Sunday, 15 July 2018

The Lantern

The Lantern is a piece of political philosophy.

It examines and explores the complex and myriad issues that have, unfortunately, stymied and real changes and developments in the current Arabian world.

The author, Ayman Aborabh, takes the time and trouble to reexamine these issues by introducing new and groundbreaking ways of thinking that the author hopes will challenge his readers to understand and embrace and what is commonly described as western philosophy and to meld these with the current political realities and politics that exist within the Arab world.

He is candid in his observations, but he levens this with a good deal of humour. He takes the works of the likes of Plato, Machiavelli, Burke and Hobbes and triex to illustrate his points by picturing how these great minds from previous ages would examine the political makeup of the states of modern Arabia.

He also features two "normal" Arabian citizens who he has arguing vital questions on freedom, democracy and on their ordinary lives.

Although a serious academic work it is written in an open and approachable style, the author aims it at universities that offer courses on modern Arabian politics and the like.

 It is published by Matador at £13.99.

The author also has a YouTube channel which is in the Arabian language.

The Tales of Louis the House Rabbit

The Tales of Louis the House Rabbit is an utterly charming illustrated book by Harriet Hall.

It is a book that is aimed at parents and children (ideal for reading to children) and it contains simply written stories about Louis who is a rabbit who lives in a house.

He manages to sneak out of the house and meets a whole range of interesting creatures such a bees, frogs, a rabbit (who is puzzled as to why Louis doesn't have a warren!) Whiskers, Louis' new rabbit chum, shows Louis his warren and introduces Louis to his extended family.

After some adventures, including a bit of a scary one, Louis returns to his own home, with his human family.

But he dreams about the other rabbits when he falls asleep in his bed, after washing his ears, of course!

It costs £8.99 and is published by Matador and it is the first in a series, so do look out for subsequent books.


Who is John 'Wilf' Wilford? He worked as a roadie for many top bands and musicians. His book Soundman traces his 30 year history of working on the road as a sound engineer, a tour manager and a production manager.

In his book he takes his readers on a behind-the-scenes tour of what took place by on and off the stage, sound checks, recording studios, TV studios, the tour buses and the hotels that the bands occupied during their tours.

It's the view of a genuine insider, and you'll be shown the highs and lows of life on the road with some very famous and some not quite so famous bands and individuals from 30 years on the road.

From pub gigs right up to gigantic events at stadiums like Wembley and the Hollywood Bowl, you'll see them all.

After tinkering with his father's defunct valved radio (he got it working) Wilf was bitten by the radio and electronics bug and eventually took a City and Guilds course to learn the basics of radio and television servicing.

Eventually he shifted over inot the world of pub gigs, as a part time roadie, he took up the career as a full time professional.

He built (whilst working with Midas Amplification) sound mixing consoles for top groups such as Pink Floyd. He actually built their highly specialised Quadraphonic mixing desk.

Eventually he launched several sound companies in both the UK and in Nashville, in the USA.

Learn how some managers of bands utterly ripped off their bands, sometimes even ensuring they didn't even own their own homes, how Black Sabbath designed an absolutely huge replica of Stonehenge to appear on stage with them. But they had forgotten to measure the doorways of the halls they were to perform in, and the result was they could not get their Stonehenge into any of them!

And there was the dreadful incident involving serious injuries to a dwarf actor dressed up as a baby during a Black Sabbath tour. 

The book is well illustrated with pictures of equipment and of gigs, but mainly from the perspective of the sound engineer, which is what would be expected, as this book is from the perspective of a sound engineer.

There are scores of anecdotes and interesting little asides and stories and at £12.95 (published by The Book Guid) this book needs to be in the hands of people who where there, or who want to see what "where" was like!

The Jacobite Rebellion A Novel

The Jacobite Rebellion A Novel is a novel form Paul Adams.

Charles Edward Stuart's life has just taken an unexpected turn for the worst. He is arrested by the police, but it appears it is all just a case of mistaken identity, so he is released from police custody.

Back home again he makes the mistake of opening the door to Flora Macdonald who is able to persuade Carles to join her on a journey to Scotland. However, they are trailed by DCI Cumberland, who is following them.

Once in Scotland Charles is taken to Brady Castle where he is introduced to Colonel MacPherson, who informs Charles that he is plotting the overthrow of Queen Elizabeth the Second, with who he believes to be the real King, Charles Stuart. But not our Charles Stuart, a different Charles Stuart, for our hero is merely being employed as a decoy.

However, it's clear from page one of this novel that the whole thing is going to be a riot. Well, several riots, really. A riot of fun, then there's the accidental riot accidentally caused by DI Monro, the incident of caticide resulting from an incompetent police firearms unit (police force amalgamations you see? Very tricky stuff...), a traffic wearden, a postman and a lost stripagram (how was she to know dressing up as a police officer would cause even more mayhem?) and this was before the BBC arrived on scene!

The police interview is a classic example of how mistakes can be made and the entire book is full of wry and caustic humour. Everything in the book is an object lesson in how it is possible to take ordinary, mundane events and, with a slight flick and a twist, turn them into an absolutely hilarious series of weird happenings.

And this was before our hero makes his fateful trip up North!

It's a novel that generally offers two or three (sometimes more) laughs per page and just wait to see what happens to HRH! Pity about Lawrence the cat, though. And who would have thought that pedalo operators would have been so important as to how things turned out?

It's published by The Book Guild at £7.99 and will be another great summer holiday read.

The Steampunk Murder

Thank goodness! There's a new Inspector Carmichael mystery novel from Ian McFadyen!

This is probably my pick of the Summer reads.

Inspector Carmichael is a very genuine and plausible police detective. He's no super sleuth, but then neither is a a shabby breaker of rules just because he can break them. He is a working copper who always gets results.

But this case tests him and his team to the limits in some ways, as it introduces him to the rather weird subculture of Steampunk.

Kendal Michelson is a leading light in the Northwest England Steampunk movement. That is he was, until someone rather cruelly put his light out by murdering him. By rather gruesomely imaling him on his own sword.

But Kendal was a popular young man, so who would have a motive for murdering him?

Could it be one of his apparently close friends in the Steampunk movement? One of his former partners? And even if they didn't actually kill him, do they know more than they are revealing to Inspector Carmichael and his team of detectives?

Then there's Kendal's father, a self made millionaire who made his fortune in making sweets. Does he know anything about who might have had a motive to murder his son?

But before the end of the investigation more murders are committed and it becomes clear that the local Steampunk scene is a lot more than just wearing fancy, Victorian-based clothing and monocles.

So... who is committing the murders and why?

Take this book with you to the holiday destination of your choice and you'll have to be prised from it to leave your deckchair!

It's published by The Book Guild at £8.99 and will make an excellent gift for the mystery lover in your life.

Three Funerals and a Wedding

Three Funerals and a Wedding is a highly readable and very valuable book for anyone in business.

The author, John Thorp, takes a look at four businesses that are undergoing radical changes. He points out how they succeed or why they failed.

John Thorp has worked in business management for over a quarter of a century. This was in the main in IT leadership roles at some very well known brands such as Laura Ashley, The Burton Group, Compass Group, easyJet and the Dixon Stores Group. At the last two concerns he served as a member of the board of management.

