Thursday, 24 November 2011

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott

You may have already read my review of the above book over at but it's worth repeating for all you lovely peeps here at May Contain Nuts.

This is - despite the cover - what were they thinking!?! - one of my favourite reads of the year so far and I suspect will make it in to the top 10 of most reviewers faves for 2011. If it doesn't, I'll eat my hair.

Anyway, what's the script? The blurby bit say this ...

"Lizzie and Evie are inseparable. They walk home from school together, have sleepovers at each other’s houses, even tease boys together. Most importantly, they have no secrets from each other.
Or at least, that’s what Lizzie thinks – until Evie goes missing and suddenly Lizzie is questioning everything she ever thought about her best friend."

Michael says this ...

There are books you rip through. There are books you savour by the page and run your hand lightly across the cover with wonder each time you set it aside, safely, for the next time. Megan Abbott has conjured up one of the latter.

The experiences of a teenage girl are far removed from those of a man approaching (cough) middle-age. Therefore I initially questioned my ability to engage and empathise with a novel narrated from the viewpoint of such a child, but thankfully I quickly set aside any misconceptions I might have had. From the first page; the first sentence, Abbott had me.

The End of Everything is a book about sisters, fathers and daughters, family and friendships, truths dripping reluctantly from the owner, but more than that, it’s a book about two young girls on the verge of discovering the confusing and heady power of their gender.

Megan Abbott has done something few of us can dream of. She’s taken everything we know about noir fiction and re-framed it in a world almost alien to the genre. She has imbued it with a command and grace that compels while meeting our expectation of entering the dark and forbidding places of the human psyche.
Each character is drawn with care and given breath with just a few well-chosen words and the prose has a dream-like, captivating quality you can’t fail to fall in love with.

This is quite frankly, wonderful stuff and I am in awe of this writer’s skill. A modern classic. Go buy it. Like, now.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Absolute Zero Cool... and the winner is...

... dah, dah, DAAAAAAH! (that's them thar trumpets, people.)

Gill Stewart, come on down. Or, send me an email with your postal address so I can send you the signed copy of Declan Burke's piece of literary class.

(You have my email address?)

For the rest of you, abject apologies. And you really should go HERE and HERE  to see what you've missed.


Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Absolute Zero Cool - Win a Copy!

The time has now run out to vote for Declan Burke’s (simply wonderful) Absolute Zero Cool in the Irish Book Awards.

This is a novel of extraordinary skill that is eliciting nothing but praise from the great and the good in literature.

Ken Bruen has this to say – “ AZC is unlike anything else you’ll read this year ... laugh-out-loud funny ...this is writing at its dazzling, cleverest zenith. Think John Fowles, via Paul Auster and Rolling Stone ... a feat of extraordinary alchemy.”

And the good news for you lucky readers of May Contain Nuts is that I have a free, signed copy to give 

How do you win this much sought after item? Just leave a message and tell me your favourite read of the year and why.


Monday, 14 November 2011

A Pittance of Time

Many thanks to my buddy, Rab (aka Numptyheid) who alerted me to this video/ song following my mini-rantette about intolerance the other day.

HERE's a link to a website that gives you more detail.


Friday, 11 November 2011

Pause to remember ...

Disappearing With a Tie

He puts a tie on to read his papers.
Checks the knot in his hall mirror and then
does his National Service quick-march
down to the library where he leans over the broadsheet,
elbows of his jacket secured with extra padding.

It’s warmer here in the bucket seats, he might say
should you ask. And there’s company of a sort,
although everyone obeys the rule and no one speaks.
A nod to the familiar is sufficient. And maybe
a twitch of a smile on a good day.

I don’t know, he might say
should you ask what he’s looking for.
But finds himself pulled to the casualties.
The role-call of young lives severed
in the war of I am More Right Than You Are.

I know this, he might say should you ask,
the past is locked into the present,
holding the future to ransom
and the weapons may change
but the blood
slick on a different patch of earth,
stains just the same.

Michael Malone

Thursday, 10 November 2011

What price tolerance?

