Wednesday, 8 September 2021

One Man's Opinion: CONVERSATIONS WITH FRIENDS by SALLY ROONEY



With her new book (released yesterday) on the way, I decided I'd revisit Sally Rooney's first two novels to get me in the mood. Without doubt, they have left me wanting more and I'm sure that Beautiful World Where Are You will be another terrific read to delight in. 

Conversations With Friends essentially follows the affair of a young writer and a handsome actor in Dublin. It's a perfectly simple idea, yet the twists and turns of their interactions bring levels of tension and engagement that make the story feel very real.

Frances is our lens and through her we explore the difficulties and wonders of being in love. I found the level of exploration of her emotions and thoughts to be so involving that Rooney's writing became more than words, as if Frances's consciousness had somehow become intertwined with my own. I have no real understanding of how that was achieved and can only hope that however Rooney created the depth and strength of the characters, some of those skills will filter by osmosis into my own work. At times, it's as if we can see through an skin and into her inner workings and at others like we're wearing that skin on top of (or perhaps instead of) our own. 

Perhaps what allowed the bond between Frances and my reader self to grow was the sense of common experience. It's so easy to identify with elements of the frailty and lack of confidence that we surely must all feel or have felt when growing up. It's magnified because the imagery and choice of phrase is so skillfully handled. There are poetic lines as well as cold and abrupt jolts that maximise the resonance and turbulence of the tale; she'd be a wonderful writer of noir should she ever want to reach a little further in that direction, which may not take such as big a step as you might think.   

The ending was wonderful and I was totally conflicted by what happened. It's a cracker that had me shouting at the pages and pulling faces at walls while I came to terms with it. 

It's a great read and I was really pleased to have Normal People as my next in line so that I could step back into a similar world as quickly as possible. 

A+

Saturday, 21 August 2021

One Man's Opinion: A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD by JENNIFER EGAN

 


Jennifer Egan is a writer whose work I've come to admire. Though I seem to have read her books in reverse order, that feels rather fitting for this title.

Good Squad is a difficult piece to describe. In my mind, it's like a collage of tissue-paper circles that appear to have been placed at random onto a canvas so that they overlap and interlink to form a captivating image of swirls and colours. Upon closer examination, it transpires that they've all been carefully positioned in such a way that the visual effect is maximised and the emotional responses compounded.

There are thirteen stories, each superbly rounded and with an intensity that would grace any anthology were they to be included as individual tales. They are linked together in clever ways, using characters and time periods to make them one powerful whole. 

I'm sure each reader will highlight their own particular interest as being core to proceedings. For me, it helped, initially, that the theme of the music industry was key, more so that it featured the trials and tribulations of moving on from the punk era into a world where those early rebellious cries became inevitably entangled with the world of commercialism. There are two characters who are at the heart of the collection and maintain the pulse, but there's a fantastically varied supporting cast who bring the pair to life.

The variety of stories is quite something and demonstrate that the mind of the author is vivid, inventive and unusual. Things that appear to appear simple on the surface emerge through the story-telling to be deep, moving and sometimes bizarre. 

In essence, for me this is all about journeys through life and the way tangents, relationships, failures and successes form the way people develop. As time goes on, older experiences become paler and less powerful, yet they continue to hold onto personality and decision making and are ever-influential in the present and future. Tragedies, mishaps, moments of madness, insight and good fortune are all in the melting pot and there isn't anyone out there who doesn't have a web of interaction and memory to explore.

Breaking down the stories to give a sense of what they're about would be a fruitless task. Perhaps it would be better to mention that I was fascinated by it all and there were moments in there where the kicks were hard, whether they be of joy, humour, pain or sadness.

Such a work should have been challenging for me given that my memory is poor and that names and places are problematic for me. The issue was removed for me relatively painlessly by gentle nudges and reminders that allowed me to find my place in a way that few could pull off. These hooks were never clumsy or obvious and I was grateful for that.  

It's not a novel (or at least, I don't think it is), yet it still needed an ending to leave me feeling totally satisfied. I've no idea how she pulled it off, but she did. Loose ends weren't exactly tied up, but everything fell into place. 

I loved the variety and the depth and imagine you will, too. I read this a couple of months ago and still hear the echoes every now and then. 

Captivating. 

 


Wednesday, 18 August 2021

Crediting the Editing

I've just finished working through the edits for my next novel, the third in the Rat Pack series which will be published by Down&Out Books later this year. The edit was by Chris Rhatigan and if you know his work, you'll also know that he made the process as painless as it could be. In tune with the style, fine attention to detail, can spot an error at a million paces, knows when the train has slipped off the track and when it's steaming ahead, picks up on character and point of view and even offers possible alternatives to those especially clunky sentences. What else could an author want? If you're looking for someone to work on your draft, you could do a lot worse and probably not much better. https://chrisrhatiganediting.com/ Highly recommended.

Thursday, 12 August 2021

One Man's Opinion: THE MAN WHO DIED TWICE by RICHARD OSMAN

 


It doesn't seem like that long ago that I was reading and reviewing The Thursday Murder Club. In a nutshell, I found that to be refreshing, fun and intriguing in equal measure. I think I was also aware that the situation and the characters involved would make a follow-on difficult to pull off.

