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Loss of Separation Paperback – 3 Mar 2011

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Product details

  • Paperback: 412 pages
  • Publisher: Solaris (3 Mar. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1906735557
  • ISBN-13: 978-1906735555
  • Product Dimensions: 10.6 x 3 x 17 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,077,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

I've been writing stories since infant school. The first story I remember writing was called 'Fire' and it was about... a fire. Later, when I was 11, I wrote my first horror novel, 'A Package Called Death'. This was 24 pages long and handwritten. I submitted it to Pan Books, with a covering letter. I told them that I understood about publishing, that I was aware that a book needed to sell. 'All of my friends at school will buy a copy,' I wrote. 'So you have nothing to worry about.'

Pan rejected it. But I received a very encouraging letter from them. My next novel was entitled '36 Hours Till Doom' (40 pages) and was about a spy who steals a Russian submarine and, during a stand-off, sacrifices his life by launching all of its nuclear missiles at Moscow. This one was typed out by the mother of a schoolfriend. 'Escape from Asquinon', a Star Wars meets The Lord of the Rings epic was longer still. In fact, it remains unfinished, at around 50,000 words.

I was 20 when I made my first serious attempt at writing a novel. 'ID' was very much an homage to my then hero, Stephen King, a writer whose sequence of early novels beginning with 'Salem's Lot' and included 'The Shining', 'The Stand' and 'The Dead Zone'. A brilliant quartet. It drew me in to horror fiction. 'ID' was dreadful and remained locked in my archive files, never to see the light of day. But I'd hit 70,000 words - novel territory - so it was a psychological victory for me. The next novel, 'Sipping Midnight' was written while I was a student at Bristol Polytechnic, where I was given advice and support from local author David Peak. But it was 'Head Injuries', written when I was 24, that set me on my way.

My most recent novels are 'Decay Inevitable', 'Blonde on a Stick' and 'One', which recently won the British Fantasy Award for Best Novel, beating Stephen King's 'Under the Dome' in the process (the second time I've managed to do this... 'The Unblemished' won the International Horror Guild Award, ahead of 'Lisey's Story').

It's an incredible thrill to be on an awards shortlist alongside the man who turned my head toward horror fiction all those years ago... but then, it's an incredible thrill to be writing novels.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Simon Bestwick on 19 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback
I'll admit it- I was looking forward to this one. Conrad Williams has been around for a while now, and there isn't another author quite like him in the horror genre right now, blending the visionary and poetic with the visceral on the one hand and the language of technical precision on the other. It's like a mid-air collision between Clive Barker and J.G. Ballard had taken place, creating a grotesque, impacted-together hybrid that still manages to fly...

Which is more or less the opening image of 'Loss Of Separation', if you replace "Clive Barker and J.G. Ballard" with "Boeing 777 and 747". The nightmarish image of Flight Z, flown by a dead captain and with its passengers burning alive inside it, haunts the dreams of Conrad's protagonist, Paul Roan. As well it might; Paul quit his job as an airline pilot after a "loss of separation" occurred- i.e. when he came perilously close to a mid-air collision. Paul decamped to the Suffolk town of Southwick with his girlfriend Tamara to start a new life, only to be almost killed in a hit and run accident that put him in a coma for six months. He woke to find Tamara gone, no-one knows where. Ruth, a nurse from the hospital, takes him under her wing, but she has her own damage to consider; she's pregnant as a result of rape.

Meanwhile, the townsfolk treat Paul as a sin-eater, bringing him things to burn- mementoes of the things they can't live with anymore. But Southwick has secrets; disappearances and murdered children. With the help of Amy, a young woman who, like Paul, has narrowly cheated death by accident, Paul starts uncovering them, and in doing so he finds out that Tamara might not, as he thought, have deserted him...

As you can see, there's a lot going on here. There always is in Conrad's work.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
More a psychological thriller than a straightforward horror story, and all the better for it. I was initially put off by the cover (which seems to have been designed by someone who hadn't read the novel) but I gave this book a go because I was encouraged by the general reviews of Williams' work (he's twice beaten Stephen King to literary prizes). And I'm glad I did.

The protagonist Paul Roan is likeable and engaging, as he struggles to find his way through an increasingly uncertain landscape where he (and the reader) tries to separate the real from the imagined, the sinister from the trustworthy. Williams successfully retains a permanent sense of unease throughout the novel and his crisp, clear writing keeps the story barrelling along at a pace. The story's constant sense of unease meant that, while reading it, I doubted everyone, even Ruth (my favourite character) as she nurses Paul back to health.

The novel's ending is as powerful and unpredictable as I've read in some time and the story and characters have all stayed with me, long after I finished the book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Demonica on 11 Feb. 2012
Format: Paperback
My first Conrad Williams novel and most certainly not my last. I have been an idiot not to have discovered this excellent author before. This book is riveting, tense atmosphere building like a gradual stranglehold, three dimensional characters the reader cares about and wants to know their fate. With prose as taut as an over-tuned violin string, original and engrossing plot, I defy anyone to put this down unread.
Excellent stuff and along with authors like Adam Nevill, a sign that British horror writing is in safe, if gore-stained hands!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Colin Leslie on 27 Mar. 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Conrad Williams builds on the success of his previous six novels (including the award winning, One and Unblemished) and novellas to bring us Loss Of Separation. It's a rich back catalogue but for me the standout is his novella Rain, a short but intensely personal piece which focussed as much on character and emotion as horror. That combination of horror through human emotion was very powerful and it's a technique he exploits to the full in Loss of Separation.
Paul Roan was the first officer of a Boeing 777 when it was involved in a near miss (a loss of separation). Seeking solace and a new start in the remote village of Southwick seems like a way to escape the terrible guilt and nightmares he suffers, but a hit and run accident leaves him in a coma and with a body like "a badly constructed Jenga tower". With the help of friends Charlie and Ruth he begins the process of rehabilitation in the village, but during the coma his girlfriend Tamara has disappeared so he must also now attempt to find out what happened to her.
In the hands of most other writers, that plot could easily be the basis for a fairly simple love story. In the hands of Conrad Williams it becomes a tragic tale of dark despair and mystery. The first half of the book is a slow paced dark and puzzling affair as Paul gradually comes to terms with his new life and more particularly the strange town and inhabitants of Southwick. This is a town cut off from the rest of society, a place where there is "death shot through those tides" and a place haunted by the darkness of "the craw".
The second half of the book increases the pace wonderfully towards a fittingly climatic and devastating ending as the depths of the towns black past are revealed.
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