Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Jeff Chon

Check it out, another Interview completed, 3 in a row, I can sense that Nobel Prize heading my way now.  This time around I am chatting with one of the Jeffs from the writing world, having already put out his first novel Hashtag Good Guy With A Gun he is back with a collection of short stories called This Is The Afterlife.  So welcome Jeff Chon to here by waving yer gnomes in the air….

Q1: Tell us a bit about yourself and your books?

I’ve written two books so far. Hashtag Good Guy with a Gun is a satire about the America we’ve lived in since 2016, as well as long before that. My latest is This Is the Afterlife, a collection of stories I like think of as sequels to unwritten stories. They tend to deal with aftermaths, consequences. A lot of the stories are about guilt or mourning, but I hope people can find the hope and humor in the pieces.

Q2:  Whilst reading This Is The Afterlife I was wondering if any of this book was based on your life?  Did you dress up as Dracula as a kid is what I really wanna know?

To answer the second question first: That did, in fact, happen to me as a little kid. I did have someone say, “Chinese Dracula” in what was meant to be a playful sort of way, then another, then another until it got in my head. After that, I wore masks. Then after that, I just simply quit Trick or Treating. Adults are fun.

As far as the first question, it is fictional, but I’d say it’s based on my life—even if it’s an imagined, interior one. Every character in this book is an aspect of me in some way or another, even the bad ones, because they came from my head.

Q3:  How have you found life as a published author?  Has it been super easy and stress free?

Haha. No and no. But I’m sure that has more to do with life as me, as opposed to life as a published author. At the same time, it’s brought me great joy. I’ve been able to meet amazing readers and writers throughout this process. I need to really remind myself life is pretty good. I’m very grateful for everything that’s happened these past few years.

Q4:  One of your characters is called Jeff and he is very good artist, as a real life Jeff are you any good with a Sharpie?

I doodle, but I’m not any good. I have a real soft spot for that story, which, along with a couple others, helped me find the shape of my novel, Hashtag Good Guy with a Gun, as I was able to really know these characters as people before I dove in. Jeff, aka “Jeff the Killer” was a very popular character with people who read the novel, so I’m really excited for people to see who he was before all the bad things went down—the bad things from the novel, as opposed to the bad things in this story (poor, poor Jeff).

Q5:  How many millions of money have you made from this book? And can I borrow a bit of cash for some traps?  This year for sure I’m gonna catch Santa.

*pulls out empty pockets like Monopoly Guy* I really wish you the best of luck catching Santa, though. Hot tip: according to TV commercials, he’s going to be in Qatar for the World Cup.

Q6:  Are you much of a reader? What is the best book you’ve read recently and which is the book you first fell in love with?

Reading is very important, so I consider myself very much of a reader. I found a really awesome 1960s paperback version of Mother Night in the Little Free Library, and one thing led to another, and I started rereading it. Therefore, it’s the best book I’ve read recently. I’m learning that rereading things when you’re smarter is always a good thing.

The book I first fell in love with, I think, it’s Dear Mr. Henshaw. It’s the first time I remember being genuinely moved while reading a book.

Q7:  So far I’ve not noticed any Gnomes in your books, is there a reason they have been ignored?

This is a fair question. I’m definitely going to have to include a gnome or two in a story. Come to think of it, there’s a hoarder in one of the stories in This Is the Afterlife. I’d like to imagine there’s a lawn gnome or two in that house, just hidden from the narrative.

Q8:  If you could have a meal with anybody who would you pick and what would you eat?

Maybe take Santa to a nice Mexican restaurant, help you catch him for all the kindness you’ve shown me.

Q9:  If you could go into a book or movie as one of the characters, which would you choose and how would you influence the story?

Really wanted to be an X-Man as a kid. Just hang out with Colossus, go to the arcade with Kitty, smoke cigars with Wolverine. My mutant power would be to curl into a ball like an armadillo until all the fighting’s over.

Q10:  You going to be one of those that will be leaving twitter or you gonna hang out with Me, Elon and the Russian bots?

