Three Books That Perfectly Sum Up Les Années Folles in Paris

Ask any aspiring writer or avid reader if there is a
specific period in history to which they would like to return, and 1920s Paris
is bound to be somewhere near the top of the list. As America was celebrating
the Jazz Age, Paris was experiencing Les Années Folles (The Mad Years).
The era saw the Lost Generation writers like Hemingway, Fitzgerald and
many others rub shoulders
with everyone from Cole Porter to Ravel to

While the era has undoubtedly been over romanticised,
it is still the go-to daydream for writers, many of whom make pilgrimages to
old haunts like La Closerie des Lilas or Shakespeare and Co when visiting the
City of Light. But the best way to transport oneself back to that time is
through a book, and below we look at three of the best:

Ernest Hemingway – A Moveable Feast

“If you are lucky enough to have lived in Paris as a young
man, then wherever you go for the rest of your life, it stays with you, for
Paris is a moveable feast

Hemingway was a bit of a rogue, of course, enjoying betting
on horses, casino games,
booze and, most famously, a string of affairs. Some of that shines through in a
Moveable Feast, Hemingway’s beautiful account of his time in Paris before he
found fame. The book is a who’s who of Paris at the time, with the author
describing his adventures with the likes of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude
Stein, and his brushes with legendary figures like James Joyce. Yet, at its
heart, A Moveable Feast is more than a love letter to a city; it is a
snapshot of one of the 20th century’s greatest writers being forged
by the hand of history. You could easily dispel the myth of the book by reading
Paula McLain’s A Paris Wife, which tells the story from Hemingway’s
wife’s, Hadley Richardson, point of view. But you don’t have to love the man to
admire the words.

Janet Flanner – Paris Was Yesterday (1925-1939)

“Proust has been dead since 1922,
yet the annual appearance of his posthumous works has left him, to the reader,
alive. Now there is nothing left to publish. Five years after his interment,
Proust seems dead for the first time.”

Writing under the pen-name Genêt, Flanner was the New
Yorker’s Paris Correspondent from 1925 to 1975. Paris Was Yesterday is a
collection of her best articles for the magazine, spanning the mid-20s up to
the outbreak of the Second World War. It covers more than just the artists and
writers, of course, and Flanner’s vivacious prose made reading about every
facet of Parisian life and politics interesting. Indeed, it is perhaps the best
testament to Flanner’s brilliant articles that the reader is left wanting to
know more about the author, rather than her subject matter. And, Flanner was
herself an important fixture in 1920s Paris.

Mary McAuliffe – When Paris Sizzled

“The mauve-colored romanticism of
prewar days had disappeared in the shock of aerial bombardment and mustard gas

If you want a contemporary writer to transport you back to
the 1920s of Hemingway and Ezra Pound, then look no further than Mary
McAuliffe. In truth, you could choose any one of the great Paris books written
by McAuliffe, but When
Paris Sizzled
is the perfect read
for anyone looking to dive right back
to Les Années Folles. McAuliffe has an encyclopedic knowledge of
the era, reeling off anecdote after anecdote on Proust, Chanel, Porter et al.
But it’s not just a collection of individual tales either; McAuliffe weaves
them all together into a delightful patchwork. A remarkable book.

Watch Billie Eilish interviewed by an A.I.

New trailer for Stranger Things 4… Guess who didn’t die.

Poker Games in Literature

If someone asked you to name a novel that
features poker, your first thought would likely be Casino Royale. After all, in
the famous 2006 James Bond movie, a high-stakes poker game is central to the
plot. However, in Ian Fleming’s novels, Baccarat chemin-de-fer was 007’s
preferred game. So, which literature has actually featured the game of poker?
Here are some of the best poker-based stories.

Last Call

Last Call, Tim Powers’ first book in the Fault
Lines series, won the World Fantasy Award in 1993. Set in the neon world of Las
Vegas, the plot of this acclaimed novel follows former professional gambler
Scott Crane. He is down on his luck, to say the least. As well as being blind
in one eye and a recent widower, he is also the target of a man who wants to
kill him. The only way out of his sticky situation is to resume his gambling
career and win the high-stakes game of a lifetime, by wagering everything he

This novel is sure to make you want to visit Las
Vegas casinos yourself. But if you are not in a position to board a plane
straight away, you could always play poker and slot games at an online casino instead.

Oscar and Lucinda

Set in the 19th century, Peter Carey’s Booker
Prize-winning novel Oscar and Lucinda sees the eponymous
protagonists meeting on a voyage while travelling from England to Australia.
Oscar is a young clergyman who has broken away from his past life and developed
a talent for gambling. Lucinda, meanwhile, is a country girl who dreams of
building an industrial utopia in Sydney.

The startling and unusual romantic story sees the
couple coming together because of their shared love of gambling. Although the
poker games featured in this stunning novel are not the high-stakes casino
games of other narratives, the one-on-one penny-bet poker games that Oscar and
Lucinda share are wonderfully portrayed. Peter Carey’s visionary expertise and
his ability to surprise and delight are at their most abundant in this novel.

Poker Night

Esquire first published John Updike’s story Poker
Night in 1984. It was then included in the author’s 1987 short story collection
Trust Me. The tale follows an unnamed, middle-aged man who is living a far from
remarkable existence. He has worked for years at his local plant and is married
with two children. Central to his routine is his participation in an
every-other-Wednesday poker game, which he has been attending for three
decades. When the protagonist becomes diagnosed with cancer, he continues his
routine of poker-playing so he can avoid thinking about his fate. He also tries
to distract himself so that he does not have to tell his wife about his
terminal illness.

It is clear that the card game is providing the
character with some escape, and Updike deftly uses his literary skills to
create symbolism between the man’s situation and the poker games he plays.

Dead Man’s Hand: Crime
Fiction at the Poker Table

Perhaps it is the element of risk and the art of
bluffing that has made poker go so easily hand in hand with the crime genre in
the world of fiction. You will find many crime novels that feature the world’s
most popular gambling card game. In the 2017 book Dead Man’s Hand: Crime Fiction at the Poker Table,
you have the opportunity to discover a variety of poker-based crime stories by
some of literature’s most renowned authors.

Joyce Carol Oates, John Lescroart, Walter Mosley,
and many other famous names, have contributed fantastic mystery stories to this
unique anthology, edited by Otto Penzler. In Michael Connelly’s One Dollar
Jackpot, you will find his curmudgeonly character Harry Bosch going toe-to-toe
with a professional poker player. Laura Lippman’s Hardly Knew Her follows a
young woman who learns about bluffing the odd way. Other stand-out pieces in
this gripping anthology include Alexander McCall Smith’s In the Eyes of
Children, which features a poker scam at sea, and Jeffrey Deaver’s Bump, which
tells the tale of a washed-up actor trying to make big money by hustling cards.
Any fan of crime or poker is sure to enjoy the suspenseful stories of Dead
Man’s Hand.

The Best Literature for 2020: Get Holiday Read Ready Right Now

Having a holiday to look forward to is one of the surest ways to get the new
year off to a good start and, if you’re anything like us, there’s one
thing in particular you’ll look forward to: planning your holiday reads. 

