'Mother Doesn't Do Maternal': The Smart Woman's Guide To Murder By Victoria Dowd

‘It is a very dangerous thing to know one’s friends’, so Oscar Wilde tells us in his The Remarkable Rocket. P.G. Wodehouse says, ‘There is no surer foundation for a beautiful friendship than a mutual taste in literature’. Let us add Agatha Christie herself to these sagacious musings. She says, ‘Ah, but my dear sir, the why must never be obvious. That is the whole point’. Debut novelist Victoria Dowd has taken these venerable truths and woven them together to…

The Fresh Delight of the Debut Novel

As is all too apparent, the Global Pandemic continues to invade society in all its multifarious guises, shrouding it in a pernicious miasma every bit as deleterious to the body as to the soul. Not the most positive opening sentence with which to lead an engaging opinion piece! Bear with me. Whilst epidemiologists and the medical community per se strive to arrest the spread and impact of the coronavirus, who can we turn to in such an apocalyptic epoch ?…

Publishing In A Pandemic: Introducing Debuts UK 2020

E.B. White, the American author known for children’s novels including Charlotte’s Web, once said “A writer must reflect and interpret his society, his world; he must also provide inspiration and guidance and challenge”. How, therefore, does a debut author of 2020 shoulder the weight of this responsibility whilst also navigating the unchartered territory of publishing amidst a global pandemic? We met via Zoom with a selection of debut novelists from the group, Debuts UK 2020, to discuss what has been,…

Poem Of The Week: 'Treading Water' By Ian Humphreys

Treading Water When I find myself slipping, I hold on and remember what the canal taught me: No journey is a straight line. The last time we walked here together, I reminded you that not long ago this canal cut a dark scar through the Pennines, from Manchester to Sowerby Bridge. Its future slippery, almost sunk. But look at it now, you said. Look at the colours. On a picnic bench by The Stubbing Wharf, you slipped breaded scampi from your plate to mine. You always ordered too much when eating…

A Righteous Compromise: Big Sky By Kate Atkinson

It’s a long time since I have hurtled full pelt through a novel, willing the pages to turn as I absorb character and plot with such a greedy eagerness, but Big Sky had me hooked from the start as character after character was introduced in the wonderful Yorkshire setting of rugged coastline, towns such as Scarborough and Bridlington, pretty villages and even the ‘flat surburbia’ of Acomb. Much of the location is familiar to me, so visualising events was made…

Local To International: Yorkshire Festival Of Story Streams Settle To The World

Thousands of attendees joined local arts charity Settle Stories for their biggest festival yet. Yorkshire Festival of Story welcomed people from all over the world with 80 free online events throughout August. Festival Guest Director, Joanne Harris MBE, was joined by other big Yorkshire names such as Radio 4’s Dame Jenni Murray and Amanda Owen, the Yorkshire Shepherdess. The festival reached three times more attendees than it would have had it been in Settle: "2020 was always going to be our…

Torch Song: The View From Olympia - Poems Inspired By Olympic Sport

Fitting, at a time of recession and anxiety, that Otley’s Half Moon Books should curate a wonderful collection of poems which focus on an Olympiad of the imagination, especially in a year when the Japanese summer Games have been postponed owing to Covid-19. Bearing a more than passing resemblance to Poetry Business’s joyous 2019 anthology of running, The Result is What You See Today, but none the worse for it, The View From Olympia’s scope is as expansive as its…

Eivør - Segl

Eivør is the Faroe Islands most successful musical export. Anyone who has heard any of her previous 8 studio albums will know exactly why that is the case. Having released two versions of her 2017 studio album, Slør, to fully explore both Faroese and English, her latest release centres more heavily on the English language work of her more recent career. However, that does not mean her native tongue has been fully abandoned. Equally there has been a shift sonically within…

Tom Aspaul - Black Country Disco

Tom Aspaul is far from a newcomer to the music industry. The architecture graduate with a Masters in Design from Central Saint Martins College of Art has been a notable presence on the music scene for much of the decade. Having penned songs for Kylie, AlunaGeorge, Celeste and MutyaKeishaSiobhan, he has steadily been building up a reputation as a soloist since his 2013 debut single Indiana. Some seven years later, after the release of a mix of singles and EPs,…

Review: The Mission House By Carys Davies

The Mission House is initially deceptive as you don't realise it is set contemporaneously - the blurb gives nothing away - and the illusion created is that it’s set shortly after the British exodus of India at the end of the Raj in 1947. As it progresses, the novel's sense of timelessness continues, perhaps exacerbated by the fact that to many, India seems so foreign and so far away, strangely modern but also steeped in tradition and culture. The protagonist, Hilary…

