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John Lake (Leeds, UK)

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Stickleback
Stickleback
by Mark Connors
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cackleback, 2 Mar. 2016
This review is from: Stickleback (Paperback)
Though far removed in tone, Stickleback has all the pathos of Emma Healey’s Elizabeth is Missing in its first-person-narrative depiction of mental health issues. Alan, the protagonist, “a young 68” and institutionalized, an ardent Black Sabbath fan always clad in shades and a leather jacket, is a rebel from the same mould as McMurphy in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and his foul-mouthed, ribald protest against the system is packed with great one-liners that had me cackling. But it’s his seemingly insurmountable quest to reconnect with Cassandra, “the one that got away”, that gives this angry, funny and moving novel its real heart, the message that, however hard it is to live in this world, hope will always survive. Connors is the P.G. Wodehouse of the lower classes, every sentence an elegant expression of comic vulgarity. (NB: I commissioned this novel for publication. The foregone is just my opinion.)


Reliability of Rope
Reliability of Rope
by Samantha Priestley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.01

5.0 out of 5 stars It's Bound to be Good, 28 Jun. 2015
This review is from: Reliability of Rope (Paperback)
First, I should declare my interest in this book as I chose it for publication.

This intriguingly titled psychological thriller opens with a young woman gatecrashing a funeral on an invitation sent to the wrong person. Why she does this and her connection to the other mourners gradually generates a tale of skeletons in the family closet and discloses a network of people complicit in each other's guilt. The lower-middle-class gentility of Lyme Regis makes an appositely deceptive backdrop for a tale that gets darker as it gets more complex. Ultimately, what I love about this book is the scope of the journey, from a moment of almost idle curiosity to a string of dramatic payoffs, each more satisfying than the last, keeping the reader in suspense till the final page.


In All Beginnings
In All Beginnings
by Ray Brown
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars GB84 Revisited, 20 May 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: In All Beginnings (Paperback)
WARNING: I have to own up to a vested interest in this book as I selected it for publication.

Ray Brown's novel In All Beginnings centres on the 1984-5 Miners' Strike in Britain and the unlikely bond between the strikers and the CND movement, represented by the feminist protesters at Greenham Common airforce base. By the author's admission it's very autobiographical. Ray is a lifelong member of the Labour Party and I remember picketing alongside him myself at Ledston Luck colliery all those years ago. What appealed to me was the fine quality of the writing, particularly on relationships between men and women, the vivid descriptions of the chaos of facing off against the police in demos, and the hilarious comic depictions of what went on at Party meetings, delivered with a lightness of touch that nicely underplays the weightiness of the subject. On a deeper note it's also a recall to a form of unified political action that we don't see enough of in the highly fragmented Britain of the twenty-first century. Added literary interest is provided by postmodernist shifts in narrative as the book moves to a soul-searching conclusion.


Last Seen In Bangkok
Last Seen In Bangkok
by Dominic Lavin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.26

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Yeah Siam, 20 July 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Last Seen In Bangkok (Paperback)
I expected Last Seen in Bangkok to be a thriller, and there is an element of that, but it's more the tale of two Bolton lads' odyssey through the fleshpots of Thailand and the lead character's quest to secure his own private version of paradise on earth. Lavin guides us from Bangkok to Bolton and Koh Samui to Kho Pha Ngan in prose that pays documentary-like attention to detail, while the dialogue bristles with more sexual euphemisms than you can shake a stick at, plus some great one-liners, my favourite being, `If you fell in a bucket of s***e you'd come up with a penny in your mouth.' But it's Pattaya, the epicentre of Thailand's sex-tourism trade, that occupies the heart of the book. Lavin's encyclopedic descriptions of the bars, boozing and brasses bring the atmosphere of the resort to unnerving life, and though much of the novel simply depicts the daily drudgery of getting totally hammered then totally something-elsed, there is a strange compulsion to read on. All in all, Lavin's sex saga is a notable addition to the canon of laddish literature.


UFOs and Ufology: The First 50 Years
UFOs and Ufology: The First 50 Years
by Paul Devereux
Edition: Hardcover

