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Jake Arnott’s decade-spanning, continent-hopping novel mixes fascinating real-life figures with fictional characters as it moves briskly from WWII spy intrigue (featuring Ian Fleming) and occultism (Aleister Crowley) to the West Coast pulp science-fiction set (Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein — even L. Ron Hubbard) and the ’80s U.K. new wave music scene. Larry Zagorski,Jake Arnott’s decade-spanning, continent-hopping novel mixes fascinating real-life figures with fictional characters as it moves briskly from WWII spy intrigue (featuring Ian Fleming) and occultism (Aleister Crowley) to the West Coast pulp science-fiction set (Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein — even L. Ron Hubbard) and the ’80s U.K. new wave music scene. Larry Zagorski, a S.F. writer turned U.S. fighter pilot, searches for connections between what seem like disparate events while conspiracy theories begin to suggest the possibility of a single force behind them....

Title : The House of Rumour: A Novel
Author :
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ISBN : 9780544077799
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 448 Pages
Status : Available For Download
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The House of Rumour: A Novel Reviews

  • Sam Quixote
    2018-10-01 02:34

    “The House of Rumour” is Jake Arnott’s tour of 20th century curios taking in some of its most defining moments and including some of its most interesting and notorious individuals. Reality and fiction blur as created characters mix with real people, and events have a habit of connecting to other events with tenuous links – “jonbar points”, to use sci-fi vernacular. A classified paper detailing a secret government operation in World War 2 to use black magic and astrology to lure Hitler’s second in command, Rudolf Hess, to leave Germany for Scotland is stolen by a transvestite prostitute in late 80s England from a retired spymaster. From there Arnott sends the reader back to the dark year of 1941 where the war was firmly in favour of the Nazis and a young Ian Fleming, commander in Naval Intelligence, utilised his contacts to arrange a meeting with Aleister Crowley, once known as “the wickedest man in the world”. Crowley agrees to Fleming’s bizarre plan (or is this disinformation?) to hold magical gatherings to lure Hess to Britain, sending word to his cult centre in California to do the same. And so on to California where we meet a young (fictional) author, Larry Zagorski, who is introduced to Robert Heinlein and his Manana Society where he meets L Ron Hubbard and Jack Parsons. I won’t go into the various strands of the story because there are too many to list but they include the Nuremberg Trials, the Cold War, the Cuban Revolution, Jim Jones’ Peoples’ Temple, UFO conspiracies, and culminating in space with the Voyager 1 probe. Jake Arnott has written some tremendous books so far in his career but “The House of Rumour” is his best yet and definitely his most ambitious. It is structured in the style of tarot cards with 21 chapters each named after a face card (“The Hanged Man”, “The Hierophant”, “The Female Pope”, etc.) with each chapter told from the perspective of the rich and varied cast of characters. It’s a beautifully written novel full of fascinating people and events. I loved the parts in the 40s highlighting the Golden Age of science fiction and reading about the exploits of Jack Parsons (a rocket scientist who would die in mysterious circumstances) and L Ron Hubbard (who would go on to found the controversial religion Scientology), Arnott captures the spirit of the age showing the naivety and excitement of the times. The communes and free love read like the 60s but this was the 40s, a time that wasn’t as innocent as some would make out. Across the pond, the Ian Fleming chapters were my favourite. You get a great sense of the man he was and how frustrated he was that he wasn’t the suave, manly character he wanted to be. In a particularly funny section he saves a Moneypenny-like colleague from an assassin in a bungling way before sitting awkwardly with her afterward, cursing that he hadn’t the courage to take her to bed immediately after killing the assassin. He thinks that one day, with words, he will make this right. Years later after his Bond novels have made him rich and famous, he gives a clue as to the meaning of this novel. “The House of Rumour?” “At the centre of the world where everything can be seen is a tower of sounding bronze that hums and echoes, repeating all it hears, mixing truth with fiction.” (p.244). The House of Rumour is deception and counter-intelligence - disinformation fed to the enemy. And that’s what this book is full of: deception. A transvetite who looks like a woman but is a man; a troubled female David Bowie groupie becomes a man; a writer whose life influenced his fiction (Fleming) and a writer whose fiction influenced his life (Hubbard); a prescient novel called “Swastika Night” allegedly written by a man is revealed to have been written by a woman (this is real novel); and a fictional writer, Zagorski, writes a novel with each chapter named after a face card in the tarot... The novel talks about utopias and dystopias and is full of examples: the Cuban Revolution which tried to create a socialist paradise before becoming a bankrupt third world country; Jim Jones’ Peoples’ Temple which promised paradise on earth but ended in mass suicide. Each character is looking for truth in their own way - but what is true in this twisting hall of mirrors story?There is so much about this novel I enjoyed but this review is already too long to talk about them. I will say that a number of reviews have said this novel has no plot as if this is a critique against it; I agree that the book has no plot but disagree that this is a bad thing. When a novel is this entertaining, where each chapter takes you into another fascinating life, bringing colour to episodes in history previously unexplored (where else will you get such a description of what Hess must have felt inside the cockpit of the plane as he prepared to parachute out over the Scottish Highlands?), who cares that there’s no plot? Does a novel always have to have a plot to be considered “good”? I think “The House of Rumour” proves resoundingly that it doesn’t. “The House of Rumour” is a wildly ambitious, perfectly executed novel full of secrets, conspiracies, anecdotes featuring the occult, and a veritable cast of anti-heroes and oddballs that spans both space and time, layering the novel in meaning and dead-ends. It’s a novel that’s thrilling to read but also contains so much that it invites repeated readings and no guarantees that there are answers to it at the end. Jake Arnott has created in “The House of Rumour” a mesmerising, meditative, and vexing story whose secrets always seem within reach to the reader - but always just out of reach too. It’s an amazing accomplishment and a masterpiece - “The House of Rumour” is definitely my favourite novel of 2012. Bravo, Mr Arnott!

