A question of confidence

I am happy to have with me once again that inimitable poet, Tallis Steelyard, to talk a little about his latest adventures in Port Naain with his esteemed cartographer friend, Benor Dorfinngil.

cover-a-bad-pennyIt is, I freely confess, a sore point. I feel somehow that my honour has been traduced, that my good name has been taken in vain. Indeed I, Tallis Steelyard, leading poet of my generation, has been shamelessly taken advantage of.
It started simply enough when I was asked to promote a short tale, ‘A Bad Penny.’ You’ve heard of it perhaps? I thought not. Perhaps I’ll have to explain further.

Some petty hack called Jim Webster, a writer of penny dreadfuls of the worst sort, inveigled his way into the confidence of an old friend of mine, one Benor. Now in his youth Benor lived for a while in Port Naain and we were (and still are) friends. So doubtless under the influence of a heady combination of generously plied strong drink and even more generously plied flattery, Benor started telling tales of his adventures in our proud city. So many of these stories were there that this Webster chap produced a collection of them under the title of the ‘Port Naain Intelligencer’.

Are you still with me? Anyway, I have to tell you, as between friends…

Tomb-yard Follies, a review

tyfSo my reading has been a little slow of late. Between sick kids and school events, revisions and renovations, it’s been a little hectic around these parts. But over the weekend, I managed to carve out enough time to read Tomb-yard Folliesthe latest in Jim Webster’s Port Naain Intelligencer series, and these be my thoughts.

To begin with, I thought it was great fun. The beginning, in particular, had me intrigued. After all, nothing breeds potential conflict quite like a mysterious group of people in robes ambling through an orgy.

😀 😀 😀 😀 😀

Getting back to the point, this was a bit different from the last two in that Tallis and Shena appeared less than they did in previous stories, but it was interesting to get more of a feel for Benor. I’d have liked a bit more in the way of explanation about Tizah, but perhaps the enigma that is Tizah will be further expounded upon in later stories?

Please? *looks hopeful*

Anyway, this was a lovely way to dispose of an afternoon, and I can’t wait to see what Mr. Webster comes up with next.

To get your copy of Tomb-yard Follies, head on over to Amazon or Amazon UK!

(c) 2016. All rights reserved.

Literally critical, part two

If you missed the first part of this story, look no further! You can find part one of Literally Critical right here. And now, to pick up where we left off…

The problem we faced producing both the ‘Port Naain Re-evaluation of Literature’ and the ‘Port Naain Guide to Literary Merit’ was not the workload. The real problem was the need for anonymity. Had we been able to credit the authors of the copy then we could doubtless have hired plenty of contributors. In fact, the act of merely offering money would mean that we would have been forced to beat writers off with a stick. On the other hand, had the Port Naain literary world known who was writing the content for these two publications; it would most likely have been we who were beaten with sticks.

The anonymity did lead to problems for some. I had to do a review of an event Lancet Foredeck had featured heavily in. Now I will admit that I have never let my long association blind me to the flaws in Lancet’s work. Installation poetry has always struck me as somewhat overblown, after all what poet worth their salt cannot spontaneously knock off a few stanzas or even just a rhyme or two when the situation calls for it.

But still, Lancet is a better than middling painter, a perfectly competent teller of tales to large groups of young children whom he can hold spellbound, and to be fair, he’s not a bad poet. But at the event I attended, he surpassed himself. He launched into a mixture of pre-rehearsed and spontaneous work which was breathtaking in its comprehension and range. As he finally sank down into his seat the entire audience stood to applaud him. Even those who were merely present to drink at the bar rose to applaud him. Indeed the barman brought him a tankard of the bar’s best ale to quench his thirst without even being asked or staying for the money. On that day, in that place…

Literally critical!

Tomorrow, another one of poet Tallis Steelyard’s intriguing adventures will hit the virtual shelves. In honor of the event, here he is to talk about the life of a literary critic:

It is true that looking back I have had an interesting career. Indeed there is much I have achieved that I can look back upon with a sense of modest pride. There are very few incidents I feel disinclined to recall to mind and few about which I feel any real shame. But because I feel a duty to a younger generation of poets and other writers, I believe it behoves me to set aside my regrets, my mortification, and tell the plain unvarnished story. You see, I too have dabbled in literary criticism; I have dipped my pen in its unhallowed waters.

Now I don’t want anyone to assume that I did this because I was pandering to some unfathomable malevolence within my nature. No I did it for the most honourable of all reasons; we needed the money.

On reflection, one sees that within the life of even a great artist there are times which appear designed purely to test your mettle. This was one. Shena had not been well, she had caught something she just couldn’t seem to shake off, and she spent much of the winter confined to the barge. This meant that our income dropped considerably, we were faced with having to heat the barge during the day, and what reserves we had were waning rapidly. I had attempted to take her place dealing with the shore combers, but frankly I never made a tenth of what Shena did, and what I did make was purely because some of their number took pity on me and shared my desire to see her fit and well and back at work.

Then Silac Glicken approached me.

A Much Arranged Marriage, or, Further Adventures With Tallis and Friends

Cover A much arranged marriageAs I said, I spent a little time reading over the long Christmas weekend, and one of the things I read was A Much Arranged Marriage, the newest book in The Port Naain Intelligencer series by Jim Webster. As usual, poet Tallis Steelyard and friends have become embroiled in a mystery, though this time in a rather less dramatic fashion than in Flotsam or Jetsam. But just because it didn’t start with a bang doesn’t mean it didn’t finish with one:

Benor is asked to help warn off a blackmailer who appears to be threatening a young girl’s chances of marriage. But the deeper he digs, the more dangerous things become.

