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Cover revealed for Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh

The mesmerizing new masterpiece and final book in the bestselling Ibis trilogy from the author of Booker-shortlisted Sea of Poppies.

Flood of Fire by Amitav Ghosh

Published by John Murray 28 May 2015

It is 1839 and tension has been rapidly mounting between China and British India following the crackdown on opium smuggling by Beijing. With no resolution in sight, the colonial government declares war.

One of the vessels requisitioned for the attack, the Hind, travels eastwards from Bengal to China, sailing into the midst of the First Opium War. The turbulent voyage brings together a diverse group of travellers, each with their own agenda to pursue. Among them is Kesri Singh, a sepoy in the East India Company who leads a company of Indian sepoys; Zachary Reid, an impoverished young sailor searching for his lost love, and Shireen Modi, a determined widow en route to China to reclaim her opium-trader husband’s wealth and reputation. Flood of Fire follows a varied cast of characters from India to China, through the outbreak of the First Opium War and China’s devastating defeat, to Britain’s seizure of Hong Kong.

Flood of Fire is a thrillingly realised and richly populated novel, imbued with a wealth of historical detail, suffused with the magic of place and plotted with verve. It is a beautiful novel in its own right, and a compelling conclusion to an epic and sweeping story – it is nothing short of a masterpiece.

About the author

Amitav Ghosh was born in Calcutta in 1956. He grew up in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and India. He studied at the universities of Delhi and Oxford and published the first of eight novels, The Circle of Reason in 1986. He currently divides his time between Calcutta, Goa and Brooklyn. The first novel in the Ibis trilogy, Sea of Poppies, was shortlisted for the Man Booker prize.  @GhoshAmitav

‘A tremendous novel, and if Amitav Ghosh can sustain its brilliance in the two remaining parts, his Ibis trilogy will surely come to be regarded as one of the masterpieces of twenty-first-century fiction’ 

Literary Review on Sea of Poppies

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Gerald Wixey Book Reviews: A Boneless Kiss, Salt of Their Blood, Small Town Nocturne

A Boneless Kiss: Letters From A Dead Heart by Gerald Wixey

This enthralling mystery tale follows the path of a journalist Stuart who discovers that his former lover, Helen Mably, has gone missing in suspicious circumstances.

FBSA_Boneless_Kiss-cover-smReaders quickly discover that Helen is a complex character, who is very bright but has always been slightly off the rails and sexually promiscuous. The main thread of the book centres around her dysfunctional relationship with her father — a former police inspector called David — and her apparent desire to humiliate him and get revenge for a past event; namely, when she was sexually assaulted by three policemen at the age of 17 — a crime which her father then ‘covered up’ so as to protect her from a public court case and intrusive press.

A few months before Helen ‘disappears’, she reveals to her father the first 30 pages of a journal she has written, which hints at the assault and reveals intimate details of her many sexual encounters. Stuart then has to decide whether David is telling the truth about his reasons for keeping the assault secret or whether he has more to hide. Is it the case that the Inspector loves his police force and his colleagues more than his daughter, and will do anything to protect them? Or has Helen faked her disappearance and is simply trying to frame him?

Readers will find the book engrossing and entertaining and will enjoy the character traits developed by the author.

The telling of the back story, namely Helen’s early and adolescent life, is also excellent. Much of this revolves around her father ‘dumping’ her in a social club full of “salt of the earth” policeman, where she would play snooker in tight tops and skirts and draw the attention of the men who subsequently went on to assault her.

It also builds upon the differences between Helen and her father and how she rebels against her upbringing.

David, for instance, is described as a “stickler for rules and regulations”, a man who would always be “immaculate in his uniform, highly polished black brogues, heavily starched shirt and perfectly knotted tie”.

Helen, on the other hand, is said to be “lovely and bright”, attending a girl’s grammar school and winning a place at Cambridge, but a person who resents having her life mapped out for her.

 This rebellion frequently manifests in promiscuous behaviour, which the book highlights in many scenes, such as when she is waving the hem of her short summer dress around “like an accomplished flamenco dancer” while not wearing any knickers. She is described as both being a provocative tease and having Machiavellian flair.

