In this scene, Jack comes home from work to find his teenage daughter, Beverley, teaching herself to type. She’s an unmarried mother to baby Kerry and is already finding full-time parenting difficult. She decides to look for a job. After all, her mother goes out at work, so why can’t she?
On Friday afternoon, Jack let himself into the house and whistled. The only response was a soft tap-tapping from the kitchen.
He walked down the passage and opened the door. Bev was sitting at the kitchen table with Lily’s old typewriter, a book open beside her. She was looking at the book and typing, a frown of concentration on her face.
She jumped a mile.
“Shit!” she yelped. “Don’t do that!”
“What? Walk into me own kitchen? What you doing?”
“Baking a cake, what does it look like?”
“Then you’re a lousy cook,” he grinned.
Bev giggled. Jack knew she could never resist her old dad’s jokes.
“Any danger of a cuppa?”
She rolled her eyes and got up to put the kettle on.
“Where’s the baby?”
“Upstairs in her cot. She finally decided she was tired.”
He walked round the table and looked at the paper in the machine.
The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog. The quick btrim
“What’s a b-t-r-i-m?”
“It’s an old man what sneaks up on you.”
“Ah, I thought so.” He sat down. “So, you’re learning to type?”
“Yeah. I’m using Mum’s old book. It’s easy. Or it was till you scared the living daylights out of me.”
He held up his hands. “Sorry, love. So, how long’s this been going on?”
She shrugged. “Not long. I got bored, so thought I might as well do something useful.”
“Something useful, eh? Like doing some housework to help your mum out?”
She leant against the sink and gave him a look, just like Lily. What was it about his girls and those stroppy looks?
“Something useful for me,” she said. “So I can get a job.”
He frowned. “There’s plenty of time for that. You’ve got Kerry to think of first.”
Bev huffed and turned away, spooning tea into the pot, muttering to herself.
Lily’s dreams of a better life for her family are shattered when her teenage daughter refuses to give up her illegitimate child. It doesn’t help that Lily’s husband, Jack, takes their daughter’s side. Taking refuge in her work at a law firm in the City, Lily’s growing feelings for her married boss soon provides a dangerous distraction.
Will Lily be able to resist temptation? Or will the decisions made by these ordinary people lead them down an extraordinary path that could destroy them all?
‘Mine’ – a powerful story of class, ambition and sexual politics.
Reader of pajnewman.com can read an exclusive extract from ‘Mine’ by Alison Knight here:
Alison Knight has indeed produced a powerful tale of class, ambition and forbidden love against the backdrop of 1960’s London.
The social mores of the day are played out against the backdrop of socially ambitious Lily becoming fragmented by her desire for advancement and dreams of bettering herself as her happy-go-lucky working class husband enjoys what he has.
This is marketed as a 1960s noir-ish novel but it is much more Eastenders via The Krays. This is not a glorified world of sharp suited gangsters and flash cars – it’s tins of peas, spuds needing peeled for tea and the quiet desperation of doomed love.
Decisions made – in lust, in hate, in ignorance – have consequences in this novel. And bad things can certainly befall those who don’t know their place in this society.
Few, if any, characters are happy. They are all locked in their own chambers of dissatisfaction and disgruntlement.
The other way that it does not really fit the template of a crime novel is that it is not excessively plot driven. For the most part of 400 pages, these are small, domestic events. It’s the stresses of being late for Brownies or swimming lessons; the struggle to get to the office on time; or the relationship seeping away as the lust for excitement washes over the middle aged protagonists.
The fact that Knight writes in a crisp, engaging style which sucks the reader in and sweeps them towards the shocking and alarming denouement is a testament to her skill as a writer.
Overall, this is the sort of down to earth, realistic tale about the ripples caused by the decisions we take which live on generation to generation which will stay with the reader for a long time.
Alison has been a legal executive, a registered childminder, a professional fund-raiser and a teacher. She has travelled the world – from spending a year as an exchange student in the US in the 1970s and trekking the Great Wall of China to celebrate her fortieth year and lots of other interesting places in between.
In her mid-forties Alison went to university part-time and gained a first-class degree in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University and an MA in the same subject from Oxford Brookes University, both while still working full-time. Her first book was published a year after she completed her master’s degree.
