The Development by @JackieKabler #review @accentpress

The Development (The Cora Baxter Mysteries Book 3) by [Kabler, Jackie]

The Development is the third in the series of Cora Baxter Mysteries. I have read and thoroughly enjoyed both the previous books so was delighted when the author got in touch to ask if I’d like to read the third one too. You can read my other reviews by clicking on these links: The Dead Dog Day and The Deadline

The Development starts off in a dramatic and tragic way as TV news reporter Cora drives home after a busy week at work. A young woman lands on her car from a bridge over the road. The woman’s death is ruled a suicide but her family – and Cora – aren’t so sure. She begins to investigate and soon uncovers links to a planned housing development, local protests, anonymous threatening letters, a dodgy businessman and a possible cover-up by the police. Could they all be connected with the woman’s death?

I really enjoyed reading about all the stories which were covered on the breakfast show. The author worked as a reporter in newspapers and on tv herself so has used her insider knowledge to great effect, showing the fast pace of live tv and how quickly stories can escalate or indeed turn into a non-story. The pressure, but also the excitement, of the job comes across well through Cora and her team.

I really like the character of Cora. She is dedicated and professional, determined and principled. The story is mostly told from her point of view but smaller asides from some of other characters hints at something serious being covered up by more than one person. The book is a crime investigation but a bit unusual, not being police led. I don’t like gory or graphic incidents in books but do enjoy a mystery adventure (yes, a Famous Five fan in my youth!) so this kind of book is right up my street.

As with Jackie Kabler’s other books, her engaging style kept me guessing till the end. And the final dramatic chapters had me tapping my kindle quickly, desperate to find out how it would end. I know the author has suggested that this will be the last outing for Cora  but I really hope that she may reconsider at some point and there will be more mysteries for her to solve.

My thanks to the author for giving me a copy of her book. It is published by Accent Press in both paperback and e-book format. You can order a copy online here: The Development

From the back of the book

After a stressful week, TV reporter Cora Baxter is ready for a quiet weekend. What she isn’t counting on is witnessing the shocking death of a young woman on her way home.

Cora discovers that seventeen-year-old Leanne has been protesting against a new housing development, angering the powerful establishment. Leanne’s death is ruled a suicide but, when puzzling information comes to light, Cora decides to investigate further.

She might not know what an unscrupulous businessman, a suspended police officer and hate-mail sending neighbours have to do with the case – but she does know there is a news story there.

With her eccentric camera crew on hand to help, can Cora work out what happened in the days before Leanne’s death? And was it really suicide after all?

 

Jackie Kabler

About the author

Jackie Kabler is the author of the Cora Baxter Mysteries, a series of murder mysteries set in a television newsroom. She worked as a newspaper reporter and then in television news for twenty years, including nearly a decade on GMTV. She later appeared on BBC and ITV news, presented a property show for Sky, hosted sports shows on Setanta Sports News and worked as a media trainer for the Armed Forces. She is now a presenter on shopping channel QVC. Jackie lives in Gloucestershire with her husband, who is a GP.
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Author in the Spotlight @KiltieJackson #blogtour @rararesources

I’m pleased to be joined by Kiltie Jackson today as she takes her turn as Author in the Spotlight. Her latest novel, An Artisan Lovestyle, is available now as an ebook or in paperback. You can order a copy online here: An Artisan Lovestyle  Thanks to Rachel from Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me to take part in the tour. There’s also the opportunity to win a £40/$40 Amazon voucher so don’t miss your chance to take part in this very generous giveaway. Details further down this post.

Thanks for joining me Kiltie. First of all, would you tell my blog readers a little about yourself?

Hello, I’m Kiltie Jackson and in-between running around after five cats, one grumpy husband, and a forty hour a week day job, I like to relax by sitting down and writing novels. I live in the Midlands in a little terrace house which we call Moggy Towers. Despite all the moggies, there are no towers. I often refer to the grumpy husband as Mr Mogs when he is being discussed on Twitter or Facebook.

