Monthly Archives: July 2008

Harrogate crime

The Harrogate Crime Writing Festival starts today, unless I’m very wrong. I’m not going to be there. Some other year, perhaps.

What I find interesting is seeing Andy McNab on the list of attending writers.

Nearly two years ago he came to Simply Books, and I didn’t see him. We were having to economise at the time, so when they advertised a surprise (“secret, but you won’t be disappointed”) event, I asked whether the surprise was of interest for me. They thought not. It was all very hush hush, and absolutely no cameras or mobile phones.

Daughter was invited through school, so she went, mobileless, and all. She found Andy interesting, and I think I would have, too, so I wished I’d gone. The idea with the secrecy was that he mustn’t be identified, and even appearing in a photo with his back to the camera wasn’t allowed, really.

So, was it a stupid gimmick? Or will he be wearing a balaclava in Harrogate?

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Bombi Bitt, James Bond and Mr Darcy

If it wasn’t for the title of this piece, this would have very little to do with books. I’m not grasping at straws, so much as wanting to add my bit on Mamma Mia!, the film. The Guardian has gone out of its way to find reviewers and others to comment as unfavourably and as ironically as they can. But I think that whatever your feelings on Abba may be, the film has to be judged as the film of the stage musical, and not as a straight film or as a concert, as it’s neither.

Daughter, of Swiss coach trip fame, arrived back at school at 10.30 yesterday morning, with minor coach crash on the evening before and everything. By 12.30 we were seated in the local cinema, showered and fed. That’s how important the film was to her. We were the last to leave afterwards, having sat through every second of the credits. Very enjoyable.

Mamma Mia! 1

Mamma Mia! is cheesy, but what’s wrong with that? You even get a glimpse of Benny and Björn, Hitchcock style. And I don’t usually sing in the cinema. Have never seen so many women over a certain age in a cinema audience before. The Guardian should have sent Nancy Banks-Smith.

Mamma Mia! 2

Bombi Bitt on television starred Stellan Skarsgård back when both he and the witch were teenagers, and these days Stellan is quite big, pirating around in the Caribbean. And I dare say you have all heard of James Bond and Pride and Prejudice? Not necessarily together, though. Pierce Brosnan doesn’t sing all that well, and I think Colin Firth would rather not have tried, but they do look good when you need something to rest your eyes on.

This one we will see again.

A very early glimpse of Artemis

I have been a naughty witch. Again. And, no, I’m not about to give you lot a very premature review of the new Artemis Fowl. You have to wait another three weeks for that.

My teen reviewers broke up yesterday, for the summer holidays. So, to celebrate summer, here is one sample of a review. The naughty aspect is that Charlie wasn’t meant to read Artemis at all, because, as the owner of the local bookshop said, he needs to read other books, too. Well, he did. And he liked the alternative book as well.

Anyway, the witch lent him her proof of Artemis, in secret. Charlie is not only a keen reader and reviewer, but he’s crafty, too. His review of the book can be found on Eoin’s website, carefully edited for spoilers.

That’s my boy! Well, he isn’t, really, but you know what I mean.

Slow coach

And here I don’t mean Daughter’s (British) coach in Switzerland. It’s school trip time, and what better way to get to Switzerland than to put 120 15-year-olds on a coach for 21 hours? And there is nothing more reliable than a British coach. Out of three coaches, only two broke down en route for Dover. And yesterday one coach ran out of fuel while going up and down the mountain roads, so had to wait for a rescue vehicle to bring more fuel. Only, when it arrived they’d forgotten the fuel, so had to go back and get some. That took four hours. More travel for our money?

What I actually referred to was myself and my reading. I take an age, these days, reading almost anything. I was always a fast reader, and assumed that I’d stay much the same, but maybe not. Perhaps age does slow me down.

And then a friend emailed me an article about reading, last week. I think I’ve seen it before, but it was worth reading again. It’s about the Man Booker prize judges who read 100 books in as many days. It can obviously be done, but I don’t fancy it much.

When I worry about reading too slowly, I’m often reminded of a novel by Nevil Shute. I was a big fan in my teens, but this one I can no longer remember the title of. It’s about a man who ends up in prison, where he is only allowed two books per week. The first week he races through the books in the way he has always done, only to discover that there is far too much week left at the end of the books. So, he learns to read slowly, and to consider what he reads.

