October 10

Guest Post: Ian Skewis – Serial Heroes

Serial Heroes – I am 43 years old and there are two heroes that I have loved for as long as I can remember. Their adventures are known to millions but perhaps you may not immediately associate either of them with books?  The first is the Web-Slinger…The Amazing Spider-man, the hero who should not even be a hero. “Just a Kid”, “How Can a SPIDER be a good guy”?  But of all the costumed crime fighters I love to read about, Spidey is the undisputed champ.

But I mentioned two heroes and now I am passing the baton over to my guest, Ian Skewis, to explain why my other choice is a true Serial Hero….


Doctor Who.  

Just those two words conjure up images of wide-eyed geniuses, battered police boxes and terrifying villains; unconvincing special effects, dodgy performances and endless corridors that all looked the same. And Daleks. Always Daleks.

I first saw the legendary Time Lord on television in black and white (we couldn’t afford a colour telly at that time) in 1974 when Jon Pertwee regenerated into the wonderful Tom Baker. The giant spiders in that story gave me the creeps and the materialisation of one of them in the centre of a circle of followers is still one of my earliest memories. I hid behind a cushion (not the sofa) when the following year Davros, creator of the Daleks, made his debut. From then on I was (and still am) hooked.

But other than the TV show itself and all the related merchandise there wasn’t much scope for reliving the excitement of what was on the screen. We played at being Daleks in the school playground. We talked avidly about the latest episode. We even saw the occasional repeat. But that was it. Those were hungry days.

Then my dad bought me ‘Doctor Who and the Daleks’ by David Whitaker – and I was hooked all over again. It was published in paperback by Target, who would go on to publish loads more in their successful series. It was amazing to be able to read this story, which was legendary, as it hadn’t been on television since 1963, and this was the only way to get a sense of how exciting it must have been to see something so close to the programme’s genesis. And it marked the debut of the Daleks themselves. I loved it. The story had me in awe from the first page; the atmosphere of the dead planet, soaked in radiation and filled with all sorts of hazards; the claustrophobia of the metallic city and the description of the squat and machine-like Daleks with their battle cry of ‘Exterminate!’

This extract is from when one of the Doctor’s companions, Ian, (I wish it had been me!) wakes up from his first trip in the Tardis to discover that he has arrived on a desolate planet, which we later learn is Skaro – planet of the Daleks!

‘White, dead-looking trees, a kind of ashy soil, a cloudless sky. The heat fanned my face as I stopped at the doorway of the ship. I heard Barbara make a small sound in her throat beside me. Somebody touched me on the arm and handed me my shoes which I put on, only half aware that other hands were tying the laces. I heard Susan’s voice telling me I ought not to walk about in stockinged feet, because there was no telling what the ground would be like. I didn’t do any of the conventional things that one reads about, like pinching myself or rubbing my eyes. I just stood there and stared about me, a dead horror of total realisation creeping through my body.’

One other thing that made these books so attractive was the beautiful front covers, which were designed by the artist Chris Achilleos. They truly are works of art and I still have some prints of those covers on my wall, (see photo) some of which are signed by him. The books were also illustrated with black and white drawings inside, though the drawings were dropped some time later. I read that first book many times over. In the age before video it was the nearest we could get to repeat viewings, something alongside DVDs and satellite TV that we now all take for granted.

I wanted more. Of course I did! In the ensuing years I managed to get hold of many Target titles. Terrance Dicks was the most prolific writer of the series, and I think I have pretty much all his books from the Target range.

Then they released An Unearthly Child in book form in 1981 and that was truly amazing. If memory serves it came soon after the BBC repeated some episodes from the early years, including the very first episode ever made. It was fascinating to watch it in creaky black and white. I still believe that it is the most monumental debut in television history. The book version was equally good – with its description of the junkyard containing the old battered police box that also happened to be a transcendentally dimensional spaceship that travelled through time.

But the TV series and the books were changing – for the worse. Doctor Who began to go off the rails a bit. I still watched it avidly though and I still read many of the book titles that were released too. In 1989 the series was finally taken off the air and so, with the exception of the maligned movie in 1996 the books once again became an important source of food for us hungry Who fans. We had video and DVD by now but the books, now published by BBC Worldwide, were becoming more mature and exploring adult themes which the series could not.

A perhaps rare and early example of this can be seen with Ian Marter’s gory version of The Ark In Space. It should be noted that he was also famous for playing one of the Doctor’s companions, Harry Sullivan, and he wrote several more Target titles. This sequence from The Ark In Space is particularly memorable:

‘Slowly Noah turned his head fully towards them. The whole of the left side of his face was transformed into a shapeless, suppurating mass of glistening green tissue, in the midst of which his eye rolled like an enormous shelled egg. As they stared at him horrified they could almost detect the spreading movement of the alien skin.

‘It… it feels near… very near… now,’ he croaked.

As he tried to speak, a ball of crackling mucus welled out of the dark slit that was his mouth and trickled down the front of his suit. He stumbled forward. ‘Vira… vira… ‘ He threw the paralysator at Vira’s feet. ‘For pity’s sake… kill me… kill me now,’ he pleaded, his voice barely intelligible. Then he reeled back with an appalling shriek into the airlock as, with a crack like a gigantic seed pod bursting, his whole head split open and a fountain of green froth erupted and ran sizzling down the radiation suit, burning deep trenches in the thick material. The shutter closed.’