  • Gram
    2018-10-14 01:33

    An ambitious tale of misinformation and disinformation (there is a difference) which centres on the solo flight of Hitler’s second in command, Rudolf Hess to Britain in 1941. Hess' alleged reason for this was a bid to make a separate peace with Britain, allowing Nazi Germany to concentrate all its efforts on the invasion of the Soviet Union. Around this, Jake Arnott spins a conspiracy story which features famous characters from the past, such as Ian Fleming (writer of James Bond books) and the notorious Aleister Crowley, who - at the behest of Fleming, then a British naval intelligence officer - supposedly set up magical gatherings in Britain and the USA to direct "black propaganda" into Nazi Germany, seemingly aimed at senior Nazis such as Hess, who was, to say the least, delusional and open to suggestion.The story unravels in a series of sometimes seemingly unrelated chapters to include the "Golden Age" of sci-fi (featuring a fictional author, Larry Zagorksi as well as several real writers, such as Robert Heinlein and his Manana Literary Society where Zagorski meets, among others, L. Ron Hubbard and Jack Parsons - a rocket scientist whose death was considered by many to be mysterious). There follow details about a secret document written about the Hess flight and peace plan, the invasion of the Soviet Union and the subsequent fall of Nazi Germany, followed by the Nuremberg Trials, Hess imprisonment until his suicide in 1987, the Cold War, the Cuban Revolution, Jim Jones’ Peoples’ Temple and the Jonestown Massacre, UFO conspiracies and more, culminating in space with the Voyager 1 probe. Dotted among these chapters are the stories of some colourful individuals from all walks of life - spies, transvestites, musicians, writers, artists, revolutionaries, magicians and charlatans. It's a rich, heady mixture which works well in some places and fails in others. I found a few chapters to be dry or downright boring, but overall, it's an enjoyable read.

  • Archie Valparaiso
    2018-10-11 23:52

    Why this wasn't longlisted for the Booker Prize perhaps tells you all you need to know about the Booker longlist. Unconventionally structured, in that the plot is overarching, built up through several cross-chapter strands, with characters ranging from the real (including Ian Fleming on the slide in Jamaica, L. Ron Hubbard on the tap in the Valley, Rudolf Hess on the lam in the Scottish highlands, Jim Jones on the Kool-Aid in Guyana, the eighties Soho tranny socialite Vicky de Lambray on the make in Shepherd Market... you know: people like that) to the invented but fully convincing hero of sorts (a Californian "golden age"-SF writer called, wonderfully plausibly, Larry Zagorski). The writing is quite spectacular, with deft switches of style between chapters, periods and locations brought off in a way that is more subtle and convincing than in, for example, the for-me-overpraised Cloud Atlas. At first sight, this may look like an experiment in genre fiction (the author is best known for his earlier gritty gay noir novels) but the writing is more accomplished and the themes more profound than much alleged straight (no pun intended) literary fiction. Just call it contemporary fiction at its most convincing, spectacular and - quite an achievement given its patchwork structure - emotionally moving. I expect this to be my only five-star score on Goodreads for quite some time.

  • Tony
    2018-10-09 00:52

    How I love this book! I've never read Jake Arnott before, thinking he might be a superior form of a pulp writer, judging by the subject matter of many of his previous books. I was amazed then, how literate and elegant the book is. The individual strands hold up on their own as mini character studies, but written with a clarity and flow that are quite intoxicating. No word is out of place, even the most bizarre plot developments seem to have logical consistency, there is beauty, warmth and sadness in equal measure. It could be said that the book is about the 20th C obsession with conspiracy, disinformation, and the strange paranoias that can affect almost entire nations, but in the end, it is the individual voices you remember, and Larry's last thoughts, looking back on a long life "But then I've already had my future, in my work and my imagination" moved me enormously. "The world is a speculative fiction", he adds. In Mr Arnott's hands one looks forward eagerly to what that world will bring.

  • Cynthia
    2018-09-21 01:53

    Fact vs. Fiction“House of Rumour” is laid out in chapters that correspond to the Tarot’s major arcana from The Fool through The World. Almost anyone important who played a role in World War II has a least a cameo appearance. It is replete with real people like the Bond book author Ian Fleming including the real life handler M and M’s girl Friday Miss Moneypenny. That’s on one side of the Atlantic. The action in the US takes place in pre and post World War II California among science fiction writers and Hollywood. The Author Heinlein is among the elite as is L.Ron Hubard when he was simply a hack writer rather than a cult leader. Arnott mixes together real and imagined people so much so that I found myself googling names I didn’t recognize. He actually creates some originals to mix in with the known characters. One intriguing plot device was the legend of Rudolf Hess’s 1941 flight to Scotland where he attempted to negotiate peace between England and Germany. The actual main character in the book is Rumour itself and how it was used to preserve the different countries’ ideology. Arnott defines rumour as a blend between the truth and disinformation…it’s whatever serves the creators’ needs.Arnott explores how what we choose to believe defines us. Of course rumour is used to manipulate others but it manipulates those who use it as well. This is the true genius of this book. In my opinion the flaw of this book is in how he forced himself to bend his story around the Tarot theme. It feels disjointed at times though in others it’s fascinating. The blend of real and imagined characters kept me guessing and trying to work out the ‘truth’. I’m sure this was Arnott’s intention but it also distracted me and took me out of the story. I’m on the fence between rating “House of Rumour” a three or a four star book. For now I’m going with three stars but that might change as I continue to think about the book. There were sections that were riveting and others that were dry. It felt like he boxed himself in too much by trying to fit the story too strictly to his set use of the Tarot.

