A Review: The Forgotten Son

As many of my readers may know, I’m one writer in the multi-authored Lethbridge-Stewart series, aka The Brigadier of Doctor Who fame. So I thought to look back at the book that launched the series by the author and editor, Andy Frankham-Allen.

My most lasting memory of The Brigadier is an episode of Doctor Who (I could not tell you which) starring Jon Pertwee. I have a clear image in my head of the Doctor driving away in Bessie with Alistair Lethbridge-Stewart looking on. Whether time has altered that visual I don’t know, but that is my clearest memory of first seeing Nicholas Courtney play a character as well-beloved by Who fans as any of the companions.

I’m a Doctor Who fan, but I cannot call myself an aficionado. An abiding love is not the same as repeatedly watching and researching the series to be as knowledgeable as Andy Frankham-Allen. His love of the show shines through not only in this story but in that Lethbridge-Stewart now appears as the lead in a new series of books. I didn’t even know that the first appearance of Lethbridge-Stewart takes place in a 1968 episode The Web of Fear before reading the first book, nor do I remember the Yeti who terrorised London at the control of the Great Intelligence.

The Forgotten Son is a sequel of that story where the Great Intelligence, having escaped, leads Colonel Lethbridge-Stewart away from restoring order in London to his birthplace of Bledoe in Cornwall where he has to face not only a resurgence of the threat but some peculiar truths pertaining to his past. In this way, we learn a great deal more of the character, and in that, the story becomes more than a mere continuance.

As I’m not a diehard fan, I reserved my expectations. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy the story at all, but the writing is warm and opulent, making even the more complex elements easy to read and understand. Although I’d say it’s an action driven book, it still reveals much about the characters. I found the work a little choppy in places, but to explain I need to add that some scenes run short, unlike in most novels; however, I’ve encountered this with some tie-in/spin-off series from television before. These books often seem written as complements to the episodes, and the change of scenes happens the way they might in a show. Once I grew used to this, I no longer found it a problem. A pleasure was seeing the story set in Cornwall, an area I know well.

The story is the first and perhaps the hardest to produce. It’s the springboard from which other stories will come and sets the tone, provides a background even those who watch Doctor Who will be unfamiliar with. I’m just sorry Nicholas Courtney didn’t live to see these books come to the market. I can think of nothing better than had he a chance to read even a snippet of this aloud to an audience.

I began the book with a fondness for Lethbridge-Stewart created from nostalgia and memories, but with no desire to get to know this character at all. I finished it, wondering where the novels will take him and what more they might reveal about Lethbridge-Stewart’s job and beyond—the man (both fictitious and real) who will always be to me ‘The Brigadier’.

I cannot end without praising all those who aided in getting this series launched at all. Whether the books meet with commendation or censure, the character deserves his own series and has been too long overlooked.

Update August 2020

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
To start on a sour note, as I read a reference of people dying from the 1918 pandemic until 1923, it seems we all need to make the best of a bad situation and, though the onus is on the individual to keep themselves safe, we went for a walk with close friends, ‘together’ yet as separately as possible. Life won’t be without risk for no one knows how long. It’s hard to live in a tourist area with this going on, though some spots are less populated, so it’s safer than if we were still living in London. I would ask every visitor to remember that wherever they go, it’s where someone lives and to treat that area with respect.

Sadly, like warnings against piracy of books, music, films, etc., those who pay attention wouldn’t do it, and the rest don’t care or happily steal. So asking people to bin their litter or take it home is likely a wasted effort. I can’t help thinking we need to go back in time and run those Keep Britain Tidy campaigns once again. When I was a child, you dropped litter in the street and you could expect a clip on the back of the head from a parent. Rubbish and human waste are always a problem but have been a particular bane in the South West this year.

FILM/TV:
Nothing particular to report. We’ve started watching Star Trek Discovery but can’t say we’re taken with it. (Warning for spoilers.) Finding it slow and love…not…

…how the main character is getting her end away while the bad guys torture her captain. I’m afraid I fell about laughing. Also, major plot hole when doctor alerts the person who may not be who they think to their face without first telling the captain and ordering a security detail. I understand ‘why’ they did it that way, but if I could think of at least two alternative scenarios to bring about a similar outcome, I would expect writers of such a series to do the same. I would have previously voted Voyager to be my least favourite Star Trek series, but this may be a close call.

