John and George the dog who changed my life by John Dolan

 

John and George the dog who changed my life by John Dolan 

Memoir

Source – review copy

King went a-runnin’ after deer
Wasn’t scared of jumpin’
off the truck in high gear
King went a-sniffin’
and he would go
Was the best old hound dog
I ever did know.

Old king by Neil Young source 

I had planned to write the review for this wonderful memoir the day Winston fell ill and al that happened since it has taken till today where i have felt like talking about this book .I have said in the past one of my guilty pleasure is memoirs of dogs or about dogs and owners .So John Dolan’s book is one of those books .John Dolan had spent many years homeless when two things changed his life ,a dog called George and a rediscovery of a love of drawing .He has now had a number of sell out art shows and is  making a living as an artist .

It was the winter of 2009 when George came into my life , and I was living alone in a temporary council bedsiit above a newsagents ,down the road from the tower of london .I’d been fortunate enough to have been there for two year on and off ,which was about the omly good thing I had going for me .I was struggling in just about every way a person could struggle .

The opening chapter of John and George .

George is staffy ,as you see on the cover he is a very pretty staffy and his life and John’s meet at just the right time .George was a dog that had a rough start and end up in John’s flat via a couple he knew that were looking after him for someone else .John had this small flat but for years had been struggling with living on the streets and drug habit .George was a timid fellow when he meet JOhn and JOhn didn’t know what to do with a dog but really thought he had to do what was best and take care of George .So they started their life together john start to draw again and drew the area of london he was in Shoreditch and of course George .He started to sell these pictures to passers-by ,one of these passers-by happened to been the owner of an art gallery that ask John if he would want to do a show ,from their the art and pictures sold well ,the project involved using one of John’s images of Shoreditch skyline and getting well-known street artist like Roa ,broken fingaz and sever’s .

“You can’t come back here ,” Gerry said

he was staring me straight in the eye ,like he really meant business .I had walked out of prison with a small carrier bag of belongings and taken a train straight to Presidents house .I kne Dot and Gerry wouldn’t exactly be hanging out the bunting ,but i had definitely not been expecting to be turned away flat like this .

John’s family story is a complex one of secrets .

The  book is more than the story of George and John it is the story of John’s life how do you end up homeless and on drugs ? well like John’s story it isn’t one big event it is a series of small events that over time wear someone done together with growing up in a family where there was a big secret that effected John  .I was touched when John talked about the effect George had on his life ,I could really connect with this feeling Winston came in my life at the right point .The power of dogs to do good in people’s life is what shines through the book ,George story as well is one of why people who treat their dogs right are important ,his life hadn’t been ideal before he meet John ,he was on the verge of being wayward and uncontrollable ,but John’s love and time made his life better than it ever was .Well that’s it I am already holding back the tears as I think if my boy Winston and our story .

IMG_1190

one of my boy I did with a photo app

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And a wonderful drawing by John of his boy George .

Have you a favourite dog or even cat book .

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Meatspace by Nikesh Shukla

meatspace

Meat space by Nikesh Shukla

British fiction

Source – review copy

The machine does not isolate man from the great problems of nature but plunges him more deeply into them.

Antoine de Saint-Exupery
Read more at

Now I don’t read many British writers ,but when the chance came round to review the second novel by Nikesh ,I jumped at the chance as I really enjoyed his first novel Coconut Unlimited I reviewed it .So I must first say I have met Nikesh on a couple of occasions before I review the book .

The first and last thing I do everyday is see what strangers are saying about me .

I pull the laptop closer from the other side of the bed and press refresh on my inboxes .I have a google calendar alert that tells me I have no events scheduled today ,an assortment of twitter and Facebook notifications ,alerting me to 7 new followers ,a favourite tweet thanking someone for liking my book ,an invite to an event I’ll never go to ,spam for play and guardian jobs .#

The opening lines of Meat space

Meatspace is a term in the internet world for the real world .The story is the tale of a few months in the life of Kitab Baisubramanym ,he is a guy whom life is at that point where it’s about to implode or explode .His long-term girlfriend has left him ,he has just lost a job for writing a book on the firms time .So he has come to live with his brother Aziz  .He has alll this time on his hands and being a modern man he has descend into the rabbit hole of the internet and ends up doing the think many of use has done and search for a doppelgänger the  namesake  online and in his case he finds one chap in the US that shares his name and the next thing he knows is this chap turns up at his door and this leads Kitab into a world of madness both online and offline as this doppelgänger is a little of  the rails .As they descend into a world of swingers and sex .

History :

The perfect CV – Google 

kitab Balasubramanyam – Facebook 

Hayley Bankcroft – Google images 

[104} – twitter 

The start of each chapter starts with the search history of Kitab .

