Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Judging the best of NZ books...

I was extremely chuffed when I was invited to apply to be a judge for the NZ Post Book Awards for 2013, and delighted when I was confirmed, and then totally flabbergasted when the reality of 121 books arrived with the courier (who made the wry comment that these would keep me out of trouble for a while) The knowledge that more books were to arrive in March made my eyes bulge even more.

The family thought it was like Christmas, and had a wonderful time exploring the boxes, pulling books out going ooh, look at this, and wow - look at that. I had a little sit down!

So I have the exciting and daunting task of selecting the best fiction, poetry, non-fiction and illustrated non-fiction that New Zealand produced in 2012/13.

My fellow judges are:

John Campbell - convenor
Bernadette Hall
Guy Somerset
Paora Tibble

We are a diverse bunch of passionate book lovers. It's going to be a fun ride!

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Lives We Leave Behind.

Lives We Leave Behind.

By Maxine Alterio.

The First World War has been the theatre of many novels and in Lives We Leave Behind, Maxine Alterio brings to life the stories of the nurses through the eyes and lives of New Zealand Nursing Sisters Meg Dutton and Addie Harrington. These two women come from very different backgrounds and have little in common apart from their nursing, yet through the trials or war and all it brings they form a firm friendship.

The story takes us from Wellington, and the anticipation of what is to come, to Egypt on the hospital ship Maheno, into the harshness and realities of war in Egypt and France. The author doesn't hold back on the awful effects of war, from the injuries inflicted upon the soldiers and the harsh conditions in which medical staff were having to provide miracles as well as dealing with the psychological effects on people and the vast amount of death. She does it in a way that is eye-opening, but not grim, as we experience it all through these very different women - Meg who wears her heart on her sleeve and Addie, who is quiet and introspective and finds solace in her books. We see how war changes them, and how love and relationships flourish and suffer in such unforgiving surroundings.

The short sections jump and pull you along, giving a sense of the turmoil and rapid changes thrown at them. They are also interspersed with short segments about the women written from the perspective of the men around them. I thought these weren't necessary as the women's stories conveyed the men's impressions already.

I found this a very rewarding read. At times harrowing, at times very sad, but overarching all of this, the warmth and spirit of the women shone through.

Lives We Leave Behind brings a valuable perspective of war through the eyes of the nurses and is a book I really enjoyed and recommend. 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

The Search for Anne Perry

The Search for Anne Perry

By Joanne Drayton

Anne Perry is known as a best-selling writer of historic crime fiction. In 1994 the revelation that she was, in fact, Juliet Hulme, the teenager who along with Pauline Parker was convicted for murdering Pauline's mother, shocked the world and turned Anne's new life upside down. Anne Perry was understandably cautious when it came to allowing interviews, especially as most focused on the murder, so it was an absolute coup for New Zealand writer Joanne Drayton to gain permission to write this biography and have the opportunity to spend time with Anne. The result, in my opinion, is a fascinating insight into the woman and her writing.

Drayton has approached the work as a biography of Perry's writing, weaving in the events of her childhood, illness, the murder and her imprisonment in a way that neither sensationalises nor minimises it, and that lets the reader see how Anne Perry expressed elements of her past through her characters and writing. In this biography we see her all-consuming friendship with Pauline Parker and the events that lead up to that fateful day. We also see how she rebuilt her life in another identity, how vital her novel writing was to that and the impact of her past life being revealed and fears of how people would now perceive her.

I found The Search for Anne Perry to be a fascinating and sensitive biography, but also one that asked and answered the hard questions.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Well heeled...or not

Sometimes life throws you a curve ball. Mine came while fencing at the National Champs in Christchurch, in the women's teams gold medal match, I was fencing the Commonwealth champion, we were in the lead when...SNAP...good bye Achilles tendon.

An operation and an enormous plaster cast later I find my self laid up for the next 6 weeks, and then the long road of rehab.

