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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
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
Stephen King has been a mainstay of my reading since my early teens when I ran through Carrie (terrifying), Salem's Lot (spooky) and Christine (strange - a possessed car, really?) He's a habit I've carried into adulthood and remains one... Continue reading
Posted Aug 10, 2015 at Material Witness
The second and third volumes of Elena Ferrante's mesmerising Neapolitan series are every bit as wonderful as the first. To describe these books as engaging doesn't even come close. They remind me most vividly of a sporting fixture that the spectator is utterly absorbed in, so involved that they make physical movements as if wishing to make that tackle or take that pass. Continue reading
Posted Aug 7, 2015 at Material Witness
The Fatal Flame provides a full stop to what has been the most gripping of series, matching broad sweep political and economic developments in the often painful birth of NYC as a major power with painstaking detail of life on the streets - including the "flash"dialect which has given the novels a rare vibrancy. The Fatal Flame is a great mystery story to boot and anyone with an interest in the history of New York will particularly enjoy it. Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2015 at Material Witness
Most years I'd expect to about a quarter of my entire year's reading during the summer holiday, and so for me this is always an exciting time. This year we're heading first to the white sands and turquoise waters of Formentera, one of the lesser-known Balearics, where Jane has cleverly booked a Wifi free house. After that to a quiet corner of the hills in the Valencia community. There should be plenty of high quality reading time. So"Maigret, Austen, Waterloo, the Ardennes and Elena Ferrante are among those that await... Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2015 at Material Witness
How on earth does a writer manage to fit werewolves, the Great War and two love stories into just one novel? Old teammate and school friend Tarn Richardson explains how and why he did it in the first installment of a two-part interview. Continue reading
Posted Jul 9, 2015 at Material Witness
Thanks, Ashim. Much appreciated.
1 reply
All parents who read to their children, particularly at bedtime, will have been pleaded with again and again to read, 'just one more' or often, 'again, please'. My first experience of this was with my daughter Tilly aged two or... Continue reading
Posted May 27, 2015 at Material Witness
Do you remember the hot, searing flame of childhood friendships? The sense of belonging, of fierce loyalty, of intense, emotional engagement? Do you remember the petty and painful feuds, the corrosive jealousies? And the fear of loss, or perhaps even the pain of it? Maybe you remember long days in the sun, messing about by the river or the scrapes you got into, the lies you told, the games you won? They're almost certainly inside you somewhere and, however old you are, probably close enough to rise to the surface if you stir them up. Mine came willingly and easily, stirred up by this quite wonderful gift of a novel from Italy written by an author that nobody seems to know very much about but who clearly knows a great deal about people. My Beautiful Friend is the first book in the so-called Neapolitan trilogy from the mysterious Elena Ferrante, translated into English by Ann Goldstein. At its heart is the story of the fluid, passionate, dangerous, transcendant and traumatic friendship of narrator Elena and her neighbour Lila. Continue reading
Posted May 20, 2015 at Material Witness
Peter James has become one of Britain's most successful crime writers. The 10 previous novels featuring Brighton detective Roy Grace have sold more than 15 million copies and been translated into dozens of languages. As the 11th novel in the series is published, You Are Dead, Peter spoke to Material Witness about Grace, his home city of Brighton and some of the issues facing the modern police force. Continue reading
Posted May 19, 2015 at Material Witness
I've enjoyed all the Dublin murder squad books I've read to this point, but none more so than The Secret Place, which is revelatory in its brilliance. French is a consummate story-teller, a brilliant technician of structure and a stylish writer, particularly of dialogue. But it's the people she does best, the people that elevates this book so far above even great. This is a truly special crime novel. Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2015 at Material Witness
Long indeed!! I really like the way John is renewing the series. Good stuff ahead I'm sure.
1 reply
Twitter has its moments. It can be a dark and disturbing place at times, but a place where armchair heroes, hiding behind their laptops and shrouded by the anonymity of internet pour bile on those who dare to be different... Continue reading
Posted Apr 19, 2015 at Material Witness
If Chris Carter us looking for a writing partner to help with the imminent (and long overdue) revival of The X Files, he could do worse than call Noah Hawley. Hawley, who last year successfully brought Fargo to the small... Continue reading
Posted Apr 18, 2015 at Material Witness
Charlie Parker is back for the 13th installment of this brilliant crime series. When these books arrive, and I find myself looking forward to the new Connolly as perhaps the highlight of my fiction year, I want the world to go away. I want a comfy chair, a warm fire, a glass of whisky and the time to savour it all. Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2015 at Material Witness
This is Grisham on the territory he does best: providing a voice for the poor, the dispossessed and the disenfranchised. Gray Mountain is an angry, snarling, magnificent polemic against the - frankly - evil practices of the coal companies and is a worthy addition to a body of work that has already taken on racism and the death penalty. Continue reading
Posted Apr 11, 2015 at Material Witness
The best crime fiction often stems from dark secrets screaming out of the past to bring chaos to the present and destroy futures. The Whites comes from that tradition. It is a good read, and for those who particularly enjoy fiction set in New York City, it is essential reading. Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2015 at Material Witness
This is my first brush with Denise Mina, and it won't be the last, even if her stark, naked description of a tough and uncompromising world isn't always easy to digest. But the intelligence and power of the writing and story-telling make it a worthy investment. The End of the Wasp Season is one of the very best books I've read in recent years, and I commend it to the house. Continue reading
Posted Apr 1, 2015 at Material Witness
She has that "second book" problem, now!! With expectations sky high... But I'm sure she'll deliver...
1 reply