Wednesday, 30 April 2014


Mr Memory, I'm not. I'm fairly sure I watched more than I can remember here, but if I don't make a note of it then it's lost to me, until some random moment in the future when I will see something that sparks some recollection. The only think I can think that kind of stops beating myself up over these frustrating lapses, are that if I can't remember something then that would indicate it couldn't have been that memorable in the first place.

There's a lot of part watched films I've enjoyed and suffered through in April for a variety of reasons.
Several of the Harry Potter's were repeated on and around Easter and despite seeing them more than once in the past, they are guaranteed entertainment for the family. Don't those kids look young?

With my head distracted by Luton's efforts achieve promotion back to the Football League and the uncertainty that surrounded it....... the closer it came to reality, the further away the finishing line seemed...I sort of dipped in and out of them. Happy days we got there in the end and at the season's climax had actually clinched the title by a massive 19 points over Cambridge. We played a lot better, once the pressure was off. Roll on next season.

The same could be said for The Forbidden Kingdom - a martial arts flick with Jackie Chan and Jet Li and one of the Rush Hour flicks with Chris Tucker and Mr Chan again. It might have been number 3, but it was the one where some of the flick is set in Paris.

George Clooney's The Descendants was also on TV recently. Fortunately I didn't take the head out of a book long enough to be bored comatose by this. When I did pay attention, my thoughts were - what a load of crap!

Went to watch The Tailor of Panama with Pierce Brosnan and Geoffrey Rush - a film based on a John Le Carre novel and found that my secondhand DVD was actually a Region 1 disc so we couldn't play it. That's a whole pound wasted and I'm fairly sure the person who sold it to me is still sniggering. I was looking forward to this as I do like a bit of espionage and intrigue and having recently enjoyed Rush's performance in The Book Thief was keen to see more of him. TTOP also has Jamie Lee Curtis and a young Daniel Radcliffe.

Put on What's Eating Gilbert Grape instead and started but never finished that. My son went to the pub half way through and we went to bed. Hopefully we get back to it in May. The film is 20 years old but it does surpriseme how fresh faced and young both Johnny Depp and Leonardo De Caprio both look. John C Reilly also figures.

Two films I can claim to have seen start to finish, both of which I have seen before were Taken and the cunningly titles sequel Taken 2. These are my youngest daughter's favourite films and she would have us watching them every week if we let her. Liam Neeson is pretty terrific in both films as he takes on a whole bunch of Albanian crooks. By the end of the second, I was kind of wondering whether there were any surviving Albanian males between the ages of 25 and 60 left on the planet, as he does seem to hasten the passage to the after-life for a considerable number of them.

Watched a bit of Criminal Minds Season 9 - youngest daughter's favourite show and if we aren't sitting through another re-run of Taken she will be happy for us to re-watch old episodes of this while staying up to date on the current series. I don't mind it to be honest. I quite like Matthew Gray Gubler.
Matthew Gray Gubler

We watched some NCIS which may have been repeats. I never used to like this as I didn't especially warm to Mark Harmon as Gibbs the team leader. A bit too good looking for his own good in my opinion, but I have slowly come around to enjoying  this one. I do like the dynamic between the team and it's a decent way to spend the best part of an hour at least one evening a week. We did try NCIS Los Angeles with LL Cool J and Chris O'Donnell but it wasn't a hit in our house.

The Original!

Not as good as the original.

We taped the first episode of Fargo which aired a week or two ago. My mate Keishon doesn't rate it, but I'm keen to give it a go. Stars Martin Freeman of The Office and Sherlock fame. I'm recording the series so I'll get to it at some point.

Mark Addy
Lastly we got a Game of Thrones box set during March and have watched a couple of episodes of season one so far. Interesting, there's a lot of intrigue, double dealing and sex so far. My son pretty much tells me to expect more of the same as he has seen the first three series online and is currently watching the fourth. Sean Bean stars plus the fat dude from behind the meat counter in Trollied.


A previous post highlighted an up and coming event on my calendar - Traitors, Conspirators and Secrets...
Last night was the big night!

Well last night I carted myself off to Leighton Buzzard Library to spend an hour and a half in the company of Rory Clements, Aly Monroe and William Ryan. Thankfully a few more locals were equally minded to pop along and hear what they had to say. Whilst the numbers attending weren’t massive, around the low-20’s, I think everyone in the audience enjoyed the evening.

All three gave a little bit of an introduction to their books and series characters and expanded upon their writing and research, with a bit of personal background detail, before taking some audience questions at the end. There was an opportunity to buy a copy of their latest books and have them signed, whilst engaging in a bit more chat on a one to one basis.

Rory’s books which I’m unfamiliar with are set in Elizabethan times. His main character is the fictional, John Shakespeare, brother of William. Shakespeare is an agent of the state; the chief intelligencer in Walsingham’s spy network. He deal with plots and schemes and conspiracies and threats to Elizabeth 1. The books are populated by historical figures such as Raleigh, Drake, Walsingham and Mary Queen of Scots to mention a few. Issues covered - torture, repression of Catholics, Spain and the Inquisition, persecution of Protestants abroad. Four hundred years on and we’re still fighting religious wars and dealing with terrorism and debating the merits/legality/benefits of employing torture tactics.

Clements was interesting to listen to and if stuck with him in a lift for about 10 hours, I reckon it would be time well spent. I was almost sold on giving one of his books a try, but he just didn’t quite get over the line with me. I wouldn’t rule out trying one in the future and whilst my historical-espionage reading bent currently has me wanting to read WW2 – Cold War stuff, if I decide to delve back much deeper in time – he’ll be the man to take the journey with. Currently he has written 7 in the series, but they are all standalones and can be read in any order, which is good to know.