Importantly, the dad daughter relationship and its early destruction is central to the book. David knows he has let Helen down and, more fundamentally, knows that she has never forgiven him. In turn, Helen has what her psychologist calls a ‘fixation’ with her father, or is it, perhaps, an obsession?

This is a dark, psychological tale of a disturbed woman seeking justice and revenge, but who only finds betrayal. It asks the question, is everyone on Helen’s side, or no one? Read it to find out.

A Boneless Kiss: Letters From A Dead Heart by Gerald Wixey is available now in Kindle format, priced £1.69. For more information, visit


Salt of Their Blood by Gerald Wixey

In this book, author Gerald Wixey delivers on what he does best: thriller mysteries,  revenge, the past catching up with the present, and a young man’s determination to find out the truth at all costs.

Salt-of-Their-BloodsmSet in small English town in the 1960s, to a backdrop of Paul Simon music, the protagonist Stuart embarks on a passionate love affair with Kathy, who is married but hopelessly in love with him.

But while this is happening, there are also two other events Stuart has to grapple with and establish the truth about.

First, there is the death of a mechanic, killed by a five-ton truck which crashes down on him in a “dreadful accident”.

A few weeks later, Stuart’s best friend disappeared — and Stuart is convinced somehow that the two events are connected.

This was 12 years ago, at the same time that Stuart’s uncle was having a tragic love affair with a lady named Shirley, Kathy’s mother-in-law.

But now, as Stuart is himself falling in love with married Kathy, a chance encounter with the dead mechanic’s wife confirms the incidents were indeed linked in some way and that all is not well.

There are further twists and turns, namely that his lover Kathy is the sister of his missing friend. Her husband is also someone Stuart has a terrible relationship with and, worse still, knows of his wife’s affair, and also a bit too much about those confusing past events. It doesn’t take long for Stuart to realise his liaison is more dangerous than he thinks.

There is no doubt that Salt of Their Blood is a gripping page turner, with enough blood, guts, mystery and sex to keep readers captivated.  It takes a few chapters to get into it, and understand just who is related to who, how they are connected and why they’re important, but as soon as the major loose ends and characters are in place, it’s a fast, enjoyable read.

A key selling point is the prose. From the first brilliant line: “I heard someone die,” the author excels at creating mood, atmosphere and a great sense of place.

Great lines include: “The frost clung on, hard enough to bind the car park gravel into small knots,” and “A nasty wind sighed across the allotments”. He also expertly uses evocative aromas and plants —  “honeysuckle and cut grass” —  to draw the reader in.

Places are incredibly well described, as too are characters, particularly Stuart on his lazy summer holidays as a child.

Salt Of Their Blood is a great read about a dark love affair that will make readers cry, gasp out loud in surprise but mainly want to know more about what happened in that small 1960s town.

Salt Of Their Blood by Gerald Wixey (ISBN 978-1848766969) is available now, priced £7.99. For more information, visit


Small Town Nocturne by Gerald Wixey

“Small Town Nocturne” is no accidental name for this book. It’s a brilliant depiction of small-town England with corrupt council officials, affairs carried out in cheap hotel rooms, and seedy characters in positions of relative power.

Small-Town-Nocturne-smA main character, as in Wixey’s previous books A Boneless Kiss and Salt of Their Blood, is Stuart,  who has been a sexual voyeur since he was 12 when he watched his womanising uncle embark on an affair, with devastating consequences. He then developed an inquisitiveness that turned into a consuming passion for detective work and finding out what makes people tick. The politics of relationships is his idée fixe.

This leads to a confrontation with Chris Bruton, a “little weasel” of a man and responsible council leader with large department to run and a budget of millions, but who spends most of his time having an affair in a hotel, which Stuart documents.

Then there’s Rhonda, who we meet at the start of the book. She is a runaway from Wales who ends up in Reading after having enough of her stepfather abusing her. Homeless and alone, she’s picked up by Graves, a wealthy paedophile who is actually cruising the streets and stations looking for young boys.

He takes Rhonda in, “dresses her up sharp and razors her hair short (like a boy)” then uses her to help him pick-up other children, also teaching her a few other criminal tricks along the way. Rhonda is haunted by her past, and her dysfunctional relationships with men, especially her doctor, whom she sleeps with on their fourth meeting. She’s also got something of a drug habit.

