Monday, 16 May 2022

Summer at the French Café, by Sue Moorcroft

Regular blog readers will know I've been friends with Sue Moorcroft since we first met at the Kettering Writers Group in 1999 (we genre writers were consigned to the back of the room, where we had a great laugh).  Since then she's gone from strength to strength, hitting number one in the Kindle Bestseller charts (with The Christmas Promise) on her way to becoming a Sunday Times Best Seller, while her novel A Summer To Remember won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award 2020.  As well as featuring her a lot on blog (to see more, click this link), I'm also pleased to be one of her beta-readers and thoroughly enjoyed her latest novel, Summer At The French Cafe, which has just been published in paperback and e-book.

Sparkling sun, strolls in the gorgeous French countryside, that first sip of cool, crisp wine – Summer is Kat’s favourite season. And this year should be no exception…

As soon as Kat Jenson set foot in the idyllic French village of Kirchhoffen, she knew she’d found her home.

Now she has a dreamy boyfriend, a delightful dog and the perfect job managing a bustling book café in the vibrant Parc Lemmel.

But when she learns her boyfriend isn’t all he seems, it’s the start of a difficult summer for Kat. Vindictive troublemakers, work woes and family heartache follow, and the clear blue sky that was her life suddenly seems full of clouds.

Then she gets to know the mysterious Noah, and her sun begins to shine brighter than ever. But Noah has problems of his own – ones that could scupper their new-found happiness. Together, can they overcome their many obstacles, and find love again?

The perfect summer read for fans of Trisha Ashley, Sarah Morgan and Carole Matthews.

Katerina ‘Kat’ Jenson manages the the bookshop Livres et Café at Parc Lemmel, on the edge of Muntsheim, in the Alsace region of France.  When it turns out her boyfriend is not only a family man but his wife is a computer whizz who’s perfectly happy to cause havoc, Kat swears off men.  But then she meets Noah - who comes with his own baggage - and finds herself falling for him.

Another winner from the ever consistent Sue Moorcroft, this is a quick and heartening read filled with the usual mixture of romance, raunch, good humour and grit that she does so well.  Sue is very good at creating instantly believable characters and Kat is exceptionally well realised (she reminded me a little of Cleo from the excellent All That Mullarkey. Kat's character never has a false step and she's equally matched by Noah, who's new to the area as he tracks down his mildly autistic daughter Clemence.  It turns out, his ex-wife Florine is being controlled by her new husband Yohan, who wants a new family in his own image and the little girl is caught up in the middle.  

With Kat’s family and the bookshop owners causing their own issues, the summer is a mixture of incidents and excitement and very soon, you’ll be rooting for this well developed couple to prosper.  

Told with a keen eye for detail, a wonderful grasp of location and a pace that is absolutely pitch-perfect, this is a fantastic read that I heartily recommend.

Sue Moorcroft is an international bestselling author and has reached the #1 spot on Kindle UK. She’s won the Goldsboro Books Contemporary Romantic Novel Award, Readers’ Best Romantic Novel award and the Katie Fforde Bursary. Published by HarperCollins in the UK, US and Canada and by other publishers around the world.

Her short stories, serials, columns, writing ‘how to’ and courses have appeared around the world.

Born into an army family in Germany, Sue spent much of her childhood in Cyprus and Malta but settled in Northamptonshire at the age of ten. An avid reader, she also loves Formula 1, travel, family and friends, dance exercise and yoga.

Monday, 2 May 2022

Old School Horror 9: Tendrils, by Simon Ian Childer

The ninth, in an occasional thread, of blog posts celebrating those cheesy, sleazy old-school pulp paperbacks from the 70s and 80s, which are now mostly forgotten.  Yes, we’re not talking great art here but these books have their place - for better or worse - in the genre and I think they deserve to be remembered.

This time around, I'm looking at a novel that relishes being 'sick'...
cover scan of my copy - published in 1986 by Grafton Books


It started when a Hertfordshire drilling team struck something funny underground - a space where there should not have been a space.  'Hairs' where there should have been rock.

Then, suddenly, people were dying - eaten away by mysterious acid which gushed out of the ground.

But that wasn't the end of it.  Soon dozens of people were being killed.  Their insides were being dissolved, digested and sucked out until only the skin remained.

From across the boundless wastes of space - millions of years ago, the primitive black TENDRILS had made their way to Earth.  Now they were awake and looking for food - looking for meat to digest.  For the human race, it was to be a close encounter of a truly horrifying kind...

