August 27, 2021
25 August 2021
This was my second visit to Southend. My first was as a student in 1968. I and three fellow students had just finished our applied Biology examinations. We piled into one of our number’s car which he had borrowed from his parents. It was my one and only time tasting jellied eels and I have never had the inclination to repeat it.
Southend boasts the longest pier in the world and I walked the length of it as a student, but this time I decided to give this walk a miss. Instead I opted to walk along the seafront and treated myself to fish and chips in a restaurant overlooking the pier funfair. This is a tradition I started on my travels to seaside towns around Britain.
Fish and Chips by the Fun Fair
It was a relief to get back to my travels once more. Like many of the world’s population I have been “locked down’ in doors this last two years. It had an upside in that I was able to work uninterrupted on a new novel, “The Lost Girls” and followed this up with some short stories featuring the same central character in the novel. Writing is a solitary occupation and despite the opportunity it provided to get work done I missed the travel and the opportunity to interact with other people.
The chief reason for going to Southend was to check out the Essex Writers festival, which had been running since June, but was now nearing its end. I visited the Essex Writers’ House at Chalkwell Hall, Chalkwell Avenue. This provided the opportunity to write alongside fellow writers and interact with them. A lady who ran it told me that all the desks were fully booked but I could use a table on the terrace out side. It was a sunny hot day as I set up at the table and the kind lady provided me with a cup of tea.
My writing table at Essex Writers House
I met another lady who told me she was writing a text book on carbon-free textiles. She had taken a short break from one of the upstairs writing desks and had come down for a cup of coffee. We chatted for a short while then went back to our writing and I managed to complete most of this blog on the terrace.
When I finished I went back to the Chichester Hotel, Wickford where I was staying. The hotel was running a skeleton service because of the pandemic and the restaurant was closed. I really felt for those who were struggling with the effects of the pandemic and the hospitality sector has been one of the hardest hit. I thoroughly enjoyed my stay and found my visit to Southend very worthwhile and I was able to leave the next day extremely pleased with all I had achieved there.
The Chichester Hotel, Wickford
June 15, 2021
This is a collection of stories written by a master. The author has an exceptional understanding of his characters. Because of this it is easy to empathise with them during the trials and tribulations they go through.
This is readily apparent right from the first story, “It’s There for the Taking”, where the two main protagonists scale icy Alpine slopes. The reader literally feels the cold, fear and exhilaration they go through. It is a remarkable piece of writing. In the second story, “Lopez”, the writer demonstrates his comprehensive understanding of baseball and the emotions a player and spectators can go through. The third tale, “Sinner Sid, expertly describes the actions of a master manipulator of people, and the final story, Morris Morris, tells how two people can overcome the loneliness and challenges of retirement.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading these tales and recommend them to anyone who enjoys good writing.
This edition is published as an ebook
and is available on Amazon
April 12, 2021
This is an intriguing and well crafted novel which kept me reading right to the end. The story centres on an English woman who falls in love with an Italian. But he refuses to reveal his past which leads to difficulties for both of them. The story moves between Italy, Sicily, Edinburgh (Scotland) and India. It is very atmospheric and the characters are well drawn. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and recommend it to all readers who like narratives which keep the reader guessing.
Available from Amazon
as an ebook and paperback
December 11, 2020
This book had been on my radar for some time now. Then I saw that there was a new film out about Salinger which I wanted to see but I felt I should get on and read his most celebrated work first.
I had thought that given its title the narrative should be set in the countryside, rather like Cider With Rosie, which I have not read but have seen a film adaptation, but I was very much mistaken. The title comes from a misquoted poem by Robert Burns and the story is set initially in the narrator’s private school then in New York where he navigates himself around this his home city.
He writes in a very adolescent style, reflecting the age of his protagonist and describes his attitude towards the people he meets on his journey and what he perceives is their attitude towards him. But it is towards the end of the book that the meaning of the title becomes apparent and the reader can decide who the catcher is.
It is a compelling read and on the surface nothing much seems to happen but when I finished reading and gave it some thought I felt the content provided a fascinating commentary on the human condition. I recommend that book lovers read it and work out any hidden meanings for themselves.
