December 2019 books and 2019 roundup

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

Ach, the innocent days of late 2019! We had no idea what was around the corner. At the start of the month I took B to explore a deserted church in Wallonia, little knowing that the opportunities for such excursions were shortly to become very scarce.

That was followed by an epic trip which started in Rome, went on to London, then Belfast for general election coverage and finally giving an after-dinner speech in Oxford where I sat beside Congresswoman Linda Sánchez for the evening. An old friend captured her household’s fascination with the election coverage.

H came for Christmas, and helped us get the traditional family photo.

H and I also went to the superhero exhibition at the Brussels Jewish museum:

And we had a further expedition to Laeken Cemetery:

And the week before Christmas was Gauda Prime Day, so I finished my rewatch of Blake’s 7:

I read only 16 books that month.

Non-fiction: 4 (2019 total 49)
Western Sahara: War, Nationalism and Conflict Irresolution
, by Stephen Zunes and Jacob Mundy
The Story of the Trapp Family Singers, by Maria Augusta Trapp
The Rule of the Land: Walking Ireland’s Border, by Garrett Carr
I Love the Bones of You: My Father And The Making Of Me by Christopher Eccleston
  

Fiction (non-sf): 5 (2019 total 46)
Girl, Woman, Other
, by Bernardine Evaristo
The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
Hild, by Nicola Griffith
She Was Good-She Was Funny, by David Marusek
The Widows of Malabar Hill, by Sujata Massey
   

sf (non-Who): 4 (2019 total 77)
My Morning Glory and other flashes of absurd science fiction
, by David Marusek
Being Human: Bad Blood, by James Goss
Being Human: Chasers, by Mark Michalowski
Dragonworld, by Byron Preiss (did not finish)
  

Doctor Who, etc: 4 (2018 total 32)
Revelation of the Daleks
, by Eric Saward
Revelation of the Daleks, by Jon Preddle
Wildthyme Beyond!, by Paul Magrs
Doctor Who: The Target Storybook, ed. Steve Cole
  

~4,600 pages (2019 total ~64,600)
4/16 (2019 total 88/234) by non-male writers (Trapp, Evaristo, Griffith, Massey)
3/16 (2019 total 34/234) by PoC (Dumas, Evaristo, Massey)

Several very good books here. I loved Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo, which you can get here, and also really liked:

I did not especially like:

2019 roundup

I read 234 books in 2019, the fourth lowest of nineteen years that I have been keeping count. Being Hugo Administrator ate into my reading time.

Page count for the year: 64,600 – sixth lowest of the nineteen years I have been keeping count.

Books by non-male writers in 2019: 88/234, 38% – fourth highest ever (exceeded both in 2021 and 2022).

Books by PoC in 2017: 34/234, 15% – highest percentage ever, though I have exceeded the raw number both in 2021 and 2022.

Most books by a single author: Brian K. Vaughan with 7.

Science Fiction and Fantasy (excluding Doctor Who)

77 (33%), lowest of the last few years.

My top three sf books of 2019:

3) Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikovsky – Great combination of loads of different SF themes – the degenerate generation starship, a very non-human civilisation; AIs pushed beyond their limits – and an intricate and well thought out plot with a satisfying ending. Won the Clarke Award in 2016. You can get it here.
2) Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman – A great YA novel combining elements of Tess of the d’Urbevilles, with a story of redemption from trauma and travel across a richly imagined landscape. A Lodestar finalist so I didn’t review it at the time. You can get it here.
1) Time Was, by Ian McDonald – Fantastic queer romance timeslip war story, tying in lots of lovely detail (both historical and narrative) and building to a conclusion that I didn’t quite see coming. Won the BSFA Short Fiction award. You can get it here.

The one you haven’t heard ofCat Country, by Lao She –  A very very direct satire on China of the 1930s, portrayed as a country on the planet Mars inhabited by cat people. You can get it here.

The one you can skip: Heartspell, by Blaine Anderson – A pretty rubbish example of the Celtic misht subgenre, where manly men fight battles and women do womanly druidic magic. In the very first chapter our hero is attacked by a cougar (there are no cougars in Ireland). There are tame wolves (wolves basically cannot be tamed). Ireland’s eastern coast is much more rugged than the west (it isn’t). Misspellings of Irish names abound. If you want, you can get it here.

Non-fiction

49 (21%) – average.

My top three non-fiction books of 2019:

3) Berlin Calling: A Story of Anarchy, Music, The Wall, and the Birth of the New Berlin, by Paul Hockenos – It’s always good when someone you like writes a book you like about a subject you like. This is about West and East Berlin before the fall of the Wall, and the early years of reunification, and music. You can get it here.
2) Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by Alec Nevala-Lee – Great book about the men who made the Golden Age of science fiction, warts and all; a Hugo finalist which I therefore didn’t review. You can get it here.
1) Alarums and Excursions: Improvising Politics on the European Stage, by Luuk van Middelaar – A tremendously lucid look at the weaknesses of the EU’s internal architecture, and the possible ways forward. You can get it here.

The one you haven’t heard ofCycling in Victorian Ireland by Brian Griffin – A short but comprehensive book about the evolution of cycling from upper-middle-class fad to a mechanism to erode patriarchal and class oppression in late nineteenth-century Ireland. You can get it here.

The one you can skip: Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory by Deborah M. Withers– A jargon-filled PhD thesis which makes a fascinating subject dull. If you want, you can get it here.

Non-sfnal fiction

45 (19%) – highest in the last ten years.

3) A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara – It’s a tough read but a very good one, about four friends, one of whom is deeply damaged. The whole scenario is delicately and sympathetically observed. You can get it here.
2) The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters – It’s 1922. Frances and her mother take in Lilian and Leonard as lodgers; there is a restrained clash of cultures – and then romance, and then murder. Frances as the viewpoint character is tremendously sympathetic even when she does things that are fundamentally not very nice. You can get it here.
1) Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo – A huge range of characters across contemporary London (with some flashbacks to earlier times and other places), almost all women, almost all black, all telling their stories from their own perspective, but often those stories intersect and overlap, and we see the same relationships from different angles. Great ending. You can get it here.

