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Saturday 30 June 2012

Father Brown (Mark Williams)

Father Brown is currently being filmed in The Cotswolds and part of the filming is local to the shop so where else would Mark Williams go when looking for a book.

Unfortunately, the camera is still in its box so no snap shot but I mentioned that Nina is a fan and he very kindly popped in the post a signed card.

'Our' Mark, the postie, did more than raise an eyebrow when Nina started shrieking and carrying on and then falling to the floor, to be revived only with a bottle of Old Hookey.

If you're looking Mark (Father Brown, this time) many thanks and do call in again. We all hope the filming is going well.

Monday 25 June 2012

Distant customers

See how far folk will travel to get to Cotswold Bookstore!

Here's Pam and Gary, all the way from the other side of the 'Beeg Vawter' just to buy our books.

Local ones too! Rebecca Tope's first Cotswold murder mystery, Cotswold Killing,  is going down well with Pam and Gary found himself The Remains of Sherlock Holmes by Moreton author, Paul W. Nash.

I hope you are enjoying them folks and thanks for the photos.

Saturday 23 June 2012

Double Signing Today

Yes. It's today we have our
double book signing.
A Horse in the Bathroom - Derek J Taylor
Lost in the Flames - Christopher Jory
excellent reads with good feedback already
(see our Reviews)

From 10.30 am till when hunger strikes.

Friday 22 June 2012

A Horse in the Bathroom Q 5

I see your next book has a similar approach by looking at the English and their addiction to heritage. When can we expect that to be in the shops?

I’m three-quarters way through writing the first draft, so the aim is publication in summer of 2013. I’ve just come back from a research trip to north east England. When you drive up the A1 motorway, you suddenly see a sign that says, ‘Welcome to County Durham, Land of the Prince Bishops.’ Who the hell the Prince Bishops were, I’ve no idea, but the Durham Signs Dept obviously realised we’re all suckers for anything that sounds historic.

(It's provisionally called Big Beds and Battle-axes see - )

Thursday 21 June 2012

A Horse in the Bathroom Q 3 & 4

Is the rumour true that you were bribed not to mention the real name of 'The Venice of the C*t*w*l*s' ?
I couldn’t possibly comment (Well, at least not until Maggie’s been released by the hostage-takers).

(Bourton on the Water is not actually named in the book but there is a village that sounds decidedly like it. I'll not spoil Derek's joke by giving you its name - you'll have to buy the book for that)

Your background of journalism under fire in the world's trouble spots is very different from writing about the villages and characters of England. What prompted the change?
The onset of age and cunning.

(Derek's answers being so short, it was easy to squeeze two questions in. There's one more for tomorrow and then, of course, it's Saturday and both he and Christopher will be at the shop, signing books)

Wednesday 20 June 2012

A Horse in the Bathroom Q 2

In my review, I've suggested a comparison with 'Three Men in a Boat' rather than Bill Bryson but did either influence you at all?
If I could write like one other person in the world, it would be Bryson. I love his blend of fun and fact. Jerome K Jerome’s ‘Three Men in a Boat’? I’m now going to make a confession never told before. When I was 14, I copied out a short, little-known, very funny story by Jerome about his dog, and submitted it to the school magazine as my own. Nobody spotted the theft, and it was published. I shall be punished for it one day. But the incident must indicate a deep-seated admiration for JKJ’s style. I’m flattered by your comparison of ‘A Horse in the Bathroom’ with anything he wrote.

(I'm a big fan of J.K. Jerome but, though I have a few books more than 'Boat' and 'Bummel', I cannot remember a story about a dog. There's Montmorency, of course - Tony)

Tuesday 19 June 2012

A Horse in the Bathroom Q1

Now it's the turn of Derek J Taylor to answer some of my penetrating questions on his book, A Horse in the Bathroom
What made you feel that a book about a rebuild would be so good for carrying such an amusing look at some of the Cotswold villages?
A friend of mine accused me of suffering from ‘Lark Rise to Candleford’ syndrome. He meant I had a nostalgic yearning for life in a rural paradise. I laughed it off, but then started to wonder if he was right. And anyway,- I asked myself - is village life in the 21st century so perfect? I decided to find out.

