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Old 08-07-2010, 04:24 PM   #1
Mercury
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Books that love the place you live

I'm from London, and while I love being here, I find so many of the books which have 'London as the biggest character' really awful. I suppose if something has its own reviewing cliche, it's a sign to give that book a miss. Additionally if the blurb on the back has the words 'sprawling' 'underbelly' or beating heart' in relation to ANY city, the book would swiftly be put down, unread.

Two recommendations I would make to anyone wanting a flavour of London would be Peter Ackroyds London: The Biography, which I have used as a guidebook, learning and visiting many new and previously unheard of interesting places, and anything by Robert Rankin, especially the Brentford Trilogy (which now contains about 10 books). His books just seem to sum up the best qualities of Londoners.

So where do you live and which books best sum up your feelings for the place?
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Old 08-07-2010, 04:48 PM   #2
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It isn't where I live but I've studied at the University of Wolverhampton (international course; half of the school year in Amsterdam and the other half in Wolverhampton), two years I lived on the Walsall campus and the last year on the Wolverhampton campus.

Seeing the Wires by Patrick Thompson (set in Dudley) is not only incredibly funny but it also described how me and my classmates, as outsiders and (mostly) foreigners, often saw our surroundings. Thompson picked up on quircky things of the region.

I have yet to find my homecity of Utrecht featured majorly in any book I read. I think there's a detective series written which is set in Utrecht but I don't read Dutch books. I know the city's name is mentioned in the first Sherlock Holmes, that's about it.
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Old 08-09-2010, 01:29 AM   #3
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Seeing the Wires sounds like one I should definitely read, Dudley is not the first place That would have sprung to mind when people visit the uk.


Like Utrecht, the suburb of London where I grew up, no one has bothered to immortalize it, and I can't see that changing anytime soon. The best (only) thing it had going for it as a teenager was how quickly you could get into the centre of London!
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Old 08-09-2010, 10:20 AM   #4
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I'm from London, and while I love being here, I find so many of the books which have 'London as the biggest character' really awful. I suppose if something has its own reviewing cliche, it's a sign to give that book a miss. Additionally if the blurb on the back has the words 'sprawling' 'underbelly' or beating heart' in relation to ANY city, the book would swiftly be put down, unread.
I react very badly to clichés, too.

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Two recommendations I would make to anyone wanting a flavour of London would be Peter Ackroyds London: The Biography, which I have used as a guidebook, learning and visiting many new and previously unheard of interesting places, and anything by Robert Rankin, especially the Brentford Trilogy (which now contains about 10 books). His books just seem to sum up the best qualities of Londoners.
Thanks, these sound interesting, I will check them out.

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So where do you live and which books best sum up your feelings for the place?
Well, I live in Paris, and there are so many books set there that I'm not sure I could pick one. I haven't really given it much thought, except that if Dan Brown ever visited Paris, he didn't step off the tourist bus
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Old 08-09-2010, 01:39 PM   #5
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I'm from Atlanta, and although there are quite a few books that are set here, I haven't found too many that parallel my own experiences growing up. A lot of them -- the Anne Rivers Siddons books, for example -- tend to focus more on the garden club and debutante set and I can't quite relate. Other books/authors focus on the small-towns in the south and again, not exactly my niche. I grew up the child of a blue-collar worker (railroad engineer) in Atlanta, so although we didn't have the Buckhead social experiences we also weren't playing barefoot on a dirt road. :-)

I can't say I've read too many books set in Atlanta that are supposed to be in current times -- most are about growing up in the 60's and 70's.
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Old 08-09-2010, 01:53 PM   #6
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Phoenix

The only author I know of (besides myself) that has used the metro Phoenix area as a home base for his novels is Jon Talton, who used to be an editorial columnist for the Arizona Republic. He has a series of David Mapstone mysteries that take place here and he does a pretty good job of conveying not only what it is like now but some of the history that contributed to making it that way.

Jon Talton's website

A large portion of my own book (Boomerang) is set in the East Valley Phoenix suburbs during our lovely summer monsoon season, when it is really hot and pretty darned humid and you just never know when a big ol' thunderstorm might decide to rip up a mobilehome park or three and put a few other neighborhoods in the dark. Local readers have given it positive comments for its portrait of the look and feel of the place at this time of year.

Last edited by plumboz; 08-12-2010 at 09:56 AM. Reason: correct typo (second draft!)
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Old 08-09-2010, 03:28 PM   #7
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if Dan Brown ever visited Paris, he didn't step off the tourist bus
Whadda ya mean?! He taught me everything I know about France (Paris is in France, right?) In fact when I next go I will be doing the Dan Brown LOOOOOOOOOvereeee (English people never know when to stop saying it) tour! I want to see the picture, you know the one, the one by the guy. The guy that did the thing.
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Old 08-09-2010, 03:37 PM   #8
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I grew up the child of a blue-collar worker (railroad engineer) in Atlanta, so although we didn't have the Buckhead social experiences we also weren't playing barefoot on a dirt road. :-)
This is kind of why I started this thread. The type of books on the whole that seem to capture our imagination, and make us think we know a place, usually have virtually no relation to 90% of the people that live in that place.

