Tag Archives: Eleanor Updale

Hanging on, and forgetting

I forget. Not quite everything, but an embarrassing amount.

When there is a new book once a year, even if it’s part of a series I really like, I need to work hard at remembering ‘how we left things.’ Usually I can pick up quickly enough, especially if there’s some coarse hint somewhere near the beginning.

Keeping up with Harry Potter was never a problem. I remembered his name and those of most of his friends and teachers. What’s more, I remembered what they’d done in the last book too.

If someone were to chat to me about when a certain thing happened in Skulduggery Pleasant, I would remember it. What I’d be less sure about is which book it was; the latest one, or one or two further back?

Maybe this is normal for my age. It’s not that I don’t obsess about the books. I do. I especially enjoyed it when, erm, you-know-him did that, thing, at that place…

And how can I forget cliff-hangers? It’s in their very nature that you mustn’t forget. Can’t forget.

Eleanor Updale, Montmorency Returns

So now that I have this new-found interest in Eleanor Updale’s Montmorency, maybe it’s a good thing I am looking at reading all the books in a short period of time. That way I’ll remember what just happened.

I know this isn’t an option when you have to wait for books to be published. And whereas it can’t be the same if you come to Harry Potter now, having missed out on the media frenzy and midnight trips to bookshops, it must feel good to be able to move from the fourth book to the fifth and not have a three year wait.

To return to Eleanor and her books, I was intrigued to see that both Johnny Swanson and The Last Minute are published in paperback within weeks of each other, along with Eleanor’s own reissued Montmorency books and the new fifth book. Someone is wanting an Updale book bath.

Montmorency

After being introduced to Eleanor Updale over four years ago, I vowed to find out about Montmorency. As you do. But reality kept me in check, and when I was provided with one of Eleanor’s new books, I read that instead. And then last year there was another brand new one, and poor Montmorency slipped further into my black reading hole.

Until… just last week, in fact. Eleanor wrote to tell me she’s not only got back ownership of all four Montmorency books, but she has done what fans have been clamouring for, and written a fifth book, finally rescuing the man from the cliff he has been hanging from for some years.

Eleanor Updale, Montmorency - 3 covers

And would I like to read Montmorency Returns? Well, yes. But perhaps I ought to find out who he is by starting at the beginning, and that is what I’ve done. I told myself that reading the first book might be enough background, because to read all four very quickly, seemed a tall order. Only, I believe I will have to locate books two, three and four as well. If only to ascertain what kind of cliff-hanger, and to feel I’m up to speed on everything. Plus the small matter of my enjoyment.

Halfway through Montmorency I wanted to stop. Eleanor had done that thing again, where I am so worried I’m absolutely certain I can’t go on. I knew she’d have to do something bad to Montmorency, and I didn’t want to see it being done.

It’s curious, really. I shouldn’t cheer a thief on, or care what happens to him. The other thing is, the book has no child characters at all. Montmorency is an adult, and so are all the people he consorts with, in and out of jail. That doesn’t mean it’s not a ‘young’ book. It is, in much the same way as my childhood classics often were about adults, but written in a way that would attract younger readers.

Montmorency is a kind of Arsène Lupin; a gentleman thief, in Victorian London. Because he has to live off something. It’s fascinating to see how prisoner 493 spends time in jail, and how he plans what to do if and when he is free again, and then how he starts off once he does get out.

It involves sewers, and these ones are smellier and generally yuckier than the ones in Terry Pratchett’s Dodger. But it’s the same principle.

In the end Montmorency copes well with what the author throws at him, and I was able to continue. Did I mention I might have to read them all?

The EIBF 2013 programme

It’s not exactly a bad programme this year. It’s not exactly short on authors, either. I’ve probably missed a few, seeing as I have only browsed the pdf  in a hasty fashion, but even so, were it not for the fact that I actually know I am unable to cover the full two and a half weeks of the Edinburgh International Book Festival, I’d sign up for the complete works. Again.

I’d been thinking a weekend. Maybe a longish weekend, but no more than four days. But which longish weekend? And what about the fantastic midweek offerings?

This is going to be an easy post to write! I could simply list authors, one after the other. But that would be boring.

For the time being I will not cover the adult writers, although I noticed Salman Rushdie is coming. Roddy Doyle. And Patrick Ness is an adult this time.

So, first weekend ‘as usual’ we have Meg Rosoff, as well as her stable (yeah, right…) mates Eoin Colfer and Cathy Cassidy. Anne Fine, Tommy Donbavand, Helena Pielichaty, Linda Strachan, Andy Mulligan. Carnegie winner Sally Gardner. Obvious choice. First weekend it will be.

