King Charles III by Mike Bartlett

okshelves: summer-2015, published-2014, radio-3, ghosties-ghoulies, contemporary

Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Laura
Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from July 12 to 13, 2015

Description: After a lifetime of waiting, Charles ascends the throne. A future of power. But how to rule? Mike Bartlett’s ‘future history’ play won the 2015 Olivier Award for Best New Play. The production, directed by Rupert Goold, premiered at the Almeida Theatre before moving to the West End in a co-production with Sonia Friedman Productions and Stuart Thompson Productions.

This “bracingly provocative and outrageously entertaining new play” (The Independent) explores the people underneath the crowns, the unwritten rules of our democracy, and the conscience of Britain’s most famous family.

KING CHARLES III was first produced by the Almeida Theatre and subsequently co-produced at the Wyndham’s Theatre in the West End of London by Sonia Friedman Productions and Stuart Thompson Productions in association with Lee Dean & Charles Diamond and Tulchin Bartner Productions. The sound designer for the theatre production was Paul Arditti.

Mike Bartlett’s radio play NOT TALKING won both the Imison and Tinniswood Awards in 2007. He has been Writer-In-Residence at the both the National Theatre and The Royal Court Theatre. His play LOVE, LOVE, LOVE won Best New Play in the 2011 Theatre Awards UK; COCK won an Olivier Award in 2010 for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre, as did BULL in 2015. As well as winning the Olivier Award for Best New Play, KING CHARLES III won the Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play of 2014.

Due to rights restrictions, audio for this programme is available only within the UK.

HAH – excellent fayre. A play rendered as if an historical fiction, written in blank verse, starring the UK’s present royal family and I bet this ruffled more than just a few feathers.


I love the soliloquies, the Diana ghost, the admonisions to KCIII to keep his mouth shut, AND what about Jocelyn Pook – count me as an instant fan!

THE best west end show since Book of Mormon and Collaborators, yet I doubt if the Royal Box was used.

As a mild piece of trivia, Elizabeth has only ~50 days or so left before she out queens Victoria as longest ruling monarch.

Go Lizzy!

Another trivia snippet, Book of Mormon has just become the first show to break the £200 barrier for a ticket – that is one fantastic show!

Huzzah for free speech and artistic licence. Fully recommended.

Charles Tim Pigott-Smith
Camilla Margot Leicester
William Oliver Chris
Kate Lydia Wilson
Harry Richard Goulding
Mr Evans Adam James
Mr Stevens Nicholas Rowe
James Reiss Miles Richardson
Jess Tafline Steen
Sarah/Diana/TV Producer Katie Brayben
Spencer/Sir Gordon/Archbishop/Kebab Man Paterson Joseph

A Great and Terrible King: Edward I and the Forging of Britain by Marc Morris

Narrator: Ralph Lister

Description: Edward I is familiar to millions as “Longshanks”, conqueror of Scotland and nemesis of Sir William Wallace (in Braveheart). Yet this story forms only the final chapter of the king’s action-packed life. Earlier, Edward had defeated and killed the famous Simon de Montfort, traveled to the Holy Land, and conquered Wales. He raised the greatest armies of the Middle Ages and summoned the largest parliaments. Notoriously, he expelled all the Jews from his kingdom.

In this audiobook, Marc Morris examines afresh the forces that drove Edward throughout his relentless career: his character, his Christian faith, and his sense of England’s destiny – a sense shaped in particular by the tales of the legendary King Arthur. He also explores the competing reasons that led Edward’s opponents (including Robert Bruce) to resist him.

Dr Marc Morris portrays the era accurately and in an engaging manner; Ralph Lister reads with energy. Recommended.

