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The Literary Saloon Archive

1 - 10 November 2014

1 November: Glas suspends activities | Rosa Liksom's locales
2 November: November Words without Borders | Profiles: Nakamura Fuminori - Intizar Husain
3 November: Rare Book School | 'This prize is narrow-minded' | The Republic of Užupis review
4 November: Juan Goytisolo Q & A | Poetry: 'The Translation Issue' | Palace of Books review
5 November: Honoring Arno Schmidt at 100 | Murakami profile | Prix Médicis | Martin Chalmers (1948-2014)
6 November: French prizes: Prix Goncourt - Prix Renaudot | Karl Ove Knausgaard Q & A | Laureate for Irish Fiction nominees
7 November: David Bellos Q & A | Europa bestsellers | Patrick Modiano reviews
8 November: Independent Foreign Fiction Prize judging panel | Etisalat Prize for Literature finalists | Patrick White Literary Award
9 November: Murakami picks up Welt-Literaturpreis | Avelum review
10 November: New old Georges Perec novel | Daphne Awards | Self-publishing Arno Schmidt

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10 November 2014 - Monday

New old Georges Perec novel | Daphne Awards
Self-publishing Arno Schmidt

       New old Georges Perec novel

       In The Guardian Georges Perec-biographer David Bellos explains How Georges Perec's lost first novel has finally come to be published as Perec's Portrait of a Man is now coming out in English (well, in the UK; American readers will have to be patient until next year ...).
       Who would have thought that Perec would be out-Bolañoing Roberto Bolaño as far as posthumous publications go, but this comes hot on the heels of the first English publication of his classic I Remember -- good times indeed for fans (and who isn't ?).
       See the publicity pages for Portrait of a Man from MacLehose Press and the University of Chicago Press, or get your copy at (or pre-order your copy at

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Daphne Awards

       They've held the first Daphne Awards -- a great idea, reassessing the best books of 50 years ago (1963, for this first go) -- and they've now announced the winners.
       The fiction prize went to the eminently worthy The Ice Palace, by Tarjei Vesaas -- yes, a (very rare) top-rated book hereabouts.
       Much as I love it (and I do, it's a beautiful book), however, I think that fifty years on it's hard to put it ahead of Julio Cortázar's (equally highly rated, hereabouts) Hopscotch which, I'd argue, is probably one of maybe the dozen most influential (and 'significant') works of fiction written in the second half of the twentieth century. Mind you, I'm talking influence, which isn't the same as quality, but in this case it comes on top of it being just a great work. Yes, nice that Vesaas' much quieter work gets some recognition (it's in print, but doesn't get nearly the attention/love it should), but Hopscotch was the book of the year.
       (I'm talking fiction here because ... well, what else is worth talking about ? But they did award prizes in several other categories as well -- Akhmatova. Primo Levi, sure, good stuff too).

       Jessa Crispin, whose conceived the awards, also comments at Bookslut -- though I have to admit I really don't get where she's coming from in claiming about the "post-1945 era in literature", that:
The names that we associate most strongly with that era -- Mailer, Roth, Updike, etc -- are all of this macho pose, this high masculinity. They dominate our view of what the post-war novel is supposed to be, and everything else kind of hides in their shadow.
       Admittedly, I'm not very worldly, but: not in any world I know. (Though I suppose there might be some university seminars where this is the prevailing wisdom/party line.)
       (Also: how relevant is this in this context ? By 1963 Roth had published all of two novels, and Updike three (and surely neither had really entered their full 'macho pose'-phases yet (long though those then extended ...); they had barely made any impact on even just the American world of letters, much less the larger, lasting one.)
       Besides, I'd worry about (or rather, simply ignore) anyone who thinks the novel -- even in a specific period or era -- "is supposed to be" any particular way or thing. That's the wonderful thing about fiction: anything goes, and any way can be the right way (even, occasionally, Roth's and Updike's (yeah, even I have my doubts about Mailer)).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Self-publishing Arno Schmidt

