Welcome to my blog. I am not a very regular blogger, but I try to keep this site updated with news and information. If there's none of the above I may just share my random ruminations.

Thursday, February 18, 2021

SOMETHING WICKED



I have something of an aversion to fantasy, or to anything with a ‘horror’ element. Consequently, it was with some misgiving I opened the latest book by Tom Williams, SOMETHING WICKED.

It was not always thus. In my youth I avidly consumed tales of the supernatural, which ran the gamut from ghosts - of varying degrees of malevolence - through to monsters and vampires.  I can’t pinpoint when, exactly, I emerged from this phase, but it was a long time ago. But until relatively recently, I still had a shelf-full of the luridly jacketed paperbacks, mostly published in series form by Pan. I now rather regret their ejection from the house in a bout of decluttering, not because I was ever likely to reread any of them - I have long regarded myself as “all horrored-out!” - but because I now suspect they were collectors’ items! Still, my loss was Oxfam’s gain.



SOMETHING WICKED, published on the 19th of February,  managed to confound my expectations. Though there is a murder or two in his London set book, Tom Williams’ has not written a gothic ‘horror-fest’ implanted uncomfortably into a contemporary setting. He conjures into life a coherently updated world of vampires, whose existence is below the radar of normal everyday life, but whose society mirrors the variety of our own with its revolutionaries and its reactionaries and all points in between.  And there is a clue on the cover about what some vampires choose to do for fun. 

With wit and ingenuity, Tom Williams examines the unsettling and bizarre world he has created through the lens of the police procedural. And the crossover between Galbraith (the slightly plodding London Detective Inspector trying to solve the murders) and Mr Pole (the enigmatic vampire from the mysterious Department S), is frequently funny and clever.  

The finale is cataclysmic and I fear Brompton Cemetery will never be the same again.








Saturday, November 28, 2020

"THIS IS A LTTLE TREASURE OF A BOOK AND WELL WORTH READING"

 The title of the post is the concluding sentence of my wonderful, new 5 star review on Amazon. My grateful thanks to 'fiction reader' whoever you are.



"This is an unusual book that crosses genres but is all the more satisfying because of it. The two main characters are quirky and don’t immediately strike the reader as likely romantic partners.
Jane is a rather nervous events organiser and when she has to organise a conference at a university she crosses paths with the rather offhand and frosty academic Theo. Theo is an archaeology nut intent on investigating a site that is due for development, and uncovering any finds from the site.
Meanwhile Jane can remember her family treasure from her farm back home, and the fact some of it went to a museum. There is a puzzle about it though (I can’t say more – spoilers!).
Both of these characters have buried pasts (Theo’s gold-digging ex is particularly vile) and this is why they take some time to trust each other. This is a well-written book written in short chunks from different points of view. This keeps the story moving and enables us to see both perspectives as the story unfolds. The parents of both protagonists are extremely realistically depicted and the author writes particularly authentic dialogue.
This is a little buried treasure of a book and well-worth reading."

Saturday, October 31, 2020

FROM TODAY ~ BARGAIN OFFER ~ 99p ONLY TILL 8 NOVEMBER.


 

BURIED TREASURE may have nothing to do with Halloween, but I've chosen to offer it for the BARGAIN price of 99p from today until my birthday, on November 8th.


Just in case In case you don't know, Buried Treasure is a love story across what seems like an unbridgeable chasm of class, education and background.

From an ordinary family, Jane Smith grew up in the shadow of her brainy sister. She left school early and has self-esteem issues. Initially empowered by an affair with her boss, she is ultimately humiliated by his coercive controlling behaviour.





Theo Tyler has spent his life in academia. Now a lecturer and desk archaeologist, he distances himself from his background, a complicated mix of high and low class. An early love affair, while still a student, becomes abusive. Unable to respond in kind, he feels helpless and un-manned in the face of his partner's abuse.




Apart from the damage they have both survived, the only other common connection between Theo and Jane is archaeology. Her interest is personal, a family connection to a historic find. His is intellectual. His professional expertise is being ignored and he needs proof to back up his theories.

Their separate stories intertwine, reaching a surprising conclusion. They both discover that treasure is not always what it seems.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

CECIL B DEMILLE EAT YOUR HEART OUT

Gilli Allan is coming....