The one you haven’t heard ofIn Another Light by Andrew Greig – Great novel cutting back and forth between 2004 Britain (mostly Orkney with bits of London and elsewhere) and 1930s Malaya, both of them vividly portrayed. You can get it here.

The one you can skip: Alina by Jason Johnson – A badly written book about unpleasant people in Northern Ireland and Romania. If you want, you can get it here.

Comics

31 (12%) – then an all-time high, since exceeded in 2020 and 2021.

My top three comics of 2019:

3) The Berlin Trilogy, by Jason Lutes – A tremendously well-done story of Berlin from 1928 to 1933, seen by just a few people caught up in the wider politics of the times. You can get volume 1 herevolume 2 herevolume 3 here, and (my recommendation) the whole lot here.
2) Paper Girls, by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang – An everyday story of four 12-year-olds delivering newspapers in 1988 in Cleveland, Ohio, all from different ethnic backgrounds, who get swept up into a mysterious time war which takes them to the future and past, both near and far. You can get the six volumes hereherehereherehere and here.
1) Saga, vol. 9, by Brian K. Vaughan (again) and Fiona Staples. I’ve been following this story of angel-girl and devil-boy In Space for years, and the latest novel brings us to a spectacular climax, at least for now. I understand that the authors are pausing before the next one, which is frustrating but understandable. You can get it here.

The one you haven’t heard of: Animate Europe +, by David Shaw, Marta Okrasko, Juliana Penkova, Bruno Cordoba and Paul Rietzl – Shortlisted entries from this year’s International Comics Competition on European themes, run by the Brussels office of the Friedrich Naumann Stiftung. You can get it here (for free).

The one you can skip: Frédégonde, La sanguinaire, by Virginie Greiner and Alessia de Vincenzi – In fairness, the first volume is fine, but the second is poorly paced and most crucially fails to finish telling the story. You can get get vol 1 here and vol 2 here, but only in French (I think there is a Dutch translation, but not English).

Doctor Who (and spinoff) fiction

32 (14%) – same number and slightly higher % than the previous year, pretty low because I had now read almost all of the Doctor Who books that there are to read. 

3) The autobiographies, and one biography – of John Leeson (buy), Mary Tamm (v1 reviewbuyv2 reviewbuy), Robert Holmes (buy), Matthew Waterhouse (buy), Peter Davison (buy), Andrew Cartmel (buy), and Christopher Eccleston (buy). That’s roughly the increasing order of quality and interest, Eccleston’s being much the best – not that Leeson’s is terrible, mind you.
2) Two particularly gorgeous handbooks from 2010 and 2014 respectively, The TARDIS Handbook by Steve Tribe and The Secret Lives of Monsters by Justin Richards. A lot of thought and effort has gone into these, and it shows. You can get The Tardis Handbook here and The Secret Lives of Monsters here.
1) The Target Storybook, edited by Steve Cole with stories by Joy Wilkinson, Simon Guerrier, the much-missed Terrance Dicks, Matthew Sweet, Susie Day, Matthew “Adric” Waterhouse, Colin “Sixth Doctor” Baker, Mike Tucker, Cole himself, George Mann, Una McCormack, Jenny T Colgan, Jacqueline Rayner, Beverly Sanford and Vinay Patel is a total delight. You can get it here.

The one you haven’t heard of: In Time, ed. Xanna Eve Chown, the last to date of the Bernice Summerfield spinoff books from Big Finish, this one an anthology with some very good stories (which, alas, will be mostly lost on those not familiar with Benny’s continuity). You can get it here.

The one you can skip: Eric Saward’s novelisation of Resurrection of the Daleks. For completists only. If you want, you can get it here.

Plays

Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw, is much much better than Faustus Kelly, by Flann O’Brien. You can get Pygmalion here and Faustus Kelly here.

Book of the year 2019

No hesitation at all in naming my Best New Book of 2019 as Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo

November 2019 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

November 2019 was the month that I started doing these posts rounding up monthly reading, beginning with November 2003 when I started bookblogging.

This was also the month of my infamous Ghostbusters cosplay at a work event in France.

The month had started with a trip to Washington, New York and Boston, where I caught up with an old college friend, the musician Nicholas White. (Yes, I know, confusing.)

I also went to London for the Magnitsky Awards ceremony, and wrote a blog post looking at the coming Westminster election in Northern Ireland.

I read 21 books that month.

Fiction (non-sf): 10 (YTD 41)
(counting the two Dr Strangelove books in this category, even though the punchline depends on a fictional technology)
Normal People, by Sally Rooney
The Camelot Club, by Brian Killick
The Bluest Eye, by Toni Morrison
Tom Jones, by Henry Fielding
A Close Run Thing, by Allan Mallinson
Red Alert, by Peter George
Dr Strangelove: or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, by Peter George
Two Brothers, by Ben Elton
One of the 28th: A Tale of Waterloo, by G. A. Henty
My Century, by Günther Grass

Plays 1 (YTD 2)
Pygmalion, by George Bernard Shaw

sf (non-Who): 6 (YTD 73)
The Calcutta Chromosome, by Amitav Ghosh
“Catch That Zeppelin!”, by Fritz Leiber
In Black and White, and Other Stories, by Jan Mark
Halo: The Thursday War, by Karen Traviss
The Invisible Man, by H.G. Wells
Children of Time, by Adrian Tchaikowsky

Comics 4 (YTD 31)
The Highgate Horror, by Mark Wright, David A. Roach, Mike Collins, Jacqueline Rayner and Martin Geraghty
Dragon’s Claw, by Steve Moore
Survivants: Anomalies Quantiques, vol 1, by Leo
Survivants: Anomalies Quantiques, vol 2, by Leo

5,600 pages (YTD 60,000)
5/21 (YTD 84/218) by non-male writers (Rooney, Morrison, Mark, Traviss, Rayner)
2/21 (YTD 31/218) by PoC (Morrison, Ghosh)

I really enjoyed Children of Time, which you can get here, Normal People, which you can get here, and The Bluest Eye, which you can get here. Halo: The Thursday War sailed over my head, but you can get it here (at a price).

