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We're still having horrendous weather - yesterday we went from sunshine and rainbows, to hail, snow, rain, and sleet.Which was not a lot of fun, particularly the drive home through the sleet.

However, the evening was a lot of fun. I went into Bath, to Toppings Book Shop, for an evening with M.R. Carey (Mike Carey) who was there to promote and read from his new novel 'The Girl With All The Gifts'

I've enjoyed all of Mike's previous work which I've read: The Lucifer and The Unwritten series' of graphic Novels, the Felix Castor novels, The City of Silk and Steel novel written with his wife and daughter, so it was pretty much a given that I would be buying this book.. I bought my copy when I picked up my tickets for the event, so I'd read about a third of it before this event.
Mike started by reading from the beginning of the book, introducing us to Melanie, a very unusual little girl, living in a very unusual situation.

After the reading Mike did a Q and A session, explaining, among other things, that the novel has its roots in a short story called 'Iphigenia in Aulis' which was written for an anthology (An Apple for the Creature) - but no two people agree on how to pronounce 'Iphigenia', and anyway the story turned out to be more about Pandora than Iphigenia.

Also there will be a 6th Felix Castor novel, but this needed to be written first.

We finished off with a shorter,  second reading, then Mike signed books and chatted to us, which was fun.

Since Thursday I have finished reading the book. Its very, very good. I don't want to give any spoilers, so won't provide a detailed review -but will say that it far from being your average horror novel - it is as much about the relationship between the 5 major characters, and their individual characters and histories as it is about the apocalyptic world in which it is set.  If you like your horror thoughtful and thought-provoking, and if you enjoyed 'Let the Right One In', then I think you will enjoy this one.

As an added bonus, I was able to meet up with @TazorTam at the event, and we moved on from toppings to The Raven for a drink and a catch up, after the event, which rounded off a very enjoyable evening beautifully.
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My friend Cheryl is at Finncon this week, so she offered me her ticket to see Alastair Reynolds at Toppings in Bath, on Tuesday night.
He was there to celebrate the launch of his Doctor Who novel, 'Harvest of Time'

I've heard Alastair speak before, at BristolCon, so I wasn't surprised to find that he was entertaining and very approachable.DSC08388

The novel features the Third Doctor (as played by Jon Pertwee), his companion Jo Grant, and The Master, and Al  explained that he had jumped at the opportunity to write a Doctor who novel, and was delighted to find that no-one had yet 'bagged' the 3rd Doctor!

Alastair read a short extract from the book, then spoke a little about it before reading a second extract, and taking questions.

He confirmed that he'd love the opportunity to write an episode for Who, were it to be offered, and that he did try to make the hard science - the helicopters and oil rigs, realistic.

There was a slight disturbance as a drunk tried to get into the shot while Alastair was reading, but other than that it was a fun evening, and I got the impression that it was fun or Al as well as for the audience.
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I've posted before about how lucky we are to have two wonderful independent bookshops in Bath, both of which hold regular author events.

This week I went to another event at Toppings - it was just a smidgen smaller that the last one - I would guess that there were between 40 and 50 people there.

The author in question was Melvyn Bragg (Lord Bragg) - I think he is probably best known as a broadcaster, but he's also written both fiction and non-fiction. I enjoyed his The Adventure of English, which was both a TV series and a book, and I've read some of his other work, and enjoyed other documentaries he's been involved in, so I was interested to see he was coming to Bath.

He was here to promote his new novel, Grace and Mary, which is  based on a re-imagining of the lives of two women who are based on his own mother (who died recently, after suffering dementia) and her mother.

He spoke at some length about his mother and grandmother - he only met his grandmother a few times in his life, and only learned she was his grandmother when he was leaving home, as his mother was illegitimate, and was either adopted or fostered.

He spoke eloquently about the relationship he had with his mother, particularly in her final years, when she had memories of the past, but not of the present.

He made clear that although the key characters in the book are based on his family, it is not a memoir. He commented "a [person writing]a memoir has a responsibility for accuracy. Fiction has a responsibility for truth" and also "I prefer mis-remembering to remembering. It's more interesting"

Bragg also talked about writing, and his writing in particular. "I would never describe writing as hard work because I was brought up with people who really did work hard!" and that he had not, in the past, found writing autobiographical fiction cathartic - indeed, he said, it had left him unable to write fiction at all for some years, but this story he felt needed to be written.  It was a very personal talk - and this is obviously a very personal novel.

