A Lover of Books

Guest Post by Chris Nickson

Author Picture

I would like to introduce you all to Chris Nickson, an author who has written several novels and a number of non-fiction books.  His latest novel, ‘The New Eastgate Swing’ has just been published by The History Press.

Chris Nickson has written a guest post for my blog.  If you’re anything like me, once you’ve read this post you’ll be wanting to get hold of all his books.

~~~~~

Since I was 11 years old, I’ve written. The bug hit me and it’s never left. Poems, play, short stories, even (thankfully unpublished) novels. Music journalism and non-fiction. The whole range. But it wasn’t until 2004 that I tried my hand at historical crime.

I still lived in the US then. Born and raised in Leeds, by that time I’d spent almost 30 years in America. Yet I’d become a distant student of Leeds history, picking up whatever books I could on trips home and bidding for others on eBay. When I came across a reference to the post of Cloth Searcher (when the wool trade was making Leeds rich, the voluntary position belonged to one of the merchants. At the twice-weekly market he’d inspect the cloth the weavers offered for sale to make sure it was of high standard, rejecting work that didn’t make the grade) I was intrigued and saw the glimmer of a story in there.

There was no conscious decision to write historical crime. It was simply what fitted the idea. The book that resulted from that was never published, but it did give me Richard Nottingham, the Constable of Leeds and the main character in six novels I wrote set in the 1730s.

But from that experience I discovered that I’m more comfortable refracting the present through the past – today’s problems are really nothing new – and I can indulge my love of history, as well as explore places I’ve lived. So The Crooked Spire and The Saltergate Psalter are set in 14th century Chesterfield, a place I grew to love after moving back to the UK and living in a nearby village. Emerald City and West Seattle Blues both take place in Seattle, my home for 20 years, with a protagonist who’s a music journalist. The only different is that the character is a her.

But it’s Leeds I’ve come back to, time after time, in novels and in person. I moved back to my hometown a little over two years ago, no more than a mile from the street where I was raised. The Tom Harper novels, which are deliberately quite political, although still very much crime novels, gave me a chance to show a much-changed Leeds in the 1890s, heavily industrialised. The most recent, Skin Like Silver, also deals with the early suffragists.

Book Cover

Dark Briggate Blues and the latest book, The New Eastgate Swing, are 1950s English provincial noir. They grew, quite simply, out of me wondering what such a beast would be like. Leeds was (for me) the obvious setting, aided by the fact that the city really did have a jazz club, Studio 20. With that knowledge, it felt like Kismet. Post-war, Leeds has changed again, on its way to being the modern, sprawling giant, and Dan Markham, a young enquiry agent, was the perfect person to work there.

I love crime fiction, I always have. But I find that historical crime actually offers so much more, a chance to explore the psyche of the period, the attitudes and mores. But I’ve also discovered that using the same location in different periods, I have the freedom to explore the sense of place and the growth of a Northern city. A chance to indulge that love of history on a deeper level. It might be fiction, but I try to make the history very sound, and even bring in real people, characters like Tom Maguire and Isabella Ford in my Victorian novels, and Studio 20 owner Bob Barclay in the Markham novels.

I’m proud of Leeds. I feel I belong here in a way I never experienced when I was young. It has enough facets to keep me busy for the rest of my life. The next stop will be the 1920s in Modern Crimes, and the life of one of the city’s first policewomen.

And like my others characters, no matter when or where they live, she’ll be dealing with crimes. That moral framework imposed on history has become irresistible to me.

 

Links

Website – www.chrisnickson.co.uk

Publisher – www.severnhouse.com

Chris Nickson’s books – http://www.thehistorypress.co.uk/search-here/?s=chris+nickson

Publisher’s of Chris Nickson’s two Seattle books – http://www.creativecontentdigital.com/

Twitter – @ChrisNickson2

 

 

Blog Tour – ‘You And Me, Always’ by Jill Mansell

Blog Tour Poster

‘You And Me, Always’ is Jill Mansell’s brand new book.  It was published on the 28th January 2016 by Headline Review in hardback.  Today it is my turn on this blog tour and I have a few treats in store for you.  Firstly, my review.

This story is set in Stanton Langley, a beautiful village in Cornwall.  On the morning of Lily’s twenty-fifth birthday, she opens the very last letter written to her by her mother who sadly died when she was just eight years old.  Reading the letter, Lily leans more about her mum’s first and only true love and this gets her thinking.

Later on in the day Lily rather unexpectedly meets Eddie Tessler, a film star who is fleeing fame and who might have the ability to change her world in unimaginable ways.  However, Dan who has been her friend since childhood has his own reasons for not wanting Lily to get too carried away by Eddie’s attentions.

Before long, secrets begin to emerge and Lily’s friends and family become involved.  Nothing will ever be the same again in Stanton Langley.  Bu is this for the good or bad?  That’s for you to find out.

I really liked the cover for ‘You And Me, Always’.  It’s just so beautiful.  Right from the very first page I knew I was going to love this book.  The first chapter was just great and I loved that there was some humour from the start.  It certainly made me smile.

The author writes in such a way that you find yourself almost instantly getting drawn into the characters’ lives and feel as if you have known them forever.  I love it when a book does that.  The majority of the characters were really likeable, my favourites being Lily, Coral, Dan and Declan.  It must have been so hard for Lily losing her mum at such a young age.  Luckily she had plenty of people looking out for her.  Lily was a really lovely person who deserved happiness.

‘You And Me, Always’ is an absolutely delightful read which you won’t want to put down.

Jill Mansell certainly knows how to tell a great story.  I was very impressed and will be waiting eagerly for her next novel.  In the meantime though I suppose I could read some of her previous books.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

