One Ordinary Day at a Time

By Sarah J. Harris

One Ordinary Day at a Time is a study of two characters. Jodie Brook, orphan never in one place very long, troubled education concluded by becoming a single mum. Aspires to study Literature at Cambridge. Simon Sparks, child genius, mathematician extraodinaire, Cambridge scholar. Both serving fries in Prince Burger.

Jodie’s doing an Access to Higher Education Diploma at Kensington College so she’s making an effort to succeed at her goal but what’s Simon doing? Wry smile here! It’s years since I taught on an Access course (one of the earliest) but I’d guess Jodie’s teacher Monica and the team will have been rebuilding her confidence and getting her and others very like her back on track. College is just a means to an end, we realise that!

I loved the story. Even as progress is being made in the present secrets and lies from the past are surfacing and threatening to destroy everything. I’d just finished a book by one of my favourite authors and the cliffhangers at the end of the chapters kept my interest in that one. With this book I just wanted to keep reading, simply didn’t notice the time passing!

ARC courtesy Netgalley and Harper Fiction.

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The Word on the Box

Editor: David Porter

I’ve a lot of books on the shelf I’ve referred to but not read (and too many I’ve barely opened). This is one I bought with about a dozen others, bargains, possibly remainders and maybe in some cases, judging by the biro underlining on one page towards the end of this book, second hand.

The Word on the Box is the text of the 1995 London Lectures in Contemporary Christianity, five lectures in all, delivered by experienced broadcasters speaking from a Christian perspective. Robert McLeish was Head of Corporate Management Training in the BBC before he left to become an international management consultant. As far as I’m concerned he’s the author of the definitive radio training book Radio Production; I’ve both the 2nd edition and the 6th (which I used for reference for the sound units I was involved in writing on the current Media HND). Justin Phillips was a BBC radio news veteran having working in the World Service and serving as deputy editor of The World Tonight. He died five years after delivering this lecture just before his fiftieth birthday and just after completing the manuscript of his book C.S. Lewis: In a Time of War about the BBC talks delivered during WWII which made C.S Lewis’s name. Graham Mytton was head of BBC Audience Research at the World Service at the time of this lecture becoming it’s Controller a year later. Alan Rogers had just left the BBC after an illustrious 25 year career including Head of Current Affairs, Magazine Programmes, Head of BBC Schools then BBC Education. At the time of his lecture Alan was a driving force behind ARK2 a cable Christian TV station due to launch imminently. Tim Dean was a senior manager in the World Service rising to Commissioning Editor before leaving in 2002 to become an Anglican Priest.

As it turned out 1995 was an interesting year for the lectures. They are very much of their time and fascinating to read with hindsight. This was a time when technology was making remarkable strides though yet immature enough for the speakers to predict (fairly accurately as it turned out) the impact on broadcasting. This was the time of CDROMs and the Internet was only just beginning to gain traction.

Alan Rogers gave the fourth lecture as Programme Director of ARK2 which would run out of money and fail to launch the following year despite raising £2 million. Other lectures were given in the context of the newly launched Premier Radio which would subsequently have to go “Christian only” to sustain its funding. The fifth speaker, Tim Dean, raised a number of potential problems with what he called “confessional” broadcasters. Funding (and specifically funders “calling the tune”) was one. Indeed Tim’s lecture was remarkably insightful.

Track this book down and consider five remarkable speakers whose broadcasting credentials were matched by their Christian commitment. 25 years later there is much to be learned from these lectures.

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When Sunday Comes

by Professor Claudrena N. Harold
4/5 In this insightful study of gospel music Professor Harold begins with a personal introduction explaining how family and community influences shaped her experience and understanding of gospel music.

From Reverend James Cleveland through the 1960s the author traces developments and debates in the gospel music industry to BeBe and CeCe Winans and Take 6 in the 1990s.

Cleveland signing with the Savoy record label for a rumoured 6 figure annual salary with a contract requiring several albums a year was a clear indication that it really had become an industry. It saw him have popular and commercial success to the extent of regularly having several songs concurrently in the top ten in the gospel charts. The Gospel Music Workshop of America, which he founded to develop and promote young talent, is an organisation that now numbers some 75,000 and features throughout When Sunday Comes.