The short readings he gave made the book sound interesting, so I bought a copy, although I hadn't originally planned to. I shall see how it goes.

An interesting evening.
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I've written before about the nice people at Topping and Co Bookshop, and the events they organise - there was another one today - they had invited Rupert Everett along (to publicise the new volume of his autobiography, Vanished Years)

I've enjoyed seeing his work on screen, and I had, several months ago, booked to see him in 'The Judas Kiss', at the Theatre Royal, so the opportunity to meet him and hear about the book was too good to pass up!

When I bought my ticket, the event was going to be 'coffee and cake' at the bookshop, but it was obviously more popular than originally expected, as it was moved to the Forum's 'ballroom', which sadly also meant no coffee or cake (never mind. I still have lots of lovely, rich chocolate brownies made for me by my equally lovely (if less chocolatey) brother).

Everett was interviewed by (presumably)someone from the shop, and talked about Noel Coward, playing female roles while at his (all boys) school, and deciding he wanted to grown up to be an actress, and his unnerving experience appearing on the celebrity version of 'The Apprentice' - apparently he'd never seen the programme so didn't know what to expect, and started out deeply confused, having mistaken Alan Sugar for Sid James (which is impressive, as Sid James is dead) and then the horror began, as he found himself on a team with Alistair Campbell, Ross Kemp and Piers Morgan "I felt as if I'd fallen into Hell".

On a more serious note, he spoke about his father's death, the excellent care he had received, and his own assumption that he would die alone and uncared for, on account of not having a wife(!)

He was very complimentary about the Theatre Royal in Bath, and its acoustics, and very rude about journalists (with particular reference to a journalist who quoted him out of context, following Michael Jackson's death, resulting in his receiving death threats.)

In answer to questions from the floor, he said that his ambition is to be able to get the rights to,and produce a TV series of, Greene's 'Travels with my Aunt' ,that he always uses stunt doubles where appropriate, and that he is still insecure about finding work.

Rupert Everett, Bath
He was very entertaining, witty and self-deprecating, and was then chatty and friendly as he signed books for people after the interview.

I had fun. Even without the coffee or cakes.
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Since I signed up for Toppings of Bath's mailing list, I keep getting invitations to see all sorts of interesting people.

On Tuesday evening I went to the Assembly Rooms, in Bath, to see David Mitchell. I haven't been to the Assembly Rooms for years, and I had forgotten what an impressive set of rooms they are. We were in the ballroom. It does make one feel that one ought to be wearing an empire line dress and carrying a reticule, ready to exchange witticisms with Captain Wentworth or Mr Darcy. However, no dashing Regency gentlemen were to be seen, so we all settled down to wait to hear from Mr Mitchell.

He started by explaining that he is not David Mitchell the novelist, author of 'Cloud Atlas', and asked whether anyone had attended by mistake (one person admitted to having done so)...

This David Mitchell is the comedian - I am mostly familiar with him for being one half of 'That Mitchell and Webb Look' (one of my favourites is here). He has now written his autobiography, Back Story, and read several passages from it, in the course of an interview.

It's probably not a surprise to hear that it is funny...

David explained that he had been going to write a misery memoir, but didn't really have any terrible traumatic childhood experiences to base one on (except for the lobster incident, obviously..)

He read passages from the book about the lobster incident, about his school and about his early experiences as an actor, before answering questions from the audience.

I think the book will be well worth reading, and of course you can also read David's weekly columns in the Observer newspaper.
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This is a little out of order, as I had forgotten I'd not had time to blog it immediately after the event!
Last Wednesday saw me headed in Bath, to St Michael's Church (St Michael Waitrose, as it tends to be known, due to it's location) in order to hear George RR Martin speak.

George was visiting prior to his appearance as Guest of Honour at EasterCon, and clearly also has a lot of fans in or around Bath!

They had wedged in all the chairs the church could possibly hold, and they were, soon, all full. I managed to find seats for myself and Cheryl near the front, and settled in to wait.

This being a Toppings event in a church, the evening began with the obligatory slightly uncomfortable prayer. This time, the vicar (I think a different one from last time) was a little more aware of the fact that not everyone in the building was necessarily christian, or religious, which I suppose is progress.

