Monday, 31 August 2009

A Horticultural Tale of Love, Lust and Lunacy

August's book, chosen by Anne, was the travelogue-cum-investigative "Orchid Fever" by Eric Hansen. It explored the fascination and beauty of these rare flowers together with the world of growers, collectors and exhibitors.
A major part of the book was the role of CITES (the worldwide organisation controlling the movement of rare species of plants and animals) and how they regulate the once free-for-all trade in orchids. Hansen portrays their role as inept, aggressive or obfuscating and there was an air of poacher turned game keeper with many former collectors turning turtle and chasing their partners of old.
Anne hadn't read the book before and although she enjoyed it she felt slightly let down by the quote on the cover claiming it to be laugh out loud funny. The group felt the book did have its humorous moments peppered as it was with interesting, oddball or even extreme characters and I certainly chuckled at a couple of their antics.
Marghie thought that the book was more like a series of articles for a magazine (which was the general consensus), many of us enjoyed different chapters as we felt an empathy with its subject. Karen thought colour plates might have brought the orchids to life a bit more for the reader. The black and white line drawings used for the chapter pages didn't set anyone's pulse racing - as Hansen suggested the form of particular orchids could do to enthusiasts!
Jean brought in Tulip Fever by Deborah Moggach, a fictional book set in 1630s Amsterdam where fortunes were made and lost speculating on tulip bulbs. She felt that the books were similar in many ways. I thought that Eric Hansen's literary style would have suited many different hobbies or interests and each would have thrown up its fair share of characters and interesting stories.
"Stamp Fever" - now there's a title to whet your interest....

Monday, 3 August 2009

Colin Cotterill - recommended read

This year, I got the chance to be a judge again for the Crime Writers Association Dagger in the Library Award. This involved reading an awful lot of crime books throughout the Spring, then meeting my fellow judges for a long lunch in London, where we thrashed out our shortlist. Writers for this Dagger are nominated by libraries and book groups, and all the judges are librarians. It's a good category to read as it's for writers who have already produced a few books, but are still 'up and coming', and every year we discover some gems.

This year's winner was the wonderful Colin Cotterill, who has set a series of books in Laos, 1975. His hero is a 75-year old state coroner. Not the usual recipe for a crime book, but the setting is very interesting and the main character's sardonic wit really makes the books special. Me and some of the other judges went to the awards ceremony in London in July. We wern't expecting our winner to be there, as he lives in Thailand, so we were thrilled when he appeared from the back of the room to pick up his prize. And he turned out to we an all-round nice guy into the bargain - here's a picture of me and my fellow judges mobbing him. (He's the one at the back holding his award).