Tag Archives: Sue Johnston

It Looks Like I Have a Crime to Solve…

Today while I was sat at my desk work, work, working away, I had a random text message from my neighbour. She was rather worried as she has signed for something for Sumci Salidge at our address and it looked a bit dodgy as it was covered in evidence tape. My mind went into overdrive. Firstly I wondered if I had done anything really naughty that the law could be after me for. Then I wondered if my divorce papers were finally here. Then I started thinking of the movie Seven and that scene with that  box. I then had a meeting and forgot about it until I got home.

Indeed it was a box that was covered in evidence tape which said ‘Do Not Open’, which of course made me want to open it…

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So I did…

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Well, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw all the evidence bags – I was in my element! I should here explain that my dream job, had I finished my A-Levels and gone to university after, would have been to become a Criminal Psychologist or Profiler. You know like Sue Johnston in Waking The Dead, the person who they call in when they want to work out who the killer might be, what their personality, predilections and motives might be. I would have found it fascinating. (Instead I have ended up working in events and business tourism with a sprinkling of booky delight.) So to get this box was just too much.

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There is dust and a brush for finger printing, a blue light torch for looking for blood stains (see I know what I am talking about), a magnifying glass, seven cents, a USB stick and various files and clues. This is all for the sampler of the new novel Flesh and Blood by Patricia Cornwell, which as you read you must refer to the numbered evidence and make sense of it all. So actually being a detective as you go, amazing. I cannot wait. I haven’t started yet, but plan on giving it a whirl over the weekend. I will report back in the next week or so…

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Boxing Day Books (The Savidge Reads Advent Winners)

Hello one and all, I do hope you have a lovely Christmas Day? Thank you for your festive wishes. Mine was very nice; I had goose for the first time and found it rather delicious. I have also been playing card games (mainly spite and malice, which my thirteen year old sister has been teaching me), scrabble, drinking rather a lot and worn my party hat all day long. Oh and I had presents, no books but I got a really funky set of psychedelic proper chef knives for my new pad (I am moving at the end of Jan, oh the books are going to have to be sorted), lots of Jelly Belly – too many is never enough and my favourite present so far has been three pairs of Mr Men lounge pants (Messy, Tickle and Bump) so there was one present with a literary twist. I have been reading but not as much as I would have expected, that is normally left for today, Boxing Day, my favourite Christmas Day.

There is something about Boxing Day that I have always found rather joyous, and not just the left-over’s from Christmas dinner which normally end up in a sandwich (though my Mum is currently off making pastry for a pie this year) and the endless supply of crisps and chocolates that we all buy for Xmas day and then don’t eat because we are too full. I love the fact it’s a delightfully lazy day, well at Savidge Christmas’s it is, we generally spend most of the day lounging around reading before a big TV fest in evening (Miranda Hart going trekking with Bear Grylls will be my Christmas TV highlight) so I am looking forward to that, I have already recorded an episode of The Readers so I feel I can now slob – that was my hard work of the day, now it’s time for my good deed of the day. It’s time for present giving…

Boxing Day can be another day of presents as the family you didn’t see might pop round, we won’t be seeing any other family members so today I have plucked all the Savidge Reads Advent Calendar winners from a random number generator and here are the winners…

Day 1; The Complete Nancy Mitford – Reading With Tea
Day 2; Burned by Thomas Enger – Harriet and Ellen B
Day 3; Smutt by Alan Bennett & Half Blood Blues by Esi Edugyan – Steel Reader and Gaskella
Day 4; Godless Boys by Naomi Wood & Snowdrops by A.D. Miller – Louise and Dog Ear
Day 5; The Great British Bake Off Book – Dovegreyreader and Janet D and Novel Insights
Day 6; Jennifer Egan books – TBA
Day 7; The Proof of Love by Catherine Hall – Rhonda Reads and Simon Saunders and Belinda
Day 8; Shes Leaving Home by Joan Bakewell  – Gaskella and Mystica
Day 9; Sophie Hannah’s series – Emma
Day 10; In Other Worlds by Margaret Atwood & China Mieville books – Louise and Ragamuffinreader
Day 11; Sue Johnston autobiography – Sue and Simon T and Ann P
Day 12; Wait for Me by Deborah Devonshire – Janet D and Dominic
Day 13; Selected Agatha Raisin books – Kirsten and Victoria
Day 14; The Beautiful Indifference by Sarah Hall – Janet D and Ann P
Day 15; When God Was A Rabbit by Sarah Winman – Femke and Ruthiella and Alex and Joanne In Canada
Day 16; all David Nicholls novels – Sue
Day 17; Patricia Duncker novels – Gaskella
Day 18; A Tiny Bit Marvellous by Dawn French – Ann P and Gabrielle Kimm
Day 19; all the Yrsa Siguardardottir novels – Kimbofo
Day 20; Frozen Planet & White Heat by MJ McGrath – Emma and Mystica
Day 21; A Novel Bookstore by Laurence Cosse & The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey – Nose in a Book and Novel Katie
Day 22; The Hunger Trace by Edward Hogan – Jenni and Ann P and Femke
Day 23; Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City series  – David
Day 24; Tess Gerritsen’s Rizzoli and Isles series – Harriet

