Today we have an Overkill double bill, with a review of the New Zealand small town thriller, and I’m delighted to have Vanda Symon join us in the Secret Library. Vanda is well known down in Dunedin where she is a celebrated and decorated author and radio host, but Overkill is I believe the first of her titles to make it to publication here in the UK. Let’s get straight to her choices.
The Sword in the Stone by T H White
I read this book as a child and it triggered a life-long love affair with Arthurian legend and all things medieval. It is a wonderful take on King Arthur, portraying his life when he was a young lad kicking around with a certain wizard called Merlin. It is full of humour, magic and drama and made such an impression that it spurred me on to devour other Arthurian books (The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart) and even influenced my hobbies. My idealistic and romantic idea of the times got me into calligraphy and the beauty of illuminated manuscripts, and more importantly – the book compelled me to take up arms. My obsession with knights and gallantry made me want to actively explore it more, but I was never going to be the damsel in distress, oh no, I wanted to be the kick-arse chick with a sword, so I took up fencing – a sport I still love and compete in today. Oh, the power of a book!
Crocodile on the Sandbank by Elizabeth Peters
I discovered the wonderful Amelia Peabody as a thirteen year-old, and crikey, did she make an impression. For a young woman brought up in a very conservative and religious environment Amelia was a revelation. She was the first truly dynamic woman character I had encountered. Set in the mid 1880s, she was a wealthy independent woman who travelled to Egypt to follow her love of pyramids and archaeology (incidentally, I was quite obsessed with Egypt and Tutankhamen at the time). (OK, still am). It is a wonderful historic mystery and a ripping tale. And Amelia, oh boy, she was intrepid and determined, sassy, sexy, intelligent, funny and fiercely loyal. She wouldn’t take crap from anyone. I wanted to be Amelia. It is a book and a heroine that has stayed with me ever since – so much so that there are qualities of Amelia that turn up in my gal Sam Shephard.
Cross Stitch by Diana Gabaldon
My niece handed me this book twenty-odd years ago, and said, I think you’ll like this. Well, that turned into the understatement of the century and I became totally invested in following the fortunes of Claire and Jamie Fraser across the ages and many novels. You’ll notice a pattern here, but seriously, I wanted to be Claire Fraser (and not just because like most of my friends I totally fell in love with Jamie.) I loved her as a strong, resilient and brave woman. Diana Gabaldon’s use of medical science and all of Claire’s wonderful adaptations of modern principals in less than ideal circumstances hugely appealed to my inner health professional. Because of this book my pharmacist-self became interested in the use of herbal medicine, and the historic origins of current day therapies. I even did horse riding lessons, because you never knew when you might inadvertently travel through time when exploring stone circles, and that would be a handy skill to have. For me this book and series was a bit of a life changer.
What a great set of choices – and role models (which do explain Sam Shephard somewhat)! We look forward to the next instalments in the Sam Shephard series coming to the US but in the meantime you can get Overkill here.
Cafe thinking is proud to close the Overkill blog tour today. You can check out other stops on the tour. Thanks to Anne Cater for the invitation to take part.