While working on an itinerary and picking out a chic and stylish capsule
wardrobe both help to build the anticipation and get you ready for a week
or two of relaxing, there’s something sublime about picking out a selection of
top-quality titles and knowing you’ll soon be able to read them
without interruptions. 

But deciding which novels make the cut is a notoriously difficult decision
to reach – one that takes plenty of preparation in advance. To help you out,
here are three of the best and biggest titles of 2019/2020 for you to

The Porpoise by Mark Haddon

Best known for his breakout novel, The Curious Incident of the Dog
in the Night-Time
, Mark Haddon has recently produced another book to
rival the intelligent approach and immersive style of his first, yet the story
he tells this time around is entirely different and original. Drawing on Greek
legend and Shakespearean narratives, The Porpoise takes you
on a mile-a-minute adventure, making it an ideal option for days spent around a
sun-baked pool, when you have the luxury of taking as long as you like turning
its pages. Telling the tale of
sole survivor Angelica
, it’s sure to have you hooked within the first few

Circe by Madeline Miller 

Planning a trip to somewhere warm and balmy once winter is done? Then it’s
time to craft your ideal itinerary. Whether you decide to explore Spain’s sunny
surroundings with car hire from Malaga
 starting at one euro per day, or book onto a bus tour of the
local area, you’ll want to have this particular book safely tucked away in your
bag in advance of any beach stops. Inspired by Greek mythology, Circe tells
the story of the titular character, who’s rejected by her divine family due to
her strange powers and inherent softness. Banished to an island where she must
live in solitude, this is a wonderful retelling of an ancient story – one that
combines love, witchcraft, and the most beautiful and compelling of

Good Omens by Neil Gaiman
and Terry Pratchett

When a book is authored by two writers as celebrated as Neil Gaiman and
Terry Pratchett, you know it’s going to be a treat, and Good Omens does
not disappoint. The final addition to this list, it was recently turned
into a
show on Amazon Prime
. Not only is the novel better than its wonderful
adaptation, but it’s undoubtedly one of the best titles released in the
last three decades. Telling the story of an angel and a demon, who’ve become
unlikely allies after living on earth together for centuries, it was originally
published in 1990, but has experienced a welcome resurgence in popularity
since being back in the spotlight. A word of warning, however: read it at your
peril, for, once you pick it up, you won’t be able to put it

When it comes to choosing your holiday reading material, the right
titles really can make or break your time away. Select wisely, and make sure
your days around the pool are filled with the most wondrous stories.

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Get Organised When You Bet

Placing a bet is both an exciting and
thrilling experience, and it’s a popular one around the world. But while
getting caught up in the anticipation is all part of the fun, getting organised
before you bet can maximise your chances of securing a win. While some may pick
a selection at random, here is some advice to consider when in the realm of
betting to ensure you are not only confident in playing amongst the most
experienced of bettors, but that you can also increase your gamble’s chance of
success by getting organised. From strategy to research, budget planning and
learning the types of bet, here’s how to be organised.

Your Strategy

Spend a short amount of time researching
betting strategies to become familiar with each and see if any may appeal to
you and the type of bet you wish to place. There are many tried and tested
tactics when betting, whether it’s on sport, in poker or on horse racing. Some
are classic favourites and others are more modern, but all of them are worth
investing the time into considering if any are ones you may wish to employ.
Doing your research and practicing beforehand will help you pick the best
tactic, this is easily done through horse
racing guides
, football tips and so many others.

Your Subject

Whatever you’re betting on, whether it’s
sport or something else, understanding your subject clearly is key. Get
organised beforehand and do your homework, whether that’s checking the
statistics and trends in horse racing, season performances for players or teams
in sport, or learning the rules of a game if you’re hitting the casinos. Being organised with your
betting strategy includes researching your subject in depth so you can be

Your Bet

Part of the enjoyment of betting is the many
types of bet that you can choose from when placing a wager. Regardless if you
are an experienced bettor or a first timer, taking the time to consider what
each bet means and what it can potentially offer will not only increase your
confidence in the betting system, but also enable you to make better informed
decisions. Single, double or treble bets are arguably the most common types and
are a great place to start in understanding the basic terms of each. However,
there are many more types of bets, some that are more popular among punters than
others, that you may wish to consider and discover the next time you place a
bet on the races.

Your Time and Budget

Betting responsible means planning out how
much time you’re going to spend betting and how much money you’re going to
spend. It can be all too easy to get caught up in the fun and excitement of
gambling and before you know it, you’ve lost hours and money you couldn’t
afford to spend. Make sure that you plan in advance and set a budget – once
it’s gone or you reach the time you said you were stopping, make sure you stop.

Betting systems and sports predictions in Africa.

Despite all its adverse conditions, Africa
has great potential in sports, which has experienced rapid growth in recent
years. Therefore, it is normal to see Africa participate in world championships
of different disciplines and it even hosted an Olympic Games. A continent that
is sportingly worthy of admiration for the sporting advances it currently has.

This sports boom opened the doors to
betting and its market penetration has been so great that we can now find
several world-famous bookmakers that are originally from this continent. For
example, Bet9ja whose headquarters is in Nigeria.

Bet9ja offers booking products, online
games and betting on a sport or live game. An easy and simple system to handle.
To access, you only need to register and you will be creditor of a bonus that
will allow you to start in this betting world.

Most of these companies offer the
opportunity to place bets at a specific rate and have a wide market of events.
That is, you can bet on the best-known competitions, or the least known, but
equally important for a population.

Placing a bet is not just going to one of
these platforms and betting on your favorite team. At all! Well, unless you
don’t mind losing a lot of money and just see this as recreational. Otherwise,
it is important to analyze the statistics of the teams you want to bet, analyze
that data well and choose the best odds instead of betting on many games.

Another option is the sports prediction
systems in Africa, such as the Bet9ja sure predictions
which offers its soccer forecasts, among which stand out; English League,
Spanish League, Italian League, French League, UEFA Champions League, Europe
League, as well as VIP Games.

Bet9ja sure predictions is one of the
safest and most reliable soccer prediction platforms in Nigeria because they
provide the best forecasts daily, ensuring compliance. By just registering for
this service, you will get a 20-odd 100% free bonus.

So, if you want to be more likely to make
money betting, you have the opportunity to use this or any other sports
prediction platform. You just have to register for free or pay. We recommend
you to pay your fee as it will allow you to get more information. Combine it
with the analyzes the platform has made so that you can place a safer bet.

Top Casino Themed Novels of All Time

As gambling continues to be a classic
form of entertainment, the gambling industry is often written about in books
and depicted in novels. From Las Vegas and Atlantic City to high-stakes table
games, there are a few casino-themed books that are delightful page-turners and
some of the best reads for your next vacation or long commute home.

These include:

Molly’s Game

“I wanted a big life, a grand
adventure, and no one was going to hand it to. I wasn’t born with a way to get
it. I was waiting for my opportunity, and somehow I knew it would
come.” Molly Bloom

Molly’s Game is the true story of
26-year-old Molly Bloom who hails from Colorado. The memoir is about the
high-stakes poker player who organized some of the world’s largest no-limit
underground poker tournaments on the east and west coasts. 

