Andrew Cartmel was the show runner on Doctor Who for the entire Sylvester McCoy seventh Doctor era. He has written many novels and graphic novels including the Dr Who comics Evening’s Empire and The Good Soldier. Andrew is currently collaborating with author, Ben Aaronovitch on writing the bestselling Rivers of London comics.
He’ll be at Brompton Library on Monday 24 September, 6.30pm taking about his career and work and signing copies of his Vinyl Detective crime novels – Written in Dead Wax, The Run Out Groove and Victory. You can book a place here on Eventbrite
In the meantime, Andrew has very kindly answered some questions for us –
Tell us about the Vinyl Detective series.
I’ve been writing for most of my life, in our form or another. Since I left university I’ve been writing for a living, or at least trying to. But the Vinyl Detective books are the first time I feel I’ve entirely succeeded.
The Vinyl Detective is very evocative of the day to day realities of city life – grass verges, council estates, broken boilers – not glamorous or exotic in any way! It is definitely different to what you have called the current trend for “Danish disembowelment” novels. Why was this setting important to you?
I wanted to write what I know. You might also call it low-hanging fruit!
I have read that you are an avid vinyl fan, what made you want to write detective novels based around vinyl?
My friend Ben Aaronovitch had written what became a bestselling series of novels — The Rivers of London books. I asked him what the secret was. He told me to write about what I genuinely loved. And I genuinely love record collecting, and crime fiction.
What was the first record you bought?
The soundtrack to (the first version of) Casino Royale featuring a superb music score by Burt Bacharach and a knock-out song (‘The Look of Love’) sung by Dusty Springfield. It’s a classic and it remains a favourite of mine.
And what was the last record you bought?
Stan Tracey’s Jazz Suite to Under Milk Wood (inspired by the Dylan Thomas poem). The original Lansdowne mono pressing, of course.
You didn’t start out in crime fiction, what where some of the influences that lead you into crime writing?
I admire Raymond Chandler a lot, but for my money the greatest crime writer of the golden age (roughly the 1930s and 1940s) was Dashiell Hammett. His terse, cynical, realistic style hasn’t dated at all (read The Maltese Falcon). But a more profound influence came somewhat later. John D. MacDonald is, I think, the finest crime writer of them all. He’s a hero of mine. He wrote dozens of excellent novels, notably the Travis McGee series. More recently, I tremendously admire Thomas Harris, best known for creating Hannibal Lecter.
You must have spent a lot of time researching the books, tell us about that?
A lot of it is, as I said, low hanging fruit. Because I write about a world I already know well. But I will also do specific research. In my third book, Victory Disc, I dealt with a crime originating in the RAF bombing campaigns of World War 2. At the end of the novel I acknowledged the two superb books I drew on for the factual background, one by Max Hastings and one by Len Deighton.
Many thanks, Andrew – we’ll be back next week with part 2.
Welcome back to our monthly review of books by inspirational female authors, in celebration of the centenary of women legally being able to vote.
For August I have chosen I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai It is the true story of a young Pakistani girl who spoke out against the Taliban to defend her right to an education. This bravery almost cost Malala her life, but she survived and continues to advocate for education as a universal right. In 2014, she became the youngest person ever to win the Nobel Peace Prize.
The story is told in Malala’s own words and you get a sense of the real person behind the icon. Learning that she squabbles with her younger brothers, she loves the colour pink and she hates getting up in the morning made me connect with her story even more. It’s easy to forget she is an ordinary teenager as well as a symbol for resistance and justice.
Alongside Malala’s experiences, the book outlines in some detail the history and politics of Pakistan. It is explained simply, presuming no prior knowledge so it is a good introduction if, like me, you don’t know as much about it as you’d like.
I found her story very inspiring. It reminded me how much freedom I take for granted every day, when that is not the case for women around the world, and also how much further there is to go for equality.
Check back in September for the next review of another inspirational writer.
