Category Archives: Radio

Kirkie goes to St Andrews

At five past nine yesterday morning, Waterstones in St Andrews had still to discover what lay in store (pardon, that was a little wittier than intended). That’s because Kirkland Ciccone and his travelling mate Theresa Talbot, along with their publisher Keith Charters, were running a wee bit late.

Kirkland Ciccone

Hardly surprising, considering their 6.30 start (from Glasgow, I’m guessing) to drive to all the Waterstones in the country in one weekend. Now, I know you will say that’s impossible, and it is. First, the country is Scotland, not the UK, and second, I don’t think they meant quite all the Waterstoneses. My branch, and that of some of the larger towns were not part of it. We get our share later. Apparently. More far flung branches may well remain unvisited, at least for some time.

But anyway, on Saturday they went to ten shops, in Fife, as far west as Falkirk and to all those branches in Edinburgh. In fact, had Son not very wisely decided to visit the old people over the weekend, he’d have been mere minutes away from this gang. As it was, it was only Daughter who went near the crazy travellers, and she was the one who found that they were already running late for their first shop.

Kirkland Ciccone and Theresa Talbot

I don’t think we can blame the authors. It’s that Keith who hatches insane plans. He’s done this before, because I have hazy recollections of other people being conveyed cross-country in this manner. But it’s good; it introduces authors to lots of shops in two fell swoops.

Kirkland has – as all my faithful readers will know – written Endless Empress, his second YA novel. Theresa Talbot – about whom I knew nothing a few weeks ago – is famous off the radio and has written about her life, so far, in This Is What I Look Like (because on the radio no one can see you). And Keith is the one who made the books.

Kirkland Ciccone and Theresa Talbot

I gather they turned up at 9.15 or something, and Daughter chatted and took pictures, and Kirkland totally charmed her. I had suspected this might happen. Behind the Kurt Cobain lunchbox is a kind and friendly person. Crazy, but those other things as well.

He appears to have worn his delightful little leopard number again, and it was a close call as to who was the most beautiful in that bookshop. Which might never be the same again.

Theresa Talbot and Kirkland Ciccone

So there you are, madness on the road. And while you read this as part of your peaceful Sunday, spare a thought for the six Waterstones in the Glasgow area who are about to be visited today.

Bookwitch bites #127

You know books? There is money in them. Sometimes, at least, and not only for author and publisher, although I’d wager Michael Morpurgo has made a reasonable sum from War Horse the book. Possibly more from the play and the film.

Michael Morpurgo at the Lowry

War Horse the play has just finished its second run at the Lowry, hopefully pleasing the 200,000 people who came to see it. But what’s more, it hasn’t merely earned money for Michael or the theatre. It has been estimated that Greater Manchester is better off by £15 million. And it’s pretty good that books can have such an effect.

For the last performance in Salford they had a Devon farmer as a Devon farmer extra.

Not a farmer, nor a twinkly old elf, is how Neil Gaiman doesn’t describe his friend Terry Pratchett in the Guardian this week. Terry is driven by rage, Neil claims, and I can sort of see where he’s coming from with that. I reckon Terry got pretty annoyed to hear me say that my local library service banned him from the under 16s. (Correction, it was their representative who did. Not the whole service. But still.) And any person with any decency would be furious about what’s wrong in this world. And luckily we have the non-twinkly Terry to write wonderful books about it.

Someone who scares me much more is Kevin Brooks. I know. He seems non-scary, but his books deal with people in circumstances I find hard to cope with. Kevin has just written a book for Barrington Stoke, to be published in January 2015, and it might be short, and it might be an easy read. But it’s also not an easy read, in that it deals with the hard reality for young, male, teenagers. A typical Brooks, in other words.

Barrington Stoke make books accessible to readers who would otherwise not read. Daniel Hahn was on the radio this week, talking for 13 and a half (his own description) minutes on the importance of translated books. They make books accessible to people who would otherwise not be able to read French or Finnish, or any other ‘outlandish’ language.

Daniel has also worked hard on the new Oxford Companion to Children’s Literature, to be published in March 2015. I’m looking forward to that, and hopefully this new companion will pave the way for a few more readers, too.

Whereas authors playing football will achieve exactly what? OK, let’s not be negative or anti-sports here. I did actually want to go and see the football match between English crime writers and their Scottish counterparts. It was part of Bloody Scotland last weekend, but unfortunately the match clashed with an event, and being lazy, I chose to sit down in-doors instead of standing on the side of a rectangle of grass watching grown men kick a ball around.

The winning Bloody Scotland football team - 2014

I understand the Scottish team won. Ian Rankin is looking triumphant, and I can see Craig Robertson, Christopher Brookmyre and Michael J Malone, plus some more people I don’t recognise in shorts.

Bookwitch bites #121

I was a bit busy last week, so will have to join the rest of you in catching up on my favourite physics teacher, Lucy Hawking (here). You get a whole forty minutes of Lucy talking interesting stuff, courtesy of the Scottish Book Trust. Lucy has a new George book out – George and the Unbreakable Code – and you will hear more about that a little later. (My copy has had a close encounter with a black hole, mainly filled with water. Not of my doing!)

Lucy Hawking

More online fun for a new book can be found on various blogs this week, as Helen Grant spreads herself out with guest posts and things, to celebrate the publication of The Demons of Ghent on Thursday. Needless to say I bagged the 5th of June itself.

Helen Grant blog tourThe water-filled hole apart, the holiday reading chez Bookwitch Vacations is going well. Yeah, OK, so Birdie read complicated textbooks, but Daughter was wanting to prove my prediction on the likelihood of non-reading wrong, so has read several recent box office titles. She went to see the films and then decided to read the books (possibly to see what they got ‘wrong’).

