Carnal Acts in Northumberland


Set in Northumberland – a fictional village of Corham – Corbridge and Hexham?

Well this is one opener I won’t forget in a hurry….

The first few chapters (about a man called Gaz)  can only be described as a short sharp blow to the head. I would say that I have never read anything like it and wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue. It was raw in the extreme – good writing, no very good writing, I couldn’t deny that. And certainly not what I was expecting. What the hell just happened? I asked myself. Well, that question made me carry on reading, plus the fact that the story of DI Joni Pax was being told in parallel – and Joni, a new policewoman recently transferred to the new police force in North East England seemed interesting character – new to the area, mixed race,  still trying to prove her worth amongst her colleagues etc….

I mean I should have read the blurb more carefully I guess

Carnal Acts explores abuse of many kinds – sexual, psychological and economic -taking the police procedural to places it had never been before.

This is a graphic novel and sometimes a bit too much for me personally.But there was something about what I had just read, so I read on…

DI Joni Pax and her DCI Hector ‘ Heck’ Rutherford are very interesting charcters – flawed in many ways and with many problems of their own. They work together under the Major Crimes Unit that covers rural Northumbria and County Durham.

At an Albanian run brothel, there is a murder and one of the girls goes on the run. Of course early investigations lead nowhere as they come up against a wall of silence. The gang behind the brothel will stop at nothing to protect what is theirs.

The setting –

Hexham Abbey or is this Corham Abbey?
Hexham Abbey or is this Corham Abbey?

The Northumberland setting is Corham is  – 

A town with Roman, medieval and industrial heritage

And the stunning Hexham Abbey seems to be the inspiration for where DI Joni Pax lives –  

Joni Pax was at the window of her flat near Corham Abbey. The street ran behind the ecclesiastical building. Its stone flanks were now even more like honey under floodlights, the square tower surmounted by the yellow and red striped Northumberland flag.


The crux of the matter  – 

But Carnal Acts is after all about the suffering and abuse that one human can inflict on another  – the actions of the gangs for example and what goes on in the brothels is more than shocking. Human trafficking is directly compared to the slave trade. Raw, stark and utterly compelling – this may be hard to read but it has hidden and deeper meaning for us all. Just how easy is it for any of us to ‘look the other way?’


The twists in the plot were another reason to read this novel –  bad guys and good guys are not so clearly defined at times and this makes for some cleverly confusing chapters. Short and snappy adds to the overall confusion and second guessing that Sam Alexander takes his or her readers on.

And that is just it – we don’t even know who this author is. The Who is Sam Alexander campaign is doing the rounds on social media and creating quite a buzz. It’s said to be a ‘highly regarded crime novelist’ but no – one as yet appears to have guessed Sam’s identity.

The publishers -Arcadia -are keeping the true identity a secret for now. It’ll be interesting to discover just who has written Carnal Acts ‘ taking the police procedural to places it has never been before.’

You can try to find out for yourselves when the book is published on June 15th…

World Cup -pa and a cake – Wendy Moore at Gibside

Tomorrow is the start of the World Cup. So that means lots of football, drinking and noise. What is the perfect anecdote to all of this? Why a lovely cuppa and a cake with a local author – sitting in the tranquil gardens and land of Gibside – a national trust park and property in Gateshead, North East England. The booktrail has been there before  but we recap it below-…h-east-england/


But we have never had a cuppa with Wendy Moore herself! So, well, we were not going to turn down the chance to chat in the lovely woodland gardens, and literally walk in the footsteps of the true life family she wrote about in Wedlock – walk in the grounds of Gibside where the characters of her story were the real life Bowes family who once lived here.

The true story in a nutshell –

If you want to get to know the real story behind Gibside, the stunning Georgian gem in the North East, then forget the official guidebooks and websites and pick up a copy of Wedlock by Wendy Moore. This book brings the place to life – it’s riveting, fascinating story and a strange insight into life in the 1700s.

