IT’S WORTH REPEATING! All Pietermaritzburg Underwater Club members, whose premises were flooded out this week, are urged to attend the usual meeting tomorrow.
- NATIONAL WITNESS, South Africa
Great man and great author
NELSON Mandela dies at 95 and the world is awash with eulogies to the great man. A book or two will follow – several about him already exist. But Mandela himself was a great author.
His autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom, is a stirring read that has inspired many people worldwide. This is an exhilarating book. There is no doubt that it now takes its place among the finest memoirs of history's greatest figures. In this work, after 27 years as a political prisoner, Mandela revealed personal and moving details of his extraordinary life. It is an epic account of struggle, setback, renewed hope, and ultimate triumph. Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk To Freedom, is available online. It is not the only book he wrote. Here are more: Books by Nelson Mandela.
MY BOOK OF THE WEEK is a brilliantly baffling mystery, Murder Piping Hot, by Ann Morven. It opens with a bang when a haggis pudding explodes during a ceremonial dinner. This seemingly impossible method of slaughter pits a bumbling amateur female sleuth against the pedantic police descendant of Sherlock Holmes. Family jealousy flares, ancient passions intrude while clues and red herrings abound. The solution to this clever whodunit is hidden in porno verse by Robert Burns. I loved it (the plot, not the dirty verse -- which incidentally is historically factual!). The novel, highly recommended, is available as a paperback, or Kindle, or in multi digital formats.
Happy reading! from Cathy, week ending 13 December 2013.
Amazon rival gives top-rated titles free
BEST news of the year for readers is a website to rival Amazon. Launched in the lead-up to Christmas 2013, Bookworld brings an impressive challenge by Penguin in print, digital and audio books. It advertises most prices ten percent below those at Amazon, also free shipping. Some bestsellers are slashed 30-38 percent and some of these quality titles are free.
Among these free selections is top-rated historical fiction by John Ivor, as follows:
Invade America! (Brits burn down the White House)
Reverend Rapist (Girl versus pedophile).
The Prize Bride (Hunting a rich heiress).
Kill (A coward’s mission begins).
Experts are predicting one of the biggest book buying periods in decades due to the unprecedented number of high profile book releases now hitting the market.
Selling to the world from Australia, Bookworld also has CDs, DVDs, Audio and ereading devices (but, significantly, not the Amazon-owned Kindle).
The owner and operator of the Bookworld website is Penguin Australia Pty Ltd, a local subsidiary of Penguin Random House. The web address is http://www.bookworld.com.au
A gentle pageturner
Two voices, one book! The Forgotten Seamstress is a tale of two secrets. Neatly embroidered, the twin narratives are 100 years apart. A mysterious quilt, plus the author’s skill in weaving words, brings together the contrasting women of this clever plot. I must say that I felt close to each of them. Liz Trenow instils instant empathy towards her characters.
A mid-teen in the year 1914, the first of these has a rough, smoky, Cockney twang (it’s not overdone). The other is an educated businesswoman in 2008. She is 38 years old with problems: no boyfriend, no job, big mortgage, and can’t afford the care needed for her widowed invalid mum.
As the story begins, pre World War 1 attitudes are deftly sketched when a young teen orphan is employed at Buckingham Palace. She falls pregnant when seduced by a teenaged royal, the future king. She sews her tragic secret into a patchwork quilt, each panel and fabric representing a person or event.
The 2008 woman has a secret too, and it remains a secret until the closing pages. She has an obsession with the quilt’s provenance after coming across it, and this obsession brings her both romance and heartbreak.
The role of the quilt in this splendid story is intricate and yet wholly credible. The technique employed in the quilt’s fashioning is finely described and adds vivid interest as the plot unfolds. Author Trenow says her ancestors were silk weavers for 300 years but admits she herself has no quilting experience. In an afterword to the novel she acknowledges how she gleaned details from a world authority on the craft.
“I love novels with a great sense of place,” she also states, which explains the exactness of her own settings. This novel succeeds her first, The Last Telegram. Her dialogue, rhythm and structure are just perfect and, with future compelling plots, should assure her of a large regular following.
Happy reading! from Cathy, week ending 6 December, 2013.
Life and a cure in Darkest Africa
MORE than a memoir, I found Kill Daddy to be an intriguing report on the human condition. The adventure is simply told, no flowery prose. It is an honest account of Gerry Freeman’s problems, and the cure he found in Africa.
The title relates to an obsession that haunted him after childhood abuse at home in England and lack of parental support. He ran away mid-teen, adopted a drug habit and existed somewhat miserably – an all too familiar situation in today’s world. Fearing total addiction, he resolved to remove himself away from temptation, friends and, in fact, everything.
His dream was to find peace in remote beaches and small villages in the heart of the jungle. He backpacked to Kenya, funding his fare from the sale of handcrafts in markets and small shops in Europe.
Despite being a white man in the vast black continent, Gerry made friends easily, lived in poverty with the locals and discovered a sort of comfort in what makes people tick. He also found disease, death and deceit.
His comment on Kenya and, later, Uganda: “I loved it and hated it.” Robbery, black magic and armed conflict existed side by side with gentle characters. But Gerry found his cure.
