UPDATED Gideon Smith – announcement regarding availability on Amazon UK and others


**UPDATE: Amazon UK now taking orders for the Snowbooks paperback and currently listing it as being in stock from Monday September 30. So, fill yer boots!**

**Please note – the below refers only to Amazon UK. Amazon.com has stock of both the ebook and the trade paperback**

So. Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl was officially published in the UK by Snowbooks last week.

Not that you’d know it from looking at the book’s page on amazon.co.uk. For reasons really best only known to Amazon at this stage, the book is showing as unavailable.

This is mystifying on a number of levels. One, the book has been printed. The printed copies have gone to the wholesalers. The wholesalers have sent copies to Amazon. They are, presumably, sitting in Amazon’s warehouse.

But they’re not showing on the website. Now, better people than me at all levels have been both figuratively banging their heads against walls and taking the issue up with Amazon. I’m now at the point where I’m almost literally banging my head against a wall.

If you’re one of the people who have pre-ordered from Amazon, and been told the book is unavailable, I’m sorry. I hope it won’t put you off buying when it does go live, or from elsewhere.

And, though Amazon is the biggest online book retailer, and it’s a massive pain in the backside not having the book “live” on their site, let’s remember that oranges are not the only fruit, and all that.

If you’re of a mind to check out Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl, there are other places you can buy it from, of course. And, handily, I have some links just by me here!

  • NEW – Guardian bookshop selling for £6.39 with free shipping, despatched within 24 hours. CLICK HERE
  • You can buy direct from the publishers, Snowbooks, who are very nice people, by CLICKING HERE
  • The Book Depository (strangely, owned by Amazon, yeah, yeah, I know) is shifting them out within the day of order, I’m told by satisfied customers – CLICK HERE
  • Waterstones says it will deliver within 7-10 days (CLICK HERE). However, it’s showing up as in stock in a whole load of UK stores – if you GO HERE and input your postcode, it’ll tell you the nearest store that has it in. Buy it in person! Talk to someone!
  • Good old WH Smith has it in stock (CLICK HERE) and is selling it for a ridiculously low price to boot!
  • The Hive has stock and will post free for collection at your local indie bookstore! CLICK HERE (via Eddie Cochrane in the comments)

And last, but not least, please, please, please do feel free to support your local indie bookshop by asking them to order it in. If you want to find your local indie, check out Indiebound. All the details you need are:

Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl

By David Barnett

Published by Snowbooks

ISBN: 9781907777974

So, sorry if you’ve been interested in Gideon but been a bit stymied in getting it. I hope you’ll still look at getting hold of it, even if it might not be as easy to do so from Amazon as I’d hoped it would be.


O2 Media Awards – In which nice things are said about me

Feature writer ru 1Last night I attended the O2 Media Awards for the Yorkshire and Humber, which was held at the Rose Bowl, Leeds Met University. I was up for the Feature Writer of the Year category, for my work with the Telegraph & Argus in Bradford, in which I was Highly Commended (yes, that means I didn’t actually win the top prize, but when there is pork pie and mushy peas and lots of beer, there really are no losers).

Anyway, here’s what the judges said:

David Barnett’s portfolio was a joy to read said the panel. Well crafted background features plotting Bradford’s demise as an economic hub coupled with witty, engaging columns that made even the most mundane subjects utterly readable. They loved his first person piece on renowned magician Dynamo and tongue in cheek look at the Bradford Batman, a real-life caped crusader who handed over a wanted criminal to Bradford police. A brilliant all-rounder.

Should you wish, you can read some of the mentioned stories on the links below:

Interview with Dynamo

Charting Bradford’s post-industrial decline

In search of the Bradford Batman

My weekly column for the Telegraph & Argus

True stories about dogs

My childhood home – indeed, still the home of my parents – was on a typical red-brick Lancashire terrace that fronted a main road. Between the houses and the terrace behind was a wide alley, known (in the way that small children name everything in their immediate world, no matter how inconsequential or small) as “The Backs.”

I can’t remember how old I was – certainly no older than eight. I was walking along The Backs, alone, between the walls and gates that bordered the small, paved yards behind the houses.

As I passed one wooden gate, slightly ajar, I heard the murmur of several voices. Human voices. This is quite important. Low, slightly urgent conversation.

