Category Archives: Uncategorized
Bram Stoker’s Dracula
The London Library
Thursday 7th February 2019
Dracula comes home to St. James Square
Bram Stoker was a member of The London Library between 1890 and 1897 and it was during this time that he spent time at the library researching for his novel ‘Dracula’ and recently Philip Spedding, Development Director at the library discovered a number of books that Bram Stoker used to research his novel and these include notes and annotations by Stoker himself. An incredible find and so Bram Stoker used the resources to create this masterpiece of writing.
To think that Bram Stoker was present in this very quiet St. James Square and created Dracula himself which is known throughout the world in books, cinema and small screen.
And so it was that Dracula has returned to its rightful home at The London Library in the form of a quite stunning and remarkable play thanks to Philip Marshall, Director of The London Library and Creation Theatre and what a setting. Thursday 7th February was also the birthday of another literary giant Charles Dickens and Dickens himself used The London Library to write and research for some of his most famous of novels. Arriving on this very evening walking in the footsteps of the greats, there is a very special feeling. No wonder they call this London’s best kept secret.
This is the first time in The London Library’s 178 -year history that they have put on a play and it is thanks to the hard work of the staff that they set up the each of the performances and then return it to its library glory in time for the next morning.
The Production of Dracula is thanks to Creation Theatre and its Director Helen Tennison and Kate Kerrow who is responsible for its adaptation. There is a cast of two in the play: Sophie Greenham and Bart Lambert and what an outstanding performance by them both. The setting of the Reading Room at the library is perfect. It was as if Bram Stoker himself was present. There shelves floor to ceiling packed with books and its feel. This evenings performance in the presence of theatre critics and some celebrities.
And so the lights dim and the anticipation grew and the play began as we saw as Jonathan and Mina Harker who not long married appear. Jonathan who has recently returned from Transylvania and yet something about Jonathan is not right as Mina realises. But Mina is obsessed by her cousin Lucy who died very suddenly. But why did Lucy die and what was it that she has witnessed. Children have been disappearing but what has become of them. I just became engrossed in the performance of Bart Lambert whose enthusiastic grasp of multiple roles was just brilliant and for Sophie Greenham who also played multiple roles gave a superb balance.
Bats wings against the window panes deep red eyes seem to appear through the blinds and is that Lucy above us on the ceiling and crack on thunder and flashes of lights and then darkness. This was gripping stuff. And so to the cemetery to Lucy’s grave. But is Lucy dead or is she un-dead? Spine-tingling and darn well creepy.
If you are hoping for an appearance of Count Dracula himself then he is not here, this is the adaptation, purely focussing of Jonathan and Mina as well as Van Helsing, Lucy and Dr Seward. All played by Bart and Sophie. There are hints of sexual tension between Jonathan and Mina. I cannot think of a better setting than The London Library for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. The setting and the aroma that is all the old books. A heady mix. Dracula really has come home to St. James Square.
For someone like me who read the book when I was young and saw the films, this combined with viewing of Bram Stoker’s books on display made for a remarkable evening. My hope now is that there are future plays connected to writers from The London Library performed here. FIVE STARS.
Performances take place between 2nd February to 3rd March 2019. Tickets are still available. Performances start at 7.30pm. There is also a display of The London Library books that Bram Stoker used for his research which include notes and annotations as well as Bram Stoker’s official membership form when he joined the library. For more information and tickets: The London Library/Dracula
The London Library.
The London Library was founded on the 3rd May 1841 by Thomas Carlyle and in 2019 celebrates its 178th anniversary. The list of those who have made The London Library their home is like the who’s who in literature. Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, George Eliot, Arthur Conan Doyle, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, Virginia Woolf, Agatha Christie, Ian Fleming. With current writers such as Sebastian Faulks, Jessie Burton, Kazou Ishiguro, Robert Harris and Sarah Waters making The London Library their home. It has been the home for 10 Nobel Prize Winners and 4 Poets Laureate’s. In 1948 Winston Churchill became honorary Vice-President. Laurence Olivier and Edward Elgar also made the library their home.
On over 17 miles of shelving you will find over 1 million books. Some of the most important documents and books dating as far back as the 1500’s is found here.
My thanks to Laura Creyke from Mark Hutchinson Management, Philip Marshall, Director of The London Library and the staff for their kind invitation and warm hospitality on what was a five-star evening.