The book follows the twists and turns of affairs, conspiracies, illegal property deals and men with criminal and unsavoury interests.

At times it is difficult to know which character is the worse and who we should be cheering for — but that is also part of the charm, and plot! It’s a tightly-paced thriller which builds to a fantastic but shocking denouement. Readers will love it.

Small Town Nocturne by Gerald Wixey is available now in Kindle format, priced £1.99. For more information, visit

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THE ORANGE COAT By Sarah Baldry Lovereading Review

The Orange Coat is the harrowing and often shocking story of one woman’s alleged domestic abuse nightmare, and subsequent dealings with the police — whom, she claims, grossly mishandled her case almost from start to finish.

sbfc-The-Orange-Coat-smAs the author explains in the book’s introduction, she decided to put pen to paper to share “the story of various chapters of my life” and about her “dealings with officers of the law in the UK, during a time where I felt very scared and unsafe and I feared for the safety of others too”. It is, as such, a personal and heart-felt testimony that also serves as a  form of catharsis for the writer. It goes without saying that all names in the book, save the writer’s own psychiatrist, have been changed.

As with many works within the inspirational literature genre, The Orange Coat details the many wrongs and tragedies that have befallen the author throughout her life. Sarah has suffered from depression since childhood and says that this stems from her days at boarding school when, separated from her father and brother, she was the victim of ongoing institutional punishment that would rival anything from Dickens’s novels in its cruelty. The author goes further, hinting at sexual abuse, and this sustained loneliness and suffering may help account for her hasty and ill-advised marriage at 30 to a man she had only known for seven weeks.

Sarah claims that her time with her husband was a “marriage of mind-games, manipulation and cruelty” which featured a series of inexplicable events, illnesses and injuries that plagued and perplexed her until she built up the courage to escape the relationship. She says that after leaving her husband these issues disappeared and it is only on later reflection that she began suspecting his hand in these tribulations.

More worryingly, Sarah believes that her ex-husband might have been involved in much darker and disturbing deeds. There is no definitive proof for these suspicions, but the author presents her own evidence — the discovery of a child’s orange coat and drawing hidden away in the house she shared with her ex, when they had no children of their own — and leaves it to the reader to come to their own conclusions.

To try and escape her past, Sarah — a highly successful make-up artist — moves to Dubai to start anew, and for a time finds happiness, marrying again and starting a family. But, as she relates, the spectre of her ex soon comes back to haunt her and she turns to the British police for help, fearing for her safety. The rest of the book details the alleged mishandling of her case and makes some strong and alarming accusations against the very people who are meant to be their to protect the public. The authors presents the charges as she sees them in as objective and honest a way as possible throughout, and at the end of many chapters provides commentary on the incidents she describes — with the added benefit of hindsight.

The extensive amount of time, energy and money she spent dealing with the police, both in the UK and Dubai, to try and get some form of reassurance of safety from her ex caused no end of stress and worry for Sarah, and led to both a mental collapse and the break-down of her marriage.

Sarah says that The Orange Coat is a book that she has wanted to bring out for a long time, to air her grievances in public after failing to get the recognition or response she so desperately wanted from the police.

There are no happy endings to be had and no substantial answers — but that’s not what this book is about.

Sarah Baldry has given readers a “walk in her shoes”, offering a rare and powerful insight into the hell of domestic abuse that will help inspire other victims to seek out the support they need to get through it as well.

The Orange Coat by Sarah Baldry is available from Amazon in print (and Kindle) format, priced £8.43 (£6.16). For more information visit

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By Ewan Wilson and Geoff Taylor

The disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 earlier this year shocked the world, not only over the tragic loss of life but also the bizarre circumstances surrounding it. An entire Boeing 777, for all intents and purposes, simply vanished into thin air and in doing so became a modern aviation mystery.

MH370FrontCoverHiRes_smThe notion that something so large could just disappear without a trace is both unsettling and unsatisfying. And the grip that MH370 has had on the public imagination has only deepened as more facts have emerged, such as how the communication system was disabled, how the plane evaded international radar and how it inexplicably deviated from its flight path, making a U-turn towards the India Ocean, in those last few hours before all contact was lost.

