More Experimental Thrillers

I was delighted that my ‘Top 10 Experimental Thrillers’ piece for Guardian Books during the holidays (27/12/2017) prompted much online discussion, both about the titles I discuss – by Robbe-Grillet, Duras, Burroughs, Headley, Perec, et al – and of course about the many other possible contenders for inclusion. I promised (rather rashly) to pull these suggestions together for ease of reference.

Firstly, here is my reserve list. The ten novels (and Michael Moorcock’s short story collection) that I considered, but that didn’t make it into my final Top 10 for Guardian Books:

  • Michael Moorcock, The Metatemporal Detective

  • Tom McCarthy, Men in Space

  • Roberto Bolano, 2666

  • Italo Calvino, If on a Winter’s Night a Traveller…

  • Gertrude Stein, Blood on the Dining Room Floor

  • Truman Capote, In Cold Blood

  • Flann O’Brien, The Third Policeman

  • Antonio Tabucchi, Pereira Maintains

  • Samuel Beckett, Mallone Dies

  • M John Harrison, Nova Swing

And here (with no additional commentary from me) are the suggestions made by friends – mainly on Facebook – and in reader comments submitted on Guardian Books in response to my article. N.B. i) where readers suggested an author or a body of work, I have selected one illustrative title. N.B. ii) suggestions of novels that were merely ‘experimental’, or the various suggestions for alternative introductions to the oeuvre of William S. Burroughs – rather than experimental thrillers per se – have not been included here:

  • Ivan Vladislavić, 101 Detectives

  • Trevor Hoyle, Blind Needle

  • Sebastian Japrisot, The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun

  • Georges Simenon, The Man Who Watched Trains Go By

  • Boileu-Narcejac, The Living and the Dead

  • Friedrich Durrenmatt, Suspicion

  • Raymond Chandler, The Long Goodbye

  • Mark Z. Danielewski, House of Leaves

  • Patricia Highsmith, The Talented Mr. Ripley

  • John Franklin Bardin, The Deadly Percheron

  • Michel Houellebecq, The Map and the Territory

  • Richard Brautigan, Dreaming of Babylon

  • Kobo Abe, The Ruined Map

  • Norman Spinrad, Bug Jack Barron

  • Andrea Marie Schenkel, The Dark Meadow

  • Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

  • China Mieville, The City and the City

  • Jean Patrick Manchette, The Prone Gunman

  • Leonardo Sciascia, The Day of the Owl

  • Carlo Emilio Gadda, Quer pasticciaccio brutto de via Merulana

  • Cameron McCabe, The Face on the Cutting Room Floor

  • Alfred Bester, The Demolished Man

  • Michael Chabon, The Yiddish Policemens’ Union

  • Agatha Christie, The ABC Murders

  • Michel Butor, L’emploi du temps / Passing Time

With thanks to Chris Power, Aaron Williamson, Jason Bowman, Nicholas Royle, abkquan, Laurence Bury, stvkiley, renaultfloride, kushti, keithyd, Matthew Cobb, praxismakesperfec, andrew staines, referendum, Martin Silenus, proust.


Tony White, ‘Top 10 Experimental Thrillers’, Guardian Books

‘Under the Paving Stones’ — Faber Social and Tony White present a night of experimental fiction with Iphgenia Baal, Kirsty Gunn, Stewart Home, Joanna Walsh, Tony White and Eley Williams – 19 February 7:00 pm.

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Out now: Foxy-T in ebook

My 2003 novel Foxy-T is now available in ebook for the first time.

I gave a talk about the novel at Whitechapel Idea Store in 2013, at an event marking the 10th anniversary of publication. You can read an edited transcript of that talk on the Faber website.

