No Good Deed, Moffat II, on sale September 2020.

Coronavirus permitting, No Good Deed will be available to the general public in September 2020. This should mean that supporters of the book will receive their copy in time to pack it as holiday reading, if the United Kingdom has finally pulled down the Yellow Jack from the national flagpole by then. I have recently recieved the go-ahead to share the artwork for the book, so below is a mock-up produced using the artwork by Mark Ecob.

tnspbk3mockupIt’s a lovely thing and it will look beautiful alongside Gibbous House on a shelf, don’t you think.

Still time to get your name in the front or the back as a patron of the arts – or at least this book here

Until there is more news, or a book review or just another blog post. Keep well.

 

Sunday Papers

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Around 16 years ago, when I moved to Spain, I began a ritual. Every Sunday morning I’d go out to buy the Sunday papers and have a cup of coffee at a local café. It was a five minute drive. I’d usually wait ’til about 10 when the papers were delivered from Malaga airport in a little white van. Maybe: sometimes they were late. Sometimes I cut the banding round the bundles of papers and put them out on display for the owner. I’d buy a broadsheet, usually the Sunday Times. These British papers were printed in Madrid, so, in The Times, there was a digest of all the supplements and there were no annoying advertising inserts.

In general, I’d buy my paper in the Estanco Santiago Carnero on the corner of the Calle de Coín and the Avenida de Mijas. Then I’d have a brew in the Caféteria Castillo which was cater-cornered opposite. Sometimes, I’d go into Coín instead and have a look at the flea-market, though I can’t say I ever bought much. Eventually, in cafés in both towns, people would say hello to ‘Professor Longhair’, although it was Profesor* they were really saying, of course. For me, these little excursions became less and less about buying the newspaper (we all know what has happened to The Sunday Times in those intervening years) and more about the coffee and watching the world go by.

Now, I live in West Yorkshire. I still go to a café most Sundays. People say hello, though it’s only a few months, and perhaps they do recognise me. What I like best about the café in what’s now my town is that it has a map of the world the length of the wall inside. In my head, I think of the café as La Cafeteria del Mapa del Mundo†. I stare up at the map and look at all the places I’ve been; all the places that have been called home, but which maybe haven’t really been that, or all the places I’ve stayed for a week or a month – or three – flying over fighting or at cruising height over conflict, or just the places I went on holiday in an effort to say goodbye to all that, if only for a few days.

It’s funny, though,  every week, I lift my cup and toast the map, before I take my last sip of coffee.
cmotw
* Teacher

The World Map Café

Poetry Review: Crown of Eggshell, Rachel Deering. Pub. Cerasus Poetry

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Divided into four parts, the titles of which are poetry in themselves, Rachel Deering’s collection ‘Crown of Eggshell’ will leave you dizzy. I am acquainted with some of Rachel’s work, so I held on for dear life as I started the first poem in this magnificent collection, ‘The Return’, expecting to read potent and original images. However, the power of the imagery and the strong emotion conveyed throughout really did rock my soul, bear or donkey’s. I found this particularly resonant:

I returned, as though I had risen

clay-footed from the mud.

Old women sucked their teeth

at the sight of me;

those witches saw deep into the stain of glut of blood –

The Post-Trauma of Jupiter’ is an extended planetary metaphor for isolation and loneliness. I defy any reader not to be moved by its ending:

I orbit in toxic shame,

on the outskirts of this solar system.

I rotate in my gigantic pain,

encircled by many wordless moons.

Nature, sickness, death and occasionally survival are strong themes throughout. It is very difficult to write that one poem stands head and shoulders above another, the quality, the craft and the language are an example to all aspiring poets. That said, I can single out personal favourites, they may not be yours when you read this collection, but you will have your own: that at least is certain. I loved ‘Survival’ for its combination of the cosmic and the countryside, for example. Whether you read ‘Jellyfish’ as description or metaphor, it is a fine piece of writing.

‘Thoughts of Revenge’ is a mini-epic and the use of a minor mythological figure reminds me of Eliot in some ways. This is a compliment, though it may not be considered so in present-day academe. Ms. Deering’s collection’s use of animals and birds throughout is reminiscent of Hughes’. The fox, the hare, the bear and an entire aviary of birds, exotic and otherwise recur to excellent effect.

Do Come In’, I had read before. I had thought it quite brilliant in an earlier draft. However, the polish Rachel has given it, has made it shine still more.

Mind your step on the carcasses

What a way to start a poem!

There are so many gems scattered on the path through these poems. Making complex ideas so easy to read is a true gift:

– with bee-sting words

and nettle promises,

you become a thorn.

