Monthly Archives: March 2008

Captain Tramplemousse

Adele Geras alerted me to this, so I’ll pass it on. I’m far too old for MySpace, and this was one of my very few visits. It’s a song called Captain Tramplemousse, sung by The Wurpy Quade (yes, really).

The Captain is a character in a short story by Adele in her collection Apricots At Midnight. This is actually one of my Adele favourites, because it’s so nicely old-fashioned and comfortable, if you know what I mean. It could have been written a very long time ago, and it features patchwork and the memories that different pieces of fabric can have for you.



No, not the people who live in Finland. Those others, who keep popping up in fiction. What’s with the name Finn? It tends to be a certain type of fictional character who’s called Finn, or Finnigan. I wonder why?

My most recent example is Finnigan in Sonya Hartnett’s Surrender. He’s a real wild one.

Linda Newbery has a mysterious, if older, Finnigan in her new book Nevermore.

And the free boy in What I Was by Meg Rosoff is called Finn.

I’m fairly sure Celia Rees has a Finn in one of her horror books, set in South West Wales. Again, a sort of free spirit.

I love the name, but find it strange how it gets used. I wonder about the thought processes that determine what name an author gives their characters. Is it along the lines of “I’ve got this outsider type, romantic character, so let’s go in the Celtic/Irish direction and name him Finn”?

Even Kian in Cathy Cassidy’s Scarlett has the same ring to it. What other romantic names of this kind are there?


There’s been a pleasing regularity with things recently.

Author travels from North America to Britain. Gets to go on Woman’s Hour. Meets with the witch. Presumably goes home to Canada and Chicago again, mission accomplished.

So, after Budge Wilson last week, it’s Sara Paretsky this week. As I might have mentioned once or twice. (Don’t want to bore anyone. Much.)

Sara Paretsky, Manchester

Heard Sara speak at the big bookshop last night. If it hadn’t been for Sara, I may well have exited again, so uncomfortable was the venue. This morning it is the turn of the much smaller bookshop.

Will report back later, as usual. If there is a delay, it’s purely down to complete brain exhaustion.

Website for Siobhan’s trust

Here is the new address for anyone wanting to donate to Siobhan Dowd’s Trust.

I’ve been profiled…

You can read some not very interesting facts about me on Normblog today.

Talking to Budge Wilson

My talk with Budge Wilson about her book Before Green Gables is up under interviews. She’s a lovely lady, so do read it.

Bleeding Kansas

Sara Paretsky has a new book out. It’s not a V I Warshawski. It’s not even crime. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted Sara to leave crime behind, but that was before I read Bleeding Kansas.

I’m beginning to feel that Sara can write anything, and it will be very good. There was the Writing In An Age Of Silence last year, which wasn’t even fiction, but extremely good, and an interesting view of America today and yesterday.

That’s what Bleeding Kansas is, too: A reflexion on what rural America thinks and does. I’m still trying to work out whether the book is mainly anti-war, or if Sara also wanted to highlight the religious bigotry in rural areas. The book could even be a dig at naive city dwellers, who can’t just take their city ways into the country.

Bleeding Kansas tells the stories of several families in Kansas, and in particular how they deal with the Iraq war, and the presence of modern witches in their midst. There’s also a, possibly, Hebrew speaking calf, which causes tension between families who haven’t got on well for quite a while, but who still need to live as neighbours.

There is a fourteen-year-old girl called Lara, who reminds me a lot of V I. Her father Jim is a very decent man, who struggles with everything that happens to his family, and still hangs on to his integrity. Contrast that with their neighbours’ son who “had been an enthusiastic bully since he started first grade”, and his awful father, and really horrendous grandmother.

This is a great portrait of a less familiar America.

Sara Paretsky is here

Well, the witch has waited a long time for this. She’s also done a bit of nagging. More than a bit, to be truthful. But along with the great and the good (venues, I mean), Sara is also coming to the watering hole near me. Here is her programme for the week:
Bleeding Kansas European Tour Schedule

Women’s Hour from Broadcasting House
March 25, 9:00 – 10:00 am
Gloucestershire Fiction Festival
March 26, 7:00 pm
Hulbert Crescent, Caernavon Road, Up Hatherley, Cheltenham GL51 3BW
On Air, Simon Mayo Book Panel, BBC Radio 5
March 27, 3:o0 pm; 7:30 pm
Sandwell Central Library, High Street
West Bromwich, B70 8DZ
Talk at Waterstones
March 28, 7:00 pm
92 Deansgate
Manchester M3 2BW
Interview and Signing at Simply Books
March 29, 11:30 am interview;
12:00 – 1:00pm signing
Simply Books
228 Moss Lane
Bramhall, Cheshire, SK7 1BD
Contact: 0161 439 1436
Talk at Barnsley Central Library Lecture Theatre
March 29, 5:30 pm
Shambles Street, Barnsley S70 2JF
Cambridgewordfest at ADC Theatre
March 30, 12:30 pm, Joan Smith to interview
Lunchtime talk at Peterborough Central Library Lecture Theatre
March 31, 1:00 – 2:00 pm
American Library
April 2, 7:30 pm
10 le rue du General-Camou, Paris 75007

The radio broadcasts you can listen to again. I will.


This is the first Sonya Hartnett I’ve read. I asked her publisher where I ought to start, and was told Thursday’s Child. But since that wasn’t among the books they sent, I started with Surrender.

I can see why so many of you have praised Sonya’s books, and I can see why she was given the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. Surrender is described as a psychological thriller, a dark and delicate suspense novel.

That about sums it up, I’d say. The story focuses on Gabriel, a twenty-year-old young man who is dying, and on his only friend Finnigan, and his dog Surrender.

Gabriel is an outsider, with seriously odd parents, and Finnigan is a wild boy who lives by his own rules. There are horrible accidents, small town prejudice, and then there’s Finnigan’s revenge on whoever he feels deserves it.

Creepy, but not scary, I’d say. I look forward to reading more of Sonya’s books.

Traditionally built

That’s a kind way of describing some of us. Did you watch The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency on television on Easter Sunday? We all did, including Daughter, who at first didn’t think it was for her.

I had wondered how they could translate the charm of the books to film, but it worked very well. Even the slight changes to the plot were fine. Botswana didn’t quite look as I had imagined it, but it was beautifully colourful. I’ll have that yellow fridge any time. And the turquoise walls.

Smooth talkers are the same everywhere.

But contrary to Daughters suggestion, I don’t think I’ll wear the kind of dresses Mma Ramotswe wears. We are not the same kind of traditional build.