A Book for Each Day of the Week #TheStrawberryThief @Joannechocolat #SummerattheKindnessCafe @Vicky_Walters #TheHangryHamster #SealedWithADeath @JamesSilvester1 #TheLongestFarewell @nulasuchet @johnsuchet1 #summer #bookish #crime #kidslit #romance #France #UK #Thriller #summerreads #review Resume of Reviews of 7 Great Books for Summer and Beyond

A resume of 7 great books I have read over the summer and beyond.

I have read and reviewed a number of books this summer. I thought I would give a quick resume of 7 of them. Full reviews are also in my blog. I have also provided individual links to the full reviews. Please do take a look, you may be inspired or reminded of a good book.

The Strawberry Thief by Joanne Harris – Fiction

Strawberry thief

The Strawberry Thief is the latest part of the Chocolat series, written by Joanne Harris

This book sees Vianne Rocher back in Lansquenette-Sous Tannes during Easter with strawberries and chocolate filling the senses. There’s also a change in the wind as there is excellent writing, truth and emotion in the writing as Anouk has grown up and flown the nest. This is in contrast to Rosette who cannot do this part of life.
Roux still lives on the boat, preferring his own company and there is a new character called Morgane Dubois.
The writing of the wind is beautifully descriptive and tells the reader there’s much more than just the wind to come and that it is meaningful. The growing up of children who fly the nest and set up their own lives is relatable. The book will arouse anyone’s senses and emotions. It is just as good as the previous 3 books within this series. The descriptive writing is atmospheric and adds to the intrigue as to how this book will end.

Note, there is also an added afterward about Joanne’s own experience of her daughter leaving home and there is a poignant, well-written short story in print copies only of this book that are well-worth reading.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/06/02/the-strawberry-thief-by-joanne-harris-an-exquisite-atmospheric-and-poignant-book-5-stars-joannechocolat-orionbooks-gigicroft-thestrawberrythief-review-newbook-waterstones

 

Summer at the Kindness Cafe by Victoria Walters – Fiction

Summer at Kindess Cover (1)

Enter Brew – Kindness Cafe this summer and you won’t be disappointed. Enter Brew and be inspired to do your own random acts of kindness this summer, like the three women within this story.

Abbie Morgan is the main protagonist and is forced to leave London after being made redundant, something so relatable to many people.
Within the book there are sections called “Notes from the Brew Kindness Board”. This may inspire some people to follow-suit and do random acts of kindness. Get to know the characters and their personalities and see if Acts of Kindness transforms their lives or not.
Once the story has ended, turn the page for a lovely note by the author.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/06/18/summer-at-the-kindness-cafe-by-victoria-walters-this-summer-be-encapsulated-in-warmth-kindness-and-life-vicky_walters-teambatc-summeratthekindnesscafe-randomthingstours-annecater-randomactof

The Hangry Hamster by Grace McCluskey – Fiction

hangry hamster

Have fun with this children’s book. Billy gets a hamster and takes him everywhere, until the hamster isn’t allowed on the plane when Billy is going abroad. The hamster gets left behind and becomes hangry and goes on an adventure through London. Take a read of this adventurous, exciting, humorous, well illustrated book, written by a child for children.

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/07/14/the-hangry-hamster-by-grace-mccluskey-a-short-action-packed-book-to-engage-and-excite

Sealed with a Death – Fiction

Sealed with a Death Book Cover

Would you like a great political thriller? Give Sealed with a Death by James Silvester a try.

This book has got to be placed up there in one of the most current book in fiction there currently is. James Silvester writes very well and at excellent pace, in conveying what is happening and mixing it with his fictional. Meet Lucie Musilova – an assassin working as part of the Overlappers Intelligence Team. Women across many countries in Europe start to disappear, Kasper Algers, an Independent MP disappears and there’s still the case as to what happened to Ines Aubel. Readers are also taken into the world of brothels and further into the world of espionage and fake passports.

The book takes us to the far right of British politics and also to France where there’s the Gilet Jaune movement and the author takes this element into Britain. There’s also a focus on the everyday prejudices, pay as well as the cuts to police resources.

I have to say, I was impressed by not just how current this book is, but also the calibre of writing, considering the time it takes to write a book, especially well and how politics moves along at the moment. The language and tone of all the characters is believable, there’s no holding back!

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/07/15/sealed-with-a-death-by-james-silvester-jamessilvester1-urbanebooks-lovebookstours-politicalthriller-thriller-espionage-newreview-newbook

A Summer to Remember by Sue Moorcroft – Fiction

A Summer to Remember Cover

Clancy Moss is the main character, leaving her old life to start a new one. There’s romance, there’s social, tourism and education issues that are dealt with. From beginning to end this book has so much of human life and yet it feels as light as summer, and still it skillfully has meaningful substance. It is a most enjoyable and absorbing read of break-up, romance and life’s trials and tribulations and escapism. A Summer to Remember is a book to remember this summer and for more summers to come.

