Click on the relevant small image to go to the presentation. Text links, where shown, are also live.
XABIA WRITER TAKES ON THE HIMALAYAS
Neville Sarony, an author and QC who divides his time between Xàbia and Hong Kong, spoke to the Book Circle in August on his latest work, The Chakrata Incident, the third in his Max Devlin series of adventure thrillers set in and around the Himalayas. Neville, who served with the Gurkhas, spent many years in Nepal and has long had “a love affair with the country and its people”. The series builds on his impressive knowledge of the region’s people, languages, customs, geography and politics, some of which is also reflected in his two volumes of memoirs.
Neville’s presentation prompted numerous questions. Was Max Devlin his alter ego? Without answering directly, he said he was lucky in that he had many rich experiences on which to draw in his writing, and admonished the audience not to start writing until they could aptly reflect their life in their work. Plots are also driven forward by reality, logic and characters, who can “take on a life of their own once the story is moving”.
Other central characters for Neville are the Himalayas themselves. “When I first saw Annapurna, I stopped, got out of the car, and let the mountain talk to me”, he said. “The sherpas believe that each mountain is a living thing. They leave piles of stones behind them, because mountains can kill”.
Asked how he manages his time as an active QC (as well as jazz pianist and cook), Neville said he gives priority to his legal work and then writes when he can. He is currently working on a book of anecdotes about his years in the courts. As to practising law in Hong Kong now that it is under complete Chinese control, he said the Chinese have introduced a National Security Law that “criminalizes anything they want to criminalize”. That may eventually include the Hong Kong Bar itself, should it not toe the line.
Neville is also concerned about British politicians’ interference in Hong Kong legal matters, and about the effect of Chinese rule on freedom of expression. “Many young people see no future there, and are leaving”, he mourns.
Book Circle members enjoyed an informative and entertaining Summer Outing on 7 June to the gladiators exhibition at Alicante’s archaeological museum, followed by a tasty Lebanese repast at the Mundial Restaurant in Orxeta. The colourful show about the world of gladiators in ancient Rome (at the heyday of the sport in the 1st century AD, there were 230 amphitheatres scattered throughout the empire) combines a well-curated collection of artefacts in stone, metal, and fresco with audiovisual re-enactments and replicas of gladiators in action. It looks at who the gladiators were – slaves, fortune-hunters and even women – how, as valuable investments, they were trained, fed and their wounds cared for, and how they have been depicted onscreen. The exhibition, with clear, concise captions, is quite child-friendly but will please historically inclined adults as well.
It runs through 16 October 2022.
Huw Griffith, Jean Hilder and Christopher North on
Ancient and Modern
(or ‘Twice-Told Tales’)
Huw began his talk by explaining that Chaucer's work consisted of a prologue about each of his 29 characters, followed by their tale. His Pilgrims, of whom only three were women, were grouped according to their jobs, and the best known of all is the Wife of Bath. Her experiences of her numerous husbands and her views on the workings of marriage in general make her prologue longer than her tale itself, which Huw then proceeded to summarise.
Jean described Karen Brooks's book novel, The Good Wife of Bath, as a re-creation of the relationship between Chaucer and the Wife of Bath, the whole retold from a feminist point of view.
After this, Christopher continued the theme of Tales Retold by reading Elizabeth Bishop's poem 'Crusoe in England', in which Crusoe recalls his time as a castaway.
Further contributions on the theme were made by Alma, Tim and Alison.
Duncan Campbell on
Crime and the News
Click here to go to photo page
We’ll All Be Murdered in Our Beds: the Shocking History of Crime Reporting in Britain is a colourful history of crime reporting since 1700 by bestselling author Duncan Campbell. For our April presentation, Duncan – former crime correspondent for The Guardian – talked, and amused us, about the new edition (2021), which discloses new threats to reporting. Duncan also discussed his new edition (2019) of Underworld: the definitive history of Britain’s organised crime.
Local author Hugh Robertson introduced us to his trilogy The Fools' Crowns
Based on the lives of Edward, Duke of Windsor, and Wallis Simpson. Hugh explained the difficulties involved in researching, writing and subsequently self-publishing works on such a fascinating subject about which much has already been written. He also touched on the similarities and differences between the situation of his subjects then and that of Harry and Meghan today.
Prsentation by Sam Laird
Sam began with some background on Roman history, but the main focus was on the 1st Century BC and material written by and about Romans. He also posed the question, "Does the Ancient Romans’ sad transition from democracy to autocracy have anything to teach us today?"
Memoirs: An introducion to the new XBC writing competition
Presented by Christopher North
Memoir could be thought of as the lighter version of Autobiography - a fragment in your life. Christopher talked about the various forms of memoir writing and storytelling, making recommendations of all the many forms, and explained what the judges will be looking for.
Crime fiction and an introduction to the Peter May Trilogy
Presented by Terry Gifford
To what extent does May suggest that these storm-swept conditions have shaped the characters and culture of the islanders themselves? In October 2020, Terry Gifford undertook an investigation into this question on Lewis and Harris. This is his illustrated report.
The pen and the pandemic:
How to survive lockdown in half a dozen books. Presented by Alma Dorndorf.
There’s nothing like a heart-warming, escapist novel to keep your mind off the coronavirus crisis. Fiction cannot cure illness or predict the future, but it certainly helped us survive a lockdown. My friends and I chose six books which delighted, intrigued, amused and transported us and which we enjoyed sharing with you.
The World of ...
Presented by Peter Davies.
There are some writers whose name can fit into the phrase "The World of ..." and everyone will know what that means.
Peter talked about a couple of authors who write about real or imagined worlds in ways that make readers know them and desire to return to them again and again, focusing on Iris Murdoch and Graham Greene.