It’s not news that I’m a bookworm, I’ve been reading avidly and collecting books since I was 6. Books always represented escapism and knowledge…but escapism first and foremost.
I’m also in love with language, the way words can be weaved and put together. I studied English, German and Spanish at a high level and taught myself some Italian. Words have always fascinated me, there is something…magical about what I call a “tight line.” In fact I’ve been known to read tight lines several times in a row when I encounter them – I savour them. Yes, I’m one of those people.
Whilst I’ve always been a bookworm, I became a beta reader only (kind of) recently. But I must say it’s been the most amazing experience. To be able to read a chapter or even just a few paragraphs only minutes after they’ve escaped from the writer’s mind and imagination is…well, it’s everything.
I started reading Unfinished Business by Thomas Hocknell back in 2017 and I was gripped from the start. I can be an impatient type – especially when it comes to books I’m enjoying, I’ll read something I really like in one sitting sometimes – but in this particular case I had no choice but to wait as the novel was far from finished when I first got my hands on it. I must have been a bit of a nightmare because there were numerous occasions when I asked Tom if he’d written anything new, (anything at all, even just a few lines?!) because I was dying to know what happened next. I was urging him to write, poor man – as if he didn’t have a life and other things to do!
I won’t even pretend I was an ideal beta reader. For all the: “your characters are well fleshed out, this is a gorgeous line, that scene was breathtaking…etc…” there was also: “this situation doesn’t make sense, you’ve got to add some scenes so the connection between those 2 is more believable because right now I’m not buying it, and what was that? he/she wouldn’t say that…etc”
Actually, that is an ideal beta reader – what I meant was that Tom probably wished at times that I was just a little less demanding.
In any case I’ve been with the novel for quite a while now, all the way to the editing stages and finally publication. It’s coming out in about 10 days and I’ve lost count of the number of times I read it. Which is why it was such an emotional moment when I finally got an actual copy of it last Friday. It might not have been as defining a moment for me as it was for Tom – because, you know, he actually wrote it – but I did feel a little bit like a godparent when a baby comes into the world. It might not be my baby, but I love it all the same and somehow feel responsible for it.
So I read the novel again – in book form for the first time! – this weekend in my garden. I admit without any shame whatsoever that I cried when I turned the last page. I felt very proud to have played even a small tiny part in the creative process.
What kind of a novel is Unfinished Business? I’m fearful to say very much because if I start I will go on and on, and there will inevitably be spoilers (this isn’t meant to be a review as I can’t write them – I invariably say too much)
Let’s refer to the back cover to give you an idea:
“The Life Assistance Agency finds itself at a loss after returning from Europe.
Ben is determined to stay away from anything involving Angels, when the phone rings to invite him to write the biography of a self-deluded singer from defunct rave group Elev-8.
At his mansion in Sussex they meet the singer’s right-hand man, Billy `blind’ Fury, a retired wrestler, and his beautiful secretary Amber. Both of whom have plans for the Life Assistance Agency far beyond writing down half-recalled anecdotes from the early 90s pop charts…”
If I absolutely had to, I would describe it as a thriller…a thriller which involves the hopeless but v. funny duo Ben and Scott whom we last saw in The Life Assistance Agency – let’s note though that Unfinished Business is a stand alone novel, there really is no requirement to have read the first one to enjoy its sequel.
So Unfinished Business is a thriller…with a little bit of fantasy, wit and humour, with a love story and deep observations about life, a thriller that’s also incredibly well-written with enough tight lines to satisfy the most demanding literature lovers. Tom consistently blows my mind – and my mind is not at all easily blown – because of his fluency with language, the ease with which he writes perfectly gorgeous sentences that are scattered throughout his manuscript like sparkling stars in an already stunning purple summer sky.
Oh, look at that, I’m so in awe of his talent I’m getting lyrical myself!
In all seriousness, what I love about his writing is how he switches between…let’s say self-deprecatory wit and…poetic prose…seemingly effortlessly. I’ll be sitting there smiling at a humorous line when suddenly a little jewel of a sentence comes along to take my breath away. Or there’s a tense scene with guns and immediately afterwards a magnificent description of a pier…or something.
