Tag Archives: Sophie Hannah

Bookwitch bites #114

Well, wasn’t that a week stacked to the gills with reviews of some of the excellent books published on the 5th? Don’t spread them out. Just send them in our direction all at once. Spacing your reading is so last century.

And Sophie Hannah is the new Agatha Christie. Will be. Sort of. Sophie is the latest in the recent trend of asking living authors to step into the shoes of their late colleagues. And whereas Agatha Christie did finish Miss Marple off, I think Hercule Poirot managed to avoid having a last case. Although, he is dreadfully old, even if we don’t bring him into the 21st century. Very pleased for Sophie, who writes extremely well. I look forward to seeing what she can do with the old French, oops, sorry, Belgian detective. (Maybe she’ll be less scary. Than her usual self, I mean.)

No sooner had Daughter and I returned from our travels, overseeing The New Window, but Mrs Pendolino called in to deal with hair that had grown too long. She’s on her way to Vegas, which apparently is the place to go this year.

Once shorn, we opened our doors to Botany Girl and Rhino Boy, who called in on their way past Bookwitch Towers, having inspected some scout hut or other. They weren’t going to Vegas. The Northwest – our Northwest – is good enough for them.

I have known Botany Girl for almost as long as I have known the Resident IT Consultant. I’ve not seen so much of her, however, so it was nice of her to remember my proximity to the scout hut. Rhino Boy I’d only met the once, over ten years ago. He wasn’t sure he’d met Daughter, but she was able to tell him what he had for dinner that evening (and somehow he knew she was right. It was a Quattro Stagioni…).

Before regaling us with tales of stuff that all happened when we were all less old than we are now, Rhino Boy looked round the room and his gaze fastened on Anne Rooney’s The Story of Physics. So I let him have a little look. Seems he knows about Physics. He also wanted the inside story on Stieg Larsson. (As if I’d know anything about that.)

Botany Girl and I agreed that it is possible to have a satisfactory quality of life even without advanced Maths, and I forgot to remind her I still owe her a session of washing up.

And I suppose now it’s back to ‘normal’ for maybe a week…

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.)

Bookwitch bites #93

Luckily I didn’t run into either of these two chaps as I haunted Edinburgh this week. Twice. That’s twice I didn’t see them. In fact, I forgot to even think about Philip Caveney and whoever that is behind him. ‘He’s behind you!’ Lucky, seeing as I was running around all alone in the dark.

Philip Caveney with Plague Doctor on The Close

Lucky too, that I had not yet come across Chris Priestley’s A Creepy Christmas, the story he has written for 247 tales. That is another thing you don’t want to have on your mind as you’re out alone, in the dark or otherwise. Good to see that the 247 tales are still going strong.

Pleased to hear that Bali Rai won one of the categories at the Sheffield Book Awards this week; his quick read The Gun. Obviously, other books won too, and even more were commended. Read all about it here.

Have been alerted that Sophie Hannah – who seems to be successful at just about everything these days – has been shortlisted for the Nibbies. The event is on Tuesday next week. Lots of other authors are also on the various shortlists, and pirates would appear to be in as far as children’s book titles are concerned. (It was hard to find the lists, however. Something wrong with google? Can’t be me, can it?)

But I did find it a little tricky to discover the Costa shortlist, as well. (So definitely not me, then.) Sally Gardner, Diana Hendry, Hayley Long and Dave Shelton are this year’s hopefuls. I’ve read two.

Barry Hutchison, The Book of Doom

And speaking of awards, I was very happy to hear that Barry Hutchison got married last week. He had proposed in a fairly public sort of way, by putting it in one of his books. Glad it paid off, and that he has now been made an honest man of. More good Hutchison news is the arrival of the cover for The Book of Doom. Would quite like for the rest of the book to get here, too. Fast.

Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell, The Bone Trail

Fast is what another book would have managed, had I not been so busy running around a darkened Edinburgh. (See top.) A very early incarnation of The Bone Trail, the last in the Wyrmeweald trilogy by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddell has been made available to me. I happened to mention I wasn’t feeling especially patient.

Arrived home to find DHL had missed me. (Miss you too.) I arranged for redelivery on Monday. Except they turned up yesterday. As I squeezed the package (to find out what it might be, the way you do) it felt like a rucksack. Couldn’t see why Random House would send me one of those.

I will now stick a plain sheet of A4 to the back of The Bone Trail to prevent me accidentally looking at what seems to be the last page of the book. A witch likes some element of surprise.

Bookwitch bites #53

When Daughter left the house the other evening, the oldies watched Sophie Hannah’s Case Sensitive on ITV. Why they renamed it I don’t know, but back when it was ‘just’ a crime novel it had the title Point of Rescue and was quite scary. It was still scary. We liked it. We wouldn’t mind more.

Awards are dropping onto authors left, right and centre (ouch!) and I’ve given up any hope of keeping track. Keren David was in Angus (and sometimes I don’t even know where that is) this week, picking up an award. I recall seeing the town Arbroath mentioned, so maybe that’s where it happened. I can remember buying bread rolls in Arbroath once, and that didn’t go well.