Now I am a later come to the tech age I didn’t get my first laptop til seven years ago and ever since have felt like I’ve been playing catch up or at least get it ,I still don’t fully get the net but everyday seems more as thou I do .Now that said Nikesh is a child of the net this book is what it is like to live and breathe the net to tweet ,tumblr ,Facebook and get it .Kitab is the Everyman of the net ,but he hit that rabbit hole like in Alice he pressed the return button on something he shouldn’t have .The wit and realism drips of the page ,Nikesh is one of the funniest writers I’ve read in recent years .Now I was remind the time I read Fever pitch for me Nikesh has done for the net here in this book the same as Nick Hornby did for football and that is put on paper the Everyman experience of something .SO if you love the net and want be laughing and crying at times ,this is the book you need to read ,Nikesh missed the costa  with coconut unlimited ,but this should be a prize winner ,if there is any justice out there ,daring new and funny .The book comes out 3 july .

Caught By Henry Green

Caught is one of his lesser known novels now but at the time was heralded as a future classic ,when it was published in 1943 during the middle of the war and two years after the end of the blitz which is what the book is about Henry green or  Henry Yorke as he was in real life was in the Auxiliary  Fire Service in London during the height of the blitz ,this book was a result of the time he spent putting out fires during the war.

When Roe first joined the Service ,when nations were still declaring peace,it seemed ludicrous to be trained by fire men in a real fire-station .He signed on because he had for years wanted to see inside one of these turreted buildings ,and had also he had always been afraid of heights .

Maybe green describes the reason he joined the Auxiliary fire service

Caught is the story of a team of firemen and focus on two of them they have a link that goes back before the war and they joined the fire service .They are Richard Roe ,he is upper class and I would imagine this is Henry Green himself and Pye  the sub officer of the fire station ,who like most of the team is a working class chap but a man who has a lot more to himself and his life than it first seems .He has a very disturbed sister that Richard roe the other main character in the book  had a run in before when he his son  Christopher  was held  hostage by her in her room  for a time until Pye rescues him ,this forms a barrier initially between the two men ,but we see ebb and flow of them at work and rest  that at heart they are both flawed men. I always think this is one of Green’s strongest writing traits is that of the  flawed man a lot of his characters are flawed in one way or other  whether it is class or secrets  something always makes them seem more interesting than the normal characters in most novels .There are scenes of the blitz  which are exquisitely written and bring you into the heart of the blitz  but come towards the end as we also see the build up to the blitz ., but like all good drama based round the fire service it is the  quiet times in between that is the most interesting seeing the interactions of the men as they wait not certain what the night holds or even if they’ll be their next day ,This I feel this is  probably  as Henry Green experienced the war ,he was in Middle age when  he volunteer to join the fire service  in London something he didn’t have to do give his station in life as the fire service was made up mostly of working class men during the war  and sure he spent many hours chatting like Pye and Roe ( there is a clever pun by Green on the two leads Name ).Roe Has lost his wife and via the fire station finds a new love .This book is also a great look at class before during and in a way after the war when the barriers to classes interacting in everyday situations were broken down some what .The cialogue also forms the backbone of this book the interaction between character is all spoken never thought or described as Green said in the piece I quote from wood he thought what people said was the most important bit of the book .This book is out of print but second hand copies about I got mine cheap in Oxfam

Have you read this book ?

Have you read any other books based in London during the war ?

All these little worlds the second collection from fiction desk

Earlier this year I reviewed Rob of the fiction desk first collection Various Authors here .So when a few months ago (sorry for delay Rob) I was asked if I want to review the second in this quarterly series of anthologies ,I said yes as known Rob via twitter for a few years and I really trust his judgement at picking the stories for the fiction desk collections .

SO this time we have nine stories in this collection two of the writers that had appeared in the first collection also appear here Charles Lambert and Jason Atkinson .The collection like the first isn’t themed which I like I m not a huge short story reader but when I do read a collection I prefer it to be like a i pod on shuffle you never know what is going to appear next and this collection is like this .One minute your with a family as the put something strange in a fish tank .Then you’re at school where the is strange thinks going on due to a new dress code being brought into force .As ever I ll focus on a couple that caught my eye the first is one by Mischa Hiller called room 307

He took a drink of his beer and looked up to see a women in a pinstriped trouser suit come into the restaurant  .She was on the mobile phone and carrying a leather briefcase on a strap over her shoulder .The two businessmen stared at her like they’d never seen a women before.

Callum the main character in Mischa Hiller’s room 307 sees a women .

