Books

Only Fools and Horses – Graham McCann

Only Fools and Horses (OFAH) is a sitcom which has entered the psyche of the British population. Many of us probably use words (plonker, lovely jubbly, next year we will be millionaires et al.) and we all have favourite scenes from a programme that started over thirty years ago and really only took off, because it was repeated due to industrial action by technicians at the BBC. The BBC would let programmes grow and nurture them. Nowadays unless a programme is a hit instantly, it is immediately a failure and either taken off or moved to a graveyard slot. By reading this book I realise that If OFAH was in its inception now it would certainly not have been the success it was.

This book charts its conception, inception, growth and rise. It covers the actors, the sole writer John Sullivan, the production and the inevitable problems along the way. There are little dialogues from the series, detailed descriptions of episodes and also a lot about what else was going on at the time in the televisual world. It is a thorough history of a well loved programme.

I am a fan, but I understand from other reviews that there are some factual errors, but if this is the case that did not worry me as I did not actually learn anything new. It was interesting to see someone else take on a programme. All it did do was just reinforce my love for it.

What was clear that the book was researched and that if you have a love or know someone who wants to also reinforce their love or perhaps wants to learn some other tid-bits about the programme then this is the book for you. There are many books written about OFAH which I have and I am glad I added this one to my collection.

For some reason, I found this book difficult to review. I read other reviews about the book and saw that there had been factual mistakes in the book, and I suddenly thought I did not know this have I missed the point of the book and I am not really a fan of the programme. Once I gave myself a talking to and thought “it is only a programme” I realised that I could write the review and so there it is above. 

OFAH is one of those programmes which reminds me of so many things, times in my life. The ritual of the Christmas episodes becoming an event. The final episodes I watched on my own as my parents were away, one of the first times I was left in the house alone (I was over 18 in case anyone suddenly thinks my parents treated me badly!). The scenes that I know will make my mum laugh more than I and the reminders of certain members of my own family. That is why OFAH is part of the British Pschye and shows how unique the British sense of humour. 

Of course writing a post about this, means I can share some wonderful clips; please indulge me and I hope you enjoy. 

Now we all like to save money –

and obviously stay standing –

you of course need a friend called Dave – 

but you call always rely on false friends – 

if in doubt call for backup –

You must remember to respect your elders and listen to their stories – 

And of course next year you will be millionaires! 

Books

The Grand Babylon Hotel – Arnold Bennett

When Nella wants something, she gets it. Whilst staying at the Grand Babylon Hotel whilst dining, nothing on the menu appeals. She wants “filleted steak and a bottle of Bass”. The hotel waiter and chef, renown throughout Europe refuse. Her father, Theodore Racksole simple buys their consent. He makes an offer to the hotel owner and buys the hotel outright.

Now with a hotel to worry about Theodore Racksole begins to make changes, but whilst the staff seem to have their own agenda, there is the worry of the missing guests who have yet  to turn up. What does turn up is a dead body. And so the owner and daughter of The Grand Babylon Hotel find themselves embroiled in something rather odd.

But it is not 2012 it is in fact 1902 and The Grand Babylon Hotel in London, with a separate entrance for Royal visitors (of which there is plenty) does not appear ‘grand’ on the outside, in fact if you enter do not even ask the cost, enjoy the stay, the food, the sumptuous surroundings, pay the bill of which you never question and leave to return another day. All this means that Racksole and his daughter stand out rather being ‘American’. Adventure takes over and suddenly along with murder and royal intrigue, romance beckons.

This is a quirky little novel, and one which I enjoyed mainly because of the setting. I like stories based in institutions and having worked in a hotel environment it appealed. The chapters are short, as it was released as a serial, and with the headings you can see the story build and unfold. Not a common author for murder mystery but a refreshing change. If you fancy reading this book then I got mine from Project Gutenberg here

My immediate thought from this book, mainly the title was the Hotel Babylon book by Imogen Edward-Jones and the infamous anonymous. Which was also made into a successful television series. The goings on at The Grand Babylon Hotel have a certain a ring to them from the Edwards-Jones expose series of books. 

I now must go and seek out At Bertram’s Hotel by Agatha Christie. Anyone got any other novels set in hotels that you think I should check out.

Books

Yvonne Goes to York – M.C.Beaton

Miss Hannah Pym has become known as the Travelling Matchmaker to her friend Sir George, who waits to hear what has happened when she takes to those ‘flying machines’ as the stage coaches are known. 

However, now she feels that perhaps it is time to stop these adventures, and settle down in the country, somewhere quiet with her faithful if not rather disobedient gambling footman Benjamin. But after one last adventure, this time to York, where apparently there have been sightings of her deceased master’s missing wife.

On the coach, she meets Yvonne Grenier, going to her father in York after a letter has been sent to her, where he has been in some sort of hiding after escaping Revolutionary France.  Then here is Mr Smith, a rather colourless looking name who speaks perfect English, but his eyes focussing on the other passengers. Then there is plain old Mr Giles, a gentleman who has a presence by his sheer size and by entering a room, but his clothes are so well made, that surely an average man would not be able to afford such tailoring?

And so as the journey begins on the notorious road to York, what will befall the coach or any of its passengers on route?  Whatever Miss Hannah Pym will be involved from the start, in the thick of it and also ensure a happy outcome for all involved. Perhaps this time as her last journey is rather exciting, she will be the one who has the tables turned on her?

The sixth and final book of M.C. Beaton’s Travelling Matchmaker series, where everything comes to a culmination and there is a happy ending for everyone. What more could you want from these small but rather delightful little novels.

And so I come to the end of a series. But if you know about M.C.Beaton then you will know that she has plenty more to read – Agatha Raisin of which I am slowly working my way through. Hamish MacBeth, I have yet to read any of these. The Edwardian Murder Mysteries which are loaded onto my Kindle already. The newest series to be republished under M.C. Beaton (as opposed to Marion Chesney) is the Six Sisters series. No doubt other Chesney novels may well be republished. They are so small and light (in both length and tone) that they pass a pleasurable couple of hours. 

Books

Turnstone – Graham Hurley

Turnstone is the first book in Graham Hurley DI Joe Faraday series and sets the scene for all the subsequent novels; the characters and importantly for me as a reader the location, Portsmouth.

DI Joe Faraday knows that the job he does involves a lot of paper pushing but he does sometimes envy the Detective Sergeants on his team who get to go out there and get their hands dirty. When a small girl tells the police that her dad has gone missing, eventually Faraday gets to hear about the misper (the police procedural term) and relies on his hunch and detectives nose to realise that perhaps all is not what it seems. But hierarchy, media spin and lack of personnel means that time is running out on this case before it is pushed to one side.

Meanwhile one of his team, DS Winter takes another approach to detective work, minimum paperwork but maximum old style policing, informants, deals, bargains and crossing the line, if there ever was a line in the first place. Immediately you know that Winter is going to be a problem for Faraday and all concerned. But his wish to move on to the Drugs Squad puts him a rather embarrassing position. Will the result be the one that everyone wants?

What Hurley does best though is then throw in the fact that these detectives have personal lives and sometimes perhaps that is not as you expect. Faraday is in fact an avid bird watcher and is fascinated by the birds around the Langstone Harbour and Hurley describes this in a rather peaceful way. In fact as a Portsmouth resident his attention to the local detail is exactly spot on. This made the book more interesting for me.

This is a good introduction to a detective series and also to police procedure, acronyms and the internal language of the police force. Plenty of explanation to make it clear to the reader without coming across as condescending and it all backs up the plot as the inevitable twists and turns take place as they do in all good crime stories. If you need a new detective crime series to get into then do give this one a go.

Looking back through my book journal I see I read a trio of these in 2009. I have no idea why I it has taken until 2012 to read another one. (Well I do know, but it was a rhetorical passing question!) I started actually reading book 4 of the series Deadlight, then 5 Cut to Black and stopped at 6 Blood and Honey. I think my reasoning was to fill in the first three and then carry on. Well one down two to go which I will seek out at my local library.

I find it quite strange reading a novel that is set in my home city and surrounding areas. Graham Hurley lived in Portsmouth for over twenty years and he has captured everything so clearly. Time has moved on since this first novel was published in 2000 but in some cases not much, the description of some of the poorer areas of the city are sadly still true and crime is a problem and is still reported in the local paper on a frequent basis.

Through catching up on this reading I have discovered that Hurley has brought the DI Faraday series to an end. (Apparently another detective will take over) So I have a few more to catch up on, I am hoping this time it will not take me three years before I pick up the next one. In fact as I have challenged myself to take part in the Crime Fiction Alphabet, the next book could cover Letter G?

Books

April Roundup

Where do we start with April? Probably not with the rain, so I will gloss over that or perhaps swim? Of which I did plenty and also managed a number of 50 lengths in half an hour. Which is great and gives me something to work on – next stop 64 lengths.

As regular readers of my blog will know, I theme my wrap up posts with the genre of books I have read through the month, and April’s will be no different. One slight change is those books which I have yet posted about on my blog will be marked with a star. (*)  The review will have appeared on Amazon but not on my blog, because sometimes there are other bits and pieces that I want to talk about and share.

Let us start with crime. Classic crime came in the form of Agatha Christie and Cards on the Table as I had recently caught it on the television. I have also started a page at the top of this blog for the observant, listing all Christie’s stories and as I read through them, I will be marking them off the list. I have no end date for this project just the satisfaction that I have read them.

Staying in the same era, I picked up Simon Brett’s Blotto, Twinks and the Ex-King’s Daughter. I have read his Fethering Mysteries and spotted this in the library. I was rather disappointed with it and felt it was not on a par with Carole and Jude. But it passed some time. Graham Hurley’s Turnstone* was a visit back to familiar territory with the author but also the setting, as his books are based in my home city of Portsmouth.

I went for some more high octane crime with two new authors this month – Barry Lyga and I Hunt Killers* young adult fiction which was rather enjoyable and would be a good book if youngsters wanted something to progress to thriller wise. The other was a book Siege by Simon Kernick. I actually read this in a day, which is not unusual it was just so good that I had to keep reading, I wanted to know what happened, a real page turner. Both books kindly sent by publishers for review and to be honest not ones that I would have considered reading at all. It is exciting to discover books and authors.

The last fnished book of the month was The Grand Babylon Hotel by Arnold Bennett*. I got this free on my kindle from Project Gutenberg after having seen it mentioned on Katrina and Jane’s blogs. (Links take you to their reviews). As I love stories that are set in such settings, having worked in a hotel for a brief time, I wanted to see what the book was like.

Away from crime there was still more reading. I revisited a number of authors I have read before; Pauline McLynn – Better Than a Rest was the second of her private detective Leo Street novels. I finished the Travelling Matchmaker series of novels (novellas as they are short) by M.C.Beaton with Yvonne Goes to York*. I was invited also to The Garden Party by Sarah Challis but left early due to a disappointing plot-line and characters. (I actually did finish the book though in the vain hope of something else)

I was also back with Katie Fforde and was Living Dangerously with her. Katie is a new author to me, only starting to read her books this year and during April I somehow managed to acquire a number of them and I have plans for the Bank Holiday Monday for one of them, the settee and tea and cake!

New authors continued with the debut novel by Camilla Macpherson – Pictures at an Exhibition which I selected from an Amazon Vine choice. It was a book which had promise and the author I am sure will develop as she writes more.

Something that was developing was reading Graham McCann – Only Fools and Horses: The Story of Britain’s Favourite Comedy*. This charted Britain’s best loved comedy from inception to its end and was an interesting non-fiction read for me. Although I learnt nothing new it gave me the chance to indulge in YouTube and clips which I will share in my review.

April had me attending two ‘bookish’ type events. I picked up Alison Weir’s new novel A Dangerous Inheritance when I went to see her talk at The Mary Rose Museum. I am actually still reading this, not because it is dreadful far from it, but I am savouring it and I really do not want it to end. Alas I know it will.

My other event was the newbooks Reader’s Day which I attended Saturday just gone. I have never been to such an event before now, but I will be going to such things again. I will devoting a separate blog post about it during the week, if you have time please pop back.

Now for May……