Winter in Madrid

This very interesting spy thriller by C J Sansom was recommended by my MA course tutor and now that the course has ended I have found the time and motivation to tackle the book.

The recommendation came about because it is a novel which relies a great deal on research and incorporating the research into the storyline. From what I have read so far, Sansom has done well to set the scene and to describe his characters. I like the way he uses secondary or tertiary characters as a vehicle for information and background details.

Already I am learning a great deal about the war in Spain and the British secret service. After a week, I am liking the story.

There is a nice section about the novel on  Wikipedia and a review in the NYT.


I’ll Know My Song Well Before I Start Singing

For the last few months I have lived with Patti Smith. I have carried her non-fiction book “M Train” around with me wherever I have gone – to work, on a day trip, on a bus journey, on a trip to the pub with friends and to bed. When I have found a “reading space,” I have opened the book to look at the pictures and to read a few lines. So far I am on page 128 and will keep reading.

This morning I read the postscript to the paperback version of the book and lived with her those few moments in her favourite cafe. I feel her loss at a place which was so central to her life and work in New York. She describes sitting on her bed waiting for a TV programme called “Luther,” and realises she is a day too soon. Instead she watches a episode of “Murder She Wrote.” Like Patti I look forward to detective programmes. “Murder She Wrote” was a staple of my teenage years along with “Cagney and Lacey.” I recently saw a back episode of Sharon Gless on a BBC book programme discussing her taste in literature and the books which has formed her. I remembered Cagney and Lacey with affection and felt a loss for those earlier days of crime fiction. Sharon Gless and Tyne Daley were the precursors of the modern female crime detective and are still a role model.

With Cafe Ino closed and “The Killing” cancelled mid-series Patti writes to the show’s producer, Veena Sud. This letter leads to an exchange and an offer for Patti to take part in an episode of the show. For Patti, a great fan of detective thrillers, this is a stellar event and a fitting tribute to her status as an icon, writer, artist and television fan. She also starred in the final season of “Law and Order: Criminal Intent,” which I think is a wonderful tribute.

I am reminded of another great idol of mine who loves television: Fran Lebowitz. Fran also starred in “Law and Order.” I remember her performances well and glad she shared it with us.

In the New Yorker of October 6th 2016, Anwen Crawford notes that Smith’s new book M Train is a ramble through her mind, her life, her experiences, her present and her past. Smith has left the bright “young woman of “Just Kids” was at one with the city’s pulse, but in this book Smith seems out of time: she longs for subway tokens instead of a MetroCard; she observes New Year’s Eve from her stoop, not venturing farther. She wants to leave New York, and does so frequently, only to return again, from force of habit, if nothing else. There is an indelible sadness to “M Train,” borne of bereavement, ageing, and isolation.” I feel the same spirit when listening to current talks by Fran Lebowitz.

Their currently melancholy is, I feel, fitting to the age in which we live.

The zen of freedom from stuff


The konmari method of tidying, folding and selecting to keep only things which are useful and / or bring happiness can be applied to a writer’s life.

We writers need to declutter our desks, our living spaces, our desktops, our external drives and our writing to give ourselves room to develop our ideas.

Be ruthless. Delete programs and documents you do not use. Create meaningful folder and file your documents away to create a clutter free desktop. Root out multiple versions and copies of stories. Do you really need to keep them? If not get rid of some of them.

What about the “How to…” books? Do you actually use them? If not, sell them or give them to a charity shop. Those notes. Scan them and put them in the cloud or on your ereader account.

Lots of photos in a boxes? Get a photo scanner app and scan them onto your phone then save them in the cloud or on a memory stick.

Each week I either throw something away or recycle it. The liberation is wonderful and I delight in seeing the emptiness in my flat.

As I reduce the amount of stuff I own I reduce the amount of time and energy I dedicate to it. In return I increase the amount of time I have for reading, thinking, writing, photography, listening to music and so on. I find myself becoming more productive and more content at the same time.

It may be possible to konmari my way into finishing my novel.