Villager

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Read 08/05/2022-12/05/2022

Rating 5 stars

Villager is Tom Cox’s first novel. I’m not going to call it a debut, because the author has a wealth of writing already in his back catalogue.

Cox is a writer of place. His books 21st Century Yokel and Ring the Hill explore landscape and folklore, mixed with Cox’s eye on the world and its margins. His short story collection Help the Witch marries that sense of place and love of folklore with fictions that open the door a crack to the other places hidden just behind what we experience as real.

His writing in Villager is a beautiful leap off from the coiled force present in some of the longer pieces in Help the Witch. There is folklore here, but also Bildungsroman, speculative fiction, diary writing and cultural reference points that span Mary Oliver, Mike Leigh, Oliver Postgate and Public Enemy. The story sprawls over time and place, slipping through the margins and brushing up against its own past and future. At its heart is a collection of songs written by an itinerant musician, and one ancient song in particular that echoes through the narrative. Continue reading

Random Thoughts: The different routes to publication

I went to a literary event not so long ago at which the two authors talked about the risk aversion present among the major publishing houses. David Peace and Tom Benn are both published by majors, Faber & Faber and Bloomsbury respectively. It was refreshing to hear two established authors speak on a subject that has been rolling around in my brain for a while. It got me thinking, and now I’ve committed my random thoughts to the page.

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Notebook

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Read 27/02/2021-28/02/202

Rating 5 stars

I was all set to start a different book when Tom Cox’s Notebook arrived in the post. This is a book I’ve been waiting for, delayed by the pandemic, pledged for in 2019. Cox is an author who does his own thing, publishing through Unbound since 2017, and a writer whose work fits the contours of my brain so perfectly that I don’t think twice about pledging for his books.

Before I even opened the cover, an extract on the back sleeve made me laugh.

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Ring the Hill

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Read 01/11/2019-09/11/2019

Rating 5 stars

Ring the Hill is a walking book, a history book, a nature book, a folklore book and a book about contemporary Britain viewed through a lens that seems to have almost disappeared from most other media. Tom Cox celebrates the little observed quirks of human nature that thread through the story of the British Isles, and in particular the South West corner of England. The story of Britain is a sprawling one, influenced by the landscape as much as by the doings of its inhabitants. Cox weaves together the folklore of our physical landscape with the ways in which we humans across history have tried to best that landscape.

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Help the Witch

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Read 31/10/2018-14/11/2018

Rating: 5 stars

Last year, Tom Cox published his wonderful book of nature writing, 21st Century Yokel, through Unbound. Having loved that book, the writing, the design, the entire spirit of the thing, as soon as he announced his first collection of fiction, I pledged.

The book arrived a couple of weeks ago. I saved it to take on holiday, to read on my birthday. Hallowe’en seemed an appropriate moment to read a collection of spooky short stories. I didn’t read it all on my birthday. I ended up drawing it out for as long as possible because I wanted to relish the stories. Continue reading