June 19, 2015, Posted by Mr Book in Culture

The ‘dream’ Father’s Day

With Father’s Day fast approaching, we asked a few authors to describe their experiences of this ‘special’ day, and tell us how they’d ideally spend this Sunday…

Ian Buxton

Whisky expert and author of 101 Legendary Whiskies You’re Dying to Try But (Possibly) Never Will

Ian Buxton (© Ric Bacon)

Ian Buxton (© Ric Bacon)

Would I be on a yacht anchored in some Caribbean idyll? Or would I be opening the batting for England at Lords?

Let’s get real. Father’s Day might be about father but a father is nothing without his children so I can imagine myself with my two sons (sadly, no daughters ever arrived) plundering rare casks in the warehouses at Glenfarclas or Highland Park. Or, if we’re really dreaming, then add some first class flights to Kentucky and we can savour some rarities in the legendary Stitzel-Weller distillery.

I count myself fortunate that my boys have grown to love whisky. It’s my gift to them!

Paul Fraser Collard

Author of the Jack Lark series of novels and ebook novellas

Paul Fraser Collard (© Martin Collard)

Paul Fraser Collard (© Martin Collard)

When my kids were young the ideal Father’s Day would have been simple. A bit of peace and quiet, and the chance of a cheeky beer in the garden. Job done. Now my guys are somewhat older and such things are possible, yet I find myself rather hankering after a handmade card, a keyring in the vague shape of a cricket bat, or perhaps a painted paper mache flowerpot. I’ll still take that beer if it’s offered, but perhaps I’ll hope for something a little more homemade at my bedside this Sunday.

J. S. Law

Author of Tenacity, a debut crime thriller out next month

J.S. Law (© Simon John)

J.S. Law (© Simon John)

What is Father’s Day?

It used to be the day when I’d be woken,
Thinking that something expensive was broken
The kids would be screaming, but it was brekkie that’s made
Soggy cornflakes, burnt toast and too thick marmalade

The gifts littered the bed like discarded tissues
And for that day alone I didn’t have any issues
Everyone behaved on ‘Dad’s special day’
There was nothing I wanted that wasn’t my way

But kids get older and things often change
The little mites that loved me now seem slightly strange
I wake up on Father’s Day awaiting my glory
But do let me tell you, it’s a whole different story

I walk down the hallway and look in on my son
He’s hidden under his duvet like a man on the run
Out of the end of his bed poke only his socks
And I can’t stop to talk because he’s on the Xbox

My daughter starts squealing when I enter her room
She’s playing Lego
Star Wars in the dull blue gloom
I go to open the window if the room’s a bit smelly
But get shouted at and told off for being in the way of the telly

It’s a glum life now being a father of teens
They seem to have forgotten what Father’s Day means
But all isn’t lost as I turn up some Bob Marley
Because this means a whole day out riding my Harley

A poem by JS Law, aged 39 and 1/3 (I think it’s a poem cos it rhymes, mostly…)

Father’s day for me is all about doing all the things I love. Spending time with my family, doing some writing, and then taking the bike out for a burn (followed by a few cold beers) – if there’s a finer way to spend a day, then I’ve yet to hear of it.

Father's Day

June 17, 2015, Posted by Beau Merchant in Culture

147 days of being a Dad

This Sunday is Father’s Day. It also marks exactly 5 calender months since I became a Dad for the first time to Albie.

Labour was terrifying, surreal and dreamlike (for my wife, too), but also utterly joyous because we were parents to what was the sweetest and most beautiful thing I had ever seen – even though he looked like a cross between a wrinkled old man and a mole.

Eventually we were discharged and we were at home, alone, with this tiny little human who was relying on us for all his needs. Yikes.

During pregnancy, everyone was very quick to point out in a smug way how it’ll all be awful, with endless warnings about “sleepless nights” and “nappy duties”, but they’re wrong. Those first few weeks were a joy. Every exploding nappy was a chance to perfect my changing technique and speed (I’m now like a well-oiled F1 pit crew in getting his bum clean and a new nappy put on), each burping session was an edge-of-your-seat game of “will he/won’t he vomit?”, and every feed in the middle of the night meant I could catch up on everything Netflix has ever released. I also saw my wife turn into Supermum overnight. When I panicked and flapped like a deranged duck over the smallest thing, she was the one who kept things sane.

I’ve also noticed the changes in me as a man. Whereas before I spent my money on music, DVDs and got pumped about the latest Nike trainers, I now find myself giddy with excitement at the latest bit of baby kit in Mothercare. It felt like Christmas when I came home from work last week and my wife had bought a Jump-a-roo. What have I become?

Albie’s grown in to a real happy little chap, laughing all the time, singing to himself (I think it’s singing), and he’s been Instagrammed more than a hipster’s lunch.