Tell me about your journey to publication

I have taken the route of self-publishing so my journey was different from traditionally published writers. I dithered for several months over what to do with my debut novel but, once I had read a few articles and realised that several established authors had left their publishers to become self-published, it seemed to be the more stress-free option. I started off knowing absolutely nothing but with guidance from other self-published authors, who were more than happy to give their advice, especially Pam Howes who was very kind to me, I learnt the ropes and found I really enjoyed being in control and making my own decisions.

In a nutshell, what is your latest book about?

An Artisan Lovestyle (The Lovestyle Series Book 2) by [Jackson, Kiltie]

The main concept is that we often just plod our way through life without really living it. We all have our own special gifts but many of us are guilty of letting them wither and die. ‘An Artisan Lovestyle’ focuses on two people who have fallen into this trap and who now must change their lives for the better or they will die. Again!

How did you come up with the title for your book?

Oh my, was that ever a job and a half! For a long time, it was merely book 2. Then, driving home from work one evening, I came up with ‘Of All The Unlikely Places’. It held this title for several months but I was never entirely happy with it. It was one morning, somewhere around 4.30am when I couldn’t sleep, that it came to me – if this is part of the ‘Lovestyle’ series then why not just call it ‘Something Lovestyle’? It really was a lightbulb moment and I was immediately comfortable with it. I ran it by a friend later that day. She backed me up and said it was a brilliant idea and definitely the way forward.

How do you plan to celebrate publication day?

Unfortunately, I will be working away at my desk as I am still a forty hour a week wage slave. Five cats take some feeding and they would be most upset to lose the roof over their head. ‘An Artisan Lovestyle’ is being released on a Thursday so I suspect a bottle of something fizzy will be consumed on the Friday.

Do you have a work in progress just now?

I do. It is the third book in the ‘Lovestyle’ series and it begins approximately six to seven weeks after ‘An Artisan Lovestyle’ finishes. The story will focus on two different main characters although people from books one and two will either appear in it or be mentioned.

What’s your favourite book you’ve read in the past few months? Or favourite three if you really can’t choose!

I recently re-read ‘The Cat Who Came In From The Cold’ by Deric Longden. This is an old favourite of mine which I have read many times. It is a really cute story about how a ‘dog man’ steals his neighbour’s new kitten and ends up falling totally under the feline spell. It is very humorous and I often laugh out loud while reading, despite knowing the story so well.

The Cat Who Came In From The Cold by [Longden, Deric]

What are you reading just now? 

As I type this, it is the 22nd April 2018 and I started ‘The Toymakers’ by Robert Dinsdale only this morning. I am already 10% into it and I believe I am hooked. I fell in love with the cover when it was released a few months ago and, thus far, the story is meeting all my expectations. 

The Toymakers by [Dinsdale, Robert]

If you were on Desert Island Discs, what one book would you take with you?

I would probably choose the Complete Works of Charles Dickens for the simple reason that I keep saying I will read more of his work but never seem to manage it. If I ‘was’ stranded on a desert island, I would have no excuses.

The Complete Works of Charles Dickens (Illustrated, Inline Footnotes) (Classics Book 9) by [Dickens, Charles]

Is there a book you’d like to see made into a film? Who would be in your dream cast?

I would love to see my debut novel, ‘A Rock ‘n’ Roll Lovestyle’ become a film. The idea never crossed my mind until one of my reviewers made the suggestion and others readers backed her up. I haven’t gotten as far as working on the cast as I can never get past my main character, Pete Wallace, being played by Ryan Reynolds… *Kiltie gazes dreamily into the distance…

https://static.tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pub/images/ryan_reynolds.png

How can people follow you or connect with you on social media?

I have a website – www.kiltiejackson.com – where people can stay up to date with my progress on my current works in progress. I am also on Facebook – www.facebook.com/kiltiejackson – and Twitter – www.twitter.com/KiltieJackson – and I chatter on them most days.

And finally, if you could be a character in any book you have read, who would it be and why?

