Tag Archives: Stephen Booth

Bookwitch bites #111

Stephen Booth returns to Reading Matters in Chapel-en-le-Frith tomorrow, at 10.30. I’m guessing to sign books in general (mainly his own) and to promote his new Cooper & Fry novel Already Dead. According to Stephen himself, he is not, and never has been, J K Rowling. (I can see these jokes going on for some time.)

Although, to me it’s not so much of a joke that people yet again mind so awfully about J K, that they find it hard to accept that she still writes books, gets them published, and sells some copies on the strength of the young wizard. And some of us just happen to believe she might be worth reading anyway. We can’t simply magic Harry Potter away. He exists. We like him. Some of us will like what comes after Harry because of what it is, and not because it’s got her name on the books. Or not her name, as the case may be.

Another big name, Terry Pratchett, will soon have a new book out, and I can’t help but think he had our family in mind. It’s about trains, and it will be published on somebody’s birthday. Raising Steam arrives on October 24th (unless there are leaves on the track, I suppose). While you wait, there is some kind of iPad map of Ankh-Morpork to be had at half price until the end of the month.

Since I seem interested in making you spend money, let me introduce the Nicola Morgan online shop! Yes, a dream come true for Nicola, where she can play shopkeeper to her heart’s content. So far it’s bags and books, but I’ve been led to understand there could be even more exciting stuff available later. Keep checking in, and keep Nicola in shoes and baked beans.

Letterbox

Meanwhile, I’ve received yet another book in my temporary jiffy receptacle. I’m guessing the postperson doesn’t know how lucky he/she is not to be carting them hither every day or every week. Let’s just hope the senders know when to stop.

Reading Matters

Reading Matters

Lynsey at Reading Matters

It certainly does. Now more than ever. Although in this case Reading Matters is the name of a brand new bookshop in Chapel-en-le-Frith in Derbyshire. Who in their right mind opens a bookshop in a smallish town in times like these? Lyndsey and her business partner Sue do.

I was alerted to this momentous news by Stephen Booth, who had been called in to sign books on their first day, but probably not to cut any satin ribbons. Reading Matters didn’t strike me as a ribbon-cutting type of shop, but I could be wrong. It has been known to happen.

Stephen Booth at Reading Matters

The Resident IT Consultant and I turned up a little after the opening, when Stephen was already in full swing chatting to the Chapel-en-le-Frithers who had come to buy books. Perhaps also to taste the mulled wine and the mince pies.

Reading Matters

The Market Street premises are tiny, but lovely. Walls in Bookshop Red, naturally, and shelves in Mouse’s Tail. Quite. Great colour, whatever the person who named the paint was thinking. Lovely fireplace, and nice and warm on this chilly Derbyshire morning. Luckily for Stephen, no snow, or he might not have made it across the Peak District. And the dawn rain had disappeared to give way to a smilier Saturday morning, just the way you want it when you open a bookshop. (I know I always do.)

Reading Matters for teens

The shop isn’t fully stocked yet, but they had Stephen’s books, and the teen section through the low doorway for us shorter readers had Terry Pratchett to offer. So the important things in life were present. They also sell secondhand books, and the Resident IT Consultant commenced his usual bargain hunt.

Reading Matters customer

There is a garden at the back, where I visualised myself sitting out on a (warmer) sunny day, whereas the Resident IT Consultant busied himself digging it out for an Oxford style Blackwell’s. (In his mind, I hasten to add. We don’t demolish shops on a first meeting if we can help it.)

I chatted to the ladies of Reading Matters, and I chatted to Stephen, who did his best not to ask what the fat witch was doing at yet another of his events. I had him counting his books again, and we talked some more about those excellent Swedes who like him so much.

Stephen Booth at Reading Matters

Cough. Pardon me.

Reading Matters teddy

Deciding to make some space in the shop for others, we drove home the scenic route. Not getting lost, just the scenic route, because the other way of exiting Chapel-en-le-Frith didn’t work out as planned. Nice day for a drive in the sunshine, looking at the Derbyshire countryside.

In fact, a nice day for Reading Matters.

Neither present nor correct

Having planned for almost a year to attend the third Scarefest in Crosby, I ended up not going at all, so missed seeing and hearing the charming Barry Hutchison, Curtis Jobling, David Gatward, Jon Mayhew, Joseph Delaney, Philip Caveney, Ruth Symes and Tommy Donbavand. Formby Books had organised a whole Saturday of horrible things for the young and innocent, and I’m so sorry not have been able to drag myself there.