So what am I going to do for all that time, going stir crazy on the sofa, not being allowed to be up and about? Got a few ideas and they involve a lot of catching up on reading, and writing (woohoo - perfect opportunity to concentrate on the new novel) and some blogging. I know I've been very slack of late, life has been insanely busy, but I now find myself forced to slow down and given a chance to catch up on a few things I have neglected.

Pretty dramatic way of getting a break!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

All the best, Bill...

On Saturday night I had the pleasure of mixing and mingling with friends and booky people at the University Book Shop for Bill Noble's retirement do. It was great to see the affection and esteem everyone held for Bill and what he has achieved as a book seller.

Bill Noble talking to his adoring crowd.

Anyone who reads this blog will now I loooove the University Book Shop - it's my home away from home, and Hubby reckons I must be a shareholder by now, because I spend way too much money in there. I love UBS because it is a fabulous book shop - I'll often pop in just to breathe the books, and I love UBS because it is so supportive of its local writers. The fabulous staff recommend our books, and they have a big table, right in front of the door where everyone who walks in has to trip over the NZ latest releases. I've loved having my book launches there - they let you drink wine and eat food amongst the books! (They say the wine loosens people's wallets) They look after me so well.

So farewell, Bill. Thanks for everything! And looking forward to UBS with a new captain at the helm.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Christchurch Writers' Festival

Wow, what a wonderful event the Christchurch Writers' Festival was. Big bouquets to the organisers for putting on a fabulous event. I enjoyed sitting in on several sessions, and then had my moment on the stage for The Great Crime Debate on Saturday night (great fun!)(my team lost, but we lost with style) and then nervously awaiting the announcement of the Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Fiction novel. Alas, I didn't come away with the trophy, huge congratulations to Neil Cross, who won the big one with his novel Luther: The Calling. You can read all about the event at Crime Watch. I had a great time catching up with friends, and meeting new ones, and came away with very find memories of Christchurch.

Must go pack my bag...Hubby and I are off for our first ever overseas trip together - San Francisco here we come!!!!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The End of The Wasp Season

The End of the Wasp Season 

by Denise Mina

I had the pleasure of meeting Scottish crime writer Denise Mina at the Wellington Festival of the Arts this year, so when I read that The End of the Wasp Season had just won the Theakston's Old Peculier Best Crime Book Award I had to go buy a copy. Theakston's Old Peculier is a beer, by the way, and the award trophy is a miniature beer barrel!

Glaswegian Mina is renowned for her depiction of the mean streets of Glasgow, much like Rankin with Edinburgh, and I can see why. In this book her series character Detective Sergeant Alex Morrow is investigating the brutal murder of a young woman in her own home in a wealthy Glasgow suburb. Alex not only has to deal with a very nasty crime, where she feels her colleagues don't care enough about the victim, but also departmental politics and the fact she is rather pregnant with twins.

From the outset the reader knows the crime was committed by two teenagers from a very posh private school, but Mina cleverly weaves in their stories, making the reader sympathetic towards them, and she also weaves in plenty of twists and tangles along the way. When I started reading this book I thought it rather grim and wondered if I could hack it, but I was soon drawn in and captivated by the characters.

Denise Mina is fabulous at describing the social classes, inviting you into their homes, seeing how they live, breathe and tick, from the poor, hardworking and genuinely caring but with everything stacked against her single mum of four teenagers, to the over-privileged but emotionally bankrupt Lars Anderson and how his suicide leaves his already broken family in tatters.

I thought this book was fabulous, and especially thought the way the author made us empathise with the good and the evil was incredibly well done. I can see why it won the beer barrel.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Bound - Ngaio Marsh Award finalist

The finalists have been named for the 2012 Ngaio Marsh Award for Best Crime Novel, and I am delighted to say Bound is among them!

The finalists are:

Bound by Vanda Symon
Collecting Cooper by Paul Cleave
Luther: The Calling by Neil Cross
By Any Means by Ben Sanders

For more information visit Crime Watch.

