RIP Reginald Hill

I read from barely two people on Twitter that ace crime novelist Reginald Hill, auteur of the Dalziel and Pascoe crimefighting duo, has died. M’learned colleague Stephen Tall has a nice post on the subject, bemoaning the quality of the TV adaptations of his work.

For me this was not an issue, for although I was aware of the adaptations I have never seen either incarnation.

I had however read a few of his novels over the last few decades, and so was able to choose his work when I went on my long French road trip in 2005. It is always a pleasure to encounter the first time an author you really like with an extensive series of novels you can get your teeth into when you get time. I have a slight completist streak, mainly when it comes to the unproductive side of life such as crime novels and TV series.

So in 2005, in preparation for six weeks under canvass on my own in France, I bought a crate of Reginald Hill novels, almost all of his books that had been in print some time, and systematically set out to read them in order. I had particularly been looking out for the Ursprungsroman of the gay character Sergeant Wieldy, which is referred to obliquely in many subsequent books. I have definitely read it, enjoyed it at the time, and have no detailed memory of what happened in it.

I ended up tearing through the crate of books, burning up the D-cells in my tent lantern so I could read through the night, and ultimately read the six weeks’ worth of books in only three. The structure of my holiday was such that I took a holiday from my holiday to return to England halfway through for a stag do so was able to ensure that a whole new stack of Amazon 1p special secondhand books was waiting for me when I got there. I moved on to reading all of Sue Grafton’s alphabet books.

My route took in my dear friend, my former French teacher, and conversation there turned to novels, and I found out that despite her northern heritage, she had never read the Yorkshire classics. We ultimately effected an exchange – and my crate of Hill novels was handed over and in return I got a big pile of Georges Simenon novels – the Maigret books – in French. I fear that crate has languished neglected somewhere ever since. I hope it’s in the attic and is OK.

To return to Reginald Hill, it seems such a shame that so few people are talking about it. So few people have mentioned it on twitter, and I haven’t heard officially on the BBC news on either last night’s 6pm bulletin or this morning’s lunchtime headlines. And the Wikipedia pages are somewhat incomplete, with most Dalziel and Pascoe novels not having a page of their own. Which is a shame.

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My audiobook published – Chasing the Dragon, by Nicholas Kaufmann

Cover artwork for audiobook Chasing the Dragon

As mentioned a few months ago, I’ve been taping an audiobook for Iambik Audiobooks, a company that grew in the fertile soil of Librivox, where I have a few titles and many more chapters.

A good number of hours ensconced with the text and my trusty Zoom H2, and huge number more hours editing, and sterling effort from a team including a proof-listener (thanks Diana!), artwork, technical and post-prod directors, and hand-holder-in-chief Gesine Kernchen, brings the project to a close.

It’s now available for sale here. You can get it in an iPod friendly format or DRM-free honest-to-goodness plain and simple MP3s. Payment via credit-card or Paypal. Over three hours of me speaking direct into your earhole, swearing, talking blood and guts, doing a brief Morgan Freeman impression, jonesing, going on heroin flashbacks… G’wan, you know you wanna.

Oh, and the story is ace too. Big shout out for its author Nicholas Kaufmann. The text grips you from the start – get more than about a third into it and you will probably find your life on hold until you’ve finished it. The characters are strong and vivid and you are rooting for the protagonist so hard it hurts – despite her many flaws and the sea of destruction around her.

Interestingly, it seems the audiobook edition is the cheapest way to get hold of this story in the UK! (You can get it in print on Amazon here and as a Kindle edition here.

BBC’s “neglected classics”

BBC Radio 4 has been running a “neglected classics” segment on its programme “Open Book” where they get famous authors to choose books that not enough people still read. There are ten; there is a public vote; then the winner gets dramatised for Classic Serial.

The list is here, along with links to the authors talking about the books to help people choose.

Of those ten works promoted, only four are out of copyright (I was hoping for more than that, given that they are “classics”!)

So, four are available from Project Gutenberg, and can be downloaded for free as E-books:

Lermontov, Hero of our time

Trollope, Miss Mackenzie (apparently very short by Trollope standards)

Johnson, Rasselas

Moore, Esther Waters

If you prefer your classics to be narrated, then two of them have been recorded for Librivox by volunteers, and can be downloaded for free as public domain audiobooks in MP3 format.

