Now that the Viking invasion of half term has finally departed, this week I treated myself to a trip into town to partake in one of my favourite pastimes – browsing round Waterstones bookshop. I like to head straight to the back of the shop avoiding all the gift buyers and get stuck into the crime section. As usual I start with the tables in the middle of the shelves which are piled up with books displayed by theme. Then I head to the start of the crime section, which is where my plan fell to pieces. It seemed they’d moved the section. I looked around in a panic, what’s a book shop after all without a good stock of crime fiction? This would be a complete torment for me to live in a city without a crime section in the bookshop. Yet it soon became clear that whilst the initial panic was unfounded, there was still crime novels galore, there was a new problem. The crime novels were now all just mixed in amongst a general fiction section stretching round the store.
This was not good for me. I don’t like change. I also like to be able to go into a bookshop and head straight to the crime section knowing that whatever I’m picking up is crime. I like to know I’m not going to pick up a book and end up with a mills and boon (which I was a big fan of when younger, mainly because Jilly Cooper was a lot harder to sneak past the parents but the sex scenes were just as good) or much worse something dungeons and dragons based. My reading matter rarely deviates from anything that isn’t classified as crime. This new layout therefore really seems to be rather at odds with what I like, so it was time to express my annoyance.
Clearly nowadays the idea of writing letters to the local newspaper is practically akin to sending smoke signals. Outraged from York has long been in retirement. Therefore I did what all modern annoyed people do and I took to twitter to express my disgust. Rather surprisingly I swiftly received a reply to my tweet from one of the most high ranking authors in crime fiction. Once I’d come down off the roof thanks to the excitement of getting the tweet, I actually read it. Suddenly rather than seeing the concept of all fiction being in one big pile as a negative thing, I was open to the idea that this actually was a good way to ‘broaden your horizons’
I do love is discovering new authors. One of the best things about both writing this blog and of course attending the festival is the joy of discovering new writers and styles that you wouldn’t necessarily pick up yourself. I have also in the past read non crime fiction and really enjoyed it. So I completely agree that mixing the books altogether could potentially mean I discover new authors which is obviously a good thing.
However there is still a part of me that is a little bit sad about this change. I always loved the fortnightly trip to the library and this hasn’t disappeared as an adult. The difference is now I always look for the little blue sticker with the handcuffs on it so I know I’m a getting a crime novel. Which leads me to the biggest issue that this is going to cause me, and that’s one of time. Whilst I’m looking forward to discovering new authors the sheer time I’m going to need to browse through all those books is scary. I wonder if part time working is feasible? Or maybe rather than seeing it as a Saturday morning treat I should just get a job in a bookshop.
I, like most people I’m sure, like to have a routine. It’s what keeps society ticking round. Whether it’s planning what to read next, or working out how to store my books, it all boils down to routine. I have the signed books on the top shelf, those to be read on the next one down, and the rest wherever they can fit. That’s my routine and it works well. Even purchasing books I have a routine. Into Waterstones, straight to the crime section at the back of the store, quick browse of the books on the middle tables, a scoot round new releases and then the main shelves from Z to A (I like to go against the flow)
Whilst I understand the need for routines I do find many people’s routines just odd. There is a woman who goes swimming every lunchtime. She’ll swim for half an hour, she then gets out, blow dries her hair and then has a shower. Surely that’s just the wrong way round? I imagine the older people get the more they hang on to their routines. After all if The Chopper (see here for explanation) didn’t stick to his routine, bodies would soon start piling up and the whole streets business could fold.
However surely people should change their routines when they are not working? Supermarket shopping for example. As someone who works full time the only options for me shopping for food is either to go at 6.30am as I did Monday, or to go on a Saturday. This is not my idea of fun but it’s a necessity. If I was retired however I’d never go shopping on a Saturday. I’d pick the quietest day I could find. For some reason though old people still clog up the aisles on a Saturday blocking the path whilst they debate the best tin of spam to buy.
The whole thing just gets worse in the run up to Christmas. Christmas shopping is like torture to me. Everywhere you go there are shops belting out Christmas songs over the loud speakers, groups of idiots in Christmas jumpers pretending they are having a good time and old people dithering around in Waterstones doorway. There should be dedicated days for people to shop. Retired people on a Thursday, those who work Saturdays could shop on a Friday, normal people on a Saturday and then people who like to aimlessly browse the shops for no real purpose other than to waste time could go on a Sunday.