The catalyst for the novel – though I didn’t know it yet – was the closure of the area’s only minicab office: the former Megna Cars on Cannon Street Road, just around the corner from where I lived at the time. Then, even more than ever, the East End was in a state of flux, and it was impossible to tell whether this now-empty shop and the flat above it might become a garment factory or a high-spec commercial art gallery. Two extremes, perhaps, but either was just as likely. Or maybe it would become an internet shop. If it were the latter, in those pre-broadband days, it would save me walking up to the one that had recently opened on Whitechapel High Street.

It sounds almost incredible now, but at that time it was still only a few years since the internet café had been invented, with the opening of Cyberia in London in 1994. In the intervening period, the slightly humbler internet shop, or internet and international telephone call shop, had become ubiquitous in the poorer and the more transient areas of probably most cities of the world, and yet I couldn’t think of a novel that was set in one.

ICYMI here’s some of the press the novel has received over the years:

…this affectionate tale may tell you more about love, longing and ambition in the inner city than a dozen official reports. Indeed, some readers would argue that it captures the flavour of Asian lives in London E1 with more inside-track relish than another novel of 2003: Monica Ali’s Brick Lane. Boyd Tonkin, Independent

There have been a few East London books — Manzu Islam’s Burrow, Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, Farrukh Dhondy’s East End At Your Feet, there’s Claire Alexander’s sociological The Asian Gang; and there are more laddist, wide-boy fictions around — Londonstani, of course (though that’s about Hounslow) […] The book I like best is Tony White’s Foxy-T. Ventriloquism among the Cannon Street xeroxing machines, innit? Sukhdev Sandhu, 3am

“What’s your favourite British novel from the past ten years?” The other day I was with a group of friends, and someone posed this question. A few fairly obvious titles were suggested, which gave me time to think. And when it came my turn to speak, I said, “Foxy T by Tony White”. Toby Litt, The Guardian

In Foxy-T he excels himself. […] With vivid economy White describes young Bangladeshis’ domestic, business and street life in intelligent, beautifully sustained prose. Coherent and compelling, the novel has a wonderful, if slightly tricky, denouement which made me grin with surprised admiration. Rejecting familiar influences of the past 20 years, White joins a handful of contemporary writers who are proving that the novel has never been more alive. He is a serious, engaging voice of the modern city. Michael Moorcock, The Guardian

This is, in fact, the best book that has ever been written about Brick Lane […] it is based around two girls who work in a telephone and computer place off Cannon Street Road, the E-Z Call phone shop. There are all these dubious characters coming in who are out of young offenders institutes or whatever, people from the Bangladeshi community, and it’s really about the progress of these two girls, and the whole book is written in Bangladeshi idiom. It takes a while to get into, but then you do get into it and it’s an amazing tour de force. Roy Moxham, ‘Five Books’, The Browser


Buy Foxy-T for Kindle on

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Top 10 Experimental Thrillers for Guardian Books


My Top 10 Experimental Thrillers piece, including Marguerite Duras’ brilliant L’Amante Anglaise (seen here in Grove Press’s beautiful, 1968, Evergreen Black Cat edition) went live on Guardian Books. It is one of many articles, interviews etc. commissioned around publication of The Fountain in the Forest on 4 January.

Gertrude Stein once said fiction that merely related events was no longer interesting in an age of ubiquitous mass media. But Stein remained fascinated by literature, specifically the detective novel, which she considered the singularly modern fictional form. When the man or woman in question is dead from the start, you’re done with mere events before page one. Furthermore: “In real life … it is the crime that is the thing the shock the thrill the horror but in the story it is the detection that holds the interest.” [READ MORE…]


‘Under the Paving Stones’ — Faber Social and Tony White present a night of experimental fiction with Iphgenia Baal, Kirsty Gunn, Stewart Home, Joanna Walsh, Tony White and Eley Williams – 19 February 7:00 pm.

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LRB Screen: David Hare’s Wetherby at London Review Bookshop

I am thrilled and honoured to be introducing a rare screening of Wetherby (1985) on Friday 19 January 2018 as part of the wonderful London Review Bookshop’s screenings programme, and to celebrate publication of The Fountain in the Forest. Wetherby is playwright and screenwriter David Hare’s first film as director, and stars Vanessa Redgrave – I think it is a masterpiece.

