Word on the Wire

Tag: Cheltenham Standard

HAPPY 2015!

Like most people, I started back to work on Monday. Having skirted coughs, colds and other nasty little bugs during Christmas, I’m afraid that, happily for some, I began the New Year without a bang and without a voice. Undeterred, (I don’t feel particularly unwell) I took the opportunity to look ahead and sort out my book reading schedule for the Cheltenham Standard. I’ve mentioned this before but I seem awash with novels in all genres from lovely female authors, but very few from male writers. In the interests of balance for Cheltenham readers, I’d genuinely welcome newly released novels from the male of the species. I’m quite easy to contact through my website. http://www.evseymour.co.uk Gloriously, my first two reviews for the New Year will feature Colette McBeth’s sublime psychological thriller ‘The Life I Left Behind’ and Anne Zouroudi’s ‘The Feast of Artemis’, gastro-porn meets murder mystery. Both novels really made my Christmas reading a joy.
On the writerly front, I’m working on revisions for ‘Beautiful Losers’ for US publisher Midnight Ink. I’ve never worked directly for a US publisher before and what’s most striking is the ‘can do’ and upbeat approach. Within weeks of being signed, I received a handy dossier answering all the questions I might have thought of and a lot I hadn’t. Basically, I was given a step-by-step outline of what happens and when in the months leading up to publication. Editing is an elevating process whomever the publisher but I’ve discovered some intriguing differences between British and Americans. For example, Americans use double quotation marks in reverse for dialogue – imagine sorting that lot out over 400 pages – and some of my more English phrases are clearly bewildering to the average US reader. Nonetheless, working with a hawk-eyed editor is very satisfying. 2016 (the year of publication) seems a long way off, but I’m pretty certain it will shoot by. In fact, 2015 is looking pretty cool all round. I hope it’s the same for you too. To all my blog followers, readers and friends, here’s to you having a lovely, lovely, happy and healthy New Year!


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.




A couple of weeks ago I left a teaser at the end of my ‘Back on Air’ blog. I wrote: ‘I’ve another little gem to disclose, which should materialise in a couple of weeks. Until then, I’ll keep you guessing…’ Well, guess no more. This week my book review of ‘The Judas Scar’ by Amanda Jennings appeared in the Cheltenham Standard, a new weekly newspaper that combines wit with an incisive take on all things Cheltenham. I’m delighted to play my small part but for more personal reasons than you’d think – it’s completely reignited my passion for reading.

To put this into context and in case you’re scratching your head, I’ve always loved stories in whatever form they come, whether it’s through watching film, sitting in a pub listening to a well told tale, or more obviously, through novels. Reading to me is heart and soul, meat and the proverbial drink. Not exactly rocket science you could say – I’d be a very poor novelist if I didn’t enjoy reading – but, and I’m not admitting to a heinous crime, I can’t be the only writer who, at the end of a long working day, is tempted to slump in front of the television or switch off the light rather than getting stuck into the latest thriller, romance, historical yarn or whatever. Give me a few days holiday and I can tear through the pile of books stacking up on either my Kindle or bedside table with relish, but weaving it into my every day can be more problematic. In my guise as an editorial consultant, there is a tendency to feel slightly ‘worded out,’ and the lure of easy viewing is on a par with a lover you keep going back to because you can’t think of a good enough reason to move on.

Reading for the purposes of review has been a revelation. It most fully completes what I do. As a crime writer whose day job is to help others craft their work, I ‘get’ how much it takes to craft a story. I know about the blood, sweat and, sorry guys, tears from first idea to publication. I understand the many decisions a writer takes in the creation of a great plot, how much they give of themselves to fashion that unique voice. When I write a review you won’t catch me being scathing or sycophantic. You will know that I’ve really read the novel, thought about it and will give it my considered opinion. Stories are stories are stories. I make no distinction between genres because the process is the same and I pretty much love them all, although I admit I’m a poor judge of sci-fi and fantasy.   This aside, not for me the dashed off, vented spleen and plain nasty review by armchair critics who need to get out more and live a little.   Book reviewing should be a privilege as much as a pleasure, and I’m glad to have been given that opportunity.