My 300th Blog Post!- What You Have Been Reading

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With a roar of triumph not too unlike Gerard Butler’s in the 2007 movie I have reached my 300th post.  As I seem to spend a lot of my time telling you what I am reading I thought I’d turn the tables somewhat and take a look of what you have been reading since the start of the year when I did my last little retrospective for my 200th post.  Back then “Mary Portas Secret Shopper” was at the top of the pile but there has been quite a bit of change since then- although there is one in that February Top 5 which has remained very popular ever since, but more of that later.  Looking back the site has broadened a bit with more reviews of CDs and TV programmes  and the author interviews alongside the books so I thought this time I’d section things off and with the Paralympics still going strong have my own bronze, silver and gold medals in each of the categories.  Thank you all very much for continuing to read reviewsrevues.com, for the followers new and old and for all your comments which are always much appreciated.  Now before I get too emotional to carry on, here is what you have been reading, all nicely linked so you can follow up any you might have missed.

Author Interviews

Bronze- Vaughn Entwistle– .Posted in May 2016, Vaughn tracked me down on this site after I posted my review of his “The Angel Of Highgate” I was delighted that he was keen to take part in my Author Strikes Back thread.

Silver – Benita Jayne – Posted in July 2016,  Benita found me on a School Reunion Site and after a touch of reminiscing on school days mentioned she had written a book and would be up for an interview.  A lot of people have read Benita’s interview and it was great to welcome her to reviewsrevues.com

Gold- Chris Whitaker – Posted in April 2016, Chris was such a good sport I got to interview him twice- once for this site and once for my good friends over at Nudge  where his book was chosen as Book Noir featured book of the month.  The Nudge interview can be found here.  Chris was really prepared to get us to see the real him in these interviews!

Books   (And proof that the author interviews do drive readers to check out the book reviews – with only Vaughn just missing out on “doing the double”.

Bronze- Day Of Judgement – Salvatore Satta – Posted in May 2016.  This was not my favourite of the Apollo Classic series I read but it is the one that became the most popularly read review.  It seems a lot of you are interested in this tale of Sardinia in the early twentieth century.

Silver – The Sacred Crystal Pyramid – Benita Jayne – Posted in June 2016.  Just in case Benita needs a little prompting to complete her second novel in her Angel Messenger series here is proof that a lot of people wanted to read  about her novel intended for older children.  Benita has been getting quite a bit of attention in the press (double page spread in “Soul And Spirit” magazine)  and has had a busy summer of promotion.

Gold – Tall Oaks – Chris Whitaker – Posted in March 2016.  It was great to see Chris’ deserved inclusion in the alternative Not The Booker Longlist published by The Guardian.  As well as this he also has the glory of having the most read book review on reviewsrevues.com!

CDs – Unlike the other sections the CD reviews tend to be slow burners with two of the most read actually being posted last year.

Bronze- Greatest Hits – Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons – Posted in February 2016. 82 year old Frankie had recently announced a Four Seasons UK tour in April 2017

Silver – You Change – Lindsey Webster– Posted in November 2015 as one of my Music Now reviews (which seem to have taken a back seat of late – sorry about that).  Great voice and since this review has topped the Billboard Jazz charts but there are greater commercial things to come I would imagine especially as this review gets a lot more interest here than a lot of very established artists.

Gold – Let’s Groove – The Best Of – Earth Wind & Fire – Posted in October 2015.  The winner in this category by a clear mile and one that was sitting pretty at number 2 in my Top 5 most read reviews 100 posts ago.  I thought then that was because of the interest in this group following the sad death of Maurice White in February this year  but the interest in this group and this review has sustained throughout the year.  There’s a lot of people yearning for a real-life Boogie Wonderland!

TV Reviews

Bronze- Giles Coren: My Failed Novel – Posted in March 2016 A one-off documentary on Sky Arts which proved that this writing game is not always easy.  Giles was lamenting his sales of his novel “Winkler” but the interest here might suggest that it’s worth re-issuing!  Part of Sky’s Failure season this was a joy.  Giles has managed to overcome failure by hosting a week of ITV summer quiz show “500 Questions”!

Silver – Make! Craft Britain – Posted in June 2016. Another one-off documentary, this time on BBC4- a lovely relaxing programme which should be made into a series.  It has attracted a lot of interest here and for those of you wondering, yes I did finish making my Clanger and I was pleased with the result even if it looks like he has had open heart surgery.