       As I mentioned last week, I've released a little book, Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy. (I hesitate to say 'published' because it's not yet widely available via many distributors (currently only in Kindle-form ( (US), (UK), and any other Amazon you care to buy from), in print from (here), and as an ePub from (here)), so so far it's been a very soft launch.)
       My main reason for writing it was because there was essentially no English-language coverage of the Schmidt-centennial this year, and because he's an author deserving more attention; it's gratifying to see that there does seem to be some interest in him and in this -- seventeen copies sold in less than a week, to readers in the US, UK, and Germany, which considerably exceeds my early expectations. Maybe there is hope yet, of bringing Schmidt ... if not into the mainstream (a tall order) at least the busier periphery.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

9 November 2014 - Sunday

Murakami picks up Welt-Literaturpreis | Avelum review

       Murakami picks up Welt-Literaturpreis

       Not quite the Nobel, either cash- or prestige-wise (but, hey, Philip Roth did win it (2009) -- albeit six years after ... Jeffrey Eugenides), but the Welt-Literaturpreis has a decent list of winners (Kertész Imre, Jonathan Franzen, the obligatory Amos Oz) and this year they gave it to Murakami Haruki, who got to pick it up a couple of days ago.
       With Clemens J. Setz (whose Indigo is just out in English; get your copy at or giving the laudatio, and surprise guest Patti Smith playing three songs it sounds like it wasn't bad for an awards-show. Murakami's speech isn't online yet, but The Japan Times, for example, reports that Novelist Murakami hails Hong Kong democracy protesters in German award speech.
       Meanwhile in Die Welt Richard Kämmerlings has a long (German) Q & A with Murakami -- fairly interesting, once you get past the ridiculous lede that explains: 'Haruki Murakami doesn't like giving interviews' (which makes everyone involved -- interviewer, interviewee, reader -- sound like a chump).

       (Updated - 11 November): See now also the (German translation) of Murakami's acceptance speech.

       (Updated - 23 November): See now also the English translation of Murakami's acceptance speech, Racing to Checkpoint Charlie -- my memories of the Berlin Wall.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Avelum review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Otar Chiladze's 1995 novel, Avelum: A Survey of the Current Press and a Few Love Affairs, which came out in Donald Rayfield's translation from Garnett Press last year.
       With Georgia set to be 'guest of honour' at the Frankfurt Book Fair in 2018 more literary attention should be coming their way -- and Chiladze is one of the twentieth century Georgian greats. Garnett has also published his A Man was Going Down the Road (which I have and should be getting to as well) -- a book that's coming out in German shortly, in a pretty cool looking edition (and, honestly, with a better title -- see the Matthes & Seitz Berlin publicity page).
       Meanwhile, of course, Dalkey Archive Press is building up a nice little Georgian Literature Series -- and among their forthcoming titles is another Rayfield translation, the fun-sounding Kvachi by Mikheil Javakhishvili; see their publicity page, or get your copy at or

       Odd coincidence: this is the second book this month I've read which mentions Hélène Carrère d'Encausse. Okay, the previous one was her son's book (Limonov) -- but what are the chances of coming across a second work of fiction in which she gets name-checked within a month ?

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

8 November 2014 - Saturday

Independent Foreign Fiction Prize judging panel
Etisalat Prize for Literature finalists | Patrick White Literary Award

       Independent Foreign Fiction Prize judging panel

       They've announced the judging panel for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize: Rosie Goldsmith, Antonia Lloyd Jones, Richard Mansell, Helen Oyeyemi, and Boyd Tonkin.
       The longlist for this, the best-known UK translation award, will be announced in March.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Etisalat Prize for Literature finalists

       The've announced the nine finalists for the Etisalat Prize for Literature; see, for example, South Africans Dominate the Longlist for 2014 Etisalat Prize for Literature at the Books Live weblog.
       The official press release notes this: "is the first pan-African prize that is open solely to debut fiction writers of African citizenship and poised to become one of Africa's most prestigious literary prizes for African fiction". Alas, for all that pan-Africanism it is, unfortunately, a monoglot prize on a continent that is decidedly not.
       Still, admirable in many ways -- especially in their support for the authors and books, as the (three) shortlisted authors: "will have 1,000 copies of their books purchased by Etisalat and go on a multi-city sponsored tour will be announced on the 8th of December 2014".

