As I write this it’s New Year’s Eve. I hope you’ve all had an enjoyable Christmas and are looking forward to 2017. We’ve spent the past week travelling around the country visiting family but we’re now back in foggy Oxfordshire and are all ready to get cracking on next year’s projects. Here’s a quick summary of what I’ve managed to do this month besides eating turkey and opening the pressies 🙂
Scarborough Ball was published on 16 December. Appropriately for this time of year, the main action in the story takes place at a New Year’s Eve Ball at the Grand Hotel in Scarborough. As you can see from the image above, I’ve had fun putting together some promotional images. I’ve also been rough drafting a new book and managed to finish the year with 20,000 words so in January I’ll be picking up where I left off.
I’ve done a lot of reading this year. Click here to see the full list of what I read in 2016.
This month I decided to tackle one of the great classics of world literature: Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I don’t think it’s sensible to judge works like this by the same standards you would apply to contemporary fiction. A book of this nature stands on its own and doesn’t easily bear comparison. For the most part, Crime and Punishment is a series of conversations between the characters on the nature of crime, guilt and salvation. It’s not an easy read and the author has a tendency to verbosity, even for a nineteenth-century author, which is saying something. But it is a profound study of a particular subject and on that basis is worth reading at least once. After that you might want to stick to study guides.
The Cleaner by Mark Dawson is the first in his hugely successful John Milton series which has been compared to Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels. I should say upfront that I obtained a free copy of The Cleaner for signing up to Mark’s mailing list. As a result I didn’t read the blurb before diving in, which in hindsight was a mistake. I thought the novel got off to a promising start with the assassination of a couple of Iranian nuclear scientists in the French Alps. The writing was evocative and the plot promised an international spy thriller. But then most of the book is about how Milton becomes involved with a teenage gang in the East End of London. So it wasn’t an international spy thriller after all. I might have realised this if I’d read the blurb first, but there you go. Having said that, the novel did get quite page-turning towards the end with some good plot twists. I felt that the real threat to Milton came from the gang itself and not from the fact that, having gone AWOL, he was being hunted down by MI5. This aspect of the novel could have been given more weight. Still, I like the character of Milton himself and can see the potential in the series.
Last Light (A Beacon Falls Novel) by CJ Lyons is another book that I obtained because I’m on the author’s mailing list. CJ Lyons is one of the most successful indie authors out there and deservedly so. This is the first book by her that I have read and I was immediately impressed with the story-telling and the assured nature of her prose. CJ Lyons tells a great story whilst giving us fully fleshed-out characters. She skillfully drops in just enough back story to help you understand the characters and deftly handles dialogue, description, action and inner monologue to create a pacy read with depth. Her tagline, Thrillers with Heart, is spot on.
I finished the year with another Val McDermid novel. The Mermaids Singing is the first book in the Tony Hill/Carol Jordan series. Having read later books in this series I was interested to see how the author introduces her characters and how their relationship starts out. This is very dark read with some fairly shocking scenes, but as always the writing is assured and detailed. The process by which Tony Hill gets inside the mind of a sadistic serial killer is fascinating.
December is a busy time for those of us who sing in a choir. We had our Christmas Carol Concert in the University Church of St Mary the Virgin. But the week before that an intrepid bunch of us took to the freezing cold streets to do some busking. Warmed by mulled wine, we sang for two and a half hours. I’m in the front row, second on the left, in the furry black hat 🙂
I wish you all the best for 2017!
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