Tag Archives: Susan Hill

#LockedInABookshop – The Books I Would Read if I Found Myself in the Position of the #WaterstonesOne

Most of you will have undoubtedly heard about the luck misfortune of David Willis who suffered the amazing awful ordeal of being accidentally locked into the Trafalgar Square store of Waterstones for a few hours before, having tweeted, he was rescued. The most amazing thing I found about this story was that he actually told anyone that he was stuck in there, I wouldn’t have. If you haven’t been to the Trafalgar Square branch of Waterstones it is one of my favourites, floors and floors of books, loads of stationery, comfy armchairs and a wonderful cafe and restaurant. It would be a dream to spend a night, let alone two hours, stuck in there. We have all surely had that thought of hiding somewhere in a bookshop and waiting to be locked in haven’t we? I would have had a good old wander through the store and picked up some books to read, made a cocktail or two at the bar and headed for a comfy sofa for the evening. I certainly wouldn’t do this…

Waterstones have themselves blogged amusingly about the types of books they would recommend if you were stuck in there for two hours. Kate of Adventures with Words, has gone for a list of five books that she would recommend if you were stuck in there the whole night, or maybe with her list if you were stuck in there for a few days – maybe over Christmas, if you really want to avoid the family (light bulb goes on in head). I thought I would be a bit different and so have come up with the top five books I might read if I was lucky enough to have the wonderful ordeal myself…

Finish the book I am currently reading…

I know this might sound really boring but before I could even consider reading anything else I would have to finish the current book I was reading. I am a real stickler for being monogamous with books, unless you are reading something really, really long (be it fiction or not) and have something very different to read between. At the moment that would mean finishing off Sacred Country (my hands automatically always type scared, what does that say about me?) by Rose Tremain which I mentioned I was reading yesterday. I am really enjoying this thought provoking novel of a young girl who aged 6 decides she wants to be a boy, so that would stand me in good stead for a while. So that would be my first port of call, the T section for Tremain. Oh and don’t even question if it would be in stock, Waterstones Trafalgar Square has almost every book in the world in it.

Go and grab that book by a favourite author I have been saving for a rainy day/saving for being locked in a bookshop…

We all do it, don’t we? We buy books by our very favourite authors that we leave languishing on a shelf because we know that there will at some point be that just right rainy day, or night locked in a bookshop, when we will turn to that book because we know it will be brilliant. I have a few contenders for that title; Frenchman’s Creek by Daphne Du Maurier, Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood, I’m the King of the Castle by Susan Hill, and Music for Chameleon’s by Truman Capote, Enduring Love by Ian McEwan. That’s a list of five books in its own right so for the sake of this exercise I will pick just one… Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood would be my choice today.

The book that everyone else seems to be going on about and I haven’t read yet…

This would easily be We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves  by Karen Joy Fowler. I wanted to read it when it came out. Then I heard the spoiler twist, which I won’t spoil, and still really wanted to read it. Then almost everyone seemed to be reading it. Then it was long and shortlisted for the Man Booker and the whole world seems to have read it but me, even my aunty text me this very morning asking if I knew the ‘yellow and black book with ourselves in the title’. Not everyone loves it, my dear friend Tracy Trim – as I like to call her – is struggling at the mo, and some people downright hate it. I still feel it is a book I need to read, so I would get that from the entrance hall where it’s bound to be on several tables.

A book completely at random…

As I am in a bookstore and have potentially read a book or two and a half by now, I would probably need a longer wander than just to the bar or the loos to stretch my legs. So I would go and just have a wander and see what randomly took my fancy. Quite probably something short and in translation!

That big bloody classic I have always meant to read…

Yes I am talking about that masterpiece that everyone else has read, probably twice, and I just haven’t. For some people it is Moby Dick (it’s boat based, I will never read this book, I am at one with that fact), for some it is War and Peace (which my mother waited until she was on maternity leave, awaiting the arrival my sister, to crack) for some it is Crime and Punishment or one of the other Russian greats. For me it is Gone With The Wind. I took it away with me to the US and came back with having made a small, rather pathetic, 150 page dent in it. The bookmark is still stuck in page 150. I need to be stranded somewhere to read it from cover to cover properly because while I was enjoying it, now back home I have so many other books to choose from. Oh, I have seen a major flaw with this choice… Let’s move on.

