Gallows View, Peter Robinson

Tom Hanks’s writing is yet another sad story of how men write women
The actor’s debut collection, Uncommon Type, is blighted by Hollywood’s obsession with female bodies – but he’s not the only author to write too much about hair and breasts

https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/oct/23/tom-hanks-writing-how-men-write-women-uncommon-type

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gallowsThe article above came to mind when I read the first chapter of Peter Robinson’s Gallows View.
The book starts with a description of a Peeping Tom watching a woman undress, culminating in him being seen through the window by his victim as she stands naked in her bedroom. It was an uncomfortable page or two to read. Are the writer and reader any different to the fictional voyeur merely because they are viewing words vividly depicting the victim’s nakedness instead of literally looking through the window themselves?

Early on, I found the “obsession with female bodies” further demonstrated when the term “luscious mouth” was a prominent part of a description of a female psychological expert called in to advise on the case. It’s just not the kind of thing that would have been seriously used if it had been describing a man.

But two things helped the the book. Firstly recognising that it was written over 30 years ago and is a product of its time. Secondly, it does move on, attempting to address the kind of gender issues that it seems to transgress in the beginning. While that attempt might not completely succeed, I think it does a passable job for a book of the mid-eighties.

Gallows View is the first of Peter Robinson’s DCI Banks series.  The above mentioned situation with the Peeping Tom is woven with the investigation of a spate of robberies that grow increasingly violent and destructive, and Alan Banks finds that his work can encroach upon his private life in numerous ways.

dciAs with my earlier introduction to crime fiction I was draw to the series via a TV adaptation. The TV show picks up the career of DCI Alan Banks about halfway through the book series, so there is a lot of back story to be discovered through the earlier books, and I’ll be interested to see how the writing develops along the way as well as the lives of the major players.

One DCI Banks book down – twenty three more (to date) to go…

 

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31 Songs – the overture

Number 17 isn`t really a song, although it does have a choral introduction provided by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

This version of the 1812 overture conducted by Eugene Ormandy was one of the most important pieces of music in my late teens to early 20s.

My first full time job was in a bank. I’d spend  most lunch breaks in my car with the seat reclined and my recording of this performance playing at high volume on the stereo. I’m sure that eventually I knew it so well that I didn’t really need to listen to it anymore, but could play it all in my head.

With a finale featuring real cannons and church bells – I`ve never heard a better version.

 

 

A Patient Fury by Sarah Ward

“He had the heart of an ox, the specialist informed him, a metaphor that had made the evening glass of cognac all the more enjoyable. The cardiologist had failed to appreciate that even the heart of a beast of burden cannot outlive the ministration of a claw hammer…”

What links are there between the disappearance of a woman decades before and the recent deaths of a Derbyshire family of three? And can discovering those links help or hinder the application of justice?

A clear murder suicide might not be as clear cut as it seems.
DC Childs returns to work after leave taken to recover from injuries sustained in her previous case, and she doesn’t go along with the conclusions being drawn in the investigation.
Her reservations lead her to action that could potentially end her career.

The relationships of the book’s characters are central, and make the story more than a straight forward crime investigation.
Strands of the story are viewed through different character viewpoints, mainly those of DC Childs, and Julia Winson, daughter of one of the victims.
The twists and turns of the murder investigation challenge those relationships and give each participant cause for self examination. To what degree does their work define who they are? What concessions or sacrifices does their work require them to make? And in a case with so many contradictions will the truth ever be found?

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This month Ward published a short story featuring Connie Childs and Julia Winson from A Patient Fury. The story was made available to subscribers to her newsletter (subscribe here).

In The Lamp Men, DC Childs seeks out Julia and her knowledge of local history to make sense of an unnerving experience she has during a night time walk.

Can she find out who (or what) the lamp men are and why are they being seen around Bampton?

 

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For more about A Patient Fury.

“31 Songs” Picking up pieces

In my previous posts I’ve tried to maintain a reasonably chronological record of significant songs from my past. But it’s inevitable that some would slip my memory and be omitted from that chronology.

Here I’ll try to fill some of the gaps. These two should have come between songs 2 and 3.

14) Partridge Family.

How do I pick one significant song from a TV show I liked in my early teens? I don’t recall which ones I like best back then. I used to sit beside the TV and try to record the songs on my dad’s old reel to reel recorder (it was a year or two until I got my own portable cassette recorder).

My memories have perhaps been muddied by my recent reintroduction to the series on DVD. I chose the song at the link because I think it would have appealed to me back then, particularly the guitar effect preceding the chorus.

 

15) Child in Time, Deep Purple.

A major leap in taste after the Partridge Family. I was introduced to Deep Purple through a High School music class where the teacher played their album Concerto for Group and Orchestra, and a former school friend from England who I was still writing to at the time had mentioned them in one of his letters. This song for some reason is one I remember most.

The following should come somewhere between song 5 and 6

16) Wuthering Heights, Kate Bush.

