Tag Archives: book reviews

Clunk, click – every trip?

Shhh! What was that noise?

 

I’m humming along on the laptop, metaphorical wind in my hair, hitting a nice steady cruising speed and then there was that noise. I’m not sure but I think it might just have been the sound of my plot gears grinding.

That sound is the one I call ‘The Clunk’. Yes, you know what I mean. It’s that bit when you’re reading a book and you’re brought up short or feel a little invisible wince as, for a second, you hear the book ‘machinery’ going into overdrive.

Look, what an unexpected twist! A startling moment of revelation! What a cliff-hanger!

Clunk, clunk, clunk.

It’s hard for storytellers to entirely avoid the clunk. By definition there have to be some plot devices or elements that drive the story forward, simply to get the intrepid hero/heroine from A to B, creating a sense of peril or surprise before the resolution.

Thankfully, readers have different tolerance levels for clunk. For example, I think Dan Browns novels, The Da Vinci Code particularly, clunk along like my mum’s old Nissan Micra trying to get past 55 in the middle lane but that hasn’t harmed his sales.

Clank, clank, clank.

Even literary masters aren’t immune to engine problems. Look at Thomas Hardy’s novels, especially Tess of the D’Urbervilles and the The Mayor of Casterbridge. They have more clunk than Stephenson’s Rocket (or should that be clank). I have to resist the urge to stick my hands over my ears every time a crucial letter gets accidentally shoved under a doormat and lies unread for ten chapters, a person reappears from someone’s past at a very inconvenient moment or a sailor/soldier rises from the grave. This doesn’t mean the writing is bad or it stops you enjoying the book, you just decide to take it on faith as part and parcel of the ride.

Fingers in ears!

But it’s a dilemma for writers. Plots and characters should act in a way that seems psychologically convincing, shouldn’t they?

During the filming of the classic film The Birds, actress Tippi Hedren famously asked Alfred Hitchcock why the heroine decided to venture into the dark, dusty, cottage attic in the middle of a bird-related siege.

‘Because I need her to,’ Hitch replied. Basically because he knew chucking seagulls at Ms Hedren in a dark room would make a great scene. He ignored the clunk.

This is why storyteller extraordinaire, Stephen King, in his manual ‘On Writing’ says he abhors ‘plot’. He likes to let the characters lead him as he goes along, that way their actions always make internal sense. Doesn’t always work, mind you. Just think of the ending of IT or The Stand!

Rattle and Hum.

So, I‘m at the laptop, writing and re-reading and listening hard for the clunk as I drive along. I think I’ve got the noise down to a quiet little rattle now and maybe that’s the best a writer can hope for. After all, real life isn’t a series of convenient beginnings, middles, exciting bits and ultimate ruin or catharsis. Imposing structure on a story is clunk in itself, and very necessary, otherwise you’d just be writing text books, not novels.

A little clunk will get your book through its reader MOT – how much depends on their hearing and how much they’re enjoying the scenery!

 

Buckle up and enjoy the ride!

Mark Billingham’s Rush of Blood – an absorbing and layered thriller about three couples, one Florida Holiday, one dead girl and many red herrings.

‘Listen up’ moment – what was that about a kayak??

 

Sabine Durant’s Under Your Skin.

A twisty thriller with some enjoyable media satire in which TV personality Gaby Mortimer discovers a dead body only to find she becomes a suspect.

‘Listen up’ moment – You touched her bra and you just remembered that now?

 

Tana French’s Broken Harbour.

Atmospheric thriller set in post economic depression Ireland where a young family have been brutally murdered in their home on a ghost estate.

‘Listen up’ moment – Holes in the walls? Mink on the loose? Are you sure?

 

Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl. A deliciously dark, multi-narrative, domestic nightmare surrounding a missing wife.

‘Listen up’ moment – do you really want to make friends with the sort of people who hang around cheap motels??

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Cowboys, ‘injuns’ and muscle-cars. Or ‘How the West Was Weird.’

Okay, I don’t get Westerns. There, I’ve said it!

Yes, I love classic cinema and ‘appreciate’ the role the biggies like The Searchers and Stagecoach have played in popular culture. But, despite many a Sunday afternoon with my dad in front of How the West Was Won, or Shane I couldn’t get past the be-wigged white actors with their gravy-browning ‘injun’ faces or figure out why monosyllabic men with dubious social skills were supposed to be interesting.

It was all a bit, well, archaic and macho.

For kids of my era forays into the Wild West were more likely to involve Emilio Estevez and Keifer Sutherland, namely ‘The Brat Pack,’ being stroppy to the strains of Jon Bon Jovi’s ‘Shot Doooown, in a Blaze of Glory’ in Young Guns. Or Kevin Costner’s earnest and over-scored (John Barry, please write in a couple of bars of quiet now and again) nostalgia-fest Dances With Wolves.

