Spencer Leigh, Simon & Garfunkel: Together Alone
Liverpool Sound and Vision Rating 9/10


When you read any book on music or the arts you want it written with authority, painstakingly so, it needs to have at some point the feeling of the last word expertly laid down on the pages and no matter whose book you read on the subject, be it even the artist’s, you want that feeling of completion to there in your hands at that precise moment.

It is a feeling you get whenever you read or get to talk to Liverpool’s fountain of knowledge Spencer Leigh, the feeling of authority, of security in his works and one that is sanctioned completely by the love that he has for his subject. To write about The Beatles is one thing, but to take on arguably the greatest Folk duo of all time, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, and dissect them and their recording life and their private intentions is one that could be seen as making mischief upon a mountain you will never see the summit from. The relationship of the two men, the music they made and the undeniable tension that still exists today, some 60 odd years after they originally met and became friends.

Simon & Garfunkel: Together Alone, is a statement, let alone a book title by one of the leading music lovers in Liverpool, it perfectly illustrates, sometimes uncomfortably so, that no matter how much you may love a band or a set of recording artists, you can never truly understand what goes on in their heads or in the song lyrics they create and sing.

The beauty of the two is a mixed emotion, without Art Garfunkel’s incredible and at times incredibly emotional voice on their biggest hits it can be suggested that Paul Simon might not have had the huge success as a solo artist for the last 45 years, conversely without Paul Simon’s lyrical volcano, without Simon’s mastery of the English language, Art Garfunkel would possibly have stayed in academia all his life; the unfilled desire and the charm of so many haunting songs left in the imagination and never realised.

What Spencer Leigh brings to the fans, to those who seek nothing more than the music or even those who wish to have the days of the 60s Folk scene back is a sense of timeless interruption, of two men, albeit noticeably more lop sided towards Paul Simon, who could not walk away from each other completely, who even now might one day appear on a stage together one last time and still have the ability to annoy and frustrate each other with their perfection and their one sided maddening one upmanship.

Simon & Garfunkel: Together Alone is a classic tale of two young men coming together to make music, yet never quite finding the true course of musical love that could keep them in sync, reminiscent of the story of another Paul and his friend John, creativity brought them mutual respect but without the other by their side, arguably not as enjoyable to listen to.

Spencer Leigh once more opens the door on to a partnership that could not be fulfilled and one that makes the reader feel the pain of abandon and isolation all too clearly. A writer of complete honesty who doesn’t sugar coat the distractions faced by both songwriter and singer and who urges you to fall for the sound of silence and the poetic beat once more.

Ian D. Hall

Simon & Garfunkel: Together Alone by Spencer Leigh is released by McNidder & Grace on 25 September

THE BOOK BAG'S TOP TEN CRIME NOVELS OF 2015 : MURDER IN MALMO (ANITA SUNDSTROM MYSTERIES) BY TORQUIL MACLEOD

Inspector Anita Sundstrom has been on sick leave for a few months. To some extent it's been political: she was involved in a high-profile case which went tragically wrong and left her exposed and emotionally vulnerable. Now she's back at work and there's a lot going on that's exciting. Someone is killing rich local businessmen and one was made (rather clumsily) to look like a suicide, but the reason isn't obvious. At the other end of the economic scale, a gunman is shooting at immigrants and there's fear in their communities. They're aware that they're not well-liked in Sweden and now they're actually getting shot at. But Sundstrom is not going to be allowed to get involved with the murder cases - she's not trusted - and finds herself stuck with the new trainee detective whilst she investigates the theft of some modern art.

There won't be any spoilers in this review, but you need to know that Murder in Malmo doesn't read well as a standalone. A lot of what happens, and most particularly the way that Sundstrom is treated arises out of what happens in the first book of the series. You'll understand this second book better if you've read the first book - and if you read this book first (yes, you could) it will spoil the pleasure of reading Meet Me in Malmo.