Meg Rosoff

On the other hand, during the week when it grows a little quieter we have Elizabeth Wein. Hmm. Debi Gliori with Tobermory Cat. Nicola Morgan. Lari Don and Vivian French. Damien M Love. Well, that would be good!

But Elen Caldecott is someone I’ve always missed. She’s there the second weekend. It will have to be the middle weekend. Charlie Fletcher, Teresa Breslin and Eleanor Updale, Jon Mayhew and Darren Shan. Need I say more? OK, Tom Palmer, Chae Strathie. Melvin Burgess. Keith Gray.

Jonathan Stroud has a new book coming, which I like the look of. And he’s there the second week. So are Julie Bertagna and Teri Terry, and Daniel Hahn is talking translation. That is interesting.

Having said that, the last, extra long weekend looks by far the best. Doesn’t it? Judit Kerr. Neil Gaiman. Our new children’s laureate, Malorie Blackman. Our own Liz Kessler, and Tim Bowler. Philip Caveney from ‘home’ and Derek Landy, whom I’ve not seen for a long time… Jo Nadin and Spideyman himself, Steve Cole.

Yes. No competition there. Except maybe all the other days.

What do the rest of you think?

(Sorry. I see I have done a list after all.)

Some travelling thoughts

It’s travel time again. A quick dash north, and an equally quick one back. Or I hope it will be. I suppose I have jinxed the trains by saying/thinking this.

My bag isn’t full of things this time, so much as simply being a bag. OK, there are a couple of new reads for Daughter; Eleanor Updale and Marie-Louise Jensen. But I am primarily bringing the bag that ‘someone’ was unable to take last time. I’m the bag lady.

But you know, back in my childhood, who’d have thought you’d be able to sit looking at a small machine on your desk or kitchen table, checking if your train is running to time? (Or running at all.) On the other hand, back then who’d have thought there would be a need to? Trains ran. Often on time.

And, isn’t it slightly weird that I can slip the complete works of Sir Walter Scott and Rudyard Kipling, as well as the King James Bible into my pocket? The trains might run late, or encounter the wrong kind of snow, but that’s a lot of reading in one pocket. Trollope, Twain, Wilde. And so much else. (Don’t worry; I won’t Kiple or Scott too much. I’ve got other books I need to read. Even one ‘real’ book.)

I was excited to see that Sophie Hannah is doing an event in Dundee this evening. I’ll be close, but not close enough. After her event I’ll be freezing on the platform at Dundee, while she is no doubt warm in a hotel somewhere.

Too far away for Barry Hutchison’s launch of The Book of Doom in Aberdeen. Also tonight. It feels funny to be closer than usual, but still too far away. Maybe I should move to Scotland? There are things going on here.

Train to Scotland

(Decided I was allowed to borrow this photo, on account of bag lady duties, and the fact that the bag contains Lent buns, even if they are late Lent buns.)

Publication day, or the liquid ebook

Most months you have one or two dates when all the new books emerge into the world. Usually the Monday and/or Thursday at the start of the month. And then you have November and December when not so much happens. It all happened back in October, in good time for Christmas. The poor reviewer is lulled into a false sense of security, believing they have finally caught up with The Pile. And then the January books start rolling in.

This January we seem to have several publication days, starting today. Which is a lovely beginning for the new reading year, albeit rather early, because we haven’t yet surfaced from the Christmas excesses.

I promised to remind you about Eleanor Updale’s new novel, The Last Minute, out today. Consider yourselves reminded of what must be one of the most interesting books in 2013. You have survived the recent Christmas shopping. Now see who survives in Eleanor’s story.

I woke up in the night, wondering how to blog about it a second time. Worked out what to do, and slept some more, obligingly dreaming a whole blog post. I do this a lot; dreaming about books and authors. I wonder why?

So, what follows is my Orson Welles style book launch dream. It features liquid ebooks. You don’t know what they are? Neither do I.

“Eleanor is about to launch The Last Minute, sharing the day with Liz Kessler, whose new book North of Nowhere is out in two week’s time. These January ladies had an event organised at the end of the platform in my usual underground railway system, at the Wolverhampton end. It either happened on the platform, or in the two old railway coaches parked there.

They poured their books from petrol cans, into smaller bottles, asking me to carry them further along the platform. Unfortunately, the bottles had holes in them, so there was ‘no book’ left when I got there. It’s hard to have a book launch with no book to sell, or sign. We panicked  a bit.

