The last post

Christopher Priest passed away peacefully at home in the early evening of Friday, February 2nd 2024. He was eighty years old.

In the weeks before he died, Chris several times expressed the wish to leave a farewell message here, but this was a task we kept putting off. It seemed altogether too sad, I did not feel equal to it, and in the end we ran out of time.

I do know though, that what Chris most of all wanted to say was thank you. Chris’s readers meant the world to him. One of the things he loved most about attending science fiction conventions was how they brought writers together with their readers, in a way that felt informal, equal and democratic, altogether different from what went on at a more traditional literary festival. It was this love and respect for readers that kept Chris going to conventions, past the point where travel had started to become a problem for him.

So, on his behalf I would like to say thank you – to everyone who has dropped by here or will do in the future, to all those who have chatted to Chris in the bar at any point throughout his six decades of convention-going, to those who have brought books to be signed at readings and events, to the many readers who have written to him over the years, expressing their delight and amazement and gratitude for works that have delighted, amazed and in some instances proved life-changing. Most of all, to anyone who has ever picked up a Priest novel and inevitably, within mere moments, found themselves transported to a different reality.

Chris’s physical presence may have left us, but as readers we are lucky: a writer’s soul is immortal, instantly present and accessible through the stories, essays, criticism and novels they have left for us to find. As I said to Chris many times these past weeks and months, in this most important and essential of ways, he will always be with us.

The work goes on.

(Nina Allan, Rothesay, 05/02/24.)


Here is the cover for the Gollancz edition of my new novel Airside, which will be published later this month.

The book is largely about the liminal and always slightly disconcerting experience of passing through an airport. All travellers are familiar with the fact that every airport has two ‘sides’. In landside we check to see if the flight is on time, or when it is likely to board. If we are arriving from a flight, landside is where we are able to pick up our luggage. Most of us don’t delay long in landside. Coming in we are anxious to get home. On an outward journey we hasten towards:
Airside. This is where we have to be electronically scanned, have our bags X-rayed, our laptop looked at, where we put keys and loose change in a tray, where sometimes we have to remove our belt, or transfer little tubes and bottles of harmless unguents into a plastic bag. We cannot proceed through airside without a boarding pass in hand, or a passport. Closed-circuit cameras are everywhere, and some of them are checking our faces against a database. There is a sense that at any time, for any random reason, we might be challenged by someone in a uniform.
Once through all that we experience the unique nullity of airside. Most of us feel a little disoriented or apprehensive while waiting for a flight. It’s not impatience, fearfulness or boredom. There is only one thing we can do in airside, which is leave. But it’s impossible to leave unless it’s on the aircraft on to which we are booked. It is simply impossible to go back the way we came from. (A misguided attempt to do so will lead to a memorable experience.) So we are there to do the only thing allowed to us — to wait in a state of suspense, a herded passenger.
Anyway, the story of Airside, the novel, concerns a young American woman called Jeanette Marchand, a famous Hollywood star. Jeanette flies into London Airport one evening, walks across to the airside part of the terminal and is never seen again. What might have happened to her is the starting point of the story.

The retail price of Airside is £22.00. Like all writers of books I hope, if you’d like to buy a copy, you will find it in a local independent bookstore. On sale from 25th May. Every copy sold through a bookshop helps keep the trade healthy. You know it makes sense!

If for whatever reason you have to order a copy online, here are the currently available deals. Pre-publication orders can be placed as follows: £20.90 (free shipping for orders above £25.00) – a commission is paid to a local bookshop of your choice.
Book Hive £17.39 (free delivery, or pick up from a named shop) – a commission is paid to a local bookshop of your choice.
Blackwell’s £19.36 (free delivery, or pick up from a branch of Blackwell’s). £17.39 (free delivery with Prime). Amazon are also offering a Kindle edition at £12.99, and an audio book (read by the brilliant actor James Parsons) for £7.99.
Wordery: £18.00 (free delivery).
WOB (World of Books): £17.39 (free delivery in UK).

By the way, if you’re looking online, be aware that there is another recently published novel called Airside. This is by James Swallow and is described as an ‘unputdownable high-octane airport thriller’. Good luck with that. I would like to point out that it’s also fairly hard to put down my own novel, but I am far too modest to say that.

