Show 017: March 2009

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In this month's show:

News

It’s always good to get feedback from listeners and this month I got some indirect feedback from Linda Broughton and Richard Garside who have been listening to my podcasts. There was some indication that they wanted to find out about my work. I’m in the last few scenes of a radio play for Radio 4 which should be in the post later on. I’ve just run a writing workshop at Yeadon Town Hall on the outskirts of Leeds, on memoir and autobiography. I’m also working with my PGCE students at the University of Leeds on a writing project where they bring in ten of their pupils from the schools where they are working for workshops at the university with me. There are three gigs in March to look forward to, details of which can be found on the forthcoming events page of this website.

Book review


The Comfort of Saturdays by Alexander McCall Smith, which I haven’t actually read yet!!

But I have read the first four in the series featuring Isabel Dalhousie as the Nosey Parker, detective. Gentle, fun, witty and thoughtful and set in Edinburgh [one of my favourite places] I can unhesitatingly recommend these books, and expect my copy of The Comfort of Saturdays to land on my doormat, anytime soon.

Interview

John Baker
Here follows an edited extract of the interview with novelist John Baker.

I’ve finished a book called Winged with Death which will be published on the 13th March. It’s not really a crime novel, but a contemporary novel based in Monte Video in Uruguay in the seventies, with alternate chapters set in the north of England a little later on. When I first starting writing Poet in the Gutter it was a hommage to Raymond Chandler. I carried on with the series with Sam Turner set in York, I introduced a second series set in Hull. York is a tourist town but there are also no go estates in York just as there are in other cities, with a healthy criminal fraternity.

I’m not entirely sure where characters come from, are thy aspects of the self, or composites of people one knows? When I’m writing they’re purely imaginary. People who recognise themselves in the books are usually completely wrong. The character of Sam Turner might be a wish fulfilment for me ; we certainly share some musical tastes. If you want to give a character some authenticity it has to be from some knowledge you have.

I have a history of writing, not a professional background. I was a great reader and began writing when I was still at school. When I first left school one of the first things I bought was a typewriter. I’m a compulsive writer and i write every day. My writing regime starts as soon as I get out of bed, I was just reading that Auden quote, “Write early, wash later’. When you don’t get dressed at all that’s a good day’s writing.

I do read crime novels but it’s not my usual fare; there’s still lots of stuff from the past that is still left to read. Modern novels can be hit and miss and there’s a whole raft of stuff out there that’s stood up to the test of time. But a lot of my friends are crime-writers so I keep up with them.

Writing this novel was different from a crime novel or one from a series. It was written in the first person and the themes were for me unusual. It deals with things like dance and denial and revolution. It was much more ambitious, and it’s taken me longer to write. Crime novels come out at least once a year. This one took two or three years to write. I never know how my books are going to end, if I know where things are going I begin to lose interest. The joy of it is following the trail. A lot of the answers to the problems in anovel seem to come in dreams, and I have a notebook ready to write it all down in the middle of the night.

I’m already writing something else, but it’s difficult to talk about new writing projects. All I can say is that it’s an historical novel about the immigration of people from Europe to America.

Writing is difficult to teach. It’s one of those things you have to do. Sitting down and writing is better than going on a course. You learn by doing and you learn by reading. Read. Read. Read. And a writer doesn’t just think about writing. The important thing is putting words down on the page.


For more information read John Baker's Blog.

Poem of the month


This month's poem is about disillusionment. Read Clay.