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Madrid, Spain
Hack turned flack living in Madrid with three kids hoping one day to be able to read Arturo Perez Reverte in his native Spanish...
Interests: wine, cooking, family, historical fiction, rugby, crime fiction, us civil war, biography, cricket, american football
Recent Activity
Steve Mosby has been a staple of my reading diet since this blog started and I hold to my belief that he's the most under-rated novelist I read. This is another brilliant, chilling outing. Continue reading
Posted Aug 22, 2016 at Material Witness
If you've ever wondered where you come from, where you're going and why you (and the rest of us you share the planet with) behave as you do and believe what you believe, you should read Sapiens. If you love great story-telling and whip-smart writing with a sense of humour as sharp as its sense of purpose, you should read Sapiens. If you're curious at all about the human condition, you should read Sapiens. Continue reading
Posted Aug 5, 2016 at Material Witness
As predicted yesterday Edward St Aubyn's Some Hope did not make it on to the holiday reading list after all, having been finished last night courtesy of a massive thunderstorm outside that coincided with early attempts at sleep. Today's list... Continue reading
Posted Jul 6, 2016 at Material Witness
The beach beckons and so for the past couple of weeks I've engaged in one of my favourite annual activities: drawing together my holiday reading list. Most years I can manage about 10 in 14 days, depending on a variety of factors that include weather, word counts and levels of familial peacefulness. This year's dozen (optimism abounds) - split more or less equally by hard copy and Kindle version for ease of travel purpose - cover everything from the origins of man and Finnish famine to Venetian crime-fighting as a cover for gastronomy and twentieth century social satire. Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2016 at Material Witness
With the ten weekly installments delivered, Belgravia is complete and destined for the bookshelves as a hardback very shortly. So what can new readers of Julian Fellowes' serialised Victorian drama of etiquette and love expect? Well for one thing they... Continue reading
Posted Jul 4, 2016 at Material Witness
At the age of 10, in 1982, I went on a school French trip to Normandy where we followed a well-trodden path around the region’s famous sites: the Basilica at Lisieux, the Bayeux Tapestry and of course the Normandy Beaches.... Continue reading
Posted Jun 21, 2016 at Material Witness
Cronin has delivered a dramatic, smart finale to his series full of great storylines, pulsating writing and an action-packed denouement. But this is more than an ordinary vampire story, it's a multi-layered exploration of what it is to be human and I found it endlessly fascinating and thought-provoking. Continue reading
Posted Jun 16, 2016 at Material Witness
Pleasantville is a tour de force. It is part political thriller, part courtroom drama and part murder mystery laced with nuanced social commentary. It excels in delivering riveting reading on all these fronts. But it is in the political sphere that it is at its most compelling, foreshadowing the controversial George W Bush election of 2000 and posing the question: What will money stop at to buy political outcomes? The answering is nasty and terrifying and in turn foreshadows the current ugly scenes in the US where a billionaire populist uses race and fear to propel himself to the brink of the White House. It details the loss democracy as something belonging to the people, instead becoming a tradable commodity, exclusive the preserve of the rich and powerful. Continue reading
Posted Jun 15, 2016 at Material Witness
In the day-to-day grind of school runs, Spanish homework, cello practice and meal preparation in which all fruit and vegetables have to be disguised as Haribos, it's easy to lose sight of how beautiful and miraculous our children are. For... Continue reading
Posted Jun 2, 2016 at Material Witness
The Inspector McLean novels of James Oswald have become a firm fixture in what I often think of as the serial detective season. McLean comes early in the year, Rebus typically late. Peter James' Roy Grace is a harbinger of... Continue reading
Posted May 25, 2016 at Material Witness
Sleeping Giants is a brilliantly conceived and executed novel that is part political conspiracy thriller, part action movie (it will make an outstanding film) and part science-fiction drama with a foreboding of dystopian nightmare. And it is greater than the sum of those parts. It is packed with big, keep-you-awake ideas. They touch ethics, politics, science, philosophy, psychology and much in between. Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2016 at Material Witness
