Posted in books

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

The classic novel To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee was first published on 11 July 1960. It was immediately successful, winning the Pulitzer Prize, and has become a classic of modern American literature. The plot and characters are loosely based on the author’s observations of her family and neighbors, as well as on an event that occurred near her hometown in 1936, when she was 10 years old. The novel is renowned for its warmth and humor, despite dealing with the serious issues of rape and racial inequality. The narrator’s father, Atticus Finch, has served as a moral hero for many readers and as a model of integrity for lawyers. One critic explains the novel’s impact by writing, “In the twentieth century, To Kill a Mockingbird is probably the most widely read book dealing with race in America, and its protagonist, Atticus Finch, the most enduring fictional image of racial heroism.”

As a Southern Gothic novel the primary themes of To Kill a Mockingbird involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence. Scholars have noted that Lee also addresses issues of class, courage, compassion, and gender roles in the American Deep South. The book is widely taught in schools in English-speaking countries with lessons that emphasize tolerance and decry prejudice. Despite its themes, To Kill a Mockingbird has been subject to campaigns for removal from public classrooms, and is often challenged for its use of racial epithets. Reception to the novel varied widely upon publication. Literary analysis of it is sparse, considering the number of copies sold and its widespread use in education. Author Mary McDonough Murphy, who collected individual impressions of the book by several authors and public figures, calls To Kill a Mockingbird “an astonishing phenomenon”.

In 2006, British librarians ranked the book ahead of the Bible as one “every adult should read before they die”.It was adapted into an Oscar-winning film in 1962 by director Robert Mulligan, with a screenplay by Horton Foote. Since 1990, a play based on the novel has been performed annually in Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. Harper Lee continues to respond to the book’s impact, she has refused any personal publicity for herself or the novel since 1964. To Kill a Mockingbird has also been adapted into an Oscar-winning film in 1962 by director Robert Mulligan, with a screenplay by Horton Foote. Since 1990, a play based on the novel has also been performed annually in Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.

In 2015 Harper Lee also published a sequel Go Set A Watchmen, This was originally written in the mid-1950s, before To Kill a Mockingbird was written, which was published in 1960. Sadly the manuscript for Go Set a Watchmen was Assumed to have been lost, until being discovered in late 2014 and published as originally written, with no revisions. Go Set a Watchman is described as a moving, funny and compelling 304 page novel which is set some twenty years after the events in To Kill a Mockingbird. It contains many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, including an adult Scout (Jean Louise) Finch who travels from New York to Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her father, Atticus Finch and is “forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood. Go Set a Watchman also examines how the characters adjust to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America. The title alludes to Scout’s view of her father, Atticus Finch, as the moral compass (“watchman”) of Maycomb and comes from Isaiah 21:6:

Posted in books, films & DVD

John Wyndham

English Science Fiction Author John Wyndham was born 10 July 1903 in the village of Dorridge near Knowle, Warwickshire (now West Midlands), England, the son of George Beynon Harris, a barrister, and Gertrude Parkes, the daughter of a Birmingham ironmaster. His early childhood was spent in Edgbaston in Birmingham, but when he was 8 years old his parents separated and he and his brother, the writer Vivian Beynon Harris, spent the rest of their childhood at a number of English preparatory and public schools, including Blundell’s School in Tiverton, Devon, during World War I. His longest and final stay was at Bedales School near Petersfield in Hampshire (1918–21), where he blossomed and was happy.

He left Bedales School at the age of 18 and after leaving school, Wyndham tried several careers, including farming, law, commercial art and advertising, but mostly relied on an allowance from his family. He eventually turned to writing for money in 1925 and, by 1931, was selling short stories and serial fiction to American science fiction magazines, most under the pen names “John Beynon” and “John Beynon Harris”, although he also wrote some detective stories including The Secret People (1935), as John Beynon, Foul Play Suspected (1935), as John Beynon and Planet Plane (1936), as John Beynon (a.k.a The Space Machine and Stowaway to Mars).

During World War II, Wyndham first served as a censor in the Ministry of Information, then joined the British Army, serving as a Corporal cipher operator in the Royal Corps of Signals. He participated in the Normandy landings, although he was not involved in the first days of the operation. After the war, Wyndham returned to writing, inspired by the success of his brother, who had four novels published. He altered his writing style; and, by 1951, using the John Wyndham pen name for the first time, he wrote the novel The Day of the Triffids. His pre-war writing career was not mentioned in the book’s publicity, and people were allowed to assume that it was a first novel from a previously unknown writer.

Novels published by John Wyndham include The Day of the Triffids (1951), also known as Revolt of the Triffids, The Kraken Wakes (1953), published in the US as Out of the Deeps, The Chrysalids (1955), The Midwich Cuckoos (1957), filmed twice as Village of the Damned, The Outward Urge (1959), Trouble with Lichen (1960) and Chocky, the Web and Plan for Chaos. Wyndham also published many Short story collections including Jizzle, The Seeds of Time, Tales of Gooseflesh and Laughter, Consider Her Ways and Others, The Infinite Moment, Sleepers of Mars, Worlds to Barter, Invisible Monster, The Man from Earth, the Third Vibrator, Wanderers of Time, Derelict of Space, Child of Power, The Last Lunarians, The Puff-ball Menace (a.k.a. Spheres of Hell), Exiles on Asperus, No Place Like Earth, The Lost Machine, The Venus Adventure” (1932), The Stare, The Moon Devils, The Cathedral Crypt, The Perfect Creature, Judson’s Annihilator and The Trojan Beam

In 1963, he married Grace Isobel Wilson, whom he had known for more than 20 years; the couple remained married until he died. He and Grace lived for several years in separate rooms at the Penn Club, London and later lived near Petersfield, Hampshire, just outside the grounds of Bedales School. He died 11 March 1969, aged 65, at his home in Petersfield, survived by his wife and his brother. Subsequently, some of his unsold work was published; and his earlier work was re-published. His archive was acquired by Liverpool University. On 24 May 2015 an alley in Hampstead that appears in The Day of the Triffids was formally named Triffid Alley as a memorial to him.