My main reasons for not hurrying through books the way I once did, is lack of time, and whenever I sit down with a book, I often feel so sleepy that I struggle to keep my eyelids open enough to see the page.

The Resident IT Consultant reads as much and as fast as he ever did, which is very annoying. I think it must indicate not enough chores round the house for him. He steals my books from under my nose in the most infuriating way, then drops my bookmark, and puts it back where he thinks it came from!

He also reads a very varied diet, whereas I stick to a few safe and tested types of book. I like to think of it as having the courage to say I’ll only read what I want to read, and none of this pretending to enjoy some books because it’s the done thing. If I want to live off children’s books and crime, and very little else, then I will.

Back in January I had this bright idea of making a list of what books I’d read during 2007. Some people believe I read a lot, and I sort of wanted to see if it was true. Never found the time to do it, so I still live in ignorance.

One very serious drawback with writing a blog, is that I use reading time to write. As it’s a book blog, that feels somewhat ridiculous. My next resolution will have to be to steel myself against the feeling that I have a duty to consider reading all the books that my lovely postman brings to my door. It’s impossible. And all of them may be good, but they are not all to my taste.

The Cathy books

They are on my TBR pile, honestly. However, Daughter – with the arrogance of the young – says they are not my kind of book. Ha. What does she know? My local bookshop thought Cathy would be right up my street. Someone has to be wrong here.

Well, Daughter read them. She read Cathy’s Book some time ago, and loved it. I hadn’t realised it was something of a detective story; having filed it away under girly and gimmicky. The detecting aspect had me much more interested.

When Cathy’s Key arrived the other week, Daughter liberated it from its Jiffy bag within minutes, and seconds later had almost demolished the funny envelope containing all the clues, as well. I suggested that tearing hard mightn’t be what they’d intended.

The book then settled on the sofa with Daughter and was read in no time at all. I mention this only because right now she does a lot of reading avoidance, and finishing a book in an afternoon is a rarer thing than it ought to be.

I suspect these books can be thoroughly recommended.

Fakes on Facebook

This is getting to be a Philip Pullman kind of week, so I may as well continue. I am old and boring, so know virtually nothing about Facebook and the like. I mean I don’t use it, and wouldn’t know how, and don’t want to. I would guess Philip is much the same, except he is famous, and now he has found he is on Facebook without wanting to be.

Someone else pretended to be him and copied stuff from various places and posted it, and then went on to write a number of things, as though they were really Philip Pullman. Not very well written, according to Philip, and that’s hardly surprising. What is surprising is that people think that you can’t tell the difference. The impostor has apparently also corresponded with bookshops in Philip’s name.

Philip hopes he has now put a stop to this, with some technical help from his son.

Anybody else out there of the “more famous than the witch” category, who has a fake existence on Facebook or one of the other places? Go and have a look.

Branford Boase photos

Having been given access to the complete collection of official photos from the Branford Boase evening, it would seem stupid not to let you have a good look at what went on, so let’s make this a picture blog.

Jenny Downham and David Fickling

The winners, Jenny and David. This photo, and all others are by Paul Carter, so never mind the fact that hovering with your mouse may suggest the witch herself is responsible for the camera work.

Winning children with Philip Pullman

Here are all the winners of the Henrietta Branford Writing Competition, with their bags of books. The chap in the background is Philip Pullman.

Ann Marley and David Lloyd

Ann Marley (The BB boss) gets David Lloyd to pick the winning school out of Barry Cunningham’s hat.

Philip Pullman

I think this could be where Philip tries to prove that he didn’t get to borrow all Jacqueline Wilson’s rings.

Jenny Downham and Philip Pullman

Jenny’s thank you speech, and very good it was, too. Not too long, and not too short.

Jenny Downham and young writer

Jenny signs one young winner’s book. Not sure what Mary is doing in the background.

Nina Douglas and friends

Nina (left) from David Fickling Books, who is very good to the witch.

Mary and the two Davids

It can’t be Wednesday’s rainfall level that they are discussing.

Philip Pullman and Atinuke

Atinuke gets ready to ask Philip for an autographed arm.

David Fickling with camera

Why does David need another photo of Philip?

Before I go, I need to remind you all again that all these lovely pics are by Paul Carter. I only get to play at being Vauxhall Life, if there is such a thing.