I know! I’ll steal a photo off facebook! I’m sure facebook was there.

Philip Caveney, David Gatward, Tommy Donbavand, Barry Hutchison and Jon Mayhew

Hmm, that’s not all of them. Perhaps a few perished early? Oh well. I know the feeling.

There is a certain something about late September and early October. Book festivals. You couldn’t go to them all even if you wanted to. Actually, maybe you could, if you’re happy with a day here and a day there. I’m so greedy that I expect to ‘go for a while.’

What I am currently not doing is roaming around Cheltenham. But oh how I wish I were. They have some interesting people on offer this year. Even J K Rowling is there. And whatever you say, she is a writer first. Many of the other tempting names are celebrities first. Actors who have written a book. Television presenters. Politicians. But is is tempting. Benedict Cumberbatch. As I said, tempting.

I have missed Bath, and Wigtown, and I have a feeling I am in the midst of missing Bouchercon in Cleveland. Luckily Peter Rozovsky is doing his duty and posting daily, by the looks of it. Dead Guy has someone there, as well. Facebook (there it goes again…) has offered up countless photos of people posing with their favourite crime writer. One day I will do that too. If I was the type to pose with authors, which I’m not, unless it’s done under duress. Stephen Booth is doing an event called Murder in the Great Outdoors, and that just sounds so frightfully healthy, don’t you think?

And so is, to some extent, the non-attendance at countless festivals. Rest. Sleep…

Tony Higginson, David Gatward, Barry Hutchison, Tommy Donbavand, Jon Mayhew, Philip Caveney and Joseph Delaney at Scarefest 3 - photo by Sean Steele

PS It was only poor Curtis who didn’t make it through the evening. In fact, he didn’t make it at all. And Ruth Symes who had an early pumpkin arrangement.

Pre-mcbf midweek miscellany

Fearing I might not be able to bite you this weekend, I will give you a mixed bag of stuff today instead.

Fear. Yes. It’s the done thing. Meg Rosoff blogged the other day about all the dangers of going to the library. Is it safe now to admit to having omitted to fit a stair gate when Offspring were at their most vulnerable? I am a coward most of the time, but there are some things I feel you just need to risk, or we risk (hah) losing sight of common sense. I eat old food, too.

Shortlisted books for the Scottish Children's Book Awards

And I am afraid I daren’t say anything about this rather excellent shortlist for the Scottish Children’s Book Awards 2012. The three books for older readers comprise one author whom I admire a great deal (Elizabeth Laird) and the other two just happen to have written what must count as my bestest books (so far) this year, even outside Scotland. That’s Elizabeth Wein (odds that an Elizabeth wins?) and Barry Hutchison. And I see that even more favourites narrowly missed the shortlist. They clearly need a longer shortlist. Or more awards.

The younger shortlists (you know what I mean!) are also full of jeopardy, with people being eaten and there being nuts, soldiers, crocodiles and lions.

A man who lives dangerously is Tony Higginson of Formby Books. He works too hard. Now he has added to his burden and blogs in his spare (double hah) time. Double danger there next Thursday (and I’m telling you now because I plan to be busy for a while) when he has invited customers to a crime barbecue. I mean, books and flames! Stephen Booth is the one who will be flambéed. Or was that the burgers?

This is assuming Tony makes it through his day. I believe I have counted three more events he’s doing that day, which is the day I already have so much on that I am wondering if I can crawl out of bed for the piano tuner at the crack of dawn. I suppose, take one event after another… But no trips for me to the coast and Tony.

Next year I’ll send out dates when I’m available.

First Chinley BookFest

Chinley BookFest

The Resident IT Consultant put his walking gear and waterproofs in the car. Unfortunately, the First Chinley BookFest turned out to be far too much fun for any walking to take place. That’s apart from our scurrying between Venue One and Venue Two, up and down the main street in the village, between the Women’s Institute were the author events were, and the community centre were people ate cake, bought books and ate more cake.

Chinley BookFest

Confession; we did not climb out of bed for the ten o’clock event with Edwina Currie. Somehow we didn’t feel the urge. However, Philip Caveney and Stephen Booth must be considered big draws for a Bookwitch, and to get the pair of them in one local BookFest on one Sunday afternoon was a real bonus.

Speaking of urges. We merely came from Stockport, all of 30 minutes away. One Stephen Booth fan came from Australia. Slight difference, there. But that’s books for you. Sometimes you go a bit crazy. It’s nice, though. If you can. (And one of these days I will learn how to take photos with smartphones. It’s not done by holding it the wrong way round, apparently.)