Gold – Scott and Bailey – Posted in 2016.  Now cancelled first-class ITV cop show is already being missed judging by the number searching and finding the review of Series 5.  Not only is this the most read TV review it has managed to knock-out all competition as the most read review on reviewsrevues.com this year.

 

And where do these readers come from?  The Top 5 countries

  1. UK (no surprise there)
  2. US
  3. France
  4. Brazil
  5. Australia

It really is a world wide web, isn’t it.  Thanks for all your support!

 

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The Author Strikes Back – Benita Jayne – A Kid-Lit Special

I have recently joined Facebook after resisting for many years.  The reason behind this was a school reunion that I was not able to go to which had its own Facebook group and photographs.  I found myself itching to see how well or otherwise people had aged.  Within a very short time I was back in touch with people who I had not had any contact with for, in some case, 30+ years.  I discovered that one of these, the writer of “Sacred Crystal Pyramid”, the first book in the Angel Messengers Series,  Benita Jayne, I knew under another name and that she was my old school pal who I used to travel on the 207 bus to school in the mornings.  Benita and I have had our own little reunion thanks to the “Sacred Crystal Pyramid” and I am delighted to welcome her to my Author Strikes Back thread where she has gamely answered questions which sprung to my mind whilst reading her book.  So without further ado……………………

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Benita Jayne

How did the idea of a series based around the Angelic Kingdom develop and why was Amethyst a good candidate to enter the kingdom?

I regularly use meditation to relax. During my relaxed state I had the vision to create guided  meditations (describing the place in detail like reading a book) that can take a person on a journey to a healing Angelic world to help reduce stress, aid relaxation and inner healing. The  places that were created for meditation were magical and this inspired me to create an adventure book, based around the places descibed.

I wanted Amethyst not to be the usual type of character that would journey to these places.  The experience for her would be unbelievable, hence her reaction from being a feisty character to one of awe and disbelief. To me she was the girl I wish I could have been.

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What comes across well is your warmness towards the healing power of angels.  Can you tell us more about that?

I have used Reiki angelic healing for quite some time for myself, friends and family. Some experiences have been overwhelming and have created my passion to explore this area further. I have read and heard of many accounts of amazing and lovely experiences with Angels. There are many different beliefs and I respect everyone’s personal belief, however Angels cross many different religons and cultures. I wanted to share my experiences in the form of a fantasy adventure book.

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With children’s books we are often aiming to create lasting memories.  What children’s books have been close to you since childhood?

The books that I remember most were the Enid Blyton Adventure series of books. It is funny how you never forget the characters and amazing adventures they have. To me they remain an important part of your childhood experience. Like your favourite sweets and TV characters, when you remember them it brings a good feeling inside.

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Do you know, the Enid Blyton Adventure books really never made an impression on me when I was a child, whereas I do read adventure books now.  The Enid Blyton books I loved were her magical stories aimed at younger readers.  I was particularly obsessed with a tale about a pixie market for a number of years.  It’s amazing to think now how much influence she wielded on quite a few generations of young readers.  Anyway, I digress…next question

It’s very clear that the Angel Messenger series is a labour of love.  You have developed a website  which has  special message cards and have been in charge of design and cover illustration for both books and website.  How important is this multi-media approach for children’s books today?

The strange thing is I started creating the Angel message cards before the book. I wanted to be able to inspire young people, to feel they are amazing, caring, capable of following their personal dreams. The book concept was born from the characters on the cards and the places I had created in my meditations. 

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My background is in design and illustration so it was a passion to create something that would work and support the series of books. The messages have been developed further and are now an extension of the books inspiration.  I wanted to share the experience of the angelic adventure being able to build confidence, vision, hopes and dreams.

Many books and characters now exist in a multi media form, Harry Potter is a prime example. I think multi media is now expected by the majority of industries, including books. 

The essence of a book can sometimes be lost in translation in a film as some of the detail and thoughts of the characters are lost.  Some of the popular books are then seen as a highly commercial and profitable business in the world of licensing and manufacturing and may dilute the original thoughts and message of the author. 

However if multi media is thoughtfully created,  it can be used in a positive way to communicate very important messages from the author to the reader. 

What’s next for Benita Jayne?

