Book Review – A Brief History of Indonesia by Tim Hannigan

June 28, 2016

This is a well researched and well told fascinating story of Southeast Asia’s Largest Nation.  The Author has obviously done an enormous amount of research to uncover the facts, myths and legends behind the history of this remarkable country.  The book makes an ideal companion to his earlier work, “Raffles and The British Invasion of Java”, which I reviewed in March 2015 and is also well worth the read.  Although, Raffles is briefly mentioned in this account, the book deals with the rise of Indonesia from prehistoric to modern times.  It is an ideal buy for anyone wishing to visit Indonesia and I highly recommend this as a must read for anyone wishing to understand how colonial powers engage dominance over the countries they rule.

I bought a signed paperback copy from the author last July which I gave to my daughter before she returned to where she has been living in Indonesia in April and purchased a Kindle copy for myself.  Of the two I prefer the paperback as the layout makes it easier to flick between the photographs at the centre of the book and the rest of the text.

A brief History of Indonesia Book Jacket copy

A Brief History of Indonesia is published by Tuttle Publishing

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

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Travels in Southern England – The Penzance Literary Festival Revisited: continued.

July 12, 2015

There have been so many interesting events for me to visit at this year’s festival that I have hardly had time to keep up with my blog.

Last night I visited the Acorn Theatre where I listened to comedian and writer, Tony Hawks, talk about the frustration he has felt on numerous occasions when he has received misdirected messages meant for his American skateboarding namesake. He went on to talk about his adventures when cycling across Devon in the company of a miniature pig which is recounted in his latest book, “Once Upon a Time in the West Country”, and being an ex-employee of Defra myself, I was heartened to see that he obeyed this Government department’s animal movement regulations religiously.

Tony Hawks bookOnce Upon a Time in the West Country by Tony Hawks
is published by Hodder & Stoughton and is available in hardback, paperback and as an ebook.

Later I saw a production of a black comedy play called “Sweetness and Light” performed by a company called Blabbermouth Theatre in the Acorn bar. Apparently it goes to the Edinburgh Fringe in August but I must admit that I did not fully understand it.

Yesterday, I attended a workshop on how to read a short story out loud run by the excellent Diana Cambridge. It was attended by fifteen very talented writers who had each submitted a piece of work for comment. I read from my short story, “The Lie,” which is available for free for a limited period on the Peatmore Press website and my reading seemed to go down well. Diana also supplied us with worksheets giving tips and also a copy of her book about writing for magazines. She is based in Bath and runs other workshops there which I would highly recommend for anyone wishing to specialise in this tricky form of fiction writing. Diana has a website at http://www.dianacambridge.co.uk

That evening I listened to an enthralling talk by Tim Hannigan based on his latest book, A Brief History of Indonesia. Readers may remember that I attended his travel writing workshop last year and bought a copy of his book about Raffles and the British Invasion of Java, which I later reviewed on this blog earlier in the year. This latest book looked just as entertaining and I managed to by a pre-publication copy which Tim signed for me as it is not due out until September. I have to confess that I have more than a passing interest in that country as my daughter is there at the moment with her boyfriend.

Later on in the evening the festival organisers held their traditional literary quiz. I was able to reacquaint myself with the very charming team I participated with last year. However, this time I was part of another group. We did not do too badly but there so many more knowledgeable other teams taking part that we failed to gain any prizes.

The night ended with a party in the Acorn bar with live music performed by an energetic local band known as Gwenellin. It was a perfect ending to a fine festival.

Keith Jahans
Peatmore Press.


Book Review – Raffles and The British Invasion of Java by Tim Hannigan

March 16, 2015

I do not normally read biographies but having met Tim Hannigan at The Penzance Literary Festival in July where he was running a workshop on travel writing I thought I would give this book a try. I was not disappointed. The author puts the reader squarely in the thick of the action. We can smell the jungle, the smoke and cordite of the muskets and hear the sound of canon fire, the cries of the combatants and the rattling of the sabers.

This is an account of a short lived campaign of the British army at the height of its empire and according to Hannigan, Raffles comes out of it with an extremely tarnished reputation. Raffles is famous as the founder of Singapore and London zoo. But it seems he was an opportunist out to make a quick buck. He was involved with corruption, turned a blind eye to slavery and complicit in inciting the massacre of Dutch citizens. This is all the more shocking because of the high esteem in which his memory is held by many.

This book is an extremely good read and I highly recommend it.

Keith Jahans
Editor, Peatmore Press

Raffles & Java
Raffles and The British Invasion of Java by Tim Hannigan is published Mosoon Books and is available as a paperback and ebook


Travels in Southern England

July 21, 2014

20 July 2014

This was the last day of the Festival. At 11 am I took part in a travel writing workshop led by award-winning Cornish travel writer, Tim Hannigan. It was expertly run and I received some excellent tips on how to sell articles to travel magazines.

The workshop was held in a rather grand room in the Union Hotel. It was from the balcony in this room that Nelson’s victory and death at the battle of Trafalgar was first announced. A rather ghoulish face which we were told was Nelson’s death mask is suspended below the balcony. Thus we discussed our views on how to make the best use of our travel adventures as an exceedingly unhappy Nelson looked down on us from above.

Balcony in Union Hotel from where Nelson's victory was announcedThe balcony in Union Hotel from where Nelson’s victory and death was first announced

Nelson's Death Mask
A closer view of Nelson’s death mask suspended below the balcony

I returned to the Acorn Theatre that evening to witness a script in hand reading by ‘The Wireless Ensemble’ of Penzance writer Stephen Saunter’s comedy radio play, “It’s What he would have wanted,” about along overdue burial. Given that I have recently witnessed two very sad funerals I should not have found it funny. But I did.

After the performance finished I was honoured to be allowed to take part in Shout Kernow: the tradition of Cornish pub singing in the theatre bar. It was hosted by two ladies, Hilary Coleman and Sally Burley, who had succeeded in obtaining funding to travel to all the pubs in Cornwall to write down traditional songs they might hear there on condition that they would write a book of there experiences (some in the audience thought it an enterprising way of financing a pub crawl). The book has yet to appear but I added my email address to the long list of people who wished to be notified when it finally materialized. However, they did produce some song sheets and we set about them with great gusto with the aid of the Red River Singers. It was a perfect end to a great festival. Long may it continue.