Chinley BookFest

What a wonderful little BookFest! Just the kind you can enjoy with not too much fuss. Chinley is a hard-to-get-to sort of village on the western end of Derbyshire not looking like, but feeling pretty much like Midsomer. Minus the murders. Although, Stephen Booth did call his talk ‘Where the bodies are buried,’ but I’m sure he only intended that in a fictional way. His books are fiction.

Chinley BookFest

We lunched with Philip and his Lady Caveney, and by that I mean we ate our sandwiches at the Women’s Institute before Philip’s talk, while they tucked into their salads. Very cosy. And his shoes were quite cool.

Philip Caveney

Philip’s photo of himself as a young man rather cancelled out those shoes, however. Long hair! Hairy face! Those were the days. He talked about his early days as a writer, inspired by Ray Bradbury, and then how his daughter Grace had caused him to become a children’s author simply in order to prevent her from reading his adult novels, which were so not suitable at her age.

He tried to cheat, of course, but Grace made him write a whole book, and after that more books happened, and they keep happening. It seems a last Sebastian Darke will be published later this year, and because you can never write too many books at any one time, Philip has recently published his first ebook, The Talent, which is a crossover type of story. (More about that at a later date.)

Philip Caveney, Spy Another Day

Coming soon is the second cinema book, Spy Another Day, from which Philip read to us. A short bit only. The bit that makes you want more. I can’t wait! And should this writing career not support him, he could take up singing. Philip sang very passably from his book. Well, from the film in the book, I suppose. He is inexplicably fond of old-fashioned cinemas with sticky carpets.

Philip Caveney

Not surprisingly, when reading for pleasure, he picks what’s recent and good, to keep up with what’s doing well, alternating between adult and children’s. I’m not sure Philip answered the question on whether he’ll write for adults again, but he did point out there’s little difference. Except children’s books have to be better.

Quite.

We spent the interval at the community centre, where the Resident IT Consultant splashed out rather, buying four second hand books. I walked round looking at everything from the Charles Dickens table to the book patterned fabric. Also saw Stephen Booth unpacking his box of books, and Philip and Lady C enjoying well deserved mugs of something, before returning home to lovely Stockport.

Second hand books for sale at Chinley BookFest

Spotty mug

Entering into the spirit of things, we had mugs of tea and homemade cake. What mugs! Reminiscent of Cath Kidston, no less. And what cake! The Resident IT Consultant took the sensible executive decision to get two kinds for us to share. Someone walked round handing out programmes for the next literary event, which will be the Derbyshire Literature Festival in May.

Book cushion

To make sure of bagging seats to my liking, we went over to the WI again on the heels of Stephen Booth. I’m afraid I stalked him when he went outside again, grabbing a little chat outside the ironmongers (I think). For some reason we talked about Ms Currie, before seamlessly switching to Stephen’s brilliant Swedish success, and via the Bristol Crimefest to Reginald Hill.

After a while we realised that Stephen might need to go back in to talk to the rest of the roomful of people. The organiser introduced him by telling us how she read her first Fry and Cooper before moving to the Peak District. Maybe she was looking for somewhere to stash her dead bodies.

Stephen Booth

Stephen explained how he prefers to write about a place where he doesn’t live, in order to keep it fresh and at a distance. He’s with Sherlock Holmes in seeing more evil in the country than in the city. Apparently it is well known that the Peak District is good for getting rid of bodies, and especially so in reservoirs, but not to worry about our tap water.

He likes the contrast between the White Peak and the Dark Peak, and the edgy contrast between country and city. Fans have been known to read his books with an Ordnance Survey map to hand, but that didn’t prevent him from getting his east and his west mixed up when a character travelled ‘east’ from Snake Pass to Glossop. It was when he found that Boots in Edendale had accidentally moved between books that he started making his own map of his fictional town. (No matter what Stephen says, to me Edendale will always be Buxton.)

To avoid being sued too often Stephen uses real places, changing them ever so slightly. Not that that helps. Someone reported having heard the peacock he wrote about, and even saw the same people camping… (It’s fiction!!) But it must be wonderful to inspire such keen fans, that they will even go out and test whether a particular place has a mobile signal.

Stephen Booth

Listening to this cross between Stephen King and the Brontës is always fun and entertaining. It’s fascinating the way coincidences happen, and the way Stephen can make use of the weirdest stuff in writing his books. He even caused his agent to see decomposing bodies where there were none. (Poor woman.) Why frighten us, when we can do it ourselves?

