Saturday, November 21, 2009

The Making of Modern Ireland

“The Ireland I now inhabit is one that these Irish contemporaries have helped to imagine.” – Seamus Heaney

The history of a nation all too often depends on an admixture of truths, half-truths and mythology; exemplified by the story of Britain and Ireland. Both countries were part of the Angevin Empire that controlled an area from the banks of the Shannon to the Centre of France until after its defeat by the French, in 1399. But Ireland did not experience English rule until her colonisation by Henry VIII in the 16th Century.

Basing their story on past ills which resulted in the 1798 Rising by the United Irishmen and the birth of republicanism, together with carefully selected facts, folklore and historically inaccurate assumptions, the Fenians produced a mythology which was in part responsible for the Rising of 1916. Few are aware that this would not have been possible but for the secret connivance of the enemies of Irish freedom, while Ireland gained her independence not by the Rising but as a result of British over-reaction which produced the War of Independence.

The Making of Modern Ireland looks at the broad sweep of the nation’s history from the 12th Century, when it was part of the Angevin Empire, right up to 2009 and the government of Brian Cowan. Geoff Robinson’s narrative offers an alternative view, stripped of the half-truths and mythology, that has passed for much of the country’s history.

Though born and educated in England, Geoff Robinson is an Irish citizen who has lived in Ireland for over fifty years. An unswerving believer in the rectitude of the Irish cause, he knew many who had been involved in the 1916 Rising and later came to meet others of such divergent political views as the daughter of a Redmondite MP and the editor of the “Bulletin”, a clandestine newssheet published during the War of Independence. Following his marriage in 1966 to Bernadette Tiernan, a national teacher, he developed an interest in Irish politics. His wife’s revelation that no critical examination of the events leading up to the 1916 Rising was contained in the schools curriculum, prompted him to make a re-evaluation of Irish history which has resulted in his book, The Making of Modern Ireland. He lives in Dublin with his wife Bernadette and at 88 years old Geoff Robinson proves that it’s never too late to write your first book.

You can buy the book HERE

Monday, July 13, 2009

Broughton Street Book Shop – Edinburgh

There is a wonderful story in the Daily Telegraph this morning about a book shop in Edinburgh. I can't wait to visit it. Read about it HERE. It will warm your heart.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

The Stones in The Park – Book Signing in Kelso

40th Anniversary Story of the thirty-three days in the summer of ‘69 during which The Rolling Stones changed forever.

I'll be signing at Latimer Books in Kelso
Saturday 4th July 11 am 'til 1pm
5 Mill Wynd
01573 225776
The Stones in the Park tells this amazing story as well as featuring many unseen photographs

For the Rolling Stones everything changed in the summer of ’69. They were no longer the blues band that Brian Jones had put together in 1962, they had stopped being a pop band and had hardly performed on stage since 1967 – and it was live that the Stones always excelled. This is the story of the thirty-three days in the summer of ‘69 during which The Rolling Stones changed forever. Drug busts, fall-outs, at least one album that failed to live up to expectations and uncertainty surrounded the band, they had flirted with psychedelia but were on the cusp of becoming the ‘Greatest Rock and Roll Band in the World.

It tells how, on Sunday 8 June 1969 Brian Jones left the band he had founded, and less than a month later he tragically died just days before the band played a free concert in London’s Hyde Park for somewhere close to 500,000 people. Unfortunately, Mick Jagger and Keith Richards both missed their old band mate’s funeral, Mick was in Australia filming Ned Kelly (his performance recorded in numerous unseen photographs).

Undaunted, the Stones, who have always been greater than the sum of their parts, recruited Mick Taylor to play guitar in place of Brian, recorded one of their greatest ever singles and played the largest ever concert in Britain to that point, and Mick Jagger, like many pop singers before him, went off to be a film star. They also became – The Greatest Rock ‘n’ Roll Band in the World and since then the Rolling Stones have gone on to be watched in concert by more people than any other band. They have come to epitomise everything that is excessive, exciting, powerful, lavish and brilliant about rock music. They are dynastic, imperial and majestic... true Rock Royalty.

