KJR Books


Little Guide To Unhip


Have you ever worried about not being quite hip enough?  Or maybe you are one of those who flaunts your unhipness with abandon.  Either way, The Little Unhip Guide is for you.  Although it charts my own personal unhip top 50 with the likes of Gilbert O’Sullivan, Morris Dancing, Vicar of Dibley, Sanitary Towels (with wings), and the colour beige to name but a few, I picked those characters, characteristics, attributes or material objects with a universally unhip feeling to them.  Each is given an unhip rating up to five for you to keep a count of your own unhip rating, and some sections include a few personal anecdotes.  There is also a ‘bubbling under’ list for a further 12  unhip things not quite making the top 50.  


This book carries a warning: some readers may seriously dent their coolness if caught reading this material!


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Suckers n Scallies


Loss and loneliness in childhood lead introvert middle-class Kit Ramsay into forbidden friendship and taboo territory with Liverpool tough boy, Terry Dacosta.  Violence and deprivation in Terry’s childhood, drive him to aspire to a life like Kit’s.  Their early experiences in 60s and 70s Liverpool are to have far-reaching effects on their adult lives and relationships as they get sucked back into each other’s world in 90s Bournemouth.

 

The 'sucking' theme can be read on many levels as well as the more literal (ie sweets and cigarettes in childhood, kissing and oral sex in adolesence.)  In a more symbolic sense, and as well as offering ‘succour’, Kit is a sucker for Terry’s world and anything connected with it (Terry being ‘the brother’ he lost).  But in Kit’s words, “Who’s doing the sucking anyway?  I thought it was me, but him, that lot, they’ve sucked me in ever since.  Like sinking mud.”

 

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Seaview Terrace 


Told from several viewpoints, Seaview Terrace is a contemporary character-driven novel in a seaside setting.  It is about the fragile relationships between neighbours, and the passions and prejudices that arise when so many disparate personalities live in close quarters.

 

 

 Maxine lives in Number 7, the peeling Jewish house, where she has to stand on cushions to change light bulbs because she doesn't know anyone well enough to ask for the use of their stepladder.  She is also trapped in an unsatisfactory relationship with her misanthropist boyfriend Warren who "sits there baiting or attacking people in the road" and is indiscriminate with his prejudices.  She is longing for a summer of excitement and change . . .

 

 Mark lives at Number 12 in the shadow of his witty boyfriend Guy who has names for all the regulars of the seaside cul-de-sac.  Madame Two Swords ("starchy, laundered woman in her fifties who wears a yellow headscarf looking like a duster"), Acnes Anonymous ("blank teenager permanently wired for sound"), Love's Wet Dream ("lovey-dovey young couple who seem to be perpetually entwined") and Miss Bronte who "looks like a Cathy or an Emily or a Jane" are just a few.

 

 Then the rich and mysterious Hassan, his family, and his sidekick, Rashid, move into Number 8.  Beautiful and arrogant, Hassan soon stirs the emotions of his near neighbours, particularly the defensive Mark who immediately comes into conflict with him and won't admit to his real feelings, and Maxine who laps him up from afar.  It's not long before Hassan and Rashid shake up the lives of all in Seaview Terrace during a long sizzling summer full of property acquisition, Parking Rage, racial abuse and mounting passion which reaches a climax over the August Bank Holiday weekend.  Then autumn  sets in and Hassan disappears as quickly as he arrived, leaving Mark and Maxine bereft.  But they are left with positive changes in their own lives and relationships as a result of the summer's events.

 

 

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 FAR CRY FROM THE TURQUOISE ROOM 


Featuring one of the families from 'Seaview Terrace' this novel is, however, a story in its own right.  Told from both daughter and father's perspectives, Far Cry From The Turquoise Room is a coming-of-age riches-to-rags tale of loss, resilience, and self-discovery.   It is also about the passage of childhood into puberty.


Set in the late nineties, Leila is the eight-year-old daughter of Hassan Nassiri, a wealthy property owner, and younger sister to the adored Fayruz, her father's favourite daughter.

