• Modern & contemporary fiction (post c 1945)
      March 2006

      Marisa

      by Peter Cowlam

      The book’s central time frame is the 1970s, when Bruce takes over a financial consultancy firm founded by his father, and Marisa inherits property. Love, lust and money are what drive them both, until their relationship meets its first challenge. Bruce retreats further into the world of commerce. Marisa’s interests are social and political. Twenty-five years on from their affair, a chance entry in one of Bruce’s business listings shows that Marisa is now boss of the Rae Agency – a media PR concern. Bruce, as he recollects their tumultuous relationship, is torn between his harmonious family life, and renewing contact with Marisa. Finally, when he does decide on a course of action, he has to face the truth of not having grasped the cultural separation their two different views of the world have wrought over the last quarter century.

    • Fiction
      July 2016

      New King Palmers

      by Peter Cowlam

      Winner of the 2018 Quagga Prize for Literary Fiction. Set in the late 1990s, in the months up to and after the death of Princess Diana, New King Palmers is narrated by its principal character Humfrey Joel, a close friend of Earl Eliot d’Oc. The earl’s ancestry is bound up with the Habsburgs and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. D’Oc is a member of the British Privy Council and a close friend of Prince Charles and Princess Diana. In the months preceding Diana’s death, he commissions a young theatre professional to develop a play. The play’s theme is constitutional issues surrounding Prince Charles, with the heir’s interests served by UK withdrawal from the EU, before it becomes a federal superstate. The commissioned play is called New King Palmers, and d’Oc maintains rigorous editorial control over it. When d’Oc’s death shortly follows Diana’s, Joel is named as d’Oc’s literary executor, with the task of bringing the play to the English stage. Supposedly written into the text is an encoded message from the British Privy Council on behalf of the House of Windsor, addressed to the stewards of the EU. When news of this leaks out no one in the British literary and theatrical worlds believes it. In fact most come to see Earl d’Oc as an invented character behind which Joel shields himself, when his own motives are themselves sinister. So sinister, an MI5 spook is put on the case.

    • Fiction
      May 2015

      Across the Rebel Network

      by Peter Cowlam

      Anno centres a federated Europe in an uncertain, and not-too-distant digital future, when politics, the media and mass communications have fused into one amorphous whole. He works for the Bureau of Data Protection (BDP), a federal government department responsible for monitoring the full range of material, in all media, posted into cyberspace. The BDP is forced to do this when rebel states are seceding, small satellites once of the federation but now at a remove from it, economically and socially. A handful of organised outsiders threatens to undermine the central state through a concerted propaganda war, using the federation’s own digital infrastructure. It is this climate of mutual suspicion that to Anno makes inevitable decades of digital guerrilla warfare. While his department takes steps to prevent this, he doesn’t reckon on the intervention of his old college sparring partner, Craig Diamond, who is now a powerful media mogul. The two engage in combat conducted through cyberspace, in a rare concoction of literary sci-fi.

    • Literary Fiction
      December 2018

      Once Upon a Time in Paris

      by Eliza Granville

      Like her last novel, Gretel and the Dark, Once Upon a Time in Paris cleverly combines a fairy-tale element with magic realism: in this case, an account of events in the life of Charles Perrault. Set in Paris in 1695, intertwining historical fact with multiple layers of fiction, Once Upon a Time in Paris invites readers to consider the possibility that the Tales of Mother Goose were not written by Charles Perrault (nor by his son, Pierre Darmancourt, as originally claimed), but by a reclusive figure almost entirely overlooked by history. The novel is set at that point where the tradition of oral story-telling is fast being absorbed by the written tale, and our mysterious recluse is caught between the two practices. Once Upon a Time in Paris offers a dazzling new insight into the connection between the ogre of folklore and fairy-tale and the post-Enlightenment feminist struggle.

    • Fiction
      August 2019

      Utopia

      by Peter Cowlam

      Mystery surrounds the source of Zora Murillo’s unfathomable wealth. But that’s not all the locals want to know about. Intrigue surrounds her arrival in a quaint old English market town, when the hotel she buys, the Pleiades, is transformed into a living cabaret act and the scene of political reprisal. What also of the shadowy M, or Em, or Emoticon, as he styles himself, who claims only to be the writer of a gossip column? His rapport with Zora suggests he knows what it is that has brought her to the town of Hoe. Moreover, M has played his part in aiding her father, an acknowledged leader in AI and robotics, in resisting the changes brought to his country, with its so-called F regime. The coup led by General Forsiss, who in no sense of irony refers to his brave new state as Utopia, might be an ocean away, but the scars it has left are deep and permanent. But exactly what grief is it that the Forsiss regime has inflicted on the Murillo family, drawing its net ever tighter? Dr Murillo has lain awake at night fearing the midnight knock, and the black van waiting outside, knowing little of Zora’s ingenious attempts to rid them both of the clutches of Forsiss and his cronies.

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