The splendid, sinister and gothic conceit of Victorian Egg Collectors expresses the essential conflict between men and women:

maternally abandoned to,

these barbed wire men.

I have been in the clutches

of too many of these Victorian

egg collectors.

Therapy’ almost made me want to try it. Flippant though that sounds, it is no back-handed compliment.

‘Confessional’ contains lines I wish I’d written myself. In the spirit of confession, I wish I’d written all of them.

And I do not know why

I have done half the things

I have, so why should you?

Crown of Eggshell’, as you will read, provides the title for each of the four sections. The poet makes of herself her own myth, opaque and ambiguous. Perhaps that’s why it provided the title for the collection and its four parts.

These poems stretch from the loamy earth, via the less common-place Breton and Gallic myths which take root in it, to the further reaches of Saturn, taking in death, emotion, love and the loss of it along the way. This poetry is beautiful; sometimes stark, sometimes succulent and always thought provoking. Intelligent, personal and universal all at the same time, as good a collection as I’ve ever read.

Amazonians here  

Direct from the Cherry Tree here

 

 

MOFFAT III? Why? (ohwhyohwhy)

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A)            Because I can.

B)            Because No Good Deed was fun to write, so I reckon 3 books of Moffat-ery is about right.

C)            The mystery of who and what Moffat is, is not yet resolved.

D)            Because I enjoy his company.

E)            Why not?

Moffat III’s working title is ‘At the Back of the North Wind or The Last of Moffat’. I have about 5250 words at the moment and some of them aren’t in Gibbous House or No Good Deed. If you want a taster of Moffat III (1000 words, approximately) you’ll find it here. If you haven’t had the pleasure of Moffat’s company before, Gibbous House is here. If you are already acquainted with the magniloquent murderer, you can pre-order the sequel, No Good Deed here.

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Son of Mr Green Genes- Dweezil Zappa 10 December 2019, Leeds Town Hall

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A trip to Leeds, Memory Lane, also known as Leeds Town Hall, on The Headrow. Some trepidation, I knew DZ had worked with dad from the early 80’s, but… Hot Rats? An album the same age as he is?

The audience was predominantly male (go figure), the ladies there were all smiling wryly at the reversal of the norm for the toilet queues at the interval. But…

This concert was fantastic. OK, Leeds Town Hall’s acoustics may not be the best, but with the huge organ pipes in the background, I can’t have been the only one to say ‘hope no-one pushes Dweezil off the stage’. I’d like to think he’d have laughed too. Hot Rats was delivered as promised, if in somewhat idiosyncratic order (a good thing, BTW). Quite a lot of You Are What You Is was performed (very well) by the band, no surprises with what’s happening in US politics now.

There was plenty of chat between the music, and it was good to hear something from Lowell George’s days with the Mothers, “Here Lies Love”. AND… something I wasn’t expecting – it will only mean anything to die-hard Zappa fans – the “secret word” was “Scunthorpe”. How’s that for conceptual continuity?

Highlights were I’m the Slime, Mr Green Genes, Twinkletits, Carolina (Scunthorpe) Hard Core Ecstasy and many, many more.

The band were all terrific and managed the varied vocal parts with skill (even the doo-wop-ery of Tears Began to Fall), but I have to give a shout out to multi-instrumentalist and vocalist Sheila Gonzalez. Wow.

So the apple doesn’t fall so very far from the tree, Dweezil led this band well and the guitar playing was sublime.

Still UK dates left, Leeds wasn’t full. GO!

Others Ed. Charles Fernyhough. Another “Kind of” Book Review.

davThis is a fine book. I’d say it should be on the Civic Studies curriculum in what old people like me used to call the VIth form, except in those days we studied things like British Constitution. If I’d known how important that would be nowadays, I’d have done that at A Level, instead of English, French and Latin.

The writers all bring insight and passion to the matter of being “other”. I got something from every piece, regardless of whether I’d heard of the writer or not.  The only problem with this wonderful book is that it is very unlikely to be read by the very people who need to read it most; politicians of every bent, non-centrist people over the age of 50, everyone who’s ever said “I’m not racist but…” or “I don’t mean you, mate/darling…”, or just some of your friends and mine.

It’s not the sparks that fly upward, it’s the rogues, the liars, the exploiters and the opportunists, that’s the real reason the centre cannot hold.

A really important book, just a pity it will most likely be ignored by those who need it most.