Using my tried and tested method of ... ignore the instructions, because you won't understand them, but use good old trial and error ... I have just taught myself how to make a trailer.  This is the thirteenth version!

I am inordinately proud of myself, but for the moment cannot work out how to put it in a tweet.  I think it's too long, but I am sharing it here if I may.  

 






 If it's muted do make sure you turn on the volume - the music track is supplied by Driftway, one of the folk rock bands which my son, Tom Williams, is a member of. 

Wednesday, September 16, 2020

THE NAPOLEONIC PERIOD PROVIDES A DEEP WELL OF MATERIAL FOR THE FICTION OF TOM WILLIAMS

The subject of this blog post, Tom Williams, is the author of the Burke series of historical adventure novels, set during the Napoleonic wars. 

(For an explanation of why I often refer to him as 'the other' Tom Williams, do look at the previous post.)  

Over to you Tom....  

  Gilli has very kindly offered to carry an interview on her blog so that I can shamelessly plug Burke in the Peninsula, to be published at the end of the month, but she has decided to get in a guest interviewer. I hope he's up to the job.

TW: Gilli has asked me if I can interview you because she can't think of any good questions to ask.  How do you feel about that?

Tom: I can understand how she feels. The world seems to have gone mad right now. Putting interview questions together is just more than you can expect anyone to cope with.

TW: Would it be fair to say that you are hiding away from 2020 by writing books set in the early 19th century?

Tom: That's probably pretty fair, though the Napoleonic Wars were even worse to live through than coronavirus. There were enormous numbers of young men killed in the fighting, which left farms short of labour. There were food shortages and lots of social disruption. There was quite a lot of support for the French in Britain and the government was seriously worried about revolution here as well. And, of course, taxes were going up. There may well have been plague to add to the awfulness – there certainly were huge numbers of troops who died of what was probably typhoid fever on an expedition to the Netherlands and it seems likely they would have brought it back with them, but with so many people dying anyway, it's unlikely anyone would have noticed. 

On balance, 2020 may not be so bad.

TW: So far.

Tom: Well, yes. I suppose the way Brexit is going, war with France can't be completely ruled out.

TW: If writing interview questions is proving so difficult, how did you manage to write a whole book? 

Tom: I wrote the book a while ago but there were issues with my rights to the series so it's taken a while to get it published.

TW: That sounds boring and depressing.

Tom: It was. Can we talk about something else?

TW: OK. Did anything good come out of the delay?

Tom: Actually, yes. I've decided to self-publish. It gives me a lot more control. I've taken the opportunity to republish all the existing Burke books with beautiful new covers.

TW: They are, indeed, gorgeous. Do you have any here for us to look at?

Tom: Strangely enough, I do.


 


TW: As a completely impartial interviewer, I can only say that I’m blown away by these covers. Are the books available in paperback as well as on Kindle, so people can admire these beautiful covers on their shelves?

Tom: They are indeed – and at a mere £6.99. There are details of all my books on my website at http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk/my-books/

TW: And what about the new book, Burke in the Peninsula?

Tom: That will have a beautiful cover too.

TW: I'm sure it will, but what will it be about?

Tom: Burke is sent out to Spain to liaise with the guerrillas fighting the French – but it turns out that not all the guerrillas were the good guys. Working out who to trust and who not to takes him a while. After that it’s back to irregular warfare against the French, while the estimable William Brown ends up in the front line at the battle of Talavera. According to the history books, Talavera was a famous victory. William Brown would probably beg to differ on that .

So Burke in the Peninsula is the mix of spy story and military history that readers will probably have come to expect by now. And, yes, there's a beautiful woman. (Regular readers may remember her from an earlier story. I liked her so much, I just had to bring her back.)

TW: And when will Burke in the Peninsula be out?

Tom: I'm aiming for the end of September, but I'm trying to whip up some interest first. If you all write to me, promising faithfully that you're going to buy it, I'll probably try to sneak it out a few days earlier.

TW: What an excellent idea. I’m sure that hundreds of people will be in touch. But how do they get hold of you?

Tom: You can contact me through my website: http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk/.. Or there’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AuthorTomWilliams. And I’m on Twitter as @TomCW99.

TW: So you mean I didn’t need to have interviewed you at all. I could just have looked you up on social media.

Tom: Pretty much, yes. But this has been fun . And can I say that you're a really good interviewer?

TW: Well thank you. And you've been a brilliant interviewee.

