Tuesday, 31 May 2011


This debut novel by Ruth Dugdall is not always an easy read.
For the most part the narrative comes from Rose Wilks, a woman serving an eight year term for the manslaughter of a baby.
The remaining narrative comes from Cate Austin the probation officer assigned to compile a report for the parole board who are to consider Wilks for release.
The opening chapter and the three that follow are quite important as it raises questions in Wilks' guilt or innocence. Means and opportunity for the crime are there - but motive?
As Rose Wilks continues her narrative while some things become clear so other suspicions begin to dawn.
Is Rose envious of her partner's ex? After all Emma has all the good looks; married to a successful man and with a healthy son. A son that Rose was found guilty of killing.
Emma and Rose meet in hospital where they both give birth to boys. Unfortunately, Rose's boy dies but not before she realises that both could pass as brothers and have the same father.
There is no doubt that Rose was in Emma's house with Emma's boy shortly before the fire that killed him. But......
On the other hand there is divorced mother, Cate Austin, who has suffered bad depression and has returned to work. She has been assigned to the women's section of Bishop's Hill Prison and her first case is to write up a report on Rose Wilks for the parole board. Or, in the words of her boss Paul Chatham 'It's a parole report on a nonce.' (A nonce being a child abuser/killer).
The problem here is that Cate is a mother and a professional. All Cate wants is for Rose to accept 'responsibility for her actions'. Rose refuses to do that on the grounds that she would do nothing to hurt a child. And there is a moment when Cate has some empathy towards Rose that is short lived. When asked if her report will influence the parole board, Cate says that it will be their decision.
There is so much in this book that it is difficult to say much without throwing in a load of spoilers.
And this is a debut novel.
The 'stars' of this book Rose Wilks, Emma Hatcher and Cate Austin are well drawn.

Ruth Dugdall's next novel 'The Sacrificial Man' is due out 25th June 2011.

Friday, 20 May 2011

'MACHO MAN' RANDY SAVAGE - R.I.P. 20th May 2011

'Macho Man' Randy Savage died today at 10:00 am today in Tampa, Florida in a car crash following a heart attack. He was 58 years of age.
The former WWF (as it was then) superstar was known for his colourful outfits, sun glasses and that gravelly voice that uttered that catchphrase "Ooh! Yeeah!". And that diving elbow finisher that took out the likes of Ric Flair and Hulk Hogan.
During his career he would hold seven World Championship titles and would be regarded as one of the greatest Intercontinental Champions of all time.
This year for the first time since the mid 1990s Randy Savage was chosen as one of the Legends on the computer game 'WWE All Stars'
But it is the man that we fans remember.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

FFB: QUATERMASS by Nigel Kneale

This is the fourth and final instalment in the saga of Professor Bernard Quatermass.
It was written at the same time as the 1979 ITV serial of the same name. The difference between the two is that the novel contains more scenes than the serial.

Quatermass has retired to Scotland where he is guardian to his granddaughter. But there is a generation chasm existing between them and she runs away. Coming to London to appear on a TV programme and search for his granddaughter, Quatermass finds a world gone mad. Anarchy rules and a war rages between two factions - the Badder-Mindhoffs and the Blue Brigade.
Arriving at the TV studios he is witnesses the destruction of a joint Russian and American space project. A beam from outer space spears through the spaceship on its trajectory towards earth.
The target is ancient sites around the world. Places where the strange hippy like cult of the Planet People gather. They believe that the time has come to be lifted up to the Planet.
Meeting scientist Joe Kapp, Quatermass is taken to a research establishment close to an old henge known as Ringstone Round. Believing his granddaughter to have joined the Planet People he goes in search of her and witnesses the destruction of the those that are gathered at Ringstone Round.
There is a survivor who is slowly crystalising. Quatermass tries to get her to London for treatment but becomes separated and rescued by a gang of old age pensioners.
Meanwhile, the Badders and Blues are throwing down their weapons. Joining the Planet People they march to the hallowed turf of Wembley Stadium where the inevitable happens.
Quatermass sees a way of halting the madness and sending a message to the Planet. The only way to do this is to use the old people to build a bomb. Why? Because 'the Planet' seems to ignore the elderly.

The story is neatly woven together with some well drawn characters. Bernard Quatermass is world weary and distracted by his need to locate his granddaughter. Then there is Kickalong, a Planet People leader, who is a bully and will use any means possible to ensure his tribe reach their destination.

On the whole maybe a fitting epitaph for Bernard Quatermass.

Sunday, 15 May 2011

HOT FOR CERTAINTIES by Robin Douglas-Home

Robin Douglas-Home, a leading socialite (or celebrity) of his time was the nephew of a former British Prime Minister. Amongst the women he was 'seen with' were Princess Margaretha of Sweden and Princess Margaret, the Queen's sister. In between he married the fashion model Sandra Paul.
Robin Douglas-Home was an accomplished jazz pianist and writer. He had written a biography of Frank Sinatra before he ventured into the fictional world of 'Hot For Certainties'.
This first novel centres around public schoolboy, David Melrose.
For the most part our hero is an observer to the world around him. With grandparents trapped in their own world and unaccepting that things have changed since the second world war. Public school life trapped in another kind of time warp that will eventually clash with the real world. The divorce of David's parents leaves him strangely cold as though the result was something that was inevitable. While his mother remains an interfering 'I know what's best for you' person David's father marries a younger free spirit who finds it natural to bare herself in his presence.
Eventually, David finds his own way as he embarks on his coming of age journey with a relationship with his grandparents maid, Jean, with whom he shares a passionate night. Looking forward to the next holiday and enlarging his relationship with Jean, David's well meaning mother sends him off on a holiday with his best friend aboard the family yacht. Here he meets the frigid (soon to be man-eating) Polly.
Because of this Jean gets engaged to another boy and dumps our hero. Then David meets Laura the sister of the school 'pin-up' and from there things come to a head through a series of misinterpretations. Observer now becomes challenger and David questions the world around him.

This novel holds the interest because there is the insight of the main character who can add a often humourous slant even in the gravest moments.

'Hot For Certainties' was first published in 1964 by Longman's and by Pan Books in 1966.

Robin Douglas-Home died at the age of 36 in 1968. He had suffered from clinical depression for years.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

SCARECROW by Matthew Reilly

I thought that this Australian writer was new yet Matthew Reilly's 2003 novel 'Scarecrow' could almost rank as a forgotten book.
His first novel, 'Contest', was written when he was just 19 and he went on to self-publish that one in 1996ish. Subsequently, Pan MacMillan picked this one up for publication along with the first two Shane Schofield novels 'Ice Station' and 'Area 7'. Again these were published in the late 1990s. Fortunately, Pan MacMillan re-released these books in 2010.

'Scarecrow' is the codename for Shane Schofield who now has a bounty on his head. But then so have 14 others and they have all got to die by 12 noon on the 26th October. The bounty is put up by a cabal known as Majestic-12; twelve of the richest and influential men in the arms business who want to make more money by creating an artificial cold war - except that one of their number has a much better idea with a total world war.
It would be easy to say that this reads like a Bond villain up against a new kind of 007. Not really the case though which is a good thing and there are a number of levels to this yet the author does not get the reader too confused. This book is fast...so fast that I really wanted time out for a breather...but not for long as short cliff hanging passages make the reader want to continue. I mean how can you take a break and make a cup of coffee when a sinking supertanker is hurtling towards the bottom where a mini-sub containing the hero is trapped. This is the stuff of Saturday morning cinema serials....what happens next and does the hero escape? Well, of course he does as this occurs long before the end.
All of which makes this book fun for our hero is believable and has a depth to him that makes you want him to succeed - or rather how he gets there.
To add to the mix there this chase and pursuit element. The Scarecrow is on the run from the bounty hunters while, at the same time, he is chasing the bad guys and a bunch of clone missiles.
In an interview at the end of the book Matthew Reilly says that he wanted to write a faster book. Well, I've read some fast paced books but 'Scarecrow' is a lot faster. Therefore, I guess that he has acheived his goal.
The next Scarecrow novel is 'Scarecrow And The Army Of Theives' which should (according to Amazon) hit the UK shelves in the early part of 2012. Long enough for me to recover, then.