The firms are all still operating today, but some are in very different forms. Although for some their survival was a bit of a nail biting situation.

As well as having seen business management form the inside, he is also a visiting lecturer at Cranfield University, where he also earned his Masters degree.

John states that the book is about systems and change. However, he points out that unlike other books that deal with business change it is not about 'business change management' it covers other areas of change, what change is, how systems can bring about change and how change can bring about unintended consequences for the organisation concerned.

John Thorp points out that although change, especially when it involves IT departments, can be vital, it can also be fraught with danger and pitfalls.

His writing on the Laura Ashley brand is an object lesson to all involved in business that although change must happen it must be managed well.

Published by the Book Guild at £8.99, this book belongs on the bookshelf of everyone involved in business management, no matter at what level they might be.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

5 Simple Steps to Saving Planet Earth

5 Simple Steps to Saving Planet Earth is a novel for children from Jo Withers.

Billy is having some problems. Due to an unforeseen set of circumstances he finds himself trapped beneath a hedge with a good half kilo of sausages round his neck to act as bait for a runaway dog.

Far from being early, he was now running very late and covered in dog slobber. But then the day, Thursday 18th of May, got even worse for poor Billy!

He gets detention and later becomes injured and insults his friend Wayne and misses getting to the newsagents.

That night Billy is having a bad dream. Which, with the interruption of his dream by a tiny creature called a Ysgol from the planet Blykpstpst.

It transpires that the world will cease to be next Wednesday (exact time computed as teatime, in case you are interested) and that would be it for humanity. And every other creature mankind shares the planet with, for that matter.

At first Billy thinks he has gone bonkers, but when the Ysgol appears in Billy's back garden, Billy know that he isn't going mad and that something must be done to save the world, from a band of interplanetary contract cleaners who want to clean the Earth out of existence!

The Ysgol is trying to help, though an emergency survival kit the basic contents of which appear to be an old apple core and little else, might be thought of as a unique employment of the word 'help'.

Though the emergency survival kit might be more important than one might think.

Billy gets together a team of heroes to heroically fight against the interplanetary contract cleaners (it was they who brought the last ice age) and fight against the menace with pluck, bravery, panicking and a leaflet called "5 Simple Steps to Saving Planet Earth."

Will they find out who the Chosen One is? And will they still be able to save the planet from being taken to the cleaners?

The book costs £7.99 from The Book Guild and is a very good read for children and adults, too, for that matter.

This is an ideal book to read over the summer holidays.

Miss Winter's Demise and Other Crimes Against Poetry

Miss Winter's Demise and Other Crimes Against Poetry is a collection of new poems from Paul Minton.

The Poems are quirky, quaint and quintessentially amusing and cover a wide variety of various subjects.

There's a boy who is driven quackers (not really, though if you fail to buy a copy of this book, it's a mere £6.99 from Matador, you'll never realise the hyper relevance of my quirky quackers quip!)  the mystery of the lost chair, Auntie Mabel the biker, newsletters from the afterlife, flying animals, and flying farmer's wives, are all some of the subjects from the poetic pen of a man whom I am dubbing as the Bard of Wellington. That's Wellington in Shropshire, though he now lives in Newport, South Wales.

(Reviewer's digression: I have just realised that Paul Minton attended (though years after me, I expect) the same school in Wellington, Shropshire, Orleton Park School. It is indeed a small world, though I still would not like to have to paint it! I wonder how many other pupils of that school ended up as writers? And one must not forget our geography teacher George Evans, still writing books at 93!)

There are poems about dogs that aren't, a poem about a sort of hyper virtual reality device called The Room of Doom, a child with many medical concerns, an apple who longs to be bitten and the bear at the door who might not be what it appears to be at all!

And what exactly did happen to Miss Winter? Read the book and you'll find out in a flash! (Hope I haven't given too much away?)

And I hope Paul reads this review because, Sir, you really should make a cartoon series out of "Super Squad"!

The Invisible Agent

The Invisible Agent is a debut spy novel from R. B. Maxwell.

However, this is no ordinary spy novel! For the characters have the ability to morph from human to canine and back again, as the situation requires.

From a crash landing on the Earth millions of years previously the reader is then catapulted into the present era, where a group of dogs are escaping from a secret research establishment. Though their escape is not unnoticed.

However, eventually it transpires that the dogs now have the ability to morph into humans of a new and very different kind.

Top secret agent Max is given the mission of infiltrating the house of the Lord Mayor of the city of Beckingham, Alfred Hoxley. Hoxley might not be all that he seems and it is the job of Max to capture a top international criminal who could be within Hoxley's house.

However, events throw Max's mission inot chaos, so all is lost. Or is it? Max manages to work feverishly to salvage his plans and battle against all odds to capture a gang of master criminal frauders.

In order to succeed, Max must put his own life on the line. Will he manage to do it? Can he beat the clock to beat the gang?

It's a great read for young people and it's an interesting debut novel from R. B. Maxwell who is a trained holistic therapist. She also works in a mundane office job.

The book is published by Matador at £8.99.

The Barefoot Road

The Barefoot Road is a novel by Vivienne Vermes.

It is set in the mountainous lands of Transylvania.

A young lady is discovered in a dreadful condition, in the mountains that surround a village. She has obviously gone without nutrition for a period of time, as she is a starved and emaciated in appearance. She is also unconscious. 

The villagers realise that she was a member of an ethnic group which had been dispersed from the area many years before. This causes much heart searching by the inhabitants of the village, as they recall their own parts in the ethnic cleansing.

The situation remains in an uneasy status quo until a young man of the village happens to fall in love with the girl. Unfortunately he is already married, which causes tensions in the village to grow and grow.

It is clear that something will happen, and when a child in the village disappears in mysterious circumstances, the situation escalates from tension to outright hysteria and brings the story to a heartstopping and dreadful outcome.

The book is poetic and timeless and shows exactly why Vivienne Verme is an award winning novelist and poet.

It will become a classic of European literature.

It is published by Matador at £8.99.

Mark's Out of Eleven

Author Will Stebbings takes his readers on another welcome dip into the paddling pool of nostalgia that is 1960s Britain.

In his latest novel Mark's Out of Eleven, he takes us back to September 1960. What is relevant about that particular month? Because in the United Kingdom, September is the month when all children who attend state controlled schools will commence the school year, which run from September to July.

In this particular year, Mark Barker is starting his first year at senior school. Because he has passed the eleven-plus exam, he will be taking his place at the local Grammar School, called Parkside.

He has followed his brother to the school and, because they are a working class family living on the limited means that are provided by their father's employment, times are not easy for the Barker family, and sending two children to a Grammar School is not cheap.

The one result is that Mark suffers the humiliation of having to wear hand-me-down school blazers, previously worn by his older brother.

Having had to leave his old primary school friends behind (most of whom would have gone on to the local secondary modern school, for children who failed or who didn't take the eleven-plus) Mark has to try to forge new friendships. Thankfully he is fairly successful in this endeavour.

The headmaster of Parkside is something of a martinent who rules his school with iron discipline and a wooden cane. Which he frequently uses to enforce his reign.