The story is about Callum he is  a businessman  away on a business trip when he meets a women called Susan and they chat and get on there is a spark ,he is married thou .The story has a thriller edge to it that slow telling of the story building the tension to the end as we find out who Susan was is she really his wife ,just a random women or something more sinister .this story for me does what great Short stories do with the bare facts a man in a hotel we have his name not much else.but as you see the scene with this women unfold you are there with him as it happens and that is what great short stories should do make you feel in their setting straight away as it is like  a butterfly only there for a short period of time .The other story I really like was Jagger’s and crown by James Benmore .

According to this mornings paper ,I am meant to have died sometime over the weekend .Go and buy a copy of the mail if you don’t believe me ,I’m on page 36 .

Kevin Crown reads of his own death .

Now this story shows another face of short story’s the mini epic ones as Keith crown reads of his own death he was part of a comedy double act ,I pictured some of the acts we used to see in the late seventies early eighties on british tv cannon and ball ,Les Dennis and Dustin gee so on (if you are not from uk maybe google them and you’ll have an idea of what I m,mean ) so this shock that he is thought to have died makes him look back over his working life with Sonny Jaggers from his first array as a solo act then he  meeting Sonny and the rise of them as a double act but then like Icarus all things that maybe fly to high fall to the ground and so it happen to them so in  the space of 22 pages we see a man’s life wonderful stuff and as rob noted on the top of the story Keith crown seems very real .

Last time I compared his collection to c86 so in the same  vein I m going to say this is like a this mortal coil album and Rob is like Ivo Watts Russell sticking together a collection of fresh talent to make a little gem .Below is a list of the stories plus links to Rob’s site where you can order a subscription .

 

 

where the devil can’t go by Anya Lipska

Anya Lipska is a journalist and lives in london this is her debut novel.She is married to a pole .

I like the concept of this book when I received a e-mail from its publicist Louise ,I often wander around my local supermarket which now has a section devoted to polish food and we also have a polish deli ,so a book set in the uk in the polish community seemed like a really interesting book to me .The book’s title is part of an old polish proverb about a women being often the cause of trouble ,I asked Anya on twitter about this and she said it fitted the main character Janusz Kiszka to  tee .He is an older chap a figure-head in the community ,The sort of  come to guy the man who knows everyone and every thing so when he is asked to find a missing young polish  girl by a priest ,this one event leads him to his own past as he returns to his native Poland and faces his own ghosts ,a dead body or two , a perky female police detective Natalie Kershaw ,she  is young and full of get up and go .She is a a new young detective  in what feels like a very male police force world and has  Janusz in her sights as he keeps cropping up in the case of a girl found by the river Thames .All this has repercussions in Poland in the upper reaches of Polish politics .

She followed him as he moved up the side of the bed .He bent over the girl .”No obvious injuries” he said eyes flickering impassively over the splayed body .

Kershaw notice a fuzz of underarm stubble beneath the girls out flung left arm – a detail so personnel it made her feel uncomfortably like a voyeur .

A body in a hotel room as Kershaw sorts this case .

I like my crime novels that break the mould or have well crafted characters and this book seems to have achieved both ,the narrative stream is told in alternating chapters by Janusz and then Kershaw this is clever as you see two pictures  of what is happening ,but then over time these picture merge and the true course of events becomes clear to the reader .The other strength in this book is Janusz he is like a fish out of water a pole in the uk ,a man with secrets ,but also not the most politically correct guy he is a bit of a misogynist ,he has a girlfriend but their relationship is in limbo a bit ,the way he talked and dealt with women took me back to the noir of the thrities and  forties ,he is like a modern Sam Spade or Philip Marlowe .Also you find out how he end up in the UK and also a bit about Poland in the Eighties and life under the communist state .I also loved the fact that early on I had to google as they described eating various Polish dishes ,so next time I m in the supermarket I may know what are on the shelves .So if you want a page turning winter crime novel that has something a bit different about it this may be the book for you .

Here is a interview with writer 

and Anya Lipska site

This is an e book her is the link to it on amazon 

The upright piano player by David Abbott

Source – review copy

David Abbott was chosen as one of BBC culture shows  twelve new novelists this year for this his debut novel .He worked in advertising as a copywriter for the largest firm in Britain ,he was the man behind the original J R Hartley advert ,and in parts you can see that David really loves books .