October 2019 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

We started the month with a wedding anniversary trip to Dordrecht in the Netherlands, reported in two blog posts:

I also went to a conference in the mountains in Slovakia, where there were lovely views:

And linguistic education:

I seem to have had a day in London too, but I can’t remember why. At the end of the month, colleagues from work had a volunteering day assembling tents for the Halloween party at the institution where B and U live.

And I blogged about the origins of the letters of the alphabet.

In the real world, the agony of Brexit reached a temporary pause as Boris Johnson agreed the bones of a Withdrawal Agreement with the EU; I reflected on why I had not seen it coming.

I read 17 books that month.

Non-fiction: 4 (YTD 45)
Sheelagh Murnaghan, 1924-1993: Stormont’s Only Liberal MP, by Ruth Illingworth
Seven Pillars of Wisdom, by T.E. Lawrence
Is There Life Outside The Box? An Actor Despairs, by Peter Davison
Luck and the Irish, by Roy Foster
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Fiction (non-sf): 6 (YTD 31)
David Copperfield, by Charles Dickens
Sybil, by Benjamin Disraeli
The Nannies, by Brian Killick
The Heralds, by Brian Killick
The Bastard of Istanbul, by Eilif Shafak
Beneath The Dome, by Brian Killick

sf (non-Who): 4 (YTD 67)
Cloud and Ashes, by Greer Gilman
The Sparrow, by Mary Doria Russell
Be My Enemy, by Ian McDonald
The Computer Connection, by Alfred Bester

Doctor Who, etc: 1 (YTD 26)
The Triple Knife, and other Doctor Who stories, by Jenny T. Colgan

Comics 2 (YTD 27)
Frédégonde, la sanguinaire, Tome 1, by Virginie Greiner and Alessia de Vincenzi
Frédégonde, la sanguinaire, Tome 2, by Virginie Greiner and Alessia de Vincenzi

5,400 pages (YTD 54,400)
7/17 (YTD 79/197) by non-male writers (Illingworth, Shafak, Gilman, Russell, Colgan, Greiner/de Vincenzi x 2))
0/17 (YTD 29/197) by PoC (I don’t think Peter Davison counts himself in this category)

Of these, I really enjoyed The Bastard of Istanbul, which you can get here, and was pleased to return to The Sparrow, which you can get here. However, as noted here recently, I rather bounced off Cloud & Ashes, which you can get here.

September 2019 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

The month started with the sad news of the passing of Terrance Dicks. We then had the usual dorpfeest in the first weekend of the month, with local festive dancing.

Other artistic explorations are reported here, in a post made the following month:

I started rewatching Blake’s 7, and researched the oldest shop at Finaghy Crossroads. We went to the Fete de la BD in Brussels.

In real life the Brexit situation got crazier and crazier. I was in London briefly at the end of the month but haven’t recorded much about that trip. The month ended with a positive experience:

I read 23 books that month.

Non-fiction: 6 (YTD 41)
Setting the Truth Free: The Inside Story of the Bloody Sunday Campaign, by Julieann Campbell
De Bourgondiërs, by Bart Van Loo
Anthropological Studies of Religion: An Introductory Text, by Brian Morris
The Writing Life, by Annie Dillard
Cycling in Victorian Ireland, by Brian Griffin
In Ethiopia with a Mule, by Dervla Murphy

Fiction (non-sf): 4 (YTD 25)
Pigs in Heaven, by Barbara Kingsolver
Make Out With Murder, by Lawrence Block
The Topless Tulip Caper, by Lawrence Block
How To Be Both, by Ali Smith

sf (non-Who): 2 (YTD 63)
The Devil in Amber, by Mark Gatiss
A Local Habitation, by Seanan McGuire

Doctor Who, etc: 5 (YTD 25)
Resurrection of the Daleks, by Eric Saward
Resurrection of the Daleks, by Paul Scoones
Doctor Who: 365 Days of Memorable Moments and Impossible Things, by Justin Richards
In Time, ed. Xanna Eve Chown
Lethbridge-Stewart: The Havoc Files, ed. Shaun Russell

Comics 6 (YTD 25)
Paper Girls Volume 1, by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Paper Girls Volume 2, by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Paper Girls Volume 3, by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Paper Girls Volume 4, by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Paper Girls Volume 5, by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang
Paper Girls Volume 6, by Brian K Vaughan and Cliff Chiang

5,000 pages (YTD 49,000)
7/23 (YTD 72/180) by non-male writers (Campbell, Dillard, Murphy, Kingsolver, Smith, McGuire, Chown)
6/23 (YTD 29/180) by PoC (Chiang x5)
5/23 (YTD 23/180) rereads (The Topless Tulip Caper, Resurrection of the Daleks (Scoones), Paper Girls 1, 3 and 4)

I’ll concentrate on the good books and omit the bad.

  • Paper Girls – wonderful comics series. You can get it here.
  • De Bourgondiërs / The Burgundians by Bart Van Loo, brilliant exploration of this part of Europe’s heritage. You can get it here in Dutch and here in English.
  • How To Be Both, by Ali Smith – nicely constructed two-part novel set in different times with surprises. You can get it here.
  • Cycling in Victorian Ireland, by Brian Griffin; does exactly what it says on the tin. You can get it here.

August 2019 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

August 2019 for me personally was dominated by my usual family trip to Northern Ireland, which itself was punctuated by the Dublin Worldcon and the Hugo Awards, which I wrote up here and here.

Back in Belgium, I visited the enigmatic Vlooibergtoren with the family.

I read 20 books that month.