Mine is a domestic drama set in 1960s London based on real events in her family. She is the only person who can tell this particular story. Exploring themes of class, ambition and sexual politics, Mine shows how ordinary people can make choices that lead them into extraordinary situations.
Alison teaches creative and life-writing, runs workshops and retreats with Imagine Creative Writing Workshops(www.imaginecreativewriting.co.uk) as well as working as a freelance editor. She is a member of the Society of Authors and the Romantic Novelists’ Association.
She lives in Somerset, within sight of Glastonbury Tor.
‘Trials and Tribulations of a Pet Sitter’ by Laura Marchant
Hilarious and heart warming true stories of a Pet Sitter.
Laura takes us on her journey describing the immense joy that the animals have brought into her life. But it’s not all fun and games. With sometimes as many as ten dogs around her home, things can get a tad hectic. Not to forget the every day challenges faced in keeping the pets happy and safe when out walking. Luckily she is not alone in her quest; her unusually dominant Golden Retriever ‘Brece’ is always by her side. Brece earns her keep by convincingly playing the part of the alpha female, ensuring harmony amongst the pack.
At times, the responsibility that Laura faces becomes overwhelming. She may think she has everything covered but that hand of fate could quite easily swoop down, creating havoc for her and the dogs. Laura has endured many close calls and teetered on the precipice of disaster may a time. The longer she continues with her pet sitting enterprise, the more likely hood that total disaster will actually strike. Is she tempting fate?
Laura Marchant is the Bridget Jones of the pet sitting world!
Dogs are the best, aren’t they? I know that Laura Marchant takes us on a guided tour of her pet sitting empire which includes cats, but this is really a book all about dogs.
And, rightly so. What’s not to love about the lovable fur balls who share our homes? I think, if you were Marchant, the answer might be: “quite a lot”.
However, from trashed furniture to wild escape attempts and no room on the sofa, she takes the reader on a journey from contented office worker to pet sitting queen.
In some ways, the best thing about this book is the wish fulfilment. What true pet lover has not ideally dreamed about the opportunity to spend your days strolling through rolling fields with lovely hounds for hours at a time?
Marchant provides a down-to-earth, almost step by step guide to setting up as a responsible, caring pet sitter. You can just feel the amount of furry cuddles she’s had radiate off the page.
But, boy, does it sound like hard work!
If I have a criticism (apart from her assertion that dogs have extra sensory perception which I think she and I are going to just have to agree to differ on) it is in the timbre of her writing.
Marchant has a friendly, informal, easy style. She is a comical, engaging and entertaining guide through the sometimes fraught world of professional pet sitting. But there is, perhaps, a lack of light and shade. The thing which sets the best writing about dogs apart – Marley and Me for example – is the terrible, finite lifespan of these magical companions. As the book neared its completion I kept waiting for the tragedy which would elevate this work to tear jerking finale, but it never came.
However, overall this is a charming tale, charmingly told and, if like many people in the UK, you adore your dogs, this will pass many a pleasant evening sharing limited sofa space with a domesticated wolf cramping your comfort.
Author Bio – Laura Marchant was born in 1959 in the seaside resort of Lytham St Annes, Lancashire, England. Both her parents were born in the same town, so not exactly a family of intrepid travellers! As a child Laura and her siblings were fortunate enough to own shares in the family’s pets. Unbeknown to Laura at the time, her love for the animals formed the blueprint for a large part of her life. In 2011 she finally found her vocation, and in the comfort of her own home, set up a pet boarding business. For the next 7 years she shared her abode with a pack of dogs. A lot of this time was spent watching over the animals and observing their behaviour, which in turn inspired her to write her first novel ‘Trials and Tribulations of a Pet Sitter’.
Janet’s first love arrives out of the blue after forty years. Those were simpler times for them both. Sunny childhood beach holidays, fish and chips and big copper pennies clunking into one armed bandits.
The Wells family has run the Cromer Pier Summertime Special Show for generations. But it’s now 2009 and the recession is biting hard. Owner Janet Wells and daughter Karen are facing an uncertain future. The show must go on, and Janet gambles on a fading talent show star. But both the star and the other cast members have their demons. This is a story of love, loyalty and luvvies. The road to Cromer Pier might be the end of their careers, or it might just be a new beginning.