A far cry from the transmitted TV version where all of the above was achieved with some bubble wrap and green goo!

Of course, since then Doctor Who has returned and is as successful as ever. Books are still being published in relation to the series – but I’ll always have a fondness for those old Target paperbacks.

And for that hero of mine, The Doctor – A hero for all times…



Ian Skewis is the author of the No 1 Best Seller: A Murder of Crows. Ian worked as a professional actor before moving his focus to writing.


You can find Ian at: ianskewis.com  or on Twitter as @ianskewis

You can order Ian’s No 1 Bestseller A Murder of Crows here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Ian-Skewis/e/B06XX5C8BK/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1507407754&sr=8-1

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July 31

Holiday Reading 2017

I went on holiday with a few carefully selected books I had really wanted to read and a Kindle which I knew to be loaded with drama. I got through a decent number of books and didn’t entirely ignore my family so everyone was happy.

But then I got back from holiday and I found I had a wee change to my day job (ie a whole new gig for 3 months) and suddenly I am driving 3 or 4 hours per day and I will not have much time to write up comprehensive reviews for the holiday reads. 

The solution: A Holiday Roundup Post. I shall forsake my usual attempt to summarise the story and aim for brevity…this may get messy!


Echoes in Death – JD Robb

First up is the latest Eve Dallas thriller from JD Robb. I have been reading these stories for 6 or 7 years and there are over 50 books and novellas out there – this makes me very happy.  With so many books in the series I do tend to classify them as either A: Pivotal Story or B: Progressive Story.

The Pivotal books are the big impact tales which have huge implications for the ongoing continuity. The Progressive titles are the books which are fun to read and can generally be read out of sequence as they just move everyone along a little.  Echoes in Death is a Progressive read so one that you can pickup and enjoy – which is exactly what I was able to do.  I love these books and Echoes did not let me down.  Fun, thrills and characters I know better than some members of my own family – long may Eve and Roarke continue to kick ass.

 Order a copy here


Witness – Caroline Mitchell

As I was reading Witness I took to Twitter – mainly to give myself a little break from the words rushing past my eyes.  I had to share that Caroline Mitchell’s writing had totally freaked me out and made me uncomfortable and nervous as I sat reading in a dimly lit room somewhere in the wilds of The Netherlands.

Brilliant – you can’t ask for anything more from a book if you get so caught up in a story that you start to get apprehensive over what may (or may not) be in the room alongside you.  Checking over my shoulder every few minutes really slowed down my reading pace too!

A stalker drama with some very dark and unexpected twists – creepy is good.

 Order a copy here


Did You See Melody? – Sophie Hannah

I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one and it didn’t grip me quite as much as some of the other books I read. What it IS, however, is a cleverly plotted drama with some larger than life characters but a lead character that I never really warmed to.

What Did You See Melody? Would be IDEAL for is a reading group.  There are elements of the story which I felt required total buy-in from the reader, without that buy-in it I can’t see it wowing everyone. I would love to see a book group discuss their thoughts on this book as I think it may be one which would spark debate.

Order a copy here 


Doctor Who: Plague City – Jonathan Morris

The Doctor (with his Capaldi face), Bill and Nardole. The trio find themselves in Edinburgh and they have broken curfew – imposed as a plague is laying waste to the city. As a Scottish type person I loved this story. As a Glasgow Scottish type person I liked that the plague was in Edinburgh 😊

Jonathan Morris has done a great job with the latest residents of the TARDIS. The story is well thought out and I wish the image of a doctor (not THE Doctor) in their plague masks could make the jump to a tv story.

Exactly what I want from a Doctor Who novel and Mr Morris always tells a good tale.

Order a copy here  


The Marriage Pact – Michelle Richmond

I have seen this getting a big push via online adverts.  It is another story which requires a big buy-in from the reader.  If you just go along with the assumption that the husband/wife lead characters are wholly embracing The Marriage Pact then this is a solid thriller which is ideal for a holiday read.  Again book groups on standby – not everyone is going to be happy with the concept that two successful professionals would accept The Pact without question and debate should ensue.

Some surprising twists and Michelle Richmond has some nasty ideas when it comes to ensuring her characters are compelled to obey their promises. 

Order a copy here 




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December 20

Books for Gifts

As the final few days to Christmas slip by I have a couple of fun titles to suggest as possible gifts.

I love to gift books, trying to match the perfect book to the recipient. This year (thanks to Good Housekeeping Magazine) I discovered how much that meant to one member of my family! So I am going to keep advocating that everyone should consider giving books as presents, you may never fully appreciate how much of an impact it could be having.

As I have recently named my Top Ten reads of 2016 I would, naturally, encourage you to consider any of those titles as possible Christmas gifts. My selections can be found HERE.

However, away from crime, thriller and horror tales (not very festive) I have a couple of other suggestions…



Doctor Who: Whographica (O’Brien, Guerrier and Morris)

doctor-who-whographicaPublished by BBC Books this is a stunning visual guide to over 50 years of Doctor Who history depicted in graphs, charts, tables and many, many illustrations.