I would have to be Anne Shirley from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery. She was a free spirit, independent and not afraid to speak her mind when it was required. She had many wonderful adventures which I would love to have been a part of although I think I would pass on the one where she dyes her hair green!

Anne of Green Gables by [Montgomery, Lucy Maud]

Thanks Kiltie – Anne is a popular choice!

 

Giveaway – Win a £40 / $40 Amazon Voucher (Open Internationally)

*Terms and Conditions –Worldwide entries welcome.  Please enter using the Rafflecopter link below.  The winner will be selected at random via Rafflecopter from all valid entries and will be notified by Twitter and/or email. If no response is received within 7 days then we reserve the right to select an alternative winner. Open to all entrants aged 18 or over.  Any personal data given as part of the competition entry is used for this purpose only and will not be shared with third parties, with the exception of the winners’ information. This will passed to the giveaway organiser and used only for fulfilment of the prize, after which time we will delete the data.  We are not responsible for despatch or delivery of the prize.

Click here for your chance to win

 

From the back of the book

Are you ‘living’ your life or just living your life?

Elsa Clairmont was widowed barely five years after marrying her childhood sweetheart. She has struggled to come to terms with the loss and, six years later, has almost ceased to live herself. She does just enough to get by.

Danny Delaney is the ultimate ‘Mr Nice Guy’. He’s kind, caring and sweet. A talented artist in his teens, his abusive mother ruined his career in art and he turned his back on his exceptional gift. Now, he does just enough to get by.

On New Year’s Eve, both Danny and Elsa die in unrelated accidents.

Thanks to some poker playing shenanigans, Elsa’s husband Harry, and Danny’s old Art teacher, William, manage to orchestrate a deal with Death that allows Danny and Elsa to live for one more year on the condition they both agree to complete three tasks.

They have until the last chime of Big Ben on the 31st December to fulfill their quests.

If they succeed, they stay in the world of the living.

If they should fail however…

‘An Artisan Lovestyle’ is a story of personal growth and self-discovery as two people find themselves forced to make overdue changes in their lives, changes in other people’s lives, and all with the added challenge of  finding true love before their time runs out.

Will they do it?

Can they do it?

After all, it’s a matter of Life or Death…

More about the author

Kiltie grew up in Glasgow in Scotland. This is a very unique city with a very unique way of looking at life.

When she was old enough to do so, she moved to London and then, after several years of obtaining interesting experiences -which are 
finding their way into her writing – she moved up to the Midlands. 

Kiltie currently lives in Staffordshire with five cats and one grumpy husband. 
Her little home is known as Moggy Towers, even though despite having 
plenty of moggies, there are no towers! 

The cats kindly allow her and Mr Mogs to share their house on the 
condition they keep paying the mortgage! 

She loves reading, watching movies, and visiting old castles. 
She really dislikes going to the gym! 

Her biggest desire is that one day she can give up the day job 
and write her stories for a living.

Kiltie’s debut novel, ‘A Rock ‘n’ Roll Lovestyle’, was released in September 2017 and won 

a “Chill With A Book – Reader Award” in December 2017. 

She first began writing her debut novel eleven years before it was released but shelved 
it as she didn’t think it was very good.

In November 2016 when, having read more on a best-selling author who had begun 
her own career as a self-published author, she was inspired to revisit the unfinished 

manuscript and finally finish what she had started.

Since beginning to write again, the ideas have not stopped flowing. 
‘An Artisan Lovestyle’ is the second book in the Lovestyle Series.

 
Work is due to begin on book three (not yet titled but also part of the Lovestyle Series)
in the Summer of 2018.
 
She currently has a further ten plots and ideas stored in her file (it’s costing a 
fortune in USB drives as each story has its own memory stick!) and 
the ideas still keep on coming. 

Kiltie now lives her life around the following three quotes: 
“I love having weird dreams, they’re great fodder for book plots!”
“Why wait for your ship to come in when you can swim out to meet it?”
“Old enough to know better, young enough not to care!”

