Writing (features, reviews, copy)

Book review:

Casper Coetzee The Bandit King

This book fell through my letter box one Saturday morning, along with a press release.  Straight away I was intrigued: the writer states in the press release that he sees history as “real events lived by real people in a real world” and he wants to know more about the people who don’t get written about but who are on the fringes – not the kings and queens and notables, but the extraordinary ordinary people: people like you and me.

I started reading straight away and found the book enjoyably compulsive – enough so that I left another book half way through in order to read this one.  The novel is set in biblical times and ranges geographically around much of the middle east in the time of King David (one thing I would have liked is a map setting the context and showing the various routes that Rezon, the ‘hero’ of the book, follows and the places he stays).  It begins with a vivid description of a lioness preying on a herd of sheep: she gets killed by Rezon as a young man of 18 who plans to return home with his flock the following day.  An interlude follows describing Rezon’s childhood and why the family now lives in the mountains in the north of the kingdom.

When he returns home he finds the people of his village, his family and his young wife, all brutally murdered.  This sparks off a journey of revenge with Rezon playing the part of a Robin Hood type figure carrying out guerrilla raids on King Hadadezer and his soldiers.  He becomes a wanted man.

In the way of all good adventure stories, right wins in the end and Rezon finds love, success and stability.  The first half of the book is a compulsive read as we follow Rezon and wonder how he is going to overcome Hadadezer.  The story line in the second part of the book I felt was weaker, but I still enjoyed reading it: although it was fairly obvious what the ending was going to be, you couldn’t be 100% sure and that keeps you reading.

However what really let the book down was the grammar.  I don’t know whether this is a result of poor editing or poor writing, but whilst the novel starts off with relatively few grammatical errors, by the end of the book there are a lot: verb endings not agreeing with subjects and wrong verb tenses were the most frequent and obvious mistakes.

All in all this is an enjoyable and colourful read, but it felt as if the second half of the book in particular had been rushed for some reason.  But if you’re not as pedantic as me you may well enjoy it without wanting to get your red pen out!

One of my recent features (sorry – not a good scan).

March/April Carlisle Guide

Gelt Gladiator 2016

I write features on a range of topics and love interviewing people: everybody has a story to tell.

I am a regular contributor to The Carlisle Guide, Cumbria magazine and The Northern Running Guide but have also written for Top Sante, Woman and Home, Lancashire Life, Somerset Life, The Update (the George Fisher magazine), Running FreeCycling Weekly, Rolls Royce magazine, Notebook (the Sunday Mirror magazine) and others.

Feedback has been positive from both readers and interviewees.  The latter often comment that I have been able to express how they feel about a subject far better than they could: they also often prefer me to write them up than other local journalists (probably partly due to the difference between being a newspaper reporter under constant daily pressure to produce stories, and a freelance feature writer with the time and inclination to want to conjure up effectively the essence of a subject and to ensure that the real interest comes across).

The topics I most frequently cover, due to experience and interests, include the outdoors (trail running, triathlon, exercise); being an older mother; and classical music.  I also regularly write reviews of concerts, theatre performances and trail runs.

In addition in 2015 I started producing copy for websites, something I enjoy.  I work with Fabiana Graff design – she produces stunning looking websites and I scribble out some words.  I will also do wording for flyers, brochures and can help promote the business by writing press releases, Facebook content and blog posts.  So far Fabi and I have worked together for The Sycamore Gap guest house in Brampton and – very excitingly – Mama Cakes, whose new website looks gorgeous and for which I write monthly blogposts.  Most recently I have produced a short feature about the Wigwams at New Mills Trout Farm for a fishing magazine!



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