The upright piano player is a later life tale ,a man Henry cage a successful business man in the world of advertising as the writer is as well , that is about to retire ,he has had it all at work ,been admired and reached the top of the ladder so to speak ,but at what cost thou ? Iis now facing a different world that outside work  ,a  lonely one as he is divorced from his wife  ,she is in the US ,so over the course of the book we find out what henry is about ,and he on whole is a bit to work  focus we find .This had led to his wife Nessa leaving him but now she wants to see Henry ,why his son is so distant .Plus we also have one of the nasty characters I ve met in fiction  Bateman that Henry crosses swords with back in uk as he spends time with his ex-wife in the US .secrets are uncovered along way and Henry tries to make a mend for his past .All that and a wonderful description of a visit to the book shop John Sandoe as henry is a book collector he loves First editions .We also get a great Orson Welles story that if it isn’t true certainly should be as the great man tries to record a voice over for an advert .

He decided to walk home via the John Sandoe  bookshop ,just off King’s road .Like all bookshops he loved ,It was small intimate ,a miracle of compression .Books everywhere .On the stairs to the paperback room ,stacks of books were kept on the treads leaving little room for going up and down (it was rumoured that no-one with a shoe size over ten had ever made it up there .)

A visit to Sandoe’s shop ,I m sure David has been here many a time himself .

I can see why it was picked by the culture show  it is a well crafted book ,in places it reminded me of Edward St Aubyn a clue to the exit  ,both involve men on the edge and henry is on the edge ,Davids past life as a copywriter is evident in reminds me the great Gold blend  campaign in the 80’s  an end of each chapter you wanted to find out what was going happen in the next ,Henry is a character that exists the workaholic man ,the blinkered serious man .But I ve rarely seen it so well told before .It is also nice to see a writer in later life as David is getting the chance to get published but also put on list like the BBC culture show one .I hope he goes on to write others books ,He has a way to keep you turning them pages this is a evening book at 240 pages you can finish it in a long evening .

Have you read this or any of the culture show choices ?

Various Authors – the first Fiction Desk anthology

Source – review copy

The Fiction Desk is a blog and twitter feed run by Rob Redman ,an Editor based in Italy in Roma ,I ve spoken to Rob via twitter  and followed his blog for a couple of years so think I have an ear for what he likes book and writing  wise ,so was so pleased to be sent this collection of 12 short stories by new and upcoming writers .Rob describes the books experience as being a dj  and making compilation cds for the nights he dj ,so I sat back and read his choices .

There isn’t a theme to this collection some stories are similar a number about family ,we follow a Scottish lad on the bus to his parents only to discover his father in a stat of chaos and his mother gone .

“What are you on about ”

“You see ,your mum ,she’s saying …its the drink.” the balls thud and spin on the Tv and ger’s heartbeat makes him stay very still .

Gerry find out his Ma is gone .(almost like a Glasvegas song as a story )

In another a younger boy set out on an ill fated journey to find a long-lost father who is in Wales ,firstly trying the train then walking and meeting people .Another explains the joys of trying to catch and fall in love with an Air hostess over the course of a flight told as a basic guide of how too ,a story by Windmills books PR person Marcus Harvey .A man pretends to be a dog called rex in another ,this story is very surreal .as a family falls apart rex is a the centre of the action .There is a story following an office, a high-powered executive working in the US for the government  is concerned about his  new assistant she seems to leave the office early every day ,he confronts her and she tells him about how she is playing in a small play ,he is interested she says he could join her and he does .

The last thing he heard as Brutus set him down on the floor was the voice of Sadie

“I think we have a caesar”

he stood up and felt like he could probably die all night .

Daniel the executive discovers the joy of acting .

I leave you there with the stories if you want to know more go out and support Rob ,there isn’t a bad story in this collection to use the time-worn phrase they are all page turners .and to take it back to Rob’s starting point of a dj ,well this book is like the semi legendary NME MIXTAPE C86 ,which collected a group of acts in 1986 ,some were couple of hit wonders and some went on to be huge ,this collection has tha feel anyone here could be huge and sure someone from this collection will but who or when is hard to say but if this is Rob’s mix of new writing in English ,well it looks like we re in good health .here is collection and writers with links to the fiction desk bio of every writer .

Do you like new collections of stories ?

the long song by Andrea levy

Andrea grew up in britain after her parents came here in the empire windrush in the late 40’s ,a subject she touched on ,in the novel small island .She didn’t start writing til here 30’s and since has had a rise with every novel this is her fifth and is shortlisted for the booker .The novel drifts us back to the Jamaica of the 1800’s where slavery is still in place and the slave July we follow her life from her birth after her mother was raped to her entering service for a vicious english women Caroline Mortimer ,where she is beaten and stab with pins and other things on a regular basis for no apparent reason or little provocation .Meanwhile in the outside world there are great changes underfoot rebellions and just glimpses of freedom for the slaves . to the arrival of a new overseer with a new way of treating slaves ,kindly with is slightly more liberal view of doing the work .