The London Library: The London Library
Creation Theatre: Creation Theatre
Mark Hutchinson Management: Mark Hutchinson Management
The Long Night – Ernst Israel Bornstein
I am so very grateful to Noemie Lopian. Noemie is the daughter of Ernst Israel Bornstein and back in December she contacted me about her father’s book The Long Night. This is his first-hand account of what Ernst endured and witnessed in seven concentration camps. January 27th 2019 is Holocaust Memorial Day (Yom HaShoah) and a day we remember the six million of Jewish men, women and children who were murdered at the hands of the Nazis.
Ernst was just 17-years-old when the Nazis arrived at their Polish home in March 1941 and arrested him and in front of his fearful mother he was beaten and marched off to a labour camp. Glancing up at the window of their home was his mother. He was not sure when he would see her again. For Ernst this was the start of years of one concentration camp to another and the death marches were many were murdered while being marched from one camp to another.
The vision of seeing his tearful mother from the window of their home stayed with him. He was never to see his mother again. I read that from an extended family of 72 only six survived the Holocaust one was his sister.
To survive seven concentration and the murderous death marches was nothing short of a miracle for Ernst. Witnessing those close to him and the friends he made being killed would live with him forever. Ernst learnt how to survive in the concentration camps from one day to another it was a strategy that kept him alive. Keeping alive deep within him his love for his family. A burning desire deep inside to survive and see them again. But as time passed and stories of mass murder at other camps he was never sure were his family was or if they were still alive.
Gross-rosen Concentration Camp, Lower Silesia
I have over the years read many books on the Holocaust and also survivors own stories. The Long Night deserves a place in history purely because of how Ernst Israel Bornstein describes in his own emotional words. It is the historical accounts from survivors of the Holocaust that are important as they tell the reader what it was actually like because they were there and witnessed the horror on a daily basis not knowing that as a new day dawned if they would ever see the sun go down that evening. These are their words.
The Long Night for Ernst lasted from the time the Nazis invaded Poland until he was liberated by the American Army. It was a Long Night that lasted over 5 years. Ernst Survived and lived to tell the world his story. It is hard to imagine how anyone could remember so much and in great detail. How he watched those around him being cut down or reduced to just nothing as they were given so little to eat yet treated brutally day and night.
It was survival of the fittest and they would fight for a scrap of food not knowing when they would get to eat again. Some reduced to eating blades of grass to try and survive.
Survive Ernst did and after the war he went to medical school and became a loving father. Survivors of the Concentration Camps have to then survive life after the camps and learn in their own way to survive. Many cannot speak of the time in the camps until many years later. It was in 1967 that Ernst published his account of life at the hands of the Nazis with ‘Die Lange Nacht’ in Germany.
Ernst Israel Bornstein died in 1978 of a heart condition. His daughter Noemie with the help of a translator published the English edition The Long Night (The Toby Press) in 2015 with a prefaced later by the then Prime Minister David Cameron.
Both Ernst’s parents and two sisters perished at Auschwitz.
I will continue to share the stories of Holocaust survivors through my blog as I have always beleived it is important to keep their stories alive for future generations.
Thank you Noemie Lopian for a copy of your father’s book The Long Night.
The Long Night by Ernst Israel Bornstein was published on 21st January 2015 by Toby Press LLC and is available through to order through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019 – Lia Leendertz
Do you like me follow the path of the seasons through each month of the year? I have been since my youth as the seasons turn from Winter to Spring and then the long days of Summer. I could not resist buying a copy of The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019 by the award winning writer Lia Leendertz (Mitchell Beazley).
This just has to be one of the most beautiful books of 2018. Each month is guides to nature, when to look out for the first of our birds that brighten our summers. But also if like me you are a keen gardener then this gem of a book will be perfect for you. Many are now enjoying growing their own vegetables and Lia’s handy sized book will be a handy book.
Through each month are recipes to try out and stories and folklore. There is even a cheese of the month which will appeal to all cheese aficionados like me. But overall it is the beautiful presentation and the cover and illustrations by Celia Hart that give The Almanac its real warmth.
Harking back to days gone by I found The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019 just turned the clock back to seasonal almanacs I read as a boy.
It read like a scenic journey through the year. This would make the ideal gift for Christmas and I have already bought a number of copies for friends. Highly recommended.
