Robert James Talks To Bookbag About The Penguin Bloggers' Night

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Robert James Talks To Bookbag About The Penguin Bloggers' Night


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Summary: Jim jumped at the chance to visit the Penguin offices in the Strand and listen to eight authors reading from their books.
Date: 14 April 2014

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I was lucky enough to be offered the chance to represent The Bookbag at a recent Penguin Bloggers' Night, with eight authors reading from their books and chatting to people as well. This was a real step out of my comfort zone – I'm not great with meeting people and while I attend a fair amount of YA events, there's usually a crowd I know there who I can talk to. Here, I was on my own but thankfully Lija from Penguin saw me standing around tweeting saying Help! Isn't there anyone I've met here? and came over to introduce herself. After talking to her for a few minutes about blogging and reviewing she introduced me to author Livi Michael, who was really knowledgeable about both adult and teen fiction, meaning I was able to actually contribute to a conversation and exchange recommendations with her. (And I managed to get in a plug for the outstanding Girl With A White Dog by Anne Booth, one of the most powerful books I've read all year!)

The main part of the evening, though, was the chance to listen to eight talented authors read from upcoming or recent books, and there were some real highlights here. My memory isn't quite good enough to go through each one in turn, but having talked to Livi Michael I was really interested to hear her read from Succession, coming in June. This is the story of the fall of the Lancastrians and rise of the Tudors and sounds like it's a real epic. It also interweaves extracts from chronicles of the time, which worked well in Livi's reading.

One of the two other authors whose work really stood out for me was MJ Carter, who read from her 2nd Victorian crime novel, The Infidel Stain, featuring a pair of mismatched investigators. The duo – young army officer Wiliam Avery and the older, jaded Jeremiah Blake – were brought brilliantly to life by Carter and sound like a superb team. The only reason I'm holding off buying her debut novel The Strangler Vine to find out more about them is that a 13 month wait for The Infidel Stain is already depressing me just from loving the extract she read out; if the first is anywhere near as good as I'm expecting it to be there's no way I can wait over a year.

My other favourite reading from the night came from Nina Stibbe, whose 1970s set comedy Man At The Helm is rather closer – we only have to wait until August for this one. The action takes place in rural Leicestershire where Lizzie and her sister try to find a new man for their mother, to stop the local village women thinking she's interested in their husbands. This sounded incredibly funny from Nina Stibbe's extract and having seen lots of great things about her previous book, Love, Nina – which I was lucky enough to get a copy of here – it's high on my 'must read' list.

Other extracts were in some cases less to my tastes but the joy of a night like this is that you'll always find something that interests you and in some cases it might be a book you wouldn't have looked at before. Emma Healey's debut Elizabeth is Missing, coming in June, tells the story of an elderly lady trying to solve a mystery but struggling with her memory. It wouldn't usually be on my radar but something about the extract Emma read made me think that it might be one that I'd find interesting – it sounded funny and moving.

All in all, this was a really enjoyable evening – thanks to Penguin for arranging it, and to the Bookbag for letting me represent them!

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