Read local: Passing Visions by Martin John Stokes

With brand new publishing houses, usually come brand new books. An obvious assumption, but a very exciting one if you find out about said brand new publishers while they’re still, well, brand new.

The publisher in question is Fox and Raven Publishing, an independent publishing house that recently entered Cape Town’s book scene. You can read my interview with them to see that they’re pretty fun and planning to bring a fresh, light-hearted feel to publishing.

That brings me to the brand new books and Fox and Raven’s very first published piece – Passing Visions by Martin John Stokes.
Scroll all the way down for a profile of Stokes.

fox and raven publishing

The book

You really have no reason not to read this little thriller, simply because it has only 25 pages. It all plays off inside the office of Indie Golding, a clinical psychologist, and the patient in question is sixteen-year-old James Riley, brought here by a rather disturbing experience.

Needless to say, if I were James, I would also fear the possibility that I have gone mad.

Now what I really liked about this story is that Stokes doesn’t try too hard to make James sound like a 16 year old. He simply tells the story in a normal way, with little slang and  words written out properly. I like that, it lets me decide for myself how the character sounds.

The other thing that I really liked was Stokes’ narrative flow. The story reads easily and he doesn’t cram too many adjectives into a sentence. He simply tells the story and you’re compelled to keep on reading because you’re not bombarded by unnecessary words. I had to look up two words though – lackadaisical and obsidian – but I guess I’m glad to be improving my vocabulary.

I say well done to Mr. Stokes.

Get Passing Visions on your Kindle here

Screen shot 2013-07-19 at 12.29.53 PMThe author


Well, generally my name is just shortened to Mart or I’m called Stokes by some of my friends. Prosaic, right? And I have the dubious pleasure of being called The Marinator by a select few. There’s a rather esoteric reason behind that name that I’d rather not go into.


I’m 21 but I’ll be turning 22 come December.

Your most prominent feature?

Oh wow, you’re asking for narcissism here. I’ve got a kind of broken-nose thing going on – kind of like Owen Wilson, but nowhere near as salient. Other than that I’ve got some pretty mean curls that start to show when my hair gets a bit longer.

How long have you been a writer?

I took an interest to writing when I was 16 or so, but I’ve loved books my entire life.

A published writer?

Kind of a funny story in a mirthless sort of way. I was 19 when I published my short story. Joe Vaz from Something Wicked picked it up. At the time it was the only print short-story magazine in South Africa (if my memory serves me correctly), but almost immediately after my story was accepted, the magazine went into a hiatus that spanned quite some time. During their break, they’d switched from a monthly magazine to a yearly anthology – worth the read, I might add, there are some fantastic local and international writers in there and the SW team do an amazing job putting the whole thing together. I had a story published last year and another two this year (the one you would have read, it’s the reason I’m typing this out, I guess) and in the middle of all of this, Joe Vaz and Vianne Venter from Something Wicked sent me an e-mail to say they’d like to put my story in one of their anthologies. So it actually took two years for the story to get to print, although it was accepted ages ago.

Who would you recommend Passing Visions to?

Anyone who’d read it! Horror aficionados, thriller-lovers and perhaps those with a strong gorge. But I think anyone who enjoys short fiction could deal with it.

Best book of your year so far?

At the moment I’m reading a novel by Stephen King; I’m about two-thirds through it and it’s gripped me like nothing has so far. So tentatively, I’d have to say 11/22/63.

Worst book of your year so far?

Tough question. I can’t think of a satisfactory answer, but I read a couple of pages of 50 Shades of Grey and was pretty horrified to realise that it actually made it print. If brevity counts, then most definitely 50 Shades.

Daylight writer or night time scribbler?

Writing is usually the third thing I do when I wake up. The first is stretch. The second is make a cup of coffee.

Real book or ebook?

I own a Kindle and love it to death but still find myself reading more paperbacks than anything else. eBooks do have merit, though. Who doesn’t like the idea of carrying around an entire library in the back-left pocket of their jeans?

Finish a bad book till the end or drop it and find something better?

I’m a firm believer in giving a book a chance. That being said. there’s only so much a person can struggle through. There are countless good books out there and a limited time to read as many as possible, so if the book really isn’t doing it for me, after I’ve given it a chance (and maybe a second one; I’m a believer in those, too), then I put it aside where it’ll most likely gather dust and progress onto what will hopefully be (and usually is) the next great novel.

*Featured image courtesy of Rosmary


How to spend a rainy Thursday afternoon in Cape Town

So it’s been raining the entire day and you were caught in a particularly strong downpour as you walked from the office to your car. Now you’re driving and all you want to be is home.