Please note, there is also an added short story in physical print copies of this book that is worth reading.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/07/24/a-summer-to-remember-by-sue-moorcroft-a-delightful-summer-read-suemoorcroft-avonbooksuk-summer-summerreads-heatwave-review-newbooks-ebookpromo-norfolk-romance

 

Zippy and Me by Ronnie Le Drew – Non-Fiction

zippy cover

Ronnie Le Drew is best known as being the puppeteer for Zippy in children’s TV show – Rainbow. It is a well written autobiography about becoming a puppeteer, his starting out at the The Little Angel Theatre. Some of the hard time he had to go through (not a sob-story though, it is better than that). and the people he worked with such as Jim Henson and David Bowie. Ronnie comes across as being down-to-earth as he never forgets his roots. This book is also about a bit of Rainbow scandal and what happened to the people working in it afterwards. It is nostalgic to say the least. Readers will get a look of behind the scenes of Ronnie’s puppeteer work, which makes it a fascinating read.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/08/02/zippy-and-me-by-ronnie-le-drew-with-duncan-barrett-and-nuala-calvi-re-visit-your-childhood-with-this-enlightening-book-about-rainbow-zippyandme-punchand-unbounders-duncanbarrett-nualacalvi-rai

The Longest Farewell by Nula Suchet – Non-Fiction

The Longest Farewell book pic

 Condensing my review down, only goes a little into what is really within the pages of this book. I will say it is a very worthy book to read, so please do take a look at the full review of it. I will also say it is the most emotional book of the summer. Nula Suchet’s husband James who, at the age of 57 had Picks disease – a form of dementia and this is chronicled very well in this book, with every heart-felt sentence. John Suchet’s wife – Bonnie also had dementia. It is heartbreaking and there is also so much love as Nula cares for James, who does go into a care home, but that is also where she meets John, who is there visiting his Bonnie. It is also about the relationship that develops between John and Nula and their travels together, that at first don’t exactly go smoothly. The writing is so amazingly strong, every aspect of the book is absorbing and all-consuming in a good way because every emotion can practically be felt and empathised and sympathised with. It is telling that it is all written from the heart and this part of both John and Nula’s life was not easy. It does however have the most happy of endings or rather shows the happiness of a continuation of their lives. 

Please do look at my full review for this book, if you haven’t done so already because just a few words only really highlights the book’s existence and a little of what it is about.

Link below:

https://bookmarksandstages.home.blog/2019/08/07/the-longest-farewell-james-dementia-and-me-by-nula-suchet-nulasuchet-johnsuchet1-serenbooks-david_suchet-vicky_mcclure-the_writereads-dementia-nonfiction-review-newbook

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Review of The Longest Farewell – James, Dementia and Me by Nula Suchet @nulasuchet @johnsuchet1 @SerenBooks @David_Suchet @Vicky_McClure @The_WriteReads #dementia #nonfiction #review #newbook

The Longest Farewell – James, Dementia and Me
By Nula Suchet
Rated: 5 stars *****

About the Author

Nula Suchet was born and raised in Ireland, part of a large family. She studied Art and Design at Chelsea College of Art and became an interior designer, working internationally in the UK, Europe and the US. Now retired, she lives in London, with her husband, the broadcaster John Suchet.

About the Book

Dementia crept early into the life of James Black, insidious and unannounced. The result was a long farewell to him as he changed from a happy, successful film maker into a completely dependent care home resident, and a stranger to his wife, Nula.

Yet after seven stressful years, Nula’s life unexpectedly changed when she met a man whose wife was also a dementia patient in the home. Her friendship with John Suchet became a relationship, but theirs is a difficult road. There is joy, but also despair and guilt. Is even a moment of happiness allowed when their loved ones are in slow decline towards death? Theirs is a story that plumbs the depths but also reaches a happiness that they thought they would never experience.

The Longest Farewell book pic

Review

Brave, devastatingly emotional, moving, heartbreaking, thought-provoking and yet there’s so much love in the Longest Farewell and ultimately, such a special kind of happiness.

I am pleased and privileged to review The Longest Farewell by Nula Suchet. It is with great thanks to her for agreeing to allow me to review her book. I also thank her for arranging with her publisher to send me a hardback copy.

Nula Suchet chronicled her life in the hope that anyone whose life is blighted with dementia can know that the tunnel they feel enclosed by need never be totally closed. The book is 182 pages and every word is evidently written from the heart. There is so much in this book to capture, so please bear with me.

At only fifty-seven years old, Nula’s husband was diagnosed with Picks disease – a rare form of dementia. This is an important book. It really shows that dementia really does not choose age or class or creed. It is a cruel disease at any age, but particularly to someone who was in his prime to then suddenly not be. There’s so much heartbreak when reading this book. Any reader, I am sure would feel it. This book is brave and must have taken a lot of courage to write as memories of a life since past, come to the fore once more in such a way, in order to write this brilliant book. The book begins with there just not being something quite right about James. The worry is there in the writing as is the fact that it perhaps makes more sense to put the new behaviours James is expressing, down to stress.

