A Summer in the Twenties

by Peter Dickinson

paper · $16 · 9781618730848 | ebook · 9781618730855

A young man has to choose who to love, who to leave in the 1926 General Strike in Britain.

“Small Beer Press, a small publishing company in Massachusetts, is reprinting … Peter Dickinson’s books, which is a wonderful, wonderful gift to mystery readers who are yearning for that kind of old-fashioned British mystery where it doesn’t move quickly, you get engrossed in the time period.”—Nancy Pearl, NPR

Read an excerpt.

In 1926 the British government was worried about revolution. Two million people are about to go on strike and class warfare is about to erupt. Tom Hankey is caught between his love for Judy, a bright young thing, and Kate, a fireball agitator. Brought home from Oxford by his father, Tom volunteers to drive a train in the General Strike. When the train is ambushed, Tom is thrust into the darkest and most threatening regions of English politics. Gritty yet sparkling and full of unexpected turnarounds, A Summer in the Twenties resonates and captivates.

“In A Summer in the Twenties, Mr. Dickinson, who is best known in the United States for his mystery thrillers and in England for his award-winning children’s books, tells a story of confrontation between the rich rich and the poor worker, set against the background of 1926, the year of the General Strike. The very rich are facing the rise of a force they can barely understand. Politics, here, is everything. . . . A Summer in the Twenties shows the body politic balanced at a precarious moment of tension.”
New York Times Book Review

“Dickinson shows us the daily lives of both the upper crust, with their carpeted manor houses and petty intrigues, as well as the working poor, who live in noisy, crowded conditions. Intergenerational strife abounds, as children of all classes disappoint their elders by not becoming what they were brought up to be; the exchanges are witty yet full of meaning, illuminating the shift of power away from the old class system toward something new and unproven. Dickinson conveys a lot of excellent historical material in a thoroughly engaging narrative with enough suspense to keep readers entertained on multiple levels.”
Historical Novel Review

“Imagine if Evelyn Waugh and P.G. Wodehouse had been called in to doctor a “Downton Abbey” script . . . . There’s sharp dialogue, wonderfully grotesque characters, a love story or three. (Judy or Kate? What shall our hero do?) The wit is droll and British.”—Wilmington StarNews

“A lovely smooth read.”—The Washington Post

“A witty, affectionately nostalgic masterpiece.”—The Columbus Dispatch

“As absorbingly readable, as well-written as anything Peter Dickinson has written.”—The Times Literary Supplement

“Dickinson (author of engagingly offbeat thrillers and children’s books) does splendidly here with atmosphere, with the eccentric supporting characters, with the occasionally bizarre comic touches.”
Kirkus Reviews

From the jacket:

Peter Dickinson . . .

“has an unusual kind of mind.” — New York Times Book Review
“is the best thing that has happened to serious, sophisticated, witty 
crime fiction since Michael Innes.” — Sunday Times
“defies categorisation and summary.” — Morning Star
“is a delight to read.” — Times Literary Supplement
“goes in a bit for the high fantastical.” — Evening Standard
“is the best crime writer we have, always absorbingly original.” — Marghanita Laski
“is now the best writer of crime-stories working in this country.” — Birmingham Post

“What makes reading Dickinson a pleasure is that the characters are well drawn and above all human. They make mistakes, have prejudices on both sides of the question, and manage to change, grow, and rise to the occasion as needed. . . . He is also the brightest of writers, capable of real humor and rare intelligence. . . . As a portrait of a unique time and a picture of good people trying to resolve the differences that divide them, coming together for a common good, and facing the very real class divisions that separate them A Summer in the Twenties is a solid smart read.”—Mystery File

Praise for Peter Dickinson’s mysteries:

“The works of British Mystery Writer Peter Dickinson are like caviar-an acquired taste that can easily lead to addiction. Dickinson . . . does not make much of the process of detection, nor does he specialize in suspense. Instead, he neatly packs his books with such old-fashioned virtues as mood, character, and research.”—Time

“Dickinson (author of engagingly offbeat thrillers and children’s books) does splendidly here with atmosphere, with the eccentric supporting characters, with the occasionally bizarre comic touches.”—Kirkus Reviews

Peter Dickinson has twice received the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger. He is the author of more than fifty books, including many books for children and young adults such as Earth and Air: Tales of Elemental Creatures, The Dancing Bear, and Emma Tupper’s Diary. His crime novels include Death of a Unicorn, The Poison Oracle, and many more. He lives in England and is married to the novelist Robin McKinley. Find out more at peterdickinson.com.

