Sunday 5 December 2010

The Gaudi Key? Keep the door locked.

The Gaudi Key didn’t unlock any doors for me, I’m afraid. Shame. I like these kind of books and can normally lap up Dan Brown and the conspiracy theorists. And I love Gaudi and the art nouveau movement. But this was truly awful. Maybe it suffers from being a translation from (presumably) Spanish? I simply can’t sit and read huge chunks of exposition and back-story and listen to characters telling each other things they already know just to inform the reader. And while I’m all for multiple points-of-view, you can’t jump into a character’s head and have him/her conveniently forget pertinent plot points because it suits the current scene. The author pushes one-dimensional characters around the board like chess pieces lecturing the reader and nobody has enough depth for me to have a clue whether or not their motivations are genuine. And I don’t really care.

But enough of negatives. There’s a lot of history in here, both real and imagined, though its delivery is pompous and dull at times. Gaudi is linked with the templars (isn’t everybody these days?) and the masons and there’s a real depth in the interpretation of his work, particularly the Sagrada Familia. On that level, the book succeeds. But as a novel, it just didn’t do it for me.

Monday 22 November 2010

Fallen Star

A rare book review - something I read on authonomy a while back and have championed ever since. Fallen Star by Ian Barker and recently published by Rebel e Publishers, although fortunately there's a dead-tree version as well for those of us who haven't yet embraced the e-reader revolution. I bought this recently from Amazon and I wasn't disappointed. Fallen Star is the story of ex-rock-star Karl and ordinary Irish cafe-worker Lizzie. He's famous; she's a nobody. He's used to getting what he wants; she won't play second fiddle to anyone. And he's the son of a war hero while she's the daughter of a terrorist. Can they ever find any common ground?

But this is more than a love story - it's a bird's-eye view of the "cult of the celebrity" that pervades our lives these days. From auditions for porn films to chat shows to reality tv shows, this book covers what it means to be "famous" in the 21st century. And it does it so well, it's scary.

Barker has a real wit. There are some fabulous one-liners in here that made me laugh out loud (and I committed the ultimate sin of turning page corners so I could find them again). "He turned on the smile again and her resistance caved in so far it would have needed an army of potholers to rescue it."  Fabulous! The audition for the blue movie seemed so realistic I'm wondering how Barker did his research. And when Karl and Lizzie get caught in flagrante delicto by a posse of Girl Guides, I practically wet myself laughing.

The ending was predictable but with a nice twist that I didn't see coming. I did feel that the story stopped quite abruptly and I'd have liked to have known more, but that's probably because I was so caught up in these peoples' lives that I didn't want to stop reading. And without spoilers - I think Barker should patent his idea for a reality tv show before anyone else gets hold of it!

This is indie publishing at its best. Buy it. Buy it NOW.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Test Message

Trying to get Facebook to connect to this blog, but not having much success so far....

Tuesday 5 October 2010

Crime & Psychology

Today was week 2 (of 10) of my crime & psychology course at the local 6th form college. There are about 16 of us and an odd demographic - mostly women, mostly middle-aged (as expected) but there are 3 young blokes. One I think is still at school/college.

Last week we were looking at the history of criminal profiling - how in the past your physical appearance could have a bearing over whether you might have criminal tendencies. Not much change there, you might say, but certain "scientists" believed that your body shape and even your ears could mean you harboured latent criminal tendencies!

This week, we talked about eyewitness testimony. Fascinating. Let's say you show a group of people a short video of two cars colliding. You ask them what speed they thought one car was doing when the cars collided. Then you repeat the process with a second group but this time you ask them "What speed were the cars doing when they smashed into each other?" The responses from the second group will be higher. It's amazing how much information you can almost subliminally implant by asking leading questions. Or how people make assumptions based on what they see, just to fit in with their "world view" and the brain then thinks this was what actually happened. So the whole purpose of "swearing to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth" becomes fundamentally flawed when everyone has their own version of the truth. I've spent time in court (with work, I might add) and I was always in awe of barristers who could argue black was white - and make you believe it! But then I once spent over 5 hours in the witness box reading out serial numbers, so it wasn't all excitement.

Next week we're doing psychopathy. Serious stuff!

Saturday 3 July 2010

Sex or porn? When too much is not enough.