  • Mark
    2018-09-19 04:54

    This one’s a bit of a surprise: a non-genre author better known for his tales of homosexuals, contemporary gangsters and seventies pop culture, a Brit who gave rise to the term ‘geezer chic’, turns in an ambitious piece of genre fiction that cleverly blends facts with fiction. Result: an occasionally brilliant novel.From the outset it’s a combination of disparate ideas that really shouldn’t work together: Golden Age pulp SF writers, James Bond author Ian Fleming, German deputy Nazi Rudolf Hess, the British government of 1941, UFO’s, the Space Race, Tarot Cards and Satanism is not a combination you would normally think of. Indeed, it rather seems like some sort of manic miscellany.Despite this, the tale is literate, engaging and, most importantly, just the right side of plausibility. The book’s tale is begun with a narrative from Larry Zagorsky, an fictional SF writer of the 1940’s and 50’s. This was my initial surprise – Arnott creates such an evocative picture of the SF fan-scene of that time that I was immediately reminded of the early days of the Futurians on the US East Coast and, more importantly, the West Coast compatriots of Heinlein, Sprague de Camp, Cartmill and their associates. Zagorsky soon spends time amongst the West Coast fraternity and comments on their meetings. In the wrong hands this tale could be told just for laughs, with a sneer at the fledgling fan-group. In reality it’s handled with humour, yet there is a love and respect given here suggesting the sense of wonder created by such well-intentioned chinwag sessions is maintained without making the lead figures ones of ridicule.As the story progresses we get a variety of different characters and we are told of events shown from different viewpoints. In the present, Zagorsky is given details of a mysterious file that suggests that Hess’s defection to Scotland in the Second World War was possibly connected to the consequences of an occult temple service in the US in 1941. The story then goes back to the 1940’s and 50’s and tells of members of that meeting, which includes many SF filmmakers and writers whom Zagorsky knows. Jack Parsons, one of the founders of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) was not only a scientist and avid SF reader, with many connections in the genre, but also an active member of a Satanist cult who, in this story, is encouraged to perform strange deviant acts in order to encourage the world’s race into space. As flying saucers are first reported and Sputnik launches into space, UFO cults and space-based religions occur in the late 1940’s and 50’s as part of this global hysteria. Many of these people known by Zagorsky become involved in the move to the SF genre being more mainstream and B-movie film making. Mixing non-genre people such as Zagorsky with others, such as Intelligence Officer and James Bond author Ian Fleming, Nazi deputy Rudolf Hess, not to mention a minor visit from Aleister Crowley (also in Arnott’s previous novel, The Devil’s Paintbrush) with Arnott’s fictional characters is an inspired decision. Though many of these ‘real’ people are cameos, they help create a factional world that allows the reader to imagine: ‘what if’. I understand it wouldn’t be an Arnott novel unless there were some ‘unusual’ events and characters, and this is quite true here: we have sado-masochism, sex-orgies, transvestitism, gender realignment (written in a time when such things were uncommon), and a smattering of homosexual relationships..... it’s a secret world that existed beneath the veneer of straight-laced Britain, Germany and the USA in the 1950’s (and probably miles away from the real one!)However, this culturally fertile environment, despite being filled with lots of brilliant moments, crucially fails to gel into a cohesive plot. Whilst illuminating bizarre cults and conspiracies, as well as the secretive world of espionage and the environment of the fledgling genre writer, in the end it all becomes a tale of style over substance. There are a number of separately interesting plot strands that on their own keep the reader entertained. However, despite a great setup, at the end I was left feeling unsure what the actual point was. The great reveal seems to be less important than the way the disparate threads converge and diverge. Perhaps this is ‘the Great Secret’, that only acolytes of occultists like Crowley can understand.Paranoid conspiracy theorists will love this book. Rather like the progeny of Neal Stephenson and Charles Stross, with a touch of Philip K. Dick, this is a crazy, chaotic and brilliant, if uneven, read.There was enough here to keep me interested, and I was pleased I read it, even if it is a victim of its own ambition that doesn’t quite hold together in the end. Reminiscent of Paul Malmont’s books, there is enough here to enjoy that makes it overall a great read. It most definitely is not for everyone, yet there is enough to show an active mind at work.Surprisingly, yet pleasingly, recommended.

  • Mike Clarke
    2018-09-21 23:34

    'I am of a generation that filled pulp magazines with cheap prophecy. Now the events in my own lifetime seem even more fantastic.' Such ponderous blurb should have been a warning, but with happy memories of Jake Arnott's previous bestsellers - The Long Firm, He Kills Coppers, Johnny, Remember Me - I was heedless, and thus begun a gruelling, rewardless slog through this soupy stuff. A few of the usual Arnott ingredients are present - period settings lovingly sketched, the dialogue-driven narrative capturing the sounds of an era - but somewhere it's gone horribly wrong. In attempting - I think - to write in a film noir/pulp fiction crossover, Arnott's sure style has deserted him. This is a heavy, remorseless sort of book that weighs the reader down with an uneven pace, far too many subplots and a lack of conclusiveness.I was going to say that there are too many good ideas in here and it really should have been the genesis of several novels not just one, but I'm so bored with that. I wonder if it's fear that the engulfing crisis in publishing means their future great novels risk not being birthed that makes Zadie, Kate and now Jake try to jam in everything and the kitchen sink? Enough. I want a book that isn't going to require repeated reprises to stick in my mind when I get about 30 minutes a day for some entertainment as night falls. Stop trying to be so epic on my time. The good bits are when he writes both economically and freely - a neat trick if you can manage it - such as the short riff between Hitler and Hess on how the former hated the moon. Offbeat and off plot, and it could have been a particularly annoying section really, but compelling in its handling. But there's too much languorous, slow-moving, unengaging flapdoodle, and one or two frighteningly bad bits, including the silly old satanists pretending they're having sex with Baphomet. Add in Roswell, Jim Jones and his people's temple, a self-obsessed and unpleasant fantasist and an archetypically airheaded porno actress and you get a mix of dozens of characters and situations it's very hard to invest in or care about.Here's another fine writer trying just a bit to hard and the creaks and the groans are audible. 'Could this be the secret history of the 20th century?' asks the publisher breathlessly. 'Who will you believe?' On the basis of this, I'm going back to Lady Antonia Fraser and a large creme de menthe.

