Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Words from some of Fester Cat's readers


After I wrote 'The Story of Fester Cat' I sent it to various people, before I even thought about sending it out to my agent or any publishers. I just wanted to know what people thought about it as a piece of writing. 

It's only two weeks now till publication, so I thought I'd share with you some of the things that people - readers and writers - wrote to me when they read about Fester.

'Well, I don't know what to say. Apart from the fact that both the beginning and the end had me properly crying.  Yet somehow you've avoided being maudlin or overly sentimental, and I don't know how you did that.

'Other than that, it's a brilliant story. I've read lots of cat books, but this is different. It isn't just Fester's story, it's yours and Jeremy's, too, and it's incredibly intimate…

'It's a privilege to have been let into your lives, the three of you. I wish I could be analytical about it, but I can't. I just love it.'

Lesley Cookman.

‘Personal… intimate, and funny (Aunt Bessy's hairy bollocks!) and sad - I cried at both Fester's garden and the image of him racing back to it, and again at the end - without ever being mawkish or sentimental (you skewer that right away with Fester's disdain for heavenly cat fiction)…

‘The experience of knowing an animal, and how that changes you, and the way you seek to understand its behaviour - and the voice you imagine for it - and the way you deal with its decline - these are themes/stories that lots of people understand, and can relate to. 

‘I guess what I wasn't expecting to also have an insight to was the life you share with Jeremy, and I found that quite moving too (and perhaps a part of your life that you haven't really written about openly before?). I'm not sure I've read much fiction or memoir in general about two gay blokes in long-term relationship, and how that works, and what that means - the way we work out how to behave and live in the absence of children, and the rituals and stories we build for ourselves…  There should be more of it out there.    

‘As I say, I properly loved it.’

Roy Gill.

‘Thank you so much for sharing the story of your family. It made me laugh, made me cry and made me think. 

‘I'm only sorry that I never got the chance to meet Fester as I think we would have been good friends.

‘As your story says, you, Jeremy and Fester were all meant to find each other and you did. What a gift.’

Gillian James

'A sweet, moving and heartfelt memoir from a companion, philosopher and cool cat.'

Carole Matthews

'Oh, Paul, I loved it so much. It's warm, and funny, and sad, and human. It's full of such tiny details, set in such a small area, and yet those details and that smallness are what make it so profound because it's a book about big, enormous, messy love.

'I cried at the beginning, and at the end, and in the middle I laughed and soaked it all up. And I said before, I am NOT a cat book person, but this was so full of emotion, and even though you say it poured out of you, it's so cleverly written and well structured.

'Anyway, it sounds like it is the book you needed to write, and you've poured all of your emotion into it, your love for Fester and Jeremy and your home. I knew you already, of course, but now I feel like I've spent several days living in your house with the three of you (and Bessy occasionally) and this is exactly the way a reader should feel after finishing a book. Exactly. It's a beautiful story and I'm so glad you wrote it, for you, so you could capture it all. Just in itself, by being written, it's a triumph.

'But it also needs to be read by lots of people because they will also love it.'

- Julie Cohen

Monday, 13 October 2014

Revisiting Peterlee and Victor Pasmore

Among my earliest memories are ones of living in Peterlee, not long after Victor Pasmore's Apollo Pavilion was built. We lived in one of the little box houses on the gently landscaped green slopes, quite near to this celebrated Modernist monument - (it's a one-ended bridge over a lake on an estate.) We revisited this weekend and the place still felt like somewhere magical and out of the future. My whole early life was lived amid concrete brutalism - in the estates of the north, and on university campuses outside Lancaster and Norwich. The Pavilion felt like the acme of brave late 60s adventurousness and invention, and I'm proud, in retrospect, to have spent that early part of my life there. I learned to read there - from the Ladybird fairy tale books my mam bought me each time we went to the corner shop (also a futuristic cube of a building.) It was fun to show Jeremy where we lived. Also, I like Victor Pasmore's abstract drawings.

Friday, 10 October 2014

The Story of Fester Cat - has arrived!

Finished copies of Fester's book have arrived!

It's published in the US on November the 4th - and available everywhere!

