Saturday, June 26, 2010

After Great Silence...

…a huge influx of critical response, starting with:

Rue Morgue #102
by Justine Warwick

Graced with an absolutely beautiful cover by designer Erik Mohr, Gemma Files’ first novel, A Book of Tongues, is a “weird West” tale set in 1867. It tells the story of Pinkerton detective Ed Morrow, who is sent to infiltrate a brutal gang of outlaws led by the Reverend Asher Rook, ex-Confederate chaplain and dark magician, in order to learn more about Rook’s strange abilities for the government cause. Morrow becomes increasingly entangled in Rook’s world—one of sorcery, gods, visions and blood—and his only hope of escape, or of completing his task, lies with Rook’s lover, Chess Pargeter, a violent man with a bloody past and, if Rook has his way, a dreadful future.

Files’ poetic prose is pitch-perfect: languid, precise and full of dark imagery. While the plot is sedately paced, the author takes the time to build up the universe in which her characters exist: a pitiless world in which death and destruction are commonplace, loyalties are always shifting and magic flows through ever aspect like a kind of perverse electricity, with the potential to destroy everything it touches. Files’ characters are complicated and profound, motivated largely by lust, both for power and for Chess Pargeter, who becomes a catalytic figure for Morrow and his quest when the two begin an affair. The sexuality of the three central players is as violent as their lives in the desert, the pioneer towns and the slums of San Francisco, and underscores not only their marginalization but their power to destabilize the world they live in—whether through magic or by their very existence.

It’s a brooding and deeply sinister novel, which will undoubtedly be a challenging read for some, but Files has definitely managed to create a world complex enough to sustain the series that this book initiates. A Book of Tongues closes, if not quite with a cliffhanger ending, with a revelation that sets up the reader for the events of a sequel, the upcoming A Rope of Thorns; it will be intriguing to see where the twists and coils of Files’ imagination take us next.

Other reviews I totally forgot to link to (because I am a doofus):

And some just-plain-folks with-blogs reviews, too, like this crazy-flattering one from

So. Much. WIN. In this book. *makes inarticulate sounds of glee* It was a "Merc book" through and through--I need the next one now, please. *fangirls some more* The Weird West, gay cowboys, ancient Mayan gods returning to the world, hexslinging magic, post-Civil War politics and tensions still going on; the novel has a complicated structure, which I liked, and the love story is so refreshingly anti-sentimental. Poor copyediting in places (especially the last third) kept jarring me, but for the story and characters, I could overlook the technical elements. *is a total Chess fangirl*

Plus this slightly less unreservedly positive one from A Wild Book Chase, here (

Finally, a crazy yet incredibly flattering link: Somebody at who calls themselves “radiant song” is reading my book and posting color commentary as they go! ( I like (his? her?) analysis of why Chess is such a damn homme fatale, which is…pretty spot-on, actually.;) I’ll be following subsequent posts with increasing interest.

Steve and I also got interviewed for the Shirley Jackson Awards by Charles Tan, here, about our nominated novella “each thing I show you is a piece of my death” (; Charles later interviewed me about my nominated short story “The Jacaranda Smile”, here (

Oh, and finally, I’m agented: As of last week, Monica Pacheco from Anne McDermid & Associates is my literary representative, contingent on me writing a novel that’s a a bit more mainstream than my current blood-soaked black magic gay porno horse opera id-fic. Hey, I’m game—I mean, I was going to do that anyhow.;)

Okay, so: Hopefully I won't be away so long, next time. Nice to see y'all.