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“The Swallowed World” Tyler Bumpus

The Swallowed World is a tour de force: taking the reader on a journey that is both realistic and allegorical in equal measure. This is the hell of humanity struggling for survival in a drowning world, and highlighting a fact with which we are all sadly too familiar: adversity brings out the worst in most people. As sea levels rise and swallow the land, so the evil that men do swallows their capacity for good. Hope lingers, however in another human characteristic – curiously highlighted in a genetically engineered version of ourselves: our capacity for fellow feeling, for empathy. It...

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“Shadow of the Drill” Rhani D’Chae

This is an exceptionally well-written contribution to this genre. What I found curious at first was the author’s choice of genre. I had never before associated her level of competence - penetrating character analysis, lyrical description, philosophical introspection, immaculate detail, precise and powerful movement of the action, convincing dialogue – with this social context: strip joints, prostitutes, brutal enforcers, the seamy, sordid, disreputable, largely nocturnal, dangerous and deeply unattractive tranche of society most of us go to considerable lengths to avoid. It works surprisingly well: because it reminds us that everyone involved in such a world in whatever capacity is...

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“I’m not Crazy… I’m Allergic!” Sherilyn Powers

This is an ‘astonishing’ book because of the strength of the case it makes for something that very many medical practitioners and researchers even now appear not to be sufficiently aware of: that in some people, severe allergic reaction presents as depression and psychosis. The book is largely about ‘Julie’ who for fifty years was given drugs that didn’t work, when what she needed was a correct diagnosis, anti-histamine, and to stop ingesting the foods that were making her ill. It is her cry, once Sherilyn had been able to prove to her what had been wrong all along, that...

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“The Improbable Wonders of Moojie Littleman” Robin Gregory

Robin Gregory is a bright child multiplied by herself. There is so much wit, wisdom, light, warmth and tenderness (and sometimes unbearable sadness) in this superbly written book. Moojie is a child with special needs and special powers (aren’t we all, to some degree?) and the author takes him on a journey through his hard life in a quest for love and belonging that leads to a kind of acceptance, understanding and belonging. His improbable world of wonders bears some resemblance to the one that Lewis Carroll led Alice through, and much resemblance to the one we have the temerity...

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“The Crystal Navigator” Nancy Kunhardt Lodge

This book rang bells for me immediately.  It was about bright children, as my books are.  It wasn’t afraid to use interesting phrases like “chromatic aberration” and “inordinately fast synapses firing simultaneously”) and literary references such as ‘Den Vinter Svampe’ and ‘The Steady Gaze of Tawosret’s Mummy’.  It took magical and unusual events in its stride, and was beautifully written in an uncluttered way.  I felt a spooky affinity with the writer… I’m always happy to revisit Wonderland, and if Lewis Carroll can be allowed a talking white rabbit, Nancy Lodge must certainly be allowed a dignified corgi named Wilbur. ...

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A poem I wrote more than fifty years ago

I qualify as a reader as well - because I doubt if anyone will ever read these stories as often as I do - so let me kick the whole thing off with a poem I wrote 54 years ago that nobody has ever seen until now. There is something about it which seems relevant. How "true" do I think it is, 54 years on? I don't know. How do you ever know what you think until you hear what you say, or read what you write? At the time I was into creating verbs and adjectives in the Germanic...

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Ten Favourite Screen Characters

J.V. Carr tagged me for this fun assignment, and it certainly provoked some thought and discussion with family and friends. I was intrigued to find that certain exceptional performances by actors when they were children insisted on being included in my top ten. The other thing I realised was that so often an exceptional character portrayal owed a great deal to the stellar performances of actors playing alongside my chosen favourites. I’ve nodded to some of them along the way.   Child actors first then… Henry Thomas at the age of 11 as Elliot in E.T.. (Drew Barrymore was great...

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The Inside Story on the Space Station Commander on the Planet of Gorillas

Wikipedia has a very interesting entry on gorillas, which will help you learn quite a bit about them. Even though it was a shock for many people when it was discovered just how closely humanity was related to the other species of great ape on this planet, the unmissable similarity between the species was often marked in the names we gave them. The word 'gorilla' originates "from an alleged African word for a wild or hairy person. It was first found in the ancient Greek account of the voyage of an explorer from Carthage named Hanno in the fifth or...

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Some Inside Story Facts about Tom

Are some children pre-disposed to being bullies, and others pre-disposed to be their victims? Do the reasons for bullying and victimisation lie in nature or nurture? Why in the same family does one child often behave very differently from another? When looking for reasons why people behave in the way they do - often very differently from one another in a given set of circumstances - one had better start by recognising that there are no simple answers. Reasons for bullying and victimisation will lie both in nature and nurture. And what about the reasons for wanting to be a...

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Some Inside Story Facts about Nick

I have a lot of time for Nick. I identify with the kind of boy he was in his early years. I was born in 1942, and saw almost nothing of my father in my first two years. It was wartime, and he was in the Merchant Navy: and I think that was why my relationship with my mother was so close. She and I were living in Knowsley Road in Bootle, only 400 yards from Gladstone Dock (which was then the biggest dry dock in the world). The docks stretched from Gladstone Dock all the way to the Pier...

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