Thursday, 30 December 2010

The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg

On top of trying to establish a new business, not easy in the current climate, and studying for a business related exam, reading has been somewhat on the back burner. Of course, Christmas has been a very busy time too, if extremely enjoyable.

So a quick update. I have been struggling to find time to really sit down and get stuck into a good book. I am currently reading The Ice Princess by Camilla Lackberg. I'm not going to say much at this stage except that I am a quarter of the way through and feel I am still in the introduction. It doesn't have that dark, brooding Scandinavian atmosphere of Mankell or Nesbo but maybe I need to put time aside to just get cracking on it.

Once done I intend to do a full review.

Hope you're having a happy Christmas and as I probably won't blog again this year, wish you and yours a happy and prosperous New Year.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Blog Recommendation: The Blog of the Cosmic Griffin

If you are into science fiction, old time radio, cult TV and fantasy I can suggest a visit to The Blog of the Cosmic Griffin.

I'm into cult TV and radio and this blog looks like being a good one. It's new, begun this month, but looks good and has great content. The current post is a review of the 1997 sci-fi film Gattaca. In fact I'm off to buy the film, the review has tempted me!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Book Review: The Budapest Protocol by Adam LeBor

It sounded promising. The Nazis lost the war, but what if they had put in place the economic and business tools to later revive their fortunes and create the Fourth Reich decades later?

One for the conspiracy theorists, who I fear may take it literally, as the European Union is the vehicle used to implement their dastardly plan. Hungary and the other Eastern European members of the EU are at the heart of the conspiracy with plots to wipe out the Romany population and frequent mention of the Jewish situation.

Of course the book requires a hero to save the day. Step forward Alex, a journalist dealing with the stress of his harrowing experience as a war correspondent in the former Yugoslavia. Alex is part Hungarian, part Jewish, part English, and the the link to the past, when the Nazis met in Budapest to plot their post-WW II rise to power, is his grandfather who just happened to be a waiter in the hotel where the meeting took place. The way Alex stumbles across his grandfather's notes, that lead to his attempt to save Europe is as unconvincing as the characters, the plot and the whole course of events portrayed in the book.

It's as if a 10 year old has been let loose on a word processor, a not very imaginative 10 year old at that. After ploughing on through the book I still have no sympathy for Alex, Natasha or any of the other characters portrayed in it. Any breakthroughs in trying to break the conspiracy seem to happen by accident, as they would in the imagination of a 10 year old. The discovery of a 'smart drug' that only sterilises Romany women, no others, stretches credibility that bit too far and typifies the simplistic writing that ruins a good idea.

When one of the minor characters manages to get hundreds of thousands of demonstrators onto the streets, with an armoured tractor and the means to overthrow the corrupt government by making a few mobile phone calls, you know that the proportion of your life spent reading this book has been wasted.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Writing a Sit-Com-Lee Mack

Thinking of writing a sit-com? Here's an interesting interview with comedian Lee Mack:

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

The Lion and Albert

My Uncle Albert used to recite this poem/monologue at parties, when the grown ups had all had few bottles of brown ale or advocaat and we kids were on orange squash.

It was written by Marriott Edgar in 1932 and made famous by Stanley Holloway, and my Uncle Albert.

There's a famous seaside place called Blackpool,
That's noted for fresh air and fun,
And Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom
Went there with young Albert, their son.

A grand little lad was young Albert,
All dressed in his best; quite a swell
With a stick with an 'orse's 'ead 'andle,
The finest that Woolworth could sell.

They didn't think much to the Ocean:
The waves, they was fiddlin' and small,
There was no wrecks and nobody drownded,
Fact, nothing to laugh at at all.

So, seeking for further amusement,
They paid and went into the Zoo,
Where they'd Lions and Tigers and Camels,
And old ale and sandwiches too.

There were one great big Lion called Wallace;
His nose were all covered with scars -
He lay in a somnolent posture,
With the side of his face on the bars.