In fact this system could be extended out not just to shopping but all sorts of activities. Swimming is a good example, I like to go if possible before work. Yet this is one of the busiest times with old (older!) women who stand around blocking the hair dryers whilst discussing the latest round of golf they have played. Pubs is another idea. I like a nice quiet drink on an evening, not to be surrounded by screaming kids. I have no problem with well behaved children in a pub at 5 pm, but surely they should all be in bed by 8? No pub ever survived by purchases of fruit shoots alone.
I actually think I’ve hit on something here. A little change in everyone’s routines and then everyone would be happy. Plus it would make my journey to the crime section a lot easier without the doorway ditherers.
The ice is out in full force at the moment which means my walk to work takes on a whole new challenge, where just staying on your feet becomes a task equivalent to reading war and peace. This takes on an added dimension when the ice is combined with the fun that is recycling day, where it is not only the invisible black icy patches that have to be avoided.
This being York, nearly everyone recycles. Down our street where the average age is about 152 the recycling boxes are mainly just newspapers, with the odd plastic container that probably contained Horlicks thrown in. We obviously have a few more glass items in ours, although this week I was incredibly embarrassed putting out the bottles. There was only 4 in there, what must people have thought. I promise I’ll try harder this fortnight.
Obviously down the main street there is a much wider variety of recycling coming out of the big houses. Despite the obvious dangers of tripping over escaped caviar pots or rolling champagne bottles I must admit I find the chance to see what people are buying fascinating. Before recycling became popular the only way to know what complete strangers had for tea was to go through their dustbins which is borderline stalking apparently. However now just walking down the street allows those of us with a keen interest in the human race (some people call it nosy, I just like to think I am interested in my surroundings) access behind closed doors.
Of course the problem with that is you don’t get the full picture. It’s easy to see what people had for tea with the abundance of organic M&S ready meal wrappers. There is one house that I swear must buy the same ready meals from waitrose every week. It’s good to have a routine I suppose although personally I prefer a bit more variety in my food.
The ones that really frustrate me are the abundance of amazon parcels, especially the book shaped ones. Short of actually picking them up and hoping the delivery notes have been left inside (which I would do if I thought I’d get away without being seen) there are no clues from the outside as to what was inside. I’d love to be able to see into people’s houses and look through their books. There should be a website where people could post up pictures of their bookshelves for me to peruse. It would be like Waterstones but without the impossible to resist temptation of actually buying books.
Unfortunately until then I’ll just have to continue trying to spot peoples bookshelves through their windows and trying to guess what the latest purchase is. At least once the ice has gone it’ll make the walk a bit safer and I can concentrate on looking at the recycling rather than trying to spot patches of ice.
I have a habit of buying books a bit like I buy wine, in bulk. It’s a money saving thing really as if I had to go into Waterstones and only buy one book at a time I’d end up wasting hours trying to decide which one, and time is money after all! Dead Gone was therefore a book I added on impulse to a pile I bought before my operation. Despite not having heard of the author before, the front cover had a recommendation by Mark Billingham and if it’s good enough for Mark its good enough for me.
Set in Liverpool this is the debut novel by Luca Vesta. The story starts with the disappearance of Jemma as she walks home one night. Her boyfriend seems to be distraught, however things are not always what they seem. Her family and friends are at first sceptical as Jemma has gone missing before. Yet as time goes on they begin to realise things are not right and suspicion starts to point at the boyfriend. Alongside this story, bodies are being discovered with notes attached describing experiments carried out in the 1920s.
I enjoyed this book and thought the subject matter of the story was fascinating especially the references to varying psychological experiments. A few years ago I went to some ‘fun’ lectures about criminal psychology which discussed alot of the unethical work that was done during the 20s, and therefore the idea that someone could try and recreate the experiments nowadays was both interesting and scary. The writing itself felt quite punchy, short sentences added to the pace and kept me turning the pages. The descriptions of the killings are pretty atmospheric and you can feel the terror the victims go through.
One slight issue I had with this novel was that I wasn’t struck on the lead detective. As usual in detective fiction he had lots of issues having recently lost his parents and his wife. I felt that there was a bit too much concentrating on this rather than the actual crime. Personally I’m one of those people who is more interested in the story than the background so at times I found this a bit distracting, which wasn’t helped by my lack of patience as I just wanted to get on with the search for the murderer.
I found the setting of Liverpool to be very interesting as it’s a city I’ve visited a few times and enjoy. To anyone who knows the city the descriptions of places are obvious, but they manage to walk that fine line between describing too much detail and not setting the scene properly.
Overall I would say this was a very good debut novel that is well worth a read and I will definitely be looking out for future novels by Luca Vesta next time I’m bulk buying in Waterstones.