Martin Gore’s second novel is, I think, going to divide opinion. If you share his characters’ affection for, and nostalgia of, the great seaside holidays of the past in places like Cromer and Hastings and Bracklesham Bay, then you will adore this book.
If, like many others, you think the reason that these places are dying a slow, strangulated death is because what they offer is over priced, miserably devoid of entertainment and plasticy crap, then you’ll find it hard to engage much with the central dilemma of whether the show will go on and the theatre saved. I grew up in one. I know they don’t need to be saved.
What Gore creates extremely successfully here is a world. This is a town where celebrities on the way up or the way down converge to put on a show which keeps the end of the pier theatre going.
Gore populates this world like a soap opera: the stand up comedian with a dark secret, the former talent show starlet struggling to put together a life and a career, the mother and daughter team holding the thing to together with sticky tape and glue all the while attempting to evade the shark like attentions of local worthy, and seedy adulterous businessman, Lionel Penrose.
Into this cast of characters as shop soiled and seedy as the seafront town they inexplicably want to keep going, washes up disgraced former football manager on the run from his own troubles and a lover of the head strong Janet, who has some secrets of her own.
This is a novel which walks a bit of a tight rope as I mentioned. If you like the characters, then the ensemble nature – cleverly structured to the mirror the type of show they are building up to at the end of the pier – will allow you to swoop in and out of their stories to satisfy your curiosity. However, this becomes a high wire act as a reader can struggle to stay engaged if there is not a clear protagonist, or at least pair of protagonists to hold on to.
The version I reviewed was an audiobook and this lead to one or two other issues which might not be such and issue in print.
Certainly I once read that a writer should avoid having characters whose names begin with the same letters. I must confess that at times I struggled with Carol and Karen but this somewhat went into overdrive when, in such a large cast, there is a Lec, a Les, a Lauren and a Lionel. I ended up gravitating to the Paul and Janet story just because I could remember who the hell they were.
Additionally, the narration of Penny Scott-Andrews is variable. She renders the Welsh lilt of Lauren with beautiful precision and does a very sleazy Lionel too. But it does grate when a novel about showbusiness has a narrator who pronounces Captain Mainwaring as Captain Main-Wearing. Dad’s Army isn’t that obscure a reference even these days, surely?
Overall, however, I enjoyed diving into the underbelly of a failing theatrical enterprise and the setting was enhanced by rooting the piece so firmly against the backdrop of the 2008 financial crash. This is light, simple story telling, well told and engaging the big themes in life. I rather hope Mr Gore gets back on the Road to Cromer Pier in future.
I am a 63 year old Accountant who semi-retired to explore my love of creative writing. In my career I held Board level jobs for over twenty five years, in private, public and third sector organisations. I was born in Coventry, a city then dominated by the car industry and high volume manufacturing. Jaguar, Triumph, Talbot, Rolls Royce, Courtaulds, Massey Ferguson were the major employers, to name but a few.
When I was nine year’s old I told my long suffering mother that as I liked English composition and drama I was going to be a Playwright. She told me that I should work hard at school and get a proper job. She was right of course.
I started as an Office Junior at Jaguar in 1973 at eleven pounds sixty four a week. I thus grew up in the strike torn, class divided seventies. My first career ended in 2015, when I semi retired as Director of Corporate services at Humberside Probation. My second career, as a Non Executive Director, is great as it has allowed me free time to travel and indulge my passion for writing, both in novels and for theatre.
The opportunity to rekindle my interest in writing came in 2009, when I wrote my first pantomime, Cinderella, for my home group, the Walkington Pantomime Players. I have now written eight. I love theatre, particularly musical theatre, and completed the Hull Truck Theatre Playwrite course in 2010. My first play, a comedy called He’s Behind You, is now available on: https://www.silverbirchingtonplays.com/product-page/he-s-behind-you-by-martin-gore
Pen Pals was my first novel, and a second, The Road to Cromer Pier, is now available in all three formats. It was officially launched on Cromer Pier itself, coinciding with the new season of the Summertime Special Show.
I’m active on twitter @authorgore and on Facebook Martin Gore Author. My website is www.martingore.co.uk.
I’m an old fashioned writer I guess. I want you to laugh and to cry. I want you to believe in my characters, and feel that my stories have a beginning, a middle, and a satisfactory ending.’