Wedlock is about the life of the Bowes family – a notable family in the North East and Mary Eleanor Bowes in particular. Her story is so beyond belief that it almost defies it. And this of course makes for a very interesting background story to any visit to Gibside
In 1760, at the age of only 11 years, Mary ‘s rich businessman father died, leaving her his sole heiress with an estimated net worth of millions. She married at 18 – the 9th Earl of Strathmore (heir of Scotland’s Glamis Castle of Macbeth fame) but he died so Mary, a rich  and single heiress was left all alone. There was someone who would take advantage of this situation however and do more damage than anyone could have imagined.

This someone was Andrew Robinson Stoney – a charming and psychopathic man. He once defended Mary’s honour in a duel and on his supposed death bed, asked her to marry him. She said yes, he dramatically recovered, and so the sad story of Wedlock really begins.



Hi Wendy! Oh I see you’ve ordered some local sponge cake  – they make it here you know. Isn’t it nice? It’s very apt that you’ve chosen to have your cuppa and a cake right here as afterall what better way to talk aout and experience your book. it is quite literally being amongst the pages of your book.

Wendy smiles and offers the booktrailer a slice of cake so there is a tea pause whilst I take a bite and savour a taste of tea as well. We have posh and rather ornate tea cups it has to be said. All that is missing is our taffeta dresses otherwise I would really feel like one of the people in the book –

Beautiful Gibside chapel
Beautiful Gibside chapel

The setting of Gibside is a stunning one. What is your link to the area if any?

I love Gibside and am very impressed by all the work the NT is doing to restore and revive the estate. It’s marvellous that whereas once it was the realm of one rich family, now it can be enjoyed by so many. I don’t have a personal link with the north-east but my husband is from Newcastle and I’ve always enjoyed visiting the region.

Gibside House - the setting for intrigue... and more..
Gibside House – the setting for intrigue… and more..

What captivated you about writing about a true life tale set in such a significant area?

I was drawn to writing the story of Mary Eleanor Bowes simply because it was such a startling, shocking and scarcely credible story. It’s a marvellous narrative to unfold because she triumphs against such odds. I think the story has great resonance for us today when women in the western world enjoy much greater rights although there are still many disadvantages. I was thrilled to find that there were abundant archives to give life to the story in Durham County Record Office and also at Glamis Castle.


The story tells us so much about the fate of women and marital abuse. What do you admire about Mary Eleanor Bowes?

Mary Eleanor was not the most admirable woman in her youth. She was vain, imperious and a distant mother – like so many of the rich and aristocratic people of her time. But through her suffering in her second marriage she came to realise the importance of loyalty, justice and service to others and appreciated the importance of her children. I think she was incredible to find such inner strength – physically and mentally – to triumph over her brutish husband.

Imagine you were invited to a dinner with the Bowes family when Gibside was in its glory days. Which other historical figures would you like to invite and why?

   That’s a good question! There were so many fascinating and eccentric people in Georgian times. I would love to meet John Hunter, the 18th- century surgeon who was the subject of my first book, The Knife Man, and a friend of Mary Eleanor’s. It would be marvellous to meet writers of the period, including David Garrick, Samuel Johnson, Fanny Burney, Maria Edgeworth and Mary Wollstonecraft.  


Which parts of the Gibside estate did you enjoy visiting the most?

I usually visit Gibside at least once a year when I give a talk on Mary Eleanor Bowes. I simply love walking in the calm and beautiful grounds. This year for the first time I discovered the river walk and came upon the house, Gibside Hall, from the back. It looks very eerie from that angle. It’s always a treat to visit the Greenhouse – now called the Orangery – and imagine how it would have looked when it was filled with Mary Eleanor’s exotic plant collection.

Thanks Wendy. Its always good to hear what the authors think about their stories and why they chose to write it. I can definitely see why you would do so here. Its amazing what you find out about places and thank you for bringing this story alive via your book. It really deserves to be heard!


Now Wendy has a book out at the moment How To Create the Perfect Wife – and yes the story is as strange as it sounds – there are men who want and try to create the perfect wife. Unbelievable – so as this football season starts…..take heart that yours is just a football fanatic and not an ‘heir to a sizeable fortune and a student of law at Middle Temple called Thomas Day’ who decides to create his perfect woman.

You can visit Wendy here –

And Gibside here –

Vera – Harbour Street – a Northumberland booktrail

Why a booktrail?