The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2019 by Lia Leendertz was published by Mitchell Beazley and was published on 6th September 2018 and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and through your local independent bookshop.
Lies Between Us
I have known Ronnie Turner for quite a while on Twitter, a fellow book blogger, so when Ronnie announced that she had written a book and it was going to be published via HQ Digital I was absolutely delighted. This was one of those really great positive news stories. One us (book bloggers) was going to be in print. So to be asked if I would review for Ronnie, this was probable more nervous for me than Ronnie herself. What would happen if I did not get on with the plot? Well I am delighted to say that Lies Between Us is a real cracker of a psychological thriller.
Three different characters, three different timelines. The main characters are Miller, who is a chilling character, controlling even at a young age. Miller has some serious issues and Ronnie Turner really plays a blinder with Miller. Maisie Green is a nurse in ICU. She really cares for her patients and those loved ones who are worried at their bedside. But despite her wonderful happy life with Ben, Maisie hides a secret even from her beloved Ben. This she carries with enormous guilt. Then finally there is John who is a writer. A life lived and worked hard for. John could not ask for anymore a wife he adores. Until one-day John’s daughter Bonnie goes missing. Both John and his wife Jules are shaken to the core at the thought their daughter has been kidnapped. Then things get worse for them both as it becomes clear the person behind knows both John and Jules. Is their daughter still alive? Can the Police find her before it’s too late?
Each of the three stories are connected, and it is a really compelling psychological thriller that is addictive, it can be uncomfortable when the story is talking about Bonnie. But what is the connection between all three. What is Maisie hiding and her latest patient she is taking a real interest in the wife of the patient.
The reader may make up their own mind as the story progresses, but be warned some thrillers do not go the way you think, same old secrets and lies? This one will test you and make you think. For a debut novel this is incredibly plotted and character driven. Congratulations Ronnie and a fantastic debut.
Thank you to HQ Digital for the review copy of Lies Between Us by Ronnie Turner.
Lies Between Us by Ronnie Turner is published in paperback on 13th December 2018 and the eBook is available now and published by HQ Digital.
Lies Between Us – Blog Tour.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris
“I will live to leave this place. I will walk out a free man. If there is a hell, I will see these murderers burn in it”
Over the years I have read many book on the Holocaust and every book has me asking the same questions about man’s ability to reach the levels of inhumanity. Just recently I have been reading about The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris. The story of one man Lale Sokolov. By the end of this book I was in tears not just at Lale’s story but man’s shocking brutality. My words here will never do justice to such an important subject. All I can do is to just ask you to read it for yourself. Lale’s story will stay with me and those who have read The Tattooist of Auschwitz.
Lale Sokolov’s was a smartly dressed intelligent man in fact a lady’s man. All that was to change in April 1942. Lale was born into a Jewish family and he volunteered himself to save his other family members. Of course at this time Lale had no idea what was coming or where he would go to work for the Germans. They were crammed onto cattle wagons and the train then set off to the Nazi death camp that was Auschwitz. On arrival he was tattooed with the number 32407. No longer would he be known by his name but only by his number.
Like many others he was put to work at Auschwitz in building the blocks that would eventually house the many thousands that would end up at the death camp. Within a short time Lale became very ill and was cared for by a French man called Pepan, this was the very man who tattooed his number on arrival.
After Pepan was taken away and never to be seen again Lale being intelligent and speaking many languages was given the role of ‘Tätowierer’- The Tattooist and would be responsible to tattooing the numbers of the thousands of new arrivals that would be working at Auschwitz-Birkenau. Those not selected were sent to the gas chambers.
