Tom Holt

British writer

Thomas Charles Louis Holt (born September 13, 1961) is an author of parodic mythopoeic fiction. He is the son of novelist Hazel Holt. Steve Nallon collaborated with Holt to write I, Margaret, an unauthorized biography of Margaret Thatcher published in 1989. He also writes fantasy under the pseudonym K. J. Parker.


  • It was irritating to have one's physical shortcomings pointed out quite so plainly twice in one evening, once by a beautiful girl and once by a dying badger.
  • In fact, as they will be delighted to tell you, Taunton is no longer a one-horse town
    these days,they have a bicycle as well.
  • I'm an archaeologist,' said Hildy. 'I dig up the past.'
    The King raised an eyebrow. 'You mean you refresh old quarrels and keep alive old grievances? Surely not.
  • No, no,' said Hildy, 'I dig up ancient things buried in the earth. Things that belonged to people who lived hundreds of years ago. As she said this, she began to feel uncomfortable. She had forgotten about the brooch.
    'Do you really?' said the King. 'We used to call that grave-robbing.
  • The King rose slowly to his feet and beckoned to the wizard, who had been sitting outside the circle of the firelight, apparently, trying to find a spell that would make a beer-can magically refill itself.
  • I spy,' said the first mate, 'with my little eye, something beginning with W.
  • Nobody took any notice. Even Jan Christian Duysberg had guessed that one back in the 1740s, and he had been thirty-four years old before he realised he was left-handed.
    • c.2
  • Be my guest,' Vanderdecker said. You can watch a master liar at work, if you don't mind being an accomplice.
  • 'Doesn't worry me,' Jane replied, I'm an accountant.
    • c. 8
  • At any given time, ninety-nine-point-nine-five per cent of the human race are a confounded nuisance

Ye Gods! (1992)

  • In the beginning was the Word. Nobody knows what it actually was, although it would be nice to think that it was 'Sorry.
    • c. 2
  • The best definition of an immortal is someone who hasn't died yet.
  • Jason squared his shoulders, drew the Sword of - I couldn't give a toss what it's supposed to be called, he said to himself, I shall call it Freckles - and took one step forward.

Overtime (1993)


Here Comes the Sun (1993)

  • 'How many spectral warriors does it take to change a light-bulb?
    One, and a stepladder. At a pinch, of course, he could stand on a chair.'

Grailblazers (1994)

  • The knight raises both eyebrows, like someone by Burne-Jones who's just trodden on something sharp. 'I am Prince Boamund, eldest son of King -'
    'That's right,' says the knight, 'Boamund, eldest son of -'
    'How do you spell that?'
    Boamund looks worried. Where he comes from you can take advanced falconry, or you can take spelling; not both. Guess which one he opted for. - c. 1
  • Boamund scratches his head. Imagine a knight by Alma-Tadema who's somehow managed to fall off the picture and is wondering how to get back in without breaking the glass.
    • c. 1
  • That's it?' Boamund said.
    'Basically, yes,' the hermit replied. 'I've left out Helmut von Moltke and the Peace of Nikolsburg, and maybe I skated over the Benelux customs union a bit, but I think you've got the essentials there. Anything you're not sure about, you can look up in the book.' - c. 1
  • Between the town of Giles, to the north of the Tomkinson Range, and Forrest in the Nullarbor Plain, lies the Great Victorian Desert. It is hot, arid, desolate and merciless; and whatever the Creator had in mind when He made it that way, it most certainly wasn't human beings.
    It's a really awful place to be if you've got toothache.
    • c. 3

Faust Among Equals (1994)

  • Ronnie Bosch sat in his studio, stared long and hard at his drawing board, and groaned.
  • It was, they told him, all part of a concept which was definitely going to be The Future as far as Hell Holdings was concerned.
    For reasons he couldn't quite grasp, but which he couldn't help but feel mildly flattering, they were going to call it EuroBosch.
    • c. 2

Djinn Rummy (1995)

  • 'Genies rarely have nightmares, for the same reason that elephants don't usually worry about being trampled underfoot. With the possible exception of bottles, there's nothing in the cosmos large enough or malicious enough to frighten them, or stupid enough to try.'
  • '...and we have already seen how insurance is like a pyramid -
    (Huge, incomprehensible, hideously expensive, completely unnecessary and specifically designed only to be of benefit to you once you're dead?)'

