Book Review – Watchmen by Alan Moore and David Gibbons

To comic or not to comic, that is the graphic novel?

This is the first graphic novel that I have had on my list. To avoid the issue (or stumble straight into?) I will use the terms “Graphic Novel” and “Comic” interchangeably in this review. If you don’t like it, lump it 🙂

As well as being the first graphic novel on my list, Watchmen was also the first graphic novel I had read for a very long time. It is a book that I only recently acquired for my birthday in June 2016 and I pretty much instantly promoted it to the top of my reading list! I have read and very much enjoyed graphic novels in the past, most notable of these previous adventures was The Crow by James O’Barr. I re-acquired that for my birthday too, so it will be re-read and reviewed at some point in the future 🙂

watchmen_coverTo start this review I need to at least touch on the comic *thing*. I could waz on about the relative merits of comics and graphic novels compared to scripts and books for ages, but I’m not going to (Ha!) Others have and are doing that ad infinitum and it really isn’t overly relevant to this review. Suffice to say that all literary and visual art, books and comics included, allow their creator the latitude to deliver sublime beauty or a hideous pile of shite, sometimes at the same time.

All I will say is that I think graphic novels provide a very interesting way to bring image and word together. I touched on the subject of efficient, tight prose in my review of The Trouble with Goats and Sheep. As a medium, the graphic novel provides a spectacular way to allow the text to concentrate on dialogue and story, while the pictures provide a wonderfully powerful symbiotic support. If a picture paints a thousand words, then Watchmen is longer than Anna Karenina (which I still haven’t finished!)

The actual review

Watchmen is, quite frankly, an excellent story told in an amazing, very deep and considered way. It is obvious that the original spark for this book was huge, but every further consideration, every extra detail of the whole story is etched into the quality of the characters, their floors, their heroism and the events that unfold in such a perfectly orchestrated way. You can see the quality of that creation process. Moore wrote a forward for the version of the book that I have. In it he suggests that the story is somehow weaker in its early stages as they had not developed the whole story arc and the characters. I never noticed!

The complexity of the various stories and the layers of characters, events and background is almost overwhelming. I found that you drew as much as you could from the text and images and still felt the rich reality of life sat behind what you gleened. There are so many oblique references and throw away observations that allow the the book to be of its time and timeless all at once.

If that wasn’t enough of a success, in multiple places, two separate storylines are told together and this device is used to infer deeper meaning in one or both. There is a pirate story, a comic within a comic, which is an obvious example. Sections of a person reading a pirate zombie comic interleave with a conversations and events in the real world. The medium conveys the reality of what is happening in an unambiguous yet extremely subtle way. It truly is sublime storytelling. This technique is also used in other parts of the book where two parts of the main story overlap and complete each other, or where one person is talking and the other is thinking. It is nothing short of astounding when I look back and think what pages of paper managed to do! (OK, pages of paper and a pair of extremely talented people!)


Watchmen is also a perfect example of  the “show don’t tell” writing rule. Intelligence is expected of the reader (yeh yeh, and I managed to struggle through!) You have to join the dots you put two and two and two together and you get what you can out of it knowing there is more you missed. That’s it’s beauty.

A final example of the exquisite subtlety of this otherwise very un-subtle story is the way that you relate to the characters. There are two very distinct sides to some of the characters; mask on and mask off. Watchmen feasts on the fallibility of people. I have managed to get to this point without mentioning the Watchmen unique selling point. The Superheroes are real people and far from detract from the whole history of superhero comics, it adds its own layer of realism without causing damage to the original format (it might be naivety and the healing passage of time that has given me this view?) Watchmen has  however spawned a wealth of sub-culture. The likes of Mystery Men, Kick Ass, Super Bob and maybe even Scot Pilgrm if you squint (there’s also an Ex Machina reference in there as well.) were all conceived from the much more serious, more grounded and grander story that is Watchmen I can only imagine being into the comic/super hero scene and reading Watchmen when it came out.

Found heavier text at end of each chapter hard going against the fluidity of the comic sections. But they provide the depth, the background.


So, that’s it. Read Watchmen. I haven’t scratched the surface of what it has to offer. I was never going to succeed, so I didn’t try 🙂 I’ll end with a quote from the book that I loved.

“Whether tales are told by the light of a campfire or by the glow of a screen, the prime decision for the teller has always been what to reveal and what to withhold…”

Rating: 9/10


Book Review – Five Rivers Met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris

The Random Intro…

If you follow me on Facebook or Twitter then you know that I tweet a lots of quotes from books as I read them. In every tweet, I do my best not to give anything away. I aim to give everyone who hasn’t read the book some thoughtful quotes and a reason to maybe read the book. If any of you have already read the book, then I hope what I deliver provides a chance to reminisce as we go along. 

I take the same approach when I review a book. I try to capture the driving themes, the good and the bad, without giving the story away. Sometimes I don’t even really mentioning the story. I want to capture the essence of the book, not simply create a facsimile of the blurb that you can find anywhere (including on the back of the book!)

fiveriverscoverThe Review

Why did I tell you all that? Lovely though it is, I am meant to be reviewing Fiver Rivers met on a Wooded Plain by Barney Norris, not the justification of my approach to Tweeting. The all important link between the two is this; there were so many parts of Barney Norris’ book that I wanted to share. So many sublime sentences that captured a feeling or a mood or a situation perfectly. I restrained myself as much as possible, but you can see from the link below. There were still quite a few, and they are as good under review as when I first read them.