In some parts of the country, the police confiscate loads of marijuana and then burn it all in a giant pile. I hear people come from miles around, and line up along the fence, and inhale the fumes while enjoying the dancing flames. I imagine what’s happening to Twitter is very similar to that.

Q11:  I know your latest book has only just come out, but you got any plans for what is next?

I think I do. At the same time, I’m not sure. But I hope to know soon.

Practical task:  I have a gnome gallery on my blog, every victim I interview gets to create a piece of artwork based on Gnomes, can be any medium and you are welcome to name the piece.

Many thanks to Jeff for taking part in this here interview and teaching me how to look deeper into a book when searching for Gnomes, maybe they are there all along…watching us.  If you haven’t already checked out this book then I hope this has inspired you to pick one of them up, This Is The Afterlife is a great place to start.  And if you are looking to stalk Jeff you can find him on Twitter At least until Twitter has crashed and burnt to dust.

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Book Reviews

West Cumbria Mining: The Silence between Shadows by David Banning

What Da Cover Says: Walk at dusk with the ghosts of John Clare, Orwell and Chatwin into the contours of a censored past and a rapidly decaying present. A cost of living crisis that has been controlling and crippling the edgelands for decades.

Developing the deep research and emotion of Boundary Songs, the focus here is on the fractured terrain of Whitehaven and echoes the restless narrator of Sebald’s Rings of Saturn, who connects a paper-laden office with a distant childhood, ‘to gather into itself the pallor of the fading light’.

What I Says: A nostalgic look back at coal mining and its effect on the town of Whitehaven and its inhabitants as the mine is opened until the day it is closed. This essay feels almost poetic at times as we are taken back to childhood and the brief glimpses of an ex-miner trying to find his place in the world. Moving on from these memories it discusses the politics of fossil fuels and the plans for opening a new seam in Whitehaven and how it was discussed at COP26.

As soon as I saw this book on Twitter I was intrigued, the cover, the title and the blurb, to “walk at dusk with the ghosts of John Clare, Orwell and Chatwin” fantastic. The book doesn’t disappoint, at just over 30 pages it is a quick read but there is a lot here to take on board, and Sam’s house would have been amazing to visit as a kid. I liked how the slogans used to convince those in the past that coal was a good thing are used throughout the book. There are photos included too and they are a nice addition to the book and give it an atmospheric feel.

This is well written, it pulls you in to the narrative quickly and keeps you interested until the end, it doesn’t rant, it isn’t full of rage against the big corporations and corruption out there, it just calmly states things how they are, rather refreshing with how the world is these days.

Thanks to the author for sending me this copy to check out, you can get a copy from HERE:

Book Reviews

This is the Afterlife by Jeff Chon

What Da Cover Says: With warmth and a touch of the sardonic, Jeff Chon’s stories in this volume (the follow-up to his critically acclaimed debut Hashtag Good Guy With a Gun) deal with how we navigate the fallout of what came before—and the ways we’re then destined to navigate the fallout of those subsequent actions: disaffected Goth teens sneer their way through a Christian Fundamentalist rally where a mound of “Satanic” LPs are set ablaze in response to the hospitalization of one of their classmates; a young teacher returns to his hometown to reckon with the suicide of his friend, who was recently exposed as a necrophiliac, unable to shake the inevitability of all those desecrated lives; a local comic store sponsors a “Draw the Prophet Muhammed” contest, aided and abetted by a right-wing shock jock and a local biker gang. This Is the Afterlife is a study in the recursive nature of fate, how the end of one action’s lifespan leads to the birth of another, and how the most unexpected and bizarre twists in our lives are inevitable, even when they’re undeserved.

What I Says: This is one dark and brooding collection of stories, intricately weaving together characters and timelines to give the reader an insight into the lives of those trying to find their place in the world as they deal with bullying, racism, depression and war. Chon writes with care and a gentle humour at times, the characters feel out of sync to the world as they narrate their bit, and this makes you care for them much more than is proper…the high school reunion where the main character meets their awful bullies of the past broke my heart, there are so many people in the world that have/will go through this and Chon has captured this moment perfectly on the page.

