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Onlion Book Reviews

21 April 14 words: Reviews
With Ross Bradshaw's collection of essays surrounding crime, The Artist and The Engineer, Seven Daze and more
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Ross Bradshaw (Ed)
£9.99, Five Leaves

Crime is the focus for this arresting collection of essays from Notts-based publisher Five Leaves. Many of the contributors are no strangers themselves to the mean streets of Nottingham, including such luminaries as Jon McGregor and John Harvey. From recent horrors to the annals of folklore, we encounter true life crime, explored from different political and psychological angles. It’s a diverse compendium: in the turn of a page I went from reading John Stuart Clark’s riveting memoirs about scrappin’ in 1970’s Nottingham to Danuta Reah’s insightful look at the science of forensic linguistics. Crime in its fictional form also comes under the spotlight with much to enjoy, especially for those that prefer their literature hardboiled. The proofreader should be brought in for questioning (who stole Philip Marlowe’s e?) but this book is a steal at just under a tenner.
Five Leaves website

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The Artist and the Engineer
Elvis Simpson
£1.01, Kindle Editions

Grechyin Green lives a quiet, mostly solitary life in a cosy home somewhere far from here. Lorenzo, a mysterious and seemingly supernatural man visits from time to time, and a tentative friendship blossoms between the two. Tragedy strikes before long, and it throws the world in which they live into chaos, as the forces that created and still nurture the world and the wider cosmos find it slipping beyond their control as something else seeps in existence on a mission of spite and corruption. Simpson’s novel has ambitious scope, but never lives up to the ideas that underpin his fantasy world. The book feels like an uncertain attempt at creating a fable, and neither the characters nor the world itself ever come through clearly enough to ever make us feel invested in the story. Robin Lewis
Amazon website

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Seven Daze
Charlie Wade
£6.99, Caffeine Nights

Acting on the advice of an ex-cellmate, career criminal Jim takes a job as a contract killer. He’s about to make his first hit when the target suffers a heart attack and, before Jim can exact his plan, a city worker jumps to the man’s aid. The upshot of this botched job is that Jim has seven days to compensate his boss to the tune of ten grand or he’ll end up at the bottom of the Thames. After befriending a couple of merry men in a backstreet boozer, our latter-day Robin Hood heads for the financial district where he sets about fleecing the wealthy in a series of rather repetitive scams. Still, it’s a promising debut with a surprising twist. The intrigue comes from Jim’s relationship with the good-Samaritan Charlotte, a woman physically and financially out of his league. Will Jim resort to conning her? And what’s she doing with him? A lighter read than you might expect.
Caffeine Night website

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Past Present Future
NJ Alexander £11.99
When commentators talk about how the digital age heralds the death of the novel, I’m not sure this is what they mean. While this may be a well intentioned book, it’s let down by some indifferent writing. Apparently based on true events, Past Present Future explores the potential of social media to take over our lives and affect our mental health. But there’s an awful lot of “then I clicked on this” and “this is how Facebook works.” Obsessive behaviour doesn’t necessarily make riveting reading. Alexander has clearly done a lot of research. Unfortunately she’s also made the mistake of shoehorning as much of it in as possible, and sometimes it’s not clear why. I would have liked fewer descriptions of every status update and more development of the secondary characters. This reads like an interesting first draft but perhaps it needs a little more work. Sue Barsby
Past Present Future website

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The Letters Page Issue 2
Jon McGregor (Ed)
Free, Nottingham University
There are many things to love about the second edition of The Letters Page, but I’ll just stick to two for now. The Letters Page is a literary journal compiled at the University of Nottingham, edited by Nottingham’s Jon McGregor, and it publishes short letters on a theme. The first edition explored the concept of letter writing and contained some cracking writing, but I reckon this issue’s even stronger. The theme is pen pals. Which brings me to the first thing I wanted to discuss. The variety of letters that emerge from a simple theme is a joy. Letters to the self from the future, letters discussing memory, one cheeky reply to a letter from the first issue. And perhaps surprisingly, the format feels fresh. In these days of email, tweets, texts and Snapchat you may find that strange but this journal fills a gap we didn’t know we had. Sue Barsby
The Letters Page website

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