       (While I admire their ambition: "to become one of Africa's most prestigious literary prizes for African fiction" I note that the Etisalat site suggests: "Visit for updates and more information" -- which sounds promising but isn't. Maybe a bit more effort ?)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Patrick White Literary Award

       They've announced that 'Brian Castro is the 2014 recipient of the Patrick White Literary Award' -- "traditionally awarded to authors who 'have made a significant but inadequately recognised contribution to Australian literature'". (White endowed it with his Nobel-winnings.)
       Castro is certainly 'inadequately recognised' outside Australia; maybe this will help bring a bit of attention to his work even in the US/UK.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

7 November 2014 - Friday

David Bellos Q & A | Europa bestsellers
Patrick Modiano reviews

       David Bellos Q & A

       At the Wall Street Journal's Speakeasy weblog Eben Shapiro has a Q & A with David Bellos, The Art of Translation.
       He offers some advice:
I would not urge anyone to take up translation as a career if they don’t have a passion to pursue alongside a taste for exploring their own language. Given the low pay and paltry recognition that translators usually get, it’s not a very rational career option.
       His translation of Ismail Kadare's Twilight of the Eastern Gods is just out in the US.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Europa bestsellers

       In Publishers Weekly Europa Editions-publisher Kent Carroll 'considers what a small press needs to break out an author' in The Advent of a Bestseller, looking at their recent Elena Ferrante success -- an author they've stuck with (the first Ferrante I reviewed was back in 2005) and who has now broken out very impressively.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Patrick Modiano reviews

       Yale University Press is bringing out the first new translation of book(s) by Patrick Modiano -- a collection of three novellas first published in French between 1988 and 1993, Suspended Sentences -- since the announcement of the Nobel Prize, and my reviews are now up -- reviews, plural, because I reviewed the individual titles separately:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

6 November 2014 - Thursday

French prizes: Prix Goncourt - Prix Renaudot
Karl Ove Knausgaard Q & A | Laureate for Irish Fiction nominees

       French prize: Prix Goncourt

       Pas pleurer, by Lydie Salvayre, has been awarded this year's prix Goncourt, the biggest (prestige-wise) of all the French literary prizes, beating out Meursault, contre-enquête by Kamel Daoud five votes to four (or six to four ? as some reports have it) in the fifth round of voting. See also the Seuil publicity page; MacLehose plan to publish it in English in 2016.
       While the prize money is truly trivial ("Le montant de son prix est de 10 euro") the cash rewards are big: as Le Figaro reports they're going for a 250,000 printing (after having only put 22,000 in circulation pre-prize) and figure they might get to near half a million in sales .....

       Quite a bit (though still only a fraction of the total ...) by Salvayre has been translated into English -- and all of those titles are under review at the complete review:
(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       French prize: Prix Renaudot

       Second-fiddle to the Goncourt, but still prestigious, the prix Renaudot has gone to Charlotte by David Foenkinos.
       I haven't sen this, so I probably should reserve judgment, but ... sheesh. See also the Gallimard publicity page.
       Le Figaro reports that even before the prize it had been, with 56,600 copies sold, the third-biggest of this year's 'rentrée'-releases, behind Le Royaume by Emmanuel Carrère and Pétronille by Amélie Nothomb