  • Maya Panika
    2018-10-11 02:50

    I loved this book. It took me a while to love it, but once the connections start to engage, it snaps into sharp focus and the structure of the whole comes plain. It is a complicated novel and very difficult to review.A series of episodes, a set of lives loosely linked are woven together: the strange prophetic novel that seems to predict Rudolph Hess’s flight to Scotland, a young writer of pulp SF and his relationship to a cult that is connected to Aleister Crowley who is connected to a secret service agent who is connected to Rudolph Hess who is connected to a notorious transvestite who is connected to a confused singer turned actor who is making a film based on an old SF story that brings us back to the pulp writers. It all comes around in the end, full circle, connecting - not neatly or nicely, but very satisfyingly. I don’t know enough about the Tarot to know if the episodes follow its story of the Fool’s journey or if that’s a conceit; since Jake Arnott uses the Crowley Tarot rather than the classic deck and since Crowley appears as in the story and the theme of occultism runs through it, I assume it’s highly significant and I should probably read more about it. Quantum entanglement is another theme, and other theories of quantum physics, and it draws a lot of inspiration from Michael Coleman Talbot and the hologramatic universe theory. It took a while to ‘get’ it – who are these people, how can they possibly have anything In common? But as you keep reading the thing begins to develop a definite WOW factor. The artistry of it is stunning; it reminds me of those pictures that were so popular when I was a student, you peer endlessly into what seems to be a bank of impenetrable colour and then, suddenly, you see the image, everything snaps into sharp focus, everything becomes clear. It took about 5 days bedtime reading for this book to become something I couldn’t wait to pick up again each night. Stick with it, it takes time to develop but it’s definitely worth it. It’s not a book for everyone, it’s certainly not the page-turning thriller the cover blurb suggests, but if enjoy a challenging novel that requires you to think a little, or you have any interest at all in quantum physics, you’ll love it.

  • Thom
    2018-09-28 02:34

    Jake Arnott is best known for his early novels based in the London ganglands of the 1960s, but since publishing Johnny Come Home in 2006, he has focused on more esoteric aspects of twentieth century history, focusing on radical political groups and occultists. The House of Rumour brings these strands together, with a plot taking in most of the major conspiracies of past 60 years, from Rudolph Hess through to Aleister Crowley, as well as Jonestown and the Black Panthers. Arnott’s characters inhabit Chapel Perilous, the psychological state described by Robert Anton Wilson in which individuals cannot be certain whether or not their actions are being influenced by supernatural forces, or whether the conspiracies exist in their own heads. The best bits of the novel deal with Ian Fleming’s role in British Intelligence during World War 2, and there is a very effective passage incorporating Hess’s mysterious flight to Scotland and the Apollo 11 mission. Elsewhere, the book gets a little bogged down with a multiplicity of voices, but there are plenty of interesting inroads into the shadow history of the century.

  • Richard
    2018-10-03 00:01

    This has the potential to be a really great book but just warbles on too much. It's a fine idea about how much of 20th Century history was tied in with the occult and how those in power use 'magic' for their own ends. Unfortunately it goes off on way too many tangents for me.

  • Sandie
    2018-09-28 02:01

    A tangled mess of a book, although some parts were interesting. The era of science fiction and when rocketry began, with bits about Voyager. Overall, I didn't connect because it was so disjointed.

  • Aaron
    2018-10-09 04:57

    "History is unpredictable. Any number of things might have happened. On parallel worlds or in counterfactual realities, at forking paths and at jonbar points, the world is a speculative fiction...Utopia or dystopia is a moment away, just waiting for creation. At every point."These are the closing lines of what may be the best novel I've read this year. Back up for a minute for some explanation: in science-fiction, they talk of "jonbar points." These are the crucial points of divergence between two outcomes. Not the things we have control over, the choices we make, but the larger, real world outcomes. What if the Nazis had won World War II? What if John F. Kennedy had not been assassinated?This is not a science-fiction novel, really, but it is an examination of a very science-fiction trope. At first, it seems to be a series of interconnected stories. It eventually becomes clear: a semi-famous science-fiction novelist (named Larry Zagorski) is looking back at the world events of his lifetime and trying to determine where it might have all went wrong. We meet Rudolf Hess and Alistair Crowley. Jack Parsons and Robert Heinlein. Jim Jones and Ian Fleming. We learn that Larry has spent most of his life deceiving himself (he is a good writer, he is not in love with a certain woman). In fact, deception is a common theme throughout the book (ie., Ian Fleming makes his living as a British Intelligence Officer, a man becomes a woman but still disguises herself as a man, a famous male writer turns out to be a woman, a child at Jonestown pretends to have died). Deception is only one of a handful of themes throughout this book. I really loved this novel. It was thought-provoking and took me places that a good novel hasn't in a while. Certainly not for all tastes (and it may require some extra research-- the book is filled with people and events that I was not privy to prior), but worth the intricate writing if you don't mind thinking a little. Highly recommended.

