S.J.A. Turney's Books & More

Reviews, news and inside the world of books.

Posts Tagged ‘Yorkshire

Eventful times

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me

Ever wanted to hear why I write what I write? How it came about? My inspiration for certain things? Ever want to ask questions or just chat or perhaps buy books or get them signed? Well there’s a few opportunities coming up this year, and I thought I’d blog just to keep you all up to date.

The first one’s coming up in March.

Simon Turney poster

So it costs £15 to become a Friend, which you can do HERE. For your 15 pounds you not only get to help support a volunteer run library, which is worthy on its own, but you get to come to this and other events, and at this one you get all this:

  • Beer from the keg, with the first drink free
  • Sausages from a local excellent manufacturer
  • A talk from yours truly, in costume, as well as a Q&A
  • A short dramatization of part of Caligula, performed by local actors
  • Music
  • A raffle with some great prizes
  • A Roman fun quiz
  • Signed books
  • The opportunity to pop out for a beer with me afterwards and talk books and history

I highly recommend becoming a friends, as other events are worthwhile too. Last year they had the wonderful Imogen Robertson. Bedale, North Yorkshire, just off the A1 on Weds 6th March. Hope to see you there. It’ll be a great night.

Then after Bedale, there’s Selby Library in May, in which I’m doing an evening alongside Sharon Bennett Connolly.

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Just £5 for two talks, refreshments and a book signing. And perhaps Sharon and I can answer a few questions for you too.

And then thirdly, in June there is Eboracum festival

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That’s in York, from Friday 31st May to Sunday 2nd June. A weekend of Roman reenacment and parades, events and more, which will include a number of authors including yours truly in an author marquee to sell and sign books and talk the hind leg off a donkey. If you want to stay in York for the weekend’s festivities, get onto booking accommodation early, as it fills up and gets expensive really quickly.

So there you go. Three different events to come see  me at, and I’d love to see you at them all.

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Written by SJAT

February 18, 2019 at 10:49 pm

A Grave Hobby

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One of my more out-there hobbies is gravestones. I really do rather like wandering churchyards and looking at the stones. Some can be really informative, some can be humorous, some can be poignant, but almost every churchyard has something worth seeing. Some of my faves are the pyramid grave of Charles Piazzi Smyth, Scottish astronomer royal and Egyptologist in Sharow churchyard, the ‘fisherman’s gravestone’ in Ripon cathedral graveyard, the stone built into the wall of West Tanfield church of what must have been the oldest man in the world, and the grave of a man’s leg in Strata Florida churchyard. See? Always something.

Today was our annual family trip to Whitby for the nephew’s birthday and once we had climbed the 199 steps (I count them every year and always come out at 198 myself) the family went to look at the Christmas tree competition/display in the church. Having seen it twice, this time I mooched around the graveyard while I waited for the others. This is just a small selection of stones I came across.

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Many of the stones are sandstone and like the abbey beside them have been carved out by the wind over the past few centuries. This one is unreadable, but the pattern and the look of the stone is simply beautiful, and to me warranted the photo anyway,

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Here’s an interesting segue between style and content. Fascinates me how the weather has obliterated much of the text above a specific line, below which has hardly been touched. This is a gravestone existing in two worlds. And just to add some multicultural content, this appears to be 1864, and one of the interred appears to have died in somewhere called Geelong in Australia. Since transportation ended there in 1868, one must assume he was some kind of official or soldier to be shipped home?

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What I love about the Mewburns’ gravestone is the increased sense of urgency as one reads down. It is (and has long been) common practice for a person to be buried and their inscription added to the stone. Then a second body will be added to the family plot, and another load of carving added. In this case, the Mewburns seem to have crammed as much in as possible, with being verbose, clearly. I love how the ‘font’ gets smaller and smaller.

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This is clearly the unlucky corner of the graveyard. 3 stones here in clear view. Examine them at your leisure, but here’s the killer, so to speak: rear – “Ann their daughter who died in infancy”, front left – “boy” can just be made out lower right next to the destroyed area, front right – “who died in his infancy”. Don’t hang around with these families…. that’s all I’m saying.