~~~~

Enjoyed reading my review?  Well to now whet your appetites that little bit more I have an exclusive extract from ‘You And Me, Always’.

Extract

Gosh, keeping secrets was hard. Lily kept finding herself glancing across the table at Patsy, and Patsy was doing the same to her.

Because Patsy knew about Eddie Tessler, and she knew about Eddie Tessler, and she knew that Patsy knew she knew …

In the meantime, Coral was blissfully unaware and rattling on about something else entirely.

Plus, of course, they had a birthday to celebrate.

Coming to this restaurant in the Montpellier area of Cheltenham was another tradition that had begun the year her mother had died. Having been brought to Maria’s months earlier and been enthralled by both the atmosphere and the fettuccine Alfredo, she’d asked to come here again for her birthday. And Maria, the owner, had made a wonderful fuss of her, bringing out the bowl of fettuccine with coloured candles stuck into it and persuading everyone in the restaurant, staff and customers alike, to sing ‘Happy Birthday’. Maria, a mother of seven herself, had succeeded in making what could have been a difficult evening a triumph instead. It might not be the most upmarket and glamorous place to eat, but it was without question the most welcoming. Nine-year-old Lily had hugged Maria and declared, ‘I’m always, always going to come here for my birthday.’

And they had done, every year since. Always the four of them when Nick had been alive, now they were down to three, but the welcome was just as warm, and Maria, like a proud and adoring grandma, still insisted on sticking candles into her food.

This evening they’d had another brilliant time, the food had been delicious and wine had been drunk.

Which wasn’t helping at all.

‘Who is it?’ said Coral when Patsy’s phone signalled the arrival of a message.

Patsy, who had glanced at the screen, gone a bit wide-eyed and hurriedly put the phone down, said, ‘Sorry? No one!’ Then her gaze had flickered in Lily’s direction and she’d taken another glug of wine.

~~~~~

Competition

Two very lucky people have the chance to win a hardback copy of ‘You And Me, Always’.  To enter all you have to do is leave a comment telling me about a previous book or books you have read by Jill Mansell.  If you haven’t read any of her previous novels then just tell me why you want to read this book.

Terms and Conditions

This competition is open to UK residents only.

The closing date is 11:59 p.m. on the 14th February 2016.

The winners will be picked at random and notified of their win within 7 days of the closing date.  Their details will be passed on to Elizabeth Masters at Headline who will send out your prizes.

Guest Post by Phyllis Edgerly Ring

Author Picture

I would like to introduce you all to Phyllis Edgerly Ring.  Phyllis lives in New Hampshire and returns as often as she can to her childhood home in Germany. Her years there left her with the deep desire to understand the experience of Germans during the Second World War. She has studied plant sciences and ecology, worked as a nurse, been a magazine writer and editor, taught English to kindergartners in China, and frequently serves as workshop facilitator and coach for others’ writing projects. She is the author of the novel, Snow Fence Road, and the inspirational nonfiction, Life at First Sight: Finding the Divine in the Details.

Phyllis has written a guest post for my blog.

~~~~~

Not even in extra-large versions of my wildest dreams did I imagine I would write a novel in which Hitler’s wife is a character.

The Munich Girl is about many things, including a secret friendship between two women, one of whom was the megalomaniac’s mistress — later wife — Eva Braun.

But it’s really about two facets of human experience that matter a great deal to me.

