Both music and books are important parts of people’s lives and is part of what helps people through lockdown, I thought I would re-blog an article I wrote some time ago about the influence of music within books, writing and more…
Love Never Dies
By Andrew Lloyd Webber
Rated 5 stars *****
Today I present a review of the sensational follow up to Phantom of the Opera – Love Never Dies by Andrew Lloyd Webber. This was a virtual event. Like most musicals, there was also a book produced too. This is however primarily a theatre review, but would give you an idea too as music, lyrics and the written words in a book collide for both art forms.
Composer – Andrew Lloyd Webber
Lyrics – Glenn Slater
Book written by Andrew Lloyd Webber, Ben Elton and Frederick Forsyth.
The year is 1907. It is 10 years after his disappearance from the Paris Opera House and the Phantom has escaped to a new life in New York where he lives amongst the screaming joy rides and freak-shows of Coney Island. In this new electrically-charged world, he has finally found a place for his music to soar. All that is missing is his love – Christine Daaé.
Christine is struggling in an ailing marriage to Raoul. She accepts an invitation to travel to New York and perform at a renowned opera house. In a final bid to win back her love, the Phantom lures Christine, her husband, and their young son Gustave from Manhattan; to the glittering and glorious world of Coney Island, not knowing what is in store for them…
A couple of weeks ago I watched Love Never Dies by Andrew Lloyd Webber on You Tube. It is the sequel of Phantom of the Opera and is every bit as stunning and attention grabbing as The Phantom of the Opera. It got some bad press, but certainly would not from me. It is set on Coney Island. For those who do not know – Coney Island is near New York and was a place that gained a reputation for fun fairs, circuses, and freak shows. Today, this doesn’t really exist quite in that form, but there does seem to be a fun fair and eateries.
The Phantom has moved from Paris to Coney Island and seems to be controlling it with all its glitz and mystique, but still has an obsession with Christine. The singing is beautiful, the music and lyrics works so well for the story that is being told. There are bits of music and song reminiscent of the times in the opera house in Paris in the first musical about the phantom, but there are plenty of terrific original songs to whet your appetite and really get into as well. The musical is full of life when showing the circus. The set is always sumptuous and at times has an element of fun to it, although always dark. The atmosphere that is created fits every mood and absolutely fits with the storytelling.
There’s shocks and surprises and some almost edge of your seat scenes. This is a musical that swept me away with it and grabbed me and took me into every dark corner, every bit of romance and every bit of emotion. If this is ever on stage, when things return to normal (which they will someday), it would be absolutely be quite the spectacle to see.
I was slow off the mark writing about this. Other life things took over, so it is not available on YouTube anymore, but there are previews and it is available on DVD. So, not all is lost. That is the positive, that you can indeed still watch this spectacular musical.
Andrew Lloyd Webber, every Friday for 48 hours has got creative and kind and is putting on You Tube many of his musicals and concerts under The Show Must Goes On. Pay or do not pay into the actors’ fund, that is up to you. It looks like Cats is the next musical to be streamed.
Murder at the Music Factory
By Lesley Kelly
Rated: 4 stars ****
Murder at the Music Factory is the latest Health of Strangers book by Lesley Kelly and I am just so pleased to have been asked to join the blog tour by Scottish publishers Sandstone Press, whom I also thank for sending my a physical print copy of the book to review. With its music, a gun man and all the intrigue, it makes for a great read. I can see why Ian Rankin rates Lesley Kelly.
About the Author
Lesley Kelly has worked in the public and voluntary sectors for the past 20 years, dabbling in poetry and stand-up comedy along the way. She has won several writing competitions, including the Scotsman’s Short Story Award in 2008. Her debut novel: A Fine House in Trinity, was long listed for the William McIlvanney award in 2016. She can be followed on Twitter @lkauthor where she tweets about writing, Edinburgh and whatever else takes her fancy.
Click for Social Media Link: Twitter Link
The body of Paul Shore toppled onto him, a stream of blood pooling around them on the concrete. Bernard lay back and waited to see if he too was going to die.