Intrigued as to who was holding some kind of meeting in one of the back yards – and it did sound like at least half a dozen people – I cautiously pushed open the gate in that guileless way that small boys have.

There were dogs there, perhaps six or seven. The voices had stopped as I pushed the gate open. The dogs all looked at me, some of them casting glances over their shoulders.

Suddenly terrified, I ran away. Not terrified by the dogs, because I’d grown up around dogs all my life.

Terrified because I knew that I’d heard human voices, and there were no people there. Just dogs.

The dogs chased me, and we all flowed down The Backs, me in what felt like a sea of yapping dogs. I was crying and shouting until I got to my own back gate and the dogs ran on.

This is an utterly true story. I remain convinced those dogs were talking in human voices. I have no idea what they were talking about.

I was upset when I went into my house and my parents quite naturally wanted to know why. I told them about the dogs, not that they’d been talking, just that a pack of dogs had run at me. I hadn’t been bitten but I was very shook up.

Then, for reasons which escape me, I said one of the dogs was Albert.

I have no idea now if Albert was really among the dogs. I don’t think he was. Albert was a very old dog who belonged to a man in the street behind ours who lived alone. His name – in the same way that the alley was known as The Backs – was Tin Can Tommy. This was based on the fact that once when a group of kids went from house to house asking if there was any firewood for Bonfire Night he allegedly said, “No, but there are a load of tin cans in my yard you can have.”

Tin Can Tommy seemed sinister to us, but he was probably just a lonely old man. Albert was his constant companion, and generally did nothing but sit around outside Tin Can Tommy’s house.

I still have no idea why I said Albert was among the dogs that ran at me from the yard. But my parents went around to Tin Can Tommy and told him what I’d said, that Albert had pretty much attacked me.

He was aghast, and said that Albert had been with him all day.

Maybe because I knew the impossibility of dogs talking, and needed to say something, anything, I stuck to my guns. I said Albert had gone for me.

I don’t know what happened next. Nothing, as far as I know. If that had happened today Albert would probably have been destroyed.

Thank God this was the Seventies.

Another dog which wasn’t part of the talking dogs gang was a huge, shaggy haired golden retriever. We never knew its name, but we steered clear of it. It roamed the streets and would trap unwary children if they were alone. It would force them into a corner and leap up, putting its front paws on their shoulders. It was a very big dog, bigger than a kid when on its hind legs.

Then it would start to deliriously hump them.

We called it The Bumming Dog. No-one liked The Bumming Dog. I once saw it at the top of an avenue on a baking hot, dusty, summer holiday day and took a huge diversion to avoid going near it.

Once, though, The Bumming Dog sneaked up on me while I was playing alone. I was hunched over a drain in the gutter, dropping a length of string weighted with stones to try to plumb the depths of the sewer, when I felt two big paws suddenly clamp themselves on my shoulders.

I knew it was The Bumming Dog, and I ran like the wind, the dog barking happily behind me, until I got home.

All these stories about dogs are true. I still like dogs. But now I’m grown up I have cats.

I’ve no doubt that cats talk, but at least they don’t do it while I’m listening.

Sweary girl writes sweary book and makes me teary

20130826-140451.jpgThose easily offended by cussing, bad language and profanity might want to clear off now. Though, to be honest, if that’s the case you’re not going to be well pleased when you read Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl and meet Aloysius Bent.

Anyway, enough about me. This is a post about the young lady who you can find on Twitter and at her own blog under the name Bookcunt. Well, I say “young lady”, I’ve no idea at all if she is what her online identity suggests. She may well be a 45-year-old man living in his mother’s basement and struggling with real-life relationships. Possibly with a collection of Buffy the Vampire Slayer statuettes on a shelf above the tumble-dryer.

This is the internet. Anything’s possible.

But unlikely, because Bookcunt has written a book (under the pen-name Anonymous; maybe being filed under “B” wasn’t good enough for her). It’s called A Fucked Up Life In Books and it made me have something in my eye at the end.

Those familiar with Bookcunt’s blog will recognise the format of each of the chapters in this ebook from The Friday Project. Each episode is ostensibly about a book which the author was reading at a certain point in her life. But the relationship between the book and the incident can be fleeting; sometimes it’s barely given a mention.