Now Albert had heard about Lions,
How they was ferocious and wild -
To see Wallace lying so peaceful,
Well, it didn't seem right to the child.

So straightway the brave little feller,
Not showing a morsel of fear,
Took his stick with its 'orse's 'ead 'andle
And pushed it in Wallace's ear.

You could see that the Lion didn't like it,
For giving a kind of a roll,
He pulled Albert inside the cage with 'im,
And swallowed the little lad 'ole.

Then Pa, who had seen the occurrence,
And didn't know what to do next,
Said 'Mother! Yon Lion's 'et Albert',
And Mother said 'Ee, I am vexed!'

Then Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom -
Quite rightly, when all's said and done, -
Complained to the Animal Keeper
That the Lion had eaten their son.

The keeper was quite nice about it;
He said 'What a nasty mishap.
Are you sure that it's your boy he's eaten?'
Pa said 'Am I sure? There's his cap!'

The manager had to be sent for,
He came and said 'What's to do?'
Pa said 'Yon Lion's 'et Albert,
And 'im in his Sunday clothes, too.'

Then Mother said, 'Right's right, young feller,
I think it's a shame and a sin
For a lion to go and eat Albert,
And after we've paid to come in.'

The manager wanted no trouble,
He took out his purse right away,
Saying 'How much to settle the matter?'
And Pa said 'What do you usually pay?'

But Mother had turned a bit awkward
When she thought where her Albert had gone.
She said 'No! someone's got to be summonsed'-
So that was decided upon.

Then off they went to the P'lice Station,
In front of the Magistrate chap;
They told 'im what happened to Albert,
And proved it by showing his cap.

The Magistrate gave his opinion
That no one was really to blame,
And he said that he hoped the Ramsbottoms
Would have further sons to their name.

At that Mother got proper blazing,
'And thank you, sir, kindly,' said she.
'What, waste all our lives raising children
To feed ruddy Lions? Not me!'

The Budapest Protocol by Adam LeBor

At work yesterday a chap came in looking at books and mentioned The Budapest Protocol by Adam LeBor.

In a nutshell it's a thriller, based on released US intelligence reports, about the growth of the far-right in Hungary and the unsavoury roots of the European Union. To read a full synopsis please click on the link above which will take you to LeBor's website.

I look forward to the book arriving and will be doing a review when I've read it.

Monday, 27 September 2010

Book Review: Jerusalem by Patrick Neate

I can't remember the last time I started a book but couldn't be bothered to finish it. Jerusalem changed all that. I managed to get to page 235, but couldn't bear to read another page.

'The most thought provoking novel of the year. An utterly essential read' says Irvine Welsh on the front cover. Only if you've been snorting something or smoking something you shouldn't.

It tries to be a clever book, jumping from the Boer War to a bling covered moron of the talentless and vulgar modern media times, then to a tinpot African dictatorship. I failed to follow the connections so the book just seemed to inexplicably jump from theme to theme.

The characters are shallow, cliched and generate no warmth or sympathy. A bit of depth in the characters may have gone some way to redeeming the book, but they are as unconvincing as the plot(s).

Ultimately I think it was meant to be an attack on capitalism and our Imperial past. But it failed misersably.

Please don't waste your time, life's too short.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Book Review: One Day by David Nicholls

David Nicholls is an extremely entertaining writer of 'modern classics', including the hit TV series Cold Feet. This book is a must if you enjoy moving tales of modern life. In some ways Nicholls is a much lighter Patrick Hamilton for the twenty-first century.

One Day is the story of Dexter and Emma in the years following their graduation celebration. What are they doing on the anniversary of their graduation in the years that follow? The book humourously, and movingly, tells the story of their lives and loves as they keep in touch, then lose touch, then get back in touch with each other.

