Happy Fourth Birthday To The Dorset Book Detective


It’s been four years since I started the Dorset Book Detective! Things have changed a lot over that time, but what hasn’t changed is my love of reading and passion for supporting authors.

These are scary times, and writers are struggling, like many of us, to make ends meet and keep going while the world is in lockdown.

Help them as much as you can by finding new, budding authors and buying their books. Through interviews, book reviews and social media shares I hope to do my small bit to help, and you can too!

So, just to say look after authors and thank you for continuing to support the Dorset Book Detective! Take care of yourself and stay safe.

5 Non-Fiction Books About Animals You’ll Enjoy If You Loved Tiger King

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If, like me, you’ve been desperately trying to keep yourself sane during the lockdown, then you’ve probably been searching for new books to read and shows to binge watch.

One show you can’t have failed to notice is Tiger King, the documentary that quickly turned into a cult, non-fiction soap opera. It was meant to be a big cat version of Blackfish, the documentary about captive killer whales in SeaWorld and how their poor treatment at the amusement parks has led to psychological problems that caused them to attack and, in some cases, kill, the trainers who get in the water with them.

However, Tiger King is more about the individuals involved in America’s booming captive big cat trade than it is about the animals themselves. It tells the story of a mad roadside zookeeper, who twice tried to hire a hit man to kill a rival, who is also a former big cat breeder who now runs a slightly sketchy ‘sanctuary’.

In the course of exposing this crime, the filmmakers also touch on the disappearance of the target’s former husband and other big players in America’s booming big cat and exotic pet trades, including a serial bigamist and the new owner of the zoo, who loves to parade his cats around Vegas and use them as status symbols to attracts impressionable young women and punters at some of the strip’s famous casinos.

The show spawned a host of memes and mad theories, but it didn’t really tell you a lot about big cats. If you love animals, and are keen to enjoy a thrilling tale that taught you about them, then here are 5 non-fiction books about animals that will keep your mind active during the lockdown. They combine the absurdity of the individuals in these markets with factual information about the animals they own, giving you the chance to learn in a way you simply couldn’t when watching Tiger King.

5. H Is For Hawk: Equal parts memoir and discussion of hawk husbandry, in H Is For Hawk Helen Macdonald tells the story of her quest to tame Goshawk Mabel following the death of her father. A celebrated historian and experienced bird trainer, Macdonald walks readers through the history of training birds of prey for hunting as she dissects her own personal struggle to tame the hawk and her own conflicting feelings.

4. Taking Shergar: Exploring one of the racing world’s most baffling criminal cases, Taking Shergar: Thoroughbred Racing’s Most Famous Cold Case reads like a thriller, combing common knowledge about this renowned crime with insider secrets about the close-knit horse racing world. Writer Milton C. Toby takes readers through the entire case in extraordinary detail, going through all of the suspects and the incredible reasons why the crime was never solved and the remains never found.

3. The Lizard King: With a name so similar to Tiger King, this is a great choice for avid fans of the series who really wanted to find out not only about the people involved in the inhumane practice of keeping animals, but the affects that captivity can have on the creatures in their ‘care’. In this case, the subject under discussion is not big cats, but reptiles. In The Lizard King: The True Crimes and Passions of the World’s Greatest Reptile Smugglers Bryan Christy shows readers the sordid criminal underbelly behind the exotic reptile trade in America, and how a federal agent from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service set out on an obsessive quest to take down some of this shady market’s biggest players. As gripping as it is informative, the book is almost as strange as Tiger King, only with smaller, but no less dangerous and majestic, animals.

2. Cuddle Me, Kill Me: Written by experienced animal rights campaigner Richard Peirce Cuddle Me, Kill Me: From Bottle To Bullet – A True Account of South Africa’s Captive Lion Industry exposes the inhumane treatment of the lion cubs that are bred to be cuddled, and then brutally disposed of when they get too big to pose alongside. Often they end up being used for ‘canned hunting’, a barbaric practice where the cats are sold to hunters so they can shoot them in a controlled environment and then mount the carcases as trophies. Peirce pulls no punches as he shares the facts about these horrific practices and how, behind the veneer of animal care, the centres that breed these cubs are focused purely on profit, with no regards the cats in their care.

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1. Death At SeaWorld: Following on from the success of the documentary Blackfish, Death At SeaWorld: Shamu And The Dark Side Of Killer Whales In Captivity walks readers through the horrific world of killer whale capture and the industry regulated practices that resulted in at least 4 deaths and many more serious injuries to trainers. Writer David Kirby uses court records, eyewitness testimony and interviews with former trainers to create a book that reads like a thriller. He compassionately explains the difference between wild killer whale habits and behaviours and the artificial lives they are forced to lead in amusement parks, and how this has led to psychological and physical issues for the whales and those who care for them.