The first is the inner reunion of “coming home to” our truest self that we all must eventually encounter. We each have our own timetable for this, but my opportunity to accompany many people toward the end of their lives has assured me that this is so.

The second, and even more intriguing facet, for me, is the mysterious role that others play in that process, often in highly unexpected ways.

Anna, my novel’s protagonist, grew up eating most family meals under her father’s war-trophy portrait of Eva Braun. This baffling situation has never been explained, other than that the portrait is a sort of emblem for her father of the Allies’ triumph over the evils of the Third Reich.

Everything in Anna’s life is turned upside-down when she discovers that her mother had a secret friendship with Hitler’s mistress, and that the portrait is a key to unwrapping all of the other secrets this enfolds. An added complication is Hannes, a man whose Third-Reich family history is linked with Anna’s. (I’m not a series writer, but if I were, Hannes would be the character who called me back.)

In the years I spent in Germany as both child and adult, some of the kindest, most morally courageous people I knew were those Germans who never wanted the war, or National Socialism, and found creative ways to outlast it and to help others as they did. They also found ways to endure, not lose heart, and keep faith and hope in times of enormous destruction and suffering. And, they made meaningful choices wherever they could, mostly on behalf of others, more than themselves.

I always sensed that there was a lot waiting to be revealed under the surface of such stores as theirs. I just never could have imagined that the path to them would be linked with the life of Eva Braun. When I learned that an action she took in the last week of her life saved tens of thousand of Allied prisoners of war, including some British family members of my own, it was a turning point for me as a novelist. When her portrait then surfaced in my own life, it started me on a journey determined to uncover the legacies that always outlast every war, all of which, of course, can arise only from love.

 

Book Cover

Find more about The Munich Girl: A Novel of The Legacies That Outlast War at:

http://www.amazon.com/Munich-Girl-Novel-Legacies-Outlast/dp/0996546987/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1447865405&sr=8-1&keywords=The+Munich+Girl

 

Links

Find the author’s blog at: http://phyllisedgerlyring.wordpress.com

Connect on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/PhyllisEdgerlyRing?ref=hl

On Twitter: http:// www.twitter.com/phyllisring

At Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2890301.Phyllis_Edgerly_Ring

For information about all books by Phyllis Edgerly Ring visit:

http://www.amazon.com/Phyllis-Edgerly-Ring/e/B001RXUFD6/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0

 

‘Silver Rain’ by Jan Ruth

Silver Rain

Jan Ruth writes contemporary fiction about the darker side of the family dynamic.  She very kindly sent me a copy of ‘Silver Rain’ to review a while back.

After failing to save his marriage, Alastair Black decides to return to his childhood home at Chathill Farm for a while.  His brother George isn’t very welcoming though and would rather that he isn’t there.

Kate has recently lost her husband and is finding that she is increasingly being put upon by her daughter, sister and mother.  At over fifty years of age she is already beginning to feel that her life is over, until she meets Alastair that is.  He is everything she isn’t but there’s definitely more to him than meets the eye and it is up to Kate to find out what that is.

I really enjoyed reading ‘Silver Rain’.  Told by the two main characters, Al and Kate, I found myself feeling as if I knew them both.  I loved the setting of this story.  Chathill Farm sounded lovely.

It was obvious from the start that Al and Kate were attracted to one another, but things weren’t that straightforward.  In fact it was all very complicated.  For a start off Al had lots of skeletons in the cupboard, one of which was a bit of a shocker.  Al had a great sense of humour, but he was a very sad and lonely man.  I felt sorry for him and wished that he and Kate would get together.

I thought Fran was just so lovely.  She doted on the animals she took in at Chathill Farm.  If money wasn’t an object I reckon Fran would have possibly opened an animal sanctuary.

I’m so glad that I read ‘Silver Rain’.  I think it’s great that Jan Ruth has written a novel where the characters are that little bit older and I will definitely be checking out some of her other books.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

‘Silver Rain’ is available to buy on Amazon:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Silver-Rain-Jan-Ruth-ebook/dp/B00GS87VW8/ref=sr_1_6?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1453405859&sr=1-6&keywords=jan+ruth

To find out more about Jan Ruth and her books visit her website – http://janruth.com/

 

Blog Tour – ‘Blood and Roses’ by Catherine Hokin

Blood and Roses Blog Tour

It’s my turn on this wonderful blog tour today.  The lovely Catherine Hokin has written a guest post, but first I want to tell you all about Catherine’s book launch which I attended last week with my husband.