Set in Northumberland and Newcastle -this is a great mystery for Vera to solve and the sixth book in the Vera series



Story in a nutshell

A metro full of Christmas revellers has stopped at a station before its final destination, due to the ‘wrong sort of snow’. Everybody gets off, except an old lady, nicely dressed. Joe Ashworth is on the train that night with his young daughter Jesse – they should be home by now, best phone a  taxi. Jesse goes to the old lady ‘Look that old lady hasn’t moved’

The taxi firm answered his call at the same time as Jesse screamed

Place and setting

Mardle and Harbour Street - aka The Cliff House at Amble
Mardle and Harbour Street – aka The Cliff House at Amble

This is a novel where the setting IS one of the leading characters and even though the Mardle of the novel is fictional, it is no less threatening and gloomy –

Mardle wasn’t a place for tourists, even in the summer. There was nothing beyond the fisheries except the harbour, enclosed by the wall. The boats there were dark shadows, half-hidden by the drifting flakes.

Amble Harbour Where Harbour street is said to be located near to. Cliff House The building which appears on the HB and PB editions of the book Alnmouth Some of the filming for the TV show took place here Newcastle Fenwicks Where Vera is unexpectedly found shopping Newcastle Lit and Phil The Lit and Phil library?.. It’s where book -lovers hang out’
Amble Harbour
Where Harbour street is said to be located near to.
Cliff House
The building which appears on the HB and PB editions of the book
Some of the filming for the TV show took place here
Newcastle Fenwicks
Where Vera is unexpectedly found shopping
Newcastle Lit and Phil
The Lit and Phil library?.. It’s where book -lovers hang out’

It soon became clear that there was lots about Harbour Street that wasn’t attractive – hidden secrets, dark pasts, twisted thoughts and the fact that none of the residents here seem willing to talk.

Why would such  well dressed and elegant lady find herself living in Mardle and more importantly who would want to kill her?

Even Vera thinks that she was ‘more Gosforth than Mardle from her appearance. (Gosforth was one of Newcastle’s posher suburbs.)

Harbour Street is just the kind of  chewy puzzle Vera loves to sink her teeth into – she admits she feels a thrill when she is in Fenwicks of Newcastle shopping and the call comes in telling her a woman has been killed on the metro. But then guilt replaces it as she remembers that everysomeone has a relative or friend that wil be devastated.

More on the setting-

The iconic yellow beacon -(c)the booktrailer

At the end of the street, like a beacon or a square glowing moon, shone the yellow cab with the black M that marked the metro station. This was Harbour Street

Mardle -inspired by Amble when the author wrote the book but only in a logistical sense! Alnmouth – where Harbour Street is filmed. Nothing like Mardle thankfully!

'The Blinking Eye' Bridge aka The Millennium Bridge
‘The Blinking Eye’ Bridge aka The Millennium Bridge – image from Wikipedia

It is not just the Northumberland landscape that is featured as we also get a short tour around the city of Newcastle itself –

Newcastle was full of people and friendly, they walked arm in arm between the art galleries , crossing the tyne by the Blinking Eye Bridge. or

The Metro into Newcastle for an afternoon of culture – a new exhibition at the Baltic on the river and a stroll around the Laing Art Gallery

Special mention has to be made of Newcastle where we meet Vera in an unfamiliar setting – shopping!

So here she was in Fenwick’s department store, sweating because she was still in her outdoor clothes, surrounded by smart and shiny people.

Finally mention should be made of a place central to the plot of the book where Vera goes looking for someone. It is a fantastic place and so well described here. Everyone needs to go here just maybe not on a trail with Vera stomping behind you –

Some library? A visit to a proper place for books to be cherished

The Lit and Phil library?..

It’s where book -lovers hang out’

Aaah those walls are made of books
Aaah those walls are made of books !!

Vera stood outside the Georgian symmetry of the Lit and Phil library in Newcastle

They climbed the stairs to the library on the first floor and opened the door to s room flooded with light from the glass domes. The walls were made of books

A murder mystery with a meaty puzzle to get your teeth stuck into. Vera at her very best. And a tour of Northumberland and Newcastle, not to mention a starting role for its special place for book lovers.

Harbour that thought when you read Harbour Street.