I am delighted to bring you this cover reveal for Emma Davies’ new novel. Complete with gorgeous basset hound.
When Summer meets Wynter…
With enough rooms to fill a Cluedo board several times over, Montague House has often been the subject of rumour and gossip. Tales of strange goings on, an owner who disappeared one day and was never seen again, not to mention the treasure that rumour has it lies at its heart… But now the present owner has died and the house is to be sold. It looks as if the opportunity has come to finally settle the stories once and for all.
Clodagh Wynter doesn’t believe in ghostly goings on and tall tales of secrets. She has her feet very firmly on the ground and, tasked with the job of valuing and cataloguing the house and all its contents, she’s simply looking forward to working in such a glorious setting. And if she happens across a priceless painting, well, that’s just icing on the cake.
Andie Summer is a Finder of Things and desperately needs this job; she’s down to her last few tins of baked beans. So looking for hidden treasure sounds right up her street, even if there was something very fishy about the mysterious Mr Mayfair who hired her. Because it’s just like she said to her faithful Basset Hound, Hamish; I saw something out of the corner of my eye as I was leaving, and you know what that means. It’s never good news when I see something out of the corner of my eye…
As the unlikely pair are thrown together, it soon becomes very clear however that they are not the only ones searching for the treasure. And they’re going to need all their ingenuity, resourcefulness, not to mention chocolate biscuits, if they’re ever going to untangle the web of secrets that surrounds Montague House. One that reaches even further than they ever thought possible…
After a varied career, Emma Davies once worked for a design studio where she was asked to provide a fun and humorous (and not necessarily true) anecdote for their website. She wrote the following: ‘I am a bestselling novelist currently masquerading as a thirty-something mother of three.’ Well the job in the design studio didn’t work out but she’s now a fifty-something mother of three and is happy to report the rest of her dream came true.
After many years as a finance manager she now writes full time, and is far happier playing with words than numbers. She lives with her husband and three children in rural Shropshire where she writes in all the gaps in between real life.
‘New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun’ by Chris Penhill
Follow your yellow brick road … Alice Dorothy Matthews is on the road to paradise! She’s sold her house in London, got rid of her nasty ex and arranged her move to Portugal where friendship and romance awaits. All that’s left to do is find a place to call home. But Alice’s dreams are called into question when complications with friends, work and new relationships make her Portuguese paradise feel far too much like reality. Will Alice’s dream of a new home in the sun come true?
Ten years ago, I arranged to go to a place in Portugal which I had never heard of, called Cascais. It began a love affair with the country which has endured to this day.
Cascais is the place where the Lisbonistas go to escape the heat of the city in the summer, it has the plasticy, tourist trade associated with holiday places.
It also has the friendly locals, the bountiful fish market, a sumptuously (and expensively renovated) castle overlooking the sea.
Chris Penhill does a fine job of throwing obstacles in her heroine’s way from embracing her new existence and this is a novel surprisingly light on the travelogue aspect of the location. Penhill is a writer of solid craft and she lets the characters drive the action, rather than relying on the gorgeous location.
It is rom-com with crowd pleasing potential and a location to make a pandemic-era reader weep with jealousy for the freedom of the characters.
If you like beautiful locations, authentic protagonists in a romping read by a skilful author, this novel is for you.
Chris Penhall won the 2019 Choc-Lit Search for a Star competition, sponsored by Your Cat Magazine, for her debut novel, The House That Alice Built. The sequel, New Beginnings at the Little House in the Sun was published on August 25th 2020.
Chris is an author and freelance radio producer for BBC Local Radio.
Born in Neath in South Wales, she has also lived in London and in Portugal, which is where The House That Alice Built is set. It was whilst living in Cascais near Lisbon that she began to dabble in writing fiction, but it was many years later that she was confident enough to start writing her first novel, and many years after that she finally finished it! A lover of books, music and cats, she is also an enthusiastic salsa dancer, a keen cook, and loves to travel. She is never happier than when she is gazing at the sea.
When rural banker Richard Harper is reported missing, DSS John (Archie) Baldrick and DC Ben Travers are drawn into the tangled details of the man’s life. Would Harper really have chosen to leave his seriously ill wife, and abandon his pregnant girlfriend? Or is there a real threat behind the abusive emails he’d been receiving from desperate clients in the wake of the Global Financial Crisis?