Emma Tupper’s Diary

by Peter Dickinson

paper · $12 · 9781618730633 | ebook · $9.95 · 9781618730640
A Big Mouth House book.

A girl helps her Scottish cousins dig up their Victorian-era minisubmarine and they pretend to be a monster in a Scottish loch. There are complications!

Emma is spending the summer with her Scottish cousins—who are wonderful material for her attempt to win the School Prize for most interesting holiday diary. The cousins, lofty Andy, reserved Fiona, and fierce Roddy, and “some sort of looker-after person called Miss Newcombe” are experimenting with their grandfather’s dilapidated old mini-submarine to see if they can find a monster in the family loch.

Emma Tupper’s Diary is a sometimes terrifying, sometimes broadly hilarious (Chapter 3: “I am beginning to understand about the Scots,” wrote Emma. “And why they murdered each other so much.”) adventure novel in the spirit of From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler and I Capture the Castle.

Praise for Emma Tupper’s Diary:

“Emma Tupper of Botswana goes to spend the summer in Scotland with her bizarre and hilarious, cantankerous, feuding cousins and writes about it in her journal. They launch a plan to create a loch ness hoax in order to make some money to keep the family going. This involves an ancient submarine and leads to a fascinating discovery when the feud goes too far. Great adventure, for fans of Swallows and Amazons.”
— Jenny Craig, Seattle Public Library

“Loch Ness’s claims pale beside the super-exciting discovery made by Emma . . Expert mystification, the tender conscience and burning courage of the young, tantalising details, make this a compelling tall story.”
Sunday Times

“Narration par excellence … The characters and dialogue are yeasty with fun and Emma is a quiet foil for the sometimes mad exuberance of her cousins.”—Saturday Review

“One of the most enthralling books for older children that I have ever read. Peter Dickinson is master of suspense.”—Evening Standard

“Fish out of water Emma must spend the summer in Scotland with cousins she’s never met. They’re somewhat older and get along fine with minimal adult supervision. Even when they plot to take an old submarine out on the nearby loch for a spin, adding a Nessy-like monster head to the top for fun, there’s no one around to urge caution. It’s the sort of family where everyone is whip-smart, conversations are fast and fascinating, and statements of fact are rarely truthful. All of which makes for one extremely suspenseful and surprisingly thought-provoking adventure.”
—Gwenyth Swain (author of Chig and the Second Spread)

“One of my favorite childhood books. . . . Its themes and plot have come around again, and a smart production company should scoop it up for a film adaptation.”
Atomic Librarian

“An enthralling book, with fascinating characters, told with humor and wit, and with a story that just might, barely, be possible.”
Book Loons

“Comedy of manners? Ecological allegory? Adventure? Farce?”—Kirkus Reviews

Praise for Peter Dickinson’s children’s books:

“One of the real masters of children’s literature.”—Philip Pullman

“Peter Dickinson is a national treasure.”—The Guardian

“Magnificent. Peter Dickinson is the past-master story-teller of our day.”—The Times Literary Supplement

Peter Dickinson is the author of over fifty books including EvaEarth and Air, and the Michael L. Printz honor book The Ropemaker. He has twice received the Whitbread Prize as well as the Phoenix and Guardian awards, among other awards. He lives in England and is married to the novelist Robin McKinley.

The Poison Oracle

by Peter Dickinson

September 10, 2013 · trade paper · $16 · 978-1-61873-065-7 | ebook · $9.95 · 978-1-61873-066-4

“I think Peter Dickinson is hands down the best stylist as a writer and the most interesting storyteller in my genre.”
—Sara Paretsky, author of Breakdown

Take a medieval Arab kingdom, add a ruler who wants to update the kingdom’s educational facilities, include a somewhat reserved English research psycholinguist (an Oxford classmate of the ruler) invited to pursue his work on animal communication, and then add a touch of chaos in the person of Dinah: a chimpanzee who has begun to learn to form coherent sentences with plastic symbols.

When a murder is committed in the oil-rich marshes, Dinah is the only witness, and Morris has to go into the marshes to discover the truth. The Poison Oracle is a novel of its time that uses the everyday language people use to expose humanity’s thinking and unthinking cruelties to one another and to the animals with whom we share this earth.

Includes an author interview carried out by Sara Paretsky.

Peter Dickinson: “Flukes and Good Guesses

Audio rights sold to Audible.