My Hero (1996)

  • 'He didn't smile - he was from Yorkshire, after all - but in some inner chamber of his heart he was satisfied.'
  • 'Tact comes as naturally to full-bore handguns as, say, ice-skating to African elephants, but there comes a time when an exceptional individual is prepared to stand up and break the mould.'
  • 'Luck, like a Russian car, generally only works if you push it.'
  • Besides, [Saint] George pointed out, dragons burn towns and demand princesses as ransom.
    The dragons, referring to the Siege of Jerusalem, the Sack of Constantinople and a thousand years of dynastic marriages, said, Look who's talking.
    • c. 4
  • [...] the dragon got three cartsful of angry letters from the Pope (which he dismissed as a load of bulls) [...]
    • ( c. 4
  • Here and there a doorway or low arch concealed the occasional mugger, rapist or lawyer.
    • c. 7
  • Vote!' [Saint] George rolled his eyes. 'This is an assassination, not a debating society.' - c. 7
  • Like, there's these new fundamentalist religious fanatics, some name like Meek Militant Action. Their aim's to inherit the Earth, provided nobody objects.' - c. 12
  • Good guys is just a fancy way of saying Us. Bad guys is only ever Them.' -
    • c. 12
  • Talking to yourself is a sign of madness. Talking to yourself, dead, is class.'
    • c. 12
  • Jeez, for a superior intelligence, you must be just plain dumb,' he said.
    • c. 19

Only Human (1999)

  • Here we go, surfing the Net again, something done by humans and very gullible fish.

Snow White and The Seven Samurai (1999)


He'd turned into a handsome prince. 'Turn me back!' he yelled hysterically, staring at the mirror. 'That's awful! I don't want to be one of those things!' 'Tough,' replied Little Red Riding Hood with a grin, and as she advanced towards him, she produced from the pocket of her dainty scarlet cape a pair of handcuffs and a nasty-looking hypodermic. 'That's the way it goes, buster. And you'll have the satisfaction of knowing it's all in the aid of medical research.'

Nothing But Blue Skies (2001)

  • If you hadn't noticed, I'm the pub loony around here. This is my turf, and if there's any gibbering to be done, I'm the one who does it. If you want to gibber, find another bar.

Falling Sideways (2002)

  • You want the short version. Okay, then: shit happens. Does that answer all your question? Thought not. Now, if you shut your face and let me tell this my way, we might actually get somewhere. Thank you.
    • the spokesclone, p. 319
  • You poor suckers [mammals]: you've got all this horrible stuff to get through somehow so obviously there's got to be an incentive, or at least some kind of fix for you to get addicted to. That's love: possibly the sneakiest trick ever played on any variety of life form by a notoriously conniving Universe. You do all these dismal, soul-destroying things because you get attached to each other.
    • the spokesclone, p. 322

The Portable Door (2003)

  • Treasure maps; Czarist bonds; a case of stuffed dodos; Scarlett O'Hara's birth certificate; two flattened and deformed silver bullet heads in an old matchbox; Baedeker's guide to Atlantis (seventeenth edition, 1902); the autograph score of Schubert's Unfinished Symphony, with Das Ende written neatly at the foot of the last page; three boxes of moon rocks; a dumpy, heavy statuette of a bird covered in dull black paint, which reminded him of something but he couldn't remember what; a Norwich Union life policy in the name of Vlad Dracul; a cigar box full of oddly shaped teeth, with CAUTION: DO NOT DROP painted on the lid in hysterical capitals; five or six doll's-house-sized books with titles like Lilliput On $2 A Day; a small slab of green crystal that glowed when he opened the envelope; a thick bundle of love letters bound in blue ribbon, all signed Margaret Roberts; a left-luggage token from North Central railway terminus, Ruritania; Bartholomew's Road Atlas of Oz (one page, with a yellow line smack down the middle); a brown paper bag of solid gold jelly babies; several contracts for the sale and purchase of souls; a fat brown envelope inscribed To Be Opened On My Death: E. A. Presley, unopened; Oxford and Cambridge Board O-level papers in Elvish language and literature, 1969-85; a very old drum in a worm-eaten sea-chest marked F. Drake, Plymouth, in with a load of minute-books and annual accounts of the Winchester Round Table; half a dozen incredibly ugly portraits of major Hollywood film stars; Unicorn-Calling, For Pleasure & Profit by J. R. Hartley; a huge collection of betting slips, on races to be held in the year 2019; all water, as far as Paul was concerned, off a duck's {back]"

You Don't Have To Be Evil To Work Here, But It Helps (2006)