Non-fiction: 6 (YTD 35)
Kate Bush: Under the Ivy, by Graeme Thompson
John De Courcy, Prince of Ulster, by Steve Flanders
Adventures in Kate Bush and Theory, by Deborah M. Withers
Second Generations, by Mary Tamm
The Early Life of Samuel M. Wickersham, based on his writings 1819-1862, edited by Edward Wickersham Hoffman
Bloody Sunday: Truth, Lies and the Saville Inquiry, by Douglas Murray

Fiction (non-sf): 2 (YTD 21)
Ben-Hur, by Lee Wallace
Alina, by Jason Johnson

sf (non-Who): 5 (YTD 61)
Grimm Tales for Young and Old, by Philip Pullman
The Time Ships, by Stephen Baxter
The Dispossessed, by Ursula Le Guin
Smallworld, by Dominic Green
Cat Country, by Lao She

Doctor Who, etc: 3 (YTD 20)
Doctor Who: Scratchman, by Tom Baker with James Goss
True Stories, ed. Xanna Eve Chown
The Grandfather Infestation, by John Peel

Comics 4 (YTD 19)
Berlin: City of Stones, by Jason Lutes
Berlin: City of Smoke, by Jason Lutes
Berlin: City of Light, by Jason Lutes
Oyasumi, by Renee Rienties, Coco Ouwerkerk and Kimberley Legito Geelen

5,600 pages (YTD 44,000)
5/20 (YTD 65/157) by non-male writers (Withers, Tamm, Le Guin, Chown, Rienties/Ouwerwek/Geelen)
1/20 (YTD 23/157) by PoC (Lao She)

It was great to return to The Dispossessed, which you can get here, and the first Berlin volume, which you can get here. The third and final Berlin volume did not disappoint; you can get it here. On the other hand, Alina, by Jason Johnson, was simply an unpleasant book. You can get it here if you want.

July 2019 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

July 2019 started with a personal milestone on the first day of the month, as I reached Level 40 of Pokemon Go. I have not played it since. I visited London briefly with F, my only trip abroad that month.

I foolishly voted for Jo Swinson in the Lib Dem leadership contest, and contributed to the history of Karl Marx in Brussels. The Irish Times published one of the most important things I have written about Northern Ireland:

I also wrote about the family connection with the fall of the Bastille, and was delighted to reconnect with the City of Belfast Youth Orchestra as they toured Belgium.

On the hottest day ever recorded in Belgium, I caught up with an old friend from Ireland who I had not seen in thirty years. (Bright sun in my eyes, I think.)

On the night of the 31st, as the Hugo nominations closed, I went and threw axes with my colleagues from work.

In the real world, Ursula von der Leyen was chosen as President of the European Commission, and Boris Johnson was elected Prime Minister of the UK.

I read 25 books that month.

Non-fiction: 10 (YTD 29)
Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney, by Dennis O’Driscoll
Becoming, by Michelle Obama
First Generation, by Mary Tamm
The Making and Remaking of the Good Friday Agreement, by Paul Bew
Better Than Sex, by Hunter S. Thompson
1913: The World Before the Great War, by Charles Emmerson
For the Love of a Mother: The Black Children of Ulster, by Annie Yellowe Palma
The Secret Lives of a Secret Agent, by Tim Crook
Under the Molehill: An Elizabethan Spy Story, by John Bossy
Small Wonder, by Barbara Kingsolver

Fiction (non-sf): 3 (YTD 19)
Gigi, by Colette
The Cat, by Colette

A Month in the Country, by J.L. Carr

sf (non-Who): 5 (YTD 56)
The Poppy War, by R.F. Kuang
Gateways, ed. Elizabeth Anne Hull
The City of Brass, by S.A. Chakraborty
The Ghosts of Heaven, by Marcus Sedgwick
The Time Machine, by H.G. Wells

Doctor Who, etc: 4 (YTD 17)
Night of the Kraken, by Jonathan Green
Adorable Illusion, by Gary Russell
Terror Moon, by Trevor Baxendale
The Showstoppers, by Jonathan Cooper

Comics 3 (YTD 15)
Plastic Man #1, by Jack Cole
Het Amusement, by Brecht Evens
The Story of Garth the Strong, by Stephen Dowling

6,900 pages (YTD 38,400)
9/25 (YTD 60/137) by non-male writers (Obama, Tamm, Yellowe Palma, Kingsolver, Colette x2, Kuang, Hull, Chakraborty)
4/25 (YTD 22/137) by PoC (Obama, Yellowe Palma, Kuang, Chakraborty)

Four good books here, and two that were especially disappointing. The good ones first:

Less happy with:

  • For the Love of a Mother: The Black Children of Ulster, by Annie Yellowe Palma – grim stuff, poorly edited, but you can get it here.
  • The Secret Lives of a Secret Agent: The Mysterious Life and Times of Alexander Wilson, by Tim Crook – historical account of the story behind the TV mini-series Mrs Wilson, but again very poorly edited; you can get it here.

June 2019 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

I started the month with a historic walk around Leuven, including a visit to the replica Kangxi-Verbiest celestial sphere.

The following weekend I was in Bratislava, and went to see the ballet with H and her friend A.

More travel the following weekend, in Rome with Anne, where a diplomat friend took us to the back garden of the Vatican.

The day after we got back was B’s 22nd birthday.

In the last weekend of the month we visited my cousins in Luxembourg again – left to right, L, my son F, little N, big N (me), S and my first cousin J. Our spouses were also present!

With so much European travel, I managed to read 35 books that month. Some of them were short.

