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The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club

Kim Newman

" “I have written to Mr. Trotsky in Moscow, offering to place my services at his disposal if he would charge me with the responsibility of eradicating Christianity from the planet.” 

“And has he written back?” 

“Actually, no.” "

Reviewed by Mark Dalligan

No one quite writes like Kim Newman. He interweaves fictional characters and eerie plots with actual people (and sometimes other writers’ fictional ones) creating seamless alternative realities set in the near past. His heroes and villains populate environments, often subtly, sometimes sublimely, different from our own but, at the same time, recognisable. There is always a meticulous attention to detail, and enough common "real world" furniture, to make the reader comfortable.

The Secret Files of the Diogenes Club is largely a prequel to his collection The Man from the Diogenes Club (2006) which introduced this extraordinary branch of the UK intelligence service. Since the time of its founder, Mycroft Holmes (ref. Conan Doyle: The Greek Interpreter), the Diogenes Club has been secretly engaged in combating unworldly and downright supernatural challenges beyond the scope of the common day PC Plod. The first collection covered the late 1960’s to the present and focussed on style conscious, moustachioed Richard Jeperson (think Jason King of 1970s shows Department S and Jason King), a man with no early history but strong psychic talents. 

The new collection consists, with one exception, of previously published stories and takes us back to the Victorian era, concluding in the 1970s. The common theme is not unusual for the genre: beating overwhelming odds and, mainly, the ultimate triumph of Good over Evil. Newman’s characters though can suffer real agony, emotional and physical, and innocence can be permanently lost: this is not comic-strip fantasy, even though well dotted with humour. 

The first, and longest story, The Gypsies in the Wood, features Charles Beauregard, one of the Diogenes’s first high office holders. It is perhaps the most disturbing narrative in the volume with a theme of disappearing children, disjointed timelines and strange returns. Resolution comes in a superb tour de force of disrupted Victorian commercialism, merging realities, and secret places. 

On a lighter note, Richard Riddle, Boy Detective, is written in the vein of a Famous Five jaunt. It brings a trio of youngsters into conflict with an anti-Darwinist with a secret to hide. In Angel Down, Sussex an other worldly visitation is investigated with the assistance of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, opposed by the machinations of Aleister Crowley, the Great Beast. Clubland Heroes presents a moral tale of impossible High Society beings and small-mindedness. The Big Fish is a Private Eye story set in California shortly after Pearl Harbour. It throws film starlets and a baby into an H.P. Lovecraft inspired coastal setting, producing an enjoyable bouillabaisse. Another Fish Story has the diabolic tycoon, Derek Leech, bring confusion and, unusually, happiness in a world teetering on the edge of destruction during the making of a B-movie. The final offering, Cold Snap, brings back Richard Jeperson and Derek Leech in conflict with themselves, a mad scientist and inclement weather.

Mark Dalligan’s short fiction has appeared in a number of publications including Static Movement, MicroHorror, Boston Literary Magazine, LitBits and Apollo's Lyre.


PublisherMonkeyBrain Books

Publication Date:Nov 2007

Paperback/Hardback? Paperback

First collection?No

Author bio: Kim Newman was born in London in 1959. After a Somerset childhood and reading English at the University of Sussex, he returned to London and began his career as a film critic, broadcaster and alternative history SF novelist. His first novel The Night Mayor (1989) heralded many award winning works.

Read an interview with Kim Newman

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