A cuppa with Rebecca Muddiman

Settle down with a cuppa and join us please
Settle down with a cuppa and join us please



Hi there! Glad you’re able to join us. Rebecca’s on her way over for tea and cake. I’ve done what I said and prepared some lemon drizzle. Well it worked on Mari Hannah last week hehe

Oh there’s the doorbell…..Hi Rebecca, come on in.

Rebecca has arrived for tea and cake
Rebecca has arrived for tea and of my lemon drizzle making skills gets around!

Kettle’s on. Cake is served. Thanks for popping over. It’s great to see you again. Thanks for agreeing to chat with me about your book. Care for a piece of cake?

I’ve got a few questions I’d like to ask you –


1. Congratulations on winning the Northern Writers award in 2010!. Now you have had your first novel published by Moth Publishing. What made you want to start writing and did you ever think you would have such great success?

I’ve always written – even from being a little kid. I think it came from being such a big reader, especially things like Roald Dahl. It just seemed that the worlds you could make up were so much more exciting than the real world so I started creating my own. It was while I was at college that I realised I’d like to write for a living but I never really thought that it would happen. I thought it would always be just me sitting there alone in my room so it’s great that I’m almost there. I still have a day job but it’s amazing to think I can at least call myself a writer now!


2. At your author event at Whitley Bay library, you mentioned that you have an interesting way of plotting. Can you tell us more about this?

Yes, it might be because of my background in screenwriting or maybe it’s just what works for me. Basically, I start with an idea and try to build it up until I have a basic plot. Then I write each plot point or scene that I have onto a little card and spread them out across the floor. Then I can see where the gaps are, can think “how do I get from here to here?” and add things to it. I also move things around so the structure changes. I then use this as a basic outline but quite often once the writing begins I’ll add more or make changes. I’m not someone who likes to write very detailed outlines. I like to have a bit of wiggle room and once I start rewriting things can change dramatically. Covering the floor in cards is odd to some people, but it works for me!


3. Stolen has a plot that everyone, not just mothers, can identify with – ‘Think of your most prized possession. Think of the one thing you love more than anything else. Think of the one thing you would die for. And then think of losing it.’Why did you decide to write about what must be the greatest loss of all, that of a child?

It wasn’t really a conscious decision to write about losing a child. My initial idea was more generally about missing people and how often they come back. But around the time I was thinking about the idea, the Madeleine McCann case was in the news and later there were other high-profile cases that seemed to follow a pattern in the way they were reported in the media – sympathy followed by blame followed by disinterest – and that was what really interested me.


4. Was it hard to write about such a difficult topic? What made you choose it?

It was hard to write but mainly because I wasn’t sure I could write about being a mother, especially a mother who loses her child. I don’t have kids so it seemed so far removed from my experience that I constantly worried whether I could pull it off.  A writer friend pointed out that it was our job to write about things outside our own experience and I realised that I’d had no qualms about writing about being a murderer or whatever!  But I think I chose it simply because it was a story that kept nagging at me and I wanted to explore themes around people going missing.


5. Why did you choose to set your book and situations where you did? do you actually go to these places when researching your plot?

Most of the places are in Teesside where I’m from so I knew them quite well and could picture them without going out to them. I didn’t name most of the streets etc but in my head I know where they all are.  I didn’t actually set out to write a book set in my hometown but once I started writing it just seemed natural to do it. Plus I quite like the fact there’s a crime novel set in Redcar. I’ve never read anything set here so it’s nice to fly the flag so to speak. Even if lots of horrible things happen in the book!


6. Has your experience of working abroad influenced your writing? 

I’m not sure it influenced my writing directly but I think all our experiences feed into what we do in some way. Mostly, I think working in abroad gave me a bit more confidence which led to me making a decision that I was really going to give writing a go. I’d dropped out of university and went to work in Holland for four months when I was 19. When I came back I realised that writing was what I wanted to do and signed up for a Film and TV Production course where I specialised in screenwriting and finally let other people read my work. That was the beginning for me really.


7. How have you found working with a regional development agency – New Writing North? Do you think these agencies are a good way of promoting new writers such as yourself?