 

Website www.kiltiejackson.com

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/kiltiejackson

Twitter – https://twitter.com/KiltieJackson

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The Lost Letters of William Woolf by Helen Cullen #review @wordsofhelen @penguinukbooks

The Lost Letters of William Woolf by [Cullen, Helen]

I am delighted to be joining the blogtour on the publication day of this lovely book. Congratulations Helen Cullen on a wonderfully warm debut novel. Can we all just take a minute to admire that stunning cover? In a time when we rarely receive written letters any more, how many memories does that evoke? My eye was drawn in particular to the airmail envelope which reminded me of when I was much younger and used to write to my cousin in Canada. How excited I used to be when that thin, almost weightless, envelope dropped through the letterbox.

William Woolf works in the dead letters depot in East London. Here, all the letters and parcels which can’t be delivered are checked over by the staff who try their best to identify the recipients or senders. William works in the ‘supernatural’ department where letters to recipients who may prove trickier to track down end up – letters to God, to Santa, to film superheroes and so on. With his own marriage to Clare less than happy, he is intrigued by letters from a mystery writer called Winter simply addressed to ‘My Great Love’. 

Although William is a character I really took to heart, my favourite parts of the story were those where we learned about the contents of the lost letters. I loved all the little stories and dramas associated with them, sometimes stories that could only be guessed at from the one side we learn from the letters. And I loved William’s determination to reunite the letters with the intended recipients, sometimes personally delivering them and thereby uncovering a more complete story.

But my favourites, naturally, were Winter’s letters to ‘my great love’. They were so full of yearning and as romantic as any letter sent to a known recipient. Through a recent Twitter conversation I learned that the author herself narrated those parts of the audiobook and having heard her on Steve Wright’s Radio 2 show, I could then imagine those letters in her lovely Irish accent. (You can listen to that interview here but I’m not sure how long it is available for). I couldn’t decide whether I wanted William to find Winter and actually be her longed for love, or whether I wanted him and Clare to rediscover the great love they had once known, or whether indeed I hoped that Clare night be writing the letters to him. Well of course, I’m not going to tell you which if any of those scenarios was correct, you will need to read for yourself to find out. What I will say is that by the end, there was a resolution for all the characters.

The Lost Letters of William Woolf is a beautifully written book, full of memorable characters,  love, hopes and dreams. It is very moving and I found it to be a really compelling read. I am looking forward to reading whatever Helen Cullen writes next.

My thanks to Laura Nicol for my copy of this lovely book. It is published today in hardback, ebook and audiobook formats by Penguin UK. It will be available in your usual book retailer or you can order a copy online here: William Woolf

From the back of the book

Lost letters have only one hope for survival . . .

Inside the Dead Letters Depot in East London, William Woolf is one of thirty letter detectives who spend their days solving mysteries. Missing postcodes, illegible handwriting, rain-smudged ink, lost address labels, torn packages, forgotten street names – they are all the culprits of missed birthdays, broken hearts, unheard confessions, pointless accusations, unpaid bills and unanswered prayers.

When William discovers letters addressed simply to ‘My Great Love’ his work takes on new meaning.

Written by a woman to a soulmate she hasn’t met yet, the missives stir William in ways he didn’t know were possible. Soon he begins to wonder: Could William be her great love?

William must follow the clues in Winter’s letters to solve his most important mystery yet: the human heart.

______________

‘Beautifully written and moving’ Nina George, bestselling author of The Little Paris Bookshop

With love, romance and frustrated hopes, this life affirming book will draw you in and keep you there’ Independent

 

About the author

Helen Cullen

Helen Cullen is an Irish writer living in London. She worked at RTE (Ireland’s national broadcaster) for seven years before moving to London in 2010. In the UK, Helen established a career as an events and engagement specialist before joining the Google UK marketing team in 2015.

The first draft of her debut novel THE LOST LETTERS OF WILLIAM WOOLF was written while completing the Guardian/UEA novel writing programme under the mentorship of Michèle Roberts. Helen holds an M.A. Theatre Studies from UCD and is currently completing an M.A. English Literature at Brunel University.