It’s like: just when you thought you were reading a book that’s actually really funny,and rather exciting too, the author hits you with the reminder that he can actually write, and write bloody well too.
Did I digress? I probably did a little…so, revenons à nos moutons as the French say…
To conclude, Unfinished Business is very much along the lines of what P. G. Wodehouse might have written if he was around today – Unfinished Business is P. G. Wodehouse with guns and car chases.
Ultimately, Unfinished Business is a bloody good story – it’s pure blissful escapism…which is the main reason I started reading in the first place.
PS: I loved The Life Assistance Agency – Tom’s first book – but I can confidently say that he’s managed to write a second novel that’s better than his first. And yes, it’s ok for me to write this as I’ve already told him…several times – he can’t have minded because he still thanked me in the acknowledgements.
Shame you were busy Sweetie Though I went to a masquerade Ball Plied my trade As a medieval whore Behind the doors Of a gloomy castle Received a rose From a lovable rascal Lived, breathed, loved Not a minute was lost I only wish your lunchtime Had been as exciting as mine You were keeping the books While I dived straight into one No need to ask Which one of us missed out
I’ve been a bookworm ever since I learnt to read. My mother was a very cold woman who was deeply unhappy with the state of motherhood – the fact she produced 4 children despite this, is to do with her devout Catholicism. Thanks to her, I got a first-hand look at the hypocrisy of religion from a very young age. It gave me an interest in the subject, and my subsequent research did little to convince me that religion is anything more than a scam cooked up by the very first elite to keep the masses under control. The amount of blood shed over the centuries in the name of religion is simply staggering.
But, anyway, I digress – I didn’t mean to get all Richard Dawkins on you, because my point was about books and how they gave me an escape from the cold house that was my home. I think that even if I had a happy childhood, I would have been drawn to books anyway. It’s all those beautiful words and what they can do to (and for) your mind and heart. Libraries were an actual heaven for me as a child because my parents didn’t have books, apart from the trashy sentimental novels that my mother read. I was that kid who sat in the corner for hours, happy as can be – until closing time when I would carry my carefully chosen books to the library counter so I could take them home. My library card had to be renewed often as it was “stamped” on an almost daily basis – so often in fact, that the library assistants actually asked me whether I really read everything I took out. “Yes, yes I do, why would I take books out and not read them”?! was my reply. That question was just absurd to me.
I will forever remember libraries with fondness but of course these days I hardly ever set foot in them. Now I can buy books you see and oh, the beauty of being able to do that! It’s not libraries I haunt these days, but bookshops! My house is crammed with books, I’ve ran out of space on my (many) bookshelves so I’ve taken to storing them wherever I can – even in some odd places sometimes. There are even books piling up on top of the piano! Thank fuck for eBooks, even though (like many bookworms) I think that nothing replaces the actual feel and smell of a book.
Still, how amazing is it to have hundreds of books stored on one device? I was bought an e-reader as a birthday present at a time when they were totally new gadgets. It was made by Sony, bright pink and cost £200 which was a lot of money when you think that you can pick up a Kindle quite cheaply these days.
Now the Sony e-reader is sadly too small even though it was high tech at the time, so I read eBooks on my iPad which is great – but I always have a pile of books on the floor by my bed. That pile consists of favourites which have been read dozens of times and they are by my bed because they are like much loved and treasured friends to me – so I keep them close 🙂
I always carry a book in my handbag for train journeys and those spare 15 minutes you might have at any given point when out and about. I don’t lend books anymore because of the lack of respect friends have shown to them in the past. People have dropped my books in the bath and giving them back to me completely ruined – and even, and that’s the ultimate sin, not given them back at all!
So now I’m a selfish literature bitch and won’t lend anything to anyone. You want a book? Go and buy it! You might as well anyway – the struggling author will thank you for the few pennies you’ve put in his pocket.
Books: lovely, wonderful books – how dull my life would have been without them.
I have now done everything I needed to do today and I am not going out until later. It’s raining and miserable outside – I am going to go and snuggle in my favourite armchair with my iPad and spend the next hour blissfully getting lost in some imaginary world. Isn’t life grand?