Today, September 27, is the 40th birthday party of Scarthin Books, Cromford – my favourite independent bookshop. If you’re going – be sure to wear those 1970s togs! Only four copies of First Dead Body left in store. Buy one and then I’ll have to deliver more … thank you.
Page 55 of artsbeat, September 2014 (www.artsbeatblog.com) – Magazine of the Year in the Midlands Media Awards 2014
Reviewed by Guy Cooper, new books manager, Scarthin Books, Cromford
This is the first novel by ex-journalist Richard Cox and is a crime story set in Derby in the early 1970s.
Simon Jardine is a young reporter and is paired with seasoned crime reporter Dave Green.
The dead body in question is that of a young man whose death appears suspicious. Dave knows the victim and his mother well and, as they investigate a story of corruption and further crime emerges involving a prominent local gay businessman and his company’s operations in building the new ring road around Derby.
Dave Green has his own reasons for being interested in the family of the dead boy, whose father, an ex-convict works for the construction company and seems to be hiding something from his wife.
Colonel Hamilton-Pocklington, the local businessman, also has his own secrets to protect and finds himself being blackmailed. The reporters pursue the story in the smoky pubs and local jazz scene in Derby, looking at links between the construction firm and the local council.
Things begin to unravel culminating in an exciting car chase across Derby.
This is a good, gripping read and, as an ex-journalist, Tony Cox provides a very interesting angle on the crime novel by basing it around reporters rather than police and the 1970s setting is well drawn, with pubs, live music and attitudes to gay people convincingly written.
This is certainly a promising start to a planned series featuring Simon Jardine and I look forward to the next one.
First Dead Body (The Choir Press. Pb, £6.99)
Local newspaper sales in the UK fell by an average of 13.5% in the first half of 2014, year-on-year compared to last year. That is a tragedy for an industry and a service that has been the bedrock of how we communicate for well over a 100 years. Local and regional newspapers have been a flagship of our democracy.
And how does the industry react? What are publishers doing to protect our local media outlets? They are:
• Sacking trained reporters, sub-editors and editors
• Switching from print to, frankly, ill-designed and ennui-ridden web sites
• Shutting newspaper offices so the news in, say, Yorkshire, is edited by a sub in South Wales
• Riding roughshod over the legalities of making sure that news reporting is fair and not ‘manna from heaven’ for solicitors
Worst of all is the experiment in Lincolnshire where a well-respected local news sheet is now filled with material provided solely by residents.
Come off it publishers. That’s what social media, the digital revolution, is for: it isn’t a way to provide intelligent, thinking residents with a professional, considered, well-delivered and well-designed service. Newspaper web sites are dreadful – and that’s what it means to me: they fill me full of dread for the future.
So how important is news? It’s vital, it’s the foundation on which we build opinions and considered comment, it is at the core of what we hold dear as citizens of the UK.
If you have your car serviced do you take it to a garage stocked with people who know one end of a spanner from the other, even though they use the software on a computer for much of the work? You don’t? You leave it out on the street with the bonnet open and a bag of spanners next to it so that everyone passing can have a go?
Yes. I know news gathering and communicating is a business, but there is a place for local news, and advertising will be profitable. Maybe the problem is, yet again, greed. Shareholders demand excessive returns to the medium and long term detriment of the product and sales. That this is folly is amply demonstrated by an average drop in sales of13.5% in an industry that I hold close and dear.
As a reader and an author, accurate and detailed proof reading is paramount.
There is little more annoying when reading the work of a debut or new novelist and finding those irritating little mistakes that make me have a mental hiccup; where a misplaced or misspelt word throws out the narrative flow while I have to think what should have been said.
So many novels encase and envelope the reader in a world of fiction, fantasy, erotica even; the beautifully crafted words weave wonderful worlds to immerse in, to flounder, to let the adrenalin flow – and then there’s a gross spelling mistake that dumps the reader back in a mundane world of black type on white paper. It’s a shame.
I can handle mistakes involving, for example: the, then, they, their, there, they’re etc. What is less easy are the more blatant problems, such as:
• Vicious and frightening ‘rouges’ – where I presume the author means ‘rogues’
• ‘My my’ – where the author, I think, means ‘my’ not the mildly surprising double use of the word.
Unfortunately, at times of high literary drama mistakes such as these are a disturbing distraction for the reader.
It is a dichotomy. We need more publishers prepared to invest in authors, but they need to survive in a fiercely competitive climate, so costs must be minimised. What is, I believe, vital is to invest in a professional proof reader, and then also to inveigle critical friends on the clear understanding that their reward will be in heaven.
My debut novel may have unintended grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, but it has been physically proof read. I’ve done my bit, even though it may not be perfect.
My plea is: Can we dump the computer spellcheck and go back to human eyes.
I will have copies of First Dead Body with me for the first Crewe Alex home game of the season on Saturday, August 16.
If anybody wants a signed copy. I’m on mobile; in my usual little plastic seat near the halfway line; and will be parked in the same place as always. Message me, and I’ll know how many to bring.
Let’s make it a great day for the wonderful Alex … and for First Dead Body, of course.