Musical Tastes of Fictional Characters

One thing I’m enjoying when I read Stephen Booth’s books is the occasional musical reference. It seems like his Detective Constable Ben Cooper (maybe even Booth himself?) shares my musical taste.

I think it was in Booth’s first book Black Dog* that Cooper listened to the Waterboys, and in the book I’m currently reading, Blind to the Bones, Cooper has borrowed another CD from my collection: Green Blade Rising by the Levellers.

Here’s a track from the album.

Ben Cooper poked around for a CD to play on the way back to Edendale in his Toyota. He found a recent Levellers album and was pleased by the title Green Blade Rising.

On the way out of the village, he noticed two men with a tractor and a length of rope near the pool in the river. Another man was standing in the water in PVC waders. He was already pretty well covered in duckweed as he struggled to attach the rope to one of the boards that floated on the surface of the pool.

‘Strange,’ said Cooper to himself. And he tapped his fingers to the Levellers as he drove out of Withens

 

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see correction here

Blood on the Tongue, Stephen Booth

It was one of the worst sounds you could ever hear – the ticking of a clock in an empty house after its owner had died. It was a reminder that the world would carry on just the same after you had gone

blood on the tongue

This is the third book featuring DC Ben Cooper and DS Diane Fry .

The author had this to say about his main characters in an interview not long after the release of the book:

Ben Cooper is the local lad, born and raised in the Peak District. He is from a farming background, but his father was a police sergeant, a local hero, whose mantel Ben has inherited, somewhat reluctantly. Everyone knows him, and he understands the minds of the local people. Diane Fry, on the other hand, is an outsider, who has arrived from a big city force. She is ambitious, not really interested in establishing new friendships, but in advancing her career. I suppose there is some gender role reversal, as Ben is the sensitive, intuitive one who cares about the people he comes across in his job, while Diane is much tougher and hard-edged. The relationship between the two of them surprised me a little as it developed.

In Blood on the Tongue, wartime and present day mysteries are woven together within the northern Derbyshire landscape. The “tongue” in the title is Irontongue Hill, the location of past and present tragedies.

A snowplough crew uncover the body of an unidentified man while they are clearing a mountain pass. What link is there between his murder and the crash of a Lancaster bomber during the second world war and the discovery 50 years later of a woman’s  body in sight of the plane’s remaining wreckage?

This book has a lot of elements that appeal to me: character relationships are as important as the plot development, the location is vividly portrayed and plays an important part of the story, and a strong mix of history and folklore blend with events of the present day. It is excellent story telling, increasing in complexity as the story develops, until several strands of seemingly unrelated events draw together into a logical and satisfying resolution.

I loved it.

Continuing my recent practice, I’m including this song from Bella Hardy from Edale, Derbyshire; only a few miles from the setting of the book. The images of scenery from that area are by Paul Pearson.

An interview with Stephen Booth, conducted just after the publication of Blood on the Tongue (the quote near the beginning of this post comes from the interview).
https://januarymagazine.com/profiles/sbooth.html

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.

A Deadly Thaw, by Sarah Ward

A Deadly Thaw starts with the discovery of a murder victim. Clearly nothing out of the ordinary for a crime story, however DI Sadler recognises the victim as Andrew Fisher, a man who’d been murdered 10 years earlier, so how could his fresh body be there at this new crime scene?

Obvious questions arise. Who was the original victim? How did his real identity remain unknown? And where has the current victim been for the past ten years before being murdered “again”?

Lena Gray, wife of the victim, newly released from a jail term for the first murder is the only one with the answers, and yet, as soon as her “resurrected” husband’s recent murder comes to light, she disappears.

Is she now responsible for killing the man she was thought to have murdered a decade before?

This book follows a similar format to Sarah Ward’s previous book, alternating the police investigation with the story of another character who has family connections to the crime, in this case Lena’s sister Kat. It’s an effective technique that keeps us in mind of the human cost of the situation, so that the book‘s appeal remains much more than an intriguing legal puzzle to be solved.

We also see more of the personal lives of detectives Sadler, Palmer and Childs, how they become affected by a case, and also how their work on a case can be affected by their non-work related interactions.

Another feature the books have in common is the way the past and present both collide. In this book suppressed secrets are drawn out to the cost of victims, perpetrators and investigators alike. As one character says towards the end:

“Mistakes from our past are coming back to haunt us.”

The further I got into the book, the more I loved it. As the various seemingly unrelated strands started to come together, the pace increased incrementally to a satisfyingly unforeseen conclusion.
Along the way the story addresses some very serious issues related to the neglect of responsible authority, as well as the abuse and misuse of power.
These matters have become prominently topical in recent news reports.

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More information on Sarah Ward’s website:

https://crimepieces.com/a-deadly-thaw-praise-and-reviews/

In Bitter Chill, by Sarah Ward

In the late 1970s, two girls go missing after accepting a ride to school from an unkown woman. One girl reappears some time later, with no memory of what happened. The other is never seen again. Decades later, on the anniversary of the disappearance, the missing girl’s mother commits suicide.

Now an adult, the surviving girl Rachel Jones, wants to find out how current events may relate to the mysteries of her past.

Local police are drawn into Rachel’s situation when a body is discovered; a murder victim possibly connected to those childhood events and the recent suicide.

Ward is a reviewer of crime fiction and this is her first book. She has created Bampton, a town in the Derbyshire Peaks to be the setting of her work. She has described how she created Bampton to reflect different aspects of real Peak towns and elements of those towns have been built into the fabric of her fictional location. (see * below)

She also introduces her readers to the town’s investigating detectives who will feature in her subsequent books. Connie Childs is a young Detective Constable given the task of revisiting the investigation into the decades’ old missing girl case, to see if anything was overlooked in previous investigations that might shed light on the recent events.

Similar to the first few Ann Cleeves’ books that set me on my crime fiction journey, the point of view of others in the community complements the police narrative. The book switches between the official investigation and the personal impact on the victims and others who find themselves caught up in the events, telling a story where community and family relationships are no less significant than solving the crimes that draw its characters together.

 

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I’ve now taken care of the last of my Christmas shopping. After reading In Bitter Chill, I ordered copies of Ward’s first two books for my mum and have ordered hardcover copies of all her books (three to date) for myself.

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* https://www.thebooktrail.com/authorsonlocation-fact-fiction-sarah-ward/

https://crimepieces.com/in-bitter-chill-praise-and-reviews/