There's another teacher who the pupils both loathe and fear, the sports master who employs violence to make his points.

The book will resonate, perhaps pleasantly in some parts, not so pleasantly in others as we read about the teaching staff at Parkside, about their casual brutality and their often lacklustre teaching methods, about bullying, the first hormonal stirrings when girls are sighted.

We also glimpse the homelife of Mark and his family and see how mothers of that time juggled the financial pittance brought in to the house by their hardworking, but poorly paid husbands.

Will Stebbings also takes a look at prejudices of the 1960s at a time when male homosexuaslity was still illegal.

It's a thoughtful book which is a trip down memory lane and all for only £7.99! The book is published by Matador.

Sunday, 8 July 2018

How to Become a Football Agent

Football, soccer, call, it what you will, the World Cup has raised a great deal of interest in the world of football.

Children all over the world are playing on the streets, in their back gardens or backyards, joining football clubs and there is also a growing interest in professional football.

The total annual wages bill for European football players alone is over £9.5 billion every year. That's  $12.630 billion.

The standard football agent percentage fee is 10% of that wage bill, so it's easy to see why becoming a football agent is widely seen as a lucrative field to get into.

But you don't just open an office and launch a website announcing that you are now a professional football agent. There's obviously a lot more than that involved!

How to Become a Football Agent: The Guide will offer you a unique and highly informative insight into the first steps to becoming a football agent.

Written by Dr Erkut Sogut LL,M., Jack Pentol-Levy and Charlie Pentol-Levy, the guide offers unique insights into how football works from a business perspective and shows you how to start on the first rung of the ladder to becoming a football agent.

It also draws on advice from experienced agents such as Pere Guardiola, Lihan Gundogan and Harun Arslan.

It also offers tips on how football agents interact with sports lawyers and journalism. For example, the Chief Soccer Correspondent on the New York Times, Rory Smith, offers his opinions on football agency.

The book (it's written by the team behind Football Agent Education) will help provide you with the varied skills you will require to work as a football agent.

It gives information about he different rules and regulations of professional football bodies in Europe and the USA.

It details how you can get into the business, even if you do not have family connections or friends in the football industry, the type of work you will do as an agent, how you should interact with footballers, including your clients, employment contracts, etc.

It's a short but highly informative book and at £11.99 from Matador, it could be your way into a very lucrative career or business.

You can learn more by visiting, Instagram @footballagenteducation or on Twitter @education_agent.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Stand and Deliver! The definitive public speaking guide

The first time I had to address a large public gathering, I was very nervous and although I did OK, I somehow felt that I could have done better. And I am sure that if I had owned a copy of Stand and Deliver! by expert speaking coach Ian Nichol, I know that I could have done much better than I did.

Ian's book is a definitive and wholy authoritative guide to public speaking.

It is written in a highly readable and engaging style (seasoned with a good deal of very enjoyable humour!) this book will dramatically improve your public speaking performances.

If you are already an accomplished public speaker and doubt that this book will be of assistance to you, think again, because it is the type of book that can make poor good, good great and great even greater.

There really is something for everyone in this book, from the nervous neophyte to the seasoned professional after dinner speaker.

He looks at some myths about public speaking and effortlessly knocks them down, how ner4ves can be your friend when it comes to public speaking, (really? Yes, and Ian will show you exactly how you can achieve this.

Ian acknowledges his debt to one of the best public speakers ever, a now sadly almost forgotten journalist and politician called Spence Leigh Hughes, who was reputedly the best public speaker of his generation whose book published in 1913 The Art of Public Speaking Ian describes as: "an absolute classic."

In Stand and Deliver you will learn and master the 40 simple steps to successful public speaking.

Some of the points are how you should employ topicality, ignore people who think thay you couldn't speak in public, why you should follow the advice of Cicero. Don't worry, the particular advice is quoted in the book. But, that Cicero! Dead these 2040+ years, yet still relevant today! What a man!)

There's a great deal of other highly useful material about how breathing properly can help, how to use logical thought processes and how to prepare yourself for a public address. Here's one clue, research. Which with the advent of the Internet means it can be a lot easier than it used to be.

Ian also leavens his book with interesting little asides such as how Warren Buffet became a great public speaker after a dreadful start, what PIETISM  is and how you should apply it, he names two people who he credits with using their oratorical skills to change the world, and various other people who spoke well before great and/or terrible events.

The book is published by Matador4 at £12.99  and if you or any colleagues ever make public addresses, please for your own good, buy this book.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

To Everyman a Brain

To Everyman a Brain is a new book from a free thinking and innovative marketing consultant called Kenny Salami.

Salami has amassed nearly a quarter century of experiences in creating and building brands, plus he has been involved in the creating and setting up of a wide range of different innovative startup concerns.

At present he is the CEO behind Ideas House, a highly reputable marketing leadership and consulting firm. His keen abilities are also recognised by industry colleagues by his position as the Presidency of the Experiential Marketers of Nigeria (EXMAN).

With a global population that is nearing seven billion souls, Kenny Salami points out that the vast majority of young people are both honest and honest and hardworking.

But, he tells his readers,  they are more ‘doers’ than ‘thinkers’.

But this, he points out  is where the real problem lies.

This is the irony, for although vital to executing ideas, ‘doing’ alone will always remain inferior to ‘thinking’. But why is thinking always the primordial senior brother to doing?

In To Everyman a Brain Kenny Salami takes his readers on a journey of discovery uncovering the myths that surround creative thinking and introducing vital methodologies that will help each individual become a creative and innovative genius.

Can you even imagine a world without ideas? Without them, all one can imagine is a picture of ‘doers’ moving robotically from one odd task to the other, ultimately destined for a dismal cul-de-sac.

But Kenny Salami will take you on a journey of self-discovery that will make sure you, your family or your enterprise, your community or even your country will be able to enjoy a much better path.

The book is published by Matador at £15.50.

The Two Lives of Grand Duke Michael

The Two Lives of Grand Duke Michael is a novel written by Michael Roman.

It is set in the Russia of 1918 and is one of the types of novel that your reviewer loves to devour. An historical 'what if?' novel.

Based on many hours of research in historical archives and with the application of logic and his fertile imagination Michael Roman comes up with a credible and highly readable novel that explores the intriguing concept that what if Grand Duke Michael had survived the assassination attempt ordered on him by none other that Vladimir Lenin himself?

The facts in the first part of the novel are an account of what actually took place and are a latter of historical record.

In February 1918 during the Great War, Michael underook a hazardous two-week journey to the UK from Bolshevik Russia to meet with the Western Allies.

His mission was to discuss plans for an invasion of Russia to sweep the Bolsheviks from power and to install Grand Duke Michael as the new Tsar.

Upon his return to Russia the plans for such an invasion came to  a juddering stop when he was murdered whilst held under house arrest in Siberia.

At this juncture Michael Roman imagines a different, alternative history for Grand Duke Michael.

He describes how Grand Duke Michael survives the assassination attempt and how he is assisted by Sidney Reilly the legendary but very genuine MI6 agent to escape from Siberia and how he is taken to live a new life in the UK.

Under a new identity he lives under the protection of the British Secret Service and works as a code breaker at Bletchley Park during the Second World War.