There is a strong glimpse into what life for James used to be like pre-dementia. I like that we are treated to the type of man he was and what he did. He had a strong place in the world, he created scripts for documentaries and wrote screenplays and worked very hard and over many hours. There seems to be a real sense of vibrancy and intelligence about James, even when there’s a bit about him meeting with a producer and normally he talks a lot about various ideas, when instead, there is a silence, that would by now, seem, to any reader as being unusual for James. There was an energy and enthusiasm in his work that was all of a sudden whisked away, leaving the love of his life wondering what to do. Nula writes unambiguously, throughout, including the emotions, the striking behaviours in James and Nula’s understandable initial denial that it could be anything other than stress or lots of time writing alone. There is a deep sense that every single sentence written is incredibly heart-felt and I believe other readers will feel this in their hearts too as I do in mine. There’s the feeling of anger too about what the Picks disease is doing to James. Everyone reacts differently and until dementia happens, you cannot fully really know how you will react, let’s just say, it is a familiar reaction. In amongst all of the different emotions and the having to deal with it, I like that Nula Suchet shows an air of determination to still to try to live life to the fullest with James, doing the things they used to enjoy together. There is however, such a bitter-sweetness. Nula Suchet writes about some wonderful memories, that seem so happy and full of love. There is such a determination to care for James. How hard this is isn’t sugar-coated as bit by bit it is there for all readers to see, but ultimately dementia is sadly taking over and behaviours, caused by Picks. Even before the chapter called Isolation, there’s a sense of it creeping stealthily and unwelcomingly in and life as they once knew it coming to a halt. Nula also has to give up working on her interior design business too. The writing is so amazingly strong, every aspect of the book is absorbing and all consuming in a good way because every emotion can practically be felt and empathised and sympathised with. I know this is a book that I will read more than once. I realised that before I even reached the end.

When Nula Suchet says about their being a comfort that she finally found a “good home” that did activities with their residents, even I feel gladness of that, because very unfortunately that isn’t always the case, as is pointed out in the book. Not that this makes anything any easier, not really, as travelling to the care home also is another emotional challenge of sadness as that feeling of guilt takes hold and lingers. The phrases used could not be put any better to describe that situation of struggle, anguish and the sheer depths of despair she goes to. Not one bit of it could be easy to have re-lived at all.

It is so interesting and thoughtful that other residents are remembered from Nula’s visits to see James and what I think readers, who perhaps don’t need to make visits to a care home will find is how different the residents all behave that she describes, as well as the feelings and vocal demands of James too.

The book then naturally merges into John Suchet’s life too as he and Nula meet and it is touching as she also gets to know Bonnie in the care home.
John Suchet is a broadcaster, currently on  the radio channel Classic FM.
It reads a little bit differently from what went prior. There are correspondences between Nula and John, which contain warmth, care and attention.

There are similarities in emotions felt and the emotionally charged writing, for he too is losing Bonnie – the love of his life all too early with the cruelty of dementia.  There are some parallels between their lives as a strong connection starts to build between them, such as John and Bonnie also travelled together whilst he worked – researching for his books. The connection builds into friendship and more and this is beautiful to read about as there is a clear hope and glimmer of happiness and being able to re-discover all the things they both enjoy and together. There are however a few times of understandable tentativeness at first and a challenging holiday in Greece together, which is written so well and with also recalling her own upbringing, which was so different from John’s. Hers, one of more turmoil and heartbreak, compared to John’s seemingly more perfect life. There is some comfort to be found in her insecurities as she asks calls “girly questions” due to insecurities. It is something many females will relate to, I am sure, but also the self-protection both males and females I am sure will relate to some degree. There are other trips where there are memories of James and the sadness that comes with it. There’s also more feelings of guilt and the pain of not being able to have a  coherent discussion with James about what she had been doing.

The further deterioration in both Bonnie and James and the medical issues and palliative care is not shied away from. It is told how it was for them. Poignantly there is a shared “list of nevers”, which is things they will never be able to do again.  It is by this time at its starkest yet as is the fact that dementia never leaves those who actually have it, but also others, like John and Nula, no matter what else is done in life.

Nula goes into some detail about the further deterioration of James and how it affects her relationship with John, who is also seeing this in Bonnie and is trying to cope with his own emotions, has to be given credit for being so incredibly patient and for showing such care and realising they need each other, even when emotion is trying to get the better of Nula and is trying to pull the relationship apart and almost forever, even after the funerals of James and Bonnie, which is chronicled with such respect. I found myself thinking thank goodness that Nula’s computer needed fixed and they were going to an expert together and she still agreed. Through all the devastation Nula and John lived through together, there is so much love and the ending is one that nearly was not, but my goodness I am glad it is just the best ending or perhaps best ever continuation of their lives may be more appropriate, for two people who have lived through so much and now bravely shared so much to the world.

There’s so much pain and guilt that is so understandable and deserves compassion. What is perhaps not actually said, is still there in-between the lines because this is actually an incredibly well-written book and written from the heart.

There are two sections of wonderful, meaningful photos that are excellently placed within the book. The first section, depicting happier times of James and Nula and they are so full of joy and life and yet there is a sadness because these are memories now of his work and of other life’s adventures they did together.  There’s also some other family photos too that are interesting to see. The second set shows James and Bonnie years into dementia and what it was doing to them, and yet they are so poignantly remembered through these photos. They are so tastefully done and with sensitivity. There are also photos of happier times again of Nula and John together, which are so heartwarming and they really do look so happy together. Each photo has its place. They seem so carefully chosen and go with the text before and after them. Every single expression looks so genuine.

I do also recommend reading the very important postscript. It highlights further the need for greater awareness and compassion for those with dementia. It isn’t just those who actually have this devastating disease that has still no cure to, it is everyone around that person. It highlights that care needs to be better and more research and more expertise needs to be put into it and that care, although can be good in some places of the UK, it isn’t always good around the UK. There’s acknowledgement of the greatest campaign’s so far, such as Line of Duty actress Vicky McClure’s Dementia Choir, hosted in Nottingham and Formula One champion Jackie Stewart launching a fund for research.