Merry Christmas to both those of you who won (and some of you won a few times) and those who didn’t. If you did email me savidgereads@gmail.com with the book/s you have won in the subject and your address and I will make sure these are sent out in the first week of January. Right, I am off to go and pick at some stuffing before curling up with my book. Hope you are all having a wonderful time, what did you get for Xmas?

Oh and a MASSIVE thank you to the publishers who got involved: Penguin, Faber and Faber, Profile Books, Hodder, Picador, Atlantic, Serpents Tail, Ebury, Corsair, Constable and Robinson, Portobello, Little Brown, Virago, John Murray, Headline, Bloomsbury, Europa Editions, Mantle, Macmillan, Simon and Schuster & Transworld

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Sue Johnston on Sunday – The Savidge Reads Advent Calendar Day 11

I think one of my all time highlights of the year was getting to meet one of my icons and I still cannot quite believe I did. I remember seeing that Sue Johnston was coming to Waterstones Deansgate to discuss her memoir and my instant thoughts were ‘she has a memoir… and she is coming here woohoo’. This was then followed by ‘oh I wish I could meet her, and imagine if I could interview her!’ I dropped large hints with Waterstones about this but someone else was doing it… and then they pulled out, and in I came, hoorah.

That's my very nervous face...

Well after being so nervous I didn’t think I would be able to talk (she has been a constant institution in some of my very favourite shows like Brookside, back in the 80’s, and then in Waking the Dead, Jam and Jerusalem and The Royale Family) we started chatting away over a glass or three of wine before we went out to talk in front of her fans (and my Gran and aunty)  and she was wonderful. She was really friendly, very funny, warm, interested in everything and anything and she LOVES books so we chatted about those a lot happy to chat about anything just like I had hoped.

The event was great and I could have talked to her for hours and hours more. We had a very funny moment of both standing and sitting and sitting and standing alternately which made us look like a comedy double act and the whole thing was over far too soon. BUT we might be working on something bookish together next year if all goes well and I pitch it right, but my lips are sealed for now.

You will have seen ‘Things I Couldn’t Tell My Mother’ was one of my most enjoyable reads of the year, and I am always rather sceptical about autobiographies, its very funny but also heartbreakingly sad and so of course I want to share it with you. So if you would like to be in with a chance of winning one of three copies, anywhere in the world then simply tell me, what your favourite autobiography you have read is ever and why. You have until 11am GMT on the 14th of December 2011. Good luck!

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No Books, Lots of TV… Blimey I Must Be Feeling Ropey, But I Am Thinking About Books on TV

I’ve not been feeling quite myself (tired, full of cold, drained, more tired) for the last few days and today its culminated in my reading going out of the window. I have been rather glued to the television, well television on demand if I am honest, and its been kind of lovely, though its made me think why oh why are there no good TV shows about books on every week, or fortnight, or something… But before I go off on that what on earth have I been watching?

Well when I am feeling a bit ropey there are two sorts of TV that I like. One such thing is reality TV, no I am not talking about Celebrity Big Brother (which I can inform you I have barely seen any of, in fact I haven’t been in the slightest interested this year) I am talking about shows with real British people doing terribly British things. This has included catching up with the whole of ‘Village SOS’, a show hosted by Sarah Beeny (always pregnant, quite busty who you wish was your mate) where a city saves itself, or its high street and tries to reboost itself and not become a ghost town. Fab. Though not quite as fabulous as ‘The Great British Bake Off’ which I am now utterly hooked on and cant wait for the next episode on Tuesday. It’s basically the comedy duo Mel Giedroyc and Sue Perkins (who loves a book) hosting a show where Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood judge average joe’s who have a passion for baking, whilst telling us the history of baking, and who have a bake off with three tests (we have so far had fairy cakes, pastry and bread) and if you loose you are off. So simple, so brilliant.