The ‘Blood and Roses’ launch took place on Wednesday 13th January 2016 at Daunt Books in Holland Park Avenue, London.  Not having been to many book events I was really looking forward to it.  We arrived at the bookshop whereupon we were greeted by Catherine who recognised me first.  She had the most amazing shoes on.  Soon the place started to fill up with people all there to support Catherine.  The wine was poured out and the mingling began.  It was a great atmosphere.

Soon after, Catherine started off by answering some fascinating questions.  This gave people a very good idea about what ‘Blood and Roses’ was about.  She then read a couple of extracts from her book which I’m sure made everyone want to buy it.  Afterwards, people queued up to have their copies signed, followed by more wine and mingling.

Here is a picture of me with Catherin Hokin.

Book Launch Picture

It was a fantastic night and we went home feeling really happy.

Now follows Catherine Hokin’s guest post and an extract from ‘Blood and Roses’.

 

~~~~~

TELLING STORIES FROM THE PAST TO THE PRESENT

One of my strongest memories as a child is discovering, for the first time, a book on my own. The Chronicles of Narnia: not something my teacher had read, or my parents, but a world that uncovered itself, as I thought, just for me – a wonderful secret world of the imagination where the characters had the voices I spun in my head and the back-stories I happily wove when I couldn’t stretch reading time any further into the night. The power of stories has never left me and I still have a reading pile that threatens severe concussion to anyone walking too close.

When I realised I wanted to tell stories myself, it was also natural to look back to another lifelong passion: history. What is history if not stories? Because I write short stories that are contemporary and rather twisted and a blog that is also contemporary and, I hope, quite funny, I frequently get asked why I chose historical fiction for my debut novel. The short answer? People.

Whatever time frame you choose, people lived and loved just as we do today. War, disease, loss, political decisions that sweep people into conflicts not of their making are as familiar to us as our fifteenth century counterparts – the mechanisms available for response change but the challenges don’t. For me the study of history helps us to see what is eternal, it is the re-imagining of events that fiction allows that then creates a bridge to new perspectives and voices. This is particularly important for women whose characters and opinions are often far too silent in the pages of the text books.

And that is where Margaret of Anjou comes in: an intriguing, powerful woman too often filtered down to us through hostile voices or melodramatic portrayals courtesy of Shakespeare. She is being re-evaluated to an extent but she is still rarely centre-stage. I wanted to re-imagine her from a woman’s perspective and from a mother’s – there has been so much written about Margaret’s relationship with her son but never from the point of view of what it is like for a strong woman to raise a man in challenging times and then let him go. My son was 17 when I started this project – the age Margaret’s son was when he died – and I have to admit I drew on our relationship a lot, to the point where he went very white at the death scene!

The people of the past: us with different technology and none more so than Margaret.  A fascinating, complex, infuriating woman – look around, you probably know her…

 

Extract

Towton 1461

I thought I knew everything about battles; I thought I knew everything that they could be, that I had witnessed all the horrors a battlefield can deliver. I knew nothing.

It was such a hard winter: even in February the snows were still falling heavily from a sky that seemed to have been leaden for weeks. There was no thaw, no break as the Lancastrian army moved away from London towards the North, avoiding York by a matter of days as he swept his forces down into the City. And what a reception their stony hearts gave him. Margaret knew that the messengers who brought the description of his triumphal entry expected her to scream and rail; she was simply too exhausted, too out-played. All the times she had used tricks and tableaux to win sympathy and support or to make the story of her family far greater than it was. She was a novice compared to York and his advisors.

He knows so well how Londoners love the look of a king and he gives them everything they could have dreamed of and more.

She sat in silence, her stomach churning, as she listened to the messengers fight to keep the awe from their voices as they described how York rode in splendour through gates now flung open with abandon and wreathed in flowers to greet a golden god on his huge charger, and how the people cheered themselves hoarse at his coming.

No matter he is as vicious in battle as any commander of mine; no matter the soldiers they welcome with smiles and wine could be just as dangerous as mine. They do not see it. They see the showman and love him for it.

Every man who stood before her elaborated on the tale. They were almost breathless by the time they described the great rally York held on the 1st of March, with food for all and work forgotten, and the triumphal procession he made to St Paul’s, the solemn ceremony that followed it a few days later; a coronation in all but name. She listened in mounting dismay but could not stop herself asking for every tiny detail. How he had the City Criers summon the people in great crowds. How he had long lists of Henry’s failings read out by Bourchier, resplendent in his Archbishop’s robes and matched them to equally long lists of his own virtues, these loudly declaimed by George Neville, York’s handsome Chancellor. And again at the Cathedral: the same charade of the strong man versus the weak but this time with York’s great royal lineage spelled out so even the simplest commoner could catch it and scream for joy at this King of miracles they were offered.

My efforts were like a child playing make-believe with a paper crown compared to this.

And all through the telling, the same refrain: what a difference to his father’s poor misguided efforts. This York could not have thrust the crown away even as pretence, the people would have forced it on him. It was all so perfectly done. Everyone applauded the title of Edward IV, looked at the furred robes, saw the sceptre and the crown, attended the lavish banquet and truly thought they had witnessed a coronation when it could be no such thing. Margaret could not match him, she knew it: all she had was a hollow-eyed man, his crown a mockery on his empty head, and a child who would be snatched from her if she stayed still too long.