I have never read a book quite like The Longest Farewell before. The Longest Farewell is an important and timeless book in raising awareness of what Dementia can do and how it affects everyone’s lives and not just the person who is suffering from it. It also raises awareness of the inequalities in the care for dementia patients. There also is a need for more compassion towards people with dementia and their affected families around them.
For some, perhaps the book may also provide comfort and hope for those who are carers or are visiting their loved ones in a care-home that they aren’t alone.

It is also kind that Nula mentions that John also has a book called My Bonnie, documenting his dispair and loneliness about losing Bonnie to dementia. He also writes books about different classical composers in his fascinating Man Revealed series.

James Longest Farewell

______________________________________________
Title: The Longest Farewell – James, Dementia and Me
Author: Nula Suchet
Publisher: Seren
ISBN: 9781781725184

Zippy and Me by Ronnie Le Drew with Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi – Re-visit your childhood with this enlightening book about Rainbow #ZippyAndMe @Punchand @unbounders #DuncanBarrett #NualaCalvi #Rainbow #retrotv #newreview #nonfiction #puppeteers

Zippy and Me
By Ronnie Le Drew with Duncan Barrett and Nuala Calvi
Rated: *****

I am pleased to be on the Blog Tour of the book Zippy and me. This book is the first behind-the-scenes look at the now legendary children’s TV programme Rainbow, which ran for more than two decades.

Zippy and Me BT Poster

About the Author

Ronnie Le Drew is one of the UK’s most respected puppeteers, and recipient of the prestigious Harlequin Award.
He has operated many of the most iconic children’s puppets of the twentieth century – Zippy, Sweep, Muffin the Mule, Bill and Ben, Brains from Thunderbirds – as well as working on classic puppet films such as Labyrinth, Little Shop of Horrors and
The Muppet Christmas Carol. He continues to work regularly as a puppeteer in TV,
theatre and advertising and also teaches at the London School of Puppetry, which he founded in 1987.

Ronnie Le Drew

Blurb

Over the course of almost half a century, puppeteer Ronnie Le Drew has worked with the greats – from David Bowie in Labyrinth to Michael Caine in A Muppet Christmas Carol. But the role that defined his career was Rainbow’s Zippy, who he operated for more than twenty years.
Zippy and Me is the first time a Rainbow insider has told the true story of what went on under the counter and inside the suits: the petty squabbles between performers, wrangling with TV executives, and scandals such as the ‘love triangle’ between musicians Rod, Jane and Freddy. Not to mention the now infamous X-rated episode shot for an ITV Christmas party, which subsequently found its way to the Sun.
Interweaved with the dirt on what really went on behind the scenes is the story of Rainbow’s heyday in the 1970s and 80s, when its stars found themselves catapulted into an exciting showbiz world – scooping a BAFTA award and even performing for the queen – and the story of a young lad from a south London council estate who defied his parents’ protests to became one of the most respected puppeteers of all time.

zippy cover

 

Review

The book has an entertaining foreword by comedian Richard Herring about the time when he met Zippy and was so in awe. It’s an excellent way to begin this book and thus being thrust back into the rather simpler life of early childhood of watching Rainbow. Rainbow, for anyone who does not know, was a long-running children’s tv series with Geoffrey at the helm and then there were Rod, Jane and Freddy and some puppets called Zippy, Bungle and George. How I was glued to the television when this was on. I even still remember the theme tune, later I learnt that the theme tune was worked on by none other than Hugh Fraser who played Captain Hastings in Poirot and other tv programmes and has also written books. What we would not have been aware of as children, was that Ronnie Le Drew was the puppeteer for Zippy for over 20 years. It defined his career as a puppeteer, but that wasn’t his only role. Yes, Rainbow was a very fun and cool programme. but he has also worked with some other very cool people such as David Bowie on the film Labyrinth and Michael Caine in the film – A Muppet’s Christmas Carol.

Ronnie Le Drew’s enthusiasm for puppeteering comes across from the very first chapter. It oozes with this positivity and energy as he writes letters for advice and attends a puppet theatre. It isn’t all plain sailing though. The writing means readers will really get the sense of the shock of his dad dying. This has real emotional impact and will do, with any reader. It really is heart breaking to read as home life becomes more of a struggle. This could not have been easy for Ronnie Le Drew to have written and re-lived, even all these years on. There’s a real sense to be had in the devastating loss of his job at Little Angel too. The one place he could go that seems like it felt a safe place and one, he describes as a place of solace. The writing of this time feels like it is heartfelt. Ronnie Le Drew has captured me as a reader. I am interested in his life. I feel like I care and care enough to really smile when I see his life start to change for the better, the more into the book. This is the power of his writing. The book has become, for me, at this point, more than just the fact it is really cool to read about Rainbow. I’ve been captured by every aspect before that job too, headed up by Pamela Lonsdale. It is fascinating to read how it all began and how Ronnie Le Drew landed the job. There’s an air of down-to-earthness about it all. I rather like that. Still, the puppeteer, when Rainbow wasn’t being filmed, due to the end of series one, he went back to where he began, at Little Angel, where there were spats, but rectified. I really got the sense that Rainbow excited him when the calls came for even the second series, but he wanted to play it coolly and professionally. There’s plenty to discover in this book, such as Matthew Corbett from the Sooty Show, as worked on Rainbow for a while and Le Drew began working as Sweep and there’s some great stories from this time too.
There’s a real sense of the physical demands on a puppeteer, which really might be overlooked when being a child especially, just watching on at favourite characters. So, there’s a real behind the scenes feel to what is written within the book. What appeared to be seamless, wasn’t the case at all. It is however, more interesting that the puppeteers were overlooked by the producers. The real frustration of this really comes out in the book. It gives readers a real insight. There’s also an insight into all the innuendo that went on within Rainbow, including in script form. There’s also an insight about the relationships and there’s a sense of real worry again from Ronnie Le Drew when so-called scandals came out about Rod and Jane. All the while, there is still a down-to-earthness about Ronnie Le Drew and how he saw his working life being a bit surreal.

