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Sunday 22 October 2023

The bestseller charts have been dominated by Richard Osman's latest book 'The Last Devil to Die'. It has broken numerous records and this week was declared the fastest-selling British hardback novel in history.

Whether you enjoy his books or not, it's comforting, I think, that these stories, without gore or violence are proving so popular. Now more than ever, perhaps, it's good to escape to characters and situations where humour, kindness and community dominate.

Murder mysteries or crime novels do particularly well when the world is unsettled and troubling. We like them for the resolution and justice they offer, it seems.

However I read an article this week which said that 'cosy crime' promises something more. There's no omniscient being, no Sherlock Holmes or superhuman detective solving the crime. Instead it's an ordinary individual, or in Osman's books, a tightknit group of pensioners. And the message we can take from this is that we can all be part of the solution, we can each do our bit in putting things right. Something to think about?!

On other matters...

Thank you to everyone for your understanding last week. It was very disappointing not to have Victoria join us for what would have been a near-capacity audience. However I understand that she is now feeling much better and am delighted to announce another date for her visit. Details about the new arrangements are below.

This new date means that we have a cluster of author events in November! Let's think of it as a little autumn booklovers festival! It's certainly a treat to have these authors join us at the beautiful Riverside Cinema.

So do come along to meet crime writer Nicola Upson as she takes us to 1930s Hollywood. 'Shot with Crimson' is a gripping, nostalgic story of glamour, gentleness, respect and propriety (with a crime to solve). It's a lovely escapist read, beautifully written. And Nicola was writing in the Times recently about her inspiration in Daphne du Maurier's book 'Rebecca'.

And meet tv presenter Adam Henson as he shares his memories of family and farming. There'll be fun and laughter, as well as plenty to think about regarding food production and caring for rare breeds, like the Suffolk Punch, plus much more.

By receiving the book with your ticket, these events are great value for money, I hope you agree. Not only will you have a lovely evening but you will also take away hours of reading entertainment for you or, as Christmas approaches, to hand on as a very special gift. 

Reserve your place before Thursday to take advantage of the Early Bird Discount on your ticket price!

Before all this, though, we have our Monthly Book Group meeting fast approaching. I'd be grateful if you would let me know if you are hoping to come along on Monday 30 October so that I can get the room ready and also order in enough books for our November meeting. Please reply to this email to let me know.

One more thing to mention - the Southwold Literary Festival relaunches on 4-5 November with a varied and interesting programme of authors speaking. I'll be there interviewing John Boyne and Louis de Bernières and hope to see you too!

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 15 October 2023

There was a certain synchronicity in my reading this past week.

First of all there was an article in the newspaper about the Swedish crime writer Camilla Lackberg. I've not read any of her novels though she is an internationally respected bestselling author. This article suggested that her most recent work may not be her own, however. She is believed to have engaged a ghostwriter, although she is denying this is the case.

A couple of days later I went to the cinema to see 'The Lesson', a film about a writer. I knew nothing about it beforehand and only hoped it would be an easy distraction and light entertainment. Its subject was a novelist who believed that 'good writers borrow, great writers steal'. And the film explored just how far the central character was prepared to go in following that mindset.

Finally, I was reading a John Boyne novel. It was a title I'd picked at random, as further research for my interview with him at Southwold Literary Festival next month. I'd chosen 'A Ladder to the Sky', published four years ago. Again it was about a writer, and again it was about someone who seemed to have no qualms about taking life experiences told him in confidence and turning them into works of fiction to further his own career.

As the debate about intellectual ownership continues apace with AI, I found it interesting to explore in these different ways how ideas are discovered and developed, and how we as the recipients respond. We are always keen to know the inspiration which led to a creative piece of work and we don't mind if there is collaboration of some sort, but I think we all would like it to be attributed and acknowledged?

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 8 October 2023

I'm always intrigued (and sometimes troubled) by real life stories being presented as dramas, particularly as they seem to air increasingly quickly, very soon after the events took place.

There has been a spell of real life dramas on our tv screens recently: The Sixth Commandment about a fraudster and murderer, The Long Shadow about the Yorkshire Ripper, Partygate about No10 during the lockdown and tomorrow night The Reckoning about Jimmy Savile.

It's odd to consider these programmes as 'entertainment'. But as we learn that more and more of us are switching off the nightly news programmes and fewer people are buying newspapers, perhaps this is how we are to be confronted by some of the issues of the recent past.

Drama can open our eyes to the realities of events which may have seemed distant or abstract. It can encourage us to engage, to empathise, and hopefully urge us and fuel us with a desire to act, to help bring about change for good.

The arts matter and dark stories which are well told, creatively told, and where the goal is to achieve excellence in every aspect - they can be uplifting and energising, and bring about hope.

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 1 October 2023

Something I enjoyed as a child was to visit the houses of authors I'd read, or had heard of - the Bronte sisters, Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Rudyard Kipling, Agatha Christie, Daphne du Maurier.

There was something rather wonderful about seeing where they sat and wrote, the views they enjoyed, the domesticity that surrounded them. It felt that I was gaining an insight into their creativity, their inspiration and it made them more real, and their achievement a little more attainable for me, too. It fuelled my ambition to be a writer.

So what would it be like, then, to own and live in a house that was once that of a famous, a successful author?

I've been pondering that possibility with the news of two houses which have been put on the market recently. Of course they are not places I would seriously choose to live in but the fact that they have been made available has caused me to wonder, to imagine.

The bestselling novelist John Le Carre's house on the clifftop in Cornwall and the author and environmentalist Roger Deakin's house in Suffolk have both come up for sale.

I've enjoyed dwelling on the pictures of the rooms, the gardens, the shelves of books - but I wonder what will happen to them. Will a zealous fan snap them up for the ultimate connection to their much-loved author? Will they be saved for posterity and opened for public viewings? Or will they be seen solely as bricks and mortar to be shaped and moulded to the current owners' preferences? 

Thank you for reading.

Sunday 24 September 2023

September has flown by, hasn't it, but we've got some exciting author events to take us through the autumn months, I hope you'll agree.

Tickets are now on sale at the Riverside Cinema for the visits by novelist Nicola Upson and tv presenter and farmer Adam Henson in November. Click here for details.

But don't delay if you're thinking of coming along to hear Victoria Hislop next month - tickets are selling fast. Her new book 'The Figurine' is released this week but your ticket to our event on Wednesday 18 October includes a copy of this fabulous novel, so it's great value!

Tomorrow it's our book group meeting, and it's the final time in the old format. If you haven't already been in touch but are thinking of coming along tomorrow or in the future, please can you reply to this email straightaway and I can let you know the arrangements going forward. Things aren't too different, but there are a few changes to mention. 

Now, have you seen the shortlist for the Booker Prize? It's here, if you missed it.

In our Booker Book Challenge, I reported last week that we considered this year's longlist one of the most interesting and accessible of recent years and were very much looking forward to hearing which six titles the judges would put forward to the next stage.

It's a shame then, though perhaps not too much of a surprise, that the two most popular books didn't make it and the only two books which weren't enjoyed by our readers, did. And what about the fact that there were more authors named Paul on the shortlist than women?!

Thank you for reading.