Modus by Anne Holt

Saturday nights get Scandi – 

Fans of The Bridge rejoice. Modus, the hot new Scandi-drama, is coming to our screens on BBC Four this Saturday at 9pm.  Based on Anne Holt’s bestselling novel, Fear Notit makes for chilling, compulsive viewing. From the same director as The Bridge, and in a similar vein to The Killing, this is Nordic Noir at its finest. It has already been Sweden’s TV4’s most successful Scandinavian TV series in 25 years with an audience of 1.2 million.

Set during a snowy Christmas season in Sweden, it follows psychologist and profiler Inger Johanne Vik, (played by Melinda Kinnaman, star of The Bridge) along with her autistic daughter, as they become drawn into the investigation of a number of disturbing deaths. As the bodies keep turning up, with very different causes of death, it takes Vik’s unconventional approach, and a bit of help from Detective Nyman (played by Henrik Norlen, star of Wallander) to notice a pattern.

Modus showcases the very best of the hugely successful Swedish talent behind a number of hit TV shows, and is guaranteed to revive our obsession with fishermen’s jumpers, devastating detectives and epic snowy landscapes.

The inspiration behind the new series, Anne Holt, is Norway’s bestselling crime novelist, who Jo Nesbo calls ‘the godmother of modern Norwegian crime fiction’. A lawyer and former Minister of Justice, she is the author of  five in The Vik/Stubø series and nine books in The Hanne Wilhelmsen series. The paperback of Modus is available now, and then there’s the rest of the series to keep you going between episodes. As the BBC man himself says, no more silent nights.



All of a Winter’s Night

Phil Rickman is back with January with his latest chiller All of a Winter’s Night.  Here’s a sneak preview of the cover, which hints at the eeriness to come.

The Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize

Atlantic Books is delighted to announce that Ian Buruma’s wonderful memoir Their Promised Land has been longlisted for the 2017 Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize. Established in 1977, the annual prize, worth £4,000  is awarded to the best book, fiction or non-fiction, to translate the idea of Jewishness to the general reader, and its illustrious winners include Amos Oz, David Grossman, Zadie Smith, and Oliver Sacks.

Their Promised Land reads like a novel – a nostalgic saga assimilated Jewish family living in England throughout the upheavals of the twentieth century, but it is – in fact – a love story – the true love story of Ian Buruma’s maternal grandparents, Bernard and Winifred (Bun & Win), who wrote to each other regularly throughout their life together. The first letters were written in 1915, when Bun was still at school at Uppingham and Win was taking music lessons in Hampstead. They were married for more than sixty years, but the heart of their remarkable story lies within the span of the two world wars.

After a brief separation, when Bernard served as a stretcher bearer on the Western Front during the Great War, the couple exchanged letters whenever they were apart. Most of them were written during the Second World War and their correspondence is filled with vivid accounts of wartime activity at home and abroad. Bernard was stationed in India as an army doctor, while Win struggled through wartime privation and the Blitz to hold her family together which including their eldest son, the later film director John Schlesinger (Midnight Cowboy, Sunday Bloody Sunday), and twelve Jewish children they had arranged to be rescued from Nazi Germany.

Their letters are a priceless record of the sustaining power of a family’s love and devotion through very dark days – moving, rich, and with effortless prose, it is a worthy member of the longlist – all fingers are crossed.

On Being Brave with Cheryl Strayed, by Marion McGilvary

I’m one of the 943 women and maybe 6 men gathered in a hall in Westminster decorated with bible quotes, listening to Cheryl Strayed telling us how she f***** up her life and put it back together again.  The author of Wild, chronicling her lone hike through the wilderness of the Pacific Crest Trail, and Tiny Beautiful Things, the most beautiful and honest collection of advice columns you’ll ever read, is talking at a sold-out event, but still managing to make you feel like you’re the only person in the room and she’s talking to you, directly to you.  If she ever decides to take up Evangelical religion, the world better watch out, you’d feel saved in about six minutes.  But there’s absolutely no preachiness about Cheryl.  She’s been there, done it, felt it, struggled through it, and she’s not judging you, she’s just telling her story, the story of how she came to terms with the grief she experienced over her beloved mother’s death and did that hackneyed old thing we all say in ironic quotation marks with an embarrassed smile, while wishing we had the same road map – ‘found herself’.  But somehow, it’s not a cliche, it’s humble, it’s humorous and its sincere.  Furthermore, while she’s telling you about her experiences she has this gift of also making it about you, and those things you have buried in yourself, but not as deeply as you thought.  A few of us had tears in our eyes.  There was something so intimate, regardless of the size of the audience, about sitting there in a room full of strangers who you felt some kind of affinity with, imagining that most of the people there were dealing with their own private sorrows and trials.  A tent revival for the new age.