The Branford Boase shortlist arrived in my inbox this week, and it’s a bad one! By that I mean it’s so good I don’t know who to keep my fingers crossed for.

I Am The Blade by J.P. Buxton

When I Was Joe by Keren David

Tall Story by Candy Gourlay

Unhooking The Moon by Gregory Hughes

Out Of Shadows by Jason Wallace

The Crowfield Curse by Pat Walsh

I have read four of the six, and three of them were on my best for 2010. If that’s not good taste I don’t know what is.

Steve Cole with chonster

There are other kinds of prizes as well. Steve Cole has an Astrosaurs’ superhero competition, where you need to create your own, new astrosaurs character. I wouldn’t put it past Steve to ‘steal’ it for his books. If you win, he will come to your school. Which might be quite nice, if the teachers can put up with his behaviour.

Finally, who do you like best in the Harry Potter books? Here is your chance to vote. Except I don’t know what you win. Nothing perhaps. Just the knowledge that you are the only one who likes Filch best. And my favourite is…

Scaring me, scaring you

My heart has resided in my throat for a little while now. It’s an uncomfortable place to keep it, but it’s Halloween. Or very nearly. I thought I’d go in for some horror and other scary stuff for a few days, but quite frankly had not anticipated being scared by Tove Jansson.

Detail of front cover 'The Dangerous Journey' by Tove Jansson

The very last Moomin illustrations by Tove herself are about to be published in English as The Dangerous Journey. The story is in verse, which was first translated and then handed over to Sophie Hannah for some poetic English. And while I don’t know the original (though I did check online and found the odd quote, which looks just right) I feel the result is terrific.

It’s the illustrations that make this book so marvellous. Though it’d be better to call them paintings, as they really are Art with a capital A. They are sort of scary, but so beautiful that you can just sit there and look at them. And look at them.

Detail of back cover 'The Dangerous Journey' by Tove Jansson

The story is another matter, however. One Swedish reviewer pointed out that bedtime was not a good time. It’s about Susanna and her cat, and the little girl unwisely wishes things would be different. And the next thing she knows, they are. Scarily different.

So she wanders off through this new landscape, seeing weird and frightening things, and meeting many of the characters from the Moomin stories, and together they walk on, still seeing a changed world.

Until they suddenly find themselves in Moomin’s garden with all the regular – and friendly – people waiting for them. It’s like being in a book, she thinks.

Well, maybe she was.

My heart is still up there banging away. But I do remember being read scary young children’s stories when I was small, so it could be that it’s just because I’m old that I feel like this.

Women are more ‘properly interesting’

Val McDermid

We have all wanted to murder someone, but most of us don’t succumb to those murderous instincts. Something to do with no laptops in jail. Or that’s what Sophie Hannah and Val McDermid claimed last night at their Manchester Literature Festival event. But they do murder well in their books.

Val described feeling that ‘the bridegroom had to be dead by bedtime’ when dreaming up a new plot, and she did so in a much more Scottish accent than I had anticipated. Don’t know why. The anticipating, I mean. Maybe it’s because Manchester claims her for their own, so she has to be a Mancunian?

Sophie Hannah

Sophie reckoned that women crime writers are more interesting, and they write more devious books than the men who just write about being chased by the FBI and other letters of the alphabet. And she tells a good story, such as the time when she bought a copy of Val’s book twice. It’s what might happen when you sit down next to a Strongbow drinking fan of lesbian fiction on a train.

I could see Sophie and Val mirrored in the large window behind them, which was good because I didn’t see much the normal way, in the very packed Whitworth Art Gallery. We sat in an ivy-papered room, with an exceedingly green feel to it. On leaving we had to walk through an artificial wood in the dark. Whether this had anything to do with what they’d just been saying about late night walks and being scared, I don’t know.

Sophie Hannah and Val McDermid

They mentioned the guilt many of us feel on reading crime, because we read it purely for pleasure. It’s slightly ‘better’ if it’s Swedish (of course!) or technical like Patricia Cornwell’s. And they are both critical of the idea that publishers ‘need to have one like that, too’ as soon as a new type of crime novel becomes successful.

There’s the Swedish tidal wave, and there is other foreign stuff which nobody understands, so the author must be a genius. None of them are into cosy crime, where you get recipes or instructions on embroidering bookmarks.

Sophie likes her crime dark, feeling that murder is dark, whereas Val likes humour and claims the Scots even laugh at funerals. Sophie keeps lists of the books she reads, and she has come to realise that her favourite books never win any prizes. She knows she’s right.

Sophie Hannah and Val McDermid

We ran out of time long before we ran out of questions, and then it was book signing time, which took place in an exceedingly dark room. But as Val pointed out, ‘it’s never too early for Christmas shopping’. Though I suspect I was the only one bringing a Moomin book to the signing.

