Five Minute Fiction

Learn everything you need to know about a new book each week without even having to bother reading it. Ex-bookseller, publisher and writer Iain Martin leads you through the terrifying world of contemporary fiction from deep within the imposing Bookface Tower.
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Books. We've all read them, but are they any good?

Dec 29, 2015
28. Review Show 2015

Uploaded at the quite nice Dems tearooms in Canterbury, it's the final 5MF of 2015 so we look back at some of the books that have rocked my world, recycle a quite popular sketch from an earlier show, unveil my personal best book of 2015, and catch up with former audiobook performer (and prick) Bryce D'Abo. 

Dec 22, 2015
27. American Housewife

This week's 5MF was recorded in Southwark, London, and is being beamed up into the nethersphere from Colchester, setting for my as-yet-unwritten historical magical-realism tale CAMVLODVNVM. It's Christmas week, so everyone's silver bells are comprehensively a-jingle, except in my podcast where is is resolutely business very much as usual. This week we're curling up with a wonderful collection of short stories which combine comedic observation with psychological horror to examine and excavate the empty littleness of the life of the American Housewife. Karen the robot has this week's free sentence from our audiobook giveaway for you too, so it really is business as usual. But not next week. Next week is going to be different. Oh yes. 

Dec 15, 2015
26. Number Eleven

Swigging heartily from my Johnny Rockets mug, I'm kicking back and relaxing in the stress-free bliss of my newly empty studio. It's time therefore to tell you about what I've been reading this week, which is the frankly amazing novel Number Eleven by Jonathan Coe. And it is awesome. Come and listen. Along the way there's a tiny plug for a Kindle-only science fiction series, and we get to meet a giant robot who loves books. You don't get THAT on Serial.

Dec 8, 2015
25. The Wisdom of Crocodiles

Another all-time favourite novel gets its chance to wriggle at you seductively and pout in a frankly vampish manner while you peruse it lustfully. Do you feel ashamed? You should. This week we're looking at the debut novel from Paul Hoffman, one of my favouritest books ever. What else is new? Well, in an attempt to see if anyone ever reads these little descriptions, I'm offering a free drink to the first person to tweet me @theiainmartin to claim it (terms and conditions apply) and there's a surprise in store for the actor Bryce D'abo who is about to feel the cold, wet end of EU Employment Law's love-truncheon. Welcome in books, y'all.

Dec 1, 2015
24. Middlesex

In a terrible turn of events, Bryce D'Abo (he played a milkman in Morse in about 1993) has staged a coup d'etat and taken over the Five Minute Fiction studio. What audio horrors await? God let's hope he doesn't start all that Gilbert & Sullivan nonsense. Luckily there's a bit of book chat too as we look back at one of the genuine classics of the 21st Century.

Nov 24, 2015
23. American Psycho

There's a newfound sense of peace and amity in the Five Minute Fiction studio as Bryce D'Abo seems to be behaving himself, and our new Creative Writing course headed up by Keef Richards from the Strolling Bones is proving to be a provocative and exciting project. So this week we dust off an old paperback and curl up with a contemporary masterpiece of lady-chopping and drug-hoovering, American Psycho. Is it more than just a one-note joke? Is it deep and meaningful? Let us consider it, coldly, as men and women of science.

Nov 17, 2015
22. Four Blind Mice

In an attempt to ascertain just how badly the memory cheats, this week I'm trying to remember as much as I can about one of my least-favourite reads - and then I pause the tape, do a bit of research, and then let you know how wide of the mark my recall was. This week, then, there are more spoilers than usual, but since it's about Four Blind Mice I honestly don't think any of you will care. Or not too much. Meanwhile Bryce D'Abo looks pretty impregnable and has taken full control of The Spoken Word, and we launch our Creative Writing Course, lead by the autobiographer, philosopher and guitarist Keith Richards. No, really. No, really.

Nov 10, 2015
21. Dependence Day

This week I'm looking at another personal favourite novel, 1994's Dependence Day by the comedian turned novelist Robert Newman - who is currently back on Radio Four with his new show Robert Newman's Entirely Accurate Encyclopaedia of Evolution. Dependence Day is a straightforward yet elegant debut suffused with exceptional prose and a wonderful confidence, and I'm baffled as to why it's out of print. You can't even get an ebook, which is just bizarre. But you can track it down on Ebay and Amazon Marketplace so you definitely should. Do it now. And while you're at it, get his other books too. Meanwhile we also talk books with Keith Richards from the Rolling Stones. No, really. No, really.

Nov 3, 2015
20. Toast On Toast

This week we're reviewing the shameless TV tie-in comedy pretend autobiography Toast On Toast (showing here) in a slight break from all the serious books under discussion. You'll remember how we usually look at heavyweight literature like Remembrance of the Daleks? Well the truth is I'm reading a big clever literary novel right now but it's going to take me a while, and just sometimes I need something with a quick turnaround. So yes. Anyway. If you've never watched Toast of London (this show here) you probably won't read this book but if you have, you'll know exactly what we're in for. What's amazing is that I got through the whole episode without saying "Yes, I can hear you, Clem Fandango."