Monday 18 June 2012

Antiques Roadtrip at Green Knowe

You will have to be very quick but a charming couple came in today, to tell me that they had enjoyed a visit to 'Green Knowe', otherwise known as The Manor at Hemingford Grey.
This was home to one of my favourite children's authors, Lucy M. Boston.
Well, to get to the point, they told me that this wonderful old property had featured on an episode of Antiques Road Trip recently.
This episode can be found on the site below but for less than 24 hours!

Lost in the Flames Q9 & 10

The love story is a very unusual one, both because of the reversal of the usual ages, because there was such a large gap, and because Rose was aware of her feelings at such a young age. What made you construct it so?
I never really thought of it as particularly unusual. Aren’t all love stories unusual, each one different from the next, an area of life where fact is stranger than fiction, or should be? Anything less, and perhaps it’s not a love story at all? But yes, I guess the love story between Jacob and Rose is not in the conventional style of ‘boy meets girl’ or ‘older man meets younger woman’, even more so given that it’s set in the 1930s and 40s. But Rose is a free spirit and follows her heart – she is human, after all, even if it is the 30s and 40s – and her heart is with Jacob. She doesn’t necessarily know what her feelings for him are when she’s young, but she knows that the feelings are there, and once Jacob is old enough to realise it too, the rest is inevitable. Star-crossed lovers, destined to be together, destined to be apart too.
Now that this book is behind you, do you already have plans for another? If so, what and when?
As mentioned above, I’ve already got another finished manuscript that I wrote before Lost in the Flames. The Art of Waiting is another love story set before, during, and after the Second World War – this time in Venice and Russia. Whether or not it ever sees the light of day will depend on how things go with Lost in the Flames.

Thanks Christopher, for your time in answering all those questions and the best of success for your book..

Tomorrow, on the blog, it will be the turn of Derek J Taylor to answer some questions about his book A Horse in the Bathroom.

Sunday 17 June 2012

Lost in the Flames Q7 & 8

From the outset, there is a recurrent theme of fire. The brothers consumed by it, the fires in crashing planes, and the blazing cities, even the constant reference to smoking. Was this deliberate and planned?
The story – and I guess the story of Bomber Command – is all about people and things getting burnt away to nothing, literally and metaphorically, so the prevalence of fire in the story isn’t surprising. The cigarette theme started, as far as I can remember, from the idea of Jackie’s (and therefore Jacob’s) cigarette stub, the last piece of him that is left. And in reality the cigarette was, by all accounts, a pretty constant presence for many of the bombers, a means of coping – perhaps also for those they left behind when they were gone.

Apart from the theme of fire, what other key themes are there in the book?
An element of contradiction is central to the book, and – I think – to the story of Bomber Command. How a wrong can sometimes be a right. And the ambiguous nature of freedom and entrapment, how what traps you can be the thing that sets you free, how we shape our prisons to our needs – Jacob trapped in the bombed-up belly of his whale, unable to escape from the life he is living, but freed by it too, fulfilling his dream of flying, something he probably could never have achieved if the war had not intervened. And the fact that what traps you can also set you free means that Jacob’s pigeons return to their cage when they are let out, the canary in its cage at Kings Cross station sits content there when it could fly through the open door and into the sky, a trilling speck of yellow, and Jacob is drawn back to ‘bomber land’ again when he is finally free to leave. Strength and beauty in adversity would be another theme – in Jacob’s poem to Rose, the moon represents love, a love unseen in daylight, unseen until the darkness sets her free, the notion of the best of people coming out in adversity, the darkness releasing light, another contradiction. And the theme of temporariness making things more, not less, valuable – a temporariness that for a Bomber Command airman enriched life to an exaggerated degree because tomorrow he might well not be around to enjoy and appreciate the precious things. So Jacob had it all, an enhanced richness to his life, true companionship and love, but too little time to live it all in. That this effect was played out on so many thousands of airmen, and at such a young age, and the fact that they have been maligned ever since, is at the heart of the tragedy of Bomber Command.  

Saturday 16 June 2012

The other book

Don't forget, we have another author coming next Saturday too.

Derek J. Taylor will be here signing his very popular paperback,
A Horse in the Bathroom.

Reviews for this and for Lost in the Flames are now on the blog.

Just click on the Reviews link on the right.

