Tag Archives: Beverley Jones novels

Heroes, villains and the Victorian Underworld!

A heroine in peril.

Have you wondered what horrors lie beneath the suburban streets of Britain? What nasties lurk in the dark while we go about our daily lives? And when they show their evil faces which heroes do we call to save us from their murky blackness? Well, I found out this week as I came back from a run to find water dribbling up through my front path. Not very nice water either, water that, er, smelled of wee…I needed a hero and I needed one fast.

Enter, a hero.

On a dark and stormy afternoon Welsh Water Guy came to my rescue, or tried to. Who knew there were such dark lairs under my house until WWG (Welsh Water Guy) turned up with a long camera on a tube and revealed to me the unseen world beneath. Yeah, we had a blocked pipe. I could see the block in nasty bubbly glory as the camera snaked down beneath our feet, via the manhole, through crazy pipes with more twisted angles and weird drop offs than the rides at Alton Towers.

This was Victorian sewerage at its, well, not best exactly. I don’t think Joseph Bazalgette, who designed the fascinating and elegant London sewage system, would have employed the guys who laid the 15 metres of fun-house piping from the side of my house under my six foot high steps to the street.

So how do you get rid of a block? There’s a big high-pressure hose thing on a pipe that can work wonders if the WWG is willing, and he was, to heroically swish and push and pull to vanquish the demons below.

The villains.

Do you know who the arch-drain villains are? Wet Wipes – arrrgghh! Don’t ever put one down your loo. They act like ‘Velcro’ and never, ever degrade, and trap all your unmentionables in their evil web; and kitchen roll, so strong and absorbent they football-net-catch your toilet items. WWG told me this – and he knows!

Sadly he couldn’t flush the evil monster out, but he had some mates who might help.

Enter, two more heroes.

Dyno-Rod men arrive – da, da daa! Two heroes who we’ll call Dai (Dyno) and Rod (er, Rod, obviously) to protect their secret identities. Dai wiggled his foot on my flagstones where the wee-water had been and said, ‘bet there’s an access there’. He pried up the slab, pulled up a bit of lead capping that had been down there 100+ years poked a plunger in and, voila! – the black terror showed its face, gurgled in its death throes and fled back into its lair (hopefully) never to be seen again.

Dai did the thing with his camera on a tube and said one of my pipes had ‘slipped’ meaning the bore was much smaller than it should be.

‘I won’t be putting any wet wipes down there then,’ I joked. His thousand-yard stare said never, ever joke about the nemesis wet wipes. To ease the tension, and being a writer, I asked Dai if he’d ever found anything interesting in a drain, like fingers, treasure or fighty turtles. Mainly rats, apparently.

Hurrah!

So, thanks to Dai and Co, Casa Bev is once again safe from the wiles of the evil wee-water monster. I mustn’t forget Rod, though, who was a very good sidekick, ‘assisting’ with the camera. He also knew a surprising amount about British wildlife – my hedge is Alder, and is poisonous so I should wear gloves when trimming it. He was also able to name a large number of British birds of prey and native woodpeckers.

So, with water flowing freely into the underworld Dai and Rod sped off to the aid of their next homeowners in peril.

For those of you who’ve read this blog before and know I am partial to sarcasm – let me be clear about this. Anyone who comes to your house and can keep a smile on their face while fighting sewer monsters then leave you with no wee-water where it shouldn’t be and confidence in the musical flushing of your loo is a hero in my book! No kidding.

Thanks WWG, Dai and Rod, wherever you are tonight!

*****

Don’t need Dyno-Rod? Adventure underground and keep your feet dry with:

Stephen King’s It. Yep, ’We all float down here!’ That Pennywise the Clown gets everywhere. Didn’t that kid’s mom tell him not to stick his arm down storm drains?

The Fugitive movie – if you live near a big dam in America there’s a fair chance Harrison Ford, aka Richard Kimble, might be doing his uniquely ‘awkward running’ under your house. ‘Don’t slip!’