  • I didn't find out she was actually the Queen of the Fey until some time later. Bit of a shock, but I think we could've made a go of it, if she hadn't been so dead set on wiping out the human race.
  • Thank you for calling the Powers of Darkness. Your call may be recorded for security and training purposes. For general moral and ethical enquiries, press 1 on your keypad. To make a reservation, press 2. For details of our special discount packages for lawyers, politicians, and Microsoft executives, press 3.
Written under the name K. J. Parker
All page numbers from the trade paperback first edition published by Tor ISBN 978-0-7653-8789-9
Nominated for the 2017 Locus Award
  • “I write stuff,” he said. I don’t necessarily believe it myself.”
    • p. 28
  • Nothing helps a lie succeed more than a generous helping of the truth.
    • p. 29
  • Query: if I’d had less brains and more money, would I have been happier? Answer: if a circle had four straight sides, wouldn’t it be a square?
    • p. 29
  • That’s bureaucracy for you. Never follow a straight line when a spiral will get you there eventually.
    • p. 36
  • “The doctrine of sides,” he went on, “states that there is no right or wrong, only different perspectives. From where I stand, such and such a thing looks like a tree; from where you stand, it looks like a rock. For tree and rock, read sin and virtue.”
    • pp. 39-40
  • There is no word for artist in the Mysian language; instead there’s a long-winded periphrasis that translates as man-who-deceives-others-into-giving-food-by-spoiling-bits-of-wood.
    • p. 55
  • It’s a basic tenet of military science. No stronghold can be taken if a mule laden with gold bars can leave it unobserved.
    • p. 58
  • I was deeply troubled. Not in itself unusual; but I had a distinct feeling that I’d missed something. That’s not a normal or comfortable feeling for me. I don’t miss things. Like I said, I live and have my being in the detail. Also, if I had that feeling, it was because I was meant to. It was as though he’d put up a big painted sign saying UP TO SOMETHING and was sitting directly beneath it.
    • p. 59
  • The more he asserted it, the less they believed him, which is human nature for you.
    • p. 61
  • Our lot may be all-seeing and all-knowing, but that’s a long way removed from all-understanding.
    • p. 70
  • “But the unforeseen consequences—”
    “What consequences?”
    “I don’t know, I can’t foresee them.”
    • pp. 71-72
  • “You twist everything,” he said.
    “Guilty,” I said. “Though I prefer to think of it as a form of art.”
    • p. 85
  • He had the answer to the secret of the universe in his hands, but he was more interested in saving his own neck and making money. Extraordinary man.
    • p. 95
  • I started from the premise, which sort of came with the brief, that priests and religion are full of shit; from there it followed naturally that the morality they espouse must be false or faulty. Having established the side I was on, I looked around for arguments to support it. I found they came quite easily to me. I started with various inconsistencies in religious doctrine, and found that they derived from compromises made by long-ago ecumenical councils to reconcile violent political disputes within the clerical hierarchy. I argued, if the priests make up bits of doctrine to suit themselves, maybe they made up the whole thing. From there it was no big deal to demonstrate that they’d done exactly that. The Book as we know it proved to be not a monolithic and unambiguous record of the word of the Invincible Sun, but rather a negotiated construct, patched together from four or five sources, revised and edited and redacted by generations of scholars, some of whom belonged to such and such a sect or interest group, others of whom supported diametrically opposite positions or interests. It was no bother at all to show that the Book was a political object with no real credibility. And once you’ve knocked out the Book, you’ve dealt religion a blow from which it can never recover.
    • pp. 98-99
  • The fact is, the more you look for something, the likelier you are to find it, even if isn’t actually there; sooner or later, if you look hard enough, you’ll find something. The trick is then to interpret what you’ve found as what you were looking for.
    • p. 100
  • The great thing about not necessarily believing in your beliefs is that it’s so much easier to revise them.
    • p. 102
  • On the way out, I reflected on the way in which so many mortals pray. It’s strictly a rational proposition. If He exists, they argue, it’s best to be on the right side of Him; if He doesn’t, well, no harm done, it hasn’t cost anything. I’m not like that, unfortunately. Either I believe or I don’t. And I believed—thought I believed—in the doctrines of Saloninus concerning the invalidity of conventional morality. I believed that there are no absolutes of good and evil and that all that matters, in the final analysis, is which side you’re on. It was, I felt, a doctrine which accorded exactly with my own observations and experience.
    The problems start when your side isn’t on your side anymore.
    • p. 103
  • You’re not supposed to be always on the doorstep clamouring for instructions. Use your discretion and your initiative, they say, that’s why you’re the grade you are. And then, when it all goes wrong, it’s all your fault. What on Earth possessed you to do all that without checking back first? How could you have been so stupid?
    • p. 112
  • Evolution takes no prisoners. A loathsome philosophy, but hard to argue against. Repulsive, but entirely valid. Otherwise, the Earth would still be populated by giant pea-brained lizards.
    • pp. 114-115
  • Take anything to its logical conclusion and you’re likely to end up with the grotesque and the absurd.
    • p. 115
  • Why get so worked up about a nonexistent threat? Answer: someone somewhere is covering something up.
    • p. 123
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