Lost in the Flames Q5 & Q6

There's just a week to go for our double signing and there's double the questions too.

There is copious detail about the town of Chipping Norton of the period. How was this researched?
I’ve lived in Chipping Norton for a few years, and the house in which I live is Jacob’s house – even if it’s larger in fiction than I could manage in reality – so I know its moods, I know the setting. In terms of the historical detail, I did plenty of reading on the internet, visited the local museum, spoke to neighbours, referred to books of old photos, went for walks around town.

The characters in the book, particularly the country characters, are very clearly defined. Were they based on real people?
As mentioned before, Jacob’s experiences are to a significant degree based on Jackie’s, so in that sense there must be similarities between them – but I never met Jackie, of course, so I can’t say to what degree their characters overlap. The Norman character is very much based on my grandfather and shares many of his character traits and life experiences – a simple, good man, strong as an ox, strapped to a plough in a brown-clod northern field when nine years old, a farm-worker from that day on, a victim of bastard taunts and injustice, losing his father under the wheels of a bus and losing his inheritance as a result, a contract on a farm for 364 working days a year, dawn till dusk, Christmas day the only holiday. The real Norman loved his animals too, but never left the north, working in his native County Durham and neighbouring Northumberland until he retired. Incidentally, the real Norman loved coming to Chipping Norton, even though he never lived here. In real life, Jackie looked up to Norman – just as Jacob looks up to Norman in the book – and hoped when he was a boy that he would grow up to be just like him, but concluded during his time in Bomber Command that there was not much chance of that happening any more (it is unclear from his letter whether he said this because he felt that Bomber Command and the war had changed him to the point that he could no longer be like Norman, or simply because he did not expect to live long enough to grow to be like him). In another letter, when writing about a girl he loved, Jackie compares her to Norman, says she ‘has his ways and his kindness’ and that this has a lot to do with ‘the way I love her so’. In the book I have mirrored this relationship, and have added the fictional Norman, when putting the young Jacob to bed at night, wishing that he too could have been a boy just like Jacob – loved by his family – when he was growing up. So while the central love story in Lost in the Flames is between Jacob and Rose, there is another one too, between Jacob and Norman, the man Jacob loves ‘like a father or a brother or something in between’.
All the other characters are fictional, though many of them must share an amalgamation of the characteristics of people I’ve known in real life.

Friday 15 June 2012

Lost in the Flames Q5

I believe you write in your spare time. The research is obviously a great part of a book of this kind but how long did the book take to write?
I started it on 2nd January 2010 and finished the first draft three months later. But that was just the start, of course – leave it to sit for a while, rewrite it, get feedback, have a think, leave it be, rewrite it, leave it again, more rewrites – and I finished it in January this year. So two years altogether. But I guess it took longer than that really, as I spent years, off and on, reading and thinking about the subject until I felt I knew enough to try to write about it. In terms of hours, I probably write at about 300 words per hour. But that’s just the first draft, and the first draft is never good enough, so by the end it probably works out at around 300 finished words in 5 hours, and there are around 90,000 words in the book, so I guess that’s around – gets out his calculator – 1,500 hours total. An average of two hours a day over two years – that sounds about right.

Thursday 14 June 2012

Lost in the Flames Q 4

Were you always planning to write? And was it always going to be this book?
This is actually my second manuscript – the first is called The Art of Waiting (appropriately named, as it’s still waiting). After I’d read a lot about Bomber Command, and the last airworthy Lancaster in England had flown over my house on several occasions and I’d got to know the sound of its engines, and I’d heard more anecdotes about Jackie from my grandmother – and had read A.C. Grayling’s Among the Dead Cities, in which he compares the Bomber Command airmen to the 9/11 bombers – I knew I wanted to write a book about Bomber Command. I’m not a historian, so it had to be a novel – though the first draft of the book was trying unsuccessfully (and unintentionally) to be both a novel and a history book. And I had this na├»ve notion that a novel might be read by people with no interest in Bomber Command, and that if they read it, they might understand why the public perception of the Bomber Command airmen has been lazy and unfair, and that I might somehow help to set the record straight. I spent the Christmas holidays in 2009 in front of the fire, drinking Hook Norton beer and listening to Magic FM, and from that I got the basic shape and sentiment of what I wanted to try to put into words. Then it was a case of trying to get that sentiment out, and I did it in a rush, long nights and weekends (and more beer and love songs) until it was done. In part it’s a tribute to Jackie and the other 55,572 who died while flying with Bomber Command, and in part it’s an attempt to try to understand for myself what he went through, to understand it by trying to re-imagine it. 