Philippa, Brompton Library
PS – you can see the previous reviews of inspirational women writers for July, June, May, April and March
This month we have a double celebration! As well as the monthly review of a book by a female author to mark the centenary of votes for women, we are also celebrating the 200th anniversary of Emily Bronte’s birth on the 30th July. So it was a clear choice to pick Wuthering Heights to review for July.
Wuthering Heights is an intense story set in a lonely house on the Yorkshire moors. It is about the wild and passionate love between Catherine and Heathcliff. They grow up together and years later Heathcliff returns to seek revenge on those he feels have wronged him. The dark tale has shocked and enthralled readers since it was published in 1847.
I first read Wuthering Heights years ago, but reading it again recently I was brought straight back to the haunting atmosphere. If you have already read it, I would recommend re-reading it as there is so much scope for analysis. For those that haven’t, the characters are iconic and the brooding mood of the book will stay with you long after you finish reading.
Emily Bronte is a fitting author for our inspirational women series as she illustrates the progress of women’s rights. When she first published a collection of poems with her sisters in 1846 they all had to use male pseudonyms; Emily’s was Ellis Bell. Wuthering Heights was also originally published as Ellis Bell but after her death her sister Charlotte republished it under Emily’s real name. Despite writing at a time when female authors were rare and would face prejudice, Emily Bronte wrote a powerful and imaginative novel that would become an English literary classic.
At Brompton Library we have created a display to celebrate Emily Bronte’s bicentenary, featuring of course Wuthering Heights, but also her poems, various non fiction books about her life and beautifully illustrated children’s books. So there is also a lot of further reading you can do to mark the 200 years since the birth of this inspirational woman.
You can see the previous reviews of inspirational women writers for June, May, April and March See you in August.
This year’s Summer Reading Challenge launches in our libraries tomorrow, Saturday 14 July. The challenge is fun, free and designed for all children whatever their reading ability and it’s been designed to help children to improve their reading skills and confidence during the long summer holidays.
Children can read whatever they like for the challenge – fact books, joke books,
picture books, audio books or you can download a book, just as long as they are borrowed from the library.
This year’s Summer Reading Challenge is called Mischief Makers – Dennis the Menace, Gnasher and friends invite the children taking part to set off on a hunt for Beanotown’s famous buried treasure.
Each of our libraries will be holding special events for children of all ages, some of these are listed now on our website Pop in to your local Kensington and Chelsea library to find out more about the Summer Reading Challenge and collect a special events programme.
Have you heard of above the line thinking? It can help you define your current situation, choose your direction and move forward with a renewed sense of purpose and drive as well as being accountable for your own results. Like to learn more? Angus Wythes from The Performers Edge will be at Brompton Library today Tuesday 26 June, 6pm. You can book a free place via Eventbrite
In the meantime, over to Angus to tell us more –
What we do today echoes in tomorrow’s life. We all want to live a life we have created and in this Performers Edge workshop, above the line thinking explores one method. Living the life you want to create is about choice. Especially when we live in a modern world fundamentally driven by instant gratification, high pressured work and domestic environments which often at times is devoid of any significant meaning.
Frequently for most of us (and I am no exception) we seem to get caught up in the fast pace of life and do, do, do working our way down a check list of sorts and we tend to lose our sense of being. Our sense of being can be characterised by statements like, what sort of person am I being or who am I being in this moment. It is actually this sense of being that defines us as people and not what we do. What we do can change within moments, one minute an athlete or multi-million pound investor and the next injured and unable to compete or broke and no way to trade.
Unfortunately for most of us we are not aware of this relationship and this more often than not leads to behaviours which simply do not serve the self. With an awareness of this relationship we can in part empower and create for ourselves a greater level of choice. In choice, we have the power to define our reality and not reality to define us.
With choice we have the option to live our purpose and in imperfect action we can find direction always moving forward towards the place we wish to be. Choice in part underlies Being and so the journey becomes more important than the goal itself. In becoming the person worthy of the goal the goal actually becomes less important and ironically we are freed through choice (and so being) to achieve the goal.