It was on one of those days that he was tattooing the women as they arrived that he met one particular young woman and her name was Gita she was given the number 34902. In the hell that was Auschwitz-Birkenau Lale fell in love with Gita. Lale was determined to survive and also that Gita was to survive and they would both one day be free. Over the coming years Lale manged to survive being sent to his death. He was indeed a survivor. Because he was given the role of ‘Tätowierer’ he was seen by many as collaborating with the SS as this role was directly working for the Political Wing of the SS and meant that he was protected to a degree. But others had come to trust Lale and he helped many by giving them food. If caught, he would face certain death. Lale will do things to survive that he would normally never consider. Thousands were being murdered in the gas chambers or just murdered because a guard said so. Death stalked everyone at Auschwitz. From one moment to another you never knew if you were going to die. ‘If you wake up in the morning, it is a good day’
The sheer horror of life at the Nazi death camp that is Auschwitz-Birkenau and the scale of the killing is something no-one can comprehend but survive both Lale and Gita did despite being separated towards the end of the war as Auschwitz was cleared because of advancing of the Russian army. The was near its end and the Nazi’s were in their final death throws. Both Lale and Gita survived and found each other and later married.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz reads like a novel because that is exactly how Lale wanted it to read and is based on the many interviews between Heather Morris and Lale himself. For all these years Lale himself kept his secret, and it was only after the death of his beloved wife Gita in October 2003 did he feel the time was right to finally tell his story that he kept a secret to protect his family and this is when Heather Morris started to spend time with Lale and for Lale to trust her. And so he began to tell the story, his own story a remarkable and life-affirming story of daring to live while in Auschwitz.
Heather Morris has written an incredible story of Lale and Gita’s survival. How she manages to portray the evil that went on inside the death camp on a daily basis. The despair that must have prevailed the pain and hunger. Knowing death was just moments away.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz is a powerful and deeply moving story of survival and also a remarkable love story. Both Lale and Gita’s story will stay with me forever as these stories must be told for future generations to understand and to learn. Let us remember and let us never forget. Ludwig “Lale” Sokolov died in October 2006. HIGHY RECOMMENDED.
Such has been the demand for this story there have been a number of bookshops that never received stock in time and that a second print run is now underway.
January 27th marks Holocaust Memorial Day. On this day I light a candle to remember the six million Jews murdered during the Holocaust. The day marks the anniversary of when Auschwitz-Birkenau was liberated by the Russian army in 1945.
The Tattooist of Auschwitz by Heather Morris is published by Bonnier Zaffre and was published in the UK on 11th January 2018 and is available to through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
First Love by Gwendoline Riley
Delighted at last to discover the writing of Gwendoline Riley and her latest novel First Love which you may think could well be a love story, actually this is something yet more terrifying in an all-consuming little book that I devoured on a train journey to London at times brutal and visceral we see a couple’s marriage falling apart and every sinew of human emotion exposed on every page.
We are introduced to Neve who is a thirty something writer and she is married to Edwyn who is older and is suffering from an illness which means he is pain a lot of the time and this is something that is constantly there. To understand Neve we have to turn the pages of time back to when she was a child and watched her parent’s marriage fail and then the ensuing divorce. Neve decided that she wanted distance from both parents especially her bullying father yet at the same time she cannot cut the ties with him. By the time she was in her twenties alcohol played a part in her life and bounced through friendships and partners and yet there is a sense of loneliness at the same time even when she spent time France.
Now with Edwyn that sense of loneliness is still present as Edwyn is a controlling character who recognises that he can control Neve by throwing childish tantrums to get attention and can become moody at the toss of a coin, there is obviously something missing from this marriage and that is Love in all its forms. For Neve one senses that she misses any form of affection as there is nothing there even sex is non-existent in the marriage. Is the Neve’s family past being played out in their own marriage or is this just Edwyn covering for his own failures and is he trying to get Neve to just accept that that is the best she is going to get in life? Despite the gloomy scenario there are some amusing parts in the story which Neve as the narrator takes the reader on the journey with her.
There is also a sense that you get when reading First Love is that Neve is not only trying to understand herself but the life around her and how best to cope as their marriage hits the rocks one minute then the next everything is OK.. She must have looked at her life as we look at a snow globe after it has been shaken.
First Love is one of those novels that is raw and human in that it exposes what life is like behind the closed doors of some people’s lives as we are invited into Neve’s world. At times it is shattering yet Riley’s writing is dazzling as she explores human frailties and at the same time incredibly moving.
Thank you to Granta Books for the advanced review copy.
First Love by Gwendoline Riley is published by Granta Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
Dark Fragments by Rob Sinclair
From the author of the bestselling Enemy series come a new tense thriller Dark Fragments that has all the same fast paced ingredients to keep the crime loving reader on their toes from the opening page through to the very last.
