Category Archives: Phil

The Picture House by the Sea for pedants

The picture house by the sea is the Palace at Polwhipple – a lovely art deco cinema, nestled in front of azure Cornish seas. But it is long past its heyday now, and its only saving grace is Ferrelli’s, the family run ice-cream concession in the foyer, which is widely known as the best ice-cream for miles.
 
So when Ferdie, the owner of Ferelli’s, breaks his leg, his granddaughter Gina drops everything to come and help out. But when she arrives she is dismayed by the state of the cinema, which she remembers fondly from summer holidays when she was little, and she is determined to give it the makeover it deserves. Along with local renovation expert Ben, she sets about reviving the Palace to its former glory. 
But the cinema needs more than a lick of paint. Its very future is under threat from a developer with greed in his eyes. Can Gina save the place before it is too late?

Phil: There’s a lot of this book – 449 pages to be precise – and it’s a really good fun read. You can probably guess the outcome from the first page (Spoiler: she ends up with the hunky old friend and all ends well) but this doesn’t really matter. In fact, it might even be that the lack of jeopardy is part of the reason I rattled through it and enjoyed the lot.

My only diversion was to check whether the town of Polwhipple in Cornwall actually exists – it doesn’t – but then the story lives in that special universe where a lot of light chick-lit exists. The sun shines, you can survive financially from a vintage clothes shop or give up your job in London for 4 months and not be bankrupt. I imagine it’s the same world that many TV shows inhabit where a columnist for a local paper services the mortgage on his 4-bed house in the capitals suburbs. We’d like to live there, but as we can’t a little holiday will suffice.

However, I feel that there are few points I need to pick up:

Ben did not show Gina around the signal room and ticket office at the local preserved railway. He gave her a tour of the signal BOX and ticket office. That’s as annoying as suggesting they would go to the train station to do this…

Cinemas don’t have “archive rooms”. Films do arrive on multiple reels as described but before the projectionist shows them, each length of film is stuck to the others and then wound onto a big reel. This is 4ft in diameter (a bit more for Lord of the Rings) and weighs as much as a small child. Trust me, you don’t lose one! Each print of a film costs about a grand so the distributors want them back after you’ve finished showing – the only thing you might find in the cupboards are trailers and that’s only because they don’t chase when no-one bothers sending them back. If you want to save your cinema by showing old films, you’ll need to order them from your distributor, although it can be done – and it is popular with audiences.

One area where the book is spot on is that all volunteers on a preserved railway, indeed railway enthusiasts generally, are hunky surfers with rock hard six-packs. And they always get the girl.

I think La Nolan passed this book on to me as I have been a projectionist, and can be described as a railway enthusiast (If you said “trainspotter”, you are both wrong and due a slap) so would either enjoy the story or niggle at the details.

Just to be awkward, I’m going to do both.

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Who looks after the writers?

Phil: I’m starting to worry about our burgeoning careers as humourous novelists. I’m worried that we might be invited to work in television and I’m not sure I like the idea very much any more.

Reading Paul Merton’s autobiography “Only when I laugh”, he describes working on a TV show (and I can’t work out which one despite 20 minutes leafing through the book again) where there was a script. Being a writer himself, he trotted off at one point to thank the scriptwriters for their efforts. He finds them shut away in a little room hidden down a corridor. They are surprised as none of the previous hosts has bothered to pay them a visit.

This compounded the best TV I saw over the festive period.

Eric, Ernie and Me, tells the story of how Eddie Braben essentially created the popular duo Morecambe and Wise.

Lured away from working for Ken Dodd, he saved the pair from being nothing more than a footnote in entertainment history by changing their act dramatically. Basically, what you see on TV is Eddie’s work. And if the drama is to be believed, they didn’t always appreciate his work, at least in the early days.

For his efforts, he got two bouts of “nervous exhaustion” thanks to the stress of single-handily writing the most popular TV shows of the period. The audience demanded Morecambe and Wise and Eddie was the only one who could deliver.

That doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun to me. I know I need a deadline to produce work, but I also know how I fall apart when the deadlines are continuous and never-ending. At least I have a friend to share the burden and commiserate when times are tough. And someone who appreciates the effort.

She still nicks bits of my cake though…

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Piling on the Christmas pressure

Phil: So there we are, sitting in a cafe awaiting the delivery of drinks and cake, and La Nolan passes me a Christmas card. I open it up and along with the exhortation to have a merry festive period, is the message above.

Seriously?

I mean, we’ve only just finished Book 2. Can we really be releasing book 3 in 12 months time?

Worse was to come. We exchanged gifts. Normally this is a low key business but this time she insisted that I open this, “Because I want to see your face.”.

I did as I was told and found a copy of the book Make a Killing on Kindle.

Ahah! I realise that as the techie half of the team, it’s going to be my job to make sure our books are found by as many people as possible.

But there was more to come, I opened the cover and found:

It seems someone has serious ambitions and loves Only Fools and Horses.

Somehow, I suspect I’m the Rodders in this partnership. I’ll be getting a 3-wheel van. Candice will be behind the wheels of the Capri Ghia!

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Timetable for launch

Phil: We have a plan. After a lunch that was so serious we swapped cake for sponge pudding and custard (a move the BREXIT negotiators would be wise to copy), a plan has been formulated for the launch of our next novel Kate vs  The Navy.

*

Gareth Fothrington-Thomas has made a huge mistake. He’s given Dave Thomas a job without consulting Kate. And Dave and Kate have history – embarrassing, complicated history.

But the Ministry of Defence have just asked KoD Associates to oversee the closing of an almost-forgotten naval base. It’s the company’s biggest contract yet, and a good performance could mean Kate can finally buy Gareth out.

However, nothing is ever straightforward. Tracey views work as a chance to have fun. Kelvin’s virtual life is far more exciting than his real one. And Captain Norris and his crew not only want to stay employed, they’re also keeping a secret. A rather large grey secret.

When Kate misses a key meeting she feels the whole process slipping out of her hands. Even an unexpected upturn in her personal life can’t compensate for the worry that things are about to go horribly wrong …

Join the team who first appeared in Kate vs the Dirtboffins as they become reluctant and unwelcome guests on a tiny island, battle local wildlife and tackle the Royal Navy in another madcap adventure.

*

So, dear reader, you will now be champing at the bit to crack open our latest work. Well, here is the timetable:

8th November – Chapter 1 on-line

15th November – Chapter 2 on-line

22nd November – Chapter 3 on-line and book available to buy from Amazon

29th November – Book reaches the top of all sales charts and we are the toast of the literary world. (I might have made this one up, it’s not actually on the plan)

Along the way we’ll be showing you the new cover and talking to bloggers to sort out some reviews. In the meantime, you lot start saving your pennies and clearing your calendars, you have reading to do!

 

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I dream of NaNoWriMo

Phil: This time next month, hundreds of eager writers will be beavering away on their latest novel as part of National Novel Writing Month – NaNoWriMo.

Since finding out about this event, I’ve dreamed of taking part. The idea of hammering out the first draft of a book in a month sounds great to me. Needing a deadline to get anything done, I can imagine the joy of racing the calendar to reach the glorious conclusion of your story.

Not this year though. Sadly, there are far too many deadlines in my work life to allow me to enjoy some creative writing. I know that if you want to write, everyone says you will find the time but even if I could, I’m not sure a few hours extra screen time in the evening or early morning is what I need on top of the day gawping at the thing.

What I need is NaGoFoAWa month – National Going for a walk month. Fresh air and exercise will do me more good. Perhaps I should start a movement?

Never mind. Maybe next year. If you are feeling inspired however, visit the NaNoWriMo website.

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Mr Gandy proves that people are more interesting than things

Phil: Another novel from the “heading to the charity shop” pile in our house, Mr Gandy’s Grand Tour has an interesting premise and proves to be a pleasant read.