The award to the winner will be presented at the Christchurch Writers Festival on the 1st of September...


Saturday, July 21, 2012

Fate & Philosophy

Fate & Philosophy

By Jim Flynn

Emeritus Professor Jim Flynn brought us The Torchlight List a couple of years ago - his recommended reading list to give a broad taste of literature, and life. Fate & Philosophy is the second book in what is to be his Modern World , the purpose of which is to get people to think about their place in the world. Flynn hasn't taught philosophy but is passionate about it and sees it as very personal. So this book very much reflects his beliefs, but also gives an overview of the beliefs of others. As he puts it in one chapter,

'Today is my seventy-seventh birthday, so it has taken me sixty-five years to replace Catholicism with a personal philosophy I can live with.'

In the book he looks at the big questions such as 'what is good?' Is it moral reality or language that tells us what is good, or economics, or ourselves? 'What is possible?' 'What exists?' And what tells us what exists? Religion? Science? Instruments? Or our own sensory experience? Does God exist?

In writing this book Flynn is trying to get us to think beyond what we have been told or brought up to believe by our parents, or religion, or society. To question what we thoughtlessly accept.

I did not find it an easy read, in fact for me there was quite a bit of mental gymnastics and re-reading required - but that probably says more about me than the book. I have no background in philosophy and a little knowledge would have been handy. In saying that, I am glad I read this book, in fact I will re-read it to help digest some of the argument. In this reader Jim Flynn has certainly achieved his aim, in getting me to think more about my perceptions of the world and my place in it. An interesting and challenging read.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Death in The Clouds

Death in the Clouds (1935)
by Agatha Christie.

I've been doing some nostalgia reading lately, as part of my ongoing fascination of all things Ngaio Marsh, I am reading works by her fellow Queens Of Crime, Agatha Christie, Margery Allingham and Dorothy Sayers.

Death in the Clouds is a locked room murder mystery, a locked room ten thousand feet in the air! Hercule Poirot happens to be one of the passengers on the airliner Prometheus traveling from Le Bourget to Croydon when the flight takes a deadly turn and Madame Giselle, in seat number two, is discovered to be dead, not sleeping. Poison is declared to be the cause, but not just any poison, poison delivered with a blow pipe. Suspicion falls on everyone, including M Poirot.

This was an entertaining read, and worth it just to see how different air travel was in the nineteen thirties - sitting at tables, bone china cups and saucers, sets of fish knives and forks laid out and sharp objects allowed. Those were the days...

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rewards for good (?) behaviour

For me the holy grail of Kitchenotopia has been the Kitchen Aid. Every time I've had a new novel come out I've promised myself I'll get one, but then, have baulked at the rather hefty price tag. Then this week, while sitting at home, full of a cold and feeling slightly sorry for myself I thought, I've got five novels out now - why the *%@# haven't I got that Kitchen Aid yet...

One hour later...

I am in loooooove, and why on earth didn't I do this after book number one?!!!!!

So far we have made five loaves of bread and a batch of bread rolls, plain meringues, chocolate and toasted coconut meringues and minced beef for homemade hamburgers. And we haven't even had it a week yet!

Of course, you'll be saying, why are you baking when you should be writing, Vanda? It's all a creative process, isn't it? This one is just a damn tasty one.

Let me leave you with the loaf of the day...

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Quiet by Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking  by Susan Cain

Being an introvert I found myself naturally drawn to this book (I know, some of you who have met me are saying, seriously? But yes, I am a hard core introvert at heart, and Mr Briggs Myers confirms this emphatically) Susan Cain describes introverts as the people who are quieter, the observers, self-contained, who recharge their batteries in and find their strength in being alone. Who don't like being over-stimulated. Who are more the listeners than the talkers in the world. We prefer to problem solve by ourselves than in a group. (Many writers are introverts, and like me never let anyone see our work until it is finished.) But in the modern world everything seems geared to the extroverts, the talkers, the movers and shakers. Workplaces are open plan, with their endless noise and interruption, supposedly for team play and cross pollination of ideas, hustle and bustle. Classrooms are organised for group learning. That socially we're expected to mingle, party, socialise, feel energised and love that environment. (I'm the one at noisy parties who goes outside to have a quiet, overwhelmed cry, before heading back in, and I'm always one of the first to leave) For an introvert, it's a tough prospect.