Dark Fragments is a Psychological thriller of the highest standard and Sinclair introduces us to a new character Ben Stephens. For Ben life is just falling away and he seems to be losing grip of reality. He would describe himself as a hardworking family man father to Chloe and Harry. Some years previously his wife Alice was murdered and justice has never been served on the killer. This is a story as told by Ben himself and is a real page turner. Ben has since remarried to Gemma the very woman who he was having an affair with before Alice was murdered but now this marriage is heading for troubled waters and Ben is looking for answers to the past.
Ben owes money to a local hoodlum and he is now looking for Ben himself and his past is rapidly catching up with him. As the tension becomes palpable Ben’s sister suddenly comes into the story except the two have not really spoken for a number of years and she is a Detective with the Police and she is starting to sniff around and the questions are starting to come.
Just who did kill Alice and why have the police not caught the killer? The characters are well written into the novel and you will make up your own mind about each one and their own motives as you become sucked into the gripping novel. This is another stunning thriller by Rob Sinclair and if you want a good edge of your seat read over Christmas add Dark Fragments to your wish list.
Thank you Rob Sinclair for the advanced review copy.
Dark Fragments by Rob Sinclair is published by Bloodhound Books and is available in paperback.
The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse
Before I give my thoughts on Amanda Prowse’s latest release, I have to admit to having a family member who went through a serious eating disorder and how this affected the entire family. This was always going to be a difficult read for me as it brought it all back. The Food of Love is so well researched and beautifully written. Amanda Prowse has never been afraid of writing about issues that affect many of us. I have a real soft spot for Amanda’s writing and she is back to her very best with her latest offering.
Meet the Braithwaite family, a family just like any other. Freya who is a happy loving wife and mother. Lockie the father that just wants to support and make his family happy Freya and Lockie have been married now for 19 years and two beautiful teenage girls in Charlotte and Lexi. Just a normal family full of normal every day cares and worries of school and work. There is so much love between Lockie and Freya that it radiates throughout the book and from every page which feeds through the family unit.
One of the great skills that Amanda Prowse has as a writer is she creates characters that we can all identify with in our own everyday lives she is one of the best storytellers and the stories themselves are so very real. For Freya’s youngest daughter Lexi life is becoming difficult and when she starts to lose weight it becomes apparent that something is very wrong. Lexi has now been diagnosed with Anorexia. This is devastating news for the family and we watch as Lexi’s condition deteriorates and becomes very serious. Anorexia at its worst can be fatal. I speak from personal experience as to what this can do to family and loved ones. You feel totally helpless and daily life outside of the family just passes you by.
For the Braithwaite family this is exactly what happens at first denial and this does happen in cases like this and when you have given your all to your family it hits you like a brick in your face. Why our family? What have we done wrong? There are no simple answers to any of the questions a family full of love ask of themselves. A family full of love will always stand together and they surround Lexi with love. I must warn the reader there will be tears at times through The Food of Love. It is heart-breaking and poignant. A book that when you start to read you will not want to stop.
It is hard for me after so many years to read this incredible book as it brought back memories and I have tried to banish to the recesses of my mind. But the more we talk about the issues such as Anorexia the more understanding we will all become. Even today it pains me to say this it is still a taboo subject and clearly this should not be this way at all.
Yet again I congratulate Amanda Prowse on such a well thought out and researched novel that is packed full of love and tenderness. The Food of Love is such an important book for anyone who wants to know what life is really like beyond the front door of a home with a family member suffering with dreadful illness.
I know I will not be leaving this book as the story will now linger with me as for me it is real and raw. I cannot recommend this book highly enough.
Thank you to both Amanda and Simeon for the advanced review copy.
The Food of Love by Amanda Prowse is published by Lake Union Books and is available through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.
The Food of Love Official Blog Tour Continues
Guest Post – J.J. Patrick
Today I am delighted to welcome J.J. Patrick as a guest on my blog talking about his writing and about himself also his book Forever Completely which was published in September by Cynefin Road.
About J.J. Patrick:
James once did a good thing. He now lives a quiet life and is happy with his lot, which is all that really matters. He’s been compelled to write ever since he can remember.
J.J. Patrick — or JP to those who know he’s nothing but trouble — was born in the New Forest and did most of his growing up in Derbyshire.
He served as a police officer for ten years, resigning from New Scotland Yard having acted as a whistle-blower, kicking off a parliamentary inquiry into the manipulation of crime figures by the police. He received open praise at the highest levels for his integrity.