With nothing to display on the white, temporary shelves, I was unsure what to take photographs of. I had my photographer there, but I was in charge of the camera, which seized up and wouldn’t work. The launch was at 13.30, but since the guests were school children who couldn’t come until school had finished for the day, we had some time to think about our bookless options. I considered stealing books from Waterstones, since they had organised this – very expensive – event, which was such a failure.

Anyway, no one came, which is just as well, when your books have literally run out in the sand (or in this case, the platform).

Later on we were given some nifty little survival kits for going on boats (Liz’s book is about boats), but which I felt would also work well for the people in Eleanor’s bomb blast.”

And there you have it. The ultimate, shared book event (and proof that the witch is nothing, if not crazy). Just take care as you pour your ebooks.

The Last Minute

I defy anyone to put this book down before you’ve got to the end. I really mean that. There are many fantastically good books where you can break off and do other things in the middle of reading. If you have to. With Eleanor Updale’s The Last Minute I had to forget about doing anything I had planned, as well as telling Daughter I couldn’t talk to her on the phone until I was done.

It’s a most unusual concept, featuring the last sixty seconds in the lives of the people on the High Street in a small town. Just before Christmas, just after nine in the morning, there are lots of people out doing what people do. Shopping. Having coffee. Getting buried. Picking up dog poo. Delivering the post. Chugging. Going on a school trip.

Eleanor Updale, The Last Minute

Feeling happy, worried, tired or excited. Procrastinating, painting, having a bath, running, bidding on eBay. Sitting on a plane about to land at the nearby airport. Repairing the gas mains.

A minute later there will be an explosion, killing many of the people you’ve just met and got to know so well, in their everyday worries and concerns.

The prologue ‘helpfully’ shows the reader what has just happened, leaving no illusions as to the possibility of a happier outcome.

The Last Minute shows a realistic cross-section of life in Britain today, and most of us will recognise ourselves in one or two of these people. I won’t call them characters. They were always people.

A little reminiscent of Under Milk Wood in the way the story darts between all of them, except faster. It’s amazing the number of actions and thoughts we can cram into sixty seconds.

Just writing about it has my heart rate going all over the place.

(It won’t be in the shops until early January, I’m afraid. But you needed to be told now.)

Blowing bubbles and buying boats

I suppose it’s good for the constitution to start as you (don’t) mean to go on, i.e. doing lots and lots, leaving us witches totally exhausted. Although Daughter says we can sleep some other time.

Andy Mulligan

We began our Saturday book festival with an interview. Andy Mulligan has returned from the Philippines and I really wanted to catch the man behind those crazy, lovely Ribblestrop books. Sitting in typical Scottish sunshine behind the yurt was good for the soul and very entertaining.

I ordered Andy not to give anything away, since I’m only part through his third Ribblestrop, and he was reasonably good about that. If I ever have to go back to school, I want him for my teacher. As for finding out more about the boat buying you will need to arm yourselves with patience.

Jacqueline Wilson

There followed a quick dash ‘backstage’ for a photo call with Jacqueline Wilson, who was back in black, looking absolutely fabulous. She has a new book out for Puffin, and her fans lined the square as they always do.

Simon and Alex Scarrow

There was no time to hear the Scarrow brothers talk, although when I think back, I find this just isn’t true. We heard plenty, because they were very noisy indeed, in their tent event. We just didn’t pay to go in, seeing how we were more intent on wolfing down Friday’s pizza, sitting outside on the grass.

Linda Strachan

We caught the brothers at their bookshop signing session, where we also noticed Linda Strachan engaged in some furtive signing. Good for her!

Post-pizza we went to hear more from the accident obsessed Andy Mulligan, who was talking ‘health and safety’ with Vanessa Robertson. He used to play with Action Man, which taught him early on that when imagination takes over, the game starts inventing itself. Just like writing books. He was a useless theatre director until Mrs Thatcher axed funds, and he ended up in India.

Basically, Andy says we want to watch the knife thrower because he might miss, not because it is guaranteed to be safe. He is beginning to run out of ways to get rid of parents (in books). More knife throwing, maybe?

Simon Callow

Since it was a day for dashing, we caught Simon Callow’s photo call, where he posed both with a mug of something, and without. He posed for a good long time, and we now have more Callow pics than we can use in a lifetime.

This time jigsawing allowed us to catch Meg Rosoff just before her event, where she talked to Eleanor Updale about God. Meg got the idea from a dyslexic atheist joke she once heard, and managed to remember, and she unwisely let her daughter name God Bob. Meg’s books  ‘might not be great, but at least the chapters are short.’