The Third Man movie (Graham Greene and Orson Welles). It’s a stone- cold classic and the Harry Lime chase through Vienna’s sewers is pure cinema art-scape. Bleak, whimsical, creepy and no happy ending!

The Great Stink (novel), Clare Clark. It’s 1858 and the sewers of Victorian London smell so bad ladies are fainting and parliament is shut; even worse, dead bodies are bobbing up, left right and centre. (Based on the actual summer stink that led to Bazalgette’s wondrous sewer system being installed.)

Every season of fab US TV series Supernatural – evil stuff comes up through sinks and baths all the time in this show and people get whisked into the depths. Keep the plug in in case Sam and Dean, the demon-hunting, ghost-busting catalogue models are out of town!

Creep, the movie starring Franka Potente – okay, it’s not technically set in the sewers but in the London Underground. Locked in at a deserted station at night Franke soon realises she’s not alone…nasty and, er, creepy…

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‘Here be monsters’ or The intrepid escapades of adventurous Bev.

I was in London the other day. It doesn’t happen often so I thought I’d make the most of it. What do most people do when they go to London? Go shopping, of course!

I however, was standing in the queue outside The Natural History Museum, staring up at the breath-taking Victorian Gothic building replete with gargoyles. As the dark clouds scudded overhead the thought suddenly came to me – Here be monsters! I had an odd feeling, a shiver that had nothing to do with the breeze, my chest was a bit fluttery (not just because of two coffees.)

It took me a second to realise what it was – I was excited! Yes, proper-old-fashioned excited. Why? Cos I was going to see dinosaurs, real, live (well, dead – being the skeletons of) monsters. I was sans small child but that didn’t stop me. Bobbing about from one foot to the other, silly smile on my face, I shuffled into the darkened exhibition hall with the primary school groups. (I highly recommend it, except, if you’re a gent, prepare to get some funny looks instead of some poignant ‘childless lady’ smiles)

It was fab – there was a giant triceratops and a tyrannosaur and a diplodocus: just the sight of their looming thigh bones and snappy teeth sent a seven-year-old shiver of delight through me. They even had a mechanical T-rex that moved in an incredibly convincing way, pawing and chewing, rolling its eyes and then roaring – Shriek!

As adults it’s easy to become unimpressed by the things we used to love. But I can tell you there’s no better way to connect with your inner child than in a dark room with dinosaur bones and creepy sound effects.

Spurred on I went next door to the V and A and looked at the medieval objects, bibles and triptychs and paintings and the displays of armour and weapons and authentic clothes that looked for all the world like stage costumes – especially the teeny tiny little doll shoes. After a long hiatus my schoolgirl fascination with history was smacking me in the face again, in front of the triptych martyrdom of an obscure saint and a whopping big broadsword!

Never a ‘ponies’ and ‘flower fairies’ kind of girl I was into history and adventure when I was a kid, Treasure Island, Robin Hood, Journey to the Centre of the Earth, pulp versions and classics, full of plucky explorers, fortune hunting cabin boys, wronged knights and disguised princesses on quests.

It’s easy to forget the simple pleasures of a good old swashbuckler or action romance when we’re all sophisticated and adult. But this week I’ve dug out my Robert Louis Stevenson and old videos of Robin of Sherwood and had a fab week re-adventuring with pirates, outlaws and gentleman explorers.

So here’re some suggestions to get you re-discovering your kid-kicks in adult disguises. Go on, read one right now, or I’ll tell your mum you kicked me in the shin and stole my packed lunch!

 

Walking with dinosaurs? – Jurassic Park, of course!

Forget the movie, the original novel by Michael Crichton has much sharper teeth and an adult undertone while still packing on lots of oohs and aahs, before the running and the screaming…

 

‘Brandy for the parson, baccy for the clerk…’

It’s got to be JM Faulkner’s smuggling adventure Moonfleet, technically the YA cross-over of its day. Darker than it’s big daddy Treasure Island but with enough shipwrecks and swash to buckle your land lubber legs.