'Do Not Believe Too Quickly': A Room Made Of Leaves By Kate Grenville

False narratives seek to re-cast mendacious distortions of the truth as unequivocal statements of objective fact. For as long as humankind has been telling stories, an inveterate desire to invent has inevitably conferred upon any narrative the capacity to either perfidiously distil self-serving, specious interpretations of historical fact, or convey unalloyed truths. The modern parlance for the intentional misreporting of events or their causes is casually coined ‘fake news’. Who and what to believe are dilemmas with pronounced historical concomitants…

Bright Light Bright Light - Fun City

Bright Light Bright Light has opened for Cher, Erasure, Ellie Goulding and Scissor Sisters and already has collaborations with Sir Elton John and Alan Cumming under his belt, but it is fair to say that the New York based Welshman has pulled out all the stops for his latest studio album, Fun City. Featuring a party-full of artists (Andy Bell (of Erasure), Big Dipper, Brendan MacLean, Caveboy, The Illustrious Blacks, Initial Talk, Jake Shears, Justin Vivian Bond, KAYE, Mark Gatiss,…

Poem Of The Week: 'Inter-city' By Liz Lochhead

Inter-City Hammered like a bolt diagonally through Scotland (my small dark country) this train’s a swaying caveful of half- seas over oil-men (fuck this fuck that fuck everything) bound for Aberdeen and North Sea Crude. Empty beercans of spun aluminium roll like ballbearings underfoot and sloshing amber’s a storm in a whisky glass or two. Outside’s all black absolutely but for fizzing starbursts of weirdblue or orange streetlights and lit-up grids of windows. Only bits of my own blurred back-to-front face and my mind elsewhere. The artsyfartsy magazine I’m not even pretending to read wide open at a photograph called Portrait…

Review: Runaway's River By Kevin Wood

Runaway’s River, the second book in the “Runaway” series by Skipton author, Kevin Wood, is another fast-paced, gripping adventure story for older children and young adults. The first in the series, Runaway’s Railway, introduced us to an alternative world of interlinked transport systems in which the teenage hero, Mark, suddenly finds himself as he flees his home. The books are founded upon an intriguing premise, that parallel transport worlds exist alongside the real world, and people can find themselves drawn into…

Musical Motivation: Julia

18 year old singer Julia first rose to prominence on the 2015 series of The Voice Kids in France. Following her appearance, where she formed part of Louis Bertignac's team, she continued to build her profile via YouTube. It was here that she caught the attention of the acclaimed duo Mylène Farmer and Laurent Boutonnat, who took Alizée from Graines de Star contestant to international icon. They took her under their wing and built her own sound, which was realised…

Review: Peak Performance: Ingleborough's Sporting Legacy By Victoria Benn

Victoria Benn’s wonderful new account of the history of the annual racing events of the northern Dales is more than a mere study of the facts and figures which would only, in any case, give the past a one-dimensional statistical definition. Avoiding the forensic aridity of number crunching, Ms. Benn does for regional sporting affairs what her previous book, Studs & Crooks, did for the communities who developed and adapted local shows over several generations of tenure. The human stories…

Review: Orlando King By Isabel Colegate

Orlando King, published in June by Bloomsbury, is a new edition of a trilogy originally published between 1968 and 1973. The last outing was in 1996 and on reading, one begins to understand why Isabel Colegate is often cited as “overlooked”, and why it is unfortunate that her work has largely fallen out of print. Orlando King is an exquisitely penned, vivid, immersive and engaging account of the eponymous protagonist, who arrives in London in 1930 destined to “set the world…

‘You Need All The Luck You Can Get’: A North Sea Tale By Chris Speck

I well remember my hometown of Sunderland, the long rows of terraced cottages where the miners and the shipyard workers lived. Although some might have viewed it as nosiness, a sense of community in the streets prevailed as families looked out for each other, the potential for tragedy ever present. Yet, there never was a truer statement than ‘you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors’. Appearances were everything. The opening of Chris Speck’s new novel takes me back to…

Writing Into The Dark: Interview With Caoilinn Hughes

Some of you may have read my recent review of The Wild Laughter by Caoilinn Hughes. Believe me when I say that the novel is infinitely better than the review and certainly more likely to garner an absorbing, provocative and scintillating reader response. As luck would have it, in addition to being an acclaimed literary voice widely celebrated as both a poet and an author, Hughes does not hold the likes of me at arms length and kindly consented to…

Poem Of The Week: 'Winging It' By Kerry McMullen

The relentless irritant of a mewling child is the starting point for Skipton poet and musician, Kerry McMullen’s, escape into imaginative abandonment. The ‘Winging it’ of her fine poem’s title describes a means of coping, a kind of default auto-pilot mechanism which is a not infrequent recourse for mothers whose friable sense of self is exposed to an hourly erosion of will. Winging it 'Malkie! Malkie!' she howls, arms raised skyward, her face scorched with tears. 'Pick may yup!' I gaze down at her,