“I felt not reborn but definitely as if I was being born,” he writes. He eventually returned to Europe and lives in Portugal, a sculptor and seller of artifacts.
Overall, Kill Daddy is a fascinating narrative that encompasses both individual emotion and the social woes of Africa.
Happy reading! from Cathy, week ending 29 November, 2013.
Cozy crime for Christmas
IF like me you fancy a bit of murder and mayhem at Christmas to balance all that goodwill and joy, the options are many. One of the best of the shorts has been around a long time yet qualifies as good classic crime in digital format. This whodunit short story is Kill Him Sweetly, by Ann Morven. The killing comes at a Christmas party as unsuspecting guests look on. While the police work out the clever way it was done, they can’t name the Who. This revelation falls to bumbling amateur Sheil B. Wright, hired to sing at the festive event. She is a dunce at deduction but well versed in human folly and traumas of the heart. Her snooping takes her into the killer’s clutches!
The only print version of this brilliant tale is in a collection by the author: Crime Please! Ann Morven has been dubbed the modern diva of the whodunit. Her novels are available as ebooks or paperbacks.
She is just one of the crime writers with appealing seasonal titles. My taste seems to be for female crime authors. I think they write the best cozies. Here are a few authors who equal Ann Morven for ingenuity and strong writing:
Agatha Christie: Hercule Poirot’s Christmas
Simon Brett: The Christmas Crimes In Puzzle Manor
Suzanne Young: Murder by Christmas
Leslie Meier: Christmas Carol Murder
Jessica Fletcher: A Little Yuletide Murder
Sally Goldenbaum: A Holiday Yarn
Ngaio Marsh: Death of a Fool
MC Beaton: A Highland Christmas
Louise Penny: How the Light Gets In
Anne Perry: A Christmas Beginning
Joan Coggin: Who Killed The Curate?
Pierre Very: The Murder of Father Christmas
And, for readers who prefer a selection of favourites, there are 13 contained in Classic English Crime
Happy reading! week ending 22 November 2013.
Agatha Christie in the slush pile
AMAZING! That is my reaction to Agatha Christie winning the Whodunnit Best Ever poll, conducted last week by the Crime Writers Association. The voters were 600 members, and that means professional crime writers who should know better. I’m still trying to solve the mystery. What misled them? Or is it a case of authors being (like many a publisher) not the best people to judge a book?
Did they not look beyond established Reputation and massive Sales? Agatha Christie (1890-1976) has these qualities to a degree that invokes the envy of every aspiring scribbler of crime fiction. She is deservedly labelled Queen of the cozy genre she more or less invented, and television dramas maintain her fame. Beginning in 1920 (The Mysterious Affair At Styles), her 66 detective novels have sold four million copies. But best ever whodunnit author? Ridiculous.
Her writing is good but her whodunnits are unacceptably contrived. Submitted today, her manuscripts would not get beyond a publisher’s slush pile.
However, the mystery of the CWA poll thickens. In releasing the verdict November 5 (Guy Fawkes Night), Britain’s top crime-writing group sparked controversy over the best ever whodunnit novel. Their winner was Agatha Christie’s 1926 Poirot puzzle, The Murder Of Roger Ackroyd.
Okay, it is widely read and highly praised. But it is also condemned by many whodunnit fans for unfairly leading them astray. The planting of clues and red herrings in crime fiction has to be acceptable. The Roger Ackroyd deception is not.
Incidentally, the CWA poll named Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (1859-1930) as the best ever crime series. Surely there are current series more worthy of the title? Google ‘crime fiction series’ and see what you get.
Happy reading! from Cathy, week ending 15 November, 2013.
A crime star is born
CRIME fiction readers are ever demanding. They devour the best mysteries and eagerly explore fresh authors as they come along. Today I can name one who has the promise and the talent to entertain for many years to come: Nicola White. Let’s say you enjoy my own three favourites – Caroline Graham, Ann Morven and PD James. Chances are that, like me, you will also love newcomer Nicola who has just won the 2013 Dundee International Book Prize with her first novel, In The Rosary Garden. It was inspired by a true case of infanticide in Ireland in the 1980s. As with Mesdames Graham, Morven and James, Nicola White uses fascinating characters to fuel her plot.Although this is her first novel, Nicola White is well practised in the art of writing. Her short stories are popular and in 2008 she won the Scottish Book Trust New Writer Award.
In taking the Dundee prize Nicola wins £10,000 and a publishing contract. She won from over 350 entries
There is a review of In The Rosary Garden online. The novel is also now listed on Amazon.
And here’s another sample of Nicola White’s writing in a short story, courtesy of Artlink, Edinburgh.
Happy reading! from Cathy, week ending 8 November 2013.
Booktaste.com is owned and operated by The Darling Newspaper Press, a small independent publisher in Western Australia. Its principal is Charles Bryce (firstname.lastname@example.org), lifelong journalist, Scottish born, formerly of The Sunday Post, The Straits Times, Reuters, The Sunday Times (Australia) and creator of The Darling Advertiser newspaper.
Blogger Cathy Macleod (email@example.com) is an independent literary critic who monitors the Internet for good reads, bookworld views and news.
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