Holiday Reads

It’s a challenge as old as time, or thereabouts.

Screw it up and the gentle Gods of travel and tour buses will suddenly grimace.

Pick like a pro and nothing short of pestilence or plague can derail you.

When it comes to the decisions that matter, nailing the holiday reads is strictly make or break territory.

Granted the march of Kindle means you can carry a virtual library with you to the beach bar.

But for those who still like to feel the pages between their sunburnt fingers, it’s a numbers game you daren’t get wrong.

A relief then that The Cat has its own route map to salvation.

First and foremost, decide your number, stay brave and don’t waver. Sacrificing that extra pair of swim shorts for another Nesbo isn’t smart, it’s weak. Lose your discipline and you’ll be looking for a laundrette or a nudist beach before you can say John Le Carre.

Rationing genres - and authors - also makes sense. Sure, you could cram in a million Agatha Christies but great as they are, you’d soon enough be locked in a cycle of dodgy Poirot impersonations that somehow find their way to YouTube. Same goes for styles...a fortnight of rum punches and rom coms spells a kind of sickness that no holiday insurance will cover. And an airlift home isn’t cheap.

So mix it up; throw in a classic with your crime caper; nibble at a short story collection; go really mad and pack a biography. The variety’s the key.

But find room for the one you love. The Cat understands space is at a premium but personally we never venture far without a perennial favourite lying snug between the socks and smalls, the literary equivalent of the life jacket under your seat only without the light and whistle for attracting attention. Many’s the time a Chandler has come to the rescue in a crisis.

And here’s something that always seems to work well, in a slightly OCD kind of way. Try a read that’s set in the place your actually reading it. So for the masses who lapped up Zafon’s beautiful Barcelona-set ‘The Shadow Of The Wind’ imagine turning the pages in a shaded cafe off Las Ramblas? This works excellently in all climates, by the way. Consider a slice of Scandi-noire wherethe action really happens, a Mankell with the view to match? Who wouldn’t enjoy?

And so to finish, without apology, on an egg-sucking-granny moment. Always go soft back. Being hard on holiday is just showing off.

Enjoy the summer!

The Lutwidge Affair

Here at The Cat we like to think we all have a passion for fine’d be surprised if we had anything less.

But our brand name isn’t just a doff of the cap to one of the written word’s memorable characters and a chance to come up with a funky logo.

No, you can forget forelock tugs and tributes – we’re laying claim to a family connection to the very great Lewis Carroll himself.

Ok, it may seem a stretch and the evidence might not get us absolutely over the line before a judge and jury.

But here goes...

Born in 1832, Carroll’s real name was Charles Lutwidge Dobson and he was a descendant of a certain Thomas Lutwidge, himself the son of a wealthy tobacco merchant whose ships sailed the Atlantic from 1700s Cumbria.

Across the social divide but living close by, one Mary Little had given birth in July 1728 to a boy whose parish records make no mention of a father.

Mary named the infant Lutwidge Little, he became a bricklayer with seven children of his own and, much more importantly, the great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather of The Cat’s executive director Tony Hutchinson!

Was the Lutwidge name pick just a coincidence? We think not.

We like much more the theory Mary was giving us all a cast-iron clue, a nod in the direction of a well-off father with the money and clout to cover up his indiscretion.

Tony’s father Ken, who followed the near-300 year-old trail, has no doubt.

‘I can only assume by using Lutwidge as the boy's christian name Mary was making a statement about his antecedents because there was no mention of a father in 1728,’ he tells us.

Like I say, not absolutely conclusive but we love the idea that the blood of written-word royalty runs through one of our own.

The Ann Cleeves Lecture

Ann Cleeves - The SeagullWhen you are crime-writing royalty you should expect to plant a bottom on every available seat.

No surprise, then, to find a full house greeting the wonderful Ann Cleeves at Sunderland University for the first in a series of high profile summer lectures.

Those lucky enough to be on said seats seemed evenly split between straight up fans and budding writers hoping for nuggets of priceless advice from someone whose global success borders on the scary...hard to think of anyone else who has TWO of her treasured creations simultaneously sharing eye-catching ratings on both ITV and BBC.

And nuggets there were as Cleeves - a slight and stylish figure dwarfed by the vast screen behind her - quietly held the room with a self-effacing mix of poignant memories, moments that made her and beautifully-delivered readings from her latest The Seagull.

Ann Cleeves autographRevealing the upcoming Shetland release would be Jimmy Perez’s final investigation drew a ripple ofheartfelt ‘nooos’ from the faithful; she confessed she had been ‘bowled over’ by the affection forher beloved Vera and that the detective was now a big hit in France; that she was ‘so fortunate’ thewonderful Brenda Blethyn took on the role and made it her own; that she was ‘telling stories before I could read or write.’

And those hints for the writers still hoping to find her footprints and follow them?

Love the characters you create because if you don’t, no one else will...make the setting as big aplayer as the people... keep your work tight and simple...don’t be discouraged if doors keep closing.

We are proud to report that The Cat’s was the first hand in the air when Cleeves moved to questions and answers, a chance for us to learn what she would want and expect from a great publisher?

“Get good editors,” she said without missing a beat. “A good editor can really make a difference.”