I think I can honestly say that I wouldn’t be here talking to you about Stolen without New Writing North! The work they do is fantastic, they open up so many opportunities for writers and I’ve been lucky enough to work with them on several projects. I won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2010 which are run by NWN and then the Northern Crime Competition in 2012 run by Moth Publishing who NWN are a partner in. I was also a volunteer mentor in one of their Young Writers’ groups for a while which is an excellent project. I would’ve loved to have had a group like that when I was a kid.

Home of New Writing North
Home of New Writing North

8. Which 4 writers living or dead would you invite to a dinner party?

That’s a really hard question! I think maybe Raymond Carver just so I could try and get him to tell me how he did it. I think short stories are really hard to write but his are almost perfect. I want to know the secret!  Then maybe Tina Fey because she’s one of my heroes. Steven Moffat so I could discuss Doctor Who. And Jon Ronson because he would have the best dinner party anecdotes.


9. Finally would you be able to share a little something about your next novel? When is it coming out?

It’s currently called Gone but I think that will change. The book is the second DI Gardner novel and picks up a couple of months after Stolen ended. Again it focuses on missing people but in a very different way. It begins with a body being dug up in Blyth which appears to be a girl who went missing eleven years earlier and whose case just happened to be investigated by Gardner. So it kind of drags him back to face up to his past that he’s been running away from for the last decade.  Hopefully it will be out next year.

Thank you so much Rebecca. What a pleasure it’s been.  Look forward to reading your second installment of DI Gardner. You of course will be welcome back here where I will once again be making cakes. Chocolate brownies next time?





Stolen from the North East of England


I am very excited to write about Rebecca Muddiman’s debut novel for a few reasons. 1) It’s fantastic 2) It has been printed by Moth Publishing which is a new venture between New Writing North and Business Education Publishers  ltd – two organisations which support the development of new writing talent. I have attended an event, and met with Rebecca who won the Northern Crime Competition in 2012 and want to share a great local talent and a great initiative to get good writers out there!

Abby Henshaw is driving with her 8 month old daughter Beth, on their way to visit a friend. She is forced off the road by by 2 men in a white van, dragged into their van and brutally attacked before being dumped at the side of the road.

However, her nightmare is only just beginning –  Beth , her baby daughter has disappeared from the car and is missing…..


The subject matter and descriptions, particularly of the attack are vivid and shocking but it is the search for the daughter that packs the largest emotional punch. It is written from the view point of the victim and is all the more gripping because of it.

This may come across as a crime novel but I would describe it as more of a thriller as you never know who to believe and often come up with an idea of who might be involved only to completely change your mind during the next chapter! The chapters are short and snappy which adds even greater pace and tension to the plot and is very fitting for something that you want to devour as fast as you can in order to find out just what happened to this little girl. You can feel the tension and the emotions of the mother on every page and it is very interesting to see the lengths to which she goes through in order to get people and the police to listen to her and for no-one to forget about her darlinb baby girl. All characters, the family and friends around Abby  are well developed and seeing them from Abby’s point of view gives an unusual way of meeting this characters, of finding out about them and deciding for yourself their part in Abby’s life and what secrets they might be hiding.


The central idea – that of loss is compelling  –

Think of your most prized possession. Think of the one thing you love more than anything else. Think of the one thing you would die for. And then think of losing it

It’s Abby that probably has the most emotional line in the book for me. Right at the beginning which filters through the entire book making her role as a mother even more heartbreaking –

“I chose to be a mother. her mother I chose her.”

Never mind that characters such as Abby are not your most wholesome  characters. Abby is flawed in ways we discover later on as are other characters and this makes it more real and more raw. I thought how I would react in the situations presented and this made it all the more thrilling to read.

This novel is set in Teeside but obviously settings and the site of the abduction are not made explicit. The issues however override any mention of the settings as the subject matter is so stark.  Knowing Teeside slightly makes me picture certain places as I read the book but it is the mystery at the centre of the story that is the backdrop here.  We may think we know how we might act or feel in Abby’s situation and feel that we have heard of such a story in the Madeleine McCann case. It is certainly a situation thankfully very few of us experience but that makes it all the more frightening as we share Abby’s determination to find out the truth.

I talk to this new, upcoming writer tomorrow on the blog in my favourite spot ‘tea and a chat with….’