Praise for The Poison Oracle:

“Dickinson’s crime novels are simply like no other; sophisticated, erudite, unexpected, intricate, English and deeply, wonderfully peculiar.”
—Christopher Fowler, author of The Memory of Blood

“I have no idea if any of this talk and action is authentic, and I don’t care. Either way it’s marvellous.”—Rex Stout

“Intelligent, elegantly written . . . a thoroughly enjoyable read.”—Sunday Times

Dickinson’s faceted intelligence provides thoughtful pauses along with the more traditional thriller accoutrements in this provocative tale of the Sultanate of Q’Kut, a tiny oil rich country where Arabs and primitive Marshmen coexist under an ancient treaty. When greed for the oil under the marshes begins to unravel the bond, a British psycholinguist, his experimental chimpanzee and a nubile young terrorist are caught up in the crosscultural currents. A complex dazzler with an extra gene of anthropological authenticity.Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“. . . the story is unique, ingenious, and full of surprises.”—Publishers Weekly

“Were there, as in chess, a brilliancy prize for crime action, this should win it . . . Dickinson’s best book.” —Observer

“Intelligent, elegantly written . . . a thoroughly enjoyable read.”—Sunday Times

The Poison Eaters
Chapter One

WITH AS MUCH passion as his tepid nature was ever likely to generate, Wesley Morris stared at Dinah through the observation window. He thought she looked incredibly beautiful, leaning against the heavy wire mesh on the far side, and watching the main group with that air of surprise which Morris knew to mean that she was apprehensive. She looked healthier than most of the others; her coarse black hair had a real sheen to it, and her eyes were bright with vitality.

The others were in a listless mood, though they ought by now to have got over the shock of their arrival; only Murdoch’s baby showed much life, making little exploratory forays away from his mother. Sparrow was gazing with sullen intensity at the air-conditioner; perhaps its thin whine got on his nerves; he couldn’t know how carefully it had been adjusted to produce a temperature and humidity at which he would thrive. The rest merely lolled and slouched. The darkening caused by the one-way glass in the observation window softened the concrete tree-trunks and metal branches, and gave the whole scene the look of a forest glade. Morris was both pleased and disturbed by this illusion of nature.

“Sparrow looks pretty unintelligent,” murmured the Sultan. “

“I don’t know,” said Morris.

“In fact I think he looks decidedly thick. Thicker even than Rowse.”

“You can’t judge them by Dinah—she’s exceptional.”

“So what? If she chooses one of the thick ones . . .”

“It doesn’t work like that. The odds are she’ll be completely promiscuous—she’s just made that way. When she has kids you’ll never know who the fathers were.”

The Sultan knew this perfectly well, but something in his heredity or culture made it hard for him to imagine a set-up in which the males were dominant but did not have exclusive rights to individual females. (Morris had to keep explaining the point to him.)

“Then we ought to start weeding out the thick ones,” he said. Morris recognised in his tone the dangerous moment when a notion was about to harden into a fiat.

“We don’t know which are the thick ones yet,” he protested. “I’ll try to set up a few tests, if I can think of how to do it without mucking up the whole idea. We’ve got plenty of time—Dinah won’t reach puberty for at least a year, so . . .”

“Can’t we speed it up, my dear fellow? Listen, down in the marshes they know a few things that your puritanical scientists have never caught on to. Some of the local aphrodisiacs . . .”

“Certainly not,” snapped Morris.

. . .

Praise for Peter Dickinson’s mysteries:

“He is the true original, a superb writer who revitalises the traditions of the mystery genre . . . incapable of writing a trite or inelegant sentence . . . a master.”—P. D. James

“He sets new standards in the mystery field that will be hard to live up to.”—Ruth Rendell

“He has an eye and a mind and a voice like no other.”—Donald E. Westlake

“A fresh triumph . . . a simultaneous insight into kids and their minders, and emerging nations, and the concept of freedom—all done with consummate storytelling skill.”—Peter Lovesey

“Brilliantly imaginative first detective story . . .wonderfully convincing.”—The Observer

“Mr Dickinson is the most original crime novelist to appear for a long, long time.”—The Guardian

“Brilliantly original, as always.”—Times Literary Supplement

“Wry, witty, irresistible.”—The Financial Times

“A literary magician controlling an apparently inexhaustible supply of effects . . . Craftsmanship such as this makes for compulsive reading.”—Penelope Lively

Peter Dickinson OBE has twice received the Crime Writers’ Association’s Gold Dagger as well as the Guardian Award and Whitbread Prize. His fifty novels include Death of a Unicorn and A Summer in the Twenties. His latest book is a collection, Earth and Air: Tales of Elemental Creatures (Big Mouth House). He lives in England and is married to the novelist Robin McKinley.

