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Reading by Gaslight

I finished John Gray's Fiend in Human and loved it so much I'm digging up every other book he's written. Gray basically writes a Victorian thriller, with lots of period detail I was unaware of about the city of London and its discontents. The patterers, press customs, the strange prisons, and the culture of the gallows-watchers, and other topics are dropped in without ever feeling like a block of exposition and backstory. And in addition to having a killer way with a fairly elevated tone, Gray's black humor is dead on at one or two spots.

Given that enjoyable read, I picked up a second book with an identical cover (misty cobbled street with heavy photo grain seems to mean "Victorian period historical book"). The current obsession is Gallagher's Kingdom of Bones, which lacks Gray's deft touch with elevated prose, but which has more and better action sequences. Again, it's the period subculture stuff that fascinates me. In this case, the subcultures are boxing and variety theatre. Great stuff, that moves quickly, but it has a Dean Koontz blurb (and we know that means gore and horror to come).

If you've got historical fiction of the period you'd like to recommend, I'm all ears.


( 6 sutras — Your wisdom )
Nov. 24th, 2007 02:26 am (UTC)
These may not exactly qualify, but Barbara Hambly's Those Who Hunt the Night and Connie Willis' To Say Nothing of the Dog spring to mind as having many good Victorian moments and little interesting sidelights. I'm unfortunately not aware of any "period pieces" as you describe except perhaps to also recommend nonfition like The Professor and the Madman.
Nov. 24th, 2007 02:26 am (UTC)
The Anubis Gate (possibly Gates) by a fellow whose name I can't remember, is very good, although it isn't a historical novel so much as a time-travel, fish out of water with a werewolf and some very cool sorcerery novel. Still, a very good read and set in pretty much Dickensonian London.
Nov. 24th, 2007 03:21 pm (UTC)
Tim Powers. Excellent stuff. If you're reading Powers, I can also recommend On Stranger Tides, a fanatastic look at a magical version of the Blackbeard story. That's getting a bit further back in the timestream.
Nov. 24th, 2007 04:07 pm (UTC)
The Alienist and The Angel of Death by Caleb Carr.
Nov. 25th, 2007 01:19 am (UTC)
I will recommend the Alienist as well; less so the Angel of Darkness. The David Liss period books (The Coffee Trader, A Spectacle of Corruption and A Cospiracy of Paper) are wonderful. Though not fiction, Devil and the White City (About the worlds fair in Chicago/ Serial Killer at the time) and Thunderstruck(Marconi/Famous murder at the time)by Erik Larson are amazing reads, better than fiction.
Nov. 25th, 2007 07:36 am (UTC)
The above posters beat me to the punch regarding Carr and Liss' respective works. I'll plan to check out 'Fiend in Human'.
( 6 sutras — Your wisdom )

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