We watched to the end of the current series of The Blacklist — a series we’ve always enjoyed — that alas they had to finish partly by animation because of the pandemic. May be some time before we see the next season.

For fans of the actor and of Marvel, it stunned many this week to hear of the tragic death of Chadwick Boseman. I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing the role of Black Panther with a quiet regal dignity the character needed. Characteristics which seem to describe the man himself from what his closest friends say and the fact that he quietly battled colon cancer for 4 years.

READING:
The Witcher: Time of Contempt, Andrzej Sapkowski
While I’m not saying these books contain the best writing (perhaps a little becomes lost in the translation), they continue not to disappoint. In this volume, the situation heats up with all out battles and portents of war greater than the world of the Witcher has experienced to date.

Allotted Time, Robin Shelton
Not a laugh out loud read but still pleasantly humorous memoir/diary of two hapless gardeners who still made something grow. The only thing the book lacks is photos of the shed and the greenhouse which I would have loved to see.

Audrey Rose, Frank De Felitta (ebook)
The classic story of reincarnation. I’m unsure what genre I would place this in. It’s not scary and, for me, goes on too long, though it’s a perfectly excellent telling of a series of logical events including a court room enactment. Though some may say farfetched and it likely wouldn’t happen today, I particularly like how those in authority, including the judge, all put their own careers above the possible mental or physical safety of a child. Something rings true about the media circus and ‘trial of the decade’ debacle to this day.

Dead Trees Give No Shelter, Wil Wheaton (ebook)
The story of two boys, one who died young and one now an adult, still haunted by the mysterious circumstances of his brother’s death. While many could write this story, it’s expertly told, and, like most monster stories, the true face of the fiend may not be all it seems.

The Wise Friend, Ramsey Campbell
This story has the warm, welcoming tones of Lovecraft feeding on a sense of something otherworldly and disturbing. Worlds within worlds, and secret universes glimpsed but seldom seen. Disquieting in style rather than scary. I felt a few sentences were awkward and would have liked more dialogue tags but enjoyed the read.

The Witcher: Baptism of Fire, Andrzej Sapkowski
Though I’m not so taken with the tell rather than show sections of this series, I’m still absorbed in the world of The Witcher. This book reveals a new take on a classic monster and an ironic surprise at the end. On to the next…

A Head Full of Ghosts, Paul Tremblay
Feels wrong to say I enjoyed this book because of the subject and the outcome. Alas, this novel suffers from reader expectation, tainted by what the book’s blurb and endorsements promise, especially if the reader has loved a previous work of the author more. I would call this a book of suspense, or psychological horror…though, as Tremblay expertly questions in the end notes that may depend on your definition of horror. At times, the book has a Young Adult flavour, though that’s understandable as the main character imparts her story to another. Well written and constructed the unease (for me) comes filtered through the mind of an ill child… or does it? That’s for each reader to decide, but I know where my conclusion lies. It’s a fine novel and quality read, but never scared me. Still, I like Tremblay’s work and will read more as he seems to write subtle fiction open to question that lingers.

WRITING:
I’m approximately halfway through my first draft of my first horror novel. And I received my author copy of Night to Dawn magazine which features reprints of my short story The Wolf Moon, and my poem, Ichabod, Ichabod, Ichabod. It’s due for release in October.

Stay happy and healthy!
Sharon x

Update July 2020

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
Have battled the weather to get the front door and window sills painted. We still have two window sills to do, but we cannot believe the difference. I won’t share what I called the colour they had painted the sills originally, but it’s so nice to see it going, if not gone. Looks like a new house.
Still not ventured out yet, in part owing to the weather which has been mostly miserable recently, but also because the Southwest is pretty much sold out with beach carparks closing early mid morning because they are already full. We’re considering this year to be a washout and have no plans to go anywhere or to meet up with anyone, but we do need to get walking. With that in mind, I’m researching some lesser-known walks of the type most tourists avoid.

FILM/TV:
Watched a series I won’t name because of spoilers but when the secondary character dies at the end (or does she?) and you’re relieved because she’d become annoying, and you feel the lead should have got over her long ago, it’s not a good sign. Unfortunately, nothing particularly wonderful springs to mind, though if you like Will Ferrell humour (for me it’s hit and miss), Eurovision was a better film than I expected. There’s not a lot of new stuff coming on anywhere, no doubt because things are on hold, not getting made, and the networks fear of running out.