I can't think of another police procedural where all the investigators come off the page so well. You begin by thinking that they're going to be a bit stereotypical. Westermark looks as though he's going to be the standard randy copper, lusting after anything in a skirt and Sundstrom in particular, but even she acknowledges that he's a good detective. Moberg, her boss, is gross, misogynistic and on his third marriage. He's quick to put Sundstrom down when she returns to work and to tell her that she could be out of a job if she's not careful - but he recognises her talents when it's important. I liked Nordlund (the older detective who's mentored Sundstrom) and Hakim the new trainee. They knit together into a credible team.

And the plot is good - complex and with plenty of red herrings, clever without being too clever and with a very unusual killing for the first murder which it takes the investigators some time to work out how it was done, never mind by whom. The three murder cases all seem to be completely unconnected. Are the connections which do emerge just coincidences or something more sinister? I'm normally far too busy to spend a day reading a book, but I finally had to be reminded yesterday evening that dinner might be a good idea and I was shocked to find just how late it was as I'd been completely wrapped up in the book. After I read Meet Me in Malmo I thought that Torquil MacLeod might be an author to follow and I'd be happy to read his next book. Now I can't wait for the third book in the series.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to the Bookbag.

MURDER IN MALMO (ANITA SUNDSTROM MYSTERIES) BY TORQUIL MACLEOD IS IN THE TOP TEN CRIME NOVELS OF 2015. 

 

 

 

EURO CRIME REVIEW : MURDER IN MALMO BY TORQUIL MACLEOD 

- Reviewed by Ewa Sherman.

Tommy Ekman, the charismatic head of an advertising agency, is found dead in his shower. With no tangible evidence the suspicion falls first on his employees, and then on his wife Kristina, daughter of the powerful and rich industrialist Dag Wollstad. Tommy’s death has been caused by inhaling gas, similar to what was used in Nazi gas chambers. The discovery is shocking and completely incomprehensible. Soon another prominent Malmö businessman is found murdered, and the investigating team stumbles in the dark, trying to dig into the backgrounds of victims and to connect conflicting motives. A third murder follows…

At the same time a gunman is targeting immigrants in Malmö, shooting to spread the fear, and then shooting to kill. No traces are left but the message is clear and disturbing. The ghost of the King Gustav Adolf, famous for leading Sweden to military supremacy in the seventeenth century, seems to be lurking in background…

However, Inspector Anita Sundström is not allowed to be involved in either of these investigations. Returning to work after her disastrous error of professional judgement (set out in a first novel MEET ME IN MALMO) she is side-lined and sent to track a stolen modern piece of art. That case is more to please the well-connected Commissioner Dahlbeck rather than to seriously find the painting. Anita’s previous protégé is sent to Stockholm so she is teamed with Hakim, a young conscientious but hot headed policeman of Iraqi origin. She feels equally annoyed and motherly towards Hakim but has no say within the boundaries set by her antagonistic boss Chief Inspector Moberg and her colleague and nemesis Inspector Karl Westmark, a particularly unpleasant person, lusting after any attractive woman he sees and chasing after people who could further his career. He would become a caricature; however, MacLeod’s skilful characterisation builds up tension where it is needed and moves the story forward. 

I confess I want Inspector Anita Sundström to be my friend. She messes up, kills the wrong man, falls in love with the killer and cannot move on. She’s big on self-pity. Occasionally she disobeys orders. But she definitely wants to do her job to the best of her abilities, and although reluctantly, she can admit that misogynist opportunist Westmark is actually an excellent cop. Only a clever author can create a believable protagonist, flawed and honest.

Fast paced, with a strong plot and full of references to the history of Sweden and geography of Skåne, where Malmö is located, the second novel by Torquil MacLeod is very visual, with a very rich sense of location. Anita Sundström’s stories would make a great TV dramas. I would also recommend it to the fans of the much darker Kurt Wallander’s series: Ystad is not that far from Malmö. Read, compare and enjoy.

