Show 002: October 2007

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In this month's show:


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My last few weeks have been taken up by the Ilkley Literature Festival with literary luminaries like Fay Weldon, Iain Banks and Blake Morrison. But it’s not quite finished. On Saturday 20th October I am running a Readers’ Day in Sheffield with writers Mike Gayle, Jasvinder Sanghere, Robyn Young, JoJo Moyles, Mandasue Heller and Craig Bradley. This is followed by me ‘in conversation with’ Sarah Waters of Fingersmith and The Night Watch fame on the 26th October. Both events are part of the Off the Shelf Festival.

And there is a final, lone event as part of the Ilkley literature Festival when we have a rare visit of Alice Sebold to these shores. On 10th November, Alice, whose book The Lovely Bones was a must read of several years ago, is going to talk about her latest book The Lucky Moon.

Book Review

The Night Watch, by Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters is the subject of next month’s podcast interview, so it seems totally appropriate to be looking at her latest novel in our book review.

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
This book is a change of pace and period for those more used to her Victorian novels. Set in war-time London, the book is concerned with four people, Kay, Helen, Viv and Duncan, whose interconnected fates provide the meat of the book. The plots runs in an interesting way. It’s like a clock ticking backwards. So the action of the novel begins in 1947, and then we are slowly taken back to the past and to the beginnings and roots of the novel. You would think that by constructing the book in this way there would be little tension, but so powerfully is it written and so carefully is the motivation revealed, that it is full of suspense. Beautifully balanced and observed prose, is supported by a high level of research [typical of Sarah Waters] worn very lightly throughout the book.

A remarkable novel by one of our best contemporary novelists.


Peter James

Peter James
This is an edited extract from an interview with Peter James, whose crime novels, featuring Inspector Roy Grace, are world-wide best sellers.

Q. You are now three books into the Roy Grace novels, all of them set in Brighton. Are you doing the same for Brighton as Ian Rankin has done for Edinburgh? And is Grace your Rebus?

A. I’m trying to make Brighton the crime capital of England. Seriously though, Brighton Rock by Graham Greene was the book that most impressed me as a kid. I dreamed of writing like that. Roy Grace might well be my Rebus. His work is very much based on my detective friend, Dave Gaylor, a Homicide as well as a pioneering Cold Case specialist, who rose to become Detective Chief Superintendent in Sussex.   But the characterisation is an amalgam of elements, so there is quite a lot of me in him, especially his interest in the paranormal.   And when I created him, I wanted to turn the traditional notion that detectives solve puzzles slightly around, and give Roy Grace a puzzle of his own, his long missing wife Sandy, that he could not solve. It’s the first time I’ve created a character who moves from book to book, and I find out more about Grace each time I write about him.

Q. How did you start writing? And who are your favourite crime writers?

A. I won a Radio 4 short story writing competition when I was seventeen. And then got a job on a television programme. I went on to write spy and supernatural novels, but I always wanted to write crime, I remember loving Agatha Christie and Conan Doyle as a kid, as well as the hard-boiled New York cops in Ed McBain’s books.

Q. I found the ‘buried alive’ chapters of your novel Dead Simple almost unbearably claustrophobic. Did you do any research or was it just gut-churning imagination?

A. It was a combination!   I did get a local funeral director to allow me to lie in a coffin, then had him close the room and leave me there for ten minutes.  It was one of the scariest ten minutes of my life.  I kept thinking what if he had had screwed down the lid and, as in the book, he got killed, and I was stuck in there permanently... !!!  And I had no idea just how little space there is in a coffin.  

Poem of the Month

Drawing of an unborn baby on a woman's stomach.
People often think that poets only write about themselves and their personal response to things that happen in their life, nature and the world about them. I'm much more interested as a poet in other people's stories; stories which I try and tell in my own words and in the first person. Sometimes these stories are unrecognisable by the person who told me the original tale. 'Drawn on My Body' is one which was written in response to a woman's story about the birth of her son in a Huddersfield hospital forty years ago and her sense of connectedness with him.

Read this month's poem.