Posted in books, Humour

Clerihew day

Clerihew Day commemorates the birth of English novelist and humorist, Edmund Clerihew Bentley who was born on 10 July 1875 in London and educated at St Paul’s School and Merton College, Oxford. His father, John Edmund Bentley, was a civil servant and a rugby union international having played in the first ever international match for England against Scotland in 1871.

Bentley is credited with creating the Clerihew when he was a 16-year-old student. A Clerihew is a type of humourous poem which should follow the following rules. It should have4 lines, 2 sets of rhyming couplets AA/BB, with person’s name in the first line, there should be something about them in the poem, and it should be whimsical and funny,Here is the original Clerihew:

Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium.

In 1905 he published his first published collection of poetry, titled Biography for Beginners. This was followed by two other collections, More Biography (1929) and Baseless Biography and a successful detective mystery novel entitled Trent’s Last Case. This novel had a labyrinthine and mystifying plot and was much praised, by Authors such as Dorothy L. Sayers. It was also adapted as a film in 1920, 1929, and 1952. The success of the work inspired him to write a sequel 23 years later entitled “Trent’s Own Case” (1936) and a book of Trent short stories, “Trent Intervenes”.

Although he is best known for his crime fiction and clerihews, Bentley also worked as a journalist on a number of newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph and The Outlook and wrote at least one science fiction short story entitled “Flying Visit”. Bentley also wrote some Short Non-Fiction works including “Naas”. “G. K.”. “I Am Glad I Was Born When I Was”. “Boys and Girls of Yesterday and Today”. And “The Interesting Age”.

Between 1936 and 1949 Bentley was president of the Detection Club. He contributed to two crime stories for the club’s radio serials broadcast in 1930 and 1931, these were published in 1983 as The Scoop and Behind The Screen. In 1950 he contributed the introduction to a Constable & Co omnibus edition of Damon Runyon’s “stories of the bandits of Broadway”,

Bentley sadly died 30 March 1956 in London at the age of 80. His son Nicolas Bentley was a famous illustrator. G. K. Chesterton dedicated his popular detective novel on anarchist terrorism, The Man Who Was Thursday, to Edmund Clerihew Bentley, a school friend.

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Dame Barbara Cartland DBE CSTJ

Prolific Best -selling Romantic Author Dame Barbara Cartland, DBE, CStJ was born 9 July 1901 in Edgbaston, Birmingham. She attended The Alice Ottley School, Malvern Girls’ College, and Abbey House, an educational institution in Hampshire, Cartland soon became successful as a society reporter and writer of romantic fiction. Cartland admitted she was inspired in her early work by the novels of Edwardian author Elinor Glyn, whom she idolized and eventually befriended.

She worked as a gossip columnist for the Daily Express before publishing her first novel, Jigsaw in 1922, a risqué society thriller that became a bestseller. She also began writing and producing somewhat racy plays, one of which, Blood Money (1926), was banned by the Lord Chamberlain’s Office. In the 1920s and 1930s Cartland was a prominent young hostess in London society, noted for her beauty, energetic charm and daring parties. Her fashion sense also had a part and she was one of the first clients of designer Norman Hartnell, remaining a client until he died in 1979. He made her presentation and wedding dresses; the latter was made to her own design against Hartnell’s wishes and she admitted it was a failure.

In 1950, Cartland was accused of plagiarism by author Georgette Heyer, after a reader drew her attention to the apparent borrowing of Heyer’s character names, character traits, dialogue and plot points in Cartland’s early historical romances. In particular, A Hazard of Hearts (1949), which replicated characters (including names) from Heyer’s Friday’s Child and The Knave of Hearts (1950) which, Heyer alleged, “the conception, the principal characters, and many of the incidents, derive directly from an early book of my own, entitled These Old Shades, first published in 1926. For minor situations and other characters she has drawn upon four of my other novels.” Heyer completed a detailed analysis of the alleged plagiarisms for her solicitors, but the case never came to court.

Aside from writing numerous romantic novels, Cartland also wrote under her married name of Barbara McCorquodale. Cartland saw herself as a self-appointed “expert” on romance and although her first novels were considered sensational, her social views gradually became more conservative. This drew some ridicule in her later years, as Cartland’s later titles were comparatively tame with virginal heroines and few, if any, suggestive situations. Almost all of Cartland’s later books were historical in theme. Despite their tame story lines, Barbara Cartland’s later novels were highly successful. By 1983 she rated the longest entry in the British Who’s Who (though most of that article was a list of her books), and was named the top-selling author in the world by the Guinness World Records. In the mid-1990s, by which time she had sold over a billion books, Vogue called her “the true Queen of Romance”. She became a mainstay of the popular media in her trademark pink dresses and plumed hats, discoursing on matters of love, marriage, politics, religion, health, and fashion. She was publicly opposed to the removal of prayer from state schools and spoke against infidelity and divorce, although she admitted to being acquainted with both of these moral failings.

Cartland also took an interest in the early gliding movement. Although aerotowing for launching gliders first occurred in Germany, she thought of long-distance tows in 1931 and did a 200-mile (360 km) tow in a two-seater glider. The idea led to troop-carrying gliders. In 1984, she was awarded the Bishop Wright Air Industry Award for this contribution. She regularly attended Brooklands aerodrome and motor-racing circuit during the 1920s and ’30s, and the Brooklands Museum has preserved a sitting-room from that era and named it after her.