I have been collecting Doctor Who reference books for more years than I care to remember and I can honestly say that I have not come across anything quite like this before. Never has so much factual information been presented in so few words.

I think that this is a book which will very much appeal to the younger generations of fans. Information is gathered in a quick glance, visually and colourfully and avoids the need to wade through paragraphs of narrative to establish which Doctor was the tallest, when the Cybermen appeared in the tv timeline or which companions travelled with the different incarnations of the Doctor.

Whographica was not a book I could sit down with for any length of time, however, there was so much information contained within that I have returned to it on many occasions, just to flick through and savour.

For Doctor Who fans this is a very pretty gift to receive at Christmas, less considered reading but no less fun.

Order a copy here.

Animalcolm (David Baddiel)

animalcolmMy 10 year old son read this recently and he could not put it down. As a parent who is keen to try to ensure his kids are not permanently glued to electronic gadgets I am always keen to find books which will engage my children and ideally have them seeking a book rather than an xbox controller.

David Baddiel’s latest, Animalcolm, seems to have done exactly that.  My son proclaimed it “his favourite David Baddiel story so far”. I overheard him trying to explain the plot to his wee brother and the pair of them were giggling away to themselves at some of the funny bits he had read.

Books for kids can be tricky purchases but for competent readers in the 9-12 age range this should be a good fit.

Order a copy here.


The 80’s Annual (Sarah Lewis)

80s-annualNow this book I utterly loved. It captured my formative years in a single gloriously glossy retro volume and is presented with the perfect balance of nostalgia, humour and fun.

Presented as a Christmas annual this is the memory lane I loved to stroll along. Page after page of memories as names like Big Area, Johnny Hates Jazz, Spitting Image, Blockbusters and The Tube danced in front of my eyes. Each year of the decade gets a feature, there are interviews with names from the past, picture diaries, crosswords and  puzzles.

I have returned to The 80’s Annual several times over the last few weeks. It is a book you can dip into or sit and pour over.  We have had fun in the house discussing some of the faces it cast up, so many cries of “do you remember….?”, a possible Christmas Day favourite for when the board games have divided family and friends – this book could get everyone talking again!

Order a copy here.




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October 3

Doctor Who Cookbook – Joanna Farrow

doctor-who-cookbookWhether you’re planning a party to watch the latest episode, need a showstopping cake that’s bigger on the inside, or want a taste of the TARDIS at teatime, this is the ultimate collection of dishes from across space and time.

Keep the munchies at bay with a fleet of Atraxi Snax, and serve an Ood Head Bread with your dinner. Create your very own Picnic at Asgard, or invite the Zygon Pie into your house. And say ‘Hello, Sweetie’ to a deadly-delicious Dalektable Army, a Peek-a-Boo Pandorica cake, or some simple jelly babies.


My thanks to Tess Henderson at BBC Books for my review copy


Some reviews are harder to write than others, however, the Official Doctor Who Cookbook did present some new challenges as it required practical skills. It also meant I couldn’t just read it on my commute to work – Scotrail frown upon using the luggage racks on their trains as cooling shelves for cookies.

20160924_160836Some background on my household will help here… I make a mean key lime pie but my baking skills end there. My wife is a talented baker and has a cake making business. My eldest son is a Doctor Who fan (which pleases me) but my younger son is just a bit too young to get hooked on my favourite show. So guess who ended up being creative in the kitchen?  Yup unskilled yours-truly and the child that doesn’t watch the show…not quite what I had planned BUT WE HAD FUN.

pipingAnd The Official Doctor Who Cookbook is great fun for those prepared to don their aprons and get the ovens turned on.  There are recipes for all skill levels, there are numerous sweet and savoury offerings. Cakes, cookies and biscuits sit alongside bread and pizza and they all have a Who theme.

Recipes can be a fickle thing and everyone has their own variation on a classic so my attempts at making a pavlova were not helped by my wife appearing beside the baking team to tell us that “that’s not how I make pavlova”.  Noted.  We continued to follow the recipe in the book and I was pretty damned pleased with how it turned out.  NB don’t judge me on the visual appearance, the 6yo shaped the Adipose!



On a day where time was more of a luxury (and the children didn’t need entertained to the same degree) I turned my hand to a bread recipe, not going to share how that one turned out (“spoilers Sweetie”) but the work in progress was captured before I split my dough and flavoured some of it.  The end result was delicious and was devoured – sadly the finer details of the artwork which look amazing in the book did not quite meet my practical skills so it was a bit “rough” round the edges but I was making it to eat not to display so the key test was passed!


The Official Doctor Who Cookbook is a lovely collection and would make a great acquisition for the fan that also likes to tinker in the kitchen.  With half an eye towards the festive season it would be a great gift to give/receive (assuming cookbooks are your thing).  The recipe’s are clearly laid out, not jargon filled and give clear instruction.  As I indicated above there is a range of sweet and savoury and there are quick fun things to attempt and these are countered with a couple of more complex and time-consuming dishes (as with ANY cookbook).  Some dishes will not suit the younger chef and the book does try to scale a range of age appeal and technical ability but be mindful that not every page will be a sure-fire hit…but it is a fun collection and that has to be an important factor when considering a purchase.


