Sunday, December 10, 2006

December 2006

[Owing to technical problems with a new computer, this month's blog will be posted in batches and, for the moment, without illustrations. I hope to get back to normal before long.]

In this month's blog

Book signing in rural Spain
Books for a 920-mile road journey
3 for 2 at village rastro
Bibliophile parcel expected

Book signing in rural Spain

Last night I went to a book signing in a restaurant called La Piscina [The Swimming Pool] near the village of Parcent.

Parcent was described by the Spanish writer Gabriel Miró, who lived and wrote there for a time, as “Paradise between the Mountains”.

Recently his paradise has been threatened by what some people in the area regard as overdevelopment. “What would happen if today the gentleman Sigũenza, the alter ego of Gabriel Miró – traveller, lover of the countryside and local customs – returned to Parcent?” I read in an online newsletter.

The writer continued, “Today he would no longer find lepers hiding themselves away from the local people, but neither would he find the same serenity in the countryside. He would know that now, for many citizens, the fear is not of the ancient illness but of the new "masters", those that rule, those who, when they have the power, think that Parcent is theirs and they can do what they like with it. The menace at present is speculation, an overwhelming speculation, that wants to convert the Carrascal, our legendary and loved mountain, into an warren of houses, flats and semi-detached buildings. Pure cement. Need for it? None.”

To get back to the book signing, these are not frequent events in our part of the world. Last winter I remember reading in The Costa Blanca News that Martina Cole was doing a signing at a new Bookworld Espana shop in Calpe.

I know Martina Cole is extremely popular. “Forget about your wussy McEwans and Amises and Zadies. If you're part of the extended family of London's East End, living out on the south Essex plain anywhere between Stratford and Southend, modern literature for you means one author - a ballsy local woman called Martina Cole, who writes crime novels that are intensely readable, but of a bleakness and violence that makes EastEnders look like Teletubbies.”

But her thrillers don’t appeal to me. Also Calpe has to be one of the ugliest towns in Spain, almost as hideous as high-rise Benidorm and the horrors of wall-to-wall “villas” in the Torrevieja area which I passed through last January, returning from Cartagena.

The reason I went to last night’s signing at Parcent was because I sat next to the author’s wife at the 2005 Christmas lunch of a club we both belong to. Vivien Harrison is a charming woman so it seemed likely that her husband Mark would be equally nice. Also I liked the sound of his first thriller Missing.

“A British couple disappear in Spain's Costa Blanca and fears grow for their safety. As a fluent Spanish speaker, Detective Inspector Miguel-Ángel Fernandez seems the ideal choice to help track them down. But Miguel-Ángel hates his father's homeland. He has never been to Spain. Fatefully, the investigation leads him to the village where his father was born and the truth about the past is gradually revealed. Then a body is found and the hunt for the killer is on.”

At Mark Harrison’s publisher’s website I read, “By 2001 he was almost in sight of a pension. But he had grown weary of spending his days in the same few square metres of municipal magnolia. He quit his job, sold his house in leafy Surrey and moved to Spain with his wife, Vivien.
He spent his first year learning the language and writing about his experience. The result was a full-length chronicle of the joys and pitfalls of living in Spain entitled, “I Want To Live In Spain.” Encouraged by friends and family, he decided to continue writing. His first novel, “Missing” was inspired by his new surroundings and the experiences of an Englishman suddenly thrust into a foreign land.”

Postscript : Apologies for the links not working at present. Have no idea why not.
Am investigating. A W