All my #FiveRivers tweets

It is pretty obvious that Barney can see life laid out in front of him. He is a young man, but he understands every age and every type of person. The perspective of others is such a powerful thing to be able to experience. I feel I can also see this way to a lesser extent than Barney. To be able stare out through the windows of someone else’s eyes, and feel what they feel; young or old, rich or poor, close or completely opposed to your experiences. It’s a powerful thing and Barney delivers it beautifully. He can also take the reader to emotional heights as well; love and death, happiness, despair and everything in between.

The book starts with an exquisitely wrought flyby of the history of Salisbury, it’s landscape and its cathedral. This is followed by Rita’s story which is a million literary  miles away from such a poetic beginning. These juxtapositions, the separation of each story, provide the structure for the whole book. The linkages and the multilayered connections between these different stories is the lifeblood of the book. Barney sows the threads throughout each of the distinct stories, but all the time the threads are being gathered, knitting together to make a complete and poignant story.

Barney uses strongly developed skills to deliver each character’s internal speech and his script style dialogue worked well providing direct, clean prose. It shines through that Barney comes from a script-writing background and the format of the book plays to these strengths. Barney sees the raw truth of people. The things they think between the things they say, and every character of the diverse set in the book is so different. You connect with each because they talk with an eloquent, intelligent, deep internal voice. For some characters this is conscious and others don’t fully understand the way they think. The book conveys so much truth of people.

On a related theme, there’s something I want to mention about ‘the magic of the real world’. As some readers will know, I grew up on a fantasy heavy reading list, and magic was one of the main draws for me. A well written supernatural scene, or a properly realistic, grounded piece of magic can make a book. Conversely, poor magic can kill an otherwise good book. I have read a few cross over books, Sixty One Nails by Mike Shevdon comes to mind,  where there is actual magic in an otherwise modern and realistic world. But Fiver Rivers met on a Wooded Plain manages that exquisite other type of magic. The real magic of the every day. Emotion, intelligent interpretation of situations and a sprinkling of belief conjure (yes, that is a magic pun.) that same feeling, one that really is part of everyone’s experience of life, even if we don’t all accept it for what it is.

So to conclude, Fiver Rivers met on a Wooded Plain is a set of wonderful stories that intertwine not so much because they need to, nor because they have been created, but because that’s the way life is, and that’s how rivers work. The book shows the tangled web of life’s visible connections and the ten fold numbers that you don’t… It shows people in all their individual glory and it shows how the world has changed in 50 years. Lives change, but so does agriculture and travel!

Agriculture and travel. It’s subtle, but you’ll have to read the book to find out. I recommend that you do.

Rating: 9/10





A picture of how a landscape and a people with together

Liebster Award

This is my magical and all encompassing post in response to being awarded the Liebster Award by Brontë’s Page Turners. I wasn’t aware of the award, but it is really really nice to be nominated. The award is for blogs with less than [insert number here] followers. It appears that this year it is 200, but that is coming down every year. I couldn’t find a huge amount of source info, but quite a few blogs have the award and are sharing it around. The source appears to be here..? Have a Google for the award, you will find a lot of interesting blogs with their Liebster award posts, and here is mine.

The Rules of Liebster

  1. Thank the person who nominated you, and post a link to their blog on your blog.
  2. Display the Liebster Award on your blog — by including it in your post and/or displaying it using a “widget” or a “gadget”. (Note: the best way to do this is to save the image to your own computer and then upload it to your blog post.)
  3. Answer the 11 questions about yourself, which will be provided to you by the person who nominated you.
  4. Provide 11 random facts about yourself.
  5. Nominate 5 – 11 blogs that you feel deserve the award, who have less than 1000 followers.
  6. Create a new list of questions for your nominee bloggers to answer (if you want to).
  7. Inform the people/blogs that you nominated that they have been nominated for the Liebster Award and provide a link for them to your post so that they can learn about it (they might not have ever heard of it!) or list these rules in your post (you can copy and paste from here).

My Answers

1. Thank you

Thank you very much Brontë 🙂 I posted on your blog already, but why say thanks once when you can do it twice??

2. Display the Award

Well, have a look at my front page. There it is, and guess what, it links back here !!!

3. Answer questions posed by Brontë

To paraphrase the poet Ronan Keating – Is Life A Rollercoaster, and Must We Ride It?

Of course it is! Bill Hicks says it is, and I have a blog post about his book. If the roller-coaster is life, then we have to ride it, we have no choice. While we live we accept its rise and fall, its corkscrews and loop the loops. The key is to roll with it, enjoy the ride!

What made you start blogging?

A huge number of books that I had bought and not read. I found myself holding another one and had to check what the hell I was doing. Here are a couple of posts from the early days…

I have always been quite into conservation and environmental issues. Stopping our addiction to consumerism would be a great start. Have I solved my own situation?? No, but I’m working on it and as I do my aims are changing too (watch this space…)

Did you take photos of your book-case as a 9 year-old (see featured photo), or were you quite a reasonably adjusted child?

Nope. I was many things as a child, but I wasn’t into library photography and I wasn’t well adjusted. I don’t think any child is well adjusted, isn’t that the point? Find your own groove (You get your own roller-coaster, with its own twists and turns.)

I buy most of my books from charity shops. Does this make me a fiend for not more fully supporting independent bookshops, or am I just one of Thatcher’s children, always chasing the cheapest price?