  • Alan
    2018-10-13 02:39

    Considering just how closely his dark conspiratarian novel The House of Rumour matches my own predilections for fiction, I'm surprised that Jake Arnott didn't get arrested for stalking me (and never mind that he's in London while I am all the way out in UTC-8). Just look at this sentence from the book's jacket:The House of Rumour explores World War II spy intrigue (featuring Ian Fleming), occultism (Aleister Crowley), the West Coast science-fiction set (Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and Philip K. Dick all appear), and the new-wave music scene of the 1980s.James Bond! Science fiction! '80s music! Conspiracies and the occult! Check, check, check and double-check... The review in io9 got it exactly right: this book is, as they say, relevant to my interests.The House of Rumour is no physical place, though. It's the name the old spies' club gives to the edifice of lies (and truths in the service of lies) constructed by the world's competing propagandists, all operating in secret, sub rosa, under cover, but always in their country's best interests. Or not... Was it a real (or at least sincere) magickal ceremony held in Los Angeles that led Rudolf Hess to fly to Scotland in May 1941, on his crazily conciliatory mission to promote peace between England and the Third Reich—a mission whose failure led to his incarceration in Spandau Prison after WWII? Or was that Hess' own literal lunacy, a confusion of omens, a cosmic joke? Or was it merely down to his credulous nature, taken in by an astrologer with enemy ties who fed him what he wanted to hear?And what does all this have to do with Larry Zagorski, the greatest science fiction author you've never read?Nevertheless we cherish all books, especially the unread ones, for who knows what secrets they might yield one day?—p.397, as by Larry Zagorski, in his short story "The City of the Sun"Zagorski isn't real—or at least you can't find his books anywhere but within The House of Rumour. More's the pity, because now I really want to read Lords of the Black Sun, American Gnostic, Parker Klebb's Purgatorio (in the Ace Double edition as A King of Infinite Space, b/w The Prophet from Proxima 6), From Here to Alternity and others—and those of the Cuban socialist Nemo Carvajal, as well as the film work of Mary-Lou Gunderson and the lost feminist classic Swastika Night by Katharine Burdekin (writing as "Murray Constantine"). Oh, hey, maybe I can actually read that last one.Arnott does a great job of evoking just enough detail about these works to tantalize without spoiling them, an effect only enhanced by his frequent references to more widely-known real authors such as Anthony Boucher and Jorge Luis Borges—authors to which Arnott himself occasionally invites comparison. I myself think Arnott's book is best paired with Tim Powers' magisterial novel Declare, although in a sense and despite some major divergences, The House of Rumour actually sticks more closely to the mundane.And I'm barely even scratching the surface. There's charismatic Jack Parsons, a bona fide CalTech rocket scientist and cult high priest (did someone say "only in California"?). The decadent Danny Osiris, lead singer of the Black Freighter. And Marius Trevelyan, whose private memoir about the Hess affair becomes, when it gets stolen by the mysterious trans player Vita Lampada, the Macguffin whose wandering thread connects the various pieces of Arnott's book.There is an art to forgetting. History soon becomes dementia, a babble of voices clamouring to be heard. One has to have a selective memory to make any sense of the past. To forget is a cautious act of the will, more the gaining of a faculty than the loss of one.—p.81The House of Rumour does suffer from its kitchen-sink insistence at tying every thread into its tapestry. Sometimes Arnott forgets the art of forgetting, and there are too many babbling voices clamouring to be heard. The link between the book's twenty-two chapters and the twenty-two cards of the Tarot's Major Arcana is not always as clear as it might be, for example. (Larry Zagorski ran into some of this same trouble as well, in The Quantum Arcana of Arnold Jakubowski.) And it can be difficult to determine the viewpoint character for some chapters until several pages in. Arnott is good at conveying disparate points of view, but a few more explicit markers in the text would have been nice.However, it's difficult to forget or ignore any of the connections Arnott makes among the various factions in his House of Rumour. This is an entertaining and, ultimately, I think, a memorable book.

  • Delphine
    2018-10-05 03:42

    Welcome to planet improbable, we've been expecting you!The narrative madness of Jake Arnott The House of Rumouris Jake Arnott’s tour of 20th century mad hatters, dubious scientists and spies. Reality and fiction blur as created characters mix with real people, and events have a habit of connecting to other events with tenuous links – “jonbar points”, to use sci-fi vernacular. History is unpredictable. Any number of things might have happened. On parallel worlds or in counter-factual realities, at forking paths and at jonbar points, the world is a speculative fiction. A breath of conspiracy. Whisperings of Doubtful Origin in the House of Rumour. Utopia or dystopia are a moment away, just waiting for creation. At every point. A classified paper detailing a secret government operation in World War 2 to lure Hitler’s second in command, Rudolf Hess, to Scotland is stolen by a transvestite prostitute in late 80s England from a retired spymaster. From there Arnott catapults the reader to 1941 where the war was firmly in favour of the Nazis and a young Ian Fleming (the Bond guy allright),commander in Naval Intelligence, utilised his contacts to arrange a meeting with Aleister Crowley, once known as “the wickedest man in the world”.Crowley agrees to Fleming’s bizarre plan to lure Hess to Britain by means of occult groups, sending word to his cult centre in California to do the same. And so on to California where we meet a young (fictional) author, Larry Zagorski, who is introduced to Robert Heinlein and his Manana Society where he meets L Ron Hubbard and Jack Parsons. The characters connect to stories that brush against events such as the Nuremberg Trials, the Cold War, the Cuban Revolution, Jim Jones’ Peoples’ Temple, UFO conspiracies, and culminating in space with the Voyager 1 probe. The House of Rumouris structured in the style of tarot cards with 22 chapters each named after a face card (“The Hanged Man”, “The Hierophant”, “The Female Pope”, etc.) with each chapter told from the perspective of the rich and varied cast of characters.In the novel, Ian Fleming gives a clue as to the meaning of its title. "The House of Rumour?” “At the centre of the world where everything can be seen is a tower of sounding bronze that hums and echoes, repeating all it hears, mixing truth with fiction.”The House of Rumouris about intelligence, disinformation and deception. There's a transvestite who looks like a woman but is a man; a troubled female David Bowie groupie who becomes a man; a writer whose life influenced his fiction (Fleming) and a writer whose fiction influenced his life (Hubbard founded Scientology); a novel called “Swastika Night” allegedly written by a man is revealed to have been written by a woman; and a fictional writer, Zagorski, writes a novel with each chapter named after a face card in the tarot (wink wink to Jake Arnott).The novel talks about utopias and dystopias and is full of examples: the Cuban Revolution which tried to create a socialist paradise before becoming a bankrupt third world country; Jim Jones’ Peoples’ Temple which promised paradise on earth but ended in mass suicide. Each character is looking for truth in their own way - but what is true in this twisting hall of mirrors story? It's up to the reader to decide.

