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  • Douglas Watkinson

'Apples and Other Fruit'




I’m not sure how you get 184 bottles of apple juice from 4 trees but last Saturday we did. It’s all earmarked to the guys who helped us pick them, most memorable of whom is Sebastien Ng. Four years old. He did a Penelope Keith in ‘The Good Life’ on us. For those of you who might be too young to have seen it she helped her neighbours harvest their crop of runner beans. She did so by picking one bean at a time and taking it to a basket, then returning to pick another. Sebastien did the same. He picked an apple, climbed down the step ladder, took the apple to a basket twenty feet away, returned to the tree, went up the ladder and picked another. He gets a gallon of the stuff for sheer grit and determination.


I’ve had to change the title of a new book, thanks to pressure from family and friends. What used to be called rather soberly The Fire Pit, is now The Occasional Jonas Kemble. It seems, even to me, an odd change to have made but a necessary one. In these days of self-publishing you not only have to catch the eye of your readers, you really have to come up with the goods. And that isn’t because you’re competing with big publishers. You’re also competing with fellow indies. I suppose it’s a marker for how much the industry has changed and I still fail to see why agents and publishers, hand in hand, have passed over so many good books in the last decade.







The first time I noticed that was with the actor Edward Petherbridge’s autobiography, Slim Chances and Unscheduled Appearances. Not only is Petherbridge a superb actor (and painter) he also writes beautifully. And revealingly. And at no time does he resort to luvvy appreciation of his fellow actors. He shoots from the hip and I would guess that in exhuming various bodies in the book he’s frighted a few publishers away. But it is only a guess. That said I still can’t think of a reason why it wasn’t picked up

The second book is more recent. It’s Margaret Bullard’s Endangered Species. I confess I haven’t read it yet. I’m taking Mathew Parris’s word that it’s an excellent and revealing work by the wife of a British ambassador, Sir Julian Bullard, as the pair of them moved around the word being … diplomatic. Again, I suspect that Margaret has been a little too witty about some of the people they had to entertain, so publishing houses have passed. My telly recommendation is Manhunt. Just as I thought British telly couldn’t do it anymore, up comes a series (the second) that proves me wrong. It comes with a fantastic script and direction you hardly notice, and no flashbacks or flash forwards to drive you mad. Plus fine performances from all and sundry, especially Martin Clunes. My recommendation of a series to steer clear of, mainly because you’ll end up saying ‘Why the hell did I watch that!” is Vigil. Apart from its monumental implausibility, the dialogue didn’t have the slightest feel of being natural at any point. It merely described the action that we could already see. Another one to avoid is Walter Presents When the Dust Settles. It has a a wealth of the aforementioned flashbacks and flash forwards and a cast who all bear a striking resemblance to one another, so not only are you unsure where in time your are, you don’t know who you’re looking at. It doesn’t help that most of it takes place in the dark.

White Crane, the sixth in the Nathan Hawk Murder Mystery series is available next week and it’ll be followed shortly by The Occasional Jonas Kemble. A friend describes the latter as a hell of a story with uplifting moments.




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