A funny thing happened on the way to Uni…

23 12 2017

True Crime on Campus

by someone or other

 

Students, staff and visitors often do the strangest things. From zombie apocalypse and unexplained beeping incidents to Quidditch and scrabble accidents it really is all kicking off on campus.

Pigeons, tigers, ninja turtles and a tarantula are all involved and there is much strange behaviour and many unfortunate events.

Staff, students and anyone interested in what really happens outside the university lecture room will enjoy these very real examples of True Crime on Campus.

 

I’ve been publishing True Crime on Campus since 2010 under the banner of Registrarism at Wonkhe.  Over this time many hundreds of bizarre, unfortunate, inexplicable and just plain weird campus crime reports have appeared. Now the very best of them are collected in an exciting book. It’s full of this kind of thing:

You can buy the book here, via the University’s online shop, confident that half of any profits from the sale will be given to support the Children’s Brain Tumour Research Centre at the University of Nottingham. You can also now buy it on Amazon if you prefer.

Go on, you know it makes sense. Look at all these reviews:

 

The Guardian thought it was a great Christmas gift and it got a recommendation in the Times Higher too as well as on the University’s news pages. The Nottingham Post also liked it:

 

And obviously it gets from me although it is possible I am not wholly unbiased.

 

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Off the scent

25 05 2019

Perfume by Patrick Süskind

 

In eighteenth-century France there lived a man who was one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages. His name was Jean-Baptiste Grenouille, and if his name has been forgotten today, it is certainly not because Grenouille fell short of those more famous blackguards when it came to arrogance, misanthropy, immorality, or, more succinctly, wickedness, but because his gifts and his sole ambition were restricted to a domain that leaves no traces in history: to the fleeting realm of scent . . .

It’s an excellent premise for a grim tale as the merciless Grenouille, abandoned as a child, discovers he has an extraordinary talent, his amazing sense of smell. In making the most remarkable perfumes he nevertheless has to go further to achieve perfection. Which is where the trouble really starts. Smart and sharp but really very gruesome indeed.





No country for young men

18 05 2019

To Die in Spring by Ralf Rothmann

Walter Urban and Friedrich ‘Fiete’ Caroli work side by side as hands on a dairy farm in northern Germany. By 1945, it seems the War’s worst atrocities are over. When they are forced to ‘volunteer’ for the SS, they find themselves embroiled in a conflict which is drawing to a desperate, bloody close. Walter is put to work as a driver for a supply unit of the Waffen-SS, while Fiete is sent to the front. When the senseless bloodshed leads Fiete to desert, only to be captured and sentenced to death, the friends are reunited under catastrophic circumstances.

In a few days the war will be over, millions of innocents will be dead, and the survivors must find a way to live with its legacy.

It’s a brilliant evocation of what feels like the end of days. The war is almost over but anarchy reigns and the horror is palpable. A grim and gripping novel which really captures the nightmares for all of the final days of the war. Highly recommended.

 

four stars





Verbatim reporting

11 05 2019

Transcription by Kate Atkinson

 

In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past for ever.

Ten years later, now a producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence.

 

It’s a great idea for a novel and Atkinson evokes the wartime home front and the post-war era extremely well. The plot is a smart one too and the tedium and detail of Juliet’s transcription work cleverly represented. Kate Atkinson writes exceptionally well and her books are always a pleasure to read. This one through doesn’t quite fly in the way some of her others have but still well worth a go.





Bend it like Nabokov

4 05 2019

Bend Sinister by Vladimir Nabokov

 

 

The state has been recently taken over and is being run by the tyrannical and philistine ‘Average Man’ party. Under the slogans of equality and happiness for all, it has done away with individualism and freedom of thought. Only John Krug, a brilliant philosopher, stands up to the regime. His antagonist, the leader of the new party, is his old school enemy, Paduk – known as the ‘Toad’. Grieving over his wife’s recent death, Krug is at first dismissive of Paduk’s activities and sees no threat in them. But the sinister machine which Paduk has set in motion may prove stronger than the individual, stronger even than the grotesque ‘Toad’ himself.