“The greatest rock and roll band in the world. They’re incredible; let’s hear it for the Stones!” – Sam Cutler introducing the band on Saturday 5 July 1969 – the first time they were given the accolade

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Judith Miller at Mainstreet Trading in St Boswells

Judith Miller began collecting in the 1960s while a student at Edinburgh University in Scotland. She has since extended and reinforced her knowledge of antiques through international research, becoming one of the world's leading experts in the field. In 1979 she co-founded the international best-seller Miller's Antiques Price Guide and has since written more than 100 books, which are held in high regard by collectors and dealers. Judith Miller appears regularly on TV and radio. She is an expert on the BBC's "Antiques Roadshow" and co-hosts the popular BBC TV series "The House Detectives," ITV's "Antiques Trail," and Discovery's "It's Your Bid". She has appeared on "The Martha Stewart Show" and CNN. She is a regular lecturer and contributor to numerous newspapers and magazines, including Financial Times, BBC Homes & Antiques and House & Garden. She has lectured extensively, including at the V&A in London and the Smithsonian in Washington.

Judith will be giving a talk about how she got into antiques in the first place, and looking at the world of antiques and collecting today as it is today.

She has also generously agreed to do some valuations on smaller items and answer questions.

Tickets: £5 per head (includes a 10% discount on any Judith Miller titles purchased on the day)
To book, please email:
Please note that space is limited so it is essential to book in advance
Date: Saturday 4th July, 3-5pm

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Book Cafe 8 June

Radio Scotland's Book Cafe asks the question. What do you do if you can’t get your novel published? You could follow Tim Clare’s example and write about the experience of not getting a book deal, and get that published instead. We’ll be talking about his book ‘We Can’t all be Astronauts’ and finding out from bookshop owners Roz De La Hey and Vanessa Robertson, who both have publishing connections, whether his descriptions of the world of literature are correct. Jen Campbell is another aspiring author but she’s also the creator of a prize winning readers’ group. How do to the online experiences of today’s book lovers compare with library visits of the last century. Tune in to hear one woman’s recollections of the Campbell Library in Pollockshaws. All that plus more from The Book Detectives

Sunday, May 24, 2009

BBC Book Cafe 25 May

This week on the Book Cafe we have some interesting stuff, mostly about language. Are our teenagers suffering from ‘word poverty’ despite the fact that a new word becomes part of the language every 98 minutes? Linguist David Crystal gives his thoughts. And are soap operas responsible for pupils describing Shakespearean characters as ‘high maintenance’ who need to ‘move on’? River City’s Libby McArthur takes up the challenge of defending ‘soap speak’. Who do the crime writers turn to when they need advice on police techniques and forensic routines – ex coppers Tom Wood and Karen Campbell reveal the kind of questions they get asked by authors wanting to get their facts straight.

I've also just heard from Sarah Kersley, whose bookshop in Brazil I featured at the start of May, will also be on the show. The power of the t'internet!

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Book Cafe 18 May

Roll out those beach towels…the summer is just about here! But what will we all be reading on the beach & in the airports this year? The Book Cafe will be previewing all the major fiction releases across Scotland in the next few months… What do the large retailers think will be the most popular? Any hidden gems we haven’t previously heard about?

Clare English will also chat to one of the world’s top rare book dealers Rick Gekoski – who has been plied with alcohol by Graham Greene, threatened with a law suit by J. D. Salinger, berated by Ted Hughes, and helped J.R.R Tolkien move house…

Plus a look at international crime fiction and a report from the Christian Aid book sale in Edinburgh.

