MORE to BROWSE - Pages that might be of Interest

6 April 2021

SO WHAT HAVE LIBRARIES DONE FOR ME?

This is the real South Chingford Library!

I know, that heading conjures a mental image of Monty Python and that scene in  Life Of Brian: “What have the Romans ever done for us?” 

The aqueduct, sanitation, roads, education... Hmm, can I add libraries? The Romans provided scrolls, kept in dry rooms, for patrons of the public baths to read. The baths were not just a place to go to get clean, they were the equivalent of a leisure centre, a place for exercise and relaxation. Which included the pleasure of reading.

I am sixty-eight this year (2021) but one of my earliest memories is of leaving the library with a book clutched tightly in my hands, thrilled, because it was one I hadn’t read. I say ‘read’ – that, I’m not sure of. I was not yet four years old. Was I reading by then? I don’t remember, on the other hand, I don’t remember not reading. (For those interested, it was a Little Grey Rabbit book by Alison Uttley).

I was a shy, quiet child, with very little self-confidence, heightened because I was extremely short-sighted. I could see, clearly, what was going on in a book. Books didn’t shout at you when you couldn’t see the board at school, or didn’t mind that you couldn’t see well enough to thread a needle in sewing class. Books were friends, not enemies. Books rarely let you down.

I was a regular visitor to South Chingford Library, east London – it helped that my junior school was almost opposite and I had to pass the library to go home. I wonder, was it that compulsion which made my little legs turn into the library to browse the books, the forerunner of not being able to pass a bookshop now, without at least peering into the window?

At the age of nine I discovered the second love of my life. Pony stories.

I received a book for my ninth birthday. I’m ashamed to admit that my first reaction was one of disappointment. A book. It would probably be Noddy, or a school story (I disliked both). I unwrapped it. There, on the cover, was a girl riding a black pony. Jill’s Gymkhana by Ruby Ferguson. I recall nothing else of that party, only the book. I hadn’t realised, until that moment, that there was such a thing as The Pony Story. I desperately wanted a pony, but we were not in the financial position for ponies, although I did ride at the local stables once a fortnight. 


Thank goodness for the library. I devoured everything pony-related that they had. The Pullein-Thompson sisters, Monica Edwards, Pat Smythe, Joanna Cannon, Elizabeth Beresford... And then there was the non-fiction section. How to groom a pony, feed a pony, keep a pony... But there was more than books and reading, more that I discovered because of libraries. I started to write. From the age of about eleven, I scribbled (not very good, I suspect) stories about, well, yes, ponies. 

Come school leaving age at sixteen in 1969, I was steered towards working in the library – that same, South Chingford Library in fact. It was heaven, especially when I realised that, as a member of staff, I could take out more than four books at a time!

I was still writing, scribbling away – although I had moved on to fantasy and science fiction. Then I came across King Arthur. Mary Stewart’s The Hollow Hills and The Crystal Cave. Fabulous stories, but what triggered my interest, and imagination, was her author’s note where she explained that if Arthur had existed (a very doubtful if) it would have been during that period between the Romans (them again!) and the coming of the Anglo Saxons. I was intrigued. I had never much liked the traditional Arthurian tales, the Medieval knights in armour ... but a Dark Age warlord? Now that I did like! I pounced on the non-fiction section of the library, re-discovered the beautiful poetic narrative of the brilliant Rosemary Sutcliff, studied Roman Britain, and came across too many novels that just didn’t fill what I was looking for: a realistic man, with faults as well as strengths. No post-Norman nonsense, but a man who fought hard to win his kingdom, and fought even harder to keep it. And as for Guinevere... sorry, I just didn’t see her as a fragile wimp drooling over a Lancelot figure. So there was nothing for it. I decided to write my own novel, where there would be no Merlin, no Lancelot, and Gwenhwyfar would know how to wield a sword. (And there would be horses. I still loved horses – had one of my own by then!)

I wrote whenever I could, and penned quite a few chapters in the library office when I was there on my own, supposedly writing out overdue cards... 