AJ Stiles Interview: “A lot of my writing comes from observation”

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Check out my interview with AJ Stiles about his debut novel, The Dancing Turtle, which is inspired by his love of travel.

Tell me about your book. How you came to define your writing style?

My book is set primary in Brazil during a scorching summer heat wave. The main character is Marcus, who is sailing around Brazil on his yacht. As the story unfolds we discover dark secrets, which haunt him and his family and, in meeting a local fisherman, Miguel, he starts a journey of healing in which Miguel saves his life, both literally and metaphorically. My style developed naturally, but I have always loved books with a strong emphasis on the sensory environment. I like to feel like I am there.

What is your background and how did you get in to writing professionally?

My background is in education but I have always enjoyed writing, ever since I was at school. I started writing formally one summer, when on holiday. I didn’t have a book with me to read, so I decided to start writing one myself!

Talk to me about your passion for nature and the environment. How does this shape your writing?

The environment is one of the biggest passions in my life and I enjoy living in the countryside – it’s where I get a lot of my inspiration. This is very much reflected in the Dancing Turtle, which has a strong environmental protection message.

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

When I am stuck for ideas when writing, even though I want to press on with the book, I find that I need to sit back and read. I also find the environment that I am in has a big impact on my writing. Large parts of The Dancing Turtle were written in Spain, by the poolside, during one summer. But a lot of my writing comes from observation, whilst traveling or just out walking at home. I find the ocean gives me space to think which is why I always jot ideas down on my phone when they come to me.

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

My hero has always been Harper Lee. I found it fascinating how she only wrote one book which had critical acclaim in her life, and also how much discussion her book led to at the time in transforming the way people think. I admired her work’s perspective, from a child’s point of view. They are usually the best judges of the world.

What books do you like to read and how do they shape your own work?

I love to read a variety of books, but particularly enjoy books dealing with other cultures and histories. I’ve just read Between Enzo and the Universe by Chase Connor, which I really loved. My next two books to read are On Chapel Sands by Laura Cumming and The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey.

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

I’m excited about my next novel which will be quite different in tone- it will be darker more claustrophobic and this time set in farthest reaches of Norway, a world away from the white beaches of Brazil. There will be similarities though – I love writing about other cultures and the Inuit culture is something that has fascinated me for a long time. The book will also have plenty of mystery and twists and again, will deal with the main character’s inner anguish.

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

Although I read commercial books, I am also keen to support Indie books and I have read some brilliant stories to be told through discovering a gem of a book on Twitter. I would urge readers to support this industry, as there is some fantastic work out there, that otherwise might not be seen.

Is there anything you’d like to add?

I tried to make my book as universal as possible and for that reason, The Dancing Turtle crosses many genres of writing, from historical to romance, from travelogue to mystery. I have been so supported by many of the LGBTQ community for the romance that blossoms in the book. But I think the book will appeal to anyone who likes to read a book that will make them think and reflect on the world afterwards, and their role within it.

Thanks for taking the time, it’s been great to hear from you. You can read more about AJ and his work here.

Easter Greetings From The Dorset Book Detective


Happy Easter!

I know these are strange times, but Easter is still a great time to relax, unwind and, most importantly of all, eat a ton of chocolate without feeling guilty!

As you’re stuck at home, the weather is lovely and most bookstores are still offering online services, there has never been a better time than now to read all those books you’ve put off.

Whether it’s that bloody long one you’ve never thought you’d finish, or the spur of the moment buy you’re not sure you’ll enjoy, go ahead and get your teeth into some reading, and some chocolate, this Easter. You deserve it! Stay safe and thanks for continuing to support my blog.

The Folio Society’s Edition Of The Franchise Affair Review: A Perfect Read For Anyone In Need Of A Distraction


These dark times call for a change in reading habits, which is why I’ve switched from vicious thrillers to twee, calm crime fiction in an effort to keep my anxiety and fear at bay.

My latest foray into this, my favourite sub- genre of crime fiction, is The Franchise Affair, in which no murders take place. Instead, a complex plot involving abduction, arson and aggravation keeps the reader enthralled.

Written by Elizabeth MacKintosh and published under the pseudonym Josephine Tey, this intriguing novel gives us the perspective of Robert Blair, a local solicitor in a sleepy English town.

He’s going about his business as usual when he is drawn into a unique mystery: a young girl claims to have been abducted by Marion Sharpe and her mother, who live together in a large, isolated house called the Franchise.

The girl identifies the house and claims that she was held there as an unwilling domestic help and beaten into submission until she was able to flee in the middle of the night. Her dramatic story is unproven, but its reveal in the newspapers leads Blair and his new clients on an intense and strange journey.