TR The Norman Conquest
4* The Great Terrible King

The Chess Players by Frances Parkinson Keyes

Description: Paul Morphy was the scion of two outstanding Creole families. His paternal grandfather, Diego Morphy, had been Spanish Consul, first in Charleston and then in New Orleans; his maternal grandfather, Joseph Le Carpentier, commonly called the “double-tongued,” was a successful French auctioneer. On the condition that Le Carpentier would build a house suitable for a superb bridal residence and that his daughter, the beautiful Telcide, should be provided with a fantastic dowry, Don Diego gave his consent to an alliance between her and his son Alonzo, a promising young lawyer destined to become a justice in the supreme court of Louisiana. It was a step down, socially, for the Morphys, but Don Diego felt there were compensations, especially as he and Joseph Le Carpentier had long had a common bond in their love of chess: closer ties would facilitate more and more frequent games.

A somewhat difficult fiction based on the actual personage of Paul Morphy, where the tiny print was not at all helpful. Morphy’s was a troubled, short life and I felt the pain on the page …

…I yearn for some upbeat now. NEXT!

Maxwell’s Curse by M.J. Trow

bookshelves: summer-2015, published-2000, sussex, series, mystery-thriller, cosy, skoolzy-stuff, superstitions, amusing

Read from July 02 to 12, 2015

Read by…………….. Peter Wickham
Total Runtime………. 8 hours 24 mins

Description: 31 December 2000 history teacher Peter ‘Mad Max’ Maxwell sits down to celebrate the Millennium, the proper one, of course. Shortly before 12 o’clock the doorbell rings, and he finds a dead woman on his doorstep. That’s the start of the sixth novel in M.J. Trow’s Maxwell series. The particulars of the case this time points to witchcraft. The background is well-researched, and, like the earlier novels in this series, Maxwell’s Curse is exciting and fun. The unlikely hero of an eccentric history teacher once again picks up the challenge and battles crime.

This is the one with sabre-fencing, diary, and corn-doll. Just a straight three for this one, and a large hope that this is not the series going downhill. Funniest line was about a comb-forward Caesar would die for.

ETA – the description was copy/paste from grramazon and it states that this is the sixth. According to the list this is the fifth.

4* Maxwell’s House
3.5* Maxwell’s Flame
4* Maxwell’s Movie
3.5* Maxwell’s War
3* Maxwell’s Curse
TR Maxwell’s Ride

A Perfectly Good Man by Patrick Gale

bookshelves: published-2012, paper-read, one-penny-wonder, cornwall, britain-england, contemporary, hardback, tbr-busting-2015, summer-2015, newtome-author, lit-richer, suicide

Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Louise
Read from August 09, 2012 to July 12, 2015
Withdrawn from Liverpool Libraries.

Description: The apparent serenity of parish life in Pendeen and Morvah is disturbed when 20-year-old Lenny Barnes takes his own life in the presence of Father Barnaby Thomas, the charismatic, indefatigable local priest, whose enduring service has made him a popular member of his Cornish community.

Though Lenny′s death is publicly mourned, the tragedy continues to wound those closest to him, and its reverberations seem to threaten a fissure between the Parish and its inhabitants. And yet Lenny′s death is simply Pendeen and Morvah′s most visible misfortune: beneath the surface of the parish newsletter, in the life of Barnaby′s wife Dorothy, in that of his son Jim, in that of their neighbours Modest Carlsson and Nuala Barnes, and in particular in the life of Father Barnaby himself, lies vast, inarticulate sadness.

In what is more an echo-chamber than a sequel, Patrick Gale returns us to the landscape of ′Notes from an Exhibition′, unfurling the complex web of a Cornish community with an empathy that touches clairvoyance and a sure eye for significant mundanity. ′Good People′ is the faithful register of a community′s fortunes, its gentle malignance, and one priest′s struggle to live virtuously.

Opening: He had the heating on because immobility made him cold. The flat was recently built. Its windows and doors were all double-glazed but there was a keen easterly that found the chink in one of the seals around the picture window and set up a wail. The whole flat was keening.

This was a pressie to myself for I jultid 2014 as it was about time to sample this author and Louise was egging me on.