The other thing I have been in the mood for is some good murder on the telly box and so I am watching ‘Waking The Dead’ from the beginning. This might also have something to do with interviewing Sue Johnston on Tuesday (I must watch the first episode of ‘Brookside’ too) and ooh its good. I do love that show, how could the BBC cut it? Anyway this then led me to ‘Sue Johnston’s Shangri La’ where she goes in search of the world she read in the book ‘Lost Horizon’ by James Jilton, which I had never heard of, she read about with her mum as a child. Have any of you read that?

Looking on all the different ‘TV on demand’ channels I was really distressed, though it should come as no surprise, that there are no TV shows featuring books on at the moment in the UK. Not even the blinking TV Book Club is on. This needs addressing. I am now wondering how on earth you suggest a TV show to a TV channel, as I have an idea… and in involves Sue Perkins and Sue Johnston (who don’t know it yet but who both love books).

What would be your very ideal TV show about books? Who would you want presenting it, a celebrity or a (possibly unknown, ha) book lover? Who would you like to see on it and what books? A mix of old and new? Features on the book world or just peoples thoughts on specific books? Let me know. Time for ‘Dr. Who’ shortly, so must dash… yes that’s right MORE telly! Are you watching anything good at the moment?

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Things I Couldn’t Tell My Mother – Sue Johnston

To say that I was looking forward to reading Sue Johnston’s memoir ‘Things I Couldn’t Tell My Mother’ when I heard it was coming out would be something of an understatement. I can still remember her on the telly in the early days of my childhood as Sheila Grant in Brookside, before being in The Royale Family, Jam and Jerusalem and my very favourite TV show Waking the Dead. This was always going to be a must read book for me (and this was before I knew I was going to be in conversation with her at Waterstones next Tuesday, yikes).

Ebury Press, hardback, 2011, non fiction, 341 pages, kindly sent by the publishers

What I think I was really expecting from Sue Johnston’s autobiography were that it would be funny in parts, have some insights into the TV worlds of Brookie, The Royales, being Grace in Waking the Dead and from the title ‘Things I Couldn’t Tell My Mother’ I hazarded a guess that either Sue had some skeletons in her cupboard or her relationship with her mother might be a fraught one. That would easily have been enough, indeed it is the later that makes up a lot of this book, and really if I was to say Sue’s book is about anything then it would really be about the difficult relationship they shared. This was much more interesting than any gossip of any TV set could have in store.

There are of course the tales of the television work that Sue has done, and I will admit I wanted a little more than the snippets we got, but there is a huge amount of other stuff in store for anyone picking up this book, and I don’t just mean the stories of her mother. Sue struggled to find what she wanted to do after her childhood, which sounds wonderful, and after a stint at the Tax Office found herself hanging out at The Cavern in Liverpool with The Beatles and working for Brian Epstein’s company where she discovered ‘The Hippy Hippy Shake’. We look at her two marriages, being a single working mother, and the struggles that could bring, as well as her political involvement with the Labour Party and how she protested and rallied for the miners and gay rights. Sue Johnston is a woman with a lot more going on than just being a wonderful actress who has become a national treasure.

The heart of Sue’s thoughts and memories are really those of her mother. A woman who whilst making her only child have a good, happy, secure childhood could never show her affection or full approval and it’s this which really comes to life in the pages and almost haunts the book with its echoes throughout. What Sue Johnston doesn’t do is make all this maudlin, yes there is some regret and anger on occasion, on the whole where possible you do feel Sue is looking at life with a glass half full attitude, there is a certain wryness here amongst the serious stuff.

“It doesn’t matter, though, as one of my most magical moments in childhood was to do with my grandfather and his steam train – Flying Scotsman or no Flying Scotsman. My mother and I were standing on the platform at Eccleston Park station waiting to catch the train to Liverpool. A steam train soon approached and the train driver was hanging from his cab, whistling to my mother. ‘Margaret!’, he shouted. My mother gave him a disdainful look. Who was this uncouth man hollering at her at the train station?
  ‘Take no notice, Susan,’ she said, taking my shoulders and positioning me away from the train. As the engine came to a stop we both realised it was my grandfather. My mother quickly changed her tune.
  ‘Hello!’ she said, suddenly all smiles to her dad. ‘I was wondering who was shouting at us. Come along, Susan.’”