She could not capture hearts but, in that at least, she and Richard of York had been evenly matched. Now she faced a gilded paragon of nineteen with a laugh as loud as a lion’s roar and a golden mane to match, framing a face that made even the matrons around her go giddy. Put a crown and an ermine on him and it was as though she was pitted against a storybook hero to defend a cause that seemed suddenly to have no more weight than a butterfly’s wing.

And yet I cannot stop. I cannot accept defeat. I cannot let him win.

She was afraid, her advisors were afraid: to continue meant war, war to the death, slaughter unleashed. And to stop? To surrender? That was fear of a worse kind, fear that caught at Margaret’s throat and kept her without any rest, turning over the same questions night after night. What usurper would ever allow another anointed king to live? What usurper would ever allow a child who would become the focus of every rebellion and discontent and misguided plot to live? War might be a death-sentence for them all but surrender was a death-warrant for her son.

 

About Catherine Hokin

Author Picture

Catherine is a Glasgow-based author with a degree in History from Manchester University. After years of talking about it, she finally started writing seriously about 3 years ago, researching and writing her debut novel, Blood and Roseswhich will be published in January 2016 by Yolk Publishing. The novel tells the story of Margaret of Anjou and her pivotal role in the Wars of the Roses, exploring the relationship between Margaret and her son and her part in shaping the course of the bloody political rivalry of the fifteenth century. About a year ago, Catherine also started writing short stories – she was recently 3rd prize winner in the 2015 West Sussex Writers Short Story Competition and a finalist in the Scottish Arts Club 2015 Short Story Competition. She regularly blogs as Heroine Chic, casting a historical, and often hysterical, eye over women in history, popular culture and life in general.

 

Social media links:

https://www.catherinehokin.com/

http://catherinehokin.blogspot.co.uk/

https://www.facebook.com/cathokin/?ref=aymt_homepage_panel

Twitter @cathokin

‘Blood and Roses’ is available to buy from Amazon: http://amzn.to/1MIvm2T

 

 

Cover Reveal – ‘The Teacher’ by Katerina Diamond

Book Cover

Today I am thrilled to be taking part in this cover reveal.  ‘The Teacher’ is being published by Avon on the 10th March 2016.  As a crime fiction lover I am extremely excited about this book and can’t wait to read it.

 

Book Blurb

You think you know who to trust?
You think you know the difference between good and evil?

You’re wrong …

A LESSON YOU WILL NEVER FORGET

The body of the head teacher of an exclusive Devon school is found hanging from the rafters in the assembly hall.

Hours earlier he’d received a package, and only he could understand the silent message it conveyed. It meant the end.

As Exeter suffers a rising count of gruesome deaths, troubled DS Imogen Grey and DS Adrian Miles must solve the case and make their city safe again.

But as they’re drawn into a network of corruption, lies and exploitation, every step brings them closer to grim secrets hidden at the heart of their community.

And once they learn what’s motivating this killer, will they truly want to stop him?

SMART. GRIPPING. GRUESOME.

This is a psychological crime thriller in a class of its own.

Warning: Most definitely *not* for the faint-hearted!

 

‘The Teacher’ can be pre-ordered on Amazon:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Teacher-Katerina-Diamond/dp/0008168156/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1453054278&sr=1-1

 

Cover Reveal – ‘Chosen Child’ by Linda Huber

Book Cover

Today I am delighted to be revealing the cover of Linda Huber’s new book.  Isn’t it lovely?  ‘Chosen Child’ is out on the 15th February.

 

Book Blurb

A disappearance. A sudden death. A betrayal of the worst kind.

Ella longs for a child of her own, but a gruesome find during an adoption process deepens the cracks in her marriage. A family visit starts off a horrifying chain of events, and Ella can only hope she won’t lose the person she loves most of all.

Amanda is expecting her second child when her husband vanishes. She is tortured by thoughts of violence and loss, but nothing prepares her for the disturbing conclusion to the police investigation.

And in the middle of it all, a little girl is looking for a home of her own with a ‘forever’ mummy and daddy…

 

About Linda Huber

Linda Huber grew up in Glasgow, Scotland, where she trained as a physiotherapist. She spent ten years working with neurological patients, firstly in Glasgow and then in Switzerland. During this time she learned that different people have different ways of dealing with stressful events in their lives, and this knowledge still helps her today, in her writing. Linda now lives in Arbon, on the banks of beautiful Lake Constance in Switzerland, where she works as a language teacher.

Her debut novel The Paradise Trees was published in 2013, followed by The Cold Cold Sea in 2014 and The Attic Room in 2015. Linda has also had over 50 short stories and articles published in women’s magazines. Chosen Child is her fourth novel, and will be published on February 15th.

 

Links

Website: http://lindahuber.net/

Amazon UK: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Linda-Huber/e/B00CN7BB0Q/ref=ntt_athr_dp_pel_1

Amazon US: http://www.amazon.com/Linda-Huber/e/B00CN7BB0Q/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1433057929&sr=8-1

Twitter: https://twitter.com/LindaHuber19

Blog Tour – ‘Electric Shadows of Shanghai’ by Clare Kane

blog tour banner electric two (002)

‘The Electric Shadows of Shanghai’ was published in December 2015 as an eBook by Watchword, the digital imprint of Impress Books.   I am very pleased to be participating in this blog tour for which Clare Kane has written a guest post.  But first you’ll be wanting to find out what this book is about.

 

Book Blurb

It’s 1931 and British diplomat William Graves and his wife, Amelia, are flung headfirst into the enticing, neon-lit streets of Shanghai. As Will helps to maintain the fragile peace between China and Japan, Amelia, alone in a foreign city, seeks solace with a Russian ballet troupe that are more than they seem. Whispers of protest, revolt, even war, buzz through the city as Will is tasked with rooting out Communist propaganda that could push tensions over the edge into war. But the city’s streets hold other intoxicating allures. Will falls into a deep obsession with Feifei, a beautiful silent film star, who is desperate to escape the volatile city and sees Will as her only chance at freedom. As Amelia starts to sense Will’s betrayal and the personal and the political begin to blur, will they lose themselves in the electric shadows of Shanghai?

