Archives for the month of: July, 2018

Image result for the original inspector george gently collection

Published by Constable.

Susan was a pretty, pert blonde girl with a tilted bra and an accentuated behind. She wore a smile as a natural part of her equipment. She had a snub nose and dimples and a pleased expression, and had a general super-charged look, as though she was liable to burst out of her black dress and stockings into a fierce nudity.

Related imageBetween 1977 and 1983 LWT/ITV aired The Professionals. One of the main characters was played by Martin Shaw.  Since then he has ‘gone one’ as they say, to play characters in quite a range of genres: most recently John Deed and of course the TV production of the Inspector Gently series. I have always enjoyed his work – ever since sitting with my peers at school, waiting for The Professionals to start. Though then, I suppose, it wasn’t his acting ability that I was admiring…

Recently I have been watching the odd Inspector Gently programmes – and suddenly noticed that they were based on books by Alan Hunter. So – I bought this, which contains the first two books. I am half way through the first volume – Gently Does It and am loving Alan Hunter’s use of English, his ability to observe and relate small details to the reader.

There is a gentle reminder at the start of the book from the author.

This is a detective story, but NOT a ‘whodunit’. Its aim is to give a picture of a police investigator slowly building up his knowledge of a crime to a point, not where he knows who did it – both you and me know that at a fairly early stage – but to a point where he can bring a charge which will convince a jury. I thought it worthwhile mentioning this. I hate being criticised for not doing what I had no intention of doing. Sincerely yours, Alan Hunter.

He need not have worried. The story is superbly crafted with generous gorgeous clear and detailed language – and I am enjoying it as much for that, as the character of Inspector Gently and I can highly recommend them. He often gives things a life to which they could never aspire. Its a pleasure to read and I suspect I will be looking for the other books in the series.

Sadly Alan Hunter (1922 – 2005) is deceased. I would so much have enjoyed telling him how much I am enjoying his writing. He sounds as though he was a gentleman, of the old school.

Image result for inspector george gently martin shawFantastic Fiction lists an astonishing 46 titles (certainly enough for me), but the list within this first compilation volume details just the first 26 – and there are one or two discrepancies with the titles….I will be investigating. Those discrepancies, however, only occur around volume 24…so there’s no urgency.

Pleasingly, I find that Martin Shaw & the adaption of the books seem to have been able to reflect the original stories, the essence of the books. Its quite remarkable.

They are pure pleasure.

Onward puffed the little tub, bold as a fox-terrier, full of aggression and self-assurance, and onward crept the barges, phlegmatic, slow, till the cavalcade was in hailing distance of Railway Bridge. then the little tug slowed down, trod water as it were, allowing the foremost barges to catch up with it.

 

 

 

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Image result for the secret deep lindsay galvin chicken house

Published by Chicken House

I’m not sure what is happening this year – there seems to be a number of books set in water recently. Some ‘straight fiction’ others are a little different, fantasy would,  I suppose, cover most of those.

Fish, mermaids, pirates and the sea are reoccurring themes.

None though are like this one – this is unique.

A book about trust. Who do you trust? Your parents? Friends? Uncles, cousins or aunts? I suppose most of us would trust our aunts or uncles, particularly if they were close to one of our parents. Wouldn’t you? Would you trust your aunt with your little sister? Would you ignore your sister’s seemingly irrational concerns? Would you trust your last relative to care for you and your sister?

This is a story of trust, sisters and …well, you will need to read it to find out. To say water has a lot to do with the story is an understatement. This is a remarkable story – I want to tell you more, but don’t want to spoil this brilliant tale.

Enough to say it was stupendous and I found myself annoyed when I had to stop reading to return to work – time ran out…read remarkably quickly, but then, good books always are.

Image result for secret of a sun king carroll faber and faber

Published by Faber & Faber

1922

I enjoy history, but to be honest I have to think quite hard about dates, apart from this one. The year Tutankhamun’s tomb was opened by Howard Carter.

I would love to have been in Egypt then, to have been part of it, if only on the periphery. Though I suspect if I had been alive I’d probably have been in England, and possibly not even aware of this momentous find.

Related imageI always attribute my ability to read to Tutankhamun. I didn’t read until I was taken to the exhibition in 1972 – I was young and should have been reading by then. Everyone read to me, however, so I saw no reason as to why I should learn.

Then my mother took me to the British Museum…and I wanted to know what it was that shone in a perspex box, just above my head. The queue was long, and my mother told me she had no time to read everything to me…and we left…only for me to return to school to demand to learn – ‘My mother has stopped reading to me…’

Ancient Egypt has fascinated me ever since.

