“The disappearance of mermaids in our own time is ascribed to the warming oceans, pollution, overfishing of the species upon which mermaids subsisted, accidental capture by fishing fleets or some combination of these factors.” – Aaron Thier
Balloon night

Balloon night

Timkin’s wife left him during a blisteringly cold Thanksgiving week, two nights before their annual Balloon Night party. There was no time for Timkin to call their guests and cancel; nor would he know where to call in many cases. It was the sort of event attended by people from...
Here be sea monsters

Here be sea monsters

In the year 1560, near the island of Mannar on the west coast of what was then Ceylon, a group of Dutch fishermen caught seven mermaids and seven tritons. By some marvellous chance, the personal physician to the Viceroy of Goa was on board the vessel at the time of...
Nikesh Shukla: Superhumour

Nikesh Shukla: Superhumour

Meatspace is the second novel from Costa First Novel Award shortlisted author Nikesh Shukla. It follows Kitab Balasubramanyam (‘Kit’ for short) as he deals with heartbreak, unemployment and an online namesake-turned-stalker. When Aziz, Kit’s brother and flatmate, leaves him to track down his doppelgänger in America, Kit finds it harder...
This scatter must be gathered

This scatter must be gathered

On the night of 8 June 2014, a pack of ten terrorists raided Karachi airport. They were well trained and equipped with an arsenal of grenades, suicide vests, a rocket launcher and automatic weapons. They broke through the airport security guised as security personnel. As the attack unfolded, I sat...
On destiny

On destiny

As prestigious as he is chaste, a certain person called P likes abstract art, chamber music and Petrarchian poetry. He has devoted two-thirds of his life to a rigorous study of the arts; the remaining third, to dreaming about them. Scrupulousness and serenity are the hallmarks of P’s domestic existence....
Claudine

Claudine

On a warm night in May I went out to do karaoke at a tiny bar downtown. Because it was a weeknight I left early, just past midnight. It was too early and too nice out to justify taking a cab. A limo sprouting bachelorettes from its roof passed me,...
Damaged hero

Damaged hero

Based on Jussi Adler-Olsen’s award-winning novel Mercy, the first in the bestselling Department Q crime fiction series, The Keeper of Lost Causes is a powerful and gripping thriller starring Nicolaj Lie Kaas (The Killing), Sonja Richter (The Homesman) and Fares Fares (Zero Dark Thirty, Safe House). Carl Mørck (Kaas) is...
Biblio bibelots

Biblio bibelots

Patricia Ferguson’s gripping and life-affirming new novel Aren’t We Sisters?, the sequel to The Midwife’s Daughter, examines the transformative power of buried secrets, unlikely friendships and unexpected connections among three women in the fictional Cornish town of Silkhampton, where a killer is on the prowl… She shares her literary trinkets....
The body speaks

The body speaks

The girl on the TV screen is smiling, nervously. She’s talking about all the things she used to do: art class, cheerleading. “I was always so active,” she says. And then you see something’s wrong, her words halting, her head jerking. “Everyone was always so happy to be around me.”...
Lightning strikes

Lightning strikes

I don’t remember a time when I was not spinning tales of one kind or another. In long arduous sermons I’d cover my notebook in handwriting so cramped I never knew later who or what I’d conjured up; and lying in my bunk bed with my sister restless above me...
Derealization

Derealization

David Bezmozgis’ latest novel The Betrayers is a powerful study of the nature of principles and loyalty, relating the events of a single momentous day in the life of a disgraced Israeli politician and former Soviet dissident who refuses to back down from a contrary stand over the West Bank. We peek...
Reading and righting

Reading and righting

Ben Ambridge’s Psy-Q is a mind-bending miscellany of psychometric puzzles, quizzes, jokes and visual illusions that help us to understand and appreciate the workings – and occasional failings – of the human brain. Topics include whether eye colour denotes trustworthiness, if Rorschach’s famous inkblot tests really work, what your musical preferences...
An instinct to play

An instinct to play

  Very few species of animal habitually play after they are adult; they are concerned with eating, sleeping or procreating, or with the means to one or other of those ends. But otters are one of the few exceptions to this rule; right through their lives they spend much of...
Latest entries
Breece D’J Pancake: ‘Trilobites’

Breece D’J Pancake: ‘Trilobites’

Breece D’J Pancake is a legend amongst some of my writing friends – but, like any artist dying young, his legacy is coloured by the shadow of the great work that he could have gone on to create. Once you have read his only collection of stories, published posthumously in 1983, you will most likely,...
Murder symptoms

Murder symptoms

I dreamt last night that I was a child and alone at home, feeling sick. I kept on vomiting, and there was no one to help me. Distressing. I did actually find myself in this situation several times, after my mother died. Domestics never lasted more than a year at our place – my father...
Be how it begin

Be how it begin

The Country of Ice Cream Star began with the idea of a world in which people only live to be 18–19 years old. I don’t know where that idea came from. There are other similar themes in literature, but I wasn’t consciously thinking of them. The idea seemed rather like it was always waiting in...
Abracadabra!

Abracadabra!

Neil Bartlett’s The Disappearance Boy is a dark tale of lost and found love and fading glamour behind the velvet curtains of 1950s variety theatre, in which magician’s assistant Reggie Rainbow does his best to keep his own thoughts and actions out of sight and mind by sleight of hand. Neil discusses his writing rituals...
Stay flexible

Stay flexible

The acclaimed New Wave Caribbean novelist and writing tutor shares her top ten tips for keeping the creative juices flowing. 1. Perfectionism is anti-creative. Get used to the notion of drafting your work, trying things out and making creative decisions on a regular basis. 2. The quality of attention to detail is the measure of...
No subject

No subject

It was only a couple of months ago. She was at the office settling in at her desk when she noticed ‘No Subject’ waiting in her email. It seemed strange for her aunt, a notorious perfectionist, to have left the subject line blank. She guessed it had something to do with her father, whose sixtieth birthday...
Grounded and up in the air

Grounded and up in the air

Greg Baxter’s tense and gripping psychological thriller Munich Airport sees an American expat whose sister’s body has been found in mysterious circumstances marooned by bad weather in the titular airport with his irascible father and a sympathetic American Consulate official who is trying to help discover the cause of death. He tells us about his...
A mother ago

A mother ago

I entered the hospital filled with hatred and wanting to give thanks. How fragile is anger. We could shout, hit or spit at a stranger. The same person whom, depending on their verdict, depending on whether they tell us what we are desperate to hear, we would suddenly admire, embrace, swear loyalty to. And that...
Swarms and sorrows

Swarms and sorrows

He frequently took me on trips with him when the war was over and he meticulously documented what I call the congealing, the great levelling, in all respects after the ravages and the euphoria of peace. The smoothing-over of the tormented earth. The cemeteries where the fallen were gradually put in straighter and straighter ranks,...
Setting sail

Setting sail

Your debut novel has been published for a week and it’s the day after the launch party. A landmark day. A time to take a moment, unpack your snack box and admire the view. The Sunday Times have made Close To the Wind their Children’s Book of the Week and that’s a great slot, a...