< Back to results

Books Editorial

history-of-britain-vol2.jpg December 12 Book Reviews

Tudors: A History of England Volume 2

Peter Ackroyd, Macmillan, £20

When Queen “Bloody” Mary was ruling England back in the 16th century, and Protestants were being burned at the stake because they didn’t take too kindly to the return of Catholicism, their well-wishers used to tie little bags of gunpowder around their necks so their heads would explode leading to a quicker death. Occasionally however, they didn’t stick enough gunpowder in and the subsequent explosions would only make the suffering even worse. This is one of the many grisly details that Ackroyd recounts in the second of his compelling books on the history of England. This volume takes us from the ascension of Henry VIII to the throne and then on to the rule of his three offspring: Edward VI, Queen Mary and Queen Elizabeth. It’s one of the most turbulent periods in English history and the author is particularly good on detailing the machinations that went on during the Reformation, but this is such a juicy tale that it presents something of an open goal for historians. Needless to say, a writer of Ackroyd’s calibre doesn’t miss. RM

Beautiful Scruffiness #5
Edited and published by Katie Metcalfe

“Katie Metcalfe, the writer oozes talent”. Not my thoughts, but the view of Carol Fenwick when reviewing issue 4 of this Teesside based literary magazine - in issue 5 of the very same magazine. But that’s a bit rum isn’t it? Shoving a glowing review of your own magazine at the front of your own magazine? That said: this IS a great read with plenty to commend it. I particularly enjoyed Julie Egdell’s poem “Lucky Dip” (which contrasted drug related phraseology “Doves” “Rainbows” and “Stars” etc with the grim reality of caning it) and Angela Topping’s superb “The Boiling Of The Jam” which likens jam making to a way of preserving the summer months for the winter to come (“I’m capturing balmy days / against the chill to come / pouring dark stickiness / into warmed jars”). There are some entertaining short stories too (and a very affecting one in the case of Nikki Woo’s “Child Abuse”), a bit of reportage, some reviews, and the whole thing is beautifully illustrated throughout. Seek it out: beautiful-scruffiness.webs.com DP

That’ll Be The Day: 1950s Newcastle

Edited by Anna Flowers & Vanessa Histon, Tyne Bridge Publishing, £13

Following on from Tyne Bridge Publishing’s very well received (and very excellent) books on Tyneside life in the 60s and 70s, they’ve set their Toon Time Travel dials back to the 1950s for a look at the decade of rock and roll (and jazz), tin baths (and outdoor netties) and Newcastle United actually winning some trophies. And like previous publications, the book takes the form of a myriad of recollections from people who actually lived through the period in sections dealing with everything from schooldays and fashion, to shopping and music. I particularly enjoyed the section on “Out on the town” and information about “The May-Kway” one of the first Chinese restaurants in the north-east (“I was very impressed with the food but too timid to try anything but fried rice for the first year or two”). As ever, it’s the pictures that really enthral and I’ve totally fell in love with all three art students, sitting down by the Tyne, on the front cover. If any of them fancy a night out at The May-Kway, I’m willing to foot the bill… RM

Mark X: The Killing of Angus Sibbet The One Armed Bandit Murder

Steven Lytton, £6.98

In 1967 the body of Angus Sibbet was found in the back of a Mark X Jaguar in South Hetton. He had been shot. The following day two men – Dennis Stafford and Michael Luvaglio – were charged with his murder and after the subsequent trial both were found guilty. It was one of the most notorious crimes to have been perpetrated in the region, and would go on to loosely influence the classic film “Get Carter”. The two men convicted of the killing however (now released) have always maintained their innocence and Lytton, who has obviously went into the facts of this case in a lot of detail, presents a good shout for there being a gross miscarriage of justice. It’s a pretty slim volume but the author manages to set out the case for and against the men in clear detail using original transcripts from the trial, witness statements and evidence that would only come to the fore after the pair were convicted. It’s a world of dodgy fruit machine operators, nightclubs and shady characters (including The Krays) but Lytton never loses focus on the stuff that really matters: the facts. RM

Grandville: Bete Noir

Bryan Talbot. Jonathan Cape, hardback £16.99

This is the third in artist/author Bryan Talbot’s series of visually enthralling alternative-reality/steampunk graphic novels starring that consummate action hero Detective-Inspector Lebrock of Scotland Yard (a badger.) In this universe, which remains essentially late-Victorian with technological advances, France (capital city Grandville) won the Napoleonic Wars but is now on the verge of socialist revolution, to the disgust of capitalist fat-cat Krapaud (a toad. His cronies include a newt, Greater Crested and of course inclined to drink). Yes, following the model of (real) 19th century French graphic artist J.J. Grandville, Talbot populates his world with talking animals (humans, or doughfaces, being an oppressed underclass). He also packs it with fun-to-find references, with major themes from Wind in the Willows, James Bond and (really) the history of modern art, plus visual one-liners that can slip in Ford Madox Brown, Marcel Duchamp and Paddington Bear. Fabulous art work, high production values and some really attractive badgers. G-NA