I will be in conversation with writer, poet and CB Editions publisher Charles Boyle about the film after the screening. The evening will be hosted by Gareth Evans, film curator at the Whitechapel Gallery.

‘Hare’s first film as director, set in Yorkshire, does seem to be playing mind games. Tim McInnerny is the uninvited guest who twice turns up at the Wetherby home of schoolteacher Jean Travers (Redgrave) – first at a dinner party and then, the following day, to commit suicide in front of her. Flashbacks, to the night before and a dark episode in the teacher’s past, with Joely Richardson fittingly playing the young Travers, seek to cast light. Redgrave’s performance is superb and she’s ably supported by Ian Holm, Judi Dench, and Suzanna Hamilton in particular.’ – Nicholas Royle, Time Out

This promises to be a very special night, and booking is essential. Please join us.


7:00pm, Friday 19 January 2018, London Review Bookshop, 14 Bury Place, London WC1N 2JL. Tickets £15.00 — Please click here for bookings

‘A Policeman who quits the force out of shame’ — Read this post about Wetherby from 2010

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Missorts updated

Bristol City Council have commissioned a redesign of the Missorts website, which has just gone live. Missorts is my immersive soundwork for Bristol. The project was launched on 20 November 2012, on the anniversary of Thomas Chatterton’s birth. Missorts was originally designed as a GPS-triggered smartphone app that activated automatically in the Redcliffe area of Bristol, and could not be accessed anywhere else.

@ Max McClure, 2012

The work features ten original and interconnected short stories by Sara Bowler, Holly Corfield Carr, Thomas Darby, Jack Ewing, Katrina Plumb, Jess Rotas, Hannah Still, Helen Thornhill, Isabel de Vasconcellos and Sacha Waldron. In the original app, the stories unfold each in their own specific location as you walk around Bristol Temple Meads and Redcliffe, near Thomas Chatterton’s birthplace, and are accompanied by – or embedded within – the Portwall Preludes, a series of striking new musical works specially composed by Jamie Telford for St Mary Redcliffe’s Harrison and Harrison church organ. Stories and music could be listened to in any order. This new browser-based version of the project means, further, that stories and music can now be listened to anywhere. I’m interested to see how an audio work designed for a particular location in Bristol might sound in other locations, including those with their own radical literary histories.

The redesign extends the life of the project and makes it available to wider audiences – and includes director David Bickerstaff’s short documentary. Whilst the app did enable an incredible degree of automation (and using GPS to trigger the stories in the places where they’re set, and allowing users to mix between stories and music in real time and space was an integral part of the work), backwards compatibility has proved a challenge, and the fact that users needed to acquire an app in the first place was a frequent obstacle. User experiences that are echoed by Futurebook’s Molly Flatt, writing in The Bookseller this summer about browser-based vs app-based reading experiences:

From a reader’s point of view, downloading an app is a surprisingly big barrier to entry. From a publisher’s point of view, producing and distributing content via an app is a total pain […] working with frustrating external shopfronts such as the Apple Store. In other words, our innovative new solution was… a website.

On this same subject, I was also interested to note that one of my favourite digital literature experiences of 2017 – Joanna Walsh’s mesmerising Seed (from Editions at Play) – was purely browser-based.

© Max McClure, 2012


Read about the experimental writing workshops where the Missorts stories were written, including the influence of Ann Quinn

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Fountain playlist, plus Wystics

I’ve pulled together a playlist of music mentioned or featured in my new novel The Fountain in the Forest, which is published by Faber and Faber on 4 January 2018.

It features among others The Stranglers, Culture, The Clash, Young Marble Giants, Killing Joke, and The Enid’s encore at the Stonehenge Free Festival 1984, as well as Berlioz, Bach, and Brecht and Weill, plus some plunderphonics from Okapi and Aldo Kapi Orchestra.

