Great Expectations!

So I’m over at Jason’s blog again, talking about my all-time favourite book – surprised I’ve been asked back?  Hmnn, I don’t have a gun this time,  so maybe that has got something to do with it?  I’m talking about my favourite novel, the fantastic Great Expectations by the tremendously talented Charles Dickens.

Jason asked me some interesting questions, and I did branch out little, discussing themes and Victorian social problems and other great works of literature. Jason has added some great illustrations too, and the blog is gorgeous, take a peek!

I did manage to slip in, ever so subtly mind you, a discreet mention of my new book, Nightmare Asylum & Other Deadly Delights which is out with marvellous NTTK in February 2019!

 Over to Mr. beech…

So, a classic of English literature. What do you love about it?

I do believe that Charles Dickens was a genius, but there are a couple of reasons I like the novel so much. Firstly, I think it has the best plot of any book I have ever read – it’s so engaging, complicated and has a fabulous revelation, which ties up the actions of the seemingly unconnected characters and different strands of the plot! Not only has Pip been deluded about his benefactor; he has placed his trust in a future which doesn’t exist, believing that steel-hearted Estella was meant to be his wife…read more

 

Alibi International Crime/Noir Literary Festival

 

The Invitation

I was very fortunate enough to be asked to the 3rd Alibi International Crime/Noir Festival in the beautiful surroundings of Slovenska Bistrica, Slovenia. It is a very special event with five guest writers invited to spend the weekend surrounded by stunning scenery in the mountains at the idyllic Gora Pod Lipo . The festival is organized in conjunction with Artisan advertising and publishing house and Tednik Panorama, media sponsor.

How was the experience?

Imagine the nicest place you have visited on holiday; then add some of the best cuisine you have ever tasted, a beautiful full-bodied red wine, named Alibi especially for this event, add a selection talented writers, a lovely, comfortable hotel in the mountains, (Hotel Jakec) and of course, a cool bar to hang out in when you are not writing (Bar Grega). It’s all true! I can assure you I am not exaggerating – this was a very special event!

What did you do?

On the Friday evening (after I had spent a lovely day at Lake Bled with advertising creative, writer, and festival organizer Renato Bratkovič, the five writers attended a dinner at Goro Pod Lipo, (where we were spoiled the entire weekend with excellent food and wine), and each of us drew a slip of paper with our story title ready for the following  days writing.

Did we enjoy creating new stories?

Yes very much! Of course, there is a little extra pressure in writing a full short story to be read the following day, But as the guest writer, poet, and publisher Jaka Tomc observed, sometimes a little pressure can be a good thing for a writer…

Goro pod lipo has a warren of private rooms and secluded spaces and so we all chose our own areas, carefully, meeting up for coffee with German, thriller writer, Silvija Hinzmann . And Croatian radio presenter and fiction writer Andrea Žigić-Dolenec   for delicious meals in the cozy, traditional style restaurant.

Where there any trips out?

On Saturday evening we all bundled into the minivan and headed down to the local cinema in Slovenka Bristrica. The first feature was a new film starring Igor Korošec, Jana Jeglič was created by Artisan, Final Focus,  called Minus 1 – and very entertaining it was too. I loved the noir feel of the piece and the character- without revealing too much, was very dark and manipulative; but he did want to help…

The second film was called Nightlife, which was based on a real-life incident with a lawyer in Ljubljana. To say that this man exceeded the boundaries of taste and decency is an understatement. The lawyer’s wife seemed a little dubious too, she kept saying she didn’t understand what was happening, but I was never sure if that was actually true. Her attempts to hide evidence in her handbag while being questioned at the police station, were quite humorous, although I’m not entirely sure if this was meant to be the case. The film’s director Damjan Kozole,  kindly answered our questions afterward.

After all of that hard work, what did you do to relax?

As if you need to ask! We all headed off to the very cool Bar Grega to drink more wine, local beers … and yes, eat a little extra, delicious food… more strudel anyone? (as I’m sure you can imagine being a writer is very thirsty work, and we have to keep our strength up by consuming as many calories as possible in order to produce our very best efforts!)

What happened on Festival Day?

After spending the morning editing our stories and drinking coffee (caffeine is also indispensable to the writing process) we prepared ourselves for the event. The five stories readings came first, followed by some questions from Renato, and then from the audience. It all went very smoothly, and the audience seemed to be engaged and entertained. There was a pleasant time spent socializing afterward with the audience members, quite a few of whom, we recognized from the bar and the cinema earlier.

So what happens next?

The stories will be translated so that they can be read in Slovenian and English and the will be posted on the website, and eventually, they will be included in an exciting anthology of stories with the writers of the previous years and future festivals. I will, of course, keep you informed of what’s going on and when the stories are posted for reading.

For more information why not visit the Website and Alibi FB Page?