While most of the novel is about the
private games she arranged for Hollywood’s elite, Molly offers a lot of insight
into reading poker tells, working on her mental
strategy for poker
 and how she advanced from the typical low-limit
games and moved up the ranks. The overachiever who was also a star athlete
played with the wealthiest tycoons and business barons from all over the world
before catching the attention of the FBI. 

The Dark Side of the Felt

The fiction story by Tyler Nals is
based on real-life gambling experiences in casinos. While not a straight lace
poker read, it’s an adrenaline ride that a lot of gamblers have  taken.
Tyler uses both humor and pain to depict the rollercoaster ride gamblers go
through from their high-stakes, no-limit tournaments to underground games that
will keep you turning the pages in this thrilling and engaging read. 

The Dark Side tells a story that’s
not often seen outside of the safe and clean existence of mainstream casinos
and one that not every poker player knows about. It’s an adventurous ride that
every gambler should take – but buckle up for the sometimes unbelievable
stories ahead.


Comped is a high-roller’s personal
story of life in Atlantic City in the 1980s. It was the time when casinos were
bustling with activity and no one could even imagine online gambling or the
collapse of star-studded casinos like the Taj or Showboat. 

Author Bill Kearney depicts a dark and
shady side of Atlantic City, Celebrities frequented the casinos, doubling down
could get you into all kinds of trouble and winning big meant fast cars, even
faster women, lush penthouse suites and a free ride – everywhere.

All On Zero

Ahh, if only love were candid and
transparent. However, when a love story takes place in a casino, it’s
guaranteed that the players will hide their true emotions. Such is the case in All On Zero by Argiro Mantoglou and Don
Nielsen. It’s the story of lovers Stavros and Dawn who meet  in a casino
and chase big wins as they try to hide their true emotions. Game on!

Diving into Irish Folklore in The National Leprechaun Museum

Picture Credits: Roman Kharkovski

A hidden treasure in the heart of Dublin is the National Leprechaun Museum — a one of a kind destination dedicated to Irish mythology and folklore. Once called the “Louvre of leprechauns” by The Irish Times, it is the first ever museum that highlights significant figures in Irish mythology through immersive storytelling. For those who are fascinated by Ireland’s myths and how they tie to the country’s history this is a must visit.

The Leprechaun Myth

The tour of the museum begins with its namesake, as a guide explains to the group what leprechauns are and their place in Irish culture and history. Known around the world as a comical figure on cereal boxes or in cartoons, the leprechaun is seen in a different light in its home country. Most Irish folktales feature the leprechaun as a cunning being that holds onto his pot of gold no matter who or what tries to deprive him of it. This is reminiscent of Ireland’s history of resistance against powerful forces that tried to exploit their resources.

Indeed, the pot of gold has been a recurring theme not just in Irish literature, but also in its modern culture. At tourist spots, visitors to the country are often presented with an array of merchandise featuring pot of gold pins, necklaces, and even the option of getting tattoos. Unsurprisingly, it also makes an appearance on the Lottoland guide to the national Irish Lotto as a stylised cartoon that both references the country’s culture and the purpose of the game. Around the world, the phrase has become a colloquial term used to describe almost anything that’s highly desirable but unattainable.

These versions and drastic transformations are explored in the museum. The magic happens when visitors appear to shrink compared to the large objects around the room, which the designer claims to be accurate proportions to the supposed size of leprechauns. At the end of it all, the main attraction is a pot with real gold that is strategically out of reach.

The Giant’s Causeway Exhibition

Naturally, the museum dedicated to Irish folklore includes Northern Ireland’s most popular sight. As leprechaun-sized guests move from room to room, they will find themselves under the hexagonal rocks of Finn McCool’s world and will learn about the “real” origin story. Legend has it that a giant named Finn built the Giant’s Causeway from Northern Ireland all the way to Scotland to fight a giant named Benandonner. However, upon closer inspection, Finn discovered that the other giant was much larger than he thought. He ran back to his wife Oonagh who then devised an ingenious plan to trick Benandonner. When the other giant crossed the Causeway looking for Finn, Oonagh told him that her husband wasn’t home, but he was welcome to see their child Oisin. The trick was that Oisin was actually Finn disguised as a baby. The plan worked because upon seeing a huge baby, Benandonner retreated, destroying the Causeway so that nobody could follow him. This destruction is still evident today as only the beginning of the “bridge” that Finn built was left behind.

Picture Credit: Image Credit: Guide Irlande

Like the leprechaun, the guile and wits of the smaller player in the story won over the large force that threatened it. This theme of outwitting power is evident in other Irish stories featured in the museum, which cover the banshee, selkie, fairies, and more. Upon experiencing these stories both tourists and locals will leave the museum in Dublin with a renewed sense of appreciation for how deep Irish mythology goes, and how entrenched it is within the country’s history and struggles.

In Conversation with Adetokumboh M’Cormack and Raphael Corkhill: Africa, the Power of Storytelling and The German King

Trailer The German King

Adetokumboh M’Cormack (writer/director/actor/producer) and Raphael Corkhill (actor/producer) talk about their lives, the journey to becoming storytellers, role film has to play in changing the narrative of Africa and their upcoming feature film The German King which tells the true, untold story of the Cameroonian king and freedom fighter, Rudolf Duala Manga Bell, who led an uprising on the eve of World War I against Kaiser Wilhelm II’s oppressive colonial rule.

AM: I remember my first play at the age of 3 at the kindergarten back home in Sierra Leone. I was wearing a mask, fell off the stage and couldn’t wait to get back on! But those early experiences were when I fell in love with telling stories, which stayed with me growing up in Nigeria and Kenya before I moved to the US to train professionally as an actor at SUNY Purchase. Now, I love telling stories that show “us” – specifically Africans – in a different light from the negative and stereotypical images we typically see: terrorists, scammers, drug dealers and child soldiers. We are dignified, proud, smart, so many of us are regal, we have a rich history. But the experiences that I have seen on film do not reflect my own experience, and so I really felt the need to tell a different narrative.

RC: I didn’t start acting until after university so you have a headstart there! I did other kinds of performance: I grew up in London and South Wales and was a chorister in the Queen’s personal choir, the Chapel Royal, I played the ‘cello in various orchestras before becoming a professional DJ, which is how I made money while at college at Princeton. But storytelling, specifically through acting, has been a constant presence in my life. Remind me – how did you first learn about King Rudolf?

AM: It was probably just after the fiftieth time I had an audition to play a terrorist. Growing up I saw these amazing stories like Braveheart or Gladiator – all these really amazing heroes… who were white! It seemed that time and again we were being told that our African heroes did not exist of course they existed – we just hadn’t had an opportunity to tell their stories. So I started researching African heroes and thousands of stories came up. I just gravitated to King Rudolf. 

RC: When you first told me about his story it was like you were uncovering layer upon layer of history and heroism. The fact that King Rudolf not only knew Kaiser Wilhelm II personally, but they’d grown up together as young men and been close friends; the fact that their sons also later grew up together in Germany as friends; the fact that King Rudolf’s identity and loyalties are pretty divided as a result of his early experiences all were evidence of this.