My initial reaction was sort of “yeah… and!?”


this lassoed me round about the Nuala incident and the hook caught, with line and sinker (mixed metaphors are so much fun!). According to the inside flap ‘Notes on an Exhibition’ should have been tackled first – oh well, that’s on the shelves somewhere and I now look forward to it.

You were right Louise!

4* The Perfectly Good Man
TR Notes from an Exhibition
MB Kansas in August
WL A Place Called Winter

Pincher Martin by William Golding

Description: The sole survivor of a torpedoed destroyer is miraculously cast up on a huge, barren rock in mid-Atlantic. Pitted against him are the sea, the sun, the night cold, and the terror of his isolation. At the core of this raging tale of physical and psychological violence lies Christopher Martin’s will to live as the sum total of his life.

Opening: He was struggling in every direction, he was the centre of the writhing and kicking knot of his own body. There was no up or down, no light and no air. He felt his mouth open of itself and the shrieked word burst out.

‘But what ship was ever so lop-sided? A carrier? A derelict carrier, deserted and waiting to sink? (page 12 of 138)
There was Rockall there.

Ooo this was ambiguous and terrifying, and I think that image of man floating in a jam jar of water will regrettably stay with me for a while.

So what is worse, to die quickly or to linger in illness, solitude and bouts of madness? Both existential scenarios are on display here and lots to ponder upon.

3* Pincher Martin
3* Lord of the Flies

Dead Clever by Val McDermid

bookshelves: summer-2015, published-2015, play-dramatisation, mystery-thriller, amusing, skoolzy-stuff, britain-england

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from July 06 to 10, 2015

Description: Val McDermid’s second “Dead” comedy crime drama.

DCI Alma Blair (Julie Hesmondhalgh) and DS Jason Trotter investigate murder in the Geography Department of an unspecified Russell Group university in the North of England. Where academics rub shoulders and, indeed, other parts of the body with students and administrators. A place where the students think they know everything, the academics know they know everything and the secretaries actually know everything.

Alma has worked her way up the ranks from making the tea for the families of murder victims to ordering Jason to make the tea. She knows she knows best. Jason should know better.

In Episode 1, Jason thinks that a professor who is wearing some of his brains on the outside of his head might just be his chance to put Alma in her place.

2: DCI Alma Blair has no shortage of suspects willing to share their motives.

3: DS Jason Trotter plays detective with Alma’s love life.

4: Alma’s private life is about to be outed, and a forensic clue leads to danger.

5: With a man down, the team closes ranks to solve the murder.

Sound Designer and Engineer: Eloise Whitmore
Produced and Directed by Justine Potter
A Savvy production for BBC Radio 4.

Ordinary Thunderstorms by William Boyd

bookshelves: published-2009, paper-read, one-penny-wonder, hardback, britain-england, london, summer-2015

Read from April 16 to July 10, 2015
Description: It is May in Chelsea, London. The glittering river is unusually high on an otherwise ordinary afternoon. Adam Kindred, a young climatologist in town for a job interview, ambles along the Embankment, admiring the view. He is pleasantly surprised to come across a little Italian bistro down a leafy side street. During his meal he strikes up a conversation with a solitary diner at the next table, who leaves soon afterwards. With horrifying speed, this chance encounter leads to a series of malign accidents through which Adam will lose everything – home, family, friends, job, reputation, passport, credit cards, mobile phone – never to get them back. The police are searching for him. There is a reward for his capture. A hired killer is stalking him. He is alone and anonymous in a huge, pitiless modern city. Adam has nowhere to go but down – underground. He decides to join that vast army of the disappeared and the missing that throng London’s lowest levels as he tries to figure out what to do with his life and struggles to understand the forces that have made it unravel so spectacularly. His quest will take him all along the River Thames, from affluent Chelsea to the sink estates of the East End, and on the way he will encounter all manner of London’s denizens – aristocrats, prostitutes, evangelists and policewomen amongst them – and version after new version of himself. William Boyd’s electric follow-up to Costa Novel of the Year Restless is a heart-in-mouth conspiracy novel about the fragility of social identity, the corruption at the heart of big business, and the secrets that lie hidden in the filthy underbelly of everyday city.