A good portion of my library is from charity shops and it will probably return to one if it ever leaves my ownership. I do have a plan to distribute what I get rid of, but I haven’t got round to much literary philanthropy yet. Charity shops are great. If a book gets into one, then the author has seen the sales. The continued circulation of books after their initial sales spike is what keeps them alive. On the other hand, a good independent book shop should be whole heartedly supported. I would actually include Waterstones in that description because our local one is great and is trying to be as involved in the local literary community as it can be. The problem is Amazon. It is stupendously easy, well realised and all encompassing, but at what cost. Amazon represents so much that I like and at the same time, the reason why I don’t like consumerism. When everything is for sale and the machine is so obviously run by very hard nosed accountants. Anyway, high horse dismounted. Charity good, book shop good. Other stuff bad.

Television Book Clubs (e.g. Richard and Judy’s in the UK, Oprah’s in the US, and any others elsewhere around the world that I am not cosmopolitan enough to be aware of): a good or bad thing? (Responders must try not to be swayed by the boyish good looks of Richard Madeley.)

Meh. I don’t really pay attention to them. I obviously already have enough books (I am kidding myself; I am about to get new books for my birthday. Rule 10 ) I do notice the stickers on books in shops and I think that “R&J” offer a fair indication that a book is going to be good. I don’t think that you can get too upset with initiatives that get people reading, whatever they are. You could argue that these things cuts down the diversity of the books that people might read, but if you read you read, and if a percentage of what you read is recommended by someone on the telly, then so be it.

Have you ever inherited any books from a relative and, if so, did you come across interesting finds?

Good Question! I don’t think I can recall a particular book that I have inherited with a story, but I have a good story none the less. My Dad was a magician. He used to read a lot of psychology and fiction (separately!) But, I got some of my reading habits from him as he often didn’t finish a book either! My Dad died a few years ago, but it was not until earlier this year that my Mum, my Brother and I got the power up to sort through Dad’s books. We found pretty much what we thought we would, but… My Dad used to use playing cards as book marks. He used to have various packs of cards laying around, quite often incomplete due to various tricks. We found about half a pack of cards as we went through his books. I think his favourite card was the Queen of Hearts. We found two cards that had cigarette holes burned through them and a high number with people’s names written across the face (“Without me seeing so that you can identify your card later. Now, slip your card into this envelope. I haven’t even touched the card…”) Brilliant piece of history 🙂

Thank you for that.

4. Random facts about myself

  1. I am successful, but I have never gone and done everything I want to in life. Roller-coaster, take me there.
  2. I was 2 months premature and have been five minutes late ever since.
  3. I am training to run a marathon in August 2016.
  4. I used to breath fire, but I haven’t done it for years.
  5. I am not that fast a reader.
  6. I can touch type, so when I write I quite often have my eyes closed.
  7. I make home brew wine, beer and cider.
  8. I love my family more than I know, and more than they know. They know I love them a lot.
  9. I was born in Essex (UK), but I don’t live there now.
  10. I have played Digeridoo in the tower on top of Glastonbury Tor.
  11. My first car was a mini (original one, not BMW.)
  12. I can (apparently) sprout useless facts about myself very easily. It’s getting me to stop that is the problem.

5. Nominate Other Blogs

Here is a list of 5 other blogs that I am nominating for a Liebster Award. I have no idea how many followers they have??? Either way, have fun with the questions guys. I will ready your replies with interest 🙂

6. My questions to be answered…

I have only asked 4 questions as the third one could be a bit involved. It would be great if you get stuck in though!

  1. How often do you blog and why that often?
  2. How much do you pay attention to the “business” of blogging, the marketing and cross posting and shenanigans that goes over and above typing words into a post?
  3. Do you own books that you haven’t read? Presuming that you live on earth and are not a ferret;
    1. Name and link to one book that you own that you are going to commit to read; tell me why you have owned this poor book for so long and not given it the time it deserves?
    2. Name and link to one book that you own that you are obviously never going to read, ever! Why, for goodness sake, do you own a book that you will never read?? tell me that, and if you feel brave, write in the book, put a link to your blog, and one to mine, and take it to a significant place. Release that book into the wild so that it can have a life away from your oppressive indifference. You never know, it might find a new owner who loves it and, y’know, opens it and reads it!?
  4. Last question is one of Bronte’s: Have you ever inherited any books from a relative and, if so, did you come across interesting finds?

Book Review – The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon

How I came to buy this book

JoannaCannonReadingI bought The Trouble with Goats and Sheep by Joanna Cannon at a book reading event that was held at my local Waterstones. Joanna was interviewed by Tom Bromley who Teaches a Faber Academy course that Joanna attended.

The event was a great opportunity to hear about how Joanna had progressed through the publishing process and what inspired her to write her first book. Events of this kind are immensely interesting to me as a reader and a writer. I also found the event interesting as it was the first time I have met other book bloggers. So, Hi to Shaz and Jackie Law at NeverImitate. I’m on a slightly different quest to them and am obviously not as experienced in the ways of book blogging at the new book end of the market! (See my book list for details…)

Anyway, I came away from the evening having had a great time and with a signed copy of the book in my hand. I had not read any reviews and barely knew the synopsis. Everything I knew about the book I had gleaned from the hour or so of the reading event. I tend to prefer things like this as I can make my own mind up without other people’s opinion getting in the way. Without further ado, here is some of my thoughts and opinions on The Trouble with Goats and Sheep!