My favourite story here was Draw the Prophet Muhammed, the interaction between the characters was fascinating, Jeff and James were such good characters I really wished I was able to see what they drew. The burning of the Heavy Metal LPs was also a good’un it made me realise I had forgotten that there was a band called Cinderella…so I’ve been listening to them ever since. The final story is the most surreal of the bunch, I really liked the internal monologue as the main character interacted with their family, such skilled writing. Even though there is a lot of dark and disturbing content it was the mother taking her son trick or treating and sharing the throw-away comments that the speaker doesn’t consider racist and the outcome of this that shocked me most.

All these stories are strong and they will affect you and you’ll be surprised by that. This collection showcases just how good a writer Chon is, and I highly recommend this. One I’ll be reading again as I’m sure I’ve missed many clever links between the stories.

Thanks to Sagging Meniscus for sending me a copy, be sure to get yourself a copy from HERE:

Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Kimber Silver

Ey up mighty followers!  After the huge success of my last interview (3 likes, no restraining orders and one crazee lady who plans to read it every day) I am back with a blockbuster of an interview…a debut author, an expert wordsmith and the voice of handsome sheriffs, we shall find out about her book and question the absence of the Gnomes.  So, give a massive welcome to Kimber Silver….

Q1: Tell us a bit about yourself and your new book?

Broken Rhodes is a murder mystery set in rural Kansas. I am a lifelong Kansan, and the provincial town in my book is loosely based on the one in which I grew up.

Q2:  Broken Rhodes is your first novel, how did you come up with the idea?

Honestly, I don’t know where my story ideas come from. They simply show up and demand to be written.

And randomly…where did you write the book?

I wrote quite a bit of this book longhand, jotting down sections in a netbook throughout the day whenever I had a free moment.

Q3:  Who is your favourite character in Broken Rhodes?

My favorite character to paint a picture of was Sheriff Lincoln James because he is easygoing and funny. Developing his character felt completely natural and he almost wrote himself.

Q4:  How difficult do you find coming up with names for characters?  I think if I ever wrote a book it would fail cos everybody would be called Bob.

Bob is a great choice, Jason, but you might need to go with full names to avoid confusion — The Book of Bobs — I can see it on the big screen.

Lincoln and Kinsley’s names came about organically, but I did wrestle with what to name Lincoln’s son before finally settling on Thomas.

Thank goodness I’ve never had to name a child! I would have done a very poor job of it.

Q5:  How many millions of money have you made from this book? And can I borrow a few grand so I can buy some stilts, need to find a way to become taller than my youngest.

If you were to convert all of the money I’ve made into the smallest coin denomination and then pile it up, it would resemble a tiny ant hill.

I should have just enough to be able to buy you an ice cream, Jason, but a pair of stilts would be out of reach. With a bit of luck, you might have a late growth spurt.

Q6:  Are you much of a reader? What is the best book you’ve read recently and which is the book you first fell in love with?  If you have a library can we have a photo?

I do read quite extensively.

My favorite read of 2022 was ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ by Gabriel García Márquez.

The first book I loved as a kid was ‘Charlotte’s Web’ by E.B. White

I don’t have a library. I wish I did!

Q7:  Soooooooo….when reading a book I always keep an eye out for the hidden gnome but couldn’t spot it in Broken Rhodes?  How come they be missing?

Regrettably, all gnome removal happened during the editing process. I tried to persuade my editor to keep those little buggers in there, but in the end, I lost the battle.

Everyone knows that gnomes are the mainstay of great literature, so there is always hope for the next book…

Q8:  If you could have a meal with anybody who would you pick and what would you eat?

If I could have one more meal with my grandmother, that would be brilliant. She loved a good steak, so I’d take her for a nice filet.

Q9:  If you could go into a book or movie as one of the characters, which would you choose and how would you influence the story?

Tom Baker captured my imagination in the ’70s, and it has been my lifelong dream to be a companion of Doctor Who. The sidekicks always influence the storyline!