Dame Barbara Cartland sadly died 21 May 2000 however she holds the Guinness World Record for the most novels written in a single year after having written 23 novels in 1976. Cartland released An Album of Love Songs in 1983 which featured Cartland performing a series of popular standards with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, including “I’ll Follow My Secret Heart” and “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square. She wrote more than 700 books, as well as plays, music, verse, drama, magazine articles and operetta Her 723 novels have been translated into 36 different languages, and she reportedly sold more than 750 million copies. Other sources estimate her book sales at more than 2 billion copies. She specialised in 19th-century Victorian era pure romance. Her novels all featured portrait style artwork, particularly the cover art. As head of Cartland Promotions she also became one of London’s most prominent society figures and one of Britain’s most popular media personalities.

Posted in books, films & DVD, Science fiction

Dean Koontz

American horror and science fiction author Dean Koontz was born July 9, 1945 in Everett, Pennsylvania. he was regularly beaten and abused by his alcoholic father, which influenced his later writing, as also did the courage of his physically diminutive mother in standing up to her husband” In his senior year at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, he won a fiction competition sponsored by Atlantic Monthly magazine. After graduation in 1967, he went to work as an English teacher at Mechanicsburg High School in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania. In the 1960s, Koontz worked for the Appalachian Poverty Program, a federally funded initiative designed to help poor children.

During his spare time, he wrote his first novel, Star Quest, which was published in 1968. Koontz went on to write over a dozen science fiction novels. Seeing the Catholic faith as a contrast to the chaos in his family, Koontz converted in college because it gave him answers for his life, admiring its intellectual rigor and saying it permits a view of life that sees mystery and wonder in all things He says he sees Catholicism as English writer and Catholic convert G.K. Chesterton did: that it encourages a “joy about the gift of life”Koontz says that spirituality has always been part of his books, as are grace and our struggle as fallen souls

In the 1970s, Koontz began writing suspense and horror fiction, both under his own name and several pseudonyms, sometimes publishing up to eight books a year. Koontz has stated that he began using pen names after several editors convinced him that authors who switched back and forth between different genres invariably fell victim to “negative crossover” (alienating established fans and simultaneously failing to pick up any new ones). Known pseudonyms used by Koontz during his career include Deanna Dwyer, K. R. Dwyer, Aaron Wolfe, David Axton, Brian Coffey, John Hill, Leigh Nichols, Owen West, Richard Paige and Anthony North. As Brian Coffey he wrote the “Mike Tucker” trilogy [Blood Risk, Surrounded, Wall of Masks] in acknowledged tribute to the Parker novels of Richard Stark (Donald E. Westlake). Many of Koontz’s pseudonymous novels are now available under his real name. Many others remain suppressed by Koontz, who bought back the rights to ensure they could not be republished; he has, on occasion, said that he might revise some for re-publication, but only 3 have appeared – Demon Seed and Invasion were both heavily rewritten before they were republished, and Prison of Ice had certain sections bowdlerised.

After writing full-time for more than ten years, Koontz’s breakthrough novel was Whispers. The two books before that, The Key to Midnight and The Funhouse, were written under pen names. His very first bestseller was Demon Seed, the sales of which picked up after the release of the film of the same name in 1977, and sold over two million copies in one year. From 1979 on, Koontz’s books regularly became paperback bestsellers. His first hardcover bestseller, was Strangers. Since then, 12 hardcovers and 13 paperbacks written by Koontz have reached #1 on the New York Times Bestseller List. In 1997 psychologist Katherine Ramsland published an extensive biography of Koontz based on interviews with him and his family. This this often showed the conception of Koontz’s characters and plots from events in his own life Many of his novels are set in and around Orange County, California.

One of Dean Koontz’s pen names was inspired by his dog, Trixie Koontz, a golden retriever, shown in many of his book-jacket photos. Trixie originally was a service dog with Canine Companions for Independence (CCI), a charitable organization that provides service dogs for people with disabilities Trixie was a gift from CCI in gratitude of Koontz’s substantial donations, totaling $2,500,000 between 1991 and 2004. Koontz was taken with the charity while he was researching his novel Midnight, which included a black Labrador retriever, named Moose. In 2004 Koontz wrote and edited Life Is Good: Lessons in Joyful Living in her name, and in 2005 Koontz wrote a second book credited to Trixie, Christmas Is Good. Both books are written from a supposed canine perspective on the joys of life with royalties being donated to CCI. Sadly In 2007 Trixie contracted terminal cancer that created a tumor in her heart. The Koontzes had her put to sleep outside their family home on June 30. Following Trixie’s death Koontz continued writing on his website under Trixie’s names in “TOTOS”, standing for Trixie on the Other Side. Trixie was also the inspiration for The Darkest Evening of the Year, about a woman who runs a golden retriever rescue home, and who rescues a ‘special’ dog, named Nickie, who eventually saves her life. In August 2009 Koontz published “A Big Little Life,” a memoir of his life with Trixie. In October 2008 Koontz revealed that he had adopted a new dog, Anna. It eventually was learned that Anna was the grandniece of Trixie. Sadly Anna died on May 22, 2016 so Koontz then adopted a new dog, Elsa, on July 11, 2016. As of 2006 Koontz lives in Pelican Hills on the Newport Coast, California with his wife, Gerda (Cerra). In 2008 he was ranked the world’s sixth most highly paid author, tied with John Grisham, at $25 million annually.