When a drilling company accidentally strikes an alien creature buried deep within the earth it responds by spewing acidic gunk that kills drillers and site protestors alike.  Nobody knows what the thing is and when it moves away, ever closer to London, it leaves a trail of destruction in its wake, reducing people and animals to brittle husks.  The only person who understands the gravity of the situation is a professor who lost his wife to the creature and, teaming up with a young reporter, he tries to stop more death.

Written by John Brosnan and Leroy Kettle (the SIC pseudonym is an in-joke, Brosnan also wrote as Harry Adam Knight - HAK), this slice of Brit horror from 1986 is an almost perfect example of paperback horror from that era.  Told with wit and pace, this has a lot of echoes with 50s horror pulp (you can almost imagine Hammer having a field day with it), with plenty of sex and gore thrown in. 

Using London and the Home Counties as key locations really grounds it and the little vignettes of the victims amp up the suspense and terror but, really, it’s the mayhem that makes this.  Gory, gruesome, funny and occasionally unpleasant (Robin the reporter has something very nasty happen), this races to a thunderous climax and then tops it off with a wonderfully downbeat ending.  

If you like 80s paperback horror, as I do, you’ll likely love it.  If you don’t then, well, I feel sorry for you.

* * *
John Raymond Brosnan was born in Perth, Western Australia on 7th October 1947.  He moved to Sydney in the late 60s and became active in local SF fandom, then traveled with fellow fans to London in 1970, where he settled.  Remaining active in fandom, he began writing non-fiction on SF, fantasy and horror films, most notably in Science Fiction Monthly and Starburst (where I first became aware of him - I wrote about the magazine here and here).  He was also a novelist and wrote science fiction and fantasy under his own name, before branching out into horror (and comics, with 2000AD), utilising several pseudonyms on the way.

* As Harry Adam Knight he wrote Carnosaur (1984) on his own and Slimer (1983), The Fungus (1985), Death Spore (1990) and Bedlam (1992) in collaboration with Leroy Kettle.
* As James Blackstone (in collaboration with John Baxter), he wrote Torched (1986).
* As Simon Ian Childer, he wrote Tendrils (1986) and Worm (1987, with Leroy Kettle).  Worm was published in the US as by Harry Adam Knight.

I haven’t read his sci-fi work, but his horror books fit the times perfectly and their streak of dark humour is reflected in the pseudonyms he chose, with Childer (SIC) and Knight (HAK) reflecting the material.  The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction described Brosnan’s horror work as the “written equivalents of exploitation movies…slightly self-mocking but quite exciting as SF horror.”  In his wonderful piece Torching John BrosnanDavid Langford mentions amusingly that Harry Adam Knight “was praised as "The New Stephen King" in a Starburst movie column whose authorship I shall not reveal)”.

Also a respected film writer and critic, Brosnan wrote James Bond in the Cinema (1972), Movie Magic: The Story of Special Effects in the Cinema (1974), The Horror People (1976), Future Tense: The Cinema of Science Fiction (1978, with a foreword by Harry Harrison), James Bond: For Your 007 Eyes Only (1981, with Tony Crawley - himself a Starburst writer too), The Dirty Movie Book (1988, with Leroy Kettle), The Primal Screen: A History of Science Fiction Film (1991), Hollywood Babble On (1998), Lights, Camera, Magic! (1998), Scream: The Unofficial Guide To The Scream Trilogy (2000) and The Hannibal Lecter Story (2001)

He also wrote most of the film entries for The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (1979), edited by Peter Nicholls and John Clute.

Some of his books were filmed, the first being Carnosaur in 1993, from Roger Corman’s Concord Pictures.  Beyond Bedlam (also known as Nightscare) was made in 1994 by Vadim Jean and based on Bedlam (notable only, apparently, for being Liz Hurley’s first starring role).  Proteus (1995) was based on Slimer and directed by make-up effects genius Bob Keen but its disappointing box office meant a sequel - which Brosnan wrote the screenplay for - was never produced.

Sadly, Brosnan battled both depression and alcohol abuse for many years.  He died of acute pancreatitis and his death was reported on 11th April 2005 (after friends became alarmed at his absence over Easter), though it might have been several days earlier.

For a few years now, I've been collecting old 70s and 80s paperbacks (mostly horror), picking them up cheaply in secondhand bookshops and at car boot sales and slowly building a collection.  My friend (and fellow collector) Johnny Mains once told me that charity shops sometimes pulp old books like this because the market for them is so small - I understand why but I think it's terrible.  We might not be talking great art here but on the whole, I think these books deserve to be remembered.

To that end, on an irregular basis (too much cheese isn't good for anyone's diet), I'm going to review these "old-school" horrors (and perhaps include some bonus material, if I can find it).