As for my latest release,  A Mirror Murder, a ‘cosy mystery’ which I based on my years of working in the library, I plan to alternate between one story set in and around the library, and one in a different location, so book two (A Mystery of Murder) will be set in Devon over Christmas 1971, book three (no title yet!) will be back in the library – again based on my years there. In this one, Jan Christopher has been asked to take over one of the Book Delivery Service rounds, selecting and taking books out to the housebound. Of course, one day she finds... well, you’ll have to wait until I’ve written it.

I wrote A Mirror Murder because I finally realised that the years I had spent as a library assistant ought to be put to good use. All those anecdotes, all those hilarious moments, all those members of the public and the quirky events that happened  –  from the main door that was so heavy it bruised your heels, to the slice of raw bacon used as a bookmark...

It took me well over ten years to write a final version of what eventually became my Arthurian Pendragon’s Banner trilogy, originally published in 1994 by William Heinemann. The books are still in print, although via different publishers now. Oh and that book that I received for my ninth birthday? 

I’ve still got it. 

So what did my library do for me?

It gave me a love of books, of reading. Library books nurtured my imagination, expanded my existence. My library took me to places in other countries and other worlds. The books kept me company when I was lonely, cheered me when I was sad. The characters within were my friends.

What have libraries done for you, I wonder?

 A MIRROR MURDER

“I settled down with A Mirror Murder and pretty much read it in one sitting, thoroughly enjoyed it.”

The first in a new series of cosy mysteries set in the 1970s... Will romance blossom between library assistant Jan Christopher and DC Laurie Walker – or will a brutal murder intervene?

Eighteen-year-old library assistant Jan Christopher’s life is to change on a rainy Friday evening in July 1971, when her legal guardian and uncle, DCI Toby Christopher, gives her a lift home after work. Driving the car, is her uncle’s new Detective Constable, Laurie Walker – and it is love at first sight for the young couple. 

But romance is soon to take a back seat when a baby boy is taken from his pram,  a naked man is scaring young ladies in nearby Epping Forest, and an elderly lady is found, brutally murdered... Are the events related? How will they affect the staff and public of the local library where Jan works – and will a blossoming romance survive a police investigation into  murder?

Buy from Amazon - e-book or paperback: 

https://getbook.at/MirrorMurder

Newsletter Subscription: http://tinyletter.com/HelenHollick 


Article originally written for  https://aaabbott.co.uk/blog/


1 February 2021

When Authors Turn To Crime... & another tour with Richard Tearle...

My posts will re-start on 6th April
Guest Posts on 4th May

but for now....

TOUR One...

TOUR TWO (scroll down) 

By pure c-incidence, at more-or-less the same time Alison Morton and I both decided to have a go at a different genre. Alison to write a thriller that was more contemporary than her Roma Nova alternative history series, and I thought I’d write something lighter than my historicals and Sea Witch Voyages, so I decided to have a go at a ‘murder mystery’  quick read novella. (If you can call murder ‘lighter’!)

I had also, for some time, wanted to write something where I could use my more than a decade of experience working as a library assistant. The two ideas gelled together and materialised as a ‘cosy mystery’ (more Midsomer Murders rather than Morse).

Here’s the result:

Eighteen-year-old library assistant Jan Christopher’s life is to change on a rainy Friday evening in July 1971, when her legal guardian and uncle, DCI Toby Christopher, gives her a lift home after work. Driving the car, is her uncle’s new Detective Constable, Laurie Walker – and it is love at first sight for the young couple.

But romance is soon to take a back seat when a baby boy is taken from his pram,  a naked man is scaring young ladies in nearby Epping Forest, and an elderly lady is found, brutally murdered...

Are the events related? How will they affect the staff and public of the local library where Jan works – and will a blossoming romance survive a police investigation into  murder?

A couple of lovely reviews also give a good idea of what the story is about:

Book of the Month


A delightful read about an unexpected murder in North East London. Told from the viewpoint of a young library assistant, the author draws on her own experience to weave an intriguing tale” Richard Ashen (South Chingford Community Library)

Lots of nostalgic, well-researched, detail about life in the 1970s, which readers of a certain age will lap up; plus some wonderful, and occasionally hilarious, ‘behind the counter’ scenes of working in a public library, which any previous or present-day library assistant will recognise!” Reader Review

ALISON MORTON’s  DOUBLE IDENTITY

When it comes to writing contemporary thrillers, Alison knows what she’s doing regarding characters, plot, research and sheer page-turning engrossing readability!

