VINE’S DEBUT DALI-ANCE WITH FICTION HAS ME LOVED AND ENLIGHTENED

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It’s often said that you should never meet your heroes, as you’ll be disappointed. Because when you do, you’ll find their guard is down and their stage persona offline and so you will undoubtedly discover they are just like you and me, spilling things down their front, slurping their tea, picking their nose or teeth in public, etc, etc. I’ve met a few famous people in my time, namely in my work as a film extra in the past. Its rare that I’ve had the opportunity to meet celeb’s in a personal capacity; but the above applies when I have (excluding the nose picking, but you get my point).

Another thing I have never done and is part of a large list, which I keep trying to shorten, especially having hit my half century this year, is visit Glasgow. If I had, I would have probably gone to its main art museum The Kelvingrove to see among other things its pride and joy, a Dali painting. I’ve seen the Caravaggio in Dublin, the Nightwatch in Amsterdam and David in Florence.  While I used to have a poster of Dali’s, The Temptation of St Anthony on my bedroom wall when I was in my teens. Dali’s surrealism and the weird things he did with animals and clocks amused me. This month’s first book review, is centred around the great man’s painting, Christ Of St John Of The Cross. The book is The Diver and The Lover by Jeremy Vine and published by Coronet an imprint of Hodder & Stoughton (www.hodder.co.uk) in September.

Its 1951, Ginny and Meredith, two sisters from Hull, travel to Spain to help Meredith recover from a terrible trauma. They run into the famous American stuntman, Russell Saunders in their hotel. He’s there to work with Local resident and surrealist painter Salvador Dali with his latest project. But, tensions have arisen between the two men and their PR representative, a fiery red headed Irish woman, called Siobhan Lynch is desperate to save this very lucrative arrangement for her bosses back in London and push on with her plan of taking control of the Dali account. With Saunders refusing to work with Dali and time running out, Ginny and Meredith witness what appears to be the suicide of a member of the hotel staff off nearby cliffs, only to discover he’s Adam, a keen diver. The sisters along with Siobhan, hatch a plan to save the deal, wherein  Adam takes Saunders place as a body double for Dali’s masterpiece, with Saunders taking all the credit. Meanwhile, Ginny and Adam have fallen in love, but Siobhan also has feelings for the Canadian. Can the quartet work together, against Dali’s eccentricities and with the backdrop of the ever growing divisions between the locals and Franco and the rumblings of Civil War….

Like most books I accept for these blog tours, I rarely read the blurb on the back and literally like Adam, I dive right in and see where it takes me. I knew nothing of Dali’s Christ Of St. John Of The Cross and that it was hanging in Glasgow or the history behind it’s conception and what Saunders had to endure so Dali could get what he wanted. Along with the outcry which came with the Museums purchase.

Christ Of St. John Of The Cross (Glasgowlive.co.uk)

What I got, was a thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish. I had seen mixed reviews from other bloggers and my own wife had baulked at reading it when it arrived in the post. Now that I’ve finished, I feel enlightened and delighted to discover the back story of this amazing piece of work.

Vine has a lovely easy going style about his writing, which is similar to his style of radio presentation (something I experience regular listening to him from here in Dublin and on our regular trips to visit family in the UK) which allows him to tell a story with just enough drama, humour and suspense. Not forgetting, adding a healthy and rich mix of romance into the tale too. The four main characters are full bodied and well drawn, while there there is a Rainman-esque sort of relationship between Ginny and Meredith. As for the real characters, Dali and Saunders, there is a lot of research visible by Vine into the artist’s home and character. I had a feeling of Dali’s acting like Willie Wonka as he shows the quartet around his villa in  Port Lligat and down to his subterranean studio. Vine has done a great job to bring out the artists eccentric qualities. While Saunders is a support cast member, he does provide some great heroic interludes, as well as being the inspiration for the story too.

Jeremy Vine (BBC.co.uk)

This is English author, broadcaster and journalist Jeremy Vine’s (@thejeremyvine) first novel, he’s previously published two books of non-fiction ‘Its All News To Me’ (2013) and ‘What I Learnt: What My Listeners Say’ (2017). He currently presents The Jeremy Vine Show on BBC radio 2 and in 2018 took over presenting the UK’s  Channel 5’s The Right Stuff, now called Jeremy Vine. He lives in Chiswick, with his wife and two daughters.

If there was a downside to the book, I thought it was a bit drawn out at the end, but apart from that it was an amazing experience and a fantastic read. With my choice for a book group read coming up in four weeks’ time, I think I may have found another contender. A difficult choice ahead, me thinks.

So if like me, you are fascinated by Dali’s work and the eccentric life of this great painter, but also want to discover more about the history of this little known work, Then you’ll enjoy this story. So download or purchase a hardcopy, throw yourself onto the couch, and with Covid restrictions still in place, visit Spain through Vine’s eyes. Then, like me, plan a trip to Glasgow for next year (fingers crossed).

Reviewed by Adrian Murphy

This review is part of a blog tour Organised by Hodder & Stoughton, to see what the other reviwers thought, visit their sites listed below. Then if you get a copy comeback and tell us what you think, we’d really appreciate the feedback.