4.0 out of 5 stars Bringing credibility to the incredible, 30 Jan. 2011
This book was sitting on my bookshelf for over 10 years before I got round to reading it, mainly because its coffee-table format suggests it's something just to browse through and look at the pretty pictures. However, the text is actually quite meaty and well-written by authors who take themselves seriously as 'proper' researchers. Rather than coming across as enthusiastic fans or hunters of UFOs, they look at the 'UFO phenomenon' from all possibly angles, weighing up the influences of culture, history, society, psychology and mythology on ufologists of all persuasions. Those attracted to the area of study fall into several camps, such as those who subscribe to the ETH (extra-terrestrial hypothesis - largely an American strand), those who prefer psychosocial explanations (largely European, including the renowned psychologist C. J. Jung) and researchers focusing on the geophysical phenomena known as 'earth lights', associated with tectonic activity. Observations of objects in the skies, stories of alien abduction and the supposed Roswell incident, among other things, are all weighed up level-headedly and comprehensively, giving the book a fair degree of academic kudos - though not to be overlooked is the pleasure to be had from some of the whackier fantasies concocted by various individuals, including such works as as Erich von Daniken's Chariots of the Gods? and Whitley Strieber's alien-abduction memoir, Communion. Devereux and Brookesmith do well to distance themselves from the nutcases while maintaining lively interest, and it's fun to explore online how some of these strands have developed in the decade or so since this volume first appeared.


Nailed - Digital Stalking In Leeds, Yorkshire, England
Nailed - Digital Stalking In Leeds, Yorkshire, England
by Mick McCann
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Foucault in hell!, 22 Sept. 2008
Nailed
Digital Stalking in Leeds, Yorkshire, England

By Mick McCann

Mick McCann's second book is a thriller which is part fact, part fiction, so part of the enjoyment of reading it is working out where the two part company. The facts themselves are fictionalised in the sense that names have been changed (apart from Mick's), but they are also supported by links to real websites that corroborate real events, making you wonder how much of it really happened.

At the heart of the book is the arrest of McCann and his wife on suspicion of making threatening phone calls. The calls, however, were traced to a SIM card that they had either given away or had stolen five years before, a story they could not prove to the police. That's the real part. From here, events go from bad to worse as the motives of the police get murkier and the family has to face the most terrifying ordeal of them all.

The blending of fact and fiction in Nailed reminded me of Bret Easton Ellis's Lunar Park, and there are a few parallels. For instance, both explore issues of fatherhood; and where Ellis's wife is an actress, McCann's works in television. But these are by coincidence, not design. The Leeds setting of Nailed makes it a very different read from the American novel, and like the previous books from Armley Press, it takes pleasure in digging into the rich compost of the local vernacular. For thrill-seekers, there are fights and car chases along the way, but the nods to postmodernism also help bring a tense tale to a thought-provoking conclusion. A topical and timely warning about the perils of identity theft.


Focus on IELTS: Foundation Coursebook
Focus on IELTS: Foundation Coursebook
by Sue O'Connell
Edition: Paperback
Price: £31.70

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well Focused, 6 July 2007
This book is probably best used in a class, but might help self-study too. Behind the trite TEFL unit headings (`A sporting chance', `It goes with the job', `Family values', etc.) there are plenty of topics that should keep students interested, such as animal rights, the environment, architecture, smoking, the Internet and mobile phones. The text is clear, bright and attractively laid out. Photos, illustrations and diagrams all look sharp, modern and dynamic. In some course books, visuals can dominate or confuse the text. Not here. It's as easy on the patience as it is on the eye. The supplementary materials at the back are very good, including an academic word list, writing practices, and a great grammar guide.


Coming Out as a Bowie Fan in Leeds, Yorkshire, England
Coming Out as a Bowie Fan in Leeds, Yorkshire, England
by Mick McCann
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Confessions Of A Face-Pack, 13 Dec. 2006
Review of Coming Out As A Bowie Fan In Leeds, Yorkshire, England by Mick McCann (Armley Press, ISBN 0-9554699-0-2)

I worked as copy-editor on this book and would like to say that any remaining typos are the author's, not mine. That aside, it's an unusual and entertaining read, as far from the mainstream as Dave Allen is/was from Tom O'Connor. The subtitle "Memoirs Of A Punk Romantic" hints at its central premise that New Romanticism had its roots in a northern Bowie/Roxy scene in the late 70s where kids experimented with cross-dressing under the encouragement of punk.

The course of McCann's impressionistic argument takes you on an outrageous gallivant through his mind, ego and teenage past, vividly described and reassessed, romping through childhood, music, football, social class, religion, Mexican stand-offs, one-night stands, soul mates, hero worship, make-up and narcissism.

What this book delivers in shedloads is laugh-out-loud one-liners, interesting writing techniques like incorporating lists and directly addressing the reader, a cavalier attitude to "facts", some descriptive passages that would look at home in say "Cider With Rosie", lots of scathing comments on the media establishment and some genuinely moving observations about family, relationships and other important bits of life with a capital L.

It reminded me of Japanese writing, say Mishima's "Confessions Of A Mask", spiralling and closing in ever tighter circles on its true subjects. This book leaves you feeling that you've just read something different from anything else, and you don't even have to be a Bowie fan to enjoy it.


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