My Top Ten novels from 2016

news-of-the-worldI was late compiling my list of my top 10 reads for 2016. But that turned out to be a good thing. I have only just finished News of the World by Paulette Jiles, and, it seems, I had saved one of the best for last. News of the World  is set in 1870 in an America still devastated by war. Captain Jefferson Kidd, a 70-year-old veteran, travels the country earning a living readings newspapers to a population desperate for information. He agrees to return Johanna, a 10-year-old girl who had been captured years before by

Inside Sydney’s Secret Garden

In the beginning it really was a secret garden, existing first in the mind and then through the passionate manual efforts of artist Wendy Whiteley. To everyone else it was just an ugly swathe of derelict land in Sydney’s Lavender Bay. Abandoned by the railway, its potential was hidden under heaps broken…

Finalists announced for National Book Award

FINALISTS for the American National Book Awards have just been announced and the fiction list looks one of the strongest for years. The short-list is : Chris Bachelder “The Throwback Special,” about a group of male friends who gather every year to re-enact a 1985 football game battling with the realities of fatherhood and middle…

Walking England’s beautiful Norfolk Coast Path

img_8745Norfolk, on England’s northeast coast, is one of the most beautiful and unspoiled counties. Much of its coastline is designated an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, incorporating an environmental jewel box of saltmarshes, grazing marsh, intertidal floodplains, shingle and sand, providing a perfect backdrop for walkers. Cliffs, dramatic and precarious, reveal the impact of centuries of coastal erosion. In the past, whole communities have been moved to avoid tumbling into the sea. What nature gave, nature is also slowly taking back. Today sophisticated buttressing and vast expanses of wooden groynes have been installed to ameliorate the sea’s onslaught. Talk to locals and the conversation frequently ends on an air of inevitability. What nature gave, nature is also slowly taking back.

Dark Town by Thomas Mullen: a confronting insight into the early days of black cops

darktownIt’s 1948 and Atlanta is a city divided by race, teetering on the cusp of change. Dark Town, the subject of a new book by Thomas Mullen, is the city’s black area, defined by poverty, unemployment and violent crime.

When the mayor decides to set up a black police force, Lucius Boggs, son of an influential preacher, and Tommy Smith, a war hero decorated for bravery, are among the eight selected. Right from the start it’s a poisoned chalice. The white police force is overtly antagonistic, often violently so. Unwanted at the main police station their headquarters is instead the dilapidated basement of the local YMCA. Their powers are

Review: Black Night Falling by Rod Reynolds

One of my favourite crime books last year was The Dark Inside, the debut novel by blacknight
British writer Rod Reynolds. It was set in 1946 and Reynolds had managed to capture the all-pervasive fog of casual menace and violence that makes shows like True Detective so compelling. Now comes the sequel, Black Night Falling. It’s just a few months after The Dark Inside. Journalist Charlie Yates, bruised and bloodied, has left Texarkana hoping to pick up the jagged pieces of his life in the more benign atmosphere of America’s west coast. But a desperate phone call from a former colleague, Jimmy Robinson, pushes all the right buttons: “Dead girls. Unfinished business. The right thing.”

Yates heads for Hot Springs, Arkansas, and from his first footsteps on the airport tarmac


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