The bad news is that writer, publisher and literary pundit Michael Allen, aka Grumpy Old Bookman, is cutting back on his blogging, which is a bummer as I always enjoy his insights into the fast-evolving world of publishing.

The good news is that Allen has decided to put more time into his own writing. After publishing remarkable and award-winning novels, he has sent me an interesting and morally complex novella entitled Lucius the Club. I would recommend that you seek out this little treat.

I got to know Michael Allen via our mutual appreciation of espionage novelist Robert Littell. In his Grumpy Old Bookman blog, he wrote in 2005 of his admiration for Littell’s novel Legends, but said he was perplexed that so little was known about the author, or had been written about him.

I tracked Littell down through his publisher, Peter Mayer at Duckworth, after first bumping into Suzzanah Rich (a Duckworth executive) at the London Book Fair in early 2005 . I was advised that Littell was making a rare appearance at Crimescene London, but was not keen to be interviewed. Never one to be put off by adversity, I wrote to Duckworth and forwarded my questions. Mayer called me back the same day, saying that Littell would meet with me. There was no word on why he’d changed his mind. On the day of our exchange, Littell and I had a tremendous time together (author and fan-boy), which culminated in us joining Suzzanah Rich, Peter Mayer and Robert’s wife for dinner at the OXO Tower on the South Bank of the Thames. So, why did the reclusive Littell agree to the interview? The reason turned out to be our mutual love of chess. Littell proved to be a terrific subject and I really enjoyed meeting him. You can read my interview with him here.

As I said when I opened this post, I enjoyed reading Allen’s new novella, Lucius the Club, immensely. I love the novella format, which is so neglected these days. I find the form more satisfying than the short story, and less daunting than cracking the spine of a novel. So I brewed some fresh coffee, grabbed my reading glasses and spent a wonderful 20 minutes enchanted by Allen’s somewhat dark, but morally satisfying crime thriller.

Set in London in the 1950s, the title’s Lucius needs to help his mother, a B-list starlet. His family background involves gangsters, blackmailers and pornographers, so this short tale might not be ideal for granny to read. The help Lucius’ mother requires involves a sawed-off shotgun and a fractured past, as well as sexual indiscretions that may shock those readers with more nervous dispositions. Needless to say, once the deed is done, there is a revelation that turns this tale into one that features moral decisions and shows that the human condition can be a deeply complex one. If, like me, you sometimes need to read something unusual, give Lucius a go. It’s worth the 20 minutes of your time, and more.

You can purchase Lucius the Club in book form, or download it for free.

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