Like most people, this song was my introduction to Kate Bush one of the more original singers, songwriters and performers I’ve come across in “mainstream” music. Not my favourite song of hers, but probably the most significant. I’ve seen and heard some very dubious things written about Kate, her music and her voice, that probably say more about the “accusers” than the singer.

 

 

 

“31 songs” Continued. (The early Gloria years).

After the list of 5 songs in my previous post, I’ve given the topic more thought and can add the following to my own “31 Songs”.

There’s still a significant short fall – but one day maybe I’ll be able to get to that arbitrary number, based on Nick Hornby’s book.

Part of the difficultly is narrowing a one time favourite group’s output to one song more significant than the rest.

 

6) Bad, U2.

I’m not sure why I went to see the U2 film Rattle and Hum. Around that time I often filled an evening by going to see films at my local cinema, and R & H was just one more on their programme. However it become more than  a film. I was the only one in the theatre, the volume was turned higher than usual, and it seemed like I was at a personal U2 concert. I immediately became a fan, something that changed my life completely because I later met Gloria at the first (and last) meeting of a failed U2 fan club. This song has always been a favourite.

7) Gloria, U2.

I had to include this one, the song that gave Gloria her nickname. We were friends for over a year until I knew her real name, and I didn’t find that out until our relationship progressed beyond friendship and we became a “couple”. My family still address her as Gloria.

8) Roaring Jack, were a group I discovered during my time at University. It was during the early stages of my friendship with Gloria and coincidentally we independently discovered them around the same time.

I was introduced to their music by a classmate. Gloria heard about them from the owner of her local record store. Almost weekly I drove to Sydney to see them perform at a Newtown pub on Thursday nights. Unfortunately Gloria missed out because of work commitments. We were eventually able to see them perform together at the Harold Park Hotel sometime around new year (of which year I don’t recall).

As I said we independently discovered them, and also unknown to each other, for many months both of us never missed  daily listening to one of their albums.

9) The Waterboys were another independent joint discovery, although we both came across them before we met.
I found them through their album Fisherman’s Blues. When I met Gloria she had all of their albums. There are a lot of songs I could have chosen from their catalogue that are more representative of their work, but I chose this one for Gloria.

 

The last songs for this post are the hardest to select. There are several groups I could choose from – most of them Irish. Groups like The Hothouse Flowers, The Saw Doctors, The Black Velvet Band, but I decided on the following:

10) In a Lifetime, Clannad.

It was hard choosing a specific Clannad song, but as this one features Bono from U2 it seemed the most appropriate and well known choice available. Unfortunately it seems that the original video (at least this one) hasn’t survived very well. The picture quality isn’t the best.

11 and 12 ) Capercaillie

A group that Gloria discovered first as another Celtic group with similarities to Clannad, but I probably took more of a liking to them than she did over time. We saw them twice live in Sydney. But how do I select a representative song? I couldn’t, so I chose two including this one from Karen Matheson their singer. I probably could have chosen almost anything they’ve released.

 

13) Lord of the Dance

It took a while to find a reasonable video of this. Gloria and I saw the show twice in Sydney (the video is of a later version). I’ve been typing this as I listen to audio from the video and find myself tapping the keys in time to the rhythm of the dancing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

31 Songs, Nick Hornby (My Younger Years)

I read Nick Hornby’s 31 songs over several days. It was a good book to dip into from time to time when I had a few spare minutes.

 

It’s a book of essays/articles that use Hornby’s 31 songs as a starting point for him to write about his wider views of music and the music industry.

I didn’t know a lot of the artists and I’m familiar with only one or two of the songs, so my appreciation of the book was slightly disadvantaged.

So rather than examine the book itself, I decided to present my own “31 songs”,  however I found that I could only come up with a few that had any reasonable personal relevance, and my attempts to add more made the list far too contrived to make the effort worthwhile.

So here are the only five genuinely “significant” songs that stand out, all of them date back to my childhood and teens. (Click on the song titles to access videos of the songs)

 

1) She Loves You, the Beatles.
My first ever record, bought for me when I was about 5 years old. The first answer I remember giving to the question “what do you want to be when you grow up” was “I want to be a Beatle”.

2) Bits and Pieces, the Dave Clark Five.
Maybe the second single my parents bought for me. I’m not sure what exactly appealed, but it’s a song that even in memory, stirs feelings of nostalgia.

3) 48 Crash, Suzi Quatro.
Quatro was my first teenage celebrity crush. At the time of its release I’d skip from radio station to radio station, waiting until they played this song before re-tuning to another to (hopefully) hear it again. Her first Sydney concert was also my first ever concert attendance.

4) Bohemian Rhapsody, Queen.
It was nothing like anything else on the charts at the time and I loved the changes of style and tempo throughout differing sections. I attended what was probably Queen’s first Sydney concert and remember how funny it was to see Freddie Mercury’s shadow being backlit on to a white sheet during the line “I see a little silhouetto of a man…” Very primitive compared to their later hi-tech approach. A friend told me how he’d sing it in the shower while at Bible school – until he realised singing about Beelzebub having a devil put aside for him maybe wasn’t appropriate.