Many of Dean Koontz’s novels have been adapted for film and Television including Odd Thomas, starring Anton Yelchin, Frankenstein; starring Adam Goldberg, Parker Posey, Michael Madsen, Vincent Perez, and Thomas Kretschmann. Black River; starring Jay Mohr, and Stephen Tobolowsky, Sole Survivor; starring Billy Zane, John C. McGinley, and Gloria Reuben. Watchers Reborn; starring Mark Hamill, Phantoms (1998); starring Peter O’Toole, Ben Affleck, Rose McGowan, and Joanna Going. Mr. Murder; starring Stephen Baldwin, Thomas Haden Church, and James Coburn. Intensity; starring John C. McGinley, Molly Parker, and Piper Laurie. Hideaway; starring Jeff Goldblum, Christine Lahti, Jeremy Sisto, and Alicia Silverstone. Watchers 3; starring Wings Hauser. Servants of Twilight starring Bruce Greenwood. The Face of Fear starring Pam Dawber and Lee Horsley. Watchers II; starring Marc Singer and Tracy Scoggins. Whispers; starring Victoria Tennant, Chris Sarandon, and Jean LeClere. The Passengers starring Jean-Louis Trintignant (French film adaptation of Koontz’s novel Shattered) and Demon Seed; starring Julie Christie, Fritz Weaver, and Robert Vaughn as the voice of Proteus.

Posted in books, Events

Gothic Novel day

Gothic Novel Day takes place annually on 9 July to commemorate the birth of English Gothic novelist Ann Radcliffe (Ann Ward) who was born on 9 July 1764 in Holborn, London, on 9 July 1764. Her father was William Ward (1737–1798), a haberdasher, who moved the family to Bath to manage a china shop in 1772. Her mother was Ann Oates (1726–1800) of Chesterfield Radcliffe occasionally lived with her Uncle, Thomas Bentley, in Chelsea, who was in partnership with, Josiah Wedgwood, maker of the famous Wedgwood china. Sukey, Wedgwood’s daughter, also stayed in Chelsea. Sukey later married Dr Robert Darwin and had a son, Charles Darwin. In 1787, Ward married the Oxford graduate and journalist William Radcliffe (1763–1830), part-owner and editor of the English Chronicle. Radcliffe began to write and to read her work to him when he returned.

Little is known of Ann Radcliffe’s life however she travelled widely at first gradually led a more retired life, never visiting the countries where the fearful happenings in her novels took place. Her only journey abroad, to Holland and Germany, was made in 1794 after most of her books were written. The journey was described in her A Journey Made in the Summer of 1794 (which was written in 1795) . Ann Radcliffe also published five other novels during her lifetime, The Castles of Athlin and Dunbayne (1 vol.) in1789, A Sicilian Romance (2 vols) 1790, The Romance of the Forest (3 vols) in 1791, The Mysteries of Udolpho (4 vols) in 1794, The Italian (3 vols) in 1797 and Gaston de Blondeville which was published posthumously in 1826. Radcliffe did not like the direction in which Gothic literature was heading – one of her later novels, The Italian, was written in response to Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk. Radcliffe portrayed her female characters as equal to male characters, allowing them to dominate and overtake the typically powerful male villains and heroes, creating new roles for women in literature previously not available. Jane Austen also parodied The Mysteries of Udolpho in Northanger Abbey.

Radcliffe’s fiction is marked by seemingly supernatural events that are then provided with rational explanations, traditional moral values are asserted, the rights of women are advocated, and reason prevails. Radcliffe stated that terror aims to stimulate readers through imagination and perceived evils while horror closes them off through fear and physical dangers. “Terror and Horror are so far opposite, that the first expands the soul and awakens the faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes and nearly annihilates them.”

Radcliffe courted controversy by presenting a prejudiced view of catholics. Her works, especially The Italian, often have Catholic ideas portrayed negatively including the Inquisition, negative depictions of convents and nuns, monks as villains, and ruined abbeys. The confessional is often portrayed as a danger zone controlled by the power of the priest and the church The Italian and The Mysteries of Udolpho are both set in Italy, a land historically predisposed towards Catholicism and against Protestantism. Radcliffe’s works would have left her contemporary readers with an impression of Catholicism as something ultimately cruel and corrupt, and of the author as alienated from the denomination and its practitioners.

Radcliffe sadly died on 7 February 1823 and was buried in a vault in the Chapel of Ease at St George’s, Hanover Square, London. In 1823, the Edinburgh Review said, “She never appeared in public, nor mingled in private society, but kept herself apart, like the sweet bird that sings its solitary notes, shrouded and unseen. Christina Rossetti attempted to write a biography of her, but abandoned it for lack of information. Nevertheless Radcliffe influenced many later authors, including the Marquis de Sade (1740–1814), Edgar Allan Poe (1809–1849), and Sir Walter Scott (1771–1832), Harriet Lee and Catherine Cuthbertson and Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Jane Austen’s parodies The Mysteries of Udolpho in Northanger Abbey and Honoré de Balzac’s novel of the supernatural L’Héritière de Birague (1822) also parodies Radcliffe novels. After Radcliffe’s death, her husband also released her unfinished essay “On the Supernatural in Poetry”, which details the difference between the sensation of terror and horror.

Posted in books, films & DVD

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

Scottish physician and prolific novelist Sir Arthur Conan Doyle sadly passed away on 7 July 1930. after having a heart attack at the age of 71. His last words were directed toward his wife: “You are wonderful.” The epitaph on his gravestone in the churchyard reads, in part: “Steel true/Blade straight/Arthur Conan Doyle/Knight/Patriot, Physician, and man of letters”. A statue honours Conan Doyle at Crowborough Cross in Crowborough, where he lived for 23 years and There is also a statue of Sherlock Holmes in Picardy Place, Edinburgh, close to the house where Conan Doyle was born.