Q10:  When Broken Rhodes gets made into a movie who would you want in the main roles?

From your pen to Hollywood’s eyes…

I think Liam Hemsworth would fit nicely in the role of Lincoln (assuming you didn’t audition for the part, of course).

Kinsley is a difficult call. Maybe Hailee Steinfeld because she gives an excellent evil eye.

Q11:  You got plans for a new book?  I’m hoping Sheriff Lincoln gets another case, a nice new juicy murder.

There is another Rhodes book in the works, but you’ll have to wait and see what is in store for the illustrious Sheriff James.

Practical task:  I have a gnome gallery on my blog, every victim I interview gets to create a piece of artwork based on Gnomes, can be any medium and you are welcome to name the piece. 

So folks, what did we learn from this interview? 1: When the Gnome uprising happens top of the hitlist will be The Editors!!!! 2: Kimber banks with ants and has a big old mound of cash lying around. 3: I’m going to star across from Hailee Steinfeld in a movie. and 4: There is going to be a second book. wooooooo.

Many thanks to Kimber for taking part in this weird interview and producing a fine piece of Gnome art for my gallery, you really should check out her debut novel Broken Rhodes cos it is a proper good murder mystery. Finally, for the stalkers out there you can find her on Twitter, Goodreads and Facebook.

Book Reviews

Bengal Lancer by Francis Yeats-Brown

What Da Cover Says: Bengal Lancer is a complete one off. On one hand this book is a love affair with the spiritual traditions of India while on the other it is the memoir of a carefree young cavalry officer in the halcyon days of the British Empire.

Francis Yeats-Brown proves himself exceptionally good company, both funny and self-deprecating. He is devoted to his ponies and his dogs, passionate about polo and pig-sticking, and endures some extraordinary adventures in the First World War. However it is not his final destination that is memorable, but his idiosyncratic journey to establish some kind of truth.

What I Says: This was a fascinating read, the sort of insight into another people’s traditions and religion that you don’t normally get, Yeats-Brown immerses himself into life in India, mastering a number of local languages, following their rules and being far more respectful than the usual lot the Brits sent over. There are two sides to this book, first a young man full of life, very relaxed and enjoying everything he does, second, a man who is feeling let down by his religious beliefs and looking for something more, a bit of a lost soul.

I far preferred the writing of the first man, Polo always seemed rather dull but here Yeats-Brown had me on the edge of my seat, the ball whizzing past his head, the clashes between his horse and the opponents, the crowd cheering and the sheer tiredness as the match wore on, such tantalizing writing had me there in the moment. The hunt for boars was also a section that had me holding my breath, chasing down the boar, that moment the boar stops and prepares to hold his ground and not knowing how things would play out was some fun reading. His work in the war, the shock he shares about what he witnesses, and the cheeky prison escape showed what an adventure he felt he was on…that is until the recuperation back home, you can sense he took some emotional hits and wasn’t sharing everything that had happened (Turns out these experiences were covered in another book). This was a side of him I could read all day long.

The writing of the second man was harder to get in to, he tries his best to explain what he witnesses and how yoga works but there was a bit too much detail for me to take on board, the yogis he meets are very wise and without any prior experience in their belief system I was way out of my depth. There is an appendix at the end which goes into detail about yoga and I recommend reading that before you start the main book, a bit of early knowledge will go a long way with understanding the Yogi lectures that Yeats-Brown shares.

There were a few moments that might upset some readers, his dogs for instance, whilst he did love them, they were rather vicious brutes when they got a bit excited, a different era but still not such enjoyable scenes to read. Don’t let put you off the book, it is still a very enjoyable read with a unique perspective on life in India in the early 1900’s. Included at the end is an interesting mini biography of the author, good to find out more about this man I’d never heard of before picking up this book.

Many thanks to Eland Publishing for me a copy of this book, if you wanna check it out you can get a copy from HERE:

Book Reviews

Broken Rhodes by Kimber Silver

What Da Cover Says: Kinsley Rhodes blows into Harlow, Kansas like a tornado, twisting Sheriff Lincoln James’ life into knots. Her grandfather has been murdered and she wants answers.