So if you were to be locked in a bookshop over night which books would you go and find and read? Which books, like Kate, would you recommend to others? I haven’t done this because there are only so many times I can mention Rebecca on this blog in a post and sometimes I worry I am in danger of reaching that limit. And this last question almost seems silly to even ask, but would you actually tell anyone? I think I would simply stay in there all night and wait for the staff to arrive the next day.

36 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Ask Simon Anything – Part III

And so we come to the final set of your questions, which The Beard says I should never do again because it makes me look egotistical and attention seeking – even though I didn’t come up with the idea but let’s not have a domestic via the medium of blogging. These are probably the most eclectic we have had so far mixing the bookish tone of Magdalena’s and the frankly whimsical ones of Thomas. Right let’s get on with it…

photo 2

Do you ever experience emotional transference – from the character to yourself – when you are reading? For example, did you feel the protagonist’s anxiety, or Mrs Danvers rage, while reading Rebecca? – Alice

Wow Alice, that is quite a question. I can definitely feel Danvers rage when reading Rebecca  and am known to cry at the odd book, and also guffaw very loudly, so I think that I must experience emotional transference but have never thought about it in the context and now feel I should add it as a skill on my CV, ha! Before I move on I must say something about the protagonist unnamed second Mrs De Winter in Rebecca, she really needs a bit of a slap. No, I am not a misogynist but she is so ineffectual and drippy. I only got that on the second or third re-read.

Who would play you in the film of your life – and what would the film be called? Also who would you like to write the film tie-in book? – Annabel, Gaskella

Well I would like to write the book/memoir and then be the executive producer. I think it would have to have a really corny title so let us make it be called Taming The Savidge and I would have Seth Rogan as me, though he would have to straighten his hair a bit!

If you could change your name, what would you change it to? As ‘male’ and ‘female’ – Quinn

Ooh, as a youth I was desperate to be called Rex. No idea why. If I was going to be a girl then I would have been called Laura or Lucy I believe. In the book of babies names my mother had at the time there is a list and Graham was up there, as was Fattyarbuckle – rude. I wouldn’t change my name though, when I got married the first time I refused, because Simon Savidge has quite a ring to it.

Bengal or Egyptian Mau? – Dark Puss

Definitely Bengal. I am very lucky though as Oscar is half Bengal and Millie is half Maine Coon which are the two types of cats I have always most wanted to have, the added bonus is that the tabby in them keeps them grounded hahaha. Pedigree cats are really haughty.

Would you rather fight a horse-sized duck or a hundred duck-sized horses? And could you please explain your decision… – Rob

I wouldn’t fight any ducks, I love ducks and as you know had a pet duck called Rapunzel. I would get rid of the duck sized horses, I hate horses. The horse sized duck would make the best pet ever. I would call her Olga and fly her.

Favourite book and author, and the reason why! – Kaggsy

Favourite book, as if you needed to ask, is Rebecca because its amazing, gothic and made me read again. Interestingly though Daphne isn’t my favourite author. Shock, horror! That changes daily. I still don’t know who my favourite author is an that is one of the things that keeps me reading I guess. Atwood is up there, Atkinson and Susan Hill too. It changes. McEwan always was but his last two, I haven’t read The Children’s Act yet, did very little for me. Ali Smith is creeping up there actually. See, no idea – will just keep having fun reading and trying to find out.

What is your wallpaper on your computer? – Quinn

How vain is this? It is my own tattoo…

photo 3

Which character would you be/do you have an affinity with the most? – Impossible Alice

I tried to answer this in a blog post the other day and couldn’t. I am quite happy being me and I meet characters I like but not ones I would want to be. I would love to hang out with Sherlock Holmes. Just for fun I will say I have the affinity most with The Woman in Black – sheer rage and a need for revenge. Ha!

I would like to know if you review all the books you read and if not, how do you choose which ones you review.  – Sharkell

Good question! I don’t know how I choose, it tends to be books that I have loved and am happy to rave about because any author takes a long time to write a novel and I don’t want to trample all over that. Also, I have no desire to put people off books. That said I have been doing some round up posts recently of books I liked but haven’t masses to tell you about or the ones I have disliked, even loathed. I have actually found it quite good fun and liberating, plus if you only see the books I love how will you know what I don’t?