Wednesday 13 June 2012

Lost in the Flames Q 3

As well as the dedication, you are including a donation from each sale to the RAF Bomber Command Memorial Fund. Perhaps my previous questions answer this one. Do you have a close connection to this RAF Fund?

No, the only connection I have to the Memorial Fund is that I support the Memorial (and will be attending its unveiling on 28 June) because it represents, at last, official recognition of the courage and sacrifice of those who flew in Bomber Command. I am contributing to the Fund something from each book sold because this is coherent with the reasons I wrote the book. I may only be able to contribute a relatively modest sum in total, but it’s important to me that I do contribute. One thing of which I’m fairly certain is that I won’t make a profit myself from the book – but that’s not why I wrote it.

Tuesday 12 June 2012

Rosie and Rusty

Nearly forgot. On Sunday I had the company of both Rusty and Rosie. Both delightful dogs. Regretfully, the camera really has given up and neither photo came out.
If the owners of either dog would like to attach a photo to an e-mail, we'll put them on the blog.

Lost in the Flames - Question 2

The book is clearly in support of the bomber boys themselves but is ambivalent about the effect on German morale or capability. Have you an opinion on this?

Historians of the calibre of Max Hastings, Richard Overy, and Robin Neillands do not agree on whether the bombing strategy was effective or whether the bombing was excessive or morally justified (particularly in the last few months of the war), so I don’t think I’m qualified to give a firm view either way. I could trawl through some of the arguments on each side of the fence, but would just be repeating what has been said by those more knowledgeable than I am. However, if you’re interested, I’ve included links to a couple of interesting pieces on my website ( – an article by David Bashow in defence of Bomber Command, and a debate between the philosopher A.C. Grayling and Christopher Hitchens (the former playing the prosecution, the other the defence). What is clear is that there were victims on the ground and victims in the air, and what happened can only have been dreadful for all of them. Whatever the rights or wrongs of the bombing strategy, to suggest that the airmen themselves were somehow culpable, rather than victims of the times and circumstances through which they lived, seems very wrong, and to judge them in hindsight and through the lens of modern-day peacetime morality seems a flawed means of evaluating what they did for this country when it was on its knees and engaged in a genuine fight for survival.

Monday 11 June 2012

Lost in the Flames - blog interview

I've dropped a line recently, to Christopher Jory, author of Lost in the Flames. Over the next few days, I'll blog with some of the answers he gave to my questions. This first reply is particularly interesting as it makes clear that much of the book is based closely on F.O. John Ross, to whom the book is dedicated.

You dedicate the book to a named airman and 55,572 others. Who was Flying Officer John Ross?

Flying Officer John Ross was my grandmother’s brother – something of a legend in the family, known to everyone now as Uncle Jackie. He served in 186 Squadron, RAF Bomber Command. Like Jacob in Lost in the Flames, Jackie trained initially as a pilot but ended up as a bomb-aimer. Jackie and Jacob share other characteristics – they both grew up in country towns, went to Grammar School, as boys wrote of their dreams of flying and in adulthood wrote poems, volunteered as soon as they could, trained in Canada, flew more than one tour of ops, felt some sort of guilt at what they were required to do (breaking down and saying, when very drunk and in floods of tears, ‘These hands have killed thousands’). They both knew they had little chance of surviving for long – six weeks was an average expectation in Bomber Command – but carried on regardless because they had a sense of duty and no real choice. They both left a cigarette stub on the mantelpiece before their last op (I saw Jackie’s for the first time just the other day, when I gave my grandmother a copy of the book), and they both flew the plane home on many occasions because their pilots’ nerves were shot away by the conditions in which they operated. Jackie was killed on his 36th operation, over Dortmund, on 3rd February 1945, aged 21. He could have stopped after thirty ops, but he said they would think he was ‘chicken’ if he did, so he carried on – and perhaps he loved flying too much to stop. I’ve learned these things about Jackie from my grandmother, and elements of many of her anecdotes about him occur in the book, so there is an authenticity to the actions and sentiments described. I also have copies of some of Jackie’s letters, and I have used elements of these too – Jacob’s letter on p.194, for example, is taken virtually word-for-word from a letter Jackie wrote, and I’m pleased that his words can be read – and his photo seen – by those who never met him, nearly 70 years after he died. I think he deserves this recognition, and more.