Tutankhamun’s history frustrates, fascinates and intrigues us. This pharaoh died as a young man. There have been questions about his ancestry, how he died and his life.  The treasure found within his tomb raised further questions, as did the tomb itself. Some of those questions have been answered and and a little of the mystery has dissipated – but by no means all of it. There are many mysteries and questions that still haven’t been answered, and some that have, haven’t been confirmed, with any certainty.

This story is set in that glorious year – it is filled with fantastic adventure, that curse, a canopic jar containing a further mystery…and an adventure in Egypt.  Mystery, Egyptology, murder, the untold story of a young boy…and a group of 20th century children…setting out into a strange and evocative land to solve a 20th century mystery entwined in an ancient story, never to be completely solved…

Without a doubt I am attracted to this book because of its subject matter. I am also entranced by the story, the adventure. Once more this is another brilliant story written by this consummate of authors.

This is to be the Book of the Month for Waterstones for August. Visit us at Finchley Road O2 and I will be very happy to sell you a copy, along with some other titles you might like.  Emma Carroll is due to visit the store to sign stock at the beginning of the month. So there will be signed stock, whilst it lasts, and I expect them to sell out fast!

Other titles by this author: Frost Hollow Hall / The Girl Who Walked on Air / In Darkling Wood / The Snow Sister / Strange Star / Letters from the Lighthouse

NB. I find it a little strange – I just might be in the picture above…though perhaps not. I was there though – I did go and it was the start of my love of all things Egyptology and the British Museum!

 

I write a letter to about 30 people, once a month – really about things that have happened to me, or about things I have seen. This piece is part of July’s epistle – published as my first Shop Review because I thought the shop should know how much I enjoyed my visit yesterday…

… but I got distracted (I am so easily distracted by beautiful things), by a shop. Deakin & Francis, in The Piccadilly Arcade just up the road from the bookshop.

In the window were some cufflinks of a diver’s helmet. Now – there are certain shops that you know that are out of your price range – because you have to buzz into them, and there isn’t a price tag to be seen – they have a sort of style, almost of a gallery, an exhibition… Their displays in the window have that certain ‘something’, and so it was with this shop – a shop of cufflinks. Including some of skulls with hair – wild hair – which were amusing to say the least. In fact, they had quite a number of skulls of different designs.

The diver’s helmet stopped me, because I am always on the look out for submarine related things for Peter, who likes them – but I knew that I wouldn’t be buying – it was that sort of place. They were well out of my price range – the black (blackened silver) style of helmet (the better material in my view) were more expensive than the gold, if I remember correctly – and those, the Internet tells me retailed at £270. Really an impossibility. They weren’t even submarines!

Along with designs reflecting people’s interests: banking, drones, horses, dice, aeroplanes, ladies, jets, golf, rockets, Great Britain (Bulldogs), and the like, they also had a fine display of enamelled cufflinks, which I’m afraid I felt didn’t have that certain something. Lovely patterns, bright and pretty, but just, in comparison, so boring against the other rather extraordinary designs.

Then there were the crystal cufflinks – the first pair I saw were part of a dress set (cufflinks and studs) – of wasps. They were stunning – quite beautiful, and the detail was extraordinarily clear. They looked so real, that if they hadn’t been in a case, I might have thought they were likely to fly around the shop.

The assistant – I feel he should have had a better title, but it will have to do, was very kind and brought things out for me to look at, even though I made it very clear that I knew I wasn’t able to purchase now and probably wouldn’t be able to in the future either; I was just stunned and curious.

I was told that the image is carved into the crystal, and then that is hand coloured, and placed so that the uncarved side is face up (and domed) – so that it looks three dimensional. Behind the back is placed a piece of mother of pearl to give it more brightness and then the whole is encased in precious metal. I’m afraid I rather fell in love with these. I knew of them – the process was used in Victorian times, but to see them in the real light, as it were, in perfect state, was marvellous. I think I was told that their cufflinks were made by a grandfather and his granddaughter, though it may have been father and daughter. It’s of no matter. Their work is quite remarkable. There were various designs, including pigs, horses head and bears. The bears, depicting a brownImage for 18ct Gold Hand-Painted Crystal Pig Cufflinks  bear and a polar bear were particularly stunning – the polar bear looked to be coming out of the crystal.  There were almost too many designs to gaze at and my new friend was very happy for me to treat the shop as a miniature museum – which was lovely. A museum with price tags. The cost of that wonderful wasp set – two cufflinks and set of studs was only £9,495.00

Quite stunning.

I suggested to my curator that perhaps they should think of producing earrings in a similar style as studs – where they would be much admired. It seemed unfair that it would be mainly men who would receive or wear such pieces of art. Which would be hardly noticed; when worn as stud earrings they would certainly be admired. I was told that they did a selection of ladies’ jewellery, but then a ‘real’ customer came into the store and I told him he should return to serving them and left the shop.