READING:
Glad to say I’m keeping to a greater number of books read this year.

The Godsend, Bernard Taylor
If you love evil-children tales, this is for you. Though there are maybe few surprises it’s the author’s style that draws in the reader. And it’s written in such a realistic way, it’s entirely plausible. In one sense, it’s quite a basic book and when I began I didn’t expect to like it all that much, but there’s something about the pacing that makes this insidious. Big blue beautiful eyes have never been so untrustworthy.

Amuse Bouche, Anthony Bidulka
A light amusing read with a likeable protagonist in the form of Russell Quant, private eye. There seem to be complaints that this isn’t a gay romance, but I never thought it was or should be, least not in the first book. Fast-paced entertainment. The ending for me, unfortunately, didn’t come as a surprise.

The Witcher, Blood of Elves, Andrzej Sapkowski
From reviews, it appears the Witcher books are a little like marmite. While I found some passages in this book duller than any of the previous titles, those parts were necessary to the overall narrative. I like that these books come together with never the same pattern. A kind of tapestry of short stories that makes the Witcher so different. In this book we learn more of Ciri and what happened to her where the Netflix series left off.

Something Nasty in the Woodshed, Kyril Bonfiglioli
Though the subject of rape is definitely not one for amusement, it’s the only sensible choice to make the plot of the third Mortdecai book work, though it tarnishes an all too easily worked out (for me at least) implausible plot filled with tangents. Still, I continue to love Mortdecai’s manservant/bodyguard, Jock, most of all, and if you’re one upset by politically incorrect classism and sexism, then none of these books are for you. Anyone who’s reached book three knows how antisocial and pretty much anti anything except booze, Mortdecai is. Take him as he is or don’t. There are some classic lines, as always. There are two other books (one finished by another writer when the author died and murmurs are only one is worth a read) but for the moment I’m unsure if this is where I will stop.

The Vampyre, Tom Holland
A well thought out, well-written fabulous blend of fact and fiction, but as one character tells the story to another, I felt distanced from the action. The strange circumstances which take Byron to visit the ancient castle are all too reminiscent of the most famous vampire, with, for several pages, Byron taking on a similar role to that of Jonathan Harker, and Vakhel Pasha, that of Dracula. There were parts I found absorbing, other areas where my attention wandered. The creatures that occupy the castle give the classic Igor competition. Still, overall it’s an excellent work with ideas both incredible and ludicrous, often hallucinatory. I came to love the book, though some of my feelings remain ambiguous.

Phantoms, Dean Koontz
Another reread for me as part of a possible book clearance. Dean Koontz often gets shelved in the Horror category, when his work is more one of supernatural thrillers, some with science fiction or horror sub-genres. This book covers all these in a well blended, often edge of the seat chiller. When death comes to a small town in several bizarre ways, it raises questions about life, various belief systems, and the nature of good and evil. I’m unsure if the sub-story featuring a murderer’s arrest worked for me or was necessary to the overall plot. And the ending also took a little longer to complete than was ideal, but this is a well-written book with an excellent story. One I dither over whether to keep.

The Diary of a Nobody, George and Weedon Grossmith
A classic which I first read as a teen, surprising my then English teacher when I chose it from the school library. Loved it then, adored it now. Perhaps surprisingly, it first appeared in Punch magazine in the late 1800s. Though simplistic — a middle-class gentleman seems to think his diary has as much chance to see publication as anyone else’s — it’s an exaggerated, humorous look at society and social observations, yet contains an underlying sadness. Part of the fun (and less cheery tone) comes from the things Mr Pooter finds so amusing and which plainly are not. The tale remains charming, and the illustrations delightful.