Death of a Unicorn

by Peter Dickinson

May 2013 · trade paper · $16 · 9781618730404 | ebook · $9.95 · 9781618730411

Death of a Unicorn has nothing to do with unicorns or fantasies. … This is a mystery by Peter Dickinson….
“The thing about Peter Dickinson is that his books, one from the other, are totally different. … And this is a novel, a mystery, where the mystery doesn’t really happen. The event that is mysterious, the death — if you will — doesn’t really happen until probably two-thirds of the way through the book. And it’s written from the point of view of a young upper-class … woman in England and her relationship with the [financier] of a magazine very much like the New Yorker.
“I think that this is one of those books that I hope will … introduce people to Peter Dickinson and then they’ll go and pick up all the rest of his books. … But I have to stress these are not for people who want fast-moving thrillers. These are not mysteries in the style of American private-eye stories. These are really character studies and studies of society at a particular place in a particular time.”
Nancy Pearl, NPR

For bestselling author Lady Margaret, the past is no longer a pleasant memory. Her first lover’s mysterious death and the seeming inevitability of her inheriting the family’s stately home are cast in new light by secrets unwillingly revisited in Dickinson’s wonderful novel of family and friends, work and duty, and above all, love.

Reading Group Questions included.

“Mr. Dickinson has a nice dry wit and a talent for deft characterization.”
New York Times

“Everything here is exactly right.”
New Yorker

“Peter Dickinson is my own chosen demigod in the pantheon of crime fiction.”
Laurie R. King

“The Tolkien of the crime novel.”—H.R.F.Keating

Death of a Unicorn is the first in a series of reprints of Peter Dickinson’s mysteries from Small Beer Press. This classic British mystery will win fans currently engrossed in Downton Abbey.

Read more

Earth and Air

by Peter Dickinson

October 2012 · 208pp · 9781618730589 · trade cloth · $17.95 | 9781618730381 · trade paper · $14.95 | 9781618730398 · ebook · $9.95

Tales of Elemental Creatures

A Junior Library Guild Selection

Wall Street Journal: The Best Fiction of 2012
“Much modern fantasy draws upon myth and folklore, but not many authors can enter wholly into the surprising and novel logic of myth. In this brilliant collection of stories, Peter Dickinson recasts Beowulf and Orpheus, investigates tales of earth-spirits, explains the footwear of Mercury and accounts for the survival of Athena’s owls in Christian Byzantium. These beautiful stories, our reviewer believed, ‘deserve to become classics of the genre.'”

“Enjoyable surprises await those who pick up this latest and last addition to the Tales of Elemental Creatures series. Peter Dickinson, working alone (he co-authored the first two collections, Water and Fire with wife Robin McKinley), once again proves his expertise in fantasy and short story writing…. The pleasure of reading a short story by this author stems from his complete control over the essentials of fiction writing…. A true delight, this engrossing collection will lead many readers back for second and third readings.”
Shelf Awareness

“Mining folklore for ideas is routine in modern fantasy, but not many can add the surprising twists and novel logic that Peter Dickinson does. These are beautiful stories, deft, satisfying, unexpected. They deserve to become classics of the genre.”
—Tom Shippey, Wall Street Journal

Peter Dickinson has long been one of our favorite authors and we are very proud and happy to announce that we are publishing a new collection of stories by Dickinson—and we will go on from here to reprint many of his novels for both children and adults.

In this collection, you will find stories that range from the mythic to contemporary fantasy to science fiction. You will find a troll, gryphons, a beloved dog, the Land of the Dead, an owl, a minotaur, and a very alien Cat. Earth and Air is the third and final book in a trilogy of shared collections connected by the four classical elements. It follows previous volumes Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits and Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits, written by both Peter Dickinson and Robin McKinley.

Ridiki is Steff’s beloved dog, named after Eurydice, whom the poet Orpheus tried to bring back from the dead. When, like her namesake, Ridiki is bitten by a snake and dies, Steff decides that he too should journey to the Underworld to ask the King of the Land of the Dead for his dog back.

Mari is the seventh child of a family in which troll blood still runs. When her husband goes missing in a Scottish loch, she must draw upon the power of her blood to rescue him. Sophie, a young girl, fashions a witch’s broomstick out of an ash sapling, and gets more than she bargained for. An escaped slave, Varro, must kill a gryphon, in order to survive. A boy named Yanni allies himself with an owl and a goddess in order to fight an ancient evil. A group of mind-bonded space travelers must face an unknown threat and solve the murder of a companion before time runs out.

All of these stories are about, in one way or another, the contrary and magical pull of two elements, Earth and Air. Each story showcases the manifold talents of a master storyteller and craftsman who has twice won the Carnegie Medal and the Whitbread Award, as well as the Guardian Children’s Fiction Prize.