I’ve been having a closer look at the programme for the Harrogate Crime Writers Festival today, there are 17 sessions across the three days not including the dinner or the quiz. Having looked through them all, so far I’ve read at least one author from 11 of the sessions. Therefore if the Theakstons Old Peculiar Crime Writers Festival Challenge (TOPCWFC for the purposes of my new readers) is this year to ensure that I read an author from each session then I’m pretty much on track.
However sadly, those of you who have been reading this from the start will know that the initial TOPCWFC was actually to read a book by every author appearing at the festival. By my calculations there are 43 authors (not including those who are chairing or interviewing people) and so far I’ve read a rather paltry 14. I think even by my standards the main challenge is over before its even really begun, somehow I doubt I’ll find the time to read 29 authors in the next eight weeks but never one to shirk a challenge I’ll give it a go.
In order to start properly as I was in town earlier today I decided to pop into Waterstones. I think one of the saddest things over the past few years has been the demise of the bookshop. I’m not one for shopping but put me in a bookshop and I can spend hours browsing round but I fear that sadly I’m in the minority and bookshops are only going to become more scarce. This time I went into my local Waterstones with my copy of the festival programme dutifully annotated to ensure I don’t end up duplicating authors. I figured I’d try and pick up a couple of the books from sessions I’ve not yet completed. That however is where I hit the fundamental flaw when it comes to bookshops, their lack of books.
I understand that bookshops can only stock a limited selection of books due to shelf space but when you go in wanting something specific its very frustrating. Obviously the idea with a bookshop is that you can go in and browse around and then decide what you fancy reading which is good normally. Today however I was to be disappointed. Therefore I can see where the benefits of amazon come into play (and in true bbc style all other good online retailers this is not an advert for amazon) shopping from the comfort of my own front room and every single book you could possibly want certainly has its advantages.
The problem is, online shopping in itself can be annoying. The endless waiting for delivery and then in my case the knowledge that no matter what size the parcel is, it will still have been intercepted by Hilda next door. That means an extra 30 minutes discussion about the latest parking saga on the street before I can get my hands on my book. Patience has never been one of my strong points and this can certainly test it.
Some of course may say that all this annoyance could be circumnavigated by simply purchasing items for my kindle. I do agree to a point, and a kindle really is one of the best inventions since the creation of BT Vision in my opinion. No luggage limit is likely to allow me to carry the 14 books recently read on my holiday. However I still like to have a proper book to read at home which takes me back round in full circle to having to visit a bookshop.
Luckily in order to continue the TOPCWFC un-interupted I did find one book I wanted in the bookshop, so its time to start some serious reading.
Happy New Year to all, I hope you have had a good festive break.
As always the start of another New Year brings with it the inevitable question of ‘What are your New Year’s resolutions?’ Personally I don’t make them, mainly as I don’t believe in them. Just because the year is one number higher, why does that suddenly mean you are going to stop being lazy and actually do the things you’ve talked about?
I’m a great procrastinator (at work anyway), and nowadays blame the internet. I suspect that there is a direct correlation between people who say they don’t have enough time to do things, and those who spend the most time surfing the net and playing on facebook. Maybe everyone should make a New Year’s resolution to go cold turkey and give up the internet one day a week for 2013. If we all did that, and then spent that time buying and reading books, we would make James Daunt and Waterstones very happy!
Apparently (well according to Wikipedia, the font of most of my knowledge) resolutions originally stem from the ancient Babylonians who made promises to their gods at the start of each year that they would return borrowed objects and pay their debts. Well that sounds like a silly resolution to me, returning all the books I’ve borrowed and accidently forgotten to give back would take me til 2015 to do.
Of course sometimes resolutions do have their place. Take the Hilda’s for example (for new readers this should explain them) Hilda1 is having teeth implants next week to straighten her wonky teeth. After this she is going full out for a makeover with a new hair style and some new clothes. Whilst Hilda2 was talking about going on holiday to somewhere snowy so she could go bottom boarding whatever that is. Never mind that 1 is in their 80s and 2 is in their 60s, its a new year and they are going do something. As Du Plessis says in Wild at Heart ‘Its how you live your life, not how long you live it for that counts’ which the Hilda’s would obviously agree with (although they seem to be going for both how and how long).
Whilst I don’t do resolutions, I do like ‘to do’ lists which I suppose in a way are mini resolutions. Lists of things to do over the holiday, lists of housework that needs doing, lists of tv programmes I’d like to watch. My favourite list is my list of books to read, which is a list I’ve never yet completed. For every one I finish I usually add four more. Maybe I should make a New Year’s resolution to actually finish one reading list before starting another. But thats the thing with resolutions apparently 88% of them fail anyway, so why waste time making them!
Filed under Holiday, Reading