I was all ready to return home and continue reading my Booth book number six, except I can’t, because it’s the book I allowed Son to take with him to India. (And that will be the only mention of India for today. Thank you for your patience.)

Stephen Booth, Scared to Live

I made up for this by getting the Resident IT Consultant an early birthday present in the shape of a genuine Stephen Booth paperback (number seven), signed and discounted. (I mean, it was very expensive, dear. Erm, no, I just remembered, you’re from Scotland. It was a bargain. Should have bought two.)

They sold the remaining cakes for half price. Because we hadn’t ‘eaten a thing’ all day, I bought some to have when we got home. There were divine scones and extremely drizzley lemon cake slices. But I’m afraid we ate it all before I thought of taking a photo.

Second hand books

Here’s to the next Chinley BookFest!

Bookwitch bites #73

How about we go totally miscellaneous today? I feel all higgledy piggledy, completely lacking in plans and any greater pictures.

This lovely pirate photo appeared before me only yesterday. It’s really Marie-Louise Jensen behind that mask, and I gather the handsome young assistant pirate is her son. I wholeheartedly approve of people who make full use of their children, and junior is to be admired for agreeing to be dressed up. The event was for Marie-Louise’s new book, aptly titled The Girl in the Mask.

Marie-Louise Jensen

In fact, authors who dress up to ‘go to work’ in support of their work are to be admired. Normal people just have normal clothes to fret over. Have you even considered what it must feel like to get on the bus dressed like a pirate?

Stephen Davies (of Ouagadougou fame, if you recall?) also has a new book out, which is anything but masked, seeing as it’s called Goggle-Eyed Goats. I’ve not read it, and am very intrigued about Stephen’s comment re polygamy. That’s  not your typical topic for a young child’s book, but no doubt reading it will reveal all. Sort of.

I am busy missing book events here. Friday night saw Joan Bakewell at the Stockport Plaza, launching yet another new book. It’s an adult novel, so I know nothing. The reason I heard about the event was that Mrs Pendolino mentioned that her father, being childhood pals with the beautiful Joan, was wanting to go along and renew the friendship. I hope he had a good time.

And I probably won’t be going to Formby. At least not this Thursday evening, because it’s a long way and it will be dark. But I do want to. I have been meaning to visit Tony Higginson’s bookshop, and the weeks and months are simply slipping by. The fact that I won’t be there is no reason for the rest of you not going, so do pop along if Formby is within your reach.

Tony is offering a Night of Crime, for a mere £3, at six o’clock on Thursday 15th March. The ‘criminals’ are two favourites of mine, Kate Ellis and Martin Edwards, who both write crime novels, and they do it much closer to home than Formby, so perhaps I should ask them round for tea instead of haring across Lancashire in the dark.

Actually, once you start looking for events (not) to go to, there is no end of them. Although I am not totally ruling out Stephen Booth, another fairly local crime writer, at the library in Dukinfield on Wednesday. That’s at ten in the morning, so will require getting out of bed. I know they all do, but not as early.

I’ll think about it. I am always more willing the further away it is in time…

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.

This is no vicarage

I think I get it now. This fascination for Nordic crime. People like Adèle Geras, who can’t have enough of the gritty crime from our cold and dark countries. And me, who shudders at the mere thought of some of the bleak grittiness.

I’m currently reading a much talked about Swedish crime novel, which can remain anonymous for the time being. Started it on Friday night and read solidly for an hour, or about 100 pages. Then I thought to myself that it was so unpleasant that I might as well give up and save myself the remaining 500 pages. Ghastly crime (I know they all are, really) and not a single likeable character.

Then for good measure I continued yesterday. It’s scary and off-putting and I still can’t stand the characters. I don’t like the Stockholm setting, because although I don’t live there, I feel I could do. In which case I do not want that sort of stuff happening on my home ground. I can see myself leading that kind of drab life and I feel vaguely sick.

But that’s what you like, isn’t it? If it’s grim and it’s grim in a different place, for people not living your kind of life, then it’s just ‘nice’ to watch from the safe distance of your armchair. While I can see myself there, I’m scared.

I used to have this theory that readers with ‘cosy’ British lives enjoy the murderous Ikea life style in the glow of the Aurora and all that. You’re safe in your semidetached lives. And I used to think that I adore cosy English crime because it’s different. Set in charming surroundings, with interestingly different characters, and totally unattainable.