Above the line thinking is a proactive mindset focusing on creating choice within a space of what we can actually control and therefore be directly responsible. In life there are very few factors we can control and many of the most successful people have mastered this thinking. These include Richard Branson, Deepak Chopra, Matthew Hussey and even Lance Armstrong among many, many others.
Leading with focus and in a state of being we have frameworks to be proactive in our life and generate that same success as these names. It is critical to understand why thinking above the line is important and why the strategies of cause and effort, the triad of result and outcome model work and how this aids in the creation of a proactive life.
In the end life should be about the ands and not the ors and we all want to live resourceful meaningful lives full of purpose. We desire to be the master creators in our life and in that form I look forward to meeting and sharing The Performers Edge event with you all.
To celebrate 2018 being the centenary of women’s right to vote, we are reviewing one book a month by an inspiring female author.
This month’s book is ‘Beloved’ by Toni Morrison, who was the first African-American woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature.
‘Beloved’ is set in America just after slavery was abolished. It is inspired by the supposedly true story of a woman who killed her child rather than have her taken back into slavery. Sethe, a former slave, and her daughter Denver encounter a mysterious woman called Beloved. She comes to live with them and as they discover more about her they believe she is the ghost of the child Sethe murdered. ‘Beloved’ is about being haunted, struggling with identity and attempting to escape the past.
I think it is one of the most powerful books I’ve read. The way Toni Morrison contrasts the beauty of her language and the brutality she describes is very striking. This book stays with you long after you finish it.
The story is told through the flashbacks of several characters, which can make the plot difficult to follow at times but I think it is worth it for Morrison’s unique writing style.
If you have read ‘Beloved’ I’d recommend the other two books that were intended to be read as part of the same trilogy. The second book is ‘Jazz’ which is set in Harlem during the jazz age and has one of the most intense opening scenes. The third book is ‘Paradise’ which is about a brutal attack in a convent in 1970s America. None of the books feature the same characters, but they all deal with the same recurring themes.
A post from our Service Development Manager, Angela Goreham – about what RBKC Libraries have to offer.
R Research for a project that interests you B Booking a PC, a place at an event K Knowledge as we all need this C Connect (to others in the community and the wide world)
L Lending items for your pleasure or information I Information that will help you with your day to day or forward planning B Baby activities and information to help new parents R Reading – a core skill and past time in any format A Access us at any time and from anywhere R Resources – varied and plentiful, in different formats to suit different needs
Y Young and old – we’re here for everyone
Are you 1 in 840,344? Or maybe you are 1 in 515,004? They’re odd numbers you might say, but the first one is the number of times the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea’s libraries were visited between April 2017 and March 2018 and the second is how many items were borrowed during the same period – how many did you account for?
104 people from our local communities supported the Library Service by volunteering with us and over 40,000 people came to one of the events that we held.
They are huge numbers but we always want to beat our previous year’s figures so please come along to one of our libraries, find out what we can do for you and you can help us pass last year’s numbers.
There are six libraries within the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea – find out more about them and what we offer by either visiting us in person or our website or you can call us on 020 7361 3010.
This is guest blog post from Liz Ison. She works for The Reader and looks after the Book Break reading groups that run in Kensington and Chelsea . Over to Liz to tell us more…
Do you love stories, poems and great literature?
Would you like to find out what shared reading is?
Did you know that there are many shared reading groups going on in your local neighbourhood running every week?
Meet The Reader, an organisation that is passionate about the power of reading together.
We at The Reader are the pioneers of Shared Reading. The volunteer Reader Leaders who run our weekly groups, bring people together to read great literature aloud.
Groups are open to all, readers and non-readers alike. Come along and listen to stories and poems read aloud. It’s an opportunity to read and talk together in a friendly and relaxing environment. Free refreshments provided!
