#Interview By Lou With #RobertGraham of The Former Boy Wonder @LendalPress @kenyon_isabelle #TheFormerBoyWonder #Readers #ReadingCommunity #MusicInBooks

Robert GrahamI am delighted to present an interview I conducted with Robert Graham
author of The Former Boy Wonder.
Robert Graham has published novels and short stories as well as having a play performed by Contact. He also teaches creative writing in Liverpool.

The Former Boy Wonder coverThe Former Boy Wonder is a compelling book that covers first love, mid-life crisis and the challenges of the relationship between fathers and sons. It also features lots of music as the main protagonist was a music editor.

I have 4 questions about the book itself, covering  the eras it goes through, the father/son relationship, the fascinating inspiration and of course the music.
Thank you to Robert Graham for agreeing to be interviewed and thank you to Isabelle Kenyon for being instrumental in setting it up.
Now onto the interview…

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What inspired you to set your novel in the 1970s, 1980s and 2010s?

The novel has two narrative strands, one of which takes place in the early 2010s, when the protagonist, Peter Duffy, is about to turn 50. This landmark birthday makes him look at the dying of the light and wonder if his life – which in any case is falling apart – is as good as it gets. He’s contemplating his own mortality. I chose the early 2010s simply because I began writing the novel in 2012 and looking around me for details of the place and time was all I had to do to make the setting convincing to the reader. The second narrative strand is set when Peter’s a student. If he turns 50 in 2012, that will mean that his student days will have been the early ’80s. Even though I’m a few years older than Peter, setting that strand then meant I was familiar with all the cultural references, the signifiers of the era. Given these dates, he would have been a teenager in the 70s, which I was, too. All of which is to say, I didn’t have to research any of the eras in which the book takes place. This was helpful, as I did have to research quite a few other things, including being an Art student at Manchester Poly (I studied American Literature in Norwich), working in television in the ’70s (Peter’s father is a TV star at that time) and London, specifically Notting Hill, in the ’80s.

You have a very informative website about your writing and inspirations. You talk about studying a handful of novels but it sounds like you particularly studied The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald and Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain Fournier. Why these authors in particular and what impact did this have on your writing in The Former Boy Wonder?

Because of the crisis Peter is experiencing as he approaches his 50th birthday, he begins to remember his student days and long for his first love, Sanchia Page. I studied The Great Gatsby and Le Grand Meaulnes because both share this theme with TFBW: lost love. Both feature a romanticised account of a young man falling in love for the first time and both hang on an older man longing for that first love.

In Le Grand Meaulnes, the debut of Yvonne de Galais, the woman the hero of the book falls in love with, is delayed. To help me give Sanchia’s entrance maximum effect, I studied the build-up to her first appearance. The journey that will eventually bring us to Meaulnes’ coup de foudre is stretched out over twenty-two pages, when it could easily have been covered in two. Fournier withholds the key moment of the novel’s first act for as long as he does to generate tension, engage readers and, with specific details at the party, prime them for the arrival of a magical creature. Details such as a treasure chest of children’s trinkets, a Pierrot, coloured lights, and plangent music give the party a fairy tale quality. With this steadily delayed entrance, we have the sense that Meaulnes is passing through a dream-like setting and being drawn inexorably towards something mysterious. When Isabelle finally appears, Meaulnes’ great moment arrives, and he falls headlong in love.

In The Great Gatsby, Nick Carraway, the narrator, meets Gatsby at a party where, although it isn’t phrased in that way, he falls in love with him. The dramatic beginning of this love story is equally delayed, as Fitzgerald takes his time building up to Gatsby’s first appearance and keeps him offstage long enough to intensify the reader’s desire to meet this romantic character. Just as Fournier delays Meaulnes’ first encounter with Yvonne for twenty-two pages, Fitzgerald builds up to the arrival of Gatsby over the course of forty pages.

I tried to apply what I had learned from Fournier and Fitzgerald about delaying the debut of the object of affection. The first suggestion of Sanchia Page is on p 13 of TFBW. She’s next mentioned on p 27 and then on p 46 and doesn’t make her first appearance until p 51. At the end of their first scene together, she introduces herself: “My name’s Sanchia.” This is a direct steal from Fitzgerald’s novel, where, when Nick meets him, the eponymous hero says, ‘I’m Gatsby’. In my defence, I would quote the novelist John Updike who said, “My purpose in reading has ever secretly been not to come and judge but to come and steal.” I steal and I almost always have. I’ve learned that all artists do – and that it isn’t cheating. Halfway through the writing of TFBW, an article by the novelist Julian Barnes appeared in The Guardian. In it, he said evidence had emerged that, while writing The Great Gatsby, Fitzgerald had carefully studied Le Grand Meaulnes. The article then went on to examine some of the ways in which he used Fournier’s novel as a model for his own – which encouraged me to keep on doing what writers have always done: steal.

