Comment • reviews • Nordic Noir • whimsy
Today’s secret librarian is Paul Harrison who followed a successful and award-winning police career with new adventures as an author. His first novel, Revenge of the Malakim, was published earlier this year by Williams and Whiting, and introduces DCI Will Scott and the fictional location of ‘Eastborough’, but his website also outlines a range of works on murders from across the United Kingdom together with a biog of Leeds United legend Billy Bremner.
Here are his selections:
The Burning of Evelyn Foster by Jonathan Goodman
It was first published in 1977, and made a huge impact on me, because the author told the sad tale, so very well. It was, and still remains a mystery as to who killed the woman, or whether it was an accident. I was so moved by the story that I wrote to the author, Jon Goodman, who later invited me to his West London home to discuss the case further.
I’m glad I met Jon. We had a splendid weekend going through his files and talking about crime and mysteries. So much so, that he inspired me to write my own books. Jon was an amazing writer and a real gentleman too. We became good friends until his untimely passing in 2008. Not only was he a writer, he was also a producer in theatre and television. His television police drama No Hiding Place drew great acclaim. I still miss Jon, my mentor and friend.
Pies and Prejudice: in search of the north by Stuart Maconie
First published in 2008. I bought this book on a whim. I was at an airport and picked it up solely because of its title. The first few lines I read, caused me to laugh out loud, not a secret titter, but a belly laugh. The author Stuart Maconie really hit the mark when it comes to telling the tale of life up North. He lists so many different and quirky ways to life, with a comical spin.
As a northerner myself, I instinctively understood the humour. However, the book itself did cause me to think about the North – South divide. I hadn’t considered it too much before, but it does exist in almost all walks of life – especially with regional accents. I remember standing up at a police training college, and speaking to a group of fellow Sergeants. The instructor, a Southerner, stopped me in full flow, and pointed out that my accent was too Northern, it sounded working class! Ultimately, Stuart’s book portrays a pride among Northern folk. Me? I’m northern and I’m very proud to be so.
White Fang by Jack London
First published in 1906. I still own my childhood copy of this book, sadly not a first edition. It’s the ultimate story of survival and succinctly delivers the moral of never, ever giving up, no matter what life may throw at you. White Fang, is a wolf cub who, during his early years, suffers horrific misfortune and abuse. Not only from the humans he encounters, but from his fellow wild animals. It’s a tough tale to handle as a youngster, and still arouses emotion in me every time I read it.
I’ve read the book to my own children, and now to my grandchildren. Each time, when we discuss the tragedies and issues that happen to the wolf, I refer to similarities in human life. How we must overcome life’s challenges, the disappointments, loss, and fear. Jack London’s book inspires, especially the ending, which finishes on a high note. White Fang finds a new human owner, who befriends and trusts him. Ultimately, he is seen to be relaxing with the puppies he has fathered, settled, and resting in the sunshine. He now lives in a place where there are no more battles to fight, a place where he is now known as ‘The Blessed Wolf.’