She forgot to bring her Eck, and described how she once pulled the plot out of There Is No Dog, which is the same as pulling the skeleton out of a chicken. (I rather wish she hadn’t mentioned that.) Meg admitted that her next book was relatively easy to write, but also talked about the importance of composting when you write. (I think that means you shouldn’t be too young.)

And I had no idea that when ‘proper, adult’ authors are given wine, children’s authors get orange juice…

Cathy MacPhail

Back to the bookshop we found Cathy MacPhail signing at the table next to Meg’s. Meg spent a long time talking to all her fans, which allowed us time to chat to the Parents of Dodo, who suddenly materialised in the children’s bookshop, of all places. They were going for Alexander McCall Smith, which reminded us we needed to rush off for his photo call. It was our first time, having spent every year always missing Edinburgh’s great man.

Alexander McCall Smith

Once she had avoided the orange juice hazard, and enjoyed something a bit more Scottishly grown-up, Meg got the Chris Close treatment and posed willingly, blowing bubbles and other stuff. I’m afraid we piggy-backed, because for a favourite author Meg always manages to escape the best photo situations. She also always disapproves of any photo we publish, so she’ll hate this one too. Except I hope not.

Meg Rosoff

We spied ‘Mr Updale,’ aka James Naughtie, who had been broadcasting from Edinburgh. All the ‘Puffins’ disappeared off for dinner somewhere, and so did we, but without much luck. Edinburgh is very busy in August, isn’t it?

(While internet connectivity remains a problem, we will post at funny hours. If we post at all. And, if we can’t blog, we can always tidy and clean. At least until the Parents of Dodo come and take over.)

Haunted

Would you rather sleep well? If so, don’t do what I did. I read a short story every evening before going to bed. I thought it’d be a good way of enjoying this new anthology – Haunted – for Halloween. How wrong I was.

Haunted

The stories aren’t bad. Not at all. Most of them do exactly what they are meant to do. Scare you, and make you think of ghosts, and possibly even make your pulse go a wee bit faster.

Who’d have thought there could be so many ghosts? There are bad ones and small ones and sweet ones (I think so, anyway) and funny ones and ones you wouldn’t want to meet in your friendly neighbourhood graveyard. Even in daylight.

Some stories end well (ish). Others don’t.

As I might have mentioned when Derek Landy guest blogged here the other day, his story is very funny. Doesn’t mean people don’t die.

And if you look in the mirror, is there someone there? Apart from your good self, I mean. Also, whatever possesses people – children – to go out late at night to some dark and haunted place? On their own. It’s just asking for trouble.

I have to take issue with Matt Haig over giftshops. At first I thought he’s a really enlightened man. Then I realised he’d got it all wrong. He could have done the umbrellas even by doing the giftshop the other way round.

It’s not just dark dungeons that are haunted. Sunny beaches aren’t necessarily any better. Sunnier, but not safer. And what are you most scared of; computers or dogs?

Anyway, don’t let me put you off. Joseph Delaney, Susan Cooper, Mal Peet, Jamila Gavin, Eleanor Updale, Derek Landy, Robin Jarvis, Sam Llewellyn, Matt Haig, Philip Reeve and Berlie Doherty have come up with some good stories. Best enjoyed with your elevenses, than with your bedtime snack, though.

A fascination with graveyards and death

I will have to have words with Mr Google. Crosby Civic Hall just isn’t where he said it’d be. It’s also ‘quite easy’ to walk past, hidden by greenery. Which is nice. The greenery, not so much the extra walk, although I suppose it might have done me good.

What did do me good was the fabulous Sefton Super Reads event yesterday in Waterloo (I have finally seen the Waterloo of Cosmic fame!) Once Ellen Renner had given up trying to make me believe it was July, when it actually was June, I quickly chatted up Tony Higginson of Pritchards bookshop fame, and the kind man said what a great idea it’d be if I came. So I came, after giving up on Mr Google’s ideas.

Tony Higginson, Mary Hooper, Jon Mayhew and Ellen Renner at Sefton Super Reads

Zoe and Tony at Sefton Super Reads

Sefton Super Reads with Mary Hooper, Jon Mayhew and Ellen Renner

They had an incredibly strong shortlist comprising Mary Hooper, Ellen Renner and Jon Mayhew, who were all present, and also Eleanor Updale, Andy Mulligan and Ally Kennen, who weren’t. It’s fantastic that so many could be there, and I’m pleased that I managed to escape the – frankly ridiculous – idea that I pose for a photo with Ellen, Mary and Jon. Tony did that so much better. (I thought I hadn’t met him before. But I had. He was at the Plaza last month, also chatting with Elvis. Small world.)