What inspired you to write about the relationship between a father and son?

I particularly wanted to write about my experience of losing my father when I was a child. My father passed on when I was 8. In the novel, Peter’s father abandons the family to go to London and seek his fortune when Peter is 9. I wanted to write about the experience of growing up without a father and longing for the one I lost. Freud said that a 16-yar-old boy’s desire to be affirmed by his father is stronger than his sex drive. So, I knew I had a subject matter with dramatic potential. I wrote about the experience of being a father of a teenaged son because I have a son and he once was a teenager – and the experience of being a father is one of the most important relationships of your life. With Peter’s relationship with Jack, his son, I mainly wanted to get a few laughs, so any time Jack appears, my aim was to make the things he says to his Dad funny.

Lastly, for a bit of fun and because music is huge in The Former Boy Wonder: What music do you like and why and do you remember the first piece of music you bought?

~ۓ

As you say, music looms large in this novel, but I always tried to avoid Peter having an opinion about any of it. I don’t think a novelist’s opinions about music are of much interest to a reader. (In fact, a novelist’s opinions about anything aren’t of much interest to a reader.) On Spotify, there’s a TFBW playlist and it gives an indication of my tastes. Some of the tracks on it I played to get me in the mood to write a particular scene (Roxy Music’s “All I Want Is You”, for instance); some are there because their theme coincided with one in the book (for example, Leonard Cohen’s “I Can’t Forget”); and some because they had a particular function in the book: the morning after he loses his virginity, Peter puts on Devo’s “Uncontrollable Urge”.

It’d be great to able to say that that the first record I ever bought was the Velvet Underground’s first album or The Fall’s only hit single, but the truth is it was Sandie Shaw’s “Monsieur Dupont”. Not so cool.

#BookReview By Lou of – The Former Boy Wonder By Robert Graham #RobertGraham @LendalPress @kenyon_isabelle #Music #Fiction #TheFormerBoyWonder #Midlife #Readers #ReadingCommunity

The Former Boy Wonder
By Robert Graham

Rating: 4 out of 5.

One for the music fans! One for those interested in father/son relationships. One for those interested in a story with a midlife crisis within it. Check The Former Boy Wonder out the blurb and my review of The Former Boy below.
Thanks to Isabelle Kenyon and Lendal Press for inviting me to review on the closing spot for the blog tour and for a copy of the book.

Blurb

The Former Boy Wonder coverA bittersweet comedy that takes a sidelong look at first love, mid-life crisis and the
challenges of the relationship between fathers and sons.
With his 50th birthday approaching and his career in tatters, Peter Duffy is hard at work trying to
repair his marriage when an invitation arrives in the post. Caitlin, one of his university friends, is
having a party at the country house where he met his first love, the exotic Sanchia Page. If all his old friends are going to be there, there’s a slim chance that – just maybe – she will, too. Faced with this possibility, re-living his time with Sanchia threatens to turn his head and ruin all his good intentions.
Set in the new Manchester of the 21st century and the old Manchester of 25 years before,
The Former Boy Wonder takes a wry look at mid-life men and the women who have to live with them.

Review

Take a pinch of nostalgia from the 1970’s and 1980’s, mixed with more closer to present times – the twenty-teens and you have the timeline for The Former Boy Wonder, with the toys, the sweets and the music. The fun of the eras is intertwined with hardship. From near the start, there is a big pang of sadness, that immediately makes you sympathise and empathise with life situations, along with a more cool vibe of celebrities of the time and fashion magazines, such as Vogue.

The Former Boy Wonder cover 2Peter Duffy is 49 years old and his career as a music journalist is flat-lining, from its once hugely successful years of being around the big bands and A-list stars. He’s reached a certain age and having a bit of a mid-life crisis and the work that used to come his way, isn’t the same and no-longer is he seen as the young hot-shot journalist he once was.
The music scenes are entertaining with so many bands and artists, but also shows an interesting contrast of how it was in Belfast, Northern Ireland compared to Manchester, England. The enthusiasm really shines through. 

Life and love and fatherhood is complicated, bringing more drama and sometimes humour and warmth. One of the big, powerful themes is that of a father-son relationship and readers can see this develop and will be able to totally relate to the teenage attitude.