Aly Monroe has written 4 Peter Cotton books. Cotton is a British intelligence agent at the back end of WW2 and in the post war period, where Britain’s influence on the world stage has started to decline and where former allies are assuming the mantle of enemy. Monroe’s first three books have been set in Cadiz - Spain, Washington and London. The fourth and latest, Black Bear involves truth-drugs, memory and hallucinations with Cotton waking up in a Manhattan hospital after being injected.

Monroe has led an interesting life. She’s spent large periods of time in Spain so knows the setting for her debut novel – The Maze of Cadiz. Part of her research has included speaking with a former Spanish agent who had been knowingly experimented on with drugs. An amusing anecdote she related, was her engagement as a voice-over double for Margot/Penelope Keith. Apparently the services of Tom/Richard Briers had been secured, but there was insufficient left-over in the budget for the real deal. Step forward – Miss Monroe. Her passion for her character and writing was self-evident, but again I think Britain’s declining status as a world player in the post-colonial days isn’t a subject that interests me terrifically. Whilst the Cotton books have an over-riding story arc, these too can be read in isolation. I have The Maze Of Cadiz on the shelf and once I have read that will decide whether or not to dig deeper into Cotton’s world.

William Ryan was for me at least the most engaging and interesting of the three to be honest. He’s a former lawyer turned writer, but we won’t hold that against him. He’s previously worked on screenplays before turning his hand to novels. Ryan’s books are set in 30’s Russia and feature Captain Korolev, an inspector with Moscow’s CID. Ryan became interested in Stalinist Russia after a bit of research for a film project on Isaac Babel. Babel was a Russian author and emigrant, based in Paris in the late 30’s, who subsequently returned to Moscow where he was executed by the state (probably). Apologies to William if I have misconstrued or misremembered his initial inspiration for his books. He can sue me (I’m still not totally past that lawyer thing).

Stalinist Russia, purges, surveillance, NKVD – the precursor to the KGB, suspicion, mistrust, paranoia, propaganda, murder and investigation in this kind of society – what’s not to like? Added to the fact that he’s Irish and attended the same university as my dad (I think) – Trinity College in Dublin and speaks in an open, engaging manner with an Irish brogue that could charm the knickers off a nun. (With the exception obviously of my aunt who is in fact a retired nun.) If I had to pick one of the three as a drinking companion down the pub, with no slight intended towards the other two authors – he’s the man.

Questions over – and no I didn’t ask any myself. I kind of wanted to, but am not one for drawing attention to myself in a crowd, irrespective of size. I ponied up for the third Korolev/Ryan book – The Twelfth Department, which the author was kind enough to dedicate and sign for me. I did manage to make a wee bit of idle chit-chat (again not my strong point) and asked him in a rambling kind of manner if he felt compelled to write at an increasing length with each passing book. Thankfully, he claims that his books seem to be getting shorter. I will be putting this to the test sometime soon.

Photos(?) – again a blank. I kind of toyed with the idea of taking/requesting a selfie with Mr Ryan, but lacked the cojones to open my mush. Similarly I would have liked a happy snap of the three authors sat at the front in the spotlight, but bottled it. Apologies! (Note to self, get one of those Dale Carnegie self-help books – How to Win Friends and Influence People or something regarding Public Speaking/Self-Confidence….. something else to sit on the pile unread!)

Overall an interesting and entertaining evening for myself. Hopefully the three authors felt similarly disposed after giving up their time. Thanks to all three.         
Bibliographies for all three authors are as follows:
Rory Clements
John Shakespeare series
1. Martyr (2009)
2. Revenger (2010)
3. Prince (2011)
4. Traitor (2012)
5. The Heretics (2013)
5.5. The Man in the Snow (2012)
6. The Queen's Man (2014)

Aly Monroe
Peter Cotton series
1. The Maze of Cadiz (2008)
2. Washington Shadow (2009)
3. Icelight (2011)
4. Black Bear (2013)
Redeemable (2013)

William Ryan
Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev series
1. The Holy Thief (2010)
2. The Bloody Meadow (2011)
     aka The Darkening Field
3. The Twelfth Department (2013)


Tuesday, 29 April 2014



A Catholic cop tracks a killer operating amidst the sectarian violence of the conflict in Northern Ireland.

Spring 1981. Northern Ireland. Belfast on the verge of outright civil war. The Thatcher government has flooded the area with soldiers but nightly there are riots, bombings, and sectarian attacks. 

In the midst of the chaos, Sean Duffy, a young, witty, Catholic detective in the almost entirely Protestant Royal Ulster Constabulary, is trying to track down a serial killer who is targeting gay men. As a Catholic policeman, Duffy is suspected by both sides and there are layers of complications. For one thing, homosexuality is illegal in Northern Ireland in 1981. Then he discovers that one of the victims was involved in the IRA, but was last seen discussing business with someone from the Protestant UVF (Ulster Volunteer Force). 

Fast-paced, evocative, and brutal, The Cold Cold Ground is a brilliant depiction of Belfast at the height of the Troubles and a cop caught in the cross fire.

"If Raymond Chandler had grown up in Northern Ireland, The Cold Cold Ground is what he would have written."
—Times of London

"Set against a backdrop of riots in the middle of the 1981 hunger strikes and the death of Bobby Sands, McKinty creates a marvellous sense of time and place; an evocation of darkness and horror, of corruption and collusion, . . . the immediacy of death and the cheapness of life. . . . There will be many readers waiting for the next adventure of the dashing and intrepid Sergeant Duffy."
—Irish Independent

"A literary thriller that is as concerned with exploring the poisonously claustrophobic demi-monde of Northern Ireland during the Troubles, and the self-sabotaging contradictions of its place and time, as it is with providing the genre's conventional thrills and spills. The result is a masterpiece of Troubles crime fiction: had David Peace, Eoin McNamee and Brian Moore sat down to brew up the great Troubles novel, they would have been very pleased indeed to have written 
The Cold Cold Ground."
—Irish Times

If there’s a book that might kick start my reading this year which has been laboured at best, this could well be the one.  Smart, funny, interesting, compelling. I’ve enjoyed a couple of his previous books though it’s been a while since I last read him – Fifty Grand back in 2009. Too long really. 

