New non fiction title: Picked Up, Patched Up and Sent Home: Why I Love the NHS by Carl Walker

Picked Up, Patched Up and Sent Home: Why I Love the NHS

‘One of the things that has been missing during the debate over the NHS is something that speaks to the experiences of normal folk and reminds people just what an amazing thing a public national health service really is. Like so many British people, I have used the NHS for a number of reasons throughout my life – some serious, others less so – but where would I be now without it? I honestly don’t know.’

Iso - NHS

This book represents the real-life stories of all of us who are routinely and often unnoticeably held together by the people who work in the NHS. These are the people who patch up, sew back together, irradiate, advise, scan, plaster, console, repair, inject and support us, before delivering us back home to carry on our lives.

A sharply observed collection of sometimes outrageous, often excruciating but always entertaining accounts of different interactions with one of Britain’s greatest treasures.

Nothing about the savaging of the NHS makes me laugh. Until this book. Carl Walker mounts a timely defence of our National Health Service that just happens to be laugh out loud funny. Ideal for fans of ‘not dying’ everywhere.’ - Rufus Hound, Comedian

‘A thoroughly enjoyable antidote to much of the nonsense peddled about the NHS these days….lively, sharp, informative.’ - Oliver Huitson, Co-Editor, openDemocracy

Carl Walker
Carl Walker is a principal lecturer in psychology at the University of Brighton and has fifteen years’ experience researching and publishing academic work on human behaviour. He is uniquely qualified to write this book on account of having embarrassed himself more times in a medical setting than any other human being alive.

Get your copy here.

New fiction: Another Chance, Another Life by Mark Neilson

Another Chance, Another Life

Becky and Kathy are great friends and, in a cruel yet
comforting parallel, both have recently lost their jobs and
face the prospect of starting their lives all over again.

Becky takes a relative up on his offer of the use of his
narrowboat, and sets sail for the Yorkshire Dales with her
son Jonathon, to see if pastures new can help her regain
what she’s lost. Kathy finds herself in love with a widower,
whose only daughter is still in mourning for her gifted
musician mother, her grief proving a solid opponent to any
new woman in her father’s life.

Both women must endure the weaving and uncertain path
of life, and love, towards a second chance at happiness.

9780719814341

Mark Neilson

Having previously worked as a banker, Mark Neilson went
on to become an Economics lecturer at Strathclyde
University. He later became a consultant but is now a fulltime
writer. His previous novels The Valley of the Vines and
A Strange Inheritance are also published by Robert Hale.

Buy your copy of Another Chance, Another Life here

 

New fiction: The Angel and the Sword by Sally Wragg

The Angel and the Sword

9780719814303The Nazi Party have a firm hold of 1930s Germany when wilful Henrietta Arabella, the youthful Duchess of Loxley, is sent on a tour of Europe by her formidable grandmother Katherine to
remove her from the temptation of an unsuitable love affair with the grandson of the estate’s chauffeur.

But the removal of one temptation only serves to spark another and, craving adventure, and for once escaping her companion, Hettie finds herself alone and lost in an insalubrious area of
Venice.

An incredible chain of events begins against the backdrop of the waterways and winding streets of Italy: Hettie will become
embroiled in the theft of secret war office papers, a German Count and a fantastical tale of a Saxon king and queen before she finds the anchor she seeks, her heritage and her history.

Sally Wragg

After marrying her husband and raising two children, Sally
Wragg completed an English degree at the University of
London and has since turned her hand to writing. Having
begun with short stories in women’s magazines, Sally now
has a number of books published by Robert Hale; Daisy’s
Girl, Maggie’s Girl and Playing for Keeps.