As if the town’s first homicide in twenty years wasn’t enough, the beleaguered sheriff now has to deal with Henry Rhodes’ bobcat of a granddaughter, plunging his life deeper into chaos. As a dark storm threatens, long-held secrets are exposed, placing Kinsley directly in harm’s way.

In a race against time, Lincoln’s prime objective is to discover the killer’s identity before Miss Rhodes becomes the next victim…

What I Says: Damn! This is one fine debut, it’s not often an author has a first novel that is as slick as anything the big names can throw out there, I was very impressed by every aspect of this story. What I was also impressed with was that a couple of years ago I did an interview with Silver, and she took enough away from that to be able to base Sheriff Lincoln on me. Hehe!

Right from the start the book reminded me a bit of Jane Harper’s The Dry, you had a murder in a farming town, you could sense how hot the place was and it involved somebody coming back who had a dark past with the town, but where The Dry was full of plot holes and weak writing, Broken Rhodes got it right every step of the way and soon left Harper in its dust. It wasn’t until I finished the book that I realised that the writing reminded of another book, In Cold Blood by Truman Capote, I got that same satisfied feeling of being taken through a murder case, knowing everybody inside and out, and everything tying up perfectly. The Book starts off with a murder being discovered and case is slowly solved as Kinsley Rhodes’s past is gradually revealed, what we get is two stories carefully weaved together to create a proper good whodunnit. And as for whodunnit, I am usually pretty good as guessing these and was very close this time.

I liked how realistic the case being solved was, Lincoln has a large number of suspects, you see him interviewing and only getting little bits of info to add to the case and he gets frustrated with the lack of progress, seeing as this was the town’s first murder, I think Silver got this spot on, too many books will make solving the case look too easy. The characters Silver has created are fantastic, those who are good are loveable and those on the bad side are of the type you want to yank out of the pages and give a right good thump. Kinsley is our main character, she is one kick ass woman, a couple of fight scenes and she becomes almost feral, and the attacker stands no chance, as the trauma she has suffered in the past is revealed you understand why she is so tough.

This is one fine novel and I’m really looking forward to what Silver gives us next….and looking forward to being cast as Lincoln in the movie adaptation. Fan of crime novels? Then give this one a go.

Book Reviews

The End of the Fucking World by Charles Forsman

What Da Cover Says: ‘At 16, I pretended to fall in love with Alyssa.’

Meet James and Alyssa, two teenagers facing the fears of coming adulthood. As their story is told through chapters which alternate between each character’s perspective, however, this somewhat familiar teenage experience takes a more nihilistic turn. With James’s character becoming rapidly more sociopathic, they are forced to take a road trip that owes as much to Badlands as The Catcher in the Rye, and which threatens both their futures forever.

What I Says: I am a massive fan of the TV series, love the characters, the actors and the whole concept of the show, what I never knew was that it was based on a comic, so I thought I’d give it a go (oooh that rhymes). Unfortunately for the book I have done things the wrong way around, a comic is never going to live up to a live action show, whoops. The biggest issue I had with the comic was the characters they looked a little too basic, they varied between scenes, at one point it looks like Alyssa has a monk’s haircut in one frame, I know this is the “style” but for the way I read it was a little too distracting.

The rest of the reading experience was ok though, that underlying darkness was there, James’s lack of emotion was drawn well, always in a permanent shrug and a blank face during violence. The TV series was fleshed out more, but the basic scenes are here, you witness James and Alyssa’s bond, and you can see that James cares for her even though he isn’t aware. For line drawings the violence comes across as very graphic, super impressed with how that was achieved. Dialogue is kept to a minimum; they don’t say much to each other and there are long awkward silences, most of the writing was internal to the characters as they were trying to process…life. The ending was well played out and very sudden, the handling of this was probably my favourite part of the book.

A pretty good comic, wish I had read this first though, give this a read and THEN go watch the series.

