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28 February 2015

I did a brief poem – which ended up shortlisted on the Wordsworth page in this week’s Listener. (March 7-13, 2015) We were required to take a well-known poem, and boil it down to 4-5 lines. I boiled down Dylan Thomas.
It ain’t a bloody ‘good’ night mate,
and – I don’t anticipate,
Doing anything but rage,
when I have to leave the stage!
I’d call it doggeral, except that I have a cat and he wouldn’t approve…

Hardcover, published 2011 by Two Roads, (UK)
I always enjoy a good ‘vet book’, no vet runs a practise for long without having some great stories to tell so the only question becomes, can the author tell the stories well? And that ranges from adequate to terrific. This book happily falls into the terrific category. Also into that category falls the author’s backdrop, he started out as a qualified vet in 1999 and now has his own practise, Pilgrims Veterinary Practise in the New Forest area of England. However only a few years into his employment he also started the Worldwide Veterinary Service Charity. Frankly this guy reminds me of the Energiser Bunny. His practise, the charity, and then too he runs an emergency service for animals (in Dorset,) and has a pet travel company. And before most of that he attained a karate black belt, and, to raise money to start his charity, ran the Marathon des Sables, a 152mile race across a portion of the Sahara and completed it, despite not being any kind of experienced runner while other, more practised runners, were dropping like flies. Mr Gamble has stamina.
The tales of two of his overseas missions, both to desex dozens of feral dogs, and the other events that happened to him during those missions are poignant and remind the reader that while charity may begin at home, there are times when it should travel further afield. With this book I would say the author has added yet another string to his bow. It’s well-written, often witty, the animal stories, many told against himself, are engrossingly funny or wry, and I read the book at a sitting.
After that I investigated because I’d never heard of the publisher. Two Roads is a small new outfit, an offshoot of Hodder and Stoughton, that began in 2010. Run by Lisa Highton it seems to have the knack of finding new, quality, authors. After all, one of the first books it published was Water For Elephants, promptly optioned and made into a movie. I checked out Luke Gamble then, finding to my pleasure that, yes, he has written more with The Vet:The Big Wide World (out in 2012.) I’ll be adding both books to my ‘wanted’ list and hope to be able to acquire them this year.

Here in New Zealand we may have slightly different cat food available, I’m not certain. But my Ocicat, Thunder, gets a three-way mix in cat biscuits – he refuses to eat almost any other form of cat food, although he’s happy to occasionally steal something from my plate if I’m not watching closely enough. I mix Friskies, Hills Dental Biscuits, and RD Diet Biscuits in a small measure and dish them out to him, a sprinkle at a time over the whole time between getting up and going to bed. I can’t give him the whole lot at once as he’ll eat it in seconds.
But now and again his diet may vary – next door’s cat is Ed. A three-year-old Blue/gray and white moggy who’s a friend of Thunder’s. The other day Ed caught a young rabbit, ate most of it and then hauled a leg, disjointed at the shoulder, to the cat-park trellis and watched happily while Thunder hauled it through into his cat-park and ate it. I was later thriftily presented with the fur. I’m displeased with this on two grounds. One, that it disrupts his diet, too many rabbits and all the weight I strive to get off and keep off him will return, and second that while it doesn’t upset me, I find removing a fresh portion of rabbit pelt messy and would prefer not to have to do that. But then, I have a cat – what do I expect…

15 February 2015

Sadly it isn’t the usual mystery we get around here. They tend to be mostly amusing, this isn’t. Last year a friend gave me a gorgeous and very large rooster named Oscar. Oscar was a good rooster, quiet, gentle, and not a nuisance. But about a week ago he canished, and there’s been no sign of him since. My assumption is that he strayed onto the road, was run over, and the culprit, not wanting to confess, scooped up the body and dumped it elsewhere. The only good thing about this is that before be became ‘late’, he’d bred. I have three young birds he sired and five chicks, any of which may turn out to be male. If so at least his genes will continue even if he doesn’t. But it’s a mystery and I suspect it will remain unsolved.

I do wish that some publishers would do a better job on copyediting. I’m happy to say that those who publish my friend Lyn’s books do, but here and there over the years I’ve spotted some very mixed outcomes in books by favourite authors. I always enjoyed Corgi’s J.T.Edson westerns, but wondered over the years if they even had a copyeditor. The books contained such gems as ‘Dwan found him by a small stream. Nope, he hasn’t been found by a sinister Oriental, but by a typo and the break of day. The J.D. Robb books published by Piatkus were also typo-ridden, but I think one of the best is one I found while reading a 1990 edition of the Fontana paperback, Agatha Christie’s Poirot. In the tale, The Kidnapped Prime Minister, I found this sentence… nothing is easier to personate than a pubic character. I immediately had a mental picture of, um, no, I won’t go there, suffice it to say that it was an odd image. And really, isn’t that one of the most obvious typos there is, and shouldn’t they be aware of it? But the edition I was reading was a first edition and maybe they corrected it later. But it provided me with a chuckle for the day, and I suppose you can’t ask for more than that really.

Yes, UGLY GIRL has just sold to THE DRAGON’S HOARD anthology to appear from Sky Warrior Books. Happily not only do they have a knack for chosing inmteresting themes, I seem to have a knack for writing stories they’ll like, and long may that continue.

theme anthology of stories and poems.
Reviewed by Steve Johnson.
This anthology wins on both counts. The appearance of the anthology is stunning. It’s stark, a mere three colours, but it makes you stop and look and that is exactly what cover art should do. And as for the work, I really liked stories by Tais Ten (With Musket and Ducat) Fiona Moore, (Selma Eats) Lyn McConchie (The Thirteenth Ewe) Liz Argall (Augustus Clementine ) Fran Wilde (A Moment of Gravity, Circumscribed) and A.C.Wise’s (Letters to a Body on the Cusp of Drowning.) For me, these tales stood out, but none of the work was anything but well-written and it’s pleasant to find an editor with the ability to choose well. You could do far worse than to buy this anthology, I could name a long list that haven’t been worth the money, this anthology is.

7 February 2015

Hardcover, published Robert Hale (London) 2010.
I can only say that this is an excellent example of a book that while ostensibly a romance, has all the ingredients that grab someone like me who isn’t that fixated on romance books. The background of a canal and canal boats is authoratative. The characters are real people and the dialogue is normal, unlike the characters and dialogue of too many other romance writers, (some dialogue I have read is so Edwardian as to be utterly unbelievable, no guy I’ve ever met speaks like that.) And the plot is solid, believable and pleasingly straightforward. I was hauled in to the story and background at once and read the book at a sitting.
Michaela Webster (Mikki) has resigned from her job as an art teacher, and resigned too from her engagement. Now leaving London on her canal boat she is going to stay with family at the Bleakhall Canal in the Midlands while she decides where she goes from here. Where she goes seems, as the story progresses, to be in a number of directions at once as she accepts a job painting a canal boat for an old friend, work that may lead to better things, working as a waitress at the local tavern for extra cash, and keeping an eye on her unruly teenage neice. There was nothing impossible or even unlikely in the plot,. this is a well-written book that reads from chapter to chapter in quiet progression and I loved it. It’s gone into the ‘permanent’ section on my bookshelves, and I hope the author writes more like this soon.

2 February 2015

I ran across this quote the other day and it amused the heck out of me. SO true!
“There are worse crimes than burning books. One is not reading them!”

yup, SALT OF THE EARTH, a short humorous item appeared in THAT’S LIFE magazine early January 2015.

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