AM: You have this Cameroonian prince who grew up in Germany with Wilhelm and was pretty much brainwashed into becoming German – he spoke German, dressed in a German way and felt German to his core. Then he came back to Cameroon to become king after his father passed and started seeing what tyrannical German rule was doing to his people. Subjugated, enslaved, killed. Not just in Cameroon but also in what is now called Namibia – the near extermination of the Nama and Herero peoples. 

We are especially keen to partner with investors who seek who understand the power of underrepresented perspectives to shape and strengthen group identity, cultural richness and social cohesion the world over.

Adetokumboh M’Cormack

RC: The way their relationship is shown in the film also reveals a different side to Kaiser Wilhelm. He was very much the cruel, irrational dictator he is generally presented as. But the story also shows the nuance of his character: the deep love he has for his family, the duty he feels towards Germany. Even the warped sense of betrayal he feels after King Rudolf’s uprising. Ironically, those same factors motivate Rudolf, the main difference of course being that Rudolf’s eyes are wide open, whereas Wilhelm is blinded by his own insecurities. The narrative Wilhelm created for himself was crystal clear in the script and the film asks us to consider our own narratives and prejudices, which can sometimes be buried quite deep.

AM: The more I read about King Rudolf’s life, the more I realized we were so similar. I had a bit of an identity crisis when I came to America and I remember for the first time being called the N-word. I remember turning around being like “who are they talking to?” To realize that I was that N-word that these people were talking about – in their eyes that was how they saw me. It was a really interesting thing to see that as much as I thought of myself in a certain way, at the end of the day, those who hated me because of my skin color or those who didn’t understand me because of my skin color saw me in a completely different light than I saw myself. 

RC: In the same way that an individual can experience a real split between their self-image and the way the rest of the world sees them, so entire regions can experience the same disconnect between the way they see themselves and the way they are characterised throughout the world. The German King seeks to undo that completely. In fact we go through that process with Rudolf as we see him wrestle with his loyalties before coming to the realisation that he must do everything possible, whatever the cost to himself, to fight for justice, and sacrifice his own freedom and wellbeing for that of Cameroon. 

AM: Building on the buzz from our short film, which has now qualified Academy Award consideration, we’re definitely going to dive deeper into the relationship and complexities of the friendship between King Rudolf and Kaiser Wilhelm in the feature-length film. And we’re also going to see some of the other people who were instrumental in bringing about change. The Africans who fought in WWI, and also ones also on the forefront of bringing about the end of German colonial rule within Africa. We start shortly after the Scramble for Africa so you get to understand why the colonial powers were in Africa in the first place.

RC: The script is ready, the budget and schedule are set, and we’re chomping at the bit to start shooting. Of course, to do justice to the story and King Rudolf’s legacy, the film requires financing and we are currently seeking investment. In addition to the drama and intrigue of this epic moment in history, the film will have powerful battle sequences that portray the violent nature of German colonialism and the Cameroonian uprising. We are especially keen to partner with investors who seek to retell the narrative of Africa, who wish to give a platform to minority viewpoints, and who understand the power of underrepresented perspectives to shape and strengthen group identity, cultural richness and social cohesion the world over.

Adetokumboh M’Cormack was born in Freetown, Sierra Leone and began his career as an actor at the age of twelve. With a background in Fine Arts from Purchase College Acting Conservatory in New York, His credits include leading roles in movies like Columbia Pictures’ blockbuster Battle Los Angeles, Blood Diamond alongside Leonardo DiCaprio, and Captain America: Winter Soldier. He has also starred in hit TV shows like Lost, 24 and NCIS and currently voices the character ‘Isaac’ on the Netflix animated tv series Castlevania. Wanting to tell more stories about people underrepresented in mainstream media, M’Cormack also writes, produces and directs. His works include the award winning short film Irish Goodbye and October 96.

Born in the UK, Raphael grew up in London and South Wales. He went to United States to attend Princeton University where he studied history with a focus on colonialism in West Africa after which, winning a full scholarship, he went on to attend drama school at the University of Southern California. Followng this he established himself as a video game voice actor during which time he worked with Adetokumboh. In 2014 Raphael moved to New York to focus on film, television and theatre, playing the role of ‘Hamlet’ in the groundbreaking play United States of Banana by the eminent Puerto Rican writer Giannina Braschi. Raphael’s onscreen work includes The Blacklist (NBC), Happy! (SyFy), The Hunt (Amazon) and, most recently, an acclaimed performance in The Goldfinch (Warner Bros.) alongside Angel Elgort and Nicole Kidman.

The Best Stories from Non-Fiction Casino-Themed Books

Works like Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale, Fyodor Dostoevsky’s The
, and Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas feature
stories that transcend the casino genre, exploring themes that could easily
appeal to those with little interest in poker or roulette. However, those with
a keener interest in the mechanics of the casino industry may be better served
by the non-fiction genre.

These books can often read more like gripping novels, as the real stories of
those in the casino business can be as wild as any work of fiction. With that
in mind, here are three essential books for anyone looking to learn more
about the intricacies of the casino industry.

David G. Schwartz:
Roll the Bones

For a broad but compelling overview of the history of gambling, Schwartz’s Roll
the Bones
is the ideal starting point. Betting wasn’t invented in Las
Vegas, while modern table games haven’t always looked the way they do today.
Those games are the result of thousands of years of development, with different
cultures placing their own spin on the world of gambling. Schwartz’s epic
journey through history
takes us from the prehistoric rolling of
knucklebones right up to the rise of Las Vegas as a modern tourist destination.

Source: Pixabay

Schwartz not only takes us through time, but he also takes us across
continents; the book explores everything from twelfth-century China, where
playing cards were invented, to the role of the British Empire in spreading
gambling across the world. The ambition of Schwartz’s work makes it a must-read
for anyone fascinated by the history of gambling.

Warren Nelson:
Always Bet on the Butcher

Always Bet on the Butcher is a distinctive piece of oral history
that takes us through Warren Nelson’s experience of the American gambling
industry from the 1930s to the 1980s. Nelson gives his unique perspective on
the development of the casinos in the US, beginning against the backdrop of the
Great Depression and ending with Nelson as a key figure in Las
Vegas. Nelson tells true tales that are as memorable as any work of

One story from the 1940s explains how one casino operator used live mice in
a roulette table, with a mouse scurrying about the wheel until it chose a hole
to settle into – the number above that hole would be the winner. That variation
didn’t catch on; an online collection
of roulette casino games
may include 3D titles or a version with a Superman
theme, but it is a mouse-free zone. As a renowned innovator himself, it is the
work of the likes of Nelson that paved the way for so many modern variations of
online casino games.

Source: Pixabay

Nelson Johnson:
Boardwalk Empire

Many casino books written by American authors inevitably end up with a
strong focus on Las Vegas. Nelson Johnson’s Boardwalk Empire bucks the
trend, instead delivering a remarkable insight into the life of casinos in
Atlantic City. Despite being a New York Times bestseller, many people still may
know Johnson’s work best from its HBO TV adaptation, with Steve Buscemi in the lead role and Martin
Scorsese as executive producer.