Sophie left in a chauffeur driven car, whereas Val walked over to her own car and changed into a more comfortable jacket before driving off into the night. I know this not because I was stalking them, but because my own ‘chauffeur’ was a little late, so I had nothing better to do than watch everybody else.


Did anyone see a blue streak in Didsbury yesterday morning? If you blinked you probably missed her. It was Adèle Geras, fitting in a book award coffee – Costa, to you and me – between last minute chores and moving house. Very sweet of her to even contemplate elevenses at a time like this.

Adèle Geras 11

She and Norm are deserting Manchester for somewhere nearer the grandchildren. Adèle told me all about the new house, which sounds wonderful, and now that Norm has managed to part with some of his beloved books they may even fit into their new home.

We talked about our children, and it seems that Adèle’s (that’s Sophie Hannah) did what I wanted to do, and spent the weekend in San Francisco. I can’t decide whether to go for green with envy or to breathe a sigh of relief that I’m not recovering from an exhausting trip.

We talked about Ann Widdecombe. As you do. Shoe shops. Marcus Sedgwick. Christmas parties. Universities. And most likely other things, already forgotten.

Adèle is doing a guest blog on Normblog today, so it’s worth popping over to read what she has to say. I gather Norm is too busy masterminding the move to spend as much time on blogging as he usually does. Seems the same doesn’t apply to Adèle…

Bookwitch bites #25

Author-wise it was a busy Wednesday over at the local bookshop. Not only did Cathy Cassidy do her friendship thing for younger readers, but she had barely left when it was time for Adèle Geras and Sophie Hannah to do their event. In fact, she hadn’t left, as Adèle arrived too early and caught her as she was running for her train. It was admiration all round, as they are fans of each other’s books. Adèle read from Dido, and Sophie read from her latest crime novel, A Room Swept White.

Another criminally minded lady is Donna Moore, who can now add the job title Writer In Virtual Residence at the schools in the Kuspuk School District in Alaska. Donna was last there in the spring, yoyo-ing between schools, talking to the students about writing. When we saw Donna in Charlotte Square in August, she was saying how she hoped this would happen, but wasn’t sure they’d want her! Of course they want her. I think she’ll be really good for these children in the middle of ‘nowhere’.

And as I almost mentioned last week, Fiona Dunbar has a new series of books for 8-12s about a girl called Kitty Slade who develops ‘phantorama’, the ability to see ghosts. Each story contains a mystery that she solves with the aid of her phantorama. Fiona started out wanting to do a sort of Famous Five for the 21st century, but ended up with something more like Ghost Whisperer for kids. The first title is Divine Freaks and it’s out next spring.

To avoid this being an all ladies affair, I’ll round off with Alan Garner, over in Alderley Edge. It’s not far, but I don’t go very often. I mainly dream of the date loaf from the baker’s. It’s fifty years since The Weirdstone of Brisingamen was first published, and there is a new special edition, along with the paperback of The Moons of Gomrath. Alan Garner is the kind of author everyone admires tremendously. Coming to his stories as an adult, I may not have the same feelings for them as those who grew up reading Alan’s books. We used to listen to them in the car, and I have to admit to never having quite understood The Weirdstone of Brisingamen. Lots of running around in tunnels under the Edge. I think.

Adèle on the radio

Adèle Geras is on the radio today! ‘Quote Unquote’ at 13.30 today on Radio 4. Should be good. Except that being out of the country, I will have to hope that someone records it. Or possibly that I end up catching the repeat on Saturday.

And speaking of the Geras family, I was pleased to come face to face with the Swedish translation of Sophie Hannah’s Little Face in the bookshop in Halmstad the other day. Prominently displayed near the entrance, with hardback book and audio book side by side. And a copy of the book in the shop window.

One of these days I will have the sense to carry a camera at all times. I’m so old and weird that I still use a mobile from the year 2000. It’s purple, and simple, but has no camera. You don’t think I ought to move on, do you? I have seen there are purple phones out there now. In fact, I was on the train recently, and three out of four people where I was sitting had purple mobiles. Very pleasing to the eye.

Adèle’s out and about

Adèle Geras is being kept busy. She has been overseeing the mailing of proofs of Dido, which is out in May. I will read my copy as soon as it’s out of the hands of the Resident IT Consultant. Theft is rife in these parts.

As Dido isn’t out yet, that’s not what Adèle talked about in the local bookshop the other night. From what she herself tells me (your trusted bookwitch being so non grata, you can’t believe it) she read from Lily and talked about adult literacy. She seems to have a following, having been followed by fans from a recent synagogue event…

Adèle appeared with daughter Sophie Hannah, who read from her latest, The Other Half Lives. I have yet to read it, and I’m a little scared, as Sophie’s crime novels are just that bit scary. Shouldn’t be so wimpy, perhaps.

Tomorrow Adèle will be appearing in London at the Jewish Book Week in the company of Lynne Reid Banks (I so want to be there!), chatting to Geraldine Brennan. Then there is a writing workshop, which unfortunately is now fully booked. Not unfortunate for Adèle, but for anyone hoping to join. Tell them how to write, Adèle!