It is very important for me to help children know they are special no matter what their beliefs, culture or country they belong to. I have left the story open to enable me to take the characters to many places in the world to explore different countries and cultures. 

I am thinking about creating meditations for young people to help with daily stress, relaxation to help with studying and being creative. Look out for the next exciting announcements on angelmessengers.co.uk or follow me on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for inspirational messages.

Many thanks for Benita for answering the questions and I would like to wish her luck with the rest of her Angel Messengers series of books. The first in the series, “The Sacred Crystal Pyramid” can be purchased on Amazon by clicking on the book title.  The book has attracted some great reviews.

Let’s not leave it another 30 years, Benita!

 

 

The Author Strikes Back – Chris Whitaker Interview

Whitaker, Chris

Today I am absolutely delighted to welcome to reviewsrevues.com Chris Whitaker who is experiencing the thrill of of having his debut novel published tomorrow on 7th April.  I have already read, reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed his book.  My thoughts on  “Tall Oaks” can be found here.   I’ve put together some questions for Chris that were niggling around after I finished his book and it is great that he has found the time to answer them.

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Why does a British novelist choose to set his debut in the fictional American town of Tall Oaks?

I’ve always been a fan of books (Boy’s Life) and television shows (Fargo) set in small town America. When I first conceived of the idea for Tall Oaks I knew that I wanted to write a story that featured a really diverse group of characters, each with quite different concerns and problems. But I also wanted them to feel connected, so the small town setting seemed to fit well. I also liked the idea of this glossy, respectable facade masking all of these huge secrets. In that respect Tall Oaks is part Stepford, part Twin Peaks. 

As for America, setting Tall Oaks there made some of the plot points work in a way that they might not have had I set the book in the UK. I wanted Jim (policeman) to be working the case mostly alone, which given the more autonomous nature of their towns seemed much more realistic. There’s a feeling that the case is already old news, that the media have lost interest and moved onto the next sensational crime, which felt much more plausible in such a large country with a high crime rate. And I wanted one of my characters to have easy access to a gun!

I also hoped that my publisher might fly me to California for research purposes but they told me I had ‘unrealistic expectations.’

 How did the character of Manny, a great comic creation by the way, come about?

Thank you! I’m so glad that there’s been such a positive response to Manny. Whenever I meet anyone that’s read Tall Oaks the first thing they want to talk about is Manny! 

The first time I sat down to begin writing Tall Oaks I started with Manny. His opening scene, walking toward school dressed head-to-toe in pinstripes, despite the sweltering heat, it still makes me smile now. I didn’t know how he’d fit into the rest of the story, but I wanted to include some teenage characters, I really enjoyed writing the dialogue between them. 

I’ve read quite a few gangster novels over the years, and loved watching The Sopranos, so Manny is kind of a (warped) tribute to them. I wanted him to be funny, and fearless, but also quite vulnerable once you scratch the surface. I think lots of teenagers face a bit of an identity crisis when it comes to leaving school and trying to work out what they want to do in the real world. Though Manny’s father walking out has left him struggling more than most.

Dark Crime and Comedy – Do the two mix?

God I hope so, though I think it’s quite tricky to get the balance right. I thought about writing a straight crime novel, and did try a couple of times, but it never felt quite right.

I wanted Tall Oaks to be first and foremost a story about a town, a snapshot of life over one, hot summer. Of course everyone would be at different stages in their lives, experiencing highs and lows unique to them. Whether the lows are as horrific as having your child taken from you, or the highs as trivial as finding a date for prom, they are relative to each individual character.

I think it helped setting the novel three months after the crime, as for those not closely affected things would begin to return to normal. And normal is laughing, crying, dating, having fun, worrying about exams etc.

 It was also nice to write. For every Jess scene there’s a Manny to maintain the balance.

There’s a line in the book where Jim says ‘You can’t stand in the dark all the time, because then you forget there’s daylight out there.’

From the point of view of a British author just completing an American novel what are the “great American novels?”

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald: The roaring twenties come to life in this classic. The American dream is embodied by the enigmatic and mysterious Jay Gatsby.

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger: I first read this at school and have since found that Holden Caulfield is a character that lives long in the memory.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee: Sad, funny, and beautifully crafted. Atticus Finch is my hero! A masterpiece.   (I agree – My review is here)

The Road by Cormac McCarthy: One of my all time favourites. A father and son travel across post-apocalyptic America. It’s dark and haunting and will stay with me forever.  