In many ways, I think The Man Who Died Twice is a pretty good sequel and does manage to create a highly-engaging tale that suits the murder club. 

Appearing from the past is Elizabeth's ex-husband, a man who has already died once and, given the title, may find his number's about to come up. He has the charm of Bond as well as the smugness born of being talented and good looking. While working on a secret-service case, he's fallen foul of dangerous gangsters over in the US. Thankfully, he has a personal guard to protect him and a place to hide out (the very same home where the Thursday Murder Club wait for their live's to fizzle out, where else?).   

There are dead bodies and tricks with smoke and mirrors and, for a while, there's that satisfying buzz of wondering what the hell's going on, which is accompanied by the joy of trying to puzzle it out before reality is revealed. Essentially, that makes it a winning cosy mystery; if that's your bag, this is one for the top of your list. 

While meeting up with our gang again is a welcome experience, The Man Who Died Twice doesn't quite match the excellence of book one. In the main, I think that's due to the situation of the setting and having to stretch to create a new and believable situation. The observation are just that bit less sharp, the diary entries of Joyce are less powerful as a way of moving on plot, the police are less involved and more stable in a way that reduces the impact of their story-lines, and there's a tad less chemistry between the group (and so not as much character development as I might have liked). 

TTMC was always going to be a tough act to follow. The second in the series has proved to be a solid and enjoyable follow-on. I'd still read a third, but do worry that a further contortion to find a suitable plot and another dilution due to familiarity may make it a step too far for me. 

Richard Osman is a fine writer who brings his own twist to the genre. His humour is particularly noteworthy and his timing is excellent. Overall, I'm recommending this to anyone who enjoyed the last one and to the cosy mystery fan. It would work as a standalone, but reading in order would be much more satisfying. I worry for book three (for surely there will be one), but there will be many who will lap up each and every title with zeal in a way that may even make this a series that will be viewed as a classic when the world has warmed to the point where paper self-combusts- get it while you can.    

Saturday, 29 May 2021

News From Fahrenheit Press

 

Here's what they're saying, and they're worth listening to...

"4 Books for FREE + 20% OFF EVERYTHING ELSE

Hola Fahrenhistas,


We’ve celebrating public holidays on both sides of the Atlantic this weekend (May Bank Holiday in the UK - Memorial Day in the USA) so we decided to help all your weekends go with a bookish swing…

First off, we’re running one of our EPIC AMAZON PROMOTIONS - we published debuts novels in December 2020 and frankly they got swept away by the Christmas rush. These 4 books are some of the best debuts we’ve ever read and we’ve decided to circle around again and promote them as if they’re brand new books - so for a starter ALL FOUR OF THEM ARE FREE ON AMAZON this weekend."

The whole of their message is here


Friday, 14 May 2021

One Man's Opinion: DEATH NOTIFICATION AGENCY, VOLUME 1: THE REAPER (DNA BOOK 1) by JULIAN OLIVER MEIOJAS

 

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Here's one for fans of the hard-boiled hero who like their protagonist to be caught up in something big. This one will tick all your boxes and then some. 

Told in the first person by a reaper, Ramsay Cames, we know the setup and the energy force that will drive the story from the first few pages. 

This one has snappy everything: dialogue, set-pieces, one-liners, character descriptions and action. It's sharp as hell and grips like it's hanging on for dear life. Fine brushes are used where many a writer would choose the broader option and that has the effect of ramping up the energy and pace to make it speed by. For a fairly short piece of work, it feels like you've been on one hell of a journey by the end and, should you be hooked at that point, book two is waiting for you from wherever you picked up book one.

Spot on.  


The Blurb:

“You got 24 hours to live.”

That’s all he knows. Doesn’t know the how or the why— just the when.

Ram’s a process server, a reaper, for the Death Notification Agency—the DNA—which is now the biggest government organization in the world thanks to a mysterious and highly-guarded technology that can determine the time of anyone's demise, right down to the minute.

That’s where Ram comes in. It’s his job as a reaper to deliver death notices to soon-to-be-deceased citizens 24 hours before they give up the ghost. That’s it. Nothing complex about it. He’s assigned to District 598.4A. Hollywood. Not that one. The other one, in Florida—his own sunny armpit of the world.

And life ain’t that bad for Ram. Besides a wrecked marriage and kids that barely talk to him, Ram floats through his days letting people know when their life’s about to go belly up, then heads to Nasty Nate’s Tavern in his aloha shirt for a drink. As he sees it, at least he’s giving people a chance to put their affairs in order and say goodbye to their loved ones.

It’s definitely not the most glamorous job, but hey, it’s a job. And since the DNA’s never been wrong in predicting a death, he works with the confidence of knowing he’s doing his part to help people in their final hours.

But Ram’s simple life is about to get a lot more complicated when one night…

He receives his own death notice.

The Reaper  (UK) is the first volume of six in the Death Notification Agency series.

Wednesday, 12 May 2021

One Man's Opinion: THE MAN WITH THE GETAWAY FACE by RICHARD STARK

 



The Man With The Getaway Face? 

It's a peach, and a perfectly ripe and juicy one at that. 

Short and pithy, laden with tension within a story that's cut to the bare bones:

New face, new heist, new partners, unwelcome developments and a series of unfortunate events. 

Sweet.