When I first saw Wild wearing its American cover, floating around the desks in the office – a book one of the editors had bought in New York, I wasn’t interested.  What had a book about hiking to do with me?  I haven’t hiked further than the top flight of a no 7 bus, am spectacularly unathletic and experience solitude as total, terrifying abandonment.  Walking through a wilderness and camping?  Poleeze.  I’ve been lucky enough to have done some travel journalism and I didn’t much care for that all alone time even in fancy hotels in dream destination.  But then came Tiny Beautiful Things, bought on the back of its bigger, Oprah certified sister, and two of us were asked to have a look at it.  I can’t say when a book spoke so directly to me.  Though not essays, but selected columns for Cheryl’s stint as Dear Sugar, agony aunt (now available as podcasts) they were so moving, so full of good sense, and compassion, and even a few home truths when necessary.  My colleague and I both fell instantly in love with it, pushing it on to everyone we knew – I gave it to my daughters who loved it too – it became our sort of Home Bible – enquire within about anything and get a sensible point of view.  I promised friends the’d be crying by page 5 – which you may not think is a good thing – but trust me – it is.  He Who Must Be Obeyed Publisher on High at the time was unsure.  ‘These sorts of books rarely do well’ he rumbled from the pinnacle of greatness.  But we bought it anyway, we published it, and now there’s even talk of it being made into a TV series for HBO.

So then I tried Wild, albeit grudgingly.  And didn’t put it down again until Cheryl was on that bridge at the end of her journey.  ‘I want an adventure,’  I said to anyone who would listen.  The cat was unimpressed.  ‘I want to do something big, bold, to challenge myself, to be wild, to be brave.’  The cat went back to sleep.

I’d love to be able to say I then went off and marooned myself on a desert island for a year and lived on berries, became all Eat, Pray, Love (I stopped at Eat), or sold my house and bought a gypsy caravan and toured Europe.  I didn’t.  I did actually absolutely sweet FA, nothing.  But I did go on with my small, sometimes extremely difficult, life with renewed vigour and purpose and – in my own minuscule way – I felt brave.  Most of us won’t throw it all in a bag and live in the woods with the bears.  But there are many ways to  step up to one’s challenges and – as Cheryl says – live as your authentic self.  It just turned out that my authentic self was the person not weeping and railing against life because it hadn’t turned out the way I had planned it.  My authentic self found peace by making the best of what was left.

To me, the most profound thing Cheryl said in her talk was about her period of ‘f***** it up’.  She realised that her mother’s death, her grief, her loss was just SO painful, so major, so overwhelming that her life almost had to be ruined to illuminate how great her suffering was.  Your marriage falls apart, your husband beats you, your father assaults you – so you almost destroy yourself to demonstrate the depth of your pain.  It made a lot of sense to me.  Even if I don’t intend to hike up a mountain range to discover it for myself.  I’ll settle for the top deck of the bus.  You still see a lot up there.

Scotland – The 1002nd Thing You Need to Know by Edwin Moore

The Declaration of Arbroath is a declaration of Scottish independence, made in 1320. It is in the form of a letter in Latin submitted to Pope John XXII, dated 6 April 1320, intended to confirm Scotland’s status as an independent, sovereign state and defending Scotland’s right to use military action when unjustly attacked.  Generally believed to have been written in the Arbroath Abbey by Bernard of Kilwinning, then Chancellor of Scotland and Abbot of Arbroath,[1] and sealed by fifty-one magnates and nobles, the letter is the sole survivor of three created at the time. 

Among several contentious assertions  in the Declaration of Arbroath is the statement  that Jesus loved the Scots so much that they were ‘almost the first’  to receive the Gospel’ – not from ‘merely anyone’ but from ‘the most gentle Saint Andrew, the Blessed Peter’s brother, and desired him to keep them under his protection as their patron for ever.’

Few if any modern historians subscribe to this view of Andrew being wafted over land and sea by Jesus to Scotland (at a time when there were few Scots in Scotland as it happens; maybe Andrew made landfall in Ireland).

Indeed it is far from certain that many people would have believed this in 1320, medieval folk being no thicker than us really. It’s just the sort of thing, however, a bunch of medieval nobles protecting  their lands would say to a Pope, a matter of formal posturing rather than of fact (at the time, Pope John XXII was also being moaned at by the English about the Scots and was nobody’s fool).

As for the gentle Andrew, we merely note that Scotland is the home of Jekyll and Hyde, of split personas, so perhaps we should look for an alternative modern saint who suits our disputatious souls, and give Andrew a rest from time to time.

Step forward Groundskeeper Willie of ‘The Simpsons’ –

”Brothers and sisters are natural enemies. Like Englishmen and Scots! Or Welshmen and Scots! Or Japanese and Scots! Or Scots and other Scots! Damn Scots! They ruined Scotland!

Willie has a point. Six of the signatories of the Declaration of Arbroath were subsequently convicted of treason against Bruce. One of those convicted was William II de Soules, who like several of Bruce’s many enemies, died in mysterious circumstances. Popular tradition, however, insists that William was a wizard who kept an evil spirit (Robin Redcap) as a companion, and was boiled to death by outraged Borderers.