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
(John McCrae)

Here in the UK and many other parts of the world, mid-November becomes a time to remember our war-dead by pinning a poppy on to our clothing. (Apparently the British Legion send 3 million of them around the globe and sell upwards of 45 million in the UK, earning the charity around £40M)

The poppy has become a powerful symbol of remembrance and a hopeful prayer for peace. And you know what - it ticks me off when I hear people complaining that some people don’t wear one, or that they don’t wear it for enough days, or that they wear it too early, or that the one that is sold isn’t botanically correct, or even that the angle of the leaf should be worn at a different angle.

We even have a newsreader, John Snow who objected to, what he called “poppy fascism” and reserved the right to wear his poppy only on Remembrance Day – and caused a stushie (this is a crackin’ Scots word meaning a fuss) throughout the country.

And so a symbol of peace and hope becomes an article that people bitch and complain about. What happened to tolerance? I know it’s a matter of degree, but it’s this very type of human behaviour – I’m right and you’re fuckin’ wrong – that causes strife in the first place.

We’re all different, we all hold different views and we all have a human right to continue to do so. Those who want to come together in this way and show a strength of community and purpose – go in peace. And hope. Those who want to remember in their own way, or even not at all – go in peace. And hope.

As the Dalai Lama said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Enough of the bickering.

Right, that’s me off my soapbox.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Blasted Heath

Innovations continue apace in the world of publishing. One of the most interesting I’ve come across recently is down to the first Scottish e-publisher: BLASTED HEATH.

This is the creation of uber agent, crime writer and good guy, Allan Guthrie with his mucker, social media expert (whatever that is) Kyle McRae. They have launched with five titles – including Dead Money by Ray Banks, and The Man in the Seventh Row, a debut novel by Edinburgh journalist Brian Pendreigh.

So far, so commendable – and this is where it gets interesting.

Blasted Heath have come up with a boxed set of all five books in three file formats on a branded USB stick in a gift presentation pack. The whole thing is about the size of a tobacco tin and comes complete with fold-out cards describing the accompanying books. Genius or what? I hope this can be patented cos I see this being copied big time.

The USB stick costs £12.99, and at the moment (as far as I can see) it is only available on mail order from their website,, but there’s been interest from independent bookshops. There are discounts on the website this weekend. See what you can pick up as taster. 

You can thank me later.


Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Vote for Absolute Zero Cool by Declan Burke

Friend of this blog, all-round good guy and fantastic author, Declan Burke has his book shortlisted on the 2011 Irish Book Awards.

The blurb?

Absolute Zero Cool is a post-modern take on the crime thriller genre. Adrift in the half-life limbo of an unpublished novel, hospital porter Billy needs to up the stakes. Euthanasia simply isn't shocking anymore; would blowing up his hospital be enough to see Billy published, or be damned? What follows is a gripping tale that subverts the crime genre's grand tradition of liberal sadism, a novel that both excites and disturbs in equal measure. Absolute Zero Cool is not only an example of Irish crime writing at its best; it is an innovative, self-reflexive piece that turns every convention of crime fiction on its head. Declan Burke's latest book is an imaginative story that explores the human mind's ability to both create and destroy, with equally devastating effects.

I had the pleasure of reading this book in draft form and this is a quote from the email I sent to Declan after I read it ...

"I think you have an amazing book here. I'm totally in awe of your ability to craft a sentence. It's a brave book, both in context and content. It has brains, wit and heart and the ending was pitch-perfect. Gave me a wee lump in my throat. This has got cult classic written all over it.

Why "cult"? The aforementioned brains. Sadly - and I'm certain you're aware of this - not everyone is going to get it. And this is the only constructive criticism I can offer. Some people - and this is not my opinion - might see the "brains" part as being self-indulgent - but fuck 'em - I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of it. Made me pause and consider what you were saying. Made me think of my own life in places and as a writer you can't have more power than that. You managed to philosophise without lecturing your reader and your observations were incisive and absolutely on the button.

This deserves plaudits. I sincerely hope you get them."

And by jove, the plaudits arrived by the bucketload. The great and the good of crime fiction are queuing up to praise this book.

You can vote for Declan here

And if you haven't yet read the book, you can get it from all the usual suspects or You can buy the book here.