Buy your copy of The Angel and The Sword here

New fiction: A Narrow Victory by Faith Martin

A Narrow Victory
Once again, ex-DI Hillary Greene is delving into the archives, trying to discover who killed an interior designer at a New Years’ Eve Party in 1999. Somebody clearly didn’t want 9780719814334Felix Olliphant to enjoy the momentous occasion of seeing in not only a brand new year, but a brave new millennium.
The trouble is, the more she learns about her murder victim, the less likely it seems that anyone would want him dead – he was a genuinely decent human being, and she can’t find anyone with a bad word to say about him. To add to her woes, it seems her lover and immediate superior, Detective Superintendent Steven Crayle, is being lured away from her team with offers of a promotion
elsewhere.  Can she keep her mind on the job, and find out who killed Felix? Or is this the first cold case that will defeat even her?

Faith Martin
Faith Martin was born in Oxford. She began her working life as a secretary but left to pursue her dream of becoming a writer. A Narrow Victory is the latest in the thrilling Hillary Greene series.

Available online to buy here.

Other titles in the Hillary Greene series
9780709092049 9780709094760 9780719807978

New fiction: A Death at South Gare by Dan Latus

9780719814327A Death at South Glare
Private investigator Frank Doy makes an off-duty visit to the South Gare, the breakwater at the mouth of the River Tees. He is looking forward to seeing a spectacular high-tide in that wild, windswept place. Instead, he sees a man in the sea with no hope of rescue or survival, and shortly afterwards three men who he believes might have put him there.

Frank soon discovers that the man was the greatly-respected local MP, and as the only witness to this crime, he himself is now in deep trouble.

But he can’t just walk away. He needs to protect himself, but he wants justice for the murdered man. Aided by a young woman who was a close friend of the victim and is herself in jeopardy, he unravels a sinister plot by local industries, backed by global money.


Dan Latus
Dan Latus lives in Northumberland with his wife. He grew up in Teeside which is the inspiration for many of his novels. His previous novels include Run for Home, Never Look Back, Risky Mission and Out of the Night.

 

Buy your copy of A Death at South Glare here. 

Dylan Thomas, Sunset Boulevard and the Beatles: inspiring Three Strange Angels

by Laura Kalpakian

One of the pleasures of being a novelist is to be able to build an entire book from a wisp, a particle otherwise insignificant, an anecdote that lodges in the brain, rather like the grit that eventually becomes a pearl. Three Strange Angels is that sort of novel.

My first London agency was a venerable firm, founded in about 1919 and boasting a list of authors that dazzled me. By association, I liked to think, my work was included in this stellar company. I lived in England, off and on, Oxford and Cambridge, throughout the 80s, and when I first went to the literary agency’s Mayfair offices, I was delighted to step back in time. Amid an ambience of ramshackle tradition, typewriters clacked away, the air hung heavy with cigarette smoke, and manuscripts lolled off every shelf. In an arc across a high wall were a galaxy of author photos, literary sophisticates mostly from the 1930s and 40s. My own agent in this firm was new, a young woman around my age, and we became (and remain) fast friends. The head of the firm was a man of my parents’ generation, dapper, convivial, charming.

One summer afternoon he took the two of us out to lunch at a posh Mayfair restaurant. He was treated like royalty; the drinks kept coming, the service was impeccable, the conversation funny and anecdotal. He told a story about their client Dylan Thomas (no less!) and Thomas’s sad, sudden demise at the Chelsea Hotel in New York. At that time, 1953, this now-distinguished head of the agency was a young man, a junior partner. The firm sent him as their (and the family’s) emissary to New York to escort the poet’s body home to England. This was the era of ocean liners. On that voyage, on learning that the young literary agent was associated with the much-mourned poet, other travelers feted him, fed him, bought him drinks to salute the sadness they felt for the late, lamented Dylan Thomas. The experience made him understand the power of poetry.