 

Ooh, something for the laydees!

Pull up your carriage at Jamaica Inn – Daphne Du Maurier was drinking deep of the cup of Gothic melodrama (or something stronger!) when she wrote this unashamedly old-fashioned bodice ripper. Plucky heroine Mary Yellan is at the mercy of the blackguard cutthroats at the last place on Bodmin Moor you’d want to stop for a quiet pint.

 

He who sets his foot  upon the path of vengeance, first dig two graves!

Murder, torture, revenge, prisons, pirates, conspiracies, corruption, the occult, sex, and devil worship! It’s got to be The Count of Monte Cristo. Banish all thoughts of ‘one for all, and all for one’ high jinx in Dumas’s other novel. This one outraged the society of the day. Strictly for grown ups.

 

What larks boys!

Duellist, lover, coward, cad and hero! Says it all really. It’s Flashman in The Flashman Papers by George Macdonald Fraser. Tom Brown’s old nemesis dives head first into the Napoleon era and what tremendous fun it is! Countries will fall, bosoms will heave, readers will chortle!

 

Come on then, tell me which books excite the big kid in you – quickly though, I’ve got to be in for my tea soon.  

 

 

 

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Run that by me again…? Or… Wobble, My Brain, the reader said!

This week you might have seen me on Twitter recommending an indie horror movie called Pontypool (based loosely on the book Pontypool Changes Everything, by Tony Burgess) . No, it’s nothing to do with the Welsh town. This Pontypool is in Ontario and is the site of a strange viral outbreak that turns the residents into slavering, blabbering, murderous, er, zombies.

Yes, it’s a zombie flick, sort of. Except the key here is that it’s language itself that’s become infected, passed on through speech. The film has the best tag-line ever ‘Shut up – or die!’, a difficult option when the story centres around radio ‘shock jock’ Grant Mazzy who hosts Pontypool’s breakfast show.

On a cold, dark, winter morning reports start coming in of strange assaults and riots breaking out. They, and we, can’t see what’s going on, only hear it and repeat it, and broadcast the news of it, hence the virus spreads.

Clearly the film is about more than the obvious ‘radio station under siege’ setup. It’s a satire of ‘talk radio’ and the media age, its ability to literally spread panic as well as to inform. It’s about the nature of meaning and how it can be lost through repetition and juxtaposition. Er, and it’s a metaphor for unthinking mass hysteria – I mean, I think it is.

Probably. Who knows, really? It’s cracking fun though and will mess with your head.

Do you have to understand everything about a movie or a book to enjoy it? Probably not.

There can be something enjoyably unnerving about that sense of being a bit ‘all at sea’ with the grey matter wobbling in your head like an alarmed jelly fish. You might ask yourself what was the author on when they wrote this? Or, more commonly, I don’t get it! Am I just a bit thick?

In this spirit here’s a quick guide to books I ‘enjoyed’ but have no idea what they were about. Books with that dreamlike, incoherent logic that make you think someone might have slipped something hallucinogenic in your tea.

 

Anything by Haruki Murakami

I’ve often wondered if books in translation read in an odd way because they were written like that or if there really is something ‘lost in translation’. I was still gripped by the trippy, compelling language of Kafka on the Shore. There’s a boy and a weird stone in the woods that has a bizarre effect on some school kids, and jazz and a quest.

I think…

Brain-wobble rating 3/5

 

Roberto Bolano2666

There’s a missing lecturer, and some other lecturers are trying to find him, and some nasty murders – in the way only South American murders can be nasty – and some washing blowing on a line that is symbolic of loss, as the lecturers’ search for meaning is futile, like the futility of violence.

Probably…

Brain wobble rating 4/5

 

Anything by Philip K Dick.