Thursday, 9 October 2014

The End of Your Life Book Club - by Will Schwalbe

This is a really wonderful memoir - of reading, and of a son's relationship with his mother. When I was in Waterstones on Deansgate last friday it just fell off the shelf into my hand, and I'm so glad it did. I think sometimes books just come to us when we need them, and i think i needed to read this now. It's a lovely, warm meditation on how readers know that, when they read, they're taking part in the 'human conversation.' It's about how readers are never lonely, bored, or alone, and how they are always *included*. It's such a warm and loving book, too, and I've spent hours and hours with it in the past week - reading and rereading sections and whole paragraphs. I've read only a handful of the books that are mentioned and discussed, but that hardly matters - it's a book of introductions, to the books and to the remarkable people in the author's life - especially his mother, who is a wonderful presence throughout.

Anyway - it's my favourite book for ages (after weeks with the jazzed-up stodge of David Mitchell and the slow-mo murderers of Sarah Waters and Sophie Hannah's Christie pastiche) - go and find it: 'The End of Your Life Book Club' by Will Schwalbe.

Thursday, 4 September 2014

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler

This is masterly and moving. Again, listening to this on audio seemed to somehow add to the effect. Here is one confessional voice, delivering something between a family memoir and a scientific report. I won’t spoiler what makes the family at the heart of this novel unique, but I will say that the book is a heartbreaker. It makes you rethink what it means to be someone’s child or sibling, and what it means to be somebody’s responsibility, and how and why people might fail in that role.

The book moves so beautifully through various time frames, giving us the middle first and the beginning of the end, and the end of the beginning. It is restless, intelligent and told in a jaded tone riven with pain. All the way through it has you hoping against hope that things will work out okay.

Straight to the top of the Magrs Top Ten Novels of 2014, I think.

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Very Valentine by Adriana Trigiani

Ok – I’m back! Back reviewing for the start of autumn 2014… and I’m not sure how regularly, or that I’ll review everything that I read. But I promise to be concise and honest and pithy and HERE on!


It’s been a funny summer of reading. Lots of new, lots of Beach House books that have been waiting for my attention. Lots of actual books, lots of ebooks and – most recently – I’ve been rediscovering the joy of unabridged audio. Which is how I experienced this novel…


I have read almost everything I’ve read by Adriana Trigiani, after discovering her first book in 2002. I think I’ve read almost everything up to and including this one, from a couple of years ago. Her Italian-American family sagas are bustling with lively characters and sub-plots, and then lavish with descriptive passages about food, clothes, sex and shoes. The characters get more numerous and noisome and the description gets more lavish and lengthy as the books go on.

I listened to this one – about a lovelorn shoemaker in Greenwich village – on unabridged audio and I think Trigiani’s writing is even funnier and warmer when listened to. The sumptuous details vie amusingly for air time with the more earthy wit of her secondary characters (especially the marvelous mother and father.) As ever, the trip to Italy at the heart of the book is a highpoint. Was it just me, though, or is our heroine Valentine just a little bit too spoiled and selfish to gain our complete readerly affection..?

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Announcing - 'Lost on Mars' - to be published by Firefly Press in 2015!

Today I'm really pleased to announce that the wonderful Firefly Press will be publishing my new kids' book. It's a science fiction adventure called 'Lost on Mars' and it'll be out in May 2015. Here's more details from the Firefly website...

Martian Epic Signing for Firefly

We're delighted to announce we will be publishing Lost on Mars by Paul Magrs in May 2015. Paul is a fantastic author of many books for adults, children and young adults, including Strange Boy, Exchange and Diary of a Dr Who Addict.  (As he is such an addict, and has written five Dr Who novels for BBC books and over twenty original Dr Who audiobooks/dramas, it's also lovely to have the announcement the week we're celebrating Peter Capaldi's new Doctor!)
Lost on Mars is the story of Lora and her family, human settlers on the red planet, as they struggle to survive against terrible odds and is the beginning of a epic series. 'I wanted to write a grand science fiction epic set on another planet, about human beings surviving in incredible new circumstances and encountering mysterious and fascinating new ideas,' says Paul. 'It's a kind of blend of the best elements of classic children's fiction, such as Laura Ingalls Wilder's Little House books, and Golden Age space operas such as Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles.'

Paul said about his inspiration for the book: ‘With my Mars series I want to write a grand science fiction epic set on another planet, about human beings surviving in incredible new circumstances and encountering mysterious and fascinating new ideas. I also want it to be a family story, full of great characters that we come to care for and identify with as they embark on a quest that will take them into the heart of the mystery of the planet Mars.’