Bidding Chaos Welcome: As Best We Can By Jeffrey Wainwright

In another tonal volte face, Jeffrey Wainwright blindsides his audience with what feels like a valedictory: As Best We Can rediscovers the past through the medium of observation, dream, reflection. Yet we may trace the making of the poet in the interstices - this wonderfully rich journey through autobiographical heart-land is not historiography in the manner of so much of Wainwright’s oeuvre, but it does bear the shadow of his concerns in the gentle ebb of rhythm, of metrical sonority,…

In The Eye Of The Storm: A Cotswold Ordeal By Rebecca Tope

'Knock Knock' 'Who's there?' 'Yetta' 'Yetta who?' Yet another bag of lovely books for my pile and this time featuring another author I haven’t previously come across. Rebecca Tope, it seems, is fairly prolific, with three series to her name already: The Cotswold Mysteries, A Cotswold Casebook and The Lake District Mysteries. To quote one of her characters - ‘the Cotswolds are the most beautiful place on earth’, and she has chosen two of the most beautiful places in Britain in which to…

Interview With Michael Sele (The Beauty Of Gemina)

Iconic Swiss band The Beauty Of Gemina have released their first UK single ‘Apologise’, taken from their forthcoming album ‘Skeleton Dreams’. The track is an energetic, powerful slice of indie-rock led by Michael Sele’s strong and narrative voice. “This song is full of light and darkness about the human dilemma, knowing the time to say good-bye but having no words to say It” says Sele. To learn more, we spoke to Sele. First and foremost, hello and how are you? I’m…

Review: The Power By Naomi Alderman

The Power is a globe-trotting thriller which manages to capture not only gender power relations but to explore the idea of why exploitation occurs, and how ultimately simple the reasoning behind it is. When the women in Alderman’s novel acquire the power to electrocute people at will, a reversal is effected as the world swiftly swings from a patriarchy to one of female domination. The book is separated into several distinct viewpoints, all of which show different aspects of the power…

At Close Range: Annie Proulx's Wyoming Stories And Novels

To bastardise Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813), it is a truth universally acknowledged that a writer in possession of a Pulitzer Prize and international success may garner both reader opprobrium or approbation, irrespective of deserved critical acclaim. Indeed, literary réclame can dissever a potential audience as readily as it can create one. Austen and Proulx sit at polar ends of the literary spectrum, sharing only their ability to inspire devoted acolytes. Marmite springs to mind - that polarising epitome…

Ray Quinn - Undeniable

Ray Quinn has had a very varied career. An award winning child actor who made a comeback via an appearance on The X Factor, he has balanced musical theatre with reality television appearances in the thirteen years since his #1 charting Swing-driven debut album. Although there have been fleeting returns to the music world, with successful solo tours and the odd pop-driven single, Undeniable marks the long-awaited arrival of his sophomore album. While his most recent dabblings have been within the…

Stephan Moccio - Tales Of Solace

Stephan Moccio is not a household name, but his work is something most people would be familiar with. As a Grammy and Academy Award-nominated composer, producer, pianist, arranger, conductor and recording artist, he has worked on material for The Weeknd, Dua Lipa, Avril Lavigne and James Blunt. And that is just to name a few of a very diverse and eclectic roster of artists whose work has been enhanced by his magical touch. Somewhat astoundingly he has only released one…

Katrina - Hearts, Loves And Babys

Katrina Leskanich is best known as the lead vocalist of Katrina & The Waves. Katrina & The Waves are best known for the epic hit Walking On Sunshine, while they also provided the UK with their last Eurovision win way back in 1997 with the classic Love Shine A Light. Although there have been many other hits as part of the band, and some very solid releases as a solo artist, it is these two huge anthems that have become…

Kid Dad - In A Box

Isolation is a distinctive theme of 2020. It would be easy to assume that Kid Dad had titled their debut album as a direct result of the occurrences of this rather troubled year. However, the truth is that the German quartet have echoed the insular rock sound that Placebo championed in the mid-90s for quite a long while. And the album itself is in fact far from being a product of isolation. In fact the group spent time in England,…

'Women Are From Venus': Joanna Trollope And Helen Fielding

I have long loved the novels of Joanna Trollope and have read most of them. She seems to understand the female mind, the insecurities and needs, the passion, the almost contradictory longing for relationships and independence, the importance of family, the love of home, and the inherent nesting instinct. Rarely, in my view, has any writer shown such empathy with the female psyche. I think I read The Rector’s Wife first and I loved it. Anna Bouverie is the frustrated wife…