The daddy of modern sci-fi was obsessed with parallel or alternative realities. In Flow, My Tears, The Policeman Said, (even the title is a bit bonkers) Jason Tavener is a famous TV personality. One day he wakes up to find all records of his existence erased and he’s a wanted man in a police state. Is Jason going insane? Is there a conspiracy against him? Does it matter? Life’s an illusion anyway isn’t it? Like the illusion of fame and the cult of celebrity…er..

Most likely…

Brain-wobble rating 5/5

 

Mikhail Bulgakov The Master and Margarita

Banned for decades, it’s an allegory of the dangers of communism, no, Bolshevism, no atheism… wait…it’s about a dark ‘master’ magician, possibly the devil, well it might be because Jesus is in it too, in flashbacks, and there’s a cat that’s a woman…

Possibly

Brain-wobble rating 3/5

 

Never mind, rest your weary, wobbly brain matter and look at what the reviewers have said about these classics.

The Village Voice said of Flow, My Tears, ‘Dick was many authors; a poor man’s Pynchon, an oracular post modern, a rich product of the changing counter culture…’

Of 2666 The Financial Times said ‘the arcane allusiveness of Pynchon…the acute yet stylised noir of David Lynch…yet ultimately the books most significant forebear may be Moby Dick, that symphonic masterpiece..’

Hee, hee! They didn’t have a clue what they were about either!

 

Now we can all feel better about feeling like a stupid, wobbly invertebrate-head!

 

*Note: The wobbly jellyfish rating may or may not be imbued with additional symbolism as a nod to the ‘zombie’ genre’s obsession with brain-eating and Pontypool’s ‘brain’ bug. It could just be a lazy simile/metaphor. I’m not telling. 

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New Year, New You? OR Try it, You Might Like It!

Well, it’s February already and, chances are, if you made any New Year’s self-improvement resolutions, you’ve probably broken them by now.

Vowed to give up alcohol? Oh dear, how did that bottle of Merlot sneak it’s way down my throat last Friday night? Promised to go to the gym three times a week? But there’s been snow and everything and it’s so cooold! Absolutely no more fags? Yeah, that quick puff while you walked the dog does count!

Never mind, we’re all weak willed humans, but thanks to Amazon and e-readers, if you want to embrace the spirit of the ‘New Year, New You’  ethos you can do it without leaving the settee let alone the house!

As the shiny promise of a new year glitters ahead I think we can all be guilty of reading laziness, sticking to the same old genres because they’re comfy and snugly. So why not break away from the familiar and expand your reading scope? It still counts as ‘New Year’ self improvement and is much easier to stick to than taking up marathon running, mastering Japanese cooking or learning to speak Spanish!)

So here’s my 2013 Try It, You Might Like It list.

 

I’m no geek! Can’t stomach Sci –fi?

Try an ultimate classic like Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. No, I’m not kidding. It’s set on Mars, yes, but it reads more like a frontier history looking at the way the colonisation affects the earth and the planet which may or may not contain intelligent life. And it’s beautifully written (just don’t be tempted to watch the Rock Hudson-starring 1970s adaptation instead, it’ll put you off sci-fi forever!)

Or be right up to date and pick up Ian McDonald’s Brasyl or River of Gods. These are ‘near future’ recognisable versions of cyber/punk earth with mysteries wrapped around them. But Macdonald excels in creating a sense of place so ‘real’ and vivid you can smell, taste and feel the locations, namely Brasyl/Rio and ‘India’ which are as much characters in the books as the humans.

 

Whodunnit? Who cares? Don’t do detectives?

You’re missing out if you’ve never tried Kate Atkinson. Her first Inspector Brodie novel Case Histories was never intended to be part of a series but when you read it you’ll see why they’re now so eagerly anticipated. This is detecting of superior literary quality, usually with a cast of intriguing characters and converging plot strands that read like ‘contemporary’ fiction than a ‘procedural’. (And it’s a pretty good BBC Series now with Jason Isaacs)

 

I object, your honour! Don’t like legal eagles?