It is interesting to read how doors opened into the more surreal world of American puppetry and films like Labyrinth and Little Shop of Horrors and yet he duly returned to Rainbow and also to the Little Angel Theatre. I get the sense it can’t have been easy re-living the splintering of Rainbow and also the failing health of John at the theatre. This however is far from a “poor me, sob story”. This, I get the feeling, is telling it how it really was, including the politics of the time, such as Margaret Thatcher (which now explains a lot about tv my brother and I watched growing up, suddenly disappearing, along with a lot of other things, that at that time just felt odd, but didn’t understand), was ensuring much was axed, something that even with the fact that the next job was on A Muppet’s Christmas Carol, still perhaps played on Ronnie Le Drew’s mind. There’s certainly a sense of this. Even though he worked with David Bowie and Jim Henson, there’s still a reality that always seems to kick in as Ronnie Le Drew seems surprised at getting roles. I have to say, it seems all quite endearing and I get the sense that this is all written from memories and the heart. There’s no bravado here. He doesn’t name-drop for the sake of it, it was a huge part of his life, working with, who we now would say were cool people.

It’s interesting to read about the move to Yorkshire and the feelings that came with that and failed revivals of Rainbow and how still other jobs came in, such as with Phillip Scholfield and then Rainbow again in a whole different format.

The book is full of ups and downs and many emotions, all captured beautifully in words on the pages. It isn’t just readable because of nostalgia and a natural curiosity about what happened to people who worked on Rainbow, but because of the sense that this is an ordinary man who did some extraordinary things within puppeteering and yet seems humble about it. This book is well set out and reads like a time-line of events and that works well for me. This is more than just Zippy and Ronnie Le Drew, this is a book that may inspire others who are in jobs that are precarious and indeed, into becoming puppeteers. It’s also a book about life, working relationships, family and all that comes with all of that. There’s warmth, there’s sadness and there’s fun within these pages. There’s revelations and reunions, none which seem sensationalised in any way, but are written with a dignity and in a matter of fact way. All in all, it is a brave and impressive book from an author who, we may not have all known his name, but who we were all so aware of as children and now also as adults because he has been working on modern puppets in advertising and other things that we all see. He has also never forgotten his roots. This is a fascinating read from someone who the public don’t really see, but all know the characters he has played in puppeteering and would give hope to anyone wanting to follow in his footsteps. Even for people not wanting to follow in his footsteps, it is absorbing and a book that shouldn’t be skimmed over. It has different levels of depth and emotion to it and it is interesting to read about all the comings and goings on Rainbow, but also what happened before and after the show ended.

I highly recommend this book. This book would interest anyone who has an interest in puppeteering or liked Rainbow or liked Seeing Things: A Memoir by Oliver Postgate, Jim Henson: The Biography by Brian Jay Jones.

 

The Book of Forgotten Authors by Christopher Fowler – A Fascinating Insight into What Happened to 99 Authors @Peculiar @riverrunbooks @QuercusBooks #nonfiction #facts #authors #newbook #review

The Book of Forgotten Authors
By Christopher Fowler
Rating: *****


About the Author

Christopher Fowler was born in a less attractive part of Greenwich, London in 1953, the son of a scientist and legal secretary. He went to a London Guild school, Colfe’s, where, avoiding rugby by hiding in the school library, he was able to begin plagiarising in earnest.

He published his first novel Roofworld, described as “unclassifiable”, while working as an advertising copywriter. He left to form The Creative Partnership, a company that changed the face of film marketing, and spent many years working in film, creating movie posters, tag lines, trailers and documentaries, using his friendship with Jude Law to get into nightclubs.

He achieved many schoolboy fantasies including releasing a Christmas pop single, becoming a male model, posing as a villan in a Batman comic, writing in Hollywood, creating a stage show, running a nightclub, appearing in the Pan Books of Horror and standing in for James Bond.

Now the author of over forty novels and short story collections, including his award -winning memoir Paperboy and its sequel Film Freak, he writes the Bryant and May mystery novels, recording the adventures of two Golden Age detectives in modern-day London.

In 2015 he won the CWA Dagger in the Library award for his detective series, once described by his former publisher as ‘unsaleable’.

Fowler is still alive and one day plans to realise his ambition to become a Forgotten Author himself.

 

Blurb

Forgotten Authors closed99 forgotten authors, their forgotten books, and their unforgettable stories.

“Absence doesn’t make the heart grow fonder. It makes people think you’re dead.

So begins Christopher Fowler’s foray into the back catalogues and back stories of 99 authors, who once hugely popular, have all but disappeared from our shelves.

Whether male or female, domestic or international, flash-in-the-pan or prolific, mega seller or prize-winner – no author it seems, can ever be fully immune from the fate of being forgotten. And Fowler, as well as remembering their careers, lifts the lid on their lives, and why they often stopped writing or disappeared from the public eye: stories often stranger than fiction many of them wrote.

