Archive for December, 2007
Choosing my favourite novel I read this year is easy – it’s David Peace’s The Damned United, a fictionalised account of Brian Clough’s tumultous 44-day reign as Leeds United manager. Clough is obviously a fantastic ready-made protagonist, but Peace’s skill is to make the reader love him, hate him, respect him, pity him… all at the same time. It’s brilliantly written, and the structure is really inventive. The Times called it ‘probably the best novel ever written about sport’ and it’s hard to disagree with that.
In my opinion, 2007 has been the worst year in living memory for new films. The Bourne Ultimatum was the only decent thing to come out of Hollywood, but my pick of the year came out of Germany. The Lives of Others is about a Stasi spy who is drawn into the lives of a couple he is ordered to monitor. It’s gripping and fascinating, and there’s a brilliant central performance from Ulrich Muhe, who sadly died in July. The ending is just perfect, and the final line is sure to bring a tear to the eye.
Finally a CD pick and, after honorable mentions for Kate Walsh’s Tim’s House and Josh Rouse’s Country Mouse, I’m plumping for Midlake’s The Trials of Van Occupanther. I know it has been around for a while, but it only really took off this year. It’s difficult to describe – ambitious 60s and 70s-flavoured melodic indie pop with narrative lyrics that tell tales of ancient or post-apocalyptic bandits, kind of a cross between classic Fleetwood Mac and Jeff Wayne’s War of the Worlds… Actually that makes it sound really rubbish, you’ll just have to trust me that it isn’t!
As these will be the last blogs before Christmas and starting back in 2008, we thought we’d put some recommendations up.
It has been difficult to find the time to read for pleasure this year, as much of my time at Tonto and at home has been taken up by reading manuscripts. When I’ve got the time, I always seem to drift back to the same books. The first being ‘Filth’ by Irvine Welsh. His writing is an acquired taste, but once tasted, something you’ll never forget. If new to Welsh, I’d recommend going for some of his earlier works before attempting this one. On my Christmas list this year is his latest book of short stories, ‘If You Liked School, You’ll Love Work’.
For me, Suburban left me wanting to hear more about what inspired the songs, what they were based on… everything. I think many Weller Geeks felt the same but it was amazing to hear the man himself telling us about the songs and not just some journo assuming what they were about (and I got a signed copy). The cover is brilliant too, with artwork by Sir Peter Blake.
We’re going to be working with some very interesting writers next year, so I’m very much looking forward to a productive New Year!
The best film I’ve seen this year has to be The Last King of Scotland. Forest Whittaker gives an outstanding performance in this tense and fast paced film, based on the novel by Giles Foden. It is one of those films that leaves you stunned… I hope Santa remembers to bring this one as well.
So this year the novels that gripped my heart in their fist were Anne Tyler’s Digging to America, Mark Haddon’s A Spot of Bother and How to Talk to a Widower by Jonathan Tropper.
As well promoting the More Tonto Short Stories anthology at Durham Lit Festival I’ve been redrafting a novel… writing lots of stories and thinking through ideas for my next novel… My most recent short story Defying Gravity is being featured in this December issue of Laura Hird’s website.
I’m hoping 2008 will be the year that my novel gets published and so I get to spend the year touring bookshops and shamelessly self promoting… fingers crossed!
Anyone who wants to come along and show some support then please come to The Blue Room in Newcastle on 2nd March 2008 which I’ll be reading at – very exciting stuff…
Oh and there’s about five half written plays to finish and that film script in the corner that I keep ignoring – still…
Rosalind Wyllie’s short stories are featured in Tonto Short Stories, More Tonto Short Stories and Tonto Christmas Short Stories. During December you can get a free copy of More Tonto Short Stories and a free download of Tonto Christmas Stories – see more details here.
Looking at my bookshelf, I’m hard pressed to find the books that I’ve read this year. Holding down a regular job, going through the final edit of Johnny Lonely and working on a new book has left me, a slow reader at the best of times, with little in the way of completed reading material, outside of research for my new book, An Englishman in Rocket City. Boy A by Jonathan Trigell and Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon stand out, and my all time favourite, Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, which I reread for the eighth time.
The launch of Johnny Lonely has been the high point of 2007 for me, and it got me involved in the Durham Literature Festival and the LitFest Inside programme at Low Newton women’s prison, among other things. Thanks to all who have supported Johnny Lonely. May 2008 bring you all more smiles.
Pete Tanton is the author of Johnny Lonely
I met Jonny almost 20 years ago and over that time wrote his life story with him, before contacting a film company who created the documentary ‘The Boy Whose Skin Fell Off’. This year, Tonto Press published Jonny’s story, now available at most stores and on-line at Amazon. I’d met Jonny just at the right time, after I’d returned home after sailing the Caribbean. I’d had such a pirate-ridden, shocking, hurtful, startling, starving, adrift-at-sea, desertion of Captain time. I wrote it all down. Got the bug. Penned a trilogy of adventure fiction, then bumped into Jonny.
Roger in festive mood
There is no getting around the fact that getting published is a nightmare. Twenty years plus I have been sending stuff away, to no avail. You almost have to stalk a publisher or agent these days! Meet them on a train, in a pub or save their lives because the accepted route just does not work. None the less, Tonto Press read one of my manuscripts this year and published Jonny’s story.