Try Scott Turow’s Presumed Innocent. It’s an 1980s bestseller for good reason, made into a faithful film adaptation, with remarkably little silly courtroom shenanigans. If you can ignore the dubious 80s sexual politics Harrison Ford is the lawyer who finds himself in hot water when his mistress is found murdered and the clues point to him. But read the book first and exercise your investigative brain cells!

 

Bleurggh! Brains! Don’t do zombies?

 Max Brook’s World War Z might make you want to get ‘prepping’ and stocking up on bottled water and loo roll! This ‘Oral History of the Zombie War’ is going to be a film this summer starring Brad Pitt. (Though how anyone can take him seriously after that Chanel Advert is anyone’s guess!)  Unlike other zombie-fests this is a collection of ‘first person’ accounts, a retrospective history of the zombie apocalypse through different ‘reportage’ styles. It considers the social/political/economic implications of a global disaster, the various government responses, interspersed with the more personal accounts.

 

I don’t get it! Don’t do humour?

Try David Mitchell’s Starter for Ten. This is much better than his more famous chick fest One Day telling the story of a working class boy in the 90s who really, REALLY wants to be on University Challenge. The film version with James McEvoy, though not quite as funny and cringe-inducing as the book, is really good too – if only to see Benedict Sherlock Cumberband losing his rag as the worlds poshest, prissiest team captain.

 

Pah, pink and fluffy! Don’t like ‘lady’ fiction?

Try Margaret Atwood’s The Robber Bride or Anita Shreve’s Weight of Water. There’s nothing ‘girly’ about these dark tales of betrayal, love, friendship, sex, death, history, myth making and obsession. (Come on now ladies, play nice!)

 

Yawn? Thrillers?

Raise your pulse with Dennis Lehane’s noirish Shutter Island. Hard boiled and atmospheric,  all is not what it seems at a creepy psychiatric hospital on an island in Boston harbour. (The movie with Leonardo Di Caprio is pretty good too, except for the intrusive, portentous music!).

Or don’t doze off to SJ Watson’sBefore I Go to Sleep. Christine wakes every day with no memory of her life before that moment – so it’s a good job her loving husband is on hand to fill in the blanks, isn’t it?

 

Or go crazy and try one of my psychological/crimey mysteries, Telling Stories  http://amzn.to/Pesgrl or Holiday Money! http://amzn.to/UkkscV Read the reviews on Amazon for yourself! 😉

 

Try them all, you might like them! (and feel a lovely ‘New Year’ smugness  in the process!)

 

By the way, I don’t ‘do’ fantasy and supernatural stuff – in the spirit of Try It, You Might Like It, please feel free to give me your recommendations! 

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Here comes The Fear again – but if it’s good enough for Ian Rankin, it’s good enough for me!

Uh oh, here it comes again – The Fear, as I always call it.

Indie band Pulp wrote a song about it on their This Is Hardcore album:

‘Here comes The Fear again, oh, oh,

‘The end is near again, oh no!’

I know how Jarvis Cocker felt.

Why? Because I’ve just sent my third finished manuscript to my agent and now have to wait and see what he thinks.

 And because it might be total rubbish and he might hate it and my publisher might hate it and everyone in the world might hate it, and then they’ll hate me and then I’ll hate myself and…SITS UP – SLAPS FACE …Deep breath…

It’s frightening isn’t it? Trying to write. Writing stuff. Showing that stuff to other people?

Do other writers feel like this? Probably. And recently I watched a documentary that made me feel a bit better about the whole cowardy custard thing. BBC’s Alan Yentob interviewed Ian Rankin, best selling author of the Rebus crime series, about his work and resurrecting Rebus after he ‘retired’ the character last year.

What a nice chap he seemed. Nice selection of jumpers and a bit in need of a haircut. And how completely un- ‘writerly’ (no burbling about his ‘muse’, not a smoking jacket in sight). So much so, he confessed that, when he starts each new book, he often has no idea how they’ll progress, end or even ‘whodunit’!

