Wilding Review: An Impassioned Rumination On A Return To A Rural Idyll

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I promised it last year when I reviewed The Peregrine, but I’ve been busy since then so apologise that this review is a little late.

Better late than never, I’ve finally had the chance to read and review Isabella Tree’s phenomenal book Wilding: The Return Of Nature To A British Farm.

The author is married to the owner of Knepp castle and estate, in Sussex, where this incredible pastoral experiment took place. She and her husband decided to stop using the land for farming, and instead return it to a more natural state and allowing free-roaming animals to graze on natural plants, shrubs and bushes.

Trees were allowed to die and remain as havens for animals, birds, flora and fauna, with minimal human intervention to keep the space as naturally wild as possible.

The author delves into the history of Knepp, European wild animals and how we came to achieve the ‘closed canopy’ theory, which says that the UK and most of mainland Europe was covered in dense trees before humans cultivated it.

Isabella Tree disagrees with this theory, and sites a lot of evidence to highlight why she believes that the landscape was in fact covered in a diverse range of plants cultivated by grazing herbivores.

She tells the story of how she and her husband learned, through trial and hilarious error, the means by which they could rewild Knepp and turn it into a natural British paradise.

Funny, intelligent and enlightening by turns, Wilding is a perfect pastoral book for anyone who wants to educate themselves on British wildlife and the history of man’s long and strained battle against nature.

At a time when the world is, ridiculously slowly, opening its eyes to the realities of climate change and man’s impact on our planet, this is a very timely reminder that there are things that can, and are being, done to help restore our land to its former glory. The book also shows how science is often very out of touch when it comes to the mysteries ways of Mother Nature.

In short, if you’re looking for a book to read that will take you on an eventful journey through British, and international, natural history, and end with you wanting to explore everything that nature has to offer, then I’d thoroughly recommend Wilding. Isabella Tree is passionate about bringing biodiversity back into the world and proving that every avenue is worth exploring as we journey towards a greater understanding of how the earth was before we started taking it over.

 

 

 

Keeley Webb Interview: “A lot of my ideas have come from dreams”

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Today I speak to suspense writer Keeley Webb about her work and how she came to create such gripping narratives.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style. What drew you towards crime and suspense writing?

I’ve always had a fascination with criminal psychology. I watch a lot of crime documentaries and tend to be drawn to thriller novels. I wanted to write about things I’d be interested in reading myself.

What is your background and how did you become a published author? 

My background is varied. I’ve had some interesting jobs and worked with some real characters! From selling adjustable beds and chairs at 17-years-old, to assessing eligibility for WWII medals to the next of kin of deceased soldiers; whilst working for the MOD. I also used to sell boiler and cooker spares at a plumber’s merchants.

I gave up work at 26 years old to have a family. I’m now lucky enough to be Mum to two lovely children, and a crazy Staffordshire bull terrier.

In 2017, after seven months in hospital following a stroke my maternal grandmother passed away. During this time, I’d used writing as an outlet for my grief. At the same time, a close friend published her first book and encouraged me to have a go.

My first book, Death Made Me, although hard to put in just one genre, was published in June 2017 under paranormal suspense.

Where do you find your inspiration? Are there any particular places or incidents you draw on when you find yourself with writer’s block?

A lot of my ideas have come from dreams, and of course real life inspires characters, an overheard conversation or something on the television can spark a train of thought.

I write when the mood takes me, I could never work to a schedule and force myself to write. I usually have a vague idea and then the story flows as I start to type. If I’m struggling with it, I close the laptop and walk away. Or, I start on another book!

 

It was during a break from writing the sequel to Death Made Me that Whispers in the Wine Cellar was born.

If you could collaborate with anyone, living or dead, on a writing project, who would it be and why?

Oh, so many amazing authors to choose from, but I think for me it would be Karin Slaughter. Her books are amazing, and I’m a real fan. I’m nowhere near her league though so, I can’t see it ever happening.