In truth, much of popular history is summed up by that splendid quote from The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence – ‘This is the West, sir. When the legend becomes fact, print the legend’.

Within Scotland: 1001 Things You Need to Know you will find both legend and fact, but we hope we have managed to keep the two distinct, and we also hope you find it an enjoyable read. The Dundee Courier, Sunday Times, Sunday Post, Aberdeen Press and Journal, Good Book Guide,The Big Issue, Royal Scottish Legion and STV all say it is, and who are we to disagree?

Why Cricket is a Beautiful Game by Mark Nicholas

‘Cricket is the most artistic of all games and, to me, the most beautiful. Thus, the title of this book. Cricket is difficult, frustrating and unfair but the bounty of its rewards is plentiful.’

Most people know Mark Nicholas as a highly accomplished cricket broadcaster. But if you find the international cricket circuit so all-consuming that you overlook the county game – shameful, I know, but it happens – you may have wondered where Mark came from and how exactly he learned to speak with such authority about all aspects of the game. He simply seemed to appear, fully formed, on our television screens around the time of the glorious 2005 Ashes series.

In A Beautiful Game, Mark shares with us a life that has been soaked in cricket since he mowed a cricket pitch into the family back garden aged nine. He went on to captain Hampshire County Cricket Club for eleven years and came tantalisingly close to playing for England on several occasions. The transition from cricketer to commentator happened gradually, and the chain of events which led to Mark’s career as a sportswriter with the Daily Telegraph will make you want to invest in a lottery ticket.

‘Throughout my life I had copied and mimicked Benaud, Lewis and Laker; Arlott, Johnston and Trueman. I thought I had a story to tell. The game had not come so easily to me as to, say, David Gower or Mark Waugh, but I was certain I could explain how they, and their like, had got there and what they were now doing out in the middle.’

Mark’s analysis of the game is the product of five decades of living and breathing cricket. His thoughts on what makes a great batsman and what it feels like to face furiously fast bowling are some of the strongest passages in the book and a reminder of the courage required to play what can be a brutal game. At heart, though, A Beautiful Game is a love letter to the sport which has given Mark so much, and appropriately the spirit and tone of the book are deeply generous. Teammates and champions from then and now are recalled with great affection, and viewing greats of the game like Robin Smith and Malcolm Marshall through Mark’s highly personal lens is a genuine privilege, for this reader anyway. While Mark was insistent that he didn’t want to write an autobiography (and he certainly hasn’t), A Beautiful Game is an extremely personal, heart-on-sleeve book which we are hugely proud to be publishing.

Here’s what sports journalist Tim Wright thought of the book:

A Beautiful Game is a treasure chest crammed to overflowing with stories that will make you gasp, laugh and cry. The beauty of the game that Mark Nicholas is so clearly devoted to shines brightly. But professional sport is tough and cruel. So, while you are transported to golden memories that evoke the smell of linseed oil and of freshly mown pitches in early summers long gone, be ready also for a dark side. Prepare for pain – physical and mental – as a ruthless game inflicts vivid scars on all but the strongest of mind and the fleetest of foot. Bones are ‘mashed’ and a man is killed. He was at the peak of his powers. He was admired and loved. His death stopped the game in its tracks, but the game had to go on.

This is not a book about cricket. It is a book about life, seen through the prism of cricket. Mark Nicholas directs his own lens with authority, humility and absolute clarity. Acting and the theatre are in Nicholas’ blood. The author has become a BAFTA winning broadcaster and in this astonishing book he trains his own camera from his early childhood, as he gazed at his father playing good club cricket in the Home Counties of 1960s England, on through a playing career in the professional game of the ‘80s and ‘90s to the present day game under lights. No holds are barred, no punches pulled. Nicholas is as honest in his assessment of his own errors, failings and shortcomings as he is of those he sees in others.

But this is not an autobiography: the great players the author played with are studied. Their abilities and their heroics described and assessed. They are compared too to the greats of the past, but always with an anecdote no observer from beyond the boundary could tell. So, A Beautiful Game takes you inside the game, inside its mind. Perhaps even inside its soul.

Over the opening years of this century the game of cricket has changed more than perhaps at any time in its history. Will Test cricket, the pinnacle of the game, survive the onslaught of sixes hit in the shortest format matches staged to such acclaim in India in a format franchised to the biggest businesses? Mark Nicholas takes the reader into a time-machine and from a place somewhere in the future he surveys a new landscape of cricket played between continents. Radical thoughts – some seemingly playful – are thrown out in this brave new world. All are provocative. A Beautiful Game will be read by lovers of sport wherever they are, whether they grew up hooked by the game of cricket or not.

Tim Wright has worked in sport for over 25 years. In 2008 he helped set up the Indian Premier League and then became CEO of Deccan Chargers, the 2009 IPL Champions.