Don’t go there though. Rainy Thursday afternoons have much more potential.

Drive directly to the Book Lounge in Roeland Street. If it’s after 5pm then you don’t have to pay for parking anymore and, if you’re lucky, the casual car guards haven’t showed up yet. Now you can browse books to your heart’s delight, drink a warm cup of coffee or tea downstairs and settle in one of the deep chairs for a bit of a read. Alternatively, wrap up your day, make your to-do list for tomorrow or (and this usually happens to me) collect arms full of books, spread them out on the table below and take your proper time to decide what you want to buy. In other bookshops I tend to make much more rash decisions because there’s never space to sit.

booklounge market

Now you can go and get some dinner. The Hope Street Market is literally just up the road, but you might want to drive there. It’s a particularly cosy spot, partly because of the warm food and live acoustic music, and partly because the hall is generally packed to the brim with people in scarfs, coats and hoods. The food is hearty, but also readily made. So no cooking, no dishes and no takeaways. Grab a glass of smooth red or a craft beer, try and find a seat (the most challenging part of the evening) and either  meet up with friends or make a run for it and eat your food at home. If you’re planning to sit though, the upstairs area is your best bet.

booklounge market-2

Once home, there’s still an entire chunk of the evening left, but unlike the sluggish-series-and-microwave-meal-evening you would’ve had had you gone directly home, you now have proper food and proper books.

Art and books unite – The Shining Girls art show

shining girls

Lauren Beukes is making serious waves. And although I’ve seen her books come out and I’ve seen loads of people reading them, I’ve never actually read any of her novels. Until about a week ago. I just couldn’t ignore the existence of such an influential local author any longer. I’m speedily making my from Moxy Land, through Zoo City and on to The Shining Girls (her latest offering) and I can’t wait to get there.

Not only is The Shining Girls doing incredibly well locally, it’s also leaving it’s imprint overseas. Just have a look here, reviewed it.

And now it’s turning into an art show. A whole cluster of local artists are going to work on an exhibition together, each ripping a page out of the novel and doing whatever they want with it. The proceeds will go to Rape CrisisNot much is yet finalised, but artists that have been confirmed include Conrad BotesKudzanai Chiurai,Faith47Joey Hi-Fi and DALEast. The exhibition will run from 6-11 September in collaboration with the Open Book Festival in Cape Town’s fringe district.

Read more on Lauren Beukes’s website.

the shining girls lauren beukes

Fox & Raven – Cape Town’s freshest publishing house

Now here’s something you probably haven’t seen in Cape Town recently – a niche, indie publishing house that’s not afraid to take chances and even less afraid of having a bit of character. I spoke to Marius from Fox & Raven Publishing, a brand new startup publishing house, to find out what the fox and the raven has in store for the South African book scene.

I’ll be reviewing some short stories published by Fox & Raven in the future, doing mini profiles on the authors too. Seeing as I love books to bits, I thought it apt to promote a bit of local talent.

1. What Fox & Raven Publishing is all about?

In a sentence or two, Fox & Raven is about providing a trove of beautiful, well-written books that don’t necessarily conform to the commercialist ideals of most big publishing houses. It’s also about drinking Earl Grey tea (we live for bergamot) and consuming Seville orange marmalade while reading.

2. How long have you guys been out there?

We’ve been through many metamorphoses throughout the years. I suppose our roots can be traced back to the advent of Myspace (we were only in our teens, we swear! Stop judging!). Since then, we’ve been a blog, a forum, another start-up publisher-that-wasn’t, and now finally we’re here. In our current incarnation, we’ve been alive for only a few months!

3. It says on your Facebook page that you specialise in speculative fiction.

Please explain what this is exactly and why you chose this as your number one field.

Speculative fiction is the umbrella corporation/term (Resident Evil, anyone?) for more fantastical fiction genres. The main players are fantasy, science-fiction and horror, but it can be way more specific – think of post-apocalyptic demons trying to take over a steampunk world that can only be saved by High Elves travelling through space in primordial interstellar ships. You get the picture.

Why did we choose it? Because we love it, and there aren’t enough South African writers published in these genres!

4. Are you planning to publish other genres as well in the future?

Definitely. The idea is to expand, slowly but surely, into a publishing house that has a finger in many proverbial pies. Our first foray into a different genre will be announced in a couple of months – but we’re already working on it!