Our shared reading groups have been running locally for many years bringing shared reading to the residents of Kensington and Chelsea. We work in libraries, community centres and other organisations spreading the joy of shared reading.
Here are what our group members have to say about shared reading:
“I’ve felt really happy since the session with you —bought myself some flowers the next day…and went for a long walk while listening to music— all in one day. Our happy thoughts trigger happy chemicals in our brain.” Aysha
“An anchor during the week”
“It always makes me feel more fulfilled than the other days”
95 % look forward to the group as an important event in the week
84% think the reading session makes them feel better*
Here are some groups to try in our local libraries:
We are very lucky to be hosting an event later this month with author, Sarah Matthias. This will take place later today (Monday 23 April), which happens to be World Book Night, at Brompton Library. For more information about the event and how to book, visit our website
Sarah has very kindly answered some of our questions about her book, ‘A Berlin Love Song’ and we will publish her responses in three parts – this is the second part and the third and final part will follow next Monday. You can catch up with the first and second part here
We hope you enjoy them, so over to Sarah…
A Berlin Love Song is about a travelling circus. What’s so alluring about circuses?
I love the circus. I’ve always found it romantic although I’m a great animal lover and I’m very glad we don’t use performing animals any more. Research into the circus in Germany was one of the most enjoyable parts of my research for the book. It was light relief from the Auschwitz research and what it was like to be bombed and how it felt to be in a tank during a horrific battle. There was so much I had to read that was upsetting, so learning about how to fly the trapeze and ride horses bareback was something of a relief. I actually watched the most amazing film about the Flying Codonas called Swing High that you can see on You Tube so I have actually seen Alfredo Codona perform his triple somersault. I also saw him perform it in the film Vaudeville where the Codonas were doubles for the actors. I watched this particular sequence over and over again when I was trying to describe what it looked like and what it felt like to be up in the dome of the Wintergaten Theatre in Berlin about to swing out over the audience below. I also thoroughly enjoyed researching Fredy Knie, the owner of the Swiss Circus where my characters find employment during the war. His circus really did appear at the Wintergarten during the winter of 1942/43 when the Wintergarten was bombed. He really was in his twenties at the time and one of the most famous horse trainers in Europe. He had a reputation for kindness to animals and that’s why he got on so well with Lili and her family. I hope I’ve done his blessed memory justice in my fictitious portrayal of him.
When I was a girl I loved the song: Gypsies Tramps and Thieves by Cher. I used to lie in bed at night listening to it on my record player and imagining the life of a travelling show. If you look at the beginning of the chapter in A Berlin Love Song called Circus Petalo you might hear strains of this great song:
I was born in the wagon of a travellin’ show
My momma used to dance for the money they’d throw
Papa would do whatever he could
Preach a little gospel
Sell a couple bottles of doctor good
Gypsies, tramps and thieves
We’d hear it from the people of the town
They’d call us gypsies, tramps and thieves
But every night all the men would come around
And lay their money down …
My chapter entitled Circus Petalo begins: I was born in a wagon in the middle of a show, amid the smell of canvas and sawdust, greasepaint and cheap perfume …
What were the hardest aspects of creating this book? What were the most satisfying?
The hardest thing about creating this book was the amount of really gruelling research I had to do – research that kept me awake at nights and sometimes made me despair of human nature. Man’s inhumanity to man and what seemingly ‘normal’ people are capable of doing to each other is always horrifying and sometimes I felt I couldn’t read another word about the subject. My visit to Auschwitz was harrowing, especially as I had by that time read so much about the camp that my imagination was running riot.