Getting Closer to Buddy Holly

Spencer Leigh writes meticulously researched books on music. His most recent title is Everyday: Getting Closer to Buddy Holly and it is a fantastic piece of work that will delight any fan of Buddy and anyone interested in musical and cultural history. Spencer has interviewed countless numbers of people who knew Buddy, worked with him or were simply touched by his music. In the introduction Spencer writes. "In 1984 Ian Dury made an album called 4000 Weeks Holiday. The title scared the hell out of me because I realised that's all the time we've got on earth." Well my advice is to spend part of one of those weeks reading Spencer's book. You can see details HERE before popping into your local bookshop to order and buy it.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Looking for Agnès: a tale of passion and paper trails

It looks like there's another enticing event at Mainstreet Trading in St Boswells, following last week's excellent James Runcie talk. This one is on 26 May and details are available HERE

Barbara Mellor will be talking about her work translating the remarkable WW2 diary, Resistance by Agnès Humbert. Barbara's passion for the history of the French Resistance grew from her love for France, where she has lived on and off for many years, and her work as a translator specialising in books on French art and history. When she stumbled upon Agnès Humbert's original French diary, Notre Guerre, she knew she had found something extraordinary; she took it to an editor at Bloomsbury, and within eighteen months it had been published to acclaim in ten languages. Barbara will be talking about how she found the French diary and unearthed details of Agnès Humbert's remarkable life and family; the experience of translating Résistance and bringing this forgotten voice to a far greater audience; and the continuing story of new discoveries since publication of the hardback edition in 2008.

I've read the book – it's brilliant; so I can't wait to hear the story behind its writing.

Radio Scotland's Book Cafe 11 May

A great show is in store on Monday with the legendary journalist, broadcaster and sixties icon, Dame Joan Bakewell. She's now added novelist to her list of talents. In Monday's Book Café, recorded at Glasgow's Aye Write Festival, she talks to Clare English about her book 'All The Nice Girls' and about her life and career, which included a brief spell as the model for Tampax!

Monday, May 4, 2009

There's An Awfully Good Book Shop Down in Brazil

Now we all know there's an awful lot of Coffee in Brazil, courtesy of Mr Sinatra, but did you know there's a great bookshop that stocks English language books? Not just English language either; it has new and used books in 15 different languages. I know this because Sarah Rebecca Kersley emailed me from Itacaré, in Bahia state in Northeast Brazil to tell me about her shop that opened in 2007. Sarah discovered the blog after listening online to the book café on Radio Scotland...isn't the web wonderful?

Sarah graduated from Glasgow University and headed south to open the Urso de Óculos bookshop (the name means "The Spectacled Bear"). It is the only bookshop in the town that has a population of 22 000. Since opening in 2007, the space has become increasingly popular as an international meeting point, a local community book exchange and host to regular cultural events. Sarah is a British translator who has lived in Brazil since 2005 and besides the books it also serves espresso coffee (made from the billions of beans down in Brazil no doubt), hot chocolate and Twinings tea (apparently all three are very difficult to find outside big cities in Brazil).

She tells me, "Visitors from Scotland are particularly welcome, with the frequent sound of Eddi Reader playing on the bookshop stereo!"

If you want to know more visit the Urso de Óculos website. If you really want to know more get on a plane, fly south and stand beneath that amber moon. . .

Sadly it’s been years since I've been to Brazil. The first time I went was in 1976 when I flew to Rio de Janeiro from Miami arriving very early on a Sunday morning; I was working in the airline business at the time. I checked-in at the Copacabana Palace, and as I headed for the lift I bumped into a girl who flew for our airline; like me she was on her first trip to Rio. Like her I wanted to see the sights and were not put off by the fact that it was very overcast. An hour or so later we headed out and took the rickety train up to the statue of Cristo Redentor. When we got off the train we were bathed in cloud as we walked the last part up to the viewing platform. Arriving at the top the clouds parted to reveal what is still one of the half dozen best views I've ever seen in my life.

'There's one thing that I'm certain of; return I will to old Brazil.'

Friday, May 1, 2009

James Runcie

James Runcie's talk and reading at Mainstreet Trading in St Boswell last night was wonderful. He is a great raconteur, his story, against himself, involving David Starkey was brilliant. James Runcie's new book, East Fortune, if his readings and his conversation are anything to go by is a must read – especially if you're a middle-aged male. Actually the issues he writes about affect many of us and I cannot wait to read it (currently Mrs.H has bagged it and started reading it in bed last night).

Mainstreet Trading, as I have said before, is a wonderful book shop, but it's also a lovely space for author events. They have one coming up with Judith Miller in July....more news when I get it.