Non-fiction: 1 (YTD 19)
Robert Holmes: a Life in Words, by Richard Molesworth
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Fiction (non-sf): 3 (YTD 16)
Five Women Who Loved Love, by Ihara Saikaku
The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters
In Another Light, by Andrew Greig
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sf (non-Who): 16 (YTD 51)
Gods, Monsters and the Lucky Peach, by Kelly Robson
Sovereign by R.M. Meluch
The Belles, by Dhonielle Clayton
Binti: The Night Masquerade, by Nnedi Okorafor
Perelandra, by C.S. Lewis
Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells
Beneath the Sugar Sky, by Seanan McGuire
The Weapon Makers, by A.E. van Vogt
Earth’s Last Citadel, by C.L. Moore and Henry Kuttner
The Black God’s Drums, by P. Djèlí Clark
The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard
Bedknobs and Broomsticks, by Mary Norton
The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, by H.P. Lovecraft
“Goat Song”, by Poul Anderson
The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame
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Doctor Who, etc: 3 (YTD 13)
The Secret Lives of Monsters, by Justin Richards
Filthy Lucre, by James Parsons and Andrew Sterling-Brown
Moon Blink, by Sadie Miller
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Comics 6 (YTD 12)
Will Supervillains Be On The Final?, by Naomi Novik, art by Yishan Li
Monstress, Volume 3: Haven, written by Marjorie Liu, art by Sana Takeda
Black Panther: Long Live the King, written by Nnedi Okorafor and Aaron Covington, art by André Lima Araújo, Mario Del Pennino and Tana Ford
Abbott, written by Saladin Ahmed, art by Sami Kivelä, colours by Jason Wordie, letters by Jim Campbell
Paper Girls, Volume 4, written by Brian K. Vaughan, art by Cliff Chiang, colours by Matt Wilson, letters by Jared K. Fletcher
Amazing, Fantastic, Incredible, by Stan Lee, Peter David and Colleen Doran
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6,300 pages (YTD 31,500)
15/29 (YTD 51/112) by non-male writers (Waters, Robson, Meluch, Clayton, Okorafor x2, Wells, McGuire, Moore, de Bodard, Norton, Miller, Novik/Li, Liu/Takeda, Doran)
10/29 (YTD 18/112) by PoC (Saikaku, Clayton, Okorafor x2, Clark, de Bodard, Novik/Li, Liu/Takeda, Ahmed, Chiang)

A lot of good books this month; along with several welcome re-reads, the two best new ones were The Tea Master and the Detective, by Aliette de Bodard, which you can get here, and The Paying Guests, by Sarah Waters, which you can get here. I know that (different) people love them, but I bounced hard off both Artificial Condition, by Martha Wells, which you can get here, and The Weapon Makers, by A.E. van Vogt, which you can get here.

May 2019 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

I started the month with a visit to Ireland for the Northern Irish local council elections…

…visiting my 102-year-old great-aunt…

…and more planning for the Dublin Worldcon.

To England again for our old friend K’s wedding to another K:

I voted in the European and national elections:

And then it was back to Northern Ireland for coverage of the European election count in Magherafelt. (Here with partner in crime Mark Devenport and former Justice Minister and Alliance leader David Ford, who kindly brought us both tea.)

I was very pleased with this picture of the three newly elected MEPs. I had already taken one with them all looking in different directions, but then Martina Anderson (in the middle) called out my name and Diane Dodds (left) and Naomi Long (right) both turned to look at me – funny thing really as I do not know Martina as well as I know the other two.

Anne and I finished a busy month with an Ascension Thursday trip to Utrecht. Here, Anne is a human sundial.

I read 25 books that month.

Non-fiction: 4 (YTD 18)
Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing, by Ursula K. Le Guin with David Naimon
The TARDIS Handbook, by Steve Tribe
The Big Finish Companion, vol. 2, by Kenny Smith
Bland Ambition, by Steve Tally

Fiction (non-sf): 4 (YTD 13)
A Sunless Sea by Anne Perry
Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne
The Ginger Man, by J. P. Donleavy
The Bridge on the River Kwai, by Pierre Boulle

sf (non-Who): 13 (YTD 35)
The Cruel Prince, by Holly Black
Dark Lord of Derkholm, by Diana Wynne Jones
The Calculating Stars, by Mary Robinette Kowal
Infomocracy, by Malka Older
Feersum Endjinn, by Iain M Banks
The Invasion, by Peadar O Guilin
Record of a Spaceborn Few, by Becky Chambers
Rosemary and Rue, by Seanan McGuire
Space Opera, by Catherynne M. Valente
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse
Nebula Awards Showcase 2011, ed. Kevin J. Anderson
Conjure Wife, by Fritz Leiber, Jr
Gather, Darkness!, by Fritz Leiber, Jr

Doctor Who, etc: 3 (YTD 10)
The Good Doctor, by Juno Dawson
The Slender-fingered Cats of Bubastis, by Xanna Eve Chown
Doctor Who: The Official Annual 2019, by Paul Lang

Comics 1 (YTD 6)
Animate Europe Plus, by David Shaw, Marta Okrasko, Juliana Penkova, Bruno Cordoba and Paul Rietzl

7,500 pages (YTD 25,200)
13/25 (YTD 36/83) by non-male writers (Le Guin, Perry, Black, Wynne Jones, Kowal, Older, Chambers, McGuire, Valente, Roanhorse, Dawson, Chown, Okrasko/Penkova)
1/25 (YTD 8/83) by PoC (Roanhorse)

I liked most Ursula K. Le Guin: Conversations on Writing, which you can get here, and Record of a Spaceborn Few, which you can get here. I was hugely disappointed with the 2019 Doctor Who annual, but you can get it here.

April 2019 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

I started April 2019 in Dublin, finalising the launch of the Hugo final ballot video. A group of us gathered to watch it.

The following weekend, I struggled into Brussels for a tour of the city as Charlotte and Emily Bronte would have known it. Totally fascinating.

And it being Easter, we had Eastercon at Heathrow which once again I thoroughly enjoyed, counting the BSFA votes among other things. I finished the month ready to fly to Ireland once again; but more of that anon.

I read 22 books that month.

Non-fiction: 7 (YTD 14)
Publishing and the Science Fiction Canon: The Case of Scientific Romance, by Adam Roberts
Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana: A Visual History, by Michael Witwer, Kyle Newman, Jon Peterson and Sam Witwer
On the Waterfront, by Malcolm Johnson
The Botany of Desire, by Michael Pollan
Doctor Who Episode Guide, by Mark Campbell
Tolkien: Maker of Middle-earth, ed. Catherine McIlwaine
Alarums and Excursions: Improvising Politics on the European Stage, by Luuk van Middelaar

Fiction (non-sf): 2 (YTD 9)
A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara
Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot

sf (non-Who): 7 (YTD 22)
Time Was, by Ian McDonald
The Land of Somewhere Safe, by Hal Duncan
Embers of War, by Gareth Powell
Phosphorus, by Liz Williams
Exit Strategy, by Martha Wells
Spinning Silver, by Naomi Novik
Dread Nation, by Justina Ireland