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Karl Ove Knausgaard Q & A

       At Hazlitt Kyle Buckley has 'The Novel is Like a Room' -- an Interview with Karl Ove Knausgaard
       The My Struggle-author makes the completely devastating reveal:
A Time for Everything was so important because for the first time I am sort of free, in construction, writing, in what a novel should be. In the original Norwegian it starts with an essay, it's a 40-page essay on angels [...] The beginning of A Time was changed in the English version -- my editor said it is impossible, I have to start with a little story. And so we changed that. But this is what I want to do. That's where I want to be in my novels.
       [Yes, those anguished howls of outrage you hear in the background, that's me, weeping, weeping at the state of US/UK publishing and its lack of faith in readers (in you !), especially when it comes to writing that's foreign and translated and different, and the sins 'editors' commit against literature.]
       Amusing, however, to hear that:
I wrote a book about the World Cup this summer, with a friend. We wrote 500 pages and I wrote a lot about my love for football.
       That's apparently a Norwegian literary tradition -- recall the great Dag Solstad's World Cup books !

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Laureate for Irish Fiction nominees

       They're picking a 'Laureate for Irish Fiction' for the first time -- a gig that will pay "a total of €150,000 over the three years" -- and the 119 submissions yielded a list 34 nominations.
       The cream of the Irish crop ? Did they miss anyone ?
       The first laureate will be announced in January.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

5 November 2014 - Wednesday

Honoring Arno Schmidt at 100
Murakami profile | Prix Médicis | Martin Chalmers (1948-2014)

       Honoring Arno Schmidt at 100

       It's a good year for author-centenaries: Tove Jansson, Julio Cortázar, William S. Burroughs, among others. Among them also: Arno Schmidt, whose birthday was 18 January.
       Shockingly, his centenary passed pretty much unnoticed in the US/UK media -- and, it seems, by the reading public. This despite much of his work being available in English -- Dalkey Archive Press have published four beautiful volumes of his fiction, Green Integer another three volumes of fiction and dialogues. But when I most recently visited New York's Strand bookstore his books weren't displayed on a special counter or altar; rather multiple copies of each of the Dalkey volumes sadly filled more than half a shelf in the alphabetical-section, deeply discounted ($5.95 and $6.95 each -- seriously, folks, snap these up).
       What to do ? I reacted the only way I could think of: I wrote a book. A Literary Saloon dialogue (yes, very much like the original Schmidt-inspired ones): Arno Schmidt: a centennial colloquy. A brief (100-page) helpful introduction and entertaining literary conversation -- that's what I hope, anyway.
       Book/literature-obsessed like few others (Nabokov at least had his butterflies as distraction ...), Schmidt is a fascinating subject -- for those fascinated by the literary. And his work reflects that -- and I think my little not-quite-monograph conveys all that well (and entertainingly). Not surprisingly, it also wound up being, in its discussion-form, bigger than just Schmidt: it's more generally about literature, about reading, about writing. (And, of course, it's a little bit about me, too -- and if you enjoy this Literary Saloon you'll likely enjoy a visit to that one too, regardless of just how great your interest in Schmidt is.)

       This is the 'soft' launch: for now it's available only in Kindle-form ( (US), (UK), and any other Amazon you care to buy from), in print from (here), and as an ePub from (here); additional distribution channels (iBooks, etc) should follow over the coming weeks.

       I am curious as to how much interest there will be in this self-published work. My ambition is to sell fifty copies (in all formats) over the next year -- with the (I believe very reasonable) hope of selling an additional hundred if/when John E. Woods' translation of Zettel's Traum (Bottom's Dream) comes out. (There should be sufficient media-interest at that point that folks will come looking for Schmidt-background information, and, honestly, this is (and likely will remain, in the foreseeable future) the most useful summary-volume you'll be able to get your hands on in English).
       (I suppose it would have also been 'commercially' publishable, but there's a lot to be said for having done it all myself. (Whereby, like Schmidt, it's the finished printed book that is the 'definitive' version -- i.e. my vision of the text. The e-versions are fine, but they're e-versions ... -- if readers can change the font-size (you can; it's not the dreaded pdf format ...) that limits how much I-as-author could tailor the text to my aesthetic vision -- so with the e-versions I'm satisfied with basic functionality (done) over aesthetics (yeah .. not so much done). On the other hand, the e-versions did allow me to embed some hyperlinks, which is sort of neat and useful.)
       'Commercial' publication would probably make getting the book into libraries (which should have copies, at least if they have any Schmidt in their holdings) and the like easier, but otherwise the distribution-advantages don't seem that great: this isn't a title that's likely to find a place in your local (if there still is one ...) Barnes & Noble. However, while for now it's still early days -- like I said: soft launch so far; 'official' publication to follow in a few weeks' time -- any bookstore that is interested in carrying it should certainly feel free to contact me. And translation rights are also still available. All of them.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Murakami profile

