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How many great thrillers are set during summer?

Getting prepared for the holiday season with this article from last year 🌞🍹🍍

The RetroReview

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The heatwave that we are enjoying in the UK right now has got me thinking. The weather is perfect for plonking yourself down in a sun lounger with a great book. As it happens, my latest DCI Dani Bevan novel, Dark As Night, is set during a rare Glasgow heatwave. But just how many other crime books take the summer months as their backdrop?
I must admit that the majority of my ten novels are set during autumn and winter. These ‘darker’ months just seem to lend themselves better to the creation of atmospheric tension and foreboding which goes hand-in-hand with the mystery genre.
In Dark As Night, the dramatic tension is built instead, by the close humidity and the climax of the story is precipitated by a sudden, violent storm. To make the atmosphere right, there have to be some dark clouds lurking on the horizon, ready to ruin…

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There’s no limit to what you can learn from a book.

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I was really interested to hear that veteran snooker player and multi world championship winner Steve Davis learnt to play the game by practicing with his father and closely following the book, ‘How I Play Snooker’ by Joe Davis (no relation). Steve commented that they referred to it like a bible. It taught him how to approach every different type of shot.

This story struck a chord with me. I firmly believe that it’s very possible to learn pretty much everything from a book (except possibly brain surgery!). Like most teachers, I don’t much enjoy being taught by others. I’ve attended several evening classes over the years but they just aren’t for me. I’d rather be at home, teaching myself from a self-help paperback. Nowadays you can also watch a YouTube video or two. The possibilities are endless.

Three years ago I read Adele Ramet’s book on creative writing. It helped me to complete my first novel, Aoife’s Chariot. Now I’ve got fifteen in my back catalogue, including a book for children. The advice was clear and straightforward. I was able to refer back to Ramet’s words at moments of uncertainty. It didn’t write the books for me, but it trained me in the fundamentals of the craft.

Steve Davis’ story also reminded me of my sister, who taught herself to draw from our mum’s guides to painting. She later learnt how to branch out into oil painting by using books. Technically speaking she is ‘untrained’ as an artist, having not attended an art school. But to me, her works are every bit as good. She has been a consultant artist on a feature film for heaven’s sake!

So why is it so important that books can teach us these skills? Crucially for me, it means that simply owning a library card can give a person access to the type of education and training that usually only those with wealth or privilege have access to. Snooker has always been a sport for all classes, not requiring expensive equipment or memberships to exclusive clubs. It’s not a sport played in public schools or by members of the royal family.

I remember very well the ‘teach yourself’ series of books which were popular in the 70s and 80s, offering comprehensive courses on everything from speed reading to playing golf.

My Dad didn’t have the opportunity to go to university, yet he is the most knowledgable person I know. Why? Because of books. At one point in the nineties, he had read just about every book available on the American Civil War and was often found correcting so-called ‘experts’ being interviewed on TV.

I wont be the only person who has a relative like this. Books have always been a great leveller. Those who have taught themselves that way are also more often than not self-starters, not spoon fed like overly educated types (like me!). They love knowledge for its own sake.

I stand  by my claim that you can learn pretty much anything you want from a book. And just like the cover of Ramet’s book, it can open doors to an entirely new world of opportunity.

Are we correct to set so much store by dressing ‘smartly’?

As the weather starts to improve, this blog from last year seems to hold some relevance.

The RetroReview

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So, despite being a world championship winner, Lewis Hamilton was refused entry to the royal box at Wimbledon for being too casually dressed. Gary Lineker described the action as ”England at its pompous worst”.
I’m inclined to agree, although the debacle did make me smile a little. My son and daughter will be required to wear ties as part of their primary school uniform come September. I’ll be buying them this week.
I suppose we’ve been lucky to avoid it for so long. But it’s going to be a wrench, especially after a lengthy summer break spent in nothing but t-shirts and swimsuits. My two children object even to the feel of the soft collar of a rugby top beneath their jumpers, let alone a stiff shirt with clip-on tie.
My offspring do not attend a private school, where such formality is more or less obligatory. But there is a…

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