What do you like to read yourself and how does this shape your own writing?

I’m always drawn to crime stories first, but if a blurb catches my attention, I’ll read it. I think the more I read the more it makes me want to write, regardless of content. Every time I read a book the magic of someone else’s imagination, and ability to take me into another world with their words is inspiring.

Do you have any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I’m still working on the sequel to Death Made Me. I have a lot of readers waiting on that. I can only apologise for my brain; it’s easily distracted and there’s at least another 3-5 novels cooking away in there. I’m hoping to finish the sequel this year and at least one other book.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to coming up?

I’m not waiting on anything. I have a very packed kindle library of amazing books just waiting to be read.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

Just to say that authors love reviews. If you love a book please leave a review, tweet about it, let people know. It’s the best way to thank the author. With so many good books out there it’s hard to be seen at times. And I’d like to thank you for your time and effort. Great questions, thanks so much.

Thanks to Keeley for answering my questions, it’s been great!

New Insight Proves Book Research Every Bit As Relevant As Any Other Form Of Research

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New knowledge that many serial killers are the Taurus star sign has recently been uncovered by British crime fiction writer David Jester.

This insight proves that the research authors do for books is every bit as valuable as any other kind of research, including the academic kind.

Over the years I’ve noticed that the research authors undertake for books is being disregarded, often as unimportant or not worth it.

For example, in recent years there has been a surge in the reduction and demand for return of authors’ advances, which were designed to help them to afford to dedicate their time to the planning and researching of their book, and then to be recouped from the profit it eventually made.

This, combined with the fact that almost every bloody article I read about researching fiction books these days seems to basically just tell people to Google it, then clear their browser history, shows that not enough is understood or known about the importance of researching a book thoroughly.

I was once told by an incredible poet that ‘you can’t write about what you don’t know’, and that’s always stuck with me. If I didn’t know about something, I couldn’t write about it properly, even with a cursory search online.

As a corporate copywriter, I’ve therefore dedicated myself to learning everything there is to know about the markets, industries and companies I write about. Before I even start typing, I’ve put in many hours of research, even if it wasn’t necessarily done with this particular piece in mind.

The same goes for authors, particularly those in niches like crime fiction, who have to understand topics across a variety of sectors such as forensics, the police force, modern technology and more. They need to do thorough research and really understand their subject matter before they write about it if the resulting book is to be worth reading.

Then, there’s the fact that some of this research could have an impact on the world and its understanding in general, as evidenced by this new insight into the star signs of serial killers.

This research could have a bearing on the way we view and even investigate crimes, and it’s all thanks to a writer.

In all, it’s these two main factors, the brilliance of well researched literature and the potential benefit that any research can have on the world as a whole, that are the key reasons why publishers, readers and the literary community as a whole should respect the time and energy writers put in to researching their books.

 

 

 

A Death In Mayfair Review: Another Incredible Addition To A Phenomenal Historical Crime Series

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As long-time readers of my blog will be aware, I’m a big fan of Mark Ellis’ Frank Merlin series, which began with Stalin’s Gold, continued with Prince’s Gate, and moved on to Merlin At War, which is where we pick up from in the latest part of the saga, A Death In Mayfair.

Set slightly later in the Second World War, Ellis’ latest novel touches on Pearl Harbour, the cinema scene at the time and London’s gangs, who emerged during the Blitz and become key players in the city’s criminal underworld.

Like I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of historical crime fiction. Or at least I wasn’t, until I read Mark Ellis’ books.

Ever since I’ve come to look out for crime fiction novels set during the Second World War, although I’ve never found any other writer who can hold a candle to him in terms of characterisation, recreating war torn London and generally just keeping me hooked until the very end.

As such, I was excited to read this latest novel and find out what’s in store for Merlin and London, which plays as a big a role as any character in Ellis’ work.

We return to the tales of Frank Merlin, Scotland Yard’s finest, right after he becomes a father for the first time with his new wife, whom we’ve already met as his girlfriend in previous books.