In this book Susan Cain talks about the strengths of the introverts . She uses the example of Steve Wozniack, co-founder of Apple, she talks about business people and leaders who are highly successful because they harness their strengths - observing, listening, being very considered before acting. She comes at it from a more cultural point of view, although she cites a lot of research and also looks at the physiological differences between extroverted and introverted people, and what it means for learning and working environments. It also had a very helpful section on what to consider if you have an introverted child.

I found it explained a lot about why I react like I do to certain situations, and how I've adapted to operate in all worlds. It's a great book for introverts, of course, but would also be helpful for extroverts trying to understand their introverted partners/ children/ work colleagues, and valuable for employers and managers in the work place. She doesn't put down extroverts, but rather recognises the difference and that the world definitely needs both. But the strengths of the introvert need to be recognised at many levels in society, from the country's leaders to the class room leaders, to the employers, and of course, by the introverts themselves!

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Celebrating Reginald Hill

Celebrating Reginald Hill during the Crime Writers' Association's Crime Writing Month 2012 is a website dedicated to all things Reginald Hill, the fabulous British crime writer who died early this year. Hosts Margot Kinberg and Rhian Davies have pulled together a month's worth of posts from authors, bloggers and people who knew Hill as a commemoration of his impressive body of work. He is best known as the creator of the Dalziel and Pascoe books, but he also wrote thrillers, historic and science fiction. There has been a wonderful variety of posts so far, and plenty more to come.

Check out the website here

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Bumming around for Bowel Cancer

Beat Bowel Cancer Aotearoa is having a text fundraising campaign for the month of June. NZ folk can Text 'beat' to 4740 to donate $3.00. They asked us folk at the Claymore Swords Club if we'd pull on a pair of their 'don't sit on your symptoms' bum pants for the cause, and seeing as we're all pretty shameless, we said sure thing! It was great fun and a good way to give some exposure to a cancer we all seem too shy to talk about the symptoms of.

Fi gets me with a 'beat' attack

Just Bumming around for a good cause

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


I thought Stellar was the best way to describe two recent events.

The most recent was, of course, the Transit of Venus today. After a very snowy night, we Dunedinites were delighted to have an icy but clear day to look to the skies and see the transit of Venus across the face of the sun. I'd purchased a family pack of viewing glasses so the boys could go off to school armed with a pair, and so I could follow its progress during the day. Very cool! I have also been reading Awa Press's wonderful little book The Transit of Venus, which is a series of articles by scientists and historians on the effect of the transit on the world. It also reminds us that Captain Cook was on his way to Tahiti to observe the transit of Venus when he discovered New Zealand. It's a fab wee read.

The other stellar event was the fabulous Yarns in Barns festival in the Wairarapa. I had the pleasure of being part of the Yarns in Barns great debate, with the topic up for discusion 'The arts have a sporting chance in New Zealand - yeah right.' I was on the negative team with team captain Bernard Beckett and Catherine Robertson, and the affirmative had Captain Harry Ricketts, Marama Fox and Mark Reason. Gordon McLaughlan had to keep us under control. It was a great night out, and a lot of fun. I hadn't participated in a debate sine high school, so I was a bit nervous about it, but hey, our team rocked! And we won! Bernard Beckett was an awesome team captain, and Catherine and I made sure we flirted shamelessly with the audience and with Gordon. It worked.

