The House of Rumour
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The House of Rumour

3.4 of 5 stars 3.40  ·  rating details  ·  364 ratings  ·  82 reviews
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.
Hardcover, 408 pages
Published July 5th 2012 by Sceptre (first published January 1st 2012)
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Sam Quixote
“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 i...more
Cynthia
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 writ...more
Maya Panika
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 se...more
Archie Valparaiso
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 mak...more
Thom
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 inhab...more
Mark
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,...more
Alan
Jun 06, 2013 Alan rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Rumo[u]r-mongers
Recommended to Alan by: io9
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 Phili
...more
Mike Clarke
'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 narrativ...more
Ruthiella
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,...more
Carolyn
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...more
Lynn
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 confusi...more
Jayne Charles
This book got me thinking about the sort of courage it must take to integrate real people into your fictional plot. There are quite a few here, despite the standard disclaimer about “any resemblance to real persons living or dead being purely coincidental”. Having two people called L Ron Hubbard who both invent a cult called Scientology would be some coincidence. And then there’s Ian Fleming...and the horse whip....crikey.

What it adds up to is a very bold rewriting of history, bringing together...more
Yasmeen
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/
Tammy
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.
Sandie
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.
Ben
This book takes perserverence and attention to detail. There are multiple narrators and the author does not always make clear who is narrating what chapter - or whether that person is a historical figure or fictional character. Rudolf Hess, Ian Fleming, Aleister Crowley, Robert Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and Reverend Jim Jones all feature prominently, as do about a dozen other lesser historical authors, scientists, philosphers, and people I had to Wiki to find out about. Like Cloud Atlas, another...more
Bonnie
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.

Ty...more
Margot McGovern
When I picked up The House of Rumour and read Mark Lawson’s observation that ‘It may be the ideal holiday read for those who like to take their brains with them on vacation’, I had a feeling I was onto a winner.

Indeed I was. The House of Rumour weaves an elaborate conspiracy that spans the latter half of 20th Century. The story loosely follows the life of Larry Zagorski, who is introduced as a nineteen year-old sci-fi writer living in California in 1941, and is enchanted by the idea of space tr...more
Barry Hammond
Like he did in a different way in his ground-breaking crime trilogy, The Long Firm/He Kills Coppers/Truecrime, Jake Arnott blends history and fiction together in The House Of Rumour. It's an ambitious novel which traces the idea of rumour as it relates to the propagation of disinformation in the covert world and the idea of tipping points in history to the idea of alternate realities in science fiction.

It's fertile ground for Arnott and through this book he can encompass such diverse subjects a...more
Delphine
Welcome to planet improbable, we've been expecting you!
The narrative madness of Jake Arnott

The House of Rumour is 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 realiti...more
Tony
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 sadnes...more
Rich Stoehr
"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...more
Gary
This was a fascinating and pleasant read. The story weaves through the second world war, the flight, capture, and trial of Rudolph Hess, and the twined threads of western occultism, governmental black ops, and German rocket science culminating in the space race and flight of Voyager I out of the solar system. Stops along the way include the Cuban Revolution and Missile Crisis, Jonestown, and bizarre saucer cults, drugged musicians, and mad delusions, dystopias and utopias. Each chapter draws its...more
Jeanette
The time i have spent reading this book I will never get back. I cant tell you the type of book it is because i dont think it falls into any genre. Its a spy book, historical, science fiction and fact. However, the way it is written it doesn't run smoothly from one chapter to the next. If the author had stuck to the spy part which included Ian Fleming, and the story about Hess coming to scotland, it could have made quite an interesting tale. But it is interspersed with ramblings about space ship...more
Waterstones Peterborough
I like Jake Arnott's books, and this one didn't disappoint. It is a combination of real people (including Ian Fleming, Aleister Crowley, Rudolf Hess) and invented characters from the 1940s on to the turn of the century, with many story threads, all linked to each other in many ways. The plot is in fact rather difficult to describe, although it was easy enough to follow. One of the main storylines involves a group of Science Fiction writers who meet at the house of Robert Heinlein in 1940's LA, b...more
Iain
A wonderful concept for a novel, embracing such diverse personalities as Rudolf Hess, Aleister Crowley, L Ron Hubbard and David Bowie, reaching from Nazi Germany and science-fiction America to the stars. The thread of the story is woven very well, with the idea that Crowley influenced Hess's flight to Scotland through his contacts in an occult lodge which also gave birth to what became Hubbard's Scientology movement in California.

However, the structure is very messy. There are a lot of characte...more
Jonathan
Well I really liked this, but it is not easy (for me) to review it without making it sound complicated. There's a lot going on, story threads covering early pulp Sci-fi writers, World War 2 espionage, Rudolf Hess's flight to Britain and subsequent imprisonment, 50's B movies, a stolen MI5 autobiography, New Romantics, Tarot cards and cults! The characters are a mix of real people and invented ones, the stories themselves are a mix of fact and fiction, which explains the title at least. I guess t...more
Ann-Marie
More than a few have compared this novel to David Mitchell's Ghostwritten and Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad. Any similarity probably begins and ends with each chapter of House of Rumour presenting seemingly self-contained stories, frequently related from one person's viewpoint, which create larger, overarching themes as the novel progresses. In this sprawling novel spanning decades Arnott presents science fiction, the writing and writers of the genre as the centerpoint. Real writer...more
Bane of Kings
Original Post: http://thefoundingfields.com/2012/07/...


“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 Fields


The 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 abo...more
Elizabeth Moeller
I received this book as a giveaway on another website, so I approached it having no idea what it was about. Initially, the disparate threads of characters and stories didn't seem very promising, but I ended up being blown away. This book uses a series of interlocking characters and the theme of science fiction to tell a story of the 20th century, with highlights including a member of the Jonestown cult who believes she has had contact with aliens, a british spy who accidentally allows secrets ab...more
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61007
Jake Arnott is a British novelist, author of The Long Firm and four other novels. In 2005 Arnott was ranked one of Britain's 100 most influential gay and lesbian people; but since 2005 he has been in a heterosexual relationship with the formerly lesbian writer and novelist, Stephanie Theobald. In May 2001 he was included in a list of the fifty most influential gay men in Britain it was declared th...more
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The Long Firm He Kills Coppers truecrime Johnny Come Home The Devil's Paintbrush

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“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”
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