 

The death of Fayruz in a narrowboat accident has far-reaching consequences for the surviving family members.  Hassan withdraws into reclusive grief, work, and high jinks with his men friends at his Hampstead house, while Samira, his therapist wife, suffers a breakdown, leaving Leila to fend for herself in a lonely world of nannies, chess and star-gazing, where it becomes more and more apparent that she will never now be her father's favourite. 

 

 Two years after her sister's death, and at a time when her parents are expecting another child, Leila runs away from home, and so follows a tale of adventure, discovery and romance – and further anguish for her parents

 

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BREAK POINT 

 

 It's the beginning of the Wimbledon fortnight 99.  Bobbie and girlfriend, June, have avidly followed the championships together for years.  But this year Bobbie and June have split up after Bobbie slept with best friend Babs. Bobbie gets a job caring for a peevish old woman and before long another tennis tournament is unfolding at old Gwen’s house, as carers fall like seeds, and only those with the deadliest return of serve may survive to the final ...  

 

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Thalidomide Kid 


Thalidomide Kid is about the blossoming romance and sexual awakening between a lonely girl and a disabled boy, and their struggle against adversity and prejudice as they pass from primary to secondary school in 1970s Cirencester. Though set in the 70s, the story deals with themes and issues that are timeless.


Celia Burkett is the new girl at the local primary school, and the daughter of the deputy head at the local comprehensive where she is bound the following September.  With few friends, Celia soon becomes fascinated by ‘the boy with no arms’ in the other class, Daryl Wainwright, the quirky youngest child of a large family of petty thieves and criminals who calls himself ‘Thalidomide Kid’.

 

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LOST THE PLOT 


Lost The Plot is a satirical piece about the process and rules of creative writing in today's climate.  The narrative sets out to examine some of those rules in relation to novels eg plot, length, characters, tense, climax, endings etc in an off-the-wall way.  It unashamedly loses the plot and doesn't stick to the main road but explores sidetracks.  It doesn't stick to the knitting pattern but deliberately exposes the seams it's tacked together.  You as reader are invited to collude with this approach to see whether, and for how long, it can be sustained.  This is one of the central challenges for Lost The Plot.  

 

 The first port of call on the journey is the Restart course for the long-term unemployed. The Restart course, concerned as it is with prescribed rules, is a ripe environment for the exploration of writing as a valuable occupation in a world where 'market forces' predominate.  Several visits are made here before going on holiday to France.

 

 The writer as mother, and her novels as her children - conceived, nurtured, born and named - is another of the analogies visited.  As mother, she blames herself for the faults in her children and also has the painstaking task of supporting them through their numerous rejections.  She has the job of honing them, knocking them into shape, yet preserving their essential character.  This is where the writer passes from mother to cosmetic surgeon, giving facelifts, grafting pieces here and there, as rewriting and redrafting takes place.

     

Comparisons between the cutting edge of writing and conceptual art are also explored.  In writing terms, what is the equivalent to a pile of bricks?  Blocks of SSSS's?  Is it important to write for the eye as well as the ear?  

 

 These are just some of the themes explored in LOST THE PLOT which travels through the highs and lows of creative writing (among other things) en route to its target number of words!

 

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DOWN THE TUBES


Down The Tubes is the story of a dysfunctional family riven by lack of communication, addiction and abuse. The tubes symbolism is  repeated in various guises throughout the novel. 

 

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DID YOU WHISPER BACK?  


Set in the late nineteen-seventies 'Did You Whisper Back?'  begins with Amanda Court's longing to be reunited with her estranged twin sister Jo.  Following a false lead, Amanda leaves her Merseyside home and family and goes to Devon where she believes Jo now lives. Working as a chambermaid, Amanda's new life begins to encroach on her personal space and time, and her search for Jo is put on hold until Amanda feels Jo calling her back to Liverpool.

 

Gradually it emerges that Jo is, seemingly, just a figment of Amanda's imagination arising from distorted childhood truths.  As her confusion mounts, so too does the desperation of her family ...

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