Have you ever fancied yourself as a book reviewer?
If the answer is “yes”, then I would love to hear from you.
My debut novel The Beige Beetle was completed last year, but my first attempt at obtaining a few opinions about a piece of work that was actually ten years in the making didn’t quite go according to plan. However, now is the time for a second push... as the midwife said to th... maybe not.
The book is set in a university hall of residence in the 1980s. It deals with some very tough subjects and includes a few words that my parents definitely didn’t teach me; but despite having had two books professionally published, this is the work I am most proud of... of which I am most proud. Never end a sentence with a preposition, eh Wendy?!
If you’re not sure about penning a review, I recently found this post about my biography of Marie Prevost: “This slim, poorly written book takes a look at the life and work of a beautiful, talented and ill-fated actress who was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars in the 1920s, Its unfortunate, because Prevost deserves better.”
These carefully considered words came courtesy of a self-styled “arts journalist, author, silent film buff, pop culture enthusiast...” whose grasp of grammar (viz. “Its” minus the apostrophe) is particularly close to my definition of “poorly written”. My excuse is I do this for fun....
As if I would stoop so low....
Yeah right: Thomas Gladysz, thank you for you’re [irony] feedback.
You can easily do better than that can’t you? So here’s the deal. You send me your e-mail address and I send you a PDF copy of The Beige Beetle. You read it at your leisure, gather your thoughts, and then write a review (of whatever length) that simply needs to be honest. I am happy to receive constructive criticism, although praise tends to go down pretty well too.
Here is the link to what a couple of readers had to say... I really hope you’ll want to get involved.
It started out with a random idea back in January 2014 and ended yesterday over a cup of tea and at chat at the home of an Olympic gold medallist....
Over the intervening 23 months, I arranged and completed fifty-four separate challenges, all of which were undertaken in order to initially raise funds for the mental health charity Mind, and latterly to support the “Time to Change” programme the aim of which is to work towards ending mental health discrimination. I will endeavour to keep raising awareness into 2016 and beyond, but now feels like the right time to bring down the curtain on what has been a truly memorable adventure (notice how I craftily avoided using the word “journey”!).
I am not going to list each and every one of the tasks I set myself; suffice to say that in amongst the planning, the e-mails, and the hundreds of miles of driving, I have met some wonderful people, and enjoyed experiences that I will cherish for always—holding a snake and riding the rickety rollercoaster are not included in my definition of “enjoyable”.
I have done things I either didn’t think I’d get the chance to do, or didn’t believe I could or would do: viz. live stand-up comedy, (an attempt at) sparring with a pro boxer, getting a tattoo, going on stage to play a leg of darts against an international opponent (actually that ended up as opponents plural...), and so the list continues... all the way through to yesterday and a meeting with Ann Brightwell (née Packer), the lady responsible for my favourite ever moment in British sport.
The story behind Ann’s victory in the 800m at Tokyo in 1964 is fascinating... the race itself nothing short of remarkable, but to put the medal into context, British women have won just ten individual track and field golds in the whole history of the modern Olympic Games. Mary Rand, an incredibly gifted all-round athlete was the first; her long jump success coming just a few days before her room-mate’s triumph over two laps in Tokyo.
Just for the record, the full list will be given at the end of the blog, but to be not only be offered the chance to meet Ann (although we had spoken at length over the phone earlier in the year) but to be invited into her Cheshire home was something very special, and it was with a mixture of excitement and nerves that I made the trip across the M62... M60... A627... A34... etc....
In fairness, despite the weather, the journey was fine... except for a crack on my windscreen that emanated from a chip that must have happened fairly early on in proceedings. The crack grew to about six or seven inches in length but thankfully got no worse... there’ll be a call to Autoglass later today.
It was always going to be a slightly surreal moment when I knocked on the Brightwell’s front door, but after that initial meeting Ann and I sat in her kitchen and chatted away for something like an hour and a half and barely paused for breath. Ann’s husband Robbie (a medallist himself at the Tokyo games) popped in a few times... and I even had a chance to see their medals as well as wearing Ann’s 1964 Olympic 400m silver medal.
I had spoken with Elaine during the week and told her that I couldn’t think of a better way of bringing the challenges to an end than by spending time with someone for whom I have so much admiration... I hoped it would be the perfect end to an amazing couple of years and that’s exactly how it proved.
It was a pleasure and a privilege to meet Ann and Robbie, and I want to thank them, along with absolutely everyone who has helped and supported me over the months (especially my darling wife Elaine... I love you xx); I just hope that I’ve managed to make a small difference along the way....
British Women’s Olympic Track and Field Gold Medals
Mary Rand (Long Jump)
Ann Packer (800m)
Mary Peters (Pentathlon)
Tessa Sanderson (Javelin)
Sally Gunnell (400m Hurdles)
Denis Lewis (Heptathlon)
Kelly Holmes (800m & 1500m)
Christine Ohuruogu (400m)
Jessica Ennis (Heptathlon)
Whether or not this has been the greatest ever rugby union World Cup is a debate I will leave to the experts, but the quality of yesterday’s final is surely beyond any doubt.
It was a fitting climax to a tournament that witnessed one of the sport’s biggest ever shocks (courtesy of Japan’s victory over South Africa) as well a game that ended in controversy and recrimination as Scotland’s courageous effort against Australia resulted in heartbreaking defeat. The competition wasn’t affected by the early demise of the hosts, and despite the sterling efforts of the other home nations, all northern hemisphere involvement had ended by the semi-final stage.
Notwithstanding the manner of the Wallabies’ win against Scotland, I think the best two teams contested the final, and the New Zealand All Blacks produced a performance befitting the biggest match the sport has to offer, and were rightfully crowned world champions for an unprecedented third time.
The eighty minutes were every bit as physical and brutal as would have been expected, but there was also plenty of sublime skill on offer, as well as some passages of play that were open enough to stand out in amongst all the defensive discipline on show.
The picture shows three of the sport’s true legends with the trophy: Dan Carter, Richie McCaw and Ma’a Nonu, and it was Nonu’s superbly-taken try that appeared to put the All Blacks out of sight at 21-3 early in the second half. The opportunity was created by a magnificent offload by Sonny Bill Williams, but the talismanic dual international’s most memorable contribution to the day’s proceedings was arguably still to come....
It takes two teams to make a great game and Australia produced a stunning ten minutes of rugby to score twice whilst holding a man advantage and reduce the gap to just four points. The destiny of the Webb Ellis Cup suddenly looked far from certain, but Carter’s nerveless left boot added a forty-metre drop goal and long-range penalty to ease New Zealand back into a two-score lead, before Beauden Barrett’s brilliant opportunist try offered the All Black fly half the chance to end his international career with a relatively straightforward kick, which he duly converted... right-footed.
As with any final, there is a stark contrast in emotion between the victors and the vanquished, but the genuine respect between the players of both sides was obvious to all those watching. New Zealand undoubtedly deserved their victory and the trophy was raised aloft by Richie McCaw, one of the finest (if not the finest) players the game has ever seen.
The celebrations included a haka, and a brilliant moment when a young fan ran onto the pitch to hug the aforementioned Sonny Bill. The kid was unceremoniously flattened by a security guard, but Williams took over the situation, embraced the youngster, posed for pictures then led the lad back to the stand... at which point he took off his medal and put it over the boy’s head.
Pure class from Sonny Bill Williams and a wonderful way to end a very special day.