Some established writers are a byword for their genre. Agatha Christie is to whodunits what Barbara Cartland is to romance; while Terry Pratchett is to fantasy what Jasper Fforde is to… well, to what, exactly?
This dilemma has made Fforde’s journey as a novelist as simple and straightforward as that of a mountaineer scaling the Matterhorn in the dark and wearing slippers.
The first thing an agent, editor or marketing person wanted to know was, “What is it about?” Trying to explain the plot, however, was likely to elicit pained expressions and questions like, “But how can Jane Eyre be kidnapped out of Jane Eyre?” and “Why is the Greek God Prometheus claiming refugee status, while sitting in the lounge of a Thames Valley detective, who investigates crimes among nursery rhyme characters?”
When I met Jasper Fforde, he was promoting his Shades of Grey novel. He didn’t do a very good job, as he left me with the impression that it would be dull, compared with his previous work.
Having since spent a summer holiday in the Lake District, hooked on the book and bereft by the end at the thought that there was no sequel, I now consider it the height of his canon so far.
He may have left the borrowed characters behind, but this new world of his own making retains his imaginative streak and is even more colourful.
(RLJ Entertainment / Acorn)
19 hours, 50 minutes
It is no accident that Broadchurch has grabbed Britain’s attention and held it over a few years. This excellent show is all about brokenness among beauty and how a small community copes when tragedy happens and “everybody’s got something to hide.”
There are plenty of reasons for its success, but here are just three for starters.
Tracing the spiritual thread through Jethro Tull’s catalogue is a puzzling job. On Aqualung – the album that catapulted them up the ranks of classic rock bands – singer Ian Anderson was clearly angry with the Church, which could explain the somewhat pagan stance that he seemed to take on later, more rural albums like Songs from the Wood.
When it came to his solo records, one instrumental commission called Divinities had a distinctly multi-faith cover.
All of this made it surprising that Tull then released a proper Christmas album that included some pro-Jesus songs among the traditional carols. Anderson has also been performing regular charity concerts to support church buildings. His new release, The String Quartets, was recorded in Worcester Cathedral and sports the logo of The Churches Conservation Trust in its liner notes.
So does this constitute a coming to faith or a maturing of his world view? And what caused that early vitriol?
Goodbye Iona, hello Celestial Fire.
Dave Bainbridge’s unique Celtic/prog/ rock /folk band is on hiatus, but with his new band Celestial Fire he has taken its more combustible elements and thrown on another can of musical petrol. Fiery it certainly is.
After so long working in a band context, where ideas only progress if every member is happy with them, the Celestial Fire solo album let him release his inner prog-head.
(Sound Swan Records)
If Eric Owyoung (who is FoF) is looking for soundtrack commissions, he could do worse than submit this collection, which mixes lush strings, oriental splashes and a dash of Isaiah.
A year ago, he released an EP of re-worked earlier tracks with the self-explanatory title The Piano and Strings Sessions. It was one step further for the classically trained musician on the route from indie rock artist to almost contemporary classical composer. This album is a far more fully realised widescreen set of songs that peak with grand orchestral sweeps of strings and choral highlights.
Talk to Harriet Lamb C.B.E. without mentioning bananas? You might as well write a biography of Richard Nixon that skipped over Watergate or write about the FA Cup without mentioning Wembley.
Their bold shape and colour may match her driving passion for what she does, and their fun image suits a woman who laughs a lot and laughs loudly, but she loves the Fairtrade ones, because they inspire her work by transforming many thousands of lives.
Harriet Lamb is the woman who grew the Fairtrade movement from some £30 million in 2001 to nearly £500 million in 2007, with more than 4,500 retail and catering products carrying the Fairtrade mark.
Writer Steve Turner must have one of the best jobs in the world.
He gets to be creative every day, writing about things and people that interest him. He has the platform to put out his view of the world in poetry. He has had a film made about him. He gets to work with musicians he holds in high regard (and vice versa – in a Guardian article in 2006, his daughter wrote that Bono once gave her a hug and said, “I’m a big fan of your Dad”).