An under cover agent gone rogue is threatening to shoot a civil servant a day. As panic reigns, the Health Enforcement Team race against time to track him down – before someone turns the gun on them.
A pandemic, music and a gunman in Edinburgh, Scotland , well, this book certainly is a thriller to behold.
It’s quite something to read a book with a pandemic and live through one in real life and I am glad to say that there are bits of a normality to be found here and there and some wit in some of dialogue, that lifts it. Murder in the Music Factory is book 4 in The Health of Strangers series. It works as part of the series and as a standalone, so you can jump straight in.
The North Edinburgh Health Enforcement Team (HET) are back in this brand new book – Murder at the Music Factory, part of the Health of Strangers series, that once you’ve started, you see what a great series it is. It is worth joining a week in the life of this team (the book is split into days of the week).
The books were an alternative Edinburgh, where a virus is rampant, but now fiction and fact have somewhat collided (the books began way before this current virus pandemic). Foresight is perhaps a wonderful thing, or maybe it isn’t, who knows in this instance, but one thing I do know, is it is there and this is a very good book.
I know people are worried at this time, but this is still an excellent thriller of a book to read. It isn’t just about a virus. There’s a gunman at large who Mona and Bernard need to track down and a vulnerable witness needs to be protected.
More foresight, but perhaps not quite as it is in our new reality for this time. In the book, schools are closed, the NHS carries on, but electives are cancelled. A lot like now, except in the book it’s because of the gunman, all the same, it is in-escapable that this (minus the gunman thank goodness), has become a reality and thank goodness for the NHS.
There is some entertainment to be found in this book and I do like that Bernard has a need for chocolate. I’ve read that quite a bit around social media, that chocolate is a must for people right now too.
There’s a bit of familiar music mentioned within the book, that is carefully placed and works really well. This book, although was, at time of writing, like all of this series, set some time in the near future, and now sees a bit of fiction and realiy weaving together, actually has some lightness in parts of it. There’s life away from work, which gives the book a bit of humanity about it and a bit more insight into the characters.
To read a book about, not just a thriller, but one that has a global pandemic going through is surreal, no doubt about it and I’ve used a lot of my resilence to complete the book, so I could review for you. These are unusual and worrying times and I will say that I do hope that everyone is staying safe and are well. That being said, it is still a very well-written book and one that is still worth reading, whether it is your book of choice for now or later, because one day, whenever that may be, things will return to normal. Who knows if they will in this series of books or not, but they will in the real world.
Take care and keep safe and thank you in advance for reading my blog post on this blog tour.
A Short Essay of The Influence of Music within Books, Writing and More
I, these days find rooms can sometimes be too quiet, so I was listening to some music on Spotify that got me suddenly thinking of music, film and books. Not least because as I was randomly looking, up came an option called “Reading Soundtrack”. It is theme tunes and incidental music to listen to whilst reading. I have found it fills the room with nice music, but with no words, all just instrumental, which means writing and reading can still be concentrated on, and yet there’s now no complete silence. Don’t get me wrong, there are times when I like complete and utter, blissful silence or I need it to concentrate at a different level on something. Other times, it is just good to have a music filled room and get on with things so the mind doesn’t wander onto a million other thoughts. I like music in general, we all have particular songs that generate different memories and emotions or can conjure something quite exquisite up in the imagination. Music is a powerful medium, whether it is instrumental or is in song. We all have favourite pieces and those pieces that just get on our nerves. Music can conjure up memories for some; sometimes bad, sometimes sad, sometimes deep joy, sometimes a brightness. We also have pieces that we know so well, that it can drift into the room and into our subconscious that we can work and have a music-filled room without it being a distraction.
