Monthly Archives: March 2012

Overkill on the testosterone

Candice:  As a writer, in the loosest sense of the term obviously, I read books with a slightly different eye these days.  It’s the same with TV, as my other half has found having dipped into the land of extras work in the last year too, you can’t watch TV or especially a show you are in and just watch it any more.  You are too busy watching the extras.

Anyway, I’ve just finished my latest read.  Its been awhile since I read a book as, not commuting or having had a holiday yet this year, time to sit down and read is lessening.  Phil lent me “Blott on the Landscape” weeks ago and I’m only half way through.  I think that is partly related to the fact it feels dated now when it didn’t when I read it 15/20 years ago.  Still very funny in places !  However, my latest book was given to me by my Sister.  I’m not sure where she got it from because it doesn’t seem like her usual read but it is “Empire of Gold” by Andy McDermott.

I’ve not heard of him before but this is the fourth or fifth book in this series so I was a bit confused with characters on first read.  The premise is a man and wife team who investigate archeological finds which lead them to much bigger things.  By this point they’ve unearthed most of the seven wonders of the world!  This book is based around them finding El Dorado, the lost ancient city of gold built by the Incas.  All well and good thinks I, a bit Da Vinci Code then.  However, being a writer and general liker of strong female characters this book got on my nerves.

The main female character is intelligent but keeps getting into scrapes which her ex SAS hubby has to retrieve her from.  Ok, not so bad.  But the way he does it is way above the usual over dramatised saving level taken by your Indiana Jones etc.  It really does get a bit silly and the body count is huge!

But I can see the appeal to an Agent.  Series – tick, fast paced male/female audience tick, market it on the back of Da Vinci style thrillers – tick.  They would have seen pound signs all the way.

But hang on thinks I, series – yep we’ve got that, male/female pacey – deffo for former working on later, thriller – ok not so much but with the ideas I have (when I finally get the computer fixed and can do some writing) I think we can get to that.

So, why have we not been picked up…..I think I’m going to research Mr McDermott and see what worked for him.

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What was your first book ?

Phil reading the LadyBird Book of Commercial Vehciles. A first edition too !Phil: It’s World Book Day today. To quote the website, “a celebration of authors, illustrators, books and (most importantly) it’s a celebration of reading.”

This started me thinking, what was my first book ?

The first one I read, rather than had read to me. Initially my thoughts turned to Book 1 of the Rev Awdry’s Railway Series – the ones that are now better known as “Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends”. Thomas didn’t turn up until book two in fact but presumably Britt Alcroft & Co. who made the TV series decided that a cheeky tank engine was better for the market than the real first engine to star in print was Edward. I always prefered Edward.

To be fair, Rev Awdry himself recognised that Thomas was the star, presumably because young Christopher, who the stories were originally written for, liked him so much. Having met Chris a few times, I can’t quite imagine this but then he was at least 40 years older by that point !

However, this was relatively late in my discovery of books being at around the age of 4. There was a book before this that was much more important apparently. The only problem is that as soon as I mention this, Candice will be moved to tears if she isn’t there already at my anorakiness.

The publication in question was The Ladybird Book of Commercial Vehicles.

For those who haven’t read it, LBBOCV was first published in 1964 and 52 pages long. Half of the pages contain a pair of paintings illustrating a couple of vehicles. The opposing page provides the information to match the pictures. We start with the Bedford 1 1/4-ton Spurling Van and discover that “The Bedford 1 1/4-ton chassic can be fitted with a variety of different bodies. The one shown opposite is the Spurling van which is used for general goods delivery. The sliding door at the side enables the driver to get in an out easily.”

Riveting stuff, but there is more. We get the specifications so the reader can know that both petrol and diesel engines are offered, the later of 3,285cc. capacity, developing 64 brake horse-power.

Can you imaging pitching this as a childs book today ? No, I can’t. Top Trumps maybe, but a book ?

Anyway, there are many other fascinating vehicles such as the Karrier 2 to 3-ton Low Loader, Dodge 7-ton tipper, Thorneycroft “nubian” Crash Tender and finishing up with the fantastic Scammell 6X6 “Super Constructor”. Each painting, by David Carey, is a masterpiece I would love to own as much as a Canaletto and the text is short but informative. If this wasn’t enough, there were different vehicles in later editions including one I liked because it seemed to be loaded with one enormous piece of my Mum’s shortbread.

Apparently I would spend hours sitting in my little chair as a small child, reading out loud from this book. You might think this is a bit odd.

What really is odd is that at this point I couldn’t read. I had memorised the whole book from countless bedtime readings by exceptionally patient parents. I knew every word, including the technical stuff. I even knew when to turn the pages and did so as I went through.

I still don’t really know why. I had lots of other Ladybird books. Why I should choose to memorise Commercial Vehicles is beyond me, but I did, so I suppose this was the first book that was really special to me.

What was yours ?

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