EWA SHERMAN, NOVEMBER 2015

 

 

FROM NATIONAL SERVICEMAN TO MASTER GOLDSMITH 
BY EMMA JACOBS (REVIEW OF PRECIOUS STATEMENTS BY JOHN DONALD) 

 

 

PRAISE FOR MURDER IN MALMO BY TORQUIL MACLEOD

'In Anita Sundström, Torquil MacLeod is developing a Sarah Lund for our decade.’- CAFE THINKING

Sundström herself is a great creation.’ ‘This is a fine mystery and a compelling read’ - BLUE BOOK BALOON

‘The mysteries and murders are also tautly plotted - there's a lot going on and a veritable smörgåsbord of supporting characters and suspects. It's one of those books where you find yourself just wanting one more chapter, then realising it's 1am...’ - ESPRESSO COCO

‘Torquil Macleod juggles all the layers perfectly, a beautifully flowing read that grips from the outset and never loses focus.’ - LIZ LOVES BOOKS

‘I adore the whole Swedish vibe. I could just move there and sit in a pub with Anita.’‘This is a series that is going from strength to strength.’ - NORTHERN CRIME 

 ‘Another excellent read - I can't wait for the next in the series!’ - CLAIRE LOVES TO READ 

 ‘Anita is a tough female protagonist.’ ‘Another excellent read - I can't wait for the next in the series!' -OFF THE SHELF

 ‘I can’t think of another police procedural where all the investigators come off the page so well.’ ‘The plot is good - complex and with plenty of red herrings, clever without being too clever and with a very unusual killing.’ ‘I can't wait for the third book in the series.’ - THE BOOKBAG

‘For anyone who enjoys an intelligent, well-plotted police procedural.’ - CRIMEWORM

 

 

PRAISE FOR MEET ME IN MALMO BY TORQUIL MACLEOD

'Anita Sundström deserves a place alongside the best Nordic detectives.' - QUENTIN BATES

'A readable, entertaining debut novel; I hope that Anita Sundström will be assigned to more cases in future books.’ - EURO CRIME

'Crammed with adventure, this book has more twists and turns than a plate of spaghetti.' - LANCASHIRE TELEGRAPH

‘Torquil MacLeod has put Malmö on the current international map.’ - BO LUNDIN, SYDSVE
NSKAN (SWEDEN)

 

 

PRAISE FOR BROKEN CHORD BY MARGARET MOORE

- REVIEW BY CRIMESQUAD

Jacobo Dragonetti is an interesting and attractive addition to the ranks of European detectives. He is handsome, charming strong willed and with a life style of good food (sometimes) and inspiring music that appeals to those who want to get away to romantic Italy. The intricate plot is intriguing and requires attention to work out the possibilities, as it seems that everyone had a motive to kill off Ursula. The final denouement has a satisfying conclusion and I really felt that while reading Chord's book, I had been basking under the Florence sun. This is a great book for those who love their Mediterranean crime. I look forward to the next in the series.

- REVIEW BY EWA SHERMAN

BROKEN CHORD by Margaret Moore introduces State Prosecutor Jacopo Dragonetti known as Drago, in the first novel of the series, set in Tuscany, and one of the first titles published by the new M&G Crime imprint. Born in the UK, Margaret Moore has lived most of her adult life in Italy. She’s married to an Italian, has a large family and a keen eye for detail. The author weaves her extensive knowledge of all aspects of Italian everyday life: music, food, architecture and history into the novel’s setting, creating a vivid, memorable background.