 

 

 

 

Helen Dunmore∼Your Blue-Eyed Boy

Your Blue Eyed boyWhen a writer whom you admire immensely, dies, and you have to start referring to them in the past tense, even though you know that their work will endure, long past their own personal expiry date (5/6/2017), the question is, which book of theirs do you review?

Should it be Helen Dunmore’s last book, Birdcage Walk, which contains insightful references to the illusory nature and often damaged durability of life? Or perhaps it would be more meaningful to pay homage to the novel whose influence, if you are kind enough to look for it, can be seen in my own writing (especially in the flash fiction, Winter Baby).

As both a writer and reader, I cannot resist opting for the novel which impressed me the most, the book I have read endless times, whose characters gained my attention years ago, and were seemingly unwilling to let me go. So for me, in remembrance of her brilliance, it’s got to be, Your Blue-Eyed Boy.

The novel is about blackmail, ‘the most intimate of crimes’  it’s about how it makes you feel, how it entangles and corrupts your soul and the lengths to which it can make you go, in order to keep your dark, shameful secrets from destroying your already troubled life.

“The wind blows harder and your house begins to move on a sea that was always there, beneath the crust of the land. And you are afraid, but you are beginning to move with it.”

Simone is deeply in debt, she has taken a job she doesn’t want or enjoy, in order to support her family, through her husband, Donald’s bankruptcy and subsequent emotional breakdown. Donald is gravitating towards suicide, his attitude of relentless negativity is wearing Simone down to a point in which things look very desperate indeed.

Add to the mix, a disturbed middle-aged man, recently released from prison, who was once her lover and has become her nemesis; the prognosis is not healthy, the characters are horribly damaged and appear to be on the verge of dissolution and disintegration.

“He has consumed himself. He has made himself not exist anymore in this middle-aged man with bulky flesh and face. He has lost his fine sharpness. He is loose and blurred, like a photograph out of focus, stickered with a note from the laboratory that tells you where you have gone wrong. I look for what I knew before.”

The writing is beautiful, dark and uncompromising in its willingness to explore what it feels like to face a serious threat, only to discover, that perhaps the most deadly danger of all, was already lingering, malevolently, inside of you.

Why do I enjoy her writing so much? It is her style, which is unique; her special combination of poetry and prose blending seamlessly, giving a sense of transcendence as if she is pushing at the boundaries of what it is possible to express.

♦♦♦

Helen Dunmore & her poetry: Passionfood-three poems about love.

 

Please note that I will be taking a two-week holiday break and then I will be back with some travel reviews

 

You’re Not Supposed to Cry ∼ Gary Duncan

After I mentioned this book by Gary Duncan in the previous post (when I was interviewed by Fiona Mcvie), I thought it would be a good idea to write a book review – as hopefully, you will already be aware, I try to keep  a balanced  blend of books, travel pieces and my own writing on this site, and I haven’t reviewed any new books for almost a year!

gary photo

So why this one? Obviously, I really enjoyed reading it or I wouldn’t be posting this; but what was so special about it? This book is actually a collection of flash fiction – around 60 in total, each one beautifully crafted and insightful from writer and editor Gary Duncan, who runs the website Spelk, which is dedicated to amazing pieces of flash fiction. Do I have a personal favorite? , Yes of course, for me it got to be Better Than This,  in which a young man with sex on his mind, is lured into babysitting for a woman who appears to have no moral qualms about deceiving him, or leaving her young children with someone she barely knows; in order to enjoy a night out with her equally horrible boyfriend. The story made me smile, but horrified me at the same time!

In this collection, the situations and characters are very flawed and human, and there are many layers of complexity, which draw you into a fragmented, but instantly recognizable, fictional world. But instead of  me wittering on  endlessly about how much I  enjoyed it, here is my actual review:

This superb collection of flash fiction offers readers a perfectly formed, miniature world of other people’s wishes, desires, dreams and regrets. The elegant but understated writing style creates a dynamic tension between the simplicity of the stories, and the complexity of the lives and actions of the beautifully formed characters, which we are observing. Each story, memory, fragment and feeling, has been crafted with a very poignant sense of emotional intelligence.  Some stories are subtle; some will make you smile, while others are uncompromisingly honest. This book is a kaleidoscope of multifaceted characters and situations, whom you will remember long after you have finished reading; finding their hopes, fears and very human humiliations, have somehow, quite imperceptibly, blended into your own.

Yes – it really is that good – but don’t just take my word for it! – check it out for yourself…

 

Gary’s book at Vagabond Voices

At Amazon co.uk

Winter Baby

You were a winter baby. Born in an ice white flurry of snow. We brought you home in our old camper van, strapping you into the baby seat that we had chosen together. I fussed about you being too hot and too cold, as everything needed to be perfect for you, my first and only child. Simon turned on the radio and we listened to a young girl who sang like an angel; and we felt blessed too. Turning to Simon as he smiled at me, there was that sense of deep knowing, that in that one single moment my whole life was complete, and as I gazed into your sweet, new-born face, I knew that you were my life; my beautiful, beautiful boy…

Read more…