Can I stick Tall Oaks on the end of this list?

Chris’ line-up for The Great American novel

I’ll think about that one Chris……..I thought you might sneak it in there somewhere! I’ve not yet got round to “The Road” but have recently  read a new book that people are comparing it to – “Gold Fame Citrus” by Claire Vaye Watkins so may be one for you to watch out for.  Totally agree about “Mockingbird”.  I think you need to be the right age to read “Catcher” and then it transforms your existence – I think I might have been a bit too old when I got round to it.  F.Scott Fitzgerald has never done it for me – but I haven’t totally given up on him.  I’d probably swap him for Steinbeck’s “Grapes Of Wrath” but I approve of your choices…

What’s next for Chris Whitaker?

I’m currently working on The Summer Cloud. It’s a story about a cloud that appears over a small town and stays there. The chapters alternate between first person, a missing schoolgirl (Summer) telling her story, and narrative which follows the residents of the town as they try and go about life in darkness. It’s a bit of a strange one (for a change).

My kids are so noisy that I worry I’ll never get the peace and quiet needed to finish it. Maybe I should come and stay with you. I could ask my publisher to foot the bill. I wonder how much a helicopter to the Isle of Wight costs.

You would be very welcome and if the publisher is footing the bill I might even run to placing a chocolate on your pillow.  I will be certainly looking forward to reading “The Summer Cloud” –it sounds fascinating.  Of course, we never have any clouds on the Isle of Wight- so I’m going to have to use my imagination!

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Chris coming in to land or coastguard rescue over Freshwater, Isle Of Wight?

Many thanks to Chris for his spirited responses. Also a big thanks to Emily at Bonnier Zaffre publishers for organising this.   “Tall Oaks” is available to buy from Amazon by following this link.

 

The Author Strikes Back – Ian McKay Interview

I am absolutely delighted to welcome Ian Mckay to take part in the third interview in my Author Strikes Back category.   Ian has recently published “Something Fishy” – a comic novel centred around a fishing trip and I am very grateful that he has found time to respond to my questions.

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It has taken you quite a time to put out your debut novel.  How did this come about? 

I suppose that the best way to answer your first question would be to say that I’ve been so busy ‘living an  eventful life’ that I haven’t really had much time to sit down and devote the time I needed to actually write my first book.  So, as you can imagine, apart from a few sporadic forays into the worlds of short stories and poetry writing, the economics of paying the bills and putting food on the table for a wife and four children: plus the emotional trauma of an acrimonious divorce 22 years later, left me with very little time to pursue my passion for writing. For anyone who cares to know a little more on the reason why I didn’t publish  my first novel until the age of 76, the ‘About Me’ page on my web site, http://Ian-McKay.com will tell you more.

Ian is certainly an inspiration for all of us who have put the writing on the back burner and is proof that it’s never too late to realise your dreams .

Your Disclaimer at the front of the book states it is based on “some true events”.  Without giving too much away could you reveal one of those true events for us?

In my disclaimer I did, indeed, say parts of my book were based on ‘Some true events’, one of which was the incident that happened on the charter fishing boat. When, much to the amusement of the other fishermen, the character ‘Mara’, sneezed and his false teeth shot out over the side of the boat and into the sea. 

One of the other anglers, who also wore false teeth, covertly took out his     dentures and tied them to the end of his fishing line, to fool Mara into thinking that he had ‘caught’ the set of dentures that Mara had sneezed out over the side. What he hadn’t counted on was that, when Mara popped the dentures into his mouth; and, realised that they didn’t fit, that he would take them out and throw them over the side, back into the sea.  

  The subsequent discovery of the teeth inside a large cod was pure invention on my part; and, believe it or not, the episode, back in Liverpool, when they ‘took Charlie Abbott home’ did also actually happen, however, to protect the guilty, I can’t say any more about that!

What books have made you laugh?

The books that have made me laugh are those written by Tom Sharpe, such as ‘Porterhouse Blue’; and, in particular, the ‘Wilt’ series, absolutely hilarious!

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Who are your comedy heroes?

My comedy heroes are many; however, if I had to make a choice, it would have to be the inspired ensemble of the whole cast of ‘Only Fools and Horses’.

