Sex, drugs, and gobs of gore! – the books that make you love TV

Sex and the City, Dexter or True Blood?  When TV turns to modern fiction, every one’s a winner – so says Hattie French

Last week, writing up the best of the Big Read, I was struck by how many popular books are made into films.  Maybe it started with the blistering success of Gone with the Wind in the thirties.   Today, books are getting optioned for film before they go into print.

There are varying degrees of success for these adaptations.  Peter Jackson‘s The Lord of the Rings had more money thrown at it than the London Olympics, and yet only really scratched the surface of Tolkien‘s original.   And as I’ve expressed previously, the great advantage of the Harry Potter books over the films is that you don’t have to look at the smug, grinning face of the multimillionaire Daniel Radcliffe while you’re reading. Continue reading


The Best of the BBC’s Big Read – five-ish better picks!

The BBC’s Big Read best-loved books were not all a waste of trees – here are a scattering of gems that slipped through the net, according to Hattie French

Two weeks ago I poured scorn upon the results of the BBC’s Big Read poll to find Britain’s best-loved book.  To redress the balance, this week a look at some of the books which, in my view, deserve their place on the list.

I’m well aware that, in the pantheon of English literature, the likes of Charles Dickens, Jane Austen, the Brontë sisters and their ilk are regarded as deities who look down upon the rest of us from unassailable heights of cultural superiority.  For the purpose of this list, however, they have been branded bores and pushed off their pedestals by authors who can resolve a sentence in under half a page. Continue reading

Breaking down over bad books – why the BBC’s Big Read has to be a joke!

Everyone knows you’ve never read War and Peace – you’re all still stuck on Jacqueline Wilson!  The BBC poll of our Nation’s favourite books is a big fat sham…hopes Hattie French

I was going to write about Jacqueline Wilson this week.  And not in a good way.  I’ve long despised her smug, over-rated books.  So, researching in the traditional student manner, I looked her up on Wikipedia.  I discovered, in close succession, the nauseating sentences “Jacqueline is the proud foster mum to a little cat called Whisky” and “Over 25 million of Wilson’s books have been sold in the UK alone.”

Then something catches my eye which stops me in my tracks.  “In the list of the UK’s 200 favourite books there are 14 books by Jacqueline Wilson.” Continue reading

Philosopher-criminals: Tibor Fischer’s The Thought Gang exposed

Philosophy, bank robbery, immorality and the letter Z…meet another great underrated author – Tibor Fischer and his motley Thought Gang.  By Hattie French

He’s written six books to date, including his volume of short stories, entitled Don’t Read This Book If You’re Stupid. Regrettably, the title was one of the best things about this particular book, but now, at least, you don’t have to read it to find this out.

Fischer’s earlier novels are much more rewarding.  His 1993 debut, Under the Frog, follows two young basketball players as they struggle to enjoy life in Soviet Hungary – despite being “under a frog’s arse down a coalmine” – a proverb for when you are really at the lowest point in life.  His third novel, The Collector Collector, remains the only book I have ever encountered which was narrated by a piece of sentient pottery – the eponymous collector – who obsessively catalogues every aspect of its five-thousand-year existence, down to types of noses and most obnoxious owners. Continue reading

Hattie’s book blog says hello!

Greetings Pickers and Mixers!  Warm congratulations on your astute decision to check out this new blog-mag.  Who knows, in years to come, when Pick and Mix is a household name, you will proudly boast that you were in on it from the beginning.

Our theme this week is Introductions, which is highly convenient, as the first thing to do is introduce myself.  Hi, I’m Hattie.  It’s my good fortune to be tasked with introducing (see, thematic again!) you all to a few of the books which I’ve loved over the last twenty years, in the devout hope that one day you may come across a book recommended by me, read it, and hopefully, enjoy it.  To be honest, if that happens once, to one of you, then I shall feel a warm glow of satisfaction and happiness.  If that one turns out to be you (and it could easily be) let me know, and you’ll have a friend for life.

However, book reviews work both ways – they can be a recommendation, or a warning.  I shall supply one of each.  I’ll be starting with a warning, although I fear it may have come too late for some of you…

Gateway to Austen – a readers’ guide

What to read and what to use for kindling – Jane Austen gets a kicking and classic sci-fi legend Fred Pohl gets a favourable mention.  By Hattie French

Jane Austen‘s work has grown mindlessly more popular in the last fifteen years or so, thanks almost entirely to the now legendary wet-shirt incident on the BBC.  TV dramatizations are a world away from the grim reality of the novel itself, as was surely discovered by the droves of viewers who rushed out to buy Pride and Prejudice on the strength of Colin Firth’s pecs.

Even the first line – which is probably Austen’s most famous – falls apart under close examination: Continue reading