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Book Review: Cities Of The Dead by Sion Smith

CITIES POCKET COVER.indd

I’ve never read any Jack Kerouac but if I did, I imagine it might be a bit like Sion Smith’s CITIES OF THE DEAD. Beat Poetry, to me, sounds like a sort of noirish slam on regular poetry and that’s kind of what’s going on in this book. It’s like hard-boiled travel writing. Like the author, Sion Smith, has captured the true feelings of the various cities he visits – their hopes and fears and dirty secrets – and he’s telling us about it in a language we can all understand.

It’s like that bloke, Jonathan Pie, who does the satire news reader thing, you know the one. He’s on Youtube and he’ll deliver the news like it’s usually delivered and then it cuts to his ‘off camera’ rant where he tells you what he really thinks. CITIES is like that, in a way: the bits of the travel guide that Smith put together after hours in his dimly lit hotel room – banged out on an old typewriter, cigarette dangling from his lips.

It’s primarily historical figures Smith’s interested in with the cities he visits – dead people – but always from a completely fresh angle, again digging deeper than what’s in your average guide. And then there’s the living characters he meets along the way – damaged people who seem, at least to me, somewhat dead themselves, ghostly and ethereal in their interactions.

CITIES OF THE DEAD is the elegant, accessible and emotionally engaging story of a man on a different type of journey. And it’s one which the reader can feel part of, too. So, grab your hat and climb on board – it’s going to be a rocky ride but, trust me, well worth it in the end.

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Sion Smith’s Beautiful Creatures

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‘Which brings me to a pet hate that is worth a mention. Computer Generated Imagery – known to all as CGI. It’s very, very boring. You have been sold a damp firework on this front. It has no part in the creation of monsters and I can’t recall a CGI creature that has ever been of value to the world. Ford would roll in his grave.’
 
Sion Smith‘s first instalment of his Beautiful Creatures series gives CGI the boot while lauding the delightfully authentic artwork of Henry Justice Ford. You can read it now over at The Serpents Of Bienville blog. 

Retro Reading…

Been on a bit of an old-school kick with some of my reading. Grabbed some old annuals from the local charity shop, namely a 1979 BATTLE and ’91 GI JOE. I used to devour this stuff when I was a lad and it’s fun to dip back in, wryly laugh at all the politically incorrect language and senseless violence that the kids of today (or their parents at the very least) might frown upon.

Likewise with the magazines I’m reading. The last three I picked up were from e-bay; two issues of KERRANG! (’85 and ’88 respectively) and an ’87 METAL HAMMER. Here’s some of the characters you’re gonna find in there…

robert sweet yngwie kerrang Showing your age if you can identify those two gents…

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It’s my party and I’ll release a new book if I want to…

So, two things going on today.

One: I’ve officially entered mid-life crisis territory.

Two: I’ve released a surprise novella!

We’ll not dwell too much on the former, but the latter? Well, that’s something I do want to talk about. New book’s called THE GIRL IN THE BASEMENT and it’s a crime/ horror hybrid about a young goth girl called Kayley who… well… ends up in a basement. You can grab it now on all e-reader devices for the paltry sum of 77p.

(That’s 99c for our friends in the US).

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BOOK REVIEW: THE ETERNITY RING BY SION SMITH

7974864 The BLURB:

The Eternity Ring is a tale of a twelve year boy who grows up under the influence of a man he fleetingly met only once – but why should a meeting that hardly even happened influence every single day of an entire life? Maybe all you have to do is live long enough to find out.

 

THE REVIEW:

One of my favourite reads from school was CIDRE WITH ROSIE by Laurie Lee, a vivacious memoir of a young boy’s life. I was an incredibly imaginative lad, for better and for worse, and Lee’s magical account of  his War era childhood, and the characters that punctuated such, very much resonated with me.  Sion Smith’s THE ETERNITY RING has a lot in common with Lee’s memoir both in terms of tone and style.

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The story follows its narrator, an average boy who becomes obsessed by crows after witnessing something quite fantastical, involving the birds, down by the lake close to where he lives. We follow the boy through to manhood and eventually old age, the birds never far from view. And just like with CIDRE, the seemingly ordinary becomes extraordinary when seen through the narrator’s eyes.

There’s a magical sway to this story, the crows taking on an almost shamanic quality after our protagonist has them tattooed onto his skin. The events that transpire thereafter could be interpreted as supernatural. And yet despite this fact, with an accessible writing style, and working class protagonist, Smith succeeds in keeping the story quite grounded.

I read THE ETERNITY RING in one sitting. It’s an enigmatic and engaging book that you’ll find hard-pushed to put down once you start. There’s a dark fairy tale quality about the novella that I really enjoyed. And just like all good fairy tales, its resolution proves both satisfying and mystifying all at once.

THE ETERNITY RING is available now through all good e-retailers.