But I was always fascinated by the wild beauty of the landscapes on show and, as I got old enough to understand it, by the complicated cultural legacy of the colonisation of North America.

 

Go West! (Don’t look down.)

So, a few weeks ago I was finally to be found gazing into the geological abyss of the Grand Canyon for the first time. There’s something elementally terrifying about a billion years of history staring you in the face, even in the tourist trap bits where they charge $6 for an ice-cream and some of the ‘native American’ souvenirs are made in Japan.

(But it is nice to see a common sense approach to the management of this dizzyingly awesome hole in the ground. If it was in the UK there would have to be fences at the edge and a sign every 100 yards saying ‘danger of falling’)

The best time to admire this geological wonder is early in the morning (stupid o clock due to jet lag meant 5.30am). At this time of the day you’re alone in the ancient universe of rock strata and sky and the silence is, well, worrisome. The scale of the spectacle made my head empty of words (weird for a writer, at the best of times). All superlatives soon became meaningless in the face of the rocks and sun and millions of years of forgotten stories.

If those stones could talk they’d have some tales to tell (perhaps of a grumpy Welsh girl five hours into hiking the Bright Angel trail, two hours from the top, repeating the words ‘Dear God, are we there yet?’) Then again, they might just keep it to themselves.

Go West! (look up and ahead!)

Next stop was Monument Valley, the iconic setting for many a John Wayne western. We took a jeep tour and it should have been twee when our guide Larson whipped out his Navajo flute and played a tune under the astonishing sky-hole of the Big Hogan red rock formation that looks like an eagle’s head.

Larson wasn’t twee, though. He was a 20-something Navajo lad with a love of his heritage and a fondness for muscle-cars and Metallica (to his delight Transformers III had been filming in the valley the previous week.) Larson, like Monument Valley seemed to exist between the stories of the Old West and the new. A place where you can stare at petroglyphs of long-horned sheep a 1000 years old, but the jewellery stand owners at John Ford Point all take Visa and Master Card.

These places are rewriting themselves in the 21st century with tourists like me in mind – it’s the new cultural currency – ‘authentic experiences’ plus wi-fi and air-con. I’m not complaining though. I’m still recovering from the sight of sunrise over the mighty red dust mittens and buttes. The West may not be so wild, (and a little weird) but it’s still pretty bloody wonderful.

 

Go West like a Greenhorn? Try my tips for armchair tourists.

Old West

Saddle up for the Zane Grey’s Riders of the Purple Sage. Cattle rustling, romance, stand-offs, bad dialogue – it’s a genre classic (but probably not if you’re a Mormon.)

Keep a hankie handy during Bury My heart at Wounded Knee, Dee Brown’s original epic history of the West from the Native American perspective. Fascinating horrifying and poignant.

 

New West

The Sisters Brothers by Patrick DeWitt.

Follow the titular assassins as they bicker and brawl in this picaresque take on the Gold Rush. Eli, the younger brother, has a pinch of conscience and a penchant for fallen women. Older brother Charlie is a sociopath with a drink problem. They don’t get on. Laugh-out-loud and wince more than once.

Saint Agnes’ Stand by Thomas Eidson

There’s no quick-draw romanticism in this bleak tale of faith and redemption. Relentlessly grim, it doesn’t shy away from the atrocities committed on a hapless wagon-train while questioning their motives for being there in the first place.

 

Primetime (TV)

If you skipped the gritty, addictive HBO series Deadwood because you don’t ‘do’ westerns you’re an eejit! Stern-browed Timothy Olyphant is Wyatt Earp but it’s Ian McShane who steals the show as foul-mouthed whorehouse owner Al Swearingen (yeah, for those in the UK who recall him as roguish antiques dealer Lovejoy it’s a **** ****ing, revelation!

OR If you like your cowboys more languid try Justified. Timothy Olyphant also puts his long-legged, ten gallon hat-wearing self to easy use as quick-draw Marshall Raylan Givens. It’s cowboys versus rednecks in Kentucky with moonshine, purty ladies and a touch of old-time white supremacism to worry about.

 

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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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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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Dressing Gowns Off! We’re Storming the ‘Castle’ (look out, Mr Fillion)

This week Castle the smash hit US TV series, airing in the UK on Sky, has been nominated for a People’s Choice award. For those of you not in the know Nathan Fillion plays Richard Castle, a phenomenally successful murder mystery/thriller writer who ‘shadows’ the impossibly lovely yet terrifyingly capable Det Kate Beckett (Stana Katic) at the Noo Yoik police department. Hilarious japes and mild peril ensues.

Look ! http://exm.nr/UJFa26 (www.examiner.com)

Before I continue I should point out that I’m very fond of the show, and more than fond of the lovely Mr Fillion, but it has occurred to me that Castle is not a good role model for insecure and aspiring (read skint) writers.