Incidentally the story hangs on an interesting historical fact. Although it is generally believed that Grand Duke Michael and his British secretary, Nicholas Johnson, were assassinated, no remains have ever been discovered.

In the book there are acts of treachery and treason, of bravery and self-sacrifice and of nobility under great pressure. 

It is an amazing and intriguing book which is published by Matador at £12.99. I have a feeling that many readers will take this book with them on their summer holidays. Though it's doubtful that they will be taking such a perilous journey as that undertaken by Grand Duke Michael.

Seeking Atticus

Seeking Atticus is a new novel from the pen of Norm D'Plume.

We meet Liv and we are invited to look at how Liv manages (or doesn't) to cope with a wide range of adverse situations that beset her.

Things don't seem to be going well for Liv as she manages to battle her way out of a marriage that was beset with disastrous circumstances, which just join the long chain of catastrophes that makes up the life that she blunders through.

Still, she has her two young sons to help her face life as she tries to make sense of what it (life) tosses her way.

Set against the backdrop of the 1980s (great for some, not quite so great for others) it is a book that is charmingly funny.

Liv (or Olivia, to give her her full name) is awaiting the financial settlement of her shipwreck of a marriage, following her divorce.

The novel opens with her working at the boarding kennel that is owned by a friend.

There's Michael, with whom Liv's friendship is growing nicely and there is always Atticus, too. Atticus who? Atticus Finch, that's who!

She is seeking the Atticus Finch within not only herself, but within everyone else, too.

There are people who are out to get Liv, her crazed ex Carl, for one, Carl is planning, plotting and scheming the financial ruination of Liv with his high powered team of high flying legal experts.

He is confident that his team will manage to utterly destroy Liv and her "Legal Aid" crew.

But is he right to be so supremely confident? The only way to find out is to purchase this highly enjoyable book published by The Book Guild, at a highly reasonable £8.99. It's going to be a great holiday read.

Incidentally on reading the book I got the distinct impression that it is, at least in part, autobiography cunningly disguised as fiction! Readers can see if my judgement is sound on that point. Though in my defence I can only say, as well as reading the book, please pay special attention to the author's dedication!

Friday, 29 June 2018

Chance to Break

It's the beginning of summer, but San Francisco realtor Trevor Davis really doesn't care that much. Because his life has gone to Hell.

His wife has divorced him and, of course, has taken custody of their two teenage daughters. And due to the terrors unleashed by the 2008 sub-prime mortgage debacle, he is now more accurately described sd s former realtor, with nothing left of his former once successful business but a bankrupt husk.

Well, why not seek some solace on the courts playing his beloved tennis? Wrong again! Even that simple pleasure has been snatchyed away from him.

Why it's almost enough to make a fellow take a hazardous overseas trip! Which is exactly what Trevor does...

It's set during Wimbledon's opening days, when an apparently normal game of tennis between two men sems to show no sign of reaching a conclusion.

Its a high energy mixture that draws on the 1970s economic failure that crippled Britain, the first economic slump of the 21st century and wartime occupied France.

The book ia a melange of opportunities missed and taken, of pain, heartache and loves of different types, gay and straight, between parents and between friends.

It's published at £8.99 by The Book Guild and will make an ideal summertime read.

Double Exposure

Fans of retired lawyer and author Michael Simmons will be pleased to learn that his new book, Double Exposure, is published by The Book Guild.

Identical twins, that's Sophie and Hannah! They have a bond between them that some would say is psychic.

They were known as tearaways in their youth, but they manage to sort themselves out and depart for life as university students.

They decide to step away from each other and try to be less twin like, one could say.

Sophie decides that she wants to be something big in the city and become a high flying legal eagle, but Hannah doesn't think that would be her cup of tea, and she decides to embrace married life and a slightly less exciting law practice in suburbia.

However, it is Hannah who finds herself suddenly pitched inot an overly exciting series of  events when she takes on as a client the wife of  a Russian oligarch.

Her client is an angry woman and things suddenly begin to go downhill. There are a series of deaths that are both horrendously violent, yet apparently inexplicable.

There are legal battles in courtrooms and then illegal battles across Europe, with a breathtaking chase the length of Europe that ends up in a major battle that breaks out in a charming village in rural Italy.

It's a book that is a romantic legal thriller, and it's one of those books when your reviewer has to be careful not to give too much away, so it remains for me to say "buy this book at the amazingly moderate £8.99 and you'll be in for a real treat."

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

How Did I Get Here?

How Did I Get Here? is a book that could be an exciting fictional tale, but it isn't. It is, instead, an exciting factual tale.

In it, computer, internet and cyber security expert Tony McDowell writes a riveting story of how he did get to where he is in his life.

He did not have a very auspicious start in life, his family didn't have much money and was beset with problems in their back-to-back house in the Midlands city of Birmingham.

He was brought up with a series of hopes and promises, all of which were smashed like a bag of lightbulbs being dropped.

Rather than being crushed down by these setbacks, only child Tony decided that he was going to succeed in spite of every setback.

He took the decision to leave school early on the strength of a job offer to enter the then extremely new field of computing, right at the beginning in the mid-1960s.

He became a computer programmer and absorbed the complex computer languages that the behemoth devices of those days required to keep them running.

He took up a very good job offer in South Africa, but found himself troubled by life under the apartheid regime.

However, success in his chosen field meant that he could return home to the UK and to fulfil the dream of running his own business.

His efforts paid off handsomely and his business grew to the point that, unless he actually wanted to, he need never work again.

However, his life was to take a different turn when, after a chance meeting, he was introduced to the world of IT security and the use of hacking for benign and altruistic purposes. 

He launched a new business and pretty quickly it grew to the point that received so much attention that it soon garnered an offer to buy the business.

It's a fascinating and extremely well-written book and at £11.99 it is a very good read. Am I biased because I was born only five miles away in another suburb of Birmingham? I don't think so. To find out, you'll have to buy the book (it's published by Matador) for yourself!

Untangling the Webs

Untangling the Webs is a relationship novel with a difference, because author Joy Pearson has brought her readers a novel that is not only about relationships, but also a thriller, too.

It tells the stories of women and the men in their lives. There are Alison,  who is an interior designer, who is single, Julia, a married beautician, Phoebe, a widow who is nor without funds, plus Trudie, a stress counsellor, who is also a widow.

They work through a number of issues that impinge on their lives in a number of ways. Poor behaviour, deceit, cheating, shocks and stakers.

This novel starts with betrayal (the giveaway were a pair of pink angora mittens in a place where no pink angora mittens had any right to be) and quickly slipped into risky, dangerous and drunken behaviour to the aural backdrop of Pink Floyd.

It careens through hearts being dented, if not outright broken, mistakes, some seriously stupid stuff  and shows how you really can't keep a good person down, no matter how hard you try!

The women in this novel are there for each other and it works very well on several levels.

Joy Pearson is an exceptionally gifted writer who brings the lives of her characters to vivid life as they try to find some joy and happiness, again.

Will they succeed? You'll have to read the novel to learn that, but Joy Pearson has the knack to make you care enough to keep turning the pages.