Despite a multinational search effort which now has the unenviable distinction of being the largest and most expensive in history, no trace of the ill-fated aircraft or its 239 passengers has so far been found. What has abounded, however, is a whole host of theories over the disappearance, from the possible to the downright conspiratorial and preposterous.

Goodnight Malaysian 370” is not the first book to examine the mystery, but in examining the most-likely scenarios in a thorough, systematic and logical way, it is undoubtedly the best.

This is neither a quick and cynical attempt to cash-in on one of the the hottest topics of the moment, nor a sensationalist exercise in yellow journalism. Aware that such a recent and raw tragedy could easily lead to charges of gross insensitivity, the authors clearly state at the outset that their independent investigations are motivated by respect and a drive to “pursue the truth” on the behalf of the passengers and their families, as well as he public in general, to help improve air safety and avoid another MH370 happening again.

New Zealand-based co-authors Ewan Wilson, an air accident investigator and commercial pilot, and Geoff Taylor, a celebrated broadsheet journalist, combine their expertise to present an extremely well-thought-out and compelling assessment as to the most probable cause of the plane’s loss, and the ultimate fate of its crew and passengers.

The duo conducted painstaking research prior to putting pen to paper. This included review all publicly-available official reports into the disappearance and conducting exclusive interviews with relatives of those on board, including the pilot, Zaharie Ahmad Shah, to try and get a better understanding of the man at the helm when the plane was lost.

Calling upon an industry standard and well-respected investigation analysis model developed by the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, the authors go through each of the main theories concerning the loss of MH370 on March 8th, with a process of elimination worthy of Sherlock Holmes, rejecting the impossible to pare down to the truth, however improbable that may seem — or unpalatable.

After considering all data concerning the disappearance, and taking technology, risk controls, local conditions, and psychology into account, Wilson and Taylor dismiss catastrophic technical failures, human error, military strikes, hijacking or terrorism as the root cause.

Instead, they reach the horrifying conclusion that the tragedy was man-made and, even worse, was carried out deliberately by the pilot. They posit that Zaharie Ahmad Shah was a suicidal, mentally-unstable pilot who coldly and calculatedly killed all those in his care before crashing the plane in act of “post-mortem triumph”.

Goodnight Malaysian 370 also asks some difficult questions about the role of religion in aviation-related incidents and also analyses the recent tragedy in Ukraine when Malaysian Airlines MH17 was allegedly shot down by pro-Russian separatists – an event Wilson and Taylor believe will have “significant ramifications” for the international aviation industry.

This impeccably researched non-fiction title – the first to critically examine the facts as they stand – concludes with recommendations for the aviation industry and lessons to learn from recent events.

There is no clear-cut, definitive answer as to why MH370 went missing, and until wreckage is found there probably never will be, but Goodnight Malaysian 370 provides the most rational explanation as what actually transpired during that doomed flight.

If you are one of the countless millions who have been following every twist and turn regarding the biggest mystery in the history of aviation then this book is a must-buy.

Goodnight Malaysian 370, by Ewan Wilson and Geoff Taylor, is available from Amazon UK as a Kindle eBook, priced £8.

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Take part in a Crime Thriller Club TV quiz

Crime Quiz Poster

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Book review: SIMPSON AND I: BETWEEN TWO WORLDS By Oggy Boytchev

For those interested in world history, geopolitics, and how current affairs and news is brought to our TV screens night after night, Simpson and I: Between Two Worlds is an absolute must-read. The book documents the career of journalist and BBC producer Oggy Boytchev who, since the late eighties, has worked alongside modern reporting icon John Simpson, now the BBC World Affairs Editor, throughout countless international conflicts in over 40 different countries.

