The Thrill of it All by Joseph O’Connor

bookshelves: summer-2014, music, published-2014, autumn-2014, britain-england, luton, newtome-author

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from August 23 to September 06, 2014

 

BABT

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04f9lmn

BBC description: Spanning 25 years, Joseph O’ Connor’s new novel The Thrill of It All rewinds and fast-forwards through an evocative soundtrack of struggle and laughter. It deals with the formation of a band in the early 80’s in Luton, their struggle for recognition, playing low dives, living in transit vans culminating in overnight worldwide success. Then the inevitable, “artistic differences!”

This is an incredibly warm-hearted and uplifting story for anyone who has ever loved a song.

Author ….. Joseph O’Connor
Abridger ….. Neville Teller
Producer ….. Gemma McMullan

The Author: Joseph O’Connor is the author of eight novels: Cowboys and Indians (short-listed for the Whitbread Prize), Desperadoes, The Salesman, Inishowen, Star of the Sea, Redemption Falls, Ghost Light and The Thrill of it All. He has also written radio diaries, film scripts and stage-plays including the multiple award-winning Red Roses and Petrol and an acclaimed adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s novel My Cousin Rachel.

His novel Star of the Sea was an international bestseller, selling more than a million copies and being published in 38 languages. It won France’s Prix Millepages, Italy’s Premio Acerbi, the Irish Post Award for Fiction, the Neilsen Bookscan Golden Book Award, an American Library Association Award, the Hennessy/Sunday Tribune Hall of Fame Award, and the Prix Litteraire Zepter for European Novel of the Year. His novel Ghost Light was chosen as Dublin’s One City Book novel for 2011. He received the Irish PEN Award for Outstanding Contribution to Irish Literature in 2012.

1/10 October 1981 in Luton, and Robert Goulding first meets his ‘glimmertwin’ Francis Mulvey.

2/10 On Rob’s 19th birthday, life is about to change when he meets Trez.

3/10 The trio turn their attention to finding the band’s ‘unbeatable drummer’.

4/10 An unexpected windfall for Fran prompts the band to make a go of it.

5/10 Are the fortunes of the band about to change?

6/10 After being dropped by their London music label, the band try their luck stateside.

7/10 With the release of the album in New York, the Ships look set for global stardom.

8/10 Twenty-five years later, and Robbie’s life is very different to his former music career.

9/10 Robbie receives a surprising invitation to Dublin by his former bandmate Fran.

10/10 At the reunion concert in Dublin, will Robbie hold his nerve?

I thought the story really started to fly once the band had broken up and we zoom twenty-five years to see just who is doing what. Before that it was an okay sort of read but nothing special, a cliche almost.

Apache Indian – Boom Shakalaka for dancing with the nurse in hospital.

Dark Fire

bookshelves: historical-fiction, re-visit-2014, radio-4, summer-2014, tudor, mystery-thriller

Recommended for: BBC Radio Listeners
Read from May 04, 2008 to September 05, 2014

 

1ST ENCOUNTER – PAPER READ: Not quite as good as the first Matthew Shardlake story, nevertheless a good tale with full attention paid to historical detail.

2ND ENCOUNTER – BBC radio dramatisation:

R4 in ten episodes HUZZAH!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b04f9frh

BBC description: Gripping dramatisation of C. J. Sansom’s atmospheric Tudor crime novel set during the last days of Thomas Cromwell.

London, 1540, hunchback lawyer Matthew Shardlake has lived quietly in the three years since he was asked by Cromwell to investigate a murder at Scarnsea monastery on England’s south coast (a story told in “Dissolution”). But his quiet life is soon forgotten as he rushes to solve two very different but urgent mysteries: save the life of a young girl accused of a terrible murder; and, discover who has stolen the last precious batch of Greek Fire, a mythical weapon of mass destruction.

Accompanied by Cromwell’s man – the young and impetuous Barak – Shardlake desperately searches for clues against the backdrop of a hot and stinking London summer.

A fast and furious crime drama, “Dark Fire” features ethical dilemmas, intriguing characters and a luminous historical setting. Starring Justin Salinger as Shardlake, Bryan Dick as Barak and Robert Glenister as Thomas Cromwell.

Written by C. J. Sansom
Dramatised by Colin MacDonald
Produced and directed by Kirsteen Cameron

1/10 Dramatisation of CJ Sansom’s Tudor crime novel, featuring lawyer detective hero Shardlake

2/10 Thomas Cromwell summons Shardlake, and engages him to undertake a deadly secret mission.

3/10 The search for the stolen Greek Fire intensifies as Shardlake questions the key suspects.

4/10 Shardlake and Barak’s investigation leads them to the ruins of St Bartholew’s monastery.

5/10 Shardlake focuses on helping Elizabeth Wentworth, accused of murdering her young cousin.

6/10 Whoever is behind the Greek Fire theft will do anything to keep it from the Earl of Essex.

7/10 With Shardlake’s lack of progress, Cromwell reveals that he fears losing the King’s favour

8/10 Trapped inside the burning house, Shardlake witnesses the destructive power of Greek Fire.

9/10 Shardlake and Barak finally discover who lies behind the plot to bring down Cromwell.

10/10 Held at knifepoint, can Shardlake and Barak escape to warn the Earl about the plot?

Of course it was lovely to revisit via radio but I have to say, there ain’t nothing better than curling up with this series in its full paper glory. The Shardlake books are my favourite hist-fic, hands down.

5* Dissolution (Matthew Shardlake, #1)
4* Dark Fire (Matthew Shardlake, #2)
5* Sovereign (Matthew Shardlake, #3)
5* Revelation (Matthew Shardlake, #4)
4* Heartstone (Matthew Shardlake, #5)
TR Lamentation (Matthew Shardlake, #6)

3* Dominion
5* Winter in Madrid
3* The Lost Prophecies (The Medieval Murderers, #4)

Under Orders (Sid Halley, #4) by Dick Francis

 

Read by Martin Jarvis and I like him!

Cheltenham is a lovely racecourse.

Description: It’s the third death on Cheltenham Gold Cup Day that really troubles super-sleuth Sid Halley. Last seen in 1995’s Come to Grief, former champion jockey Halley knows the perils of racing all too well-but in his day, jockeys didn’t usually reach the finishing line with three .38 rounds in the chest. But this is precisely how he finds jockey Huw Walker-who, only a few hours earlier, had won the coveted Triumph Hurdle.

Just moments before the gruesome discovery, Halley had been called upon by Lord Enstone to make discreet inquiries into why his horses appeared to be on a permanent losing streak. Are races being fixed? Are bookies taking a cut? And if so, are trainers and jockeys playing a dangerous game with stakes far higher than they are realistic?

Halley’s quest for answers draws him even deeper into the darker side of the race game, in a life-or-death power play that will push him to his very limits-both professionally and personally.

Opening: “Sadly, death at the races is not uncommon. However, three in a single afternoon was sufficiently unusual to raise more than an eyebrow. That only one of the deaths was of a horse was more than enough to bring the local constabulary hotfoot to the track.”

How lovely to find this dustying up in the storage boxes and I dive in with relish as it has been ages since an encounter with the wonderful Dick Francis.

4* Odds Against (Sid Halley, #1)
3* Whip Hand (Sid Halley, #2)
3* Come to Grief (Sid Halley, #3)
3.5* Under Orders (Sid Halley, #4)

4* Bolt (Kit Fielding, #2)

3* Proof
4* Dead Cert
4* Blood Sport
2* Shattered
3* Nerve
4* Decider
3* Straight
3* For Kicks
4* Bonecrack
3* Enquiry
3* Field of Thirteen

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 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

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)