Which writer(s) of fiction do you think are most successful in describing animals and their interactions with the protagonists (if relevant) and which are the least? – Dark Puss

This sounds a cop out but none. I don’t like books with animals in as a rule. Woolf’s best book is the one about the dog – that says it all ;)

I’d like to add which of the above questions do you consider silly, answer honestly! And additional query: your opinion and experience of book festivals? – Carol S

Book festivals is too long an answer. I think if you go through my blog you will see I am a fan of them, though I think some could be better. I want to run Liverpool’s next one so I need to stay a little quiet on all that for now though. No question is ever silly, even the silliest ones. My mum always said that.

Are you going to bring back the Persephone Project, as this was something I enjoyed. – Victoria

Definitely, and sooner than you think. That pesky thing called work got in the way and I was reading a mammoth one I couldn’t get into. I have several weeks of now so can get back into it! Hoorah.

Do you ever find yourself thinking “Written by a woman–it would be!” I ask because being female I do sometimes think “Typical male author!” I know I should ‘t but it happens… Erica W

Honestly… No. I tend to roll my eyes at male authors much more. I always thought I read predominantly women, but every year when I look it is pretty much fifty/fifty which isn’t what I would expect as I think, in my own head, that I like women more.

What will you tell us about chemistry, biology or physics? – Dark Puss

I hate them all. I was rubbish at all of them. I don’t get science.

I would like to know who is your favourite French author(s) or what is your favourite French book(s), if you have any? – Caro

I have three favourite books. HHhH by Laurent Binet. Alex by Pierre Lemaitre. The Suicide Shop by Jean Teule. All quite dark, all brilliant. I need to read some French classics so do please recommend me some.

If Rebecca hadn’t brought u back to reading….what other book would have? – Quinn

Ooh. The last question is the most impossible. I can’t really say because I can’t, now, imagine any other book that would and at the time didn’t expect it to. Something would have but what I can’t even hazard a guess at and am not sure I want to as Rebecca has such a place in my heart now.

******************

Thank you all very much for thinking of the questions and indeed asking them. I have really enjoyed that, and not just the egotistical, attention seeking and tongue-firmly-in-cheek, side of me. As someone who is always asking (too many) questions it was nice to go away and think about all the bookish and not so bookish things you brought up. So cheers!

12 Comments

Filed under Random Savidgeness

Dead Scared – S. J. Bolton

How times flies. It doesn’t seem that long ago since I read Now You See Me, the first in S.J Bolton’s, or Sharon Bolton as she has now ‘some out as – as it were, series of DC Lacey Flint crime novels yet it is in fact two years. After having read Now You See Me I remember being desperate to read the next one but putting it off as I didn’t want it to be overkill. Pun unintended. Yet once having finished Dead Scared I was (almost) kicking myself for having not read it sooner. But sometimes the best crime novels shouldn’t be binge read and saved and savoured for the right moment, as you may have guessed from that statement Dead Scared is another bloody brilliant crime thriller. Pun fully intended.

Bantham Press, hardback, 2012, fiction, 378 pages, kindly sent by the publisher

At Cambridge University a girl has tried and failed to take her own life in an extreme and unusual way, and yet she survives. Yet psychologist and lecturer Evi Oliver thinks there is something much darker possibly going on as she looks into suicides in the university and discovers that there have been 19 cases in 5 years. DC Lacey Flint is then assigned an undercover role, from DI Mark Joesbury, as a student at the school to look into the cases and find out more about what might be going on that the clothed detectives are concerned could be a case of something much darker. Soon enough Lacey is thrown into a world of internet suicide pacts, cruel student pranks and then she starts to have nightmares and the suspicion that the scary dreams of a man coming into her room might actually not be her brains overactive imagination. Could someone genuinely be scaring these girls to death?

As with Now You See Me there is much to admire about Dead Scared. Firstly it is really gripping and incredibly chilling. I was completely hooked from the very start of Dead Scared, and actually ended up reading it in two sittings both well into the night which was most unadvised when you then have to go through the house turning all the lights off and frankly have the creeps. Fear is something that we all have and know the sensation of and just as Bolton’s killer, or killers, uses that to their advantage with their victims so does Bolton with her readers. I don’t like clowns, even though they aren’t my greatest fear, I like them even less now. This book seriously gave me the shivers.

