Sunday, 23 June 2013

The Purpose of a Man by Daniel Brevitt

I have just finished reading The Purpose of a Man and I am still wiping away a few tears. This is a sad and poignant story but it is also one of hope.

The story centres around Michael and his relationship with his brother, Robert. Robert is an alcoholic. He is also married with a small child, likes to be the centre of attention, cheats on his wife repeatedly and has ruthlessly tried to injure his brother in as many ways as he can think of, and get away with, since childhood. Their father is someone they both look up to but Robert takes it a stage further. He so desperately wants his fathers approval it is almost an obsession and a goal which ultimately makes him self destruct as an adult. He has seen Michael as the fly in the ointment of this goal and has spent a lifetime belittling him, enjoying when things go wrong for him and sharing this with their parents. At the same time, whilst trying to portray the image of success and masculinity, he ultimately leads himself to a place where he loses his wife and child, his self respect and potentially his life.

Michael, who tells the story, is initially happy with his lot. He is used to being told he is somewhat a failure and disappointment in his brother Robert's eyes but doesn't let it worry him too much until his girlfriend, Jessica, seems to confirm it. This is almost too much to bear and Michael is forced to confront his own ideals, that of his brother and of his parents to see who is right and who is wrong.

Daniel Brevitt has written a story which touches your heart and makes you care what happens to the characters. He has got it bang on about life with an alcoholic and has explored it, and the the topic of sibling rivalry, with heart, honesty and skill.

Twitter: @DanielBrevitt

Friday, 21 June 2013

Tethers by Jack Croxhall

I was really impressed with this debut YA fiction novel from Jack Croxhall. It had me hooked from the beginning and I read it in an evening.

Jack draws you in with the characters and the story, both original and well thought out. I particularly liked feisty Esther and it was fabulous to see a strong female teenager who refused to hide behind her male companion, Karl. Harland and Mr Cauldwell, the main adults of the story, treat Karl and Esther with trust and respect which was refreshing to see as I have lost count of the number of stories I have read where the adults never believe the children and put things down to their 'vivid imaginations'.

Karl and Esther are teenagers who live in a village where nothing much happens. Karl, intelligent and resourceful, is destined to become a teacher at the village school and Esther to work with her parents at their pub. That is until a chance encounter leads them to overhear a threat against a fellow villager and they find a notebook stating they were together at a village neither of them had ever visited or heard of.

There are several positive messages for teenagers in this book and I rather liked that about it too. Although the characters are strong, positive, resourceful and brave, they are also unafraid to break the rules a bit and it makes them easy to warm to and very believable. I thought the Victorian setting worked well for this novel, the characters had to walk to places, use a canal boat etc and it made for an interesting twist when it took hours or sometimes days to get to places which we would consider nearby by today's standards. 

The first of a trilogy, this novel is well written, fresh and absorbing. A great first novel! 

Twitter: @JackCroxhall

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Writing for the BBC

All this listening to radio led me back to the BBC Writer's Room website:

This was a place I used to visit regularly when I had more time. I noticed they have changed their submissions policy and now only accept unsolicited scripts at certain times of the year. The website also contains projects the BBC are involved in, opportunities for the writer new and experienced. If you think you can write a ten minute play containing a life changing event or transition then why not enter Little Pieces of Gold? The chosen plays will be given a director and cast and performed at the Park Theatre in London on 30th September. You have until 15th August this year to get your entry in and details can be found here:

There are also scripts from well known BBC programmes etc to download, to give you a feel of what is required, as well as templates to set your work to BBC standard and guidance for submissions. All you need to do is decide what you are going to write about ;)

Getting Back to Radio

Just lately I have been listening to a lot of BBC Radio drama and have been surprised at the gems I have found.

The 7th Dimension, broadcast daily at 6.30pm on Radio Four Extra is a personal favourite and I have just finished listening to an unabridged reading of John Wyndham's Day of the Triffids. These half hour chunks were read by Roger May who has a fabulous way with his voice, projecting male, female, young and old with ease and skill.

I also came across some horror stories on BBC iPlayer. 'Troll' by Ed Harris (an Afternoon Drama on Radio Four) is a particularly good adult fairytale worthy of a listen. As is the latest from Fear on Four's The Man in Black called 'Hellhound on my Trail', (currently available on Radio Four Extra). 'Hellhound on my Trail' was slightly unnerving, particularly when the character's anxiety and panic reached fever pitch near the end...the hairs on the back of my neck actually rose at the actor's screams of fear. Good stuff!