On the home front, Archie’s marriage is rocky and his two teenage daughters are giving him all sorts of trouble. The frail but beautiful Helena Harper and her magnificent house offer an oasis of calm as Archie struggles to discover who is responsible for her husband’s disappearance. Has he really been abducted, tortured or killed? Or is Richard Harper himself behind everything that has happened?
Archie and Travers ultimately face a race against time as the case descends into a bewildering morass of obsession, violence and murder.
Longlisted for the 2019 Michael Gifkins Memorial Prize for an Unpublished Novel
Finalist in the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards for Best First Novel
Ok, first things first – I’ve never been to New Zealand. Many people close to me who I value the judgement of, tell me that it is wonderful and I like wine and rugby so I can’t really see any reason for it not to be lovely.
And, if this novel is anything to go by, I’ll be a fool not to visit as soon as this trifling matter of a global pandemic is out of the way.
This is a novel which just begs to be enjoyed. Archie Baldrick, our Marlborough Marlowe, is every reader’s dream of a sexy lead detective. Paunchy, beset by anxiety for his teen daughters (not without cause) and in a marriage which looks fragile as the two former teen lovers drift away, our middle aged ginger detective with the sciatic nerve is quite the pin up.
And this is where this story lives: in the details and the quiet sadness which character endure, not complainingly just with the knowledge that their world’s just got a little but sadder.
The actual story of the disappeared banker who may or may not be responsible for the swirling violence and murder which the climax of the novel addresses is handled with a rare skill and aplomb by this debutant author.
First novels can often be brilliant because they are the culmination of a whole life’s ambition burning to get out. But ‘Into the Void’ does not come off like that at all. It is a fast paced, well-plotted and exceedingly well-written voyage into choppy waters for likeable, recognisable and flawed characters.
Highly recommended and I can’t wait to read O’Reilly’s next one.
Or readers can email Christina via her website www.christinaoreilly.com or her Facebook page Christina O’Reilly – Author for a paperback copy.
Author Bio –
Christina O’Reilly is an author and proofreader living in the Waikato region of New Zealand. Several of her short stories have been published in anthologies, most recently in Fresh Ink: A Collection of Voices from Aotearoa New Zealand 2019. Into the Voidis her first crime novel and was longlisted for the Michael Gifkins Memorial Prize in 2019. It is also a finalist in the 2020 Ngaio Marsh Awards for Best First Novel.
In the years before the war, Sylvie Charlot was a leading light in Paris fashion with many friends among musicians, artists and writers. Now she is largely forgotten. Spending time in Paris during a break in his acting career, Colin Mallory sees a striking portrait of Sylvie. Some think it is a late work by Édouard Vuillard but there is no signature or documentary evidence to support this view.
The picture has some unusual qualities, not least the presence of a shadow of something that cannot be seen. Perhaps the picture was once larger. Colin feels an odd sense of connection with Sylvie, who seems to be looking at him, appealing to him, wanting to tell him something. Despite a warning not to pursue his interest in her portrait, he is determined to find out more about the painting, who painted it, and why it was hidden for many years.
Colin’s search takes him back to the film and theatre worlds of Paris and London in the 1930s – and to a house in present-day Sussex. As he uncovers the secrets of Sylvie’s past, her portrait seems to take on a life of its own.
‘The Purple Shadow’ by Christopher Bowden is a novel of flowing prose, elegiac phrasing and subtlty of characterisation.
At the opening of the novel, out of work actor Colin Mallory is a malingering flanuer, perusing the streets of Paris at his pleasure.
Oddly, one of the toughest aspects of reading this novel is that it is so evocative of Paris that is almost painful in a world of lockdowns and social distancing. Bowden writes with a quiet panache and obvious affection for the City of Love that one is left with a feeling of nostalgia and great longing to return to the capital.
“His view was dormers and balconies, shutters and skylights, chimneys and blank walls. Even these were becoming indistinct as the blue light of evening gave way to night.”
Christopher Bowden is clearly a talented artist in his own right and he weaves the strands of plot between forgotten British movie stars of the interwar years with the latter day painting recovery with the skill of a Royal Academician.