Secondly, not only are there several red herrings and dead ends to leave the reader constantly second guessing themselves and who the killer is, there is also a clever second plot around some creepy goings on in Evi Oliver’s life which has you pondering how and if the two may or may not be interlinked. Perfect puzzling fodder for anyone who loves a good (and occasionally rather grisly; one method of supposed suicide really, really bothered me – and it wasn’t even the clown one) crime and playing detective along with the detectives.

Thirdly I love Lacey Flint. Not quite in the on/off way that DI Mark Joesbury does, but she is a really fascinating protagonist. She is likeable despite the fact she is bolshy, she is honest yet sometime all too emotion driven (which is both a good and bad thing), she is also flawed (she likes a drink and casual sex and other activities) but most interestingly is she is a mystery. Still two books into the series Bolton is revealing, or actually not revealing but teasing, us with Lacey’s back story. I think there is much more for us to find out, I won’t give it away but one thing we learn about her made me do a ‘what?’ especially as she works for the police, and as we do I think it is going to get darker and darker.

Fourth and finally, because I may just sound like a stuck record of praise, what I like so much about her novels is that yes there is a lot of crime yet there are also real issues of ‘the now’ which are dealt with in her books. In Now You See Me (which I also heartily recommend if you hadn’t guessed) we are given a Ripper copycat killer thriller, which also looks at the issues of the homeless in London and how they are treated and seen by society. In Dead Scared we have a genuinely unsettling and creepy novel which also looks at the rate of suicides in the young, some hard facts and figures are placed in the book which leaves you really thinking.

I would highly recommend Dead Scared. If you like gritty and realistic crime thrillers which will have you hooked but also look at the darker aspects of society and we human beings then you can’t go wrong with these. If the series carries on like this then Sharon is going to be up there with Tess Gerritsen, Sophie Hannah, Susan Hill and Kate Atkinson as one of my very, very favourites. I can’t wait for the next one, and as I have discovered the 4th DC Lacey Flint book is out in May I might have to dive into Like This, For Ever (the third) ridiculously soon.

P.S From now on I will always call S.J. Bolton Sharon Bolton, this edition was just under the S.J. title.

3 Comments

Filed under Bantam Press, Books of 2014, Review, S.J. Bolton, Sharon Bolton, Transworld Publishing

Other People’s Bookshelves #21 – Liz Broomfield

Hello and welcome to the latest in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves where we get to have a good old nosey through other peoples book collections. This week we get to have a gander round Liz Broomfield’s, Liz is a proof reader and editor at LibroEditing she is also an avid reader and writes about her ‘tales of the TBR’ here where you can also find out more about her own writing and books. For now though, grab a cuppa and some nicely provided biscuits and let’s find out more about Liz and her books.

I’m a bookaholic and inveterate reader – I used to read over 200 books a year and would regularly get people accusing me of not reading them “properly” – but I do! When I started running my own business while working a day job, my reading suffered, but I’ve ramped it up again now as part of using my business to support me but allow me to be flexible enough to continue to do the stuff I love. Reading keeps me sane, it’s my go-to activity when times are bad or stressful or I’m poorly. Some of my most important friendships have been made and sustained through books, and one of my favourite things to do nowadays is doing a joint read with Other Half on audiobook and me on paper book. I have a Kindle and enjoy using it on holiday, but it’s paper books for me all the way. I’m an editor, transcriber and localiser, but even though I’m immersed in the written word all day, that doesn’t stop me burying my nose in a book during breaks!

childrens booksDo you keep all the books you read on your shelves or only your favourites, does a book have to be REALLY good to end up on your shelves or is there a system like one in one out, etc?

As there are now over 2,500 books in my house, I am careful about what stays on my shelf. The basic rule: if I’m likely to re-read it, it stays. I periodically go through my shelves and either pick books to re-read to see if I will re-read all by that author in the future – if not, I clear them all off. Luckily I’m a BookCrosser, so I have safe places for the books to go.

Do you organise your shelves in a certain way? For example do you have them in alphabetical order of author, or colour coded? Do you have different bookshelves for different books (for example, I have all my read books on one shelf, crime on another and my TBR on even more shelves) or systems of separating them/spreading them out? Do you cull your bookshelves ever?