These 99 journeys are punctuated by 12 short essays about faded once-favourites: including the now vanished novels Walt Disney brought to the screen, the contemporary rivals of Sherlock Holmes and Agatha Christie who did not stand the test of time, the women who introduced us to psychological suspense many decades before it conquered the world.

Forgotten Authors open

Review

I was given this book as a “Secret Santa” present, so quite some time ago now and I am so pleased that I have finally found some time to be reading it. I announced some time ago that I was going to include a book by Christopher Fowler in my blog. Ok, it took me longer than I had anticipated because other life events that were unexpected happened. I do however always remember and do what I say I will do, even if it takes a bit of time to get round to what is also such a pleasurable book to read. It was worth the wait for me.

The book begins by posing the most interesting question: “Why are good authors forgotten? ” The question is answered in a considered manner, as well as explaining the process a bit of how the authors you will find within the rest of the pages came to be included.

As I glance down the content pages, I can already see that this book is going to be an education of interest and wonderment. There are certainly plenty of names I have never heard of before, but now feel I ought to know and delve deeper into the book to find out more. There are also however names that interest me in the very fact that they are becoming forgotten by so many people and yet I remember them, such as Virgina Andrews,  Forgotten nonsense writers such as Edward Lear and Lewis Caroll, Keith Waterhouse, but I know full-well that they are becoming forgotten by different generations, even my own, relatively young generation didn’t all know who they were.

There are also fascinating sections such as: Forgotten rivals of Holmes, Bond and Miss Marple, The Forgotten Disney Connection. Who would have ever thought there were forgotten books by Charles Dickens?  Well there are. Some authors are not remembered, but their work has been adapted into a film, so that is what people remember, but not who created the original work in the first place. So, it’s interesting nuggets like that, which are highlighted or well-known authors who have created a larger body of work that what is actually remembered because the focus may be on their most well-known. Take Charles Dickens for example, the only other person I know to have talked (or rather acted) Doctor Marigold and some other relatively unknown stories in an amazing 1 man play was Simon Callow at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival many years ago. If it weren’t for that, then I would never have heard of this story.

There are, as I mentioned before, many authors who I had not heard of, perhaps some readers of my blog may have done such as Charlotte Armstrong, Kyril Bonfiglioli, Barbara Comyns Carr, Charles Hamilton to name but a few. These completely unknown authors to me also have their own interesting stories and it is fascinating how some authors have connections in some way or another to some authors, some generations do have memories of or are still on some library bookshelves.

These discoveries caused much intrigue within itself, so I had to find out more. I won’t of course spoil it for readers of my blog by writing what I discovered. Let’s just say it is very fascinating indeed.

With just 2-3 pages devoted to each author, it is tightly written and an excellent read. It’s such an interesting read. It’s non-fiction and yet the way the facts are presented, there’s still some twists and turns within them as there are new discoveries to be made and each has a great narrative. We get to know a little about the authors themselves and the books they wrote as well as what happened and how they became so forgotten about in the midst of time. It got me thinking about whether they were deserving to be so forgotten about. I would say, not necessarily so from reading this book that also gives a glimpse into what the authors wrote, the impact they made at the time and how perhaps some people may like to read some of the books today, but perhaps may never get the chance to.

The book flows so easily as it glides from one author to another. This is far from reading a text-book or anything of that ilk. This book is written in a way that would interest many people and is very accessible to all through its lightness and fast pace.

By the end of the book, I found that I learnt a lot in a relaxed, casual manner through new discoveries and reading about old favourites.

If you have ever wondered why authors can be forgotten or certain genres that they have written are less well-known to perhaps what they wrote most of, or what happened to certain authors and why they stopped writing, then this is one of the most enlightening, most interesting books for you. It is very much worth investing the time to read this unique book, which seems to be well-considered, excellently paced and well-researched. The enthusiasm of the author – Christopher Fowler to be dedicated to write such a book really shows through all he has written as he takes readers on his exploration to uncover what may have been hidden secrets of the forgotten authors if it weren’t for such dedication to discover the lost treasures in the writing world.

So I whole-heartedly recommend this book, even if non-fiction is not your usual book. The book is unique and I reckon will add insight to any reader’s knowledge about some fictional writers, well, 99 of them. It is an excellent book to either read all in one go or dip in and out of as you please.

Christopher Fowler will be appearing at the Aye Write Festival 2019 in Glasgow, Scotland where he will be talking about The Book of Forgotten Authors.

 

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Title: The Book of Forgotten Authors

Author: Christopher Fowler

Publisher: Riverrun an imprint of Quercus Editions Ltd – A Hatchette UK Company

ISBN: 978-1-78648-489-5
Ebook ISBN:
978-1-78648-491-8

Main Purchase Points: Waterstones, WH Smith, Amazon

Blog Tour Review For Start – A Seeringly Honest Account About Life With A Mental Health #Review #GrahamMorgan @FledglingPress #LoveBooksGroupTours

Review of Start
Graham Morgan MBE
Rated 4 Stars ****

About the Author

Graham was born in 1963 in York. He went to university as an angst-ridden student and was quickly admitted to one of the old mental asylums, prompting the work he has done for most of his life: helping people with mental illness speak up about their lives and their rights. He has mainly worked in Scotland, where he has lived for the last thirty years, twenty of them in the Highlands. In the course of this work he has been awarded an MBE, made Joint Service User Contributor of the Year by the Royal College of Psychiatrists and, lately, has spoken at the UN abouthis and other peoples’ experiences of detention. He has a diagnosis of paranoid schizophrenia and has been compulsorily treated under a CTO for the last ten years. He currently lives in Argyll with his partner and her young twins. Start is his first book.