The Official Doctor Who Cookbook is published by BBC books and is available now.

You can order through this link: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Doctor-Who-Official-Joanna-Farrow/dp/178594052X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1475527630&sr=1-1&keywords=doctor+who+recipe+book





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July 5

In The Blood – Jenny T Colgan

In The BloodAll over the world, people are venting their fury at one another on social media. Dropping their friends, giving vent to their hatred, and everywhere behaving with incredible cruelty. Even Donna has found that her friend Hettie, with her seemingly perfect life and fancy house, has unfriended her. And now, all over the world, internet trolls are dying…

As more and more people give in to this wave of bitterness and aggression, it’s clear this is no simple case of modern living. This is unkindness as a plague.

From the streets of London to the web cafes of South Korea and the deepest darkest forests of Rio, can the Doctor and Donna find the cause of this unhappiness before it’s too late?

An original novel featuring the Tenth Doctor and Donna, as played by David Tennant and Catherine Tate.


My thanks to Tess at BBC Books for my review copy

I am writing this review in the early days after UK EU referendum – the internet is awash with anger, fear, accusations and aggression and it makes for a pretty bleak outlook.  Why am I mentioning this in review of a Doctor Who book?  Well it is that internet anger that Jenny T Colgan is highlighting in the excellent 10th Doctor adventure: In The Blood. I don’t believe any new book will have a better timed release this year.

 The Doctor is on Earth and travelling around without his TARDIS – a jetsetting adventure takes him into peril in different corners of the globe as he tries to track down who is using the internet to interfere with the human race. People are going online and what they see is making them angry, there does not seem to be a single contributing element…people are just getting annoyed when they spend time surfing.  That anger is pouring through them and when they return to the world around them people are lashing out at those nearby – a volatile situation is about to get 100 times worse.

In The Blood features The Doctor in his 10th incarnation and he is travelling with the Runaway Bride, Donna Noble. Where we have Donna we also get her grandfather, Wilf, too so a welcome return to two fan favourites.

Capturing the Doctor/Companion dynamic is essential in any Doctor Who story. Nothing lets down an original Doctor Who novel quite like a generic story which could be ANY regeneration with ANY companion. Jenny Colgan captures the David Tennant/Catherine Tate relationship perfectly and it is an absolute joy to read. I am not sure there has ever been a companion less in awe of the Doctor than Donna Noble (except perhaps Romana) and Jenny Colgan gives Donna all the best lines in this book. It is great to have the chance to enjoy a Doctor Who adventure that remembers to include the fun.

In The Blood sees Donna given the chance to shine. I felt she had much more time driving the story and (without spoiling too much) it is her determination to get to the cause of the excessive internet rage which seems to push the Doctor into action. A fun adventure with the added bonus of a cross-over with the 10th Doctor Big Finish audio adventure (also written by Jenny Colgan) Time Reaver.

I hope BBC Books have asked for a few more adventures featuring previous incarnations of The Doctor. I’ve always been a 2nd Doctor & Jamie fan…


In The Blood is published by BBC Books and you can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Doctor-Who-Jenny-T-Colgan/dp/1785941100/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1466624789&sr=8-1&keywords=in+the+blood+doctor+who


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May 11

Doctor Who: 365 Days of Memorable Moments and Impossible Things – Justin Richards

Doctor Who 365 days23 November 1963, The first-ever episode of Doctor Who An Unearthly Child is broadcast.

21 July 1969, Silence will fall.

23 August 2014, Deep Breath is Peter Capaldi s first full episode as the Twelfth Doctor.

3 March 2472, The Master tracks down the Doomsday Weapon.

For over half a century, Doctor Who has entertained and enthralled fans with the adventures of the Doctor. From the first glimpse of a police telephone box in a junkyard to the fall of Gallifrey, Doctor Who has provided a near-inexhaustible list of indelible memories.

Doctor Who: 365 Days is a unique and captivating chronicle of drama or humour, terror or joy, for each and every day of the year. Revisiting classic battles, iconic characters, game-changing plot twists, and more, it s a fascinating portrait of the Whoniverse and an essential addition to any fans collection.”

My thanks to Sophie at EDPR for my cherished review copy


As I write this review it is May 11th.  It’s a reasonably quiet day in the history of Doctor Who but it does mark the first day (in 1973) that Harry Sullivan gets a mention. It happened during a Jon Pertwee episode – even though Harry did not appear on screen until Tom Baker’s first episode (Robot).

If you know who Harry Sullivan was, did not need me to add the word ‘Robot’ when mentioning Tom Baker’s first episode and are now wondering what else happened on 11th May (Episode 3 of the Wheel in Space) then this book is absolutely for you.  365 Days of Memorable Moments and Impossible Things is a day to day guide of over 50 years of Doctor Who and is a book written with the fans firmly in mind.

I have had this book for a few weeks and have regularly checked in to see which events would get a mention.  I had wondered if the initial novelty would pass and I would stop picking up 365 Days…no sign of it yet.  I’ve been watching/reading Doctor Who for over 35 years so there are many moments I am delighted to be reminded of and it makes me want to re-watch so many classic episodes all over again (if time would only permit it).