Doctor Who, etc: 3 (YTD 7)
Combat Magicks, by Steve Cole
The Day She Saved the Doctor, by Jacqueline Rayner, Jenny T. Colgan, Susan Calman and Dorothy Koomson
The Weather on Versimmon, by Matthew Griffiths

Comics 3 (YTD 5)
On A Sunbeam, by Tillie Walden
Troll Bridge, by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran
De Terugkeer van de Wespendief, by Aimée de Jongh

6,700 pages (YTD 17,700)
11/22 (YTD 23/58) by non-male writers (McIlwaine, Yanagihara, “Eliot”, Williams, Wells, Novik, Ireland, Rayner et al, Walden, Doran, de Jongh)
3/22 (YTD 7/58) by PoC (Yanagihara, Ireland, Koomson)

A lot of really good books this month. I think I will single out Daniel Deronda, by George Eliot, which you can get here; Time Was, by Ian McDonald, which you can get here; and Alarums and Excursions, by Luuk van Middelaar, which you can get here. On the other hand I completely bounced off The Land of Somewhere Safe, by Hal Duncan; you can get it here.

March 2019 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

I started the month with Brussels Comic Con, and got photographs with both Billie Piper and Michelle Gomez.

The following weekend I went to Kosovo for a conference (dubbed into Albanian from 38:00 here) and caught up with my former intern – now the same age as I was when she worked for me, fifteen years before.

But my big trip that month was to Nashville, Tennessee, to give a lecture on Brexit, which I linked with a couple of days in Washington where I admired the portrait of Alice Roosevelt Longworth in the Willard Hotel.

In Nashville, the goddess Athena inside the replica of the Parthenon is very disturbing.

I took B and F for a walk in the park, and frites.

I ended a month of much travel in Dublin, filming the Hugo announcement video. Our last filmed segment was on Howth Head with the legendary artist Jim Fitzpatrick.

The grimmest news of the month was the murder of Northern Irish journalist Lyra McKee. I did not know her, but we had a lot of mutual friends.

It being the month when Hugo nominations closed, and when the Brexit drama was occupying much of my thinking time, I read only five books.

Plays: 1 (YTD 1)
Faustus Kelly, by Flann O’Brien

sf (non-Who): 3 (YTD 15)
Revenant Gun, by Yoon Ha Lee
Rosewater, by Tade Thompson
Before Mars, by Emma Newman

Doctor Who, etc: 1 (YTD 4)
Present Danger, ed. Eddie Robson

1,500 pages (YTD 11,000)
1/5 (YTD 12/36) by non-male writers (Newman)
2/5 (YTD 4/36) by PoC (Lee, Thompson)

With only five books I won’t go into great detail about what was bad and what was good, but Rosewater by Tade Thompson was good, and you can get it here.

February 2019 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

The month started with a nostalgic and emotional trip to Bosnia and Croatia, accompanied by F, seeing old friends after many years.

Anne and I went to Rome for Valentine’s Day – actually I had been invited to give a lecture on Brexit, but we made a long weekend of it. It was great.

I read only 14 books that month, Hugo nominations eating into my reading time.

Non-fiction: 5 (YTD 7)
An Informal History of the Hugos, by Jo Walton
Astounding: John W. Campbell, Isaac Asimov, Robert A. Heinlein, L. Ron Hubbard, and the Golden Age of Science Fiction, by Alec Nevala-Lee
Script Doctor: the Inside Story of Doctor Who 1986-1989, by Andrew Cartmel
Tweaking The Tail, by John Leeson
The Life of Sir Denis Henry, by A.D. McDonnell

Fiction (non-sf): 4 (YTD 7)
Fanny Hill, by John Cleland
Candide, by Voltaire

Expo 58, by Jonathan Coe
The Capital, by Robert Menasse

sf (non-Who): 4 (YTD 12)
The Fire Sermon (sample), by Francesca Haig
Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman
Bitter Angels, by C. L. Anderson
The Glass Bead Game, by Hermann Hesse

Doctor Who, etc: 1 (YTD 3)
Molten Heart, by Una McCormack

4,400 pages (YTD 9,500)
5/14 (YTD 11/31) by non-male writers (Walton, Haig, Hartman, Anderson, McCormack)
1/14 (YTD 2/31) by PoC (Nevala-Lee)

Several really good books this month; I’m going to single out Tess of the Road, by Rachel Hartman, which you can get here, and Astounding, by Alec Nevala-Lee, which you can get here, both of them on the Hugo ballot. I’ll draw a veil over the less worthy.

January 2019 books

This is the latest post in a series I started in late 2019, anticipating the twentieth anniversary of my bookblogging at the end of October 2023. Every six-ish days, I’ve been revisiting a month from my recent past, noting work and family developments as well as the books I read in that month. I’ve found it a pleasantly cathartic process, especially in recent circumstances. If you want to look back at previous entries, they are all tagged under bookblog nostalgia.

I started the year by taking B for a walk to a castle near where she lives.

We went to Mechelen to see the mysterious Enclosed Gardens, which I must write up some time.

I also went to an exhibition about the legacy of the Dukes of Arenberg at the M Museum in Leuven, in the course of which I bumped into the actual Duke.

“Entschuldigen Sie mir, bitte, sind Sie der Herzog?”
“Ja.”
“Darfen wir bitte ein Selfie machen?”
“Ja, natürlich.”

I had two working visits to London, and in the course of the second one I introduced my uncle to chopsticks.

A couple of days earlier, Scotland House hosted a Burns Night in the shadow of Brexit, with some emotional performances.

Auld Lang Syne
The haggis

I read 17 books that month.

