Friday, January 15, 2010

Can the real Ganbold, please step forward

I started off this novel, about four years ago with a selection of music that seemed to conjur up the cold and the dark and the brilliant candlelight of Anglo Saxon England. A little historical research threw up songs in Latin from the coronation ceremony of Edward the Confessor. Then there was the wealth of Gregorian Chant and a few songs that Sinead O'Connor recorded with the monks of Glenstall Abbey, which were piercingly beatuiful.

But as i sit down to but this story and these characters into their definitive shape, I'm going back to the strangest music I have, and which I picked up in a hut in Mongolia: Ganbold.

It's what I sat down to write the first pages of The Drink and Dream Teahouse to, and I guess it was part of the alchemy when my writing first began to sing itself.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Press Release, courtesy of The Viney Agency

Richard Beswick at Little, Brown has bought UK and Commonwealth rights (XC) for two books in the Conquest series by award-winning novelist Justin Hill for a substantial five figure sum.

Little, Brown will publish the first volume in 2011. Beswick said: ‘In his career Justin Hill has won an array of awards and this is his most brilliant book yet. Set against the background of the 11th century Viking and Norman invasions it is a breathtaking evocation of feudal England, as well as being full of visceral excitement’. The deal was concluded by Charlie Viney of The Viney Agency.

Justin Hill’s Passing Under Heaven (Little, Brown, 2005) won the 2006 Somerset Maugham Award, while his The Drink and Dream Teahouse (Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001) won both the 2002 Geoffrey Faber Memorial Prize and the 2002 Betty Trask Award. Ciao Asmara (Abacus, 2002) was shortlisted for the 2003 Thomas Cook Travel Book Award. Hill’s work has been translated into fourteen languages and he was listed among the top twenty young British novelists by the Independent on Sunday.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Henry Treece: Viking' Dawn

I read Henry Treece when I was a boy, and during the recent BBC Open Book feature on forgotton classics, Henry Treece got a mention, and I thought I have to find those books again, and just see how well they compare to my memory.

I have a think, you see, about reading books that really grabbed you as a child. I set my students to read something they loved a year or so ago, and having spoken passionately about why it was such a good idea, I thought I should take some of my own medicine and have been fairly hooked ever since.

I liked this book probably as much as I did as a child. It's simple, short, and niocely doesn't take any of the obvious story directions you'd expect with Vikings. I was impressed, actually, with how much he manages to fit into a book of just 168 pages.

I've noticed with a lot of older writers, how they flout the current mantra of show not tell, and happily tell, tell, tell, and still their stories zim along. I like these older styles, and curiously, he uses a lot of similar expressions to Tolien, which makes me think they may well have been current lingo at the time. I'm a show and tell kind of writer, I think, and I wonder if growing up with TV has altered the way we write now.

Back to Mr Treece: he was born some nineteen years after JRRT, and died five years earlier in 1966, but I think he was writing the kinds of books that JRRT and CS Lewis approved of. Books in the manner of Haggard not Wolfe. Books that people read because they're great reads rather than featuring on academic syllabuses or adding a whiff of intellecutallity to one's aura.

Ah! I seem to have hit upon a gripe of mine. Better stop there before the rant begins.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Last Meal, M at the Fringe.

Well, amidst all the Christmas jolities this year, something rather sad happened.

M at the Fringe, Hong Kong's most loved restaurant closed.

Of course, most of you wont know M at the Fringe, or have any idea why it is such a loss. It was the place you went to sit and talk. It wasn't a place where the food or design or styish facilities were the chief attraction, though they were all unique and admirable.

The food was always fabulous, and varied and inventive. The staff were attentive without being intrusive, swift, efficient and polite. Perhaps the only place in Hong Kong where all these are combined.

It was the host of the famous literary lunches, and in my time I saw Ian McEwan, Andre Aciman, and most recently Colm Toibin. The owner, Michelle Garnaut often passed through, between her other establishments in Shanghai and Beijing, and it was a place - for us - where we went to mark special occasions, and it had become the place Elle and I went for a long lunch on Christmas Eve.

Our last meal?

Half a dozen of those freshly shucked oysters with a few glasses of prosecco; caviar and sour cream on slivers of new potatos.

We went for a New Zealand Pinot Noir, lightly chilled. For the main I had the best Suckling Pig in town, while Elle went for the Gaggle of Goose.

Not really a desert kind of person, and I think a strong cup of coffee saw me in fine singing form for the 5pm Christingle Service at St John's Cathedral.

The good news is that there willbe an M in Waiting opening some time this year, until a suitable new spot can be found, and - as every cloud is lined with suprises - we'll get out and find some other spot.

But cast adrift on a little raft of memory, will be our 2009 Christmas Eve lunche at the Fringe.