Tag Archives: Benedict Cumberbatch

Another new decade

My eighth, it would seem. No, I’m not that old, but I discovered somewhere that if I counted decades – and I did – I’d be able to tot up eight of the things. No wonder I feel done in.

But, I hasten to add, in a terribly catty way, I have far fewer wrinkles than Jamie Lee Curtis. (You can tell I went to see Knives Out, can’t you? I wasn’t impressed.)

It went fast, that last decade. I’ve been toying with the idea of doing what others have done on social media, and list ‘all’ that I did during those ten years. Just not sure I can remember, or that I have the time. I have some hoovering to do, and bits of food to see to.

The last ten days have also gone far too fast. But at least we’ve enjoyed some time with further flung relatives, and had a hilarious morning coffee over which we discussed how hard it is to get out of Texas, and meeting the Benedict Cumberbatch ‘lookalike’ at no. 10. Not that I have personal experience of either.

I visited the place I can only think of as Butcher’s Corner, where I asked the lady behind the cheese counter if she could tell me which cheese I bought there last Christmas. Before the straight-jacket came out, I worked out it must have been Fat Cow. Memorable name. I’ll have to remember it.

Our quiz books still come out most afternoon tea-times, and in the evenings we’ve sat down to Christmas University Challenge, where it seems I can’t support both Jo Nadin and Lucy Mangan. Just let it be said that children’s books make people particularly able to deal with Jeremy Paxman.

Let’s see what the next weeks and the new decade have to offer.

Running Girl

Running Girl by Simon Mason will be on my best of 2014 books. Just thought I’d give you an early heads up, saving you the eleven month wait.

It is also – obviously – the book I was referring to on Saturday. There really is not enough crime in fiction for teenagers. Thrillers, yes. Other kinds of adventure, yes. Crime for younger readers, yes. Despite reading the not terribly enticing blurb for Running Girl, I didn’t expect what I got. From the first chapter I was almost weeping with delight, if that is possible.

Simon Mason, Running Girl

16-year-old Chloe goes missing before being found dead. DI Raminder Singh does a reasonably good job of detecting (at least he wants to find the murderer, rather than just pleasing his chief with a quick solution), but he would have got nowhere were it not for Garvie Smith, a school friend of Chloe’s.

Garvie is a nightmare. Easy enough to love in a book, if you are the reader, but in real life he’d be the end of you. Think Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion and Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock, and make him a black 16-year-old living on an estate, hanging out in the park, drinking and smoking (and not just tobacco) with his mates, and driving his single mother demented with worry.

Add to this an intellect very much above normal, a disinclination to attend school, let alone revise for the upcoming GCSEs (I’m not surprised, seeing how Simon has scheduled a Maths exam for the Spring Bank Holiday Monday…). He is rude, but with such charm you can’t help but like him (if you’re a reader), and his intelligence shines through. Most of the time. He is only 16, after all.

DI Singh was wise to give in – eventually – and listen to what Garvie had to say about Chloe. Garvie finds clues merely by sitting back and thinking logical thoughts. Let’s not mention his rather hands-on detecting.

I won’t tell you how it goes, except that my first instinct as to who dunnit was correct. But since it was a long and fun journey getting to the end, that’s neither here nor there.

Did I say I loved it?

(PS More crime for teens, please!)

Knightley & Son

Think Sherlock Holmes. A present-day, small kind of Sherlock. 13-year-old Darkus Knightley is almost more Sherlock than Mr Holmes himself.

This is a fun crime novel for young readers, especially if you are a little bit of an outsider like Darkus, and would like to be cleverer than everyone else. It’s very satisfying being really good at detecting.

It’s a family thing, this. Darkus has a detective father (never mind that Alan Knightley has been in a coma for four years) and takes after his dad, sharing his passion for odd cases. Rohan Gavin who wrote Knightley & Son, takes after his mother Jamila, who is pretty good at writing for children. This is his first book, and it is Darkus’s first real case.

Rohan Gavin, Knightley & Son

People are behaving strangely in bookshops. They are buying the new must-have self-help book The Code, and afterwards surprisingly many of them commit a crime of some kind. Knightley Sr wakes up from his coma and jumps straight into this mystery, and because Darkus has spent the last few years reading up on his dad’s old cases, he’s the perfect assistant.

The plot is about as believeable as the other Sherlocks’ and as fun. Particularly for young readers who might not be so familiar with the Conan Doyle version as they are with Benedict Cumberbatch’s on television. In turn hilarious and a bit scary, it’s a good adventure.

Along with the detective duo you get a slightly crazy Scottish policeman, a Polish housekeeper (very handy at all sorts of things), a clever stepsister and a raving loony stepfather. There are cars. Tube trains.

Something tells me the tweed-clad Knightleys will be back.

Neither present nor correct

Having planned for almost a year to attend the third Scarefest in Crosby, I ended up not going at all, so missed seeing and hearing the charming Barry Hutchison, Curtis Jobling, David Gatward, Jon Mayhew, Joseph Delaney, Philip Caveney, Ruth Symes and Tommy Donbavand. Formby Books had organised a whole Saturday of horrible things for the young and innocent, and I’m so sorry not have been able to drag myself there.

I know! I’ll steal a photo off facebook! I’m sure facebook was there.

Philip Caveney, David Gatward, Tommy Donbavand, Barry Hutchison and Jon Mayhew

Hmm, that’s not all of them. Perhaps a few perished early? Oh well. I know the feeling.

There is a certain something about late September and early October. Book festivals. You couldn’t go to them all even if you wanted to. Actually, maybe you could, if you’re happy with a day here and a day there. I’m so greedy that I expect to ‘go for a while.’

