Why I Really Like This Book
These are podcasts about forgotten fiction, for curious readers, and for anyone who likes old books. Sometimes they're stories, sometimes they're not. Most of the authors write in English; and sometimes they don't. But all the books I talk about, I really really like. I hope you will too.
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My name is Kate Macdonald: I'm an English lecturer, and a lifelong browser in second-hand bookshops. I post weekly ten-minute podcasts on a Friday, on the books I really like which I think deserve new readers. You can find out lots more at the Facebook page here, and get these podcasts weekly by subscribing on the iTunes link above.

The music for the podcast intro is by The Tribe Band. Lucy Marsh did the drawing and Matthias Opsomer lettered it. Patrick Belk and Martin Fowler hold my tech safety net.

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Questions? Send me a message by mailing me at kate [dot] brussels [at] yahoo [dot] com.

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Dornford Yates was the master of the 1920s comic frivol and the gritty thriller of gentlemen heroes. He was a superb writer but also quite strong meat for those not used to the racy idioms of the 1920s. Adele and Co is a blend of his two favourite genres, and the first full-length novel featuring the immortal Berry and Co, five gentry cousins who have their jewels stolen in Paris and take their revenge with hard driving and a close reading of timetables and maps. Funnier than Wodehouse, and more thrilling than Buchan, Dornford Yates is for readers who appreciate tweed and pearls in their proper settings, with cocktails.

Direct download: Dornford_Yates_and_Adele_and_Co.mp3
Category:thrills and spills -- posted at: 1:30am CET
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Sylvia Townsend Warner's first novel, Lolly Willowes, was about witches, self-reliance and the rights of single women to do what they wanted for themselves. It was a fashionable and critical hit when it appeared in 1926, and is still loved by its devoted fans. But civilised witches are less in fashion than they were. Lolly Willowes is about the subtle pleasures of witchcraft as a means to an end, when the ends are independence and some decent privacy from interfering families. For readers who walk in the woods rather than on the paths, and who prefer the smell of wet leaves to incense.

Direct download: Sylvia_Townsend_Warner_and_Lolly_Willowes.mp3
Category:fantastical -- posted at: 1:30am CET
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Africa in the 1960s was dangerous and full of life. Van der Post's great adventure novel A Story Like The Wind (its must-read sequel is A Far-Off Place) is an African idyll destroyed by mercenaries heading for the Angolan war of independance. It's a mix of wildlife conservation and John Buchan. If you like your wildlife narratives given a desperate urgency, or you like your thrillers to ride on the back of the impala, this is the fireside read for you this winter.

Direct download: Laurens_Van_der_Post_and_A_Story_Like_The_Wind.mp3
Category:the great outdoors -- posted at: 1:30am CET
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He's not a forgotten author, The Witches of Eastwick is not forgotten either, but this is a book I really, really like, and it's all about witches. Updike writes about Rhode Island witchcraft as if it were European, and his devil is a money-splashing New York loudmouth. There's a hint of Lovecraftian occult in here too, but it's a great novel of innocent corruption and the simple pleasures of the coven. For those who like their snacks spicy and their hot tubs steaming.

Direct download: John_Updike_and_The_Witches_of_Eastwick.mp3
Category:fantastical -- posted at: 1:30am CET
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Britain topples into the Second World War, and Barsetshire braces itself to deal with invaders: refugees, evacuees, foreigners, the lower-classes, and even socialists. Angela Thirkell's view of the war from the upper-class county perspective is a vision of the past as one part of it would have liked it to have been. She delights in caricature, satire, cutting down to size, and savage attacks on those who damage the glories of English civilisation. Pulling together, not shirking your turn in the communcal evacuees' canteen, being polite to the rude and being pleasant to the revolting are all part of the British Home Front at war. For readers who can do their own blackout and can cook rabbit stew.

Direct download: Angela_Thirkell_and_Cheerfulness_Breaks_In.mp3
Category:the life of the place -- posted at: 1:30am CET
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This is a truly forgotten novel, and it's so charming! The American occupation forces in Okinawa attempt to enforce the American Way of Life on Japanese villagers, but two marooned geisha girls show everyone the real meaning of Japanese civilisation. Vern Sneider's The Tea-House of the August Moon was made into a 1956 film with Marlon Brando, but the book has the hidden depths of a mature saki or a porcelain tea cup. For readers who like to take their tea-breaks on tatami mats looking out onto a stream flowing through a grove of pine trees.

Direct download: Vern_Sneider_and_The_Tea-House_of_the_August_Moon.mp3
Category:the life of the place -- posted at: 1:30am CET
Comments[1]

Greece in the 6th century BCE, where poets are honoured almost as much as athletes and horses. Mary Renault's The Praise-Singer is a terrific slice of history told through a famous poet's struggle to stay out of trouble and avoid the barbarians. But it's far more than one man's story; this is glorious historical reconstruction, and a very plausible set of ideas about how Pythagoras worked, how Homer got corrupted, and how red figure-ware vase painting was invented. Tyrants come and go: for readers who like their victory odes performed in linen.

Direct download: Mary_Renault_and_The_Praise-Singer.mp3
Category:the life of the place -- posted at: 1:30am CET
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This week's podcast resurrects the Edwardian novelist, poet, critic and Grand Old Man of Letters, Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch. He was a great name in his day, and if you read his novels, his criticism, and most especially his lectures on literature, you can see why. He simply loved to teach, and was loved by his students. Hear about his satire on fashionable Victorian manners: learn how hard it was to finish writing the novel left on Robert Louis Stevenson's deathbed; understand how anger erupts from behind the erudition when he's teaching during the First World War. Q was a master at his many arts: for readers who want to try a bit of the scholarly past.

Direct download: Arthur_Quiller_Couch_on_being_Q.mp3
Category:getting educated -- posted at: 1:30am CET
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In 1950s Kensington, the gossip in the anglo-Catholic parish of St Luke's is hotting up. Father Thames needs a new housekeeper, and he gets a man. New priest Father Ransome needs somewhere to live, but when his hostess dies he has to move out rapidly in case he compromises her middle-aged daughter. Wilmet, indolent and under-occupied, falls in love with the brother of her best friend, and totally fails to notice that both her husband and her mother-in-law are trying to have affairs. Bitchy Mr Bason may be a wonderful cook, but he takes a Faberge egg shopping. Barbara Pym's A Glass of Blessings is all about love among the cassocks. For those who like their ecclesiastical intrigue with incense. 

Direct download: Barbara_Pym_and_A_Glass_of_Blessings.mp3
Category:always amusing -- posted at: 1:30am CET
Comments[3]

She's a pre-feminist action hero, a serious contender for the hardest secret agent around, and she's a cartoon strip turned into a series of novels. Modesty Blaise predates Lara Croft and Emma Peel, and could beat them hollow: she could probably sort out Bond as well. She's the original fighting machine, performing in breathtakingly exciting capers, dripping with 1960s confidence and down to earth simplicity. For readers who prefer their reading pleasure as a vin ordinaire rather than any nonsense about shaking and stirring. 

Direct download: Peter_ODonnell_and_Modesty_Blaise.mp3
Category:thrills and spills -- posted at: 1:30am CET
Comments[1]