~~~~~

Guest Post

Rediscovering the lost glamour of Shanghai cinema

In March 1935, an actress’ funeral brought thousands of women to Shanghai’s streets, snaking through the city in a mourning procession several miles long. Some were so moved by the actress’ death they took their own lives in her honour. The actress, Ruan Lingyu, had cemented a special place in the city’s heart through her career of silent movies featuring dazzling leading ladies, doomed romances and family feuds compelling enough to challenge Hollywood’s reign over cinema.

Shanghai’s Golden Age of cinema is little remembered these days: the proletarian cinema of the Mao years, the worldwide success of Jackie Chan and the sparkling consumerist sheen of modern Chinese cinema have painted over the celluloid evidence of Shanghai’s time as the Paris of the East. But back in the 1920s and 1930s Shanghai was the pulsing heart of Chinese cinema, producing original, classy cinema featuring devastatingly charismatic actors so popular that, at least in Ruan’s case, their deaths sparked city-wide grief.

It all started with Hollywood – just like today, China was a major market for American movies in the early 20th century. Films would be released just shortly after their U.S. premieres and crowds flocked to Shanghai’s cinemas to watch the likes of Mae West light up the screens. Then in the 1920s a crop of Chinese-run studios started to produce Hollywood-style features with a Shanghai slant. Stars were billed as equivalents to their Hollywood peers: Ruan Lingyu was China’s Greta Garbo. Actresses played a key role in shaking up conservative forces, encouraging metropolitan women to throw off their sartorial shackles by bobbing their hair and wearing qipaos slit to the thigh. The actress’ curled hair and red lips featured on magazine covers and in ads for everything from champagne to cold cream.

Many of them had life stories worthy of one of their gritty but glamorous characters. Zhou Xuan, a singer and actress whose perfectly arranged features adorn countless tourist prints, was an orphan who attempted suicide and was eventually committed to an asylum. Ruan Lingyu, born into poverty and later impregnated by the son of the rich family her maid mother served, starred in a series of socially-minded films before committing suicide at just twenty-four. She left a note blaming the gossip-hungry press for her desperation.