Deeply in love, a chic Parisian lifestyle before her. Now she’s facing prison for murder.

It’s three days since Mel des Pittones threw in her job as an intelligence analyst with the French special forces to marry financial trader Gérard Rohlbert. But her dream turns to nightmare when she wakes to find him dead in bed beside her.

Her horror deepens when she’s accused of his murder. Met Police detective Jeff McCracken wants to pin Gérard’s death on her. Mel must track down the real killer, even if that means being forced to work with the obnoxious McCracken.

But as she unpicks her fiancé’s past, she discovers his shocking secret life. To get to the truth, she has to go undercover and finds almost everybody around her is hiding a second self. Mel can trust nobody. Can she uncover the real killer before they stop her?

We’d love you to join us on our joint tour!

Alison and I are embarking on a joint tour during February, where we explain a lot more about our new books – and why and how we turned to crime!

FEBRUARY

2nd   Tony Riches with Alison 

3rd    Tony Riches with Helen   

4th    Clare Flynn with both of us  

5th    Derek Birks with both of us

6th    Graham Brack with Helen

7th     Elizabeth St John with both of us 

8th     Lucienne Boyce with both of us Should authors change names as well as genres?

9th     Anna Belfrage with Alison 

10th   Pam Lecky with both of us read an excerpt from each book

11th    Jacquie Brown with a review of Alison Morton's Double Identity    

and... Kathryn Gauci will feature both of us  in her newsletter (Sign up for it here: https://www.kathryngauci.com/about-the-author/ )

12th   Jo Barton with both of us A look at why we chose our locations and characters

13th   AA  Abbott reviewing Double Identity https://aaabbott.co.uk/blog/

14th   Cryssa Bazos with both of us

15th   Chris Longmuir with both of us 

16th   Anna Belfrage with Helen

17th   AA  Abbott with Helen  https://aaabbott.co.uk/blog/

18th  Jacquie Brown with Alison Morton http://www.frenchvillagediaries.com

DOUBLE IDENTITY

"A stunning new thriller from the author of the award-winning Roma Nova series, fans of Daniel Silva, Stella Rimington and Chris Pavone will love Double Identity."

Kindle:  https://mybook.to/DoubleIdentity 

For all ebook and paperback retailers: https://bit.ly/3s0XUlV

A MIRROR MURDER

Will romance blossom between library assistant Jan Christopher and DC Laurie Walker – or will a brutal murder intervene?

Amazon: getbook.at/MirrorMurder 


TOUR TWO!!!!

My thanks to Mary Anne Yarde ad an anonymous good friend of Richard Tearle's for organising this tour...

Join The Coffee Pot Book Club on tour with…

THE NORTH FINCHLEY WRITERS’ GROUP 

By Richard Tearle, with Helen Hollick

February 15th – February 19th 2021

When a group of north London writers meet each month for a chat, coffee, and cake – what else is on their agenda? Constructive criticism? New Ideas? An exciting project? And maybe, more than one prospective romance...? 

Eavesdrop on the monthly meetings of the North Finchley Writers' Group, follow some ordinary people with a love of story writing, and an eagerness for success. Discover, along with them, the mysteries of creating characters and plot, of what inspires ideas, and how real life can, occasionally, divert the dream...

Buy from Amazon

reviews welcome

Tour Schedule

February 15th

Oh look, another book!

Books, Lattes and Tiaras

B for Book Reviews

February 16th

LoupDargent.info

Let your Words Shine…

Gwendalyn's Books

February 17th

I got lost in a book

Candlelight Reading

Mary’s Bookcase

February 18th

The Book Bandit’s Library

Zoe’s Art, Craft and Life

The Books Delight

February 19th

Anna Belfrage – Stolen Moments

Judith Arnopp Official Blog

Thank you for joining the tour!

1 January 2021

And so - into 2021...

I am taking a short break from my blog

as I have rather a full workload

(including getting two novels written!) 

why not subscribe to my newsletter to receive information

about what I'll be up to?

(or keep an eye on my website)

meanwhile...

may 2021 be an improvement on 2020!