If a rewriting of Charlotte Bronte’s classic Jane Eyre as Orphan, Governess, Serial Killer sounds unlikely, well so it is, but Lyndsay Faye pulls off the trick brilliantly in the wonderfully entertaining Jane Steele. Don’t waste any time, buy and devour this novel. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Continue reading
Posted Apr 26, 2016 at Material Witness
The first thought that entered my head when I read that Julian Fellowes was to release a serial novel was: Coffey on the Mile. I spent a lot of time in the summer of 1996 heading in and out of... Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2016 at Material Witness
People often ask if I have a 'favourite' author. And the truth is that I don't. It is also true, however, that the new Charlie Parker novel from Irish writer John Connolly has become my most eagerly anticipated book of the year. Over the course of 14 books - after today's publication of A Time of Torment - and 17 years Connolly has developed one of crime fictions most enduring characters in Parker, and with him a series that stays fresh, exciting and fascinating. Continue reading
Posted Apr 7, 2016 at Material Witness
Carl Hiaasen's books should come with a warning: Don't read in public. Why not? Because sitting on the Tube, doubled over with laughter and tears running down your cheeks is not a good look. Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2016 at Material Witness
Waking up this morning to find Donald Trump a few steps nearer the White House was pretty depressing, made perhaps a little worse by my recent reading of Erika Johansen's Invasion of the Tearling, whioch conjures up a terrifying vision of what a post-Trump world might look like. Continue reading
Posted Mar 16, 2016 at Material Witness
Material Witness celebrates its 10th birthday in 2016 and to celebrate I'm going to do something completely different - give a workshop on blogging at the Gap Festival in June. This is a particularly special engagement for me as the... Continue reading
Posted Feb 25, 2016 at Material Witness
Peter May successfully left the Hebrides and his highly acclaimed Lewis trilogy behind him in his previous standalone novel Runaway – but, my goodness, how good it is to have him back there in his clever new bestseller Coffin Road.... Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2016 at Material Witness
The AP-8 motorway that runs from Vitoria-Gasteiz to the French border reveals a tantalizing glimpse of Spain’s Basque country. In daylight it is stunningly beautiful. As night falls it feels faintly menacing. The road, which runs through steep and narrow wooded valleys with towns and villages folded into them, always makes me wonder what secrets the Basque is concealing on the other side of the hills? In her brilliant debut novel, Dolores Redondo shares some of those secrets. Continue reading
Posted Jan 22, 2016 at Material Witness
I've fallen short of my book-a-week target for 2015 by about 10 books, but what's missing in quantity has been more than made up for in quality. Picking five favourites has therefore been so difficult - particularly as four could... Continue reading
Posted Dec 21, 2015 at Material Witness
I can pinpoint the moment that reading literature changed for me back to the day Troubles was introduced as a set text for my English literature A Level in 1989. The set texts we had that year were mostly hugely enjoyable, - Chaucer's Nun's Priest's tale, Hamlet, Richard II and Keats - writing about whom I attained a 'Z' grade for one particularly terrible essay. Continue reading
Posted Aug 25, 2015 at Material Witness
This tale of a murder inspired by parental tensions at the fund-raising trivia night at Pirriwee Public, a primary school in the wealthy Sydney suburbs, surpassed all expectations and is probably the best audio experience I've had in 2015. It's funny, insightful, a terrific story... Continue reading
Posted Aug 14, 2015 at Material Witness
Sometimes you just come across the right book at the right moment for it to grip your imagination. So it was with The House of the Spirits, Isabel Allende's masterpiece detailing one family's journey through the trauma of an unnamed South American country in the 20th Century. Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2015 at Material Witness
While The Death House may have been written for a young audience, it will speak to any reader with an open mind and love and compassion in their hearts. If you do, it will affect you. It is by turns heart-breaking and uplifting and whether you're a young adult or not, it's a beautiful story, brilliantly told. Continue reading
Posted Aug 12, 2015 at Material Witness
The '50 books' series is my personal history of reading, chronicling those books that have been the most important or influential in my life. Today, I go back to childhood and a very early favourite, The Story of Ferdinand, the pacifist bull. This is one that resonates still today, not least because of the great bull ring across the road where he avoided a fight for his life... Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2015 at Material Witness