Category Archives: Audio books

Cymera on the small screen

I have to confess I didn’t know there was going to be live coverage from Cymera on its Facebook page. But it was a nice thing to discover when my knees refused to go out this weekend. Had I known well in advance – about the filming, not so much the knees – I could have planned to make better use of it.

Thus it was that I did that time-wasting staring at Facebook post-cup-of-tea yesterday, and arrived just as Cymera started off on James Oswald, or JD as he was for the weekend, with his Sir Benfro hat on. Not that he wore a hat. But on the very small screen on my phone, the ‘camera eye’ unfortunately sat right on top of his head, leaving only the beard and the pink jacket visible. But I know what he looks like.

(Yes, the image was better on the computer. But it buffered an awful lot.)

JD Oswald and David Bishop

But anyway, I got to see James talking to David Bishop and that’s what I had wanted to do all this time, after discovering he was going to be there, and after reading the first Sir Benfro book.

Much of what he said has been covered in my own interview from four years ago, but I was struck by how James said he now has three books a year to write. Plus being a farmer. And then someone asked what he likes to read! As though the man would have time to read.

Actually, he does, and he listed a number of books, but like me, he forgets immediately, making it hard to recommend books. And he ‘cheats’ by reading audio books when out on his farming duties. It’s mostly fantasy. Seems he doesn’t like reading crime! (So before you send him yet more crime novels for a quote; don’t. Send him fantasy instead.)

There was a somewhat abrupt end to the filmed event, but it was far better than nothing!

Below is the ‘only good’ photo Clare Cain got of the Ghost event with Claire McFall, Rachel Burge and Helen Grant chatting to Sarah Broadley. I imagine they are hearing ghostly voices there. Or something.

Claire McFall, Rachel Burge, Helen Grant and Sarah Broadley, by Clare Cain

And even more below, is another stolen photo from Sunday morning’s event where Moira McPartlin chatted to Sarah Broadley [Sarah does seem to be everywhere, doesn’t she?].

Moira McPartlin and Sarah Broadley

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The Kiwis are coming!

I’ve got news for you. They were already there. Here. At Bloody Scotland. Except as with the Swedes, they had to fake it just a bit. Craig Sisterson, the chair, is from New Zealand, and so is Paul Cleave. Fiona Sussman has lived in New Zealand for thirty years, but is still from South Africa. Liam McIlvanney is Scottish, but has a New Zealand passport in his sights after ten years in the country. Denise Mina was the honorary Kiwi, based on her having visited twice.

Glad we’ve got that sorted out.

Denise mentioned ‘bleck hends’ which I understand to actually be black hands. Whatever that is. (To which I can offer the wisdom that blood is ‘rid.’) There is a perceived link between New Zealand and the Nordic countries – to which Scotland possibly belongs. They are all dark places.

Paul Cleave, Denise Mina, Liam McIlvanney, Fiona Sussman and Craig Sisterson

Paul comes from Crimechurch; sorry, Christchurch, and he claims to have an alibi for the earthquake. The quake still has much impact on people’s lives, and Paul reckons that in twenty years’ time, someone will write a crime novel about the murder of an insurance agent; so strong are the feelings on how they’ve been treated.

Fiona feels crime fiction is primarily a social commentary, and Denise added that it summarises what’s happened during the last year or two; the time it takes for a novel to be written and published.

Denise is inspired by real life, and there are some things you can’t make up, whereas Paul does not borrow anything and makes everything up, as he doesn’t want to be seen to be making money from real crimes. Denise informed him where he was wrong, and would most likely have taken Paul outside to make him see things her way, if she could have. You’re ‘doing it for the money.’

Craig mentioned that Paul was the one who’d travelled the furthest to get to Bloody Scotland, because Fiona lives further north. Scotland and New Zealand have in common that they are small countries with a larger English-speaking neighbour.

According to Paul everyone, but him, wants to live in New Zealand; this ‘dull, hygienic, social democracy…’ Fiona is still worried about being thrown out of her adoptive country for what she writes. And Liam has bad experience of criticising the country’s cheese. Apparently you mustn’t.