He was born at 11 Picardy Place, Edinburgh, Scotland and was sent to the Roman Catholic Jesuit preparatory school Hodder Place, Stonyhurst, at the age of nine (1868-1870). He then went on to Stonyhurst College until 1875. From 1875 to 1876 he was educated at the Jesuit school Stella Matutina in Feldkirch, Austria. From 1876 to 1881 he studied medicine at the University of Edinburgh, including periods working in Aston in Birmingham, Sheffield and Ruyton-XI-Towns in Shropshire .While studying, Conan Doyle began writing short stories. His earliest extant fiction, “The Haunted Grange of Goresthorpe”, was unsuccessfully submitted to Blackwood’s Magazine. His first published piece “The Mystery of Sasassa Valley”, a story set in South Africa, was printed in Chambers’s Edinburgh Journal on 6 September 1879. Later that month, on 20 September, he also published his first non-fictional article, “Gelsemium as a Poison” in the British Medical Journal.

In 1882 he joined a former classmate at a medical practice in Plymouth, but Conan Doyle soon left to set up an independent practice. Arriving in Portsmouth in June of that year, he set up a medical practice in Southsea, and While waiting for patients, Conan Doyle again began writing stories and composed his first novels, The Mystery of Cloomber, not published until 1888, and the unfinished Narrative of John Smith, which would go unpublished until 2011. He amassed a portfolio of short stories including “The Captain of the Pole-Star” and “J. Habakuk Jephson’s Statement”, both inspired by Doyle’s time at sea.His first significant piece, A Study in Scarlet, appeared later that year in the Beeton’s Christmas Annual and received good reviews. The story featured the first appearance of Dr Watson and Sherlock Holmes. A sequel to A Study in Scarlet called The Sign of the Four appeared in Lippincott’s Magazine in February 1890. Conan Doyle then went on to write many more Sherlock Holmes short stories including A Scandal in Bohemia, A Case of identity, The Red Headed league, The Boscombe Valley Mystery, The Man wth the Twisted Lip and The Five Orange Pips

In 1890 after studying ophthalmology in Vienna, Conan Doyle moved to London, first living in Montague Place and then in South Norwood. He set up a practice as an ophthalmologist. He wrote in his autobiography that not a single patient crossed his door. This gave him more time for writing, and in November 1891 he wrote to his mother: “I think of slaying Holmes… and winding him up for good and all. He takes my mind from better things.” His mother responded, “You won’t! You can’t! You mustn’t!” In December 1893, in order to dedicate more of his time to what he considered his more important works (his historical novels), Conan Doyle had Holmes and Professor Moriarty apparently plunge to their deaths together down the Reichenbach Falls in the story “The Final Problem”. However the subsequent Public outcry, led him to bring the character back in 1901, in The Hound of the Baskervilles, though this was set at a time before the Reichenbach incident. In 1903, Conan Doyle published his first Holmes short story in ten years, “The Adventure of the Empty House”, in which it was explained that only Moriarty had fallen; but since Holmes had other dangerous enemies—especially Colonel Sebastian Moran—he had arranged to also be perceived as dead.

During his life Arthur Conan Doyle was a prolific writer whose other works include science fiction stories, plays, romances, poetry, non-fiction and historical novelS, his detective Sherlock Holmes, is generally considered a milestone in the field of crime fiction, And ultimately was featured in a total of 56 short stories and four Conan Doyle novels. Sherlock Holmes has since appeared in many novels and stories by other authors including The Silk House and Moriaty by Anthony Horowitz. ‘The Final Problem’ was published in 1913 and ‘The Valley of Fear’ was serialised in 1914. Many Sherlock Holmes novels have also been adapted for screen and Television, with Basil Rathbone, Ian Richardson, Peter Cushing and Robert Downey Junior among others, playing the role of Sherlock Holmes

Posted in books

Kenneth Grahame

Scottish Writer Kenneth Grahame sadly passed away 6 July 1932. He is best known for writing The Wind in the Willows and the Reluctant Dragon; both books were later adapted for film and Television. Kenneth Grahame was born on 8 March (1859) in Edinburgh, Scotland. When he was a little more than a year old, his father, an advocate, received an appointment as sheriff-substitute in Argyllshire at Inveraray on Loch Fyne. Kenneth loved the sea and was happy there, but when he was 5, his mother died from complications of childbirth, and his father, who had a drinking problem, gave over care of Kenneth, his brother Willie, his sister Helen and the new baby Roland to Granny Ingles, the children’s grandmother, in Cookham Dean in the village of Cookham in Berkshire. There the children lived in a spacious, if dilapidated, home, “The Mount”, on spacious grounds in idyllic surroundings, and were introduced to the riverside and boating by their uncle, David Ingles, curate at Cookham Dean church. This delightful ambiance, particularly Quarry Wood and the River Thames, is believed, to have inspired the setting for The Wind in the Willows.

He was an outstanding pupil at St Edward’s School in Oxford. During his early years at St. Edwards, a sports regimen had not been established and the boys had freedom to explore the old city with its quaint shops, historic buildings, and cobblestone streets, St Giles’ Fair, the idyllic upper reaches of the River Thames, and the nearby countryside.Grahame wanted to attend Oxford University, but was not allowed to do so by his guardian on grounds of cost. Instead he was sent to work at the Bank of England in 1879, and rose through the ranks until retiring as its Secretary in 1908 due to ill health, which may have been precipitated by a strange, possibly political, shooting incident at the bank in 1903. Grahame was shot at three times, all of them missed. While still a young man in his 20s, Grahame began to publish light stories in London periodicals such as the St. James Gazette. Some of these stories were collected and published as Pagan Papers in 1893, and, two years later, The Golden Age. These were followed by Dream Days in 1898, which contains The Reluctant Dragon.Grahame married Elspeth Thomson in 1899; they had only one child, a boy named Alastair (whose nickname was “Mouse”) born blind in one eye and plagued by health problems throughout his short life.