Funny how I love some authors, but don’t read them often enough…..why is that? Possibly because part of me still wants to savour the anticipation of opening a book from a favourite. Once I’ve started reading it though that feeling disappears. I suppose in some perverse way I enjoy the books I don’t read nearly as much as the ones I do………bizarre!

Anyway, I think this one could possibly be one of my best books of the year.

Northern Ireland, 1981, hunger strikes, Bobby Sands, IRA, The Maze, RUC, UVF, British Army, Gerry Adams, Maggie Thatcher, Sinn Fein, a couple of dead bodies, severed hands, homosexuality, bigotry and intolerance – religious and sexual, possible suicide, missing baby, Catholic police officer, mercury tilt bombs, riots, chaos, destruction, anarchy, tensions, civil war, mistrust, collusion, Special Branch, Ulster fries, drink, 80’s music, opera music, sheet music, protection rackets, postcards, mis-direction, informers, cottaging, pathology, black market goods, power worker strikes, Falls Road, Carrickfergus, Belfast, Larne, trains, forests, RPG’s, handguns, intimidation, knee-capping, snooker halls, red-white-blue kerbstones, murals, territory, protection rackets, MI5……….. a big sprawling mash-up of all these elements and more.

Great main character. Great support cast, with an interesting dynamic between Catholic Duffy and his Protestant colleagues. Great plot. Great sense of time and place in the narrative. I can vividly remember the time of the hunger strikes and the tension in the air at the time. Growing up Irish in Luton during the period this certainly takes me back and whilst I can’t look back at this episode with any great nostalgia, it’s a bit of a trip down memory lane in some respects – albeit one lived through from a distance - thankfully.  

Verdict  - 5 from 5

There are a couple more books from McKinty featuring Sean Duffy.
I Hear the Sirens in the Street (2)
In the Morning, I’ll Be Gone (3)

With a fourth book planned for 2015 – Sixteen Shells from a Thirty Ought Six

In the UK – McKinty’s books are available through Serpent’s Tail. In the US by Seventh Street Books.
Thanks to Lisa at Seventh Street for my copy.



Saturday, 26 April 2014


Another new author and someone I hadn't heard of until quite recently, when I saw a copy of Box in a charity shop. Seemed interesting so why not? I did a bit of hunting and also saw he had written Snap, which had a decent review for it on Amazon.

Never one to shy away from acquiring more books, than I can sensibly read in the rest of the lifetime and probably the next, I bought it.

I did try and do a bit of google searching for some detail on the author, but there appear to be a couple of Mark Powell's with books to their name. Whether they are one and the same person or whether they are two entirely separate and distinct authors I'm not too sure. One of the Mark Powell's has been writing action thriller books and recently attracted a bit of publicity for sort of claiming to have been in the SAS only for it to have been revealed that he wasn't. Was it my fellah? No idea.

Snap and Box were penned in the early 2000's.


When East sees the twisted body of Girl Garner at the bottom of the stairs, he knows that the Garner boys will blame him for the death of their sister. The Garners were his closest mates - now they are his enemies, and he knows he has to run But East can't leave West, his younger brother, whom he has always protected and whose face is distorted by a cruel - and unmissable - disease. With West in tow, East flees into the wilds of Essex, not knowing if they will ever be able to return home, and not suspecting that West might have his own reasons for wanting to get away. Stranded in unknown territory, the brothers are vulnerable to new fears and new desires. And the past is pursuing them in the form of a hitman ... Mark Powell's exciting debut is more than a nailbiting story of gangsters and guns. It explores the nature of a troubled love more deep and enduring than romantic passion - the love between two brothers.


Stanley dreams of making it big as a DJ, playing the all-nighters with his sidekick Clive; Pow-Wow's as tough as the next kid, patrolling the streets with his gang; Sylvia just wants to escape from the grind of looking after her ageing mother. When Clive and Stanley join forces to establish a male escort agency, the situation hots up... This is a picture of inner city London. Mark Powell has created a gritty, contemporary landscape filled with a vibrant cast of characters, from wannabe gangsters to professional psychics. Slick, fast-paced and surprisingly tender, BOX is an engrossing window on contemporary London as well as a satisfying page-turner.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014



A murder mystery that takes place at a Greyhound race track.'Private eye, Jay Stock, uncovers a plot to sabotage the greyhound racing industry. Who is stealing racing dogs? Follow Stock as he weaves his way through the elaborate world of greyhound racing. Murder resulting.

The author was kind enough to send me a copy of this in return for an honest review.
I replied to him by e-mail earlier today with my thoughts on the book......(spoiler alert)


Thanks for your patience, I finally finished yesterday and to be honest whilst there were some aspects of the story I enjoyed I wasn't really engaged by the novel. Apologies if this isn't what you hoped to hear but I'm guessing you would prefer a bit of honesty rather than me blowing smoke up your ass.

It kind of seemed caught between two places whether it was an investigation into missing greyhounds or an investigation into who killed Harry. The greyhound aspect had some decent elements but I didn't especially care about what happened in truth. When the casino/betting aspect was introduced it improved things, but it was a bit late in the day for me.

The murder of Harry perhaps would have been a more interesting story but it didn't have enough prominence for me. Not knowing the victim when he died meant I didn't particularly care for him. If I didn't care for him, I then needed to be interested in whoever was investigating the crime. There was no portrayal in depth of the police inquiry which didn't particularly realistic, but then if the story was primarily about greyhounds that might explain it, in which case Harry's murder was a distraction for me. I know the two tied in together, but who is going to care about dogs when someone has been killed. Donovan's character had mileage but we didn't see enough of him for my liking. 

Our main man Jay, suffered in my opinion from the lack of a back story and history, as a result he didn't really have much depth or substance for me.

