• Lee Murray

Italy’s Weird Book purchases Burning Iron novel from Murray and Van Belle


Italy’s Weird Book purchases Burning Iron,

an uncategorizable new novel from Kiwi writing team Murray and Van Belle




Weird Book Italy is thrilled to announce the acquisition of the Italian and English publication rights for Burning Iron, an uncategorisable stand-alone novel written by New Zealand’s double Bram Stoker Award®-winning horror writer Lee Murray and her fellow Kiwi, award-winning science fiction author Douglas A. Van Belle. An Agatha Christie-inspired murder-mystery set in deep space, the novel is a mix of horror, humour, science fiction and suspense, that explores intriguing political, social, and philosophical themes, and spices it all up with a good dose of weird. “Uncategorisable is probably the wrong word, but we are truly at a loss at how to describe a novel that could fit so well into so many genres,” says publisher Luigi Boccia. “Regardless of what label you might put on it, it is a big universe in a little book that somehow manages to feel expansive even though the whole story fits between the covers of a modest size novel.”


Commissioning editor and translator, Nicola Lombardi says, “Having previously published some of Murray’s fiction, we knew her as a world-class horror writer with a nice touch for mixing in a bit of the bizarre, but we couldn’t even begin to imagine what might come out of her collaboration with an author who likes to throw a fair bit of humour into stories where the science of the science fiction is so accurate that you could use some of his stories in the classroom. That kind of leap into the category-defying unknowable, however, is a perfect fit for Weird Book, and when I saw that both Murray and Van Belle are known for creating strong but flawed female protagonists, I knew we had to have Burning Iron.”


“It’s not just the Kiwi-Italian connection that’s appealing,” says Murray. “Doug and I outlined the novel by writing a screenplay, and while book-to-film deals are common, it’s rare for writers approach publishers with a screenplay, but Boccia’s background in film made it an easy decision for us to show him Burning Iron. We trusted he would see our vision, and we already knew that Weird Book produces a high-quality product. Plus, with the translation adding a layer of complexity, it’s comforting to be working with a close-knit publishing team with our common focus on dark and weird.”


Van Belle, a Senior Lecturer in media and communications at Wellington’s University of Victoria, is looking forward to the next stage of the collaboration. “No matter how many stories, films and novels you write, you will never perfect the craft and I am really looking forward to all the big and little things I’ll pick up from writing a novel with Lee, as well as from working with Luigi and Nicola.”



Burning Iron


Like countless others before her, when Lieutenant Juliette Saar is transferred to the Denali, the last of the Iron Burner class of warships, she’s tempted to refuse. Unlike all those others, however, her misgivings have nothing to do with the half-serious jokes about it being cursed, its scandalous history, or even its reputation as a career-killer at the ass end of the fleet. Her only real worry is the simple fact that her transfer was requested by Captain Leoni, the man who torpedoed her career before it even launched. Of course, it’s precisely the reason she can’t decline the transfer. The offer to join his crew may well be the only chance she’ll ever get to escape the desk he chained her to. They both know that, and even as she steps onto the Denali, she’s terrified at the thought of what he’ll do with that leverage. What Saar never imagined was for Leoni to promote her and then immediately abdicate command, leaving her to babysit a lunatic’s menagerie of civilian passengers while he drinks himself to oblivion. Worse, they’re barely a day into their voyage to the rotating city of Buzz, when a body is discovered. It’s an impossible death, and the killer can only be one of the passengers. But which one? And how? They all have solid alibis. As Saar and her second, Lieutenant Billy Martin, race to uncover the truth, a sinister element counters their every move. Great. Her first command, and it looks like everyone is going to die…


Lieutenant Billy Martin has no idea why Leoni handed command of the Denali to Saar. He just knows it’s his job to upskill her, and fast. No mean feat given the mountain of military regulations that don’t quite fit with the aging warship’s myriad of technical quirks—let alone its snarky attitude. And that’s nothing compared to the quirks, and the attitudes, of the civilians. There’s the retired Admiral, his socialite wife, and their entourage; the aging hippie with the chip on her shoulder and her son; the business buffoon; and that cute little blonde who appears to be just the Admiral’s type. With no electronics on board, Martin needs his trusty clipboard to keep track of it all. But as the body count rises, and the chances of their reaching Buzz become more and more remote, it’s clear that regulations and proper procedures are not going to save them.


Burning Iron is scheduled for release in late 2023.



Lee Murray is an author, editor, and poet from Aotearoa- New Zealand. A USA Today Bestselling author, double Bram Stoker Award® and Shirley Jackson Award winner, her work includes military thriller series, the Taine McKenna Adventures, supernatural crime-noir trilogy The Path of Ra (with Dan Rabarts), and short fiction collection, Grotesque: Monster Stories. Lee is the editor of nineteen volumes of dark fiction, among them Black Cranes: Tales of Unquiet Women (with Geneve Flynn) Her short stories and poems have appeared in venues such as Weird Tales, Space and Time, and Grimdark Magazine. She a NZSA Honorary Literary Fellow, and a Grimshaw Sargeson Fellow. Lee’s first poetry collection, Tortured Willows, is a collaboration with Angela Yuriko Smith, Christina Sng and Geneve Flynn. Read more at https://www.leemurray.info/


Dr. Douglas A. Van Belle is a senior lecturer in Media and Communication, and an award-winning science and fantasy fiction author. His research is eclectic, with notable contributions to the politics of media freedom, media’s role in disasters and crises, teaching politics with novels and films, and the role of science fiction as a bridge between science and society. Doug’s fiction is known for integrating horror, comedy, and politics, and includes absurdist YA fantasy novels, hard science fiction, and politically charged fantasy realism thrillers. His novels include: The Barking Death Squirrels, The Care and Feeding of Your Lunatic Mage, and the Kahutahuta. Recent feature film options include his novella, Breathe, which has been retitled Cold Sun; short story, “The Jackal’s Waltz”, retitled as Orion 66; and original screenplays Dreamwalker. and Burning Epiphanies. Johnny Ruckus (co-written with James G. Van Belle) was produced as a series pilot by Avalon Studios, and Doug’s short story, “Zombies from Mars”, is currently in production as a radio drama podcast. His most recent novels include political thriller The White Coyote Project, and A World Adrift, the first in an epic science fiction series.


For interviews in English with Lee or Doug, please use the contact form on this website.

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