Tim Gandy finds himself newly compulsorily retired from his graphic design job. His wife has no real interest in him, as do two of his three children. Just as he’s wondering what to do, the wife drops dead. You might think that this isn’t a great start to a story even from someone as warm and fuzzy as the countries favourite gardner, but it provides a catalyst for the rest of the book. Gandy decides to head off to Europe on a tour in the manner of aristocrats from years long past.

Along the way, he encounters lots of special people and has a few adventures – just the sort of thing you’d expect from a novel.

Gandy is a lapsed artist and propelled by his (deliberately) ancient guidebooks, he’s determined to see some of the great artistic treasures on offer. It’s here where the book bogs down a bit with little more than lists of “wonderful” things seen. I get the feeling that like many people he feels that art from hundreds of years ago is automatically beautiful whereas later stuff isn’t quite as worthy. I’ve been to the Louvre and while I agree the Mona Lisa is disappointing, it’s nothing compared to the miles of dreadful religious paintings that fill the corridors leading to it.

Anyway, when not looking at things, the story nips along with the sort of entertaining events that happen in novels but rarely in real life. I’d bet I could spend the rest of my life painting watercolour around Paris without being accosted by a beautiful chanteuse, although in this case, it’s probably a good thing.

Despite being retired, Gandy isn’t old, or at least not properly old so he can be useful and get around. He still wants to do things and not just reminisce. I’ve not read anything with an early retiree as the main character before and it’s slightly odd as you find this is just part of his life and things can and will change in it.

Fun? Yes. Did it make me want to follow in his footsteps? Not really.  Were I lounging on a sunbed (or in the room of a Holiday Inn which is where I read it) though, it’s pretty good.

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The Keeper of Lost Things

Phil: Meeting up with Candice on Monday for a chat through our edits, I shoved a book her way. All being well, she is on holiday as I write so I knew something for reading on the sunbed would be appreciated.

The author, Ruth Hogan, was at one of the Stratford Literary Festival sessions I went to earlier this year. At the time I wasn’t feeling flush enough to buy the hardback copy of the book, but the premise sounded really interesting so when the chance came to get a paperback, I did.

Let’s start with the description on the back:

Once a celebrated author of short stories now in his twilight years, Anthony Peardew has spent half his life collecting lost objects, trying to atone for a promise broken many years before.

Realising he is running out of time, he leaves his house and all its lost treasures to his assistant Laura, the one person he can trust to fulfil his legacy and reunite the thousands of objects with their rightful owners.

But the final wishes of the ‘Keeper of Lost Things’ have unforeseen repercussions which trigger a most serendipitous series of encounters…

Basically, Andrew has collected lots of stuff, carefully labelled it, stuffed it on shelves and intends to find the owners to return it. He doesn’t, but leaves the task, along with his house to Laura. There is also a dead fiance to consider, hunky gardner and special child.

Yes, it sounds a bit rubbish when I describe it like that, but I don’t want to give away any spoilers.  Probably best I don’t write the elevator pitch.

One of the highlights is that for many of the objects, there is a short story attached. Apparently, this was what Andrew wrote to make himself a successful author. The trouble was he wanted to write pieces with an edge, his publisher prefered fluffy happy tales and eventually, they parted company. I loved these little tales and suspect that there is a real book to match the fictional one in them.

Ruth weaves a couple of major plot strands through the book and for a while I couldn’t quite work out how they related to each other but by the end, everything ties up neatly and you have a happy “Oh, that’s what was happening moment.”

I enjoyed the book but it’s not perfect, there is some supernatural stuff that I could have lived without as I felt it dented the real world the rest of the plot lived in and Andrew seemed to do that literary thing of just deciding to drop dead in his rose garden in an unexplained way too.

Ultimately though, the basic idea is novel and pretty strong which overcomes any objections. I certainly enjoyed the read and picked it up every time I had a few minutes, always a good sign. It’s a pretty light and fun story which I expect the Nolan will enjoy as much as the sunbathing.

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