So, the Spotify Reading Soundtrack has 54 (at time of writing) relaxing tunes on it. To name a few books that became films and have music on this soundtrack – it begins with The Boy Who Flew Away, there’s also Mocking Jay, Jane Eyre, Christopher Robin, Spiderman, A Testament of Youth, Lord of the Rings, The Maze Runner, Game of Thrones, Schindler’s List, Band of Brothers, Geisha, Cinderella, The Imitation Game, Cloud Atlas and many others. All are peaceful enough to use whilst reading or writing. It really is worth a listen to. I cannot claim to reading all the books, nor to have seen all the films that are mentioned in this soundtrack, but they are all peaceful and have an air of calm about them. There’s no need to concentrate on the music, instead concentrate on the work you do and the music does the rest as it penetrates through the mind, but without piercing into it and envelopes you in a peaceful embrace of music notes without you having to think of it. All you have to do is think about the real task in hand. I have written short stories (3 got published), all with music on at various points in the process, I have written a few blogs with music on and done the more mundane things such as ironing with it on. You just find what is right for you and the tunes and songs that you most enjoy.
In September 2018 I wrote a blog about Music within Books and Music to Die For off the back of a panel I had watched at the Morecambe and Vice Festival. It shown that musical influences are being used more in books. More than what I had really thought about.
Alan Parks uses 70s music such as Small Faces and David Bowie for the cultural scene in 1970’s Glasgow.
Joe Thomas has music references that are used to categorise different parts of his book in some ways, for themes of political, joy and melancholy that are infused into his first novel, “Paradise City”, which is set in Sao Paolo.
Hugh Fraser has music in Stealth that is set in the 1960’s that create the right atmosphere for the time period of the club, especially, that features within his book.
Joanne Harris has music in BlueEyedBoy, which gets mentioned at the beginnings of each chapter, which sets a certain tone.
The above list just names a few. There is music mentioned in children’s books, young adult books, adult books. There are numerous non-fiction books about music as a genre or about its creators, whether it is the artist, the composer, singer etc.
Music can play a vital part within some books, in setting the scene and/or atmosphere. There are many films that are written from books. Within many of the films there is music throughout, it creates a sense of time and place sometimes. Take a period piece, say, any of Jane Austen’s books for example, there are many dances within the season. Music gets mentioned and watching the tv dramatisation or film versions and there it is as it would have been. So, sometimes music can be very deliberate, would be a bit odd to read about a dance or watch one without hearing the music (since this was before the era of silent disco of course). Other music can be used as incidental music or to create a certain mood or to build up tension. Done well in film/tv or written well in books, it can have a good desired effect and can fill the imagination even more as the mind’s eye for the written word creates the scene or when watching, can tense up the body and have you on the edge of your seat or make you think how lovely a scene is. This can also be true of the stage. Of course in a musical, there’s music and song to convey the story, it’s obvious, but take plays for example too, okay there’s not often song, but sometimes there can be music, to create the atmosphere and/or a scene or give even more of the sense of a time era, whether it is past or present. Often, but not always, music is used in the form of characters listening to a radio, so it can also be used as an activity within that character’s day. The music however always appears to be carefully selected, so it fits and that’s the same for film and tv.
In both the written and the spoken word, music can create different emotions, when done well. When it isn’t done well, however, it can become too much or so grinding that the viewer no longer feels the flow of the music and acting working in harmony, or reader can either become too bogged down in the music that the atmosphere is lost.
The thing is however, that music spans into everything. Music is a universal language. For decades there have been music festivals showcasing all sorts of genres, from pop to rock and classical to folk and can be read about and listened to on so many platforms. Whatever the genre, the art form, it has this innate ability to partnership with it all to enhance a story or be a medium inwhich the story itself is told in. It has become such an important part of global culture within everything we watch or read or do. Music is many things to many people and has so many topics within it, that it can present itself on the stage and within books as part of the story that is being told. Music itself is a story being told. Music itself is subjective, but then, so are the books you read, the tv and films you watch and the stage musicals and plays you see, which also assists its ability to be within every other art form too.
I will digress slightly for a moment, take a painting or a photograph of an orchestra or just a solo piano or a guitar. We may not actually be able to hear the music being played – it’s a painting after all, but the majority of us know what these instruments sound like, so can imagine it, so even in something like a painting, music can sometimes still be part of the story being told.
When I think about it, all music tells a story within itself too, no matter the genre. Some time in the not too distant future I am going to return to music and tales and have an interview published with a particular musician and songwriter who’s style of music definitely tells a story, owing especially to the genre she composes within. I am not intending, not at the moment anyway, in branching out into music reviews, but it is a medium that crosses all art forms, including those I concentrate on within this blog.