Non-fiction: 2
Blue Box Boy, by Matthew Waterhouse
Berlin Calling: A Story of Anarchy, Music, The Wall, and the Birth of the New Berlin, by Paul Hockenos

Fiction (non-sf): 3
Milkman, by Anna Burns
From Here To Eternity, by James Jones
The White Tiger, by Aravind Adiga

sf (non-Who): 8
The Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy, 2010 Edition, ed. Rich Horton
Heartspell, by Blaine Anderson
Europe at Dawn, by Dave Hutchinson
“The Queen of Air and Darkness”, by Poul Anderson
Tales from Moominvalley. by Tove Jansson
The Only Harmless Great Thing, by Brooke Bolander
Avalanche Soldier, by Susan Matthews
Children of Blood and Bone, by Tomi Adeyemi

Doctor Who, etc: 2
The Time Lord Letters, by Justin Richards
Secret Histories, ed. Mark Clapham

Comics: 2
Saga vol 9, by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Lambik by Marc Legendre

5,100 pages
7/17 by non-male writers (Burns, Anderson, Jansson, Bolander, Matthews, Adeyemi, Staples)
3/17 by PoC (Adiga, Adeyemi, Staples)

Hugely enjoyed my return to Tales from Moominvalley; you can get it here. Hugely enjoyed Paul Hockenos’ Berlin Calling; you can get it here. Hugely enjoyed vol 9 of Saga; you can get it here. Blaine Anderson’s Heartspell is rubbish; you can get it here.

Girl, Woman, Other, by Bernardine Evaristo

Second section of third chapter:

    she’s wearing a light grey pencil skirt and jacket, powder-blue blouse, grey neck-tie, black patent leather court shoes, and her pride
     as she passes through the formidable doors into the wood-panelled entrance
     wide staircases sweep up either side of the lobby ascending to the upper floors
     long corridors extend in two directions either side of her
     she’s way too early, wanders through the empty school, explores its light-filled classrooms, imagines its essence pouring into her soul, yes, her very soul
     she isn’t going to be a good teacher but a great one
     one who’ll be remembered by generations of working-class children as the person who made them feel capable of achieving anything in life
     a local girl made good, come back to generously pass on

A lot of people may have said “Who?” on hearing that Bernardine Evaristo had won the Man Booker Prize this year, jointly with Margaret Attwood’s sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale. I did not; some years ago I greatly enjoyed The Emperor’s Babe, a narrative poem about a Sudanese girl in third century London. Girl, Woman, Other is a slightly different kettle of fish, with a huge range of characters across contemporary London (with some flashbacks to earlier decades), almost all women, almost all black, all telling their stories from their own perspective, but often those stories intersect and overlap, and we see the same relationships from different angles. I was preparing myself to write here that it was a very engaging, challenging, fascinating read; and then a twist in the last chapter caught me completely by surprise (though it shouldn’t have) and left me sobbing on the train on the way home from work. This does not happen to me very often. A brilliant book. You can get it here.

This was the top book on my unread pile by a non-white author. Next on that list is The Widows of Malabar Hill, by Sujata Massey.

Two Books About Bloody Sunday, and the case of Soldier F

Second paragraph of third chapter of Setting the Truth Free: The Inside Story of the Bloody Sunday Campaign, by Julieann Campbell:

Coinciding with the twentieth anniversary was the launch of Eamonn McCann’s book, Bloody Sunday: What Happened in Derry, commissioned by the Sunday Initiative (BSI) and published by Brandon Books. Regarded as one of the seminal books on the issue, McCann’s book helped to renew interest in Bloody Sunday and contained a background analysis of the events leading up to the killings. Most remarkable was the series of interviews with relatives and friends, conducted by Maureen Shiels and Bridie Hannigan of the local Women’s Living History Circle. In these, family members talked candidly about the lives of the killed and wounded men and boys, painting a personal portrait of each and giving an identity to names.

Second paragraph of third chapter of Bloody Sunday: Truth, Lies and the Saville Enquiry, by Douglas Murray:

Hovering in that clear blue sky was an army helicopter. And in it was a young surveillance officer known to the Saville Inquiry as INQ 2030. From this vantage point he could see over the whole of the Bogside. Years later he recorded what events looked like from up there. ‘I can recall seeing lots and lots of people on the ground, perhaps as many as five or ten thousand. They appeared to be congregating in one particular spot. All of a sudden, there was a burst of activity. People began running in all directions and the crowd effectively scattered. I can think of no better way to describe it than the effect that dropping a stone on an ants’ nest would have. It was almost as if the people on the ground had disappeared although I could see them hiding behind walls and buildings.’

Two very different books about the same awful event, both of which are at least as much about the Saville Inquiry as they are about the events of 30 January 1972. I have actually read the complete Bloody Sunday report, and reviewed it at some length on this blog back in 2010 (Volume I, Volume II, Volume III, Volume IV, Volume V, Volume VI, Volume VII, Volume VIII, Volume IX and Volume X and conclusions). In the last couple of months it has been announced that just one of the soldiers who killed 14 innocent people will be prosecuted, and that prompted me to refresh my recollection and also to look into the perspectives of two rather different commentators.

Julieann Campbell never knew her uncle, Jackie Duddy, who was killed at the age of 17 on Bloody Sunday, the first person to be shot dead by the Paras. (Specifically, by Private R.) She was born four years later, and grew up to be a journalist and the press officer for the Bloody Sunday families during the inquiry. She does not put herself into the narrative, however, telling instead the story of how the campaign developed from being a fringe concern and distraction from the overall political picture to a major political issue which Tony Blair felt compelled to yield on in order to facilitate the peace process. It was a terribly hard slog for the families to reach the point where they could be heard, and the early days of finding sympathetic lawyers who were prepared to go hunt for the archival evidence in order to write yet another paper which would be ritually ignored by the authorities were very tough. One person who comes in for considerable praise, to a certain extent against expectations, is John Bruton in his role as Taoiseach from 1995-97, elevating the issue to the point where his successor could not let it drop. It’s a one-sided narrative, but it’s the side whose story was suppressed by the authorities for many years, and it deserved to be told. The book won the Ewart-Biggs Prize, very deservedly.

Douglas Murray is a right-wing journalist, and his book partly reflects that perspective; it’s a series of snapshots of individuals who gave evidence (or should have) to the Saville enquiry. This is not always successful. The chapters on Edward Heath, Bernadette McAliskey and Martin McGuinness don’t really tell us much about them; each stonewalled the enquiry in different ways, and it’s quite difficult to tell a story about people not talking. The chapter on the British intelligence source codenamed “Infliction” gets way too mesmerised by the supposed glamour of intelligence-gathering. His chapter on the IRA is mainly gossip which confuses the Officials and Provisionals, though there is one amusing detail, that a leading Official IRA member, who Saville would have liked to hear from, was actually selling cigarette lighters at a stall outside the Guildhall until he died in 2003.