Simpson&I-front_smPick any international trouble spot in recent times, and this duo were there, be it  Baghdad, Kabul, Tehran, Tripoli or Cairo during the 2011 Arab Spring.  It covers such things as drinking tea with Gaddafi’s henchmen in the days leading up to the dictator’s toppling from power, travelling through the Tora Bora caves of Afghanistan for lunch with a Taliban warlord, going undercover in Robert Mugabe’s Zimbabwe, and meeting the president of Russia.
First and foremost, this book is a real insight and record into the troubled times that have shaped our modern world. It’s an eye-witness account, covering real people, and the moments and atmosphere of events ‘as they unfold’. The book, however, also shines a spotlight on the cut-throat and highly competitive world of news gathering. Littered with astonishing revelations of how stories are discovered and reported, it highlights the courage needed to make this happen in a hostile world — both out in the field, and back in the newsroom.
Boytchev details the strain of broadcasting while knowing he and Simpson are being watched by secret police, threatened by soldiers and while tear gas and bullets are flying around them.  It also charts his own personal story, which is often just as interesting as the lives of those he is covering. The book begins with his secret and brave escape from behind Bulgaria’s Iron Curtain in 1986, fleeing to London and believing he would never see his parents again.

From there, he joined the Bulgarian stream of the BBC World Service,  working as a newsreader, before working his way up to become war reporter John Simpson’s producer and accompanying him on his global assignments to some of the world’s most dangerous countries.

As the book unfolds, we learn more of what drives Boytchev to keep putting his life at risk for the sake of a story. Largely, this is led by a desire to prove himself to his parents, who question whether he can make it in the ‘real world’. He also reveals his own thoughts on the events he documents, leaving readers with a unique eyewitness perspective. He does this through humour, excitement and also calm consideration.

Most importantly, Boytchev tries to be honest. There is no self-aggrandising in this book. It is written in a down-to-earth manner as simply a record of two people doing their jobs. Although covering weighty material, this book is never heavy-reading. It is, in fact, beautifully written, fascinating and a page turner from the start.

For anyone interested in the what happens around us and the secrets of war reporting, this story of living between two worlds will delight. Simpson & I: Between Two Worlds by Oggy Boytchev (Quartet Books) is available now, RRP £20.

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Remembrance Day Concert – Royal Albert Hall – win tickets



Remembrance Sunday – Benjamin Britten | War Requiem
9 November 2014, 3:30pm – Royal Albert Hall, London

We have a pair of stalls tickets for this magnificent performance to give away in a prize draw. To enter click here to find out more and enter the Free Prize Draw…



A landmark event amongst the 2014 First World War centenary commemorations is the Royal Choral Society’s performance of Benjamin Britten’s War Requiem on Remembrance Sunday, 9 November, at London’s Royal Albert Hall. Bringing together top-flight soloists, including star bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, and the internationally-renowned London Philharmonic Orchestra, the concert will undoubtedly be poignant and powerful. Whilst remembering those who sacrificed their lives one hundred years ago, funds raised from the concert will go to Veterans Aid, a remarkable charity providing today’s ex-servicemen and women in crisis with immediate support and with extraordinary effectiveness. The concert, organised in collaboration with The Lady R Foundation, matches music, occasion and charitable cause, making it a unique event in this centenary year.

Britten’s War Requiem, one of the most masterful artistic responses to the tragedy of war, profoundly weaves together the Latin Mass for the Dead with the poetry of Wilfred Owen, the young English war poet killed in action in the final days of the First World War. It is a work steeped with themes of the pity of war, sacrifice and remembrance, yet also an expression of hope and reconciliation. Britten, a pacifist, intended that the vocal soloists for the premiere of the work should represent the former warring countries – Russia, Germany and Great Britain. The performance on Remembrance Sunday 2014, conducted by the Royal Choral Society’s Music Director Richard Cooke, once again brings together these three nations, represented by international soloists: British bass-baritone Bryn Terfel, German tenor Stephan Rügamer and Russian soprano (and 2009 BBC Cardiff Singer of the World) Ekaterina Scherbachenko.

Bryn Terfel commented:
I’m delighted to be singing in Britten’s War Requiem to mark such a unique occasion. To sing this piece on the Remembrance Sunday of the centenary year of the outbreak of the First World War will be an historic commemoration. The First World War affected every family in the country and heralded a century of bloodshed and destruction like no other. The Royal Albert Hall is the concert venue for marking Remembrance Sunday and I’m sure that the Royal Choral Society, the London Philharmonic Orchestra and my fellow soloists will give their all to ensure that the centenary is properly marked.