Sonia and the baby are out of London visiting her parents, so readers get the Detective Chief Inspector all to ourselves. He’s just nabbed a couple of heavies from an important gang in a raid, but his good luck is interrupted when the powers that be order him to investigate the death of film star Laura Curzon.

This beautiful starlet had just returned from Hollywood when she fell to her death from the balcony of her flat. Merlin is ordered by on high to investigate, whilst also dealing with the corpse of a mystery young girl found in a bombed building who was strangled before being preserved in the ruins of the property.

The two cases quickly become connected, and in the course of his investigations Merlin and his team encounter everything from corrupt Hollywood bigwigs through to child prostitution, black mass and beyond.

Somehow, despite all of those interlinking ideas and various plot strands, Ellis masterfully keeps A Death In Mayfair’s readers hooked throughout. The plot moves at a quick pace, but it’s surprisingly easy to keep up with everything that’s going on.

One of the main reasons for this is Ellis’ exceptional characterisation, which is once again the defining feature of his work. Each character has been meticulously defined, but without dumping info on the reader all at once. Somehow you just connect with the characters, and that’s a rare achievement for a writer.

The only issue I have is with the dialogue, which in places is patchy. Other than that, the novel is enlightening and fascinating, showing readers a unique glimpse into war torn London at a time when relations in Asia and closer to home, in Germany, were strained and when Britain was blighted by rationing and other social problems.

It’s also a thrilling police procedural, with Merlin and his ever-intrepid team working doggedly to uncover several mysteries, all of which quickly intertwine to become one big tangle of criminality, debt, drugs and general debauchery.

To summarise, if you’re looking for an enticing novel to get you through the bleakness of the end of an English winter, then look no further than A Death In Mayfair. Mark Ellis has once again created an intriguing mystery that will have you hooked.

 

 

Mary Higgins Clark Obituary

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This year is beginning to feel cursed: this is the third obituary I’ve written in 2020 and it’s only the start of February.

Unfortunately, yesterday, 31st January 2020, prolific mystery writer Mary Higgins Clark died at the age of 92. 

Whilst that is, undoubtably, a good age, and Higgins Clark clearly lived her life to the fullest, this is still a sad time for mystery lovers, who will miss her exceptional writing, thrilling plots and deeply human characters.

Throughout her long and illustrious career, Higgins Clark wrote an incredible number of books. The majority were standalone mystery novels, but she did create the Alvirah and Willy Meehan series about a husband and wife team who solve fiendish murders. 

Her other most revered series was the Laurie Moran books, which focused on the producer of a show about unsolved crimes. 

These books, as well as many of her standalone novels, made Higgins Clark such a success that she was branded the “Queen of Suspense” by many readers and critics, who both adored her works and found them thrilling and gripping.

Most of her novels revolved around women overcoming odds, uncovering truths and getting out of hideous situations, and these tales of resilience really resonated with her audience.

She drew a lot on her own life for inspiration for tough women, with the author’s childhood and early career were blighted by money worries, sickness among members of her close-knit family, and rejections of her early works.

In her early years, Higgins Clark was a secretary, and later a flight attendant to make ends meet. She had an exciting early life travelling the world, before she married and settled down to family life and decided to take up writing again.

Although her initial attempts to become a literary success were fruitless, Higgins Clark eventually found success as a mystery and suspense novel writer. Before this she wrote short stories and radio scripts, where she learned to write succinctly and to put an impressive amount of detail into just a few paragraphs.

Many of her books, including The Cradle Will Fall and A Cry in the Night were turned into successful TV shows or films, with some of her works even achieving critical acclaim on the stage, which is a rare success for a writer. 

Her works translate so well because they are universally understandable, deeply emotional and completely gripping. Readers are unable to put the books down and audiences are entranced by these phenomenal stories.

As such, whilst the world lost yet another genius in the early months of 2020, Mary Higgins Clark will reman remembered for many decades to come thanks to her vast library of work.