However, Johnson’s book remains the definitive true retelling of life in
Prohibition-era New Jersey. For example, Buscemi plays Nucky Thompson, inspired
by the real political kingpin Enoch L. Johnson. Johnson’s book explores the
life of his namesake in comprehensive and fascinating detail, with the rise of
Atlantic City casinos often considered to be a tale that is stranger than

While these three books are true in their content, they use source material
that may not be widely known. If you’re looking for a deeper insight into how
the casino industry became the cultural giant that it is today, then this trio
of books is a great place to start.

How to Identify an Addiction and Get Over It

Picture Credits: Dirk Wohlrabe

Addiction: While this nine letter word may sound very harmless, it has the power to suck the happiness out of everyone dealing with it and everyone surrounded by the person going through it. What’s your addiction? It doesn’t matter if you’re dealing with a heavy drinking problem or gambling addiction, the first part of overcoming the problem is identifying it. Most people who develop addiction don’t confront it and realise the gravity of the situation only when things start getting out of hand. 

However, the good news is that you have recognised that you have a problem and are ready to tackle it. Although quitting an addiction is a very complicated process, it is doable. If you are facing these two symptoms, it is about time, you do something about your addiction, before you hit rock bottom.


It is one of the key symptoms of addiction. Tolerance is a psychological process that makes you less sensitive to a drug or behaviour. When you are taking an addictive substance for the first time, you might feel a bit overwhelmed or a certain unpleasantness. But as you continue taking the substance and keep repeating the behaviour, you become less sensitive to it, and you need to increase the amount of dosage to get the same effect. Drugs affect specific parts of your brain to develop a physical tolerance, whereas behaviours such as gambling have psychological effects of excitement that get you hooked. 


Tolerance and withdrawal go hand in hand. When you develop more tolerance to a substance or a behaviour, you need to keep repeating it. As you become addicted to it, you may experience shaking, feeling sick, stomach problems and/or depression. A person at this stage is helpless and is driven to take the addictive substance or repeat the behaviour. This can be a very difficult situation for an addict, and if you are going through with it, it is best if you do it under medical supervision in a rehab centre. By signing up at, you will be able to get the help you need. 

After you have acknowledged these symptoms and decided that you have to do something about your condition, here are three things you must do to in order to get on the right track.

Write a Journal

After interviewing several addicts, researchers found that each of them said that writing a journal helped them a lot. You should start out by writing about the harmful effects of your addiction, making a list of the changes you want in your life, and why you want to quit. It might not feel very good at the start, but gradually you will become used to it and seeing your commitments in writing will be good for you. 

Make a Schedule 

Another thing you should do is chalk out a plan. You can set a date to motivate you to quit. You can also get professional help and join support programs. These therapy sessions help you understand that you are not alone and that other people are going through similar stuff. Meanwhile, you should also identify what triggers you to engage in addictive behaviour and gradually take up new habits to overcome them. 

Handling Withdrawal

The hardest part about quitting is withdrawal. You can reach the finish line by staying motivated, going through with the set schedule and filling your time with family and friends to stay busy. Everyone slips from time to time. Don’t be ashamed of yourself if you have slipped up in between. Just remember why you wanted to overcome your addiction.

Virtual Reality and the Future of Art

Every generation brings about shifts in how we view and create art. This is a simple and natural part of artistic evolution, and it may even seem so self-evident as to appear a truism. When looking at changes brought about by new virtual reality technology, however, this raises some important questions as to how we engage any visual artistic medium.

What new opportunities does this technology open for creation and appreciation? How does it relate to other strong VR experiences like gaming, and where might we draw the line between basic engagement and authentic experience?

Before taking a more detailed look, its first necessary to understand the current state of being of virtual reality artistic experiences. VR has come a long way, that much is true, but it also has considerable distance left to travel before it becomes a deeply valuable part of artistic culture. This is owed to the fidelity we require when experiencing and creating art compared to many other industries like gaming, which also benefit from VR.

Gaming, as an example, works perfectly well with traditional methods of access. Placing and understanding the types of roulette bets and odds can be done flawlessly in traditional formats, while this industry, like so many others, sees only minor potential in VR engagement. VR Art, on the other hand, could be transformative on an entirely different level.

VR allows artists to create within an entirely simulated world. Expression within this virtual world can take the form of traditional moving or still creations, or through the generation of complex complete environments. Artists working with this aether can give form to abstractions only imaginable within real physical space.

With VR, patrons of the art will be able to take an active exploratory part in their appreciation, with no risk of danger or damage to themselves or the projects. Imagine a 3D Escher, made traversable in all of its impossibilities. This is just a small portion of the potential which VR holds.

In terms of experiencing traditional art, this technology could also work to considerably lower the barriers to access. As much as many of us would love to experience the Louvre in person, visiting is no simple feat. We have to factor in the cost, the time requirements, and the realities of travelling with illness. All of this, just to brave massive crowds.

VR could allow the full virtualisation of this museum, with a level of visual quality on par with the real thing. While some early versions of this idea exist already, limitations on scanning and viewing headsets are yet to reach a truly perfect representation of this space.

So, what does this mean about how we think of artistic appreciation? Can the scanning of real art with a level of quality far beyond what the human eye can see come close to replicating the experience of the real thing? Will gatekeeping ‘authentic’ experiences hamper the value we put on this form of engagement?

As a form of access and creation of art, virtual reality is still in its infancy. As the tools and tech for both the active and passive parts of the equation improve, however, expect this avenue to only grow more popular. But will it be welcome or shunned by the greater community? That much, at least, remains to be seen.

Curbing Creativity: Migrants, Publishing & Brexit

As we are continually swept towards Britain’s catastrophic exit from the EU, the public remain as perplexed as on the day of the referendum result in 2016. The nation’s current sorry state of affairs would leave our past selves recoiling in disbelief: Boris Johnson is (barely) standing as Prime Minister, the unnerving prorogation of Parliament transpired, and it seems likely that we are about to come crashing out of the EU with no deal. It sounds like the perfect set-up for a dystopian novel – and on the subject of which, Brexit’s threat to the publishing industry and our creative industries across the spectrum is one we must not let slide. 

One troubling implication of the Brexit saga thus far is its breeding of a malicious anti-immigration rhetoric which continues to incite intolerance towards some of the most ambitious, talented individuals this nation has to offer. Remaining firmly at the forefront of the narrative, the perpetuation of immigration myths seems an indisputable reflection of the global rise in Far-Right movements. Such damaging fabrications arguably have one purpose: to create an environment of hostility that ought to deter migrants from both working and living in Britain.  

Those who spout anti-multiculturalism sentiments often fail to consider the abundant contributions migrants make to society – benefits that far exceed economic input. In their ‘State of Hate 2018’ report, Hope Not Hate argued: ‘The divisive and xenophobic rhetoric of the Leave campaign during the EU referendum set a tone for anti-immigration hate, which legitimised and galvanised prejudice beliefs’. In allowing misinformed prejudices to reign over the Brexit debate, often disregarded is the fact that migrants, both EU and non-EU, allow many of our industries to thrive – including the creative sector. 

