Summer Reading 2022

Check out some of our recommended reading for Summer 2022

The Burning Question by Linda Regan 

(Headline Accent, 2022)

The fifth gritty crime thriller to feature Detective Chief Inspector Paul Banham picks up on established supporting characters and their twisted relationships, as well as interlacing with previous cases. There’s promotion and repercussions in the wake of the horrendous events of the previous book, The Terror Within, but new readers can happily and eagerly start here.

The characterisations of the detectives are so well-drawn and vivid that you understand their unique peccadilloes and preoccupations within a few lines of crisp, sarcastic dialogue. Linda’s intricate plot developments and pitch perfect police procedure also fully allow her pawns to wallow in brutally realistic settings. The protagonists are deeply flawed, wonderfully sketched individuals; while Linda’s love of dogs, and a canny call-back to Marilyn Monroe impersonators (as featured at the heart of Dead Like Her), add light and shade to a fiendishly clever tale of death, drugs, and distrust.

I was completely and joyfully out-foxed at every turn and I defy even the most ardent murder mystery aficionado to guess ‘who did it?’ before the solution is spilled out for your wonder and delight. As usual with Linda’s work, The Burning Question is not for the faint hearted but for anybody who loves a rattling good detective story, told with guts and passion, this one is for you.

Laurence Olivier & Vivien Leigh: The Final Curtain by David Barry 

(Acorn Books, 2022)

When actor and writer David Barry was fourteen, and still credited as Meurig Wyn Jones, he was cast to play Laurence Olivier’s grandson in Peter Brook’s European touring production of William Shakespeare’s rarely staged and bloody tragedy Titus Andronicus. Olivier’s wife, Vivien Leigh, was playing Lavinia. It was to be the celebrated couple’s last appearance together.

Surprisingly then that very little has been written about this 1957 odyssey, making David’s first hand account not only theatre history but social history. With an uncanny memory of rail travel, flared tempers, and even exotic menus, David paints a picture of thrilling escapades beyond the Iron Curtain; a star-studded protest march to save one of the West End’s most iconic theatres; and even a Sunday house party at Notley Abbey, the Oliviers’ rambling Buckinghamshire home.

The sheer pride and excitement of this opportunity for the teenage actor is palpable throughout the book. Clearly, even sixty odd years on, the thrill has not dimmed, and David has skilfully interwoven observations and connections with the Oliviers over the subsequent decades. Indeed, a chance discovery, in Stratford-upon-Avon, results in a post-script section which is both uplifting and genuinely moving.

The book is a very important, deep dive snap-shot from Britain’s illustrious theatrical past, and is an essential read for anybody with even the remotest interest in the art of acting.     

Shut That Door: The Definitive Biography of Larry Grayson by Tony Nicholson 

(Great Northern Books Ltd., 2022) 

Larry Grayson is a national treasure of waspish, gossipy, comic monologues who - in a roller-coaster career through drag act and hosting prime time favourite The Generation Game - was both lauded and lambasted for his effeminate persona. In Tony Nicholson’s hugely affectionate and intricately researched biography, the years of struggle, and the determination, new destiny, to succeed are perfectly captured.

Through conversations with friends and family, and with access to Larry’s intimate correspondence and reflective media interviews, the book gives a full and fascinating picture of the much-missed comic genius. From childhood trauma and wartime lost, through to those hilariously vibrant pondering on his friends Apricot Lil, Slack Alice and Everard, Larry’s very personal, conversational comic style is put into complete context while never stepping on his laughs.

Perhaps the most infectious element is Larry’s all-consuming passion for show business: particularly revelling in the Hollywood musical. Tales of encountering his absolute idol Judy Garland are among the most unforgettable related here.

Tony Nicholson also writes from the privileged position of having been part of the production team on one of Larry’s last television series, when he was a team captain - opposite Ken Dodd - on the BBC1 panel show A Question of Entertainment. That Tony can accurately reflect upon the fact that Larry was exactly the same off stage takes this uplifting and, often, heart-breaking biography to a higher level.



The Time That Never Was by Steve Nallon 

(Lauth Press Ltd., 2022)

There’s a joyous zest of laughter and adventure in Steve Nallon’s first - of a scheduled three - Swidger books for young adults and adults who have magic in their hearts. What is a Swidger you may well ask? Well, you’ll have to read this rollicking yarn of good-natured kindness and timely coincidence to get the full answer. Suffice to say they are touched with mysticism. Even if some of them don’t know it yet!

William Arthur is our youthful protagonist - gleefully based on the author’s younger self - while the creation of sheer comedic gusto is Granny: a, seemingly, absent-minded, rather shambolic eccentric, with a glorious line in speaking her mind. Particularly when faced with annoying figures of authority. Well, she’s an old lady. She has such a right. With a mischievous twinkle in the eye.

Steve’s easy charm and endless litany of one-liners and malapropisms is matched by his exciting description powers that effortlessly transform you to wondrous places and make the totally unbelievable a tangible reality.

The train tunnel motif is a lovely portal between our world - the domain of the commonality - and the fantastic world of the Swidgers. This is a book full of charm. A true battle between the forces of good and evil, which has been relished by young readers across the country.

An utterly fantastic story that will leave you cheered and cheering.