London to Bristol route a success for James Attlee

Station to StationJames Attlee’s book Station to Station, about the London to Bristol route, is on the shortlist for the Stanford Dolman Travel Book of the Year.

Station to Station is a tale of journeys unlike those of the commuters who “lifting their eyes momentarily from an e-reader or pausing in their perusal of a newspaper to stir a cup of coffee, they may notice a town flashing past that they will never visit and wonder what happens there.” Attlee visited and wrote and travelled and observed as the GWR’s writer in residence. He was given a free travel pass and used it.

I first wrote about this veritable feast of travel anecdotes in Bristol247 and delighted in reading about Brunel’s cheeky plan to turn the horse at Cherhill into a steam locomotive that included the offensive letters GWR, after the villagers there opposed the railway; and then of the landscape’s “shifting gradations of colour, contour and light beneath the heavy sky,” on the way to the railway bridge at Maidenhead before passing the “view of the 12th century St Mary’s church at Cholsey where Agatha Christie, the author of the Miss Marple mystery 4.50 from Paddington, lies buried.”

Station to Station also has the honour of being one of five out of the six books on the shortlist that are by independent publishers. Guardian Books will undoubtedly be proud and this is one more book-related success for the media group. They were recently sold to the two employees who ran it. Long may the future of books and of Stanfords be a profit-making one.

Clare McKintosh, I Let You Go

I-LET-YOU-GO-400x618px1mayBristol-born Clare Mackinstosh’s debut novel I Let You Go has been a runaway success and even beat  fellow Bristol-(Yate)-novelist, JK Rowling. n the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award in 2016.

What I Let You Go is about (from the website)

In a split second, Jenna Gray’s world is shattered. Her only hope of moving on is to walk away from everything she knows to start afresh. Desperate to escape her past, Jenna moves to a remote cottage on the Welsh coast, but she is haunted by her fears, her grief and her memories of the cruel November night that changed her life for ever.

DI Ray Stevens from Bristol Police is tasked with seeking justice for a mother who is living every parent’s worst nightmare. Determined to get to the bottom of the case, it begins to consume him as he puts both his professional and personal life on the line.

As Ray and his team seek to uncover the truth, Jenna, slowly, begins to glimpse the potential for happiness in her future. But her past is about to catch up with her, and the consequences will be devastating . . .

About Clare and Bristol

“My police career was spent in Thames Valley Police, and the hit and run that inspired I LET YOU GO took place in Oxford. I didn’t want to write about my home force – it felt a little too close – but I wanted a city of similar size, and the right sort of distance from where Jenna – my protagonist – runs to. I was born in Bristol and both my sisters went to university there, so it felt familiar enough to write about.”

Clare’s second book, I See You is set in London. She has yet to pin-point the location for book three yet, so maybe we’ll see a return to Bristol.
Mackintosh herself only lived in Henbury, Bristol until she was three, but her grandfather was a doctor at Clifton Hospital.
Screen rights to I Let You Go have been sold.

Novel Writers – Spike Island – two authors

Novel Writers

Spike Island hosts debut authors each month at their Novel Writers event.  In January there are two authors.

On Wednesday, January 25, Yaa Gyasi reads from and discusses her debut novel Homegoing at Waterstones, Galleries.

Wednesday 25 January, 7–8pm

Waterstones, 11A Union Galleries, Broadmead Bristol BS1 3XD

Homegoing begins with the story of two half-sisters, separated by forces beyond their control: one sold into slavery, the other married to a British slaver.
Book your place (please note: this event is taking place at Waterstones, Bristol Galleries)

On  Thursday 26 January, 6.30–8pm, Wyl Menmuir reads from and discusses The Many.

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize 2016, The Many, by Cornish writer Wyl Menmuir is an unsettling ecological parable that explores the impact of loss and the devastation that hits when the foundations on which we rely are swept away.

Mitch Albom, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto. Review.

3D-frankie-e1439344972792The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto starts off a little slowly as the narrator gets themself established. Considering that the narrator is music itself, this isn’t an easy task but it does make for a little of a slow burn. If anyone can pull it off, it’s Albom whose previous successes give him some leeway.

It’s like when JK Rowling spent pages and pages describing all the departments in the Ministry of Magic describing everything. It didn’t progress the storyline but by that point, no one was censoring her. Frankie Presto is a much shorter story than any Harry Potter could be, however.

Music, our narrator, is at the funeral of one of its beloved musicians, one of, if not the best one that there has been, Frankie Presto. A Spanish documentary is being made about Presto and the story cuts back and forth from Frankie’s childhood to his end. The book is full of cameos from all sorts of famous people such as Lyle Lovett, Duke Ellington, and Wynton Marsalis who either provide their best story or featuring in Frankie’s progress.