Sefton does a brisk and informal awards ceremony, with brief introductions to the books, a Q & A where the schools who took part in the reading and voting got to ask questions of Jon and Mary and Ellen.

Mary Hooper, Jon Mayhew and Ellen Renner at Sefton Super Reads

Running out of ideas is not generally a problem. Time to write all those potential books is. Both Mary and Jon are fascinated by graveyards and death and both their books feature professional mourners as main characters. The books are also set in much the same sort of (Victorian) time, as is Ellen’s Castle of Shadows. In fact, more than half the shortlist is historical, suggesting young readers like what’s old, as well as what’s dead.

Mary Hooper

Mary takes a year to write a book, and if Jon didn’t have to do all sorts of other things like paid work, he’d write lots of books in a year. Ellen disappointed us by saying her third novel won’t be coming next year. Jon stops the car to write down ideas. Hopefully only if driving while getting them.

Ellen Renner

One very sneaky question was what they thought of the competition and whether they had read each other’s books. They were pretty adept at admitting to having read less than the teenagers present, but complimented the others. And like me, both Jon and Ellen had had Mary’s Fallen Grace waiting in the tbr pile for some time. (I dealt with it by reading on the train…)

Jon Mayhew wins Sefton Super Reads

Then it was straight onto the announcement that Jon Mayhew had won with Mortlock. With so many wonderful books I was just grateful that it was one of the authors present who won. It feels so much better that way. But as with choosing who your favourite child is, there’s no way I was going to pick a favourite among the shortlisted novels.

After Jon’s admirably short thank you speech, which he may or may not have written (or thought about) in advance, I could see Mrs M eyeing the trophy with a view to dusting it and possibly arranging for a special trophy room at home if hubby is going to keep this winning streak going.

Reviews of Sparks at Sefton Super Reads

Drinks at Sefton Super Reads

Before the local school children could stampede towards the waiting refreshments, their reviewing labours were rewarded with book tokens. They had written some very good reviews and I especially enjoyed hearing about the teenager who had developed bird phobia after Mortlock. (Well, who hasn’t?)

Prize winners at Sefton Super Reads with Mary Hooper, Jon Mayhew and Ellen Renner

Tony Higginson at Sefton Super Reads

The osmotic (his own choice of word) Tony provided the book tokens and ran the bookselling and took photos and told us about the great future events he is organising. That’s what booksellers should be like!

Jon Mayhew, Ellen Renner and Mary Hooper at Sefton Super Reads

There was book signing and queues and photographs, and it was hard to see the authors for the crowds. But that’s as it should be.

When everything had been said and done, I marched off towards Waterloo station, and found that I could see the sea. Lovely. I must return. And Waterloo does funny minutes. At times they last for ages, and at times they pass so fast they have to rewind and do the same minutes again. Weird, but interesting.

Bookwitch bites #56

All together now.

How I wish I could have popped over to Dublin last week. It was positively teeming with crime writers. I know it’s the latest vogue but this strikes me as exceptional. It was the launch of crime anthology Down These Green Streets; Irish Crime Writing in the 21st century, edited by our very favourite Declan, Declan Burke. (Sorry Hughes.)

Down These Green Streets

And I do realise some of you will find it a little hard to drop everything and pop in the Belfast direction for the NI launch tonight. But do try. I would. If I could. There are multi-signed copies of the book for sale from The Gutter Bookshop (which I believe is a lot nicer than the name suggests). I want one. It’d be the next best thing to having been there. But it’s this idea of actually paying…

It’s not just those criminally minded Irish who are ganging up. We have the History Girls. I’ve been hearing rumours for a while, and now they have got their act together. Almost. You can get them on facebook already. And from the 1st July you can enjoy their new blog.

The History Girls

They are girls who write historical fiction. I’m amazed they managed to get so many together for a photo, and very nice they look too. I understand they launched with a lunch, or possibly vice versa, at the home of Michelle Lovric. Should have known someone like Michelle would have an interesting house!

I suppose I shouldn’t ignore that large group of people who have their day tomorrow. The Daddies. We are an unfriendly kind of witch family, so don’t celebrate this kind of event at all. Not even with socks. (And he got a tie for his birthday, so there.) But can you really not go wrong with the books ‘advertised’ below?

Father's Day Penguins

Barnaby Booth

Feeling the need to finish on a softer note; here is Barnaby Booth. Barnaby’s human Daddy is Stephen Booth. I believe Barnaby (I trust you can work out who Barnaby is named after?) helps with the murdering around the house.