Book review of ‘My Cup Runneth Over’ by the ‘Cumbria’ magazine – Part I

This month (February 2017) Cumbria magazine has published a much-shortened chapter from my novel – ‘My Cup Runneth Over’ – and next month they are kindly adding a review of the whole book.

Clearly, a book about being a young police officer stationed at a town in the stunningly beautiful Lake District National Park in the north-west corner of England has interest for British folks who know the Lake District but it has also been written to appeal to people from other countries, too – particularly those of you from the USA, where I have lived for over ten years.

Is this another example of the so-called, cultural ‘British Invasion’ in the USA?  I’d like to think so but as this is my first novel it would be silly of me to actually believe that.  I have, however, had the delightful good fortune to have had the style and humour of my novel repeatedly compared to the wonderful books by the famous veterinary surgeon James Herriot.

Remembering as well that even today the vast majority of British police officers do not carry lethal weapons, the novel offers a great insight into how such unarmed officers can operate in general safety and it also gives a great insight into rural life in England’s  second-largest and most scenic county – home of the famed ‘Lakes Poets’ such as William Wordsworth.

Dialect and police jargon are included in the writing but they are carefully explained in glossaries on the website – see the link below – so nobody need struggle to understand these fascinating cultural aspects. (The Lakeland dialect, for example, is strongly based upon Old Norse, from Viking times.)

And then, of course, there’s the crime aspect!  Naturally, none of the crimes or criminals in the book are actual events or real people, but each has been developed from my own lengthy experience in the police and the events are therefore very true-to-life and accurate in terms of police procedure back in the 1970s where the story is set.

Read here how readers from around the world have responded so wonderfully to My Cup Runneth Over.

Purchase the book (including USA) here.

The latest reader-review from the USA

Such a treasure to read!! 🙂

I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of reading this book! ♡ My family are from Cumbria, England and I now live in the United States… while reading ‘My Cup Runneth Over’ I really felt closer to my home!

Steve Shearwater’s ability to transport the reader to Cumberland with his wit, memories and humour had me feeling so good! ♡ I love this book, I adore the stories and will read it again and again! ☆

Thanks, Steve… any chance of a sequel?!

 

[This review may be seen on the Amazon.com website and relates to a “verified purchase” by an “Amazon Customer” in Vermont, USA]

Just How Beautiful is the Lake District National Park? Bill Bryson’s Opinion!

Those of you who love American author Bill Bryson‘s hilarious travel books may know of his latest edition.

Bill Bryson’s latest book about Britain (2015)

His first book about Britain, Notes from a Small Island, was hilarious and immensely popular, and The Road to Little Dribbling is an excellent and equally funny successor.

In it, he writes: “The Lake District, when it is fine, and it usually is at least that, is about as beautiful as Earth can get…”

What more needs to be said?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some historical ‘back story’ about the novel My Cup Runneth Over, regarding ‘Snabside’ and the Hodgson family

Not many readers have yet commented on where they think the various placenames in my novel actually represent but here is one for you:  ‘Snabside’ is loosely Newlands.  (Please be aware, however, that none of the places in the novel are meant to be exact replicas of the real locations that inspired them.)  And the key family in Snabside, in relation to the novel, are the Hodgsons – in particular Elizabeth whose beauty and personality more than grab Constable Shearwater’s attention.

Looking northwards, down Newlands, to the distant Blencathra

So how did these names come about?  My own, ‘selfish’ historical reasons are involved!

Back in the 1960s, 70s and 80s I had two extremely good friends in the shape of Norman and Kathleen Gandy, curators of the Fitz Park Museum at Keswick, and a similar age to my own parents.  One of the many historical fascinations they introduced me to was ten years’ worth of a remarkably large newspaper by the wonderful title of The English Lakes Visitor & Keswick Guardian, and over a period I laboriously hand-copied many, many items of local news from those pages.  (The bright light of photocopiers and scanners damages old print and this was also well before the era of digital cameras.)

One such article delighted me because of it’s Lakeland Dialect content, although at that time I knew of no personal link with the people involved.  The story was published on page 4 of the 1st July 1882 edition, under the title of ‘ACCIDENT at Newlands’.