‘The Lost Letters of William Woolf’ will be published this year, 2018 in UK, Ireland, USA, Canada, Australia, South Africa, Germany, Italy and Israel.

Helen is now writing full-time and working on her second novel.

http://www.helencullen.ie

Twitter: @wordsofhelen

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The Ice Maiden by @SaraSheridan #review @severnhouse

I have read quite a few of Sara Sheridan’s books and what I love about them is that she is writing women back into history. All too often women’s contributions to history are overlooked since many accounts were written by men and anything women did write was often not valued or retained.  Sara Sheridan’s books are full of strong, feisty women bringing a different perspective to history. In The Ice Maiden she mixes fact with fiction to great effect.

Karina is stranded on Deception Island in the South Atlantic following the death of her seafaring husband on a whaling expedition. She is desperate to return to her sister in Amsterdam and stows away on board a ship, dressed as a boy. However, she is horrified to discover that the ship is in fact heading for the Antarctic, one of the harshest environments in the known world. 

Though I was reading this during the continuing heatwave, Sara Sheridan certainly brought the cold of the Antarctic vividly to life. All the little details of life on board ship built up a clear picture of a sailor’s life in the 19th and 20th centuries. It must have been meticulously researched and yet the detail is never too much. Sara Sheridan’s passion for illuminating history shines through, bringing to life a time and way of life I knew little about. It was fascinating to read about how people survived in such harsh conditions.

Karina was a terrific character to read about. She was a spirited, brave and passionate woman. She had been through so much that when love presented itself, she didn’t want to wait, perhaps rather unconventional for a woman of her time but then Karina was a rather extraordinary character. And my goodness she was a brilliant woman scorned!

The story took an unexpected turn which certainly took me by surprise. Once I had got my head around what had happened, I settled back into the story with renewed interest. I did need to suspend disbelief a bit but the way the story unfolds makes this easy to do. It gave Karina – and the reader – a chance to find out and understand so much more about the significant people and places in her life. This different approach to telling the story also enabled Karina to have insight into one of the most famous Antarctic expeditions – the voyage of the Discovery with Scott and Shackleton on board. I’m particularly fascinated by Sir Ernest so loved this part of the story. I’ve visited the actual ship at Discovery Point in Dundee (photos below) so could easily imagine life on board.

The Ice Maiden is a hugely enjoyable adventure story of love, betrayal, revenge and danger in the frozen south.

 

 

My thanks to publishers Severn House for my copy of the book. It will be available from 31st July in hardback with an ebook version to follow in November. It will be available from your usual book retailers or you can order a copy online here: The Ice Maiden

From the back of the book

As she stows away on a ship bound for Antarctica, a young woman uncovers a shocking betrayal.

1842. Stranded on Deception Island in the South Atlantic, her whaling captain husband lost at sea, Karina is destitute and desperate. Disguised as a cabin boy, she stows away on a British ship. But Karina is about to get a nasty surprise.

As she grows closer to ship’s surgeon Joseph Hooker, Karina and the rest of the crew find themselves pushed to the limits both physically and emotionally as conditions worsen onboard. Engulfed in the chillingly hostile Antarctic landscape, something extraordinary happens – and Karina’s story becomes intertwined with some of the 20th century’s bravest Polar explorers …

 

About the author

Sara Sheridan

 

Sara Sheridan is the author of the popular Mirabelle Bevan historical mystery series, as well as several historical novels. Fascinated by female history, she is a cultural commentator who appears regularly on TV and radio. In 2014, she was named one of the Saltire Society’s 365 Most Influential Scottish Women. She lives in Edinburgh.

