Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Holt, Tom

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Working name of UK writer Thomas Charles Louis Holt (1961-    ), whose first book, Poems by Tom Holt (coll 1973), assembled poetry written while he was still a child. His writing career proper began with Lucia in Wartime * (1985) and Lucia Triumphant * (1986), sequels to E F Benson's famous Mapp and Lucia sequence, plus Goatsong (1989) and its sequel, The Walled Orchard (1990), the latter two set in ancient Greece. TH began publishing the comic fantasies which have made him famous with Expecting Someone Taller (1987), which established in broad terms the pattern of all its successors. Most are set in a contemporary England invaded by Underlier figures or ensembles from Earth's mythic past. In the first, feckless but nice young Malcolm runs over a badger, which turns out to be a Frost Giant who had been "expecting someone taller", but who dutifully hands over the Tarnhelm and the Ring of the Nibelungen (see Nordic Fantasy; Opera; Richard Wagner), making Malcolm the ruler of the world. This irritates Wotan (see Odin), and there is some apocalyptic action; but all ends moderately well.

Though the jokes tend to improve with the years, the novels themselves are only variously successful. Who's Afraid of Beowulf? (1988) brings a Sleeper Under the Hill and his men back to life, where they come into conflict with the Dark Lord who has been running England for centuries. In Flying Dutch (1991) the intruder is the Flying Dutchman, whose Elixir of Life unfortunately gave him appalling body odour, hence his inconspicuousness over the centuries; but he does have a centuries-old bank account, with compound interest. Ye Gods! (1992) introduces a baby Hercules into a suburban home. Overtime (1993), despite some fine jokes about Time Travel, generates a sense of congestion as Blondel ricochets through a modern world run – typically of TH – by a cackhanded conspiracy. Here Comes the Sun (1993) stands aside from its stablemates by virtue of its depiction of a fantasy cosmology in which the Universe is literally worked by the heavenly hierarchy, which is not doing the job very well.

Many of these novels, despite the humour, are laced with what seems to be a genuine pessimism about the human condition. Later novels continue, with a gradually increasing sense of joie de vivre, in the same mode. Grailblazers (1994) imports another sleeper into modern England. Faust Among Equals (1994) features a sorcerer Faust on the lam from Hell. Odds and Gods (1995) puts various Pantheons in an old folks' home. Djinn Rummy (1995) plays with Arabian Fantasy. [JC]

Thomas Charles Louis Holt


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.