Gilli intervenes to bring the mutual congratulations to an end.

TW: And, Gilli, can I just say how much I enjoyed reading your Buried Treasure?

Gilli immediately books me to interview her next week.



Monday, September 14, 2020

Known to me as the other Tom Williams, the author of the Burke series of historical novels reviews Buried Treasure

Before you read this embarrassingly glowing review, I need to clear up any misapprehension. Its author is not a relation! 

(Although confusion can arise - even for me - when I spot tweets from him, or find his emails in my inbox.) My own son - known to friends, relations AND his parents - as Tom, is also a writer!  Called Thomas Williams for publishing purposes, my son is the author of Viking Britain, Viking London and the yet to be published Lost Realms (the working title of a history of the lesser known Anglo Saxon Kingdoms.) 

Review reposted from Tom Williams' blog Writing About Writing

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"I’m not a huge fan of Romantic Fiction, so the blurb for this book was not enticing:

Jane thinks he sees her as shallow and ill-educated. Theo thinks she sees him as a snob, stuffy and out of touch.
Within the ancient precincts of the university the first encounter between the conference planner and the academic is accidental and unpromising. Just as well there’s no reason for them ever to meet again.

It looks like the beginning of every trite and predictable chicklit romance. “My god, Jane, with your glasses you look quite intelligent.” “And you, Theo, once you’ve had a style makeover, could be the man of my dreams.” But I have “met” Gilli Allan online and I know how much she puts into her books which she prefers to think of as “contemporary women’s fiction” rather than Romance. So I snuck a copy onto my Kindle and decided to find out just how bad it could be.

And the answer is: not bad at all. In fact, it’s rather good. Her characters are properly realised with back-stories that are entirely credible and rather sad, but both Theo and Jane are trying to move on with their lives and overcome their emotional issues. They are active and engaging agents in their own lives, rather than the creations of a writer who knows that the path of true love can never run smooth until the lovers have overcome one or two largely imaginary obstacles to their happiness. In fact, neither Jane nor Theo is “looking for love”. Indeed, both are actively fending off unwanted suitors while concentrating on making successes of other aspects of their lives.

Jane is starting her own business as a conference organiser and Theo is trying to climb the academic ladder as an archaeologist. Gilli Allan knows a lot about both conference organising and archaeology and the details of the lives of the two protagonists are interesting and convincing.

As their work means that they begin to run into each other more and more often (she is organising a conference at the Cambridge college he is working at) so an unlikely friendship forms. Will it blossom into love, or will one of the various other potential romantic partners derail the affair before it has even started?

Gilli is a member of the Romantic Novelists Association, so a happy ending is more-or-less guaranteed. (One of the reasons I generally dislike Romantic Fiction is because most readers and writers consider that a happy ending is required.) Even so, I was not sure things were going to work out. The characters are complex, the back-stories elaborate. The story is told in the present tense, an affectation that usually annoys me but which works here because it delineates the main story from the quantities of back-story (past tense) that could otherwise get very confusing. There’s also quite a lot of plot. Actually, there are so many sub-plots I began to lose count, though I was never confused. All the characters, even the most minor, are clearly drawn so that even I couldn’t muddle them up. And Gilli keeps the plots so interesting. One rather important one centres on some sharp practice in a town planning department and the provision that should or shouldn’t be made for an archaeological survey before a supermarket is built. I’ve sat in on the odd local government planning controversy and it takes real skill to make them remotely interesting, but Gilli Allan does.

I’ve found this a difficult book to review because there is so much good stuff in it, but it seems to be scattered all over the place. It is a measure of the author’s skill that she manages to pull so many disparate strands together into a highly readable and wholly enjoyable book.

I do strongly recommend this, even if you hate Romantic Fiction."

Thank you Tom.  I am indebted to you for this review.  

 

 

 

Sunday, September 13, 2020

BURIED TREASURE. ONCE THE DUST HAS SETTLED.....

 the Media Senses that there is a Human Interest Story behind the Headlines about the new Archaeological Discovery.



Jane Smith is the first of the two principals to be grilled by a woman interviewer. 




“Do you mind this?” The interviewer lays down her recording device, and only switches it on when Jane shakes her head.  “Now … I see from my notes that you were born in Essex?”

“Yes.  But the family moved into Suffolk when my father got his promotion to bank manager.”