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I think that the writer of the series; who, sadly, died of viral pneumonia in 2011, was a comic genius.   Most people will remember the names of the main characters Del-Boy & Rodney, but how many remember the name of the man, without whom the series would never have been born, John Sullivan, the man who wrote ’Only Fools and Horses’?

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I also have been found, on occasions, collapsed in a heap, laughing at the ‘Allo Allo’ series, a brilliant comedy set during the second world war, in Nazi occupied France; incongruously brilliant.

What’s next for Ian McKay?

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Well, as my M A degree is in writing for film and television, I have one or two comedy film scripts to my name that I intend to re-format into books: and, as a point of interest, ‘Something Fishy’ started its life as a feature length comedy film script too.

Paradoxically, I am also writing a factual series called ‘The Nazis’, which covers the period from the end of the 1st World War up until the Nuremburg war crimes trials. The first two books are titled as, ‘From The Kaiser to Weimar’ and ‘From Weimar to Hitler’. The third book in the series, ‘Hitler’s First Year’ is still a work in progress.

I would like to thank Ian for providing me with a copy of “Something Fishy” and for answering my questions and I’d like to remind you that this comic novel is available from Amazon both as a paperback and as a Kindle edition by following this direct link. Ian’s non-fiction titles mentioned above are also available from Amazon or by following the link from his website http://Ian-McKay.com

Buy “Something Fishy” from Amazon.co.uk

My original review of “Something Fishy” can be found here

 

The Author Strikes Back – Carol Ann Lee Interview

 

A Murder They Wrote Special

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Today is the publication day for “The Murders At White House Farm”.  I originally reviewed this book last month thanks to a preview copy from Netgalley.  I am absolutely delighted to welcome Carol Ann Lee to take part in my second interview in my Author Strikes Back category.  I am especially happy about this because she has written,  as far as I am concerned, a five star book and as I mentioned in my last but one blog (100th Blog Post – A Review Retrospective) the review has been attracting considerable attention.  In fact, over the last couple of days it has eclipsed the competition to become my most read review.  This does look like it could be one of the big books of the year and so I am thrilled that Carol Ann Lee has found time to respond to my thoughts about the book.


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What was it about this particular case which drew you in?

I have very vivid memories of 1985, when I was sixteen, and clearly remember the case in the press – and even more so, the footage of the Bamber funerals on the television news. They were a popular and respected family in the area where they lived and it seemed incomprehensible that their lives had ended in such violence. Over the years, I read the books on the case, watched the documentaries and followed Jeremy Bamber’s campaign to be released through the Appeal Court. There was – for obvious reasons – a great deal said by and about Jeremy but little about the rest of the family. I was particularly drawn to Sheila, and also to June, and wanted to know more about the relationship between the two women. I also felt that it was important to sort the facts from the fiction that has appeared in the media over the years, to speak to those involved in the case, and to give an accurate and sympathetic portrait of the family members. To me, that was also the key to understanding – as far as such a horrific crime is ever possible to understand – what led to the murders.

What has been the response to those affected by the case to the book?

Well, none of them have the read the entire manuscript as yet, although I did send transcripts of the interviews I conducted to everyone who had agreed to speak to me. It’s such an emotive case and so much has been wrongly reported, that I wanted all those involved in the book to feel reassured that I would not misrepresent them. Reading through their transcripts also led to further discussion. Some of those interviewed only agreed to work with me on the understanding that they were not named in the book and of course I’ve kept to that. But I am very grateful to have been able to interview them and others who were willing to be named yet had not been interviewed before – for instance: Sheila’s psychiatrist, her best friend, the pathologist who worked on the case, and senior investigating officer Mike Ainsley.

I’m an infrequent (and slightly nervous) true crime reader.  What would you say are the essential books in this genre?

The ones which have impressed me most are:

Bernard Taylor’s Cruelly Murdered: Constance Kent and the Killing at Road Hill House, one of the first true crime books I read. Although Kate Summerscale’s book is brilliant in its own right, Cruelly Murdered remains in my memory most, particularly for the quality of the author’s research.

Vincent Bugliosi’s Helter Skelter: The True Story of the Manson Murders. It has one of the most chillingly memorable opening lines imaginable and the rest follows on from there.