What I am currently not doing is roaming around Cheltenham. But oh how I wish I were. They have some interesting people on offer this year. Even J K Rowling is there. And whatever you say, she is a writer first. Many of the other tempting names are celebrities first. Actors who have written a book. Television presenters. Politicians. But is is tempting. Benedict Cumberbatch. As I said, tempting.

I have missed Bath, and Wigtown, and I have a feeling I am in the midst of missing Bouchercon in Cleveland. Luckily Peter Rozovsky is doing his duty and posting daily, by the looks of it. Dead Guy has someone there, as well. Facebook (there it goes again…) has offered up countless photos of people posing with their favourite crime writer. One day I will do that too. If I was the type to pose with authors, which I’m not, unless it’s done under duress. Stephen Booth is doing an event called Murder in the Great Outdoors, and that just sounds so frightfully healthy, don’t you think?

And so is, to some extent, the non-attendance at countless festivals. Rest. Sleep…

Tony Higginson, David Gatward, Barry Hutchison, Tommy Donbavand, Jon Mayhew, Philip Caveney and Joseph Delaney at Scarefest 3 - photo by Sean Steele

PS It was only poor Curtis who didn’t make it through the evening. In fact, he didn’t make it at all. And Ruth Symes who had an early pumpkin arrangement.

Don’t they read Sherlock Holmes?

Don’t their parents?

Because if they had – either of the above – today’s teenagers wouldn’t need to sit there and watch Sherlock on television, hearts in their mouths, ‘in case he dies.’ Honestly!

Or could it be they didn’t watch in the company of their parents, and if so, where were they? It’s gratifying that teenagers want to watch the Steven Moffat & Mark Gatiss Sherlock. All is not lost. But surely parents would want to watch as well? And wouldn’t they be aware that Sherlock Holmes didn’t die that time? Even if they hadn’t read the books.

It’s all my fault for being friends on facebook with someone young. It’s where I learned that they really thought Sherlock might pop his clogs forever. Maybe I’m wrong in watching the same programmes as Offspring? Worse, I gave Son the ten volume Sherlock Holmes collection quite a few years ago.

Arthur Conan Doyle, Sherlock Holmes

I think he thought they were children’s books. I certainly thought they were, when I was a child. Some of them definitely appeared in children’s books ‘livery’ in Sweden. (Like Dickens and Scott.)

Back to the weekend’s television. Even Daughter knew he wouldn’t die. (Sorry for any spoilers, btw.) The Resident IT Consultant and I were slightly disappointed when Sherlock was seen to be less than dead at the end, having hoped that a few people might be left on a cliffhanger. Just didn’t expect the potential cliffhangers-on to be quite as many.

So, just as well Benedict Cumberbatch was seen to be with us still, or we could have had a massive bout of teen tears. I’m reminded of the Colin Firth Pride and Prejudice, where viewers were surprised to learn they could read the book and find out the ‘would they or wouldn’t they’ in advance of the next Sunday.

Did the – more general – reading of Sherlock Holmes end with my generation? Or is it simply that today’s teenagers don’t actually discuss Sherlock with their ancient parents? In fact, the parents might have assumed the children already knew the Holmes story.

The thing is, unlike some classics, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories aren’t hard to read. Quite user friendly, really. And the Resident IT Consultant and I found that we had both happened to read The Return of Sherlock Holmes before the book where he ‘died.’ Which was confusing, but you can manage if you need to.

Buckskin and seven-shooter

Caroline Lawrence began signing books on stage before her event on Friday afternoon. That’s how keen her fans were. Or maybe they couldn’t make it to the signing afterwards? She wore glasses, which might be how she saw us hiding on the back row as usual. She waved. And then I suspect Caroline came up with her little idea on how to ‘include’ us in her talk.

‘Be careful what you read. A book could change your life.’ That’s how Caroline introduced this talk on how to write, and she admitted to having been no good at history at school. Mary Renault inspired her to write the Roman Mysteries, and later heroes include Sherlock Holmes (or was that just so Caroline could show us a photo of Benedict Cumberbatch?)

That brought the conversation round to films, and she asked the audience if they could name the best Western film ever. They named plenty, and since Daughter and I refrained from showing off, no one got it right. (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, if you must know.)  Cowboys are often portrayed the same, except Woody in Toy Story is not allowed to carry a gun (I should think so!).

Then Caroline read the first chapter about P K Pinkerton in the Western Mysteries, and it does work very well as a taster, and ought to have left anyone in the audience who hadn’t read the book wanting to. And after some brief explanations on Pinky’s world Caroline decided to tell the audience about scalpings. She did so while referring to the famous Bookwitch nerves, and caused the photographer to stick her fingers in her ears for the 60 seconds Caroline needed to talk in-depth about scalping, including showing pictures.

That was very naughty.

Caroline Lawrence

And did you know they didn’t actually have double swinging doors in the Wild West? Very disappointing. You are advised to spit leeward if you’re travelling by Stagecoach. Or it will all come back.


That brought things neatly to Caroline’s Roman sponge on a stick, and her Western equivalent, the spittoon. It took people some time to guess what it was. Not a chamberpot. (Would be a bit hard to aim, I’d have thought.)

Being a writer is the best job in the world for someone who wants to work wearing their pyjamas, eating chocolate and watching television a lot, and getting paid for it. The photo she showed us of her London riverside study didn’t exactly make the job look any less attractive.

Caroline promised us ten Western Mysteries in ten years, saying that she needs time in between for her Roman Mystery Scrolls, the first of which is the Case of the Sewer Demon. Coming soon.