At other times, the book is very, very important. It’s sometimes an escape tunnel, or a rope made from knotted sheets, or just a friendly face to fall back on. Yes, this book is filled with swears and naughtiness and sex and more swears, but it might just be all about the redemptive power of literature.

Bookcunt is let down by a lot of people in this book. It might not be what you think it is. You’ll definitely read some of the chapters and mutter, “Oh my God.” You might not laugh as much as you thought you would. You might cry a bit more than you expected to.

Yes, it’s a little rough and ready in parts. Yes, if you’ve read her blog for any length of time you’ll already have seen maybe a quarter of this already. Yes, you wonder if the cussing is ramped up for little apparent reason sometimes. But anyone who has an interest in a) books, b) people or c) all of the above should get their hands on this sometimes moving, sometimes astonishing and always readable memoir. It’s like nothing you’ve read before.


Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) interview – the DVD extras

GaimanindyIn April I was fortunate enough to have a one-to-one interview with Neil Gaiman, the results of which appeared in the Independent on Sunday on June 9. We met on a gloriously sunny day in the Aubaine restaurant in Kensington. You can read some internal dialogue regarding my thoughts ahead of the meeting here.

Gaiman was funny, charming, interesting and interested – everything I could have hoped for in an interviewee. Thanks to Sam Eades at Headline for fixing it up during Neil’s heavy schedule in the weeks running up to publication of his latest novel, The Ocean at the End of the Lane.

Because of the space constrictions on the newspaper piece – it was limited to 1,000 words – I thought it might be interesting to reproduce here, with a little added context, some of the quotes from Neil that I was unable to shoe-horn into the piece – DVD extras for that interview, if you like.

So. We took a window table in the Aubaine. I had a beer. Neil would have liked English breakfast tea but they didn’t have any, so he had a pot of Darjeeling, which was a little 20130420-081247.jpgweak for him. I mention this in case you find yourself in the situation where you are either able to offer Neil Gaiman a cup of tea or me a bottle of beer. For the record, I’ll drink pretty much any beer.

The first thing we talked about was my agent, the incomparable John Jarrold, who has been friends with Neil for many years. Neil recounted for me his first meeting with John, which took place at Eastercon in Glasgow in, I think, 1986. I didn’t take notes on this conversation, as it wasn’t really for publication. But it was a nice little story – Neil had been dispatched by the now-defunct Today newspaper to cover the Eastercon, and rolled into the Glasgow con hotel very late. John Jarrold – not yet an industry professional – was the Fan Guest of Honour, and had an open bar tab. He beckoned Neil over and informed him that it was Neil’s duty to accompany John on his mission to push the boundaries of this free bar tab into the early hours of the morning. It was only thanks to the writer Ramsey Campbell and more importantly his wife Jenny that Neil ended up sleeping in a bed and not under a table in the foyer.

From that point I knew that Neil Gaiman was my type of person, and the interview went swimmingly after that. I asked him how he would describe the process of writing, how much he plotted and planned. He explained how stories develop:

“You look out of your house and it’s really misty. You can just see far enough ahead.”

He spoke about his “crazy year” which is detailed in the Independent on Sunday interview and added:

“If I had any advice to other authors it would be don’t promise your adult publisher a book and your children’s publisher a book at the same time, because they might both say ‘this is our lead title for the year’!”

FortunatelytheMilk_HardbackUK_1365440376As well as Chu’s Day earlier this year, September sees the publication of Fortunately, The Milk, with art by Chris Riddell. Neil said:

“Fortunately, The Milk is like the Bizarro-World Ocean at the End of the Lane. Everything that Ocean is, Fortunately, The Milk isn’t, and vice versa. Ocean is a story about childhood book-ended by an adult perspective. Fortunately, The Milk is about an adult, book-ended by a child. It’s about a Mum who goes off to a conference leaving Dad in charge. It’s my favourite children’s book I’ve written. There’s a stegosaurus! Called Professor Steg! And he has a time machine!”

I asked Neil if he ever loses his temper. He seems so temperate and measured in his interviews and on Twitter. Can he really be so even-tempered all the time?

“I get grumpy more than anything, and it’s usually when I’m hungry. Amanda will say to me, ‘get something to eat. You’re being grumpy’.”

