A Touch Of Frost by R.D. Wingfield

bookshelves: summer-2014, mystery-thriller, fradio, published-1992, series, britain-england

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from August 23 to 31, 2014

 

Book description: Detective Inspector Jack Frost, offically on duty, is nevertheless determined to sneak off to a colleague’s leaving party. But first the corpse of a well-known local junkie is found blocking the drain of a Denton public lavatory – and then, when Frost attempts to join the revels later on, the nubile daughter of a wealthy businessman is reported missing.

Sleepy Denton has never known anything like the crime wave which now threatens to submerge it. A robbery occurs at the town’s notorious strip joint, the pampered son of a local MP is suspected of a hit-and-run offence and, to top it all, a multiple rapist is on the loose. Frost is reeling under the strain, his paperwork is still in arrears and now, more than ever, his self-righteous colleagues would love to see him sacked. But the manic Frost manages to assure his superior that all is under control. Now he has only to convince himself..

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0082c6w

BBC description: 4 Extra Debut. Jack Frost is a tough and rude detective and does it all his way, but has he come a cropper? Stars Derek Martin and June Brown.

Denton Woods

I do so hope that R4x goes with some more from this series.

The Master of Ballantrae

 

bookshelves: adventure, classic, historical-fiction, revenge, britain-scotland, victorian, seven-seas, war, published-1889, hardback

Read in June, 2009, read count: 2

 

Description: Set in Scotland during the 1745 Jacobite Rebellion, in the exotic French Indies, and in the North American wilderness, the story has as its hero one of the most compelling yet horrifying studies of evil in nineteenth-century fiction—James Durie, Master of Ballantrae. The Master is about his infective influence—on his younger, less attractive brother Henry; on Henry’s wife Alison; and on those narrators whom Stevenson so skilfully employs to present their experiences of this charming, ruthless, and evil man.

A very fragile copy of my mothers – faded red cloth, inscribed Gillian R Tanner(1956) and the price? 4/-, that’s four shillings to us who remember the ol’ conundrums. I think this is my favourite RLS; it is so dark.

At that time [1745:] there dwelt a family of four persons in the house of Durrisdeer, near St Brides, on the Solway shore; a chief hold of their race since the Reformation.

The Rising(from Wiki)

The novel is presented as the memoir of one Ephraim Mackellar, steward of the Durrisdeer estate in Scotland. The novel opens in 1745, the year of the Jacobite Rising. When Bonnie Prince Charlie raises the banner of the Stewarts the Durie family–the Laird of Durrisdeer, his older son James Durie (the Master of Ballantrae) and his younger son Henry Durie–decide on a common strategy: one son will join the uprising while the other will join the loyalists. That way, whichever side wins the family’s noble status and estate will be preserved. Logically, the younger son should join the rebels, but the Master insists on being the rebel (a more exciting choice) and contemptuously accuses Henry of trying to usurp his place, comparing him to Jacob. The two sons agree to toss a coin to determine who goes. The Master wins and departs to join the Rising, while Henry remains in support of King George II.

Ailean Breic Stuibhairt was an 18th-century soldier and Scottish Jacobite resistance figure. He was the centre of a murder case that inspired novels by Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. Notorious as the Appin Murderer.

The Friend of the Family by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04fxy8d

BBC description: 4 Extra Debut. Russia, 1859. Chaos in the manor of Stephanchikovo when an ex-sergeant acts as arbiter of morals and taste. Stars David Suchet.

Drink a bottle of vodka and you can talk in any language you like!

Clive Merison and Davis Suchet excel in this written-as-a-play short story.

The Spinning Heart

 

Description: In the aftermath of Ireland’s financial collapse, dangerous tensions surface in an Irish town. As violence flares, the characters face a battle between public persona and inner desires. Through a chorus of unique voices, each struggling to tell their own kind of truth, a single authentic tale unfolds.

