Friday, 31 October 2014

...and Manchester created Joy Division 

Title: Chapter and Verse - New Order, Joy Division and Me (Transworld Digital)

Author: Bernard Sumner

Tags: #manchester #bluemonday #lovewilltearusapart

Discovered: Foyles Waterloo

Where read: (In part) Notes, Covent Garden (  

Why read now?: The infectious floor filling sound of New Order's Blue Monday will never fall out of fashion.  

The Word's Shortlist view:

Bernard Sumner is not known as an outspoken self publicist so it comes as no surprise that his new autobiography lacks the tell-all sensationalist reveals of other titles on the market. Chapter and Verse is more like a chat with a mate down the local, and what's wrong with that. Pour yourself a pint and get stuck in.

Sumner's story moves from grimy post war Salford in the 50s and 60s through Punk in the 70s and the formation of his first band Joy Division. Wild eloquent prose this isn't (read Autobiography by Morrissey for this) but what we do read is an intelligent, honest and self deprecating tale of music, passion and friendship. 

The best chapters of the book chart Sumner's part in the transformation of the Manchester youth scene from derelict cotton mills to The Factory (think Studio 54 with a side of mushy peas). Other sections of the story are light on detail. Recurring characters, like Tony Wilson, form a chorus but so much more could have been included about these influences. The full circumstances around Ian Curtis's death is mostly absent which is a shame.

From Punk we hurtle into New Order, the Hacienda and Acid House with Sumner relating this to the rise of the synthesiser and electronic music production. Music fans will love the detailed descriptions of the way tracks were written and recorded but for me the social/cultural sounds are more epic.  

In short this is a brilliant read for fans of music, the 80s and the early club scene. Sumner was instrumental in defining an identity for post industrial Northern England and specifically Manchester and this book goes some way to explain how and why.

oh and he write some quite catchy songs too. How does it feel to treat me like you do? (Blue Monday)

Love will tear us apart clip

Blue Monday clip

Sunday, 19 October 2014

The Miniaturist - The eerie prophecy of the doll's house 

Title: The Miniaturist (Picador)

Author: Jessie Burton

Tags: #rijksmuseum, #amsterdam, #thegoldfinch

Discovered: The Book House, Thame (

Where read: (In part) in Peyton and Byrne St Pancras (  

Why read now?: A compelling page turner set in the perpetually chilly Autumn world of 17th Century Amsterdam. 

The Word's Shortlist view:

In this debut novel Jessie Burton brilliantly transports the reader to 17th Century Amsterdam through the eyes of Petronella Oortman an 18 year old girl sent to be the bride of a wealthy merchant.

Like Girl with a Pearl Earring and The Goldfinch (and indeed The Da Vinci Code) the novel takes its lead from a work of art, in this case the 'Doll's House of Petronella Oortman' in Amsterdam's Rijksmuseum. In the novel Nella is presented with the dolls house as a wedding gift from her new, but distant, husband Johannes. 

The dolls house itself becomes the theatre in which Nella's life, along with the lives of the family around her, is played out in eerie prophecy. 

The drama is fast paced and weaves together domestic conflict with social and political intrigue brilliantly illustrated by well developed characters, particularly Agnes and Marin. A glossary in the appendix is useful for getting to grips with some of the terms Burton uses to authentically bring scenes to life.

Whilst some of the plot points are literary staples; family secrets,  paternity intrigue and repressive religious forces, there is plenty of uniqueness here. The real star of the piece is Amsterdam itself, the damp and misty canal-side world in which wealth and poverty co-exits with the exotic and the parochial. Having said that, there is another novel to be written about Johannes Brandt's trade journeys to the East Indies. Over to you Ms Burton  

A compelling page turner.

Read more about the actual doll's house in the Rijksmuseum here: 

Discover more fiction inspired by works of art here:

Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Possibly the greatest literature/trainer mash up of all time....

My favourite is the 977 inspired by Catcher in the Rye's Holden Caulfield


Saturday, 11 October 2014

Bad Blood - A macabre slice of urban gothic

Title: Bad Blood: The Second Intercrime Thriller (Harvill Secker 2013)

Author: Arne Dahl

Tags: #nordicnoir, #scandi, #gothicfiction

Discovered: At the Blenheim Palace Literary Festival (@BlenheimLitFest)

Where read: (In part) On the 280 bus to Oxford 

Why read now?: Immerse yourself in this dark and brooding man hunt as the Autumn evenings draw in. 

The Word's Shortlist view: 

From the title on the dust jacket to the deep crimson red of the front cover spilled blood literally seeps from this novel. Victims with pincer like scars, a psychopathic killer back from the dead travelling by night across time zones - this reads like a macabre slice of modern urban gothic.

Inspector Paul Hjelm and the A-Unit team in Stockholm are pulled into the story following a tip off from the FBI that a serial killer, the presumed dead 'Kentucky Killer', is en route to Arlanda Airport.  

Unlike other genre novels set in police departments the team is  complex and made up of interesting, slightly odd-ball, characters (particularly Kersten Holm and Jorge Chavez) each with their own unique back stories. Establishing these personalties in the early series is one of the secrets behind the longevity, and devout fan loyalty, of the Intercrime series and TV shows.

The opening chapter, set in Newark Airport, hauls the reader right into the heart of the story. I challenge anyone not to read on after  this terrifying prologue in a cleaners closet! Moving on, the pace of the story varies from slow burning plot heavy sections to gory roller coaster sequences with explicit bloodshed.

Nordic crime novels are well know to be equally compelling and chilling but what sets Arne Dahl apart from Larsson, Mankel et al is style and literary accomplishment. With detailed plot points and well crafted characters this is far more than a simple page turner.

Dahl's novels have a implicit cinematic aesthetic that amplifies the fear and anxiety in the writing. This is great story telling in the finest tradition of gothic fiction.

Read Nordic Style's article Pioneer of Nordic Noir:


What to read next: The Snowman by Jo Nesbo

Twitter: @wordsshortlist
Instagram: your_next_read

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The October Shortlist

Ballsy Nordic Noir, a new classic(?) and erudite Northernism ;)

Bad Blood - Arne Dahl

The Miniaturist - Jessie Burton

Chapter and Verse: New Order, Joy Division and Me - Bernard Sumner