Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Reading matters at the Essex Book Festival

Tomorrow, March 1, sees the start of the Essex Book Festival when it's opened by A L Kennedy. The ubiquitous Sarah 'Essex Serpent' Perry's session is already sold out, but there's plenty more to see, including the excellent Syd Smith (who wrote of tales of Manningtree witchcraft in Witch Hunt and The Drowning Pool), Ruth Rayner and Chris McCully taking literary inspiration from Colchester's Roman wall, local short stories from Essex Belongs To Us, Essex-based crime in James Henry's Blackwater, Alison Weir on Katherine of Aragon at Layer Marney, Brix Smith on life in The Fall at Southend and Jem Lester in Brentwood discussing his novel of taciturn blokes, Shtum. Check out the link for the full programme.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Essex, serpents and Graves' Disease

Good news for Sarah Perry. My London book group is now reading The Essex Serpent to add to her sales among the metropolitan liberal elite. It's also been all over Waterstone's as the store's book of the year. Serpent is a great read and magically evokes the mysterious scenery of the Blackwater estuary, as well as containing the Colchester earthquake and some vivid writing on the Victorian conflict between science and religion. Check out Perry's recent interview in the Guardian too, where she reveals that the strain of writing and selling the novel might have given her the Gothic-sounding Graves' Disease (it affects the thyroid and leaves the sufferer exhausted). She says she lay in bed repeating every one star review on Amazon to herself, though she's certainly not had many of those and the critics' response has been overwhelmingly positive. Thankfully the Chelmsford-born Perry is now recovering from the worst effects of the disease and will hopefully be well enough to complete another book soon, because she's one of our most talented new authors.

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Prisoner Cell Block Essex

Picked up a copy of new! on the train the other day and it's interesting to note that two of the original female stars of Towie are dating what the magazine refers to as "jailbird lovers". Lauren Goodger has been on Loose Women to talk about her relationship with Joey Morrison, currently serving an 18-year prison sentence. While Amy Childs is having a baby with boyfriend Bradley Wright, who served six months for handling stolen goods. You do have to admire the ability of the women of Essex to see the good in everyone and there desire to reform recidivists. Who needs a probation service when you have Towie?

Friday, 10 February 2017

Not with a bang but with a Wimpy

My pal John has just informed me that the Wimpy restaurant in Barking has just closed, marking the end of an era. For those who thought Wimpy bars died out in the 1970s. they've proved surprisingly resilient in Essex. Aficionados should note that the McDonalds-isation of fast food hasn't affected God's own county. Wimpys still stalk the county like throwback dinosaurs in Jurassic Park, living on in Billericay, Wickford, Basildon, Benfleet, Clacton, Colchester, Maldon, Rayleigh, Benfleet,  Leigh, Westcliff-on-Sea, Grays and Southend.