Esther Waters by George Moore on Librivox

Rasselas by Samuel Johnson on Librivox

Unpleasant Tory campaign vignettes

This week in the Guardian’s diary column Esther Addley is standing in for Hugh Muir, and she’s chosen a book of the week, True Blue: Strange Tales from a Tory Nation, by Chris Horrie and David Matthews.

Very unpleasant trends are emerging in two vignettes that paint Tory activists as racist and anti-Semitic. Who knew?

The first scene takes us to Richmond:

during the election campaign of 2005, when the book’s undercover authors were canvassing for the local Tory candidate against the Lib Dems’ Susan Kramer. Given a telephone cold-calling script, they were puzzled to find instructions to tell voters that Kramer was an “outsider” and, perplexingly, Hungarian (Kramer was born and raised in London). Why? “She’s a Jewess,” said a party activist, “but we aren’t allowed to say that. We get told off if we say that. So all we can say is that she got off the train from Hungary.”

And then in the London mayoral campaign, we have a charming anecdote:

[Ray] Lewis insisted he had a good idea of what the new job would involve, “which is more than you can say about Boris!”, before doing an impression of his new boss: “Crikey, Ray! What are we going to do? Gosh! Crumbs! Have you got any ideas? Golly!” Cue raucous hilarity, topped only when Lewis joked about a conversation about the local Conservative candidate, Shaun Bailey, who was also present and, like Lewis, is black. “I’ve just been speaking to a lady and she asked: ‘Which one is Shaun and which one is Ray – it’s hard to tell you apart.’”

The book is available on Amazon – and if you use this link you’re helping raise funds for the Liberal Democrats: True Blue: Strange Tales from a Tory Nation. Perhaps a kind reader out there would care to buy a copy and review it for us in greater detail?

Political leadership

A colleague has pointed me at a rather charming anecdote in a tome that was available at Bournemouth conference last autumn. The Politics of Leadership was a book available at a stand promoting Be A Councillor when it ran in London. It’s published by the Leadership Centre for Local Government, ISBN 978-1-84049-639-0

One of the chapters is called “Thinkers, fixers and communicators” and the author, Joe Simpson, explains it thus:

I think of politicians as thinkers, fixers or communicators. To be a good politician you need to be good at – at least – one of these attributes. To be great, you need at least two. In fiction, you might find someone who excels at all three.

But the real fun comes at the end of the chapter:

As an aside, the Leadership Centre runs development programmes for rising local government political talent for each of the three main parties. I recently asked each member of the three Next Generation cohorts which one of the three thinker, fixer or communicator categories they would ascribe themselves. The Labour response covered all three, but out of the Conservatives, only one person thought of themselves as a thinker – instead we had a room full of fixers and communicators. And with the Liberal Democrats, only one person (a party staffer) saw themselves as a fixer: most thought they were thinkers. Recounting this outcome to a prominent Liberal Democrat council leader, he replied that that’s precisely why he found it so easy to succeed in his party, always being the one person in his circle who operated as the fixer.

The predominance of thinkers would certainly explain why we get so many comments whenever we discuss just what it means to be a liberal in these troubled times.

So, dear reader, where do you fit in? Thinker, fixer or communicator?

Offloading books

I’m trying to declutter a bit, and have put a whole loada books on BookMooch.com, a place where you offer to post books to strangers for free in the hope that someone will post you books you want.  There are rules and things to try and keep it fair, and I can’t get any books until I offload some.

If you want some of my books, there’s a page here that should list the ones I have knocking about.

I buy too many books – usually the very cheap second hand ones from Amazon that cost £0.01p plus P+P. And then I hold on to them.  I’m trying to get a complete collection of the Janet Evanovich / Stephanie Plum books;  I already own a full set of Alphabet books from Sue Grafton, although a big wodge of those are on loan at the moment.  I want to hold onto those.

But there are plenty of books still available.  Lots of Kathy Reichs, lots of Dan Brown, several Stephen Booth (he’s v good – Derbyshire based policiers).  Join Mooch, get a book, earn me new books. Strangely Mooch doesn’t seem to play well with Google Chrome – practically the first website I’ve encountered that struggles.

All of the books on the list are also on Bookcrossing, where I do not have a good track record.  Despite picking up other people’s books and despite registering dozens on the site, and despite leaving helpfully tagged books in interesting places (eg Cyprus) no-one has ever picked up a book I’ve left somewhere and recorded the fact on Bookcrossing.  Gah!