Tag Archives: True Crime

A London Bookshop Crawl (and Why I Bought The Books I Did)…

I mentioned at the end of my literary London post on Thursday that I was very excited as I was off on a bookshop crawl around some of London with Gavin of Gav Reads and formerly my co-host on The Readers. Well we have done it, in fact we did it for most of Friday afternoon and I thought I would share it all with you because come on, let’s face it, we all love going on a really good bookshop. Even the rain in North West and Central London couldn’t put Gav and I off our strides (well once we found a shop selling umbrella’s) as we both took our wallets and some gift cards out for a battering…

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Now what the rain did put off was me taking any actual pictures of the outside of the bookshops because it was honestly pretty grey, bleak and a little bit dire outside, which only made these book havens all the better, so I didn’t take any pictures of them from the front so fingers crossed I can bring them all to life. I didn’t take any pictures inside either as I always think people will think I am taking a picture with my phone to go and buy it on some evil website cheaper, which is frankly unforgivable. Anyway…

First up was Foyles flagship store on Charing Cross Road where I had a meeting before and so seemed like the best meeting point. If you haven’t been to Foyles flagship store before you must, it is six stories of books, books and more books from childrens on the lower ground to textbooks on the fourth and everything in between, from fiction to music, magazines to plays, the list is endless. You can see it all here. Admittedly Gav and I had been in the day before and I had spotted my first purchase in advance, Scholastique Mukasonga’s Our Lady of the Nile which is currently on the The International Dublin Literary Award shortlist and stood out a mile because I had never heard of it before, so naturally it was the one I most wanted to read and had to be mine…

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We then headed in the mild drizzle to the tube as I had planned that we would head over to Notting Hill to three bookshops which I had never visited before but had heard all sorts of marvellous things about. The first was Book and Kitchen on All Saints Road which Jen Campbell has mentioned quite a few times on her vlog. We arrived, after having found a belated umbrella shop) rather like drowned rats but were instantly made to feel welcome by the staff and encouraged to get downstairs and get a coffee, in the really homely cafe, to shelter from the rain. We were both advised on specialist coffee’s depending on our caffeine tastes/requirements (Gav’s wanted something like rocket fuel, my request was more mild) before being given a guide that downstairs was children’s, young adult, travel, non fiction, coffee, food and crockery and upstairs was fiction, all of it has the wonderful feeling of being in someones home and being allowed to peruse their shelves and then buy one or two of their favourite books, it’s really lovely. We both left with grins on our faces and a book each in our hand’s. Gavin bought Sarah Ladipo Manyika’s Like A Mule Bringing Ice Cream To The Sun from newly established Cassava Republic Press which was recommended to us both highly and with such enthusiasm I nearly bought one too, as I had it at home already I went for The Hiding Place by Trezza Azzopardi…

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This is a book I have been hankering after for a while as I am going away with my friends Polly, Michelle and Dom to Cardiff next month for a weekend away and we like to read a book together set in or with links to where we are. The Hiding Place  tells the story of the six daughters of a Maltese family growing up in Cardiff through the eyes of the youngest, Dolores. Sounds really interesting and I had not yet got my copy so fate stepped in.

After a fond farewell from all the staff at Book and Kitchen we headed to Lutyens & Rubinstein on Kensington Park Road which is both a book shop and a literary agency in one building, Gav and I were secretly hoping to get scouted. As soon as I walked through the door I felt like I was back in America as the store has that feel of culture curated high fashion literature, if that makes any sense. What I loved here was that once you go down into the ground floor all the paperbacks there are a mixture of fiction and non fiction. Initially this threw me slightly but I was won over by the end as because it is a smallish collection of books (its a few thousand I am guessing so not that small) I was more engaged in the non fiction books than I might be elsewhere, which is why I left with a book that (peer pressure alert) Kim has reviewed on Reading Matters, Helen Garner’s This House of Grief which is a tale of a murder trial. I have a small grim fascination for true crime but I like it to be really well written and having read Helen Garner’s novel The Spare Room I have no doubt this is going to blow my socks off.

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We then took a small tour of Holland Park as we headed to Daunts, erm, Holland Park branch. I am a fan of Daunts and have visited the Marylebone store many a time, where you can find fiction by country as well as by author, which is rather exciting. There is the same sort of feel in Holland Park though it is more non fiction by country and fiction in author order. I already had my mind set on a few possibilities as I wanted to get a Daunts Books book in Daunts Books. Sounds confusing but really it is just me taking a long winded approach to saying they publish their own books. I mulled a few options before settling on K J Orr’s short story collection Light Box which I have been seeing lots of pictures of on social media, which as we all know is one of the best places to get a recommendation to head to a book store to buy.

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By this point we were quite hungry from all the perusing and headed back to town for a pizza and then a wander around Waterstones Piccadilly, because we both had Waterstones gift cards which were burning holes in our pockets. Thank you to my lovely team at work, who got me some vouchers for my birthday, I came away with these five gems.

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Waterstone’s Piccadilly is probably has one of my favourite laid out fiction sections as they have it by genre and by author but also by imprints and so you can find some wonderful indie imprints shelve or on display. This is why I left with the Penguin Modern Classic edition of François Mauriac’s Thérèse Desqueyroux, which I don’t even mind having a film cover because its a stunner; the Australian classic and newly reissued The Man Who Loved Children, by Christina Stead which is from a new imprint Apollo (part of Head of Zeus) as well as Will Eaves new book The Inevitable Gift Shop from indie imprint CB editions. I hadn’t heard of the Mauriac, the cover won me then the dark blurb sealed the deal. I saw Stead’s novel (which is HUGE) discussed on The ABC Book Club ages ago and it divided the panel so much I have been meaning to get it since and this edition is STUNNING. Will Eaves is my favourite author that I have never read. We all have those don’t we an author we just know we will love for some gut/supernatural/bizzare/random reason.