My TBR is separate (and shelved / read in rough order of acquisition). I keep fiction separate (and in a different room, by accident of how the house works) and in alphabetical order by author / chronological order of publication within author, with Persephone books separate. Non-fiction is divided into biography, travel, family, essays, Birmingham, history, quest (books like Danny Wallace and Dave Gorman’s or the one by the man who sets out be a Scrabble champion), IT, business, music, feminism, sport, animals, interior design, art, etc, all downstairs. In alphabetical order by author within those categories. Then, flanking the bathroom door, I have Nice Bindings on the left and Language and Literature on the right (Susan Hill’s Howard’s End is the on the Landing is on the landing, pleasingly) with a Terrible Pile in front of it (see pic: by the bathroom) of non-fiction that needs to go downstairs for shelving. I have a little pile of books on Iris Murdoch in my study. For culling, see above.

persephones and general fictionWhat was the first book you ever bought with your own money and does it reside on your shelves now?

No idea, but it would be something like a pony book or E.Nesbit and if I don’t have the exact book now I’ll have a similar copy (see pic of children’s books).

Are there any guilty pleasures on your bookshelves you would be embarrassed people might see, or like me do you have a hidden shelf for those somewhere else in the house?

Not really! Our handyman was surprised by the Jilly Cooper in the fiction section, but I do comfort-read light, well-written fiction and I’m not ashamed of it!

Which book on the shelves is your most prized, mine would be a collection of Conan Doyle stories my Great Uncle Derrick memorised and retold me on long walks and then gave me when I was older? Which books would you try and save if (heaven forbid) there was a fire?

I am fond of my collection of Iris Murdoch novels and a few first editions (not the early ones!) and books on Murdoch, and I fear I would save them and my notebooks for my research project on her if pushed. Luckily I have everything catalogued on LibraryThing so I know what I’ve got. I’m also fond of some Thomas Hardy Wessex Editions with nice bindings which I bought in a bookshop in Tunbridge Wells in which a friend worked, and would grab those in an emergency.

by the bathroomWhat is the first ‘grown up’, and I don’t mean in a ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ way, that you remember on your parent’s shelves or at the library, you really wanted to read? Did you ever get around to it and are they on your shelves now?

Although my parents had an extensive book collection, the grown up books I wanted to read were on my neighbour, Mary’s shelves. She was a lefty, feminist lady who grew her own veg and made her own ice cream and wine, and her bookshelves were crammed with the books such a lady would read in the 80s – Viragoes, Women’s Press, Iris Murdoch … so I was most pleased when I got to read some of those in my mid-teens, and I have copies of lots of them on my bookshelves now.

If you love a book but have borrowed the copy do you find you have to then buy the book and have it on your bookshelves or do you just buy every book you want to read?

This was a hard question to answer. If I borrow a book and really love it, I will look out for a copy in general, in charity shops and the like. If it’s a BookCrossing book, which it often is, I will keep that copy on the shelf until I find my own one.

What was the last book that you added to your bookshelves?

On a trip to London in August, I bought a copy of From the Slopes of Olympus to the Banks of the Lea, which was done by the Smoke: A London Peculiar people (one of whom is a transcription client of mine) and is a great looking book of writing about London. Then I fell into a second hand book and record shop and bought 33 Revolutions Per Minute: A History of Protest Songs which happens to be by another client of mine. Oh, and a paper copy of Virago is 40: a Celebration and The Supremes at Earl’s All-You-Can-Eat Diner by Edward Kelsey Moore. As a set of a Virago, a novel set in the mid-20th century American South, a book of travel stories and a book about music, which sums up my buying and reading taste quite nicely! I also recently bought The Space Between Things by Charlie Hill in a local Oxfam shop while searching for presents for other people. He knows a friend of mine, another friend is mentioned in the acknowledgements, and two friends taught him, so that’s Two Degrees of Birmingham in operation right there. And I picked up Bill Bryson’s At Home at the last BookCrossing meetup.

Are there any books that you wish you had on your bookshelves that you don’t currently?

I would love to have a full set of Iris Murdoch first editions.

What do you think someone perusing your shelves would think of your reading taste, or what would you like them to think?

