Tag Archives: Carole Barrowman

‘Her election book’

It was gratifying to discover an online book event, shared with the US, where I was still awake enough to attend. But I suppose with Elizabeth Wein sitting not too many miles north of Bookwitch Towers, it needed to be early enough, while still permitting Carole Barrowman, somewhere in the US Midwest, to have got past her morning coffee.

They met up at the end of a week filled with online events for Elizabeth’s war time book The Enigma Game, recently published in her home country America. Carole gave us all of one sentence in a Scottish accent before switching back to her American one. I wish she’d said more! It’s strange really, how she’s over there and Elizabeth is over here.

The above quote is Carole’s who, having started reading the book on election night and loving it, now felt it was her ‘election book’; the one which made her week endurable. (I just want to know why she waited so long.)

Anyway, there we were, and I suddenly realised I was sitting next to two of my former interview subjects, which felt a bit weird. But nice. And fun. Because Carole is good at this interviewing thing, and Elizabeth has just the right books to be interviewed about, even if, as she said, she’s no good at elevator pitches. After an extended pitch, Elizabeth read us an early chapter about the German and the grammophone.

For this book she learned Morse code. Of course she did. Apparently it’s easy to learn, but hard to understand when it comes at you, so to speak. It was a suitable thing for young girls to learn, giving them something to do.

As Carole pointed out, everyone in The Enigma Game has something to hide, or they are hiding, like being a traveller, or a German refugee, or in the case of Louisa, someone who can’t hide her darker skin. Elizabeth said she always has someone like her in her books, a stranger, and she thinks it’s because she has never quite belonged where she’s lived.

During the conversation Elizabeth even began mixing herself up with Louisa, which proves the point. As a child in Jamaica she spoke fluent Jamaican patois, which she quickly had to shed when moving to the US. Carole compared that with her and her brother John’s needs when they moved from Scotland to America, quickly having to fit in.

Carole kept discovering more and more of Elizabeth’s books, and made notes on what else to read. The Enigma Game was going straight to her parents. She had actually read the Star Wars book, Cobolt Squadron, which Elizabeth described as her practice for Enigma, saying ‘how much fun is it to write an air battle?’ (Quite fun, I’d say.)

She’d got the railway line up the east coast somewhat confused, which means she forgot it had to be allowed for. So the northeast of Scotland was slightly altered by Elizabeth. Her fictional airbase is based on Montrose airfield.

Slightly behind her deadline for the next book, which she is not allowed to tell us about, is a kind of Biggles for girls, set in the 1930s. That’s good enough for me! And then Carole read out my question! I never ask questions in Zoom events. But I’d really like more books about the three characters in Enigma. No pressure, but yes.

As always when you have fun, this event came to an end. But it was good, and this was a perfect pairing of people to chat about a perfect book. Like Carole said, read The Enigma Game!

Bookwitch bites #16

The fruit from my January Random trip turns up now and then. I don’t mean that I forgot an apple in my bag, but that at this distance from all those meetings I attended, things are trickling through, having become real. One of the latest is the news that the novel written by the neighbour has got a contract. Annie Eaton’s neighbour Lindsey Barraclough has persuaded the powers at Random that her Long Lankin novel really was worth publishing. So it’s hopefully a happy ending for her now.

In fact, the end is all I read. Various people at the meeting had been given various parts of the novel to read, and I had the last fifty pages, which is a surreal way of approaching a book. So basically what happens is that they *** and after that it gets really tricky when ***, but it sort of ***. Maybe.

Captain Jack is going to write a sci-fi children’s book, which should have the cash tills ringing, unless they’ve totally been abolished by next summer when the book is published. John Barrowman will write the book with his sister Carole, who seems to work well with her baby brother, judging by past efforts. I know someone who will want to read it.

Daughter and I threw ourselves at Eclipse as soon as it was ready to be viewed yesterday (not counting previews and other cheats), and that was not because I couldn’t wait. I just reckoned that if I didn’t get it over and done with now, I’d not get to it at all. Still not having read a single one of Stephenie Meyer’s books I have to say that the progression of the films suggests that I’d do best to stay away by now. This was a dire film, even by my ‘easy-watching’ standards.

Less trashy is the new novel Trash by Andy Mulligan, the arrival of which I mentioned here earlier. Let’s just say that now that I’ve read it I’m a fan of a fantastic book. Only Trash by name. I would prescribe impatient waiting until September.

Bookwitch in Cheltenham

You have an exhausted bookwitch at your service this morning. Let me tell you, going to Cheltenham is a lovely thing to do, but it is not restful. In order to be nice to Daughter, we went to see Russell T Davies and John Barrowman last thing last night, which meant the last train (lots of lasts, there) home. Daughter has staggered off to school now, and the witch has so far only managed to put her foot in wet paint once, this morning. (The decorator is here…)


Anyway, as I was saying, Cheltenham is nice. Daughter gasped when she saw the architecture and I had fears her camera would run out of batteries. (These days you can’t run out of film, at least.) So, lovely town. Lovely weather, warm and sunny and the summer we never had. Literature festival. Also very nice. So much to do, and not enough time.

Darren Shan

Celia Rees

The first afternoon we ran like scalded rats between venues, taking in Darren Shan and Celia Rees as mentioned previously. Why can’t they all be in one place? The advantage of these festival thingies is meeting all sorts of people, and it’s particularly good for me to meet the people who work in the background and send me books and are generally helpful. Celia had Emma from Bloomsbury with her, providing me with more proof that the publishing industry is very pretty. Observed Ann Widdecombe being interviewed in the park, and wanted to dash over and discuss Jacqueline Wilson and unmarried mothers with her, but didn’t. Mal Peet strolled past, unfortunately without Meg Rosoff, who I assume had gone home after their event the day before. Dinner was the slowest pizza ever encountered, before the dash to the race course for Roger Moore. The moon was particularly nice looking on Saturday night, in case you were wondering.


My last blog post was written in the middle of the night, while I perched on a pillow to reach the computer, swearing over slow hotel broadband. After a few hours of sleep, it was up at dawn for a rendez vous with Eoin Colfer and his biggest fan, Charlie. Ever the interfering busybody, I had leaned on Puffin’s Adele Minchin until she tilted dangerously and said that “yes, of course, Charlie can interview Eoin”.

Adele Minchin and Eoin Colfer


So that was Charlie and family brimming over with excitement, and we all trooped into the Everyman theatre to wait. The interview will appear here, soon. Suffice it to say that it went very well and the whole Charlie family now love Eoin. The event was better than ever, which makes me wonder if Eoin was fibbing when he said minutes before it, that he didn’t know yet what he’d be talking about. (His horrible brothers, since you ask.)

Eoin Colfer at the Everyman Theatre

After refreshments in the Everyman Theatre’s writers’ room, we looked round Cheltenham, again. I think I saw Kate Adie near the Promenade. We went to the Times tent for our free Times reusable bags. In the sweltering October heat it felt incongruous to see our lunch restaurant urging their customers to book for Christmas, but there you are. We had wanted to eat outside, but so did everyone else.

Back out to the race course, for John Barrowman and his sister Carole. Daughter is a VERY big fan, so getting close to John was imperative. We scouted out the best route to the book signing and prepared with almost military precision. As we did this we saw Richard Attenborough, or Santa Claus, as Daughter calls him. He was there with Bob, Jacqueline Wilson’s driver. John and Carole were great, and there’ll be more on that over on CultureWitch soon. And the planning paid off, with Daughter getting to somewhere near the front of the queue.

Carole and John Barrowman

While waiting for that last Doctor Who event, we took our M&S sandwiches outside and sat by the fence near the entrance, looking at people passing by. Daughter fantasised about seeing someone she knew, but it was the witch who found her colleague Karen, from Eurocrime. Who says it’s lonely blogging?


(All photos by H Giles)