I was a fan of Sue Johnston before I read ‘Things I Couldn’t Tell My Mother’, I am even more of a fan now that I have finished the book. I loved the books honesty and clarity I think the only thing is that I would have liked more of it. I felt like there was so much that Sue had to say, and so many other interesting stories in the background, it almost didn’t all fit in the book and could have gone on much longer, I could easily have read another few hundred pages.

I am certainly left looking forward to being ‘in conversation’ with her in a few days (September the 6th, 7pm, Manchester Deansgate) as I think there is so much to possibly talk about, and I have a feeling that Sue is a woman after my own heart especially after reading this rather bookish paragraph.

“I love books, and not just reading them, I love owning them, some might say hoarding them – I can never throw a book away and always feel it has to go to a good home or stay on my shelf. In fact my mother once commented to my friend Margot, ‘Our Susan would rather read a book than clean her house,’ as if this was the ultimate besmirchment of my character.”

Maybe Sue is just the person I need to talk to about bringing something like ‘The First Tuesday Book Club’ to British shores. We will see. Read ‘Things I Couldn’t Tell My Mother’ it’s a great memoir from one of Britain’s best loved, and most down to earth, actors (I nearly said actresses there, that wouldn’t do) and don’t be surprised if you find yourself shedding a few tears along the way, there’s much laughter too.

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August’s Incomings…

As always if you don’t like posts about books are incoming then look away now, there is another post coming later today about my favourite memoir of the year, if not in quite some time. But now to the post in hand and the books which have come in during the last month. I hope you will note it’s a much slimmer selection than in previous months.

Of course August is Man Booker month and so a few of those came in through the door…

I have to say that I was really excited about the longlist this year when it was announced, but from dipping in and out of some of them I am beginning to simply not get it. There are six books I think could make a rather strong short list (more about that next week) but in the main I am a little bit non-plussed after trying and failing with a few of them. I am thinking it might be time to introduce a new series of posts on ‘Books I Didn’t Finish and Why’ but maybe with a snazzier title.

So moving on from Booker books what else has popped in from the publishers? Well you will be shocked to learn that I can fit my hardbacks, trades and paperbacks in one photo, that’s quite a breakthrough. I haven’t had as many unsolicited books and those I have had have been much more my cup of tea. Hoorah! So here they are…

  • Good Offices by Evelio Rosero – unsolicited copy, winner of the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize sounds a little bit different and is short so could be worth a read.
  • Ragnarok by A.S. Byatt – I didn’t think I would try another Byatt, I find her a little full of herself in her writing and in person (oops), but books should be about good stories and this looks a treat as its one of the Canongate Myth retelling series.
  • The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai – A book about a librarian who kidnaps and is kidnapped by one of the children who comes to the library. I am half way through this and I think it is wonderful so far. I can’t wait to tell you more.
  • Blow On A Dead Man’s Embers by Mari Strachan – I really liked her first novel ‘The Earth Hums in B Flat’ so I begged for this one. When it arrived my aunty, who is a whatsit for a title, asked if it was about something rude. I hadn’t thought of it but now I keep giggling when I see the book. Oh dear.
  • The Gendarme by Mark Mustian – You know when you see a book in Waterstones and just love the cover but aren’t sure it would be quite your cup of tea, you keep seeing it and you keep being torn. Well, now I have it and am expecting quite a lot.
  • Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? by Jeanette Winterson – I thought Winterson’s debut novel ‘Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit’ was wonderful, I am puzzled by the author though. On TV I have seen her be delightful or prickly, and I know she had a phase of hating being labelled as an LGBT author, and yet now we have a very LGBT book. Should be interesting, but puzzling too.
  • The Book Lover’s Tale by Ivo Stourton – I admit I asked for this solely based on the title.
  • The Blue Book by A.L. Kennedy – This is probably going to be read this weekend. It’s a book about psychic’s on a cruise ship and just sounds right up my street. I have struggled with Kennedy before so am hoping this is the way in. It’s also a beautiful book to look at.
  • The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan – I have wanted to read this since Marieke Hardy called it a ‘cock forest’ on The First Tuesday Book Club, she didn’t like it and her reaction just made me want to read it even more.
  • The Silent Girl by Tess Gerritsen – I love Tess’ books so there is no way I couldn’t have this. Its signed too. Hoorah.
  • 666 Charing Cross Road by Paul Magrs – A new series starts… could be very exciting.
  • Twenty Six by Jonathan Kemp – Twenty six (very) short stories from one of last years Green Carnation short listed authors. Looking forward to this one.
  • Into The Darkest Corner by Elizabeth Haynes – Kevin from Canada mentioned this on the Man Booker forums as a brilliant crime and had a very nice review of it too. It’s not his genre so if its got non crime fans raving then I need to give it a whirl.
  • Something Was There edited by Kate Pullinger – unsolicited copy, Asham Award Winning shost stories, perfect for the autumnal nights which seem to have come early this year.
  • The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno by Ellen Bryson – unsolicited copy, a book about sideshow freaks and the love story between the Human Skeleton and the Bearded Lady, erm yes please (I have to say if I had seen the drab cover in a shop though I wouldn’t have picked this up, Picador are normally ace at covers, what’s this about?).
  • The Shadows in the Street by Susan Hill – unsolicited copy, had the hardback so this reminded me a read was due, especially seeing as the next one ‘The Betrayal of Trust’ is out in October, which I will of course really be desperate to read.
  • Electricity & The Man Without by Ray Robinson – I thought ‘Forgetting Zoe’ was brilliant and so I am really looking forward to reading his back catalogue.

