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  • Writer's pictureMichael Parker

Between Books

It’s been quite a week for me because of having Pat in hospital. Worse for Pat because of the major op they performed on her lung. Her recovery isn’t going too well and I don’t expect her to come home until tomorrow. I haven’t touched my writing this week but have managed a fair bit of reading because of spending five hours each day sitting by Pat’s bedside. When she’s sleeping I can read. My ‘free’ time is four hours in the car going up to London and back each day, so no writing; only lots of thinking. Anyway, I finished reading one book and started another, and the contrast between the two simply highlights the gulf between gifted writers and those who are not so gifted but still sell.

The book I finished was An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris. It’s about Alfred Dreyfus who was imprisoned on Devil’s Island by the French after an illegal trial and trumped up charges. The writing is superb and so well researched it was almost exhausting just reading the credits and how many documents and accounts Harris read in order to come up with a stunning classic. Brilliant writer who leaves many of us hopefuls standing.

The next book I started is a complete contrast. It’s called Code Black by Alex Shaw. I met Alex at the UK Southern Book Show last year. He wasn’t exhibiting but was in UK (I think he was at Worthing) and we got chatting, naturally. He is under contract with Harper Collins digital publishers. Alex writes the usual all action stuff: ex SAS soldier, Russians gangs etc., etc. It’s a kind of pulp fiction fare for a train or plane journey; easily read and filled with the usual jargon you would expect from this kind of book. But Alex has a good and creditable CV, so probably has a big fan base, and you can’t knock it. He lives in the Ukraine too, where he probably picks up a lot of intel on old Soviet matters. But two completely contrasting books and authors.

Where would I put myself in this company I wonder? Well, somewhere between the middle I guess. To give you some idea, this is an extract from an email I received from an unknown source via my blog post on Blogger.

I found you through the SPF Booklab podcast and thought you were wonderfully gracious about the dissection of your prologue and blurb. I don't take criticism well and would have fallen apart. I will be reading your book The Boy from Berlin - the new prologue is fantastic and raises lots of story questions. I was sad to hear about your wife's cancer and operation - will be praying for her recovery. The worries and stresses of the world certainly keep me from writing and any other creative pursuit. I know I should trust more but I'm not perfect yet. Go easy on yourself in this difficult time. May God bless you both. You're a great writer and I'm pleased to have found you. Prayers and best wishes from Victoria in Australia.

Naturally I want to thank the ‘Unknown’ person for that, but it came via a ‘no reply’ address. So if you’re reading this Mr. or Mrs. Unknown, thank you for your lovely words.

That’s my lot for this post. Hopefully I’ll have Pat back home tomorrow. We have an appointment with the surgeon at our local hospital in June. With luck he will have the results of the biopsies, which have gone to three London hospitals (again!) and be able to tell us what the next, positive step will be. Wish us luck!

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