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The House of Rumour: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Jake Arnott
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)

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Book Description

Mixing the invented and the real, The House of Rumour explores WWII spy intrigue (featuring Ian Fleming), occultism (Aleister Crowley), the West Coast science-fiction set (Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and Philip K. Dick all appear), and the new wave music scene of the ’80s. The decades-spanning, labyrinthine plot even weaves in The Jonestown Massacre and Rudolf Hess, UFO sightings and B-movies. Told through multiple narrators, what at first appears to be a constellation of random events begins to cohere as the work of a shadow organization—or is it just coincidence?

Tying the strands together is Larry Zagorski, an early pulp fiction writer turned U.S. fighter pilot turned “American gnostic,” who looks back on his long and eventful life, searching for connections between the seemingly disparate parts. The teeming network of interlaced secrets he uncovers has personal relevance—as it mirrors a book of 22 interconnected stories he once wrote, inspired by the major arcana cards in the tarot.

Hailed as an heir to Don DeLillo’s Underworld by The Guardian, The House of Rumour is a tour de force that sweeps the reader through a century’s worth of secret histories.

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Interweaving a large cast of characters—some real, some purely fictional—British author Arnott takes the reader on a labyrinthine (Borges being a frequent reference) excursion through much of the mid- to late twentieth century. Beginning during World War II (mysterious fugitive Nazi Rudolf Hess figures in the plot), Arnott utilizes the forms and preoccupations of pulp fiction and the lives of its practitioners (from L. Ron Hubbard to Ian Fleming and Robert Heinlein) in the seminal years of genre writing (spy thrillers, science fiction) in driving the plot. His imagined characters are well drawn and their interactions compelling, and they are interestingly joined in the action by contemporaries including Aleister Crowley and, later, the Reverend Jim Jones. This big, intricate novel with a large and varied vast of characters, though unique, may appeal to readers of Jennifer Egan and David Mitchell, as well as to fans of the respective genres. --Mark Levine


"Jake Arnott’s newest novel, The House of Rumour, is a page-turner with exceptional style, depth, thought, camp, counter-history and intrigue. It’s both sci-fi/fantasy pulp and an ambitiously epic work of cosmic proportions: a welcome paradox of a novel that boldly toys with the boundaries between high and low-brow art." Kirkus, “Best Books of 2013”

"Whenever he's got a new book out I drop everything..." —David Bowie

"Ingenious. Impressively detailed. An entertaining farrago whose invention never flags, The House of Rumour [chronicles] the lifestyles of the nerdy and perverted who made up the fringe-science/SF scene in 1940s Southern California." Los Angeles Review of Books

"A novel that combines the pleasures of genre fiction and the thematic richness of literary fiction, while blurring the line between the two and exploding the very concept of genre." Kirkus

"Jake Arnott's The House of Rumour [is a] thought-provoking puzzle-book of interlocking and overlapping stories." Chicago Tribune Printers Row

"Arnott’s mesh of fantasy and fact holds together as a novel. He makes scenes live, both in their moments and as parts of a whole. He has no trouble slipping into his characters' skins, transmitting empathically from their often lonesome, disturbed interiors…. Despite his narrator’s metaphor of free particles, Arnott doesn’t say that history is the sum of random collisions, and therefore absurd, weightless. He says that history is weightier, less random than we can know, because at innumerable decision points, great and small – some minutely documented for posterity, most now dead with their owners – another choice could have been made. Why a decision went as it did, why history turned a certain way: That is the secret. We can call these facts obvious, and so dismiss them. But like any good novel, The House of Rumour makes the obvious problematic, the factual mysterious. It makes the question of what is real in our world feel like the biggest secret of all." —Devin McKinney, Critics at Large

"I have always enjoyed Jake Arnott’s glam-rock gangster novels, but they hardly prepared me for The House of Rumour. Confirming that the inter-linked short story is the coolest literary form du jour, Arnott shuffled narratives about science-fiction, Scientology, Eighties pop stars, doomed love, nuclear physics and the occult into a knowing, clever and intricately woven collection that deserves to rain on Cloud Atlas’s parade or accompany Jennifer Egan on a visit to the goon squad. Brilliant and oddly moving, The House of Rumour deserved to win every prize going, including Eurovision."James Kidd, "Books of the Year," —The Independent

"A conspiracy thriller filled with bewildering connections, dark conjecture and arcane information, The House of Rumour perhaps most resembles The Da Vinci Code, rewritten by an author with the gifts of characterisation, wit and literacy." Guardian

"Like Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad or David Mitchell's Ghostwritten, its form uses interlinked --short stories….The House of Rumour is a brilliant achievement that invites repeated readings." Independent

"A virtuoso blurring of fact and fantasy...Highly entertaining and perhaps even mind-expanding, Arnott’s high-class conjuring act shows that truth really is stranger than fiction." Sunday Times

"Jake Arnott's The House of Rumour is as ambitious and curiously constructed a novel as I have read in years, a linked collection of stories that brilliantly blends history with fiction." Largehearted Boy

"[A] complicated crazy-quilt of a story, House of Rumour is fascinating as much for the way it draws connections (sometimes real, sometimes invented) between disparate subjects like the invention of James Bond and Virginia Woolf's suicide as for the story that Arnott is telling." io9

Product Details

  • File Size: 663 KB
  • Print Length: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Little A (March 19, 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B009RRI03Q
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #300,100 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
36 of 40 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The world as a speculative fiction March 10, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
The House of Rumour is a kaleidoscopic tour through an alternate 20th-century universe, which Jake Arnott populates with a mix of real and fictional characters and events. The book's 22 chapters are told by various characters and, at first, the book seems to be made up of unrelated short stories. Glimmers of connections appear here and there, which kept me reading.

