Tom Holt

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Tom Holt is a British author whose works can be described as comic urban fantasy mixed with Fractured Fairy Tales. Most of his books are standalone, but he has a short series centering around the J.W. Wells Corporation (named after the sorcerer in the Gilbert and Sullivan musical The Sorcerer).

Holt's male protagonists are nearly all nerds with little social sense, and his female characters tend to be rock-hard, super-competent steamrollers (though they do tend be less competent if they are the actual protagonist rather than the love interest or other supporting character.) Holt's works often deal with the theme of love, though he's very cynical about it and often protrays it as an annoyance or even a disease (either because the subject knows he'll never get anywhere with his crushes, or because she's so desirable she's no longer interested).

Many of his works deconstruct mythology from various cultures, or shove them into a modern setting and let them rip. He has several crossover characters, such as conspiracy theorist/reporter Danny Bennett and monster hunter Kurt Lundqvist.

His writing style is fast and entertaining, and is peppered with plays on cliches and idioms, often taking an idea in a common set of words and turning them Up to Eleven. His plots are heavily powered by the Rule of Funny and sometimes end in a jumble full of Plot Holes - but funny Plot Holes.

Holt has also written several historical novels (as Thomas Holt), and two sequels to E. F. Benson's Mapp and Lucia series.

  • Expecting Someone Taller (1987)
  • Who's Afraid of Beowulf? (1988)
  • Flying Dutch (1991)
  • Ye Gods! (1992)
  • Overtime (1993)
  • Here Comes the Sun (1993)
  • Grailblazers (1994)
  • Faust Among Equals (1994)
  • Odds & Gods (1995)
  • Djinn Rummy (1995)
  • My Hero (1996)
  • Paint Your Dragon (1996)
  • Open Sesame (1997)
  • Wish You Were Here (1998)
  • Only Human (1999)
  • Snow White and the Seven Samurai (1999)
  • Valhalla (2000)
  • Nothing But Blue Skies (2001)
  • Falling Sideways (2002)
  • Little People (2002)
  • Someone Like Me (2006)
  • Barking (2007)

The J.W. Wells and Co. Series

  • The Portable Door (2003)
  • In Your Dreams (2004)
  • Earth, Air, Fire, and Custard (2005)
  • You Don't Have to Be Evil to Work Here, But It Helps (2006)
  • The Better Mousetrap (2008)
  • May Contain Traces of Magic (2009)

Historical novels

  • The Walled Orchard (1997)
  • Alexander At The World's End (1999)
  • Olympiad (2000)
  • Song for Nero (2003)
  • Meadowland (2005)

Mapp and Lucia

  • Lucia in Wartime (1985)
  • Lucia Triumphant (1986)
Tom Holt provides examples of the following tropes:
  • Ambulance Chaser - the werewolf lawyers in Barking, quite literally.
  • Author Catchphrase - "X appeared like a Romulan decloaking", in several novels.
  • Black and Gray Morality - Paint Your Dragon does this to the story of Saint George and the Dragon. Both are absolute assholes, but the dragon seems a little more sympathetic...although considering he at one point annihilates an entire (occupied) theatre in an attempt to deal with George, this is more a statement on how unlikeable St. George is than anything else. The dragon's status as the Least Evilâ„¢ character is cemented at the end, when the two end up switching forms and George's first action as a dragon is to kill the entire audience for their deathmatch in order to ensure that nobody with a rocket launcher is lurking in the stands).
  • Celestial Bureaucracy - Here Comes The Sun is entirely based on this trope. For example, a complaints form consists of a pure, 24-carat gold slab several acres in area, which is filled with so much bureaucratic crap that the actual complaint needs to be chiseled in microscopic writing in a millimetre-wide spot.
  • Calvin Ball - In Who's Afraid of Beowulf?, two imps have spent the past thousand years playing "Goblin's Teeth". They're still on their first game. Descriptions of the gameplay suggest it contains elements of chess, Monopoly, Scrabble and several others.
  • Circling Monologue - In Who's Afraid of Beowulf?, the last Viking king, Hrolf Earthstar, circles the evil Sorcerer King before battle, determined to break his attempt to rule the world. Unusually, the mighty but doomed villain accepts the Last Second Chance given by the hero. After all, someone could have got killed.
  • Clap Your Hands If You Believe - spoofed in Open Sesame; a fairy provides medical care by shouting "I do believe in humans!"
    • And again in Paint Your Dragon:

There's an urban folk-myth that every time a human says he doesn't believe in dragons, a dragon dies. This is unlikely, because if it were true, we'd spend half our lives shovelling thirty-foot corpses out of the highways with dumper trucks and the smell would be intolerable.
There's an old saying among dragons that every time a human says he doesn't believe in dragons, a human dies, and serve the cheeky bugger right.

  • Conspiracy Theorist - Recurring character (or possibly multiple characters with the same name) Danny Bennett is convinced that the Milk Marketing Board is somehow connected to the assassination of JFK.
  • Deconstruction - Phaedra in The Walled Garden is a bit of a deconstruction of the usual Holt heroine (see description in the main paragraph) as her temper and shrewishness is portrayed as about as bearable as you might expect in real life - though she does get better. Holt also allows her to be flat out wrong on some subjects (she's a Flat Earth Atheist for instance.)
  • Diabolus Ex Machina - A particularly cruel one in Little People, leading to...
  • Downer Ending - Little People
  • Fantasy Kitchen Sink - several novels, and the continuity in general, but particularly the JW Wells series.
  • Fearless Fool
  • Flying Dutchman - subverted in Flying Dutch, where the Flying Dutchman and his crew had accidentally drunk some elixir which gave them immortality, but also the most outrageous body odour for all but one month in every 7 years. In the book, Wagner is said to have been given direct inspiration from the captain of the crew.
  • Historical Domain Character - You'll never think about Aristophanes the same way again...
  • Jerkass Gods - Loads of them, but Odin in Valhalla is arguably the worst.
  • Love Before First Sight - how Falling Sideways starts.
  • Magical Underpinnings of Reality
  • Magitek
  • Milkman Conspiracy: A literal milkman conspiracy as imagined by Danny Bennett, a journalist hellbent on proving that the real power behind world governments lies with... the Milk Marketing Board.
  • A Mythology Is True - which one depends on the novel
  • Negative Continuity - The increasingly paranoid presence of Danny Bennet suggests that most of the early comic fantasy is set in the same universe. But Who's Afraid of Beowulf? and Flying Dutch have entirely separate immortals as the inventor of computers, and there seem to be at least two incompatible Odins.
  • Retcon - Ricky Wurmtoter, revealed to be over a thousand years old in Earth, Air, Fire & Custard had a twenty-something sister in In Your Dreams who is promptly forgotten about.
  • Rule of Funny - his writing thrives on this.
  • The Unfavorite - several. The most obvious example is the protagonist Malcolm in Expecting Someone Taller. Like all of Holt's male leads, Malcolm is a total git, and his parents unabashedly compare him to his super-perfect sister Bridget. Becoming the heir to practically unlimited power makes Malcolm immediately think that it was originally meant for Bridget. In fact, Malcolm's lack of self-esteem and desire to do good make him the perfect person to inherit said power; Bridget would totally mess it up.
  • True Neutral - The Better Mousetrap has Frank Carpenter, who limits himself to this alignment because he knows the kind of havoc that would result if someone who Only Wants To Make The World A Better Place or Someone Who Only Wants To Screw People Over had the time-travelling Portable Door he inherited. He uses it to save people...thereby making himself 10% of the money an insurance company would have had to pay out if they were dead. (Most other Holt protagonists are either this or a particularly screwed-up variant of Neutral Good).
  • What You Are in the Dark
  • Zig-Zagging Trope - The entire point of Falling Sideways. The description of the backstory of the major players is revised, revisited and completely contradicted every two or three chapters, and keeping track of all the lies (and trying to fit it into the events of the book) becomes a big brain-hurting exercise. It doesn't help that, at the end, there's still plenty of huge Plot Holes.