Monthly Archives: July 2007

Branford Boase award

If it hadn’t been for my criminal Irish blog colleague at I would have missed the fact that Siobhan Dowd has won the Branford Boase award. So, belated congratulations from the bookwitch.

Though, having read about the awards ceremony which took place last week, I’m beginning to think they have all these awards so that they can go out and celebrate together all the time. It sounds like everyone was there. Not me, but otherwise. When do they write their books?

The best book?

“That’s the best book I’ve read this year” said the Resident IT Consultant a while ago, when he’d finished Beverley Naidoo’s Burn My Heart, which is published tomorrow. I myself read it with mounting fear and agitation, so I think I can safely say that it’s a very good book. It’s been a while since I read any of Beverley’s books, and I’d forgotten quite how good a writer she is.

Burn My Heart is set in Kenya in the early fifties during the Mau Mau movement, and covers the lives of three generations of two families, one white and one black. Despite Beverley’s use of rather set types of character, it’s an incredibly disturbing story. You would like everything to be right in the end, but you know that it just can’t be.

This is a piece of world history. Maybe things are better in Kenya now. I don’t know. But something similar will be happening somewhere else in the world today. People sound very tiresome when they say things like “this book should be compulsory reading in all schools”. But it really should be. Swap a few history lessons for Burn My Heart.

American thoughts of another kind

Somewhere I have admitted to a liking for crime. I don’t know why I took so many years to get started with Sara Paretsky. Last year I finally got going, and will now have to work hard to catch up. She is so good, and I feel so strangely safe in the company of VI Warshawski. VI is also responsible for introducing me to new sides of American life; not always nice, but always interesting.

This week I’ve read something different by Sara, Writing In An Age Of Silence, which I believe began life as a series of talks. There’s five of them, covering most of Sara’s life, and they are very, very inspiring. As with the fiction, there’s a lot here that’s not nice at all, but it’s so reassuring that someone is writing about it.

Her discussion last year at the Gothenburg Book Fair was surprisingly political for a crime writer, but enlightening. Sara is very small and very polite, but she says what needs saying. And she wasn’t too grand (unlike some) to provide Son with his Pullman quote.

Sara claims not to be VI, but as I was sitting in the hotel foyer waiting for Eoin Colfer to wake up (no, he wasn’t sleeping there) I saw VI stride past, back from her morning jog. It took me a while to work out it was Sara Paretsky and not her fictional PI.

A few weeks ago I was pleased to receive an email from Sara, but after Writing In An Age Of Silence I realise this means I can be on the FBI hit list, too.

Milton Keynes

Some years ago I saw Friend’s two teenage daughters set off for Milton Keynes to meet Hobbits. They spent a whole day in the town’s shopping mall queueing to meet the actors from the Lord of the Ring films. They loved it. I never quite worked out why it happened in Milton Keynes.

On Saturday Daughter and I set foot (or would that be feet?) in Milton Keynes for the very first time. We only stayed for six minutes, but that was long enough for us to find one History Boy, aka Jim Taylor, good friend of Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart. Sadly, the Silverlink train doors closed on his suitcase as he talked on his mobile, so he missed the train.

Milton Keynes has a lot to recommend it, it seems. Literary actors all over the place.

Starseeker at Royal & Derngate

It was great. You can never be sure how a really good book will translate to the stage, or how much will have to be left out. Starseeker is my favourite Tim Bowler book and I wouldn’t have taken kindly to too much messing with it. Miraculously Phil Porter appears to have left nothing of note out. So, it was a play as good as the book.

Considering the importance of the piano playing throughout the story, it was wonderful to hear good music actually played on stage by the actor playing Luke.

The five actors taking on all the parts did a very good job. And the set was excellent, with imaginative use of space for so many different settings.

Tim was there, with most of his extended family and plenty of friends. It was good to see him again and nice to meet all the others. And as an added bonus I found Costa winner Linda Newbery had also come. So that’s two extremely good authors for the price of one play.

The theatre was wonderful, with the old traditional auditorium and the newly built extension allowing plenty of space for bars and socialising. Northampton turned out to be a pleasant town, but maybe it could be London next for Starseeker? Or at least Manchester.