I think they would think – and I would like them to think – that I was a left-leaning feminist who was into travel, politics and music. I would really like people to believe that YES, I HAVE READ ALL THESE BOOKS! because that is what people always, always ask!

biography

**********************************************

A huge thanks to Liz for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves. Don’t forgot if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint) in the Other People’s Book Shelves series then drop me an email to savidgereads@gmail.com with the subject Other People’s Bookshelves, thanks in advance. In the meantime… what do you think of Liz’s responses and/or any of the books that she mentioned?

11 Comments

Filed under Other People's Bookshelves

Printer’s Devil Court – Susan Hill

So I thought as it is Halloween and now here in the UK it is all dark and the witching hour approaches I would give you a second special rather apt post about ‘Printer’s Devil Court’, the latest ghost story from Susan Hill. I am sure many, many, many of you will have read ‘The Woman in Black’, which is one of my favourite ghost stories of all time, and then possibly gone on to ‘The Man In The Picture’, ‘The Mist in the Mirror’ (which I have yet to read), ‘The Small Hand’ or ‘Dolly’. Well unlike those other novellas, ‘Printer’s Devil Court’ is rather different as it is a Kindle Single, yes I have finally gone and bought an e-book… I know! More on that later, let us get to the ghostly tale.

Long Barn Books, 2013, Kindle Single, fiction, 44 pages, bought by my good self

Long Barn Books, 2013, Kindle Single, fiction, 44 pages, bought by my good self

As the short story opens we are greeted with a letter from a solicitors to the step son of the late Dr Hugh Meredith containing a manuscript he had written before he died, it is this that makes the tale of ‘Printer’s Devil Court’. It seems Hugh, who had become a country doctor had started his medical learning and career in London sharing  accommodation with James, Rafe and Walter in Mrs Ratchet’s lodgings of ‘Printer’s Devil Court’. Rafe and Walter are a rum pair, Hugh not knowing whether to trust them of not, one night however in trying to bond Rafe and Walter start to discuss doing some extracurricular experiments and research and in a bid to be more popular and liked Hugh foolishly decides to help, the consequences of which will change his life forever.

We have all seen it – the deep coma resembling death. People have been pronounced dead and taken to the mortuary or even to the undertaker and consigned to their coffin, only to have woken again.

I won’t give away any more than that small hint of what may or may not happen as I think it is well worth you going and discovering (especially on a dark night at a mere 99p) yourselves. Obviously it is a ghost story and all I will add is that it uses a rather well documented type of apparition and why such a spectre might appear.

I mentioned in a post earlier today that I love a ghost story that is short, sharp and builds on tension and chills rather than on blood and guts and gore. This is one of those kind of ghost stories, one that slowly chills you as you read and is also both slightly shocking and also quite sad too. I always think ghosts either haunt (yes I do believe in them) because they really loved somewhere or because they simply can’t rest which to me is rather sad. For me it also had elements of ‘The Woman in Black’, the initial solicitors letter, tales told of a night, the unascertainable time period which feels Victorian but could be anytime and the uneasy feeling that builds as you read on. Lovely spooky stuff.

So if you are looking for a quick frightening fix for Halloween or indeed just for the darker nights of you fancy a chilling thrill, then I would advise you to get your hands on ‘Printer’s Devil Court’. I am really hoping that Susan Hill will now release a few of these over the forthcoming months/year and then, and here I might have to cross my fingers for a very long time, we might just get a collection of Susan Hill’s ghostly tales in the years to come. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

4 Comments

Filed under Kindle Single, Long Barn Books, Review, Susan Hill

What Makes a Great Ghost Story?

I do love a good ghost story, though I have to admit I don’t read enough of them. What better time of the year, well here in the UK, is there to read them? No, not just because of the obvious fact it is Halloween today (Happy Halloween). It is autumn, my favourite season of the year as the nights are drawing in and there is a certain chill in the air. Delightful.

Of course today is Halloween and whether you celebrate it or not you simply cannot miss the ghosts, witches, monsters and gargoyles in your local shops (and no I don’t mean the other punters). Naturally for a bookish sort this will lead to thinking about supernatural reads. Or even to Ghost Huntersthe not so bookish as I mentioned the other day that it seemed the supernatural spirit (see what I did there) took over The Beard and two new spooky tales came home from the super(natural)market. I am on fire with puns today, like a witch on a stake. I am currently devouring ‘The Ghost Hunters’ by Neil Spring, all about the infamous Borley Rectory, and its very good. I am most impressed at how in such a long book he keeps the spooky suspense going as I normally like a shorter sharper shock for a ghostly tale. Which of course leads us to today’s (first, there will be another later when it goes darker) post as I was wondering what makes a truly great ghost story?