After that lunch, on my way back to Cambridge, as the train whistled and rocked, I kept thinking, there’s a novel there

And now, some thirty years later, and spun far from that morselette of anecdote, Three Strange Angels comes to print. I didn’t actually start writing the book until about 2010 when the central character, Quentin, emerged in my imagination: a young man with all his tickets punched, his future foreordained. Francis Carson’s death would draw Quentin into the unexpected orbit of the fascinating widow, Claire Carson, a displaced American. The task of escorting the late Francis Carson’s body home from Los Angeles would change Quentin forever.  As I wrote and read and researched over the years, the central thematics emerged: the tension between Austerity and Desire. For a young Londoner in 1950 to step into Los Angeles would have been a total, cosmic shock to the system.

Gigi Fischer – clever, sassy, shallow – nicely embodies that cosmic shock. The formidable cookery writer, Louisa Partridge, offers Quentin insight, sophistication he could never have come to on his own. And Claire Carson offers him love, the great love of his life for which he was willing to imperil everything. The book’s title, from the D. H. Lawrence poem ‘Song of a Man Who Has Come Through’ (fittingly) came to me years after. I have always loved that line about the three strange angels knocking at the door, and the urgent admonition “Admit them, admit them.”

I filled Three Strange Angels with elements that have been important, even crucial to my own life. Books, of course. Reading. Especially novels.  Music of all sorts. I am especially fond of old, early recordings that hiss and rasp and the singer’s voice wavers up from the past. And films. In my research I sat spellbound through Sunset Boulevard (1950) and a lot of British films from and of that era as well. And then, just before I wrote the (sort of) last draft, I went to the library and spent days with the whirring microfilm machine and reading the London Times, beginning in January 1950, when the novel opens, to have a sense of the world in which Quentin Castle would have actually moved and lived and had his being.

Quentin Castle’s England was indeed pinched and austere. The war, though it ended five years before, was everywhere apparent in still-uncleared rubble; incalculable losses hung over everyone, as Robert’s death remains a vivid loss for Quentin. Rationing didn’t end till 1954; the winters were bitter and coal shortages kept people hunkered in their overcoats. Americans, who did not live with the war on their soil, nor with daily privations, had no understanding of England’s post-war suffering. And frankly (as the novel makes clear) wanted none.

In Britain the grim fifties ground on, and then, as the decade turned, the Beatles emerged!  Boyish, cheeky, energetic, incredibly talented, and tons of fun (A Hard Day’s Night is one of my favorite movies) the Beatles and the rock scene they inspired in the early sixties seemed to wake Britain up. The old post-war pall lifted, and England was suddenly chic, mod, even enviable. Three Strange Angels ends at this bright moment, June 1965, when Quentin, at age forty, prosperous, professionally acclaimed for his astute literary taste, sits at his desk and once again, risks everything for love.

Three Strange Angels will be published by Robert Hale in March 2015.

Wendy Perriam: ‘All set for Valentine’s Day!’

Wendy Perriam talks to us about Valentine’s Day and romance in her recent works.

‘Brilliant lovers sound just the ticket for Valentine’s Day! If we’re lucky enough to have one in our life, we can expect a profusion of hearts, flowers and chocolates on 14 February – and of course fireworks in the sack!

9780709093862But, in my new short-story collection, Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers, romantic relationships don’t always pan out quite so well. Even in the story Unbelievably Wonderful – again a title promising rapture all the way – Frances can only respond to her, yes, truly brilliant lover, Duncan, by pretending he’s someone completely and utterly different: her first teenage love, Josh, whom she’s never forgotten and regrets ever having left. So, in her mind she changes the tall, distinguished wealthy, high-powered Duncan into small, shabby, impoverished Josh – and, against all the odds, it does result in a “unbelievably wonderful” sexual encounter.

Another story, Venus, also takes an unexpected turn. Although Poppy is turned on, at first, by Leon’s erotic expertise, when he actually undresses she’s devastated by the sight of his spindly, withered body. Only then does she realize the full implications of the 60-year age-gap between them – something she’s chosen to ignore on account of his fame and distinction. But no amount of distinction can transform him into a virile young stud, so, appalled, she flees from his bed, while he, for his part, reacts with surprising venom.