In the Romance and Relationship's section you will find the Love Stories series on BBC Four which are 15 minutes long and written by well known authors. I really like Freya North's Fish and Chips, a tale of a woman who goes to see her inheritance, left by an Uncle she never liked, and is deeply affected by what she finds.

I admit I still love having stories read to me and it makes the most mundane task go so much quicker!

Road to Rouen by Ben Hatch

Ben and Dinah Hatch take their two children Phoebe and Charlie on another of their epic road trips with the usual chaos along the way...well, before they have even left actually because Ben has had an idea about packing the car up which is Baldrick cunning in its simplicity...

This time they are powering around France and finding out that, despite the rumours, the baguette is a rare commodity which you have to move quickly to pin down before the shop closes again. The children behave impeccably, unless there's an audience, in which case the French have no problem with telling them to hush, much to the embarrassment of their parents. Typical family outing then!

The book contains some personal memories of Ben's earlier life which are touching. He is also brutally honest about his behaviour when he receives some bad news and decides to beggar off over the border to Spain, leaving Dinah and the children to it while he contemplates the situation.

There are several hilarious incidents but my favourite has to be when Ben decides it would be a good idea to pop out of the car on the highway and take photos whilst the lights are red, only to still be outside when the lights turn green and the surrounding drivers are getting cross. Dinah (driven by the embarrassment of what people think which us Brits do so well) can stand it no longer and decides to take matters into her own hands. Despite not having driven the whole trip, she jumps into the drivers seat, screams at Ben to get in and obliviously heads off towards the Arc De Triomphe, the worst roundabout in France, where it's a free for all dodging death drive for foreigners and sometimes even the French themselves. I felt her pain, I could see her bug eyed expression, but it was very funny too.

What I like about Ben's writing is the way he draws you in and it feels as if you are actually (squashed) in the boot of the car, hearing it all happening but feeling as if perhaps you should go and forage for bread and give them some privacy.

The next trip is planned already and this time they are all off to explore Italy...might ask if there is room in the boot ;)

Twitter: @BenHatch

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Three Things by Randall Grange

This book is a strange one, but I rather like that about it.

It says at the end that it is a work of fiction but I am not so sure because this teenage girl speaks directly to you. She rambles, she changes direction, she jumps back and forward with the story and puts random blocks of memory on the page to share with you. She shares memories of rehab and how she got there and explores memories of (quite horrific in places) events with a shrug of the shoulders and a touch of humour.

As a work of fiction, Randall Grange has got inside the head of her character with skill and honesty and has 'lived' her character's life whilst writing this book. It's raw emotion and I cried, smiled and wished I could give her character a hug. 

Randall's description of growing up in a somewhat dysfunctional family and the impact it had on her was a tough read emotionally in places but the realness made it feel as if it were just you and her, sitting in a room, while she told you with brutal honesty just how bad things can get before a corner needs to be turned.

It's different and won't be to everyone's taste but I was impressed by this. Very moving and I liked the style it was written in because I thought it worked very well.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Forever and Ever, Amen by Liv Rancourt

Molly is a single mum who struggling to survive emotionally with two teenage children and an ex husband she really wants to forget but can't because, well, he still reaches the parts that matter. Trouble is behind those gorgeous eyes there lurks a cheating, arrogant man who wants to play the field with younger models and it's really time to move on! Molly has a girls night out and wakes the next morning with a hangover, no idea what happened and the mother of all love bites on her neck.

Did she? Didn't she? She doesn't know but, when she sees a man reflected in her bedroom mirror, she sort of accepts it as an indication of how the week is panning out. When the man in the mirror turns out to be an angel and tells her the love bite is actually a demon's mark and she now has to face three difficult trials to make it go away, she wonders if she is losing the plot.

I loved the humour in this book and enjoyed the character of Molly in particular. I could imagine her standing there, watching it all unfold and shrugging her shoulders as she accepted it all as just another part of the sod's law of life. Well written and an easy read, this book is one for the girl on holiday. Fabulous.

Twitter: @LivRancourt