  • Laura
    2018-10-06 23:45

    Jake Arnott tends to structure his novels using multiple narrators or a kind of mosaic of incidents which gradually reveals a greater truth, a kind of 'can you guess what it is yet?' technique. In this novel, as elsewhere in his work, a very promising idea is sabotaged by his inability to a) create believable characters (his women are simply awful, as are his heterosexuals), and b) to integrate his research without the kind of clunking explanatory dialogue that so marred 'Johnny Come Home'. 'The House of Rumour' got some very warm reviews, but if you have read any of the sources he used, such as Pearson's biography of Ian Fleming, or George Pendle's 'Strange Angel', his biography of Jack Parsons, you'll quickly see how crude his use of them can be. The main narrator of this novel is a pulp SF writer, and Arnott has a certain amount of fun pastiching the pulp styles of the 1930s and 1940s. Unfortunately, his work lacks the audacity and sheer energy of pulp (as I said about 'JCH', he's no Richard Allen), and I quickly got very tired of the mini pen-portraits of figures such as L Ron Hubbard and Robert Heinlein. With the exception of 'The Devil's Paintbrush', which is rather good, original, and insightful about character, his work is very uncertain once he ventures beyond his 'gorblimey' crime territory. This novel is poorly paced, too fond of crude summation and exposition, and pretty basic in its use of background research. It's like 'Gravity's Rainbow' would have been if it had been knocked out by a creative writing student with a misguided faith in his own genius. Read Pendle's book instead, explore the Tarot, even become a Scientologist, but don't waste your valuable time on this laboured and tedious farrago. I'd gone clear by about p.200...I think I'm done with Mr Arnott.

  • Ruthiella
    2018-10-04 02:55

    I had to think about this one a little while. It’s a lot to take in. The author mixes fact and fiction (which is sort of a definition of what a rumor is) to connect seemingly disparate historical events and people over the course of the 20th century. Some of the real characters are still well known today, like Ian Fleming. Others are obscure, but nonetheless real, like Jack Parsons (who I googled). If there is any overreaching idea in the book, it is that of use of and belief in disinformation, which is possibly why some of the story lines in the novel simply peter out. I had a feeling that the author was playing with the reader, insinuating that there will be some great revelation that will bring the entire novel into focus, but that is another piece of disinformation, really. I think the book suggests that Nazi Germany’s decision to fight the war on two fronts was due in part to the jonbar hinge (a real Sci-Fi term I learned in this book, which is kind of like the Butterfly Effect) of Rudolph Hess’ flight to Scotland in 1941. The invasion of Russia marked the beginning of the end for the Axis powers and allowed for a narrow avoidance of such alternate histories displayed in dystopian science fiction such as Swastika Night and The Man in the High Castle (both books are name checked in the novel and the author of Swastika Night is even a character, briefly) or even alternative histories such as Fatherland. So the Allies win and what we got instead was our own historical reality of the cold war, the space race and the counter culture revolution. The speculation is not that there is a power beyond us, which controls (aliens, gods, the occult) but rather that the power is within us and we make our own reality.

  • Carolyn Fitzpatrick
    2018-10-09 05:00

    Yeaaah. Couldn't get more than a quarter in, and that was a slog. The description makes it sound like it is going to be this tightly woven spy story. But it is actually more like a collection of short stories. Every chapter switches narrators. Perspective changes from 1st, to 2nd, to 3rd person, and back again. It is hard to tell exactly what one chapter has to do with the others. Two years ago I probably could have handled this, because I had time to sit and do nothing but read for hours on end. Snatching 10 minutes here and there does not work for this book. Some parts were good - the ones with Ian Fleming and the woman who was apparently the inspiration for Moneypenny. I wish the whole book could have been written in the same way.

  • Lynn
    2018-10-02 02:37

    Thankyou to Chris and Emma at Waterstones for this read, it will be my next book I think! I was going to give this 3 stars as my rating but in all honesty, I'm puzzled by this read! For me, there's just too much happening to make it flow effortlessly. Whilst the writing is beautiful, in some places almost poetic, it struck me as trying too hard. I struggled to produce any empathy with the characters though found all utterly intriguing as to their role within the story. The time lines are confusing however part of me feels this is as intragal to the story as the imaginings of Larry himself. I'm left wondering if I actually enjoyed the read or just enjoyed the language used? The beauty, I suppose, is that I'm left pondering!

  • Tammy
    2018-09-24 00:59

    So tedious. A meandering tale following various characters, intrigue, and moments in history. I am not a WWII buff so I found most of the vignettes regarding various war characters to be very very boring.I struggled to finish. After reading the ending, was very underwhelmed. Cannot recommend.

  • Yasmeen
    2018-10-09 23:37

    Really cool idea- poorly carried out. The main problem was that I never actually cared what was happening. It was all just a bit messy. The whole multiple narrative thing doesn't always work out, and it didn't work here. It's the type of book that would have probably been really good if David Micthell had written it instead/

  • Tom Loock
    2018-10-12 02:49

    Ever so clever mix of historical facts and fiction.Towards the second half I (happily) interrupted my reading to check on characters, events and even novels - who would have thought that Katherine Burdekin and her novel 'Swastika Night' were real?!Based to some degree on the tarot, historical events of all kind and importance - from Robert A. Heinlein's Mañana Literary Society to Rudolf Hess' flight to Scotland, the Cuban revolution, Dianetics, the Jonestown Massacre up to the early days of the 21st century - this is a remarkable book, even more so for SF fans who will encounter major and very minor authors alike.It's not an easy read: Most chapters are told from a different viewpoint, take place in different years and neither are clear from the first pages. BUT readers will be rewarded with observations like "(Cuba) was like one of the dots in the yin-yang sign surrounded by the capitalist empire, just as the other dot, West Berlin, was engulfed by the communist bloc." or "If you can’t change the world, build a spaceship.", which sounds like a quote, but is original to this novel.'The House of Rumour' is not for everyone, but for some - like me - it is outstandingly good. Most highly recommended.Readers will be rewarded by a tour de force loaded with smart observations like "(Cuba) was like one of the dots in the yin-yang sign surrounded by the capitalist empire, just as the other dot, West Berlin, was engulfed by the communist bloc."or gems like "If you can’t change the world, build a spaceship."

  • Nick Gummerson
    2018-09-28 05:48

    good in places a bit rambly and lack of direction but then it does promise us that stories in miniture within stories ultimately a but hollow ...

  • Behrooz
    2018-10-16 04:47

    I didn't enjoy it. For me, it was just too philosophical.

