I adore the Bryant and May series by the always brilliant Christopher Fowler. This story was once again absolutely thrilling, in turns hilarious, poignant, informative, exciting... Towards the very end of the book, in addition to a massive twist which I hadn't seen coming at all (I am usually quite good at spotting this kind of thing), a paragraph really struck me in light of this year's events. Here it is:
"I believe some people are cursed. Not just by poverty, although that will be the easy answer affixed to my story by the nation's hand-wringers. We are cursed by its by-product, a debilitating lack of confidence. It is why we stay silent, why we are controlled, why we apologize, why we are afraid. We are overruled by the ones who expect to be heard, and as they destroy our lives we thank them for it."
Oranges and Lemons by Christopher Fowler, Bantam Books, 2020
Now that I have finished Oranges and Lemons, I have gone back to Robert Mcfarlane's stupendous Underland. I have loved all of Robert Mcfarlane's books, but this one really has a darker than usual underbelly (well, it is about what's happening beneath our feet, after all). His account of the very real scarring effects of human activity and destruction on our natural world and their often terrifying consequences is so utterly fascinating that it is very difficult indeed to put the book down. You can see the amount of stickers I have stuck along the way to mark the passages containing elements I wish to go back to later.
Yesterday, I started the section set in Greenland, and one paragraph in particular stopped me in my tracks. We are in the middle of a pandemic, one most probably created by the encroachment of human presence on natural spaces previously devoid of it. Think Coronovirus is bad? Read on...
"On the Yamal peninsula, between the Kara Sea and the Gulf of Ob, 4,500 miles of permafrost thawed. Cemeteries and animal burial grounds turned to slush. Reindeer corpses that had died of anthrax seventy years earlier were exposed to the air. Twenty-three people were infected, their skin blackened with lesions. One, a child, died.[...] Russian epidemiologists predicted other releases from Arctic burial sites and shallow graves: smallpox from victims who had perished in the late 1800s, giant viruses that had been long-dormant in the frozen bodies of mammoths."
Underland by Robert Mcfarlane, Penguin Books, 2020
Did you know that in 2019, Exeter was awarded the UNESCO City of Literature status?
This is brilliant news because, even though I am based in Dorset, Exeter is easily within my reach for events and days out (and I have family in Devon, so bonus points...).
Two of the characters in my first novel, I Am A Muse, bond during a day out in Exeter...
Anything involving books, writing and... yes, more books, is always going to catch my eye!
I just couldn't miss out on the Exeter City of Literature's first ever Book Market, held at The Old Riding School in the splendid grounds of Powderham Castle.
As someone who has been selling books at events for many years now (ok, not at specialised book markets...), I do know what a hard sell books can be! But I have always thought that if you find the right audience and event, you promote it properly and give it a modern twist, then yes, selling books could actually be a rewarding job!
I was expecting an ok turn out, but not that amount of people: this was a genuine success, with people of all ages happily milling around the stalls, browsing, BUYING BOOKS from independent booksellers (including one of my favourite bookshops, The Sanctuary Bookshop in Lyme Regis).
There was something for everyone, from nature writing to children's books to radical volumes, new and pre-loved...
The place was positively buzzing! The Old Riding School is such a fantastic space!
As we left, we noticed that there actually was a queue to get in!
And you know what?
I think Arcane Publishing (and our developing book-selling arm, Arcane Books) would fit right in... ;-)
The big bonus is that after having browsed all the stalls and bought some food for your mind (books) and food for your belly (of course, you can purchase yummy food and drinks within The Book Market space), you can wander around the grounds and spend some time admiring the building and the location - the grounds spread up to the River Exe. The Deer Park is populated by hundreds of deer, a graceful addition to the peaceful setting.
The castle itself really is delightful, full of lovely little details...
Something strange happened though: as I reached the top of the stone stairs leading to the Rose Garden, I was suddenly seized by an odd "déjà vu" sensation... The castle... The towers... The roses... The gravel... and yes, even the sundial! I had basically just stepped inside a scene of one of my novels, The Book of Thoth! I was standing in the Rose Garden at Whitemoor Hall, waiting for Lady Chronos to appear via the French windows! It felt rather thrilling...
I have a lot of catching up to do with one of my favourite authors, Christopher Fowler.
If you haven't read any of his Bryant & May series, do yourself a favour and go and read all of them!
Arthur Bryant is my favourite fiction character of all times...
Update... Arcane is on Instagram!
As I prepare to ramp up our promotional activity, I have at last opened an Instagram account!
It might take a while for me to start posting content as I am not used to doing everything on a phone and would much prefer to be able to upload my content from my computer instead...
Please bear with me, hopefully we'll have some lovely photos of books on there very soon!
I might even have a go at posting live from my next event next week if it is all confirmed...
I think therefore I write.
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