I know exactly zero people who have ever lived either the old upper class English life style (which still seems to be alive and well in todays 'Aga Sagas') or the drug fueled 24hr party life style, let alone cockney-geezer old-time villains.

While I love the iconic bits of the UK, London, red phone boxes (toilets), the Lake District, Cornwall, cheese-rolling etc, the place I feel most at home is in a nice pub, or walking down a suburban street. Ha, I've just bored myself senseless, no wonder no-one writes books about people like me!
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Old 08-09-2010, 03:42 PM   #9
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Alan, I'm off to check out Boomerang, if only for the extreme weather! I normally think of Arizona as very dry - no thunderstorms allowed.

Before I do that though, I think I'm going to try and figure out how to multiple quotes in a reply. There must be a better way than spamming your own thread.

Ta for the suggestion. Off to smashwords if it will let me log in today.
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Old 08-09-2010, 03:53 PM   #10
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I'm currently reading William Boyd's excellent 'Ordinary Thunderstorms'
"A compelling fugitive chase through the dark side of modern-day London" Evening Standard.

I'm not a city-bod and spent several horrible years working in London, it's the books that try to glamorise it that turn me off. I can relate to the underbelly ones.
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Old 08-09-2010, 04:08 PM   #11
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This reminds me of songs about New York, which I also think are inevitably cringe-worthy. Even Alicia Keys took a shot at this and couldn't really pull it off, though seeing her sing it with Stephen Colbert was pretty awesome.

(Couldn't find a super clear version)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B3hmhESUZOY
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Old 08-09-2010, 04:15 PM   #12
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I have never visited New York and I feel for the people who live there. They eat corn dogs (god only knows what they are) with 'everything'. They shout at people. No one works any later than 5pm unless they are a taxi driver. The taxi driver won't know where he (for it is always a he) is going. He will probably be shot. Some kind of big statue will inevitably be panned away from in a long shot. Welcome to New York.

Oh, and you NEVER take the subway.



but I quite like that song
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Old 08-09-2010, 04:37 PM   #13
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Alan, I'm off to check out Boomerang, if only for the extreme weather! I normally think of Arizona as very dry - no thunderstorms allowed.

Before I do that though, I think I'm going to try and figure out how to multiple quotes in a reply. There must be a better way than spamming your own thread.

Ta for the suggestion. Off to smashwords if it will let me log in today.

It is true that we average about 7 to 8 inches of rain a year. But some years a quarter or more of that comes down during just one storm. And even if it doesn't rain, the wind, lightning and thunder can put on a heck of a show. Mobile homes tend to be rearranged, trees acquire impromptu trim jobs, sidewalks and streets become festive with all manner of decorations.

Yes, if there is a downside to Smashwords it is the on again off again speed problems. Of course, if you have a reader that takes epub, I'm pretty sure Barnes and Noble can set you up with a nice copy. Ten cents less than Smashwords, too.

I will be working on Boomerang's home on the web today so folks looking for an easy place to access a goodly sized sample can just go there. I did have it all setup earlier, but some ne'er do wells from Costa Rica kept poking about the site, making me nervous, and so I relocated and am starting all over again.
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Old 08-09-2010, 04:41 PM   #14
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Whadda ya mean?! He taught me everything I know about France (Paris is in France, right?) In fact when I next go I will be doing the Dan Brown LOOOOOOOOOvereeee (English people never know when to stop saying it) tour! I want to see the picture, you know the one, the one by the guy. The guy that did the thing.
Well, he did get some things right. There is actually a museum called the Louvre, and there are some paintings (well, at least one anyway) by that guy in it. I was in that museum yesterday, and overheard a guide mentioning something about the Da Vinci Code to a couple of tourists. I usually try to avoid the tourist areas there, and that turns out to be pretty easy, they all go to the same 5 or 6 rooms, take photos (one lady actually asked me to move so that she could take hers, and a man almost stepped on my feet while shooting a video), and move on to the Eiffel tower, or whatever is next on the list.

To quote multiple posts, just click on the multi-quote button on the right of the quote button.

Last edited by FlorenceArt; 08-09-2010 at 05:09 PM.
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Old 08-09-2010, 04:54 PM   #15
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Hi FlorenceArt,

I just noticed your Pratchett quote. His Tiffany Aching books (well, all of his books) are terrific. I discovered his writing just a few years ago, but he quickly took his place alongside Twain, Wodehouse and Dickens in my very short list of Writers Essential to Living Without Going Mad.
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