You can get yourself a copy from HERE:

Interviews

Nobel Prize Winning Interview with Maxim Peter Griffin

Yo yo yo!  What’s up my loyal followers?  My first interview in ages, not since that massive fight I had with the Nobel judging committee in a B&Q car park, the delay was due to my limbs having to grow back, but all is good now.  Today I’s got an interview with a proper good artist and writer, he has a book out called Field Notes: Walking the Territory, a wonderful blending of prose and art.  Please jump up and down and scream out loud for Maxim Peter Griffin….

Q1: Tell us a bit about yourself, how long you been playing with the crayons?

First – some facts – My name is Maxim Peter Griffin – 39 – father to 4 sons – husband – 2 dogs (an English Springer named Banjo and a Deerhound cross from the Carpathian mountains called Meg – both rescues)

Half the time I work nights in adult social care – the other half I draw and write.

My first serious drawings were at the age of 5 or 6 – I liked knights and history – I’d draw battles, usually Hastings – all the Normans and all their rings.

I’ll list some things from my biography.

My grandfather was called Martin O’Flanagan and he was the postmaster of Skibbereen.

In 1987 I claimed ownership of Loweswater in Cumbria – my claim still stands.

My father worked on missiles and Vulcans before settling into stonemasonry.

I take the dogs on the same walk every morning – there are foxes.

As a kid, one of my bedroom windows looked out over a theatre and the mouth of the Humber, the other over an engineer’s yard where there were traction engines.

Van Morrison’s cats preferred me.

I’m currently trying to buy a haunted house.

Q2:  I enjoyed looking closely at the art in Field Notes, you can see textures on some of them.  Can you tell us the technique you use?

Pen and ink on paper for the most part – everything starts on paper – black paint and Sharpies – a vast quantity of masking tape – digital stuff – Humbrol.

I layer things up – doing a lot of collage lately too – turning the Shell Guide to Rural Britain into pictures of my chalks and flints.

Q3:  How did you come up with the idea for the book?  And why did you start at the end of October?

The book had genesis out of a few different strands of things I was doing around 2016,17 – images and words together – space and place, something local and something other – people thought it was alright and an ally in publishing helped open a few doors.

As for the October thing – everyone likes October – Halloween orange and chimney red.

That October we ended up at Woody’s Top to regroup.

I just read that Bob Dylan is fond of October Song by the Incredible String Band – we went to see Bob last week, front row – should have asked.

Also, October is the prime month – loads of geese – mushrooms – all the best parties I’ve ever been to were in October (best being Peter’s birthday party 30/10/90)

Q4:  In the book you did a lot of exploring, what’s the craziest thing you found?

I found a silver cross in the middle of a field – in the clay, in the furrow – I buried it deeper because no good would come if I took it.

Worked flint, fossil trees – bits of Lancaster – musket ball – skull.

An old god in the tunnels.

42 belemnites in an hour.

Near Saltfleet there is a pillbox full of jazz magazines.

There was a shipwreck, we all saw it – but it turned into a thousand of jackdaws as we approached and flew off.

Olaf the snowman at the edge of everything.

Q5:  How many millions of pounds have you made from this book? And can I borrow a few grand so I can run for PM in the next general election (Yes, I am starting early on the corruption)?

I got 500 quid a year ago for a version of the cover that didn’t get used.

Funnily enough I’ve just had my author statement through from Unbound – haven’t made a penny – not a sausage – mind you – Field Notes is up for an award next year – one never knows – that side of things doesn’t really matter.

Still, means I’ll not be jacking in the night shift yet.

Q6:  Are you much of a reader? What is the best book you’ve read recently and which is the book you first fell in love with?

All the time I can – when I can – mostly on quiet nights, after Ghost Adventures.

I just read a few old books about caving – we’ve not got the geology for caves around here though – I used to live in the west country, knew some cavers and went a couple of times but they’re weird folk cavers – goblin men with dogs on the surface – PE teachers underground.

Can’t recall the first book I loved – we were a bookish house growing up – Mum and Dad were both deep readers – every room had books – Guardian every morning from the shop across the road.

