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.

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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Furious!

20 01 2018

Fire and Fury by Michael Wolff

 

 

 

 

With extraordinary access to the Trump White House, Michael Wolff tells the inside story of the most controversial presidency of our time.

The first nine months of Donald Trump’s term were stormy, outrageous – and absolutely mesmerising. Now, thanks to his deep access to the West Wing, bestselling author Michael Wolff tells the riveting story of how Trump launched a tenure as volatile and fiery as the man himself.

In this explosive book, Wolff provides a wealth of new details about the chaos in the Oval Office. Among the revelations:

– What President Trump’s staff really thinks of him
– What inspired Trump to claim he was wire-tapped by President Obama
– Why FBI director James Comey was really fired
– Why chief strategist Steve Bannon and Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner couldn’t be in the same room
– Who is really directing the Trump administration’s strategy in the wake of Bannon’s firing
– What the secret to communicating with Trump is
– What the Trump administration has in common with the movie The Producers
Never before has a presidency so divided the American people. Brilliantly reported and astoundingly fresh, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury shows us how and why Donald Trump has become the king of discord and disunion.

There are plenty of revelations as indicated in the blurb. It reads like a thriller and is a real page turner, relating story after story of pure awfulness. Whilst there have been plenty of doubts cast about the veracity of some of the detail of some aspects the overall impression of utter and total chaos and a Whitehouse full of largely terrible and/or incompetent individuals (all with very distinctive names) is inescapable. It’s not going to end well.

I kept being reminded of this while reading it:

 

And this quote was really striking:

The information he did not get was formal information. The data. The details. The options. The analysis. He didn’t do PowerPoint. For anything that smacked of a classroom or of being lectured to—“professor” was one of his bad words, and he was proud of never going to class, never buying a textbook, never taking a note—he got up and left the room.

 

In addition, one of the most improbably named individuals, Reince Priebus, who spent six months as Trump’s Chief of Staff, and doesn’t come out of it terribly positively, I kept imagining was actually a fictional royal relation of a famous Ian Rankin detective, Prince Rebus. That didn’t help.

So, it’s flawed and grim but a compellingly awful read.

 





Musical memory mania

13 01 2018

This Is Memorial Device by David Keenan

 

This Is Memorial Device, the debut novel by David Keenan, is a love letter to the small towns of Lanarkshire in the west of Scotland in the late 1970s and early 80s as they were temporarily transformed by the endless possibilities that came out of the freefall from punk rock.

It follows a cast of misfits, drop-outs, small town visionaries and would-be artists and musicians through a period of time where anything seemed possible, a moment where art and the demands it made were as serious as your life. At its core is the story of Memorial Device, a mythic post-punk group that could have gone all the way were it not for the visionary excess and uncompromising bloody-minded belief that served to confirm them as underground legends.

Written in a series of hallucinatory first-person eye-witness accounts that capture the prosaic madness of the time and place, heady with the magic of youth recalled, This Is Memorial Device combines the formal experimentation of David Foster Wallace at his peak circa Brief Interviews With Hideous Men with moments of delirious psychedelic modernism, laugh out loud bathos and tender poignancy.

Very different kind of story this. A range of overlapping and inter-related accounts from an extraordinary cast of characters all connected to a band that never quite was in a time and place that seems both real and remote. It’s strange, dark, inventive, sad in some places and very funny in others. Recommended.

four stars





Modern times

6 01 2018

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

Cervantes’ tale of the deranged gentleman who turns knight-errant, tilts at windmills and battles with sheep in the service of the lady of his dreams, Dulcinea del Toboso, has fascinated generations of readers, and inspired other creative artists such as Flaubert, Picasso and Richard Strauss. The tall, thin knight and his short, fat squire, Sancho Panza, have found their way into films, cartoons and even computer games.

Supposedly intended as a parody of the most popular escapist fiction of the day, the ‘books of chivalry’, this precursor of the modern novel broadened and deepened into a sophisticated, comic account of the contradictions of human nature. On his ‘heroic’ journey Don Quixote meets characters of every class and condition, from the prostitute Maritornes, who is commended for her Christian charity, to the Knight of the Green Coat, who seems to embody some of the constraints of virtue.

