Quarantine Comix: A Memoir of Life in Lockdown, by Rachael Smith (Icon Books, 2021)

A diary of mental health and struggling to cope during the initial phase of the coronavirus, told in comic strips. An interesting personal record of the first half of 2020, with a focus on the ways that the pandemic fed into individual anxieties. Might have benefited from dates by the entries: documents like these will have value in the years to come, and it’d be useful to have that context to these responses.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Dan O’Bannon’s Guide to Screenplay Structure, by Dan O’Bannon and Matt R Lohr (Michael Wiese Productions, 2012)

A guide to three act structure, and why it works for narrative cinema: including the Alien screenwriter’s own variant. Completed posthumously, this is an accessible, lightly erudite and fun guide to onscreen storytelling. One third structural analysis, one third application of O’Bannon’s version of the three act template to selected movies, one third industry observations.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Criminal, Vol. 4: Bad Night, by Ed Brubaker & Sean Phillips, with Val Staples (Image Comics, 2015)

A cartoonist and former forger gets drawn back into crime by a femme fatale. Another high-quality yarn of dark deeds on the wrong side of midnight; another man in over his head and head over heels at the same time. Series fans won’t be disappointed, and there’s much to relish for those new to the BrubakerPhillipsVerse.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Redfork, by Alex Paknadel, Nil Vendrell & Giulia Brusco (TKO Studios, 2020)

An ex-con returns to his drugs and disease-blighted mining community: soon, other monsters lurk. Splashy blue-collar Beowulf-ish horror graphic novel (a six-issue run collected here), working similar territory to the later Grendel, Kentucky. Pacy and told with verve, this is fine stuff all the way through.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

The Department of Truth, Volume One: The End of the World, by James Tynion IV, Martin Simmonds & Aditya Bidikar (Image Comics, 2021)

A conspiracy theory-loving FBI lecturer is inducted into an agency working to prevent collective belief from realising that conspiracy theories can become real. Fun, smart, and fast – if ever-so-slightly-preachy – this The Matrix meets JFK graphic novel (issues 1-5 collected here) is a brain-boggling and good-looking treat, and relevant as hell. Lots to recommend this.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Grendel, Kentucky, by Jeff McComsey & Tommy Lee Edwards, with Giovanna Niro and John Workman (AWA Upshot, 2021)

The leader of an all-woman biker gang returns home to avenge her father’s death. Swift, gory, fun riff on Beowulf populated by backwoods weed farmers and take-no-shit Kentuckians. The book anthologizes a four-part graphic story: there’s hell of a movie to be made of this. A straightforward thing done as well as it might be. Recommended.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.

Quantum Mechanics, by Jim Al-Khalili (Ladybird Expert, 2017)

An overview of quantum mechanics, taking a largely historical approach. Another excellent, clear, uncluttered primer on a key topic. Just enough information to challenge and to get the reader enthused about the topic so that they go and find out more: the useful bibliography of accessible texts helps too.

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My own books are here, if that’s your thing. Newest is noir thriller East of England.