From Page to Screen: The Sense of an Ending

About the Book: The Sense of an Ending by Julian Barnes

The book is both a reminiscence on adolescent friendships, early romantic relationships and their aftermath and an exploration of the unintended consequences that can flow from actions. In this case, it is the events set in train by the main character’s reaction to a romantic disappointment. The reader becomes aware early on that the narrator, Tony, is being selective in the events he recounts, either consciously or subconsciously. At one point, he admits, ‘I told her the story of my life. The version I tell myself, the account that stands up.’ So key themes explored in the book are truth, memory and storytelling.

Read my review of the book here.

About the Film: The Sense of an Ending (2017)

The Sense of an Ending is directed by Ritesh Batra from a screenplay by Nick Payne based on Julian Barnes’ novel. The film stars Jim Broadbent as Tony, Charlotte Rampling as Veronica, Harriet Walter as Margaret and Emily Mortimer as Sarah Ford.

More information about the film can be found here.

Book v Film

The film largely follows the plot of the book but chooses to put more focus on some characters, for instance, Tony’s daughter, who does not appear in person in the book at all. In the film, Susie (played by Michelle Dockery) gets quite a bit of screen time and we see Tony supporting her in the latter stages of her pregnancy. I can only assume this was done to give his character more humanity but to my mind the whole point is that Tony finds it difficult to read and respond to other people. Young Tony’s visit to his girlfriend Veronica’s parents is close to the book and I liked the way the director emphasised the allure Veronica’s mother, Sarah, might hold for a young man, as this helps to make sense of later events.

Presented with an actress of the stature of Charlotte Rampling, it’s not surprising that the film expands the meetings between Tony and Veronica in later life. I felt the characterisation of Veronica downplayed the anger she displays in the book.  I thought Harriet Walter’s performance really captured the essence of Tony’s ex-wife, Margaret, as portrayed in the book and she communicated Margaret’s affectionate exasperation with Tony perfectly.

I enjoyed the flashback scenes to Tony’s schooldays and adolescence and I thought they had a really credible period feel. The director uses an imaginative technique at several points that allows us to see Tony reassessing events in his past and seeing them from a new perspective.

The Verdict

In the book, Tony muses: ‘How often do we tell our own life story? How often do we adjust, embellish, make sly cuts?’ Adjusting, embellishing and making cuts are clearly all part of adapting a book into a film. Some of the changes I could understand, others less so.  The film is well-crafted with good performances but I don’t believe it is completely successful in communicating the essence of the book.

What do you think? Have you read the book or seen the film?

Book Review: Broken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee

BrokenBranchesAbout the Book

Publisher’s description: ‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’

A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.

There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

Format: Paperback Publisher: Hideaway Fall Pages: 294
Publication: 27th July 2017 Genre: Mystery    

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk ǀ
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Broken Branches on Goodreads


My Review

This is the first title from newly established publishers, Hideaway Fall, and I must say they have come up with a cracker.

Following his marriage to Rachel and the birth of his son, Harry, Ian Perkins has unexpectedly returned to the isolated cottage where he spent his childhood. Despite the idyllic sounding location, the giant sycamore in the garden exercises a brooding presence over the cottage. Could this be the source of the curse that has been the cause of such tragedy for the Perkins’ family over the years?

Early in the book, we find out the circumstances surrounding Ian’s return to the cottage but this is not the only “incident” that appears to be occupying his mind and causing difficulties in his marriage. For Ian, his son, Harry, is the only bright presence in a house seemingly overwhelmed by depression and inertia. The author brilliantly depicts Ian’s obsessive search to prove that the curse exists and so provide a reason for the tragedies the family has experienced. After all, if there is indeed a curse, then no-one else can be to blame, can they?

Alternating between the present day as Ian searches for answers, and scenes from Ian’s troubled childhood, the author creates an unsettling atmosphere with a distinctly gothic feel. I’m not going to say much more for fear of spoilers but I suggest Broken Branches is best read in the daytime with other people in the house (who are meant to be there).

I received an advance reader copy courtesy of publishers, Hideaway Fall, in return for an honest review.