The book and Me

thetroublewithgoatsandsheepbookcoverThe book starts on 21st June 1976, which happens to be only a few weeks after my birthday. I know everyone says that the summer of 1976 was hot, but it was great to read something set in THAT summer. Chapters in the book are dated, and this triggered thoughts of my Mum and Dad doing what you do with a baby. There are so many events that occur concurrently across the world and you only ever see the ones that directly affect you. As I was having my nappy changed, events similar to those in the book were happening in another place under the same baking sun.

I will also mention here that I really liked the blue of the cover. It fits the book perfectly and because it’s a hardback, you see an edge of colour in your peripheral vision as you start and end each page. It feels like the colour of the summer of 1976…

Tense and Person Prose…

First off in the prose section I would like to mention tense and person! I really liked the way that Joanna has written events in the present of the book in past tense, third person. Memory chapters are written in present tense first person. This works really really well because memories are always internal and subjective, and you remember what you experienced (first person present tense.) It is such a powerful tool that I am amazed I have not seen it in any other book, at least I don’t remember reading it… This tense and person change also provided a very obvious but non intrusive way to stay in touch with what part of the story you were reading 1967 or 1976.

Efficient Prose

During the reading event, Joanna talked a little about “tight” prose. I also had a short conversation about it with her as she was signing my book. I used to wish that I could write a book with an absolute minimum number of words, to evoke a reader’s own imagination and to intrude on that as minimally as possible to direct the story. This is of course a fool’s errand. To take so much away from a story misses the beauty of the prose that keeps you reading and keeps invoking similes in your memory.

Joanna has succeeded in her aim, and I found the writing to be relaxed, effortless and still succinct. At the same time it was also very evocative. There were however times when I think the prose was almost too full or too efficient. I didn’t always get time to savour the depth of what was being painted for me.

This tightness of prose also led to some interesting descriptive passages. Some brilliantly realised:

On Libraries “It smelled of unturned pages and unseen adventures, and on every shelf were people I had yet to meet, and places I had yet to visit.”

And in some cases, slightly odd:

“…the thread of the carpet, worn down by heavy conversation.”

How does conversation ware down a carpet??

Anyway, the odd oddity aside, Joanna’s writing style was brilliant and beautiful. The whole book is told in a way that allows the reader to pour their own experiences into it. A lot of references don’t need to be interpreted, but depth is provided if you take your time. It’s like when “Ron swears” in Harry Potter. My son at 8 had a completely different lexicon for this and a different expectation of hour Ron would use his.


I had some trouble sticking with this book at times, and it took me a while to realise why. This is a brilliant book but it is not an easy book to read. I have already said that the writing is very good, and the general themes are all well realised and well paced, so what is my problem? The book is written around people and relationships and how they react to various problems for example; marriage issues, heat, the miss-understanding of children and people who can not accept differences in race and personality. This means that there is a lot of unspoken suspicion and social menace throughout the book. The reality of people I suppose! I found this tension quite hard to read for any length of time, even though I was enjoying the main thrust of the story.

Then, from nowhere Jesus arrives (He moves in mysterious ways!) and it was lovely to read this section because everyone pulled together. Well, almost everyone. I’m not going to go into the religious aspect of the book too much. It’s there, it’s a device and a good one at that. All to soon Jesus has gone and the tension returns.

Anyway, suffice to say that it was the tension that I was not comfortable with. It was definitely a tension that needed to be there for the story, and as I said, it was a story worth reading.


Rating: 8/10

Book Review – Love all of the People by Bill Hicks

Oh my god! You know that I have found some draft book review hanging around on my blog that I never published? Well, either way, I have. The other two posts were skeletal lists of thoughts about Consider Phlebas by Iain.M.Banks and Eden by Tim Smit. Then I found this. Why I didn’t click the publish button I don’t know, but I didn’t, so here it is. My quite detailed thoughts on Love all the People by Bill Hicks that I finished reading in January 2015!

Actually, thinking about it, I think I kept putting the review off as I never felt it was complete. Bill Hicks was quite important to me in my formative years. Here we go…

—- 3rd January 2015 —-

2014-12-05 20.26.03This book review is not really going to be a book review, at least not of the book Love all the People by Bill Hicks and John Lahr! I suppose that in a way it is, but my relationship with Bill Hicks and his philosophies go so much deeper than that.

My first introduction to Bill was on a video (VHS) that my best mate got when we were about 17. It was at the time Bill, or at least his material, first impinged on the British consciousness.  Our relationship with him grew and peaked in unison with Bill’s spark of a life. Many a late night drinking coffee and smoking fags was inspired by Mr. Hicks! In reading this book I have rediscovered some of the most brilliant routines and original thoughts that had faded from my memory over the last 20 years, becoming part of the patina of who I am more that I had credited. You could say that I was not surprised when I read certain parts of Bill’s routines about capitalism and consumerism I had to introspectively acknowledge that there is some interesting reasons why I created a blog Titled “Post Consumer”. An un-recognised, unconscious homage to the philosophy of Mr. Bill Hicks. Thank you Bill.

For the record, I also know that I am not going to be able to do justice with this review. How do you review something that was as much remembered as read? I will try to review the book, Bill and his philosophies. I hope I succeed in some small way?

Bill Hicks is the iconification of a concept that I touched on in my unsustainable post. Most people can not relate global issues to individual actions. They ask “Why should that matter to me? ” Some people understand the global issues yet can’t take the message out there or affect individuals on a big enough scale. Bill Hicks was that perfect mixture of intellect and understanding. He also had the drive, wit and outspoken opinion to make people listen. He did everything in his own unique style, but it was “the message and not the words” that were important. Bill managed to do something that almost everyone else couldn’t, and he managed to make it funny too! I suppose that requires the introduction that powerful little word “genius”?