William Hodgson was returning from Keswick market in his horse and cart but was thrown to the ground when lightning made the horse rear and bolt.  The cart ran over William’s leg, breaking it below the knee.  His daughter found the empty cart and then found her injured father.  She ran for help to nearby Keskadale from where a Mr Wilson came to assist.  A dialect conversation between the men reportedly went as follows:

Hodgson: “I’se deun for.”

Wilson:    “[Thoo’s] nin deid yit!”

Hodgson: “Ah’ll dee an’ Ah’ll nut be lang nowther if thoo’ll keep off me!”

It was some years later that I put two and two together that Martha Elizabeth, the daughter of William Hodgson of Aikin had coincidentally married Joseph Wren (of a Seatoller family) and through subsequent events became my great grandmother.  And William, who did not die of his broken leg, despite his fears, was therefore my great great grandfather.  So there you have the two real people who gave rise to three people’s names that I used in ‘My Cup Runneth Over’ for William, Martha (the mother) and their beautiful daughter Elizabeth Hodgson, of ‘Snabside’.

 

The 'modern' house at Aikin - a barn conversion

All that's left of William Hodgson's original house

In the modern house, some coat hooks, salvaged from 
the rubble of the old house

Eddie Wren (a.k.a. ‘Steve Shearwater’)  January 2017

Article and photograph copyright. All rights reserved.

Red Ike – an old novel about Cumberland

While having a meander through some searches on Google for Lake District topics, I came across an Amazon link to a favourite old novel of mine that I never knew had been reprinted: Red Ike.

First published in 1931 and reprinted in 2009, it looks back to the previous century, and it is based around Threlkeld (my home village, which appears in my own novels as ‘Linthwaite’).

 

A review of my novel from a critic I fear most…. A fellow police officer!

13 December 2016

[As posted on the Amazon UK website]  “A brilliantly written book set in a time where coppers were coppers. A time when they lived as well as worked in the community they served, knew everyone and everyone knew them and as a result there was a mutual respect for each other. Set in one of the most beautiful parts of the country It gives a great insight into the life of a policeman in the Lake District in the 1970s. Having been born and bred in the area, and having been a policeman in the area for thirty years I had great fun trying to put names to both the places and the characters in the book.
The book is written, and reads, very much along the lines of the James Herriot books, and in my view is equally as well written and laid out.
It is obvious that whilst fiction there is a large element of actual events and experiences used as its basis all of which which adds to its charm.
My only complaint is that I now have to wait for the next in the series to be written and released.
All in all if you only buy one book to read this Christmas make it this one. You won’t be disappointed.” 
              [Mr M.A. Johnston] 

Further reviews are available here (and no poor reviews have been left out).

Westmorland Gazette article about the novel ‘My Cup Runneth Over’

An article from what locals often call the “Wezzy Gezzy” – the Kendal-based Westmorland Gazette – about my new Lakeland police novel:       ‘My Cup Runneth Over’.

The outdoor images in their photo gallery were taken just last week, outside the tiny and extremely humble quarryman’s house in which I was raised and which, I believe, speaks volumes regarding the achievements of my late parents in respect of all three of their sons.

As for my childhood and teenage years spent on Lake District fellsides and beck-edges, could it have been better? …. If so, I really don’t know how. 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

Overwhelming reward for the moments of self-doubt while writing my novel: My Cup Runneth Over

10 December 2016

I have already had many delightful and complimentary comments from people who have read my first novel and I have been humbled by their kindness and their faith in me. However, the latest addition to the ranks of these comments has virtually left even my fingers “type-struck” about what to say in reply.

Richard Wallace, whom I hope will not mind me adding the fact that he is the former Senior Lecturer in Classics at Keele University, has written this of my work:

This man can write!

I was half way down the third page when it suddenly came to me –  “This man can write!”  It is a beautifully written book – the narrative carries you effortlessly on – a real “page turner” as they say; the evocation of the landscape and the local people is wonderfully vivid; and the mixture of drama, humour, and the facts of real life makes for a very rich read.