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In three words: Creepy, unsettling, intense

Try something similar…The Woman in Black by Susan Hill (contemporary option) or Casting the Runes by M. R. James (classic option)


MJonathanLeeAbout the Author

M. Jonathan Lee was born in Yorkshire, England where he still lives to this day. When not writing, you’ll find him at the back door thinking.  His first novel, The Radio, was nationally shortlisted in the Novel Prize 2012. Broken Branches is his fourth novel.

Connect with Jonathan

Website ǀ Facebook ǀ Twitter ǀ Goodreads

Connect with Hideaway Fall

Website ǀ Facebook ǀ Twitter 

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WWW Wednesdays – 21st June

WWWWednesdays

Hosted by Taking on a World of Words, this meme is all about the three Ws:

  • What are you currently reading?
  • What did you recently finish reading?
  • What do you think you’ll read next?

Why not join in too?


Currently reading

WakeMeWhenImGoneWake Me When I’m Gone by Odafe Atogun (ARC courtesy of NetGalley & Canongate)

Everyone says that Ese is the most beautiful woman in the region, but a fool. A young widow, she lives in a village, where the crops grow tall and the people are ruled over by a Chief on a white horse. She married for love, but now her husband is dead, leaving her with nothing but a market stall and a young son to feed. When the Chief knocks on Ese’s door demanding that she marry again, as the laws of the land dictate she must, Ese is a fool once more. There is a high price for breaking the law, and an even greater cost for breaking the heart of a Chief. Ese will face the wrath of gods and men in the fight to preserve her heart, to keep her son and to right centuries of wrongs. She will change the lives of many on the road to freedom, and she will face the greatest pain a mother ever can.

DarkDawnoverSteepHouseDark Dawn over Steep House by M R C Kasasian (courtesy of the lovely people at Head of Zeus)

London, 1884: 125 Gower Street, the residence of Sidney Grice, London’s foremost personal detective, and his ward March Middleton, is at peace. Midnight discussions between the great man and his charge have led to a harmony unseen in these hallowed halls since the great frog disaster of 1878. But harmony cannot last for long. A knock on the door brings mystery and murder once more to their home. A mystery that involves a Prussian Count, two damsels in distress, a Chinaman from Wales, a gangster looking for love and the shadowy ruin of a once-loved family home, Steep House…

Recently finished

BrokenBranchesBroken Branches by M. Jonathan Lee (courtesy of the lovely people at Hideaway Fall)

‘Family curses don’t exist. Sure, some families seem to suffer more pain than others, but a curse? An actual curse? I don’t think so.’ A family tragedy was the catalyst for Ian Perkins to return to the isolated cottage with his wife and young son. But now they are back, it seems yet more grief might befall the family.There is still time to act, but that means Ian must face the uncomfortable truth about his past. And in doing so, he must uncover the truth behind the supposed family curse.

 

WolvesintheDarkWolves in the Dark by Gunnar Staalesen (courtesy of the lovely people at Orenda Books)

Reeling from the death of his great love, Karin, Varg Veum’s life has descended into a self-destructive spiral of alcohol, lust, grief and blackouts. When traces of child pornography are found on his computer, he’s accused of being part of a pedophile ring and thrown into a prison cell. There, he struggles to sift through his past to work out who is responsible for planting the material . . . and who is seeking the ultimate revenge. When a chance to escape presents itself, Varg finds himself on the run in his hometown of Bergen. With the clock ticking and the police on his tail, Varg takes on his hardest—and most personal—case yet.

What Cathy (will) Read Next

DidYouWhisperBackDid You Whisper Back? by Kate Rigby (courtesy of the author & Neverland Book Tours)

Set in the nineteen-seventies, Did You Whisper Back? begins with Amanda Court’s longing to be reunited with her estranged twin sister Jo. Following a false lead, Amanda leaves her Merseyside home and family and goes to Devon to work as a chambermaid where she believes Jo now lives. Gradually it emerges that Jo is, seemingly, just a figment of Amanda’s imagination arising from distorted childhood truths. Did You Whisper Back? is a psychological novel about family secrets and a disturbing portrayal of the fragility of the mind.

