Word on the Wire

Month: September, 2015


Talk to any writer, or indeed anyone, and you quickly get the picture: ‘We are all busy’. Occasionally, I get the horrible feeling that I’ll meet myself charging at me from the other direction. I write. I critique. I review. I blog. I tweet therefore I am. Not necessarily in that order. Oh, and I also have a life with a husband and an ever growing tribe, and friends. It’s what I do, how I tick and most of the time, I love it. If I didn’t, I’d change it. So where the heck am I going with this?

A week or so ago a writer went on Facebook to set out her stall on following bloggers. She wanted to make it clear that she will only follow those whose posts resonate with her, that if she didn’t follow, comment or whatever, please no offence is meant and none should be taken. I’m with her. And I’d take it a step further.

On occasion, I’ve followed back an author on Twitter only to immediately receive a direct message to download his or her work, with a request to read and review it.   This happened a lot when I wrote book reviews for the Cheltenham Standard. Fair enough. In our media savvy world, authors need to do their fair share of marketing. Nobody gets anywhere by being a shrinking violet. I get it. However if, after explaining that there might be a wait to read said ‘brilliant’ tome, (they are always brilliant) because at any given moment I might have twenty to thirty novels waiting in the wings, I’m ‘Unfollowed’, (or unceremoniously dumped) that’s just plain bad manners.   I’m also unimpressed by strangers asking me to ‘Like’ their pages, or whatever. Why would I ‘like’ something I have never read?   It may be harsh or I may be naive, but I find it a tad exploitative. And what is the point of having tons of ‘likes’ or suspiciously rave reviews from all and sundry? Don’t get me started on payment of filthy lucre to ramp up Twitter numbers – almost on a par with vanity publishing.

So, please don’t be offended if I don’t have time to immediately ‘jump to it’ and accept your kind invitation to read and comment on your novel. Don’t be put out that by, not ticking the ‘Like’ box on your Facebook page, I must therefore dislike.   I’m busy, sure, but if I review or ‘like’ a book, I really do take the time to read it first.


I LET YOU GO by Clare Mackintosh

I received the proof copy of ‘I Let You Go’ by Clare Mackintosh a while ago. The blurb on the back states that it’s ‘A superbly constructed, page-turning psychological thriller from a sensational new British voice.’ Call me perverse, but I’m usually put off when a book is hyped. It didn’t help that a good writer friend of mine, whose judgement I trust, jettisoned it after a couple of chapters. Undeterred, I gave it a go.

The inciting incident is gut wrenching: a five year-old boy is killed in a hit and run right before his mother’s eyes. The police, headed up by Detective Inspector Ray Stevens, fail to find the driver. The little boy’s mother flees. These are the basic shout lines of the novel, and yet it is so vastly more than this. The fiendishly clever twist, when the ‘driver’ is located, had me screeching to a halt. Another magnificent twist had my jaw dropping and I had to remind myself that ‘I Let You Go’ is a debut novel. It would be fair to say that, after the initial scene setting with the police, the story had me utterly gripped. I loved the versatile use of first person narratives. I loved the way the plot unfolded.   Characterisation was pretty damn good too.

Most writers cannibalise certain aspects of their lives, sometimes without even recognising it, but Clare Mackintosh openly admits that her novel is based on an incident that happened when she was a serving police officer. Without giving too much away, she turns the role of assumed perpetrator and victim on their respective heads and then ramps it up. The storyline here is compelling and desperately sad without resorting to sentimentality. There was a moment when I needed to stem a flow of tears. No wonder, for Clare Mackintosh knows only too well what it’s like to lose a child.

Many writers explore domestic abuse but rarely does a storyline grab hold as this one does, almost rendering Ray Stevens’ tale of the daily round redundant. This is not to say that chapters involving the police and court procedure lack authenticity. Frankly, they scream realism, yet it’s the ‘driver’s’ story that had me ripping through those pages.   As a portrait of how women become entangled with manipulative men, it doesn’t get much better. Sobering, haunting and horribly credible, ‘I Let You Go’ deserves its accolades.


Since our move, we haven’t got around to having an aerial fitted for our television. With so much other stuff to sort, it didn’t seem a priority. I really thought I’d miss it but, after a day of unpacking boxes, lugging furniture and critiquing authors’ manuscripts, I’m fairly pooped. My Twitter and Facebook activity similarly has taken a back seat over the last few weeks, although, clearly, I’m now back ‘on message,’ so to speak.

So what have I been doing instead? Catching up on old favourite films. The quirky thing about watching films for a second or even a third time is that you notice things you didn’t cotton on to before.   Clocking up a film a night, one stood out from the crowd: ‘The Last Samurai’. With an epic quality, it’s a serious film about Japanese honour; the clue to how the story unfolds in the title.   Tom Cruise and Ken Watanabe act their socks off (without seeming to) and, if you’re into battle scenes, (I am) it’s worth watching for these alone. One look at the credits reveals the vast numbers of stunt men and, that speciality breed, stunt riders.   The soundtrack seemed more memorable, somehow, second time around. No wonder: Hans Zimmer wrote the score.

But, just in case, you think I’ve switched off from the world, the radio remains my best chum. I have an almost telepathic sense of ‘on the hour’ news which is when I invariably tune in. A lousy Broadband service has been defeated by that wonderful creation: Mobile Wi-Fi. As for books, I’ve got a fine selection just ready and waiting for me to dive into. Currently, I’m reading Clare Mackintosh’s intriguing ‘I Let You Go.’   It’s spent far too long on my bookshelf. More of this anon…


I signed a contract this week – no, not for a book – but for a superannuated garden shed or, as I like to think of it, a place to write. For years, I’ve crafted novels and carried out editorial work in bedrooms (in my home, I hasten to add.) Handy? Yup. If the mood takes me, I can sneak out of bed in the dead of night, cross a landing and ‘bingo’, my desk awaits, but there is one huge downside: it’s too easy to get into the habit of rocking up at the office at 3.00 a.m. You almost feel guilty if you walk away. And sometimes you really need to. It’s a mental trick and one I haven’t ever mastered so when we moved home a few weeks ago, I decided to realise a long-held ambition to work in the garden in a type of home from home.

As this was new terrain, I did what everyone does and pinged in ‘Garden Rooms’ on the internet only to discover a ton of companies out there. I also stumbled across the latest craze for ‘Pods’, trendy glass-fronted dwellings perfect for looking out to sea if you live on the coast. Cutting to the chase, I discarded the ultra cool garden design with the ultra expensive price tag and plumped for an ultra cool with a fair price tag (because I chose a local supplier who happens to be a builder rather than fancy himself as an architect.) The build starts on October 12th and I can’t be more excited.

Now detractors might say that if you’re a ‘proper’ writer then you can work in a café, hotel room, garage, garret or suspended from a clothesline. Me, I’m looking forward to separating my work life from personal and actually getting some kip. No, I won’t be ‘commuting’ with a lunch box or, indeed, installing a fridge in the ‘office’. But I also don’t think I’ll be stealing out across the garden well before dawn.