Dedication:

to the memory of Dan Murphy

Opening: MY FATHER STILL lives back the road past the weir in the cottage I was reared in. I go there every day to see is he dead and every day he lets me down. He hasn’t yet missed a day of letting me down. He smiles at me; that terrible smile. He knows I’m coming to check is he dead. He knows I know he knows. He laughs his crooked laugh. I ask is he okay for everything and he only laughs. We look at each other for a while and when I can no longer stand the stench off of him, I go away. Good luck, I say, I’ll see you tomorrow. You will, he says back. I know I will.

Rashomon effect at play in a small town after the Celtic Tiger died, the local employer went to the wall, and rotting canker was all that was left of where hearts used to be.

‘There’s a red metal heart in the centre of the low front gate, skewered on a rotating hinge. It’s flaking now; the red is nearly gone. It needs to be scraped and sanded and painted and oiled. It still spins in the wind, though. I can hear it creak, creak, creak as I walk away. A flaking, creaking, spinning heart.’

Bobby, the main-stay of these linked stories: ‘I had that King Lear’s number from the start, well before the teacher started to break things down slowly for the thick lads: he was a stupid prick.’

The Ballroom of Romance

 

bookshelves: shortstory-shortstories-novellas, britain-ireland, lifestyles-deathstyles, families, love, published-1972, summer-2014, under-50-ratings

Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: Laura
Read on August 30, 2014

 

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04f8nxx

Description: Niamh Cusack reads one of William Trevor’s greatest short stories, set in an isolated dance hall in Ireland.
Each Saturday night, 36-year-old Bridie leaves her ailing father, and cycles to the Ballroom of Romance, a wayside dance-hall where the local men and women meet to dance, talk and perhaps find love. For twenty years Bridie has cycled the seven miles there and back again; now, no longer a girl, she knows her chances of romance are fading but still there is Dano Ryan.

Reader: Niamh Cusack
Producer: Justine Willett
Writer: William Trevor – born in 1928, William Trevor is widely regarded as one of the greatest contemporary writers of short stories in the English language. He has won the Whitbread Prize three times and has been nominated five times for the Booker Prize, most recently for his novel Love and Summer. Last year he was awarded the inaugral Charleston/Chichester Award for a Lifetime’s Excellence in Short Fiction

As you can tell, I am very partial to an atmospheric penned by William Trevor:

3* Love and Summer
3* The Collected Stories
3* Cheating at Canasta
3* A Bit on the Side
4* Death in Summer
4* The Hill Bachelors
WL The Children of Dynmouth
3* My House in Umbria
3* Reading Turgenev
3* The Ballroom of Romance
3* Angels at the Ritz
3* The Distant Past

The Thief Taker by C.S. Quinn

 

Description: The year is 1665. Black Death ravages London. A killer stalks the streets in a plague doctor’s hood and mask.

When a girl is gruesomely murdered, thief taker Charlie Tuesday reluctantly agrees to take on the case. But the horrific remains tell him this is no isolated death. The killer’s mad appetites are part of a master plan that could destroy London – and reveal the dark secrets of Charlie’s own past.

Now the thief taker must find this murderous mastermind before the plague obliterates the evidence street by street. This terrifying pursuit will take Charlie deep into the black underbelly of old London, where alchemy, witchcraft and blood-spells collide.

In a city drowned in darkness, death could be the most powerful magic of all.

Opening: London, 1665
In the year of the Black Death London is a city of half-timbered houses and dark towers. In the narrow backstreets, astrologists predict the future, and alchemists conjure wonders. Traitors’ heads line London Bridge, where witches sell potions, and gamesters turn cards. The river flowing beneath lands a daily cargo of smuggler gangs and pirates.

