Archive for books

Bryant and May – The Wild Chamber by Christopher Fowler

Posted in Authors, Books, Netgalley with tags , , , , , on October 20, 2017 by The Rock 'N' Roll Oatcake

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The latest instalment of the series featuring the elderly detectives Bryant and May and their colleagues in the Peculiar Crimes Unit (PCU). The wild chambers in the title refers to the various parks in London, which feature heavily in the book as Christopher Fowler continues to give potted histories and oddball facts about London and its peoples through the ages. Indeed Arthur Bryant has vivid hallucinations following some lifesaving treatment and meets various characters in these who help him solve the case, including a cameo by a young Queen Elizabeth II.

The PCU are tasked with catching a possible serial killer who makes their kills in the parks of London. In the background the PCU’s arch enemy Leslie Faraday plots to close the PCU down and all the PCU characters are back including Bryant’s suave partner John May, along with constables Colin and Meera with their ongoing ‘will they, wont’ they’ become an item. There is an added character this time as an exchange German policewoman, Steffi Vesta, joins the team hoping to pick up some good policing tips!

Christopher Fowler cleverly uses the characters in his books to make comments on the current social and cultural landscapes in London, a city he loves and that comes across in his writing. If you have never read a Bryant & May novel you are missing out and this is a good a place to start as any. They are a winning mix of ‘cosy crime’ with a supernatural edge and a good dose of humour.

Book review: Overkill The Untold Story of Motörhead by Joel McIver

Posted in Books, Get Ready To Rock!, Netgalley, rock n roll with tags , , , , , , , on October 9, 2017 by The Rock 'N' Roll Oatcake

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Omnibus Press [Publication date 21.08.17]

The original book was published in 2011, however since Lemmy’s death back in December 2015 the book has been re-issued as an enhanced eBook. Basically it adds a newly written chapter covering Motorhead from 2011 to date, plus you can click on links within the book to Spotify playlists of Motorhead classics and band’s influenced by them. A pretty neat idea, although if reading off a Kindle you’d need Wi-Fi access for Spotify.

The book gives a potted history of Motorhead, covering all their albums – although once you hit the mid-90’s onwards not much is said about the recording process, an album’s reception etc. Joel McIver is a big fan of the band and draws on three of his interviews with main man Lemmy for much of the text, along with fellow writer’s interviews with Lemmy and past and former bandmates including Phil Campbell, Mikkey Dee and Eddie Clarke. There is some repetition of themes, particularly Lemmy’s collection of Nazi war memorabilia and his lifelong hate of heroin. The band’s history is only touched upon briefly in many parts and you do want to read more at some stages, although the band’s interviews give a good idea of what they thought about a particular album and the various record labels the band has been on. Like many 70’s bands Motorhead were royally screwed by record labels in their early days and suffered from endless rehashed live and compilation albums  that often detracted from the band’s newer albums and songs.

For a concise overview of Motorhead this book does the job and do make sure you read Lemmy’s ‘White Line Fever’ as well.

Authors interview: JON BOUNDS & DANNY SMITH

Posted in Authors, Books with tags , , , , , on August 22, 2017 by The Rock 'N' Roll Oatcake

Jon Bounds and Danny Smith have written a very entertaining road trip book, ‘Pier Review’, where they set out to visi the piers of England and Wales. They have kindly answered a few questions regarding their book…

Have you been pleased with the sales and reaction/reviews for ‘Pier Review’?

D – We made our advance back, and more besides. So that’s a real win in the way the industry is at the moment. And because of the learning curve about promoting a book is so damn steep. We did alright. just getting it published was a massive achievement.

J – The reviews and reactions that mean the most are those that come from people that don’t know you: they’re under no obligation to be kind or interested. We’ve had enough good notices to give us a bit of of a warm glow, as well as the couple of people that were very angry upon finding out that there wasn’t that much about piers in the book. Through the book we’ve got to speak to and meet lots of nice people too and had a great visit to the Isle of Man where the people battling to save their pier were kind enough to dub Danny and I ‘pier consultants’ so the insurance covered us having a good nose at the structure.

How easy/hard was it to pitch the idea of visiting all the English and Welsh piers to publishers?

The process wasn’t too bad itself, we just wrote every version of the things that publisher required. Half page synopsis, full page, chapter breakdowns etc. and kept a spreadsheet., we knew the idea had a large audience because who hasn’t been to the seaside in britain, we’re an island. Its we’re surrounded by it. Plus the genre of bored white guys do something stupid and write about it is well trodden.

I think the idea was easy to grasp and once it was a book – rather than the idea of us wanting to do it in the first place – people liked it. Them finding out that it was an odd dual-narrative (like these answers) and slightly psychogeographic book with class analysis and some dick jokes made some love it. Others not so much, but we got there, and our agent did all the really hard work.