The publishing industry relies upon migrants to remain relevant, innovative and prosperous. The influence that writers of an immigrant background have had on literary fiction in the UK is unparalleled. From Caryl Phillips to Oyinkan Braithwaite (whose second novel My Sister, The Serial Killer made the Women’s Prize for Fiction 2019 shortlist and was longlisted for the Booker Prize 2019), both first and second generation migrants defied and stirred the traditional literary canon, blurring its confined lens. 

Arguing the necessity of migration for creativity, Jo Wallace, creative director at Publicis London, writes, ‘When we get excited by an idea it’s mostly because it’s different. It’s new. Something foreign which translates into logical magic. It’s the juxtaposition of unexpected things that creates a tension which hooks us.’ If Britain fails to attract migrants post-Brexit – which its current rise in xenophobic hate crime and increasingly rigorous immigration policy would certainly ensure – we can wave goodbye to our longstanding reputation as a cultural hub of talent. 

Absent of the varied perspective and unique experience that shape an author’s work, Britain’s book industry may regress to a mere echo chamber for an exclusionary, homogenous narrative; inevitably promoting voices of the same narrow background. And not only does this issue of representation affect writers in the UK, it is in fact one which permeates the entire book industry. 

The lack of diversity within publishing roles is alarming; Spread The Word published a research paper titled ‘Writing the Future’ in 2016, expressing their concern towards the industry’s poor inclusion of minority ethnic employees. Warning that the UK’s publishing sector appears ‘increasingly mono-cultural and parochial’, Spread the Word suggested that ‘the book industry risks becoming a 20th century throwback increasingly out of touch with a 21st century world.’ 

This absence in diversity is only set to spiral post-Brexit as Priti Patel, the current Home Secretary, has pushed for an immediate end to free movement – contradicting prior promises that EU nationals may continue to live and work in the UK until January 2021. This imminent end to free movement would demand that EU nationals, too, are subject to a rigid, bureaucratic nightmare. The path to a Tier 2 work visa, let alone British citizenship, is destined to become one migrants no longer wish to tread. 

UK immigration policy is already a complex web of character scrutiny, high costs and extensive requirements for non-EU/EEA citizens. Once this brutal policy is similarly thrust upon EU migrants, a particularly infuriating requirement is the salary demand for a Tier 2 ‘skilled worker’ visa. Under this visa, £30,000 is the minimum salary threshold for migrants who wish to live and work in the UK (with the exception of those whose prospective role features on the government’s extremely limited ‘Shortage Occupation List’ and public service workers). 

As of yet, there have been no proposals of exemptions for creative workers. To give some perspective on the absurdity of this threshold, authors in the UK earn an average annual salary of £10,500. Such unreasonable criteria is enough to leave deflated any aspiring international creatives who wish to settle in the UK.

As the Creative Industries Federation investigated, of 250 businesses working within the creative sector, 75% reported that they employed EU migrants – two thirds stated they could not fill those jobs with British workers. The correlation here is clear; migrants are essential for the creative industry to flourish. To determine ‘skill’ by a salary figure is to entirely overlook and undermine the expertise and impact of creative workers including freelancers, authors and front of house staff who are essential to its functioning, to name just a few. 

We ought to celebrate and embrace migrants – both EU and non-EU – not impede them with a convoluted, impossible-to-navigate visa system. Not only should Brexit implore us to re-evaluate our future immigration policy approach to EU migrants, it should similarly apply to all migrants, refugees and asylum seekers across the board. We need to renounce this grossly bigoted preconception of migrants as ‘others’, as people taking rather than giving. 

Brexit often feels like both a symbol of and catalyst for Western prejudices and paints a horrifying picture of the chaos which will ensue as a result of the championing of far-right voices, the drowning out of truth and the elevation of thinly veiled racism. This has no place in a cosmopolitan world. What Brexit really ought to affirm is our dire need to dispel cruel myths and to quash unreliable narratives sparking harmful misinformation on migrants. Evidently, such untruths have detrimental consequences. 

Holly Barrow is a political correspondent for the Immigration Advice Service, an organisation of immigration lawyers that provides Legal Aid support for asylum-seekers and refugees. 

How to Find the Best Free Things on the Web

Picture Credits: fancycrave1

Once created to be the driving force of human advancement as a method of sharing information across the globe, most people primarily use the internet for entertainment these days. Be it scrolling through social media, reading top-ten articles, or accessing content, the internet has become the go-to place for fun and enjoyment. With it being so easy to share things across the internet, many websites have evolved to offer three primary entertainment mediums for free, with those being literature, gaming, and listening to music.

There is an ocean of content out there across each of these three mediums, with so many opportunities to read, play, or listen to high-quality content for free, if you know where to look. Here, we’ll be looking at some of the more popular websites at which you can find the best free things on the web.

Finding great literature for free

Tapped-In gives the low-down on Project Gutenberg and how you can use it to read eBooks for free.

There’s nothing quite like finding an enticing book and losing yourself in the characters and the story. While the internet is teeming with informative websites that all but relay the information within non-fiction tomes, top-quality fiction can be hard to come by. Many people will go onto blogs to tell short stories or recount tales but to find a truly interesting and entertaining bit of fictional literature online, you need to dig a little deeper.

Luckily for anyone reading this article, you’re just a couple of clicks away from delving into some superb fictional writings. At Litro, our Fiction section is filled with editor’s pick stories, all of which we deem to be of great quality and very entertaining. The FlashFriday section features shorter tales for those of you who just want a quick read, while the TuesdayTales and SundayStories tend to be longer for anyone who wants to immerse themselves in the work of the author.

Another great website for literature is Project Gutenberg. Focussing on older works for which the copyright has expired in the United States of America, the website is loaded with free eBooks that have been proofread and digitised by volunteers. There aren’t any fees, and you don’t even need to register, meaning that Project Gutenberg is a truly free-to-use eBook service, but small donations are appreciated.

Finding great games for free

Ninja Kiwi’s 2011 Bloons Tower Defence 5 is still one of the most popular flash games online.

As much as buyable PC game discs often provided a higher quality gaming experience (with a triple-A price tag), online browser games used to be just as entertaining and enjoyable. Easy to access with simple controls but quirky gameplay mechanics, online browser games were the go-to way of having some quick fun for many people.

Now PC gaming is dominated by game storefronts from which innovative new paid games can be purchased, but there are still remnants of top-class gaming for free online through the traditional method. One of the best online browser gaming websites is Kongregate. It gives you access to fan-favourite games like the arena combat sensation Swords and Souls as well as the ragdoll sandbox game Mutilate-a-Doll 2. For those returning to the form of free gaming, Kongregate also boasts a library of classic series like Bloons Tower Defence and Learn to Fly, with Bloons TD 5, Learn to Fly 2 and Learn to Fly 3 still sit among the top-rated games.

Those who are looking to engage in some online browser gaming but prefer even more traditional games to these video game-type titles can turn to bingo online. The classic live game has seen a resurgence online, bringing in a new audience primarily due to the offering of free bingo. The free bingo online games don’t require a deposit to play and offer bonus cash as rewards to newcomers, meaning that the free play can turn into real winnings – although there are playthrough requirements that are worth bearing in mind. To further open the door to free gaming, bingo online also offers five more free bingo rooms to those who do wish to make a deposit.