Cervantes’ greatest work can be enjoyed on many levels, all suffused with a subtle irony that reaches out to encompass the reader, and does not leave the author outside its circle.

One of those BIG books that have been avoiding for decades but finally decided to tackle. And very glad I did. Whilst it does seem to go on forever it is, nevertheless, a consistently smart, clever, funny and really entertaining read throughout. Despite the fact it was written over 400 years go it feels incredibly modern in all sorts of ways including the stories within the story, the self-referential elements and plenty of irony. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza are consistently fascinating and complex characters making the narrative thoroughly captivating. It really is worth the effort.

 





No Ordinary Conference

30 12 2017

Munich by Robert Harris

 

 

September 1938. Hitler is determined to start a war. Chamberlain is desperate to preserve the peace. The issue is to be decided in a city that will forever afterwards be notorious for what takes place there. Munich.

As Chamberlain’s plane judders over the Channel and the Führer’s train steams relentlessly south from Berlin, two young men travel with secrets of their own.

Hugh Legat is one of Chamberlain’s private secretaries; Paul Hartmann a German diplomat and member of the anti-Hitler resistance. Great friends at Oxford before Hitler came to power, they haven’t seen one another since they were last in Munich six years earlier. Now, as the future of Europe hangs in the balance, their paths are destined to cross again.

When the stakes are this high, who are you willing to betray? Your friends, your family, your country or your conscience?

Yet another gripping tale from Robert Harris. Must admit to my historical knowledge of this period being a little sketchy at best but Harris does an excellent job of providing a ton of period detail within  a compelling narrative which portrays the leading figures extremely convincingly and not unsympathetically in at least some cases. Great stuff.

four stars





Murder most East Anglian

16 12 2017

 

It is 1937 and disillusioned Spanish Civil War veteran Stephen Sefton is stony broke. So when he sees a mysterious advertisement for a job where ‘intelligence is essential’, he applies.

Thus begins Sefton’s association with Professor Swanton Morley, an omnivorous intellect. Morley’s latest project is a history of traditional England, with a guide to every county.

They start in Norfolk, but when the vicar of Blakeney is found hanging from his church’s bellrope, Morley and Sefton find themselves drawn into a rather more fiendish plot. Did the Reverend really take his own life, or was it – murder?

Beginning a thrilling new detective series, ‘The Norfolk Mystery’ is the first of The County Guides. A must-read for fans of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Agatha Christie, every county is a crime scene, and with 39 counties in store there’ll be plenty of murder, mystery and mayhem to confound and entertain you for years to come.

It’s very much pitched as Miss Marple meets Sherlock Holmes and certainly embraces elements of both with a largely entertaining mix of highbrow banter and murder. Irritating in some parts, fun in others it was certainly distinctive. Not sure I’m ready for part 2 in the series, let alone another 38.

 





They call it progress

9 12 2017

Sovereign by C J Sansom

 

 

Autumn, 1541. King Henry VIII has set out on a spectacular Progress to the North to attend an extravagant submission of his rebellious subjects in York.

Already in the city are lawyer Matthew Shardlake and his assistant Jack Barak. As well as assisting with legal work processing petitions to the King, Shardlake has reluctantly undertaken a special mission for the Archbishop Cranmer – to ensure the welfare of an important but dangerous conspirator being returned to London for interrogation.

But the murder of a local glazier involves Shardlake in deeper mysteries, connected not only to the prisoner in York Castle but to the royal family itself. And when Shardlake and Barak stumble upon a cache of secret papers which could threaten the Tudor throne, a chain of events unfolds that will lead to Shardlake facing the most terrifying fate of the age . . .

This, the third in the Shardlake series, is another entertaining and fast-moving tale which really does feel like it captures the mood of the times. Like its predecessors it is really sharp and well-written and, despite at some points feeling like a sort of Wolf Hall spin off, is well worth a read.








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