  • Milo (BOK)
    2018-10-09 06:46

    Original Post:“An interesting novel that takes a while to understand what’s happening, but is full of good, creative ideas and as far as I’m aware, is pretty original.” ~The Founding FieldsThe House of Rumour is a novel that is unlike anything I’ve read before. It’s structured around a Tarot card deck (Each Chapter having a card from a Tarot deck as a chapter name), an area that I have little knowledge about, but an area that I would like to read more about. It’s a pretty interesting novel and is most certainly out of my comfort zone, as I haven’t read a conspiracy thriller in a while. However, it’s probably unfair to label The House of Rumour as a conspiracy thriller, as that would mean comparing it with the likes of Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, and although I liked that book, I understand that it did have some flaws and The House of Rumour is in fact, better.Larry Zagorski spins wild tales of fantasy worlds for pulp magazines. But as the Second World War hangs in the balance, the lines between imagination and reality are starting to blur.In London, spymasters enlist occultists in the war of propaganda. In Southern California, a charismatic rocket scientist summons dark forces and an SF writer founds a new religion. In Munich, Nazis consult astrologists as they plot peace with the West and dominion over the East. And a conspiracy is born that will ripple through the decades to come.The truth, it seems, is stranger than anything Larry could invent. But when he looks back on the 20th century, the past is as uncertain as the future. Just where does truth end and illusion begin?THE HOUSE OF RUMOUR is a novel of soaring ambition, a mind-expanding journey through the ideas that have put man on the moon yet brought us to the brink of self-destruction.What will you believe?At a first glance, it looks a little complicated and you will find yourself struggling to understand what’s going on and what’s happening, but there comes a certain point in Jake Arnott’s latest novel where you will finally understand what is going on, how all of these characters, some fictional, some not (Ian Fleming, the man behind James Bond - being one of the more notable non-fictional characters), link together, and when you do – the pieces finally fall into place, and you’re left with what a novel that turns out to be a whole lot more interesting than when you started the novel.At some point in The House of Rumour, you may probably be going on a Google-witch hunt to work out which characters are fact or fictitious, as whilst there are some obvious historical figures chucked in (as mentioned earlier, Ian Fleming), there are also some lesser known ones that you could potentially end up researching. This, although an ultimately unhelpful exercise, is nonetheless an interesting experience.Before you go into The House of Rumour, you shouldn’t go in expecting a fast paced, action-packed encounter as if you do, you will be sorely disappointed. Arnott’s latest book is no page-turner, but it is still an entertaining read if a little boring at times. The novel also, I felt – boasted a lot of potential, and could have been a really engaging read and had the promise to be a lot better than it was. However, I felt that there were some issues which prevented The House of Rumour from being the next big thing in alternate history.At the heart of the novel, Zagorski is the key player. Although I didn’t feel like I could really get to like him as a character, he manages to hold the story together to make it more readable. The novel takes place over the course of seventy years, there are several point of view switches that can occasionally make it hard to follow – for instance, are we in Zargorski’s head, or one of his romantic interests’ head, Mary Lou? Although this becomes obvious after a few paragraphs, it takes a while to get used to, particularly if you’ve never read a novel with alternative first-person POVs before. The other characters are interesting to look at as well, with perhaps the one that I liked the portrayal of the most being real-life author Katharine Burdekin, who was responsible for the creation of Swastika Night, (under a penname), mainly because I now want to go and read more about the book itself.

  • Rich Stoehr
    2018-09-23 06:41

    "At the centre of the world where everything can be seen is a tower of sounding bronze that hums and echoes, repeating all it hears, mixing truth with fiction." Such is the the story of Jake Arnott's The House of Rumour.This is a novel that not only mixes truth with fiction in a rich brew of story, but also mingles World War II espionage with pulp science fiction, UFO conspiracy theories with quantum theories of existence. Seem complicated? Trust me - that's just the tip of the iceberg.The House of Rumour is structured roughly with the major arcana of the Tarot, each chapter named for one of the cards, so we begin with "The Fool" and end with "The World." The theme of each part follows the theme of the named card fairly well, stitching a piece of the story into the overall framework. Each piece is interesting in its own right, but the real marvel of the book is like a full Tarot reading - it only becomes apparent when the final card is revealed.In the pages of the there are fictional characters, such as writer Larry Zagorski as he struggles to find his voice in the heyday of pulp science fiction and the grand imaginings of the future. Through him we meet authors Robert Heinlein and L. Ron Hubbard, among others. In a tangential (though connected) strand of story Ian Fleming makes an appearance as a British intelligence agent working on his own novel, featuring a certain familiar spy but based on people he worked with. Then there's the story of Rudolf Hess and his strange flight to Scotland in 1941, his subsequent suicide attempts, and his amnesia at the Nuremburg trials. Such is the art of The House of Rumour that as it progresses it becomes more and more difficult to separate history from invention.You can read the book as separate, yet connected vignettes as it jaunts back and forth from 1941 to the modern age, and all over the world - each piece told in a different style, some through letters or scholarly articles, others through different perspectives. Or, you can read it as one story, part fiction and part fact, and you can figure out which is which as layer after layer is unfolded. It's all told with an elegant sense of language, a tone of nostalgia for the imagination boom of the 1950s, and a playful wink at history. It's a compelling story and drew me through from a complex and curious opening to a deeply satisfying yet open-ended conclusion."Start a conspiracy and see how it gets passed on. We can see how information moves through the culture. Like a marked card in a shuffled deck." But in The House of Rumour, each card is marked and following one leads to so much more, and over it all the sense that it's all connected in some way. Fact and fiction woven together into an indistinguishable tapestry - the essence of rumour."This is how we tell the truth. Isn't it wonderful?"