Most interesting element was the initial animosity between Jay and Donovan which would have added some tension to the tale if this aspect had been developed. By the end though the relationship had appeared to have changed totally which didn't seem that plausible to me as there was no real explanation for why Donovan's opinion of Jay had mellowed.

Sorry to be so downbeat about the book, but I can't kid on that it was fantastic when in my opinion it wasn't. Far from the worst book I have ever read, as I was minded enough to see how you resolved things, but like I say not great. 2 from 5. 

Best wishes,


A bit of an awkward e-mail, but at the end of the day it's only my opinion. I open up every book hoping to be blown away and it doesn't always happen, even when reading established authors. I hope my criticisms can be viewed as constructive as opposed to negative. Do I regret reading this book? Not really, you never know how things will turn out unless you give them a chance.

There's 3 reviews for this up on 

5 star - Well developed characters and awesome plot.
5 star - A book where the dogs get rescued by humans
3 star - Clever plot, This author shows Promise.

They could be right and I could be wrong.

Monday, 21 April 2014


Loren D. Estleman has been writing and getting published since the mid-70's........about 5 different series the most long-lived of which concerns his Detroit PI - Amos Walker (23 books so far) and more than 25 standalone books - PI books, crime fiction and a lot of westerns

I have read the odd Walker book, but the series which interests me the most is his 5 book Peter Macklin series. Macklin's a hit man. I wonder why I'm drawn to these books over his others?

The first 3 were published in quick succession in the mid-80's and then Macklin went into cold storage until the early 2000's.

Kill Zone is the first, Any Man's Death is the third. I believe I have the second and fourth also. What may surprise you is that I don't have the fifth, oh well might have to rectify that oversight.

The full Macklin series is:
Kill Zone (1984)
Roses Are Dead (1985)
Any Man's Death (1986)
Something Borrowed, Something Black (2002)
Little Black Dress (2005)

Kill Zone

Peter Macklin, a consummate hit-man working for the Boniface crime family of Detroit, finds himself working for the FBI and the Secret Service to secure the release of several hundred hostages aboard a tour boat on Lake Erie.

Any Man's Death

Former Mob hitman Peter Macklin is back in a third adventure, in which Macklin must protect a controversial Detroit preacher with a contract on his head--and hope the hitman isn't his own teenaged son. Estleman holds a Western Writers of America Aces and Eights.

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Traitors, Conspirators and Secrets...

Traitors, Conspirators and Secrets...

Featuring bestselling historical crime authors Rory Clements – John Shakespeare series, William Ryan – Alexei Korolev series and Aly Monroe – Peter Cotton series.Tudor England, Moscow 1937, New York 1947 – intelligence, conspiracy,manipulation and power! 
These three award winning novelists invite you to discover what they have learnt investigating survival in unforgiving, dangerous times. 
Leighton Buzzard Library TheatreTuesday 29, April at 7.30pm
Tickets: £2

Well I've stumped up my 2 quid, got my ticket and am looking forward to this event at my library.

Not read any of the author's yet, though Monroe's Maze of Cadiz is on the pile, plus a couple from William Ryan. Haven't heard of Clements if I'm honest, I looked up his books and they seem kind of interesting if not a tad long.

Rory Clements bibliography
Rory Clements
John Shakespeare series
1. Martyr (2009)
2. Revenger (2010)
3. Prince (2011)
4. Traitor (2012)
5. The Heretics (2013)
5.5. The Man in the Snow (2012)
6. The Queen's Man (2014)

Aly Monroe
Aly Monroe bibliography
Peter Cotton series
1. The Maze of Cadiz (2008)
2. Washington Shadow (2009)
3. Icelight (2011)
4. Black Bear (2013)
Redeemable (2013)

William Ryan

William Ryan bibliography
Captain Alexei Dimitrevich Korolev series
1. The Holy Thief (2010)
2. The Bloody Meadow (2011)
     aka The Darkening Field
3. The Twelfth Department (2013)

Hopefully I'm not the only one there which would be awkward! Better leave my wallet at home or else I'll be adding to the piles!

Tuesday, 15 April 2014



Down-on-his-luck drifter Wycliff has come to Los Angeles to scam his dying brother out of his estate. But as they get to know one another, having not been in contact for decades, the two brothers forge an unlikely bond. Just as he's planning to put his sordid past behind him, Wycliff meets a glamorous woman who offers him his first taste of the high life, and finds himself involved with a team of hustlers much more sophisticated and brutal than he is. Wycliffe begins to suspect he's being set up. But for what? He's about to learn the cardinal law of crime: there's always someone badder than you.

JF Freedman
I read Against the Wind the author’s debut novel back in the early 90’s. In truth though I can remember very little about it other than I think I enjoyed it. (A tale of a lawyer and some elements concerning a biker gang and a court case.) Pretty sure I enjoyed it, inasmuch as I kept the book and it has survived several judicious culls from the heaving shelves in the past 20 plus years. Surprisingly though, I never kept pace with Freedman through the years, until my memory was re-awakened when scouring Net Galley additions a month or two ago.

Prior to this latest offering Mr Freedman has penned 9 other novels post-debut that I have missed out on. Digressing but kind of interesting to me at least, is the fact that only 2 books could be classed as a series and the rest are all standalones – which kind of bodes well for dipping in and out of his other books without making a major time/money/shelf space commitment.

Back to Turn Left at Doheny then.  


Length – 230-240 pages. I’m unsure about his intervening books but some established authors would be stretching things to 400 – 500 pages come book 11. Kudos to JF, less is more.

Story line – bad brother trying to ingratiate himself with good, rich dying brother – ergo death and ching-ching inheritance, happy days! That’s the plan, at least.

Not mega-amounts of action, there’s a bit of unsavoury violence, some bed-hopping without top shelf explicitness; mainly a tale that shows a re-connection between two estranged family members, under difficult circumstances and one harbouring dubious motives. Plenty of side action and distractions and plays occurring on the sidelines.