The Former Boy Wonder keenly observes all aspects of life throughout the decades and how things change, how people are percieved, change when they age up. It’s very much like looking into someone else’s world with a full, unobstructed view, with everything documented and emotions drawn.

About the Author

Robert Graham is the author of the novel Holy Joe; the short story collections The Only Living Boy and When You Were a Mod, I Was A Rocker; and the novella A Man Walks Into A Kitchen. His play about fans of The Smiths, If You Have Five Seconds To Spare, was staged by Contact Theatre, Manchester. He is co-author, with Keith Baty, of Elvis – The Novel, a spoof biography; and, with Julie Armstrong, Heather Leach, Helen Newall et al, of The Road To Somewhere: A Creative Writing Companion; Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Creative Writing; and How To Write A Short Story (And Think About It). He grew up in Northern Ireland and for most of his adult life has lived in Manchester. He teaches Creative Writing at Liverpool John Moores University. For more information please see http://www.robertgraham.life and follow Robert on Instagram @robert55graham

 

Ever Rest by Roz Morris @Roz_Morris #LiteraryFiction #Music #Fiction #BookClubFiction #BookClubs

Ever Rest
By Roz Morris

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Ever Rest is a terrifically absorbing book with suspense, almost lyrical text, from the characters to the concepts and scenery. It’s just so interesting too, like a behind the scenes of people’s lives in a way you don’t often see in the music world. It’s beyond those glossy magazines and newspaper articles, to the actual people in a band and people’s lives, right to a hearstopping moment, where the book begins… 
Thanks to Roz Morris for getting in touch to request a review on my blog and for gifting me with the book.

Please carry on down to the blurb and my review to find out more.

EverRest

Blurb

Twenty years ago, Hugo and Ash were on top of the world. As the acclaimed rock band Ashbirds they were poised for superstardom. Then Ash went missing, lost in a mountaineering accident, and the lives of Hugo and everyone around him were changed forever. Irrepressible, infuriating, mesmerizing Ash left a hole they could never hope to fill. Two decades on, Ash’s fiancée Elza is still struggling to move on, her private grief outshone by the glare of publicity. The loss of such a rock icon is a worldwide tragedy. Hugo is now a recluse in Nepal, shunning his old life. Robert, an ambitious session player, feels himself both blessed and cursed by his brief time with Ashbirds, unable to achieve recognition in his own right. While the Ashbirds legend burns brighter than ever, Elza, Hugo and Robert are as stranded as if they were the ones lost in the ice. How far must they go to come back to life? A lyrical, page-turning novel in the tradition of Dear Edward by Ann Napolitano, Ever Rest asks how we carry on after catastrophic loss. It will also strike a chord with fans of Meg Wolitzer’s The Interestings and Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Daisy Jones for its people bonded by an unforgettable time; fans of Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, for music as a primal and romantic force; and Jon Krakauer’s Into Thin Air for the deadly and irresistible wildernesses that surround our comfortable world.

Review

EverRestIt’s begins with a heart in the mouth moment, with a phone call no one on earth would ever want. This book is an excellent read. It would be great for reading alone or reading for a book club with the beautiful scenery against the suspense and the music beat.

Take a look at that cover! It is so cleverly conceived. It’s like a piece of modern art. There’s someone at the top of Mount Everest, but looks like either a CD or a record, where music, life and Nepal converge and all is not well and the cover looks torn, as lives have been tearing apart. The title is also a bit of a play on words and quite intelligent , 2 separated to mean one thing (Ever Rest) and bring them together and drop the “R” to create the mountain name – Everest.

Ashten from the band – The Ashbirds went missing in 1994 in Nepal. 18 years later, there’s some movement on this case and the intrigue to read on to see whether his body was ever found or not.

Elliott is an intriguing character and it feels like he is enraptured with Elza and her story as he sees pictures everywhere in the press and suddenly feels like he has a need to check out the press a lot to see what’s going on with her life. He is particularly fascinated about how she gets on in life, now that her fiancee, Ashten, is still missing in Nepal. There are sightings of bodies up Mount Everest that may have been him and not. It brings an absolutely captivating mystery element to what is essentially literary fiction.
The other characters – Hugo, Ari and Markson and Robert are also interesting too as they are kind of stuck with being associated with the band and also in what happened to Ashten.

Readers are treated to a back story and it’s like a behind the scenes of the music business and a band reaching the top of their game and all the pressures that comes with that and the very serious rifts.
Then band members, such as Robert wanted a solo career. Then what it takes to bring a band back together after so much history and complications.