As a writer, I’ve always been more interested in unworkable couplings and tempestuous liaisons than in quiet, contented relationships. After all, Cupid carries two different sorts of arrows: sharp ones of pure gold, which fill a person struck by them with uncontrollable desire, and blunt, lead-tipped ones that wound their victims with an overwhelming feeling of aversion. And I’m very much aware that, beneath the showy petals of Valentine’s Day red roses, lie sharp and dangerous thorns, and that even the most luscious of chocolates can sate and glut and stale.

None of the stories in Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers actually takes place on Valentine’s Day, but I’ve included it in earlier books. For instance, the two protagonists in my novel, The Stillness The Dancing, find themselves, on 14 February, staying on a remote Scottish Island, where David is researching the life of a seventh-century Celtic Saint. He suggests they mark the occasion by re-enacting the ancient Roman Festival of Lupercalia, which was celebrated on the same date as Valentine’s Day and thus claimed by some authorities to be historically linked with it.

So, after beating the bounds of the island and singing to a tame seal, the couple return to their windswept cottage for a ritual meal symbolizing fertility and fruitfulness. Yet, when they go upstairs for their first attempt at sex, it all goes disastrously wrong, & Morna lies miserable and frustrated, secretly enraged by the Catholic conditioning that has taught them both that sex is sinful and an instant passport to Hell.  Suddenly, though, she explodes in a wild tirade against nuns, priests, Popes and all those prissy celibates whose teachings have restricted her life and David’s so severely.  And the tirade itself finally ignites his passion, thus saving their offbeat Valentine’s Day!

In another novel, Second Skin, newly widowed Catherine has arranged to meet the handsome but troubled poet, Will, for a meal on Valentine’s Day. When she arrives, attired in her best but worryingly late, she finds him shabbily dressed, frozen stiff and distinctly grumpy – hardly a good start to the evening. And further problems and jealousies erupt during what she hoped would be a romantic dinner. In fact, it’s only when she actually takes the initiative and demands a kiss from the unforthcoming poet that, again, all is eventually resolved, since fortunately he obliges with full, red-blooded exuberance.

So what of my own Valentine’s Day this year? At the ripe old age of 74, I can hardly expect a passionate encounter, except perhaps in fantasy – one of the main resources for any writer. But I won’t be alone in my celibacy. According to recent research, 79% of us Brits would rather have a good night’s sleep than have sex with our partners, and more than one in five women would prefer to kiss goodbye to their sex-lives than have to give up chocolate. In fact, 33% of females obsess about chocolate during the day, compared with only 18% who fantasize about sex.

Beetles and gastropods, however, put us humans to shame. Recently, I was researching the sex-lives of lowly creatures (don’t ask why!), and it appears that the sex-crazed ladybird can mate for up to nine hours every day, and garden-snails aren’t far behind. The latter rub and bite each other in untiring sexual marathons, lustfully waving their eye-stalks, and even firing mucous love-darts at each other.

So perhaps I was mistaken in not including a ladybird or a snail or two in Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers. Nonetheless, Cupid’s love-darts are certainly present in the book, so I hope it will make an appropriately diverting gift for Valentine’s Day. If nothing else, it will undoubtedly last longer than chocolates or red roses!’

Order your copy of Bad Mothers Brilliant Lovers here

What We’re Reading in… February

recent article in The Bookseller told us what we already know: reading is good for us.

So, what are we at Robert Hale currently reading?

Esther, Editorial Controller:

9536900_Zola_LadiesParadise.indd“I tend to read a couple of books at the same time but for the last few months, my main read has been Zola’s The Ladies’ Paradise (Oxford World’s Classics). This French classic captures Victorian Paris very well; fashionable ladies, ambitious members of staff of the Ladies’ Paradise shop, and a desire to love and be loved are all prominent features, not to mention the rise of commercialism that was sweeping through Europe at this time. It’s a good read so far. The reason I read 19th century literature is because these books have the power to pull us back to an earlier period in history to let us experience what we don’t know – entertainment, politics, and industry – and imagine what life could have been like had we been there at the time.”