Loved this from the very start: it is gory, graphic and dead gruesome. Many gizzard for dinner scenes so I suppose this is not for the squeamish, and the murdering hulk is terrifying so this is not for the shiverers either. Rest assured though, it is not a horror fic by any stretch of the imagination. The Thief Taker for all its grisly subject is written in a very upbeat fashion. I would loath to call it YA because lots of people have a very prejudiced mindset when it comes to that shelf. It is a highly enjoyable piece of hist-fic fluff.

Holborn Bridge: 1831 Drawn by Tho. H. Shepherd. Engraved by M. Woolnoth.

What a debut, and ike Oliver Twist, I’m asking for more of Charlie Tuesday. Three point five plague hoods rounded up for the sites that do not operate on half ratings.

Endorsed by my Peter James: ‘Quinn is a brilliant new talent!’
Images from the book

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

Ghostwritten by David Mitchell

bookshelves: published-1999, japan, autumn-2010

Read from October 08, 2010 to August 29, 2014


This has sucked me in straight away. I heart David Mitchell and it’s not just that I am reading it before sleep that some images (and the toons as well of course) pervade my dreams, it is more to do with Mitchell’s word painting. Take that moment (in 3. Hong Kong, if my memory serves me right) where a head fractures into those easter egg pieces or how about that moment he listened to Blackbird from the White Album; he had heard it before but hadn’t listened and is blown away by its beauty.

Mitchell doesn’t just write books, he puts impressions onto paper that speak directly into the right side of our brains. Oh, and did I mention that it has nine sections that are really ten, perhaps to signify that life in all its coexisting facets is bigger and weirder than the sum of its parts – and remember that #9 is BIG in Japanese doojah-ology.

Elizabeth is Missing by Emma Healey

 

Description: How do you solve a crime when you can’t remember the clues?

Maud is forgetful. She makes a cup of tea and doesn’t remember to drink it. She goes to the shops and forgets why she went. Back home she finds the place horribly unrecognizable – just like she sometimes thinks her daughter Helen is a total stranger.

But there’s one thing Maud is sure of: her friend Elizabeth is missing. The note in her pocket tells her so. And no matter who tells her to stop going on about it, to leave it alone, to shut up, Maud will get to the bottom of it.

Because somewhere in Maud’s damaged mind lies the answer to an unsolved seventy-year-old mystery. One everyone has forgotten about.

Everyone, except Maud . . .

Some nice ratings around for this one already. Smashing.

I thought this an exceptionally clever debut novel, and we really get inside the mind of senile dementia. But what really is senile dementia if not just the notching up of internal dialogue to the exclusion of all else? Well it’s a safety hazard, that is apparent but not scary per se. I thought the grand-daughter dealt with it all better than daughter Helen.

However Healey did rather over-egg the pudding didn’t she, bet I wasn’t the only one screaming at the pages saying: ‘get the Foxtrot on with it, why don’t you.’

Like I said above, a clever debut where the some of the looseness should have been edited out. Three point five marrow flowers.

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Philip Larkin: Life, Art and Love by James Booth

bookshelves: summer-2014, radio-4, published-2014, biography, newtome-author, nonfiction, poetry

Read from August 23 to 28, 2014

 

BOTW

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04f9frc

Description: Philip Larkin was that rare thing among poets – a household name in his own lifetime. Lines such as ‘Never such innocence again’ and ‘Sexual intercourse began / In nineteen sixty-three’ made him one of the most popular poets of the last century.

Larkin’s reputation as a man, however, has been more controversial. A solitary librarian known for his pessimism, he disliked exposure and had no patience with the literary circus. And when, in 1992, the publication of his Selected Letters laid bare his compartmentalised personal life, accusations of duplicity, faithlessness, racism and misogyny were levelled against him.

There is, of course, no requirement that poets should be likeable or virtuous, but James Booth asks whether art and life were really so deeply at odds with each other. Can the poet who composed the moving ‘Love Songs in Age’ have been such a cold-hearted man? Can he who uttered the playful, self-deprecating words ‘Deprivation is for me what daffodils were for Wordsworth’ really have been so boorish?