  • Marisa
    2018-10-09 05:00

    I'm listening to this book on CD which, from reading the reviews, seems like the only way to read this book (to not get confused by all the little stories). The narrator is pretty good, and his different accents/ways of speech help differentiate between the different narratives and make the reader empathize with, if not particularly like, the characters in that particular story. It's not at all what I usually read, which adds to the allure. I almost never read Science Fiction or books that are narrated in this way. It's a collection of short stories that have something to do with each other, and presumably one main point. At first I tried to figure out and mark the one main thing they all had in common but it's much more satisfying and interesting to just listen to it and only compare it to the other narratives it's very obviously related to; like the ones that it has characters in common with. While the unusual sexy bits don't seem like they quite NEED to be in there, they at least aren't delved into too deeply. That would rather ruin the book for me, those kinds of scenes are generally extraneous; and, frankly, kind of annoying. The style the book is written in is so hard to describe. Yes, it's a collection of stories, but not in the normal way of telling one story then moving on to the next in a proper, sequential manner. Each story is important, but the level of relevance varies, as does the amount of connective material in each story. One story might have only the tiniest bit related to the Tarot, or to Nazi Germany, or to SF on the West Coast in the 20th century. The story might be about one of the main characters, or from the point of view of the main character or one of the minor characters. It might not seem to have any connection to anything, but then you read another chapter and suddenly it hits you what that other chapter was doing. However small or big the relation to the main underlying thread, be assured it's there. It's like a charm necklace; each story is a charm with it's own characteristics and qualities, but they're all connected to the bracelet itself.I'm really enjoying the parts about the SciFi scene in the 20th century. It's a subsection of history that I knew absolutely nothing about. Obviously it's fiction so I don't take everything for gospel, but the basic overview and some of the people are real. I hope the ending is as interesting as the rest of the book is.

  • Anthony
    2018-09-23 01:38


  • Julia Molloy
    2018-10-17 06:57

    “If you can’t change the world, build a spaceship.” The protagonist’s motto is the perfect summary of Jake Arnott’s complex novel The House of Rumour – a wacky mix of fact, fiction, and the occasional UFO.Larry Zagorski, a young science fiction writer around the time of the Second World War, begins a series of connections and rumours concerning conspiracy theories, mainly to do with Deputy Führer Rudolf Hess’s mysterious flight during the war. The novel is structured in relation to the Tarot, with 21 sections each focusing on a different character who has a connection to conspiracy and sci-fi – from Larry to Ian Fleming to a film producer crossed in love.Confused? Unfortunately, confusion is the prevailing response to Arnott’s novel. Mark Lawson from The Guardian may describe the work as “the ideal holiday read for those who like to take their brains with them on vacation”, but it seems to me that unless you read this 400-page novel in one sitting or unless you have the memory of an elephant, it is virtually impossible to get a tangible grip on the plot. Arnott succeeds in his aim to inextricably mix fact and fiction, but the result is to utterly bewilder the reader. The blurb alludes to a conspiracy that “reverberates in the present”, yet such a conspiracy is not revealed – or if it is, I lost it in the midst of the UFOs and the drug-induced story-telling from Larry Zagorski.Plot aside, however, it is clear that Jake Arnott has a knack for characterisation and a versatility when it comes to narrative point of view. Parts of the novel are written in first, second, and third person, and Arnott is adept at all three. Despite the confusing storyline, the main reason The House of Rumour is one to stick with is to see Larry’s character develop from a naïve young writer to an old man gaining hope of extra-terrestrial contact from the Voyager 1 space probe. Arnott weaves together the characters’ entire lives – from achieving fictional success during the sci-fi boom to marriage, divorce, and the occult – in a way that creates realism in the midst of a difficult and far-fetched plot line.The House of Rumour is, then, far from being an easy read. In fact, it is difficult to know whether to recommend it or not because of its sheer complexity. Dumbfounded is about the only word I can fix on. If you can’t change the world with a conspiracy novel, it seems you should write a novel filled with UFO sightings and the occult instead as Arnott does.

  • Maria
    2018-09-29 23:47

    A classified paper falls into the hands of a transvestite prostitute in the late 80s. Penned by a retired government spy, the document narrates a secret operation to lure Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s second in command, out of Germany using black magic and astrology. So it begins… “In wartime, truth is so precious that she should always be attended by a bodyguard of lies.”Winston Churchill“The House of Rumour” is an elaborate mesh of affairs that will have you wondering where the history lesson ends, where the fiction begins and where, if not from the very beginning, they become one and the same.There is no plot per se, but there is more than enough happening, all wrapped up in a document that appears to somehow permeate, in many different shapes and forms, the lives of the numerous individuals that inhabit this book.“That’s all magic has to be, Marius. A psychological effect. If you believe in something, it has power over you.”Jake Arnott is a skilful writer, his prose clear of artefacts that instead grow into full-bodied characters beyond the page. The structure of the novel itself, twenty two chapters that follow the twenty two trumps of the tarot deck. It evokes not only the concept of occult, but also of interpretation.To read more...

  • Bonnie
    2018-09-21 06:58

    Wow! This might be the weirdest book I have ever read. Part of me loved it and part of me disliked it. The history buff in me loved it. The novel is a WWII spy intrigue with characters like Ian Fleming, Aleister Crowley Robert Heinlein, L.(for Lafayette)Ron Hubbard, Philip Dick all appear in the new-wave music scene of the 1980s. The twisting plot also covers Jack Parsons, the rocketeer, Rudolph Hess and his flight to Britain during the war, the Jonestown massacre, UFO sightings and B movies. Tying the disparate subplots together is Larry Zagorski, a pulp-fiction writer who looks back on his long and eventful life trying to connect the disjointed parts. He discovers his life mirrors a book of twenty-two interconnected stories he wrote , inspired by the major arcana cards in the tarot. I really enjoyed the historical data concerning Hitler, Hess, Churchill, the rocketry knowledge brought back from Germany after the war, the evolution of music in the 80s, inside information on the Church of Scientology, the concept of "free love", the Hippie Movement. Well, anything historical.What I did not enjoy and might be the reason someone else would love it, was the Science Fiction . It takes up about three-fourths of the book. Jake Arnott traces the inception of the genre and gives plots and even includes entire scripts. This relates, of course, to the pulp-fiction and craze over UFO sightings during this time period which led to the B-movies. I am not a fan of Science Fiction, but if you are, you will love this book.I still rate The House of Rumour very highly and immensely enjoyed reading it. I love the dig at Dan Brown on the back cover, "The House of Rumour perhaps most resembles The Da Vinci Code, rewritten by an author with the gifts of characterization, wit and literacy." Ouch!Perhaps the greatest praise comes from David Bowie who writes, "When he's got a new book out I drop everything."