I can’t wait for his first steps, his first words, to take him to his first Arsenal match, read great books to him, and to sit down and watch all the films I loved as a kid with him. The only downside… I can’t look at chip shop curry in the same way.

So Happy Father’s Day to all Dads out there. I’m psyched to have joined the club.


June 15, 2015, Posted by Tom in Culture, Film & TV

Game of Thrones: Series 5 awards (SPOILERS!)

Well ruddy hell, what a finale to cap a pretty damn good series (or is it season? Let’s go with series, we’re British) of GAME OF THRONES. Sure, there were one or two bits that dragged, but the pace picked up hugely towards the end (especially that insane final episode), and we’re already impatient for series 6. Given that we’ve got a while till then, we thought we’d have a look back at the ten slices of beardy, bawdy action and hand out some gongs. So without further ado, here are our GAME OF THRONES Series 5 Awards, sponsored by Dragon Glass…




Hero of the Series

Jon Snow. Ok, so he’s often been very wooden and miserable in the past, but that battle with the White Walkers was quite something. For the first time ever we believed that maybe, just maybe, he could be the man to save and unite the Seven Kingdoms. But then along came that final scene in the last episode and we all lost our minds again.


Villain of the Series

It’s a tie! We thought Ramsay Bolton (or Snow, whatever) had it in the bag for his truly horrific actions, but then along came Stannis Baratheon and his unique methods of childcare. Two awful people, but at least Stannis has now paid the ultimate price for his wicked ways. Surely an even worse fate awaits Ramsay. We can only hope.


The Bran Stark Award for Most Pointless Character

Sam Tarly retains this award for the 3rd year running. How is he a) still alive b) still so round? THERE’S NO FOOD!


Best New Career

Cock Merchant. Enough said.


Best Beard

Another tie! We just can’t separate Tyrion Lannister and Wildling leader Tormund Giantsbane. They have our utmost respect.



The ‘Just give it up mate, she ain’t interested’ Award

He’s kept on trying to redeem himself with Dany, but maybe Ser Jorah Mormont just has to accept it won’t happen. Will his heroic actions in the fighting pits be enough? Either way, his love will surely remain unrequited. SURELY.


Slowest Growing Baby

Little baby Sam. When they finally do release him from his swaddling he’ll be a fifteen-year-old boy with a pathetic bumfluff tash and a voice that’s starting to break.


The ‘Dick van Dyke in Mary Poppins’ Award for Most Meandering Accent

Just where exactly is Lord Petyr Baelish, aka Littlefinger, from?



The Red Wedding Award for Most Shocking Moment

Poor Shireen Baratheon. Poor, poor Shireen. Sure, there have been some awful, horrific moments, but we really didn’t expect Stannis to let us down like that. The (apparent) end of Jon Snow was a close runner-up, but perhaps we’re all becoming a bit immune to the whole character-who-you-think-is-the-main-hero-gets-stabbed-lots thing.


Best Fictional Illness

“Doctor, can you help me? I think I’ve got myself a nasty case of greyscale


And there we have it. So whaddya think? Reckon we’ve been too harsh on ol’ Sam? Or not harsh enough, for that matter? Why not tweet us @StareAtBooks and let us know what awards you’d like to have seen.




June 9, 2015, Posted by Beau Merchant in Culture, Film & TV

Jurassic World – Nostalgia finds a way

There are only a handful of films that make such an impact that most people remember the first time they saw it. Jurassic Park is one of them.

I saw it at the Barnet Odeon in July 1993 with my Dad, brother and Grandad (who was sporting the most horrendous Hawaiian shirt).  I’d never seen anything like it. This was before the world wide web came along and dampened any surprise with the endless trailers, clips and spoilers. There were dinosaurs! In a theme park! Eating people! With Jeff Goldblum!


The film worked on every level. From the brilliantly written characters, to the touching and funny moments, to the jump scares and the clever merchandising and toys – there was something to satisfy every age.

The sequel that followed was a little lacklustre, and by time the woeful Jurassic Park 3 came along in 2001 the franchise and any fond memories of the first film were long extinguished.

Now that fourteen years have passed we’ve all got older, more nostalgic and we crave that same feeling the first film gave us all those years back. With the release of Jurassic World this week, there will be a whole generation who grew up with the original film flocking to the cinema for that reason. Who cares if the trailer looks slightly ridiculous with dinosaurs working for humans and a genetically super-species dinosaur on the loose? This may be the film in the series that jumps the shark (or should that be eats the shark?) but it won’t put people off. Nostalgia finds a way.

Jurassic World hits cinemas this Friday, 12th June. We think it might be quite popular…



June 3, 2015, Posted by Mr Book in Culture, Music

The Ultimate Glastonbury 2015 playlist

It’s only a few weeks now until the greatest show on Earth returns: the Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts.

From 24th to 28th June, over 100,000 music fans will come together for a weekend of warm cider, incredible parties, surprisingly good food, camping, and a vast array of musical acts from all over the planet.

Headlined by Foo Fighters, Kanye West and The Who, the Glastonbury line-up this year also boasts the likes of Florence and the Machine, Belle & Sebastian, alt-J, Kate Tempest, Caribou, Frank Turner and even Lionel ruddy Richie. It’s going to be ace. And if you haven’t got a ticket, don’t worry – you’ll be able to watch all the main sets on the iPlayer (plus Mark Radcliffe and his gang trudging around the site in his wellies).

To get you in the zone, here’s our ultimate Glastonbury playlist, packed with tunes from artists appearing across the huge range of stages. Enjoy the festival!

May 14, 2015, Posted by Tom in Culture, Film & TV

Rules to Rule By: words of wisdom from Ari Gold

Ari Gold, the leading man in TV series Entourage, is known for his ruthless approach to deal-making and client relationships that made him one of, if not the, most powerful and sought-after agents in Hollywood until he retired in 2011.

Now, in his new book The Gold Standard: Rules to Rule By, he finally offers his invaluable tips and advice on how to be successful in work and life. As Ari Gold himself says: “In my humble opinion, if you want to run a successful business this is the only book you’ll ever have to read. And my humble opinion is never wrong.”

So here are a few of Ari’s 18 key rules from the book to get you on the right track…


Ari Gold’s The Gold Standard: Rules to Rule By is out NOW, published in the UK by Headline Publishing Group

Ari Gold

April 30, 2015, Posted by Tom in Culture, Film & TV

10 gloriously obscure Star Wars characters

We’re always wasting time on Twitter, and one of our favourite accounts of all time is @StarWars7783. Covering the glorious 1977-1983 period of the original Star Wars movies, it provides a daily dose of behind the scenes photos, promo shots, stills, props and, best of all, toys. We can’t recommend it highly enough.

To prove why, here are 10 tweets featuring gloriously obscure characters from the original Star Wars trilogy universe…

Mon Mothma – many Bothams died to bring us this tweet:

Ten Numb – forget Nien Nunb, Ten is the boss:

Figrin D’an – the Star Wars version of Paul McCartney:

  Weequay – wrinkly bloke who tries to feed Luke to the Sarlacc:

Mos Eisley barman – voices what many of us feel when he kicks out C3-PO:

2-1B medical droid – puts Luke in a tank and lets him float around. Great guy:

Boshek – without this bloke, Chewie would never have met Obi-Wan. Imagine that:

Lobot – any friend of Lando’s is a friend of ours:

4-Lom – a robot bounty hunter thing with a brain. Not as good as Boba Fett:

Pote Snitkin – literally no idea who this guy is:

You NEED to follow @StarWars7783!

April 29, 2015, Posted by Beau Merchant in Culture, Film & TV

The best of Hitchcock: 5 classic moments from the Master of Suspense

On this day in 1980, Alfred Hitchcock passed away at his Bel Air home.

Hitchcock is considered one of the greatest filmmakers ever and rightly so. His impressive and (almost) flawless body of work still has the power to grip, shock and dazzle and he has been an inspiration to most directors working today.

No director since has been able to match Hitchcock in the ability to frame and shoot a scene with the creeping menace and unnerving tension he was able to. Hitch was a true master of the art.

To celebrate the work of the ‘Master of Suspense’, we have chosen 5 classic scenes which had us in awe. (CONTAINS SPOILERS)


The playground scene – THE BIRDS (1963)

Classic Hitchcock. The calm before the storm. The build up, the haunting singing of the school kids and the moment of realisation at 1.24. Perfect.


The shower scene – PSYCHO (1960)

Probably the most iconic of all Hitchcock’s scenes. Audience members were fainting in the cinema at the shock of the film’s main star being killed off half way through.


Caught out scene – REAR WINDOW (1954)

If you spend your days snooping on your neighbour, don’t get caught. Spine-tingling.


The bus stop scene – NORTH BY NORTHWEST (1959)

The crop duster sequence is the moment most remember from the film, but it’s the scene just before where Carey Grant is alone by the side of the road in a vast empty desert that leaves the lasting impression. Creepy.


The opening scene – STRANGERS ON A TRAIN (1951)

The playful opening to this story of murder and suspense may of lead audiences into a false sense of security, but it’s pure Hitchcock genius at work as the strangers of the title meet for the first time.

Those are our choices, but what would you have chosen? Let us know @stareatbooks