On Grahame’s retirement, they returned to Cookham where he had lived as a child, and lived at “Mayfield”, now Herries Preparatory School, whewhere he had been brought up and spent his time by the River Thames doing much as the animal characters in his book do—namely, as one of the most famous phrases from the book says, “simply messing about in boats”—and wrote down the bed-time stories he had been telling his son Alistair. Tragically Alastair eventually committed suicide on a railway track while an undergraduate at Oxford University, two days before his 20th birthday on 7 May 1920. Out of respect for Kenneth Grahame, Alastair’s demise was recorded as an accidental death. Kenneth Grahame died in Pangbourne, Berkshire, on 6 July 1932. He is buried in Holywell Cemetery, Oxford. Grahame’s cousin Anthony Hope, also a successful author, wrote his epitaph, which reads: “To the beautiful memory of Kenneth Grahame, husband of Elspeth and father of Alastair, who passed the river on the 6th of July, 1932, leaving childhood and literature through him the more blest for all time”

The Wind in the Willows focuses on the adventures of four anthropomorphous animal characters in a pastoral version of England. It is notable for its mixture of mysticism, adventure, morality, and camaraderie and celebrated for its evocation of the nature of the Thames valley. The story starts during Spring, when Mole, decides to do a bit of spring cleaning but gets bored so he sets out to enjoy the sunshine and take in the air above ground instead. He ends up at the river, which he has never seen before and meets Ratty (a water Vole), who at this time of year spends all his days in, on and close by the river. Rat takes Mole for a ride in his rowing boat. They get along well and spend many more days boating, with Rat teaching Mole the ways of the river. One summer day shortly thereafter, Rat and Mole find themselves near the grand Toad Hall and pay a visit to their incorrigible friend Toad.

Toad is rich (having inherited wealth from his father): jovial, friendly and kind-hearted but aimless and conceited, he regularly becomes obsessed with current fads, only to abandon them as quickly as he took them up. Having only recently given up boating, Toad’s current craze is his horse-drawn caravan. In fact, he is about to go on a trip, and persuades the reluctant Rat and willing Mole to join him. The following day (after Toad has already tired of the realities of camp life and sleeps-in to avoid chores), a passing motor car scares the horse, causing the caravan to overturn into a ditch. Rat threatens to have the law on the motor car drivers, Toad however now decides he now wants a Motor Car. The three animals journey to the nearest police station to make a complaint against the reckless drivers and then to a blacksmith to retrieve and mend the caravan. However Toad makes no effort to help mend the caravan and decides to order himself a motor car instead.

Mole wants to meet the respected but elusive Badger, who lives deep in the Wild Wood, but Rat -knowing that Badger does not appreciate visits – refuses to take him, telling Mole to be patient and wait and Badger will pay them a visit himself. Nevertheless, on a snowy winter’s day, whilst the seasonally somnolent Ratty dozes unaware, Mole impulsively goes to the Wild Wood to explore, hoping to meet Badger. He gets lost in the woods, sees many “evil faces” among the wood’s less-welcoming denizens, succumbs to fright and panic and hides, trying to stay warm, amongst the sheltering roots of a tree. Rat, upon awakening and finding Mole gone, guesses his mission from the direction of Mole’s tracks and, equipping himself with a pistol and a stout stick, goes in search, finding him as snow begins to fall in earnest.

Attempting to find their way home, Rat and Mole quite literally stumble across Badger’s home, and, warmly welcomes Rat and Mole to his large and cosy underground home and hastens to give them hot food and dry clothes. Badger learns from his visitors that Toad has crashed six cars, has been hospitalised three times, and has spent a fortune on fines. So they decide to protect Toad from himself. Upon the arrival of spring, Badger visits Mole and Rat to do something about Toad’s self-destructive obsession. The three of them go to visit Toad, and Badger tries to make him see sense eventually putting Toad under house arrest, with themselves as the guards, until Toad changes his mind. Feigning illness, Toad manages to escape, steals a car, drives recklessly, accidentally crashes and gets arrested by the police and sent to prison for twenty-years.

During Toad’s absence Badger and Mole look after Toad Hall in the hope that Toad may return. Meanwhile in prison, Toad gains the sympathy of the Jailer’s Daughter who helps him to escape disguised as a washerwoman and he comes across a horse-drawn barge, whose Owner offers him a lift in exchange for Toad’s services as a “washer woman”. However This does not go well and Toad finds himself tossed into the canal although he manages to steal the barge horse, which he then sells to a gypsy, Before flagging down a passing car, which happens to be the very one which he stole earlier. The car owners, not recognizing Toad disguised as a washerwoman, permit him to drive their car.

Unfortunately Once behind the wheel, Toad gets road rage and drives recklessly before declaring his true identity to the outraged passengers who try to stop him. This causes an accident, and Toad flees once more. Pursued by police, he runs accidentally into a river, which carries him by sheer chance to the house of the Water Rat. Toad now hears from Rat that Toad Hall has been taken over by weasels, stoats and ferrets from the Wild Wood, who have driven out its former custodians, Mole and Badger. So Badger formulates a plan to drive the unsuspecting weasels out while they are holding a party in honour of their leader, and reclaim Toad Hall.