It all starts with a request for help from Tallis Steelyard’s patron, Mistress Bellin Hanchkillian. She seeks to help the granddaughter of a childhood friend, but nothing about the situation is exactly what it seems. Once Tallis and Benor were on the job, I couldn’t stop reading – I had to know what would happen next. I read the whole book in one sitting, which is both good and bad. It’s great because it’s nice to read something a little shorter every now and then, but it also kind of stinks because I’m always left wanting more. I guess it’s a good thing I don’t have to wait long between installments! 🙂

If you haven’t yet read A Much Arranged Marriage, what are you waiting for? It’s a great book, and I highly recommend it.

(c) 2015. All rights reserved.

My Southern Exposure

With me today is a poet of some renown, the inimitable Tallis Steelyard, to talk a bit about poetry and adventure. 🙂

Cover A much arranged marriageI am, of course, a poet. None the less I am not biased and recognise that there are other fields of artistic endeavour which might even be considered legitimate. That being said I have always had my doubts about novelists.

This reminisce was brought on by reading the obituary of old ‘Truly’ Gicken in last nights ‘Port Naain Intelligencer’. I honestly never knew his given name, everybody called him Truly, even his wife, because of the habit he had of starting his sentences with that word.

But I remember him in his prime. He was the younger brother of Ardwok Gicken, who ran Gicken’s Printers. Ardwok didn’t have an imaginative bone in his body, but no finer printer ever drew breath. Truly was almost the opposite, but in his own way he was touched by genius. It was he who came up with the idea of ‘The Port Naain Annual Poetry Yearbook.’

What he did was canvas all the poets, potential poets, would-be poets and ‘thought they could be poets if only they’d had the chance’ in Port Naain. For a not insignificant sum he would include their poem in the yearbook. Well for me five vintenars is a not insignificant sum, even now. My lady wife and I can still live well for a day on that sort of money. But of course he was selling them a piece of the dream, he was promising them ‘exposure’, making it possible for their genius to be recognised, and of course they fell for it.

Where he showed real genius was that he…

Next up, it’s Flotsam or Jetsam!

Flotsam or JetsamAnd now, as promised, I’ve reviewed Flotsam or Jetsam, another book involving Tallis Steelyard and his compatriots:

Benor arrives in Port Naain intent on the simple task of producing a handbook for merchants. Then there is a murder, and a vengeful family who will stop at nothing to silence those who found the body. Suddenly Benor’s life is no longer simple.

I should have read this book first, I think, as it’s quite a good introduction to Tallis Steelyard.  He strikes me as the kind of person who could charm the scales off a snake, or at least the kind of person who thinks he could.  I found him highly entertaining, and very realistic – who among us hasn’t known someone with equal talents?

At any rate, Flotsam or Jetsam was a wonderful introduction to Port Naain and the world Tallis and his lovely wife Shena inhabit.  It’s also a heck of a lot of fun to read; I’d have had it finished in an afternoon, except that my kids seemed to think I should feed them.  It’s short enough to read in one sitting, but long enough to feel like a complete story, and it’s a good thing there are more stories to come from Port Naain and the colorful characters who inhabit that city because I’d love to pay the place another visit.

Check out Flotsam or Jetsam; it’s a wonderful story.  You won’t want to miss it.

(c) 2015.  All rights reserved.

Lambent Dreams: A Review

Lambent Dreams Cover5As promised, my review of Lambent Dreams.  What’s it about?  Poetry.  Plain and simple:

The Poetry of Tallis Steelyard. This appropriately slim volume is the fruit of a unique artistic collaboration, bringing together the writings of one of Port Naain’s most major minor poet with the personal commentary of an esteemed cartographer and traveller, and the guiding notes of an informed poet-critic. You cannot say you have not been warned.

The poetry in this book is endlessly fascinating.  I read the whole volume in the course of a morning, punctuated by short bursts of doing my day job, and I can’t wait to go back and read them over more closely to see if I can find some deeper meaning.  (If, of course, there is any deeper meaning.  Sometimes a poem is just a poem.)

My favorite bit is behind this cut!

Memo to Self: A guest post by Jim Webster

JimToday, I’m pleased to let Jim Webster hijack my blog with a bit of flotsam (or maybe it’s jetsam?) about how not to pace oneself. 🙂

You know how they always say that to get there I wouldn’t start from here? I’m feeling a bit like that at the moment.

I had a succession of bright ideas. Even now, in retrospect, I think they’re bright ideas. But I suspect that the secret of good writing is the same as the secret of good comedy, it’s Timing.

It started when I was…

A ripple of noise

TS2 War 2-2The firing had become more general, and without warning the mortars started up.  They were pulverizing the wood, raining down so fast that the scream of one merged into the scream of the next, each explosion merely part of a ripple of noise.  -War 2.2

I’ve just finished reading War 2.2 by Jim Webster, and…wow.  It’s been a while since I’ve had a book hangover like this.  I’ve been spending my evenings in various parts of Tsarina for a good month now, and I’m a little sad to have finished my time there, to be honest.

I started with Justice 4.1.  It was an excellent book, with plenty of twists and turns, and a fair bit of action as well.  By the time I finished the book, I was thirsty for more.

justiceWar 2.2 definitely delivered on that front.  Of course, with a war going on, I’d expect nothing less.  I was a little disappointed that there wasn’t more connection between the two books, but they were both very well done (and now I’m hoping for a third book).  If I didn’t have a reading list constantly clamoring for attention, I’d be tempted to start War 2.2 over again right away. 🙂

You can pick up your own copies of Justice 4.1 and War 2.2 on Amazon and Amazon UK.  I hope you’ll enjoy them as much as I did. 🙂

(c) 2015.  All rights reserved.