Ursula von Bachmann has been brutally murdered in her own elegant villa on the outskirts of Lucca. A nouveau riche and a despot she has made many bad decisions in her life but it seems that the worst was to let her killer into her bedroom. Her three children by three different fathers, staying with her during the unbearably hot summer, are shocked by the violence of the attack. They suspect that Guido, their mother’s jilted fiancé and a lounge lizard gigolo of the purest water, is the killer. And so the youngest, Marianna, nearly 18, in a world of her own, an older Lapo, with a physical deformity, beautiful face and a cruel streak, and Tebaldo, a recovered drug addict, now a questionable pillar of his own family, cling to the hope that all will be sorted soon. Imprisoned in the villa, they eye each other with increasing mistrust and fear, becoming anxiously aware of their circumstances, the constant presence of faithful yet resentful servants and the echoes from the Second World War as well as the more recent past. With so many people inside and outside the family bearing grudges the situation becomes tense. The components of this complex case prey on the investigating magistrate Dragonetti’s mind during his trips between his ancestral own Palazzo in Florence, police station and von Bachmann’s villa. Things are not what they seem…
 
Against the backdrop of the sophisticated surroundings, under the unforgiving July sky a much darker toxic side appears to the superficially comfortable peaceful life. Following his own instincts and some false trails Drago unravels a private history of feuds and violence, and tales of a family rich in money but poor in love where jealousies, hatreds and passions run riot. 
The opera-loving chain-smoking Drago is a stylish, astute yet empathetic Italian character. Although he reminds me of both Andrea Camilleri’s Salvo Montalbano and Henning Mankell’s Kurt Wallander he is definitely a man in his own right and these comparisons are definitely favourable. He seems to have a fairly normal private life, with a sensible attitude to his own work and not many demons lurking in the background. 

BROKEN CHORD, an elegant psychological exploration of a dysfunctional family in a fine tradition of crime mystery is a great read, and I will follow Drago’s investigations and musings in further instalments.

 

 

PRAISE FOR THE TIN RING BY ZDENKA FANTLOVÁ

'An Incredible Story.' - BBC NEWS

'Zdenka Fantlová and her story made a lasting impression. She survived six concentration camps, endured horrors the like of which most of us can't begin to comprehend, yet never lost the will to live or her optimism for a better future. During her time in the camps she kept a little tin ring, made for her by her boyfriend. She risked her life to keep this humble object that meant so much to her. Her boyfriend did not survive the camps. But Zdenka's love for him and the tin ring did.' - FIONA BRUCE, BBC'S ANTIQUES ROADSHOW

'This book is unique in many ways. Not only is it an autobiographical narrative of exceptional quality and sensitivity, not only does it relate events and experiences of an extraordinary life full of suffering, passion and resilience, not only does the author emerge as a most remarkable human being brimming with compassion, curiosity and zest for life but, above all, this book, in a most subtle way, is also highly original in its approach and this deserves to be acknowledged, appreciated, welcomed and applauded. Above all, this book is an extremely rare testimony of defiance against brutalisation and humiliation, it is a humble expression of the power of endurance and love, it is written with sincerity and sensitivity and it is a book that makes us think and question life and human relationships in surprisingly refreshing ways.' - RENOS K. PAPADOPOULOS, PROFESSOR AND DIRECTOR OF THE CENTRE FOR TRAUMA, ASYLUM AND REFUGEES, UNIVERSITY OF ESSEX

"The life and fate of Zdenka Fantlová is unbelievable and yet that is what happened. Such was the world in a time of the deepest spiritual darkness in human history... I am full of admiration for her human greatness and nobility." - MILAN JUNGMANN, PRAGUE LITERARY REVIEW 

'... A sweet, unforgettable memoir... deserves to be read for its unique story and for its shared message about the unrelentingly strong human spirit, of which Fantlova's lyric prose so clearly speaks.'  - PUBLISHER'S WEEKLY

'...Occupies an outstanding place among the memoirs of Jews who were fighting for their naked lives... and goes into the changes of a human psyche in contact with death... Her writing is far removed from any sentimentality... she was inspired by an indestructible will to live through faith and endeavouring to remain a human being.'  - PETR KUCERA, PRAGUE ZEITUNG