Tuesday, 29 June 2010

Trafford Libraries are hosting great History Book events

Access Trafford libraries’ first ‘Pages Ago’ event in Wordfest 2010 took place on June 24th at Urmston Library. It was a talk by Andrew Davies, about his book The Gangs of Manchester. Sixty people attended and the feedback has been excellent; lots of people have said how much they appreciate this kind of event in libraries, and how much they would like to see more.

The talk itself was absolutely fascinating, and became not only about the book, but also about things that have happened since the book was published, such as the author being approached by people descended from the same families as some of the people described, and a play called Angels with Manky Faces which will be held on 15th July:

Still to come in Wordfest are talks from Anne O'Brien, author of Virgin Widow- England's Forgotten Queen ( about Anne Neville who married Richard III) and Kate Williams, author of Becoming Queen, about the young Queen Victoria.

Thanks to Liz McKay of Trafford Libraries for supplying this information. Liz can be contacted on Liz.McKay@trafford.gov.uk

Monday, 21 June 2010

Wolf Hall wins Walter Scott prize

Hilary Mantels' novel Wolf Hall has been named as the winner of the inaugural Walter Scott prize for historical fiction sponsored by the Duke and Duchess of Buccleuch – distant descendants of Scott. As the organisers of Pages Ago, our own promotion of historical reading of all sorts, we have had a particular interest in following the development of this prize.

Our very supportive partner from Manchester University, Jerome de Groot, published a piece in The Scotsman on Saturday to coincide with the prize -winner announcement. His article entitled The new time-travellers says "Historical fiction works by presenting something familiar but simultaneously distant from our lives. Its world must have heft and authenticity – it must feel right – but at the same time, the reader knows that the novel is a representation of something that is lost, that cannot be reconstructed but only guessed at. This dissonance, it seems to me, lies at the heart of historical fiction and makes it one of the most interesting genres around."

While delighted that one of our launch speakers, Sarah Dunant, was also on the shortlist, I can't admit to being surprised that Wolf Hall was the eventual winner. The sheer scale and scope of the novel is impressive and it seems to be written with such authority and concern for historical detail that it seems to be in a class of its own. At the same time it demonstrates the complex humanity of its central characters, which is needed to make all that detail so readable.

Other Bloggers have already been busy commenting on this win, notably Sarah Johnson on the excellent Blog Reading the Past

It must be clear by now that Hilary Mantel has performed a tremendous service to the "genre" historical novel. Particularly by winning the ManBooker 2009 prize, Wolf Hall must have been read and discussed by everyone who considers that they must keep up with their reading of literary fiction, as well as by 1000s of other "ordinary" readers. Certainly it makes our promotion of a wider range of historical reading of all sorts, seem very timely.

Thursday, 17 June 2010

Pages Ago Plans for Wigan

It’s gone kind of quiet in here...
Like a lot of us, I can’t blog at work. (I can view the blog, but not post, reblog, comment, or interact in any way). This is from home...
But we still have a great promotion with tons of potential to engage with new readers, cross boundaries, and generally increase happiness. Let’s enjoy it!
We (Wigan) have some things in development...
I am starting a History Reading Group in, and in partnership with, our new Museum of Wigan Life (The fully refurbished, very nice, former History Shop).
I’m also starting a Shakespeare Reading Group in Leigh.
And we are hosting a Victorian Murder Mystery Evening during the Ashton Festival in September, with more stuff to come.
A book recommendation: I’ve just finished Michael Chabon’s excellent “Amazing adventures of Kavalier & Clay”. It’s set between 1939 and the 1950’s, and is about two Jewish cousins in New York . Their perspective on events in Europe and their attempts to help their families left behind, and to urge an end to America’s neutrality before Pearl Harbor contrast with the utter pointlessness of their war service.
The novel is also a love song to the golden age of Comics, a wry and well-observed look at the complexities of family life, and a tender and understanding account of emerging homosexuality.
Like all MC’s work, “Kavalier and Clay” is remarkably well-written in rich and exhilarating prose that the reader can roll about in.. It won the Pulitzer Prize, and deserved to. Pure pleasure!
Stephen L

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Writing Falco

Every chair in Chester Library was squeezed into the reference area upstairs to seat an audience of over 50 keen readers, eager to hear and talk to Lindsey Davis.

This was a launch event in a series of activities planned by Cheshire West and Chester Libraries for Pages Ago and it felt very right to be listening to a writer of Roman period novels, in the North West's most Roman city

Another happy coincidence (bearing in mind Pages Ago's purpose to promote Fic and Non-Fic equally) was that Lindsey was launching, not one, but 2 books; no 20 in The Falco series Nemesis and a non-fiction volume Falco The Official Companion

Lindsey gave a well-practised talk about her writing career which entertained and informed readers and writers alike. What came through most strongly was her apparent enjoyment of her writing life; she doesn't plan too meticulously but allows the stories and characters to take their own course. She enjoys visits to the places she writes about, regularly and makes sure she builds in variety to what she writes.

Although describing the Falco series as "the Roman Archers" and playing down any notion of hard work, she clearly does take the responsibility of being a historical novelist seriously and believes that she should get the details right. If she doesn't, she gets plenty of feedback from her readers, which might inspire a new storyline in the next book. Story always comes first, followed by careful research.

Unusually, in my experience, she seemed to listen to her readers more than many a writer, writing the Falco Companion to answer questions that crop up from them. Because of readers, she claimed, characters have become much more important than plot and readers who want to follow the fortunes of Falco's large extended family, need to read the series in chronological order

It felt as if the questions could have gone on for a long time but after an hour the formal proceedings were brought to a close, so that readers could talk to Lindsey individually and of course buy books. I don't know what time the library managed to finally close its doors, as yours truly had to leave for a train. I guess it was quite a late evening.

Many thanks to Cheshire West and Chester Libraries for arranging such an appropriate and enjoyable event.

Friday, 4 June 2010

Lindsey Davis visit to Chester

Best selling author of Roman historical crime novels will be speaking in Chester Library on Monday evening (7th June). Unusually Lindsey is launching not one but two books. Nemesis is the 20th title in her series featuring Marcus Didius Falco, perhaps the most well-known Roman investigator in fiction. She is also launching Falco; the Official Companion, perfect for fans and Falco-first-timers alike, giving all the background to Lindsey Davis the writer as well as her characters.

This talk by Lindsey launches Cheshire West and Chester's programme of Pages Ago events. Do come along if you can, but in case you miss it, I will report back here next week.