Reading matters…….

HD_101867967_01.jpgAnn Cleves, the author of the very good Vera and Shetland crime series has started a new venture based in North Devon with Detective Matthew Venn as the chief protagonist. The first book ‘The Long Call’ is promising, based in very real locations, and with interesting characters and plot. There are many sub-plots, a chief one being Venn’s own upbringing and his falling out with his family. Indeed the powerful first scene sees him hovering outside his own father’s funeral. Ann Cleves says she feels nervous introducing a new character to us, and hopes we will like him despite his weaknesses. She need have no fear. She is on to another winner, a real result for her consistently good writing.s-l640.jpg

Now here’s a book I couldn’t resist and which was bought on our recent house-hunting expedition to Clitheroe in Lancashire. We were having a lovely lunch in the Holmes Mill complex when I saw this. If you haven’t been there you should. Longest bar in Britain, one of the best food and deli selections I have encountered, hotel, restaurant, cafe, cinema and much else. I have read from cover to cover and it makes me even more determined to get back to Lancashire as quickly as possible. Each insert features a foodie location and a recipe or recipes from the owners. Clitheroe has become renowned  over the last decade as a top eating destination lauded by the likes of Grace Dent of The Guardian – she can’t be wrong can she? There are so many pubs and restaurants in and around Clitheroe that feature that my mouth waters at the prospect of living there. Book was good too.


Reading matters….

37490326._uy400_ss400_-1‘Hometown Tales : Lancashire’ has the basis of a good idea……getting local authors to write short stories set in their own locality. With no expectations I read the first of two tales in this book ‘After the Funeral, the Crawl’ and thoroughly enjoyed it. Basically a young, getting into middle-age couple attend a funeral in Preston, where they both grew up, miss the last train back to London and, having nothing else to do, embark on a pub crawl of sorts. The settings are described ‘as is’ which is great, and the back story that the young woman had had a one-night stand with the dead man, resonates and lends substance to the story. I don’t usually enjoy short stories as they never get going and there is no time to develop character or setting, but this was the exception. The second tale ‘Judas’ I did not enjoy. Apart from the unreality of someone being swept back in his unconscious self to before his time to the famous Bob Dylan concert in Manchester, and being there with his father (who was there), the narrative was shallow and didn’t seem to be going anywhere (it didn’t). Nice little hardback book, nice idea, 50% successful for me.

Reading matters…..

Andrew Robert’s ‘Churchill’ is a masterpiece. Roberts has a reputation of being a right-wing historian. That wouldn’t bother me in itself, but in truth his own position and views never seem to intrude. Where Churchill could or should be criticised, Roberts criticises with a sure touch. More has been written about Churchill than anyone else that matters, but Roberts approaches his subject with such a fresh and knowing eye, and with such an appreciation of humour ( Churchill was as witty as Oscar Wilde if not more so) that you feel that you are learning something new at every page. Certainly several potential sceptics and critics have been won over as I have been. The book just bursts with the presence of this true colossus and it is so readable. It is, as one historian has said, written in the unfashionable tradition of Gibbon, Trevelyan and Macaulay, in a gripping narrative style. So good that I could start on this one thousand plus pages straight away again.

Reading matters……

My Son, My Son’ by Howard Spring (publishers Apollo) is my latest big read by this at one time Manchester-based author. Whilst the 578 pages flew by, I have to say I was a little disappointed having just read his magnificent ‘Fame Is The Spur’.

In ‘My Son, My Son‘, Howard Spring takes the Biblical tale of King David’s painful relationship with his beloved, despicable son Absalom and sets it in early 20th century England.

As with ‘Fame Is The Spur’ the protagonist narrates his own life story. Having grown up poor in the back streets of Manchester, and then achieved success as a novelist, William Essex determines that his son, Oliver, will have everything that he himself missed out on as a child. The son is spoiled much against his mother’s wishes. The outcomes are not good.

In parallel, William Essex’s Irish friend Dermot O’Riorden wants to see his son, Rory, fulfil his own youthful dream of being an Irish freedom fighter.

Both fathers of course come to regret having got their wishes.

As his career progresses, much like Spring himself, Essex buys a house in London and then a country retreat in Cornwall on the river near Falmouth. Having grown up in Manchester and now living not too far away from Falmouth, I certainly empathised with the locations which are drawn in great detail. The characters as always with Howard Spring are very strongly drawn too, and we want to inhabit their lives and see what happens next. References contemporary to the story such as the march to Irish Independence, the Manchester Martyrs, the Arts and Craft movement, levels of poverty, the pub scene in Manchester, whatever, all integrate seamlessly to the story.

What I found not quite up to standard was the development of the plot. A bit creaky and certainly at the end all too unbelievable and mawkish. Pity! As otherwise very enjoyable….

There is an interesting interview with Howard Spring a few months before he died at……..