“Branch manager.…”  Jane does not fill the interviewer’s pause.  “After Oxford, your sister followed in his footsteps. But you left school at fifteen?”  

“I’m not brainy. Rachel inherited Dad’s love of maths, figures and statistics, but she went into the City not High Street banking.”

“Still, you did well in what amounted to your first job at Lew Chapman Roofing Solutions.”  

“I began there as a trainee” 

“But by the time you left you were the boss’s PA and Events Manager. Why did you leave?”   

Jane looks down into her lap and twists her hands together. She hopes there’s no outward sign of the shudder that zips icily down her spine. “I had gone as far as I could within the business.”  

“So you set up from scratch as An Events and Conference Planner. That was a bold move?” 

“I … I had some money. I didn’t want to be at the … at the beck and call of anyone else ever again. Fresh start. Sink or swim.” 

“You wanted to be your own boss?  The conference you organized at Lancaster College was a big deal for someone just starting out on a new venture.”

“It wasn’t the first job I’d undertaken. There were a few smaller events earlier in the year.  And I did have experience of doing the same sort of thing with…..   But yes, I’d never before planned anything on that scale, involving a stay-over of several days, accommodation, multiple meals.  But there's a dedicated hospitality department at the college who I worked with, and they were very professional.” 

“Until they tried to change your arrangements?”

“Partly my own fault.  I’d not paid close enough attention to the small print, and didn’t realise there was a degree of leeway in the contract…..   They changed the room we’d agreed to use for registration”

“That couldn’t have gone down well. I’ve heard it said, you’re a perfectionist.” 

“I’m not very … um … flexible. Some might say driven. I have to get thing right!” 

“Hence the melt-down?” 

Jane looks up wide-eyed. “Who told you … Theo?”

“No. Not Dr Tyler.  Although, after you met by chance in the pub near the college, wasn’t it Dr Tyler who tried to resolve your problem? I understand a …  “free-range” sandwich? … was involved.” 

“Oh that!”  Jane smiles broadly for the first time in the interview.  “Both problems were resolved. The sandwich immediately, in fact he ate it.  And later on the glitch over my use of the Geffrye Room which ultimately was as a result of Theo’s … Dr Tyler’s intervention.”

“And despite the differences between the two of you, you became friends?”

“What do you mean by that?”

“Just that your backgrounds are very dissimilar.”  

“We found we had interests in common. He’s a medievalist and an archaeologist and I’ve always been interested in the subject...”

Dr Tyler was not your only friend with “Archaeology” in his CV.  You went out with a Dr Adam Wiseman….?”

“Oh, him.” Jane says dismissively.  “I met him at a book fair I organized. He’s a writer. We did go out a couple of times but I suspect he was always more interested in the hoard unearthed by my mother’s uncle, during the war, than he was in me.”

 “That’s the Maidenhill hoard, isn’t it?” Jane nods.  "I’ve heard about it. Hasn’t there been a recent discovery relating to the original find?”.

 Jane blushes, recalling the circumstances of that discovery.  “Yes.  I think there has.”

The interviewer looks at her intently for a moment and then turns her attention to the notes on her tablet.  

So … what you’re saying is that you and Dr Tyler became friends through shared interests.  Wasn’t there more to it than that?  After all, your first meeting was not a success?” 

“Where are you getting all this?  All right, if you must know I initially thought he was pompous, pedantic, high-handed and patronizing. And old!” 

“Oh, come on!” The interviewer seems suddenly almost defensive.   "He is not old!”  

“I know.  I didn’t get a good look at him the very first time we crossed paths.  I only saw his white hair.  Anyway, I’m sure you would agree, first impressions are not a reliable guide to future relationships.”

“Relationships?” Again, the interviewer gives her that intent, questioning look. 

“People are complicated,” Jane goes on, uncomfortably. “You should never jump too soon to hard and fast conclusions.  You’re allowed to change your mind.”

“Indeed,” she nods.  “Your change of mind inspired you to help him track down the vital evidence he needed to halt the proposed development at Beacon’s Hill.”

“Luckily it was easy. If the individuals concerned had moved house or died, it could have proved a lot more difficult, if not impossible.”  

“And he in his turn helped you?”

“In many many more ways than one……………..!” 


Theo Tyler is the next to be interviewed. 