In the evening I went onto their Internet site. Compared to their gem of a shop, it was a poor reflection of the joy to be had in that small emporium. They do ladies’ jewellery its true, but rather prosaic in style, more like the beautiful enamel studs.  Simple earrings of rather traditional styles. Not what I meant when I made my suggestion in the shop at all…then I saw them – something I have often thought should be out there as a piece of jewellery. Ever since I began to collect them. A pair of cuff links made in the shape of Image for Spinning Top Cufflinksspinning tops. When unscrewed one half of each ‘link’ can be spun on the table – a  beautiful simple design – matt black and silver. The price of these tiny toys was a rather pathetic £110.00 which, when compared to those beautiful crystal creations is barely anything at all… They don’t, however, do them as earrings, which is probably a good thing. An item that combines both my collections would be hard to resist.

They also do ‘Accessories’ – including a beautiful Image for Moving Owl Cufflinksmechanical pin in the shape of an owl. Gently put pressure on his feet, and his wings open, and his eyebrows rise in surprise. The cost – just a snip at £205.00 The cuff links to go with him, also mechanical, are priced at £420.00 for the two – why that should be I don’t know, perhaps cuff links are more expensive to produce than pins…

Their Internet site is http://www.deakinandfrancis.co.uk, but do go and visit this jewel of an emporium – their products are quite exquisite.

Worth every penny, though I’m afraid I don’t have quite enough pennies to be able to have one of these gorgeous things. For those that do, though – the workmanship is worth it, and you can’t go wrong by visiting Deakin and Francis to purchase. For those that don’t – it is worth visiting if only to gaze in wonder, through the window.

Image result for jinxed mcculloch

Published by Simon & Schuster.

I have reached page 104 of 323 pp – and already I can’t put this mix of The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) and His Dark Materials (Philip Pullman) down.

Though only having read just a third of the book, it has already enticed me away from doing things I should be doing – I can’t put it down. I am not sure that I would have survived the new school that our heroine begins to attend in part two of the book. Somehow, I could probably deal with The Hunger Games scenario more easily than what I think is likely to develop with Jinxed. We will see.

I can, however, confirm that if you enjoyed The Hunger Games or His Dark Materials that this is a book for you. Due out in early August, it really should be a powerful new title for Young Adult and Adult readers alike.

I have a feeling that I am going to be as emotionally involved with this as I was with Patrick Ness’ Knife of Never Letting Go.

With that I cried on the tube.

A sign of a very good book indeed.

Amy McCulloch is also the author of The Potion Diaries.

 

 

Image result for what manner of murder christopher william hill

Published by Orchard Books.

I am in the middle of this – having started it just last night and, as always with Christopher’s books, I am loving it.

This, I hope, is to be the start of a long series of detective novels. Funny, well written and frankly, brilliant.

The Bleakley twins have returned once more to their Aunt and Uncle at Bleakley Manor along with their new friend Oliver Davenport – the Poor Unfortunate, to stay for the Michaelmas break. There they meet up with their cousin Loveday, back from school…

‘But what if a girl doesn’t want to hire a copy for a shilling?’ asked Horatio.

Loveday smiled serenely and sliced the air with her hockey stick. ‘I generally menace them until they do,’ she said. ‘It’s supply and demand. I supply the magazine and then I demand money for it.

The mysteries begin on arrival: The much favoured butler has gone, as has the old footman and the replacements don’t come up to scratch, then there is (of course) a murder…

The characters are eccentric and rather wonderful – as are their descriptions….

‘The specimen on display was hunched at the shoulders and his large eyes seemed to stick out like organ stops…’

The Great Aunt, is in someways perhaps the best supporting character…though I’m not certain…

‘I suppose you must be the Poor Unfortunate.’

‘Yes ,’ replied Master Oliver Davenport.

and a little later…

‘I have written Poor Unfortunates into my books,’ said the Great Aunt .

‘They always die.’

and then…

‘If you call me Auntie again I will write you as a character in my next book and I will make quite certain that you die a slow and painful death.’

A mystery of the old fashioned English sort…unconventional characters, a  a clutch of heroes and a determined heroine a snake, an Indian scorpion and pineapple cubes!

I had forgotten pineapple cubes…used to love them…

For those who enjoy Robin Steven’s books. I hope and trust this new series will have as much success as hers. If this first book is anything to go by – it certainly will.

The cover, I’m afraid, doesn’t ‘do it’ for me…however, as you know, you shouldn’t judge any book by its cover…certainly not this one.

 

Published by Fourth Estate.

Ravens. Their peripatetic wanderings on foot have been described as like that of ‘a very particular gentleman with exceedingly tight boots on, trying to walk over loose pebbles.’

In flight, however, they exhibit a joy and a vivaciousness – able to fly upside down, but always with aerobatic precision. They are extraordinary birds.

