteyngart magic.

Friday, July 30, 2010


As much as I do not enjoy kicking a dead horse, Allen and Unwin (via Granta) have once again managed to mangle what could have been a very good cover to a very good book. I've just finished reading Gary Shteyngart's Super Sad True Love Story and it is really, really terrific. He has been an author on my radar for a while now, but once he appeared on the New Yorker's 20 Under 40 list (obtaining his own awkward pencil sketch portrait in the process) and once I read the cover blurb (for a George Saunders devotee like me, its recipe of dystopian deadpan surrealism was nigh on irresistible). So, yes, you should read it, but A&U have done their best to convince you otherwise...

Sometimes you see a book cover and think, okay, that's just something they've knocked up before the real jacket designer comes on board, or, cool, they've asked some gaol inmates to sketch a book cover as part of social therapy classes or maybe they've read a two-sentence blurb once and remembered some words and then looked up clipart from Word 95 and pasted it all together. This is one of those covers. For the lead Granta title for September, it's a pretty shocking effort. As one friend in the publishing industry so succinctly put it, "If that cover was my baby, I would try to put it back."

Nonetheless, I really do recommend you look past the cover and give it a go. You won't be disappointed.

In the interests of fairness, however, the US jacket isn't much better:

The UK jacket is getting there, but still doesn't do it for me:

P.S. I don't want it to feel like I'm picking on you, Allen & Unwin, so here's a book cover from Penguin (Viking) that I saw today, and should make you feel okay. Buckets ready...

When this image on the cover would be an improvement on the cover, you know you're in trouble.

P.P.S. Super Sad True Love Story also has by far the best book trailer of the year. Hi-larious:

Tuesday, May 25, 2010


So it's that time of the year again when Melbourne is descended upon by the cream of the "new writing" crop -- the Emerging Writers Festival (EWF). I was lucky enough to be invited down last year to talk about my blog "Operas I Have Written for My Cats". Sorry, no, that's my other project. It was for this place, where you're reading this. Back when I wrote a short story a day. Anyway...

I had such a good time last year, and was so impressed with the organisation, enthusiasm and energy around the festival (by far the best Writers Festival I'd been to) that I simply had to go back. This year I'll be in conversation with writer, artist and performer Beth Sometimes, and more specifically about her Adventure in Postcards, where she wrote a postcard to "someone or something" every day for a year. The results were compiled in her charming and impressive book From Sometimes Love Beth. Our conversation will form part of the EWF's From Here to There series, during their jam-packed Town Hall Program, which you can buy a pass to for the whole weekend May 29-30. Seriously, you won't be disappointed.

I had such a great time last year taking part in a From Here to There session, chatting with Stef Convery about Furious Horses, and answering questions from a mind-bogglingly enthusiastic audience. I was also fortunate enough to be able to stick around the town hall and encounter a whole bunch of other wonderful discussions, panels and performances. If you're anywhere near Melbourne, I encourage you to do the same. EWF has been running from May 21, and has all sorts of brilliant things going on, both in and around Melbourne, and on Twitter.

I would love to list all the sessions I want to attend, but it'll be quicker just to point you to the EWF program. I'll see you there!

Popular blogger Christopher Currie enjoys the perks of Melbourne Town Hall, EWF 2009:

Monday, April 19, 2010


Sitting down with my rep from Hachette Publishing last week, I learnt that two new John Grisham books were slated to appear in late May, one adult title and one young adult title. Stifling a yawn, and ready to move on to making fun of the new Stephen King B-format covers, I noticed that the two books had the same title. It seemed as if Hodder & Stoughton Australia (and UK) were planning to release both an adult and YA version of the same book. Well ... no.

This is the "Adult" edition. Recommended Retail Price $32.99:

This is the "Young Adult" edition. Recommended Retail Price $25

Yep, you guessed it. Same book, different covers, different prices. Same book-buying market. Now I've got no issue with "crossover" novels per se (think The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time or The Book Thief), or even dual covers (think Harry Potter or Neil Gaiman's The Graveyard Book). The main problem for me, in this instance, is that the whole endeavor is so calculated. You see, in the US—the home of old Pelican Briefs himself—there is only going to be one version of the book. See if you can guess which market Grisham wrote it for (apart from 80s VHS-cover fanatics).

Yes, in the US, it is a KIDS' BOOK. It's abundantly clear that Hodder & Stoughton and Hachette Australia just want more market share. Pure and simple. Their press release seems to paint the idea as deeply democratic, and just giving fans what they want. But, seriously, guys, come clean.

I would rather chew off my own arm than read this book, but if you do, it's embargoed until its worldwide release on May 25. And don't forget, you've got two great choices of how much money you fork out for it. Do enjoy.

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Once upon a time, this crappy book cover ...

became this awesome book cover ...

which was trying to be like this even more awesome book cover ...

which, for some reason, is becoming this crappy book cover ...