Right now I’m off to do some baking in preparation. Lemon drizzle anyone?

Booktrail around Newcastle – Mari Hannah’s The Murder Wall

mari hannah book

The Murder Wall by Mari Hannah is a debut police procedural set in the North East of England.

Living in the North East made me really really want to read this novel especially so I could see and visit the places where it is set. Now granted, this may sound a bit strange for a crime novel but it is a great book so it was not a hard decision. I admit that I haven’t read much crime fiction due to the often brutal content but I can tell you that this book (and the two further books in the series) has made me change my mind. It’s clever and more CSI than simply a book about murder. It’s about the real people involved in an investigation and the hard and brutal challenges they face.

I admit I was shocked at the opening chapter. It certainly makes you sit up and take notice! But it didn’t put me off – I just didn’t read much of it at night!

Two deaths at the beginning of the book happen in a church and a year later they remain unsolved much to the chagrin of Detective Chief Inspector Kate Daniels. Now she is called upon to investigate the murder of Alan Stephens on the Quayside who she recognises but is reluctant to reveal for reasons that become clear later on.

The Quayside
The Quayside

It soon becomes apparent that there is a serial killer stalking victims in and around the North-East of England.

I really felt as if I was central witness sitting in the same room in front of the Murder Wall – the wall where all information and photographs of the crime scene are displayed. I was there sat beside Kate and feeling her frustration and vulnerability. Kate had an interesting backstory and personal story which enhanced the novel as it was so different to other ‘detective’ stories I’ve read.

You only get as much information as the police uncover, with the exception of passages from the killer’s point of view. Very very clever…..

So I decided to walk in Kate’s footsteps and see her investigate the crime through her eyes…

1. The iconic Newcastle Quayside where the murder of Alan Stephens takes place  and the Exhibition park where we first meet Jo Soulsby in Chapter two:

The Sage
The Sage
The Millennium Bridge
The Millennium Bridge

The quayside was buzzing with energy. On the south side of the river, the Sage music centre sat like a silver bubble gleaming in the moonlight.  To the left of it, the gateshead millennium bridge…page 12

2. Exhibition park….

The entrance to Exhibition Park
The entrance to Exhibition Park
Getting a taxi outside of the park as Jo Soulsby would have done
Getting a taxi outside of the park as Jo Soulsby would have done

Jo Soulsby looked down at her feet, hoping the two young women hurrying from the northern exit of Exhibition Park hadn’t noticed her.

Hauling herself from the bench, she moved unsteadily toward the perimeter fence…

Almost immediately, a taxi pulled to the kerb – page 18,19

3. Swan house roundabout

55 Degrees North
55 Degrees North
Looking at the Tyne Bridge from 55Degrees North
Looking at the Tyne Bridge from 55Degrees North

Daniels was stationary at the North end of the Tyne bridge , waiting to gain access to the Swan House roundabout. In the centre of the island, looming  high above the city, was a former government block converted to apartments  and renamed 55 o North. She stared up at it, wondering why anyone would want to live above  a traffic nightmare. – page 58

 3. Jesmond – where Kate Daniels lives

Holly Avenue where Kate Daniels lives
Holly Avenue where Kate Daniels lives
Holly Avenue  - the home of DCI Kate Daniels
Holly Avenue – which is the home of DCI Kate Daniels?
Kate's view of her street on her way home?
Kate’s view of her street on her way home?

The leafy suburb of Jesmond was a cosmopolitan area with good shops, hotels, restaurants and trendy bars. Although it was different to the rural area where Daniels had spent her childhood, she liked the fact that it still retained a villagely feel. – page 58

 4. Dene’s deli in Jesmond

The leafy streets of Jesmond
The leafy streets of Jesmond
Dene's Deli - the home of the perfect sandwich
Dene’s Deli – the home of the perfect sandwich

‘The best sandwiches around as far as Daniels was concerned.” – 119

I second that. I mean where else can you get a baguette stuffed with bacon and hot mango sauce! I ate this in one hand with my novel in the other. Food for all the senses hehe