I have a feeling that Bill was beginning to separate comedy from philosophy and politics towards the end of his life. In reading the letters and interviews in the book, it looks like Bill’s message was getting through, but that after being his first love and break though, comedy was beginning to get in the way. His style of delivery didn’t portray the real Bill Hicks’s, not fully anyway. The source of his material was always the inspection of people, the very translation of national and global problems into individual, personal idiosyncrasies, the amazement that people couldn’t see the stupidity in their actions and their beliefs. For those that understood and agreed Bill’s condemnation of these mentalities were very funny. Either they were thoughts and ideals that you had experienced, or ones that you didn’t consider as being so dangerous until Bill told you. I think that by the time he died he was beginning to feel that stand-up was now holding his serious ideas back. He was practically screaming about these subjects and all he was getting was a laugh. Bill definitely spoke to me, but I don’t think he really ever got feedback from his audiences that anything was going in. I don’t know, maybe for many others it didn’t? If he could have found a different way to “advertise” his message and still do the comedy he may have found a more successful, more harmonised balance. Keith Olberman says in the front cover of the book “With his clarity of vision and gift for words, if Bill Hicks had had any more time he might have started a revolution.” I think that revolution may be a strong word, but I also think that it wouldn’t have been as a comic.

Bill was quite obviously someone who pushed himself relentlessly into whatever he did, but that single mindedness was as much a floor as a strength. He was hoist by his own perturb. He knew it I think, but it meant he missed out. Smoking is great, I used to do it, but Bill took it to the limit and it cut him short. He rebelled against a lot of things (like ‘the beach’) that many people do, but discovered after it was too late that there is merit in these things, that’s why we do them. But Bill had to be the way he was, his intellect and opinions produced the brilliance that we all know, but maybe sometimes at the cost of the person??

One thing I was surprised at in reading the book was Bill’s religious beliefs. He was always very obviously attacking the church e.g. Fundamentalist Christians. There was also quite a high Devil content in his material “Thank you Vanilla, now send in MC Hammer.” So Bill believed in God, but not in organised religion. As I thought more and more about Bill and his routines the whole thing made more sense. I am an atheist, but I do occasionally give a nod to the sky. Not sure why, but that’s just the way it is. If I’m going to have a paragraph about God, then I have to include Bill’s (IMHO) slightly OTT relationship with various other aliens 🙂 I can see where he was coming from and the way that considering that opened the mind, but you have to admit that that was a particularly powerful batch of mushrooms!

Capitalism, consumerism and advertising. It is pretty obvious that I have an issue with advertising similar to Bill’s. The stuff is poured down our throats and you can’t get away from it in the modern world. But it is a necessary evil. If you want to make a good product and sell it to people you need to advertise. The problem is that there is a pretty obvious line where honest selling becomes manipulation and everything very quickly becomes cynical from that point forward.

Bill used advertising. His books, DVDs and shows were all advertised. His face appeared on posters, he did the circuit of interviews and appearances to achieve the success he did, but he did not step over the line. His hatred was of the other side of the line.

I have a similar problem. If I want to increase readership of my blog, then I will need to use the same processes. For me it is like the decision I made to call my blog Post Consumer instead of anti-consumer or any other more negative title. There is a place for buying things. If you don’t buy stuff good people and good products wouldn’t be made and then where would we be? The arts of all denominations need patrons and followers to be involved, and to get that you need a way for everyone to find out what you’re up to. The problem is that the whole advertising world needs a huge slug of ethical, responsible restraint and in a capitalist system that is never going to happen.

The advent of the internet has accelerated consumerism and the way that advertising is used is at the heart of it all. They are two halves of a slightly odd Yin Yang. The internet does so much good and provides spectacular access to information and learning. The internet is driven by the money that is made from advertising. The vast majority of websites make their money from advertising, and that is because it is easy. WordPress puts the odd advert on my blog so that I can run it for free. I can take that off for a small fee and add my own to monetise my site. A lot of people use this to make their living and some do it without giving a shit for anyone. Google makes it so easy, and that is why they have made it so big (and you thought it was all about searching!) The question is what could you replace advertising with to make money on a website. I dont have an answer for that yet. We need the adverising equivalent of Bill Hicks’ shooting bananas into people mouths.

So, that ‘s it, a disjointed wander through some of Bill’s drivers along with some of mine. The book is in there somewhere. It contained a large number of Bill’s routines. It was repetitive in places, but for your persistence you got to see how the routines evolved over time. The book mixed in some background and interviews that gave a good insight into Bill off stage as well as some of his letters and a couple of snippets of very powerful writing that I am truly glad that I have now read.

Oh, and I’m not even going to mention Alex Jones? A million plastic surgeries and at least two brain transplants and you might be close on that theory!

Rating 9/10 (as much because I really like Bill Hicks as anything else)

link to  Love all the People by Bill Hicks and John Lahr on Goodreads

Book Review – Cold Calling by Russell Mardell

Russell and his new genre

Cold Calling is the second book I’ve read by Russell Mardell. My first was Bleeker Hill back in December and I really enjoyed it, but this new book is completely different: Russell has moved from ghost story all the way to romance at the other end of the literary spectrum!