MALONE’S SIXTH BOOK IS LESS SPINE-TINGLE AND MORE FAIRY TALE

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House-of-Spines CvrDo you know what links Carrie Fisher, Vincent Van Gogh and Ranald McGhie? No idea?You’re probably asking yourself who Ranald McGhie is? Never mind what links them all. Well they all suffer from Bipolar Disorder, a mental affliction, which according to the Health Service Executive in Ireland affects 1 in 100 people. Researching a list of people with bipolar disorder for this article, draws up at least 59 other well-known faces, currently and historically, who may have been affected, including Abraham Lincoln and Charles Dickens.

As for Ranald Mcghie, he’s the central character in this month’s book. Its “The House of Spines” by Michael J. Malone. Published by Orenda Books (www.orendabooks.co.uk)  at the end of October- Halloween to be exact.

Ranald is a jobbing text book writer in his home town of Glasgow, who has never really come to terms with deaths of his parents and as result of his condition has been in and out of psychiatric hospitals.  One day he is summoned to the offices of a large law firm in the city. There he discovers that he’s been left something in the will of his great grandfather on his mother’s side, someone he knows very little about, due his mother being mysteriously disowned by the family.  His inheritance is Newton Hall, an expansive old pile in a salubrious suburb of the city. It appears that Ranald’s great grandfather had him watched from birth, with every intention of making him the sole beneficiary and guardian of this property and its contents. The said contents are books, hundreds of them, filling every nook and cranny.  From the moment Ranald arrives in the house, he is in awe of what greets him, whole wardrobes of fine clothes in his exact size, a middle aged married couple who act as house keeper and gardener, a pool and a garage housing a couple of expensive cars – which would be fine if he’d ever learned to drive.

Ranald decides to use the house as a fresh start, maybe even a way to rehabilitate his mental instability, so he goes off his meds, starts swimming and using the gym in the house. Then strange things start happening. He is seduced by a number of local women within hours of arriving at the house. He also starts having vivid dreams involving a mysterious woman and repeatedly sleep walking to a lift in the house along with a strange unnerving feeling about the place.  If this wasn’t enough, he is then visited by two estranged cousins who seem to have ulterior motives for visiting him that may involve selling the property to a developer. Can Ranald discover the identity of the woman in the dreams, discover the mystery behind his mother’s falling out with her family and keep the property from the clutches of his relations? Or is it all in his mind…

One Bi-polar sufferer says of their condition ”.. this mind of mine is deeper than most people care to swim…”. If you throw in the addition of a vast lonely house and you get to the setting and ambience this story is trying to achieve.

When you start reading the book, the house comes across in Malone’s descriptions as a

Downton Abbey

Highclere Castle

cross between Downton Abbey’s Highclere Castle and the Walt Disney castle, with a bit of Hogwarts merged in for good measure. It’s a vast palace with many wings and floors, as well as towers, pools and large imposing book lined studies. Something a lotto millionaire would build on a whim as a result losing the run of himself. It basically comes across as a folly, especially when you consider the only occupant is a troubled divorcee.

I initially loved the feel-good factor from the book as we followed Ranald on his voyage of discovery around the house and the amazing things he finds at every turn in the house. The numerous bedrooms with fine linen and furnishings. The pool, well placed easy reading chairs and couches placed liberally about the house so that the occupant could read where or wherever they felt inclined. It has a real fairy-tale feel to it.

But then when the spirit or the assumption that there is something paranormal attached to the house, starts to get involved and this shortly followed by the arrival of the two cousins, a well-heeled scotch loving criminal lawyer and a his strangely quiet and reserved sister. Along with the straight laced smarmy lawyer who acts as executor, things start to follow a very formulaic Disney-esque route. We were only short of an evil stepmother and a poisoned apple, although later events involving Ranald being blackmailed into being prescribed an increased dosage of his meds are a modern version.

The Bipolar aspect of Ranald’s character, lends itself to the story and helps us to see him for the damaged person he is and how vulnerable someone is his condition can be, when they come into contact with strong minded and devious characters. Overall there is no real sense that Newton hall is haunted, just the creepy feeling left by the fact that Ranald’s grandfather was stalking him and that most of the things that our hero, experiences are probably down to his stopping medication.

Michael J Malone

Michael J. Malone

This is Scottish author and poet Michael Malone’s (@michaeljmalone1) sixth novel, his others include: Carnegie’s Call, The Guillotine’s Choice, The Taste of Malice, Beyond Rage, The Bad Samaritan, Dog Fight and A Suitable Lie.   Malone is a regular reviewer for the crime fiction website www.crimesquad.com and in a previous life was a regional sales manager for Faber & Faber.

The book is not as scary as it is portrayed and if you think Ranald is up against the house, his mental frailties and the conniving manipulative machinations of his relatives on his own, you are wrong. He has in his corner his ex-wife and a former neighbour.

So, if you are looking for a spine tingling, nerve jangling, bump in the night book. This isn’t it.