With such powerful emotions and dramatic tellings, long-time musician Albom keeps the telling sparse but appropriately wrapped in musical metaphors.

It’s a beautifully told story and I read it in one day. Highly recommended.

Downloaded from NetGalley.

Andrea Darby, The Husband Who Refused To Die

andrea-darby_coverAndrea Darby worked at the Bristol Evening Post in the early nineties as a sub-editor and played in the City of Bristol brass band in the early 2000s. She has never lived in Bristol and The Husband Who Refused To Die, her first novel, is set in the fictional town of Tetford but she does have some relevant links to make her Bristol-newsworthy. After all, Terry Pratchett used to be a Bristol journalist too – on the Western Daily News. If Darby makes it big, we’ll happily accept her as a local novelist.

 

What the book is about:

Her husband’s died …
Though he doesn’t see it that way …
So what next for Carrie?

Carrie’s husband Dan has died unexpectedly and left behind an extraordinary wish – to be frozen. He believes his life’s simply been ‘suspended’, that he can come back … one day … when science has moved on. He’d hoped his wife would want to do the same. But she doesn’t.

Two years on and mum-of-one Carrie tentatively reconnects with an old boyfriend, whose dramatic exit from her life has always been a painful mystery. But their romance is hampered by Carrie’s never-ending personal problems.
After Dan’s story is resurrected in the news headlines, some distressing secrets from the past are revealed, and Carrie is taunted by someone with a serious grudge.

But are the secrets true?
Will she discover who’s behind the malicious acts – and why?
Can there ever be closure for Carrie?

The author

Darby is a Gloucestershire-based journalist with a love of music and writing. She’s already working on her second novel. The Husband Who Refused to Die is out now and available from her publisher and from other book stores.

Writing challenge 2017

Write for five minutes a day [see link].

Also, is Scrivener worth using?

 

Reading challenge

My original reading challenge for this year (2016) was to finish 250 books and I think I read 21 or maybe 22. I’m quite happy with 22. I still love that number, though. The hugeness of 250 – the five-books-a-week of it – pleases me inordinately. However, the loveliness of reading 250 books is only fun in theory. At no point has it inspired me to actually read more than I do.

It’s a far-off adventurous challenge that I can dismiss as I knit and crochet and watch Four in a Bed on All4 as I dye yarn all night.

So this morning I had a more specific idea: I will finally make myself a reading list of the writers I have wanted to read for years but never got around to. I will read the MediaLens books I have yet to read, Chomsky, John Pilger, Naomi Klein, George Monbiot, The Racket, etc. Namely investigative and corruption-exposing books that are helpful. Helpful in what way? Um… in learning about the real world and not that proposed by the MSM. Primarily, using trusted sources for information.

Information about what? What do I want to find out?

I’m not sure. In the short term it’s how do we get to a place where the Conservative have 40% support while the state is being destroyed and public services eradicated?

On a broader theme, it’s: how to create a political movement that supports each individual in society? “From each according to his ability to each according to his needs.”

The world is facing imminent catastrophe and little seems to be said about changing behaviours and what we can do to save it. This is utterly bizarre to me. I also believe that change starts from where you are so local is where I need to focus.

My goal is to somehow see how Buddhism, capitalism, the propaganda model and Bristol all combine to demonstrate how the Green Party has failed to gain greater support. It’s quite lucky that my constituency, Bristol West, is one of the prize ones for the Green Party and one of the few in the country that have a chance at voting in a Green MP. Our leading candidate is Green MEP Molli Scot Caio so European matters will be on the list too.

Next up – the List.

MediaLens -

  • Why Are We The Good Guys? (want to read) by David Cromwell
  • Newspeak (read) by David Edwards and David Cromwell
  • Guardians of Power (read) by David Edwards and David Cromwell
  • Free to be Human (want to read) by David Edwards
  • The Compassionate Revolution (own) by David Edwards
  • Private Planet by David Cromwell
  • Surviving Climate Change by David Cromwell and Mark Levee

Naomi Klein

  • This Changes Everything (own it)

Matt Kennard

  • The Racket (own it)

George Monbiot

  • The Age of Consent (own it)

Bristol

  • Strikers, Hobblers, Conchies & Reds (own it)
  • Bristol novels

Noam Chomsky

  • Noam Chomsky – Necessary Illusions (already own it)
  • Alison Edgley – The Social and Political Thought of Noam Chomsky
    • In his work, Chomsky employs recognisably theoretical perspectives, as well as bodies of values, assumptions about human nature and reality, claims, and conclusions which not only look like theories, but I argue are theories. A prevalent example is what I refer to as his theory of the state. This theory holds that states are not neutral bodies operating for the good of all citizens in that society. Rather, they systematically serve the interests of elites at the expense of many of their own citizens. Writ large, the theory also leads to the claim that western states operate at the expense of large numbers of humanity beyond their own borders and citizens.