Now though, I find crime like Stephen Booth’s – for instance – a little bit too close to home. But still quite enjoyable, as the Peak District is still a few miles down the road.

And isn’t that why we like Agatha Christie? Most of us can’t aspire to that kind of life (partly because it’s now in the past), and feel secure in the knowledge that we won’t be murdered in any mansions or vicarages anytime soon.

Having come to this brilliant conclusion I had to try and decide what type of crime writing I do like and feel comfortable with. Irish fantasy. Quite safe. V I Warshawski, safely far away in Chicago. Mma Ramotswe. Very far away. And yes, Stieg Larsson. Because for some reason I can’t see myself living in his settings. Anything with humour, really. Like Donna Moore’s mad capers. Not real. A reflection on society, but not my life.

I yearn for more Ngaio Marsh and Margery Allingham. Safe time, safe class. Yes, I want safe crime. Something that is unlikely to reach me.

Things I’m not doing

That would be almost everything, so I will give you the abridged version, skipping household chores issues.

The last four days I haven’t been in Bristol, rubbing shoulders with crime writers galore. Although I would have liked to, obviously. The list of participants at the Bristol CrimeFest reads like a Who’s Who in crime. Saturday night was the gala dinner, with Colin Dexter.

Oh well, who cares? It would have been too hot, anyway… And I’m sure all my crime blogging colleagues will fill me in on what fun they had. Karen at Euro Crime seems to have had a lucky quiz night again.

Stephen Booth is someone else who wasn’t in Bristol, which can be explained by the fact that he was in Stockport on Saturday morning. I had wanted to be there, too, but that was another thing I didn’t do. If I hadn’t read about it on Stephen’s website I wouldn’t have known this town had a Culture Feast going on, but that’s why he did an event here with Anna Dean and Anna Chilvers. Clearly the thing is to be called Anna.

Also, will not be telling you of the book I’m reading. Yet. It’s been embargoed, so I’ll do a little something later. It’s to do with crime, and quite interesting, really. I’m not sure I believe in embargoes. Is it better if the news explode all over the place on the same day? Some early appetisers can work well on occasion.

Since I’m not in Bristol this morning, packing my suitcase (which is a small bonus) I’ll leave you with the link to the blog written by Martin Edwards. While I’m busy telling you of non-events, I have to own up to not having read anything of Martin’s yet. I blame it on the fact that the book I was recommended was out of print when I searched for it. But I must.

I know why I mentioned Martin here. It may be less clear to you. Martin is in Bristol, where he has moderated a few panels. I was impressed by his moderation skills two years ago. Could be because he’s a solicitor, which I’m only mentioning because my penultimate paragraph made me think of this.

Going round in circles. Sorry.

Mr Treemountain and other stuff

We travelled to Bali Rai-country on Sunday, to retrieve Daughter from outer space. On the drive to Leicester, which it is better known as, we listened to the second outing of Quote Unquote starring Adèle Geras, which the Resident IT Consultant had thoughtfully recorded and saved and remembered.

I had hoped that the lovely round library we went past last year, would be Oadby Library, which Bali praised back in June. It’s not. It’s Southfield Library, but it’s still very nice looking. We were late for our rocket launch, but so were the rockets. Spectacularly so, in fact. And luckily the ‘Cape Kennedy’ aspect of the sports field rocket launch pad broke down after about ten rockets, or we’d still be there now.

We returned to witch territory via another route, which took us past the prison where Stephen Booth did his research for one of his Fry and Cooper novels. I always like to feel literary when out, and seeing the bus shelter where the newly released prisoners catch the bus from, is pretty literary.

As we sped past the Dovedale walking centre we once stayed in, we debated when exactly it was we were there. The conclusion was between Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, which takes us to spring 2000. That was when three of us mothers, having returned from a really wet walk with the small children’s group, relaxed in front of the fire with cups of tea, agreeing that we all loved – and fancied – Lupin. The bonding you can do over the most unexpected things…

Date decided on, the Resident IT Consultant had had enough of conversation, so switched the radio on, which I tend to hate. We accidentally hit on ‘Allan Ahlberg at 70′, which had just started, so we got to listen to most of this repeat. And it was good. I’m not all that into the Ahlbergs, Swedish name notwithstanding, but found it both fun and informative.

But let me tell you this, Allan. Your name does not mean Treemountain in English. You are Mr Aldermountain. Although your own idea of calling yourself Roald Blyton is not a bad one. Almost rhymes with Aldermountain.