Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Welcome back to TWC'ers who have been absent for a while

Nik reported that the Coast Rider would hopefully be including weekly short stories and the editor was trying to investigate a sponsor so that writers could get some recompense for their work. Rob said that the Round Town News is holding a writing competition, the deadline now being next month.

Nik introduced Jan Warburton, who attends when she is in Spain. Jan said she had struggled with writing for years and only when she was made redundant did she give it a go. She started with the writers’ bureau initially and sold some stories through them, and then ghost wrote an autobiography by Tommy Hunt, Only Human. Tommy had written it on an Amstrad in capital letters with no breaks for paragraphs. The book was about black musicians being exploited by white agents and the difficulty of getting black musicians’ music heard on the radio. Nik said Jan had captured the voice of the musician.

Brenda read out chapters 1 and 2 of her edited novel about Belle. It started at the funeral of her mother and brought into life the characters in the novel. TWC'ers enjoyed the edited version, particularly liking the allusion to the tulip which hung its head in the cemetery. The piece was thought to be evocative. Nik said you don’t need to attribute speech unless necessary, as readers would know who was speaking. It was thought it would be a good idea to use dates in the chapter headings, like Ken Follett does, so that readers don’t get confused as to what year they are in, as the story goes back and forth.

Norma read out a short story about Maria. Where does Maria live? Maria has 5 dogs which all do their business on the path and her big black dog attacks other dogs. She is a psychiatric case but Norma thinks she is very clever because she outwits denuncias made by neighbours and the police can never find her. She keeps Jose, his son and the lodger well serviced in a sexual way and also with drugs, but where does she live. There is a knife attack at Jose’s house; the urbanisation wants to be rid of her. Lisa thought the knife attack could be the beginning of the story. Joy thought the story should be called “How do you solve a problem like Maria?

Jenny wrote about a library book. The librarian, Miss Briggs, was working in the library when a youth lobbed a firework in the window. Miss Briggs had a head cold so couldn’t smell the smoke; she was reading a book under the counter so never noticed the fire. The next thing she knows is being taking out the building, which was destroyed along with all the books, apart from one, the one she had been reading beneath the counter, The Towering Inferno, a nice twist.

Gerry had also written on the theme “As I sat waiting for a phone call ...” The phone call he was waiting for was from Tony his mate. 2 weeks ago they realised they had won 3.4 million pounds on the Lotto. However, Tony couldn’t find the ticket. The writer wondered if one of Tony's two lady friends could have taken the ticket. The search for the ticket went on. The phone rang, what was the answer going to be ........? Rob thought that the writer himself might be lying, not Tony or the 2 women. Nik said readers can feel cheated if the story doesn’t have an ending and is left up in the air, like the film The Italian Job where the car is left teetering on the edge of a cliff.

Mary read out a piece about “The library book”, called Emma’s dilemma. Emma had borrowed a book from the library by Ken Follett. As she came to part 4 a note fell out of the book, “If you are reading this note you must attend the local library. Please phone the number below. I need you.” She didn’t know if he was a weirdo or a lonely person. She stared at the note and picked up the phone .... Nik liked the idea of putting book titles like “Great Expectations” in a story to titillate the reader.

Chris had written a review about a novel by a Swedish writer, Hakan Nesser. It was a story about crime detection concerning the case of family members vanishing without trace. The chief inspector, Van Dieter, was Swedish of Italian descent and a gloomy character. Chris said it was a gripping read and recommended it. The author has had 4 books translated into English.

Rita read out a story entitled The Conman. Her husband, a barman in London, came home and said he had met a man from Gloucestershire who had offered him a job as a hotel manager and they were going with him the next morning to see the place. They got up at 4 a.m., asked the neighbours to watch the children, waited and he never came. Rita asked, “Did you give him any money?” He said yes and a free lunch, in total worth about £20, a lot of money then. Rita rang up the hotel and was told that the man had left the hotel owing money having stolen business cards, that other people had been cheated by him and he was wanted by the police. 14 months later Rita was in another pub when a shabby man tried to talk to her who said he was from Gloucester. She arranged to meet him with her husband and police nearby. The CID apprehended him after he started to run and he got 5 years in prison for fraud. It turned out that 4 months into his sentence the man died in prison. She had lost sleep when the man had got her up at 4 a.m. but she slept peacefully when she heard of his demise.

Heather also wrote on the subject “As I sat waiting for a return phone call ....” She was trying to ring the support line about a modem and in the end she wasn’t writing about the complaint but about how difficult it was to complain. Everybody knows the way it goes, you ring this number, are given options none of which fit and then you end up being cut off. After many calls, with flask and Kendall mint cake at hand she tried again. A girl from the Black Country said she should send an email to complain but she couldn’t because she hadn’t got a modem. In the end the caller called the police to say there was a bomb in the building and as she heard the sirens wondered if any of the policemen would know about modems.

Ian wrote a review about a book called The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid. He tells his story as a one sided conversation in a tea house in Lahore. The writer reminisces about his successful life in America until 9/11 when he is forced to reassess his position because everyone views him in a different light. The writer extracts sympathy from the reader. Ian said the book was tense right to the last sentence and thought-provoking.



  1. I didn´t make myself very clear about the Swedish writer, Håkan Nesser.
    He has two police main characters:
    Van Veeteren, who is rather dour and gloomy and who has featured in 10 books, and his newest character, the Swedish-Italian Gunnar Barbarotti, who is much more upbeat and is to feature in a suite of 4 books.
    The book I reviewed,"Människa Utan Hund", hasn´t been translated into English as far as I know, but several of his Van Veeteren books have. I highly recommend them.
    I would also give a plug to Stieg Larsson´s Millenium trilogy, which is an unputdownable collective read if ever there was one!!

  2. Thanks for yet another good condensation of the meeting, Cynthia.