The Resident IT Consultant, on the other hand, reads what he finds. I sometimes have to forbid him to go for what I need to read next, and he has been reasonably obedient. He did go looking for the charging cable for his Kindle, and was a little surprised when I said it was in the flower pot (I thought that was a good place for it). His main concern was whether it had been watered (like George, I suppose), but you don’t water artificial plants.

At least, I hope you don’t.

The Hobbit

I never read The Lord of the Rings. I just never wanted to. I listened to the BBC dramatisation, which was pretty good. I had trouble telling who was who, apart from Robert Stephens as Aragorn, who was wonderful. I obviously didn’t see the films either. Although, I seem to have seen the end quite a few times, having managed to walk into the room where the DVD was playing, at the same moment every time. It sort of ends happily, I think?

The only Tolkien I’ve read was the first chapter of The Hobbit – to Son at bedtime – many years ago. Luckily something intervened after that, and the Resident IT Consultant continued the reading.

Daughter likes the LOTR films. She liked the first Hobbit film, too, and wants to go and see the second one. Before doing that she decided to actually read the book. She finished it yesterday.

A little bit later she asked if it was all right for her to say something, and once I’d ascertained I’d not be sad or offended by this something, she had my permission to proceed.

‘The Hobbit was boring,’ she said. I replied I wasn’t surprised. There must have been a good reason I never returned to it.

We sort of came to the conclusion the reason it’s possible to make so many films out of the one book, might be that its boringness requires more fun and exciting stuff to be added. Which makes it longer. Rather like the  two-hour films made of Agatha Christie’s short stories. You pad. And then you pad some more.

J R R Tolkien, The Hobbit

(The cover is nice, though.)

A reasonable copy of Under Milk Wood

Mrs G taught me a lot. I marvel at how little I actually knew before coming to lodge with the Gs for one academic year. I was a reader and surrounded by likeminded readers at home. But I never thought of books per se. Didn’t buy all that many, either.

So to find my ‘landlady’ showing me her collection of first edition H E Bates novels was a novel (pardon) concept. I understood the words, but not so much the sentiment. She also told me that Mr G collected books on WWI. So there were their bookshelves, groaning under the weight of attractive looking volumes. It was nice when they were added to, but the collecting wasn’t frantic.

A year later I was back in England, and had an essay to write on Under Milk Wood. Feeling she’d be interested, I must have told Mrs G about it, because when I arrived at the house for a visit, she packed me into the car to go and ‘look at a book.’

While I already had a paperback of the Dylan Thomas drama for radio, she felt that was to work with. A girl would also need a nice copy. And in her regular trawls through the East Sussex secondhand bookshops, she’d found a reasonable copy for me. I mean, I didn’t know I needed a second copy, but as I said, I knew very little.

Dylan Thomas, Under Milk Wood

It wasn’t a first edition (I suspect that would have been expensive), but it was old enough and the original edition. I have absolutely no idea where we went. It was a drive down some of the countless narrow lanes in Sussex, to a quaint little cottage selling books.

I seem to recall it cost about three times as much as the cheap new paperback, but obviously I bought it. And – equally obviously – it is the copy I’m hanging on to, now that the essay is a mere memory. Because it is a nice copy. And because of how I came by it.

Isn’t it astounding what someone will do for an ignorant ex-lodger? I believe that the H E Bates and WWI collections on their own would not have done it for me, nor would the reasonable Under Milk Wood. But together they started me off on a totally different life.

Rat Runners

What a marvellous film Rat Runners would make! It’s a great book, but I spent my time reading it seeing the film it could be turned into. Daughter won’t like me saying this, but it’s precisely the kind of thing she likes watching on television. (So read the book!)

Oisín McGann, Rat Runners

This must be Oisín McGann’s best book to date. I have enjoyed all the ones I’ve read, but do feel Rat Runners has that little bit extra. Set in a slightly futuristic London, it’s much as we know the place, except for the way everything is policed and what people can do. They have a kind of robotic – but live – watcher who can see everything, bar your thoughts. Possibly.

Nimmo is under age and isn’t allowed to live on his own, but he does anyway, having made a deal with the scientist Brundle who owns the building. When Brundle is murdered Nimmo wants to find out who did it and why. He also ends up having to search for something that Brundle had, which it turns out all the crooks in London want.

He is made leader of a group of three other adolescents – Scope, Mannikin and FX – and their job is to find this item. The four each have special skills, taken straight from your favourite thrillers. The youngest is twelve, and they all have something that their ‘boss’ can use as leverage to force them work for him.

Very exciting, and I am more than ready for the next one. I can’t see that we are done yet.

Paul Temple was here

Be still my beating heart!

When my curtain rail next falls down (requires attention, or whatever) I want Paul Temple to come and assist me. It would be a much more refined experience than what I’m used to.

As I was getting ready for Bloody Scotland, enjoying an unexpected brief meeting with the Sister of Grandmother, who had also made it to Scotland – if not the Bloody one – for a visit, the curtains failed. Actually, they failed before I arrived, but they needed dealing with.

So that’s why the Grandmother called in her old pal Paul Temple. (Anyone who clicked on the link above will have discovered he’s an actor.) He was a little taken aback to turn round on the ladder to find two little ladies watching him, Sister of Grandmother and your own Bookwitch. Perhaps his normal curtain rescuings are audience free.

But oh, the joy of hearing his voice doing a running commentary on what might be wrong with the curtain rail! And most ‘handymen’ never exclaim ‘voilà’ or address bystanders with ‘Mesdames et Messieurs.’ And never in a voice like that.

Afterwards we had to prevent him from leaving through the airing cupboard, herding him firmly but gently towards the actual door.