Richard Lloyd Parry’s People Who Eat Darkness: Love, Grief and a Journey into Japan’s Shadows. The story of Lucie Blackman’s murder is meticulously told, opening up a different and very frightening world to the reader.

Gitta Sereny’s two books on the Mary Bell case – particularly the second, Cries Unheard: the Story of Mary Bell – generated a great deal of controversy at the time of their publication, but make for uncomfortably compulsive reading.

My last two choices are not books themselves but sections within books: firstly, There’s Only One Yorkshire Ripper in Joan Smith’s Misogynies is acutely perceptive and genuinely gave me sleepless nights, and secondly, in Stet: An Editor’s Life, Diana Athill’s memories of meeting Myra Hindley with a view to assisting with her autobiography was also keenly insightful.

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Something I think you do very well is conveying a case of thirty years ago and really getting the sense of the summer of 1985.  In terms of policing and the handling of the case in the media how do you think things would be different if it took place today?

Thank you – I did want to imbue the book with a sense of place and time to make it more ‘immediate’ for readers. Sadly, I’m not convinced that Sheila would fare any better in the media today than thirty years ago, given the sort of graphic and salacious reporting in some (but by no means all) sections of the print and online press. Policing has changed though, partly in response to the Bamber case as is explained in the book, so the initial analysis would hopefully be more cautious than it was generally in 1985.

What’s next for Carol Ann Lee?

I’ve begun researching a book about a 1970s case that’s been with me since I was very young; it’s the first thing I ever remember reading about in a newspaper and is an almost unbelievable story of horror and heroism. It gripped the headlines for a very long time, and even changed the British legal system, yet there has never been a single book about it and the case is almost never mentioned, not even online. 

 

I would like to thank Carol Ann very much for her enthusiastic response to my questions and to remind you that “The Murders At White House Farm” is now available to buy as a hardback of as a Kindle edition by following the link to Amazon.co.uk.  It can also be purchased from the publishers’ website.  The links should take you directly to the book. The hardback is published by Sidgwick and Jackson.  I would also like to thank Laura at PanMacmillan for her help in linking me up with Carol Ann.

PanMacmillan Publisher’s Site

Amazon.co.uk

More about Carol Ann Lee

Yorkshire born Carol Ann grew up in Cornwall.  She became fascinated by the life of Anne Frank and was instrumental in getting an Anne Frank exhibition to Truro Cathedral.  This led to a research grant from the Prince’s Trust to interview surviving friends and family of Anne Frank and the publication of her first book “Roses From The Earth: The Biography of Anne Frank” in 1999.  A tremendously well received book this led to two others about the Frank family – “The Hidden Life Of Otto Frank”(2002), “A Friend Called Anne (co-written with Anne’s best friend Jacqueline van Maarsen) and two children’s books “Anne Frank’s Story” and “Anne Frank and the Children of the Holocaust”.   She has written two novels, very well received in Europe – Her novel set during the First World War “The Winter Of The World” was shortlisted for two major French literary awards.  Her fascination with British crime has led to publications on the Myra Hindley and Moors Murder case, “One of Your Own: The Life and Death of Myra Hindley” (2010) and “Evil Relations”, a collaboration with David Smith, a main prosecution witness in the case.  Carol Ann’s 2012 publication of “A Fine Day for a Hanging”a study of the Ruth Ellis case saw her being given access to previously unavailable material.  Carol Ann’s true crime books have been shortlisted for the CWA Non-Fiction Dagger, Britain’s leading award for crime non-fiction.  This could very well be the year she wins this award for “The Murders At White House Farm.”

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Carol-Ann Lee’s previous publications are available from amazon.co.uk

My original review of “The Murders At White House Farm” can be found here

 

 

The Author Strikes Back – Carol Branston Interview

imagesN8KPZ1YTA Murder They Wrote Special!

Last month I reviewed “Murder! Hollywood Style” by Carol Branston (published April 2015 by First Edition Publishing). I was very pleased to have a comment from Carol thanking me for the review and after a bit of correspondence between us I am delighted to welcome Carol for my first interview in my Author Strikes Back category. I am especially pleased because the review of Carol’s book has certainly been attracting attention. Just the other day it crept past Michael Rosen’s classic book of children’s poems “Quick, Let’s Get Out Of Here!” to become my most read book review on the site. So, striking while the iron is hot and at the time when people are beginning to consider what books to take with them on holiday here is what Carol had to say about her book.

