Purple and Black

Purple and Black

Illustration By Vincent Chong

Dust jacket by Vincent Chong

Subterranean Press is proud to announce a new novella by the enigmatic author of The Company and The Engineer Trilogy.


When his father, brothers and uncles wiped each other out in a murderous civil war, Nicephorus was forced to leave the University and become emperor.

Seventy-seven emperors had met violent deaths over the past hundred years, most of them murdered by their own soldiers. Hardly surprising, then, that Nico should want to fill the major offices of state with the only people he knew he could trust, his oldest and closest friends.

But there’s danger on the norther frontier, and Nico daren’t send a regular general up there with an army, for fear of a military coup. He turns to his best friend Phormio, who reluctantly takes the job.

Military despatches, written in the purple ink reserved exclusively for official business, are a miserable way for friends to keep in touch, at a time when they need each other most. But there’s space in the document-tube for another sheet of paper.

Purple and Black, available exclusively from Subterranean Press, will be printed in two colors.

Trade: 1500 copies fully cloth bound hardcover edition
Limited: 250 numbered copies, signed by the author

From Publishers Weekly (Starred Review):
“In this heartbreaking epistolary novella, pseudonymous military fantasist Parker (The Company) keeps the letters, humor and tension moving at a quick clip… As enemies become stalwart allies, sorrow lurks within victory and a forgotten moment of youth threatens everything, Parker sends the brief (but never terse) story flying to a wrenching and all too realistic conclusion.”

From Booklist:
“In Parker’s absorbing epistolary novella, Phormio, the new young governor of a border province in an alternate Byzantine empire, gets things rolling with a plaintive missive—“What the hell did I ever do to you?”—to His Divine Majesty Nicephorus V, who is one-and-the-same as his recent college bosom-buddy Nico… [T]he badinage between the two amuses, the martial action (of Phormio fighting off barbarians) diverts, and the hardest of hardball politics plays out. Only the characters here are fantastic; the physical details and the scenario are all too historically veristic.”

From SF Site:
“Actually, I think Parker deals well in general with the limitations of her chosen structure. She manages to tell a complete story that gives due acknowledgment of the impact its events have on the characters who live through them (even if the distance of the telling means we don’t necessarily experience that impact so much ourselves). She weaves in the back-story skilfully, and raises some difficult ethical issues.”

From Locus:
“[A]lso like The Company, Purple and Black is marked with Parker’s droll wit, nuanced characters, and unsentimental plotting. The story works on a number of levels: as an engaging page turner, yes, but also as a demonstration of choosing the perfect telling details and of how versions of the same tale can change based on where your characters are standing. Even though Purple and Black is a thin (in size) offering, its punch is much greater than the sum of its pages.”

From Fantasy Literature:
“K.J. Parker unerringly captures the relationship between two college buddies who are thrust into situations for which they were not prepared. Nico becomes emperor because his father, uncles, and older brothers all killed each other in a civil war. Phormio is a political philosopher and a college instructor, so he leads the military from a text book. Many of the letters cover the darker territory of wartime tragedies, but Purple and Black’s tone swings back and forth between lighthearted teasing and weighty affairs of state, and Parker manages the transitions seamlessly.”

From Robots and Vamps:
“...this an excellent study in character development by bringing it down to the very the basic elements but it still retains the necessary elements for a well crafted tale. I highly recommend this novella; it may be short but it easily has twice the entertainment value.”

Vincent Chong
K. J. Parker
113 pages
United States
Out of Print