Still Missing. A thriller? Misery memoir? Porn? Not read it yet, but will let you know. It does annoy me that industry insiders tell me my sex-and-drugs thriller is not commercial, yet this apparently is? Anything with this amount of pre-publication publicity must be commercial by definition, surely? It becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Edited to add: here's a link to an interesting debate on this very topic on HarperCollins authonomy site.


Friday 2 July 2010

Vampire fiction

A timely post, since there's apparently some new vampire film just out?

What is it with vampires? They're fictional creatures that drink blood, for God's sake. And yet the media and youth of today are obsessed with them. 21st century vampirism is definitely cute and fluffy, with pin-up vampires and Hollywood overtones.

Personally, when I do vampires at all, I like them dark and broody - Mitchell style, I guess, in the awesome BBC tv series Being Human. But I got a vampire book for review not so long ago - called Blood & Ice, I was fully intending to write a review here but lost the publicity slip and can't remember when the publication date is. I emailed the publishers but they've not got back to me. Now while this has been published already in hardback, I'm loath to write anything pre-paperback-publication-date just in case my edition is different in any way. So you'll have to make do with the hardback review by The Independent in the link. But I have to say, that for somebody who doesn't generally do vampire fiction, I liked this one, despite the negative review. I thought it was rather original. But you make your own mind up.

Or if you like your vampires a touch more - shall we say? - erotic, check out this excellent unpublished snippet Bite on HarperCollins authonomy site. But please note - it's adults-only and, um, ever-so-slightly (well all right - quite a bit) graphic. Don't say I didn't warn you....

Saturday 15 May 2010

Legend or Action?

Compare and contrast two books: Alan Fenton’s The Return of Arthur and Matthew Reilly’s Seven Ancient Wonders. The first is a modern retelling of the Arthurian legend – I had this in hardback many years ago and recently received a review copy of a new edition together with its sequel. The second is a bit like Dan Brown on acid. Reilly started out writing action books, some could only be described as military thrillers, but the recent stuff has a conspiracy-theory twist – at one point a character in the Louvre even says he’s having a “Dan Brown” moment. I read Seven Ancient Wonders a few years back but since I just got the third in the trilogy, I thought I’d start again.

So – Fenton tells (note that word – it’s important later) the story of King Arthur in modern Britain, where scientist Merlin teaches at a boy’s school and Arthur is the son of a politician. Now I’m a sucker for Arthurian legends, but while this is competently written, there’s no real pace or drama. Arthur does this, Merlin does that; nobody even seems to notice when Merlin does a vanishing act. I just don’t feel I know or care about these people. The book is still on my bedroom floor and I have doubts about whether I’ll find the enthusiasm to finish it, much less read the sequel.

Reilly on the other hand. This guy breaks all the rules. The plots are preposterous – we have crack commando teams evading quicksand and finding bits of pyramid around the world and attempting to prevent some cataclysm and fulfil ancient prophecies (you get the Dan Brown analogy now?). The actual writing is littered with exclamation marks, bits in italics, odd paragraph breaks, explanatory pictures and maps. There are plane chases, impossible escapes, implausible action sequences, but God, do I want to keep reading?

So what’s better? Fenton telling us a story with no real depth or pace? Or Reilly’s edge-of-the-seat showing us the action at breakneck speed? I know who I’ll carry on reading.

Friday 14 May 2010

Crime Pays

Or it should do. Especially if you're writing it. Having failed quite spectacularly so far in selling my psychological thriller/crime novel, I've decided I need to be "marketable". So, given that I'm not about to murder anyone (not yet, anyway ...), what else can I do?

Short stories? I don't write many of them. I find them much harder to write than novels - how to produce something compact and satisfying in such a small number of words? But every now and again the mood takes me and I wrote three in the early part of this year, which are doing the rounds of various competitions and women's magazines. Maybe when I've won some competitions or have some more short publications to my credit, I'll tick a few more boxes on the right lists for marketability?

I've also contributed some content to a new website associated with the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival. It seemed like a good idea as I've entered their short story competition too! Maybe if I can expose myself in as many places as possible (without getting arrested), I might then be classed as marketable? Then again, perhaps I should just get arrested.

Time Flies

Ag. Where has the time gone? Blog? What blog? In my defence, I've succumbed to facebook lately, so anything interesting I have to say (and believe me, it's not much) is now mostly said there.