Monthly Archives: March 2008

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.

At Brown’s Hotel

The young witch used to frequent Brown’s, much to the surprise of her elders and betters. It was the lure, which good old-fashioned English places and customs have for foreigners. It’s related to liking Midsomer Murders, which I last tried rubbishing in the company of my Swedish neighbours, only to be told how much they love it.

Well, Brown’s is supposed to have been the inspiration for Agatha Christie’s At Bertram’s Hotel, and the book was written in the hotel lounge. I used to go there for afternoon tea, which in the olden days cost about a fiver, and that felt a lot less then, than whatever the cost is today.

It was worth it purely for the show put on by the very professional waiters. A friend of mine couldn’t stop talking about how they could remove the table cloth, with a flourish, while things were still on the table. Pretty good entertainment that was.

I was reminded of this the other day in London. Not only was I in Mayfair, close to my old haunt in Albemarle Street, but the hotel where I talked to Budge Wilson the next day, made me think of Brown’s, too. Budge’s hotel didn’t come out well in comparison. I need to return to Brown’s to see for myself if the staff can still speak English, and if they know how to serve tea. Surely they must? But I think the chintz may be gone.

Foreigners need chintz, no matter what that famous flatpack furniture store says. We like the feeling of old criminal London, from the Victorian crime novels to the postwar smog that was so good to commit murder in.

Philip Pullman’s Sally Lockhart is good for atmosphere, and so is his New Cut Gang books. And there’s not just Agatha Christie, but Ngaio Marsh, Margery Allingham, Dorothy Sayers and others. Mother-of-Witch always said murder’s not very nice. She was right, of course, but as fiction in the right setting, it’s also very, well, comforting.

Radio Four on books about disability

The BBC had the good sense to turn to my local bookshop for a piece on the You and Yours programme on Good Friday. They spent fifteen minutes discussing children’s books featuring disability, which is about time. It seems that publishers think stupid thoughts like “there’s already a book out there which deals with disability, so we don’t need another one”.

They visited the shop and met up with some of the young reviewers there, who had each been given a book to read. It’s good to hear how well they spoke about their thoughts on the books. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time was one (obviously) and it was given to someone who’d never have considered the book otherwise, as it looked too young.

Among other books recommended I was pleased to find Siobhan Dowd’s The London Eye Mystery. So that we don’t equate disability with Asperger Syndrome; has anyone got suggestions for really good disability books?

The programme can be heard again for the next week on the BBC website.

And while you wait

here  is a link to Budge Wilson on Woman’s Hour from Wednesday morning.

23 hours in London

Less than that, actually. But it’s hardly surprising I felt so tired in the end, after one event, one interview and one fight with hotel over internet access. And having to travel on the tube in the rush hour, almost like a real Londoner. Some of you will be surprised, very surprised, to hear that I didn’t buy any shoes. Didn’t even get to a shoe shop.

Is it OK for me to moan here about the lack of people who speak English in hotels? I have nothing against foreigners. After all, I live in a country that’s full of them. (I have read my George Mikes, you know.) I walked up to this fancy looking doorman on Thursday morning to ask for some information. He smiled at me very nicely, but had absolutely no idea what I was saying.

I can barely get over the idea that people now invite me to come and meet and talk to lovely authors. The hotel she stayed at may have had its shortcomings, but Budge Wilson was very charming. We were meant to have 45 minutes talking about Before Green Gables, but it somehow ended up being more than double that time, and even then we had to stop talking only to prevent me from missing my train home.

With Budge I talked about sewing, which is something Canadians do more than the stressed out souls in England. Though on Wednesday I did hear the tale of the literary lady who decided to sew on her missing button while on the tube to where she was going. Trouble was she sewed it onto the coat of the lady sitting next to her.

Also on Wednesday night (couldn’t think straight for Thursday’s blog, which is why things got missed out) I got to have a first peep at David Fickling’s new pet project, the comic. It’s not due until end of May, but it was good to see what he had so far.

Maybe it was the Indian take out thali I had that night that had a bad effect on my writing. It was very good, and so enormous that I didn’t eat most of it. Anyone want to share next time? I don’t stay in the hotel I always stay in because it’s close to the Diwana Bhel Poori, but it certainly helps.

The interview with Budge will follow as soon as the clues for the egg hunt have been thought out and written down.