Finding great music for free

For most people, listening to great music means that you need to find a platform that offers tracks from some of the world’s most popular artists. It’s also nice to hear a unique remix or cover now and then, but for the most part, people want to hear music from bands and singers that they know and follow. So, when looking for the best places to get great music for free, you have to turn to the big-name, mainstream offerings.

Spotify is recognised as the biggest music streaming platform available, boasting over 40 million songs and a free account service. With Spotify Free, you can listen to the majority of the music library – except any new releases for up to two weeks – can use it across computers, phones, and PlayStations, and allows for mobile streaming. The sacrifice to having the free account rather than the paid Spotify Premium account is that there will be advertising breaks between songs and you don’t get access to new releases straight away or offline listening – which really helps if you have smaller data plans.

One of Spotify’s closest contenders is SoundCloud. Making its name as the home of up-and-coming acts, DJ remixes, and covers, SoundCloud needed to step into the subscription pool to make some money off of its listeners after signing with major labels Universal Music, Sony Music, and Warner Music. The platform currently boasts over 150 million tracks its community of creators and professional musicians and is free to use. In a comparison between the free service and the premium SoundCloud Go, it was found that the adverts on the free version aren’t as aggressive as those on Spotify or YouTube, with the overall premium experience being very similar to the free version.

Many would automatically rate Spotify above SoundCloud, but due to the ocean of unique tracks, the inclusion of many big-name artists, and less aggressive advertising set-up, it’s difficult to argue that SoundCloud isn’t the better free service. Of course, both platforms offer a multitude of songs for free, so it really comes down to your own personal preference, but if you like discovering something a little new or different, SoundCloud may be the way to go.

As you can see, there are many great ways for you to enjoy high-quality literature, gaming, and music completely free of charge.

The Growing Influence of Video Games on Our Culture

Picture Credits: Chanzj

The video gaming sector has seen significant changes in the last decade or so. Statistics relating to the industry traditionally centred around who was playing video games. In the present day, however, the reach of video games is such that now the questions are more likely to concern which games, on which devices and with whom? With total video game sales exceeding $43.4 billion in 2018, it follows that video games have an undeniable effect on our culture. But just what is behind the driving influence of the industry and what can we expect to see in the future?

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Fornite’s Foray into the Mainstream

Those who follow the video gaming scene will already be well aware of the drawing power of Fortnite. The game has become a staple for streaming sites such as Twitch and popular figures on the site such as Ninja (real name Tyler Blevins) have helped briefly bring the game into the public eye. However, the recent Fortnite World Cup garnered worldwide coverage due to the event’s massive prize purse and competency of its young competitors. The tournament was eventually won by Kyle “Bugha” Giersdorf, who scooped $3 million dollars in the solos portion of the competition and also gained worldwide fame and notoriety. The fact that the name, “Bugha” was trending on Twitter in the immediate aftermath of the event is proof that Fornite and video gaming in general has taken its place in mainstream popular culture.

The Increasing Influence of Online Gambling

The latest statistics suggest that the online casino industry will be worth $94 billion by the year 2024, which will represent a 104% increase since 2017. Those unfamiliar with the online casino sector often hold the mistaken belief that platforms offer only traditional games such as blackjack and roulette. However, the industry has branched out and diversified in the last decade or so, offering video games which are every bit as playable and immersive as those on next generation consoles; one only has to play king jackpot games on Paddy Power and other such titles to see this first hand. With the advertising exposure of sports betting platforms also growing by the day, online gambling is undoubtedly a huge part of our every day lives.

Where Do We Go From Here?

Record labels are the latest to tap into the inherent power of the video gaming industry. Back in June, Sony Music launched the record label, Lost Rings, which is essentially a label “about gaming culture, for gaming culture, created by gamers”. With independent EDM label Monstercat also looking to get in on the act, the amalgamation of music and video game streaming will surely further propel video games into the public eye. With gamers such as Bugha already being lauded as celebrities, the continuous rise of eSports could well blur the lines between the movie, music and gaming industries and it won’t be long before professional gamers are regarded in the same standing as Hollywood actors and best-selling musicians. Or so we hope.

7 Books that will Change Your Life

Picture Credits: deejaymarlon

The power of self-help and self-development books should never be underestimated, from inspiring career success to helping people to deal with grief, finding and reading the right books can transform your life. Here we discuss some of our favourite self-help books that aim to conjure life-changing results from within.

Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi

Expert psychologist, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, guides readers through the concept of ‘flow’ where deeper levels of creativity and enjoyment are made possible by controlling the state of consciousness. Described by some as the ‘Handbook on Happiness’, this book delves into psychology to enable readers to learn how to be happier and how to remain in control of their personal ‘flow’. 

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

Covey’s book has been flying off the shelves since 1989 and provides a valuable insight into the habits of the most effective kinds of people; such as being proactive and seeking continual improvement. This is perfect for anyone who wants to increase productivity and concentrate on the important tasks that promise results. Covey’s 7 habits model is often used by life coaches and other professionals as personal and professional research material to equally help guide themselves and their clients.

The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment by Eckhart Tolle

If you are the kind of person that is interested in spirituality, enjoy taking part in regular psychic readings and are keen to explore the realms of the spiritual world – or you want to know what all the fuss is about regarding mindfulness, this book will have you gripped. Even the great Oprah Winfrey advocates this book as staple material on the field of enlightenment. 

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

One of the most well-known books on success, Carnegie offers insight and wisdom into ways of working that aim to help propel a person to career success by knowing how to influence people. There is even a Dale Carnegie training company operating across the UK if you want to learn even more.

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

For anyone that feels their fear is getting in the way of achieving their dreams and potential, The Alchemist is a book that will take them through the journey of overcoming them and staying focused on what they want to achieve. If you’re looking for inspiration and motivation in a dark time, or you just want to push yourself and your personal potential further – Coelho’s book is a great read.

The ONE Thing: The Surprisingly Simple Truth Behind Extraordinary Results by Gary Keller and Jay Papasan​​​​​​​

This award-winning book has been successful across the globe, helping people to cut through distractions, be more productive and spend more time doing the things they enjoy like spending time with family and practising self-care. This book is all about focusing on the more important priorities that seem small at the time but will lead to achieving ‘bigger picture’ goals.

Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity by David Allen

There is an abundance of productivity-inspired books out there but this one really hits home and provides the reader with easy changes they can make in their lives to drive big results. From desk organisation to mastering workflow, after reading Allen’s book you will feel compelled to put actions into place and to get things done with a natural efficiency.

If you are looking to get more from your life and reach your highest potential, then you should definitely put aside some important time to indulge in some of these inspiring books.

The Rise of the Digital Author: Literary Success Within the Virtual Domain

Many of us have nurtured the notion of becoming a successful writer. In the past, such a vision was nearly impossible to achieve due to the sheer logistics. From editing fees and publication rights to altogether traditional concerns such as typesetting and graphical design, such processes could cost well into the thousands of pounds. However, the rise of the Internet has enabled many talented individuals to create literary masterpieces without becoming mired within financial concerns. It is nonetheless a fact that gaining the appropriate amount of exposure is the ultimate key to success. Unfortunately, simply posting one’s work on independent blogs within niche markets might not be sufficient. This is why a growing number of budding writers are choosing to partner with respected enterprise ecommerce software platforms. How can these two seemingly disparate industries work in conjunction and what benefits will they be able to provide the average author?