I also bought two books by authors I have read and loved. Beryl Bainbridge I discovered a while back and have read many books of, I have always wanted to read Harriet Said as it is set down the road from me in Formby and apparently there is frolicking in the sand dunes. Graham Swift is new to me after reading the wonderful, wonderful, wonderful Mothering Sunday earlier this year. There was a Swift display and Shuttlecock appealed because it deals with the ‘dead crime unit’ which won me over the moment I read it. So I managed quite a haul there.

This was when Gav and I said goodbye as he had a train to run for. I headed off to catch my bus  after a marvelous day and as I did realised I hadn’t bought Catherine Hall a thank you card for letting me stay, so I had to get one and which shop is my bus stop outside… Foyles. Somehow as I was in stationery I remembered I wanted to get Ta-Nehisi Coates Between the World and Me, a book written as a letter to the author’s teenaged son about the feelings, symbolism, and realities associated with being black in the United States. Coates recapitulates the American history of violence against black people and the incommensurate policing of black youth. I saw this all over the place in the States and like a dafty didn’t buy it so made sure I went and found it, as I did I passed another apt book I just couldn’t help getting too…

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Bookshelf by Lydia Pyne, part of the Object Lessons series from Bloomsbury. How could I not take a book about bookshelves of the bookshelf to take home to mine, all about bookshelves? It would have been a crime not to and don’t you pretend otherwise. I then hurried away from town and anywhere too close to anymore stores, feeling very happy with my loot.

What do you make of the books I bought and the reasons for buying them? What makes you buy a book? Which books have you bought recently AND have you read any of my purchases and if so what did you make of them? I would love to know answers to all those questions. Right, best do some reading…

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Filed under Book Spree, Book Thoughts, Bookshop Crawl, Random Savidgeness

I Am Looking For A Criminally Good Serial…

No, not quite the kind of book serial you might be thinking! Along with most of the world, well ok maybe not the world, I have become a huge, huge addict to the Serial podcast. For those of you who don’t know what Serial is, it is is a podcast where a nonfiction story unfolds week by week, over the course of a season. This season, or series as we like to say on this side of the water, we have been following journalist Sarah Koenig as she looks at the case of the murder of Hae Min Lee who disappeared  on January the 13th 1999 and whose body was found a month later, her ex boyfriend Adnan Syed was then arrested, tried and convited for her murder. Many people don’t think he did it and the case didn’t add up, Sarah investigates.

When I first heard the buzz, and indeed for the first episode or two, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Firstly I wasn’t sure that I liked the idea of someone making a show (and potentially money) out of someone’s murder. Secondly, could it really become a story I was genuinely going to get intrigued by? Well, I have to say that I think the case is handled really well, obviously some of it is upsetting yet the Serial team don’t treat the whole case as mere sensationalism and actually hearing from the people who the case affected gives it both an emotional impact and poignancy. I have also become completely hooked, I cannot work out what the truth is – without any spoilers I will simply say I am at the point where we are working out what the deal about Jay is.

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So I was thinking, especially as it looks like the first season will be coming to a close in the next week or so, what books out there might have the same effect on me as Serial? I imagine that many people will be looking at their screens and saying ‘erm, pick up a crime series Simon’ and yes there is that option, yet as someone who reads possibly too many that I can’t always keep up crime series I do love them but Serial does something a little bit extra. You see as you listen along you are given snippets of evidence, testimony, etc of a case that has already happened that you feel you are investigating with Sarah. Plus it is a real case. So I am wondering if I should be turning to (not literally) some true crime myself? I am sure there are lots of Serial fans who feel the same, and I have a limited range of true crime I can recommend (mainly Victorian murders) so I wondered what you would all recommend? Oh and if you too area Serial fan let me know, though no spoilers obvs.

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A Book Exchange is No True Crime

I don’t think that the whole time I was in London I ever came across a book exchange. In fact I would sometimes go to the Southbank and wander hopefully to find one of those famous book crossing exchanges, all to no avail. I am sure there were some book exchanges somewhere I just never seemed to find them. So imagine my slight glee when I was doing some Christmas shopping a few weeks a go and had just rested my weary legs in a café and saw this sign…

Yes, a book exchange not too many miles away! Naturally I had to go and scour the shelves which were brimming and there were two titles that I instantly wanted, yet I didn’t feel without bringing two books back myself I could actually take them. So I had to go back the very next day, well how could I wait, with a few books (it was actually four) that I could leave to find lovely new homes and scooped up two books that looked a little bit different but right up my street.

‘Victorian Murderesses: A True History of Thirteen Respectable French & English Women Accused of Unspeakable Crimes’ by Mary S Hartman possibly has the most impressively long title I have seen for quite some time and with my obsession with all things Victorian this should be a great read. More of a risk/rogue choice however is ‘A Death in Belmont’ by Sebastian Junger which is also none fiction and also based on true crimes, in this case The Boston Strangler, maybe I will be heading for lots of true crime reading in 2011?

Do you have a local book exchange? Have you ever come across a book crossing novel anywhere and which book was it? Any true crime novels I should hunt down as it now seems that I am subconsciously craving it!?!

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