So there you have it. English Breakfast Tea, strong, and for God’s sake keep the man fed. And you should get on just fine with Neil Gaiman.

Gideon Smith short stories announcement

worksetsyoufreeI’m delighted to announce that two short stories set in the world of GIDEON SMITH and the MECHANICAL GIRL, which is published in September by Tor Books in the US and Snowbooks in the UK, will appear on the Tor.com website.

The first is entitled WORK SETS YOU FREE, and is sort of an untold episode from the novel, featuring Gideon Smith and what happens to him when he inadvertently finds himself promising to devote his life to the service of God at an abbey20130225-224610.jpg with a dark secret run by gun-toting nuns.

You can see the excellent artwork for this story to the left, created by the excellent Borja Fresco Nekro who also provided the wonderful cover for the US edition of the novel (right).

The second tale is called BUSINESS AS USUAL, and serves to shine a little light into the shadowy corners of the British Empire’s most secret service and its chief operative, the mysterious Mr Walsingham.

The best thing about Tor.com (well, one of the best things) is that its weekly Wednesday short stories (by actual other people you’ve actually heard of) are completely free, gratis and for nothing.

I’m not sure when the two Gideon shorts will be online (or, as it goes, which order they’ll be in), but it’s likely to be just ahead of and maybe just after the publication of Mechanical Girl, which is September 10.

I’ll give you this book for that album… does that sound fair?

So, a while ago Amanda Palmer and the Grand Theft Orchestra released the album Theatre is Evil. The digital version of the album was put up on Amanda Palmer’s website with a “pay what you want” price-structure – including the option of taking it free, gratis and for nothing.

Aside from listening to a few older Dresden Dolls tracks on YouTube I hadn’t actually owned any Amanda Palmer music. I wanted this album but at the time I was skint. Proper, actually, boracic lint. Not enough spare cash to spend on music, anyway.

So I downloaded it. For free. And I absolutely loved it. The track Want It Back, especially, has done some serious duty on my virtual turntable. (As an aside, I miss turntables. I don’t have one any more, and the attic is stuffed with vinyl which I can’t bear to part with, gathering dust and storing potential energy at such a rate that sometimes I fancy that the roof of the house is going to blow off in an explosion of noise that’ll sound like Supertramp having a fight with The Orb while Motorhead smash up the kitchen and Abba try vainly to calm everyone down).

But, yeah. I downloaded it free. And I felt guilty about it. And I sort of kept promising myself I’d pay for it sometime, and it never quite happened.

I like getting free stuff, but I also like people who make art to get their dues. I get a lot of free books but I try my damnedest to get them reviewed in high-profile publications as recompense. I think it might be a throwback to my working class upbringing. People just didn’t get stuff for nothing when I was a kid. They earned it. Someone tried to give you something – even a relative trying to press a fiver on you for your birthday – you felt bad, and turned it down, and they had to force it upon you, and it all got a bit messy and awkward.

But I did want to pay Amanda Palmer back for her album, and when I found out I was going to be interviewing her hubby Neil Gaiman, I thought this would be the perfect opportunity.

It would also, I thought, be the perfect opportunity to try to give Neil Gaiman an advance proof of Gideon Smith and the Mechanical Girl. But what if he said no? What if he said, “Thanks for the offer, but I have no time/inclination/energy to plough through your book. So I’m not even going to pretend I want it.”?

But then a solution presented itself. A book for an album. Was that fair exchange? I could at least suggest the option to Neil.

So I met Neil Gaiman, and we had a jolly time, and at the end of the interview I took out my proof of Gideon Smith, and I said to Neil: “Look, the fact of the matter is, I downloaded Amanda’s album for free from her site and I was skint. I can either give you a tenner now or a copy of this book to give to Amanda. It’s up to you.”

He chose the book. He asked me – nay, made me – sign it and leave a message for Amanda explaining the whole downloading-while-skint scenario. I hope it made it back to the States with him. I don’t mind if it doesn’t get read – though, let’s face it, which author starting out on their career wouldn’t hope that someone of Gaiman’s stature might say something like, “Hey, I read David Barnett’s book. It was effing brilliant!” – but I feel that in some small way a debt has been paid.

Though, to be honest, I think out of the whole transaction I got a slightly better deal out of it than Amanda Palmer…