See my July 2017 newsletter here .
See my July 2017 newsletter here .
Crikey, what will they think of next? Two box sets for the price of one? Discount for seniors? Free popcorn?
If the other twelve authors are as good as Bailey and Donovan, then it will be 99c well spent. You can get it on Amazon here.
I left home with a packed Kindle last month for my first ever cruise. My eclectic reading tally was as follows:
Peter Ralph’s The CEO: White Collar Crime took me up the Eastern seaboard from Sydney to Cairns. Mr Ralph specialises in corporate thrillers that are apparently based on extensive experience of the business world. I’d read his Dirty Fracking Business previously and been struck by his profound knowledge of the fracking industry in Australia. The CEO: White Collar Crime is a madcap morality tale of how not to do business: Protagonist Douglas Aspine is a monster, intent on gobbling up profits, women, cars, and anything else that falls onto his plate in his quest to be a top CEO. Alas, the trail of damage lengthens until there is only one way out. In Australia, we have an old-fashioned expression ‘Ya wouldn’t read about it!’ as a reaction to something implausible. Alas, I have a horrible feeling that Australia has more than a few Douglas Aspines, and here’s where you’ll read about it.
After Cairns, we were solidly in the tropics and on course for Darwin. Our ship’s ultimate destination was Singapore, after which we were to fly to Penang, and then return to Sydney via Singapore. So what better book to read next, but Tan Twan Eng’s award-winning The Gift of Rain, set in George Town, Penang, a city I hadn’t visited in more than twenty years. This sinuous novel is the tale of a half-English and half-Chinese son of the powerful Hutton trading family during the Japanese occupation of Penang. It’s a big, ambitious novel that often veers towards the mystical. The star of the book was the Eastern and Oriental Hotel, where we were booked to stay, and I finished the book the day we checked into the
dear old thing, with its white shutters and lovely banquet rooms, and photographs of the Sarkies brothers. These gentlemen, bearing record-breaking moustaches, were the very same Armenian brothers who founded Raffles in Singapore.
I wandered George Town, summoning up Tan Twan Eng’s images of the Japanese occupation, but in the meantime I’d started on his The Garden of Evening Mists, an exquisite novel set in the years after WWII, and dealing with the pain of guilt and betrayal as a former prisoner of the Japanese in Malaya rebuilds a Japanese garden in memory of her dead sister. I finished it on the last night of a stopover in Singapore, and after a pre-departure dinner at the venerable Zam Zam Restaurant, I was ready for Kerry J. Donovan’s Cryer’s View, the latest in his The DCI Jones Casebook series.
I’m a big fan of Kerry Donovan, who matures as a writer with every book, and now works in a range of genres: Note his experimental The Transition of Johnny Swift, and his American small town debut On Lucky Shores. In Cryer’s View, we see a strengthening of Donovan’s skill in building complex characters, so that what is at face value a police procedural is a more profound piece of work. I knocked off Cryer’s View just before BA15 touched down at 6am in Sydney, well chuffed, as I think Detective Sergeant Phil Cryer might have put it.
Overall, a great reading experience, and the cruise wasn’t bad either. I’ll award 20 out of stars for the lot.
You can read about my books here.
The Transition of Johnny Swift is completely different. This time, the author throws us into a jangling world of motor racing, dire injury, psychological stress, simmering romance, and family loyalty. The spiralling plot has the reader on edge until a clever resolution in the last few pages. I was unclear about what genre I was in until the ending, but this added to the pleasure! The technical stuff – medicine, neuroscience and some weird physics – was convincing enought to keep me engaged. The style – an urgent, present tense meld of introspection, narrative and economic dialogue – pushes the pace.
Well done, Mr Donovan. More like this please!
Read about Stuart Campbell’s books here.
What does a Sydneysider do when they get back from the US? Get a cup of decent coffee, what else? No, I shouldn’t be so cruel – I’ve had espresso in New York and San Francisco that approaches the refined drop we enjoy in Sydney, city of a million coffee snobs. But spare me the warmed-up filtered stuff they serve in US diners! Kerry J Donovan serves gallons of it in this lively novel about Chet Walker, a young itinerant musician whose past is tantalisingly hinted at. Finding himself in the lakeside town of Lucky Shores, he is quickly embroiled in a festering scandal and instantly attracted to Josie, the minx in the diner with the coffee pot and an interesting past of her own. I loved the whole thing, even the sweet ending (I would have preferred a bit of angst, but that’s the kind of writer I am). Chet’s music and lyrics are woven into the plot, but because they are original I couldn’t play them in my head: Hey, Kerry, what’s the chance of getting them recorded on Youtube and embedding the links in the e-book?
I had some questions for Kerry:
Q – I think that On Lucky Shores was your first novel set in the US. What sort of reaction have you had, especially from American readers? After all, you’re an Irishman living in France!
A – Agreed, OLS is my first US-set novel and will come as a bit of a change of pace for my readers. I mostly write UK-based police procedurals, although in one of my books, I did send my hero, DCI David Jones to France to catch a paedophile killer.
Setting OLS in the Colorado Rockies was a bit of a gamble for me and required a heck of a lot of research. Although the resort town of Lucky Shores is totally fictitious, I did want the setting to feel authentic. As for dialogue, narration, and ‘feel’, that was equally as tricky. I considered making my leading man, traveling musician Chet Walker, a British ex-pat, a sort of Crocodile Dundee character, but that would have been a bit of a cheat and I didn’t want to write a ‘fish out of water’ comedy. Instead, I tried hard to find a realistic American voice for the narrator and the characters, and hired an editor from Colorado, PC Zick, to help me with the settings, US grammar, and colloquialisms. She did a wonderful job and so far, reader responses have been incredibly supportive.
Basically, no one’s called me out on my misuse of the lingo. Not yet, anyway.
Q – If you found yourself in the diner in Lucky Shores, who would you most want to have lunch with?
A – Great question and a difficult one. The easy answer would be Chet, or Josephine (the diner’s owner and female lead character), but they’d be pretty much lost in each other and I wouldn’t have much of a chance in the conversation. Young love, eh?
Apart from the two leads, my favourite character is ‘The Ghost’, Sheriff Casper Boyd. He has his own agenda and, like Chet, is a recent addition to the Lucky Shores community. As an outsider, he has a different perspective from Lucky Shores’ other residents. Apart from everything else, he’s more my age than the youngsters, and we’d have slightly more in common. One question I’d like to ask him is why he’s being so tough on Chet. After all, the poor guy only wants to find a gig, earn some money, and move on with his life. Yeah. “What’s your game, Sheriff? Why are you being such a hard-ass?”
Q – People drink an awful lot of coffee in Lucky Shores. Are you willing to share your true feelings about the coffee they serve in US diners?
A – Couldn’t possibly comment. I don’t drink coffee. Never have, never will. I’m old school, a tea drinker through and through. I’m sure all US diners serve delicious coffee all the time, but I’m not an expert and will leave that discussion to others. And by the way, in Chet’s defense, he’d been out in the cold and the rain most of the night and needed the coffee as much for its warmth as its caffeine. And anyway, he’s a big guy and the coffee cups are small. Give the guy a break, will ya?
Find out about Stuart Campbell’s novels here.