       Murakami Haruki -- who will pick up his not-quite-the-Nobel Welt-Literaturpreis (laudatio: Clemens J. Setz !) on Friday -- is profiled by Tim Martin in The Telegraph:
"In America, or in Europe," he says apologetically, "people say my writing is kind of postmodernism, or magical realism. But I'm not interested in those kind of things. I'm not a great reader of Thomas Pynchon or so-called postmodernist writers."
       The Strange Library is due out in almost exactly four weeks.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Prix Médicis

       The day before the Goncourt anouncement, they announced the prix Médicis-winners, with Antoine Volodine winning the fiction category for Terminus radieux (see the Seuil publicity page) and Lily Brett -- longtime Aussie expat in New York, like Peter Carey -- won the prix Médicis étranger (best translated work) for Lola Bensky (get your copy at or

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Martin Chalmers (1948-2014)

       Sad to hear that, as Katy Derbyshire reports at her love german books weblog, translator Martin Chalmers has passed away.
       Several of his translations are under review at the complete review, including Bertolt Brecht's Stories of Mr. Keuner and and Thomas Bernhard's Victor Halfwit.
       See also, for example, this overview with a Q & A at the Goethe Institut.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

4 November 2014 - Tuesday

Juan Goytisolo Q & A | Poetry: 'The Translation Issue' | Palace of Books review

       Juan Goytisolo Q & A

       At The White Review J.S.Tennant has an Interview with Juan Goytisolo.
       Disappointing that he is in "no rush to publish" -- especially that: "sort of hybrid text comprised of poetry, memoir, fiction and testament" .....

       (There is a lot of Goytisolo under review at the complete review.)

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Poetry: 'The Translation Issue'

       The November issue of Poetry is The Translation Issue
       With 'Translator's Notes' to go with the impressive selection of poetry -- good stuff.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Palace of Books review

       Not the most recent addition to the complete review -- somehow I missed mentioning this a couple of days ago -- but a review of Roger Grenier's Palace of Books is now up.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

3 November 2014 - Monday

Rare Book School | 'This prize is narrow-minded'
The Republic of Užupis review

       Rare Book School

       The Rare Book School at the University of Virginia -- providing: "continuing-education opportunities for students from all disciplines and levels to study the history of written, printed, and born-digital materials with leading scholars and professionals in the field" -- sounds pretty neat, and in the November/December issue of Humanities Nicholas A. Basbanes offers a look at this Summer Camp for Book Nerds: Why I Keep Returning to Rare Book School

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       'This prize is narrow-minded'

       In the Bangkok Post Kong Rithdee reports that: 'Despite winning this year's SEA Write Award, Thai author Daen-Aran Saengthong says he won't be attending the presentation ceremony', in Out of the Shadow.
       Daen-Aran Saengthong (แดนอรัญ แสงทอง -- but actually Saneh Sangsuk (เสน่ห์ สังข์สุข), the name under which his books are published abroad) won the 2014 SEA Writes award, for his อสรพิษและเรื่องอื่นๆ -- no surprise, apparently: Marcel Barang knew he was a shoo-in. But, while appreciative of the prize and attention it brings to his books, the author makes clear: "that his top priority now, by all means, is to dodge the official ceremony".
       As to what he thinks of the prize:
The rule and criteria are ancient. This prize is narrow-minded. It answers to the middle-class taste and it still concerns itself with the kind of writing that promotes morality. Well, the world is bigger...
       Which is refreshing -- not the stuff you usually hear from prize-winners.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       The Republic of Užupis review

       The most recent addition to the complete review is my review of Haïlji's The Republic of Užupis -- a Korean book set in Lithuania, dealing with both the real and the imaginary 'Republic of Užupis'.
       Could a book be a more typical Dalkey Archive Press publication ?