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What was the inspiration for Murder! Hollywood Style? (In my review I compared it to Jacqueline Susann and Harold Robbins novels and Carol commented that this was what she had set out to do as she thought it was time to reactivate this genre)

I never know when something is going to inspire me. With this novel it came from seeing an Unsolved Murder show and I immediately knew who had done it, and how it was done. So there I was with an ending. I love old movies especially flash backs and thought all I have to do now is write a story that leads me to my ending. So I did.

How does, in your opinion, the Hollywood you portray in the late 60’s compare to Hollywood today?

During the 1960s and 70s Hollywood totally changed. The big studios lost their clout. They didn’t have stars under contract any more. Financing came from banks whose only interest was the bottom line. Actors started their own production companies, they wanted a piece of the action. Independent films with lower budgets were given a chance. Censorship was still a very strong influence, but Doris Day was finishing her reign as the professional virgin. Carnal Knowledge and Midnight Cowboy were breakthrough movies for general audiences. Then came Blow Up and Clockwork Orange, and younger people suddenly realized they had a lot to say in a fresh new way. Creativity ran rampant. A thrilling time to be involved in any of the art forms. Personally I still love a movie with good dialogue, not just special effects. I seldom go to see these monstrosities filled with graphics. I can appreciate the work that goes into them, but… One English film I loved and still do is Sexy Beast. Every time I watch it, I love it more. The way it’s shot. The acting. Actually I can find no fault with it.

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Doris Day contemplating Sexy Beast!   (I never thought I’d write those words in a blog!)

Why did you choose Joe, the hairdresser, to tell the story?

I am a hairdresser and have worked in film and TV for a number of years doing both makeup and hair. When I was a kid in London I was an apprentice in a very chic salon off Bakers St. Funnily enough the woman who owned the salon worked on movies. At that time I had no idea I’d end up doing the same thing. We had clients that ran the gamut from Lady so and so, to very expensive Mayfair call girls. Quite an education at fifteen. So I know for a fact that clients tend to tell their hairdressers everything. When I started to write my book, Joe was able to connect my characters easily. He didn’t have to be there all the time but eventually he knew all that was going on. Now at this time in his life he finally had to get it off his chest. You see one unwritten law in the hair business is to keep a confidence, and he had certainly done that.

 I have a real soft spot for Karen van Dougall (In my review I referred to her as “superbly trashy super-rich Karen van Dougall who manipulates everyone but is often their only true friend”). How did she come about?

I’m so happy to hear you liked Karen, not many people do. She is a lot of fiction based on a lot of facts, like most of my characters. That era was breakout time for blue bloods too. They didn’t go to country clubs with their parents any more. New York was so diverse. If one was interesting, creative, unique, or beautiful it was easy to break into the supposed In Crowd. The more Far Out you were, the better! Everyone was experimenting with everything. I really believe the country was run by speed freaks. Some faded quickly others became household names, rich and famous in their own right. Karen loved to star, and she did, besides she was always very generous. I like her too. 

What’s next for Carol Branston?

I love the whole process of writing. Over the years I’ve travelled quite extensively for both work and pleasure, and have met incredible people and seen incredible sights. Luckily I wrote journals whilst doing this and have quite an extensive collection to go through. I know there’s a story or a series of short stories among the collection that hopefully will prove to be very entertaining. My other hope is to have Murder! Hollywood Style made into a Netflix Two- Part Movie. The 70s were so visual. I just know it would work. I want Gwyneth Paltrow to play Mrs. Rhodes. What do you think?

I think that’s good casting, Carol. That got me thinking………….Zac Efron for Nicky Venuti (imagine what that would do to the ratings!), Carey Mulligan for Valerie Rhodes and how about thinking right out of the box and offering the part of Karen van Dougall to Rupaul!? I’m subscribing to Netflix right away…………..!

I would like to thank Carol very much for agreeing to be the first in my The Author Strikes Back section. Hopefully, that would have whetted some appetites for “Murder Hollywood Style”. UK readers can buy the paperback or e-book from Amazon.co.uk by following the link here. Of course it is available from Amazon.com and most other book retailers.

Buy Murder! Hollywood Style here

My original review of the book can be found here-

Murder They Wrote Review – Murder Hollywood Style by Carol Branston