A short interview on F&SF about “Troll Blood.”


“I particularly enjoyed “Ridiki”, a version of the Eurydice story substituting a boy’s beloved dog Ridiki for Eurydice, and “Wizand”, which cleverly portrays the unusual lifecycle of the wizand, which confers power on witches, including, in this story, a 20th-century girl named Sophie. Most intriguing, perhaps, is the final story, “The Fifth Element”, which doesn’t as obviously deal with an “elemental creature” as the other stories. Instead, it’s an odd science fiction horror story, that reminded me of Philip K. Dick’s first published story, “Beyond Lies the Wub”, and Robert Sheckley’s “Specialist”, in telling of the multispecies crew of a sort of tramp starship, and what happens when their “ship’s Cat” dies.”
—Rich Horton, Locus

The prevailing spirit of Earth and Air seems to be Mercury, the sardonic trickster. Read it with your mind open, senses alert… and prepare for a marvelously bumpy ride.
–Faren Miller, Locus

“Dickinson completes the series of “elemental” tales he began with his wife Robin McKinley (Water, rev. 7/02; Fire, rev. 11/09). Though links to the theme can be tenuous, these six new stories are provocative in both variety and ideas. . . .and with Dickinson’s usual command of imaginative imagery and beautifully tooled language, this is a fitting capstone to the series.”
Horn Book

“The prevailing tone of all six is somewhat dark, even saturnine, though not without flashes of hope. In content and style, they are sophisticated and challenging to the extent that the volume might have been published as an adult book. Certainly it has strong crossover appeal. Older teens and Dickinson fans of all ages will find the stories rewarding despite the investment of effort in the reading experience.”

“Noted fantasist Dickinson concludes the cycle of elemental stories he began with Robin McKinley in Fire (BCCB 11/09) and Water (BCCB 7/02) in a solo outing with tales of earth and air spirits. Aside from the sci-fi influenced final story, “The Fifth Element,” the five preceding tales evoke an old-world flavor of magic, incorporating pieces of Greek mythology and European folklore, sometimes placing archetypal beings in the modern world of cars and email. Appropriately, the two tales focusing on earth creatures, “Troll Blood” and “Wizand” (yes, that is the right spelling), are characterized by densely loaded prose and deal with themes of love, lust, and possession. Without McKinley’s more adolescent-focused contributions, the stories lean more toward a new adult audience, though the two animal-centered stories, “Ridiki” and “Scops,” will appeal to pet-friendly readers, particularly dog lovers. These stories are nonetheless thoughtful and provocative, and they will find an audience among Dickinson’s usual fans.”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“This is ultimately a wonderfully hopeful work, with glimpses at some of the best of human nature: compassion, love, a sense of right and fairness, and a correspondingly humane response from the supernatural powers.”
School Library Journal

“These unusual, memorable tales from a much-admired writer should appeal both to teens and Dickinson’s adult fans.”
Publishers Weekly

“Strange, sometimes beautiful tales.”
Kirkus Reviews

“They are beautifully told and move so effortlessly that I was startled to discover I’d read the book in one sitting.”
Don D’Ammassa

Reviews of “Troll Blood”

“Another story which will stay with me is Peter Dickinson’s “Troll Blood.” Mari is a young researcher of Old Norse, with a curious family history. She develops a friendship with her professor, marries the love of her life, and through these relationships she explores her ancestral connections. This is a heart-warming fantasy story of love, trust and honour, held together by lush, sophisticated prose. My one criticism is it jumps about geographically, making is a bit hard to follow at times, but overall this is a beautiful story.”
—Barbara Melville, Tangent

“If some crafty Tilton-hunter were setting a snare, there could be no better bait than a piece like this. Old manuscripts. Old Norse. Beowulf. Even for those readers not so predisposed to love manuscript neep, the story of the troll and the bargain works well, for a story of a troll. I’m not quite so smitten by the biology and the verse, but it’s still another win for this issue.
—Lois Tilton, Locus

Table of Contents


Troll Blood
The Fifth Element

Praise for Water: Tales of Elemental Spirits

World Fantasy Award finalist

“There is plenty here to excite, enthrall, and move even the pickiest readers.”—School Library Journal

“… a collection of enchanting tales.”—Publishers Weekly

Praise for Fire: Tales of Elemental Spirits

“This collection of beautifully crafted tales will find a warm welcome.”—School Library Journal

“Dickinson’s offerings are notable for their sophisticated magical thinking and subtlety of expression.”—The Horn Book

“Dickinson’s stories are told with a storyteller’s cadence.”—Booklist

“This collection … offers something for every fantasy fan.”—Library Media Connection

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