WRITING:
I drafted some and wrote a synopsis submission for a story I’ve been asked to write, though it will go through many changes. I confess I hate writing this way. Usually, for fiction, you write before you submit. Having a story accepted based on a synopsis means a real deadline once given the go-ahead. It’s why, despite being told I shouldn’t, I’ve penned a ‘few’ scenes — it’s the way my mind works. I’m a pantser mostly and have no clue what direction the story will go until I write. The more I’m bogged down by plot, the less inspired I feel. It’s the age old argument between plotters and pantsers, but really one figures it out beforehand knowing things may change, while the other figures it out as they go, fixing things in edits. For me, the second option is definitely more fun. Having said all that, I’ve also been figuring out a rough guide for the horror novel I’m writing and I’m about a quarter done. I don’t have a market for this in mind, but the story has nagged me long enough. I need it out of my head before I worry over its future.

Stay Well and Happy Reading!
Sharon x

Update May 2020

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
As the weather turned nice, we reorganised part of the garden. We now have three seating areas, one on the terrace, one under the pergola. We also moved the roses (in pots) to a more secluded area where they seem to do better, and put a bench on the outside of the pergola (where the roses were) in case we want to sit in some late afternoon sun, by which time most of the sunshine has gone to the front. Not terribly exciting, but then life isn’t at the moment for those of us keeping safe and waiting out the second wave of this pandemic.

FILM/TV:
Finished watching everything we started last month and delved into the last season of Peaky Blinders, and the second season of Sex Education, which is worth watching for the views of the Welsh countryside alone. Watched the last season of Ash Vs The Evil Dead on DVD. None of my friends would understand my love of this B-movie style horror comedy films or series, but my love of Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi’s work is enduring for which I make no apologies.

READING:
It’s been a good month reading wise.

The Tent, The Bucket and Me, Emma Kennedy
A sometimes funny, a sometimes cover your eyes and peep through your fingers cascade of family holiday disasters, this book is also a nostalgic ride for those who lived through the 70s especially if your parents ever dragged you camping. Fortunately, my memories aren’t as horrendous as Emma’s but none have ever made me wish to go sit in a field in a tent again. At times, I really felt for her and recollected that moment when parents become embarrassing.

The English Monster, Lloyd Shepherd
Written with more tell than show, and the omnipresent head-hopping and change of point of view meant the style didn’t quite work for me but this is the only negative. A shadowy murder thriller in dark shady alleyways of old London, at others a swashbuckling adventure on the high seas. Best described as a historical thriller, this is a detective story told over more than one century following two separate paths that join strangely, but I love a different way of storytelling and in this the author has excelled.

The House of Thunder, Dean Koontz
A strange story of a woman caught in the possible grip of madness, trapped in a real or personal Hell. A reread for me and I’d completely forgotten this story so didn’t know the outcome, although I partially guessed the direction in which it was heading. This is one to read for the buildup, especially if you love creepy tales, which, in this instance, Koontz weaves well. Though I found the horror a little cheesy in one spot, I sped through this book in two days. An easy, absorbing ‘fun’ read.

After You With the Pistol, Kyril Bonfiglioli
The second Mordecai novel is easier to read and funnier than the first, though I struggled to overlook a distasteful account of what should be a woman’s response to rape. I can attribute this to other times as I’m not one to judge people from the past by today’s standards, but it spoilt an otherwise entertaining read.

Tainaron, Leena Krohn
First, the copy I have is of a small hardback book that’s a delight to hold with an eye-catching slip cover, and drawings dotted throughout; a fast read at only 124 pages. The story from this Finnish prize-winning author is a fantasy told in a series of letters written by a foreign visitor and sent from an insect city. There’s no plot. We never know the recipient of these letters and only get to know the writer obliquely. I’ve heard the character writing the letters is female, but I never picked up on that and saw the letter writer as male, lost and adrift, having travelled to Tainaron seeking a promise that may never be fulfilled unless it’s found within. The most obvious nuance is one of change. There’s something visceral in the narrative, making this a book with an amorphous emotional impact. I’m sure many will find this nonsensical, bizarre, maybe pointless, yet there’s something memorable and almost poetic about the book. And, like a poem, will have significance for some, be meaningless to others.

The Shepherd’s Crown, Terry Pratchett
A strange experience reading the last Discworld novel, though it’s not the last Discworld novel I have to read. I’m in the dubious position of knowing there are no more books than those I have on my shelves and I should finish them. But once I do, there are no more. While I will spend time before getting around to the last few, there are still Discworld books for me to look forward to. Terry Pratchett was without doubt my most beloved author and reading his last work would always be difficult, which is part of the reason I procrastinated. The four Tiffany Aching books aren’t my favourite, though I love the Feegles and own a Rob Anybody. This is a poignant end to the Discworld series and as a farewell from Terry.