This is a celebration of ravens. Of the relationship between one man and the birds of the tower. There really is only one tower – The Tower of London.

Chris Skaife has been Ravenmaster at The Tower since 2011 – and this is in a way of an ode to the birds, mixed with a good reflection on the history, traditions and legends of that extraordinary building and of course, the birds.

It is a wonderful story of their lives and the difficulties that result should you not give them the respect due, or happen to change the order in which things are done.

It seems Ravens are creatures of habit.

This is a wonderful celebration of an avian and human relationship – quite wonderful.

 

 

Image result for warrior boy clay

Published by Chicken House

Related imageReading this was a little peculiar. My Mum was born in Kenya, on the Laikipia Plains (central Kenya), and the Maasai (amongst other watu) worked on her father’s farm. Her cousin was Dame Daphne Sheldrik, the Kenyan/British conservationist who worked in Kenya and ran an elephant sanctuary, raising and rehabilitating orphaned elephants. Which though she has now sadly died, continues with its work.

It was rather lovely to read this tale of a young Kenyan visiting Kenya from England for the first time.

Would his Maasai family welcome him, or not? Some of their traditions and social life are very different from that Ben is used to. Would he be able to deal with those? Then there’s the threat of poachers, against whom his mother is working.  Will she be safe? Will he? What about his cousin? The tribe and village itself?

I loved it. It reminded me of my visits to visit my uncle and cousins too – though their lives are so different from those of the tribes that are entwined in their lives.

I may not have been born in Kenya. I have only visited. Africa though has seeped into my blood and is part of me – there is something about the red earth…

A book of respect. Of different cultures. A book of elephants and the importance knowing and the acceptance of who you are, whether partly one thing, and part another, or wholly one culture.

Its a tale of friendship. Bravery. Africa and elephants…

Wonderful.

Related image

Published by Scholastic

Were you born in England?

Are you British Born?

Were you born in the UK?

Are you illegal?

Do you know anyone who is illegal

or are your friends all British Born?

Are you certain?

Is there someone you know who keeps themselves to themselves, doesn’t go out much?

The election is coming. 

The election that will decide everyone’s futures.

Those not British Born are no longer legal…but the results of the election,

may mean that ‘illegals’ will no longer be sent ‘home’.

Then again, they may mean the destruction of lives built over years,

lives of contribution, lives of production, of families and friendships.

This is a story of siblings. Of a party. Of friendship.

It is the story of murder.

How would 

YOU

vote?

In this year of the celebration of women’s rights,

this is perhaps an even more poignant book.

Its a story of deportation.

A story of rights.

The abuse of rights.

A book of love.

This is a story that reflects stories of people now.

People who are now wondering where they will be

next month,

next week,

tomorrow.

 

.Image result for The boy at the back of the class

Published by Orion

‘So…I’m scary? Just because I look different?’

Bullies come in all shapes and sizes. Some can be confronted, others are not so easily dealt with. Some of the largest bullies in the world are those with the greatest power, who abuse that power, and abuse people, with the result that there are over 6.5 million refugees trying to escape.

This is a story about one of them. This is the story of Ahmet who arrives at school in the middle of the term and takes the last seat at the back of the class.

He’s nine.

This is an extraordinarily moving account of friendship, bravery and hope. It is the story of a small group of children wanting to do the right thing – against all the odds. Their naivety – a belief that in the end all will be well, if they can just make sure everyone know, that the adults out there, would do the right thing too, lends the story a piquancy that wouldn’t otherwise be there, which colours the story.

The book is illustrated sensitively and touchingly by Pippa Curnick – and her pictures add their own bit of seasoning to this extraordinary book.

‘Sometimes all you really need is somewhere to cry without anyone ever knowing.’

This is a story of hope.

Part of the royalties of this book will go to aid refugees.

It should be read along side Elizabeth Laird’s Welcome to Nowhere – it is, in effect another side to her story…

If you don’t do anything else (and don’t read it), buy it anyway. It will help, just a little, but it will help someone somewhere out there, who is looking for a new place to call home, somewhere they can live in the peace we all take so much for granted.

Better still, buy it and read it. Then tell everyone else to, and get them to buy and read it too.

This is not a book to share – its a book to be bought.

Though perhaps we could subsidise all members of both houses of parliament to have a copy, along with Elizabeth Laird’s book.

Its time we started to care.

I’m sure Waterstone’s could do a promotion for that many copies and I would be very happy to process them through the till.

I have, but one criticism, (it is very small) – it’s this. The word ‘gotten’ is used and though, that in itself lends some colour to the book, for those who are also studying English for exams, as well as reading a good book, it should perhaps have been exchanged for another. It is of no serious matter, but none-the-less it is one that should not be used, unless of course the book is meant to be written in American.