The Propaganda Model

Climate Change

European Parliament? (to come soon)

(I also want to work on my Bristol Literature list but that’s another topic for another post)

Bristol Book Group Social – next meeting

The next meeting for Bristol Book Group Social

Time: 8pm, Thursday 19th of January 2017

Place: King William Pub. 20 King St, Bristol, Avon BS1 4EF ‎(upstairs part)

Books: The Night Manager by John le Carré, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War by Karl Marlantes and Bad Science by Ben Goldacre. Reading all of the books is not required, pick whichever one interests you the most.

Future plans

We’ll be meeting again in February, when we’ll be discussing Travels with My Aunt by Graham Greene, His Bloody Project by Graeme Macrae Burnet and The Return of Captain John Emmett by Elizabeth Speller.

You can find Bristol Book Group Social on Facebook.

In sunlight or in shadow by Lawrence Block

in-light-or-in-shadow“Edward Hopper is surely the greatest American narrative painter. His work bears special resonance for writers and readers, and yet his paintings never tell a story so much as they invite viewers to find for themselves the untold stories within.”

So says Lawrence Block, who has invited seventeen outstanding writers to join him in an unprecedented anthology of brand-new stories: In Sunlight or In Shadow. The results are remarkable and range across all genres, wedding literary excellence to storytelling savvy.

Contributors include Stephen King, Joyce Carol Oates, Robert Olen Butler, Michael Connelly, Megan Abbott, Craig Ferguson, Nicholas Christopher, Jill D. Block, Joe R. Lansdale, Justin Scott, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Warren Moore, Jonathan Santlofer, Jeffery Deaver, Lee Child, and Lawrence Block himself. Even Gail Levin, Hopper’s biographer and compiler of his catalogue raisonee, appears with her own first work of fiction, providing a true account of art theft on a grand scale and told in the voice of the country preacher who perpetrated the crime.

In a beautifully produced anthology as befits such a collection of acclaimed authors, each story is illustrated with a quality full-color reproduction of the painting that inspired it.

What I thought: this collection of short stories promises a lot and delivers superbly. It’s hard to see how it could fail with such writers as King and Olen Butler amongst those chosen but it’s not only the writing. Hopper’s work is ideally suited for narrative explanation; for the befores and afters. A couple on a porch or a woman at a window. The paintings may have been left as ambiguous and undefined but these writers take up what was left unsaid.

This was one of my favourite books this year.

In Sunlight or in Shadow, edited by Lawrence Block.

Books for Christmas Lists

I have far too many half-written book reviews unposted so I’m going to ignore them for a second and post about books for Christmas from DK.  [NOT SPONSORED] They sent a list of their books to see what I thought and these are the ones I liked – and we have some of them.

star-wars_year-by-yearStar Wars Year by Year: A Visual History, Updated Edition presents the full story of Star Wars, including all the latest additions to the saga, just in time for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. £35

 

 

 

baby-touch-and-feelBaby Touch and Feel Christmas – £3.99 Ages 0-2 We got this one for Lois. It’s very sweet: explore the sparkly world of snowflakes and Santa together with this touchy feely book.

 

 

 

Disney Pixar Finding Dory Essential Collection – £14.99

Ages 6-12

dory-the-collection

The slipcase for the books lights up when you press a button to illuminate the sparkling coral reef and help find Dory.  It contains the Finding Dory Essential Guide and the Finding Dory Ultimate Sticker Book.

 

 

 

peter-rabbit-anniversary-edition

 

The Ultimate Peter Rabbit £14.99

This special anniversary edition celebrates 150 years since Beatrix Potter’s birth. Packed with artworks and insight from the Potter estate archives.

 

az-of-garden-plants

 

A – Z Encyclopedia of Garden Plants £75

The ultimate garden reference book  that comes in a carry-box.

 

 

365-lego365 Things to Do with LEGO® Bricks – £16.99

Ages 6+

LEGO fun for every day of the year. This book is packed with fun and quirky activities, such as: build your own LEGO pet; challenge your friends to make the tallest LEGO tower against the clock; and learn how to make a stop-motion LEGO movie.

 

winter-wonderland-stickers-legoLEGO Winter Wonderland Ultimate Sticker Collection – £7.99

Ages 6+

Lots of Lego this year for Mersina but all while keeping in mind that anything Lois gets her hands on will be destroyed (or eaten). Nevertheless, this one also looks good – exploring wintery worlds and decking the halls with candy canes. I