I also did a talk at the Masterton Archive the next day. Yarns in Barns is organised by Hedleys Book Shop in Masterton, and it is fantastic that a small region like the Wairarapa can put on a full week of literature events to full houses. Awesome!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Write On Radio Show today

It's Write On Radio Show day and the show I produce and host for the Otago Southland Branch of the NZSA airs on Otago Access Radio today (Wednesday) from noon till 1.00pm. They live stream from their website if you're not blessed enough to be living in Dunedin.

Helen Lowe is a Christchurch based, award winning writer of Fantasy Fiction. Her first novel Thornspell won the Julius Vogel Award. Her latest novel is The Gathering of the Lost, the second in The Wall of Night series. We’ll talk about fantasy fiction, and also the challenges of being a writer in Christchurch during the earthquakes.

Liz Williams brought us an insiders view of life as a small woman in the New Zealand Police with her first book Does This Make my Gun Look Big? She has now followed this up with Five Foot and Fearless, which tells of her selection, training and duties in the Armed Offenders Squad.

Sunday, April 29, 2012


A jovial and excited crowd of family, friends and colleagues joined me in celebrating the launch of The Faceless at The University Book Shop on Friday night. It felt so special to share that moment with so many people I love. It was extra special too, as my Mum was there from Napier, and my sister Claire came down from Tauranga for the occasion.  (We've had some fun times together these last few days - the three of us under one roof is dangerous!!!) Bronwyn Wyllie-Gibb from UBS got the ball rolling, and then The Faceless was officially launched into the world by Penguin Commissioning Editor, Katie Haworth. Come my turn, I enjoyed being able to thank the people who'd made it all possible, and to talk about the genesis of the book, and a family connection to a person who appears in a significant way to Billy, one of my characters in it.

So now it is officially out there, and I feel exhilarated, exhausted and slightly nervous as I await the feedback...

Monday, April 23, 2012

Book Launch time for The Faceless...

 Penguin NZ and The University Book Shop invite you to the launch of


By Vanda Symon

The University Book Shop,
378 Great King St,

Friday 27 April 2012 



Thursday, April 19, 2012

You know your book launch is getting closer...

...when your advance copies arrive.

It's a real book!

(I didn't blub too much...)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wonderful Wellington

The Wellington Festival of the Arts Writers and Readers Week was fantastic. The days I enjoyed in the capital were idyllic - sunny, no wind, and the city was abuzz with the festival and also a triathlon in town. It was the perfect backdrop for a gal let loose in the city. Yes, I got to be Vanda for the weekend, not Mummy. Vanda got to stay in the very flash and character filled Museum Art Hotel. Vanda got to play frisbee with the lads (although, to my disappointment, none of them had to go for an impromptu swim to collect said frisbee from the harbour). Vanda got to schmooze and finally meet lots of people she only knew from the blogosphere and email. Vanda got to go out to the wee hours of the morning - those crime writer people are bad news, they lead me astray. You get the picture - I had a great time.

I got to see Jo Nesbo in action, and to finally see Headhunters the movie. I didn't enjoy the book, but loved the movie! It was a lot funnier on screen than the book.

The panel event I was there for was great fun. Craig Sisterson was a fab chair, and I always enjoy sharing a stage with Paul Cleave. It was the first time I had met Paul Thomas, and came to the conclusion he's a good bloke.

I got to meet many writers, and enjoyed drinks and chats with local writers Craig Cliff, Eleanor Catton, Helen Heath, Yvonne Walus and Dave Armstrong, among many others. Also got to have fun out with Denise Mina and Robert Shearman. It was my first experience at the Wellington Festival, and hopefully there will be more!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wellington Writers & Readers - here I come...

I am very excited to be winging my way to Wellington this weekend for my first experience of the New Zealand International Festival of the Arts Writers and Readers week. This Sunday at 11.00am I get to share the stage with the two Pauls - Paul Cleave and Paul Thomas, for an hour talking about crime fiction, chaired by Mr Crime Watch - Craig Sisterson. More details about the session can be found here. I head up on Friday, so get to enjoy a few days in the capital wallowing in the festival, catching up with friends and attending receptions and parties. Oh dear, how sad. I'll have to break out my posh frock...

