Second review

For the Hundred and Eighty-Fifth Book.

I was delighted to receive this review from Andrew, avid reader, and book-obsessive – (biggest personal library I have seen yet, I think.) I asked him if he could name another book or author that the writing reminded him of and he said: ‘No, not really, but that was why it was so good.’ Encouraging for me in one way, but difficult when agent-hunting as they invariably wish to know where to place the book – fair enough but I don’t know either. I can see a tad of Iris Murdoch, perhaps . . . he mentions Laurence Durrell; my ‘other half’ suggested Calvino.

 

The Hundred and Fifty Eighth Book.  Kate A Hardy.

The Hundred and Fifty Eighth Book is actually a book called ‘Five’, which mysteriously appears on the shelves of second-hand bookseller Hamish, back in 1985. Hamish himself is working hard, most of the time, at being a writer, having started sixteen years previously with a collection of poems, much derided by his father,’a disgruntled gangly hornet with an ever ready sting’.Nevertheless it is his father’s library that forms the basic stock for Hamish’s shop.

The parallel literary world of second-hand book selling in 1980’s  Bloomsbury [almost]’, is a world where a struggling author could feel trapped. The small cafes, pre-cappucino yuppy world is well defined with plenty of tea and toast. A comfort zone frequently subverted by the chain of co-incidence relentlessly bowled along by Kate A Hardy’s seemingly innocuous prose. In reality a density of quotidian details which seep into the reader’s consciousness by stealth.

Hamish has no sense of smell, a serious condition for second-hand booksellers and bibliomaniacs.

‘Five’ is dedicated ‘To whoever picks this up’,and almost the first co-incidence, in a book of co-incidences, is the revelation that its’ protagonist has just been cured of his own lack of the sense of smell.From here on in Kate A Hardy structures her novel with generous helpings of chance, pre-destination and synchronicity. A layer cake of intrigue and complexity which compels the reader to continue to the very end, which, of course may not actually be the end.Along the way, an assortment of memorable friends and relations, and chance meetings reinforce the structure of Hamish’s journey.

With a Durrellian sense of different views of the same events, all, or none of which may have been precipitated by the appearance of ‘Five’ in Hamish’s world, our sense of reality is cannily manipulated by the author.The author being possibly any one of at least four candidates on offer.

Read this new novel from Kate A Hardy, guaranteed to intrigue, entertain, and install a nuance of unease which will keep you going to the end, and beyond. A follow up is surely necessary…

So what do we have here? Certainly a mystery story. A closely observed period piece. A well written

and imaginative take on the issues of self determination vs the blind watchmaker. A really good read from the outset.

Enjoy!

AWGilman

UPM

 

Stalking an idea

So . . . next book.

A few days have passed where my usual morning writing slot has been filled with going over ‘old stuff’, looking through filed projects and odd folders marked: “ideas.” It is a little disturbing not having the ‘rolling’ project, something solid to work on everyday; the comforting pattern of writing, editing, and re-writing crammed into the rest of the everyday-ness. The last book is being ‘looked at’ by someone at the moment, and waiting for a response is, as I’m sure any writer knows, a strange time-bubble of possibilities, trying not to get any hopes in any way, but it’s rather nice to go about the day-stuff thinking something could happen.

So . . . the stalking and the idea. The idea is the follow on to the last book, (The Hundred and Fifty Eighth Book) and – I think – will be set on Hampstead Heath in some unspecified very far away time. The stalking will be much walking/wandering and thinking on the Heath, possibly swimming in the ‘Ladies’ Pond, and recalling childhood/student/post-student times spent on this rather extraordinary bit of the Earth.

Before the Heath-derive I need to visit certain roads and places that featured in the last book, (mostly around Camden and King’s Cross) and sketch, preparatory to making full ink drawings to be included in the (finished . . .) novel. An interesting challenge as the book is set in 1985/1990 and 1995, so cars/buses/fashion/ street furniture, etc will have to be researched and segued into the artwork.

Apparently it’s not going to rain.

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Constable painting of The Heath and a pond – not sure which one

Blank page banishment

So, follow-up book to my latest – The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth Book. Where to go, what to do and which characters to involve.

I spent a couple of days performing usual tasks – turning a dollar, putting washing on, walking dogs, making lists, and, feeling ill at ease with myself. I like that grounding feeling of the on-going project even though there’s editing to be done, maybe chunky re-writes and agents to try and beguile. I need the early morning fix of the big idea; the lines and paragraphs that will gradually meld into another 90,000 odd words to be tweaked, sworn over, possibly abandoned or hopefully read and enjoyed by others.