Cleveland's criticism of Mighty Clouds of Joy when they had a "rock gospel" hits with the ABC label, arguing that in rock gospel the music takes precedence over the message is another recurring theme of the book.

The criticism of those who were perceived to have "sold out" by gospel purists for their collaboration in the secular realm continued to be a theme with Andrae Crouch and his involvement in film and TV. The uneasy relationship between Gospel Music and Contemporary Christian Music is considered in Crouch who often performed to predominantly white audiences. His appeal was due in part to the rise of the culturally radical Jesus Movement but it wasn't always a neat fit leading him to announce to one crowd "to those of you from the First Church of the Frigidaire, you don't have to do nothing. But if you come from the other side of the tracks ... we want you to clap your hands and join in with us" which seemed to break the ice.

Chronicling the careers of artists including Shirley Caesar, Walter Hawkins brother of Edwin Hawkins of the crossover hit O Happy Day, Reverend Al Green who started in pop music and made the transition into gospel, the Clark Sisters and groups such as Echoes, Commissioned and the Winans, Harold also considers the Detroit sound and classic black record labels such as Savoy and House of Beauty and their relationship with predominantly white labels Benson, Sparrow and Word.

In When Sunday Comes Professor Harold combines extensive research with access to first hand sources to produce a masterful documentary written from the perspective of a fan and an insider.
ARC courtesy Netgalley
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Monster:Living Off The Big Screen

by John Gregory Dunne
5/5 This is the cautionary tale of how 8 years and 27 draft scripts turned Golden Girl, the biography of TV anchorwoman Jessica Savitch into Up Close And Personal the 1996 Robert Redford and Michelle Pfeiffer vehicle.

Humourous, documentary-accurate, this is the screenwriters’ revenge. John Gregory Donne tells how screenwriters, in this particular case he and his wife Joan Didion, are at one and the same time primary and fundamental to the Hollywood system while being regarded as a curse to be borne, hacks for hire. Monster is the inside story of the directors, producers, agents, lawyers, et al.  who make the writer’s life a misery. It’s not a tell-all in the salacious sense but it does tell it like it is. I was going to say forget the glamour but there’s plenty of name-dropping, the Dunnes being writers of note in Hollywood and literary and journalistic circles.

This is pretty much autobiographical of the eight years of writing. If you want to get a Hollywood inside story this is equally enlightening and entertaining. Highly recommended.

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by Louise Mumford

Thea just can't get enough sleep. Night after night with only an hour or two is wreaking havoc with her life. Under the circumstances the message popping up on her phone was becoming ever more difficult to resist: Morpheus. Dream your way to a better you - one sleep at a time. It's a trial of technology which might not only improve her sleep but help her improve her life in the process or maybe, as her mother suggests, it's a cult.

The technology is real enough but it does have elements of the cult about it. And then Thea's calls to her mother stop.

The technology being researched puts the book in the scifi category but it's as much a psychological thriller. I enjoyed the book but I think the scifi element was slightly awkward. I could see Sleepless as a TV drama or film. I'd definitely listen to it as a radio drama. I'd be keen to read Louise Mumford's second novel.
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The Final Round

by Bernard O'Keeffe
4/5 Detective Inspector Garibaldi "as in the great Italian nationalist. And the biscuit" is country music loving, well read and the only officer in the Metropolitan Police who can't drive a car. He's the filling in the sandwich between DCI Karen Deighton, the boss, and nice but dim DS Milly Gardner. The characterisations and the relationships are a bit heavy handed, it would have been preferable for them to emerge rather than be spelt out and it's obvious they are going to get honed as the series goes on. As it is it reads a bit like a parody on Morse (especially with the Oxford connected crime) but that sells it well short!

Six former Balfour College, Oxford friends get together for an annual charity quiz. The twenty-fifth anniversary quiz has an unexpected final round which accuses the each of the six of a plausible sin. Then one of the six meets his maker in a particularly gruesome manner. The six turn out to be fairly unlikeable so Bernard O'Keefe does well to make it matter who committed the crime and why!