It's published by The Book Guild at £8.99.

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

The Cyber Puppets

The Cyber Puppets is a science fiction novel from author Angus McAllister.

Scott Maxwell's life is strange. Weird, even. His wife is unfaithful, multiple times, his brother-in-law William seems to take scheming and plotting to almost ridiculous extremes, and his other brother-in-law Roddy, let's just say that his alcohol consumption is stupendous.

However, perhaps that is because Scott has married into the Laird family, one of the biggest distiller of Scotch in the entire world?

But things are starting to get even stranger. How come Scott is the only one who notices that his father-in-law has been replaced by a totally different person?

And why does Scott seem unaffected by his wife's cheating and her pregnancy? How come he has no free will? What is the cause of his memory lapses?

And what, exactly, is Mr Ramanuki up to? And Bruckner. Where does he fit in?

With all the machinations, the plotting, the twists and the outrageous behaviour, the miraculous recoveries of various family members, you'd almost think that it was a soap opera, rather than real life!

Wait a moment... what if? What if Scott really was a character in a soap opera?

(NOTE: The appearance of Professor Chandler in chapter 18 and his lecture on 20th century television programmes and especially soap opera was very well realised and took me back to media and cultural studies lectures that I have attended. This means either that Angus McAllister has a very vivid imagination or has sat through more than his fair share of such lectures!)

Scott must come to terms with the fact that not only has he being living the life of a man trapped in a false reality, that he is, in reality, living in a time 100 years beyond where he thought he was, a time when the environment had become devastated by man's stupidity.

And then Scott discovers a cataclysmic secret that really blows his mind.

But what would happen in a soap opera if the characters began to go off script? And just who, exactly, is writing the script?

In truth this plot is not unique, it has been done several times before, but not always with the panache and wit of Angus McAllister, who really is a great find as an author.

It's published by Matador at a very reasonable £8.99 in paperback and is also available as an e book.

I have to confess that I am a fan of retired professor Angus McAllister's works, including his novel Close Quarters.

Both of which are available from the That's Books book shop

Sunday, 8 April 2018


Clarice is a debut novel from Welsh-born author Imogen Radwan.

It's the summer of 1969 and Clarice is taking a look back at her life up until then. It's been a tumultuous life with political assassinations, the Merseybeat sound, all culminating in that year which became known as the Summer of Love.

From a conventional childhood including being sent away to boarding school, at age 15 Clarice falls for Jim and knows of love for the very first time.

Her life is drama free and stable, so the appearance of a spirit entity who introduces herself as Amelia and brings Clarice urgent news that a young girl's life is at risk, Clarice realises that matters need ot be investigated further.

There then befall a series of tragic events and Clarice's life is turned inside out.

Now it is the Summer of Love and Clarice is living the dream life in the hippy haven known as San Francisco. She's gone the whole nine yards, as they say, drugs, long, meaningful debates throughout the warm Californian nights whilst wearing flowers in her hair.

She is enjoying life with her live in lover, Clint. It's a long term yet hectic relationship and all seems fairly good. Except for the fact that Amelia starts to appear and with her come questions that start ot haunt Clarice, questions that go to the very heart of who or what the reality of Clarice's life really is.

But would accepting that reality shatter everything?

This is a compelling first novel, published by The Book Guild at £8.99 it can be bought from

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Cream of Plankton Soup

Cream of Plankton Soup is a collection of short stories that is, and this is no tired, old cliche, but a genuinely fresh, new cliche, like no other collection of short stories that I have ever read.

In fact I think I can say that this collection of stories by Grant Sutton is possibly like no other collection of short stories in the history of short stories. Ever.

When I began to read it I felt something akin to an electric (or was that an eclectic?) current jolting its way through my mind and my body.

On the first page of the first story the reader meets Pipa, a young woman who has given birth to twins. Fathered by a vegetable of some kind, though she declines to say which type of vegetable.

The twins are called Pierre and Melone.

When the twins -who are being wheeled around by Pippa in a misappropriated supermarket trolley- begin to cry, Pippa has to soothe them by unhooking a stepladder from the trolley and playing a rather unwieldy piano accordion whilst sat atop the stepladder. For about an hour, during which time she plays random notes.

The protagonist then begins to offer Pippa a wide range of tendentious advice before he is subjected to a foul mouthed tirade about the suitability of vegetables and, indeed, all men to be good parents.

Another story touches on the problems faced by cliff faces and the attentions of confused woodpeckers, and is a fairly ordinary, yet well-paced and well told tale of regal woes as a King awaits an assassin on the top of a cliff, when the story takes a sudden and unexpected change in direction that is a genuinely WTF?? moment. Well, at least for the reader, the King -presumably- knew what was happening all along, even though it had cost him 100 brave warriors.

The remainder of the stories consists of an absolutely delicious gallimaufry of brobdingnagian proportions, including 43 bags of frozen peas, the fact that, after all, gravity does not exist, what not to do with a photocopier during a board meeting, the concepts of natural and supernatural selection and the sudden appearance of a kidnap ensemble made up of militant clowns. And then it gets really weird!

The book is enlivened, and genuinely so, by reader's comments. How could there be reader's comments in a printed book? That's an interesting question which will be answered by visiting, after you purchase and read the book, of course.

There are also some wonderfully evocative illustrations by Ayesha Drew.

The book is published by Matador at £7.99 and can be ordered here


Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Now read That's Books and Entertainment in your own language!

With the help of Google's excellent Google Translate service, you can now view and read the That's Books and Entertainment blog site in your own language.

You will find the language translate switch at the top of the blog page, just to the left.

Over the next several days there will more style changes to the blog which, it is to be hoped, help give the That's Books and Entertainment blog a bit of a makeover. In fact, it's probably the first makeover this blog has ever had!

And thanks to Louise for making these suggestions. And no, that is not Louise in the photograph!

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Living With a Jude

Living With a Jude is a remarkable book by Alice Soule.

The book describes how it is for a family that is living with a child who has severe learning disabilities.

Jude was born with Microcephaly which brought about Global Development Delay and autism which was not, immediately, diagnosed.

In her book Alice discusses, in a light and heartwarmily honest and humorous way, how Jude's issues impacted not only on Jude but also on the rest of his family, Alice included.

It deals, in a sensitive fashion, with a range of vitally important topics such as the impact of his disabilities including health and diet, social isolation, education and socialisation.

It also looks at the problems and challenges of post-16 life options and further education for children such as Jude.

The book is also very well illustrated with family photographs and will be of great benefit to people who are involved in the care, education, healthcare and treatment of people like Jude or who provide support and assistance to their families as well as to the families themselves.

It's a remarkable book and comes highly recommended by this reviewer.

The book is published by The Book Guild at £9.99 and can be obtained here

Twenty Five Million Ghosts

Twenty Five Million Ghosts is the debut novel of Steve Aitchsmith.

It tells the story of Steve. Steve is a troubled man. He is troubled by an army of persistent, organised ants. But that's only the beginning. 

After a varied range of careers, insurance followed by a stint in the army and some rather dubious but officially sanctioned joint services intelligence gathering, the police and, finally, education, Steve has retired to a secluded and somewhat tumbledown cottage in woodlands not far from Brighton.