Then when I started writing, I had the very difficult task of how to express this horror and suffering in a story that on the one hand shone a light on this ghastly subject but was also uplifting and hopeful. Because during my research into the Holocaust I also came across so many stories of heroism, true selflessness and hope in that darkest of times, that I felt I wanted to share with my readers. Working out how to combine together the two aspects of this heartbreaking time in a narrative, without belittling the one and over-romanticizing the other, was a real challenge for me. I hope I’ve succeeded. I hope it not only raises awareness about a topic I feel has often been overlooked, the Romani Genocide, but also expresses my own world view – that it is and has to be possible to find hope, wonder and love in the midst of despair, degradation and hatred.
The most satisfying and enjoyable parts of writing this book were possibly recreating the folk Romani tales. I read lots of wonderful Romani folk tales but none of them seemed to fit exactly into my story so I set about using authentic ones but amalgamating and rewriting them for my own story. I didn’t feel bad about this because the nature of folk tales is that people pass them on with their own embellishments for their own reasons. Folk tales often reflect the concerns of a particular people at a particular time and so mine, whilst firmly rooted in the Romani tradition, have my own stamp on them. I really loved writing them. I also very much enjoyed writing the dialogue, particularly amongst the Hartmann children. I suppose as a mother of 4 young adults myself I have listened to countless family ‘disagreements’! I know how young people talk to each other and how merciless they can sometimes be in their teasing of each other – sometimes cruel. Writers usually have to use their imagination to create unknown worlds but I didn’t have to look much further than my own kitchen table for a rich source of dialogue for the Hartmann children!
We hope you enjoyed our interview with Sarah, and hope to see you at the event this evening. Do book a place – it’s free- via the link at the top.
We are very lucky to be hosting an event later this month with author, Sarah Matthias. This will take place next Monday 23 April, which happens to be World Book Night, at Brompton Library. For more information about the event and how to book, visit our website
Sarah has very kindly answered some of our questions about her book, ‘A Berlin Love Song’ and we will publish her responses in three parts – this is the second part and the third and final part will follow next Monday. You can catch up with the first part here
We hope you enjoy them, so over to Sarah…
How did you go about doing your historical research?
I’m meticulous about historical research. I try to be as historically accurate as I can. I’m very aware that sometimes a novel might be the only literature a reader will read about a subject, so I feel I have a certain obligation not to mislead. Of course, you can always say that a novelist isn’t a history teacher and if the reader wants to know about history they should read a history book – but I know lots of people who enjoy historical novels who wouldn’t read non-fiction.
I try to do as much research as I can. It helps me to create that ‘authentic voice’ that is so important to me. There are lots of excellent diaries and contemporaneous accounts written by Germans. I also read German newspapers from the time to see what was being reported and what sort of propaganda was out there. In addition to diaries and memoirs there is a mountain of black and white photographs and newsreel to watch, so finding out about clothes and how the streets of Berlin looked, for example, was not a problem. Sadly, there are also many pitiful photographs of Auschwitz. I visited Auschwitz more than once to see it for myself, but there are plenty of contemporaneous photographs too. Through this research, I was able to piece together in my own mind what Auschwitz must have looked like. When I was researching the Romanies I read as many accounts as I could find by Romanies who had been in Auschwitz and managed to escape or survive there to the end of the war. There are not many of these, but those I found I read avidly. I also bought a book when I was visiting Auschwitz – part of a series called Voices of Memory. It’s full of accounts by Romanies of what it was like to be incarcerated there.
I always go about my research in the same way. I start by simply reading. I read and read around the subject and as I do the plot begins to form in my imagination. I read serious history books about the period and memoirs written by real characters from the past. Gradually my characters start to emerge from the mist and then I create ‘character boards’ – A3 pieces of card with photographs and little bits of imagined dialogue, descriptions of how my characters might look, what they might have worn, and what their personalities might be like. I write reams of notes from books about all sorts of subjects which might or might not be relevant in the end. I have big A4 notebooks I buy from Rymans divided up with coloured dividers and I label each section. So for example, for A Berlin Love Song, I had sections entitled: Hitler Youth, the Hartmann family home, Air Raids, Music, Propaganda, Religion etc. I had a separate A4 note book for the war years, each year 1939 – 1945 having its own section. I then researched weather for every day of every year of the war. You can obtain weather reports for years gone by. The internet is wonderful! So, every day in my story has the correct weather and for the bombings the correct phases of the moon, and every bomb mentioned was dropped at the right time in the correct weather conditions. When writing about the bombing of Berlin, I listened to a really harrowing recording I found on YouTube of an Allied bombing raid, actually recorded in the cockpit of a Lancaster bomber as it flew from England to drop its bombs over Berlin. I found it terrifying, chilling, nauseating … words can’t describe how I felt as I listened to it. War is so terrible. It affected me for days.