I was also compelled to continue because, at every turn, it seemed I'd run into characters I'd recently read about elsewhere. It started with a description of Ian Fleming, then with Britain's naval intelligence, meeting up with a double agent code-named Tricycle. Of course I knew Fleming, but I also recognized Tricycle, having read about him as one of the many highly eccentric agents working against the Nazis in Ben Macintyre's Double Cross: The True Story of the D-Day Spies.

Much of the book deals with the fictional Larry Zagorski, a science-fiction writer who gets his start in the 1940s and becomes part of a southern California sci-fi writers' scene that includes Robert Heinlein, Jack Parsons, L. Ron Hubbard and more. I'd only just read Lawrence Wright's Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief, which covers (among other things, of course), Hubbard's experiences in that scene, so once again I felt like I was running into acquaintances. More acquaintances from my recent reading of
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The House of Rumour March 14, 2013
Format:Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product (What's this?)
Mark Lawson of The Guardian gave THE HOUSE OF RUMOUR what may be its most eye-catching review, when he said that it "perhaps most resembles THE DA VINCI CODE, rewritten by an author with the gifts of characterization, wit and literacy." That may be a little misleading. Not the "characterization, wit and literacy" part; Jake Arnott's new novel has those in spades. But unlike THE DA VINCI CODE, this isn't a puzzle box that yields a single decisive solution. It has the trappings of a great secret history, tying together mysticism, science fiction, espionage, and new wave music, but what its diverse storylines reveal is not a great and coherent conspiracy but the many ways in which secret knowledge can simultaneously stave off and feed human despair. The tone is mournful, contemplative, as the opening paragraph suggests:

"I still look up to the stars for some sort of meaning. As a kid I thought I was seeing the future. Space, this was where we were headed, I was sure of it. Now I know that it was always the distant past I gazed at. With the light pollution over Los Angeles at night it's sometimes hard even to trace a constellation."

That may be a little self-consciously wistful for some readers, and indeed there are places in THE HOUSE OF RUMOUR where the artful melancholy is laid on too thick. The final chapter, for example, is a well-crafted but overly blunt restatement of themes more subtly established in previous sequences. But Arnott's ingenious blending of seemingly distinct historical trends offers something else to appreciate when the world-weariness threatens to become maudlin. The cover copy tells us that the narrative strands are linked by (fictional) science fiction writer Larry Zagorksi, a sort of longer-lived version of Philip K.
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17 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Jonbar points and the Black Game September 30, 2012
"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.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved this book that was about nothing
I loved this book that was about nothing, but everything. It's not an alternate history, because the major historical events described did occur (WWII, Nazi occultism, JPL, the SF... Read more
Published 24 days ago by Amy Jesionowski
1.0 out of 5 stars One Star
difficult story to follow
Published 6 months ago by Pat
4.0 out of 5 stars Trek through a 20th Century Matrix
This highly acclaimed but controversial novel by Jake Arnott is worth working through for many reasons, although its format (seemingly separate short stories that eventually... Read more
Published 8 months ago by Victor E. Smith
3.0 out of 5 stars A bit of an overreach
The concept of this novel is interesting, tying together many seemingly disparate events across the last 70 years or so of the 20th century, but I found the plot to be an... Read more
Published 10 months ago by C. Winton
5.0 out of 5 stars A Little Out There, But You'll Get Sucked In
Using tarot cards as chapter titles, this book is focused on some of the more arcane events of the 20th century, with a focus on politics, radicalism and the occult. Read more
Published 11 months ago by NDP_NYC
1.0 out of 5 stars Could not read this.
That's all there is to say - read several chapters - simply
did not like it and put it away.
Published 11 months ago by Bertram Brown
3.0 out of 5 stars It's hard to sort out details in the fog of rumour.
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... Read more
Published 12 months ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating novel
Arnot blends real characters and events from the Los Angeles science fiction community of the forties and later with real world events such as the birth of JPL, World War II... Read more
Published 15 months ago by Avid Reader
5.0 out of 5 stars the House of Rumour
I like the organization and themes of this book. The behind the scenes aspect of some lottery developments and historical elements was really intriguing . Read more
Published 18 months ago by Steven Parkhurst
1.0 out of 5 stars Wrong place for me.
This was not what I was looking for. I don't know exactly what I expected - an expose, maybe, but this wasn't it.
Published 18 months ago by Jim Parker
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More About the Author

Jake Arnott was born in 1961, and lives in London. His debut novel, THE LONG FIRM, was published by Sceptre in 1999 to huge public and critical acclaim. HE KILLS COPPERS, TRUECRIME, JOHNNY COME HOME and THE DEVIL'S PAINTBRUSH have followed to equal acclaim. Both THE LONG FIRM and HE KILLS COPPERS have been made into widely praised TV dramas in the UK.

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