Any plans to visit the Scottish piers (three in total I think?) – maybe even as a eBook exclusive?!

I’d still like to make a radio documentary of it, and record but edit out Midge’s voice. Rule one of Pier Review – Midge doesn’t get a voice.

Scotland remains a long long way, and very cold. Never say never though.

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Can Blackpool ever redeem itself in your view?

It can and has, I’ve been since and enjoyed it. But I’m normally a big fan of sleazy and broken. Just on the trip lack of sleep and being trapped in a car with the same two people was doing things to our brain.

Blackpool obviously isn’t as dark as we paint it, and certainly isn’t as dark as the stuff that the publishers edited out from those passages on the grounds of taste. I’m positive that it has interesting things going on, lovely residents, a vibrant cultural scene and a fascinating history. I just do not think it is any fun whatsoever to be there, though.

Music and radio played a big part in the traveling between piers. What was the worst radio station you had to endure?

All three of us are big music fans just of slightly differant things, we expected more arguments about the radio. Even the bad radio is good though, the Southend local dj DJ SLAPDASH stands out though. At one point he was doing a crossword live on air. Can’t remember if that made it into the book.

Apart from Essex’s most quotidian station that Dan mentions, we firmly kept the dial locked to BBC 6Music. Which meant we got a firm dose of that month’s playlist: every line of Brett Anderson’s Brittle Heat is branded on my brain. I’m sure it’s a decent track but… nah it’s a joke of a track, a man trying to reclaim his youth in public. I can’t condone that.

After visiting all the piers and sea fronts, do you still have a generally good opinion and feelings for the British seaside?

I do, because even the places that have been redeveloped and are quite new, still have remained a smidge tatty and human. The seaside will always be a place where we go for fun and as such have a special type of slightly crap glamour.

Oh yes, we couldn’t have done the trip or written so much about it if we didn’t really love these places. And now I have a ton of memories to add to that love. That’s what our country is all about.

Are there any plans for another joint book together?

We’ve talked about a couple of ideas, one is sticking out at the moment so maybe…

We had a good chat about a couple of ideas, and the conclusion was really that we would as we’d forgotten how hard it was the first time. The process of writing about something that you’d both experienced wasn’t as hard as it might have been: we took out precious little material that we’d written that overlapped even when writing about the same things. The process of doing the thing in the first place is another story: it’s not surprise that the idea that is sticking out is one where there are separate bedrooms.

Anything else to add… (feel free to plug away with links etc.)

My links are

Edgetrinkets.co

@probablydrunk

If you really want to help any author WRITE THEM AN AMAZON REVIEW popular books go to the head of searches and popularity is decided on number of reviews. Amazon presales are a big deal now also, often deciding how much promotion a publisher is going to give a book. So, yeah, write us an amazon review. And we’ll owe you a pint or something next time we see you x

You can find most things I write or links to them at popandpolitics.co.uk or @bounder. At the moment Dan and I, alongside a couple of our mates, are just about to launch a podcast where we take a ‘sideways look’ at the universe of the Hitchhiker’s’ Guide to the Galaxy. You might think that that’s already a bit sideways looking, so we’ll end up looking at it head on, but we think the idea has got legs. It’s called Beware of the Leopard and can be found at http://btlpodcast.com

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A Dark So Deadly by Stuart MacBride

Posted in Authors, Books with tags , , , , , on August 11, 2017 by The Rock 'N' Roll Oatcake

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Harper Collins [Pub Date 20 Apr 2017]

This is a stand alone novel, although it takes place in Oldcastle and locations used in the Ash series of novels.

The book revolves around DC Callum MacGregor, who is part of the Misfit Mob, drawn up of members of the force who have various misdemeanors to their name or are recovering from serious illness, or in one case terminal illness. The Misfit mob get the cases no-one else wants and the action starts when the team are assigned to see where an ancient mummy was stolen from after turning up at the Oldcastle tip. But then Callum uncovers links between the ancient corpse and three missing young men, which leads him and his fellow Misfit Mob into investigating a serial killer.

It is a long read at over 600 pages, however Stuart MacBride’s trademark black humour and ability to relay the less glamorous sides of policing keep the reader engrossed. I have to say DC Callum is one unlucky fella, as despite his often best intentions it often turns bad for him. His childhood links into the case the team are investigating and there are plenty of twists and turns you’d expect in a good crime novel.

Stuart MacBride excels at having you laugh one minute, then shudder as he describes how the serial killer treats his victims. Never read a duff book by this author and ‘A Dark So Deadly’ will please both longstanding fans and anyone who has yet to try this enjoyable crime writer.