5) The Sixteens, The Sweet,
This came out the year I was sixteen, and for that reason it seemed significant – especially early the next year during the few weeks between my then girlfriend’s 16th birthday and my 17th. Again, I attended what I think was The Sweet’s first Sydney concert.

 

If the list was of albums rather than individual songs I might be able to stretch it closer to 31 and bring the time line nearer to today. But that could be a project for later.

The Costs and Pitfalls of Book Buying.

I have far too many books – and still I buy more.

When I develop a new reading interest, or a new interest in general, I’m not satisfied to dabble around the edges, I jump right in and obtain as much as possible related to that interest.

In recent years I became interested in some aspects of military history. At first I just wanted to find out why Anzac day was such a big deal in Australia. Like many Australians, my knowledge and understanding of the Gallipoli campaign at the heart of Anzac day was minimal. As the centenary of the original Anzac day (25th April) came around in 2015, I decided to put an end to my ignorance and I read several books about the campaign that attained mythic status in Australian culture.

From there my curiosity about other aspects of WWI was sparked, and my reading widened to other battles and their historical consequences.

But that wasn’t enough. I moved on to WWII when I discovered some family involvement in the North Africa and Sicily campaigns of 1943.
I was able to untie some of my dad’s tangled childhood memories to find the facts behind the tragic loss of his cousins Albert and Horace during those campaigns; even being able to track a report of Horace’s desperate cries for help, followed by the sound of his drowning, after his glider crashed into the Mediterranean.

I sought out and bought as many books as I could find that might increase my knowledge of Albert and Horace’s experiences of war. A lot of the books were out of print so I needed to track down second hand copies. A helpful resource was https://www.bookfinder.com/

Through that site I was able to find books covering my topics of interest that have been long out of print. Unfortunately some were outside of my comfortable price range, but most weren’t.

As I’ve written in several recent posts, my current interest is crime fiction, a very popular genre with far too many reading options. The only way I could realistically launch myself into reading crime was to find someway to limit those options. I chose to be selective with the authors I read.

So far I’ve followed two paths. Firstly there are the two authors who helped me get into the world of crime in the first place. I’ve already written about Lynda La Plante and Ann Cleeves.
Secondly, because my greater interest has been fuelled by the strength of character and place in Cleeves’ books, I looked around for British writers basing their work around Derbyshire, the English county where I spent my pre-teen years. I’ve also written quite a lot about the three writers I’ve been following.

To date Sarah Ward has three published books, Steven Dunne seven, and Stephen Booth at least seventeen. It would be a very costly exercise to get all of them, so when available I’ve helped the process through purchases from charity and second hand book shops, while keeping an eye on the prices of new books in online stores. Occasionally books will be discounted and a little money can be saved if I’m viewing the right site at the right time.

book list 2Ideally I’d be able to find all of the books at a local bookshop, giving them support instead of some overseas mega-store, but they rarely (if ever) have the kind of books I want, that cater to my sometimes obscure tastes (how many Australian readers are looking for Derbyshire crime writers?).

I now own all of Sarah Ward’s books.

I have the first three of Steven Dunne’s books. The first I could only find second hand online, the second I bought new and the third I also found second hand in a Canberra bookshop.

Stephen Booth’s books have been a mixture of new purchases from The Book Depository , Some from charity shops and two I bought online through the book finder address cited earlier. Those latter purchases have been examples of the perils faced when buying used goods on line. When I received the books they weren’t the editions that had been illustrated (they were older) and their actual condition didn’t match that of the written description on the website.
Bringing the problems to the attention of the supplier doesn’t always lead to the customer finding a satisfactory outcome.*

After two disappointing experiences, I’m now reconsidering the buying of second hand books online unless they are completely out of print and can’t be obtained any other way. In the recent cases I only resorted to the second hand orders because the number of books in the Stephen Booth series pushed the overall cost of new ones into uncomfortable territory, and I was eager to get his earlier books for an affordable prices as soon as possible.

At the moment those early books are some of the more expensive, unless I compromised by buying American editions. However an American version of a Derbyshire book, with American spellings and the possible “translating” of Derbyshire turns of phrase into Americanised approximations… well it kind of defeats my purpose of choosing Derbyshire based stories.**

I’m resisting the temptation to order more books for a while.  Over the Christmas break I could be away from home from time to time, so won’t be around to make sure any book deliveries are received securely.

Anyway, I have more than enough crime fiction to keep me going for a few weeks before I need to order again in the new year.

Apart from filling in some of the existing gaps in my collection, next year there will be at least two new books to look forward to: Sarah Wards fourth DC Childs book The Shrouded Path is due for release in the UK autumn, but before that will be The Devil’s Dice, the debut book by Roz Watkins released around March 2018.

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The image illustrating this post is part of the book list I keep in my wallet to help me keep track of what I already have so I don’t double up on any title.

*Although one bookseller went above and beyond my expectations to sustain their reputation for good service – sending me a book autographed by the author as a replacement for a copy that had been an ex-library book and was marred by stickers and ink stamps)

 

** To keep things in balance, I have no problem buying American editions of books by American authors, where American-English is in keeping with the authors intent.