Review of Stealth
Author – Hugh Fraser
Rating – 5 Stars *****
About the Author
*Hugh Fraser is an author and actor who is well-known for tv series and films. He has played many roles over many years, including: The Duke of Wellington in Sharpe and Captain Hastings in the ITV Agatha Christie, Poirot series. In film he is credited in the Patriot Games, 101 Dalmations, The Draughtman’s Contract and Clint Eastwood’s Firefox. He also wrote the theme tune of children’s tv programme, Rainbow. He also supports the charity – First Light Veterans – supporting veterans of the emergency services and armed forces.
In more recent years, he has turned his hand to writing, creating his protagonist -Rina Walker.
There are 4 book in the series so far –
Harm, Threat, Malice, Stealth
London 1967. A working girl is brutally murdered in a Soho club. Rina Walker takes out the killer and attracts the attention of a sinister line-up of gangland enforcers with a great deal to prove.
When a member of the British Military Intelligence becomes aware of her failure to fulfil a contract issued by an inmate of Broadmoor, he forces her into the deadly arena of the Cold War, with orders to kill an enemy agent.
Rina needs to call upon her dark skills, not to simply survive, but to protect those she loves.
Stealth is the fourth and most recent of Hugh Fraser’s novels about assassin Rina Walker. It works well as both part of the series or as a stand-alone book, which is gripping from the very beginning, right to the last page. The action and non-action “scenes” are all very well constructed and flow very well, to create what is ultimately a great read. They are so different from what I would normally read, but I have read the series up to and including this latest book and I am glad that I decided to give them a go. The books have a very fresh and new feel about them in terms of content and writing style.
The character Rina Walker is written in the first person, which I have come to really like. She is a well-written, multi-dimensional character who immediately becomes involving to read. I find all the characters are well plotted out and Drake is quite a character to watch out for…
1967, Wardour Street, London is where Stealth begins. Right within the first couple of pages, the book springs into action.
The areas used in London are familiar and well-known, even if not all readers are from London. Rina Walker, from the outset, comes across as a sharp, intelligent, strong protagonist and yet, not always cold as you may expect with her being an assassin. She has a warmer, emotional side to her too as she tries to protect those who she loves in her personal, private life.
The words “Likeable” and “Assassin”, however, aren’t normally words I would couple together, but somehow Hugh Fraser has cleverly ensured that they do go together and really get the reader on Rina’s side.
As the story unfolds further, she becomes more embroiled in the backdrop of the Cold War due to the British Military Intelligence agenda, after the Broadmoor incident. There are many spies and plans of torture afoot. There are plenty of twists and turns as she calls upon her “dark skills”, which she is very adept at and within her travels. She is well-travelled and certainly has some useful tools on her.
Location changes are done very well, there is just enough to see her journeys between various places in London, Clackton to places abroad such as Istanbul and Athens, without compromising the pace. The pace remains quick enough to keep interest, throughout the detail, which also leaves enough space for tension to build and to wonder what is going to happen next.
As for the time period, I was immediately pulled into the dark underworld on 60’s London, with its many shady characters. A picture is clearly painted, but not in a laborious way, it’s done that really encapsulates the era and connects well with the story within the dialogue.
Moving onto the dialogue, it feels at a quick pace. The language used is believable for the time and each situation.
There is also still enough room for imagination within this book, by the way that each “scene” is formed, in what feels like a natural way. Nothing about it feels contrived, which is good for the flow of it all.
Hugh Fraser uses music of the era, which sets a certain tone and atmosphere.
Music within books either works or it doesn’t. In Stealth, the music references work very well indeed! Every reference all adds to the atmosphere and you get a real sense of it all being carefully and deliberately thought out. They also give a real flavour of what was happening in the music scene in the 60’s.
I think it’s worth mentioning that whether you lived through the 60’s or not, the songs used would be instantly recognisable to most and can still be heard on the radio, on some music tv shows and can be found on legal music streaming sites, so don’t let that put you off giving these books a go.