Blurb

StartGraham Morgan has an MBE for services to mental health, and helped to write the Scottish Mental Health (2003) Care and Treatment Act. This is the Act under which he is now detained.
Graham’s story addresses key issues around mental illness, a topic which is very much in the public sphere at the moment. However, it addresses mental illness from a perspective that is not heard frequently: that of those whose illness is so severe that they are subject to the Mental Health Act.
Graham’s is a positive story rooted in the natural world that Graham values greatly, which shows that, even with considerable barriers, people can work and lead responsible and independent lives; albeit with support from friends and mental health professionals. Graham does not gloss over or glamorise mental illness, instead he tries to show, despite the devastating impact mental illness can have both on those with the illness and those that are close to them, that people can live full and positive lives. A final chapter, bringing the reader up to date some years after Graham has been detained again, shows him living a fulfilling and productive life with his new family, coping with the symptoms that he still struggles to accept are an illness, and preparing to address the United Nations later in the year in his new role working with the Mental Welfare Commission for Scotland.  

Review

At a time when Mental Wellbeing is increasingly on everyone’s radar, the book ‘Start’ by Graham Morgan (MBE) has an important place, more than ever before. Graham Morgan (MBE) has experience and helped to write the Scottish Mental Health (2003) Care and Treatment Act. This is literally a book that can be read by any adult. It is highly accessible. You don’t even have have a mental health condition or be in the professional field to be able to read it, understand it and find relatable nuggets that will fill you with empathy and give a deeper undestanding. Don’t be mistaken, this is no sob story, nor is it attention seeking. It’s deeper and more meaningful than that and it gives the impression that it couldn’t have been easy to write, but all the same, that Graham Morgan (MBE) is sharing his life with readers to deepen their understanding and increase their knowledge on his condition as presents is a full account of what it is like to live with mental illness. It is his own life experiences.

Graham Morgan comes across very quickly as a grounded guy when it comes to his MBE. This book is not a text book, so isn’t too full of jargon. Where that cannot be helped, there is a well-presented glossary at the back of the book.

The book begins with thoughts other people have had about the book. They are worth reading. They add interest. Start, begins properly with Life at the Links Cafe. This is different from so many books about Mental Health. It’s not a How to Book.
Right from the outset there is an air of positivity about it, almost a lightness, that I must admit was unexpected, but I like that attitude within it. It shows that life is not all anguish and woe, even when living with mental illness. Okay, it’s not all wit, but life isn’t, as I am sure readers the world over already know.

Throughout the book, the reader is given a real and genuine candid glimpse of what it is like to be walking in his shoes. It’s got so much life about it. He puts across his condition very well. It’s so easy to read and feel genuine empathy. There’s a seering truth that runs deeply through the pages as we see Graham picking up the pieces. The book goes between the light and the deepest depths of darkness throughout as he talks of some of the good things about life, but also about being sectioned under the very mental health act he helped to write.

It’s thought-provoking as we see the contraditions of thought processes that run through his life on a regular basis. It is raw with stark emotional threads. Graham Morgan does not shy away from anything about his mental illness. This also includes hospitalisations, support workers, psychiatric professionals, medication too. It also includes a bit of an insight in how he is treated because he has a mental illness.

I love the style of writing. Graham has adopted the more personal approach of  speaking directly to his reader. This matters to him and he wants the reader to know that, and through the book, wants that dialogue.

We see insights to the relationship with his wife and how he might be with someone again.

We see how he has had suicidal tendencies through self-harm methods.

This book is ever so moving. This is a book which has hope contained within it that there is still, even through all the mental illness that Graham Morgan lives in, that there is hope in the future and there is life that he is living.

 The book goes through the consecutive months of the year with their own appropriately named “chapters”.

It is worth reading. It is Graham Morgan (MBE) life story and it is an important one. One perhaps many people do not know with so much honesty and openness. It leaves its mark. It left me feeling enlightened, interested and perhaps a bit more understanding. We are all human-beings with so many complexities within our make-up and life is not all black and white. It’s not all going to be sad or hard like it’s not all going to be completely happy and joyous every moment of everyday of it. This book shows all of that and more through first hand experience, which makes it such an important read, even if it is not your usual genre or topic.

Start Blog Tour Poster

With thanks to Love Book Groups Tours for inviting me to review this book for a Book Blog Tour and for supplying the E-Book. Please note readers, you can buy this book in both physical and E-book forms.

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Title: Start
Author: Graham Morgan, MBE
Publisher: Fledgling Press
Print ISBN 9781912280070
eBook ISBN 9781912280087
Main Purchase Points: WH Smith, Amazon, Foyles Bookstore

 

My Christmas Go To Books – A small collection that will inspire you to get into the mood for Christmas.

Quick Reviews of:
A Christmas Carol 

Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World
An Almost Perfect Christmas
Fill My Stocking

Xmas Reads

There are always Christmas books around, old and new. New ones can be fun and exciting to see what is inside their warm or jazzy covers. Older ones can be comforting and have that lovely well-read feel.

I have what I will call my “Go to Books for Christmas”. I know some of them better than others, due to age, but nevertheless, they are well-read. One in fact, I only received last year and it was a delight and one I just know I shall be returning to slip in-between the pages again this year.
Today on the blog, I present you quick reviews of 4 excellent books for Christmas.