Following the Japanese invasion of Manchuria in 1931 Shanghai movies diverted from the Hollywood model to become a vehicle of protest. Directors didn’t shy away from social reality, telling tales of poverty and prostitution from Shanghai’s streets. At its peak, the glittering lights of Shanghai even attracted Madame Mao, who starred in a number of films under her stage name Blue Apple.

A quick YouTube search will bring up films such as New Women, Street Angel and The Goddess. These films lift the lid on Shanghai’s neon-lit years of vice, war and glamour. But even better, Shanghai’s glorious celluloid history is still hidden in pockets around the city. The Cathay cinema, first opened in 1932, boasts a brilliant Art Deco exterior, even if the inside has lost much of its charm. It’s easy to miss the Zhejiang cinema near Fuzhou Lu, but this building, designed by Hungarian architect Laszlo Hudec, is worth a second look.

The Shanghai Film Museum on Caoxi Bei Lu brings Shanghai’s dazzling cinematic history to life through photographs, costumes and memorabilia. The exhibits go right up to the current day, but it’s easy to get caught up in the Golden Age. There is also the Shanghai Film Park, a much newer addition to the city’s movie history, which boasts a mock-up of Nanjing Road in the 1930s. And on Duolun Lu in Hongkou you’ll find the Old Film Cafe where the classics are sometimes screened.

A walk down the Bund, eyes trained away from the 21st century splendour of the Pudong skyline, can convince you that Shanghai’s roaring 20s never ended. But if the Shanghai winter proves too chilly for all this exploration, the sofa isn’t a bad place to rediscover the city’s faded glamour. From classic 1930s’ flick Shanghai Express to 2010 thriller Shanghai starring John Cusack and Gong Li and the slow-moving, elegant sweep of Old Shanghai that is The White Countess, Hollywood has tried to capture the magic of the city several times over. But Chinese cinema still does it better. A remake of Dangerous Liaisons set in 1930s Shanghai and starring Zhang Ziyi is a feast of stiff-necked qipaos, glinting chandeliers and unbearable sexual tension. Lust, Caution, based on the story by Shanghai writer Eileen Chang, combines passion with politics in a dangerous, sexually charged and cruel film about Japanese-controlled Shanghai.