We have a pair of stalls tickets for this magnificent performance to give away in a prize draw. To enter click here to find out more and enter the Free Prize Draw…

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Book Review: Billy Christ by Michael Cameron

For those who like dark, adult mystery thrillers with great twists and turns, Billy Christ is a must-read. It’s a unique, fast-paced coming-of-age page-turner, set in the turbulent 1970s and written as a fictional memoir, detailing the life of a smart boy named Billy, who believes he’s been chosen by God to be the next Christ.

BillyChrist_jktsmThe novel centers around Billy’s disturbing obsessions, mental rituals and desire to punish himself for his impure thoughts, namely by spending time in a secret clearing making sacrifices to God under the watchful gaze of his personal guardian angel. But his path from adolescence into adulthood is far from smooth. Although in some spheres of his life, he can function like a normal human being (obtaining a Cambridge degree, for instance), his route is mostly dark, twisted and—somewhat inevitably—sinful, comprising madness, sex and murder.

Bestselling author Michael Cameron has created some wonderful characters, as you would expect from someone who was a scriptwiter for hit TV shows such as The Bill and Boon. First, there’s the obnoxious gang of bullies at Billy’s Roman Catholic all-boys prep school, who form much of the backdrop. Then there’s the clergy, namely Father Rogers, who teaches Latin and Maths and has ‘perfected the art of making the boys feel terrified’.

The book also follows a girl called Diana, who causes Billy to question his own life and beliefs, and also her mother, Mrs Watson, who Billy falls in love with upon first sight and continues to fantasize about well into adulthood.

We learn about the sensible Diana through her diary entries – she is intrigued by Billy but betrays him with another boy. When she tries to make amends, however, it only makes things worse. Eventually, Diana’s mother also gets a voice through the audio tapes she makes for her psychiatrist.

Fundamentally, the book is incredibly well-written, which means that even as Billy spirals off out of control, becoming increasingly incapable of separating fantasy from reality, it is impossible for readers to not end up rooting for him or, at the very least, caring about what happens to him.

But it’s the plot that’s the real winner in this novel. Half way through, the pages turn faster and faster and by the end, you have a much clearer picture of why Billy is the way he is. Using Billy as the main, unreliable narrator helps keep you guessing until the end, and the last few pages reveal a brilliant twist that will enthral and entertain and keep you on the edge of your seat.

The pop culture references to the ’70s also add to the storyline, providing a nostalgic and familiar backdrop. In short, this is a novel filled with conflict and horrors. It’s another great read by a great writer.

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Exorcising Ghosts — the long-awaited and eagerly-anticipated autobiography by Dave Cousins, the enigmatic frontman and founder of British folk-rock band, The Strawbs — is to be published this September, distributed by Music Sales, the parent company of Omnibus Press, the world’s leading publisher of music-related books.

Dave red shirt Montreal low resThis explosive book promises to lift the lid on the highs and lows of Cousins’ celebrated 50-year music career. It charts how a working-class boy from West London came to sell out stadiums, discover Sandy Denny and Rick Wakeman; mix with iconic figures such as David Bowie, Richard Attenborough, and Dame Vera Lynn; meet royalty and gain the Pope’s blessings, and change the face of commercial radio in the UK.

Cousins details The Strawbs’ extraordinary rise from its beginnings in the revivalist folk scene of the 1960s to chart-topping success in the ‘70s after they became the first British band signed to A&M Records in Hollywood. And it reveals his struggles with music management and the impact of commercialism on his music.

For the first time, it also documents Cousins’ remarkable and little-known “parallel” career in radio and provides an insight into “machinations” that he believes destroyed community-based UK stations.

An essential read for Strawbs fans and music aficionados alike, Exorcising Ghosts explores the diverse personalities and relationships which have influenced Cousin’s songwriting, and contains a wealth of untold, ‘warts and all’ stories about his friends and collaborators, including:

• Rick Wakeman (Strawbs, Yes)

• Led Zeppelin

• David Bowie

• Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention)

• Blue Weaver (Bee Gees)

• Andy Richards (Frankie Goes to Hollywood)

Exorcising Ghosts follows the success of ‘Secrets, Stories & Songs’, an anthology of lyrics released by Cousins in 2010. It is, Cousins explains, a “document of its time, from post-war austerity to the present day”.