Big Damn Hero (Firefly), James Lovegrove
I want to start by saying I found this a lovely paperback. The cover has an excellent design and texture with flaps like a dust jacket. There are even small touches such as an image of Serenity similar to a watermark on the pages at each chapter. Alas, there were half a dozen typos within which pull me out of the story somewhat, but it’s worth overlooking those slight errors to enjoy another episode of Firefly. And that’s how this book reads — like a missing episode, particularly as we get to know more about the characters, especially Shepherd Book. Maybe a hard one to recommend, and no, it will never be like watching the series, but as a die hard Firefly fan I’ll take the novel over nothing and will pick up more as they’re released.

WRITING:
I received edits and the cover for An Act of Generosity, which re-releases in June with JMS books. I’ve also been writing and plotting for another book in a series (not romance) that I’m unable to talk about yet. I’ve yet to run the idea by the publisher to see whether they’ll be interested.

Stay Well and Happy Reading!
Sharon x

Update April 2020

Hi Everyone!

AT HOME:
This would usually start with ‘Out and About’ but as none of us who are sensible are doing much if any of that I’ve not much to share. Most of my ‘out’ was related to food shopping and a couple of local walks for fresh air, exercise, and to post a birthday card. Truly hate shopping at this time, not just because of the need to be careful but because we can’t shop the way we like: together and doing a large monthly shop with a small top-up. We’re having to shop more than we’d like and it’s costing a little extra because we can’t always go where we want, which makes it more annoying. Still, we’re doing our best to remain safe, especially as my other half is a key worker. We’re feeling lucky right now to have some small local suppliers, a front and back garden, and somewhere to walk; not the best — I’d really appreciate being more coastal right now, but there is a view well worth seeing when things get too much.

FILM/TV:
We’ve started watching The Rookie and so far so good. Not through the first season yet, but they’ve kept the stories going. Been watching, or I should say, re-watching an old British favourite: Only Fools and Horses. Some great lines with memorable characters and comments, references, and slang only a Brit might be likely to laugh over. I quite enjoyed October Faction but, seriously (and this is a note to all writers), when someone has a massive knife shoved into their gut or side unless you’re healing them by supernatural magical means don’t have them walking around within minutes or even hours. I’m so tired of programmes supernatural or otherwise where someone is stabbed or shot and they shake it off as though it’s nothing. You might — only ‘might’ mind you — keep going a short while in the heat of the moment in a life-threatening situation with the help of an adrenaline rush, but that won’t last long and the pain is liable to be crippling.

READING:
The Eyes of Darkness, Dean Koontz
A re-read, this book reminds me of why I’ve been a longtime reader of this author whose work is best described as supernatural thrillers. Though sludgy in places plot-wise with a few coincidences this is solid plotting. More than that, Koontz must be one of the first in this genre who regularly started producing drop-kick heroines. More recent reviews seem to connect this book as being precognitive considering the troubles of 2020, but this is simply coincidence, and a subject written about by many authors; would be a pity if this happenstance puts anyone off an excellent read, although this novel is one to read for the journey more than the outcome. My only negatives is a wish to have connected to the character of Danny more and the ending feels a little abrupt after the investment of a great build-up.

The Last Wish, Andrzej Sapkowski
After watching the first season of The Witcher, I understandably wanted to read the books. Though the writing isn’t fancy the narrative works well for this story making for a warm, comfortable read that lends itself to the creation of a world that feels real from the outset. There are storylines that will be familiar for those who watched the series, and others that diverge from what they know but they all work. Like the non-linear story telling of the show, the book breaks up the various storylines making for especially interesting reading, and the first leaves on a perfect cliffhanger of note. I read a review calling the characters soulless and perhaps seeing the show makes me feel otherwise but I wouldn’t call reserved the same thing as soulless and find the details and inventiveness of The Witcher and the world he inhabits captivating enough to make up for anything the book lacks. While some depth may be lacking this still brings the world of The Witcher to life and I’ll read the rest in the series.