Chang herself said between memory and reality there were “awkward discrepancies” and no doubt 1930s’ Shanghai looks more glamorous on the big screen than it did from the Bund. But a glimpse into the city’s film archive might just illuminate how it came to be the Shanghai we know now, or at the very least reveal exactly what Marlene Dietrich meant when she purred: “It took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily.”

~~~~~

About Clare Kane

Author Image

Clare Kane studied Chinese at the University of Oxford. Following this she worked as a financial journalist for Reuters in London and Madrid. She is a Fellow at marketing communications group WPP and currently based in Shanghai, where she writes about culture, travel and Chinese history in her spare time.

 

Links

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/28243630-electric-shadows-of-shanghai?from_search=true&search_version=

Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Ebooks-Electric-Shadows-Shanghai-Clare-Kane-ebook/dp/B0198GMZR2/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1450799497&sr=1-1&keywords=electric+shadows+of+shanghai

 

Social Media

#ElectricShadows
@ImpressBooks1
@Watchword_eLit
Instagram: impressbooks
@clare_kane 

 banner one

Blog Tour – ‘Nightblind’ by Ragnar Jónasson

Blog Tour Poster

‘Nightblind’ is the second book in the Dark Iceland series.  Already out as an eBook, it is being published in paperback by Orenda Books on the 15th January 2016.  I have been so excited about this blog tour.

It’s approximately five years since Ari Thór Arason arrived in Siglufjörður.  In that time he has got back with his girlfriend and they now have a ten-month-old son.  Siglufjörður is normally a quiet village, but it is about to have its peace shattered again. A policeman is shot at point-blank range in the middle of the night in a deserted house.  With a killer on the loose it falls to Ari Thór to solve the case that involves tangled local politics, a compromised new mayor, a woman who has recently moved to the area on the run from something she won’t reveal and a psychiatric ward in Reykjavik.  Ari Thór could well be in danger himself so he needs to be able to solve the case as quickly as possible.

Having recently read and loved ‘Snowblind’ I couldn’t wait to start ‘Nightblind’.  I had the feeling that this book would probably be just as good and I was proved right.  With its twists and turns I found myself totally gripped and I got through the book quickly.  Quentin Bates has once again done a great job of translating it.

In ‘Nightblind’ Ari Thór has gained a lot more experience and is now a fully-fledged policeman.  It was a real shame that he didn’t get the police inspector’s job after his superior left, but he must have got used to Siglufjörður as he obviously chose to stay on.  This case was a real puzzle for Ari Thór and a bit of a shocker.  It just goes to show that you don’t know what goes on behind closed doors.  People aren’t always what you see them as.

Ragnar Jónasson is now on my list of favourite authors.  I am so pleased to have discovered another fantastic crime writer.  I loved the author’s note at the end of the book where Ragnar included a passage from a book written by his late grandfather.

‘Nightblind’ is another brilliant read.  I recommend the Dark Iceland series to all crime fans.  I really don’t think you will be disappointed.  I am already hungry for more and can’t wait for the next book in the series, ‘Blackout’ which is due to be published later this year.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

 

About Ragnar Jónasson

Icelandic crime writer Ragnar Jónasson was born in Reykjavik in 1976, and currently works as a lawyer, while teaching copyright law at the Reykjavik University Law School. In the past, he’s worked in TV and radio, including as a news reporter for the Icelandic National Broadcasting Service. Before embarking on a writing career, Ragnar translated 14 Agatha Christie novels into Icelandic, and has had several short stories published in German, English and Icelandic literary magazines. Ragnar set up the first overseas chapter of the CWA (Crime Writers’ Association) in Reykjavik, and is co-founder of the international crime-writing festival Iceland Noir, selected by the Guardian as one of the ‘best crime-writing festivals around the world’. Ragnar Jónasson has written five novels in the Dark Iceland series, and he is currently working on his sixth. He lives in Reykjavik with his wife and two daughters. Blackout will be published by Orenda Books in 2016.

 

‘Nightblind’ is available to buy from Amazon:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Nightblind-Dark-Iceland-Ragnar-Jonasson/dp/1910633119/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1452453288&sr=1-1&keywords=nightblind

 

Blog Tour – ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ by Daniela Sacerdoti

Blog Tour

Today it is my turn on this blog tour and I am absolutely thrilled to be taking part.  Last year I read and reviewed Daniela Sacerdoti’s previous novel, ‘Set Me Free’ and I absolutely loved it, so I’m sure you can imagine how excited I was to read this book.  ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ is out in paperback this month, published by Black and White Publishing.  It is the fourth book in the Glen Avich series.

Isabel Ramsay lives in Glen Avich with her husband, Angus.  A successful artist, she has never really got over her mother’s death, even though she died when she was very young.  Haunted by what happened all those years ago, Isabel finds that her own life is spiralling out of control and unable to bear the pain any longer she decides to end her life.  But then Isabel wakes up and discovers that she hasn’t died after all.  She remembers a vision of a mysterious woman who has saved her, but doesn’t understand how this could be so.

With Isabel’s family and friends worried out of their minds, Angus and his brother find a companion to watch over Isabel.  Angus’s work means he is away quite a lot from home and he doesn’t want Isabel to be alone.  Isabel doesn’t like anyone in her home but somehow she accepts having Clara there.  Clara connects with her in a way no one else can.  She helps Isabel to face up to her painful past, rediscover her passion for art and encourages her to live her life again.  But there is something mysterious about Clara.

I tend to comment if I really love a book cover and this one is just beautiful.  It is picture perfect like a postcard.  The snow looks so lovely that you just don’t want to disturb it.

When I first started reading ‘Don’t Be Afraid’ I wasn’t sure if I would like it as much as the previous novel.  I thought it might be a little bit too depressing, but after a couple or so chapters I found myself really getting into the story.  Daniela Sacerdoti portrays her characters so well that you end up feeling as if you’ve known them forever.  It was nice meeting up with some of the characters from the previous book.  It felt like a reunion of old friends.

I could really understand how Angus was feeling.  He was put in a very tricky situation and was naturally scared in case Isabel tried to commit suicide again.  I thought that Clara was exactly what Isabel needed.  She was really good for her.  I found myself trying to work out what the mystery was about Clara, although I did have an idea.

‘Don’t Be Afraid’ is a beautiful, poignant and magical story and its one I won’t forget for quite a while.  I think this is a wonderful book for people who suffer from depression.  I am really looking forward to reading Daniela Sacerdoti’s next novel.

I give this book 5 out of 5.

 

 

‘Don’t Be Afraid is available to buy from Amazon:-

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Dont-Afraid-Glen-Avich-Book-ebook/dp/B014JABSES/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1452448414&sr=1-1&keywords=don%27t+be+afraid

 

Post Navigation

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 4,953 other followers

%d bloggers like this: