Monday, 27 October 2014

Books and stuff

The End hasn’t ever reviewed books before. I don’t know why but you know what? We’re gonna start.
Now I’ve entered my 50’s, I’ve found that I love my books just as much as I love my music.
It’s about time we got over trying to be too cool to review books as there are some absolutely amazing books out there that can affect you every bit as much as that life changing album you cherish and there are some fucking great new writers out there so it will do no harm to recommend a few in your direction.
If you’re not interested then that’s fine too, just don’t read any posts we put up about books. We will mark them clearly so you can ignore them if it bugs you to read about reading.
The truth is I read loads of books, far more than I now buy cd’s or go to gigs and I’m certainly more qualified to comment on books than I am footy since I was priced out of attending over a decade ago. (that’s the general consensus isn’t it?, if you no longer go to the game, you lose your entitlement to comment about your team, or you get publicly vilified).  So there yer go..That leaves me with books, the odd gig review, the random CD review and some ins & outs and 80’s memories to keep this End fanzine ticking along.
Dozens of my friends and hundreds of thousands of people will share my love of reading in this country but I think that maybe some people get the wrong impression about books. It’s amazing how many people think they are boring but will watch a shit film full of shit actors (and musicians?) based on an amazing book. Some people think all books are flowery works of literature that fill the pages with ridiculous descriptions of clouds, puddles, reflections on lakes in dark woods etc. and to be honest there are tons of  books that do pad out a good story with page filling bollocks that is only there to allow that writer to hit the word count and massage their ego's. (I recently stopped reading a book by Raymond Chandler book cos the opening chapter was exactly what I describe here..It did my fucking head in to be honest).
However there are some writers, Irvine Welsh is an easy one to pick, who (just like The End used to do) often writes in his own vernacular / accent and is as blunt and as funny (funnier) as The End ever was. He is also a lot more skilled at story telling than most of The End writers (though our own Kevin Sampson would give him a run for his money) and can tell an amazing story that can take you to a different place, forget the bullshit you have to put up with in your everyday life and  make you piss yourself laughing or make your jaw drop in utter shock.
That’s what grabbed me.
I had no interest in the classics (Shakespeare, Dickens etc) The first ever book I read (and enjoyed) was “Kes”. Then I never read another book for over a decade and managed to get me head around the mish-mash of old Victorian English mixed with Russian to get through “A Clockwork Orange” (the book is 100 times better than the film!) and slowly but surely I discovered different writers and genres. There’s no point in going through everything I’ve read, it’s around the 500 books figure now. The point is I get just as excited about a brilliant book as I do about a brilliant album. Reading keeps my mind sharp, opens my eyes to other cultures and ways of thinking. There’s no doubt that I am a better person for having read all those books, so indulge me if you will.
There some great writers out there and with the advent of Kindle and Nook etc. books are cheaper and easier to get than ever before and some of my favourite books have even been free on those devices, however there is nothing more satisfying than reading an actual book and seeing it nestling on your bookshelf to remind you of the places that book took you.
In the coming months we will highlight various books and authors that will hopefully appeal to End Readers (even The End became a book!)..It would be too obvious to start with any of the football or music writers from our fair city like Paul Du Noyer, Nicky Allt, Dave Kirby or Dave Hewitson  etc Nor will I start with any of the excellent  Liverpool writers of our generation, kevin Sampson, Ramsey Campbell, Helen Walsh or Norris Green’s own Luca Vesta to name but a few, all of whom have written some amazing books based in and around Liverpool (Ramsey Campbell wrote a horror story that features our very own Cantril farm as one of its backdrops!. But we will come to that another day).

For the moment I'll just ramble on about some of the current crop of exciting indie writers pumping out books that have both enthralled, appalled and amused in equal measure. Writers such as Neil Cocker, Keith Nixon, Allen Miles, Ryan Bracha, Mark Wilson, Paul D brazil, Les Edgerton, Darren Sant, Gerrard Brennan..there’s more..they will come back to me later. (I must add Nina De la Mer as a writer you should check out too but I will talk more about her in another post) These feller’s are clued up young (well, sort of) writers whose works are vibrant and easy to grasp. These are unpretentious writers able to shock and enrage, make you laugh out loud or make you hate and in some downright surreal moments make you wonder what mad fucking worlds have you entered. *One book I read a couple of years ago, England My England, by some mad Goth singer called king Henry was the weirdest most outrageous (and funny) book I’ve read so far…and it was free on kindle (you can’t get it anywhere now, sorry to tease).
Anyway here’s a couple of book small reviews to start the ball rolling;

Amsterdam Rampant.  by Neil Cocker 
After a brilliant introduction where our hero Fin is paying a visit to a sex clinic. The hostess immediately sets about him in painful funny and surprising acts of BDSM.
This results in Fin lashing out in self-defence leaving the sex worker unconscious lying in a pool of blood.
The book then tells the story of Fin and his early life in a Scottish whiskey distillery, falling in and and out of love and in and out of vagina's.
He eventually makes the move away to Amsterdam after his relationship fails and he witnesses an horrific incident involving his Sister Ailsa at a party.
The distillery is taken over by a Dutch company and this presents Fin with the opportunity to escape to the naughty Netherlands.
He settles into Amsterdam life quickly as the marketing guru for the the Cloudburn Distillery (whose marketing is based mainly around Scottish fables of Fairies and myths).
He finds a new "local" bar and some new drinking buddies and after they set him up with a prank, he is introduced to a beautiful self appointed Sex Guru who sets about trying to cure Fins impotency problem by arranging a number of sexual encounters (like the one at the books opening) to try and raise the dead.
Add to this a drink and drug fuelled stag party of old friends (and Fins new brother-in-law-to-be) arriving to be shown the delights of Amsterdam's red light district as well as the pimp of the sex worker that Fin knocks out at the outset of the story, hunting him down as he plays host to his old pals... and much hilarity and violence ensues.
Look, just read it! Its great!..I am finding it really hard to write reviews without giving too much away! I hope i have intrigued you enough to give this a go..Neil Cocker is one of the best British (British for now, hey) contemporary authors around and this book is a great ride. Highly recommended

Kill your Friends, by John Niven   
This is a story about a music industry A&R man, Steven Stelfox in 1990's London. It's incredibly detailed and insightful, I'm not sure if the Author John Niven worked in the industry but he has captured it brilliantly. An industry full of southern, obnoxious, cocaine addled gobshites whose self-deluded ego's allow them to dismiss almost everyone else on the planet as losers.
Our antihero is a racist, sexist, homophobic, capitalist bastard who will stop at nothing to get to where he wants to be (at the top of course.
The cold hearted and disinterested way the main character goes about his slaying and the way he treats "friends" and women reminds me a lot of American Psycho. The only time a bit of real emotion kicks in is when his career starts to take a nose dive and even then its self-pity , over eating and more plans to kill. The pace of the book is relentless and for me that was its only fault. I just became a tad bored with the same rants and attitudes of all the characters (though i do accept that it would be that relentless in real life in that industry in the 90's)
I didn't find it as hilarious as some reviewers did, but it did have its laugh out loud moments. The book lists and references endless well known and obscure real bands and musicians which helps make the story believable, though I had a few doubts about the believability of some of the murders, but so what, its a book of fiction..and (without giving the game away) I was very happy the way the book ended.
Not for the feint hearted or easily offended, but highly recommended by me to everyone else.

Head Boy, By Mark Wilson  
Another great book. My first Mark Wilson book....I love a good violent, sadistic main character and Mr Wilson provides us with an excellent one here in Davie Diller. ..son of a local copper, his life at school doesn't show any clue to the ruthless drug dealing killer who is challenging the local drug lord to be top dog in one suspects a thing until a teacher decides to do a bit of digging round himself..I'm hoping there's more to come from our Davie.

Paul Carter is a dead man, by Ryan Bracha 

Ryan Bracha is rapidly becoming one of my favourite UK writers. His short stories are bizare and more often than not Hilarious but Paul Carter is a Dead Man (PCISADM) is my first foray into a full blown book and he hasn't disappointed.
The book is set in the not too distant future, at a time when the Britain we know of has completely isolated itself from the rest of the world after becoming scared and upset by terrorists threats and attacks on its civilians on the streets of the UK. Scotland decides to opt out and a wall is erected to keep Britain British and Scotland is abandoned and never referred to by name again by the "New Britons" and is left to decay and to be left being overrun by savages.
In the meantime New Britain is ruled by a government overseeing squads of law protectors who proceed to nick anyone committing a crime, who then put these criminals on the network for the public to vote on their punishment. This results in the public treating it like its some kind of facebook game and poor folk who were in the wrong place at the wrong time can face varying degrees of punishments by an uncaring public.
Then along comes Paul Carter..found guilty of murder and on the run from the network protection groups and he does the unthinkable and kills one of the Government protectors
What follows is the government’s pursuit of Paul Carter, his chance encounters with admirers and sympathisers and chaos abounds.
This story has some great characters (good and bad) its contemporary, it’s funny, its fast paced and is believable! it’s the first of a trilogy and i genuinely can’t wait for the second instalment. I highly recommend that you read this book.

12 mad men- Ryan Bracha and 11 mad writers 

For those who don't know, 12 mad men is written by 12 different (mad) exciting authors. The book was the brainchild of one of my favourite current writers, Ryan Bracha who also had the insanely difficult task of weaving all 12 stories into order and to create one overriding narrative.
The scene is set in an asylum for the criminally insane and the new warden's (Benny) interactions with the 12 inmates..(oh no, they're not called inmates they are called residents). One by one Benny is forced to speak to and more importantly listen to each residents back story of how they found themselves to be there.
which is where each of the twelve writers come into it. They are;-
Paul D Brazill (Guns of Brixton, A Case of Noir)
Gerard Brennan (Fireproof, Wee Rockets)
Les Edgerton (The Bitch, The Rapist)
Craig Furchtenicht (Dimebag Bandits, Night Speed Zero)
Richard Godwin (Mr Glamour, Apostle Rising)
Allen Miles (18 Days, This is How You Disappear)
Keith Nixon (The Fix, The Eagle’s Shadow)
Darren Sant (Tales From The Longcroft, The Bank Manager and The Bum)
Gareth Spark (Black Rain, Shotgun Honey)
Martin Stanley (The Gamblers, The Hunters)
Mark Wilson (dEaDINBURGH, Head Boy)
Ryan Bracha (Paul Carter is a Dead Man, Strangers are Just Friends You Haven’t Killed Yet)
You might be able to guess from the titles of their previous works that these fellers don't mess about and like to write cutting edge stuff. I was disappointed there wasn't a mad woman in the mix, although Mark Wilson, i think it was, does introduces us to a lovely (ahem) female character in his story.
Murderers, (literal) Head fucks, psycho's and aliens treat us to twisted tales aplenty.
I fuckin' love stuff like this and was more than pleasantly surprised at the writing, the humour and the obvious joy each writer took from the challenge.
Its a book that I am already wanting to read again..I’m dyslexic and I often have to read things twice, but it normally bugs the shit outta me...but I am honestly chomping at the bit to re-read this.
It’s not for the faint hearted, but if you like your books edgy, twisted and dark this is for reminded me a bit of that old 1970's TV series "tales of the unexpected" but you bastards will all be too young to know what i'm talking about won’t you? ..look, just give it a go, its priced very reasonably and all proceeds go to charity and its utterly compelling throughout!
Massive congratulations to all of those involved ..i'll be checking out your books in the very near future.
Buy it, read it and hopefully laugh like i did at the utter twistedness of these brilliant writers.
Before I go, The End has to mention, support and promote the campaign currently going on in Liverpool to protest about the City Councils proposal to close around 11 libraries in Liverpool. Aside from the fact that Libraries provide free loaning of books to us, they also provide free safe havens for parents and young children to visit, chill out, and learn…you also must consider the current recession the country is STILL going through and the demands this government puts the unemployed through to qualify for their, entitled, benefits. Claimants have to perform numerous online job searches and applications per week and they have to claim those benefits via online application forms. The only place people can go to get access to free PC’s and free internet are LIBRARIES. What the fuck are Liverpool City Council thinking? Campaigns have been set up to protest against the closures. One of the figureheads of the campaign is my good friend Kellie Marie Butchard who is banging and shouting and fighting tooth and nail to save our cities Libraries. It would be great if you could give your support to this worthy cause. Visit the following for more information. The first link is an online petition…..hopefully you’ll be able to find a library to log on and sign the fucking thing.

Kellie Marie Butchard Leads the protests against the Library closures

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