Literary Book Gifts – Exclusive 20% off Discount Code

Bookshelf
I was recently contacted by Melissa who runs Literary Book Gifts. Melissa is from Toronto, Ontario and has just launched her business this year. She tells me she started the business because she has a great love of literature, and a background in design. She has offered my blog readers a very generous 20% discount on any orders by using the code PORTOBELLO20 on the website literarybookgifts.com. On the website you will see lots of gift ideas such as t-shirts, backpacks and tote bags. I particularly like the Peter Rabbit t-shirt and the Black Beauty t-shirt as well as the first one Melissa tells us about below.
 
 
I asked Melissa to tell me about a couple of her designs that she was particularly pleased with.
 
 
When I read Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, I was struck by the elegance of its story, and how real the characters felt. I wanted the shirt to show all of this as well as the romance of the novel. When I landed on an illustration (from a book from over 100 years ago!) I knew it was the one. It took a lot of tidying up but in the end I think it captures everything I was hoping for and more.
 
 
 
Dracula by Bram Stoker is one of my favourite novels. I didn’t think a bat was very fit for a t-shirt so I decided on a picture of a man in a top hat, walking into a dark night. If you look at the image from afar it looks very much like the silhouette of a bat in flight. I believe this is a perfect allusion to Dracula, a man, bat, and vampire.
 
 
 
 
If you like the idea of getting a literary gift for a book-loving friend, or indeed just treating yourself, make sure you have a browse through the website. And don’t forget to use that 20% discount code.

Searching for Steven by @JessicaRedland #review

Searching for Steven: What if you already know your future… but not the path to take you there? (Welcome to Whitsborough Bay Book 1) by [Redland, Jessica]

I met the author Jessica Redland at a recent author and blogger get together in York. While we were chatting about her books, she mentioned that one of her novels was called Searching for Steven. I knew I had to read it as I have my very own Steven at home – well, Steve actually! Anne Williams from Being Anne, who organised the gathering, said I absolutely had to read Jessica’s books as she was sure I would love them. We often have the same taste in books and she was absolutely right. The bright cheery cover reflects the uplifting story inside.

Sarah has just come out of a disappointing relationship and heads home to the Whitsborough Bay on the Yorkshire coast for a bit of TLC from her family. While there, she is offered an amazing opportunity by her auntie, an opportunity which involves setting up a business which would turn her hobby into her work. She decides to go for it and sets about making a new life for herself back home. While moving into her new place, she discovers a tape recording from 12 years previously. The tape is a recording of a psychic reading she had when she was 18. The tape had vanished so she had never listened to it and being rather drunk during the reading, she couldn’t remember the predictions. The predictions and messages on the tape recording are scarily accurate with some already have been fulfilled and others being proved right throughout the book. Most importantly, the clairvoyant says that Sarah will meet her one true love at the age of 30 and that he will be called Steven. And so the search for Steven begins!

I don’t really think I believe in fortune tellers and psychics but I could understand if I had come across a tape like the one Sarah found with its accurate predictions, I would be out looking for a Steven too! As you can imagine, Stevens (and Steves and Stevies) suddenly appear all the time in her life and each time she wonders if he could be her Steven. It seemed to me though, and to others, that the perfect man for Sarah was right under her nose even if he wasn’t called Steven.

The book is full of well drawn characters with Sarah’s best friends, Clare from London and Elise from Whitsborough Bay, who can’t stand each other, providing some great scenes. Her mum and dad were always so proud of her achievements, her matchmaking Auntie Kay with her own secret about love from the past was determined to help Sarah find her Charlie. And no I haven’t made a mistake with the name, you’ll understand if you read it.

Searching for Steven is a warm, sparkling story with a very satisfying ending. Sarah comes to realise that “when true love comes along, you have to hang onto it with all your strength because it’s worth it.” I know this book is the first part of a trilogy and hope to read the others too at some point.

My thanks to the author for my copy of the book. It is published as an ebook by Little Bear Books and you can order a copy online here: Searching for Steven

From the back of the book

What if you already know your future… but not the path to take you there?