The Magus — new edition

Last year I wrote an introduction to a new American edition of John Fowles’s novel The Magus. The book has just been announced by Suntup Editions in California. This astonishing novel, first published in 1965, has not been available in hardcover for several years.

For me, discovering The Magus was a key and influential experience. It was a bestseller for many months, and filmed in 1968. The film, directed by Guy Green and starring Michael Caine in an early performance, was famously awful. It gave no hint of the unique reading experience of the original work. Although the book is now more than half a century old it still has the capacity to exert a powerful narrative grip on the reader, with a story that is both surprising and beautifully written. It is in my view a masterpiece, one of the best and most original novels of the twentieth century.

Suntup’s handsome new edition is a luxury reprint, with several extras. As well as my own intro there is an afterword by Fowles’s biographer Eileen Warburton, and six new illustrations by Marc Burckhardt. Also included is the introduction Fowles himself wrote for the Revised Edition of 1977, a bonus essay about the book which Fowles wrote in 1994, and a transcript of a long filmed interview with Melvyn Bragg broadcast on the BBC’s The Lively Arts.

It is available direct from the publisher.

Arvon — February 2023

Co-working with my partner Nina Allan, I will be leading an “Online Writing Week” for the Arvon Foundation. The subject: Speculative Fiction. This runs for the week of 6th – 10th February, 2023, Monday to Friday. A limited number of half-price concessions are still available. If you’d like to take part, it is essential to make contact with Arvon well before Friday 20th January.

This being the time of year it is, Arvon have pointed out that they can supply gift vouchers as a Christmas present!

Nina and I have a liberal understanding of speculative fiction, and the multitude of ways it can be written. We are at home with writers who work within the genre, but also respond to those who wish to move to and perhaps cross the borders. I am always reluctant to limit the possibilities by defining in advance what this might mean for individual writers.

Full information here.


Long-term friend Bill Seabrook has written to say that yesterday (which was publication day for Expect Me Tomorrow) he received an email from Amazon, concerning his pre-order for the book.

The heading said, Arriving today: Expect Me Tomorrow

Is this a witty comment on Amazon’s own delivery service? Or an acknowledgement of what it’s like to receive stuff from the outside world, on this lovely Scottish island?

Thanks, Bill!

Expect Me Tomorrow

I’m pleased at last to be able to publish the planned cover for my next novel in the UK, Expect Me Tomorrow. It seems ages since I completed the book, but there have been several apparently unavoidable delays. The book itself is of course undamaged by delay: it was challenging and involving to write, and I was happy with it when I sent it in. From my own point of view it is just no longer my most recent work, as another new book will follow next year.

Expect Me Tomorrow covers a period of roughly two hundred years. The earliest event is the accidental death of a glaciologist in the mid 19th century. A petty criminal is arrested and jailed for a series of cruel thefts from vulnerable women. Two centuries after that, a couple of decades from now, the indirect consequences of these two apparently unrelated matters can be felt. I don’t want to seem to be writing a blurb, and I don’t want to dwell on the plot, but I think I ought to give some idea of what the book is about. To anyone who has read some of my past books I should mention that this time there are two sets of identical twins, but no one muddles them up and none of them is a magician.

The book will be published in hardcover on 15th September 2022 by Gollancz. As always, I hope if you would like to buy a copy of this you will support an independent bookseller in your locality. Use indie bookstores, or lose them!

On the other hand, if you are dependent on internet suppliers and mail order, then is a good alternative – they offer a small discount and a portion of their profits goes to an independent bookshop of your choice. Advance orders can be made with them, with delivery on or just before publication.

Mail order advance orders can also be placed with Amazon, Book Depository, Wordery and presumably other outfits I haven’t come across yet.

The Prestige at the GFT, 5 July 2022

It is now almost sixteen years since the release of the film of The Prestige. A lot can change in a decade and a half, and it’s fair to say the world we live in now is radically different from what we knew in the mid-noughties. In a more particular sense the young director of The Prestige, Christopher Nolan, who was then at the start of his career, has had a string of international successes and is now widely regarded as a top film-maker. Most of the main actors have grown in fame and stardom since they made the film. It was the first of my novels to be filmed, and remains the only one. (So far.) It doesn’t seem so long ago to me.