AReluctantWarriorA Reluctant Warrior by Kelly Brooke Nicholls (courtesy of the author & Xpresso Book Tours)

When Luzma’s brother, Jair, unwittingly uncovers the plan by Colombia’s most notorious drug cartel to smuggle an unprecedented cocaine shipment into the US, it puts their family in grave danger. Jair’s kidnapping by the cartel forces Luzma to go face to face with vicious paramilitary leader, El Cubano, and General Ordonez, ruthless head of the military – men who will stop at nothing to protect their empires. But for Luzma, nothing is more important than saving her family – not even her own life.


What are you reading this week?

Interview: Ed Duncan, author of Pigeon-Blood Red

Today’s guest on What Cathy Read Next is Ed Duncan, author of the action-packed thriller, Pigeon-Blood Red. I’m delighted that Ed has agreed to answer some questions about the book and his approach to writing.

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About the Book

Publisher’s description: For underworld enforcer Richard “Rico” Sanders, it seemed like an ordinary job. Retrieve his gangster boss’s priceless pigeon-blood red ruby necklace and teach the double-dealing cheat who stole it a lesson. A job like a hundred before it. But the chase quickly goes sideways and takes Rico from the mean streets of Chicago to sunny Honolulu, where the hardened hit man finds himself in uncharted territory when a couple of innocent bystanders are accidentally embroiled in the crime. As Rico pursues his new targets, the hunter and his prey develop an unlikely respect for one another and Rico is faced with a momentous decision: follow his orders to kill the couple whose courage and character have won his admiration, or refuse and endanger the life of the woman he loves?

Praise for Pigeon-Blood Red:

“In a novel with as much action as love, it is sure to be a story that will fulfil the desires of readers of all ages, genders, and areas of interest.” (4 Stars, Red City Review)

Pigeon-Blood Red, at 238 pages, is not particularly long as books go but Duncan packs a lot of story into those pages. Readers in search of a tight, well written, good guy versus bad guy, crime/action/adventure will find Pigeon-Blood Red by Ed E. Duncan, an engrossing story that will keep them involved to the end. And like me, they will find themselves eagerly awaiting the next instalment.” (Mike Siedschlag)

“This charming, classically-told crime thriller is a must for noir fans…refreshingly old-school pulp, inhabited by a familiar cast of gamblers, con men and hustlers found in Dennis Lehane and Elmore Leonard novels” (5 Stars, Best Thrillers)

Format: ebook Publisher:   Pages: 202
Publication: 23rd Aug 2016 Genre: Thriller    

Purchase Links*
Amazon.co.uk ǀ Amazon.com ǀ Barnes & Noble *links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Pigeon-Blood Red on Goodreads


 

Q&A with Ed Duncan, author of Pigeon-Blood Red

Without giving too much away, can you tell me a bit about Pigeon-Blood Red?

Pigeon-Blood Red is an interracial crime novel that tells the story of a complex underworld enforcer – a killer with a conscience – who is in pursuit of a small-time businessman who opportunistically stole a “pigeon-blood red” ruby necklace worth millions. He trails the thief from Chicago to Honolulu, but the chase goes sideways after the hardened hit man develops a grudging respect for one of two innocent bystanders who become embroiled in the crime: an African American lawyer who is an old flame of the thief’s unsuspecting wife and comes to her rescue as the enforcer closes in. The hit man ultimately faces a difficult decision: follow orders and kill the unlucky bystanders or spare them and endanger the life of the woman he loves.

The book has an arresting title — how did you come up with it?

“Pigeon-blood red” is a term coined by Indian gem dealers centuries ago and describes the colour of the first few drops of blood that trickle from the nostrils of a freshly-killed pigeon. It is the most desirable colour a ruby can have and hence such rubies are the most valuable. The phrase has two attributes that recommend it. It describes a distinctive characteristic of the “McGuffin” in the novel, i.e., the thing that both jump-starts the action and propels it forward. But for its theft and the hunt to retrieve it, there would be no novel. Second, the phrase is extremely evocative, suggesting mystery and intrigue. It replaced my original, more pedestrian title, which was Murder in Paradise.

Your protagonist, Richard “Rico” Sanders, is an underworld enforcer. What are the challenges of having a main character who could be considered an “anti-hero?”

