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The Terror and the Tortoiseshell
A 'Benji Spriteman' Novel by John Travis
HARDCOVER: $25/£15 rrp:
$28.00/ £18.95 [isbn: 978–0–9811597–3–7]
Published World-Wide: March 26th, 2010
eBOOK: $10 can (about £5.95 / €7) rrp:
$14.95 usa (about £9.75 / €11,35) [isbn: 978–0–9811597–4–4]
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Published World-Wide: March 26th, 2010
John Travis’ first novel, The Terror and the Tortoiseshell, is a noir-styled murder mystery with deft touches of both the Comedy and Science Fiction genres, but primary in it is the honouring of the classic hard-boiled detective novels of the 1940s.
Benji Spriteman takes over the “Spriteman Detective Agency” after the world is changed overnight by ‘The Terror’, resulting in the animal kingdom moving from four legs to two and banishing the now crazy human population from existence to become the dominant species. Oh, and Benji Spriteman is a sentient, six-foot tall, suit-wearing, Tortoiseshell cat. Yeah, that’s a bit of a jolt, especially to Benji.
All I know is that I fell asleep in the old man's lap just after midnight on midsummer's eve and awoke when I heard screaming.
Instead of being in Jimmy's lap I was sprawled across the dusty floor, and everything had changed; my sight, hearing and smell were all completely different. I also noticed that I seemed to be taking up a lot more floor space than I was used to.
Initially it was the screaming that bothered me most. Apart from the noise in the office, it was going on outside too and not all of it was human; the air was filled with roars, grunts, howls; sniggers even. But the most disturbing noise was about eight feet away, coming from a bundle in the corner trying desperately trying to sink into the wall. It seemed to take twice as long as usual for my eyes to adjust to the darkness so I could make out what the bundle was.
In this strange environment, which sees animals taking on some of the characteristics of the humans they were closest to, human beings have become a bit like flying saucers — despite occasional sightings, there is never any definite proof that they still exist. But when humans do start to appear it’s always in the most bizarre situations — always dead, and ‘displayed’ as if they were animals. And it’s just as Benji’s life is starting to become a bit more ‘normal’ that he gets drawn into the investigation into these murders, and soon finds himself involved in ways he could never have imagined…
Praise for The Terror and the Tortoiseshell:
Animal Farm meets The Big Sleep in this quirky but compelling hard-boiled mystery, the first in a new series, from British author Travis (Mostly Monochrome Stories). A mysterious event has reversed the roles of animals and humans in England. In an instant, pets have grown in height, gained the ability to speak, and started assuming the jobs of their former masters. People have become the animals' pets or playthings in a savage outburst of revenge. Some animals oppose the violence, in particular, a cat who adopts the name and profession of his owner, becoming “Benji Spriteman, Detective”. Travis packs a lot in, including a twisty whodunit plot, humorous sequences to leaven the grimness, and a cult persuaded that Arthur Machen's 1917 novella, The Terror, is a true account of an animal revolt in Britain. Despite superficial resemblances to Tim Davys' Amberville (2009), a crime novel featuring walking and talking stuffed animals, this is a far superior work with a more fully realized imaginary world.
— Publishers Weekly
A refreshingly original novel that almost belongs to the Chandler-McDonald school of mystery writing. … Strangely enough, it wasn't ridiculous or laughable by any means. The author has given us a set of very credible characters, and the story was fast-paced. I would be returning to the world of our hero. In the meanwhile, this book is definitely recommended to any lover of mystery.
— Riju Ganguly, a reader
John Travis has penned a novel that’s sort of Animal Farm, partly classic noir, and definitely acid trippy weird — but all in a good, fun, highly readable and entertaining way.
… The animals take on the jobs their people had so Benji becomes a private eye and begins his own journey. Hopefully, it’s one that continues for a long time.
Very dark, but also funny in the sickest of ways. Here’s to hoping the world gets to enjoy much more of Benji--maybe if Atomic Fez offers a dimebag of catnip?
— Dave Simms; Horror World "Book Reviews"
[John] Travis is an accomplished writer and… The Terror and the Tortoiseshell is an effective opening to a promising new series.
— Colin Harvey; “Sci-Fi/Fantasy Fiction", SUITE101
I was almost immediately pulled into the world of [The Terror and the Tortoiseshell] and I was constantly impressed with how deftly [John] Travis balances all of the elements that he introduces. He changes mood and tone with expert ease and none of the story’s elements draw undue attention to themselves…
[By] the time I finished the novel (a quick and enjoyable read) I was certainly ready for more tales of Benji Spriteman and his post-Terror world. If you are looking for an engaging tale of mystery and horror that is designed to leave you thinking for a while, this book is definitely for you. I give this novel a firm 4 out of 5!
— Floyd Brigdon; Miscreant Assistant Editor/Reviewer; She Never Slept.com
This book is so imaginative. It's funny, clever, quirky, and oh yeah, a mystery story too. I've never read a book of the same genre before, probably because I'm not sure there are other mystery / sci-fi / noire / dystopian / comedy books. I can't wait to read the next in the series, so get writing Mr. John Travis.
— 604Heather, a reader
Fun premise providing solid genre with a twist, and after a shaky opening to set the table, Travis spins an engaging, medium-boiled yarn that hits all of the right genre notes, including the villain's egotistical monologue that wraps it all up in a mostly satisfying bow. It's more about the journey than the destination, though, and Travis' post-Terror world is populated with an intriguing cast that makes it worth the trip.
— Guy LeCharles Gonzalez, a reader
What's this Travision? Am I reading aright? A Film Noir scenario with talking animals, missing Tortoiseshells, slinky Persians… This seems to be a very weird scenario like crossing The №1 Ladies Detective Agency with "Rupert Bear" and with Robert Mitchum. I can't believe I'm reading this.
You know, I not only believe I'm reading this, I actually believe what I'm reading.
This book is so worked out, I can't now believe that what is in the world outside this book is still real. In some strange way, the book is seeping into my mind more than most books seem able to do.
I don't think I've yet made it clear how funny this book is. Since starting it, I've been going round with a smile on my face. That's not to diminish the 'terror' and the poignancy of what the reader feels underlying it all.
A novel that's sure to become a classic and will also become a major cinema film. There is no doubt in my mind about that.
Praise for Mr. Travis:
John Travis is one of the most imaginative and original new voices in dark fiction. His work is insightful, often surreal, and always moving. That his writing is not more widely published and appreciated is a crime, but trust me… John’s day will surely come
— Tim Lebbon (author of the award-winning ‘Noreela’ novels)
John Travis is a madcap cross between Monty Python and Clive Barker. His stories percolate like a popcorn machine full of jungle beetles!
— Mark Mclaughlin
The Wonderful World of John Travis is one of literary beguilement, surreal chills and the kind of wry dark humour that makes you question your own reality. To reclaim an overused phrase: his work is unique in the field of weird fiction.
— Gary McMahon
You are present at the flowering of wonderful new talent--an inspired and truly gifted writer by the name of John Travis.
— Simon Clark, from his introduction to Mostly Monochrome Stories