Tag Archives: nostalgia

What price the 70s?

This week I entered a self-publisher’s competition which involved reading other people’s novels. As a marketing ploy I thought this wouldn’t work at all. I skim read like mad, searching for the answers to the relevant questions and paying little heed to the writing. The chance of my forking out for any of these books was infinitesimal. But then I got to Mama told me Not to Come by Sue Le Blond. This is a novel about a bunch of students settling into a new house in 1970. I read a few pages; the writing was fresh, the period references spot on without being OTT. I was drawn to it, more so than to the BBCs worthy but ponderous White Heat which I abandoned after episode two.

Tapestry album coverAh, the 70s, surely the ugly duckling of the decades:  too recent to be retro, too long ago for regular reminiscing. But yes, this decade is my decade. In 1970 I started at uni. In 1975 I had my first job, in 1976 we bought our first house,  got married and from then until the early eighties we lived, I suppose, the life of young professionals (even if no one had told us that’s what it was).

It’s not a decade that one is usually proud to be part of, but judging by this week’s offering from the beeb, it’s coming back into fashion. I can now own up to the electric blue catsuit, the Laura Ashley wallpaper, the pink wedding dress.  (Sorry, no photos, but try here and select no.2 for the general look.) For those of a nostalgic (or voyeuristic) disposition, there is more seventies fun to be found on my St. Andrews blog.

Mama Told me Not to Come coverBut what of the book, the one about student life with the nicely nostalgic opening and interesting-sounding plot? Well the thing is, it costs 7.99. Which I’m sure is a fair price. It’s what books cost, more or less. As a writer I’m fine with it. But as a reader I am an absolute skinflint. For £8 I can  buy at least four self-pub e-books. Of these, I guess on past performance that one will be dire, two will be okayish, and one will be excellent, as good as most commercially published books and better than some.  I could have bought just the one, but that’s not the way it works. It’s about curiosity, about taking a punt. I might pay over £5 for an e-version of a best-seller that comes with lots of recommendations, or I might splash out on the paperback. But buying a self-published book, represents, I think, a bigger risk than a commercially published novel. I’d still quite like to give this one a go, but how much faith do I have in it when I don’t know the author and there is no industry stamp of approval?

This is the problem with self-publishing. Your book may be well worth the money. But how many people outside your known circle of acquaintances will take the risk? Of course there is another way. A print edition is good to have. Some people don’t have e-readers, others prefer not to use them. But put out an e-edition too, and make the price lower than your tree-book. I think your potential readership will increase dramatically. Anyone who falls in love with it might even double-up with the print version.

Photocredit: Carole King Tapestry album from Wikipedia commons

Nostalgia Trip

Boating on the ThamesI’m not sure exactly what pleases me about this photo taken last Monday on the Thames at East Molesey but something does. Maybe it conveys the rather grey day but also the exceptional quiet to be found messing about on the river, even right next to a busy road, not to mention the entrance to Hampton Court.

Our trip was a posponed birthday treat for Mr. B who was able to rediscover at least some of his skills as an erstwhile BCU instructor. (So it was a long time ago? Clearly paddling is like riding a bike). The day was also greatly enjoyed by EllieB, a complete kayaking virgin and by me, who first set eyes on Mr B at the St. Andrews University Canoe club  (blimey – don’t think we did all that back then!) 

Last week’s  trip was organised by Thames River Adventures, recently given top rating by The Independent  for a summer day out. If there was a lack of thrill factor (no whitewater – fine by me!) and maybe less to see on the riverbank than I expected, it really was a relaxing and fun day, with just a smattering of nostalgia.

High Seas

Pirates of BarbaryAlmost forgot to report on last week’s literary jaunt.  On a night of such wind and rain as would have kept any self-respecting pirate below decks, I took myself off to Thornbury library where Adrian Tinniswood (writer, historian and fellow Tweeter) was on tour with his Pirates of Barbary.  This means I am now cognisant of the difference between a corsair a privateer and a pirate (though please don’t test me on it).


buccaneers titleBuccaneers, on the other hand,  did not get a mention, and I now discover they are a different beast entirely, hailing from the Caribbean rather than the Med. In my mind, of course, they belong on a grainy film set somewhere near the Thames, headed up by a young Robert Shaw as Dan Tempest.

Now that’s what I call a pirate.

The Lost ChildMeanwhile I am reading The Lost Child, Julie Myerson’s controversial memoir-cum-history. It’s an absorbing  read in which I think the juxtaposition of family histories works very well. 

Should she have done it? In terms of writing I suspect she had no choice. Should she have published?  I don’t know. Maybe not when her family is still so close to the events.

For a well thought out review and discussion try Dove Grey Reader’s review.

Criminal Justice 2

For sheer theatre there’s nothing like a courtroom drama. I was first hooked  way back in the sixties when  Perry Mason got his man every Sunday night  without fail, always with the help of crucial new evidence provided at the last minute by side-kick Paul Drake.  I don’t think I understood half of it, but was entranced by the formulaic language  and that sense of the odds always being stacked up against the defendant by evil DA Hamilton Burger.

Modern equivalents might be more convincing and better crafted, but if the 21st century courtroom has had some of the stuffiness knocked out of it, there’s a lot to be said for the full-on frocked and bewigged version now showing as Garrow’s Law. I succumbed straight away to all that objecting and overruling, not to mention a good smattering of period atmosphere. Apparently Garrow was a hugely  important legal campaigner, but as our learned friend comes across as a swotty version of Jonathan Creek, for me this is comfort viewing at its best. 

Roll on Sunday!