At a bit of a loose end — largely being seen as an unemployable risk to skeletons in closets everywhere — he opened a pub. Wrestling a road closure, along with his own demons and ghosts, he was bankrupted and lost everything in the spring of 2016.
If you knew him, you’d say that the broken pieces fit together much better nowadays.
Should you wish to keep up with his often ludicrous and frenetic antics, you can find him on Twitter as @j_amesp
Forever Completely is an unapologetically unique debut by J.J. Patrick, set in a haphazard world of love, psychopathic primates, hodgepodge witchcraft and the apocalyptic end of mankind.
He doesn’t matter. That’s how he feels, writing a bitter note on a Saturday morning. He’s lost his relationship, gone bankrupt and lives in a drug infested sink estate…until he’s shown a vision of the end of the world by two ancient deities.
Join a lovelorn mess of a man as he is forced to face up to what he deserves and save the Earth, with the help of a nice old dear and her collection of eye-popping tracksuits…
“A brilliantly haphazard, broken glory all of its own. Forever Completely is utterly unashamed of itself…”
“I can’t compare this book to anything because I have never read anything like this before. Witches, the apocalypse, love, hate and redemption. I don’t usually read fantasy fiction, but the author makes an unbelievable world so believable that I didn’t want the book to end”
“This deserves to sell a million and be made into a film, top drawer stuff. Reading it was the literary equivalent of smoking a joint, drinking five pints of scrumpy, listening to early Pink Floyd with Syd Barret while watching Saving Private Ryan.”
Forever Completely is available worldwide now. You can find it listed on all online retailers and distributors in hardcover, and in all ebook formats including Kindle, Nook, iBooks, Kobo, Booktopia…and everywhere else.
About Life and Writing:
J.J. Patrick was serving as a police officer, working as a specialist analyst for Scotland Yard, when he uncovered the mass manipulation of crime figures by the police service, to make it look as if serious offences including rape were reducing. Despite being disciplined and threatened with dismissal for raising concerns he approached Parliament and sparked the Public Administration Select Committee inquiry into crime statistics. As a result, police recorded crime figures were stripped of their status as a trusted national statistic and the Home Secretary and Prime Minister made commitments to improving the protections for whistleblowers. In the final parliamentary report he received the highest possible praise: “We are indebted to PC Patrick for his courage in speaking out, in fulfilment of his duty to the highest standards of public service, despite intense pressures to the contrary”. He retired from policing in May 2014.
After a year of struggling to find work, he managed to privately pull together some money and took on a dilapidated public house in Essex. The building was first constructed in the 1700s had been in steep decline for many years but he took on the renovation work himself, transforming the building inside and out, working gruelling eighteen hour days before opening the doors on the new pub in April 2015. However, all was not to be plain sailing. Due to the years of adverse pressure his marriage collapsed in September 2015 and then, in October, Essex Highways closed the road on which the pub stood for four months and the business simply could not survive. In March 2016 he closed the doors for the last time and was bankrupted on March the 17th. He lost his business and his home in one day. He was left broken and had his heart broken not long after.
With help from his father, he managed to secure a bedsit in Colchester and found work as a gardener. Talking about this period, he says: “It’s a bedsit, and not a good one. I can’t describe the horror of lying in the dark, listening to the sounds of an alcoholic Scot screaming and urinating on the floor directly above, leaving you to wait for his bodily fluids to seep through the plaster and drip into your space. Between the 29th of March and the 28th of May this year I was paid £570, out of which I had to pay my phone bill, so I could talk to my kids, and £380 rent for the room. You can’t even get a payday loan when you’re bankrupt and I’d run out of things to sell so I lived on crackers, despite the job being physical, and eventually had to resort to accepting charitable offers from people as the effects of malnutrition set in. I had no body fat at all by May. There comes a time when you take a look around and realise you are fucked. You reside in a hovel, well below the breadline, and you aren’t living. A useless fucking charity case, you’re just looking for a way to survive. There is no near miss, you are either destitute or you’re not. I was and it’s fucking awful”. He has chosen to donate 10% of the proceeds from Forever Completely to charities supporting people in poverty.