I wonder if Paul C will bring the frisbee...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The man in the lake and other Hamilton mysteries

I had the pleasure of being a panelist in a criminal line up at the Waikato Times Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival on Sunday. Fellow suspects were crime fiction writers Paul Cleave and Ben Sanders, and representing the true crime element was Scott Bainbridge. We were very ably chaired by Crime Watch's Craig Sisterson. It was a good turn out for a very hot and sunny evening, and the audience provided some great questions - in fact we went on for an extra half hour, because the questions kept a coming.

If you ever get to Hamilton, visit the gardens - they are fabulous. Some people embraced the whole experience the gardens thing a little too much, or more specifically, experiencing turtle lake...

...before the event we crime writers were doing what crime writers do...
...playing frisbee...
...Mr Sisterson threw too hard...
...uh oh, splash down...
...Mr Cleave's special 'I've played frisbee in 8 countries with that' frisbee was swimming with the ducks...
...Mr Sisterson's conscience got the better of him...

...A Mr Darcy moment...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Age is a state of mind

I have been absent from the ether courtesy of lots of writing work - proof reading, and more proof reading. Also large on my agenda was the New Zealand Masters Games in Dunedin. We had the pleasure of a three day fencing tournament, which drew fencers in from far and wide and turned out to be a fun and vary competitive event. I was delighted to gain a bronze medal in the women's electric foil and came 4th in the mixed visual foil, and was one of many people walking around Dunedin with  a big grin and a Masters Games body ache!

One very special thing about the Masters Games, is it celebrates sporting competition at any age, and I wanted to share a couple of photos of a very special bout at the fencing. The fencers' combined age is 171 years! These octogenarians are an inspiration.

Doug Williamson (Auckland) vs Ted Nye (Dunedin)

Elder statesmen of fencing.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

In praise of editors

This week was a mad frenzy of work completing the copy edits for The Faceless. The timing was a bit crappy as it was the last week of the holidays and I'd been looking forward to kicking back and relaxing with the boys. But the timing was also brilliant as my editor happened to be down from Auckland the week before to help her daughter shift house, so we got to meet for a coffee and a chat and discover we were on the same wavelength - which is always good!

One of the things she said made me smile. She was concerned that I'd think her editing was a bit too detailed (she is a grammar and punctuation Queen) and that I might think she was being picky. I said are you kidding - I love that. I love that there is someone there with that eye to detail for all the things I miss or don't think are important. As I said to her, when I send my manuscript in to my agent and publisher, it is the first time anyone other than me has clapped eyes on it. That's the way I operate. I can't bear the thought of anyone else reading it while it is a work in progress, I'd be embarrassed. I have many writer friends who pass segments of work around to trusted friends to critique and give feedback, and that works for them, but for me writing is a solitary art, not even hubby gets a look. So I need my team of editors; my agents editor and publishers editor who first read the manuscript and make suggestions about how I can improve things, because I am so involved in the story I sometimes don't see the obvious. I know what's going to happen and who is who, and of course, I think what I've handed in is perfect, when naturally it is not! I need my copy editor who graciously points out that I've used a favourite word 34 times, and that I might like to think of some other synonyms or restructure the sentence.

As a writer you go through various stages of love and hate with a manuscript. After a couple of lots of revisions I was feeling utterly over this book. But after doing the copy edits, and seeing how changing a few words could polish it up sparkling, I have fallen in love with it again, I feel it has reached its true form.

So a toast to the editors. Bless you all.

Monday, January 23, 2012

A book or two...

Those of us addicted to books always look forward to Christmas, harbouring hopes of solid rectangular packages under the tree. That didn't happen so much this year, at this point my family have given up hope of knowing what books I do or don't own, so don't buy me books. But fortunately vouchers take the risk out of it for the darlings and some were kind enough to bless me with book shop gift cards. Books that were under the tree were the wonderful Al Brown cook book Stoked. We've test driven a number of the recipes, and salivated over the other pages. I was also delighted to receive a special surprise of Nothing that Meets the Eye by Patricia Highsmith.