No, it’s not the (outstandingly good) album by The Fall, but a remarkable Nabokov novel which I only came across recently. Written just after the last war it nevertheless feels very topical and relevant. The philosopher Krug is far from a likeable hero but he nevertheless impresses through his resistance against the tyranny of his former school mate. It’s a powerful book and rather dark and troubling.

 

four stars





The magic of the cup

27 04 2019

How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the FA Cup by J L Carr

 

 

‘But is this story believable? Ah, it all depends upon whether you want it to believe it.’ J.L. Carr

 

In their new all-buttercup-yellow-stripe, Steeple Sinderby Wanderers, who usually feel lucky when their pitch is above water-level, are England’s most obscure team. This uncategorizable, surreal and extremely funny novel is the story of how they start the season by ravaging the Fenland League and end it by going all the way to Wembley.

Told through unreliable recollection, florid local newspaper coverage and bizarre committee minutes, How Steeple Sinderby Wanderers Won the F.A. Cup is both entertaining and moving. There will never be players again like Alex Slingsby, Sid ‘the Shooting Star’ Swift and the immortal milkman-turned-goalkeeper, Monkey Tonks.

 

It’s a fantastic yarn about how a team from nowhere wins the FA Cup. A highly entertaining tale which has humour, pathos and really embodies what used to be the magic of the FA Cup. It’s a timeless read and highly recommended. The story, although published in 1975, also reminded me of the Miracle Of Castel Di Sangro by Joe McGinnis from many years later about how a small team from a tiny town in Abruzzi made it to the top of Serie A in Italy. Wanderers perhaps have a little less of the glamour but they do have all the heart.

 

 





Crimes in space

13 04 2019

Places in the Darkness by Chris Brookmyre

 

“This is as close to a city without crime as mankind has ever seen.”
Ciudad de Cielo is the ‘city in the sky’, a space station where hundreds of scientists and engineers work in earth’s orbit, building the colony ship that will one day take humanity to the stars.
When a mutilated body is found on the CdC, the eyes of the world are watching. Top-of the-class investigator, Alice Blake, is sent from Earth to team up with CdC’s Freeman – a jaded cop with more reason than most to distrust such planetside interference.
As the death toll climbs and factions aboard the station become more and more fractious, Freeman and Blake will discover clues to a conspiracy that threatens not only their own lives, but the future of humanity itself.

I think this is Brookmyre’s first off-planet science fiction outing and it’s as gripping and entertaining as his more down to earth offerings. There are plenty of twists and turns in the low gravity plotting as well as some decent characters and credible future society politicking. Great fun and games and many a murder to solve and conspiracy to unravel in space.

 





Stories from before

31 03 2019

The Reservoir Tapes by Jon McGregor

 

Midwinter in the early years of this century. A teenage girl on holiday has gone missing in the hills at the heart of England. The villagers are called up to join the search, fanning out across the moors as the police set up roadblocks and a crowd of news reporters descends on their usually quiet home.

But the aftershocks of Becky Shaw’s disappearance have origins long before then, and those in the village have losses, and secrets, and stories of their own…

A woman remembers a son’s inexperience – and a father’s rage; a young wife pushes against the boundaries of her marriage, whilst an older one finds ways to ensure the survival of hers. A hunt for a birthday present takes an alarming turn, and a teenage game grows serious.

Fresh hurts open old wounds, salvation comes from unexpected quarters and chance encounters release long-buried memories.

First broadcast as a series of specially commissioned stories on BBC Radio 4, The Reservoir Tapesreturns to the territory of the Booker-longlisted Reservoir 13, revealing the web of connections that bind us, and the many layers on which we all build our truths.

Written in the same precise, spare and powerful style as Reservoir 13, there is nothing not to admire about this prequel which comprises a set of stories foreshadowing that novel’s narrative strands. It’s an outstanding read, as ever with McGregor, and highly recommended therefore.

 








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