July threw herself upon the floor ,held the dress aloft and yelled, missus ,the dress spoil! Them mash-up your dress .It messed up ,it mess up .Oh beat me ,missus come on beat me ! the dress spoil ,spoil,spoil come tek a whip and beat me I beggin you missus .

July expecting a beating from the violent mistress caroline .

Now this is written in a style of Jamaican english or patois that was spoken by the slaves a relaxed english .July comes across as a highly realistic character that has a hard life and you feel her injustices and triumphs along the way .Levy seems to want to bring some of her own family’s history forward and had done maticlious research for this novel in Jamaica and the uk looking back on records of the time and the slaves life ,Which she described in an interview I heard as a hard task as there was a lot of side information number jobs etc but little or none on how the slaves felt at the time .what Levy has done is capture a young girls struggle to womanhood in the most difficult of circumstances .A book for anyone interested in the history of the time and how slaves lives really were on the plantations

This is one of this years booker shortlist .

Dark knights of the soul by jermey simpson

The notes –

Jeremy Simpson is a hugely successful businessman ,setting up the british base of Swiss based office furniture company ,he has also worked in the paper industry for a finnish company ,and achieved an honour from finnish Government the order of finnish lion ,similar to our honour system in uk ,it was an honour for someone not from Finland to be awarded it .

The book –

We join the books two main characters Nicholas and Charlotte on valentines day when they both receive an invite to an up market swiss hotel in Zürich by a group calling them the knights of the temple of Solomon to attend a symposium,there both intrigued and are joined on the trip by theo the three of them all been involved in academic research involving or connected to knight Templar folklore or history ,in Zürich they meet the leader of the modern knight Templar a dark foreboding figure the grand master ,Nicholas then meets a fellow Brit who appears to be a friend of the Templars but is really a british intelligence officer ,that recruits them to help expose the Templars ,as the story unfolds they find a shocking plot they have to run to pass on the information whilst avoiding the clutches of the Templars at every turn .in a tale where nobody appears to be how they first seem .

they were immediately engulfed by a welcoming committee of the Templars ,men women dressed in mock silver mesh material ,over which they wore white tabards with large red Templar crosses emblazoned on the front and back .they gave their names and were immediately assigned rooms and their luggage whisked away ………….

the arrival in Zürich to the Templar symposium .

My view –

When Quartet first ask if I was interested in this I must admit it didn’t jump out but ,i had a think and tour the site set up for the book by Quartet and thought I d give it a whirl my main concern was the Dan Brown mention as i reads ten pages of one of his books and tossed it away for being poorly written and slightly OTT,well what a surprise this was it was wonderfully paced and read in a couple of days you can tell the writer has visited the places mention and in the style mentioned ,he also has an interest in Templar folklore and how it is interpreted in the modern-day ,the book is fairly believable with well round characters if the dan brown readers want to read a better paced and more realistic book they can’t go far wrong with this ,I found it a refreshing change myself .now for the score .

the score –

Badger

Badger –they look a bit like they’ve a knights tabard on ,come out a night so reflect some of the darkness in this story but are also are solid and robust like the story itself .

persephone reading week cheerful weather for a wedding by julia strachey

 
 
 

Julia Strachey

Notes – 

Julia strachy was on the fringes of the bloomsbury group she was a cousin to the biograph Lytton Strachey  part of the famous stachey family,she was published by hogarth press orginally that was connected to the group  she also published another novel twenty years after this .It was book 38 in persephone releases . 

The book –  

The book follows dolly the main charcaters wedding day to the hon Owen Bigham , we start with the morning nerves and her brothers frolicking about downstairs on the sofa . 

Robert’s black shoes sticking on the arm of the sofa were crossed one over the other , and revealed a gleam of emerald between the shoes and the trousers . 

  

her mother flaps as the day progresses nerves run high drinks are taken to calm nerves ex’s appear Joseph that confides he is still in love with dolly  and aunts are abound ,In what seems a typical if a little fraught at times wedding day in  the thirties . 

My view – 

I was looking forward to reading this book and was disappoint it oozes the era ,Dolly’s brothers and the aunts made me think of Woodhouse and Wooster with his aunts .But this book is slightly darker than them ,Julia had wonderful observations and great dialogue in this book .The book is wonderfully produce with an elegant front cover and nice inner leaves .I m a little disappoint that this was the only book i ve got to read for Persephone week , but due to work and home commitments i haven’t had the time .This was a wonderful book to republish a lost gem from a writer connected to so many other writers . 

Links – 

the life of Julia Strachey – a 2 page pdf file 

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