I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest unedited feedback.

Diary Of A Bookseller by Shaun Bythell

Posted in Books with tags , , , , , , , on August 3, 2017 by The Rock 'N' Roll Oatcake

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Published by Profile Books [Publication date 28.09.17]

First off, I received a free review copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest unedited feedback. In fact I found this wonderful site Netgalley where you can review books that are just out or due to be published in the coming months. A real find for a book lover like me! Anyway, onto the review…

Shaun Bythell owns The Bookshop, Wigtown – Scotland’s largest second-hand bookshop. It contains 100,000 books, spread over a mile of shelving. This is his diary of a year running his bookshop, ably assisted by a series of characters, both staff and customers. It is very funny and Shaun has a knack of penning descriptions of the customers who frequent his shop, form Mr Deacon who orders his books in person, rather than online through to the inane questions asked by customers who think they are funny, with such gems as ‘I can’t find anything to read in here’ and ‘It is cheaper online’.

You also get an insight into how hard it is to keep a second hand bookshop going with the mighty Amazon and eBooks/Kindle changing the book market place dramatically over the past few years. When he bought the bookshop in 2001 we had the Net Book Agreement (NBA) and chain retailers like Dillons, Ottakers and Borders, who have all gone now, plus eBooks were just starting to make an impact (there is a YouTube clip of him taking a shotgun to a Kindle and mounted in the shop – ironic for me as I read the book on my Kindle!).

He is ably assisted/hindered by his one full time member of staff Nicky, who leads a novel way of life that includes raiding the local Morrisons bins for ‘Foodie Friday’. You get an insight into the world of assessing and buying book collections, usually after the death of a family member and can read the passion he has when he discovers a rare book or one beautifully bound and/or illustrated. The bookshop itself is used for events, including an annual literary festival and even has a bed in it, which makes a change from the usual coffee outlet found in a chain bookshop.

Having worked in a bookshop (okay it was WHSmith’s but I was the Book Department Manager), I can relate to his perceived rudeness to some of his customers. As he says in the book he can get away with it as he owns the shop, sadly others in retail have to accept the insults and sarcastic comments some customers can send your way. He is never overly rude though, just to those that deserve it.

There is the Random Book Club, where each month you get a book chosen at random from the shop’s extensive stock. Great idea, like a Secret Santa but just every month and involving books.

Reading this book wants you a) to read many of the books he recommends and b) visit his bookshop, if only to meet some of the customers like Mr Deacon and the owner himself. If you have any interest at all in books, do read this as it will reinforce your love of books and bookshops.

Queen Unseen by Peter Hince

Posted in Books, Queen with tags , , , , , , , on August 1, 2017 by The Rock 'N' Roll Oatcake

Peter Hince, or ‘Ratty’ as his road name was, was roadie to Queen’s Freddie Mercury and John Deacon from the mid-70’s until Queen stopped touring in 1986. Hince is now a photographer, something he became interested in whilst on the road with Queen. His photos are used in the book and show various member of Queen usually at leisure in between shows or recording.

Peter Hince is very honest about being a roadie, so there is a lot of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll, plus as he states at the start of the book those after a history of the band would not find it in his book. Instead you get his memories of life on the road, including a lot about the US and fascinating insights into his daily life working with Queen, in particular Freddie Mercury and John Deacon.

You get a little more insight into Freddie Mercury’s character, in particular his wicked sense of humour and the sense of loneliness he seemed to have as he always wanted to be with people. John Deacon we know was the quiet one in Queen and it seems that was true on the road with Freddie and Roger Taylor being the party animals of the band!

The book does jump around time wise and his down to earth writing style may offend the more delicate reader, however if like me you are a big Queen fan this is one of the better books about the band out there. Well worth a read.

Rather Be The Devil by Ian Rankin

Posted in Authors, Books, crime writers with tags , , , , , , on July 31, 2017 by The Rock 'N' Roll Oatcake

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Published by Orion

You just don’t want a Rebus novel to end as you get so engrossed in the characters. Interesting how Rebus is still getting involved in cases despite being retired – he has an uncanny knack of being in the thick of the action. This one involves Rebus’s nemesis Big Ger McCafferty, although both have a grudging respect for each other.

It involves another cold case, the unsolved 40 year old murder of Marie Turquand who was murdered in the Caledonian Hotel. It involves rock ‘n’ roll stars, music, gangsters and Rebus’s unnerving skill at being in the think of the action despite being retired and off the force.

Easily one of the best Rebus books, really enjoyable and Ian Rankin shows you can write great crime novels without the need for OTT violence favoured by some crime writers.