Some of the accounts you must have read in order to illustrate what the characters in the book went through in the prison camps must have been very difficult to read. How did you cope with this?
It was very difficult. Sometimes I felt so sickened by what I read that I felt I couldn’t carry on with the research, especially when I came to the detailed research about Auschwitz. I suppose the way I coped with it was always to try to find the good people amidst the despair and horror of it all – the Jewish prisoner doctors who worked tirelessly to help their fellow prisoners and the few SS who tried to help people get on the transports out of the camp. Alongside the many accounts of inhumanity and degradation that I read, there were many stories of bravery and selflessness to counterbalance the despair that I sometimes felt. I tried to concentrate on the uplifting and nourishing stories of people who risked their lives to protect others, rather than on the stories of inhumanity. Many, many people collaborated with the Nazis, but there were also many in Germany who actively assisted victims by purchasing food for households to whom shops were closed, providing false identity papers for those at risk of arrest, and sheltering those who evaded capture. I hope that A Berlin Love Song ends with a message of hope.
Nazi Propaganda posters encouraging young people to join the Hitler Youth
Did you have the opportunity to speak with members of Hitler Youth and Romani survivors?
My father had a close friend, Pastor Knott, a German Lutheran pastor who he met after the war. My father got to know him when they were working together in Coventry on a post-war reconciliation project. Pastor Knott had been forced to join the Hitler Youth as a boy. His family were anti-Nazi but it was the law in Germany at that time that you had to join up. Your parents could be sent to concentration camps if you didn’t and children who didn’t join could be sent to orphanages. Pastor Knott spoke a lot about this when I was younger and I remember him well. When I was writing A Berlin Love Song I wished he’d still been alive for me to ask questions, but I did find a wonderful TV programme online about the HY and there were lots of old men talking about life in the HY, so I listened carefully to their interviews and took notes, and some of my dialogue and descriptions were inspired by these interviews.
I also read all the first-hand accounts of the war by Romanies that I could find, but I couldn’t find any living ones to speak to. The problem is that people who were teenagers in the war are now very old or will have already died. Also, I’d have needed to find them in Germany and I couldn’t manage that. However, I did find about 4 hours of recorded interviews with Dina Gottliebova, the Czech Jewish artist who worked in the Zigeunerlager – the Gypsy Family camp in Auschwitz. She was forced to paint portraits of the Roma for Dr Mengele for his book on genetic research. She was an old lady in the recordings but she spoke so vividly about her memories of the Roma and the Romanies she had known and painted that they came alive in my imagination. She was the most amazing, lovely, generous hearted woman, and the relationship she had with Lili in the novel was inspired by these interviews that I watched.
I also knew two Auschwitz survivors very well indeed. The mother of my best friend at university was a Polish Catholic intellectual who’d been in the Resistance and had come to England after the war. She was terribly badly affected by her experiences in Auschwitz. She suffered from serious depression for the rest of her life. Our next-door neighbours when I was a child growing up had also experienced life in a concentration camp. They were German Jewish refugees and Mr Adler had been in Auschwitz too. They were great friends of my parents. He was a very skilled dentist. It had a profound effect on me as a child – seeing a proud professional man with his own business cry when he talked about his experiences during the war.
We’ll be back next Monday with part III, and please do book your free place for our event with Sarah, link at the top.