The books also gives a bit of insight into how the press are and the assumptions they make in some of the questions they ask and also from the other-side, how certain magazines are courted and decisions made to give that exclusive story to.

It also brings about themes of grief and acceptance in different ways and moving forwards in life and what people have to deal with and how things affect them.

This is a thought-provoking story about the press, the music business and its highs and lows and also, almost poses the question as to how you would feel if someone you knew was high up on a mountain and one went missing and the other did not, as what happened to Hugo and Ashten, and then as Elza did, meet Hugo again some time later. It gives a lot of scope for book clubs to discuss and for readers not involved in one, a lot to really get involved with, to find out the outcome, which is more than worth hanging in there for…

#Review by Lou of The Other Times of Caroline Tangent by Ivan D. Wainewright @IvanWainewright @RandomTTours #NewBook #Music #TimeTravel #ContemporaryFiction

The Other Times of Caroline Tangent
By Ivan D. Wainewright

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Other Times Graphic

Join Caroline and Jon Tangent in what is like a back catalogue or an Aladdin’s Cave of music festivals and gigs through the eras in this magnificently uplifting time-travelling book that is perfect for music lovers and people who love a great story alike. Gigs/Concerts, we’ve not been to them for quite awhile… The timing is perfect with so many gigs postponed and there are glimmers of light just starting to shine on them again. From the start with all the excitement and music to the trepidation of what can happen when choices in the past are made and change, this book is thought-provoking, entertaining and a page-turner.

Find out more in the blurb and the rest of my thoughts in my review below.
Thanks to RandomTTours for inviting me to review and for Ivan D. Wainewright for sending a copy of the book.

 

Other Times of Cover

Blurb

If you could travel back in time to see any concert, who would you go to see?

Caroline Tangent’s husband, Jon has invented a time machine so they can visit iconic gigs in history: Woodstock, David Bowie, Edith Piaf in 1930’s Paris – an inexhaustible bucket-list.

But they can’t tell anyone they’re doing so. 

As their trips to the past continue, they begin to realise how it could change a devastating moment from their own past.

But for Caroline, it’s clear they don’t want the same outcome. 

Until, on one trip, one of them does something unthinkable which will change both their lives forever. 

The Other Times of Caroline Tangent is a time travel book set in the ‘real world’. It’s as much about the decisions we make – or don’t make – in our relationships as it is about time travel. 

 
For fans of Matt Haig, Claire North, Kate Mascarenhas, Audrey Niffenegger – or anyone who likes time travel or music!

Review

wp-1621851421231.jpgFor a moment, it’s Paris, 1935 and then…. whoosh! Readers are in London, 2021 and meeting Caroline and Jon Tangent, who are the most avid music fans and collectors ever! Music of all sorts of genres and from all sorts of eras from Edith Piaf to The Beatles to Amy Winehouse to KT Tunstall and everyone inbetween, oozes from this book and it is pretty exciting! The back of the book, and the lovely bookmark poses a question: “If you could travel back in time to see any concert, who would you go to see?” Excitingly thought provoking isn’t it? Music and a passion for it simply oozes from this book. It could easily have a sound track to it as readers then slip into huge gigs and festivals. The back of the book has an impressive gig list of where Jon and Caroline go. At a time when people haven’t been able to go to Glastonbury or any gigs for so long, and as there is hope of them restarting, the timing of this book is absolutely perfect! The book takes readers into a back catalogue of time and music and all the stars of certain eras and iconic venues, such as The Cavern Club.
There are so many music artists that everyone (or at least most people) will have heard of all or most of. The excitement and happy vibe is infectious as you read as they forefill life-long dreams, until a moment of trepidation happens as suddenly, they can’t get back home from one of their trips as they’ve lost the time-travelling pen, which allows this. This sparks a totally awesome encounter with a band! That moment of trepidation becomes something bigger and spirals as history starts to change.

Amongst all the jovial fun of time-travel and music, is the harshness of reality of life, with illness in Veronica, Jon’s sister-in-law and yet with it comes a sense of positivity with talk of Jon’s inventions and humour prevails, at least for awhile…
There are also encounters with people in other parts that make the pair more appreciative of the things 2021 Britain has, such as the NHS as their eyes open to other people’s lives. As much as there is much fun, there are thought-provoking parts of discovery too. It is quite a twisty book as social issues and crimes arise and come to the fore as the music scenes fade a bit more into the background. There are also uncertainties as certain choices are made in the past and how things, things are seen that can make or break lives, how things change and what starts off as quite ordinary becomes extraordinary and outcomes can become quite different from what you might expect with concern of the butterfly effect.