The Siren, Tiffany Reisz
This is a difficult book to review without spoilers. First, the writing and plotline is superb, yet, while I far from dislike this book the BDSM elements were unexpected from the simple blurb but it pleased me the erotic content is far from lascivious and often not even graphic. The story tears the reader apart in so many places, pulling in so many directions, it should win hands down. But it’s toward the last quarter of the book the story lost me. I couldn’t see what there was to love about Soren, though I see this is now part of an 8 book series and hear we learn more about him as the story progresses. And when I thought one or more character should be content with a chosen path, they surprised me. I’m unsure whether I was satisfied with any of the decisions and I ultimately found the character of Nora frustrating, even fickle, though some might view her way of loving more forgiving. Perhaps too forgiving. I felt this is really Nora’s story and I would have preferred she were the first introduced to make this more obvious. I’ve read the blurbs for the series and, though I doubt I’ll commit to reading more, this works as a standalone novel and was worth the time spent with it. I couldn’t fault the world this author weaves or her writing.

WRITING:
I signed a contract with JMS books to re-release my (personally re-edited) novella, An Act of Generosity. I still cannot believe how much my writing and editing has changed. I also completed a few minor edits on a short story that will appear in an upcoming edition of Night to Dawn. Meanwhile, I’m working on another project I’ve been asked to write for, but I’m unable to say more at this time.

Stay well and Happy Reading!

Sharon x

Update March 2020

Hi Everyone!

OUT AND ABOUT:
Well, without the need of hindsight, we’d have preferred not to have gone away. Alas, rules stated that holiday companies have the right to insist you go so at the time of travelling we had little choice other than to lose a lot of long-saved money for a holiday we’ve been planning over several years and trying to take for the last three. The first year we couldn’t get a flight, the second I was too unwell, and, this time, though I’ve issues I now have to deal with the rest of my life, I struggled through and reached the Caribbean…only to have our holiday cancelled mid-trip. The good news is they brought us home on time and no one became ill. I still didn’t reach the islands I hoped to and now don’t know if I ever will.

On that note, and in this bleak time, I’ll leave you a view of what certainly looks like paradise.

FILM/TV:
As we’ve been away, we’ve not done much viewing but as we’re spending a great deal more time inside we quickly caught up with The Outside, Avenue 5, and Locke & Key. I enjoyed Locke & Key but had to cringe a little in episode 9 over several characters’ stupidity, and in episode 10 I guessed the outcome and all the ‘surprises’. Maybe it comes from being a writer, although I think I’ve always been a little like this.

READING:
Lanny, Max Porter
While it may not be for everyone, there’s no denying Max Porter has his own style. Written in an abstract, patchy way, Lanny reveals the story of a child gone missing, throwing an ugly light on the duplicities of human emotion and reaction. Though I found this style of storytelling a little too fragmentary, the book’s ultimately unsettling and effective in parts. Yet I can see how the style will frustrate many rather than seem artistic. Either creative or pretentious and difficult to choose which. Good for those who don’t mind the surreal, a departure from traditional narrative, though I would urge reading a sample before purchasing.

I’ve Got Your Number, Sophie Kinsella
My first read by this author, though it may not be my last. I’ve seen some reviews about the implausibility of the plot, but with this style of book I’m happy to hang up any sense of disbelief at the door. It’s light, fun, well plotted with characters well developed enough for the story. I found the footnotes annoying at first, but soon got used to them. I’d happily pick up another book, though this isn’t the type of story I often read.

Don’t Point That Thing at Me, Kyril Bonfiglioli
The first of the Mortdecai novels, though fun, was a little slower in pace than I expected and with sidetracks and wanderings as without restraint as Mordecai himself. I’ve never read what someone ate or the copious amounts someone drank (made my liver wince) to such a degree in a novel. Still, this is undeniably classic and I couldn’t help warming to Charlie Mortdecai and loving his thug of a servant, Jock.

WRITING:
None to report though now I’m back I’m diving into several projects. And don’t forget my short story, Bead Trickling Laughter, is in April’s edition of Night to Dawn, available from Amazon (print), search Night to Dawn 37, or directly from the publisher (print or pdf) https://bloodredshadow.com/ . “Carol Ann never expected to return to Aunt Margaret’s old house on Church Hill, but when her adopted sister, Cheryl, dies upon the stairs outside, a greater mystery than death calls her home.”

Happy Reading!
Sharon x