The Glasgow Film Theatre is running a short season of Nolan films on various dates during July, starting on 3rd July with a late-afternoon 35mm screening of The Prestige. On 5th July I will be at the GFT to introduce a second screening at 8.00pm, followed by a short Q&A. Full details here. The GFT is in Rose Street, Glasgow.

The Prestige still looks like a pretty good film to me, possibly Nolan’s best so far, a view which seems to be shared by an increasing number of people. I haven’t seen it on the big screen since 2008, but from sampling it on the DVD and streaming platforms it doesn’t look dated. (The last theatrical screening I saw was in Russia. Their version had the entertaining phenomenon of Michael Caine unconvincingly dubbed into guttural Russian.) I seem to be in a minority of book writers because I don’t complain about the way the film has corrupted or betrayed or misunderstood my brilliant original. On the contrary, the film of The Prestige has always seemed like an intelligent and well thought out adaptation, different in many details from the book, but achieving the same sort of effect.


We are soon to move away from our present house, while remaining on our unique island. The new place is somewhat smaller than the old, and the dreaded need to shed a huge number of books has finally come to pass.

We have already donated about a third of our collection of books to the amazing shop in Wemyss Bay Station, and I imagine should you venture there in the next few months our cast-offs will be bulking the shelves. The shop is anyway always worth a visit, with a wide-ranging stock of secondhand books on sale at reasonable prices. Wemyss Bay is admittedly not the easiest place to get to, although there is a car park adjacent to the shop and an hourly train service from Glasgow Central. The shop is in the station concourse, itself a listed building of astonishing architectural beauty.

But more than this. Like many writers we have built up a huge number of spare copies of our own books. The other day we delivered six heavy boxes of these copies to Thistle Books in Glasgow. The copies are both hardcover and paperback, all of them are new and unread, most are first editions or first printings, and we signed every copy. Included are several copies of the now rare first edition of The Glamour, as well as more recent titles. (We threw in a handful of surprise inclusions in some of the copies.) Nina also donated most of her own titles.

We were extremely grateful to Robert Dibble, proprietor of Thistle Books, who has helped us solve a problem of space in our new home. He seems confident he will sell all or most of the copies. Do support him. The bookshop is here, with contact details.

Rendez-vous demain

Here is the cover for my next novel, to be published by Denoël in Paris, in April 2022. The title in English is Expect Me Tomorrow.

The artist is the French engraver and designer Anouk Faure.

Although much of the novel is set in the 19th century, the events then have a long-term impact on our own lives two centuries later. The title is taken from a remark made in several letters by a petty criminal who called himself John Smith, and is a promise and a threat contained in three words.

Smith (whose real name was never known for sure) was a despicable nonentity, soon apprehended and punished. But there were certain anomalies that surrounded his crimes, and these led, indirectly, to a new way of understanding our world and its future.

The Stooge arrives!

At last, The Stooge will be getting a screening in the UK.

This has been showing at film festivals around the world for the last year or so, bravely masking up and mixing freely. It has gained a huge amount of attention in those socially distanced circles, but I can say it has been picking up awards and commendations everywhere it goes. Looking at the array of award bouquets, below, I am amazed, impressed and very pleased by the persistence of the producers. The festival circuit can be a hard road to travel, but they have done well in these socially constricted times.

The film runs for a mere twenty minutes, but it packs a lot into that brief time. It is an essay on stage magic and was for me when I wrote the original short story a kind of ironic commentary on and footnote to The Prestige. The story can be found in my recent collection Episodes, but that really does not give even a hint of the way it has been widened and enriched by director Rogelio Fojo. He has come up with real mystery, good surprises, excellent music and several moments of beauty. In the opening credits there is a classic sleight of hand, filmed in close-up from below: you see every move the illusionist makes, yet will still be baffled by it. Full credit goes to Fojo and his team.

I am arranging for a copy to be made available for showing at Novacon. This takes place between 12th and 14th November this year, at the Palace Hotel, in Buxton. I shall be there. Here is the website for the convention.