Show 012: October 2008

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In this month's show:

News

I’ve just come back from a Readers’ Day in The Fishmarket in Northampton. A well organised day with bookish people. If it was rehearsal for anything it might be that it was the first time for me to be out there engaging with people for along time, and a pre-cursor to many events at the Ilkley Literature Festival, and Readers Day as part of the Off the Shelf Festival in Sheffield on the 25th October. There’s also a special event at The Colour Museum in Bradford to celebrate the setting up of a new archive devoted to gay men and women in the region.

Book Review

When Will There Be Good News

When Will There Be Good News
This month’s book is When Will There Be Good News by Kate Atkinson, known for her first book Behind The Scenes at the Museum about a fifties childhood growing up in York.

This book, in the widest sense a crime novel, a book about family and the impact of the past on the present. Peopled with characters from two previous novels, one of the new characters we are introduced to is sixteen year old, Reggie, a completely delightful invention, who working as a child-minder, to one of the main character’s babies, and becomes involved in the crime.

Because it is Kate Atkinson writing expect doses of wit and wisdom.

Interview

Patrick Gale

This is an edited extract from an interview with Patrick Gale, whose witty novels of contemporary life, are best sellers.
Patrick Gale

I was one of those wretched children who wrote all the time; Allan Hollinghurst referred to my ‘facility’ to writing as if I was laying eggs. It feels easy and natural to me. I was trying to become an actor and wrote my first novel The Aerodynamics of Pork to amuse myself. I was working at the time as a singing waiter, where I sang Cole Porter to an almost empty restaurant. My first novel was piece of mischief; I decided to enter for the Betty Trask prize which was for romantic fiction, so I wrote about a lesbian policewoman and a gay teenage boy. I was unaware and unself-conscious about the process. I had energy then which you can never recapture, as self awareness creeps in. I was unguarded and was probably revealing rather a lot about me. They were also trying far too hard to be clever.

I think I said to myself that I was a writer quite quickly; but it was really brought home to me when I started hearing from readers and getting letters from them. It felt odd and yet rather wonderful. It felt that I was really communicating, and it wasn’t a game.

In my later books I’ve dared to get a bit more serious. I think they’re still funny, because humour is my default setting, but I’m confronting serious issues. Rough Music was planned as book to explain my parents’ marriage. The three main characters are me and my parents.

Childhood and siblings and family are in my books a lot. I often think if I had to retrain I would be a psychiatrist. I’m interested in family damage. Equally there has always been spirituality in my books, I had a very religious childhood, and the Church was very much in my family. Being a novelist has something in common with being a priest.

I wrote about Quaker characters in Notes from An Exhibition, and the book apparently prompted about fifty enquiries about how to join the Religious Society of Friends. It was also a book about a difficult mother, who was also brilliantly creative and bi-polar. Being a Richard and Judy choice was responsible for me selling 250, 000 copies of the book. Both Notes from An Exhibition and Rough Music are very popular with reading groups; probably because both have lots of issues to talk about.

I plot all my novels from beginning to end , but I never stick to it, because my characters start developing a life of their own, and tend to sleep with the wrong people.



Poem of the Month

This poem was written about ten years ago, slightly grim, when I was interested, as a writer, that when something terrible happens, you are engaged and feel the horror, but something in you can still watch and take notes. Read Killing the Dog. On the podcast I play the version from my forthcoming CD, Some Notes of Your Music, which is available on pre-order from my shop.