From the start with all the excitement and music to the trepidation of what can happen when choices in the past are made and change, this book is thought-provoking, entertaining and a page-turner.

 

Other Times BT Poster

David Bowie by Robert Dimery #DavidBowie #Bookreview by Lou #LawrenceKingPublishing #NetGalley #NonFiction #Biography #Music

David Bowie
By Robert Dimery
Rated:
5 stars *****

Whether you are a seasoned fan of David Bowie or wanting an introduction to who he was, then this compelling book would make a great starting point or addition to anyone’s music collection.
Thanks to Lawrence King Publishing for accepting my request to review.
Read further to discover the blurb and the review in full.

David Bowie

Blurb

David Bowie was a restless innovator, scoring chart hits that broke radical new ground. His image changed with almost every album, influencing high streets and catwalks alike. He became an acclaimed actor, while his androgynous aura and ambiguous sexuality proved liberating to those uncertain about their own. This book charts his evolution in the sixties, his euphoric reinvention in 1972 as Ziggy Stardust and the excessive lifestyle that nearly cost him his sanity. It revisits his artistic rebirth in Berlin, the global stardom he achieved with Let’s Dance in 1983 and his triumphant farewell, Blackstar.

David Bowie is part of the Lives the Musicians series: highly readable short biographies of the most-popular musicians.

Review

A biography of David Bowie, I felt would be an ambitious book for anyone to pull off, there is after all, so much to say about him, but one that Robert Dimery has managed expertly to do, to make it an excellent introduction or addition to anyone’s musician book collection.

The contents page is enough to intrigue and scoop David Barlow fans up:

Becoming Bowie ♦ Of Mods and Mime ♦ Lift-off ♦ Rock ‘n’ Roll Alien ♦ Ziggy Goes To America ♦
Diamond Dogs and the Thin White Duke ♦ Berlin Calling ♦ Scary Monsters (and Superstardom) ♦
Losing the Muse ♦ Art-house Rules

This book is mature in writing. Let’s face it, writing about someone as elusive and yet as popular as David Bowie must have been an exciting opportunity, but very nicely it doesn’t feel like the author has hyped him up. He hasn’t shied away from, what must have been challenging times in David Bowie’s life of not being instantly loved and having to face some criticism. There are also the times, which must have been terrific, when things were going well. It feels very authentic and rounded.

The book, after a foreward, begins to tell you who David Bowie was as a man, the street he was on and a bit about his close family life and extended relatives and the atmosphere certain developments created. It captivates and gives a bit more understanding of David Bowie, away from the professional, famous persona he had. There are also other popstars of the time mentioned, which gives depth and all relates to David Bowie one way or another and bands he was part of. It is interesting reading about the eclectic music involved and performing on music shows such as Ready Steady Go, in his early career. There is also a look at the actual development of how he became a solo artist. There’s a nuanced exploration into sexuality that pops up every so often, like just reminding people how this influenced people and how people related to David Bowie. It is evident that a lot of David Bowie’s life has been researched and also the wider sphere of it, which creates fascination and in a way, perhaps readers will see something of themselves reflected back at them or remember the quotes from some famous fans, from the likes of NME.
It says about the uneasy start of Space Oddity, which these days, it’s hard to believe, but this is what the book shows, that the pop business isn’t as easy as it makes out to be. It has a truth about it, that even the most well-known had very challenging times. The book  rolls into Bowie’s alter-ego – Ziggy Stardust and what influenced certain music, such as his stage entrances. There are nuggets throughout the book, which is like a glimpse of behind the scenes and into the music business, as well as his own individuality, creating such a fascinating book. Going stateside is quite the eye-opener in terms of music, but even more so in the affect it had on himself and Angie. Later it talks of Iman and takes readers right up to Blackstar, where it is all quite emotional due to his death, and yet stay in keeping with the tone of the rest of the book, which is factual and has a professional, rather than over-excited fan, feel to it and that’s what helps keep it interesting, at times intriguing and most certainly compelling. It feels like this is okay to read because it seems to document how things are and there are some well-placed quotes, which brings David Bowie’s voice into the writing. It feels respectful. In the middle of the book, there are also some fabulous photos of David Bowie, documenting through his years of being a star, pictorially.
At the back, readers are treated to discography and further reading of live albums.