Saturday 9 June 2012

First calendars, now diaries.

We tried a few desk diaries and pocket diaries late last year and they went well. Now we have them in early, so look in to see if any would be suitable for Aunt Mildred in Australia.

The Totterings Diary, full of cartoons from Annie Tempest, was popular last year but Cats and Dogs always go well, the RHS diary has lovely illustrations and the Imperial War Museum one has a gritty wartime photo from service and civilian life for each week of the year.

Give them a look.
We have a clear day on June 12th!

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Thyme Running Out - the paperback

Among the various exciting things to have happened recently, there's one that you might have missed.

OK That's enough suspense - it's the arrival of 30 paperback copies of Thyme Running Out by Panama Oxridge, the sequel to the amazing Justin Thyme.

If there is one book that has helped our bookstore stay open in the face of Amazon, The Book People, supermarkets and now The Kindle it's Justin Thyme.

If you have read it, you'll know just how ingenious it is. We've had nothing like it, ever! Until now!

With the arrival of the sequel, even Justin Thyme comes in second place for ingenuity, shocks and surprises. It is utterly brilliant and despite being about 60 pages thicker is an even more reasonable price. It also has the usual appendix of the more difficult words and there are clues and secrets everywhere. Oh! and lots of Time Travel!

Here's my review and do watch this blog for a possible special deal if you've not read Justin Thyme.

Thyme Running Out
Panama Oxridge paperback £6.99

I have been wanting to write a review of Thyme Running Out ever since I first read the hardback late last year. Now that the paperback is out, I really must get down to it. There’s a problem though. I can type a string of totally honest complimentary adjectives which will not help make up a reader’s mind if I don’t relate them to the plot. The plot, you see, is the problem. It’s almost impossible to mention any of the events in this book without giving something away. There are so many shocks and surprises that must remain secret that I daren’t mention any of them. Well, perhaps a few, eh?
   The book starts slowly and amusingly with Justin using his Thyme Machine to investigate the extinction of the Dodo, only to find that a baby one has hitchhiked back with him to the present. The dodo becomes an addition to the strange pets in the castle; Eliza the computer literate gorilla, Burbage, the Shakespeare quoting parrot and the eight legged cat, Tybalt.
   There are also new staff members, Peregrine Knightly, the drippy nosed butler and Evelyn Garnet, the ruthless replacement nanny (for Nanny Verity is still missing). Either could be planning to steal the Thyme Machine. The action soon starts to rush along with discoveries about Mrs Kof and the new Nanny being only minor news compare with some of the most amazing revelations that ace detective Justin discloses in a Poirot scene that will have you gasping, chortling and scratching your head, all at the same time. And I haven’t even mentioned the big surprise which locked up my brain for several seconds. I simple could not believe the trick that the author had played on me. If you thought Justin Thyme was tricksy, just you wait till you read Thyme Running Out. There is one sentence in the book that virtually demanded that I had to read Justin Thyme all over again.
   It’s ingenious and complex enough to challenge even Sherlock Holmes (and he does get a faint mention). It’s amazing. It’s funny. It’s gripping. It’s even moving. Finally, though it’s difficult to believe that it could be better than Justin Thyme, it is!

Friday 1 June 2012

Signing error

If you receive your copy of
The Bourton/Moreton/Stow/Chippy Times through the door in the next few days,
you will notice that the twits at
Cotswold Bookstore have advertised
a book signing on 23rd May.

Of course, it should read 23rd June!


That's when Christopher Jory will be signing Lost in Flames and Derek J Taylor will be signing A Horse in the Bathroom.

Christopher will be bringing with him an original bomber jacket used by an RAF airman in the war, some pieces from a Lancaster shot down over Holland, a small navigational 'computer' used in Lancasters, a photo of the airman to whom the book is dedicated and perhaps copies of one or two of his letters.

Derek will not be bringing the horse.