Monday, 20 October 2014

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith - review

I was a little disappointed in the second Comoran Strike novel. The plot is well crafted and intricate enough for me not to guess the identity of the perpetrator until the end, but there's something missing from the prose. To me it felt as if J K Rowling, writing as Robert Galbraith, was already bored with her new characters, in the same way as the detective hero, Comoran Strike, is fed up and frustrated with his physical condition. Comoran is an Afghanistan war veteran with a prosthesis, and his missing leg continues to hamper his surveillance work. He does, however, have some impressive friends in high places, a fact which enables him to catch the killer in the end.

It may be that it's the subject matter of the novel - the literary world - which is making our author yawn. JK Rowling certainly has a go at each role in the publishing world; we have the celebrity-seeking mid-list writer, the ruthless agent, the self-important, successful author, the pathetic self-published writer, the blogger who cannot spell, the eccentric publisher who hates writers...OK, it may be that it was me who resented the literary caricatures.

In spite all of the above, I was keen to get to the end of the book to find out who did the ugly deed, or wether anything romantic will occur between Strike and his beautiful assistant Robin. So, I enjoyed the read, sort of.

The Silkworm is a good, dependable detective tale without too much excitement.

The Silkworm (Comoran Strike Book 2)
Price from £6.99 (Kindle edition)

Friday, 17 October 2014

Coffee and Vodka paperback is nearly here!

I can hardly believe it myself that I'll soon be able to hold a copy of Coffee and Vodka, with its spanking new cover, in my hands. But today I've had the final versions of both the interior layout by the intrepid Roz Morris and the front and back cover design by Jessica Bell, so that wonderful day will soon be here.

I thought after publishing my first book, The Englishman, the second novel would just be run of the mill, but no, in some ways it's even more exciting. It could be because this time around I'm more knowledgeable about the process of getting a Kindle book into a paperback version, and so feel much more in control of the process. (Even though I've been much busier with my day job).

Anyway, here is the new cover in its full glory. What do you think?

The paperback copy
 will be on sale very soon
 - watch this space...

Saturday, 11 October 2014

Moomins on the Riviera - a new feature film

I was lucky enough to be invited to the press screening and interview sessions with the team of the new Moomins on the Riviera film yesterday. This is one of the bonuses of being Head of Finn-Guild, the Finnish-British society, and editor of our quarterly magazine. As a blogger, I have been invited to press screenings before, but this was particularly special for me because the Producer of this film is an 'old' school and university friend, Hanna Hemilä. Plus the film, which is a French/Finnish collaboration, features my favourite Finnish comic strip cartoons, the Moomintrolls.

Inspired by her own visit to the Riviera with her mother, Jansson created Moomins on the Riviera, a charming tale which addresses universal aspects of life such as finding joy in small things, the value of cross-cultural understanding and the power of optimism. This new hand-drawn 
feature animation  is the first time there has been an audio visual adaptation of Jansson’s original comic strip.

There have been surprisingly few full-length films featuring the Moomins, something I quizzed Sophia Jansson, the artistic Director of Moomin Characters Ltd, and niece of the creator of these popular creatures, about. 

'I'm surprised about this myself,' she said. 

Hanna Hemilä (left) with Sophia Jansson (right)
Sophia told me she'd simply not had many pitches where a film maker wanted to use the hand-drawn comic strips. She mentioned this fact to our mutual friend, Hanna Hemilä, a few years ago. 'But I'm a film producer,' said Hanna, and promptly contacted Xavier Picard, and together the two made a proposal which Sophia gladly accepted. As those of you who've ever been involved in film making know, it's a process which takes years, and there are many hurdles to be jumped. Sophia said Hanna warned her that the project would take some time, so she was prepared for the four-year time span, during which she was involved at every stage of the production, ensuring that Tove Jansson's original work was sympathetically represented. 

Director Xavier Picard
The French Director Xavier Picard told me that he had himself been introduced to Moomins many years ago, when working in Tokyo. He said the Moomin comic strips have never really been widely known in France in a way they have in Japan, or here in the UK. Since then, Xavier said he'd grown fond of both the artwork and the ethos of the Moominpappa, 'To live in peace, grow potatoes and dream,' and that a major reason why he wanted to do the film was to get people in France to learn to love Moomins as much as he does.

In the UK the  comic strips were first published by The London Evening News as early as 1954.  At the time, the Moomin characters were all over London, and advertised on the side of the double decker buses. So, it's quite fitting that the International Premier for the newest Moomin film should take place in London today.