Oct 27, 2015
19. Grief Is The Thing With Feathers

A slender, delicate tale of grief and not-entirely unwelcome corvid intruders provides this week's subject matter, which keeps your host pre-occupied enough not to notice that maybe, just maybe, something terrible is going to happen... Welcome, readers.

Oct 20, 2015
18. The Portable Veblen

Please arrive promptly for the start of the informal soiree when crisps will be served. There will then be a bit of talking about a book. Then dancing. You know the form. The cause of celebration this week is the discovery of one of 2016's finest and most lovely novels, by Elizabeth McKenzie. It's the best thing I've read in yonks. 

Oct 13, 2015
17. The Information

Desperate times call for desperate measures, and desperate times cost you desperate treasures.

A treasure for you all here is that, because I'm away in Frankfurt this week, I have pre-recorded a special show all about one of my favourite novels: The Information by Martin Amis. Do not expect anything but wide-eyed fanboy advocacy here. 

Why do I love this novel so much? What's the cut of its jib? What, in a nutshell, is the plot? And what did I say to the author about it when I met him?

What else? Captive think-worm Richard Dawkins says something profound and the pissed old ham in studio 2 archly performs another sentence of our FREE AUDIOBOOK. 

So; a bumper show for you here. I hope you enjoy it. Tell me if so!


Oct 6, 2015

As a treat for you all, this week I'm reaching back onto the endless bookshelf of yesteryear and plucking out my favourite Doctor Who book, dusting it off and presenting it for your delectation. I know some of you literary types will turn your noses up, but if you're a Doctor Who fan you'll either love this already or you soon will. The reason? Doctor Who books got me reading. And I'm not alone in that. Also I've just been commissioned to write an essay for a book about the Doctor Who books from Target. Thirdly I haven't finished this week's novel but I did have time for what is an excellent audiobook. Fourthly Ben Aaronovitch is now better known as the author of a magical crime series which begins with Rivers of London and they are ace.

Morrissey appears to have disappeared from the studio in the same week that Dawkins seems to have doubled in size. Bryce D'abo is still knocking about but is throwing shade all over our Spoken Word feature. Hopefully the drunken old sod will be gone for next week's episode.

Sep 29, 2015
15. The Woman Who Went To Bed For A Year

What a week it's been, with one of our 80's pop icons having turned in a controversial novel replete with amusingly-written sex, and everyone's going crazy about this. Well, you have to give these people some right to reply, don't you? I have also been reading the final novel from Sue Townsend. The book came out in 2012 but I haven't felt like reaching 'the end' with Sue up to now. Is it a fitting farewell from the writer who gave the world Adrian Mole? Meanwhile it's lawyers at dawn with Bryce D'Abo which makes for a distinctly frosty Spoken Word section this week. 

Sep 22, 2015
14. The Girl In the Spider's Web

A record-breaking longest show ever this week, despite legal wranglings over the continued involvement of our spoken word actor Bryce D'Abo meaning there is no new sentence this week (but there is something even betterer instead.)

Dawkins seems pretty forlorn too, so it's left to me to carry the show this week, which I attempt to do by discussing the new Salander/Blomkvist novel by ghost-writer and novelist David Lagercrantz. 

Strap yourselves in and hose yourselves down. It's going to be a bumpy ride. On the way we get side-tracked by the mucky business of other authors continuing other people's franchises, and how much this idea scares me now that Sue Townsend is no longer with us.

Incidentally, I don't know if you've seen this story in the papers, but DAVID CAMERON PUT IT IN A DEAD PIG'S FACE.

Sep 15, 2015
13. The Things They Carried

It's show number thirteen. How about that? To celebrate hitting this dizzying number of podcasts, we have a devastatingly powerful book to discuss this week. We have a brief skirmish in the studio as the cats (who used to be Will Self) go for each other in the background. But this too is mere foreshadowing of another confrontation brewing, after which nothing will ever be the same again... 

Sep 8, 2015
12. London Falling

In the week of publication for his new novel, Witches of Lychford, I have finally got to grips with London Falling, the first book in Paul Cornell's fantasy crime series The Shadow Police. Those of you who want to hear my thoughts on it would be well advised to listen to this podcast. 

Others out there only listen to the show to hear the latest bursts of Buddha-like wisdom from my caged intellectual, Richard Dawkins, and he's on good form this week. Similarly we celebrate the return to the studio of celebrated thespian Bryce D'Abo whose velvety tones bring our FREE AUDIOBOOK to life each week.

The schedule is filling up nicely now with some big books for Autumn so in the coming weeks there will be big, big books under my whimsical and capricious gaze. Join me, book fans, oh please, please join me...

Aug 31, 2015
11. Pilcrow

It's blastage from the pastage this week as we delve into the dusty bookshelves of yesterwhen and pluck out a classic of the modern era which has somehow managed to avoid every prize going, and exists in an utterly undeserved obscurity. Come join me to hear about one of literature's weakest characters.