He writes a book a year, vanishing into his study, leafing through his folder of newspaper articles featuring bizarre or unusual crimes – picks one, gets the germ of an idea and, well, makes a load of notes and just starts writing, trusting it’ll all work out.

 A bit like Geoffrey Rush playing Philip Henslowe, theatre director, in my favourite scene in the film Shakespeare in Love, (starring Joseph Fiennes as Willy Shakespeare with writers block, written by Tom Stoppard.) At each juncture where crisis is looming, here is his philosophy.

Henslowe: Allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.

Fennyman: So what do we do?

Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.

Fennyman: How?

Henslowe: I don’t know. It’s a mystery.

This approach seems to work for Mr Rankin but, reassuringly, even he gets THE FEAR.  Yep, he calls it that too. A few months into his draft, well quite specifically apparently, around page 65, he gets the heebie-jeebies, and thinks I have no idea what to do next.

Watch him describe The Fear himself in this short clip from the BBC where he talks about his favourite Iris Murdoch quote – ‘Every book is the wreck if a perfect idea’ !

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p010h3yc

 

So what does he do? With the help of his very supportive wife he ploughs on and then… it passes. How? He doesn’t know. It’s a mystery.

I guess the fear never passes. Even for a self effacing, obviously skillful writer like Mr R who literally has people queuing round the block for his next release.

I felt so inspired by the sight of him, the blank look of abject terror in his eyes, I read a Rebus novel, Black and Blue. Guess what – no secret at all – it’s a cracking read. And I don’t  ‘do’ police procedurals.

Because I used to work as a police press officer I’m that annoying git that sits on the settee during Inspector Morse/CSI Coventry going, well you just contaminated your evidence and you’d never get away with that search under PACE (Police and Criminal Evidence act). But Rankin doesn’t let silly police-ey stuff get in the way of a buzzing plot, a great character and a lovely turn of phrase.

So, courage, Bev! On to the beginnings of novel number four (while I wait for the verdict on three). I’ve got a load of ideas, it’s just I have no idea yet how they’ll become an actual plot! 

But, strangely enough, it may all turn out well…

And if it’s good enough for our Ian. It’s good enough for me!

Ready, steady…er…write?…

***

Are you in the gang with me and Mr R? Do you believe in the mystery of the muse? 

Or are you a precision planner? 

Come on, sympathise or gloat by leaving a comment right here 🙂

 

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Vampires, fast cars and Twits – A Purely Subjective Review 2012

 

2012, eh? The Olympics, The Golden Jubilee, Gangnam Style, the shenanigans of Carrie and Co in Homeland and all the other things that made the year so special! As they slide into hazy, fond memory What about the books? I hear you literary fiends cry.

The publishing event of 2012 was, of course, not Fifty Shades of all that, but that two of my own novels Telling Stories and Holiday Money were published by Cutting Edge press. (Both future classics and bestsellers, obviously….) But, as an avid guzzler of all things bookish, (and for the rest of the world who don’t live within five feet of my laptop or my fantasy-addled head) what else brought little moments of literary delight to Bev’s house of books in 2012?

Here are my purely subjective hits. Technically some of these were out in 2011 but I only cottoned on to them this year. If you’ve missed them too, you might nab them in the New Year sales. (But, don’t forget, both my book are really cheap on Kindle…#ShamelessPlug)

 

Gee you cant trust no-one!  Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn.

My own super-favourite crime novel of the year, for selfish reasons – chiefly, that when I wrote my own first novel  ( Telling Stories http://amzn.to/U8Z3pd ) I wanted to create a heroine who would be self-interested, brutally honest and difficult to like. Gillian Flynn does this brilliantly with her ‘heroine’ Amy in this page-turning mystery where no one is what they seem and you certainly wouldn’t want any of them coming round to dinner. Twisted brilliance! Selling by the well-deserved bucket-load. (If you like this, you’d probably like my stuff as well #ShamelessPlug2.)