The story is a good one, the pacing is excellent and it kept me reading until the book was finished. I'd recommend this and the next installment is going to be even better.
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All Your Little Lies

by Marianne Holmes

4/5 Annie is socially awkward, always saying the wrong thing, misreads the signals when men are nice to her and is always in the wrong place at the wrong time.

When the poster of a missing girl has Annie's car in the background Annie wants to help but doesn't remember seeing her. Unfolding events have uncanny echoes with Annie's childhood.

Annie lives a quiet, contained, content life. She goes to work. She meets her friend. She’s kind of in a relationship. She’s happy. Not lonely at all.

If only more people could see how friendly she is — how eager to help and please. Then she could tick “Full Happy Life” off her list. But no one sees that side of Annie, and she can’t understand why.

That all changes the night Chloe Hills disappears. And Annie is the last person to see her.

This is her chance to prove to everybody that she’s worth something. That is, until she becomes a suspect.

All Your Little Lies had me guessing the whole way through. Don't set it down thinking you've got it figured, you might be wrong.
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The Mother Fault

by Kate Mildenhall

Set in a near future Australia, extrapolating current technology, The Mother Fault warns of a dystopian world resulting from a government taking incremental control ostensibly for the public good. The Department has provided a chip to keep the population ‘safe’, a chip that is convenient for travel, for banking, for anything that requires id. It makes life so much easier, why would anyone not want to have it fitted? And it tracks you so it will keep you safe!

Mim, the mother of the title, has been informed her husband Ben has gone missing. No one seems to know where Ben is, not even The Department, which suggests to Mim that something is badly wrong. The Department is keen to “take care” of her and her family – cue family on the run.

History confirms governments can and do behave in a similar way to The Department when citizens can be persuaded it’s in their interest. The Mother Fault is a warning to be aware of the malignant possibilities of a multitude of current technologies and corporate practices which means there’s a fair amount of time given to making the connections, particularly in the earlier pages. It’s worth doing but slows things down some!

I can understand why the “mature content” is there but I would not have chosen to start the book if I’d known – be aware! 4/5 as a story but 3/5 because of unexpected “mature content”.

ARC courtesy Netgalley

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This Thing of Darkness (BBC Radio Drama)

By Lucia Haynes

7 episodes, 45 minutes each is an investment and it wasn’t altogether clear from the blurb exactly what this was. I listened to everything else I had lined up before tackling it.

David Grant (Robin Laing) has been accused of the murder of his 19 year old son Jamie. Dr Alex Bridges (Lolita Chakrabarti) is the psychiatrist assigned by his lawyers to assess the state of his mind at the time of the crime. David denies committing the crime which, as Alex points out, makes her job a little difficult. As the story unfolds Alex is our guide (through monologues) to the  process that’s going on as their conversations progress. We spend time with David’s wife Laura (Shauna McDonald) and his daughter Hannah (Jessica Hardwick) as they try to come to terms with losing Jamie and the possibility that David is the killer.

Is David the killer and if so, why? If not, who (and, again, why)?

This is an insightful, compelling, sometimes truly shocking, listen. I suppose it sits somewhere in the realms of crime or psychological thriller but I don’t think it’s quite like anything I’ve come across before. This is radio at its best. The writing is well paced, the acting is utterly convincing, the technical production is spot on. 7 episodes at 45 minutes gives just the right time to tell the story and tell it well and, yes, it was well worth the investment in time.

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Murder Made Easy

Dir. David Palamaro

2/5 Indie film and firmly indie in feel. Liberal use of jump cuts and long takes for effect. A lot of hand-held camera work. Acting and dialogue a bit stiff which isn’t helped by the quality of sound replacement in post production.
Film school, amdram. Implicit references to Rope and explicit references to The Mousetrap.
It’s a good story. It’s stylish to the point of being tricksy. I can see why it would do well on the festival circuit. If the performances were a little less stagey and the sound wasn’t so obviously post dubbed Murder Made Easy would be pretty good. One reviewer said it was like an episode of Tales of the Unexpected. As such it would get a thumbs up.

Posted in Crime and Detective Fiction