In other news, Deep Words is blessed this week as Dawkins (our resident thinker) is getting decidedly chatty so I think we're all going to have our minds stretched and improved.

Join us next week for more of the same, and if you'd like me to bring you back any nuts from my trip to Beirut then let me know. Their wasabi cashews are to die for. Just FYI....

Aug 25, 2015
10. The Debt To Pleasure

Welcome to show #10. This week I'm dipping back into the glorious canon of an author's backlist, and talking about a book first published in 1996. Now, I was a young, silly man then, and still didn't work with books so I missed this one at the time. What do I remember from 1996? I very much enjoyed David Baddiel's Time For Bed and the curio which was Night Train by Martin Amis. Horrifically I realise this is as near as dammit to being twenty years ago. Days in pubs, and Euro '96 and the Pistols reforming in Finsbury Park...
     Remembrances of things past are often warm and delightful, unless you're Tarquin Winot regaling the reader with your increasingly unsettling life story over a delicious luncheon. Which, by a staggering coincidence, is the main course served up for you in this week's podcast, which, as always, I hope you enjoy, and if not please tell Chef. 

Aug 18, 2015
09. Pictures Or It Didn't Happen

This week we consider a deliberately slim volume from crime-writer and doyenne of psychological thrillers, Sophie Hannah.

Writing for Quick Reads must be an interesting brief for an author: "we want you at the top of your game, doing what you do best, but you've only got around 30-35,000 words to play with because we need these books to be short".

So does the format work and can we have fun in such a tiny novella? Let me investigate.

In other news, the next two books to feature have been recommended by listeners, so why not add your favourite book to my pile? tweet me your suggestions @theiainmartin or visit me at

Aug 11, 2015
08. The Wallcreeper

Breathless, twitching, feverish and on fire, I finished this book and raced to record how good I thought it was, for your edification. You're welcome.

On the way I adopted a new author for the Deep Words Vivarium and managed to use the word "monogamic" - if I'd tried two takes I might not have been reduced to drivelling out this kind of embarrassing word-based slurry. I'm sorry. And I feel quite stupid.

If you're in Edinburgh, by the way, check out Bryce D'Abo's new show, "Always The Twain".

Laters, potaters.

Aug 4, 2015
07. The Secret Adversary

In episode seven we snuggle up with a crime novel written almost a century ago, but which, in an unusual feat of timey-wimeyness was in fact televised over the last couple of weekends. The TV adaptation, while enjoyable, differed hugely from the book, probably as a way of bringing humour to the lead actor's role to ease him in. I'm not sure of the extent that the story differed, but on the strength of part one it seems quite a bit. I wonder why? TV execs, eh? Bless them.What else is going on this week? The Man Booker Prize longlist was announced, and left me cold. As a former bookseller, I would have liked to see a couple of commercial choices or big names, while the writer in me is glad to see it's probably all about the quality of the writing this year. Anyway, herewith my witter...

Jul 28, 2015
06. R.I.P.

Well, I never imagined I'd be sharing my abiding love for Nigel Williams with the world from a delightful hotel on the fringes of New Cairo but that is the state of play this morning. If you haven't heard of Williams, he's generally reviewed and regarded as "Britain's premier farceur" or "The new P.G. Wodehouse" or even just "this chap who's been been banging out some consistently great comic fiction for about forty years now". He reached his creative peak in the 1990's but took a decade off from prose after 2003, and has returned with two hugely entertaining novels in the last three years.

Meanwhile, also in this week's episode, we unveil our new "voice of the Spoken Word" and things look a bit off-putting in the vivarium of Will Self's Deep Words. Enjoy it, folks, now I need to get up and find some coffee...

Jul 21, 2015
05. Seventy-Seven Clocks

Meet the hilariously abhorrent Whitstable family; but don't make any close friends because one by one they are being bumped off. It's a new case for Bryant and May of the Met's Peculiar Crimes Unit, two irascible codgers with rare skills and lateral thinking who alone can hope to solve a baffling series of murders. Yes, this week we're catching up with the work of Christopher Fowler. If you already love his books then you know what you're in for. If you're yet to have the pleasure, shame on you. SHAME. Come listen, friends. 

Jul 14, 2015
04. The Dust That Falls From Dreams

So there's no easy way to dress this up, but this week's review does contain a spoiler that some of you might rather avoid. I'm reviewing the new novel from Louis deBernieres and while I try my bestest to keep off the grass (by which I mean "plot") this week I do stray onto the verge (by which I mean "give away a significant plot-point"). What can I say? I'm a fool. Read the book first then come back and hear my breathless, wide-eyed enthusicast when the spoiler won't ruin your experience. Or, if you weren't going to read it, then no worries. I only bought the eBook so for all I know they give away the bit I spoil on the very back cover. Who knows? Not me. Um. Anyhoo.

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