 

It’s all gone a bit Pete Tong (wrong)

1.  Shhh! It’s the apocalypse. The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson-Walker explores a very near future where the earth’s rotation is slowing, meaning days and nights are stretching out to increasing lengths. Crops are failing, the economy is starting to crumble and no one can get a decent night’s kip. But what does this mean to a girl on the verge of adolescence who likes a boy? Understated, and beautifully written.

2. Tool up! It’s the apocalypse! Justin Cronin’s The 12. This long-awaited sequel to The Passage is the yin to ‘Miracles’ yang – vampires, survivor colonies, explosions and all sort of mad stuff. No chance of a doze, soldier!

3. The kids are alrightBlood Red Road, Moira Young. Ms Young is about as unlikely a ‘novelist’ as you’ll ever meet, far more interesting than say, Hilary Mantel who won the Booker Prize this year, again. Not that I’ve got anything against Ms Mantel but she can’t count her former jobs as alternative comedian, tap dancer and opera singer. But this does beg the question how is this YA story of girl’s quest to find her brother in a dust-land dystopian future is so good. Uber-director Ridley Scott agrees and has ‘reportedly’ bought the film rights! You heard it here first, or from your 14 year old son or daughter, over and over again!

 

Pure’ class! 

Costa Book of the Year, Pure, by Andrew Miller, is the one to read if you want to look cultured on the train or in er, Costa Coffee. (But resist the urge to get out your nosegay or lace handkerchief!) It’s based loosely on an 18th century project to move a Parisian cemetery which was overflowing with corpses and poisoning public health –it has sinister overtones of the approaching French revolution but is written in a lovely, lyrical, easy-reading style that makes it feel like the best kind of historical fairy tale.

 

E-book Wild Card  

No sheep, no leeksIronbark by Stephen Venables. I read this with my new Kindle to repay Stephen for a very nice review of my own novel,  hoping it wouldn’t be some awful Welsh-cliché-ridden pastiche. Luckily it’s a beautifully-written mystery/historical romp that starts in the South Wales Valleys, with a funeral and the bequest of a Jacobs cracker tin, then turns into a cross continental adventure spanning 50 years. It has laughs, a twisty-turny plot, and loads of corned beef sandwiches! Epic! ( http://amzn.to/PGdL0m )

 

No time to read a whole blooming novel?!

Got 90minutes? Then buckle up and watch the movie version of James Sallis’s noirish thriller Drive – starring Ryan Gosling. Discover LA as we follow the exploits of taciturn ‘Driver’ who does car stunts for the movies / moonlights as a getaway driver. Displaying some brilliant silent ‘face’ acting (he only has about 30 lines in the whole film), you’ll be hooked as Gosling gets in a bit of bother over a girl. Sit back, feel like a cool kid and enjoy the fab soundtrack. But when Driver starts kicking the man in the elevator, look away!

Got ten minutes? Take a bite of the poisoned Apple and read The I-Hole.  Sci fi meets consumerism in this BBC story competition shortlisted tale by Julian Gough .  The ‘I-Hole’ is the next, near-future must-have piece of technology – a little black hole you can keep at your desk. What could possibly go wrong?

Got ten seconds? Try the Lit-lite soundbites of Twitterature by Penguin. Does what it says on the tin – The ‘classics’ in 140 characters or less. Your sixth form English teacher would hate it but if you don’t laugh yourself silly you aint got no bidnes being all up in this literature n sh*t. #Totally!

 

Happy 2013, reading pals! 

 

Think I’ve missed a little gem of 2012? Do tell? 

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Santa comes early – but Scrooge isn’t far behind! (A cautionary tale for writers)

Santa came early this week when I learned that e-thriller.com http://www.e-thriller.com/  had selected Telling Stories, my first novel, as one of their e-thrillers of the month and given it a glowing review. (I’ll get to the Scrooge later, or maybe it’s a Grinch – anyway, stick with the Santa thing for now.)