Character – Wycliff……our main man, not particularly likeable when we pick up with him at the start; he’s a bit of a scam artist, unscrupulous and out for himself. Within a few short chapters we see a softer, more caring side to him. An epiphany, a life change or a temporary aberration?

Supporting cast – brother, Billy…….dying; Charlotte - the older-woman-cum-bar-pickup-easy lay – who may be running a game on Wycliff; Amelia – nurse, girlfriend, straight ace, marriage and possible settling down material, plus an interesting assortment of minor characters, two of whom become critical to Wycliff’s eventual outcome.

Setting – LA and some of its landmark districts, a place that always goes down well when I’m reading….Santa Monica, Echo Park, North Hollywood, Sunset, La Cienega.

Negatives….. none in my book.

Conclusion……a satisfying outcome, which as an alternative to a happy ending was the best I could hope for. The author smacked me in the face with one of the reveals when it came – something I felt I should have spotted upon reflection, but hadn't – so an extra hat-tip to him. (I’d be curious to know if other readers were surprised, or if it was just me.)

Freedman had me caring and rooting for Wycliff despite some of his decisions and actions. Poor decisions, horrific decisions even, allied with a naivety that had me covering my eyes as I read………NO!  DON’T DO THIS! Did he listen? Read it yourself and find out.

Testament to the author’s skill that he could weave this tangled web around the main dude, within such a short period of time, manipulating this reader into rooting for such a flawed, conflicted character.  

5 from 5

Net Galley acquisition, this one.

Saturday, 12 April 2014


A bit of recent banter with Moira from Clothes in Books blog culminated in a one-off one book reading challenge.

My task was… Ok, the challenge is that each of us has to read and blog a book by an author a) whose first name hasn't featured before and b) that name has to at least *suggest* a genre or style quite different from the books most closely associated with our blogs. Are you on for that? I feel I get off more lightly, as I do dabble a toe into noir, but I think it'll do you good to read authors called Araminta and Amelia.

My response…… Ok, one or the other, but probably not both. 
As they don't currently reside on the shelves of CCL, I will need to find something (un)suitable and acquire it, then will need a week or so to read it...maybe longer if I have to repeatedly stop to stab myself with a sharp object. I'm going to break with tradition and read it without pre-announcing what it! won't you be surprised? 
Being stingy with the time-frame - should be posted by.....hmm - 6th April.

(Gulp.....what have I just agreed to?)

Well with apologies for my tardiness in running a week over schedule, mission accomplished!

There was a bit of book detecting done prior to selecting Dot. Over at Fantastic Fiction, most of the Amelia options consist of Twilight-esque vampire romps or lady-porn-erotica type, bodice busters. That was never going to happen.  Araminta Hall was the only Araminta I could locate which gave me two options for a book. Everything and Nothing seemed like something I would enjoy more than this one. So from an out of the box-comfort zone reading perspective, Dot was the logical choice.


The remarkable new novel from the bestselling author of Everything and Nothing which weaves together three generations of women, intercutting their stories to create a warm and heartbreaking tale.
'A dot is the smallest, most insignificant thing there is.
And it's a full stop, so an ending.
I mean, who on earth would call their child Dot?'

In a higgledy-piggledy house with turrets and tunnels towering over the sleepy Welsh village of Druith, two girls play hide and seek.
They don't see its grandeur, the marmite brown furniture no-one may sit on, or the secrets locked behind doors they cannot open.
They see lots of brilliant places to hide. Squeezed under her mother's bed, pulse racing with the thrill of a new hiding place Dot sees something else: a long-forgotten photograph of a man, his hair blowing in the breeze.
Dot stares so long at the photograph the image begins to disintegrate before her eyes, and as the image fades it is replaced with one thought: 'I think it's definitely him.'
Dot is the story of one little girl and how her one small action changes the lives of those around her for ever.

Dot is a book about family and friendship and growing up with the absence of her father. Only it’s more than an absence; it’s a void and an emptiness that Dot feels, as her mother and grandmother never acknowledge or explain it. As Dot grows older, it’s the proverbial elephant in the room - for Dot anyway as her mother, Alice has little inclination to understand her daughter and how she feels.

Our viewpoint flips from chapter to chapter. Dot describes her friendship with Mavis from an early age to the cusp of adulthood. Her longing to know more about her father, but her unwillingness to tackle her mother or grandmother about him.

We follow Alice. We travel back in time and see how Alice’s mother scorns her dreams and imposes her will on Alice’s future. Alice meets Tony and falls pregnant and plots a life away from the strange environment her own mother Clarice has created for them. Tony with a separation from his own family and “issues” sides with Clarice and thwarts her escape. Until on Dot’s second birthday, deeply unhappy and in love with Silver the local barmaid who he’s been carrying on with, he deserts his family – departing to buy more birthday balloons but never returning. With no contact or explanation from Tony, Alice becomes more withdrawn, functioning but with most of the joy sucked from her life.

We see how Clarice, her mother perceives her daughter and granddaughter. We share in her mannerisms and formalities and peculiarities. Still deeply affected by the long ago death of her brother, the suicide of her mother and the perceived abandonment by her husband who was drowned at sea. These events (and possibly her breeding and a generational-thing) have shaped her and given rise to an environment in which emotion and love and affection is rarely displayed.           

Mavis, Dot’s friend has her own family foibles. Sandra her mother is an obsessive, compulsive cleaner. Gerry her father has his own eye for the ladies and there is little in common between the two parents. No jokes, no smiles, no love, no warmth, no affection. We learn and understand about the second odd-ball family in this book; their history and how they arrive where they currently are.  

Tony, Dot’s father throws his tuppence-worth into the ring at times, though he’s more of a presence at the climax of the book. Sixteen years on, still with Silver – his soul mate and two young sons. Still longing for and loving Dot, though somewhat pathetically (and IMO unbelievably) incapable of re-establishing contact with his daughter and her long-abandoned mother.