Then the meat of the evening! The first half of the evening was George being interviewed, with the second part being a short QandA and a short reading from the newest, and as yet unpublished, book.

George started by taking a little about his childhood, and how he started out making up stories about feuds and intrigues amoug his pet turtles (partly to explain why they so frequently died), then later discovered fiction, and in particular science fiction and fantasy, and Tolkien.

He moved on to speaking about his books, and his inspiration - he explained that he reads historical fiction and popular history, and that he became frustrated that in so many fantasy novels, writers take a quasi-medieval setting, but import 20th C American characters and attitudes, where peasants can give kings a good talking too. He wanted to make fantasy more realistic. He also explained that he is inspired by real events and places - for instance, a visit to Hadrian's Wall led him to consider how much more impressive the wall would be, if it were much, much taller, and made of ice...

In the QandA he revealed that he had a cameo role in the pilot episode of the TV series, (wearing an enormous hat) but the footage wasn't used, as a different actor was cast for the full series. And that he wanted to be a severed head on the wall, but apparently making severed heads of actual people is expensive..
He also talked about killing characters. He said that it was always difficult. He also pointed out that Joe Abercrombie, who, he said, "makes [me] look like Mary Poppins" was in the audience!

It was a fascinating evening. As we were seated near the front I was able to queue to get a book signed without having to wait for too long (and it would have been a very long wait).
marjorie73: (Default)

Last night I went to Bath again, this time it was to see Michael Wood, who was there to talk about his recent TV series and the book which accompanies it,'The Story of England' 

But before I got to that part of the evening I had time for a quick visit  to Mr B's bookshop which is a very nice bookshop (with free coffee & comfy  chairs upstairs, which I didn't have time to enjoy this time round) and a wall papered with pages from Tintin, which I rather enjoyed.

 I then had to spend a couple of hours on a work related course, and had just time to grab some mediocre chinese food (and all-you-can-eat buffet is your friend when you only have 20 minutes in which to eat) before heading to St Michael's church, where Mr Wood's event was taking place.

I have to thank Cheryl again, who not only spotted that this event (and Monday's, with Iain M Bnks) was on, but also booked the tickets and got to the church first and saved me a seat.

Mr. Wood was talking about The Story of England, and it was fascinating. The premise is that he set out to look at the history of England (and he was careful to note that it was just England, not Britain) by looking at a single town.

The one he picked is Kibworth in Leicestershire. It was picked because it is (geographically) central, and broadly on the border between the part of England which was under Danelaw, and that part which was Anglo-Saxon , but mainly because it has excellent written records - one half of the village was bought by Merton College, Oxford, so there are 750 years worth of written records. The parish is made up of 2 distinct villages - Kibworth Beauchamp (the posh bit) and Kibworth Harcourt (the poor bit)

The aim was to look at the history and development of the villages from the perspective of the community - bottom-up, not top-down, history.

The two halves of the parish are very different - they have different entrances to the church, and the Vctorian rector recorded that when a sewage system was being mooted, the villages wanted separate systems, so thast the effluvia from Kibworth Beauchamp was not contaminated by that of Kibworth Harcourt.... (and in case you think tht's a one off, Michael recalled hearing a discussion in a cambridgeshire village, when it was proposed that 2 neighbouring parishes should be combined, due to declining congregations. One parishioner, entirely seriously, and wholly outraged , exclamed "We are not almagamating with them. They were Parliamentarians!" It's understandable, I suppose. After all, its only 350 years since the civil war...

In Kibworth, the social divisions certainly went back as far as Domesday book (there were fewer slaves and  villeins in Kinworth Beauchamp than in Kibworth Harcourt) and possibly longer - Michael had a theory that it may do, and that the names of the fields were anglo-saxon in one area, and celtic in another.

The project not only involved looking at the history of the community, but also involving the community in the research - they dug 55 test pits all over the parish, (including one in the pub car park where they found a fragment of an Anglo-Saxon  bone comb)

The village lost 2/3 of its population in the Black Death. The quality of the records mean that it is possible to trace 15 generations of peasant families.

The series (and book) go right up to the present day. I have not yet seen all of the episodes but I'm looking forward to seeing the rest, and to reading the book.

After his talk, Michael signed books, and was very friendly  and chatty.

A most enjoyable evening.


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