Thursday, March 25, 2010


Discount bookshops are a hunting ground of both pleasure and pain for me, a soon-to-be-published author, and independent bookshop employee. To see all those unsold/returned/unsellable books stacked up, it tends to break your heart a bit. Still, there are reasons books end up in the discount pile. My most recent trip to Brisbane's biggest discount book graveyard reminded me of a few of them...

#1 One spin-off too many

#2 Books with coloured pages

#3 Books that don't fit on any regular bookshelf

#Books that have to be pulped once their subjects turn out to be a deeply dodgy probable rapist. Or Matthew Johns.

Monday, March 22, 2010


"Dinosaurs are great. They never die."

"This book is about Stephen Gately, from Boyzone, who is currently dead."

(Of a book of collected football chants, called Referee's a W****r!): "This one is called Referee's War."

"No really, you should order 20 copies of Cherie Blair's biography. People can't get enough of her."

"Of course that won't be the final cover."

Monday, February 8, 2010


Over at the Queensland Writers Centre's Empty Page Blog, they're "Loving the Ugly", which is not a court-ordered Community Service, but rather a peek into the private creative spaces of some Queensland writers as part of their rather wonderful Blog Tour. I agreed last month to unveil the ugly reality of my writing space, without quite realising that by the time it came to blog about it, I wouldn't actually be at home.

You, see, my ridiculously kind employers have agreed to give me a month off to finish the redrafting of my novel, which goes to print next year, but still has plenty of work to go on it yet. So I'm at my parents' place for a week, revisiting the old country, and allowing myself some uninterrupted writing time. So, suffice to say, you shan't be seeing pictures of my study back in Brisbane, but rather the picturesque writing space of a prodigal son.

This is where I started writing this morning ...

And this is where I'm writing this afternoon ...

Being home also rekindles early book memories, with an important portion of my childhood book collection still intact on a bookshelf...

And the same bookshelf holding a surprising reminder of why my novel is a mystery story ...

So not very ugly, but important pieces of why I write are buried here. And don't forget to head to The Empty Page Blog for more writing spaces by some great Queensland writers.

Monday, February 1, 2010


No post here today, but I've contributed my thoughts about the loyalties and realities of stocking small presses in bookshops over at the SPUNC (Small Press Underground Network Community) Splog. I hope it splaises some interesting splestions.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


The question you will be asked most in your life is not Who are you? It’s not What are you doing here? It’s What do you do? At every awkward dinner party, in every taxi ride, in every doctor’s surgery, this is the ice-breaker par excellence. And what do I say?

Back at university, when I wore exclusively second hand clothes, listened exclusively to Elliott Smith and read exclusively Surrealists, I would say I’m a writer. This was my identity. This was who I was.

These days, ask me and I’ll say I’m a bookseller. Perversely, today’s Chris is far closer to being what I you would consider a writer than university Chris ever was. So what has changed?

Partially, it’s the inability to answer follow-up questions like What do you write? Where can I find your books? or, my personal favourite, So, are you more Dan Brown or Harry Potter? Asking What do you write? is the single most annoying thing you can do to a writer, because it strikes at the very heart of any writer’s greatest fear: that what they do is actually impossible. Well, I use my imagination to capture reality in order to conjure it back up as a representation of the reality I just took it away from. Or, to paraphrase Adorno and Beckett: art is a desecration of silence, wishing it were possible to restore that silence.

Ever since I escaped four years of university Creative Writing classes, I have tried to approach the idea of a writing career as realistically as I can. I will not be published straight away. I will not win the Miles Franklin. I will not be invited to Peter, Paul and Siri’s for dinner. And when I say this, of course in my head I think YES I WILL YES I WILL YES I WILL.

There is a curious paradox in believing yourself to be a writer. I have spent too long on Creative Industries campuses and been to too many youth arts festivals to believe any more that simply behaving like a writer will give you literary success. Sure, you wear vintage, carry a battered Kerouac and have a kooky taste in eyewear, but do you know how to put a sentence together? It’s one thing to dress for success, but if you can’t write, you can’t write.

One thing I tell people when I’m (for some reason) asked to talk about writing is “Be the hardest working writer you know,” which is something I truly believe in. Writing is fun, yes, and it can be rock and roll and über-cool, but for the most part it is freaking hard work.

Think about it.

Here is you.

Here is a blank page.

Go to it.

Quite clearly, you need a strong belief in your skill in writing, and the application of that skill, and that does require a high level of self-confidence, but if you think you’ve already made it, then you probably haven’t. Maybe the motto should be: Think you’re the best writer in the world, but know that you’re not.

Now if you really love writing, the last thing on your mind should be making money from it but the idea of reaching a stage in your life where you can make a living just by making things up is amazing. And, more importantly, the thought of one day being able to define yourself by the thing you love doing most is not only thrilling but about as satisfying a goal as you can get.

So what am I saying, really?

My name is Chris, and I’m a writer.


Tuesday, January 12, 2010


Two book covers I very much like...

Proving that the simple way is often the best way.