Posted by: billpurdue | September 4, 2008

21 Crime , science and another golden oldie

I’ll get to my main subject in a moment, but first I must mention a news story I came across the other day concerning Jacqueline Wilson’s book My Sister Jodie [Doubleday, £12.99  9780385610124]. Apparently one parent bought a copy of the book from her local ASDA store and found a swear word in the story. She complained to the publisher and to the store; the store immediately removed all copies from sale and the publisher agreed to reprint the book without the offending word. I’m not going to go on at length about what I think, but do you think this is an over-reaction?  – and does this raise questions about big business and censorship ? Before you make your mind up, read the news reports and the comments on the web.


I haven’t read any books by Lee Child, but I was interested to read an article in the magazine for alumni and friends of the University of Sheffield (of which I am one – memories!). Lee Child got a law degree at Sheffield in 1977, eventually worked for Granada TV in Manchester before being made redundant. At that point he decided to take the plunge and try his hand at crime writing. His novels feature the character Jack Reacher, a loner who roams around the United States, becoming involved in a wide variety of dangerous adventures – and also, apparently, always knowing what the time is, in spite of not having a watch. There’s a detailed biography of him – Reacher that is – on Wikipedia.


The twelfth novel in the Reacher series was published in March – Nothing to Lose [Bantam  £17.99 9780593057025 – large format pbk expected next month, smaller format next year ] . In the magazine article it mentions a crime fiction festival at Sheffield University this coming November at which Lee Child will be making an appearance. I haven’t been able to find details of the festival, but if I do come across anything, I’ll include it in a future blog.


Science – everything you should know – and more.

This is one of the “everything you wanted to know about……, but never had time/were afraid to ask” type books. On a cursory examination, It might be dismissed as another of the trivia books like Can Cows Walk Downstairs? [by Paul Heiney, Sutton Publishing, £6.99 9780750937481] or Do Fish Drink Water?[by Bill McLain, Collins 9780007240494 – not sure if this is still in print], but I think this book is a cut above all that: Scientific Curiosity by Cyril Aydon [Constable £9.99 1845290895] is a really interesting book to dip into, or just to read from end to end.

The book is described as “an introduction to 2000 years of scientific discovery”. Starting with “The Heavens” and finishing with “Keeping Count” we are taken through all the major scientific disciplines in a series of short pieces, described in the blurb as anecdotes (but I don’t think that word does them justice) on a wide variety of aspects of the world of science ; so if you have ever wondered how we see colour, how the periodic table came about, or what is meant by “half life”, then this book is for you. It also tells how famous scientists made their discoveries and sometimes reveals some of the lesser known aspects of their lives. What I particularly like about the book is that I can easily understand it (well just about!).


A Nottinghamshire Lass

Born in 1689 at Thoresby in Nottinghamshire, Mary Pierrepont, later to become Lady Mary Wortley Montague, led a very colourful life. She was one of the daughters of the fifth Earl of Kingston. The Earl was determined that his daughters should not marry below their station, but Mary had other ideas and eloped with Edward Wortley Montague, who didn’t enjoy a particularly brilliant career in politics, but was briefly British Ambassador at Constantinople (Istanbul).  Whilst in Turkey she was shown a way of immunizing people against smallpox, a disease that was rife in those days, even in England. She mixed in royal circles and  even became very friendly with the poet Alexander Pope who declared his love for her, but she rejected him. She certainly had a mind of her own.

 A Toast to Lady Mary by Doris Leslie, now long out of print, is the story of her life, told in narrative form. I found it fascinating, after I got used to the rather flowery language – imagine the sort of conversations you hear in those costume dramas on the telly and then embellish them some more. Don’t let that put you off – I’m not a great lover of biography, but I found it really absorbing. It may be hard to get hold of a copy, but it’s worth a try.

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