I needed to make Rico acceptable to readers. I think readers will identify with an “anti-hero” so long as he possesses enough positive traits that they at least partially offset his negative ones. This means he can never do anything that is so repulsive or vile that his positive traits become so overwhelmed by the negative ones that he becomes irredeemable. This is true of the Vito and Michael Corleone characters in the Godfather novel and in parts one and two of the movie. (I didn’t care for part three and leave it out of this analogy.) By the end of part two of the movie, Michael’s character has in fact become irredeemable, but by then the audience has followed, and become absorbed in, his journey to that point. In my novel Rico is a killer with a conscience. He doesn’t kill children and kills women only reluctantly when they give him a sufficient reason. Indeed, he thinks (but sometimes doubts) that everyone he’s killed “had it coming.”

In a book as action-packed as Pigeon-Blood Red, how do you create the right balance between action and character development?

I must admit that it was pure instinct. My goal was to write a fast-paced, enjoyable novel. In the process I tried not to sacrifice character development on the altar of action. I tried to do that by providing enough back-story about the main characters to allow the reader to empathize with them and to make their actions and reactions believable. I can only hope I struck the right balance.

Pigeon-Blood Red is the first in a planned trilogy. Do you have the structure of the remaining two books already worked out?

I’m just finishing the second in the trilogy. The title is The Last Straw and I hope it will be published this summer or fall. The third began life as a screenplay so I have to adapt it to novel form. It’s tentatively entitled Rico Stays. I hope to publish it a year after publication of The Last Straw.

Pigeon-Blood Red is your first novel. Can you tell us a bit about your writing journey?

I was inspired to write Pigeon-Blood Red while at a legal seminar in Honolulu years ago. The idea just came to me out of the blue. Of course it was not fully formed. I only knew I wanted to have a beautiful woman in jeopardy and a lawyer who comes to her rescue after matching wits with a cunning foe. Over the ensuing months and years, the plot of Pigeon-Blood Red came together in its current form. I submitted queries to multiple agents with no success.

In the meantime I went to writers seminars and finished the first draft of The Last Straw, which was originally called Red Autumn. Eventually I became disillusioned and decided to try writing screenplays. I purchased a few “how to” books and converted my novels to scripts which I entered in multiple screenplay contests. Red Autumn actually fared better than Pigeon-Blood Red and was a finalist in one contest while Pigeon-Blood Red made the quarter finals in various contests. Rather than writing a third novel in the trilogy, I wrote a third screenplay, Rico Stays, which also made the quarter finals of a few contests.

Finally, through the efforts of a company that has been trying to interest producers in my scripts, I made contact with a small independent publisher that liked Pigeon-Blood Red and agreed to publish it. Unfortunately, that publisher ceased operations six months after the novel was published and I self-published it thereafter. With the assistance of a good publicist, I’ve managed to garner close to 40 reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.

What has been your favourite part of the writing process so far? And your least favourite?

My favourite part has been writing and crafting evocative phrases, sentences, paragraphs, and pages. I find that deeply satisfying and the possibility that readers will share my enthusiasm is a bonus. My least favourite part has been having to market my book. I’m most comfortable behind a desk writing. Marketing is the antithesis of that. Fortunately, having a good publicist helps but even then there is no guarantee of breaking through in a very crowded field of excellent writers.

Which other writers do you admire and why?

Some of my favourite writers are Dashiell Hammett, Ernest Hemingway, James Jones, Somerset Maugham, Richard Wright, Ken Follett, Theodore Dreiser, Scott Turow, Dennis Lehane, Walter Mosley, Frederick Forsythe and Lee Child. Since I write crime fiction, the authors I most admire in that genre are Dashiell Hammett and Lee Child. Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon first got me hooked on crime fiction. His dialogue is riveting and pitch perfect. Lee Child’s novels are gripping and “unputdownable,” and Rico, the anti-hero in my novels, owes much to Jack Reacher, as they share a number of character traits. They are both loners who have a sardonic wit, who have their own sense of right and wrong, and who do not suffer fools gladly.

If Pigeon-Blood Red was made into a film, who would be your choice of lead actors and director?

