Tag Archives: Alfred Hitchcock

The Birds – Daphne Du Maurier (A Spook-tacular Giveaway)

Get ready for a couple of book giveaways happening over the next few days on Savidge Reads because I feel like after having abandoning you on and off over the last few weeks, those of you who have carried on visiting (you hardcore bunch) deserve some thanks. The first of these is a book giveaway that is utterly befitting of the time of year and that is the newly reissued edition of Daphne Du Maurier’s collection The Birds and Other Stories. Be warned, the cover is so stunning it is X rated on the book cover porn stakes…

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… See I told you that it was stunning. I read this collection for the first time back in 2010 and, as you can see from my review here – which is old so don’t judge it too harshly, I absolutely loved it. Not only does it have the title story, which Hitchcock then immortalised in the movie, but it also spooky tales like ‘The Apple Tree’, ‘Monte Verita’ and ‘Kiss Me Again, Stranger’. So perfect for this time of year.

Speaking of the movie, this weekend I will be hosting a special screening of The Birds in Waterstones Tottenham Court Road with The Bluestocking Club and Virago, which you can find more details here though I think it is almost sold out so if you want a ticket grab it quick. Virago and I thought it might be nice to share the (creepy) birdy book love, as it is so apt for this time of year, and so they have kindly offered up THREE copies of the book to give away to Savidge Readers in the UK. So, if you would like a copy of the book then please let me know what your favourite creepy book or story is and why in the comments below. You have until the stroke of midnight on All Hallow’s Eve (so midnight GMT next Monday) to enter. Good luck, I can wait to hear all your scary suggestions…

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Filed under Daphne Du Maurier, Give Away

Other People’s Bookshelves #64 – Benjamin Myers

Hello and welcome to the latest Other People’s Bookshelves, a series of posts set to feed into the natural filthy book lust we all feel and give you a fix through other people’s books and shelves. This week we are in the beautiful landscape of West Yorkshire, where we are joining author Benjamin Myers, whose novel Beastings blew me away when I read it earlier in the year – I will be reviewing it tomorrow here on the blog, as a taster (if you are passing a bookshop today) I gave it the following quote…  “Thomas Hardy meets Cormac McCarthy, need I say more?”  Anyways, Benjamin has got the Yorkshire Tea out so let’s grab a piece of Parkin and get to know him better.

I’m an author and journalist. I’ve published poetry too, though I don’t feel qualified to call myself a poet. I live in the Upper Calder Valley in the West Yorkshire stretch of the Pennines. I’ve been writing professionally since the age of 20 – nearly half of my life. I’ve published a number of novels, the most recent of which is Beastings, and won some awards (like the Gordon Burn prize for Pig Iron). I also recently published a poetry collection entitled Heathcliff Adrift.

I tend to write stories about corruption, survival, hardship; stories about people on the fringes of society. Those who are perhaps overlooked in the majority of modern literature. I’ve had letters and emails from readers who are academics, hairdressers, travellers, students, famous writers, oil rig workers, fishermen, bare knuckle boxers – my readership is modest but very diverse. I’m interested in the way that society has shifted from the rural/agricultural, through the industrial, and onto the urban – and all the things that are being lost along the way. So landscape plays a huge part in my writing too. I like animals. I’m a sentimental bastard.

I lived in London for many years and spent a lot of my time following rock stars around the world. Sometimes I would go to America every month but the sheen wore off that a bit; I still have one foot in that world but I feel that deer are more interesting to watch than most bands. I’m happy existing away from the cut and thrust and passing fads of the literary scene. James Ellroy calls himself “the black dog of American literature”; I think I might start calling myself “the lone goat of British literature”. I currently write about the arts for publications including The Guardian, New Statesman, Mojo, New Scientist, Caught By The River and others.

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Do 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?