Castle is far too handsome and ridiculously charming. He’s smart, sells gazillions of books, lives in a millionaire’s Manhattan ‘loft’ and solves loads of tricky crimes while flirting winsomely with Det Beckett.

 Is this a realistic role model is this for young writers?

Quite frankly, I think it’s damaging to our fragile and impressionable little minds. In the same way that the fashion industry is berated for its use of super skinny and size zero models, making young women (and men) feel inferior and fostering eating disorders, what about writers?  Castle is probably single-handedly responsible for thousands of cases of ‘writing disorders’ and pyjama-clad bouts of moping and self-doubt among wordsmiths who live in London bedsits (or Cardiff semi-detached houses with damp ceilings and write in a spare bedroom full of suitcases) No one campaigns about realism in role models for writers!

 

Be they fictional or actual there really aren’t many great role models for writers to emulate through the ages.

In the ‘Romantic’ era of the 18th century to be a ‘writer’ you had to be rich or ‘of independent means’, off your face most of the time, have lots of spare cash to enable much lying around in opium dens, renting villas on lake Geneva or swimming across the Bosphorus for a laugh – see Byron, Shelley/Mary Shelley/Keats/Coleridge et al. Consumption/gout and syphilis were an occupational hazard – Uuurgh! Nasty!

In 1920s and 30s London you could call round each others’ nice houses in Bloomsbury, drink tea, discuss aesthetical and liberal ideals, wax lyrical about ‘a room of one’s own’ and then walk into a river with your pockets full of stones – downer! (See, obviously, Virginia Woolf)

 

Late 20th and early 21st century fictional role models are little better.

Mega bestseller Stephen King has done a lot to reinforce the ‘writer as eccentric’ trope in his books. See The Shining – 200 pages of writer’s block and the phrase all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy would send anyone axe-happy if they were in a caravan in Brighton let alone a scary hotel in the Rockies with phantom bar tenders.

Also in Misery – Paul Sheldon is an eccentric egotist who apparently never makes copies of his manuscripts (eh?) and drives out in snowstorms in a wholly unsuitable car. He suffers at the hands of his number one fan Annie after he ungratefully decides to kill off the popular romantic heroine who’s made him squillions of quids, ending up one foot short of a set of sneakers for his presumption.

I think you’ll agree there’re not many laughs there.

 

For me – a child of the 80s – lady writers were synonymous with two women.

1. Every nan’s favourite sleuth Jessica Fletcher from Murder, She Wrote (Angela Lansbury as a sort of modern day Miss Marple on Red Bull)

2. And dowdy Joan Wilder, the ‘romantic’ novelist from Michael Douglas fun-fest Romancing the Stone. In this holiday classic Kathleen Turner (hair in a ponytail, no make-up, awful sweater) is dowdy ‘hopeful romantic’ Joan (lives with cat, talks to cat, wears heeled court shoes on a trip to rescue her sister from kidnappers in Columbia). Once jungle-side she meets up with Jack Colton (Douglas) and becomes all adventurous and sassy – like, you know, the stuff she writes about in her books comes true, like, art imitating life, imitating art etc. By the end Colton’s hero brings out the ‘woman’ in her (Kathleen – now wearing lip gloss, a revealing skirt and with BIG 80s hair – yeah, in the jungle, like they’d have Braun hot tongs there. Anywaaay…)

 

But still not much to aspire to. You can’t sit round waiting for Michael Douglas all day. I think they have big spiders in Columbia which rules out any jungle larks, and Turner was obviously always a total fox pretending to be a plain Jane by wearing a saggy brown suit.

 

So maybe it’s time we started campaigning for real role models for real writers.

That’s pretty much a slogan already! There must be some European funding available or we could organise a telethon, featuring sad mini profiles of ‘real’ writers in their slippers going on a Baileys run to the corner shop. Donate your pounds now – save these poor souls from excessive tracksuit wearing and bad haircuts, that sort of thing. We could get Morgan Freeman to do the voice-over!

Or maybe pressure could be put on producers for more realism in our TV ‘writers’. For the next series of Castle perhaps Mr Fillion could try and at least ‘look a bit rough’ of a morning, don a scruffy dressing gown, not bother to shave – or there could be a scene were he constantly checks his sales on Amazon or his blog  stats. Maybe he could even have a bit of a verbal dust-up with a bloke called Adrian or Javier on Goodreads over a dodgy review. It’s not perfect but it’s a step towards ‘Real Role Models for Real Writers’.

 

Yes, I think it’s a winner. I’m actually glad now that I haven’t left the house for five days or blow-dried my hair for a week – more time for great creative ideas to flow…

In fact, I might actually tweet Mr Castle right now…Dear Mr Fillion…

 

*If American, vote here for Castle in The People’s Choice Awards (if not, look at a nice picture of lovely Mr Fillion anyway.)

http://bit.ly/arSy9z (peopleschoice.com)

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