Celebrity Literature: Worth The Paper?

I can understand why publishers get all excited about books penned by people famous for not being writers. You don’t need to introduce them and they already have a ready public who might be intrigued enough to buy, even those who wouldn’t normally. The plethora of memoirs and autobios shows that appetite.

I’m foolish or gullible enough to have tried several. I even tried Alistair Campbell’s (for those who don’t know him, he was Tony Blair’s spin doctor who told Tone ‘We don’t do God’ and coined the ‘People’ Princess’ for Princess Di). I heard him speak at an event where he took questions. In answer to one sceptic he said he told the publishers that he would only allow it to be published if they assured him it was good enough without his name attached. Funnily enough the dribbling publishers who expected to make a killing from someone notoriously opinionated confirmed it was ‘super’…

Shite, actually, but hey, his ego was easily polished.

Ditto Dickie Osman and his Thursday Murder Club series (Osman, R is host of a popular teatime teaser called ‘Pointless’ – it might just as well have been used to describe his second book). Book one was okay, readable with nicely drawn characters but book two… as dreadful as was Stieg Larsson’s second book in the Girl With series.

So I came to The Rev Richard Coles novel, Murder Before Evensong, the first Canon Clement Mystery with a degree of scepticism. I like the author (more than I ever did A. Campbell). For a start he was in Bronski Beat and the Communards with the epic Jimmy Sommerville and had hits such as

Then he was host of Saturday Live, a staple of Saturday mornings in this house and inspired a splendid comedy series, Rev.

But would his novel fail as had others before him?

Canon Daniel Clement is Rector of Champton. He has been there for eight years, living at the Rectory alongside his widowed mother – opinionated, fearless, ever-so-slightly annoying Audrey and his two dachshunds, Cosmo and Hilda. When Daniel announces a plan to install a lavatory in church, the parish is suddenly (and unexpectedly) divided: as lines are drawn, long-buried secrets come dangerously close to destroying the apparent calm of the village.

And then Anthony Bowness, cousin to Bernard de Floures, patron of Champton, is found dead in the church, stabbed in the neck with a pair of secateurs. As the bodies start piling up, Canon Daniel attempts to keep his fractured community together… and catch a killer.

Short answer? Nope, not at all, it’s a quality piece of fiction by any measure. The humour of the man that echoes an earlier age with touches of knowing the modern world is in evidence throughout and his observations on people, possibly informed by his years in a ministry are spot on. He gets rural England in ways often undermined these days by cliché and caricature. It’s a well structured mystery, with enough clues to kept you guessing a plausible involvement for the main character in what would otherwise have been largely a police procedural.

This is worthy of your time, not because of who wrote but because of how good a writer he is.

About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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16 Responses to Celebrity Literature: Worth The Paper?

  1. Cathy Cade says:

    Can’t agree more about the thursday Murder club sequel – glad it wasn’t just me. Also agree about the first on – ‘OK’ just about covers it. I rarely read autobiographies. You’l only read what they want you to know

    Liked by 1 person

  2. An interesting analysis. Have you read any of Dirk Bogarde’s memoirs?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy Panda says:

    I don’t like reading autobiographies – they are so plain and boring and often cover stories that you’ve already read in the media. I’ve only read 2 of them and I’m never picking up one again.
    Fiction I don’t mind picking up. I’ll definitely check out the Canon Clement series.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. noelleg44 says:

    I can’t agree more. Most of the celebrity autobiographies – why do they think they are so important that people would want to know all their little secrets – are pure fluff, like cotton candy.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I love listening to Richard Coles and thank you for this Geoff. I shall definitely read. I understand there are more to come and that he has ample time to write now that he has retired from his ministry.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. willowdot21 says:

    Praise indeed and I am a huge fan of Saturday live 😁

    Liked by 1 person

  7. The ones that make me cringe are when Patterson teams up with someone like Bill Clinton. Not saying the books are bad just seem a little contrived. Good post, Geoff and I’m glad the book panned out.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Very useful to know, thanks. I’m a big fan of Richard Coles in all his guises so it doesn’t surprise me that he can write as well. I have added this to my tbr list. I read the first Richard Osman (someone chose it for our book group) and quite enjoyed it but not enough to be moved to read another. So you’ve confirmed that hunch too.

    Liked by 1 person

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