If you trade in trees and turkeys, I wish you a prosperous one. If you’re a Christian, I wish you a divine one. If you can’t get enough bling, I wish you a glittery one. If you like old movies, I wish you a nostalgic one. If you’re an extrovert, I wish you a carousing one. If you’re happy to devote hundreds of hours to food creation and consumption, I wish you a gastronomic one. If you’re skilled at shopping, at giving and/or receiving presents, I wish you a gratifying one. If you have children, or an uncomplicated relationship with your roots, I wish you a familial one (and if you don’t, you might appreciate this flash from Sarah Brentyn). If you appreciate being nudged to consider others less fortunate, I wish you a charitable one. If you’re getting to know a new partner, I wish you a romantic one. If you’re in need of a break from a hectic job, I wish you a tranquil one.
These two novels explore the impact of two of America’s controversial wars (Vietnam and Iraq) on combatants, observers and their nearest and dearest.
Since childhood, Thelonius Liddell has striven for excellence in an attempt to forget the trauma of seeing his father murder his mother. At a university careers day, he’s recruited into the US intelligence agency by Becky Firestone, the somewhat disturbed daughter of the director whom Thelonius eventually marries. When we first meet Liddell he’s already a dead man, writing his memoir in the ten metre square cell in the clandestine containment unit he calls The Beige Motel. Now preferring the name Ali, he was converted to Islam by his wizened cellmate in a squalid (presumably Iraqi) prison, where he is accused of the murder of a man and his young daughter and of desecrating the Koran. His conversion was part of a deal brokered by a young woman, Fatima, but, like almost everything else in this multi-layered thriller about the war on terror, we have to keep on turning the pages to uncover the truth. While I’m inclined to agree that, as Fatima says, Stupidity has taken over the process of government in both countries, there’s nothing stupid in this complex tale of compromised morality and the fragility of the human mind.
I recently shared an extract from my next novel, Underneath, in which a little boy is dancing with his mother to Cliff Richard’s Living Doll. The words are taken all too literally by the child who becomes the man who keeps a woman imprisoned in a cellar but I knew, from the very first draft of this novel, to be wary of quoting song lyrics. Yet, in the version I sent my publisher, I’d retained six words that furnished a neat link between past and present, while demonstrating the narrator’s disturbed and disturbing state of mind. But as publishing becomes a (still fairly distant) reality, I thought I’d better get some advice from the Society of Authors on copyright law. Based on what I was told – and this is only my interpretation – I’ve decided to paraphrase instead of quoting: I don’t want to risk having lawyers on my back; nor do I want to renege on my own personal vow never to pay to be published (it’s the author’s, not the publisher’s, responsibility to seek out and pay for permissions).
A severe cold has meant very little writing in the last few days, but a copious amount of reading (completing my reading “challenge” of 100 books in the year), albeit with not a great amount of depth. These three short reviews of novels about three very different women’s quests for a life, and a mind, of their own is part of the result.
Fiona Palmer is delighted when she bumps into her former English teacher, Henry Morgan, in the supermarket. Although she’s been happily married to Dave for the last two years, she readily embarks on an affair. This is her opportunity, she thinks, to cement the bond they’d developed when she was a precocious fifteen-year-old, to bring that special relationship onto an adult level. But can an out-of-school friendship between pupil and teacher ever be innocent? What’s wrong with Fiona that she’s ready to give up on her marriage so soon? And what has become of her teenage promise as a talented writer? Why, if she was supposedly so intelligent, has she settled for a humdrum job in telesales?
Fleeing from Leeds to Brighton after breaking up with his over-possessive lover, Jem, Luke rents a tiny house caught in a time warp from the 60s. His landlord is the elderly philanthropist Joss Grand who, despite ill-health, hasn’t totally shed the legacy of his years lording over the Brighton underworld, with his sadistic sidekick, Jacky Nye. Luke is a former journalist with an agent waiting for him to pitch the true-crime story that will make his name. When Luke learns that Jacky Nye was strangled and thrown into the sea back in the late 60s, his murderer never found, he is convinced Joss Grand, despite a strong alibi, must have been involved. Convinced the opportunity outweighs the risk, both to him and his friends, Luke can’t let go of what appears to be the perfect scoop, and arranges to interview the prickly Mr Grand. Already under threat from his unstable ex-partner, as Luke is drawn deeper into the murder mystery, we wonder if he might have been wiser to leave the past alone.
Annecdotal is where real life brushes up against the fictional with mutterings about reading and writing seasoned with psychology.
Annecdotist is the persona through whom I navigate that in-between space. When not roaming the blogosphere, I'm reading or writing, tramping the moors, battling the slugs in my vegetable plot or struggling to sing.
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some linked to a weekly flash fiction, plus posts on writing and my journey to publication and beyond.
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Sugar and Snails on 2016 shortlist
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