So, in my writing studio this morning, (bed with many pillows, cushions, tea, etc) I just wrote stuff, quite a lot of stuff; my brain soon became engaged (mostly) and I was enjoying the process, whatever the outcome. That seems , for me anyway, the way to work when faced with the scary empty screen page with pulsing cursor at the top – a clock marking time, or the notebook and chewed pencil.

I like this quote by David Mitchell on the subject:

A blank page is also a door – it contains infinity, like a night sky with a supermoon really close to the Earth, with all the stars and galaxies, where you can see very, very clearly . . . You know how that can make your heart beat faster?

 

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Sevens into sevens

I sat back after pressing the ‘make yourself an edit copy’ on Lulu publishing yesterday and realised it was the seventh time I’ve done this – (well, not ordering copies – that would have to be well into the forties or so, counting all the edit copies in total I’ve requested) – the seventh time as in the seventh book. Seven novels in seven years . . . quite a lot of ink, paper, worn computer keys and brain-space in all . . .

Now along-side the agent-hunting, social-media and the rest of real life, I need the next rolling project – the thing that keeps me on track with writing. So far it’s a follow up to the book I’ve just finished (at least to edit trawl) – The Hundred and Eighty-Fifth book; a novel-version of an odd little short story called The Katbells Fishing Community; the third in the Londonia/Hoxton series, or perhaps something else that hasn’t occurred to me yet apart from odd tweaks of thoughts and ideas.

If it is the follow up to the 158th it’ll be futuristic, set in London – or what’s left of it – possibly a large domed commune atop Hampstead Heath where the inhabitants spend quite a lot of their lives playing vast jigsaws. Anyway, I’m off back to the city soon, so I’ll indulge in much walking, thinking and plotting and hopefully the idea will become entrenched enough to start off my new daily writing workout.

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I’m a writer, really I am.

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A well-established author acquaintance recently told me to say this in the morning when I look in the mirror – well, often half a day passes or more before I look in a mirror, but it was nice of him to say it as he meant it.

I have ‘been published’ – short stories and a children’s book but am seeking that real affirmation that what I do currently is as good as friends and contacts have told me – and that my work could be published and put on shelves in shops.

Hoxton got as far as submission and has been turned down after I had waited in that rather comfy little bubble of hope for a considerable time. Yesterday I moped a little but soon recovered knowing I just need to find the right person at the right point.

Here’s an extract from my other working novel, developed from a short story called The 158th Book, where the main character, Hamish (at this point in hospital after falling though a floor) asks himself the question: when is it OK to say you are a writer.

The ward is quiet this morning, just the sound of the squeaky-wheeled medicine trolley and my adjacent neighbour reading a crossword out loud. He stops, exasperated by a clue.

    “Hamish?”

    I turn, wincing a little at my shoulder’s protest.

    “Leroy?”

    “Dog crossing undefined wilderness sometimes in underwear’. First letter P.”

    I look at his old black face, grey eyebrows furrowed in friendly question and wish I could help. Crosswords always elude me.

    “. . . er. Something to do with the night sky?”

    He peruses the page again: “P . . . mm. Nope. What about, ‘oves snared within foliage’? Three words starting with S.”

    “Sheep-eating plant.”

    “ . . . . S. H. E.E.P. Yes . . . man, how’d d’you know that?”

    I’m stunned myself. “I just remember feeling horrified that there is actually a plant that reaches out and grabs large animals.”

    “Not in London?”

    “No. Peru, I think. Although, apparently brambles can do the same thing.”

    “Blackberry plants can eat sheep?”

    “Not as such. It’s the thorns . . . the sheep gets stuck as it tries to free its wool from the plants, gets more stuck and eventually dies, thus nourishing the bramble bush – for ever pretty much considering the size of the animal.”

    Leroy looks impressed. “What did you say you do?”

    “I’m a writer.”

    He nods, smiles and goes back to his crossword and I sit there thinking about that phrase. ‘I’m a writer’. Do you become a writer when someone with special powers says so – like a chief editor at a major publishing house? Or are you allowed to just say, ‘I’m a writer’ if you write?

Audio story

I love them: Dickens, Dorothy L Sayers, Bill Bryson, Jake Arnott, etc; listened to over and over, and will be again, no doubt . . .

Now I have one of my own – my words, the ones I wrote, edited, dreamed about and swore over . . . so amazing to hear them narrated by such a talent as Anton Lesser.

Thanks Cracked Eye! Great site of stories, artwork, audio, films . . .

 

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The Hundred and Fifty-Eighth book, read by Anton Lesser, now out on Cracked Eye