A Christmas Carol
by Charles Dickens
Rating 5 stars *****

 

Christmas Carol

It’s a well-known film, remade many times with many different actors in many different styles straight versions, a musical version and even a version with muppets. Some tv versions and films that are very modernised with really just the themes being left in. There’s much to choose from, but how many of you have actually read the book, I wonder? Now, it’s not actually anywhere near as thick as the book I have shown here. That book is actually 4 books in one. At only between 50 and a little over 100 (depending on the size of the pages of the copy of your book, it is a fairly quick read, but it will set you up nicely for Christmas. There’s the comfort within it that the story is well-known and yet it is one of those stories that can be read over again. After all Christmas only comes once a year. It is also very interesting to see what they miss out and what they include in the various films.
A man who lives by his name of Ebenezer Scrooge, ghosts that come to visit him in the night to try to change him and an epic ending. What’s not to like? So, if you’ve never given this a try, then it is worth every minute of time on it.

I will add here that you can buy the book The Christmas Carol on its own. For those of you who are interested. The particular book in the picture happens to contain: Oliver Twist, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Hard Times. All, also worth reading.

 

Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World
by Simon Callow
Rating 4 Stars ****

 

Charles Dickens


It is highly interesting and entertaining read of who is possibly the first ‘celebrity author’, who is/was Charles Dickens. The book takes readers on a fascinating, immersive journey from his early years to being not only the author he became, but also his obsession with the stage and having that need to connect with his audience. Simon Callow has brought a great and unique insight into Charles Dickens and the era of the world he once inhabited. Like his performances, the book oozes charisma and a passion for the subject. You will discover so much more about Dickens. The style of writing immerses you easily into Charles Dickens’ world as it is written in almost story narrative form. Even if you’re not so into Non-fiction books, I would still recommend you give this a go.

This was also actually a one-man play. Yes, one-man with Simon Callow, playing several parts of the works of Charles Dickens. You do not have to have seen this play to read the book by the way. It’s a book that has a great narrative about who Charles Dickens was and his work. Now you might be thinking it’s a bit high-brow, especially at Christmas. It’s not at all. It’s not fact after fact or a long list of things. It’s written in a more thoughtful manner than that with enough lightness to see any reader through until Christmas and beyond. In a way, it is almost like you were watching the play, but not in play format. All in non-fiction, book format. It’s easy-going and an incredibly interesting book, which is very well-written. Simon Callow (this is when I often get who? And a sort of blank look. For those who cannot picture him, I will bet most, if not all of you have seen the film Four Wedding’s and a Funeral. He plays the Scotsman in the film. The one who dies. Sorry if that’s now a spoiler!).
I will also add that I highly recommend Simon Callow’s one-man plays. He does them at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and in London and possibly other places too. Each time they are something different. He knows his subjects and he plays everyone in such a way that audiences are in awe of.

This isn’t the only book written by Simon Callow, there are several others, including one about Wagner, which was published just last year.

 

An Almost Perfect Christmas
by Nina Stibbe
Rating 5 Stars *****

An Almost Perfect Christmas

Nina Stibbe has written a few books now, but is quite possibly best known for writing Love, Nina, which was also televised as a BBC drama.
This is an entertaining book, for which I am sure there are many readers out there who can relate to. It’s about having to face Christmas, or rather her mother having to. It takes readers on an entertaining journey through from the turkey to shopping to decorating to a present for the teacher to the Christmas pudding and much more. It’s about drying out the turkey, which has been left out to defrost in the downstairs toilet for 48 hours. Put it this way, as it says on the blurb, it soon becomes clear that her mother is no foodie. Gifting and re-gifting, the insane rush to get ready for what is the most wonderful time of the year.
I received this book from a good friend of mine one Christmas and it makes for a great read near Christmas Day. It is packed full of humour, joy and a bit of poignancy. If you read this, you absolutely have to read the glossary at the back too. It’s not as it first appears to be. It too is just so joyously fun!

I also recommend reading Love,Nina and Man at the Helm by Nina Stibbe. They are a delight to read.

 

Fill My Stocking
by Alan Titchmarsh
Rating 4 stars ****

Fill my Stocking

One year I found this book in my Christmas parcel pile and it’s brilliant! It is packed full of wit and sheer Christmassy joy on every page. It is an anthology really of well-known short plays (sometimes with a twist), poems and excerpts of books all on the theme of Christmas. This has been wonderfully thought out and put together by Alan Titchmarsh. There’s a world to be discovered. There are poems by the likes of John Betjeman, Noel Coward, GK Chesterton to name but a few. There are twists of plays: written for pantomimes (for those who don’t know what a pantomime is. It is a British custom to see a well-known fairytale like Aladdin, Cinderella etc at Christmas time to be acted out, except with a lot of comedy added to them). So, there is Peterpain and Windy, Aladdin and the Wonderful Limp amongst others. There are excerpts from Wind in the Willows, Cider with Rosie, The Nativity, The Pickwick Papers, to name but a few. There is also a play in one-act of Pride and Prejudice.
There are beautiful illustrations throughout the book as well as some written works by Alan Titchmarsh himself.


So why not, this Christmas time, take a look at these book, either yourself or buy them as a festive gift for someone special in your lives. They are found on Amazon and other bookshops will also be able to assist. I hope that you all enjoy this little selection of books.

Xmas Reads