Opening: LET US START WITH the river – all things begin with the river and we shall probably end there, no doubt – but let us wait and see how we go. Soon, in a minute or two, a young man will come and stand by the river’s edge, here at Chelsea Bridge, in London.

What better book to crack open in an storm where our leccy supply is decidedly on/off, and big print is best under torch light. We have flood warnings too.

Gleick’s Chaos theory started with a ‘hands behind the head and whimsy alot in the grass on a hill, looking up’ view of the clouds, do you remember that? There is a lot of chaos going on here, and also a lot of ‘fate’ and ‘predestination’ a la Buddhism credo.

This book has the opening quote:

Ordinary thunderstorms have the capacity to transform themselves into multi-cell storms of growing complexity. Such multi-cell storms display marked increase in severity and their lifetime can be extended by a factor of ten or more. The grandfather of all thunderstorms, however, is the super-cell thunderstorm. It should be noted that even ordinary thunderstorms are capable of mutating into super-cell storms. These storms subside very slowly.
‘Storm Dynamics and Hail Cascades’
by LD Sax and WS Dutton

I was in Boyd’s thrall whilst reading ‘Ordinary Thunderstorms’ and was impatient to know if all the strands could be joined by the end and they were… just, by the skin of their teeth.

Read in one sitting because I just couldn’t put this book down, yet there are some sections that are flawed. For instance, were the initial behaviours the actions of a sane man or did Boyd wish to inflict us with the fatalism of The Dice Man for his main character.

You can see why I couldn’t award that final star, as much as this entertained.

LATER (upon the good ship dilemma) – many reviews state that it is well known that no-one should touch a murder weapon therefore this tale lacks credibility, yet Dr Wang was not dead when he pleaded for the knife to be removed: what would you have done?

5* Any Human Heart
4* Restless
TR Waiting for Sunrise
4* Ordinary Thunderstorms
4* Brazzaville Beach
2* Solo
3* Armadillo
WL Sweet Caress
3* A Haunting

Blackeyes by Dennis Potter

bookshelves: film-only, spring-2015, published-1987, tv, under-100-ratings, summer-2015

Read from March 12 to July 10, 2015
Wiki description: Blackeyes is a BBC television miniseries first broadcast in 1989, written and directed by Dennis Potter based on his own novel of the same name.

Broadcast as four 50-minute episodes, first screened weekly from 29 November 1989 to 20 December 1989 on Britain’s BBC2 channel, Blackeyes starred Gina Bellman as the title character, an attractive model, with Michael Gough in a key role as her uncle.

Potter described the series’ theme as the objectification of “young and attractive women as consumer goods in a way that brutalizes both sexes”.…

All Day Long: A Portrait of Britain At Work

bookshelves: summer-2015, nonfiction, britain-england

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from July 06 to 10, 2015

Description: In 1974, the US broadcaster Studs Terkel talked to Americans “About what they do all day, and how they feel about what they do”. His book telling their stories, Working, became a seminal tract in social history, and left an indelible print of how Americans worked and felt in the seventies.

Biggs has revisited Terkel’s model in her tour of contemporary Britain – her interviewees including a lawyer, care worker, fishmonger, giggle doctor (yes, there really is such a thing), ballet dancer, quiz writer and potter, among many others. The book is a beautifully-observed portrait of the United Kingdom at work in the twenty-first century.

Episode 1: The Lawyer

2: The Giggle Doctor and the Care Worker

3: The Ballet Dancer

4: The Fishmonger

5: The Quiz Writer and the Potter

Joanna Biggs is an assistant editor at the London Review of Books. She was born in Willesden, North-West London, in 1982.

Readers: Ben Crowe, Teresa Gallagher, David Holt, Colleen Prendergast, Michelle Terry and Thom Tuck

Abridged by Pete Nichols
Producer: Karen Rose
A Sweet Talk production for BBC Radio 4.