Here’s a list of books I’ve got next to me while I type this

Undergound Britain.

Observer Book of Geology.

Narrow Road to the Deep North – Basho.

Moby Dick.

The University of California Book of Modern and Post Modern Poetry.

The Letters of T.E. Lawrence.

3 books on cave paintings.

Ancient Farming.

Modern Nature – D. Jarman.

A book of ship burials.

A book of Paul Nash.

A book of krautrockers.

Some art books – early British carving – David Jones – Dada

A wine stained copy of the big Chatwin biography that belonged to my mum

Assorted maps – on the wall is a picture of Elvis, a sea chart of Heligoland, a print by N. Latimer and a painting I made of a buffalo.

A brass crocodile, a couple of badgers skulls.

A picture of King Tubby from the paper.

Q7:  Ever grown a beard or moustache?  Photo needed if you have.

Yes

No

Q8:  If you could have a meal with anybody who would you pick and what would you eat?

Chippy tea with my wife

Chicken shish with my brother

I miss pubs when they change – The White Hart at Ludford, The Mason’s Arms in Louth – perhaps a winter meal at the White Hart will be my Valhalla – Mick, the landlord, kept very pale beers and served whitebait and suet puddings, rabbit pie, pickled his own onions and if you wanted something sweet he’d offer a Caramac from behind the bar – deep stout, dogs in the back room, he still did basket meals

Q9:  If you could go into a book or movie as one of the characters, which would you choose and how would you influence the story?

Ghost Dog – more pigeons and ice cream.

Rogue Male – I wouldn’t miss.

The Jackal – extra suave capers.

Q10:  You got any advice for anybody out there with zero art skillz who wants to shock the world?

Make more drawings

Commit to the Quest

Don’t worry about failure

Make more drawings

Q11:  You got plans for a new book?  I’m looking forward to some kind of sequel to Field Notes.

Field Notes 2 aka Mother Sky : Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven will happen.

It is all written and drawn – just looking for a home for it.

Whatever happens I’ll keep on the good foot – keep moving – keep looking.

Onwards.

Practical task:  I have a gnome gallery on my blog, every victim I interview gets to create a piece of artwork based on Gnomes, can be any medium and you are welcome to name the piece. 


here is your Gnome

2/11/22

Massive thanks to Maxim for taking part, I loved how the answers are using the same style as in the book and reading it like this gives it a real Jazz vibe, which reminds me I must get the location of that pillbox filled with Jazz mags. And if there are any publishers out there reading this then can you publish his next book for me? Who wouldn’t want to have “Field Notes 2 aka Mother Sky : Devil Choirs at the Gates of Heaven” on their list? If you wanna read more by this author then you can grab a copy from Unbound HERE:

Book Reviews

The Sheep’s Tale: The story of our most misunderstood farmyard animal by John Lewis-Stempel

What Da Cover Says: Everybody thinks they know what sheep are like: they’re stupid, noisy, cowardly (‘lambs to the slaughter’), and they’re ‘sheepwrecking’ the environment.

Or maybe not. Contrary to popular prejudice, sheep are among the smartest animals in the farmyard, fiercely loyal, forming long and lasting friendships. Sheep, farmed properly, are boons to biodiversity. They also happen to taste good and their fleeces warm us through the winter – indeed, John Lewis-Stempel’s family supplied the wool for Queen Elizabeth’s ‘hose’.

Observing the traditional shepherd’s calendar, The Sheep’s Tale is a loving biography of ewes, lambs, and rams through the seasons. Lewis-Stempel tends to his flock with deep-rooted wisdom, ethical consideration, affection, and humour. This book is a tribute to all the sheep he has reared and sheared – from gregarious Action Ram to sweet Maid Marion. In his inimitable style, he shares the tales that only a shepherd can tell.

