The last kingdomThere’s a new series on TV  about the Vikings, written and created  by Michael Hirst, who brought us the Tudors. The series (History Channel Tuesday nights 10pm) is inspired by the tales of the raiding, trading, and exploring Norsemen of early medieval Scandinavia. Based on sagas about the viking Ragnar Lothbrok, a mythological Danish hero and notorious as the scourge of England and France, it portrays Ragnar as a former farmer who rises to fame by successful raids into England with the support of his family and fellow warriors. If you would like to read some Viking fiction, here are some suggestions

Cornwell, Bernard – The Last Kingdom The Warrior Chronicles/Saxon Stories From the best selling author of Sharpe, a series of novels about 9thC Britain. The Last Kingdom starts off the series, with seven others still to read if you love the first one : The Pale Horseman (2005), The Lords of the North (2006), Sword Song (2007), The Burning Land (2009), Death of Kings (2011), The Pagan Lord (2013), The Empty Throne (2014)

Uhtred is an English boy, born into the aristocracy of 9th century Northumbria. Orphaned at ten, he is captured and adopted by a Dane and taught the Viking ways. Yet Uhtred’s fate is indissolubly bound up with Alfred, King of Wessex, who rules over the only English kingdom to survive the Danish assault.

Kristian, Giles – Blood Eye: Raven series

This series is about about a young man’s coming of age amongst a band of Viking warriors. As well as Raven: Blood Eye, there’s Sons of Thunder and Odin’s Wolves. For two years Osric has lived a simple life, apprentice to the mute old carpenter who took him. But when Norsemen from across the sea burn his village they also destroy his new life. Their chief believes the Norns have woven this strange boys fate together with his own, and Osric senses glorious purpose among this fellowship of warriors

Low, Robert – Crowbone 

979 AD. A man lies dying with a message he cannot take to his grave, a secret that must be passed on only to Olaf Tryggvasson, true prince of Norway, also known as Crowbone. When the message finally arrives, so begins a quest to discover its meaning, and for Crowbone to gain what is rightfully his: the crown of Norway

Coates, Berwick -The Last Viking

With the death of Edward the Confessor, the crown of England is hanging in the balance. And in the north Harald Hadrada, the Norwegian Viking leader, is determined to take his chance of capturing the country. But Harold will not let that happen without a fight. Charismatic and the leader of a mighty army, he is determined to make Hadrada the last Viking in England. And so the bloodiest battle yet fought on English soil is about to begin. At stake is sovereignty, freedom and honour

Hill, Justin – Shieldwall 

The year is 1016 and England burns while the Viking armies blockade the great city of Lundenburh. King Ethelred lies dying and the England he knew dies with him; the warring kingdoms of Mercia, Wessex and Northymbria tremble on the brink of great change

Severin, Tim – Odinn’s Child

Set in an ancient Viking world full of brooding Norse mythology and bloodthirsty battles, this is the first volume in an epic historical fiction trilogy. Others in series are Sworn Brother and King’s Man

Judge and judged cook books

Take your pick of judge and judgedJohn Whaite Bakes: Bk. 2

That nice young man from  the Great British Bake Off has a book out called ‘John Whaite Bakes at Home’. He won the 2012 Great British Bake Off, (is it that long ago?)

He now bakes everywhere he goes – at food festivals, as a guest on the nation’s top cookery shows, at Le Cordon Bleu school where he is perfecting his craft and as teacher at his new cookery school. This book has recipes for creating treats and feasts for family and friends – lunches, brunches and afternoon teas; sweet bakes and savoury pizzas; picnics, confectionery and special occasion cakes.  Straightforward homemade recipes with a modern twist.

