Two of my absolute favourite books from the hellmouth of a year that was 2020 were The Phlebotomist by Chris Panatier and Captain Moxley and the Embers of Empire by Dan Hanks.
Apart the books being engrossing reads that told their stories superbly well and with great imagination and intelligence (and in the case of Captain Moxley, a lot of Romancing the Stone-esque fun), the two authors who gave birth to these wonderful novels are incredibly nice people too.
So boxes ticked all around right? Right.
All of which makes the fact that they have new books coming in the next year or so are a week-lifting delight, the kind of news that assures me that even though the vaccine rollout in Australia is proceeding so slowly I will be able to return a full semblance of my pre-2020 life around 2025, that there’s lots to look forward to.
First up is Chris Panatier’s second novel Stringers, which will be published by Angry Robot Books, as was The Phlebotomist, and which has a synopsis that goes something like this (OK exactly like this but that hardly sounds quite as cadence-rich now does it?) …
“Ben isn’t a genius, but his brain is overflowing. Whether it’s natural science (mainly the intricacies of bug sex), or vintage timepieces, he can spout facts and information with the best of experts. He just can’t explain why he knows any of it.
When Ben is abducted by a loquacious intergalactic bounty hunter, he learns that his knowledge isn’t a fluke. He’s a Stringer—someone who can glimpse into the past lives of those who occupied the same thread of consciousness. And in addition to beetle nookie and grandpa’s watch collection, he knows something that a certain alien species would kill to get their appendages on: the location of the Chime. What it is, he couldn’t tell you. But he soon begins to learn that for some, the Chime means deliverance; for others, it would mean their destruction.
With the help of a group of escaped fellow stringers who might also be trying to murder him, Ben vows to find the Chime for himself – before it can be used to wipe out the galaxy, and everyone in it.” (courtesy chrispanatier.com)
Writing on his blog, Chris explained the sale and eventual publication of Stringers comes with one big salutary lesson.
“Several months back, my agent (Hannah Fergesen at KT Literary) and I went through the stack of partial novels I’d written over the years to figure out which of them to pitch to Angry Robot as a second book. This, of course, was a reinforcing lesson in Never Delete Anything because the story Hannah figured we should go with was one I’d started in 2017 but shelved in order to write The Phlebotomist, which ended up being my debut!
“It had a good premise and about 120 so-so pages. We reworked the first three chapters, smoothed out the story arc, and pitched it [and] Angry Robot bought it!” (chrispanatier.com)
Stringers comes out in the northern spring 2022 (autumn in the good old southern hemisphere)
Dan Hanks, who describes himself as “a writer, editor, and vastly overqualified archaeologist”, also has a second book coming out titled Swashbucklers, also from Angry Robot Books as it turns out (who have one of the best Twitter accounts around!) and which has a snazzy synopsis too, all the better to convince to buy it, which of course, if you have any sense at all, you will do …
“When Cisco Collins returns to his home town thirty years after saving it from being swallowed by a hell mouth opened by an ancient pirate ghost, he realises that being a childhood hero isn’t like it was in the movies. Especially when nobody remembers the heroic bits—even the friends who once fought alongside him.
Struggling with single parenting and treated as a bit of a joke, Cisco isn’t really in the Christmas spirit like everyone else. A fact that’s made worse by the tendrils of the pirate’s powers creeping back into our world and people beginning to die in bizarre ways.
With the help of a talking fox, an enchanted forest, a long-lost friend haunting his dreams, and some 80s video game consoles turned into weapons, Cisco must now convince his friends to once again help him save the day. Yet they quickly discover that being a ghostbusting hero is so much easier when you don’t have school runs, parent evenings, and nativity plays to attend. And even in the middle of a supernatural battle, you always need to bring snacks and wipes …” (synopsis courtesy Tor.com)
Is this a book worth getting excited about? Yes, of course, and as you might expect, both Hanks and Angry Robot Books are rather thrilled at the idea of Swashbucklers seeing the light of literary day.
“I’m super excited about this book, because if my first was all about my love for Indiana Jones, this one covers literally everything else I’ve ever enjoyed. All the pop culture and folklore and horror I grew up on, genre-mashed into a fictional version of my hometown—with the added excitement of it being set at Christmas. They say to write what you love and I can honestly say this is the most fun I’ve had writing anything. I’m so thrilled it found its perfect home with Angry Robot and can’t wait for everyone to read it.” (Dan Hanks)
“We first fell in love with Dan Hanks’ characters with Captain Moxley and now we’re delighted to have a whole new cast in Swashbucklers. Dan’s writing is so pulpy and fun, and this one is especially nostalgic. Don’t we all wish we could be the heroes in our own story?” (Eleanor Teasdale, Commissioning Editor of Angry Robot)
Both quotes come courtesy of Tor.com
Swashbucklers comes out on 9 November this year.