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Hilary Mantel

English novelist Dame Hilary Mary Mantel, DBE, FRSL née Thompson was born 6 July 1952 in Glossop Derbyshire. She grew up in the mill village of Hadfield. She attended St Charles local Roman Catholic primary school. Her parents separated and she did not see her father after age eleven. The family minus her father, but with Jack Mantel (1932-1995) who by now had moved in with them, relocated to Romiley, Cheshire, and Jack became her unofficial stepfather. She took her de-facto stepfather’s surname legally. She has explored her family background, the mainspring of much of her fiction, in her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost (2003). She attended Harrytown Convent in Romiley, Cheshire. In 1970, she began her studies at the London School of Economics to read law but transferred to the University of Sheffield and graduated as Bachelor of Jurisprudence in 1973.

After university, Mantel worked in the social work department of a geriatric hospital and then as a sales assistant in a department store. In 1972, she married Gerald McEwen, a geologist. In 1974, she began writing a novel about the French Revolution, which was later published as A Place of Greater Safety. In 1977, Mantel moved to Botswana with her husband. Later, they spent four years in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. She published a memoir of this time, Someone to Disturb, in the London Review of Books. McEwen gave up geology to manage his wife’s business affairs.They divorced, but remarried a couple of years later.

Her first novel, Every Day is Mother’s Day, was published in 1985, and its sequel, Vacant Possession, a year later. After returning to England, she became the film critic of The Spectator and a reviewer for a number of papers and magazines in Britain and the United States. Her novel Eight Months on Ghazzah Street (1988), which drew on her first-hand experience in Saudi Arabia, uses a threatening clash of values between the neighbours in a city apartment block to explore the tensions between Muslim culture and the liberal West. Her Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize-winning novel Fludd is set in 1956 in a fictitious northern village called Fetherhoughton, centring on a Roman Catholic church and a convent. A mysterious stranger brings about transformations in the lives of those around him.

Her second novel, A Place of Greater Safety (1992) won the Sunday Express Book of the Year award, for which her two previous books had been shortlisted. A long and historically accurate novel, it traces the career of three French revolutionaries, Danton, Robespierre and Camille Desmoulins, from childhood to their early deaths during the Reign of Terror of 1794. Her third novel, A Change of Climate (1994), set in rural Norfolk, explores the lives of Ralph and Anna Eldred, as they raise their four children and devote their lives to charity. It includes chapters about their early married life as missionaries in South Africa, when they were imprisoned and deported to Bechuanaland, and the tragedy that occurred there. Her fourth novel, An Experiment in Love (1996), won the Hawthornden Prize, takes place over two university terms in 1970. It follows the progress of three girls – two friends and one enemy – as they leave home and attend university in London. Margaret Thatcher makes a cameo appearance in this novel, which explores women’s appetites and ambitions, and suggests how they are often thwarted. Though Mantel has used material from her own life, it is not an autobiographical novel.

Her next book, The Giant, O’Brien (1998), is set in the 1780s, and is based on the true story of Charles O’Brien or Byrne, who came to London to earn money by displaying himself as a freak. His bones hang today in the Museum of the Royal College of Surgeons. The novel treats O’Brien and his antagonist, the Scots surgeon John Hunter, less as characters in history than as mythic protagonists in a dark and violent fairytale, necessary casualties of the Age of Enlightenment. She adapted the book for BBC Radio 4, in a play starring Alex Norton (as Hunter) and Frances Tomelty.

In 2003, Mantel published her memoir, Giving Up the Ghost, which won the MIND ‘Book of the Year’ award. That same year she brought out a collection of short stories, Learning To Talk. All the stories deal with childhood and, taken together, the books show how the events of a life are mediated as fiction. Her 2005 novel, Beyond Black, was shortlisted for the Orange Prize. Set in the years around the second millennium, it features a professional medium, Alison Hart, whose calm and jolly exterior conceals grotesque psychic damage. She trails around with her a troupe of ‘fiends’, who are invisible but always on the verge of becoming flesh.

In 2009 Mantel Published the novel Wolf Hall, about Henry VIII’s minister Thomas Cromwell.Set in England in the period from 1500 to 1535, Wolf Hall (which is named after the Seymour family seat of Wolfhall or Wulfhall near Burbage, just outside of Marlborough, Wiltshire, is a fictionalized biography which follows the exploits of Thomas Cromwell, who rises from humble beginnings as the son of a brutal blacksmith in the slums of Putney to become a mercenary, merchant and member of Parliament finally becoming the right-hand man of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey, adviser to the King, After surviving Wolsey’s fall from grace Cromwell eventually takes his place as the most powerful of Henry’s ministers, during this time he oversaw Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon and subsequent marriage to Anne Boleyn, was present during the religious upheavals of the Protestant reformation, the English church’s break with Rome and the dissolution of the monasteries. The story exposes the political machinations of Henry’s court and the vicious realities of the court of Henry VIII, Cromwell’s manipulation of the king and the court and how he re-shaped English politics and the balance of power. The story has more betrayals, affairs, alliances and scheming than a soap opera and also shows the nation on the brink of disaster and the very real threat of civil war looming large because the ageing king has no male heir.

The book won that year’s Man Booker Prize and Mantel was presented with a trophy and a £50,000 cash prize during an evening ceremony at the London Guildhall, by a panel of judges, led by the broadcaster James Naughtie, and On receiving the prize, Mantel said that she would spend the prize money on “sex and drugs and rock’ n’ roll”. The sequel to Wolf Hall, called Bring Up the Bodies, was published in May 2012 to wide acclaim. It won the 2012 Costa Book of the Year and the 2012 Man Booker Prize; Mantel thus became the first British writer and the first woman to win the Man Booker Prize more than once. following in the footsteps of J. M. Coetzee, Peter Carey and J. G. Farrell (who posthumously won the Lost Man Booker Prize). The third novel of the Thomas Cromwell trilogy, is called The Mirror and the Light. Mantel is also working on a short non-fiction book called The Woman Who Died of Robespierre, about the Polish playwright Stanisława Wolf Hall was also made into a Television series starring Bernard Hill (Theoden) as the Duke of Norfolk. Mantel also writes reviews and essays, mainly for The Guardian, the London Review of Books and the New York Review of Books. The Culture Show programme on BBC Two also profiled Mantel In 2011.