Mary Berry Cooks All the recipes from her recent TV show are in Mary Berry Cooks – The blurb says The nation’s best-loved cook and queen of cakes, Mary Berry is the undisputed authority on the art of home baking and cooking. Now, she invites you into her kitchen to share the secrets of her own favourite dishes to make when entertaining family, friends and guests. 100 mouth-watering recipes offers the perfect meal for any occasion. It includes dinner-party staples such as slow roast shoulder of lamb or venison and chestnut pie, special summer lunches such as jewelled cous cous salad and summer pudding, and of course, her trademark cakes and bakes, ideal for an Afternoon Tea

Crime book of the week -The Dying Hours

The dying hoursMark Billingham’s The Dying Hours is in most Leeds Libraries this week in paperback.

It’s been 25 years since Tom Thorne last went to work wearing the ‘Queen’s cloth’ but now, having stepped out of line once too often, he’s back in uniform. He’s no longer a detective, and he hates it. Still struggling to adjust, Thorne becomes convinced that a spate of suicides among the elderly in London are something more sinister. His concerns are dismissed by the Murder Squad he was once part of and he is forced to look into it alone. Now, unable to trust anybody, Thorne risks losing those closest to him as well as endangering those being targeted by a killer unlike any he has hunted before

 Mark Billingham was born and brought up in Birmingham. He worked for some years as an actor and more recently as a TV writer and stand-up comedian. His first crime novel was published in 2001. Sleepyhead was an instant bestseller in the UK. It has been sold widely throughout the world and was published in the USA in the summer of 2002.

 The series of crime novels featuring London-based detective Tom Thorne continued with Scaredy Cat and was followed by Lazybones, The Burning Girl, Lifeless, Buried, Death Message, Bloodline, From The Dead, Good As Dead and the most recent, The Dying Hours. Mark is also the author of the standalone novels In The Dark and Rush Of Blood, as well as a series of children’s thrillers – Triskellion – written under the pseudonym Will Peterson.

 An acclaimed television series based on the Thorne novels was screened on Sky One in Autumn 2010, starring David Morrissey as Tom Thorne. Adaptations of both In The Dark and Rush Of Blood are currently in development at the BBC.

Agatha Christie novels to be adapted for TV

christieDavid  Walliams will star in a BBC six-part series set in the 1950s, Partners in Crime, an adaptation of two Christie books featuring married sleuths Tommy and Tuppence, The Secret Adversary and N or M.

There will also be new three-part adaptation of And Then There Were None, Christie’s most successful work which has sold more than 100m copies.

Adapted by Sarah Phelps, it will be the centrepiece of the BBC Christmas schedule in 2015.

“It is our ambition for Tommy and Tuppence to finally take their rightful place alongside Poirot and Marple as iconic Agatha Christie characters,” said Walliams. “They are among Christie’s very best work.”

There will also be documentaries about the author.

Crime fans have you tried Tartan noir

image-medium (96)We have lots of new copies of Denise Mina’s books in stock this week

Mina is a Scottish crime writer and playwright. Her Garnethill trilogy and another three novels feature the character Patricia “Paddy” Meehan, a Glasgow journalist. Her work has been described as Tartan Noir, she has also dabbled in comic book writing, having recently written 13 issues of Hellblazer.  Since 2006, she has had two plays performed with successful reception.

Mina’s first Paddy Mehan novel, The Field of Blood, was filmed by the BBC for broadcast in 2011, and stars Jayd Johnson, Peter Capaldi and David Morrissey. The second, The Dead Hour was filmed and broadcast in 2013.

The Dead Hour Paddy Meehan, Glasgow’s aspiring journalist, is back on the beat, trawling the streets of Glasgow for a story – something to prove she can write. And then she meets the woman with the poodle perm at the door of a wealthy suburb in the north of the city – blood dripping from her chin

Exile  Travelling down from Glasgow to London to investigate the murder of one of the former clients at the Glasgow Women’s Shelter, Maureen O’Donnell quickly finds herself out of her depth and in danger of suffering a similar fate

Field of Blood In Glasgow, a toddler goes missing, snatched from the front garden of his home. But while the city braces itself for the discovery of a lone sexual predator, the police are led to the doors of two 11-year-old boys