James turned to writing as an escape from his surroundings, each day returning from work and sitting until the early hours writing, bleeding at the typewriter in the best tradition of Hemingway as he desperately tried to survive. “Within a week I was staring at the rough draft of Forever Completely, and those 30,000 words saved me. By the end of May the final draft was done and when I tentatively sent the manuscript out to beta readers I started to believe the magic in that story could do more than take me away from my soul-crushing surroundings. More than provide a waking dream. I saw a way out and played my usual game of Kipling’s pitch and toss, one of the reasons I get affectionately referred to as the walking embodiment of If”. There was a desk in his room but no chair, so the whole book was written with James sat on a scraggy sofa, pulled up close the keyboard with two cushions underneath him.
On writing itself he is no less awkward than he was as a police officer. He has clearly defined problems with rules and embraces his inner anarchist at every given opportunity. “Writing FC wasn’t catharsis, not really. It was just survival, plain and simple, and I wouldn’t still be here but for its grace. I certainly can’t say I used it as a device to create order either, the work itself is chaos because life is chaos. Love is chaos. Redemption is chaos. And I’m not exactly famed for obedience or conformity – the chair of the Public Administration Select Committee once described me as ‘Awkward’. My approach to writing is no different really. The internet is awash with reams of sanctimonious shit about writing. Endless rules about what must be done, how you should behave, what you must show and what you must tell. The fact adverbs will bring about the death of your story and end your writing life, by leaving you open to broad ridicule. Don’t say anything other than said, use everything but said. Don’t use was but also shy away from complicated words, simplify your prose. Cut, slash and burn. Don’t over describe but also see show don’t tell, in the first sentence of this paragraph…Avoid the ellipsis at all costs, stick to the Oxford list, and murder your darlings. The cobblers is almost infinite, in the main self-righteous, and, worst of all, utterly meaningless. So my advice is stop worrying about it, sit down, and write. There aren’t ten rules. There aren’t any at all. Everything is subjective, the whole industry – from writing, to editorial, to publishing. One day a story will be great, then a bus will get missed, a cat will die, or someone will feel grumpy, horny, angry – whatever – and the same tale will be in a slush pile. If you are writing to run from people, good. Hide away and build a world you’re happy in because somebody else will be happy there too. If you are writing because you love people, good. Let everyone know why and share it.”
J.J. Patrick refuses to give up, even though he probably should have, and he is never ashamed to say he came close to the rope once or twice when things were at their worst. But he’s still here because of his two children, whom he loves more than anything else and is determined not to stay down for long. His policing and whistle-blowing memoir, The Rest Is Silence, is being released on the 19th of November 2016 – the third anniversary of the parliamentary inquiry and he’s currently writing two more fiction works, due in the spring and summer of 2017.
The Day I Lost You – Fionnuala Kearney
The Last Word Review
The debut novel by Fionnuala Kearney, You Me and Other People was so well received that I could not resist the chance to review her second novel The Day I Lost You released less than a month ago it is already receiving high praise and now I would like to add mine to the growing list of people who enjoy Fionnuala Kearney’s writing.
Loss and grief are terrible events in anyone’s life and now for Jess she has to contemplate the loss of her daughter Anna who has gone on a skiing trip and is reported missing. The sheer horror that Jess must have gone through at this time. For Jess she has to believe and hope that Anna will be found as Anna’s five-year-old daughter Rose wants her mummy home safe.
So for Jess she must now take responsibility for Rose in the hope Anna will return home soon safe. But soon things take on a twist for Jess and now some of Anna’s past secrets come to the surface. A story of mother/daughter relationships and past secrets. The Day I Lost You is a deeply emotional read from the very start. Kearney’s prose is simply superb as she introduces family characters and those that knew Anna very well into the sad storyline that provide support at a difficult time.
I dare anyone who reads this story not to feel any empathy for Jess as she searches for answers to questions that life itself cannot answer. For Jess her own life ended with Anna’s. The emotion pours out of every page that leaves you bereft and feeling at one with Jess and Rose and even down to Pug. Life’s frailties are all here captured in a story that captures the reader in an incredibly moving family drama.
Sometimes secrets are shared and sometimes secrets are not meant to ever come out, what happens if they do? Here Fionnuala Kearney tries to explore this through her second novel that is a five star read prepare for some unexpected twists and revelations that will shock.
The Day I Lost You is a book crying out to be read and is the perfect autumn weekend read and one I highly recommend.
Thank you to Harper and to Bookbridgr for the advanced review copy.
The Day I Lost You by Fionnuala Kearney is published by Harper and is available now through Waterstones, Amazon and all good bookshops.