Although I have mentioned two events from the ‘classic’ years the book does also feature events for the newer fans that are more familiar with the recent incarnations of The Doctor: 18 September “Donna’s Life Is Changed By A Time Beetle”. The daily entries are detailed, informative and often fun.

The book cover is in TARDIS blue and pleasingly embossed. Inside there are many illustrations (beautiful sketches) to highlight the text heavy tome. Important to be aware (if you are ordering online) that 365 Days is monochromatic once you get past the cover – this in no way detracts from the overall beauty of the book but on this occasion don’t expect the luxurious colour illustrations which usually come with the BBC publications.

365 Days is a book written for the fans of the show. It is likely to be too niche for those that will watch an episode of Doctor Who if it happens to be on – younger kids may also find it a bit too text heavy (particularly if they are only aware of the Doctor’s more recent adventures).

As a long-standing fan of the show (who cannot in any way claim to be young) this book captures all the reasons I have devoted so much time towards following the adventures of an alien known only as “The Doctor”.


Doctor Who: 365 Days of Memorable Moments and Impossible Things is published by BBC Books in Hardback and Digital format.  You can order a copy here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Doctor-Who-Memorable-Moments-Impossible/dp/0062455656/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1463002464&sr=8-2&keywords=doctor+who+365




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February 11

James Goss – Douglas Adams: City of Death

HOW DOUGLAS ADAMS WROTE THE MOST POPULAR DOCTOR WHO STORY IN A WEEKEND. (and other things to shame all other writers)

If you’re not a Doctor Who fan, the chances are you’ll have met one at a party. They’ll have backed you into a corner, saying “No, but seriously, have you seen City Of Death? It’s really, really good. I mean, it’s by Douglas Adams and it’s set in Paris and it has Tom Baker in it and…”

At that point you’ll either be excusing yourself to lunge at the guacamole, or you’ll be hooked. And City Of Death is well worth your time.  True Doctor Who fans (especially the ones blocking your path to the ham and pineapple pizza) will perhaps opine that it’s not the best Doctor Who story ever, but it’s certainly the most popular. On its original broadcast it got the show’s highest audiences ever – thanks in part to ITV being on strike, but we prefer to ignore that and concentrate on how brilliant it is.

City of DeathCity Of Death is a breezy story about time travel, art theft and a villainous Parisian Countess. It’s also terribly, terribly annoying – because Douglas Adams wrote it in a weekend. You look at the hundreds of other Doctor Who stories out there – some dogged by the elaborate excuses of late authors, some rewritten on the studio floor, and some painstakingly developed over the course of years – and then there’s City Of Death. When the original script fell through, Adams was grabbed by the show’s producer and stuck behind a typewriter until it was done.

Could such a thing be done now? 1979 was such a primitive time for the internet that it had never even got cross about Katie Hopkins (imagine that). Without the distraction of emails, texts, and wikipediaing Paris’s geography, Adams was forced to rely on his wits and a lot of coffee. And he got through it, and produced something brilliant – a story that’s genuinely funny, and a fiendishly complicated time travel plot that just works.

That’s the real legacy of City Of Death – one that haunts the rest of us. Anyone who’s ever used the “#amwriting” hashtag; Anyone who’s ever handed in a first draft and said “It’s rough but we’ll get it right in a few goes”. Douglas Adams wrote City Of Death in a weekend, and they pretty much started filming that first draft on Monday. It’s a fact which haunts everyone.

In fact, next time a writer friend of yours Facebooks to say “Managed 2,000 words today and nearly reached the summit! #Phew #SmashedIt”, why not just reply “Douglas Adams wrote City Of Death in a weekend”? I’m sure they’ll thank you.


City Of Death – Douglas Adams & James Goss – BBC Books

The Doctor takes Romana for a holiday in Paris – a city which, like a fine wine, has a bouquet all its own. Especially if you visit during one of the vintage years. But the TARDIS takes them to 1979, a table-wine year, a year whose vintage is soured by cracks – not in their wine glasses but in the very fabric of time itself.

Soon the Time Lords are embroiled in an audacious alien scheme which encompasses home-made time machines, the theft of the Mona Lisa, the resurrection of the much-feared Jagaroth race, and the beginning (and quite possibly the end) of all life on Earth.

Aided by British private detective Duggan, whose speciality is thumping people, the Doctor and Romana must thwart the machinations of the suave, mysterious Count Scarlioni – all twelve of him – if the human race has any chance of survival.

But then, the Doctor’s holidays tend to turn out a bit like this.


City of Death is published by BBC Books and is available in paperback and digital format. You can order a copy here.

HaterzJames Goss is the author of two Doctor who novels: The Blood Cell and Dead of Winter, as well as Summer Falls (on behalf of Any Pond). He is also the co-author, with Steve Tribe of The Doctor: His Lives and Times, The Dalek Handbook and Doctor Who; A History of the Universe in 100 Objects. While at the BBC James produced an adaptation of Shada, an unfinished Douglas Adams Doctor Who story, and Dirk is his award-winning stage adaptation of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency. His Doctor Who audiobook Dead Air won Best Audiobook 2010 and his books Dead of Winter and First Born were nominated for the 2012 British Fantasy Society Awards.  His new book, Haterz, is out now.