You see for me ghost stories are a tricky bunch. I am much more of a ‘chills and suspense’ kind of reader than I am a ‘blood and guts and gore’ kind of reader. As I mentioned above I tend to like a sharper ghostly tale, short stories in the main or novella’s maximum, as I find that prolonged tension doesn’t really work as well. For me. I also find ghostly tales set in modern times just don’t work. You can all too easily whip out your mobile phone or some gizmo and the fear vanishes, a good Victorian ghostly tale tends to tick all my boxes. (I actually threw a gauntlet down once that modern settings for a ghost story don’t work and guess what James Dawson was inspired to prove me wrong, this was confirmed from his own mouth!)

So to investigate what I think makes the perfect ghostly tale, whilst also using Neil Spring as a good example of a longer tale, I picked four titles from my newly restructured shelves that I thought I would dip into over this Halloween and autumn too…

Ghostly Tales

Alfred Hitchcock loved a good spooky/horror story and this collection is of some of his favourite ‘Stories Not For The Nervous’. This appeals to me immensely as I love being made to feel nervous in fiction (not in real life, in real life nerves destroy me) and I think these twenty tales and three novelettes which are included will work wonders. Next up is a selection of ‘Ghost Stories’ chosen by Susan Hill (who to me is Queen of the Ghostly Tale) which features my favourite Mr Wilkie Collins and more surprisingly, to me at least, Elizabeth Bowen and Edith Wharton. ‘The Conan Doyle Stories’ are one of my most prized possessions in the world. My Great Uncle Derrick would memorise these and tell them to me when I was very young on walking holidays, ten miles a day roughly, and Gran always said she would desperately try to keep up with us so she didn’t miss the endings. I haven’t read these for ages and should. Finally a renowned author of all things horror (and quite weird), yet new to me, H. P. Lovecraft. I have no idea if I will love these or not but it will be fun finding out.

So before I head off and start reading these dark delights, and hopefully scaring myself silly, I wondered what it was that makes the perfect ghostly tale for you all and what ghost stories you would most recommend?

20 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Your Country in Ten(ish) Books…

I don’t want to call this a challenge, or even worse a meme (do you remember when we all did those back in the day?), yet I am thinking that this could be a fun exercise if you lovely lot would like to join in. What the funk am I talking about, well you would be right to ask as once more I assume you dear reader/s get updates from me telepathically. Enough waffle Savidge, just get on with it. So as some of you will know I host/co-host a couple of book based banter podcasts; You Wrote The Book, Hear… Read This and The Readers. My normal co-host for the latter, Gav, is having some time off and so I have been joined by the lovely Thomas and seeing as Thomas is in Washington we have been looking at America and the UK, or even America vs. the UK. A fortnight ago we discussed American classics and I came up with the idea of both Thomas and myself creating two separate lists of the ten books that sum up our countries for us and ones we would give to someone if they moved to their country to ‘read up on it’. So I thought you lot might like to join in…

17451-01Initially I have to admit that I thought this would be stupidly easy. The British Isles are relatively piddly in comparison to the mammoth size of other countries. I didn’t envy Thomas and his 50 states to cover in ten books. As I thought about it more and more though I suddenly realised it was actually much more of a mission than I had supposed. For a start we had agreed to only have authors from our own counties books. So instantly one of my choices ‘The Year of Wonders’ by Geraldine Brooks was discounted, as it is set in Eyam (the only place outside London to get the Black Plague and self sacrifice itself to save others) which is just down the road from my home town in Derbyshire but she is from America. First hurdle.

Second Hurdle. I wanted the book to reflect a current vision of the British Isles, as I went through my shelves I was surprised (especially as I think I don’t like them, clearly I am a liar to myself)  how many of the British Isles books I owned were about WWI or WWII. This then meant a book like Sarah Water’s ‘The Night Watch’, which depicts war torn London, was therefore banished. However eventually I got there, though I have since realised I missed Edward Hogan’s bloody brilliant The Human Trace’ out of it, and found my eleven books – yes I cheated a tiny bit with an additional novel, but I made this game up. I wonder if Mr Monopoly ever tried that at Christmas gatherings, anyway here it is with the book title, author, place and mini summary for you…

The Room of Lost Things by Stella Duffy (London) – Set in Loughborough Junction in South London, this is the tale Robert, owner of a dry cleaners, as he says goodbye to his business and the area he knows. It also looks at the customers who come, from all walks of life, to his shop and the little things they leave behind that they forget yet which tell many a tale.