Colour imagery positively throbs through the tale. From the second page’s “bright white walls,’ to the “chevrons of indigo, orange and grey” on the last, colours are used to mirror emotions and evoke the surroundings. It is skilfully and unobtrusively carried out.
My issue with the novel is, unfortunately, one which perturbed me for the entire end third of the book. The purple stain of the title is, as the blurb makes clear so this is not a spoiler, one on a painting. The stain seems to be changing, adapting and – possibly – literally moving and yet all of the characters just seem to shrug and say, “Creepy, isn’t it?”
Sorry, no – not creepy. Stupid. You’re confusing a sentient painting with some tawdry sub-Halloween-level balls.
All of the characters’ entirely blasé approach to the supernatural might enable the plot to wallop on, but it made me want to chuck this finely plotted, beautifully written little novel across the room in irritation.
Still, a quick read by a master craftsman which can be savoured for the quality of the writing alone.
Author Bio – Christopher Bowden lives in south London. He is the author of six colour-themed novels, which have been praised variously by Andrew Marr, Julian Fellowes, Sir Derek Jacobi, and Shena Mackay.
A murder of a high-profile law partner on a Manhattan street should have made the front page of the news. And yet it didn’t. Drew Bradley’s murder was treated as just another senseless crime and relegated to page four of the evening edition.
But what if the press had been privy to the fact that the murder was actually an assassination?
As the partners at Lannister and Stewart scramble to fill the vacuum left by Drew Bradley’s sudden death, Asia Blythe, a rising star in the firm is offered his coveted position. But this golden opportunity that brings with it power, prestige, and unlimited financial rewards demands adherence to a code. A code of allegiance to the firm with no exceptions.
Catapulted into the world of genetically modified designer babies and state-sponsored espionage, is Asia prepared to deal with the intrigues of a world that will threaten her life and shatter her illusions?
‘Spider Hunting’ by K.J McGillick is a fast paced conspiracy driven thriller set amongst the backdrop of corporate law in New York.
Former nurse, lawyer and person of many parts McGillick writes with a speed which whips the reader along, ensnaring her lead character Asia in the twisty worlds of international tax havens and the ethics of emergent medical techniques.
The novel seems to take its inspiration from a John Grisham-Dan Brown infusion and McGillick is an engaging guide. Her plotting, especially, is excellent. The reader is ushered through the twists and turns of a convoluted story like they’re on a flume at a water park.
The novel is populated with a range of characters, many of whom have the ring of verisimilitude to them. I have a particular affection for the haughty and sinister Ian Lannister, the senior man at the law firm related by marriage to the murdered man and, perhaps, up to his neck in medical malpractice.
It’s not a perfect novel, although what is? Asia is a good guide for the reader but is sometimes so innocent she makes Nancy Drew look like a Raymond Chandler character. At one point she says,
‘I felt my hand involuntarily hit my chest in surprise and leaned forward. “Ricin, that’s a biological weapon! What you are insinuating, or from this piece of information at least, my interpretation is we can conclude that this was no random act of violence.”’
One can’t help but wonder if she just forgot to clutch her twinset and pearls to her throat in horror.
Also, I would not like her to work on my case as a lawyer. She seems to know nothing of either tax law or the criminal bar. Considering she is considered impressive enough by the firm to be on fast track as an equity partner but she is shocked, shocked I tell you, to discover that not all law is conducted to strict ethical guidelines.
Additionally, I’m not sure I know what, “he asked in what sounded like a slight British accent,” means.
However, come for the occasionally hilarious dialogue and stay for the tight plotting, heroine with a personality and settled home life and entertaining cast of characters.
K. J. McGillick was born in New York and once she started to walk she never stopped running. But that’s what New Yorker’s do. Right? A Registered Nurse, a lawyer now author.
As she evolved so did her career choices. After completing her graduate degree in nursing, she spent many years in the university setting sharing the dreams of the enthusiastic nursing students she taught.
After twenty rewarding years in the medical field she attended law school and has spent the last twenty-four years as an attorney helping people navigate the turbulent waters of the legal system. Not an easy feat.
And now? Now she is sharing the characters she loves with readers hoping they are intrigued by her twisting and turning plots and entertained by her writing