When Sarah Peterson accepts her Auntie Kay’s unexpected offer to take over her florist’s shop, she’s prepared for a change of job, home and lifestyle. What she isn’t prepared for is the discovery of a scarily accurate clairvoyant reading that’s been missing for twelve years. All her predictions have come true, except one: she’s about to meet the man of her dreams. Oh, and his name is Steven. Suddenly Stevens are everywhere. Could it be the window cleaner, the rep, the manager of the coffee shop, or any of the men she’s met online? On top of that, she finds herself quite attracted to a handsome web designer, but his name isn’t even Steven… During this unusual search, will Sarah find her destiny?

About the author

Jessica Redland Writer

Jessica Redland is the author of heartwarming contemporary romance set on the stunning  She loves stationery, bears and chocolate

Billionaires’ Banquet by @RonButlerMakar #excerpt @saltpublishing #lovebooksgrouptours

Billionaires’ Banquet: An immorality tale for the 21st century by [Butlin, Ron]

I’m pleased to be sharing an excerpt from Ron Butlin’s Billionaires’ Banquet today. It is published by Salt, an independent publishing company and available now in paperback or as an ebook.

First of all, what’s the book about?

1985, Edinburgh. Thatcher’s policies are biting deep – fat cats and street-kids, lovers, losers and the rest struggle to survive. Hume sets up a business catering for the rich and their ever-growing appetites. But by the new millennium, these appetites have become too demanding . . .
 

Powerful, challenging and very funny, Billionaires’ Banquet is an immorality tale for the 21st century.

Now read on for a taste of the book…

A grim autumn afternoon, Scottish-grim. Darkness falling. Grey sky and sagging clouds. Heavy, heavy rain. A cutting east wind. A rawness in the air, a chillness that threatened sleet. Dirty rainwater was puddled in the dips and cracks of the uneven pavement; oily-looking sludge oozed blackly up from between the loose-fitting slabs. Scrunched-up chip-papers and pizza cartons blew the length of the street.

He pulled his coat tighter around him and splashed past the small grocer’s, the Taj Mahal carry-out at the corner, then turned into the main street. Shops, shops, and more shops – fruit shop, charity shop, bread shop, vacuum-and-washing-machine shop, another charity shop; past the garage with its forecourt banner snapping in the wind and the blue plastic bags of coal stacked and gleaming wet against the wall; past the bookie’s where the owner stood legs wide apart in the shelter of his doorway, puffing away at an end-of-day cigar while he stared out at yet another Scottish October. Then the Auld Toll pub, the butcher’s, the Yangtse Goodwill, the Co-op, Bennett’s Bar, the King’s Theatre.

To Hume, all shops, restaurants, garages, pubs and theatres were no more than the ongoing blur he coasted past every day. They weren’t even on his radar. Most people check they have enough money on them before leaving home, Hume usually checked to be sure he had none. It gave him a sense of freedom, of detachment and independence.

Then, for the first time, he saw a beggar on the streets of Tollcross.

 

The beggar was huddled under the tarpaulin awning next to the entrance to the Co-op, trying to keep out the rain. Slumped forward, head down and miserable-looking. Shoulders covered by a torn, mud-spattered blanket, chilled-looking hands clutching each other.

Hume had seen street beggars the last time he’d visited London; he’d been told of teenagers down there living in cardboard boxes. He’d been bewildered. Mrs. Thatcher’s new policies were creating new wealth and opportunities, offering everyone the chance to set their own goals and to succeed. But here was someone begging in Edinburgh now . . . and not one of the straggle-bearded, meths-battered down-and-outs that staggered from dosshouse to dosshouse in the Grassmarket. This was a genuine beggar, possibly in danger of starving to death on streets he walked along nearly every day. A young beggar at that. Younger than him even. He was truly shocked.

Though frantic to get his hands on a copy of Thought, he was deeply saddened to see someone who’d become one of the all-too-visible wounds of society. Also, on a personal level, it was a warning – if philosophy didn’t start earning its keep, he might find himself setting up his own begging bowl in competition.

For the time being, however, his sense of natural benevolence – as described by his namesake David Hume – urged him to offer support and comfort. A show of sympathy at the very least. But was the concept of beggary really so straightforward, were its implications so self-evident? Even the most superficial analysis threw up some very basic questions.