The atmosphere shifts from the 1980s, into the 1990s and then the 2000s seamlessly and skilfully, the sign of a truly great writer. The pages will have you laughing then moved almost to tears as their lives, loves, mistakes and disasters unfold.

Dexter can be a clown, but always manages to redeem himself and maintain your sympathy. Emma is the down to earth sensible Northern woman with a strong romantic alter ego, she invariably saves Dexter over the years.

As their university friends eventually settle down to married life, Dexter's life falls apart slowly and painfully. Emma's life is more stable but she still yearns for someone else. Where will their friendship lead?

This book really is a must.

Thursday, 29 July 2010

Book Review-Cultural Revolution and Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, by Sean Gabb (Hampden Press, London, 2007)

I wrote the following review some time ago but a colleague has just been extolling the virtues of the book so, as it seems to have been reprinted, here we go again:

Sean Gabb is Director of the Libertarian Alliance and an economist who advocates the closure of economics departments in our universities. He has had more than a million words published and is a broadcaster as well as a writer.

His new book is not the run-of-the-mill attack on political correctness that many writers indulge in; he does not merely recycle tabloid headlines, but goes deep into the heart of the political revolution known as “political correctness” that is destroying our country. He then outlines his manifesto for counter-revolution, the cornerstone of which is unilateral withdrawal from the European Union. The ground is covered in 105 pages with not a word wasted and in a style that is extremely readable as well as enlightening, a rare quality in an academic. His words hit the target as effectively as an English bowman on St Crispin’s Day. Be warned, Dr Gabb pulls no punches and to many his medicine will seem extreme.
Even the charity world comes under Dr Gabb’s microscope. Many charities are vehicles for politically correct revolutionaries, but too many commentators shy away from criticising these “worthy” organisations. Not Sean Gabb: “…we should reform the charity laws, so that the only organisations able to claim charitable status would be those unambiguously devoted to feeding soup to tramps and looking after foundlings.” (p15).

Reading this book en route to a UKIP Elections Committee meeting in London, I laughed out loud on the train more than once, not because it is a comedy, but at the sheer courage and honesty of Dr Gabb’s observations. He truly does say what many people only think.

The book exposes the terrible manipulation of popular culture and the media to enhance further the politically correct revolution. Dr Gabb cites the TV soap opera Eastenders and the Radio 4 soap The Archers, where any similarity to real life has been sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. In how many inner-city or rural farming communities would there be numerous same-sex, or mixed-race marriages? Furthermore, would not a single one prompt even mild criticism or objection from some locals?

The hope is expressed that once the frontiers of the state have been rolled back, newspapers such as The Guardian will close down because there will no longer be revenue from the thousands of public sector/politically correct jobs currently advertised in it that keep it afloat. A redundant Polly Toynbee would be a welcome bonus!

Dr Gabb admits that his stance on the legalisation of recreational drugs may not have the support of all, even all libertarians, but when there is an acceptance that a problem exists, and that current policies are clearly not working, then more radical solutions need to be considered. However he states quite clearly that: “It is not the business of the authorities to tell adults how to live – and especially how to behave in private” (p66). And finally, he advocates the abolition of all new criminal offences created since around 1960!

Whether you agree wholeheartedly with Sean Gabb, or agree with some of his philosophy, this book will certainly stimulate thought and discussion. It’s that time of year when it will make an excellent present for libertarian friends, or for politically correct friends whom you may wish to enrage. Either way, at £9.99 the book is extremely good value.

This, and other books by Sean Gabb, are available from:
The Hampden Press, Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, London, W1J 6HL, or via:

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Welcome to Gregg's Library

Welcome to my library, and please feel free to contribute with comment, reviews or by submitting any work you would like to be read by a wider audience than just you and your dog.

I have started listing, on the right side bar, links to writing groups. If you are involved with a group and would like it listing please let me know.

That's all for now as I am busy getting a bookselling business off the ground. All will be revealed shortly, but watch out Waterstone's!