These tracks are not presented in their order of appearance in the text, and where e.g. bands rather than particular songs are cited, I have made informed editorial decisions. I may also have taken one or two liberties in the interests of your listening pleasure ;)

Anyway, here it is.

Perhaps it’s inevitable that the Wystic Mankers are not on Spotify. If they were, I’d have included the song ‘Love Revolution’, from their brilliant live album wysticmankers@stonehenge.1984, on which the Wystic’s are joined by Rainbow Ron on vocals, plus The Colin Angela Tribe wall of sound.

Incidentally, with Rainbow Ron’s Eek-A-Mouse-inspired toasting over the Wystic’s rough stoner funk jam, ‘Love Revolution’ may be the best 17 minutes of music that you’ve never heard. Luckily, ‘Love Revolution’ from the Wystic’s set at Stonehenge 1984 is available on their Bandcamp page, so you can buy it there, or listen on the Bandcamp player here:

Same goes for the Cardiacs, but luckily someone has posted a recording of the opening track from their Stonehenge 1984 set on Youtube, and put it together with some amazing Super 8 footage:


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Read the opening chapter of The Fountain in the Forest by Tony White in this free chapter sampler from Faber and Faber

Writers’ Centre Kingston presents a literary event on Hoping


Minima Yacht Club, 48a High Street, Kingston upon Thames, Surrey. KT1 1HN |



About the event : The theme for this event is Hoping. Each of the three speakers will respond as they see fit – with a new piece of literature or an informal talk, an academic lecture or a performance. They might shape a previous work to the theme or create brand new fiction, non-fiction, theatre or poetry. Their choice of medium is as creatively free as their choice of message.

About the speakers :

Tony White’s latest novel The Fountain in the Forest is published by Faber and Faber on 4 January 2018. He is the author of five previous novels including Foxy-T and Shackleton’s Man Goes South, and the non-fiction work Another Fool in the Balkans, as well as novellas and numerous short stories published in journals, exhibition catalogues, and anthologies. White was creative entrepreneur in residence in the French department of King’s College London, and has been writer in residence at London’s Science Museum and the UCL School of Slavonic and Eastern European Studies. He recently collaborated with artists Blast Theory on the libraries live-streaming project A Place Free Of Judgement, and currently chairs the board of London’s award-winning arts radio station Resonance 104.4fm.

Dr. Helen Minors is an Associate Professor of Music and Course Leader for two B.Mus degrees. She was Head of Department 2013-2017. She is the University Lead for the franchise programme at Edinburgh College, TECHNE doctoral training lead, a member of both the Inclusive Curriculum Group and the Network of Equality Champions, and current chair of the National Association for Music in Higher Education UK. She is a performer/improviser, musicologist and practice researcher. She has a wide range of experience including success as: head of department of two university music departments; co-lead of the AHRC Network “Translating Music; and teaching excellence with awards, mostly recently receiving a Rose Award ‘Teaching, Learning and Assessment, Research’ for the funded collaborative project “Taking Race Live” (2016) recently nominated for a CATE HEA award (2017). Her research explores the interdisciplinary, intercultural transfer and interplay of the senses between musics and texts (including dance, theatre, cultural studies and translation studies) within works from the 20th century to today.

Helen Palmer is a writer, performer and lecturer at Kingston University. She is the author of Deleuze and Futurism: A Manifesto for Nonsense (Bloomsbury, 2014). She has recently published papers on feminist rewritings and diffractive pedagogies, and some of her poetry has recently been published in the Minnesota Review themed issue on new materialism. She is currently writing a book called Queer Defamiliarisation and a novel called Pleasure Beach, which is a feminist reimagining of Joyce’s Ulysses.

In partnership with Cultural Histories Kingston.


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Read the opening chapter of The Fountain in the Forest by Tony White in this free chapter sampler from Faber and Faber