Paul is always bumping into people in Crimechurch, but never anywhere else. It’s small enough. He has some advice on what to do about bad reviews. This involves a lawyer, so he hasn’t read any reviews in five years. (At this point it looked like Paul and Denise needed separating, as they couldn’t see eye-to-eye on anything…)

Denise Mina, Paul Cleave, Liam McIlvanney, Fiona Sussman and Craig Sisterson

Fiona loves VW Beetles, and has had a lot of experience of them. But when she wrote about one in a book, it still passed both her own and her husband’s reading, before an editor mentioned that its engine is not in the front of the car! (Well, you can’t remember everything.)

This event also over-ran, and we finished with a semi-heated discussion on audiobooks and who is best at reading them. It seems no one. With one little exception in Fiona’s case, none of them have recognised their characters in the actor reading their books. It’s always the wrong voice. Paul, needing to be the ‘worst’ again mentioned the time he was offered a choice of eight American potential readers, all with very fake New Zealand accents.

(I’m afraid time constraints meant I wasn’t able to take any worthwhile photos of our quintet. And Denise had to run. But it was fun anyway.)

Paul Cleave, Liam McIlvanney and Fiona Sussman

A bit of ethnic cleansing?

Eleven years on, I had not returned to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, except for watching the films when they came. Daughter, on the other hand, has the audiobook on loop to fall asleep to, so between actually falling asleep occasionally, she does get a lot of reminders of all that happened in all of the Harry Potter books. Besides, she’s young and not forgetful in the way I am.

During my recent foray into Stephen Fry at bedtime territory, I also fell asleep with the help of Harry. We had book seven on this past week, and mostly the beginning of it. And I realised I’d forgotten about the ethnic cleansing aspect of the plot.

I also realised that what was going on in a world where you had to have pure magic, and how muggles couldn’t ever be the real deal, was precisely what’s filled the media in recent weeks. J K Rowling must have written Deathly Hallows 12 or 13 years ago, which just goes to show how everything comes back, and comes back far too soon, when it’s something bad.

There is obviously no question about Hermione’s status as a witch. But that doesn’t stop people from questioning her magic. What does this remind you of today? Well, I suppose it depends where you live. I’m afraid that my sleepy mind suddenly could see very little difference between our ‘beloved leader’ and Dolores Umbridge.

On Wikipedia I found the following, which is worryingly apt today:

J K Rowling on Wikipedia

Now, what does that make you think of?

Hands off

It was some years ago. Offspring and I were in a [Swedish] taxi, on the way to the station. Like ‘all’ Swedish taxi drivers, this one got a call on his mobile, which he took and he chatted for a long time. I think he was trying to agree to book a holiday. You know, important stuff.

Then came the need for him to make a note of something, and he got his notepad out. And a pen. Until then he’d had one hand on the steering wheel, which – while I didn’t feel it was good enough – I put up with. But juggling phone, pad and pen needed at least two hands, so he took the last hand off the steering wheel.

While not seeking to antagonise the man, I told him to either put one hand back to steer, or to pull up immediately until he’d sorted his holiday out. His choice. He put the phone away. I reported him to the taxi company, who were simply baffled. And of course, you tread carefully when angering someone who knows where you live.

Soon after, in another taxi, in another part of Sweden, I was pleased to find my driver looked like he’d virtually just left the farm. No mobile phone, I thought. Silly me. All Swedes have them. Had them, even then. So, at full speed down the motorway he discussed the bullocks with his caller. But he did keep one hand on the steering wheel.

This has made me a lot less keen on using taxis over there.

Anyway, all this came back to me when a friend emailed a link to say that from February 1st it is illegal to read your ebook while driving [in Sweden].

Yeah. Shame, really.

Although, it seems the law is about handling any mobile phone or similar, while driving. The ebook idea was from the book magazine which published the article in question, where they merely deduced that the new law must mean a stop to reading while you drive.

It is, however, legal to have your passenger read aloud to you.

Her Dark Weekend

‘What shall I do now?’ Daughter wailed when The Book of Dust was no more. My heartless suggestion of patience didn’t seem to be what she wanted to hear.

Rereading His Dark Materials was what she eventually came up with, except the books are all here with me. Remember, this is the family with rather a lot of copies of HDM. But she felt she ought not to add to them by buying more.

The next solution was to listen to the audiobooks – and they are especially attractive because it’s Philip Pullman himself reading them. It seemed she already had the books sitting electronically somewhere, and they could easily be moved to travel to work with her on her mobile phone. She even calculated how long each walk + bus + walk to work would take and how long it would last.