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December 22

The Chimes of Midnight – Robert Shearman

Chimes of MidnightHallowe’en 1938. ‘Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the house not a creature was stirring… But something must be stirring. Something hidden in the shadows. Something which kills the servants of an old Edwardian mansion in the most brutal and macabre manner possible. Exactly on the chiming of the hour, every hour, as the grandfather clock ticks on towards midnight. Trapped and afraid, the Doctor and Charley are forced to play detective to murders with no motive, where even the victims don’t stay dead. Time is running out. And time itself might well be the killer..


Last month I was invited to take part in the Booktrail Advent tour. I had to select a Christmas book and confirm the location which would then be plotted onto a map.  It was great fun to be involved in the Advent Tour and even I was surprised that I opted for Wisconsin rather than Scotland for my location (I managed to stop waving the saltire for a day). https://thebooktrail.wordpress.com/booktrailadvent

The problem I initially faced when considering which book to use as my Christmas themed story was that I just do not read Christmassy stories. I read crime and thrillers and they tend not to be seasonal as a rule.  There are dozens of stories set over winter and at Christmas time but very few actually have a festive feel.  In the end I opted for the brilliant Winter Prey by John Sandford as it captured the bleakness of a dark winter (seasonal if not festive).

To the point though – the story I WANTED to use was actually The Chimes of Midnight.  A Doctor Who audio play first released in 2002 by Big Finish productions.  It starred the 8th Doctor (Paul McGann) and his companion Charley Pollard (India Fisher).

Why did I not use The Chimes of Midnight?  Because there is no actual location specified in the story that The Booktrail could have plotted on the Advent Map!

Why did I want to use The Chimes of Midnight?  It is a fabulous murder mystery set on Halloween when it was the Night Before Christmas…Doctor Who can do these things and it makes sense!

The Doctor and Charley find themselves ‘under the stairs’ in a large stately home.  The Butler, The Cook, the Maid and the Chauffeur are all present and initially do not seem too perturbed by the arrival of two strangers in their midst. Preparations are well underway for Christmas and Mrs Baddeley is making her plum pudding. “Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without plum pudding”

But each time the clock strikes the hour someone dies and the Doctor and Charley realise that they must get to the bottom of the mysterious murders (and the even more mysterious behaviour of the survivors) if they are to survive past midnight.

Chimes of Midnight is a full cast audio drama produced by Big Finish. Each month for well over 10 years Big Finish have released a brand new audio adventure featuring Docto Who. The plays feature past Doctors (Paul McGann, Peter Davison, Colin Baker, Tom Baker and Sylvester McCoy) and their companions too.

New companions have been introduced to the audio plays and the stories are deemed canon thanks to recent intervention by Stephen Moffatt! Charley Pollard is the companion for this story. She travelled with Paul McGann’s 8th Doctor for many audio adventures and is a favourite amongst the fans. She is voiced by India Fisher who is possibly better known as the voice of Masterchef on the BBC. To me she will only ever be the Edwardian Adventuress travelling through space and time!

So The Chimes of Midnight – THE best Christmas murder mystery (in space and time).


You can buy The Chimes of Midnight on Download here: http://www.bigfinish.com/releases/v/the-chimes-of-midnight-653




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December 14

Books For Christmas Gifts 2015

With Christmas approaching I am already preparing to receive no books from Santa.  Nobody will give me a book for Christmas (or my birthday) as they just do not know what I have read. I drop unsubtle hints but to no avail!

As this is likely a common problem in many households I have compiled a recommendation of some wonderful books which would make lovely Christmas gifts. These are not titles that (in the main) you will find on the shelves of your local supermarket but they should not be overlooked. I would hope that your local bookshop would have some (or all) of these – and obviously they are all available on line.


Doctor Who Impossible WorldsDoctor Who Impossible Worlds – Stephen Nicholas and Mike Tucker

From distant galaxies in the far-flung future, to ancient history on the planet Earth, Doctor Who is unique for the breadth of possibilities that it can offer a designer. For the first time in history, the Doctor Who Art Department are opening their doors to reveal a unique, behind-the-scenes look at one of the most loved series on British Television. Whether it’s iconic sets like the TARDIS console room, recurring villains like the Daleks or the Cybermen, or the smallest hand prop featured in the briefest of scenes, this book showcases the work of the Doctor Who art department in glorious detail. Discover how the designers work with the costume, make-up and special effects teams to produce the alien worlds, and how the work has evolved from the programme’s ‘classic’ era to the panoramic alien worlds and technologies that delight audiences today. Featuring hundreds of models, sketches, storyboards and concept artworks, many never-before-seen, Doctor Who: Impossible Worlds opens the doors to 50 years of astonishing creative work from one of the most inventive shows on television.


Ten years ago Doctor Who returned to our screens and has delighted fans young and old ever since.  BBC Books have released this beautiful collection of images, sketches, designs and storyboards from behind the scenes of the shows. It is a stunning collection and would make a fantastic gift for a Doctor Who fan. Printed on high quality paper with extra art cards provided in a hidden sleeve this is a seriously beautiful book which is crammed with information on design techniques and processes.