Published by Penguin in hardback,
paperback and as an ebook
November 18, 2020
Violent scenes have more impact when they come as a surprise. I am not talking about those in horror stories where the suspense leading up to the action is often more effective than the violence itself. Battle scenes tend to be ongoing and have violence surrounding them but a sudden violent act amongst the turmoil can have a devastating effect. A good example of this can be found in the book, “Against All Odds by Jacqui Murray,” which I reviewed recently. Here the author expertly describes battles between primitive peoples but in the last battle the impact of a sudden violent act against an individual comes as a shock.
My novel “Magic Bullets,” opens in a prologue with violence perpetrated by a single terrorist. This is not referred to again until well into the story but I hope has the reader wondering how this event effects the narrative. I feel that placing such violence in a novel without any lead up to it can be much like what happens in life. The real effect is in the aftermath and comes when the characters in the story deal with it. Post traumatic stress is an occurrence which happens to many people who experience violence, including professional soldiers. The skill of the writer is to examine how these effect the characters in the story.
Published by Peatmore Press
as a paperback and an ebook
November 11, 2020
I normally review trilogies by reading the first book in the series but in this case I went against my norm by starting at the last first. This maybe because I have a passing interest in writings about early man and had read some of the works by Jean M Auel, starting with The Clan of Cave Bear, and having enjoyed them.
In this work I did not feel a pressing need to go back into the history of the central character but felt that I knew enough about primitive humans to skip that part. I may have missed out on some of the story but feel that any novel featuring the same central characters should be able to stand on its own. I found this book in that regard was largely able to do that. However, it contained a large assortment of characters with strangely spelt names which probably made who they were and how they interacted clearer if I had indeed started with the first book.
The author had done her research and obviously knew a great deal about the period of which she was writing. This was clear not only from the list of references at the end but also of the descriptions she used in the narrative. Giving such characters depth is a challenge in itself as primitive peoples were far more involved in surviving from day to day than interacting with each other in what we would describe as a social level today. The author manages this extremely well, giving the objects, animals and people that surround them names that were possibly used by humans of that time. The book is a fascinating read and I highly recommend it.
Published by Structured Learning LLC
in Paperback and as a Kindle E-book
October 7, 2020
Writing sex scenes is a special skill which I do not have. I have used such scenes sparingly in two of my novels and only when I felt they fit with the plot and when added they clarified the motivations behind some characters. But sex sells. One only has to look at the success of “Fifty Shades of Grey” and the popularity of erotic films and porn sites on the internet. I must admit marketing was partly behind the decision I made when adding them to my novel “Victim of Compromise” but I still maintain that the scenes played a greater part in making the central characters more rounded.
The sales of DH Lawrence’s “Lady Chatterley’s Lover” sky rocketed during a famous court case to overturn its ban and, more especially, after it became legal to buy in the UK. On reading it I feel it would be a much lesser book if the explicit sex scenes and the language used to describe them were omitted. Now that the Lady Chatterley milestone judgement has passed there are many contemporary writers who excel in the genre of modern erotic fiction. One such author is Harmony Kent whose novel “Back Stage” I reviewed in my last blog. I confess that, despite my past endeavours, I am not one of them.
August 3, 2020
This erotic romance encompasses most of the elements of the recent “Me Too” scandals when actresses have come forward to describe events in which they have been sexually abused by powerful men in the entertainment industry. The characters in the book are well described, particularly the perpetrator and his female accomplice. The sex scenes are graphically depicted and fit well within the narrative. Some readers may be put off by the explicit content, which I found did not detract from the story itself. Although described as a romance the novel is more of a thriller and the plot kept me turning the pages right to the end.
Published by Harmony Kent Author Servicesandals,
in paperback and as an ebook
July 16, 2020
I have a particular fondness for private detective novels, particularly those set in the USA and this one proved to be no exception. The detectives involved here are clearly a close knit family. All seemed to be involved in this story to some extent, including the detective’s dog, but the chief protagonists are the private detective, Frank Rozzani and his lawyer partner, Jonesy.
The plot is a twist on the normal narrative for this type of story, in that the detectives are asked to represent a man who has been accused of abusing his girlfriend. All the characters are believable, especially the villains. Rossani and Jonesey are accomplished jazz musicians and a little of the action revolves around their music and the club where they play. I am not familiar with the music titles or the work of the artists referred to in the novel but the author is clearly a Jazz aficionado.
The pace is fast moving with a number of twists and turns which is a prerequisite of the genre. I found it to be a thoroughly enjoyable read.
Published DSM Publications as
an ebook, paperback and audiobook