Reviews, eh? They’re a funny thing. You send you’re little book, the one you’ve cuddled and crafted over many years, out into the bleak mid-winter world. You tuck it up in a warm scarf and gloves with a little note in its pocket saying, take a look at me, tell me what you think.

You hope a nice man or lady or will be kind to it, or at least not openly cruel. Like that first day at school, you know some people will be friendly, some people will be mean about it behind its back and others will just knock it down and kick dirt in its face.

But them’s the breaks! You can’t control it.

Basically, Telling Stories is set in Cardiff and is about a young journalist who is sent to cover a story about a girl whose body has been found in the city’s river. Soon she realises she has met the girl before and her suspicions turn to a group of her old University friends who are harbouring secrets and jealousies of their own.

So far readers have been jolly nice about Telling Stories. http://amzn.to/Pesgrl Not all of them, of course, one woman on Goodreads actually called it ‘drivel’. Fair enough – everyone’s entitled to their opinion!

But it was nice to get the email from e-thriller saying they’d enjoyed it and selected it as a book of the month.

Hurrah! A big glass of Harvey’s Bristol Cream, or egg-nogg, or whatever, for me!

 The full review is here http://www.e-thriller.com/  but here’s a stocking-filler sized taster of what Ms Helen Hayes had to say.

She begins:

“This is just the sort of intriguing storytelling peppered with characters that hook you in that I love in a thriller.”

Ooh, good start…

Then:

“Jones has really defined the characters, all are intriguing, and you want to know more about their relationships.”

Nice!

Then:

“ This is….not the chick-lit type of story you might expect; it’s not as formulaic, nor is it a standard thriller. This is more of an unsettling tale, one that makes you question the complexities of friendship and love.  At its heart is a good old fashioned murder mystery – with a contemporary twist.

A compelling story with deftly drawn characters that will keep you turning the pages’

Ho, Ho, Ho! I thought to myself. Merry Xmas!

Ah, but wait! Just 48 hours later, here comes that ‘Scroogey’ and ‘Grinchey’ bit, in the form of a review in Buzz magazine  http://www.buzzmag.co.uk/the-magazine/  (Bah! Humbug! etc)

The mercifully short review starts:

‘Fancy spending some more time with all those self proclaimed ‘crazies’ who bored you at Uni?’

…er that’s not so good…

‘Fancy hearing them going over their own unremarkable experiences mythologising every fag packet and dildo?’

Huh?…Oh dear! That’s definitely not good! 

It then goes on to call the dialogue ‘so lacking in character you’ll be re-reading every sentence to find out who’s speaking’. It even suggests you might ‘doze off’. The only vaguely generous thing it manages to say is that;

‘On the plus side one of the annoying berks gets killed!’

Basically it’s the equivalent of a six sentence dirt-kick in the face. (Yes, just six, though it feels like more!) Better make that glass of Harvey’s a bottle, then!

No doubt, like me, other writers spend a lot time wondering how the same book can generate such dramatically different reviews. Maybe they just didn’t get it, you muse to yourself, they misunderstood it, it’s not their thing!

Who knows? The fact is they just didn’t like it and they’re entitled to say so! Them’s the breaks!  A timely yuletide reminder that as a writer, there’s nowt you can do about it except grow a fat Santa-like skin around your soft and tender ‘creative’ bits!

In conclusion? Reviewers, eh? God bless ’em, every one!

(Though some might want to bear in mind that, as Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol reminds us, like Jacob Marley, we will ‘wear the chains we forged in life’…just a thought…)

***

E thriller’s other featured books for December are:

Sedition by Tom Abrahams
Nightshade by Jonelle Patrick, published by Penguin/Intermix
Death in Bordeaux by Allan Massie, published by Quartet Books
The Hiding Place by David Bell, published by NAL (Penguin)

* You too can send your little e-baby to e-thriller. http://www.e-thriller.com/?page_id=10 They’re always looking for submissions for Thriller of the Month. You never know, you might get a nice New Year present!

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