The Principle Behind E-Commerce

One of the traits which many writers possess is that they are wary about becoming involved within the marketing community. In other words, they place artistic creation before physical sales. While this is indeed a noble trait, the term “starving artist” often comes to mind. It is important to realise that exposure is the ultimate key to success. This is when e-commerce applications will prove themselves to be extremely useful.

E-commerce software bundles are essentially digital platforms which enable a website to gain a greater online audience. While often used by retail businesses and similar trades, the fact of the matter is that writers can just as easily introduce the public to their works via such methods. A greater number of website visitors will naturally equate to a higher turnover in regards to the number of copies sold, so it only makes sense that such software should be embraced as opposed to shunned.

More than One Channel Alone

It is just as critical to mention that the most well-known digital authors are already aware that they must introduce themselves across multiple different platforms. We are not only referring to a static website in this sense. Social media circles, blog posts and online forums are other excellent ways to meet like-minded individuals and to become familiar with the online literary community. This concept is known as multi-channel marketing in more technical terms. However, the principle is nonetheless the same. A greater amount of exposure will help to boost sales alongside the reputation of the author in question.

To be absolutely clear, the physical publication of books is still a viable option and this traditional reading material is not going away any time soon. The key takeaway point is that the emergence of the digital age has opened up an entirely new realm of possibilities for up-and-coming authors. It only makes sense to take advantage of such a medium in order to maximise your chances of enjoying a successful career. From full-length novels to short stories and poetry, the digital age promises to offer a plethora of unique opportunities.

Interview with Mazin Saleem, Author of The Prick

Manchester-born Mazin Saleem, a contributor back in 2013 to Litro’s Mystery issue, has since crafted various fiction and nonfiction pieces that have appeared in Open Pen, The Mays, Little Atoms, Talking Book and The Literateur, among others. Today he talks to us about the recent release of his novellette The Prick, a humorous narrative that revolves around a rescue, guilty friendships and stereotypes.

Litro: Often your writing has held interesting philosophies – I found “The Utopia of Sleep” and “The Empire Cashes Back” most intriguing and now with The Prick have you brought another satire to the table? What was the inspiration behind the novelette?

Most of my favourite books are funny. Not “The Big Bumper Book of Jokes” funny. But they have a sense of humour. So they were my inspiration in the sense that you like to write what you read. Though I’ve written more serious stories – “Then Somebody Bends”, for example, in the same series as “The Empire Cashes Back” – there needs to be a formal reason for adopting such a tone. (Not an extrinsic reason, such as an expectation of what good or grown-up writing is meant to be like.)

The idea of a satire is tricky, because it implies an overall point, that deep down the jokes are being serious. The Prick has some serious parts, but its main point, I hope, is aesthetic: have I done something fun and interesting with the story?

Litro: Roland almost sounds like Will’s antithesis. Could you tell us a bit more about the two characters and the nature of the strange bond they form?

Will and Roland first meet when Will is about to drown in the sea, but then Roland saves his life. For one character to rescue another, especially a man rescuing a man, you already have an angle to their relationship, an “in”, as well as a steep, acute power dynamic.

What having one character in debt to the other does is that it gives you a certain amount of sublimated hostility to work with when writing their story. Debt and guilt share a long history – you used the word “bond”. The way their relationship starts means they have a reason to be connected, to keep orbiting each other, despite the bad behaviour that ensues, in the days, weeks, years to come.

Litro: Your chapters are named as “That Day”, “A Week After that Day”, and so on and so forth, establishing an awareness of the passage of time for the reader. It also seems like they wish to draw attention to the “everyman” quality of the narrative. Would you say that the eponymous protagonist in the novelette is more common in the real world than we think?

I like everything in a book to be pulling its weight, chapter titles included, if you’re going to have named chapter titles. With each expansion of the time-frame being highlighted, the reader is not only placed chronologically, they’re continually reminded of “That Day”, as Will is. And there’s a bit of exasperation, too, on the book’s part towards the characters.

Because Will and Roland together are meant to form a microcosm of one of the key drives in people, I’d say they’re pretty common. But the Wills pass by unnoticed, maybe even by themselves, while the Rolands more obviously and intentionally stick out.

Litro: The novelette form isn’t the most common of formats but you used this for The Prick. How do you feel this complements the narrative?

A longer book would have probably entailed more sympathetic characters. Acid flavours are better in smaller amounts. Sympathetic as opposed to likeable: I think any story can last for a long time with ‘unlikeable’ characters, meant in the sense of ‘would I like them in real life?’. What I mean more is that the longer a story, the more the need for varieties of tone, whether in the writing itself, in the characters, and in how you want the reader to feel about them.

The length also gave me a chance to make more noticeable structural choices. You might spend ages building some architectonic grandeur to your 1000-page novel, but I think most human brains struggle to take in or detect structure at that level, not unless you’re rereading and studying the book. With a short book, patterns are hopefully more visible: how each chapter is similar or different to the others, what the narrative transitions are, who is active now and who passive, and why.

Litro: Your style is very descriptive and visual – how difficult is it to find a balance between writing just enough to paint a picture for the reader but not go overboard so that the text retains its element of humour?

The best is to combine the two. TV’s trained us to find most humour in dialogue, which is definitely a great way to do it. But you can have funny description or tonal shifts, or paragraph breaks as the humour version of enjambment in poetry.

Question is, what will the long-term impacts of the internet be on writing fiction? It’s not long now till almost all of a human life, from the banal daily details to the most emotional stuff, will be able to be told through the text you composed in some form or other, lives defined by the written (more properly, the typed) word in a way that’s never happened before in history. On the other hand, there’s the visual side of the internet, let alone of TV and film. Like John Berger said, the rise of mass-reproducible imagery was a paradigm shift. So, in this context, can a writer still write descriptively well? Is there any point?

Litro: During the course of writing The Prick, what did you find most challenging? 

Most challenging was staying under the word-limit, haha, that’s for my editor. Habits as a writer I wanted to work against with The Prick was my habit of writing summary rather than scenes (the book is seven long scenes with some extras), or, when I do write scenes, writing them blow-by-blow, like a lot of us do, as if we’re transcribing a TV show we’re watching in our heads. The challenge instead was to write the scenes in ways that only prose can do.

Litro: Can we expect more such novelettes from you in the future or do you find yourself more inclined towards other formats?

Some from column A, some from column B. In Eleanor Coppola’s book Notes, about her experiences during the making of Apocalypse Now, she describes her husband Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas waxing lyrical about the future of films, how we’ll one day break out of the stricture of “feature films” and “shorts”, that there’ll be films of 50 minutes long or 70 or 30 seconds long. And the democratisation of distribution in films/video has allowed that, anything from Vines to four-hour YouTube film essays.

That these categories still apply in literature, though, that a publisher won’t see the financial point in putting out a book that doesn’t fit into a standard novella/novel limit only takes a successful proof-of-concept to be dismantled. Open Pen provides one.