One more “another kind of book review”: Obsidian by Suzie Wilde

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The Book of Bera part II with Part I on the screen in the background…

It’s sometimes difficult to get a sequel right. I’m pleased to say Ms Wilde pulls off this trick with some style. Once again she (re-)creates the Viking world with vivid description without laying on too much artifice in the dialogue. Judicious use of archaic words like “skep” (it means a basket or container for carrying/storing plants, and may well be related to the modern “skip” – must look that up) help rather than hinder understanding whilst still giving us the feeling that we are most definitely in another time and place.

Bera’s quest, mission or expedition is tense and exciting and causes her to encounter once again the splendidly villainous and extravagantly body-morphed Serpent. I certainly kept turning the pages quickly.

A taut, well written sequel to part I and a splendid addition to the The Book of Bera Series. I look forward to part III

PS Isn’t that cover fabulous?

A Hard Read – Another “Kind of” Book Review : Distortion by Gautam Malkami

IMG_20190731_100355.jpgI supported this book at Unbound. It arrived in September last year. I read it straight away. Distortion is a fantastic write, Gautam Malkami’s narrator Dillon/Dhilan/Dylan has a compelling and convincing voice, easily as good as that of the protagonist of the writer’s previous novel Londonstani. Gautam’s latest book may have been a hard read – at least for me – but it is indeed a great write.

There are big themes in this book; the effects of the digital world on all of us, the plight of young, full-time carers in “Benefits Britain” and biggest of all, how we cope with cancer in a loved one.  I coped as well as anyone does, September was the month a cancer was diagnosed. Hard read though it was, it helped. Almost a year later, things are looking good, but as we all know there are no guarantees. I did tell my own loved one not to read Gautam’s book.

You should, though, read this book. It’s good and it’s important, I can’t think of two better reasons for reading any book.

 

Where We Might Be: Another “Kind of” Book Review: The Disappeared, Amy Lord

disappearedImagine a country where they ban and burn books. Because books aren’t banned in ours, we don’t have to: we know of at least two regimes of the last century which did. The terrifying thing is, they were at the extreme right and left of political ideology. How – and why – do people revile centrists with such venom?

Amy Lord’s assured debut novel is a dystopian vision of the (very) near future. It shows us where we could be, with very little “encouragement” from a few people in the right places, at the wrong time for the rest of us. You might think that this novel explores much of the same ground as Russell T. Davies’ Years and Years recently did, and, I suppose it does, but in a very different way.

Clara Winter’s father was “disappeared”, her mother remarries soon after. Winter grows up to become an academic like her father. However, the regime has tight control over what is taught in Universities, and who is permitted to teach it.  Influence and connections (Влияние in Soviet Russia) are everything. Inevitably, Ms Winter (I pronounced this as the germanic Vinter, throughout. I know, weird) is drawn into teaching literature classes  using banned texts. Of course, 1984 figures in Amy’s novel and that’s as it should be. I must admit the academics in The Disappeared reminded me of the publishing people in Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita, slaves to a system that doesn’t make sense.

The family dynamic in the novel is well realised (I’m trying to avoid spoilers, honest) and the plot and writing are so gripping that I read this novel in one day. I wonder if the author was asked by an editor whether this novel wouldn’t be better written in the present tense? I’m so glad she resisted the pressure, if so. I can’t remember the last time I finished a book in a day.

The novel has an interesting structure and centres on two characters’ points of view, Clara’s and her step-father’s.

Amy Lord has written a thoughtful and entertaining book, give it a try, you won’t regret it.

From the Disturbingly Sublime… (Another “Kind of” Book Review): The Diabolical Club

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Just because it’s good to put an image of a book with a review…

Just before I picked up Stevyn Colgan’s 2nd instalment of South Herefordshire “whodunit-ery”, I finished reading Barbara Vine’s A Dark Adapted Eye. It was like going from the sublimely disturbing to – you’ve guessed it – the ridiculously funny. I had read “A Murder to Die For” and enjoyed it very much. So I looked forward to “The Diabolical Club” with some enthusiasm. Reader, I was very far from disappointed. Those familiar with the author’s work will remember Colgan’s diligent research, and the watchmaker’s precision of his plotting.

It is a couple of years since the outrage at the Agnes Crabbe Murder Mystery Festival, but Frank Shunter is still chafing at retirement. A local politico is suspected of murder and seeks out Shunter’s help to prove him innocent. The herrings are red and some of the jokes are blue but as usual the author manages to write good-natured humour that is actually FUNNY. (You try it, it’s not easy). Keep an eye out for references to delight golden age whodunit fans as they are another pleasure of this episode of South Herewardshire fun.

Thoroughly good fun, and as such I commend it to you.

I came by my copy of “The Diabolical Club” through backing the book at Unbound.com, and I shan’t hesitate to do the same for the third volume in the series, “Cockerings“, just as soon as finances allow.