It would be heretical of me not to begin this blog by mentioning the Cheltenham Literary Festival, which runs from October 3rd to the 14th. My daily walk often takes me through Montpellier Gardens so I observed the park transform over the week leading up to one of the most fabulous and prestigious literary festivals in the UK, if not the world. This year, I watched with more pleasure than usual and a sense of ease, unlike last year when the sight of project managers made me faint. And no, this has nothing to do with the virility or otherwise of the mostly male crew, and everything to do with the fact that I took part in a panel on crime writing. I suffer badly from ‘stage fright’, a revelation to those who know me and have seen me in action. Thankfully, I always rise above it. (In the early days when I was a new writer, I once memorably froze. My mind emptied of words, thoughts and pretty much everything else.) So, hand on heart, once I’ve wobbled to a seat, sat down and opened my mouth, nerves kick in and I’m articulate.
I’m not taking part in the festival this year, the highlight of my week then was the launch of the new weekly newspaper, the Cheltenham Standard. Invited with my book reviewer hat on, I, or rather we (other half) rocked up to Lily Gins and entered the crush. The mayor and mayoress were in attendance, Fiona Fullerton (ex-Bond girl and now successful property developer) appeared, and I got to talk to journalists on both the Standard and sister magazine, Cotswold Style, PR people, Press officers and folk from the Everyman theatre, and many more. It would be fair to say that, in a couple of hours, I met more movers and shakers on the Cheltenham media scene than I’ve done in two years of living here. One of the big highlights was getting my paws on the first edition of that week’s newspaper. I’d written a book review of ‘The Monogram Murders’ by Sophie Hannah who appeared at the festival on the same day as publication. Which brings me to my main point.
When I started writing this blog my intention was to comment on books I’d read, creative writing and the arts in general. Time devoted to reading is now time also devoted to reviewing. Yes, I can report on the glorious return of ‘Peaky Blinders’ with the smouldering Cillian Murphy reprising his role as Thomas Shelby. I can comment on ‘Hell on Wheels’, a superior Western with one of the most original villains I’ve seen in ages in the form of the ‘Swede’ played by Christopher Heyerdahl, and the sublime BBC production of ‘The Driver’ featuring David Morrissey. But if it’s book reviews you’re after, check out the Cheltenham Standard website and follow the link. There, you’ll find, to date, reviews of ‘The Judas Scar’ by Amanda Jennings; ‘The Monogram Murders’ by Sophie Hannah, and if you check out tomorrow’s edition, ‘Vagabond’ by Gerald Seymour. Next up: ‘Silencer’ by Andy McNab.