It’s rather refreshing to see an author who is able to move between genres. If you have the talent, generally speaking only the very famous and the self published are allowed to make that sort of  switch. An agent or publisher will usually be concentrating on a single focused path and that means a restricted set of genres. I guess that this is an astute approach: if you find a seam, you mine it, but at what cost? Life is a many faceted thing and people are built to live in it. As a reader I can cross any genre boundary I like, I feel strongly that authors should have the same right!

Russell has used his artistic freedom (unfortunately not as very famous author, but fortunately as a very talented self published author !) to produce Cold Calling, a book every bit as good as Bleeker Hill (Russell has written 5 books.) It is so totally, completely different that I’m not sure what measure I would use if I tried to compare the two books, so I won’t 🙂

Cold Calling

cdgv3n7xeaq4ler-jpg_largeOur story starts: Two star crossed lovers… [cue sound of needle scratching across a record.]

Cold Calling is not a conventional love story, nor does it have a simple A to B plot. The story just sort of happens, and you are taken along as the two main characters and their supporting cast open themselves up to you and to each other. Most, if not all of the book is written in first person, and we join a varied cast as the story unfolds. I was reminded of Dracula here, but Cold Calling is not a written account that we read as a posthumous voyeur, we join live events and thoughts; thankfully no one has to write a bloody diary! Russell cleverly uses the supporting roles to reflect the thoughts and actions of Anya and Ray. This creates depth and an ability to subtly cross examine the story.

Characters carry the day

The whole book is full of insightful, realistic characters. The story comes alive as layer upon layer of high quality observational writing is laid down. It really does feel like a window on people’s lives more than a story.

Subtlety, depth and insightfulness all come together to allow Cold Calling to encompass some very personal thoughts and emotions competently. There were multiple times when I recognised my own internal thoughts in someone else’s!

When Anya starts talking about her past life it becomes obvious that Anya is more closed off and is obviously forcing herself towards a confession of reality. Ray, on the other hand, has received counselling and is happier to voice his issues. Characters who can hide or articulate so much are the lifeblood of this book. Writing that  is able to articulate those personal emotions can only be described as excellent. The characterisation in Cold Calling is one obvious place where l could describe it as “better” than Bleeker Hill, but its a different type of story, in this case one that needs a deeper emotional attachment to it’s characters. It has delivered.

l don’t want to wax on about the same subject for too long, so I will close the characterisation section with love… Yes, dear reader I love you very much, you must know that by now? But you miss my point. I’m still talking about Cold Calling. It depicts love in many ways: caring, friendship, real, melancholy, lost, misunderstood, brotherly. My list is not exhaustive, yet my point is simple. Cold Calling is wonder fully complex.

Anya and Ray’s cold calls, and all the events that surround them, come together to form a coherent whole. A group of story lines that blend very well throughout the book. I dont think there was a story strand I didn’t like or actually any part of the book that I wanted to skip through.

The Publishing industry

Anya’s best friend Eva is a successful author.This character had a dual role in the plot. There was a beautifully self indulgent aspect to her that drew stark contrasts to the more fundamental events other characters were experiencing. On the other hand Eva provided an interesting glimpse into what literary success might look like? There is some good observations of the publishing industry in there, but importantly, Eva hates her fame. This created an interesting sub-plot in the book, but I really empathised with the dislike of this dual life that authors now need to lead: part literature generating hermit, part self promoting limelight junky.


The bottom line is that I really enjoyed this book. It took me through a very articulate set of emotions in a story that was believable and engaging. It managed to deliver all this and was still able to inject just the right amount of comedy. There were moments that I almost laughed out loud. Cold Calling didn’t affect me in any fundamental way, but I know that some things will happen in my life and l will be reminded of a situation l read in Cold Calling!

For the hundredth time since I started this blog, Cold Calling is not a book l would usually have read. But I’m very very glad I did.

Thanks Russell.

Rating: 9/10


Draft Book review – Eden by Tim Smit

9781905811274Here comes another one. The text that follows was found under the digital cushion of my WordPress sofa… I originally wrote in July 2015 when I was reading the book. I tend to take notes as I go, tweeting some, sticking some in the barebones review post. I got as far as a list of stuff, but for some reason didn’t finish it or post it. As with Consider Phlebas, this is the raw notes, so glean something about the book, or see it as a spectacle of how I go about creating posts. Either way, enjoy 🙂



—- It is July 29th 2015 —-

Flowery descriptions

Wonderfully evocative descriptions of people, usually concentrating on the personality and qualities as much as the physical.

Good chapter names

1/2 way through and the book is turning into a list of people and events more than anything else. Lots of roles they didn’t know they needed even though they had successfully enticed every big name or business into the project.

But. It is immense!

My two main questions answered:
The design of the domes (p172/284)
The soil (p284)

Project management

The chapter “the big black box of dreams is almost an essay in its own right and the sparkling jewel if the book.

Tim charges governments to legislate for recycling like Germany. I see why, but this is at odds with the earlier ethos of the book to employer individual ownership and responsibility. In reality I agree that both these approaches are needed and the balance is the difference between the baby state and anarchy.


Great book about a fantastic, exceptional wonder of the world and how it came to be.

Rating: 8/10


Bedlam in the Book List!

On the 14th Feb I posted a small tweet that signified quite a large change to the way that I approach my reading, my book list and therefore this blog!!