For a long time I lived in small flats in London, including a squat for four years, and then a tiny studio flat in Peckham for six years, in which I slept, worked, and ran a record label from. I am something of a hoarder and I filled them entirely with books and music. But now I have a regular culling. I buy a lot of second-hand books and get quite a few sent for review, so every few months I get rid of anything I may not read again, or have a duplicate of. I used to sell them but most I give to Oxfam; I think to own books and have the time to read them is a privilege so it’s good to pass them on. This week I gave away my entire Judy Blume collection to my eight year old niece; I think anyone who has read my work might be surprised I’m a big Judy fan but she taught me everything I know about bras and periods. I wrote a piece about this for The Guardian several years ago and she got in touch with me as a result, and offered to take me out for a cup of tea the next time she was in London. Those books that remain on my shelves are the ones I value – which happens to be several thousand…

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 partner Adelle Stripe is an academic and a writer, and as voracious a book-buyer as I am, so at some point our book collections merged. This, to me, is as significant a commitment as wedding vows. Once you combine book collections with someone it’s serious business… Last year we finally had some book cases made to impose some sense of order. So all the novels are in my office, only very roughly arranged alphabetically so that I have a vague idea where titles are. I also have a collection of nature and landscape books in there too. In Adelle’s office are all the non-fiction books, art books, theory, a fairly substantial poetry collection and way too many music biographies. I also have a ‘To Read’ pile by my bed, which tends to feature about fifty books at any given time. Come to think of it, I also have books on the dining room table and in the bathroom too.

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

It was possibly George’s Marvellous Medicine by Roald Dahl or maybe Goodnight Mister Tom by Michelle Magorian. Both were published in 1981 and therefore coincided with me starting school and learning to read. As with so many readers and writers of my generation, Roald Dahl was a gateway. I read everything by him as soon as I could, including all of his Tales Of The Unexpected at the age of eight or nine, and also a lot of Alfred Hitchcock short story anthologies. I still have a lot of my Dahl books. I remember My Side Of The Mountain by Jean George having a significant impact too.

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?

I don’t really view any reading as guilty – what should invoke guilt is not reading at all, which applies to about nine people out of ten in this country. I do have a special fondness for books by rogues, criminals, football hooligans, brawlers and blaggers – stories of skulduggery, violence and wrong-doing. True crime memoirs. Most of them are totally unreliable, but I’ve always believed in the age-old maxim “never let the truth get in the way of a good story”. I’d rather someone made up an exciting story about themselves than told a boring one. One of my favourite ever autobiographies is Kinski Uncut by Klaus Kinksi, which is just pure self-aggrandising fiction. A completely ridiculous read, but I appreciated the effort he put in to entertaining the reader.

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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?

There are a few writers that I collect, and can’t resist buying repeat editions of. I’ll buy anything I find by BS Johnson, Richard Brautigan, Ted Lewis, JL Carr, Sid Chaplin, Ian Niall, Gordon Burn, Knut Hamsun, Billy Childish, Charles Bukowski. Between us Adelle and I have also amassed a lot of quite hard-to-find poetry chapbooks and underground publications. Quite a lot from west coast American writers of the 60s and 70s.

I also once won a special limited edition of the cocaine smuggling memoir Snowblind by Robert Sabbag, which was published by Canongate. It is designed by Damien Hirst, made out of mirrors and features a slot dug into the text in which there is a special rolled up and numbered bank note. It is also signed by Sabbag, Hirst and Howard Marks, who wrote the introduction. So I would probably rescue that first as it is quite collectible. Some books that I may have bought for £1 in the 1990s are just hard to find now. Ask Dr Mueller: The Writings Of Cookie Mueller is a good example. Everyone should read Cookie Mueller.

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What 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?

I think perhaps it’s Laurie Lee’s As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, which I am about to re-read. That was certainly one of them. I also recall reading a lot of my sister’s books too. She is seven years older than me and bought Killing For Company by Brian Masters about the murderer Dennis Nilsen, not long after it came out. Nilsen slept with then killed and dissected many men in his flat in Muswell Hill in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I must have been about ten when I read that, and only recently realised the profound effect that it had on me. Coupled with Peter Sutcliffe’s reign of terror across the North in a similar period – a case that was unavoidable at the time – I feel I became aware at a fairly early age that man’s potential for acts for horror was quite significant. I had a lovely childhood but beyond the safety of the lower middle-class suburbs there were clearly strange, unimaginable things going on out there. Books were the portal.

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?

I buy book that I want to read. I buy books I know I will probably never read.  I buy books I feel I should read. I buy books that are recommended to me by people. I buy books I want to have because the covers are nice. I’m addicted.

