What Harper meant to me

Like many people all over the world, I was saddened to hear the news of Harper Lee’s death recently.

Every time I hear her name I’m transported back to the classroom, which was the place where I was introduced to this remarkable story of courage, prejudice and human nature. Of course, the race message will always be the novel’s strongest voice but we should not forget that it speaks with many. The sense of mystery when I first heard the children talk of Boo Radley was one that I identified with only too well. I think many of us will have memories of ‘that wierd bloke who skulked around the town’ when we were kids, or the neighbourhood recluse next door but three.

I already knew that prejudice was bad when I read the book, but it brought home to me the hypocrisy of people who, on the surface, appear honest and upstanding yet project their paranoia and insecurities so they manifest themselves in disrupting and harmful ways. To Kill a Mockingbird was of course a lesson within an English lesson. One of human nature and the inexorable presence that it is. Above all though, it was and will always be a damned good story, which in the end is the most important thing.

So, thanks Harper Lee for opening all our eyes. Rest in peace.

 

 

 

 

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Why do we need editors?

You know that last book you read? Did you really enjoy it?

Did something you couldn’t quite put your finger on make it just that little bit more… readable? Sure, you’ve read books with more characters and loads of detailed description and they were OK, but there was something about this which really worked.

Okay, maybe it was down to that most reliable of things which makes a book – a good story. Chances are though, it was edited too.

“What!?” I hear you cry incredulously. “You mean some things aren’t edited?”

Yes, really. There’s no taking raw talent away from a writer but no matter how original the idea, how good the narrative or how strong the characters, a good editor can be the difference between your e-book getting up there in the Amazon star ratings and getting your initially enthusiastic readers a little lost along the way.

After all, we live in busy times. Many readers want to dedicate their hard-earned book time to something which they think is worth their while.

This may all seem obvious, but the truth is, many authors who’ve put blood, sweat and tears (not to mention time) into their novels have done so without the help of an editor. The story’s still there but it’s missing something and it’s that missing ‘something’ that could be the difference between your reader abandoning ship for another of the many books out there on the great Amazonian sea.

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Ah yes, the blog

I don’t just edit, I write things too.

Don’t we all though? Blogs are the everyman’s mouthpiece, the great leveller, a licence to waffle on about anything that takes our fancy. Here I’ll be doing just that; sharing my opinions on books I’ve read or am reading, (no spoilers), offering tips and generally prattling on. Wind me up and watch me trundle about for a bit.

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Literary musings

So what am I reading at the moment? Well apart from work, not as much as I’d like!

For sheer escapism and more than a little political history, Stephen King’s 11/22/63 (American date format you understand) takes some beating. Say what you want about Stevie, he tells a cracking yarn and this ambitious what-if about a man’s mission to foil the Kennedy assassination plot is every bit the spectacle you’d hope it to be.  I had my doubts on how King would tackle such a historical legend but crazy as it sounds, this story isn’t really about Handsome Jack, more so the book’s protagonist, his issues with time travel and very significantly, the people he meets on his travels.

Everyone’s favourite punk rock nihilist, sometime Hollywood actor and successful spoken word performer to boot, Henry Rollins is someone I’ve been wanting to read for a while. Broken Summers is a fascinating and very accurate look at life on the road, consisting of Hank’s tour diaries from various times in his life, while Black Coffee Blues is a stream of consciousness collection of short (in some cases, positively minute) stories, dream recollections and tour diaries to boot. I found Summers far more satisfying, possible because of what I was doing while reading it, and Black Coffee a little too fragmented, but certainly extremely thought provoking. Hell, I love a narrative and Black Coffee isn’t really about that – more of a ‘dip-in’ job. Gearing up for Black Coffee Blues 2.

Just started the much-touted Ready Player One from Ernest Cline. As a child of the 80s and a Science Fiction geek to boot, know I’m going to love this!

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