In spite of the title (nicked from a novel by Edna O’Brien), August can be a slow month. Folk are on holiday. The publishing industry grinds to a semi standstill. There is often a pervading sense of ennui as people wind down to go away or crank back up to return to work and offices that are half empty due to the holiday period. It’s well known in the media that August can be a tad strange. I’m not known to be listless, but take my foot off the gas and I have been known to slump into minor depression at this time of year.
My usual cure for the ‘blues’ is to get out and about, catch up with friends and family, and generally chill. Sunshine helps and, thankfully, we’ve had quite a lot of that. A short stint away ensured plenty of walking, swimming, people watching (as essential as breathing) and, of course, reading.
I’d been meaning to check out Belinda Bauer’s work for ages. I hate to admit it, and it’s a strange confession for a writer, but the truth is that finding time to read purely for pleasure isn’t always easy. If I’m working full tilt, it tends to be last thing at night. I also have a rule that I don’t read fiction if I’m in the middle of writing it. So, with a bit of a lull in play, it was with great delight that I picked up ‘Blacklands’ and tore through. The premise of the novel rests on: What if a young lad, whose uncle was a child victim of a convicted serial killer, writes to the serial killer in an attempt to find out where ‘Uncle Billy’ is buried. You have to agree it’s an original idea, and I can vouch for the fact that it’s brilliantly executed. Stephen Lamb’s twelve year-old voice is pitched perfectly as is creepy Arnold Avery’s. Bauer’s great strength is that she gets right under the skin of her characters. Prose is fresh and clammily atmospheric, the ‘cat and mouse’ exchange between Stephen and the killer edgy, and the story a real feat of imagination. I won’t insert a spoiler but, safe to say, I loved this novel and will be reading more of Belinda Bauer’s work.
Rather like food, when it comes to reading, I’m a fan of contrast and variety and I’ll often throw in a spy thriller, or the odd historical novel in between psychological and detective fare. Currently, twelve novels sit on my bedside bookcase begging to be read. Every time I look at them I feel a pang of guilt, and it’s joyous to have a solid space in the year when I can gorge on established writers and those whose work I’ve never read before. So what’s next on the blocks?
I’m tempted to opt for a safe pair of hands in the form of Tania Carver and ‘The Doll’s House’ followed by Sophie Hannah’s ‘The Carrier’, both books parked randomly in the middle of my current top twelve reads.
Oh, and did I mention, August is wicked for another reason? Under my Adam Chase pseudonym, ‘Wicked Game,’ the first in the hitman Hex series is offered at the irresistible Kindle price of 99p for a limited period only. For those who’ve already encountered Hex and want to see what he gets up to in his next outing, check out ‘Game Over.’