I see Jon Hamm as Rico, Idris Elba or Chiwetel Ejiofor as Paul, Paula Patton, Gabrielle Union, Zoe Saldana or Gugu Mbatha-Raw as Evelyn, Terence Howard as Robert, Meagan Good or Regina Hall as Rachel, and Paul Giamatti or Christopher Walken as Litvak. Directors whose names come to mind include Ric Roman Waugh (Felon, Snitch) and George Tillman, Jr. (Men of Honor, Faster, Notorious, The Immutable Defeat of Mister and Pete).

[Gosh, Ed, you have nearly the full cast worked out!]

Do you see yourself sticking to the crime/thriller genre or exploring other genres in the future?

I do see myself sticking to the crime genre. At some point, however, I’d like to try my hand at a literary novel in the vein of An American Tragedy or Of Human Bondage.

Thanks for such fascinating answers, Ed.  I’m sure readers of Pigeon-Blood Red will be thrilled to know Rico’s adventures will continue.  


EDDUNCANAbout the Author

Ed Duncan is a graduate of Oberlin College and Northwestern University Law School. He was a partner at a national law firm in Cleveland, Ohio for many years. He currently lives outside of Cleveland, OH and is at work on the second instalment in the Pigeon-Blood Red trilogy.

 

Connect with Ed

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Book Blitz: Shades of the Gods by Erin Hayes

ShadesOftheGodsBlitzBanner-2

Under the spotlight today is Shades of the Gods by Erin Hayes. Shades of the Gods is Book One in The Elysium Legacies series. You can read an excerpt below.  Plus there’s a giveaway (INTL) with a chance to win a $50 Amazon gift card. To enter the giveaway, click here. The giveaway closes 29th June.

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ShadesoftheGodsAbout the Book

Caught between life and death, all Callie wants is to live again. Homicide detective Callie Saunders knows that death isn’t all pearly gates and angels. After being hit by a bus, she finds that it’s the ancient gods and goddesses of Greek mythology who are in charge of everything. So when Hades offers her a deal, she accepts. If she wants to be brought back to life, she’ll have to figure out who is trying to kill his son. But if she fails, both her soul and the world will be destroyed. With the odds mounting against her, it’ll take everything she has within her to wake up from death. But the rules are constantly changing. And someone wants her to stay dead.

Format: ebook Publisher: Erin Hayes Books Pages: 414
Publication: 27th Sep 2013 Genre: Adult, Fantasy    

Purchase Links*   99¢ until June 25th only!
Amazon.co.uk ǀ Amazon.com ǀ Barnes & Noble ǀ Kobo
*links provided for convenience, not as part of any affiliate programme

Find Shades of the Gods on Goodreads

The other books in the series:
Blood of the Gods (The Elysium Legacies #2): https://www.amazon.com/Blood-Gods-Elysium-Legacies-Book-ebook/dp/B01MQVIJSX
Ruin of the Gods (The Elysium Legacies #3) – released 8th September 2017, on sale for $0.99): https://www.amazon.com/Ruin-Gods-Elysium-Legacies-Book-ebook/dp/B0721LL3ZX


Extract from Shades of the Gods by Erin Hayes

“You’re blackmailing me,” I sneered at him, fury raging within me at the realization. “You want me to do something in return before you allow me to wake up.”

He raised his hand in a gesture of supplication. “Not blackmail,” he assured. “I’m looking to employ you for a time.”

I recoiled. “Employ me? As what? Muscle? Is this the Underworld’s version of the Mafia?” Now that I thought about it, Hades did remind me of a mob boss. He even looked like some I knew. “I don’t play that, sorry.”

Hades grinned. “I want to make a deal with you, Callista. You find out who is trying to kill my son. Give me a name and a motive. And I’ll restore you to life.”

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ErinHayesAbout the Author

Sci-fi junkie, video game nerd and wannabe manga artist, Erin Hayes, writes a lot of things. Sometimes she writes books. She works as an advertising copywriter by day, and she’s an award-winning New York Times Bestselling Author by night. She has lived in New Zealand, Hawaii, Texas, Alabama, and now San Francisco with her husband, cat, and a growing collection of geek paraphernalia. You can reach her at erinhayesbooks@gmail.com and she’ll be happy to chat. Especially if you want to debate Star Wars.

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