I have been reading and collecting Doctor Who books for well over 30 years and I cannot think of any title which comes close to matching Impossible Worlds for that initial ‘Wow’ Factor I had when I first picked up my copy.


You can buy Impossible Worlds Here:  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Doctor-Who-Impossible-Worlds-Dr/dp/1849909660/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450053081&sr=1-1&keywords=doctor+who+impossible+worlds


Illicit SpiritsRebellious Spirits: The Illicit History of Booze in Britain – Ruth Ball

A delicious history of the secret, exciting and often dangerous world of illicit spirits

For as long as spirits have existed, there has been someone doing something really naughty with them: selling gin through pipes in a London back alley; standing guard on a Cornish clifftop waiting for a smuggler’s signal; or dodging bombs and shrapnel running whisky in the Blitz. It is a history that is thrilling, utterly fascinating and uniquely British.

Packed full of historical recipes, from Milk Punch to a Wartime Martini, along with cocktails from contemporary bartenders, Rebellious Spirits is a treasure trove for the curious drinker.

 From the gin dispensed from a cat’s paw at the Puss and Mew shop which could have been the world’s first vending machine, to whole funeral cortèges staged just to move a coffin filled with whisky, the stories show off all the wonderful wit and ingenuity required to stay one drink ahead of the law. The accompanying recipes are just as intriguing: How did we drink gin before tonic? Was punch really made with curdled milk? Or breakfast served with brandy porridge, and gin mixed into hot ale? What did the past really taste like?

As soon as I saw this book I thought of half a dozen of my friends that would enjoy reading it.  I also thought it would be ideal as a Secret Santa gift for a friend or colleague that is known to enjoy a tipple or two.  Ruth Ball has done a magnificent job of bringing together anecdotes, recipes and historical facts and making them entertaining and fascinating to read.

The book makes for very easy and engaging reading. Nicely presented and written in very accessible sections the history of British booze is a fun title which I found could be read in both a longer sitting and or in small ‘quick page or two’ stolen moments of reading time.

You can buy Rebellious Spirits here: http://eandtbooks.com/book/rebellious-spirits-illicit-history-booze-britain



Tales from the dugoutTales From The Dugout – Richard Gordon

The dugout can be a fearsome place. When the action heats up on the pitch, emotions in the dugout boil over. Grown men lose control. The normally sane turn into irrational agitators. And every decision, no matter how minor, is hotly contested. Tales From The Dugout is a fantastically entertaining collection of incidents and memories gathered from managers, players, referees, linesmen and broadcasters, which encapsulates the unique environment of the technical area and reveals how even limited exposure to it can transform people unrecognisably. And when the red mist descends, the consequences can be almost unbelievable and frequently hilarious.


Richard Gordon is the voice of football to Scottish footy fans. For more years than I can count he has brought me the highs (but mainly lows) that go with following one of the less fashionable Scottish teams. His years behind the mic have given him unique access to the characters that have defined Scottish football and now he brings us Tales From The Dugout.

This is a fantastic collection of observations and memories (written in Richard’s immediately recognisable style). But the real treats are the additional contributions from the players, managers and referees as they talk about their personal experiences and they lift the lid on what goes on away from the pitch and behind the touchlines.

While the names are more recognisable North of the Border, this is a gem of a book for ANY football fan – funny is funny no matter where you live and some of the stories recounted in Tales had tears streaming down my face. Others just made my jaw drop – some people really do believe their own hype!


You can buy Tales From The Dugout here: http://blackandwhitepublishing.com/authors/g/richard-gordon/tales-from-the-dugout.html




Secret LochsSecret Lochs and Special Places – Bruce Sandison

Secret Lochs and Special Places takes the angler on a journey through some of Scotland’s most wonderful areas to discover little-known lochs and others that are outstanding simply because of their extraordinary beauty. This book is not about huge trout, although they are there, but rather about the supreme joy that is fishing. Your guide is Bruce Sandison, one of Scotland’s most respected anglers. It is an account of one man’s love affair with his native land, with its history and culture, its people and places. Secret Lochs and Special Places celebrates all that is best about wild fishing in Scotland.

Bruce Sandison is one of Scotland’s best-known writers and journalists. He has twice won the prestigious Highland and Islands Media Award Feature Writer of the Year and his work has appeared in a wide range of journals and magazines.

First up it needs said that I am not a fisherman (or an angler) but the idea of hours of peace and solitude doing something I love does sound like a marvellous idea. I HAVE spent considerable time in the North of Scotland and have appreciated the beauty of the landscapes Mr Sandison discusses in Secret Lochs and his love of the landscape pours off the page.

If you are seeking a Christmas gift for an angling fan then Secret Lochs and Special Places is highly recommended. It is a beautiful story of family and friends spending time in the surrounds of Scotland’s remote corners.


You can buy Secret Lochs and Special Places here:  http://blackandwhitepublishing.com/authors/s/bruce-sandison/secret-lochs-and-special-places.html



Imagination and a pile of junkImagination and a Pile of Junk: A Droll History of Inventors and Inventions

Trevor Norton, who has been compared to Gerard Durrell and Bill Bryson, weaves an entertaining history with a seductive mix of eureka moments, disasters and dirty tricks.