Family, secrets, omissions, deceptions, flirtations, abandonment, ignorance of facts, feelings and the emotions of others, absence, growing up, awkwardness, dreams and fantasies, hurried sex, pregnancies, a car accident, loss, death, longing, bewilderment, fractured friendships, searches, bombs, letters and a resolution.

Verdict – slow and confusing during the first half, which may have been down to me. I did have to re-read a couple of chapters to sort the brain-muddle I was experiencing. Got the gist of who was saying what to whom and when, during the second part of the book. Second half was better and more enjoyable, to coin a football analogy – it was a game of two halves (or a book of, at least)

Slightly contrived ending owing a fair bit to convenience, though at least we were spared a lot of sugar-coated guff. The author wisely avoided a full-on, marshmallowy, fluffy, puppy dog and kittens wrapped up in bows with ribbons and fairy lights, OTT schmaltz-fest of a conclusion. To be fair, you would have had to have a heart of stone, to have not felt something as each of the main players in our drama had an epiphany and came to realise the consequences of their previous actions and the hurts they had often-times unwillingly inflicted on those they professed to love.

Toying between a 3 and a 4. Half tempted to score 4, being unduly influenced by the author’s confession at the back of the book in a Q&A session to loving John Irving and her citing A Prayer for  Owen Meany as her favourite book. 

First half confusion and the realisation that I’m probably not minded to try her other published book, despite my grudging enjoyment of this has me opting for on balance – 3 from 5.

Bought second-hand recently on either Amazon UK or Abe Books. 

Friday, 11 April 2014


Two more additions from last year after a recommendation from Glen - Tracy's husband. With a Scottish reading challenge on the go this year, getting these two read would help with that and would also trim the TBR pile a bit.

A.D. has penned four books in total in the series which is set in the Highlands back in the 50's, around the local newspaper and journalist Joanne Ross.

Probably a bit of a departure from my usual books, but I'm interested and keen to sample them.

The author was born and raised in the Scottish highlands. She currently resides in northern Vietnam.

Her website is here, where you can find out a bit more about her and her writing and check out books three and four in the series.

A.D. Scott


Both probing character study and a driving novel of suspense, here is a novel that will linger in your mind like mist over the Scottish glens . . .

In the Highlands of 1950s Scotland, a boy is found dead in a canal lock. Two young girls tell such a fanciful story of his disappearance that no one believes them. The local newspaper staff - including Joanne Ross, the part-time typist embroiled in an abusive marriage, and her boss, a seasoned journalist determined to revamp the paper - set out to uncover and investigate the crime. Suspicion falls on several townspeople, all of whom profess their innocence. Alongside these characters are the people of the town and neighboring glens; a refugee Polish sailor; an Italian family whose cafÉ boasts the first known cappuccino machine in the north of Scotland; and a corrupt town clerk subverting the planning laws to line his own pocket.

Together, these very different Scots harbor deep and troubling secrets underneath their polished and respectable veneers - revelations that may prevent the crime from being solved and may keep the town firmly in the clutches of its shadowy past.   


Two Women, Two Murders . . . 

A stunning and suspenseful story of families, betrayal, and a community divided.

Nothing is ever quite at peace on Scotland's Black Isle - the Traveling people are forever at odds with the locals, the fishermen have nothing in common with the farmers, and the villages have no connection with the town. But when two deaths occur on the same day, involving the same families from the same estate - the Black Isle seems as forbidding as its name.

Joanne Ross, typist at the Highland Gazette, is torn whether to take on the plum task of reporting on these murders - after all, the woman at the center of both crimes is one of her closest friends. Joanne knows the story could be her big break, and for a woman in the mid-1950s - a single mother, no less - good work is hard to come by. 

But the investigation by the staff on the Gazette reveals secrets that will forever change this quiet, remote part of the Highlands. The ancient feudal order is crumbling, loyalties are tested, friendships torn apart, and the sublime beauty of the landscape will never seem peaceful again.



One Dead Cop. Two Dedicated Detectives.
And More Suspects Than You Can Shake a Wiretap At.

On a cold, rainy, March night, NYPD homicide detective Frank Flynn catches the worst case there is: A cop shot under the Brooklyn Bridge. Forced to team-up with an Internal Affairs investigator, the two detectives must work together to sort through a plethora of suspects, all of whom have reasons for wanting the dirty cop dead, to determine who shot the cop—and why—while harboring secrets of their own.

The exciting new short story from David DeLee, the author of CRYSTAL WHITE and the Grace deHaviland Bounty Hunter series.

My reading has slowed of late so I was after something short and snappy to boost my numbers and dig me out of a mini-mini slump. Cop Shot, an author giveaway on Amazon about a year ago seemed to fit the bill – 55 pages long and either a long short story or a shortish novella.

Page 2 or 3, hard to tell when you are reading on a kindle and I outwardly groaned after the 3rd mention of “jersey barriers”…………oh dear – the shape of things to come? Thankfully not. After this irritating repetition the story developed into an entertaining read.
David DeLee

Dead cop, decent cop, IAD cop, bent cop, divorced cop, drunken, weak cop………murder, family, affairs, porn, video, blackmail, revenge, children, mutual suspicion and a resolution.  

Decent plot-line, interesting characters, well-written in spite of minor gripe above, a few surprising twists and a satisfying conclusion. All in all, not a bad way to spend an hour or hour and a half of reading time.

If time allowed I’d be interested in seeing something full length from the author. (On the basis that I have more books though than you can shake a stick at, it might be an unlikely occurrence though.)

Overall, after a shaky start 4 from 5

Free download from Amazon UK.     

Wednesday, 9 April 2014


Peter Osgood
My first love (before reading and books) was football. As a kid growing up in the 60’s and 70’s I used to live and breathe football. My favourite team of the time was Chelsea and I can recall charging around my back garden in full kit, imitating my hero of the day Peter Osgood.