When I asked Hanna about her biggest challenges in producing a Moomin film, she told me it was at first difficult to convince the movie people that a new cartoon strip film should be in 2D, and not in 3D. 'Tove Jansson's hand-drawn drawings would not work in 3D,' she said. Secondly it was difficult to explain that the Moomin characters have universal appeal; that the stories have sadness and humour, which works both on adult and children's level.

Here's  the short synopsis of the film:

The Moomins, Snorkmaiden and Little My, in search of adventures of their own, set sail for the glamorous Riviera. They arrive after a journey fraught with menacing storms and desert island dangers, Moominpappa (Nathaniel Parker) befriends an aristocrat and adopts a new name ‘de Moomin’, Snorkmaiden (Stephanie Winiecki) is dazzled by the attentions of a playboy, and Moomin (Russell Tovey) is torn between the simple life he feels comfortable with, and the luxurious movie star lifestyle that his beloved Snorkmaiden yearns to have. An exasperated Moominmamma (Tracy Ann Oberman) retires to the relative calm of their trusty old boat to wait for her family to come to their senses. For the very first time, the unity of the Moomins is threatened.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film, and particularly a little side story about a dog, who to his shame only likes cats. Moominmamma is at hand to solve the dog's problem by convincing another dog to be painted with stripes and so disguised as a cat. 'Is the paint water proof?' asks the ever street-wise Little My. And as predicted both dogs happily play together until the cat/dog goes for a swim...

Do go and see this wonderful film - apart from the humour and loveliness of the script, the Moomins on the Riviera is beautifully produced in a wonderful pastel colour palette, which leaves you feeling sunny and happy. Just as if you too had had a little trip to the Riviera.

Below is a clip from the film, where Moominpappa is chatting about 'de Moomins' with his new friend Marquis Mongaga.


Moomins on the Riviera will be showing at the London Film Festival
1 pm 11 October 2014 Hackney Picture House (Sold Out)
3 pm 18 October 2014 Odeon Leicester Square (Buy tickets here) 

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Chorleywood Indie Litfest

It's October and the countdown to Chorleywood Litfest has begun!

This is going to be my first appearance at a Literary Festival and I am looking forward to it with a mixture of trepidation and excitement. The entrance is free and there will be some forty indie authors like me, so I think I'll be safe amongst my ALLi friends.

So put this date in your diary and come and discover what Independent Authors are all about!

Chorleywood Literary Festival – Indie Author Fair

Triskele Books, the Alliance of Independent Authors and the Chorleywood Literary Festival are coming together this autumn to organise an 


Love reading? Like meeting authors? Curious about independent publishing?
Come to the Indie Author Fair!
Meet forty authors at a pop-up bookshop showcasing the ground-breaking, genre-crossing, experimental, enticing, exciting and beautifully presented world of indie publishing. Children’s & YA authors, bestsellers, poets, writers of adult fiction and non-fiction, an author collective, members of The Alliance of Independent Authors – everyone’s going to the Fair.
Hear works read by the authors themselves. Join in with story time sessions for children of all age groups. Browse the books while having afternoon tea and discover a hidden treasure. 
Admission Free

For more information, please browse the online catalogue. 

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Summer House with Swimming Pool

As soon as I began reading this novel, I was struck by how much the prose reminded me of Vladimir Nbokov's Lolita. There is the narcissistic narrator, almost proud of his repulsive character, there's the sense of sexual wrongdoing, there's the plot, which constantly makes you question your morals.

Narrated by a professionally frustrated family doctor to the stars in Holland, March Schloss, the story weaves it's way through pivotal months in his and his family's life.

Part domestic thriller, part traditional literary fiction, The Summer House with Swimming Pool  is about moral dilemmas just like Lolita, and Koch's previous novel, The Dinner. Also just as in that novel, we soon realise almost no one in the story is innocent, or doesn't have something to hide, or is thoroughly selfish, or unlikeable (in itself not a crime). 

The main character, March Schloss, is a doctor, and the inner thoughts he reveals to us are what we all fear; that doctors are only human and as such detest having to inspect hairy bottoms, or have sick people cough phlegm at their face. What Dr Schloss has to tell us none us want to hear. We soon realise that Dr Schloss' world view is more skewed than normal and largely  based on the biology lectures of a discredited professor. But as the plot unwinds, we come to realise our narrator does have reason to be unhinged and we begin to understand why he carries such rage within him. But does his situation justify his actions? 

I thoroughly enjoyed reading this powerful novel. It's shocking, and at times even a difficult read, but Koch's skilful writing makes the effort worthwhile in the end. I couldn't recommend this book highly enough.