There was a second hand spree this month so I can’t say I have been that good in terms of treats. However I have had a lovely loan and two lovely gifts too.

I did a call out to see if any of you had Sue Johnston’s first autobiography as I am ‘in conversation’ with her next Tuesday at Waterstones Deansgate (a review of her stunning autobiography out today will be up this afternoon) and the forementioned Paul Magrs had a copy of ‘Hold onto the Messy Times’ which he has kindly loaned me. I don’t know why I didn’t ask Paul first, he has lots of the TV books from the 1980’s so it should have been an instant thought. Ruth from my book group has kindly given me her latest finished read which is ‘The Fallen Leaves’ a Wilkie Collins book I don’t own. Naturally I was thrilled. And finally, all the way from the USA, Rachel of Booksnob sent me ‘Bedilla’ by Vera Caspary which she read and adored and with a tagline ‘she seduces men… but does she kill them? A mystery bout the wickedest woman who ever loved’ knew would be right up my street. Thrilled, again.

A more compact month, but a month filled with gems I think you will agree. What have you had through the post/from the library/bought from the shops lately? Which of these have you read or are looking forward to reading and which would you like to see reviewed on Savidge Reads in the near future?

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An Evening With Sue Johnston (and Savidge Reads)…

I have been bursting to tell you all about this for ages yet it wasn’t all finalised and definite until yesterday lunchtime and so I can’t hold it in anymore. You know how much I love the TV show ‘Waking The Dead’, how much I love ‘The Royale Family’ and the delights of crazy ladies from the W.W.I in ‘Jam & Jerusalem’ I am sure, in fact I am certain I have mentioned these several times on Savidge Reads. You might not know I used to be a huge fan of Brookside. What do all these have in common and what on earth do they have to do with books? Well Sue Johnston, a national treasure frankly who has a memoir/autobiography ‘Things I Couldn’t Tell My Mother’ out next week, and who is coming to Waterstone’s Deansgate on September the 6th AND who is in conversation there with… me! Eek!

I am so excited I could actually burst (though I am also so nervous already it’s untrue). I haven’t read the book yet (it’s in the post) but already I have lots and lots and lots of things I want to ask her about. I couldn’t believe it when Waterstones asked me to do it, I knew she was coming and had dropped a massive hint I will admit, but they have and it’s happening. I have been a fan of Sue’s for years and years so it’s a big deal for me, I only hope I don’t turn into a fan boy. I also really want to get my hands on a copy of ‘Hold On To The Messy Times’ which is a ‘collection of reminisces’ of hers that came out in 1989, none of you happen to have a copy do you?

If you fancy coming along then do. It’s from 7pm and tickets can be bought in store, if you have a Waterstones Card (and let’s face it if you love books why on earth wouldn’t you) then you get a discount. It’s already looking like a sell out event. Hope to see some of you there, it should be ace.

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