A very different public image is offered by those who shared the poet’s life – the women with whom he was romantically involved, his friends and his university colleagues. It is with their personal testimony, including access to previously unseen letters, that Booth reinstates a man misunderstood – not a gaunt, emotional failure, but a witty, provocative and entertaining presence, delightful company; an attentive son and a man devoted to the women he loved.

Read by Michael Pennington
Written by James Booth
Abridged by Libby Spurrier
Produced by Joanna Green
A Pier production for BBC Radio 4

1/5 Aged 17, Larkin goes up to Oxford to read English and meets a jazz-loving kindred spirit.

2/5 Philip meets Monica Jones, an assistant English lecturer at Leicester University.

3/5 Philip begins work as librarian at Hull University and oversees plans for expansion.

4/5 As middle age approaches, Larkin’s private life is as complicated as ever.

5/5 Despite having two continuing relationships, Larkin brings another woman into his life.

Would you have shagged him? Not me. It is a question of liking the output, disliking the outputter. And Oh! how he disliked his parents, and families in general, which is why he penned these:


They fuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

But they were fucked up in their turn
By fools in old-style hats and coats,
Who half the time were soppy-stern
And half at one another’s throats.

Man hands on misery to man.
It deepens like a coastal shelf.
Get out as early as you can,
And don’t have any kids yourself.

and in reply, this:

They suss you out, your girls and boys.
You may not know it, but they do.
They find out all your faults and foibles
Because they concentrate on you.

Their eyes and ears are sharp, perceptive,
Slicing through your best disguise.
And if you grit your teeth and take it,
Their advice might make you wise.

They cannot cure your old compulsions;
They will not stroke away the aches
That plague your heart and grieve your bones
But they can learn from your mistakes.

And:

They tuck you up, your mum and dad.
They may not want to, but they do.
They give you games and stories they had
And make up new ones, just for you.

And they were tucked up in their turn
By parent figures in the past,
Who helped them, growing up, to learn
That pain and misery end at last.

Your kids can comfort smaller kids.
And get some pleasure from this chore.
The fretful baby’s drooping eyelids
Move our hearts to ask for more.

“Annus Mirabilis” by Philip Larkin (read by Tom O’Bedlam)

The Winship Family by Michael J. McCarthy

 

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Description: From his humble beginnings in 1851, as the son of a native Irish gardener, Seamus Tobin endures a terrible tragedy that leaves him orphaned in early childhood. His fortunes change when he is adopted by his father’s employer, the lord of an ancient Anglo-Irish estate in County Cork and a leading member of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy in Ireland.

As James Winship, the young man lives the life of a privileged aristocrat, as the young master in the Great House and in school at Eton College and Oxford University. But he squanders the opportunities in a series of misjudgments and mishaps. A final chance at redemption is afforded him as a cavalry officer in British India, where he learns to play polo, hunts wild game, befriends the local rajah, and, most dramatically, leads his troops in a series of pitched battles against the Empire’s enemies.

Returning home to Ireland, James Winship becomes involved in the Irish independence movement, which dominated British politics for nearly forty years, working with Charles Stewart Parnell and William Ewart Gladstone.

A duel at Dieppe

Opening:THE FATHER, William Winship, The Eighth Lord Milleston. London April 1850: Lord Milleston’s Choice.

The Carleton Club, one in the morning: Entering his rooms, William Winship felt a little light-headed. Stetching out on the couch, replaying the day in his mind, he thought, What the hell is going on?

Hmm, that was not exactly an attention grabbing start and as it turned out the whole caboodle was dry and lacklustre. A lot was told not shown, and the episodic nature drove me mad. So, not what you could call a bad encounter, yet I have no urge to read the next two books when I have Trinity in the TBR. Two Irish tricolours:

I thought I would get into the swing of things. FutureLearn course: ‘Irish Lives in War and Revolution, Trinity College Dublin’ starts next Monday.