I’m reading this incredible novel for the first time in an amazing edition from renowned luxury book publishers the Folio Society. This stunning cloth bound book looks like a present and reading it feels like a very decadent way to spend my time in lockdown.

Mark Smith gloriously illustrates this rich, fascinating novel about human nature. His gorgeous, colour images bring the story to life and show the characters as they were meant to be seen. For many, like me, it can be hard to envision these classic paragons of good taste and decorum, but the illustrations really bring them out of the page and into the light.

The Franchise Affair - Josephine Tey - Fiction-Crime/Thriller

In all, this is a gorgeous edition of this classic, cosy crime novel. If you’re looking to treat yourself during social distancing and occupy your time by reading more, then check out the Folio Society’s extensive range of books.

The Folio Society edition of The Franchise Affair by Josephine Tey, introduced by Lady Antonia Fraser and illustrated by Mark Smith, is available exclusively from http://www.FolioSociety.com


Larry Yoke Interview: “Most of what I write comes directly from the land of my imagination”

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The Dorset Book Detective, through sheer laziness, has always been a proponent of creating ‘socially distanced’ interviews. I email the questions over and receive the answers back.

Now, this technique is en vogue, but I want everyone to know that I pioneered it!

To show you how well it works, I’ve got another great interview for you here today, this time from Poet and Author Larry Yoke, who answers my questions with his own unique brand of panache.

Tell me about how you came to define your writing style.

Not sure of my style as yet, perhaps I never will actually succumb to a certain one. I like to vary my writing genres and methods. When we think we’ve done it all, we’re DONE! I do read other authors better than me to glean from the best out there so I keep learning, growing, honing my skills, and S T R E T C H I N G as a writer. This process has no “ending”.

What is your background in writing and how did you get in to writing professionally?

I started writing poetry by writing a poem for a little lady when I was nine. I felt it, wrote it and she loved it! I still use that “feeling” measuring device today in my poetry, short stories and multi genre books. If I feel the story is good, real, enjoyable and interesting, I sit down to write it out. I am a creature with emotional passion and use it to my advantage. The poetry lent well to writing lyrics put to music, and then came along short stories I shared with family and friends, then put some of those stories into a sequential series and out came my first book Second Chances.

Where do you take your inspiration? Are there any rituals you do to get yourself in the mood for writing?

I take any inspiration directly to my keyboard. I jot down ideas, paragraphs and once in a blue moon I’ll attempt to create an outline. Most of what I write comes directly from the land of my imagination. I may find something of interest in the news or a story I heard at a party and my imagination takes over. I simply cannot help myself and MUST write it down or it’ll haunt me until I do release it onto the page!

What style of writing do you enjoy yourself? Are there any particular writers you admire?

I love historical fiction. The genre gives detail of historical facts, people places and a certain time, but still has a touch of artistic freedom to enhance the story line or characters.

My favourite authors in this genre are Hemmingway and Wilbur Smith. Hemmingway taught us so much about writing drama, mood setting, and creating deep character studies. Wilbur Smith is a master at storytelling mixing actual accounts and people with fictional attributes. He is a worldwide award-winning author who is widely read and extremely successful.

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

I think that collaborating with Shakespeare would be the ideal writer to join our writing techniques. He intermixed drama with humour to create his fabulous characters and audacious storyline’s that inform and entertain while making us all laugh.

Have you got any projects coming up that you are particularly excited about?

I have two projects coming up I’m really excited about. The first one is a book of poetry titled Word Paintings showcasing half of my original works and half belonging to Charlotte Louise Nystrom. She’s quite the poetess and I am honoured to be collaborating with her. Out later in 2020.

The second project is a crime drama titled Insentient featuring my favourite female detective Gloria Ramos. One very unusual thing about this book will be its cover. The cover is an exact copy of a famous painting from International Abstract artist Sheeba Khan that’s hanging in the National Museum of Art in South Korean. We’re friends and she lent it to me to use. In fact her husband is the one who designed and put the cover together.

Are there any new books or writers that you are looking forward to later in the year?

I have several books on my TBR list—so much to read, so little time! I’ve started on my first novella titled Music Across the Waters. I had a short story, same title, picked up and featured by a magazine called Me First Magazine who publish only stories told in the first person point of view and decided to expand it to a dramatic characterization and suspenseful novella.

Anything you’d like to add?

I often coach new writers since I’ve been around the block and have unfortunately, learned the hard way. This is my favourite bit of advice: Writing and editing can be a daunting task. Patience is everything when writing. If you love what you do, the time and effort are secondary. Keep writing! Love the race to the finish line then celebrate the victory! You’ve accomplished more than most people do in a lifetime!

Thanks for answering my questions, it’s been great hearing from you! You can find out more about Larry here.