 5. The Baltic on Newcastle’s Quayside:

The Baltic
The Baltic

Daniels walked to the window and  looked out at the Millennium Bridge; a giant  curved structure known locally as the ‘blinking eye’. Her won eyes  followed a large party of students  making their way across the river to the Baltic, a converted flour mill,  now a centre of contemporary art, the largest gallery of its type in the world. – page 162

 6. The living room on Grey street where she meets her colleague Ron Naylor..


Always the policeman, she knew he’d sit facing facing the door, careful never to turn his back on potential trouble. – 181

Murder Wall is the first in the series of  cases for DCI Kate Daniels and I can’t wait to read them next. They are not only fascinating and brilliant insights into police procedures and a well-developed female protagonist but a great way of exploring some lovely areas of Newcastle.

Take the book. Take the bus to Jesmond. Eat at Dene’s Deli and spend time with Kate Daniels on the Quayside. Get into the heart of the story and experience the city that Mari Hannah showcases so well.

Secrets in Corbridge…

In a sleepy Northumbrian village, the evening sun glistened on the windows of the nearby houses

Everything seemed calm. Apart from a dog barking, there were no other noises. No-one in sight.  Yet, something was different. something was very different. The empty square was in complete contrast to the sea of cars which flooded the main square. Suddenly, an outsider, a lone car passed by the village bookstore. Its driver peered out the window and then quickly drove past and around the corner out of sight. Minutes passed. There was no other movement and the car didn’t come back.

A woman however had made the decision to slip out of the house that night. She had told her flatmate that  she was just going to ‘see a friend’  but she knew she was going somewhere else. She nodded to herself as she saw the cars dotted along the street, leading all the way to the square and she quickened her pace. The two people who she recognised from the car made their way ahead of her. Were they going to the same place in such a hurry she thought?

Five minutes later, she’d arrived. The door in front of her opened and a man came to greet her. Hi he said. Come on in. Would you like a glass of wine?

She nodded in agreement and stepped inside. A sea of faces greeted her and she started to mingle, glass in hand with the men and woman chatting happily inside. She hadn’t told her flatmate about tonight as she wanted this moment all to herself. She knew she had an addiction  – her flatmate told her often enough but she wouldn’t understand she needed just one more fix. At least she was amongst friends this evening. People that understood what it was like.

She took her seat. There were three stools at the end of the room. The three men on them looked nervous. But once they’d stood up and introduced themselves to the crowded room, their faces visibly relaxed. Everyone understood why they were here. And more importantly why these men were here. They had written books they said. They wanted to talk about their stories to inspire and entertain. They hoped their stories would bring enjoyment to people’s lives.

The first man, Gavin,  told his story about an unlikely friendship and an improbable journey. His words were endearing and heartbreaking in equal measure. He nodded at the applause and then the second man, Matt,  took the stand. His story involved not only humans but aliens. A few gasps around the room were heard and the sound of more nods of agreement and giggles. Glasses chinked but were smothered with tears of laughter and outbursts of applause.

The night was going well. Obsessions were celebrated here.

Well if this were a book about obsessions, literary obsessions in particular, this is how I imagine it would begin. As some people think I am a bit obsessed about books and reading and meeting authors. But then I guess I am.

Here I was, sitting in the Tea and Tipple cafe in Corbridge, to meet Gavin Extence, writer of The Universe versus Alex Woods and Matt Haig, author of The Humans. I’d read the first book but had heard so much about the second, I just had to come and see them both. And I mean had to. A whizz up the motorway and I was there. Once I’d found a parking space, I felt a bit calmer. I mean I wouldn’t want to miss this would I?

Our host for the evening from Forum Books, Gavin Extence and Matt Haig
Our host for the evening from Forum Books, Gavin Extence and Matt Haig

I chatted, I had a glass of wine and I ate a meteorite (If you haven’t read The Universe versus Alex Woods then I won’t mention why this made me laugh). The wonderful people at Corbridge’s independent bookshop FORUM BOOKS had made this all possible. Thank you FORUM BOOKS:

Forum Books
Forum Books

and thank you to two great writers:

Reading, laughing  and crying all at once
Reading, laughing and crying all at once
The Humans by Matt Haig
The Humans by Matt Haig

For the fantastic literary setting, thanks to the brilliantly named TEA AND TIPPLE:

Have a tea and tipple in Corbridge
Have a tea and tipple in Corbridge

Thank you also to all the people who came to this event. Fellow book obsessives. I chatted to a lot of you and we had a great evening. May there be many more like it! I started reading The Humans in the car on the way home. I didn’t get to sleep until 3am. I mean seriously, books this funny and enjoyable should come with a health warning that they prevent you from going to bed and as for sleeping. PAH! I’d forget it.