So 2007 has been a great year. The charity is coming along a treat and I have done quite a few signings, which are fun. I usually take along a sign that states ‘author here’ as a bit of humour. I love it, especially when a young girl came up to me and said, ‘Oh, I thought that said, “Arthur”!’
Roll on 2008 is all I can say.
Roger Stutter is the author of Jonny Kennedy: The Story of the Boy Whose Skin Fell Off.
As previously promised, here’s The Burglar’s Dog Christmas guide, produced for a local publication (hence the lack of rude words) but not published, presumably because it was slightly unkind to some of their advertisers… More special features from Tonto writers coming next week.
‘Tis the season to be dragged around city centre bars by sozzled work colleagues in novelty Santa hats. The Christmas office pub crawl can be a nightmare, but luckily Newcastle’s favourite four-legged bar reviewer The Burglar’s Dog (AKA Mark Jones) is on hand to offer up a survival guide. To celebrate the release of the new edition of his bestselling drinking guide, here are his best (and worst) Christmas party pubs in Newcastle upon Tyne:
Akenside Traders: Every single office night out from my work for the last 2,000 years has involved the Akenside. And since I detest every one of my colleagues, it’d be fairly safe to say that the Akenside is not one of my favourite Christmas haunts. I hate this place â€“ I’ve got nothing but bad memories of terrible nights out amongst imbeciles, and of ricking my ankle on those stupid steps.
Buffalo Joe’s: This ‘amazing Western fun theme bar’, has long been one of the most depressing bars in what the geniuses at the neighbouring councils would like you to call NewcastleGateshead, and its mornings-after the prime instigator of calls to the Samaritans, but it is written in law that every office night out must, inevitably, end here.
Centurion: Central station’s lovingly-restored, Grade I Listed, first class passenger lounge has become a room full of neglect and echoes, with tacky lighting effects clashing with the tiling. It’s plain the management have got about as much love for this place as they would for a ginger stepchild.
Fluid: Two floors of average wood and brick decor, a reasonable pint, and a healthy cross-section of punters, happy hours for the Christmas party crowd. Nothing out of the ordinary to report. File this one under M for mediocre.
The Goose: I believe that small is beautiful when it comes to pubs. It’s a viewpoint that has held me in good stead over the years, and provides a yardstick with which to batter this gargantuan hellhole about the face and neck. I’ve actually seen people lining up to get in here. Where are these people coming from? Why has there not been a cull?
The Lodge: Loveable cheeky chappie TV presenters Ant & Dec apparently ploughed a quarter of a million quid into the refit and rename of the old Jonny Ringo’s, but I’m left thoroughly nonplussed. However, whatever your line of work, your colleagues will inevitably want to drink here on their big night out.
Pacific Bar Cafe: What a terrible, terrible bar this is. Even after all this time, I still fail to see how the fact that it cost Â£9 million to build can justify serving up rubbish beer at astronomical prices. Bar humbug.
Tiger Tiger: I understand the nature of exclusivity, but I expect to get what I pay for, and it has to be said that, for a so-called luxury bar, Tiger Tiger is absolutely woeful. And the spiteful door policy might scupper your night out before it starts.
Union Rooms: Thanks to the marvellous building in which it is housed, the Union Rooms is the least horrible of Newcastle’s Wetherspoon pubs, serving up a reassuringly drab pint of bargain fizz to go with your festive celebrations.
Yates’s: If there was any justice in this world, then this would be the finest bar Newcastle has ever seen, housed in a truly remarkable French Renaissance building. Instead it’s a Yates’s chain bar. And it’s an absolute bran tub of dross.
There’s a nice review of The Rocketbelt Caper in a publication called General Aviation News. Reviewer Janice Wood calls the book, ‘a can’t-put-it-down murder mystery that shows how obsession and betrayal can lead people to commit dastardly deeds.’ Read the full review here.
It is with great sadness that I post today’s blog. Our friend and creative writing tutor, Chrissie Glazebrook, died last Friday.
Chrissie was a tutor on the MA Creative Writing course at Northumbria University and a very well-known and respected author. She was very supportive of Tonto, and kept in touch offering encouragement and words of wisdom to me since graduating.
For those who knew Chrissie, there will be a memorial service for her in Newcastle on Thursday 10th January at the Friends Meeting House in Jesmond at 2pm. There will be refreshments afterwards and there will also be a display of her work with comments collated from ex-students. Venue to be confirmed.
As reported in the Sunday Sun article posted here yesterday, Pretty Bird, a movie based on the rocketbelt caper story, will receive its world premiere at the Sundance Film Festival in January. To clarify, despite what Wikipedia says, the movie is not officially connected to the Rocketbelt Caper book, the rights to which have been optioned elsewhere. This is how Sundance is describing Pretty Bird:
Pretty Bird (director/screenwriter: Paul Schneider). A comic tale of three would-be entrepreneurs who set out to invent a rocket belt. The clash of their mismatched personalities soon dissolves the business into a morass of recriminations, retaliations, kidnapping and murder in this parable of American dreams and delusions. Cast: Billy Crudup, Paul Giamatti, Kristen Wiig, David Hornsby.
A few bits and pieces from newspapers and magazines this weekend: First up, reviews of both The Burglar’s Dog and The Rocketbelt Caper from the December issue of The Crack. Next is a piece about The Rocketbelt Caper from yesterday’s Sunday Sun. Finally, there’s a review of The Burglar’s Dog from December/January’s Accent magazine. Click on the images to see readable versions.