Show 008: May 2008

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I’ve just returned from Paxos in Greece and it occurred to me that holiday reading is often something we are thinking about at this time of the year. This holiday I chose three books A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini, City of Lies by RJ Ellory and the old standby Our Mutual Friend by Charles Dickens. These books would make splendid reading for anybody’s holiday reading; not a dud amongst them. I first read The Kite Runner before I read A Thousand Splendid Suns, and I left it a few months before I read his second novel. A brilliant evocation about what it’s like to be a woman in contemporary Afghanistan. The second book I took by RJ Ellory was the fifth of his novels which I had read pretty well back to back. Ellory is recording the recent political and criminal history of the US. The central character John Hunter has made discoveries about his life, about his dead father and family, and he realizes that he must make decisions about who he is in the light of his disturbing and dangerous discoveries. Finally Our Mutual Friend, 800 pages of bliss, took me about 80 pages to get into. It was a novel written over 150 years ago and very different from my other holiday books. I have the same feeling about Dickens that I have about Shakespeare, how does he know so much about the insides of people’s heads?

If you have any suggestions for holiday reading please contact me and I will mention them in the next show.

Book Review

This month's book review, Foul Play by Tom Palmer, is a departure from previous book reviews, in that it is a book intended for the adolescent reader. It combines football and detective work equally so that it appeals to someone like me with pretty well no interest in football. I think this a warmer, more human book than the incredibly successful Alec Rider books by Anthony Horowicz. I also think it’s a book that adults would read very happily.

I am interviewing Tom Palmer for next month’s podcast.

Interview: Joolz Denby

Joolz Denby

I’ve written for as long as I could read. I didn’t have a feeling that I had to write, I just had a feeling that everybody wrote. I filled rough book after rough book at school, and my English teacher confiscated one and sent it to Ted Hughes, who wrote back to me an encouraging letter to a child poet.

This year will be my twenty fourth year at Glastonbury, always as a performer, never as a punter. I was published pretty early on, and as a punk rocker I produced some beautifully illustrated fanzines, then I started looking for suitable publishers. Eventually one of the bands I was working with, New Model Army, suggested I went to Virgin. Everything I said or suggested for the book they went along with. They didn’t stop me trying to be creative , or try to make me into the stereotypical lady poet. Virgin were happy to let me be a rockstar.

Occasionally the telly ring me up saying they need someone to speak on an issue, whether it’s anti-racism or whatever. Sandi Toksvig had me on her show every week to read one of my poems.

I had always been asked by people who came to my gigs about what had happened to some of the characters in my writing, and I would make up all kinds of answers for them. Eventually I entered some of my writing to New Crime Writer of the Year Competition. It won to my amazement by a unanimous vote. I lied to the publishers and said that I had written the whole thing, and actually wrote it on a tour bus, pounding through Poland. I wanted to write a set of books about women, written in the first person, as companion pieces. You would be so convinced by my central character as a person that you would want to read to the end of the book. I didn’t quite believe it when Billie Morgan was long-listed, and then short-listed for the Orange Prize. I thought when I got the phone call that one of my friends was playing around.

I seem to live in a stage of permanent surprise. Last year I got a letter from Bradford University offering me an honorary D.Litt for services to literature in Bradford and West Yorkshire.

I am now constructing a little shed in my garden, painted forget me not blue, where I’m going to be escaping from a house full of rock stars, who want me to find their socks. It’s going to be where I write.

Poem of The Month

This month's poem, Short Cut, was written about one of the semi-rural, green spaces, which can still be found in and around Leeds.