Let me tell you how long it lasted. A whole weekend, is what.

The audiobooks never made it onto any bus at all, as she listened non-stop all weekend. OK, maybe the very last chapter got to travel on Monday morning.

I heard little from her over the weekend, and now I know why. There was one text message about Lee Scoresby dying. (Sorry, if you didn’t know this.) And another soon after, when Will’s father also departed this life.

Yes, and a third, noting how different the books felt now she’s an adult. Seems all the darkness washed over the child reader, all those years ago.

Done and dusted

Just the other day I suddenly realised I no longer ask my interview victims their opinion of Philip Pullman. I wonder when this happened?

Another thing that just struck me was that Son must have been reading La Belle Sauvage pretty much where he sat 18 years ago with Northern Lights, starting a whole new direction of his life with one book. That time we took the book for all of us to read on holiday. This time Son just happened to have planned a writing retreat in the same house, leaving Britain on the Day of Dust. Luckily he was able to buy the trade paperback at Gatwick, which must have saved his sanity, if not his writing time… (OK, the armchair no longer is, nor that end of the room. Well, the room is, but it has a dining table in the Northern Lights spot. But still. Close enough.)

And actually, only three of us read the book that time. Daughter didn’t read much back then. But Christmas the same year we took the audiobook to listen to in the car when driving to Scotland. It was just the right length to last the way there, and home again, with a chapter left. Only as Daughter grabbed the cassette (yes, it was that long ago) and sat down to listen to the end, did I understand that she had also been enjoying Philip Pullman reading Northern Lights. I thought she’d be too young at seven.

Philip Pullman (and ice cream) signs

Six years later when Son and I interviewed Philip in Gothenburg, I got the impression he had started writing the Book of Dust. Two years after that, in Oxford, at an event with David Fickling, we were told it’d be ready in 2009, which was another two years later. Well, we know how that went.

Philip Pullman

But, anyway, that’s how the questions about Philip Pullman began. We walked round the Gothenburg book fair, all excited about him, and Son took to asking anyone we spoke to what they thought. And as I said ten years ago (see above), all but one were nice and friendly and had positive comments to make.

The only one who stood out was Lionel Shriver, who claimed to have no idea who we were talking about. I’d like to think she just didn’t want to share any limelight with other authors, rather than she was that ignorant. I wonder if she’d still say ‘Who??’ if asked.

When Son no longer came along to my interviews, I went round asking for him. Until the time clearly came when I gave up, or forgot.

And no, I still haven’t read La Belle Sauvage. In my own time. Soon. I just have one or two other books that have to be fitted in first. But I brought a copy of it when visiting Daughter in Switzerland last week. No longer seven, she wanted to read it.

Hear, hear

I can barely admit it, but I sent the Resident IT Consultant to the tip with – nearly – all the audio books last week. He was reluctant, and it wasn’t because of the trip to the tip as such. It was the throwing away of books. It made him feel quite ill.

But by the time I put the boxes on the drive next to the car, my mind was made up and I felt fine. I suppose he just hadn’t got that far in his reasoning on whether or not this was an OK move.

This was yet another conundrum caused by the house move over three years ago. We are still clearing stuff, and doing well in the garage at the moment. Thank you for asking. But those boxes had to go.

No one has listened to any audio books for years. We will very soon have nothing on which to play them. Did I mention they are cassettes? Not CDs. For all we know the ribbons could have dried and withered and be completely unplayable anyway.

In a last-ditch attempt to feel better, the Resident IT Consultant phoned Oxfam. Whoever he talked to there had a hard time getting their thinking round to cassettes. And no, they don’t take them (we knew that) and could think of no one who does, but trying to be helpful suggested a competitor.

He then phoned the library, asking the same thing, i.e. does anyone anywhere have a use for cassettes? The person there found the idea of cassettes even weirder than Oxfam did.

And that’s it, really. Technology has moved so fast that what seemed perfectly normal less than twenty years ago, is now obsolete. It doesn’t matter that the books are good or how many we have or the amount of money they cost. They are no use.

So he went, and came back with an empty car. I assume the audio books are now in cassette heaven. Maybe someone could build motorways with them?

And should we want the books back most must be available in more up-to-date formats. ‘All’ it entails is spending money on the same books again, and hope that at some point technology will slow down enough for such an investment to make sense.