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

Sunrise and The Dead Of Winter, both by Dominic Cooper. He is one of the greatest living British writers, but he has not published anything for thirty years. I am single-handedly attempting to raise awareness about his writing and kickstart his revival. He lives in the Western Isles of Scotland now and told me that he simplt “ran out of words”. He also realised that there is no living to be made from writing fiction so retrained as a watch-mender instead. He’s a really lovely and humble guy, whose writing on man’s relationship with landscape is second to none. It’s only a matter of time before he lauded by influential writers such as Robert Macfarlane. I’ve also just added Englaland a poetry collection by Steve Ely, who I rate as one of the UK’s finest poets. A wonderful book – it’s funny, violent, colourful, explosive and totally in love with language.

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

Yes: thousands. There are so many authors I have not yet read.

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

Book collections are certainly a projection of one’s ego – I have no doubt about it. We display certain books to send certain messages. Years ago a friend of mine, who was then playing guitar in The Prodigy and probably only knew me as a music journalist out and about on the London scene, once ended up staying at my old flat. In the fog of a Saturday morning hangover/comedown he pointed at all my books and said “Well, there’s obviously something else going here…”, which I took to mean “something else intellectually” beyond his initial understanding of who I was – which at the time was a drunk prick. So I suppose that’s what many of us want our book collections to project: ‘Look over here: there may be more to me than meets the eye.’ Isn’t this that, after all, the reason I’ve doing this piece for the venerable Savidge Reads….?

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A huge thanks to Benjamin for taking part in Other People’s Bookshelves, you can find his website here and also stalk him on Twitter here. If you would like to catch up with the other posts in the series of Other People’s Bookshelves have a gander here. Don’t forget if you would like to participate (and I would love you to – hint, hint, hint as without you volunteering it doesn’t happen) in the 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 Benjamin’s responses and/or any of the books and authors that he mentions?

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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?

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Filed under Book Thoughts, Random Savidgeness

Books You Dip Into…

When I was last at the hospital (and I could be back in there again as these posts are scheduled hence why I haven’t been as good at commenting back of late but I will catch up on them I promise) I picked up a rather blooming big book alongside a book that I simply couldn’t resist because of the cover, the fact it was rather old, the fact it seemed like it could be just up my street and that it could be a book I could dip in and out of…

You see dipping in and out of books seems to be becoming a hobby of mine at the moment. I am reading books, though they are tending to be short. However on top of that somehow I have ended up with this pile of five books on my bedside table which are being dipped into and out of at random moments which Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘Stories Not For The Nervous’ has now joined…

I think this picture illustrates how dipping in and out works for me from the varying titles on there. You see in my head, though I know it’s not the case, its not multiple reading as when I am reading a novel I leave the rest of them alone, hence why the pile keeps growing. As you can see, well I hope you can, there is a double whammy of Mitford going on as not only do I have Deborah Devonshire’s ‘Wait For Me!’ memoir which I am still reading a chapter of every now and again because its so delightful I am dragging it out not wanting it to end. The same thing is already happening with ‘The Letters of Nancy Mitford and Evelyn Waugh’ which I picked up from the library recently. I already know this book is one I am going to be asking for a copy all of my own for my birthday (only 22 days to go) as it’s just brilliant.

The Alfred Hitchcock short story collection, the stories aren’t by him by the way – just some of his favourites, is providing the sensationally spooky and letting me try new authors between books. Speaking of sensational writing though… You know how I love my Victorian sensationalism and the whole atmosphere of the time too; well what could be better than some real life mysterious cases and murder mysteries from the time? Nothing actually, and that is why ‘The Devil & Sherlock Holmes’ is being read a case at a time every so often (and getting a lot of library renewals) and proving to be the perfect non fiction read for me.

Finally, though it’s not the novel I am reading in one go, is ‘Cedilla’ by Adam Mars-Jones. This breaks my tradition with reading fiction books as a singular read which I only concentrate on and nothing else. Why? Well two reasons. The first is that it’s bloody massive and not that easy to carry around on any commutes that I might have. The second is that it’s the first ‘Green Carnation Prize 2011’ submission that I am reading and I am making notes (I haven’t put my specially bought Batman notepad in the picture, maybe I should have) originally it was because it was so big and then because I felt as Chair of the judges I should but now, having given it some thought, as we are reading them over a six month period this might be the best way to remember them. Or maybe the ones that stick with me should be the ones I push as my contenders for the longlist?

So that’s my ‘dipping in and out of’ selection for you all to see. Do you do this with books? Are there five or six titles bubbling between your fiction novels or do you always juggle a few books at once? Are you a one book and one book only person? Which books can you simply not dip in and out of and have to become a devotee to?

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