His wife works away from home during the week, his daughter lives in university accommodation for most of the time and he is generally happy with his lot.

His mother has not long to live and he finds that, apart from his constant battle with the warrior ants in his garden and house, he is beginning to acknowledge his need or rather his desire for not only personal security and an understanding of what is happening in the world.

In his quests he is assisted by a somewhat unconventional Roan Catholic priest as he explores the war-torn past of his own family and the new world that he now occupies.

He finds himself exploriung his own past, the past of his family, the adventures that he found himself involved in, to examine the world, to break the law and  to find peace, through reading journals of the wartime activities of his forebears.

This book, although a work of fiction, is clearly based on real life events that happened to members of the author's family or people that he knew.

The book is published by Matador at £9.99 and can be bought here

Monday, 22 January 2018

Man of Two Worlds

Man of Two Worlds is a new non-fiction book from Peter Rutt.

Rutt has eschewed the usual such as religion, science and what might be described as mainstream beliefs and opinions in Man of Two Worlds.

Instead he has set out to take a refreshingly new and idiosyncratic look at the mechanics of life and of death.

He has enjoyed a journey of discovery and he is now inviting his readers to follow him on that selfsame journey.

His book covers a wide range of fascinating concepts and ideas. For example, why there are certain types of spiritual apparitions that it is impossible for mortals to communicate with, previous life experiences, the Akashick register, karma and why some people are born poor, why some people are murdered (it is all something to do with what they did or did not do in a previous life, apparently).

He debates the nature and existence of truth, including where truth actually resides.

Rutt also describes what happens to the soul after death, how he discovered when writing his book "Jack the Ripper From the Cradle to the grave" that there were a large number of "bad souls" from the Victorian era who were all congregating in the lower levels of the London Underground tube stations.

And how he was able to help hundreds of damaged souls flee to the light.

It is an interesting book published by The Book Guild at £8.99 and available for purchase here

Random Treasure

In Random Treasure, London-born but Scotish based Roger Stewart looks back at six decades of seeking out and finding objects lost and forgotten about in second-hand shops, antique shops and local auctioneers and salerooms up and down the country.

It started out as an interest and a hobby for Roger, but as his knowledge and expertise grew and increased over the years it became a very lucrative and profitable pastime, too.

Roger Stewart takes his readers through what can potentially be a minefield for the unwary. Is the object you see before you a deliberate fake, an accidentally misidentified reproduction, or is it, after all, perhaps the real deal? A genuinely valuable antique?

He covers how antiques rise and fall in value, what provenance is and if it matters, how an auction works and how to behave during an auction.

He takes a peek at how antique collectors act, what their psychological makeup is and how they behave.

How and why do some amateur antique collectors make the spectacular finds that we read about in the papers or see on the Internet?

Does it take expertise, skill and years of training and experience? Or can anyone do it?

He also has some very useful pointers to ensure that your collecting hobby remains just that, as a hobby and doesn't degenerate into an obsessive compulsion. In other words, a hoarder?

The book is also copiously illustrated with some high quality photographs. Including a press archive photograph of the dreaded Collyer Mansion of New York.

The book is exceptionally well researched and well written and will be a must buy book (or gift!) to every art and antique lover or dealer, every armchair enthusiast or anyone who is a fan of David Dickinson, The Antiques Roadshow, The Antiques Road Trip, American Pickers or Going for a Song.

It's published by The Book Guild at £12.99 and can be purchased here

Sunday, 21 January 2018

The Buzzer

What is factual is that a Russian transmitter site has been broadcasting a buzzing noise every other second for 40 years.

Reportedly, every couple of months, the buzzing cycle is interrupted with a voice that intones "U V B 7 6" followed by a series of numbers and what are believed to be coded words.

Experts and amateur theorists have come up with a number of explanations for this phenomenon over the years, ranging from a secret military communication system or even a countermeasure against nuclear war. It is the latter theory that David Mason uses as the basis for his novel.

Natalya Kovalski is a journalist who has decided to launch a research project on the mysterious shortwave Buzzer transmissions.

She teams up with computer programmer and shortwave radio enthusiast Stepan Litvin to try to get to the bottom of this mysterious transmission.

It is suspected that a deserted and abandoned former military base in Povarovo was, at one time, the host site for the transmission and so Natalya and Stepan decide to visit the site to see what they might be able to learn.

Their research work brings to their attention some mysterious links between a secret CCCP experiment, the Soviet Human Enhancement Project C-1, which was undertaken at the height of World War 2 and the city of Luga.

Are they correct in their suspicions that the transmissions and the C-1 Project were an experiment on the hapless population of the city of Luga?

They face something of a dilemma. Should they use Natalya's press contacts to expose the experiment on the people in order to save them and their city? Or would their attempts to do the right thing actually put the city into even more danger?

And what if Project C-1 was even more horrifying than anyone could have even anticipated? Would they be safe? For that matter, would anyone be safe, even again?

This is a truly terrifying thriller of a read. It's published by The Book Guild aat £8.99 and can be bought here

Knowledge: The Root of All Happiness

Knowledge: The Root Of All Happiness is a philosophical book with a difference. It is written in order to make philosophy accessible to everyone.

Even so, it deals with some core concepts of philosophy. "What is the univer's nature?" "Who are we?" "Where are we from?" "What is the goal of life?" and "How Should we live?"

In this book author M. A. Risso explores several key concepts of philosophy, yet does so in a way that although it is designed to be read by everyone, it not in the least bit condescending.

It is concise and is deliberately not over-long, avoiding the temptation to go into too much detail of specific theories and philosophies.

In his introduction M. A. Risso makes a very compelling and highly pertinent point: " Science and religion are often at loggerheads, buy they do not need to be. With our limited senses, it is simply not possible for humans to understand everything in life and we should have the humility to admit this."

The book is an interesting primer for those intending to study philosophy or those who want to know the basics of philosophical thoughts and theories.

It is published by The Book Guild at £9.99 and can be ordered at


This is a first for me. It is the first time I have read a book based on the ancient Irish sport of Hurling.

Written by South African-based filmmaker and story teller Dermod Judge, it tells the story of what happens when an idiosyncratic and eccentric Irish millionaire gets a hold of Hurling and transforms it inot a dangerous gladiatorial style contest, with his own handpicked team "The Danann."

Into this sporting melee comes John-Joe Crosby a Kerryman who is a skilled hurler of the traditional kind.

John-Joe become embroiled in this new derivative of Hurling which seems dead set on eschewing the rules of safety because the lives of the players are deemed as not being as important as the viewing figures and the ratings.

However, he falls in love with the gorgeous Kitty and soon they find that their lives are both at risk when they inadvertently discover that far from being idiosyncratic and eccentric, the millionaire behind the new Hurling craze is nothing but a dangerous crook who is using graft, bribery and corruption in order to build a new sports complex and stadium in Dublin, Ireland's capital city.

John-Joe and Kitty are forced to flee for their lives.

However, John-Joe helps to bring together a Hurling team to battle the thuggish and brutal Danann team. But there is no intention of allowing John-Joe to survive the match. Nor to allow Kitty to take the evidence the two have amassed to the Irish authorities.