5. I see you’re jumping straight in with some short stories from local authors. Any specific reason?

Short stories are a great way to get people interested – in both the company and new authors. It’s also a good way for the publishing house to interact with a large pool of potential authors. We’re on a mission to find the coolest, most eclectic writers SA (and the rest of the world, fear not!) has to offer.

6. Any other publications in the pipeline? I heard speak of a full-length novel…

We can’t give you any details yet, but we’re in negotiations for not one, but two full-length novels! We plan on having them in the shops by Christmas.

7. Fox & Raven is a pretty rad name for a publishing house. Any specific reason?

Thanks, we love it too! It’s based on one of Aesop’s Fables (The fox and the raven). The fox represents the fun, fiction side of the company. The raven represents the more serious, non-fiction side (which we haven’t explored yet – that’s why it’s always the fox jabbering away on Facebook!).

8. What is the last book you’ve read?

I’m busy with Foundling by D.M. Cornish and The Post-Birthday World by Lionel Shriver. I’ve had to learn to read many things at once. The last thing I read to completion is actually Equinox by Rhys Shannon, an upcoming short story we’re publishing!

9. If you could have the life of any book character ever, who’s would it be?

I’d have to go with Ringil Eskiath from the A Land Fit for Heroes series by Richard K. Morgan. He has a cool sword, does magic, kills dragons. Oh yes, he is bad-ass! Can I say that? [off course you can! -Ed]

10. Where can we get hold of you?

Our website is currently under construction, but you’ll be able to find it at once it’s up and running (check back towards the middle of July).

In the meantime, check us out on Facebook, Twitter (@FoxRavenPub), Pinterest and tumblr.

Sjoe! That’s a mouthful!

Thanks for chatting with us. See you around!

books are awesome
Image courtesy of Shutterhacks
Cover image courtesy of Az

The Book Lounge: Couch win

There’s just something about independent bookstores. Maybe because they don’t resemble the chain store layout, with generic shelves and proper security. Still, most independent stores just seem to be a better home for books and even though they tend to be smaller, they also tend to give the impression that they have that specific book you’re looking for, the one you thought was out of print. I’m especially fond of the ones with couches. Not only one or two, but enough of them standing around so you don’t feel like the only idiot sitting down to properly appreciate a book. The Book Lounge definitely wins when it comes to their amount of seating, making the name rather appropriate. And their book collection is pretty cool too.

It wasn’t built to be a bookstore. It couldn’t have been, unless it has been a bookstore for a few centuries. The Book Lounge opened in 2007, on the corner of Roeland and Buitenkant Street, as part of a very classic looking corner building with rows of small white framed windows. The store is beneath this nameless space, occupying the ground level and extending to the basement. Inconsistently spaced steps and occasional creaks will make anyone feel comfortable in here.

Up top, there are only two couches, because here you’ll find all the fiction you can imagine, plus art, gardening, humour, some Afrikaans novels and much more. Books fill all the shelves lining the walls as well as the numerous mismatched tables standing around. This may sound intensely cramped, not unlike airport bookstores, but actually there’s more than enough space to laze around and browse. And in the event of you being in a hurry and wanting to find that certain book fast, the staff will definitely know if they have what you’re looking for and they’ll probably know whether it’s any good too. They’re also pretty good for recommendations if you’ve developed a sudden interest in a new subject and you can’t wait to start learning more. On the table-shelf-tower close to the counter you’ll also see a newspaper-like, smallish magazine called Jungle Jim. This is a bimothly, African pulp fiction magazine available in a very selected list of Cape Town stores. They’re always looking for contributors, if you happen to be interested.

Then there’s the basement. This is the official lounge area, with books only lining all the walls. In the middle, there’s a mat surrounded by comfy chairs and couches as well as a few rickety wooden coffee tables. This is the perfect spot to sit down and read a book or paper, because here you can order coffee’s, teas or milkshakes and even nimbly treats like muffins and cake. These are served in proper china, complete with crinkly porcelain and patterned cups (by the looks of it, you’d never get the same one twice). Also, if you need space to read that paper, there’s the conveniently large dining table. Here you’ll regularly find friends catching up in between the philosophy section and children’s books.

Another feature of the Book Lounge that makes it better than the run of the mill bookstore, is that they regularly host events. Book related, off course. On their website you’ll find dates for upcoming readings, launches and the mandatory Saturday morning Story Time. All kids are welcome to come and listen to a story. And since it’s their hour, no cake or coffee will be served during this time.

So, if you can’t afford to buy a book just take whatever you’re reading and do it there. It’s a good place to go if you feel like going out but not like being in a crowded restaurant where waiters are lurching and yuppies are ipadding.