“Doctor Theo Tyler?  How do you do.” The interviewer sits down and puts her recording device on the table between them.  “I see from your web page you describe yourself as a historian and a desk archaeologist. What do you mean by that?”

 “You can be historian without being an archaeologist, but you can’t be an archaeologist without being a historian.  My life isn’t spent excavating.  My archaeology is mainly theoretical. By interpreting landscape, place names and documentary evidence where it exists, a lot can be inferred about past events and where settlements might have been established.” 

“So, what in your background drew you to this area of study?"

He smiles slightly “Most boys are interested in the Vikings, aren’t they? A boyhood fascination developed into a more general attraction to the period from the fourth to the twelfth century. 

“The Dark ages?” 

“A rather reductive term. It doesn’t mean the peoples of these islands were mindless primitives. Those centuries are only so-called because the documentary and material evidence from the period between the Romans’ departure and the arrival of the Normans is far more limited than before or after. I prefer Early Medieval as a descriptor.” 

“You’re upbringing was unusual.  The debutante and the punk rocker…?” She smiles and arches her eyebrows at him. 

“I have no wish to talk about my family. “

“But life was hard after your father died,” she pursues. “Your mother didn’t cope well….? 

“It certainly wasn’t easy. My mother is … was…..” Theo clears his throat. “Needless to say, we survived the trauma and the press intrusion.  It took her awhile to come to terms with his death, but as I said, it’s not a time of my life I want to revisit.”

The interviewer clears her throat, “Fair enough. Um … you went to a red brick university for your under-graduate years? You could have attended Oxford or Cambridge, but you chose not to?” 

“My rebellious phase.” 

“And that was when you began a relationship with Aniela Sobieralska? I’ve heard it said it was fiery?”

“Not at the start. It grew into a tempestuous association. But she’s moved on. I hope she’s happy now.” Theo lifts his hand and circles his finger-tips at his hairline, above his temple. ‘”I hope her husband has given her what I couldn’t, or wouldn’t.” 

“To get back to your rebellious phase. You’re teaching here now. Do you repudiate your youthful idealism ….?””

“Not at all. I’m just older…”

“And wiser?”

“I’m more pragmatic. I have less energy to expend on trying to overthrow the class system.”  

“And yet you’re…?”

“Just a temporary university lecturer at Lancaster College, filling in for a permanent member of staff who is engaged in a research project.” 

“You’re hopeful of tenure here?”

“One day.  Here … or somewhere else.”

“How did you react to Jane Smith, when you first met her in the Spring of 2016?” 

Jane?”  Theo pauses, his mouth quirks up at the corner. “It was a very brief encounter. There was no time to respond.”

“Your first impression then?” 

Theo covers his mouth as if to disguise his expression, but then nods.  “I was a bit put out, to be completely honest. It was a surprise.  She and her associate were established in the room I usually use in the college.  The colours she was wearing were very … gaudy.  And she was…...” He shakes his head as if he’s decided against pursuing the subject.  

“What?” 

“It doesn’t matter.  Whatever I thought of her was unexpressed and I had no expectation of ever meeting her again.”

“So how did that come about?”

“A few months later we met in the pub over the road from Lancaster. It was a pure fluke that we were both there at the same time.  But if it hadn’t been for her free-range sandwich……….” 

“Can you explain that?”

“She misspoke.” He shakes his head and now there is a definite smile hovering around his mouth. “Jane was there filling in time before an appointment. We got talking, slightly unwillingly on her part. But I’d remembered she had been engaged by the NITP to organize a September conference at Lancaster College. As I was thinking about holding a conference myself, I thought her expertise might be useful to me. I decided to put aside any preconceptions and raise the subject.”

“And did she help?”  

“She gave me an overview of what I needed to take into consideration. But to be honest the subject rather went onto the back burner after she told me what her appointment was about.”

“Which was?” 

“She was obviously upset. She’d come in to talk to Lancaster’s conference manager about an imposed change to her arrangements with the college. Strangely her problem intersected with one of mine.  It raised my suspicions of an improper relationship between the hierarchy of the college, a developer, and the planning department of Beacon’s Hill council … for whom I’m the archaeological consultant.”

“That sounds complicated.”  

Theo nods.  “You could say that. Had it not been for that coincidence and the subsequent discovery that she had a strange story to tell about her own family connection to a wartime find of a Viking hoard … well, none of it would have happened….”