Still midnight  The quiet of a Glaswegian suburb is shattered with a brutal and baffling attack. Armed men invade a family home, shouting for a man nobody’s heard of. A shot is fired, and they escape with a hostage and a demand for two million pounds. It’s a high-profile case that could make DS Alex Morrow’s career

The end of the wasp season When wealthy Sarah Erroll dies a violent death at her home in a posh part of Glasgow, the local community is stunned by what appears to be a truly gratuitous act. Heavily pregnant with desperately wanted twins, DS Alex Morrow is called in to investigate and soon discovers that there is more to Sarah’s murder than it first seems

The Red Road 31st August, 1997. Rose Wilson is 14, but looks 16. Pimped out by her ‘boyfriend’ and let down by a person she thought she loved, she has seen more of the darkness in life than someone twice her age. On the night of Princess Diana’s death – a night everyone will remember – Rose snaps and commits two terrible crimes. Her life seems effectively over. But then a defence lawyer takes pity and sets out to do what he can to save her, regardless of the consequences

Round up of film, TV and music biographies 2013

image-medium (14)TV

Recipe for life by Mary Berry

Mary Berry: queen of British baking by A S Dagnell

The Real Mrs. Brown: the authorised biography of Brendan O’Carroll by Brian Beacom

Martin Freeman the biography by Nick Johnstone

Brucie the biography of Bruce Forsyth by Jules Stenson

Paul Hollywood: bread, buns and baking: the unauthorised biography of Britain’s best-loved baker by A S Dagnell

As luck would have it: my seven ages by Derek Jacobi

On the road growing up in eight journeys my early years by Richard Hammond

The world was my lobster my autobiography by George Cole

Under a mackerel sky: a memoir by Rick Stein

Bold as brass my story by Hilary Devey

Just a Mo by Laila Morse

My outdoor life by Ray Mears

Before the year Dot by June Brown

David Jason my life

Is it just me by Miranda Hart

Bonkers my life in laughs by Jennifer Saunders

Unbreakable by Sharon Osbourne

Camp David by David Walliams

Tales from the dance floor by Craig Revel Horwood

Bruno Tonioli my story


What fresh lunacy is this?: the authorized biography of Oliver Reed by Robert Sellers

Vivien Leigh an intimate portrait by Kendra Bean

Still foolin’ ’em by Billy Crystal

Total recall: my unbelievably true life story by Arnold Schwatzenegger

Vanished years by Rupert Everett

Ava Gardner the secret conversations by Peter Evans 


Alfie my story by Alfie Boe

Keith Richards the unauthorised biography by Victor Bockris

Benjamin Britten a life by Neil Powell

Once upon a time: the lives of Bob Dylan by Ian Bell

Harry Styles the biography by Sarah Oliver

God save the Kinks by Rob Jovanovic

Rod the autobiography by Rod Stewart

Waging heavy peace: a hippie dream by Neil Young

I’m your man: the life of Leonard Cohen by Sylvie Simmons

Without frontiers: the life and music of Peter Gabriel

Ride a white swan: lives and death of Marc Bolan by Lesley-Ann Jones

Johnny Cash the life by Robert Hilburn

Robert Plant a life by Paul Rees

Wolf Hall fans book your tickets or wait for TV version

image-medium (55)This sounds really good! There’s going to be a TV version as well as the stage adaptation of Hilary Mantel’s novels with Mark Rylance  playing Thomas Cromwell in the BBC mini series version.
Tickets for the first theatrical adaptations of award winning novels Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies —  sold out in spring. The production was at at the Swan theatre in Stratford — but the show is expected to transfer to London in the new year. The novels were adapted by Mike Poulton who also adapted The Canterbury Tales and  Morte d’Arthur for the RSC.
The TV version filming begins in Bruges in the spring and will be shown in 2015. The king will be played by Nathaniel Parker, star of the BBC’s Inspector Lynley Mysteries who recently played Gordon Brown. Paul Jesson will play Cardinal Wolsey and Lucy Briers, daughter of the late Richard Briers, will be making her RSC debut as Catherine of Aragon. Lydia Leonard is playing Anne Boleyn.