Screenshot from 2016-04-02 14:49:30

I have diverged from my currently owned list of books quite a bit recently, buying and reading a few new ones (Heaven forfend)! This is mainly due to the increasing success of my fellow writers in the club that I go to, but I suppose that going to a writing club begets more literary friends and therefore more bookish activities and events (all good there then 🙂 ) The downside to this happy evolution is that I keep going to book launches, buying books and therefore adding them to my list. The further-further downside is that they never get added to the end, always becoming the next book for me to read. Whether traditionally published or indie published, new books kind of require that they are read quite soon. They call out to me, a bit like the books in the libraries in Ankh-Morpork or Hogwarts.

I have also read some books on my list that I was not able to complete. Firstly Anna Karenina by Tolstoy; I really enjoyed it, but got half way through and couldn’t stomach any more without a break. I will go back to it, eventually!! I also didn’t manage to complete Enchanter’s End Game by David Eddings. This one was more of a “not in the mood for it” failure. I have been repeatedly contravening at Rule 4!! of my own, self applied rules.

In the end, I looked at my To Be Read (TBR) list, and searched my soul. Some of the titles excited me and I wanted to read them NOW, and the others, well… I just didn’t. I therefore attacked my book shelves and my book list and pulled all of the padding out of it (sounds like a teddy bear!) I did this in the knowledge that I would have to write a post about it.

Rule 5.If I find a book that I really cant stomach I must give it to charity and blog about why I thought it would be awful without giving it the chance it deserves, nay, leading it into the expectation that I would read it by buying it, then spitefully only using it as a paperweight to hold my bookcase down (they are known to float off you know!)

What I did, in full conciousness of the fact, was to consolidate all of my potential “haven’t read a book” blog posts into one easy to manage confession; this post. I got rid of 43 books! And, there’s more to come! I only did the parts of my list which are in accessible bookcases. I know there is more to come when I venture into the loft!

And I’m not sorry, see! Not sorry at all. Hahahaha [slightly manic laughter]

Phew, calm again… The decision does still echo the sentiment of my original rules. I don’t want books that I will not read sitting gathering dust in my bookcase when they can be released 2016-02-17 07.45.37to give someone else pleasure. All 43 books went off to the charity shop. To find new lives with new parents.

I suppose that I should provide a list of what I got rid of?? Well, maybe in expectation of other future change I actually added a tab to my spreadsheet entitled “got rid of.” You can go and look at the detail if you want. Feel free to agree with some of my choices or berate me for letting a classics slip through my fingers (?) Either way, they are gone. To maintain the succinctness of this post, I will categorise the jettisoned books into a few groupings  and explain my reasoning:-

  • People who’s books I’ve read enough of considering what else I have to read e.g.
    • Count Zero by William Gibson – Nothing can beat Neuromancer.
    • Some David Eddings; I loved you while I read you, but I can’t commit to fantasy  in the volumes that you wrote it in. Sorry David 😦
    • Some C.J.Sansom
  • Books I’m just plain never going to get round to e.g.
    • Runes and Shamanism, yeh OK, that was a phase. I planned to read and see what the current me thought about all these subjects. As it happens, the current me has other things to read and write.
    • A couple of Dalail Lama books also enter this category
    • Day Skipper for Sail and Power – yep, I will let someone else drive!
  • Bought in error
    • Realizing Hope – Life Beyond Capitalism. I thought it was by Norm Chompsky. It wasn’t, the forward was!

That probably covers it. Sad but true…

To conclude, what does this mean for the future of my reading list? Who knows? The rules are still there, but as I write and read as a more integrated part of various groups, I will change and move with the times.

That’s life that is.

Draft Book Review – Consider Phlebas by Iain. M. Banks

ConsideringPhlebas_CoverI have been having a bit of a tidy up and managed to find a couple of partly finished book reviews from Summer last year (2015.) I’m not sure how I managed to miss them, but as I have other things to do I thought it would be fun to whack them out as they are, basically just a bunch of notes that give you an idea what I thought of the books. There is this one and Eden by Tim Smit.

—- Imagine its the 19th July 2015 —-

Quite a bit about religion and god. Communism and the way the Culture sees life.

The pace is very good. It’s a long book, but when the build up comes for the final events they build slowly and you have read enough of the story to fully appreciate the effort and gravity (accuse the pun) of the crescendo.

Another example of spectacular writing that transcends the book itself and the genre. When Iain talks about self and evolution and comparison of humans to the minds of AI it is separate yet completely integrated with the rest of the book.


That’s it! I loved this book and have other Iain.M.Banks in my book list, so everything is good with the world 🙂

Rating: 8/10

Book Review – Captives by Shaun Hutson


CaptivesMy Horror heritage as an intro…

I used to read a lot of horror and a good portion of that was Shaun Hutson books. This is because I used to be scared of the dark and the 15 year old me decided to take the problem head on by turning a love of fantasy into q quite an intense period of reading horror. Many, many classic films and books later and hey presto; I barely bat an eyelid if I see a witch decapitate one of the neighbours. This does happen in the particular part of rural England that I call home! Anyway, my horror days are a long way behind me. After Phantasm, Hellraiser and Scanners all did their jobs I decided that  horror can get quite repetitive (or it was in the early 90′s.) Either that or I over consumed? I went right through acclimatisation and into boredom! These days I have a nostalgic love for horror and that is what I was expecting to tap into when Captives by Shaun Hutson came up on my TBR.

That beautiful slug of back story simply served to bring us to the point when I started reading Captives. I hadn’t read “proper” horror for a while;

  • Dracula didn’t count as it wasn’t written in the last hundred years
  • I read The Fog back at the start of my book blogging journey didn’t really cut the mustard.
  • The Woman in Black did a good job, but that was a different genre.