I did do a bit of purchasing over the holidays (it would have been rude not to contribute to the local economies of the towns we were visiting), I fell in love with Bruce McKenzie Booksellers in Palmerston North where I found an interesting little number called The Making of Mr. Gray's Anatomy by Ruth Richardson, an account of the making of Gray's Anatomy that covers everyone from the Mr Henry Gray and Mr Henry Vandyke Carter, to the publishers, wood engravers, the printers and even the women who folded and stitched the pages together.

I also felt the need to buy a little Christopher Hitchens so have Arguably to work my way through.

The books I'm reading at the moment are The Hungry Heart: Journeys with William Colenso, by Peter Wells and The Dead Witness: A Connoisseur's Collection of Victorian Detective Stories, edited by Michael Sims. These are both rather large books, so I may be a while!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Killer songs

One of the serendipitous discoveries on holiday was music, one album or CD in particular, an album that I loved from my childhood and I'd been carting the vinyl record of it around for the past 25 years but had nothing to play it on. So I couldn't believe my luck when trolling through the vast racks of music at JB HiFi that I spotted a CD of Angel Clare by Art Garfunkel. I know you're all going, seriously? Baby faced Art Garfunkel? Yes seriously. Some albums define your childhood, for me it was Angel Clare, and also ABBA, but hey, we wont go there.

So the other night I got to sit down and listen to this album for the first time in 25 years, and to my delight it was still as fabulous, and charming, and surprising as I remembered. The kids loved it. One of the songs I had forgotten about is a nasty little number called Down in the Willow Garden, and boy did I smile as I listened to the lyrics because this very gentle sounding, folksy song is about murdering his love, Rose Connelly. A year or so back Peter Rozovsky over at Detectives Beyond Borders had a post about songs with killer lyrics and I knew there was a song floating around in my consciousness, but I couldn't quite identify it. Well here it was, with it's gentle tune, and sung by this benign looking white guy with a fro, with lyrics like

'I drew a saber through her,
It was a bloody knife,
I threw her in the river,
Which was a dreadful sight.'


You've got to watch the quiet ones.

The full lyrics are here on Art Garfunkel's website. No wonder I turned out to be a crime writer, filling my brain as a child with songs like that!

Monday, January 16, 2012

A new year? Bring it on!

All has been quiet on the blogging front for a while, the grand reason for the silence? - we actually took a holiday! I mean a real holiday, the first holiday we've had in three years, and boy -oh-boy it was good. It was road trip time, from Dunedin to Auckland and lots of places between. So 3566km later, I feel refreshed and rearing to go. And would you believe it, I didn't read any books while I was away - it was a reading holiday too. And a computer holiday. Instead I indulged in lots of newspapers (we can't get The Dominion Post or the New Zealand Herald in Dunedin) crosswords and Sudoku. Bliss.

Highlights for anyone touring New Zealand with a car load of kids?

Prawn fishing at Taupo - yep, bamboo pole fishing rod + a couple of pleasant hours = yum dinner.
The Auckland Maritime Museum - brilliant. We also hit the Auckland Zoo & the War Memorial Museum.
Walking around or up Mt Maunganui.
Southward Car Museum, north of Paraparaumu. Petrol head heaven.
The Lynley Dodd retrospective at Te Manawa in Palmerston North. She is fabulous.
The cook straight ferry crossing - there's nothing quite like cruising down the Marlborough Sounds.
Driving - you certainly feel like you've seen the country when you've actually traveled every flaming kilometre of it!

The holiday also saw the transition of Mr Nine-year-old into Mr Ten-year-old. Wow, double figures. The occasion called for a cake, and this one was thrown together in a bit of a hurry, but the results were Smurfalicious.

So now I feel rested, restored and ready to face a new year head on. Excellent!!!