       Maybe predictable, but also very cool: it's come out in Lithuanian

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

2 November 2014 - Sunday

November Words without Borders
Profiles: Nakamura Fuminori - Intizar Husain

       November Words without Borders

       The November issue of Words without Borders is now up, with a focus on: Contemporary Czech Prose, as well as some 'Writers on Education'.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Profile: Nakamura Fuminori

       In The Japan Times Iain Maloney profiles Nakamura Fuminori, in Fuminori writes noir, but not as we know it -- with a focus on Nakamura's latest to appear in English, Last Winter, We Parted.
       At J'Lit Books from Japan they have descriptions of some of his not-yet translated work as well.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Profile: Intizar Husain

       This week's Wordsmith-column in The Hindu asks the when/how/where/what from Basti- and A Chronicle of the Peacocks-author Intizar Husain.
       Never mind typewriters, much less computers:
I still use an ink pen and resist using ball-point pens for my stories.

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

1 November 2014 - Saturday

Glas suspends activities | Rosa Liksom's locales

       Glas suspends activities

       I have long admired the work of Glas, publishers of Russian literature in English translation for almost a quarter of a century now. Only half a dozen (of their 75) titles are under review at the complete review, but they have been an invaluable leading source of Russian-literature-in-English over this period -- so it is very sad to hear that, as Phoebe Taplin reports at Russia Beyond the Headlines, Glas publishing house is suspending its activity.
       Publisher Natasha Perova notes:
"I thought the world would gasp with admiration," says Perova, but "both publishers and the public were slow to appreciate contemporary Russian literature."
The cause of Russian literature in translation is not helped, Perova feels, by the recent rise of émigré Russian writers who "paint a more digestible picture of Russia." Foreign publishers are scared, she says, of "Russia in the raw, with its miseries and struggles" and readers are spoiled by "smooth-moving, light fiction."
       Perova explains that:
As a Russian publisher of works in English, Perova's project is not eligible for grants at home or abroad. "I can't apply for help anywhere," she explains. "Due to falling sales and rising costs ... it is no longer possible to publish translated literature without external support, which I have never had."
       Is that really what it's come to, that fiction in translation is only publishable if it is subsidized, one way or another ? How sad is that. (And much as I am pleased about fiction in translation getting much more attention (or at least appearing to ...), if commercial viability (of any sort) is still so elusive ... not a good sign.)

       There are a lot of highlights from the Glas catalogue -- whereby the first publication of Sigizmund Krzhizhanovsky in English (Seven Stories) is probably the most noteworthy. Among my other favorites: Anatoly Mariengof (Cynics and A Novel Without Lies).
       See also older Q & A's with the estimable Perova at The Voice of Russia (Publisher who likes books (2010)) and The New Inquiry (From Russia With Literature (2011)).

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

       Rosa Liksom's locales

       At Eurozine they have an English version of Rosa Liksom's Wespennest piece, Finland, Lapland, Russia and me.
       She explains, for example, that:
Our native language is called Meänkieli -- the name literally means "our language". Also known as Tornedal Finnish, it is spoken on both sides of the border between Finland and Sweden. It has a conciliatory nature: even within the language itself, conflicts are avoided and concord is always sought. It arose via early Finnish settlement to serve as a lingua franca between Finns and Sámi people.
       Interesting that she turned East rather than West (though proximity certainly helped), as (in the early 1970s):
I was fifteen years old when I boarded the tourist coach to Murmansk, ready to encounter proper city folk and an urban lifestyle I only had a vague idea of, having grown up in a tiny village.
       Several of her works have been translated into English, most recently (in the UK) Compartment No 6; see the Serpent's Tail publicity page or get your copy at

(Posted by: M.A.Orthofer)    - permanent link -

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