Overall, Stealth is an excellently plotted and developed novel. It is sharp, with plenty going on to draw any reader in, even if reading about an Assassin isn’t your norm. It’s not all violence and torture, there are relationships, emotion, travel, music all enveloping this story too.
As mentioned previously, there are 3 previous books, but this is the best one yet! Hugh Fraser’s writing improves book by book. If you have not already read the others, I would still recommend that you do.
I am hoping there will be a 5th book to come, some time in the not too distant future. The ideas and writing coming from this author are great and they are books that, once you begin, you find you want to read more.
*With thanks to Hugh Fraser who gave verbal permission for me to take a photo and use it within my blog.
Author: Hugh Fraser
Publisher: Urbane Publications
Main Purchase Points: Amazon, Waterstones and Blackwells Bookshop
Libraries stock the books
ISBN 978 – 1 – 911583 – 66 – 0
“Music to Die For” was a panel at Morecambe and Vice, showcasing some authors and their use of music within their writing as well as their music backgrounds.
William Shaw who had been a music journalist for 20 years and is now a best-selling author. He has received plaudits from well-written, well-known authors such as Val McDermid and Peter May for his book The Birdwatcher and now he has written his latest book is Salt Lake. The first in a new series of books.
D.S Alexandra Cupidi is his main character who has left the London Met for the Kent Coastline with a resentful teenager in tow. There a drowned man is found in a slurry pit and the more D.S Cupidi finds, the more questions she has to ask and the more she asks, the more suspicious people grow.
The man drowned in the slurry pit had been herded there like an animal. He was North African, like many of the fruit pickers that work the fields. The more Cupidi discovers, the more she wants to ask – but these people are suspicious of questions.
William Shaw also received the “Eric Award” for services to the Morecambe and Vice Festival.
Alan Parks writes what is termed as “Tartan Noir” with his book: Bloody January. He was a successful music industry executive, working with All Saints, New Order, Gnarl’s Barkley and Cee-Lo Green to name but a few.
He talked about how he was inspired by music and how it essentially navigated him through culture. He uses 70s music such as Small Faces and David Bowie. He set his book in 1970’s Glasgow, which is worth mentioning that he sees Glasgow during this time period, being more glam than L.A. with folk making a real effort and getting dressed up for the night. He said, it was a different side of the city, away from the violence that was going on at that time.
Bloody January is a debut novel by Alan Parks and has already been shortlisted for THE GRAND PRIX DE LITTÉRATURE POLICIÈRE.
In Bloody January, Detective Harry McCoy is the main character who investigates the dark underbelly of 70s Glasgow. It is hotly tipped to be a real contender as being a new voice in Tartan-Noir.
Joe Thomas is a visiting lecturer at Royal Holloway University of London and is the author of Paradise City. He said that he sees music as categories that is infused into his first novel, “Paradise City”, which is set in Sao Paolo. Those categories are: political, joy and melancholy.
Paradise City investigates the underbelly of deepest, darkest Sao, Paulo, Brazil, where there are drugs and guns. Mario Leme is the main character to feature here. He is a low-ranking detective in the Sao Paolo civil police. Every day on the way to work he sets off early and drives through the favela known as Paraisópolis – Paradise City – the place where his wife was gunned down.
There are plaudits for its freshness.
More About The Music
They talked about how they use music to draw the audience into the character’s worlds, giving them a sense of place and how it adds a certain amount of background atmosphere.
This, I found particularly interesting because music has often cropped up in books, but, certainly in the books I have read in recent times, it has had a presence in a way that seems more than ever before. This I think, can help add to the atmosphere and gives readers a sense of what was going on culturally at a certain time, in a certain place. Today, with the internet, music platforms and tv programmes dedicated to music, it is easier than ever before to look up a song or instrumental piece that is mentioned in a book and actually listen to it, if it is unfamiliar to the reader.
This was an interesting panel of people and the topic of their conversation certainly grabbed my attention and was well done.
All these books can be found within several bookshops such as WH Smith and Waterstones, to name but a few and Amazon.