 

catherine - pile of booksCatherine, Design and Production Manager:

“I’ve had to promise myself not to buy any more books until I’ve got through the pile on my bedside table (see photo). I’ve been a fiend for buying books but not having enough time to read them!

cathering - broadchurchI’m currently enjoying Erin Kelly’s Broadchurch (Little Brown: Sphere) which gives extra background on the characters in the TV series. She’s written the book based on the first series with its creator Chris Chibnall. The stories are only available as eBooks at present but it’s a genius marketing tool. I’m a big fan of Erin Kelly’s books – her latest, The Ties That Bind (Hodder & Stoughton), being among my book pile. In addition, I’m about two thirds of the way through Jo Nesbo’s The Bat (Vintage). It’s the first Harry Hole case but issued in translation somewhat after his other books in the series. I have found previous Jo Nesbo books take a while to get into but worth persevering with!”


Sarah, Marketing and Publicity Manager:

“I’m reading The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (Bloomsbury).Sarah - signature of all things
It tells the story of a fictional female botanist, born in 1800, who has dedicated her life to her science, but finds this life turned upside down when she falls in love with a man whose beliefs run contrary to her own.

The book fuses together the Victorian concerns of science, divinity, magic and exploration. It’s very engaging and beautifully written for a story laced with science, and I’m enjoying learning about botany and related historical events, such as the foundation of Kew Gardens.”

 

Isobel, Marketing and Publicity Assistant:

“I’m reading Picked Up Patched Up and Sent Home: Why I Love the NHS by Carl Walker (Robert Hale). It’s a nice way to look at a subject that is veryIso - NHS topical, but can be a little morbid/ overwhelming. Carl’s tales of his many encounters with the public health service reminds me how fragile our bodies are, but somehow this isn’t done in a depressing way. Carl humanises the people who work for and use the NHS, and makes fun of sensationalist headlines that have turned the acronym into a political buzzword of horror. His style of writing is silly and clever at the same time, and makes me laugh loudly while I sit in Pret on my lunch break.”

 

New fiction: A Breach of Trust by John Dean

9780719814310A Breach of Trust

A crooked businessman suffers a fall at home and there is no reason to think it is anything other than an accident until after he dies when information comes to hand which points towards murder.
Detective Chief Inspector Blizzard and his team are
brought in to investigate and attention quickly focuses on the controversial closure of a local factory amid claims of widespread fraud. To solve the case, the detectives must enter a world in which passions run deep, threats and intimidation are rife, and hatred is never far from the surface.

John Dean

John Dean is an award-winning journalist from Darlington,
Co. Durham. He has twice been named North-East
Freelance Journalist of the Year and also Environmental
Reporter of the Year. His previous novels include Strange
Little Girl, The Railway Man, The Secrets Man and To
Honour the Dead.

Buy your copy of A Breach of Trust here.

 

New fiction: Past Imperfect by Michael Parker

9780719814266 - CopyPast Imperfect

It is two years since the wife of best-selling author Max Reilly died in a car crash along with her lover. Max is still recovering from her death and her deception. So when he meets Emma – who is awaiting divorce from her violent husband – and quickly becomes attracted to her, it is hard to reconcile with his grief.

Emma is cautious and keen to hold back and Max is determined to keep his secrets from her. This becomes increasingly difficult when he finds himself facing his past and one secret in particular, involving violence, murder and betrayal.

Michael Parker

Michael Parker is an author of six novels, including The
Boy from Berlin, also published by Robert Hale. After
leaving the Merchant Navy, he served in the Royal Air
Force and reached the rank of chief technician. He now
lives in Spain.

Buy your copy of Past Imperfect here.