Although inventors were often scientists or engineers, many were not: Samuel Morse (Morse code) was a painter, Lazlow Biro (ballpoint) was a sculptor and hypnotist, and Logie Baird (TV) sold boot polish. The inventor of the automatic telephone switchboard was an undertaker who believed the operator was diverting his calls to rival morticians so he decided to make all telephone operators redundant.

Inventors are mavericks indifferent to conventional wisdom so critics were dismissive of even their best ideas: radio had ‘no future,’ electric light was ‘an idiotic idea’ and X-rays were ‘a hoax.’ Even so, the state of New Jersey moved to ban X-ray opera glasses. The head of the General Post Office rejected telephones as un-neccesary as there were ‘plenty of small boys to run messages.’

This book is a dream for those that enjoy social history laden with lashings of wry humour.  Trevor Norton has crammed a huge amount of fascinating information into a single book, spiked it with funnies and droll observations and made lots of facts great fun to read.  Fans of QI, National Geographic, Trivia buffs and just those that like a book you can pick up and put down for a short reading burst – this is for you.

You can buy Imagination and a Pile of Junk here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Imagination-Pile-Junk-Inventors-Inventions/dp/1444732587/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450054464&sr=1-1&keywords=imagination+and+a+pile+of+junk


ThunderbirdsThunderbirds: The Vault – Marcus Hearn

On 30th September 1965, International Rescue successfully completed their first assignment, and the Tracy brothers imprinted themselves on a generation of captivated children. Thirty-two episodes, many repeats, sixty territories, two feature films, three albums, numerous comics, books, toys, videos and DVDs and five decades later, Thunderbirds are still saving the world from the brink of peril. Thunderbirds: The Vault will be the first ever lavishly illustrated, definitive, beautifully packaged, presentation hardback telling the story of this enduring cult phenomenon. Packed with previously unpublished material, including prop photos, design sketches, production memos and other collectible memorabilia, plus specially commissioned photography of original 60s merchandise, and new interviews with cast and crew, it’s going to be a collectors’ dream and a fantastic piece of British TV history.

Another title for fans with a fondness for classic (cult) television.  Thunderbirds: The Vault is another ‘for the fans’ book but then you wouldn’t pick up a volume like this for someone that has never seen the show! Crammed with pictures from the sets, images of the models, figures and the behind the scenes talent this is a glorious love-in of a read.

Although I do not remember Thunderbirds from the first time of showing I am not unaware of the impact that the show had nor of its place in the history of tv. I found Marcus Hearn’s book fascinating reading and it added such depth to my knowledge and appreciation of the show.


You can buy Thunderbirds: The Vault here  http://www.amazon.co.uk/Thunderbirds-Vault-Marcus-Hearn/dp/0753556359/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1450054348&sr=1-1&keywords=thunderbirds+vault





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October 19

Doctor Who : Deep Time – Trevor Baxendale

Deep Time‘I do hope you’re all ready to be terrified!’

The Phaeron disappeared from the universe over a million years ago. They travelled among the stars using roads made from time and space, but left only relics behind. But what actually happened to the Phaeron? Some believe they were they eradicated by a superior force… Others claim they destroyed themselves.

Or were they in fact the victims of an even more hideous fate?

In the far future, humans discover the location of the last Phaeron road – and the Doctor and Clara join the mission to see where the road leads. Each member of the research team knows exactly what they’re looking for – but only the Doctor knows exactly what they’ll find. Because only the Doctor knows the true secret of the Phaeron: a monstrous secret so terrible and powerful that it must be buried in the deepest grave imaginable…


My thanks to BBC Doctor Who books for my review copy

This was the third of the Glamour Chronicles books I read and I felt that it brought the series to a nice conclusion.  I had struggled to find a ‘correct’ reading order, however in my chat with Gary Russell he indicated that Royal Blood should come before Deep Time and that Big Bang Generation could be read anytime. Thus my reading order of Royal Blood, Big Bang Generation then Deep Time left me feeling I had stumbled onto the best way to approach the Glamour Chronicles.

The Doctor and Clara find themselves on board a deep space exploration ship. It is a state of the art craft which is embarking on an archaeological exploration to find the last of the fabled Phaeron Roads – wormholes in space which the ancient Phaeron race once used to traverse the galaxies before they mysteriously disappeared and passed into legend.

The ship they are travelling on crosses into the wormhole they had been seeking but the journey is too much for their craft and they find themselves stuck in deep space. They are unable to pilot their way to safety and their ship is rapidly losing all life support functions. For the Doctor and Clara survival becomes paramount but someone within the crew is working to their own agenda and if that means the lives of others have to be sacrificed then this will not keep them from their goal.

On reflection I would say Deep Time was (for me) the most fun read of the three books from this release cycle. The story unfolded at a fast pace, there were plenty of action sequences and the small cast of characters are frequently exposed to peril and find their numbers dwindle at an alarming rate.  This is classic Doctor Who fare – Trevor Baxendale does a great job of creating characters you actually care about and provides the villain of the piece who you want to get their comeuppance.

Fans of The Doctor and Clara will not be disappointed with Deep Time and for those following the Glamour Chronicles this is the story where the Glamour is most prominent.



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