My name is literary imprint and I am a bookaholic. And very proud of it I am too.

A thank you to independent bookstores – Forum books, Corbridge, Northumberland

I am a regular to Forum Books so it was with some surprise that I hadn’t written about this lovely little bookshop before.

Forum Books
Forum Books

Its a literary gem in the village of Corbridge in Northumberland and it champions everything that is good about writers and writing.  I loved the local publishing stand dedicated to Myrmidon as I walked in the door and was pleased to overhear an animated discussion between two elderly customers ‘arguing’ over the merits of buying one book over another (they ended up getting both in the end!)

I myself had a lovely chat with the most welcoming bookseller I had met in some time. We chatted about the book I was buying and the event I was interested in and I left with a brown paper bag containing a book and the words, Eat Sleep Read on the sides and thanking me for buying local. It made me smile and the brown paper took me back to how bookshops years ago must have packaged a new purchase.

But why I wanted to mention this bookstore is its writers events. There will be a talk – a kind of tea and biscuits session with Gavin Extence  – he of ‘The Universe versus Alex Woods’ fame and Matt Haig, writer of ‘The Humans’.  I for one can not wait to meet both of them and am currently reading the first book in time for the event. The second I will buy on the day.

Ooh a literary event! I like these
Ooh a literary event! I like these
Reading, laughing  and crying all at once
Reading with a cuppa to hand. Em I seem to be making a habit of this…hehe

I love meeting authors of  books I’ve read or am going to read. I love reading books by authors I may not have come across had it not been for events such as this one. It’s a literary night out and the fact that it us being held in the local tea shop makes it particularly perfect. A cup of coffee, piece of cake and chats with two authors about their books?

The event will be held in the Tea and Tipple cafe. Love it!
The event will be held in the Tea and Tipple cafe. Love it!

Perfect, perfect, perfect

Is this lady looking for a great local bookshop? Turn to your right!!!
Is this lady looking for a great local bookshop? Turn to your right!!!

That’s why it makes me sad to think little literary gems such as Forum books are a dying breed. Independent bookstores are what keeps reading and enjoying books so accessible to many. They offer a personal and local service and provide a haven for book fans such as myself. Together with libraries, they are the unsung heroes of the literary world

So thank you Forum

Thank you independent bookstores

Thank you libraries

I for one will continue to support you and really appreciate what you represent

A regional literary haven

A Literary haven in the North East of England
The North East of England – a real literary haven for writers

I had the pleasure of attending a fantastic literary event recently which brought together some amazing literary talent and experts in the literary field. The whole event was hosted by New Writing North – the writing development agency for the north of England.


NWN opened in 1996 and celebrates everything there is to do about literature, reading and writing in the North East.  I have written about their Read Regional Campaign on this blog before and I will do so again since I am so proud of my literary heritage. We have some fantastic talent in the North East and I am proud to be, an observer for now, and hopefully a writer amongst them in the not too distant future.


The list of speakers was impressive – all were very funny and provided some interesting anecdotes.


One such anecdote was from a literary agent who described the role of an agent as a ‘fun sponge’.  It was from her in particular that I learnt what an agent does, what they are looking for and what the literary process looks like from their side of the street. Their descriptions of their some time frustration and then pure joy at discovering a story that speaks and resonates with them was insightful on so many levels. Writers take note – this is not just about us, it’s about them too – and the publishers – in fact we are but one part of a train but if all the carriages are lined up, we’re all in for one hell of a literary journey.


I realised that I had never really understood the greater part of the literary process – on Saturday I came away with a new found respect for it and thrilled that I had met some amazing people with interesting stories to tell.


It inspired me one day to want  to tell my own.


Thank you New Writing North and thanks to all the speakers on the day. I hope every region has the opportunity to value and nurture its talent in this way.