The News Where You Are by Catherine O’Flynn (Birmingham) – Frank is a local news presenter and personality. Recently he has become rather obsessed both with the people and the places of his city that others seem to forget. What about all the people with no one to care for them, who die alone and what of the bits of our cities architectural and cultural heritage are we all too quick to gloss over or tear down  and cover with something prettier?

The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (Norfolk) – Not officially set in Norfolk, that is just my guess, this is the tale of Arthur Kipp as he settles the eerie estate of Eel Marsh House and Alice Drablow. A book which wonderfully conjures the atmosphere of some of Britain’s coastal villages, and the literary heritage of a cracking good ghost story.

One Good Turn by Kate Atkinson (Edinburgh) – Possibly not the most evocative tale of Scotland but this is something I clearly need to address. This is set during Edinburgh’s famous festival and really brings the hustle and bustle of that place to life as well as being a great crime novel with a very good sense of black humour, you will laugh.

The Long Falling by Keith Ridgway (Northern Ireland) – Grace Quinn is a woman deeply unhappy living in the rural wilds of the North Irish countryside. However after a turn of events (which will make your jaw drop) she heads to Dublin and the home of her son. Ridgway looks at the differences between city life and rural life in Northern Ireland and also the differences between the generations.

The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall (The Lake District) – One of the most ‘earthy’ books I have ever read, yet if you asked me to explain the term ‘earthy’ I would find it very hard to explain. Set in the infamous heat wave of the 1970’s Spencer Little is a stranger who settles in a village in the middle of nowhere, but why? A tale of suspicious townsfolk and one which also lifts the lid on the secrets behind closed doors, especially as the heat makes people do unusual things.

The Claude Glass by Tom Bullough (Wales) – Set in the Welsh Countryside this tells the story of two very different neighbouring farms and the sons of which who make friends. One, Robin, from a hippy family the other, Andrew, from a family so impoverished he is almost feral – why does he choose to sleep with the farm dogs rather than his family?

Agatha Raisin & The Quiche of Death – M.C. Beaton (The Cotswolds) – A bit of light relief amongst these books with the no nonsense former PR Director now come amateur sleuth as she moves from London to the idyllic Cotswolds only sometimes people don’t welcome an outsider… Murder and mayhem ensue in the most wry and cosy of mysteries with a thoroughly modern Anti-Marple.

Rough Music by Patrick Gale (Cornwall) – A book that celebrates Cornwall and also a sense of everyone’s nostalgia from younger years. We follow Julian back to a fateful summer holiday in Cornwell which leads to many family secrets being revealed and how we see things differently as adults.

My Policeman by Bethan Roberts (Brighton) – Going back in time a little and looking at the place no deemed the gay capital of England, and a celebrated seaside resort, when it had a much more underground and shady sense of place. We follow Marion and Tom who are both in love with the same man and how society at the time informs their decisions and their lives.

Tony Hogan Bought Me An Ice-cream Float Before He Stole My Ma by Kerry Hudson (Great Britain all over) – My slight cheat as I think this book, which travels all over England and Scotland, really looks at English society from the 80’s which is very similar to today and the real sense of what it is to grow up working class in our country rather than the often emphasised ‘Hampstead’ view.

So there you have it, that is my list of books that encapsulate the British Isles for me. I know that Thomas is working on his list of ten books which as soon as it goes live I will link to, its is now live here. I can say I have read two of them (one a major hit, one a bit of a dud with me) and am really excited about trying all of them. In the meantime you can hear us talking about them on this fortnight’s episode of The Readers.

What do you think of the list? I know it might not be the most conventional but to me it seems the truest for me personally. Which of them have you read? Who fancies giving this a go themselves? I would so, so, so love if some of you did be you in the UK, America, Australia, Japan, Canada, India, France… anywhere, and spread the word. Basically have whirl, over a few days (it took me four) and link back to it here so I can come and have a nosey, go on, you know you want to…

66 Comments

Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness