Tag Archives: Books

Reading This Saturday

I shall be reading from my Arnold Bennett Book Prize winner,  Winter Downs, at around 11.20 at:

HARTSHILL MIDSUMMER FAIR on SATURDAY 23 JUNE 2018  (open from 10am to 3pm) at North Staffordshire Medical Institute, Hartshill Road, Hartshill, Stoke on Trent ST4 7NY

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Friday Favourites: The Bride of Lammermoor

Misha Herwin on Walter Scott.

Misha Herwin

The Bride of Lmmermoor

Sorting through my bookshelves in an attempt to find some room for the piles of books on my office floor, I came across a small, hardback copy of “The Bride of Lammermoor.” In all the years, and they are many, that I have owned this book, it has never been read, so it seemed a good choice for the charity shop. On the other hand, it felt wrong to discard a book, I’d never tried, let alone a writer whose works I’d never sampled.

“The Bride of Lammermoor” is very much a Gothic novel, with a ruined castle, Wolf’s Crag, a terrifying storm, a dashing hero and beautiful heroine. Their love is doomed, the marriage between their rival families cursed and everything ends badly.

The novel is over-written, the Scots dialect both annoying and incomprehensible and yet…There are moments of unexpected insight in the depiction of the relationship between Ravenswood…

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Finalists For the Arnold Bennett Book Prize

Way back in the throws of winter I was urged to enter my crime novel Winter Downs for the Arnold Bennett Book Prize.

I was completely shocked to be told this week that it was amongst the five titles that had been short listed, which are:

The winners to be announced on 9th June, so much nail biting before then!

 

Sussex Tales #review #sussextales

Nice little review on Amazon this week for Sussex Tales from unknown person. It is always good when an older title not only maintains small but steady sales but also the odd review. And better still when it comes from an unexpected purchase. Its how you know that the ripples are reaching out beyond your sight.

(read here)    

Sussex Tales was a labour of love, reflecting not just my growing years but also a way of recording a slice of social history. A way of life that was fast vanishing even as I witnessed its beauty for myself.

It grew out of a shorter piece written for the then Southampton University and later Winchester Writers’ Conference, and won an award for best slim volume.

The recipes contained with the stories are passed down through the family and, being last of the line with nobody to pass them on to, were included in order to cast them into the winds for all to enjoy.

Sussex Tales final cover 2nd ed small

 

 

Potential Cover #inherdefence #fiction

Finding a cover for any book is tricky and finding something striking that speaks of the story, without using the usual cliched imagery that date a book so quickly, and is also eye catching is trickier still.

The next book in my WW2 crime series Bunch Courtney Investigates  has the working title of In Her Defence. The story is all about perceptions of who and what people were in the turbulent throws of May 1940 when the very real threat of imminent invasion and the instigation if internment prompted deep suspicion of anyone who was not ‘local’ or at least ‘known’ to the population at large. A time when even long standing friendships forged in childhood can and were called into question.

So far the image below is the most serious contender for In Her Defence.

Publication3a

 

Ash Wednesday (extract from Sussex Tales (c) )

Ash Wednesday  by Jan Edwards

I slowed by the small shaw that separated our lane from the main farm road,  dropped my bike on the verge and surveyed the woodland’s edge. Fortunately for me this section of frith[1] had yet to be cleared and there were plenty of saplings to be raided. I jumped across the ditch and grabbed onto a young ash standing proud from the mass. It took only a moment or two to select a couple of growing tips; slender and smooth and grey, their foliage still encased in cool black buds that looked for all the world like the hooves of tiny goats.

I tucked both sprigs into my bag and knotted the string carefully. Losing them was not an option. It was Ash Wednesday, when every Sussex school child would arrive at the gates armed with the Ash. These short lengths of twig were transient in extreme but essential for surviving the day. Those lacking Ash could expect to suffer pinched arms and stamped-on feet by all that noticed their error. And with playgrounds being what they were that would be every student on the premises before the first bell rang. Like an injured wildebeest they would become prey to the pack and it had been known for the ashless to scaddle[2] off rather than suffer their fate. A few short hours after this the Ash would become unlucky sticks that needed to be discarded as close to midday as lessons allowed. To be caught with Ash by the dinner break would result in a fresh orgy of violence. Being opposed to pain, on the whole, I went to great lengths to prove my solidarity with tradition.

I arrived at Sawyers Common to Haltwood Primary School fifteen minutes before the bell and made for the cloakroom to change my welly boots for school browns. The cloakroom smelled, as it always did, of old socks and wet coats, with a faint undertone of farmyard, but it was warm and I lingered for a few minutes, taking extra care over my shoelaces before retrieving my precious ash twigs.

I tucked one into the top of my sock, making sure it was both well secured and prominently displayed. Thievery was not unknown, either by stealth or overt mugging. The wise and windy would always carry a spare and I shoved into my pocket as an emergency backup and headed for the playground.

Voices raised in chanting, accompanied by the rhythmic slap of rope against tarmac, told me that Angie Cartwright’s skipping corner was already up and running. I considered joining in, except for the fact that Angie was a villager, and though we bore no personal grudges, each of us knew that Villagers and Commoners did not mix. It was an ancient rule; never voiced but always obeyed. Nobody quite knew why.

Half way down the steps when Bobby Fuller issued me the challenge.

‘Ash,’ he called. ‘Ash or bash!’

I turned my leg awkwardly to display the twig. ‘Got mine,’ I said loudly. ‘Have you?’

‘’Course,’ He replied. ‘Peter Marshall hasn’t though. Adam Garton dead legged ‘im.’ He grinned at me. ‘Got yer marbles?’

I shook my head. Marbles season always saw the boys in a frenzy. Marbles were a serious business but I hadn’t the stomach for their fierce tournaments that would carry on until Easter and which were the basis for many a grazed knee, bruised arm or worse. Bobby shrugged and moved off to join the kneeling gaggle of gamers.

I looked around for a sign of the unfortunate Peter. I would add my time-honoured blow to Ash if a victim was under my nose but I didn’t seek them out. Bobby was a real bully, as was Adam. I was glad that both kept contact with me down to taunts about my size. They left me alone because Len was a Scout patrol leader, and Len was a lot bigger than either of them. It was small change as bullying went. I ignored them and they ignored me and all was good.

‘’llo Sue.’

I turned to see my best friend, Linda, crouching half way down the steps. ‘H’lo Lin. You got yours then?’ I said, striding up to her and pointing at my ash twig.

Linda glanced about her nervously. ‘Fer’got,’ she whispered.

I drew an exaggerated breath, slapped my left hand over my mouth in mock horror, and reached my right hand into my pocket to tweak the spare ash tip into her palm. It was the same smooth grey, starkly marked with far fewer matt-black buds and far smaller than the piece I had kept myself, but was Ash, nevertheless.

She curled her fingers over it like a slow gin trap. ‘Ooh, thanks, Sue.’ She bent quickly and slid the twig into her sock before flinging both arms around me. ‘I was thinkin’ I were a deader there, then.’

‘S’alright,’ I said. ‘Got yer rope?’

‘Yer ‘tis.’ Linda shook out her tangle of clothes line, tied one end to the fence and played the rest out across the tarmac. ‘You first,’ she said, a sure sign of her gratitude when the owner always had first dibs. She began to turn the rope, slowly at first with exaggerated wind-milling of her right arm. The cord billowed into a flowing arc, and slapped the ground, lightly at first, steadily building to the air-cracking rhythm required for serious play.

Another Commoner wandered across to stand expectantly next to Linda. ‘Can I join?’ she asked.

‘If’n you turn first, Mags.’ Linda handed over the cord-end without further comment and went to stand opposite me. As if by arrangement three more girls drifted up. One untied the tethered end and the rope suddenly turned easier for being guided by human hands. The lines of waiting girls swelled to four a side, all watching the rope, each gauging the speed with a practised eye, each one a paid-up expert on the unwritten physics of the skipping-rope.

I bent down to push my ash twig further into my sock, and grinned as Linda mirrored my movement.

‘Teddy bear on three,’ I shouted, ‘One… Two…  THREE!’

We leapt into the rope’s blurred ellipse and began to skip and mime, whilst the assembled girls chanted.

[1] Frith – young undergrowth
[2] Scaddle – To play truant

Extract from Sussex Tales (c)  available in paper and kindle formats

 

What’s in Horrors?

TOC for The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors

The Alchemy Press

There was an avalanche of stories submitted to The Alchemy Press Book of Horrors – especially in the final month of the submission’s window. To be honest, we didn’t expect to receive around 310 manuscripts seeking a home in this anthology. We were worried that we’d have too few submissions.

We read the stories as soon as possible after receiving them (but as indicated, January was a particularly busy month), maintaining a database of comments in order to narrow down to a shortlist.

Yet we managed it quickly – and then the shortlist itself needed to be pruned, and even so we couldn’t cut back to the original idea: an anthology containing a dozen stories. So we succumbed and settled on 25 stories. Without further ado, in alphabetical order (alphabetically by first name that is!), here’s what you’ll be reading in the latter part of 2018.

  • Adrian Cole: Broken Billy

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