I have done quite a bit of thinking about what makes us frightened recently for a story I would like to write. There is a definite separation between the gore of a horror book’s and the ghost story’s jump/scare. Even a jump/scare is not the frightful thing; it’s the build up that gets you. It’s your back to an open space, finding out something safe is not, the teeth snapping at your heals. But I digress (as per usual,) we are here to talk about Horror…

The Captives review

Dating is good

I dove into Captives with a surprising amount of enthusiasm. The first thing I noticed was a lot of references that dated the text. People were tearing around in Sierras and Cortinas. The Police gave chase in Rovers. It was all very much of a specific time. All of the references to money also take you back. Not that I would know, but apparently it cost £60 for a wank in a seedy club and “a couple of pound coins” for some new stockings!! Lastly, technology is not there. No one knows who is calling them on the phone!

At the start this did not sit well with me, but dating is good for this book! I started off feeling that the references got in the way, that they detracted from the story. By the end I found it gave the book a perfectly acceptable stage that forgave it some of its roughness. A grand backdrop to a horror; Psycho murder in Ashes to Ashes. Southern Comfort, hookers and fast cars. Murders and gangsters. Blood, dark coppery blood. Blood.

Writing, Grammar and editing

My notes on this subject start with “Trashy writing and grammar.” On finishing the book I don’t think that this is completely fair. Essentially if a good slug more editing had taken place, this could have been a well polished book (couldn’t they all,) but that editing didn’t happen and although the book is not as strong because of it, I think it fits the genre quite well. I suppose I got what I needed from the book. 

There are various examples of poor editing, or missed editing. The book has two speeds. The stuff that links horror sections together and the turbo charged horror itself. These could have been blended more subtly, and dare I say it, a little less gore would have rounded the whole book off. BUT, I fall into my own trap of correctness. If this book was wonderfully crafted, if it stopped to allow you to take the last gory step yourself it would not be horror and it would not be Shaun Hutson. You are forced to look at every single detail. Head forced round firmly to stop you from looking away.

“Oh no, Shaun isn’t going to take us there is he?”

“Yes he is. Definitely he is. That’s the point, didn’t you know that?”

Shaun clips speech to keep it snappy, this is good, especially with edgy, hard characters. Unfortunately there is too much description to back it up, too much internal retrospective. The book could have been tightened greatly if the two types of writing had been reversed. Some dramatic dialogue to replace padded background thought. *note to self, go and re-edit your book. It is full of this!*

To bring the writing review up to the macro level, there are some story devices that just don’t make sense. Two police men just go and dig up a body at night without any reference to that being a bad idea. The alternative, more realistic, solution of doing it the official way would have been just as compelling. Later in the book the chief of Police doesn’t want to exhume bodies because of the trouble it would cause if the police were correct in their theory of what was going on! On the other hand, this could be an accurate observation of the state of policing in the 70’s. No idea!!

This slightly random trend follows through to the book’s characters. They occasionally act out of, well, character. This issue should also have been resolved in the edit. Jim Scott, the main character, goes from a beginning as a gentle giant, quite mild mannered and caring to suddenly become very violent in a short space of time. This violence is required for the plot, so the change should have been blended better or the earlier parts of the book just plain changed.

You know what you get and get what you know

Captives is horror kitsch. Maybe Horror is the kitsch of genres? It is unapologetic, content in its own existence. This is true for other horror I have read, not just Shaun Hutson and there is nothing wrong it. A little honesty does us all good. 

So what are you getting when you pick up a horror book? What do you expect?  Realism shot through with too much violence. A good story augmented with blood and guts and pain and vindictiveness and graphic descriptions of horrid things. If that’s what you expect, then you will like Shaun Hutson as I did all those years ago, and you will like Captives.

On a specific point that is important to horror, Shaun does a very good job at describing the physiology of violence. He resorts to the medical names for things so that in some cases I needed to look up exactly what he was talking about. Once research had been done, I was treated to a wonderfully close up description of exactly how bodies can come apart. One of Shaun’s favourites in the book is the effects of being stabbed in the head and what that does to the inside of one’s mouth!! Tongues are cleaved, teeth are scraped by blades or cut out completely. Within the genre: This is excellent 🙂

Given that I have referred to physiology of the human form, I must correct a common misconception that horror books manage to reveal very well. For your information, human beings are all just bags of blood and gore with bones made of chalk. The slightest touch oozes blood or cracks bones, or just plain makes you pop gore everywhere!


My love of the genre carried me through, I read this book very quickly and enjoyed it. I hope that you get a duality from my review though? It is obvious that there are some pretty serious issues with this book. Issues that would have sunk others, but the good ship Captives still sails the literary seas. The story and the writing is good enough at what it does to concentrate on the important aspects of horror and leave the rest of the text alone. It is unashamed of what it is. Be bold, be proud, be horror!

Captives is compelling. This is a word that I used to describe Lieutenant Hotshot recently too. I use it in a totally different way for Captives. This is the adult horror that I refer to in the Hotshot review. It is allowed to be many things other books are not; you know to expect a concentration on gratuitous violence before you even open the cover. You get what you expect and no excuses if you’re surprised!

In conclusion, two wrongs do sometimes make a right. This is not the best book Hutson has written by as long shot, but I whizzed through it and liked it for what it was, even if it could have really benefited from a good edit. Maybe I’m noticing the editorial requirements of books I read the more as I get into writing myself??

Rating 7/10