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The Runes Have Been Cast

Author: Robert Irwin

Cover design: Marie Lane  

'This is novel is great fun. Irwin mocks all and sundry while introducing us to some of the darker recesses of English and even Scottish literature as well as to the 1960s second hand books scene in London. I do not think that I can have read a novel which makes so many references to actual works that I have never heard off. With a fairly complex plot, ghosts popping in and out, strange but colourful academics, much mirth and mockery, two young men too full of themselves, a rampaging sex goddess, lots of interesting books and authors, intertextuality galore, the idea of God as a novelist, immersive literature and Tolkien and his bloody elves, this book is a thoroughly enjoyable read.'

John Alvey in The Modern Novel

'A witty ghost story-cum-campus novel set in Oxford and St Andrews. Readers follow the aloof Lancelyn as he stumbles his way up the academic ladder, but not all is as it seems. Irwin’s prose is light and energetic, and it cuts through the stuffiness of the setting well.'

Alex Payne in Buzz Magazine

'Very few of the characters tell the truth. Lancelyn seems, most of the time, to be lying to himself. We are in a world of smoke and mirrors, agreeably flavoured by tobacco. The author suggests a veil, always about to be removed, to reveal a greater truth. We are asked to consider whether the supernatural is real, or merely a great joke. These questions are never fully resolved, and Robert Irwin, the real puppetmaster, delightfully teases us along, setting up false trails, coincidences and promises that seem as if they are about to lead to something, before being shifting into something else entirely. This is a complex, compelling addition to the literature of the weird.'

Philip Womack in The Times Literary Supplement

'The Runes Have Been Cast is a brisk enjoyable read, with some good quips and eccentric plot turns.'

Michael Delgado in The Spectator

'Readers will enjoy this book more if they are familiar with the many texts referenced. These range from Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), to Kingsley Amis' Lucky Jim (1954). Important plot points hinge on the works of M.R. James and George MacDonald.

Helen Johnson in The Historical Novel Review

With its colorful characters - notably Raven and Wormsley, but also, for example, Molly (who admits: "I don't want a happy life. I want an interesting one")-and a composed-seeming Lancelyn who finds himself coming apart in a world he can not readily categorize and impose an order on, much of The Runes Have Been Cast is tremendous good fun. Oxford and St Andrews - and academia in general - in the 1960s are amusingly presented, and the range and use of literary references, from M.R.James to The Anatomy of Melancholy to George MacDonald's Lilith and even the first Lee Child novel (plus a cameo by J.R.R.Tolkien) -, in particular, are a lot of fun (and often clever)...

Stylish, like the works of Gilbert Adair, The Runes Have Been Cast is thoroughly enjoyable. The final chapter is set many years after the action, an older and at least in some ways wiser Lancelyn summing it all up as: "so much fuss about nothing very much!" but a lot of the fuss is - at least for the reader - good entertainment.'

M.A. Orthofer in The Complete Review

'Throroughly enjoyable, yet a strange and unsettling book.'

David V Barret in Fortean Times

RRP: £9.99

No. of pages: 249

Publication date: 30.11.2021

Re-print date: 30.11.2021

ISBN numbers:
978 1 912868 53 7
978 1 912868 54 4