Cousins, who recently sailed on back-to-back rock cruises in April with the Moody Blues and with Yes, said: “I have found the experience unsettling and emotional, but cathartic at the same time. It has saved me a fortune in psychiatrists’ fees.

“I have discovered that there have been an equal number of peaks and troughs in my career. It’s been a rollercoaster ride!”

Exorcising Ghosts by Dave Cousins is due for general UK release on September 1, 2014 (Witchwood Media/Music Sales).

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Author and TV scriptwriter Michael Cameron offers a hilarious and intimate portrait of a modern, dysfunctional family living

The Brinkmeyers by Michael Cameron

BrinkmeyersCover_smThis novel by bestselling author and TV scriptwriter Michael Cameron offers a hilarious and intimate portrait of a modern, dysfunctional family living in Surrey. The protagonist, Hymie Brinkmeyer—a 50-year-old Jewish American oil tycoon who moved to England after meeting his ‘English rose’ 15 years ago—is facing something of a mid-life crisis and copes by writing a confessional blog, which forms the main basis of the book.

Although on the surface he appears to have everything (money, a nice house, nice car, golf membership), in his candid blog posts, he confesses to certain ‘blind spots’ in his life—chiefly how he no longer has sex with his wife and how he is worried about a suspicious lump in his scrotum (but it will just be a cyst, right?).

His daughter, Karen, is also a promiscuous rebel (but he still calls her by her affectionate childhood nickname, ‘Bunny,’ all the while recognising it’s “a name she seems determined to live up to”) and he is starting to develop feelings for his leather-clad secretary Colleen, who has stoically loved him for years.

Importantly, we get the sense that Hymie is a good man who has sacrificed a lot for his family, chiefly leaving America, which he still gets homesick for every Thanksgiving. He’s also sad about getting older and, fundamentally, just wants everyone he loves to be OK.

As well as Hymie’s blogs, we also learn about the family through diary posts written by daughter Karen and his wife Maggie. Although just 19, Karen already has one boy, Cleo, and another one on the way by a different father. She believes she is the “last voice of rebellion” and is determined to bring down the establishment. She’s also extremely judgmental, describing her mother a “right-wing bigot with a gin problem” and golf as a “sh*t game”. She hates men – “penises with egos attached” – and her diary entries are littered with foul language. On top of this, she’s extremely delusional, never more so than in relation to her poems, which she tries to get published.

Then there’s mum, Maggie—known as the ‘ice-queen’—who seems removed from the family’s problems (she doesn’t even visit Hymie when he’s in hospital) and is obsessed with meeting her psychiatrist for some Freudian analysis, usually at suspicious times, such as on weekends or late at night.

Perhaps this is why Kevin—their delinquent 17-year-old son busted for the possession of drugs (not that anyone will admit he has a problem)—is plotting to kill her. Or perhaps not?

With such entertainingly flawed characters, fast-paced writing and a snappy plot, this book is a page-tuner from the start. The idea of using raw and unfiltered blog posts to form the basis of the novel is a great way to give readers insight into the particular character’s feelings, view point and angst. One such example is when Hymie is discussing his sex-less marriage and calls out to his readers for help: “Can anyone tell my why!!!”

It’s also full of hilarious moments, such as when Hymie is trying to get closer to his maker through his blog, and apologises for not kneeling while typing. The confessional feel throughout the book allows us to see the ‘real’ heart of the Brinkmeyers’ problem and what’s driving them. In this way, we manage to get past our initial scorn for the characters, and get close to them, caring about their outcomes.

Not since Adrian Mole: The Prostrate Years, have we had such a comic yet heart-rendering account of a middle-aged man’s angst and his unravelling family.

Will Hymie finally address his blind spots, get a grip on life and leave Maggie for Colleen? Will Karen ever grow up? Will Kevin really go through with it? Most importantly, with their clear lack of communication, will this dysfunctional but nevertheless loveable family survive?

The Brinkmeyers by Michael Cameron is available now, published by The Other Publishing Company. Visit:

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