Posted in books, Fantasy, films & DVD

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

English author Lewis Carroll ( Charles Lutwidge Dodgson) told Alice Liddell and her sisters a story that would eventually form the basis for his book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland In a rowing boat on the River Thames from Oxford to Godstow, On July 4 1862 and It was subsequently published 4 July 1865. The journey began at Folly Bridge near Oxford and ended five miles away in the village Godstow. During the trip Dodgson told the girls a story that featured a bored little girl named Alice who goes looking for an adventure. The girls loved it, and Alice Liddell asked Dodgson to write it down for her. He began writing the manuscript of the story the next day, although that earliest version no longer exists. The girls and Dodgson took another boat trip a month later when he elaborated the plot to the story of Alice, and in November he began working on the manuscript in earnest. It tells of a girl named Alice falling through a rabbit hole into a fantasy world populated by peculiar, anthropomorphic creatures. The tale plays with logic, giving the story lasting popularity with adults as well as with children.It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre. Its narrative course and structure, characters and imagery have been enormously influential in both popular culture and literature, especially in the fantasy genre.

The novel starts with Alice feeling bored and drowsy while sitting on the riverbank with her elder sister who is reading a book with no pictures or conversations. She then notices a talking, clothed White Rabbit with a pocket watch run past. So She follows it down a rabbit hole, suddenly she falls a long way to a curious hall with many locked doors of all sizes. She finds a small key to a door too small for her to fit through, but through it she sees an attractive garden. She then discovers a bottle on a table labelled “DRINK ME,” so she drinks a little and the contents cause her to shrink in size. Unfortunately she leaves the key on the table. So She eats a cake with “EAT ME” written on it in currants.

After eating the cake Alice grows alarmingly and her head hits the ceiling. Alice starts crying and her tears flood the hallway. After shrinking down again Alice swims through her own tears and meets a Mouse, who is swimming as well and tries unsuccessfully to talk to him. The sea of tears becomes crowded with other animals and birds that have been swept away by the rising waters. Alice and the other animals reach the bank and a Dodo decides that the best thing to dry them off would be a Caucus-Race, which consists of everyone running in a circle with no clear winner. Then The White Rabbit appears and Mistaking her for his maidservant, Mary Ann, orders Alice to go into the house and retrieve some gloves but once inside she starts growing. The horrified Rabbit orders his gardener, Bill the Lizard, to climb on the roof and go down the chimney. Outside, Alice hears the voices of animals who hurl pebbles at her, which turn into little cakes and after eating them, Alice shrinks again.

Alice then encounters a blue Caterpillar on a mushroom smoking a hookah, who tells Alice that one side of the mushroom will make her taller while the other side will make her shorter. She breaks off two pieces from the mushroom. One side makes her shrink smaller than ever, while the other causes her to grow alarmingly. Eventually Alice brings herself back to her normal height and discovers a small estate and uses the mushroom to reach a more appropriate height. She sees a Fish-Footman deliver an invitation to the Duchess, who lives at the estate and meets The Duchess’s Cook who is throwing dishes and making a soup that has too much pepper, which causes Alice, the Duchess, and her baby to sneeze violently. Alice is then given the baby by the Duchess which turns into a pig. The Duchess’s Cheshire Cat then directs her to the March Hare’s house.

Here Alice becomes a guest at a “mad” tea party along with the March Hare, the Hatter, and a very tired Dormouse who falls asleep frequently, only to be violently woken up moments later by the March Hare and the Hatter. The characters give Alice many riddles and stories. Eventually though Alice tires of all the inane riddles and leaves claiming that it was the stupidest tea party that she had ever been to. Upon leaving the Tea-Party Alice enters the Queen of Hearts garden and encounters three living playing cards painting the white roses on a rose tree red because The Queen of Hearts hates white roses. A procession of more cards, kings and queens and even the White Rabbit enters the garden. Alice then meets the King and Queen, who is fond of saying “Off with his head!” For the slightest transgression. Alice is invited to play a game of croquet with the Queen and the rest of her subjects but the game quickly descends into chaos. Live flamingos are used as mallets and hedgehogs as balls. The Queen is then prompted by the Cheshire Cat to release the Duchess from prison.

The Duchess is then brought to the croquet ground at Alice’s request, and The Queen of Hearts dismisses her on the threat of execution and introduces Alice to the Gryphon, who takes her to the Mock Turtle and the Gryphon then suggests they play a game. So The Mock Turtle and the Gryphon dance to the Lobster Quadrille, and then the Gryphon drags Alice away for an impending trial where the Knave of Hearts is accused of stealing the Queen’s tarts. The jury is composed of various animals, including Bill the Lizard, the White Rabbit is the court’s trumpeter, and the judge is the King of Hearts. Others Attending the trial include the Hatter, and the Duchess’s cook. Alice is then called upon to give evidence as a witness. During the proceedings, Alice finds to her alarms that she is steadily growing larger and her increasing size causes problems. So The King and Queen order Alice to be gone, citing Rule 42 (“All persons more than a mile high to leave the court”). However Alice disputes their judgement and refuses to leave until the Queen of Hearts eventually shouts “Off With Her Head!”