Thursday, 24 July 2014

Nora Batty stockings and a dash to the altar

I've just finished reading Millions Like Us, by Virginia Nicholson, which chronicles the lives of women during WW2 (read my review here).

It's a fascinating account and the result of meticulous research. The women's recollections range from the horrific to the amusing and everything in between.

It's easy to understand the famous clamour for nylons with the arrival of the GIs, when you learn that the only alternative to silk stockings (which had become almost impossible to get hold of) were those made from cotton lisle, more suited to socks than stockings.

Not only were these less hard wearing than silk, not to mention ugly, (I suspect Nora Batty knew a thing or two about them), they were impractical too. Apparently, when washed they would take up to three days to dry!

On a more uplifting note, there's the lovely story of Eileen and her RAF fiancé Victor. It was the eve of their wedding day and Eileen had gone to meet Victor off the train at Kings Cross, only to find that all leave had been cancelled. She returned home distraught, convinced that the wedding would not now take place.

But her brother and Victor's we're not so easily deterred. They borrowed a van, hared off to Victor's RAF base in Cambridge and "kidnapped" him, returning to London at break-neck speed to meet Eileen at the church for the ceremony. Wedding completed and following a hasty toast to the happy
couple, they chased back to Cambridge and smuggled Victor back into his base before he was missed!

The heart warming end to the story is that Victor survived the war and the couple went on to enjoy 49 years of marriage.


The next Esme Quentin mystery, THE INDELIBLE STAIN, is out soon! 
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Thursday, 3 July 2014

Written the novel - now for the blurb!

With the manuscript of the new Esme Quentin novel currently being copy-edited (exciting news of that coming soon!), I've been focusing on writing the blurb. Always a challenge!

The word 'blurb' is said to have originated in 1907 when a young lady, the fictitious Miss Belinda Blurb, was pictured on the dust jacket of a book at a publishing trade event, apparently shouting out the merits of the book. She was said to be 'blurbing'. The term stuck.

The trick with a book blurb, of course, is not to give too much away, while hooking the reader into the story.

A good blurb shouldn't be too long winded and should only offer a taster of the story, rather than a plateful.  There's nothing that turns me off more than a rambling summary of events in the first quarter of the book. And I lose the will to live if I'm not completely grabbed by the first sentence or two. 

While browsing my bookshelves for inspiration (something you can't easily do with a kindle, it has to be said!) I came across this example.

"What can you say about a 25 year old girl who died? That she was beautiful. And brilliant. That she loved Mozart and Bach. And the Beatles. And me." 

The blurb (and opening lines), of course, to Erich Segal's Love Story, published in 1970.

Segal had originally written it as a screenplay but it was rejected by the main studios as being too sentimental. It was suggested that Segal write it as a novel instead. It proved good advice. It spent a year in the New York Times' hardback bestseller list and sold tens of millions of copies, helped no doubt by the movie of the same name, which came out later that same year. 

The book is only 127 pages long. Erich Segal said of it, "The average person takes an hour and a half to read the book. The movie lasts longer." That can't happen often, if ever!

Love Story has a special place in my past reading list. It was the first book I ever read which made me cry. A lot.