However, the match isn't over until it's over.

This is a rip roarer of a novel, powerful and as deadly as a Hurling stick.

It's the first of two novels in the series and is heartily recommended. 

It's published by The Book Guild at £8.99 and you can order it here

The Happy Ending

Meet Harry. Harry is a widower who is only three years away from receiving his 100th birthday telegram from Her Majesty the Queen.  

So, what could Harry do? Take the morphine that his late wife had squirreled away to ease her passing, but had never taken?

Or would he while away his last remaining years in a nursing home, dozing in front of the telly with other people of his own age?

Not a chance of that! Because Harry decides that he was not going to do either of those things. He decided that, with the help of his late wife, he would do something completely and utterly different.

He becomes involved with a rich panoply of vibrant characters as he decides to join become a modern day William Wilberforce and join the campaign to help stamp out modern day slavery and people trafficking.

The author David Stokes draws Harry as a very sympathetic man who, though he would describe himself  as being a rather ordinary chap, turns out be be an extraordinary person, indeed.

Harry was thinking of ending it all, when his life suddenly took a dramatic new turn when an angel crashed into his house. Or rather, took his gate out with her car in a snowstorm.

This was how Harry met Bituin (it's Tagalog for "Star") and learns of Mr Sharma, his wealthy family and the modern slave trade.

This is the story of what Harry does, with the help of Betty and Bituin, to help bring justice to the modern slave traders.

It's a story that is both amusing, heartening and also a romantic tale, even though one of the loved ones is now in the cemetery over the road.

It's published by Matador at £9.99 and can be bought here

The Mirror of Pharos

In The Mirror of Pharos J S Landor brings us the magical story of Jack Tideswell.

Jack's parents were a couple of natural born adventurers, always exploring something or somewhere.

Sadly they lost their lives in a dive that went horrifically wrong whilst they were exploring the submarine ruins of the ancient lighthouse of Pharos.

As a consequence and quite understandably, their son Jack eschews any adventurous inclinations.

However, one day Jack's life is completely turned upside down when he is visited by a messenger seagull which is bearing the gift of an unusual looking disc. Which is addressed personally to Jack. But even more curiously he immediately recognises the handwriting. For it was written by himself.

The fact that Jack has, somehow, delivered a message to himself plunges Jack into a whirlwind of an adventure with all kinds of weird, magical powers at play.

Can Jack learn how to navigate the flow of time? Can he rescue the one person who can help him understand and solve the mystery of the disc that he, apparently, sent to himself?

But there is someone, or something, that is looking ast Jack and watching his every move. But why? And was their motives good, or not?

This is an excellent fantasy novel and will please fans of that genre.

It's published by Matador at £7.99 and you can purchase it here

The author has a website at

Mist The Path of a Killer

Mist The Path of a Killer is the first part of a new crime series from author Jason Instrell.

It features Detective Inspector John Miste of the Leicestershire Police force.

He is deeply affected by the disappearance of his brother as a child and as a result he decided to join the police force.

As a result of his dedication and his hard work John rises through the ranks and is regarded as a competent and well-respected detective.

He becomes enmeshed in the hunt for a highly dangerous and prolific murderer who is known by the name The Wolf.

The Wolf always seems to be one step ahead of Miste and his dedicated team of police officers.

But why? And who is The Wolf? What are his motives for his murderous spree?

Can John Miste and his team cage The Wolf or will he continue to elude them?

This is an extremely taught and well-written and chilling novel which I can highly recommend.

It is published by The Book Guild at £7.99 and can be purchased here


Sunday, 14 January 2018

You Must Be Jo King

This is a comic novel debut from author Moira Murphy.

It's about Joanne King who is recently divorced at age 39. Jo, as she is otherwise known, is well aware that she needs to make some changes in her life. And to this end she realises that she must set herself some goals.

Three goals! Yes, three goals should be more than enough.

The first goal is to ensure the future safety of her home and her furniture. Training her dog should achieve this.

Try not to be horrid about her husband's new woman, Fran. Well, especially in front of the children she shares with George, her ex-husband. And she hopes this will be for the sake of George, too.

Thirdly? Yes, her third goal is to get herself a new life all of her very own! And if his plan might include a little bit of some romance to lighten things up for her, so much the better!

However... however... her plans have to be bombproofed against the vagaries of her teenaged children, her mother who is 83 and also the puppy dog that was such a nice and thoughtful departing gift from George. And the thing was that the puppy was supposedly a present to the kids and not o!

Amidst all this internal, family-related chaos she has encounters with artists, a police officer (but not in a bad way!) and Nick King, who is a physiotherapist.

Plus there's the added and dubious pleasure of hostilities between Jo and her and the new love of her ex-husband George's life, his new 'soulmate', Fran.

But something seems to indicate that Jo will come out on top, ahead of the field, with Millie the dog in tow!

This is a gloriously written and very amusing book. It's fiction, but it's very, very truthful indeed!

It's published by The Book Guild at £7.99 and copies will be available here

A Corner of My Heart

A Corner of My Heart is a debut novel from award winning playwright Mark Seaman.

Originally conceived as a play, the author took the decision to re-work it as a novel.

It tells the story of Mary. At under two months of age in 1949, she is adopted by a married couple,. James and Carol Rowland, who found Mary in a home for unmarried mothers.

Mary has a happy and fulfilled life with her adopted parents and she accepts with equimenity the fact that her birth mother, Ruth, gave her up for adoption.

However, when Mary is 28, and a mother in her own right, old, unasked questions come to the fore. Why was her mother unmarried? Why was Mary, apparently,  so easily given up for adoption?

The focus of the story then shifts to that of Ruth. We see the horrific childhood that blighted Ruth and so many people of her generation, torn from the life she knew and transported to the Nazi death camp, Birkenau, where she knew real suffering and horrendous deprivation.

After the liberation of Birkenau and the end of the war she attempts to make a new life for herself in the austerity of postwar Europe. But the shock discovery of her pregnancy breaks her, forcing to give her child up for adoption. 

However, when Ruth receives a letter from her long-lost daughter, Mary, it is decided to arrange a meeting between them, a meeting that will life changing for the both of them.

This is a thoughtful and very moving debut novel from an author who it is to be hoped will have many more books to bring forward in the future.

It's published by The Book Guild at £9.99 and is available for purchase here

Righteous Correction

Righteous Correction is the first of a new series of crime novel from author Simon J. Stephens.

It concerns a man called Zipoly, so named because his parents used a bag of Scrabble tiles to create his name. As the alternative had been Waduut, Zipoly, or Zip as he was more commonly known, realised that it could have been worse, as he was known to everyone as Zip.

Zip gets married to Francesca, they have two children and then his family is taken away from hm during a horrendous and utterly unnecessary road crash.

He avenges the calamity that took his family away from him but he then becomes drawn into the ambit of a very secret and ancient order, for whom he becomes involved in the fight against crime and injustice. 

His cover is that of a lonely, widowed man who travels the length and breadth of the country, just cruising on the canals of England on a narrow boat.

It turns out that Zip, who previously was a highly successful sanitaryware sales manager, was also highly successful in his new role as a very unconventional crimefighter.