My first live match was a treat from my uncle – an opportunity to see West Ham take on my beloved Chelsea in December, 1972. A great day but marginally spoilt by the outcome; Chelsea losing 3 – 1 in East London.

Johnny Giles
My dad used to like Leeds, probably because of the little Irishman who used to run their midfield at the time – Johnny Giles. In truth though, my father was always more interested in Gaelic Games and how the All-Ireland football and hurling championships unfolded each year. Go on Dublin!

Kenilworth Road
Early 1974, I probably started badgering my father to take me to a football match and eventually he relented. On a Tuesday evening, the 16th April, 1974 I visited Kenilworth Road for the very first time to see Luton Town take on Oxford United. Luton were flying high and seeking promotion to Division 1 – the top-flight of English football at the time. My first taste of Luton saw them lose 1 – 0, but the season ended successfully and promotion to the old First Division was realised.   

No instant love affair or attraction developed. Luton spent one solitary season in Division One, before being relegated back down to the second tier.

A year and a half later – 29th October, 1975 I went to see Dunstable Town take on Luton in a friendly. The occasion was my 12th birthday and the excitement was exacerbated by Dunstable Town having in their line-up none other than the legendary George Best. Best by then was a shadow of the former player that had helped Manchester United ascend to the top of British and European football. I remember nothing of the game other than the score line – a 1 -1 draw.

At some point during the 1975-76 season, I started to regularly attend home games with some school friends. From memory there were 4 of us that used go and we would be down at the Oak Road end turnstiles at about 1.15 pm waiting for the ground to open at around 1.30. If we were lucky, we were first through the gate and could rush up the steps to the top of the terraces and would run down at speed to secure a spot at the front directly behind the goal. Admission used to be 30p for children.  Kenilworth Road was (and still) is a tight, compact ground. Small in capacity but loud, noisy and heaving when Luton were playing well. 9,000 could sound like 10 times that amount!

Over the next couple of years, a lasting love affair with the club and the team developed. The following season or two the bond I felt for the club grew. 1978 was the year I bought my first season ticket for the princely sum of £15. Something I was to repeat for the following 20 years or so.

Ricky Hill
Late 70’s we had a decent side. David Pleat was manager and we had a couple of skilful, black budding stars in Ricky Hill and Brian Stein. We had a few unsuccessful seasons challenging for promotion back to the top-flight, before cracking it in 1981-82. That year we ran away with the title, ending the season above arch rivals – Watford and securing promotion with only 4 defeats. By this time, I was happily following the Town to away matches; particularly when they played in London, which was only half an hour away on the train.  

Brian Stein

Raddy Antic
1982-83 we were back in the big time! Man Utd, Liverpool, Everton, Arsenal, Tottenham and the rest all rolled into town. Great days, great crowds, memorable victories and humbling defeats all followed. By the end of the season relegation loomed large. We travelled to Man Utd on a weekday evening and lost. Saturday we were back in Manchester playing their arch-rivals City in an us or them, do or die shoot-out. 85 minutes gone, a NIL-NIL draw seemed inevitable and a quick return to the second division. Up steps the most popular Yugoslavian in the history of the town – Raddy Antic who shoots and scores from about 12 yards out. Pandemonium ensued – 5,000 happy, delirious, dancing Luton fans – 38,000 disgruntled, angry Mancunians. The following 5 minutes were the longest of my life. City missed a chance late on to equalise and send us down, but we held on. You may dimly recall seeing footage of our manager dancing across the pitch, before players and fans were attacked by City supporters, triggering the intervention of mounted police.

David Pleat

We stayed in the top flight for 10 seasons in total. Most of them struggling to avoid relegation, but a few in the middle were relatively successful and in 1986-87 we finished the season in an all-time high of 7th position. I had some of the best days of my life following Luton with my friends. Sundays to Wednesdays would be spent reflecting on the game and performance and result of the last game, assuming we had no midweek fixture. Thursday to Saturday lunchtime was spent anticipating the next game on a Saturday afternoon, planning an away trip and organising transport and a driver.

I think what made these days so happy and memorable were my friendships at the time. It was never just about the football, games and trips away were social occasions and outings. Drink was never far from our thoughts – if we won we would drink to celebrate and if we lost we would drink to cheer ourselves up.

I used to be able to remember every away ground I visited watching Luton – 40 easily…..Arsenal, Tottenham, Chelsea, West Ham, QPR, Millwall, Leighton Orient, Southampton, Reading, Newcastle, Sheffield Wednesday, Ipswich, Norwich, West Brom, Wolves, Aston Villa, Birmingham, Leicester, Derby, Oxford, Watford, Cambridge, Derby, Stoke, Shrewsbury, Swansea, Blackburn, Liverpool, Everton, Man Utd, Man City, Cardiff, Brighton, Cardiff, Leeds, Notts Forest, Notts County, Rotherham, Northampton and Wimbledon.  

My own life evolved and changed significantly in this period. In either late 1984 or early 1985, I left home and moved into digs in Leighton Buzzard – a quiet market town about 13 miles away from Luton. I gradually separated from my football friends and started taking my then girlfriend (future wife) to see super Luton instead. A shared passion.

On and off the pitch was a bit of a roller-coaster……….plastic pitch, the Millwall riot, causing Maggie Thatcher to show an interest in football and our chairman of the time, a Tory MP – David Evans to introduce a membership scheme and away fans ban, which helped make us the most unpopular club in English football.

Luton - Millwall 1985
Highlight and lowlights…….