But there are three very good chapters here, and they are all about the soldiers who carried out the shooting on Bloody Sunday. One tantalising suggestion is that Soldier G, who is known to be now dead and was Soldier F’s partner in murder on the day, ended up as one of the mercenaries killed with Costas Georgiou, “Colonel Callan”, in Angola in 1976. Murray hints that Soldier G may actually have been Georgiou himself, though I think it’s a bit too good to be true.

There is a brutal chapter on Colonel Derek Wilford, whose blind defence of his men in the teeth of the evidence is remarkable. Some extracts are given from Wilford’s ill-advised media interviews, including this jewel of an exchange with Jim Naughtie on the Today Programme (back in 1999 when it was still worth listening to):

DW: I have to ask: what about Bloody Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and every day of the week? What about Bloody Omagh, what about Bloody Warrenpoint, Enniskillen, Hyde Park, Bloody Aldershot and Brighton? Bloody everything the IRA ever touch?
JN: Colonel Wilford, I think you would find it hard to argue that the IRA had had a good press in Britain.

[…]
[Michael McKinney, whose brother was killed on Bloody Sunday, is brought into the conversation]

DW: He may represent his dead brother and a very, very tragic situation it is, but I do not accept that he merely represents him. He represents the Republican organisation and we are naive to the point of idiocy to believe otherwise.
JN: Well, can I, Colonel Wilford, I must interrupt you there because Mr McKinney, as you know, is sitting across from me…
DW: No, I didn’t know he was sitting across from you.
JN: Well, he is, I did say he was in the studio. He was shaking his head rather vigorously and I must ask him just on this question. Colonel Wilford has said that you represent a particular strain of Republicanism. Now I just want to put that to you because you’re still here.
MM: Well, that’s totally untrue. I’ve been involved in the Bloody Sunday issue, the Bloody Sunday campaign these past seven years. I’m one of the founder members of that, myself and a number of other relatives are involved in that and we have no links with any Republican organisation at all.
JN: Right. Colonel Wilford, I mean, that’s been said, do you accept it?
DW: No, of course I don’t accept it.
JN: Why not?
DW: Well, because they will all say that, won’t they.

But Murray’s book begins and ends with two brutal chapters on Soldier F, who together with the late Soldier G killed between five and seven of those who died on Bloody Sunday. The first chapter graphically describes F’s murder of Bernard McGuigan, the last person to be killed on Bloody Sunday, and reflects on how memories of such a horrific event can cheat (there is a very gruesome detail involving a detached body part which I won’t describe further). In the second last chapter, Murray looks at how Soldier F’s story that he had fired only at rioters who were attacking him fell apart within hours of Bloody Sunday, and recounts how the inquiry got through his defences and forced him to admit at least some responsibility. Murray doesn’t quote it, but this is the crucial dialogue:

Q. Before your evidence concludes, I think I ought to summarise for you the accusations and allegations that have been raised and which the Tribunal will have to consider and determine.
The allegations are, firstly, that you killed up to four people, possibly even more. Firstly Michael Kelly, and we know, do we not, that you killed him because of the forensic evidence that a bullet from your gun was found in his body?
A. That is correct.
Q. Secondly, you have accepted, in answering questions from Mr Mansfield behind me, that you shot Barry McGuigan, whose photograph, in a pool of blood, you have seen; do you remember that?
A. Yes.
Q. Do you also accept that you shot Patrick Doherty on whose behalf you were asked questions this afternoon by Ms McDermott?
A. Yes.
Q. As I have put to you, there is evidence that might lead to the conclusion that you shot William McKinney in Glenfada Park; do you follow?
A. Yes.
Q. What is alleged in relation to each of those four people is that you shot them without justification, that is to say, that you murdered them; do you follow?
A. I follow, it is not correct, but I follow, yes.
Q. And you say that it is not correct, because?
A. Because, as I refer to my statements, the people I shot were either petrol bombers or a person who had a weapon.
Q. I also put to you that you may have wounded Joe Mahon, the boy whose body is on the ground behind William McKinney’s in Glenfada Park. The suggestion is also that you may have wounded the two others who were wounded below the Rossville Flats; do you follow?
A. Yes.
Q. Is there anything that you can say about that or would wish to say about that?
A. No.

Soldier F, as we know, is to now be prosecuted for the murders of James Wray and William McKinney, and for the attempted murders of Joseph Friel, Michael Quinn, Joe Mahon and Patrick O’Donnell, all of which took place in Glenfada Park North. The Public Prosecution Service issued an unusually detailed statement about why they have in the end chosen to initiate proceedings against only one of the Bloody Sunday soldiers, and why for only a few of the deaths and injuries that he may have caused. It is worth a read. My own concern is that the PPS have chosen not to prosecute Soldier F for the deaths and injuries that Saville thinks he definitely caused (Michael Kelly, Bernard McGuigan and Patrick Doherty, all killed; Patrick Campbell and Daniel McGowan, both injured), and instead have chosen to prosecute him for deaths and injuries for which Saville found much weaker evidence. Of course Bloody Sunday has now been reinvestigated from first principles by the PSNI, with no reference to Saville and its details. Perhaps they found better evidence for the Glenfada Park North shooting than Saville was able to.

Anyway, both books are well worth reading (the good bits of Murray definitely outweigh the less good bits). You can get them here and here.

Ewart-Biggs Prize winners: Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, by Frank McGuinness | From A Clear Blue Sky: Surviving the Mountbatten Bomb, by Timothy Knatchbull | Setting the Truth Free: The Inside Story of the Bloody Sunday Campaign, by Julieann Campbell | The Republic: The Fight for Irish Independence, 1918-1923, by Charles Townshend | The Whole and Rain-Domed Universe, by Colette Bryce | The Sun is Open, by Gail McConnell