All was going well for Zip -as well as it could, under the circumstances- when he was faced with a dilemma.

Exactly what would happen to Zip should his controllers and superiors demand that he undertake a task that he found to be morally repugnant, to cross a very distinct line?

Zip is about to finds out.

This is a very interesting book, because not only is it a thriller it is also very thought-provoking, raising a great many questions about the human condition, forgiveness, vengeance, love and moral relativity.

It costs £9.99 form Matador and copies may be bought here

An Oxford Scandal

An Oxford Scandal is a real treat for fans of the historical crime novels of author Norman Russell and for newcomers to his work.

In An Oxford Scandal the reader is taken back to the city of Oxford in the latter part of the Victorian era.

We meet up with Anthony Jardine who is an Oxford tutor who has managed the feat of being both success and popular.

He finds that there are some strains on his life, split as his time is between his working life, his devoted wife Dora and his equally devoted lover, Rachel.

However, the situation is more complex than he could have known as Dora is, what modern society would describe as a junkie, as she is in the terrible grip of an addiction to cocaine. Her behaviour (as a result of her addiction?) is becoming a source of increasing angst for Arthur..

In fact, he retreats, somewhat, into the world of academia as concentrates on the discovery of what appear to be the remains of St Thomas a Becket which were, apparently, hidden in a secret vault at the college.

Then the corpse of Dora is found (murdered in a tram) and, unfortunately for Arthur, as he was in the area, meeting his mistress, he falls under the suspicion of having killed his wife.

Onto the scene comes Inspector James Antrobus who is ably assisted by his friend Sophia Jex-Blake, the pioneering woman doctor and feminist.

The investigation proves to be somewhat complicated, even more so when Rachel, Anthony's  mistress, is also murdered.

Who is the real killer? What on earth could their motives be? And what is the link between, murders and Anthony Jardine and London?

This is an exciting detective knowledge, yet it is also cerebral and very well researched. The inclusion of historical figures like Dr Sophia Jex-Blake is an added element of interest.

The book is published by Matador at a remarkably reasonable £8.99 and it can be purchased here

Thursday, 11 January 2018

What is Science fiction? And who wrote the first Science Fiction story?

In their book “Science Fiction, an historical anthology” Eric S. Rabkin and Robert Scholes explore the historical cannon of Science Fiction literature.

They cover in Part one “The Emergence of Modern Science” and include Cyrano de Bergerac’s “From Other Worlds” (1657), Jonathon Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels, (1726) and François Marie Arouet (Voltaire) Micromegas (1752)

In Part 2, Nineteenth Century they cover E. T. A. Hoffman’s The Sandman (1816) Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly Frankenstein or the Modern Prometheus (1818)
Edgar Allan Poe A Decent into the Maelstrom (1841)
Nathanial Hawthorne Rappaccini’s Daughter (1844)
Edward Bellamy Looking Backward 2000-1887 (1888)

In the section Early Twentieth Century they include The Star by H. G. Wells (even though this story was published in 1889, thus part of the previous century) and Hugo Gernsback’s novel Ralph 124C 41+ (1911.)

They would appear to argue, or at least, suggest that Science Fiction began as early as the 17th century.

However, they omit Swift’s bitter and biting satire “A Modest Proposal For preventing the Children of Poor People From being a Burthen to Their Parents or Country, and For making them Beneficial to the Publick”. One might argue that the theme of commodifying people as a potential food source was taken up in the film “Soylent Green” which has corpses being turned into a foodstuff called Soylent Green. (Incidentally this theme was not in the Harry Harrison novel upon which the film was based, Make Room, Make Room.

(Note: They also failed to mention Jules Verne, a leading exponent of scientific fiction.)

However, if one undertakes further research it becomes clear that Science Fiction stories predate the eighteenth century.

In an article in The Daily Telegraph published 7th November 2013 arts editor Charlotte Runcie wrote an article that reported during the 2013 Cambridge Festival of Ideas, senior lecturer Dr Justin Meggitt posited “the first ever work of science fiction was in fact written by a Greek-speaking Syrian author, in Ancient Rome.”

Runcie added: “True History by Lucian of Samosata is ostensibly a parody of Ancient Roman travel writing. But with characters venturing to distant realms including the moon, the sun, and strange planets and islands, it has a surprising amount in common with modern sci-fi novels and films.”

Runcie also points out the following ancient writings should be considered as Science Fiction:  “The Ramayana - attributed to Valmiki, between the fifth and fourth centuries BC, Urashima Tarō - Japanese legend dating from around the eighth century AD, The Republic - Plato, around 380 BC and the Book of Revelation - John of Patmos, around 90 AD.”

However, some scholars would question that list because some of them involve “magic, not science.
Runcie also cites author and scholar Margaret Attwood “But some question whether it is really the first ever example of the genre. Last year, Margaret Atwood published a book of essays exploring her own theories on the origins of sci-fi, citing Plato's Republic and even the Book of Revelation as possible contenders for the title.”

In general it is acknowledged Science Fiction as we understand the term began at the turn of the 19th century, with novels like H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine (1895) The Invisible Man (1897), and The War of the Worlds (1898).

Mention must go to Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886)
In the USA Science Fiction novels can arguably be said to have begun with Edgar Rice Burroughs, with his serialised story Under the Moons of Mars (1912; novelised as A Princess of Mars, 1917.
In 1926 Hugo Gernsback began publishing Amazing Stories.

The magazine spawned many imitators and Gernsback added other Science Fiction titles to his stable; Science Wonder Stories, Air Wonder Stories, and Scientific Detective Monthly, later renamed Amazing Detective Tales.

In 1934 the clamour of readers demanding Science Fiction stories was so high it was decided to launch the Science Fiction League, sponsored by Gernsback himself.

The Science Fiction League had branches throughout the USA and with branches in the UK and Australia. It began holding conventions, still a staple for fans today.

An early, long-serving influence on Science Fiction was the editor of Astounding Science Fiction from 1937 until 1971. With his scientific background (he had a BSc) he was rigorous in ensuring the science was accurate.

Under Campbell the magazine published stories by authors who were to become Literary Lions of the Science Fiction world, like Robert Heinlein, Isaac Asimov, A.E. Van Vogt, Theodore Sturgeon, Arthur C. Clarke (another ‘proper’ scientist like Isaac Asimov.)

There have been a number of protagonists of satirical Science Fiction, like British author Michael Moorcock and fellow British author J. G. Ballard whose satirical novels include his 1973 novel Crash, which is about people who get sexual kicks from car crashes. Possibly the first Science Fiction novel to feature symphorophilia as the main theme.

However, renowned Science Fiction author Harry Harrison was able to prove in the multiple Stainless Steel Rat novels featuring his character James Bolivar diGriz , also known by the sobriquets Slippery Jim and The Stainless Steel Rat, that it is possible to write Science Fiction novels that are both satirical and highly amusing.

If one reads the Douglas Adams Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy novels and the Stainless Steel Rat novels, one might be forgiven for noticing a similarity if not in the subject matter a certain similarity in the joy de vivre that both authors brought to their published works.

Rabkin, E., Scholes, R, 1983. Science Fiction, an historical anthology. 1st ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

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