1985 FA Cup semi final, unluckily losing to the best team in the country at the time Everton.

1988 FA Cup semi final, deservedly losing to Wimbledon 2 -1.

1988 Simod Cup Final, getting spanked by lower league Reading 4 – 1 at Wembley.

1988 – 24th April – one of the greatest days of my life – with the exception of the day I set eyes on my future wife for the first time, the day I married my wife and the occasion of the birth of my three children.  Wembley stadium Littlewoods Cup Final – LUTON TOWN 3 ARSENAL 2

Cup Winners - Steve Foster, Andy Dibble, Brian Stein

I can remember the match like it was yesterday. Luton went 1 – 0 up early first half through Brian Stein. Arsenal equalised second half, then went 2 – 1 ahead. A few minutes later, the referee awarded them a penalty and I thought it was all over. Up stepped Nigel Winterburn to seal the victory but our goalkeeper Andy Dibble makes the save. 7 minutes from time, Danny Wilson – who my wife hugged and kissed the following day at the victory parade through the town – equalises. In the 90th minute after a sublime cross from Ashley Grimes, Brian Stein strikes with his second of the game to snatch the win and secure the only major trophy Luton have lifted in over 100 years of professional football.
Brian Stein's 90th minute winner!

1989 – we returned to Wembley to face Brian Clough’s Nottingham Forest in the final the following year. Despite an early 1 – 0 lead after a goal from Luton legend, Mick Harford we lost 3 – 1.

1992 saw us relegated from the top flight and saw the start of a downward spiral. From Luton’s Wikipedia entry………

The club was relegated from the top division at the end of the 1991–92 season, and sank to the third tier four years later. Luton stayed in the third-tier Second Division until relegation at the end of the 2000–01 season. Under the management of Joe Kinnear, who had arrived halfway through the previous season, the team won promotion from the fourth tier at the first attempt. 

"Controversial" owner John Gurney unsettled the club in 2003, terminating Kinnear's contract on his arrival in May; Gurney replaced Kinnear with Mike Newell before leaving Luton as the club entered administration. Newell's team finished as champions of the third-tier Football League One in 2004–05.

While Newell's place was taken by first Kevin Blackwell and later former player Mick Harford, the team was then relegated twice in a row, starting in 2006–07, and spent the latter part of the 2007–08 season in administration, thus incurring a ten-point deduction from that season's total. The club then had a total of 30 points docked from its 2008–09 record by The Football Association and The Football League for various financial irregularities dating back several years. These deductions proved to be too large an obstacle to overcome, but Luton came from behind in the final of the Football League Trophy to win the competition for the first time.

Relegation meant that 2009–10 saw Luton playing in the Conference Premier, a competition which the club had never before contested. They remain there as of the 2013–14 season, having unsuccessfully contested the promotion play-offs three times in the previous four years. In the 2012–13 FA Cup fourth round, Luton won their away tie against Premier League club Norwich City 1–0, and in doing so became the first non-League team to beat a side from England's top division since 1989.          

Over the past 15 years, football and Luton has assumed a lesser significance in my life. I had been previously spoilt – I had the good fortune to start watching my unfashionable but stylish and entertaining team at a time when they were about to enter the most successful period in their history. I enjoyed over 25 years watching them win, lose and draw with panache.

With the advent of our family in March 1995 and the subsequent addition of two further mini Keanes in 1996 and 1998, football and Luton was a lower priority. Money was tighter, time was tighter, work hours were longer, baby-sitters for 3 young kids every other Saturday was a stretch and an imposition on ever-willing grandparents. I/we gradually stopped attending matches and eventually the buzz and the passion and ardour dimmed.

Saturday’s at 5 o’clock would still have me looking for the Town’s result. But as the wiki entry above indicates, the club suffered through a long period of poor management and our fortunes on the pitch declined.
Harsh treatment from the football authorities saw us lose our Football League status in 2009. We have battled unsuccessfully to get back ever since, coming close but never quite succeeding.  A succession of managers have tried and failed.

John Still

2013-2014 may finally see an upturn in our fortunes and the start of a renaissance. Just over a year ago we appointed John Still as manager and he has galvanised the whole club, uniting staff, players and supporters in a common goal of getting Luton Town back into the football league.

Luton - Tamworth

Tuesday night Luton beat Tamworth 2 - 0 to move 16 points clear of Cambridge United, who have 6 games left to play (possible 18 points). By 22.00 hours GMT tonight, if Cambridge have lost at Woking, Luton will be back in the football league. Should Cambridge draw or win, the champagne will be on ice until Saturday lunchtime when Luton face Braintree at Kenilworth Road. A victory then, if still required will get the corks popping. Should the unthinkable happen and we lose, we will still have a further 3 opportunities to secure the points required, but hopefully those matches won’t be needed. My nerves can’t take it!

SEASON 2013/2014The Skrill

Last updated 10 Apr 2014HOMEAWAY
1 Luton 421731581210833518+6392
2 Cambridge Utd 40154242116942016+3576
3 Grimsby 40974372411362216+1970
4 Gateshead 41116438228572726+1768
5 FC Halifax Town 411551521745112437+2267
6 Alfreton Town 421353422981122136-266
7 Braintree Town 41112726188672618+1665
8 Barnet 42115529217682424+865
9 Salisbury 421263301963122037-663
10 Nuneaton 42114626236782532-462
11 Kidderminster 411334412247101735+161
12 Woking 411046292483102835-261
13 Forest Green 411344441944122939+1559
14 Welling 4295726196782832+357
15 Macclesfield 411145332262132534+257
16 Lincoln City 4296626165792739-255
17 Wrexham 421056282054122939-254
18 Southport 421155292215151542-2046
19 Chester FC 425106242863122138-2146
20 Hereford 42867212136121837-1945
21 Aldershot 421065442846111828+644
22 Dartford 417310293145121635-2141
23 Tamworth 42579222732161546-3633
24 Hyde 420318175314161854-7210

These days, I monitor their fortunes from the vantage point of TV, radio, lap-top and newspaper, but my love affair and affections for the town have been re-awakened.

About 10 o'clock tonight - fingers crossed!

C’mon You Hatters!*

*Luton are nicknamed The Hatters because of the town’s long and historic connection with the millinery industry.