For example, if he were to give this beggar a handful of loose change – assuming he actually had any, which of course he hadn’t – would that really help them? In his groundbreaking essay, such behaviour had been categorised as ‘indulging in false compassion’, and the conclusion was irrefutable. Such acts of spontaneous charity achieved nothing except to keep the unfortunate beggar in a state of permanent beggary. This was the only possible inference that could be drawn, he had argued, either empirically or a priori. Such acts of casual benevolence were irresponsible at best and, in the long term, positively harmful. They created dependence and, as a consequence, limited the beggar’s freedom. A more constructive and morally responsible approach would be to give the beggar sufficient money in a lump sum to lift him out of beggary altogether, or else to give nothing at all. No other response was either reasonable, or desirable. Indeed, the latter could perhaps be considered the more advisable course of action as it created an opportunity to promote the beggar’s self-reliance, and, in the long term, his self-empowerment. That said, Hume was still deeply moved to find a fellow human being in such a sorry state and, though pressed for time himself, felt compelled to spare this unfortunate a few minutes and a few encouraging words.

He approached the huddled figure: ‘I’m truly sorry to see you like this. How come you have to . . .?’

Shock number two came when the beggar looked up.

It was a young girl. He had naturally assumed . . .

Filthy-looking, her blondish hair a tangle of grime and hardened mud, she had painful-looking scratches on her face and the backs of her hands were ridged with hardened blood. There was a livid bruise where her right eye should have been.

‘What?’

‘I said, how come you have to sit here and –?’

‘Had a good look? Feel better, do you?’ She glared up at him.

Ignoring the driving rain, he switched to benevolence-mode: ‘Please accept my sincere apologies, I wasn’t intending any –’

‘No? There’s places where people have to pay to stare the way you’re staring. Like I’m in the zoo or something.’

‘The zoo? No, no. I’m trying to find out –’

‘20p’ll make it all right.’

‘Actually, I don’t have any money on me.’

‘Oh, don’t you, actually?’ She shrugged. ‘Then fuck off.’

She dropped her eyes and slumped forward head down once more. ‘Make it 50 pence next time you’re passing. Call it interest.’

At the corner of Gilmore Place, Hume glanced back. The beggar girl gave him the fingers. So much for his taking the time and trouble to show compassion.

Checking that his essay was still safe and dry in his inside pocket, he crossed the street. There was a spring in his step as he strode through the deluge towards George IV Bridge, towards the new issue of Thought, towards the academic gravy train he could see waiting ahead, waiting for him to climb aboard.

My thanks to Kelly at Love Books Group Tours for inviting me to take part. Billionaires’ Banquet is available now and you can order your copy here.

About the author 

Ron Butlin

With an international reputation as a prize-winning novelist, RON BUTLIN is a former Edinburgh Makar / Poet Laureate.

Now over to Ron –


Before becoming a writer, I was a pop-song lyricist (3 records and a brief appearance in a justly-neglected film. I was also a footman attending parties for the great and good, the rich and bad (see my forthcoming novel ‘Billionaire’s Banquet’), a barnacle-scraper on the Thames and a male model. My work has been widely translated, and ‘The Sound of My Voice’ has been twice been awarded a ‘Best Foreign Novel’ prize as well been made into a film, a rather short film.

I am a novelist, poet, children’s author, opera librettist, playwright – one of these, on a good day. I have been auctioned twice for charity, and put in a cage outside parliament for The Day of the Imprisoned Writer. All very character-building. I have given readings world-wide including at the House of Lords, John Knox’s pulpit in St Giles Cathedral, Edinburgh, and an Arab tent in Bahrain.

I live in Edinburgh with my wife, the writer Regi Claire, and our dog (Note – Nessie, as she’s called in the book, features in my first novel for early teens, ‘Steve & FranDan Take on the World’ which is out now. She is great fun on paper and in real life). 

Don’t miss the rest of the tour

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