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Plenty on Wikipedia and on IMDd.  Those two websites are great for the date and place of birth, as well as listing the TV, films, stage and radio I've worked on.  What they don't do is describe what it was like working on those productions, alongside the wonderful and sometimes not-so-wonderful personalities involved. They also don't divulge the highs and lows of over 50 years of marriage, bringing up three kids as well as emerging grandchildren. If you're interested, Learning My Lines (my autobiography), Echoes (my first novel) are for sale through my website, as is an archive of my blogs from 2009-2013.

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Reviews

I read a lot of books and reviews. I’m not saying that I read books constantly but I seem to get through a good few each year.

One of my mistakes recently has been buying hard back books from the Guardian Review magazine. This I suppose is the high end of the market, the so call posh books. My recent acquisitions have been Kate Atkinson’s Life After Life (477 pages) and Michelle de Kretser’s Questions Of Travel (515 pages). These are very large books. The sort of books, I always read at night and if I fall asleep these tomes inevitably close up and because of the bewildering complication of the so called plots, it’s almost impossible to find my place. So I have to start again. Large books. Bruised knees.

Other books reviewed in that paper are Kafka: The Years of Insight and Kafka: The Decisive Years, Isaiah Berlin-Building: Letters 1960-75, Isaac and Isaiah, The Men Who Lost America, All The Birds, Singing, The Crumb Road, Ocean At The End of The Lane, The Times of Fading Light. All I’m sure (the titles might give you a hint) as unintelligible as Kate’s or Michelle’s. But the reviewer’s pick these incomprehensible books because it makes them look clever and write about the ‘structure.’, the ‘delicate creation of character.‘ etc, so us poor saps buy the books struggle through them, not understanding a word, end up with headaches and bruised knees.

They never review books written by Peter James. A good marketing ploy by him is always have the word Dead in the title. Why no reviews you might wonder? They are long, the last being 407 pages. Not quite as many as Atkinson’s or Kretser’s but quite close. So why don’t they review it?


The answer maybe that they’re are not obscure or obtuse, in fact they are very straightforward. But there is one inclusion that is irritating. The copper hero named Grace, has a wife who left him about ten years before. He’s looked for her, doesn’t know wether she’s dead or alive. But she’s popped up in all the books, lingering in the background but why?  His books sell, according to the blurb on the cover 11,0000,000 copies. So what do I know? 

In an independent  bookshop, a lady said to me ‘You should read this book, if it’s made into a TV series the main character would be perfect for you.’ It was the first Dead book by James. Within a few pages I discover the hero is thirty seven years old, goes jogging, ex rugby player, tough and has the occasional fag. Me, book lady?  Don’t be silly. Good way to shift a book or two. So, I kept buying them just in case the hero got older and if he did, then a great TV mogul might want to film them and I might have a chance. But like Peter Pan he never seems to grow up.

Why have I been writing about the Guardian? Well, there is one review in it that caught my eye (another lumpy title, I’m afraid) called Sleepless in Hollywood: Tales from the New Abnormal in the Movie Business and by Lynda Obst. She’s 63 and her career in films seems to be over. In the past she helped to produce Taxi Driver and then among others she produced Sleepless in Seattle. In 1996, down in the dumps, she wrote a book called Hello, He Lied. The tenure of this book is ‘you never trust anyone about anything’.

That hits the spot. Trust....what a word. I’ve trusted publishers, P.R companies, plumbers, gardeners, accountants, actuaries, lawyers. Yes, I’ve been a fool. I never learn.

In about 1987 I got a chance to do a sit-com. The producer was called Marcus Plantin. After the recording of the first episode, we repair to the bar. Plantin come up to me, puts his hands on my shoulders, he was wearing Buddy Holly glasses with tape wrapped around one of the arms, then he says. ‘Ray, you’re a star. Every time we cut to you it’s money in the bank.’  That man, a few years later, wouldn’t even pick up the phone when I called him. 

But however I try to avoid it, the G. R. draws me to it like a magnet. And there are some glorious nuggets to be found there. For instance one is The Trip to Echo Spring: Why Writers Drink. As I’m sure you’re aware that your dear blogger has a penchant for the occasional small glass of sweet sherry, so he was delighted with a quote by Dorothy Parker who said “ I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”

Ah, I’ll drink to that.

Comments
Chris Sullivan(Wednesday, August 07 13 08:50 pm BST)
Hi Ray,
Remember me? Back in London now so if you're around let's meet up for a Starbucks one of the days.
Here's my blog by the way http://storytelleronamazon.blogspot.co.uk/2013/08/baseball-and-cricket-difference.html
Chris

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