What I Says: There is one sure-fire way of telling how interesting a book is and that is by me saying to the wife “oooooh, check out this bit” once she starts sighing over yet another interruption on what she is doing, you know you have an interesting book. The Sheep’s Tale was full of fascinating facts on sheep and shepherding blended with anecdotes on Lewis-Stempel’s experiences. I also think he is a bit of an Alexa, somehow listening in on my conversations at home, I had been watching Wartime Farm and said I need a good book all about sheep and a couple of days later he tweeted about his new book on sheep coming soon, how he managed to write a whole book in 2 days I’ll never know.

Lewis-Stempel has worked with sheep for decades and he has done it properly, caring a lot for his sheep, making them work the landscape to help with conservation and to give them a healthy food intake. He makes mistakes which he shares with the reader, and he shows how he learns from them, he also shows you what an interesting and intelligent being the sheep is, so full of character that you never really notice as you walk past them in their field whilst they stare at you in a sinister way…I always assumed they were plotting something, I just never realised they may be wondering if we had sweets in our pockets. He shares the highs and the lows; from the first time he successfully helps with birthing a lamb and chilling after a days work when one of his rams comes and sits with him, to finding a favourite sheep in distress and having to put them down. He goes into a lot of detail just when it is needed, following instructions on lambing in this book you could have a high chance of being able to help and to balance things out so the book isn’t heavy on the facts he will tell you a little story about one of his sheep and their distinct personality.

Where his passion really shines through though is in defence of sheep farming, he fights the case of why they are a good thing and that we shouldn’t stop (like some are calling for), yes they do burp a lot and take up a lot of land, but there is the flip side showing all the good they do for the land and how all those fields covered in sheep poop are keeping many many species of animals alive, it’s almost like a whole ecosystem follows the sheep around. His arguments were compelling and explained well and I think what this book shows is if you do it right then sheep farming does a huge amount of good for the environment. I have a newfound respect for sheep now…and a few favourites.

This is a fab book, written by somebody with so much love for the animal they work with, huge amount of things to learn and well worth having a read. You can get a copy from HERE:

Book Reviews

On Travel and the Journey Through Life edited by Barnaby Rogerson

What Da Cover Says: On Travel presents a pyrotechnic display of cracking one-liners, cynical wordplay and comic observation, mining three thousand years of global wit and wisdom: from Pliny to Spinoza and from Albert Einstein to Aunt Augusta. Beyond the mad diversity of opinions and ideas, there is a gradually emerging consensus: that other people are crucial to our understanding of ourselves and that there is more than one right way to be.

It also offers occasional practical tips to make the most of your trip, ranging from advice on choosing your companions to the importance of tethering your camel. And it proves that travel – far from being an indulgent escape – is real preparation for the journey through life.

What I Says: I first discovered Eland Publishing back in 2017 and I’ve been hooked ever since, it’s amazing to think they have been going for 40 years now….so many years I missed out on reading. This book is almost a celebration of 40 years of hard work pulling together a wonderful collection of quotes, taking lines from modern writers and those from many moons ago, the range of quotes covers sound advice, what to expect on your travels, how to behave and personal experiences. My favourites were the funnier ones (yes I am a very simple man), some fantastic ones from the likes of Albert Einstein and Oscar Wilde, I also enjoyed the ones I have read before, Dervla Murphy was one of my favourite travel writers and reading a quote of hers from Full Tilt had me smiling as I remembered her book and what she got up to.

Kate Boxer supplies illustrations of the famous writers and they balance well with the written quotes. I have never heard of her but I did enjoy her little illustrations.

What I’ve learnt from this book is that I need to read travels with my aunt, I need more Eland books and according to Barnaby Rogerson’s advice on what to pack crossed with me wife’s annoyance of taking books instead of clothes on holiday I am ready to be a traveller. At the end of the book are mini bios of each person quoted and this is well worth reading…turns out the quotes by Freya Stark were not from a character in Game of Thrones, ya live and learn.

I have enjoyed this book, I was unsure at first with how interesting a book of quotes could be, but I was soon engrossed and not dipping in and out like I expected. I think what this book shows the reader is, if you enjoy this collection then you should go a buy the Eland back catalogue right away.

If you’re not going for the complete collection then you can get a copy of this book HERE.