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Oh, and I reckon about 1 in 6 stones in the churchyard are either ‘Master Mariner’ or ‘drowned at sea’… John Ward here, was just such a mariner who drowned at sea.

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The Reverend George Young was certainly an accomplished and respected individual…

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Sometimes a grave stone is interesting only from the imagery. I like to call this style ‘Peek-a-boo’. Creepy little sh*t, isn’t it?

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The Beikers clearly had land. Look at that coat of arms. Unusual I think on a late 18th century stone in a small parish churchyard. And just for fun, two creepy peek-a-boo cherubs accompany it.

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So that ends my brief sojourn through the stones of Whitby St. Mary’s. At that moment my phone went and the family had finished viewing a hundred Christmas trees and were ready to hit the sweetshops and amusements. Perhaps next time I will find the other interesting stones within.

🙂

Happy holidays everyone.

Si

Written by SJAT

December 28, 2018 at 10:40 pm

Posted in Travel

Tagged with , , , ,

Feud by Derek Birks

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feud

The Wars of the Roses are a period of British history that I (and I suspect plenty of other people) blithely think they know about, and we’re quite blase about the whole thing. And yet when I think about what I know, all I could really tell you is that it went on for decades and that it ended at Bosworth Field in 1485 with a Welshman with a big nose and a cruel hunchback searching for a horse. Well, a little more than that, obviously, but you get my drift. And I don’t buy into the evil Richard III hunchback myth either, but then I’m a son of the white rose, so that goes without saying.

Feud is the debut novel by Derek Birks and the first in a four book series. I wasn’t sure what to expect going into it. Was it going to be a bloody battles historical novel, or a family saga? Well, simply it is both.

The book follows the … well, the feud, obviously… between the Elder family and their neighbours, the Radcliffes. To some extent, the story of the families opened a little fast for me, launching straight into the moment of critical mass in the families’ struggles from the first page without much of a chance to acclimatise to the characters. In retrospect, given the size and scope of the book, I expect Derek took the deliberate decision to cut down on early chaff.

Driven from his lands and with his family dead, captive or scattered, Ned Elders sets off on a mission to put things right in the face of insurmountable odds. And as the story follows his journey, as well as those of his sisters, his friends and his enemies, the tale interweaves with the events of political and military manoeuvering and warfare leading up to the dreadful battle of Towton in 1461.

Firstly, let me say that this novel is an indie published work and is at the very top of the quality scale. It is exceptionally well written and polished. Apart from the fairly precipitous beginning and a perhaps over-complex web of events that led me to regularly think back and work out where everyone was, everything I found about the book was good. The writing is descriptive and immersive, yet driven along by the characters at a surprisingly swift pace. Those characters are well rounded and quite believable. There is nothing superman about them. They are human, with flaws and feelings, and they struggle through bad times. And Derek is not averse to killing important characters, so don’t get too attached to the supporting cast. The battle scenes are bloody and action packed, and the (many) scenes of individual derring-do are excellent.

Moreover, there is a sense that this feud that forms the backbone of the tale is rather unnecessary. The characters are not black and white on the whole, but grey. The Radcliffes actually contain good people in the end, and the actions of the Elders at times can be a little questionable. Although there can be no doubt that Edmund Radcliffe is definitely a slimeball! Nicely done, I’d say.

The landscapes here – and the book stretches from North Yorkshire to Wales, to Shropshire and London, and back north again – are well painted, and some of the area is local to me, so I could visualise the places well.

The first novel deals with the feud and achieves a good, finite ending on that family squabble, yet we are still left with questions about the future of the family during these tumultuous times. And so this book took me to 1461 and left me wanting to read the other three, which I presume will gradually bring me to Bosworth field and the end of the Wars.

In short, an excellent debut with some memorable characters and a good swift pace. Give it a read and you’ll not be disappointed.

Written by SJAT

December 10, 2015 at 11:32 am