People collection

‘Remember that it isn’t always the sensational stuff that writers are looking for, it can just as easily be something that you take for granted like having raised twins or knowing how to grow beetroot. Mind you, if you know how to fly a helicopter or have worked as a film extra, do feel free to let the rest of us know about it.’

The above is a rather spooky practice, "people collecting", in which you are charged to provide five little-known facts about yourself on your blog, so that writers can have some research material. I don’t really get it — what are they going to do with the material and who are they anyway?, but I was tagged by Vampiress and Deep Thinker Marie and Clare of Keeper of the Snails via Sharon J, so who am I to object?

So, five little-known facts about me?

1. I have very big feet.

2. I read Lord of the Flies when I was 9 years old and couldn’t sleep for weeks afterwards.

3. I loved the movie "Charlie Bubbles" so much when I saw it as a teenager that I went back the next Saturday and sat in the cinema all day, seeing the movie three times (and the awful B picture twice).

4. My love of detective fiction originated with my childhood discovery of Sherlock Holmes– "The Dancing Men" was my favourite story and not only stimulated my interest in the genre but also in codes and puzzles.

5. I love Darjeeling tea – weak with skimmed milk — and most definitely not made with tea bags.

I am supposed to tag three people, who by the rules of memes will probably either not do it or have done it already, but here I go:

Rebecca (Bec Views); Amy (Amy on the Web) ; and Bonnie (Bonnie Writes).

Savage Garden

Denise Hamilton is the female author who most nearly made it onto David Montgomery’s "top ten" detective novels list with her latest, Savage Garden. I have enjoyed her previous books since reading her first, The Jasmine Trade, upon its initial UK publication as part of an Orion "new authors" promotion. Eve Diamond, an investigative journalist with the LA Times, struggles to make and keep a career in a city hypersensitive to ethnic and ethical tensions, and is as determined as hell to get to the bottom of things. The plot and outcome of The Jasmine Trade was original and moving– all in all a great debut.

Although I have certainly enjoyed the subsequent Eve Diamond novels, which have built further on these themes, none of them has surpassed the first, and I am wondering if they are beginning to tail off a bit into formula. Savage Garden is once again set against the background of Eve’s relationship with Latino boyfriend Silvio,a subplot that has got stuck, and hence irritating. Silvio is a cipher as in previous books: I think this is to keep the reader on edge wondering if he’s going to turn out to be involved in the crime, but in fact it just makes him a non-character.

In Savage Garden, Eve is now more established at the paper; she is lumbered with an intern, hired on an "equal opportunities" programme. Eve’s hypocritical superiors are pleased to have found an apparently ideal candidate but want Eve to keep a close eye on her to protect them from the possibility of a "Jayson Blair"-style plagiarism scandal. As ever, the author handles the politics of the newspaper, and more generally of Eve’s struggle to stay on, let alone climb, the greasy pole, excellently.

However, the plot isn’t that great, depending too much on people not telling Eve things until the second or third time she asks them. Silvio’s silence/ambivalence is particularly unbelievable.  The denouement relies on the old WIP (woman in peril) device about three times over, and when it is all sorted, stretches it a bit.

But I don’t mean to sound grudging. Savage Garden is a perfectly competent, above-average, crime-fiction novel. I would not recommend reading it if you haven’t read the earlier books in the series — read The Jasmine Trade first. But if you have read and liked the earlier books, you’ll probably like this one too. I hope that Denise Hamilton gets out of the Eve/Silvio rut for the next, though.

Cloud Blue and book reviews

Jenny and I have been playing around with Vox, the new free, social blog platform from Typepad. ( I think anyone can sign up, but let me know in the comments if you want an invitation, as I have several).

Vox is a blog platform that uses tags and has elements of Flickr (photo sharing), MySpace (network creation). There are a lot of templates to choose from, but as with Typepad you can’t change the background colour and so on (as you now can with Google’s Blogger Beta). Posting on Vox is quite neat as you can directly link into Amazon and other sites.

I’m using my Vox blog to archive all the book reviews that I’ve written on Petrona (except the ones where I’ve panned the book — I have now stopped writing reviews of books that aren’t good). The blog is very unimaginatively called Maxine’s Book Reviews. Please feel free to take a look.

Jenny’s blog is called Cloud Blue.  Her first post (written in light blue type, which does not show up on Petrona):

"Hello and welcome to Cloud Blue. I recently went into an art shop where they were selling coloured pencils. I happened to see one called Cloud Blue, and was very interested by the colour. It was A very light blue, with a hint of grey, indigo and silver all into one pencil. I really liked the name Cloud Blue, which is why you see this blog infront of you. Who knows what will become of it? Whatever it is, keep reading…"

Her second post is a poem (again light blue type):

Every time you’re there,

Day and Night, you will never fail me.

Drifting past,

Always what you want you to be.

If I were you,

I could laze about in the air,

Swirl around into any shape,

Be anything I dare.

You’re not just white,

Not that it would matter to you,

But you’re not just white,

You’re a beautiful shade of Cloud Blue.

Her third (and at time of writing current) post is a picture: "Here is the picture of the pencil that started this blog." (Go to link to see aforementioned pencil.)