The subject is the experiences of a police constable in Cumbria in the 70s.  The reader does need to keep the time-frame in mind, otherwise some of the policing practices and social attitudes seem very odd indeed (and I am prepared to bet the processes whereby these practices and attitudes change will be a rich source of material in later books in the series). Inevitably it consists of a series of episodes, linked by recurring themes.  The challenge for an author using this format is to fill out the characters in the brief space available.  Shearwater does this well (but leaves the reader eager to find out more about these fascinating individuals in later books).  Some have compared the book to James Herriot’s “All Creatures Great and Small” books, which is fair enough, though Shearwater’s novel is, to my mind, a little darker, a little more real, and a little less “feel good”.   I like that.

One of the most attractive features of the novel is the lively and evocative scenes of Cumbria, its people, and its landscape.  I particularly enjoyed a marvellous description of a winter walk over High Street.  You could feel the crunch of the snow under your boots, the cold wind on your face, and the exhilaration of getting to the top and just looking at the views.  I wanted to be there!

In short, this is a great read, and I strongly recommend it.  I am looking forward eagerly to the next episode.  And it would make a superb television series!

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Saying a mere “thank you” to Richard for these remarks feels remarkly inadequate.

The last few signing sessions for my Cumbria/Police novel until later next year!

After a hectic two weeks when I’ve been all over north Lakeland and north Cumbria, we are now down to the last few book signing sessions of my Cumbria police novel, ‘My Cup Runneth Over’ (readers’ feedback here), before I head back to much snowier climes in the USA!

Here are the locations, dates and times.  Wherever and whenever possible, I hope that we can all support our invaluable local bookshops rather than online alternatives – a classic case of “if we don’t use them, we lose them!”

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

2:30-3:30pm   – Bookends Carlisle, 19 Castle Street. 

Thursday, 8 December 2016

11:00-11:30am – Bookends Keswick, 66 Main Street.

3:00-4:00pm  – Farrer’s Tea and Coffee House, 13 Stricklandgate, Kendal

Friday, 9 December 2016

10:30-11:30am – Threlkeld Coffee Shop, the Public Room, Threlkeld

A robust, educated, 100-year-old reprimand for people who decry the use of Cumberland dialect!

dialect-book-brilioth

Another visit to Keswick Books (antiquarian book sellers) on Station Street, two days ago, turned up a Cumbrian dialect book I’d never heard of before but which I will now refer to frequently: A grammar of the Dialect of Lorton (Cumberland), Historical and Descriptive, With an Appendix on the Scandinavian Element, Dialect Specimens and a Glossary, by Borje Briliothe (PhD)…. How about that for a catchy title!

It is the aforementioned “Scandinavian element” that was of particular interest to me but the book, which is dated 1913 in the Preface, came with an additional bonus:  a newspaper clipping – regrettably not dated but perhaps from around 1950 – of a letter from Professor Briliothe, about the merits of the Cumberland dialect.  Here is an excerpt:

Letter from Sweden

TO THE EDITOR OF THE “NEWS”

Sir – Permit me to say a few words in reply to Tom Horrocks’ surprising attack on the Cumberland dialect printed in your paper.  R. Denwood and “Copeland” have already given excellent replies but as a student of the Cumberland dialect and as a fervent friend of the Cumberland people I would like to add a few words.

Mr. Horrocks’ assault is based on the most complete ignorance of what a dialect is and of the origin of the Cumberland dialect in particular.  He might just as well advocate the demolition of historic monuments or ancient buildings.  The Cumberland dialect is one of the most interesting, and, from a philological point of view, one of the most valuable sources of research of the philologists.  It represents to a great extent the ancient language spoken in the north of England and contains especially a rich element of Scandinavian loan-words introduced by the Vikings more than 1,000 years ago.

It is at the same time terse and expressive and reflects in a remarkable manner the staunch and fine character of the Cumbrian people….

The delightful and memorable months I was privileged to spend in beautiful Cumberland and amongst my Cumbrian friends belong to the most charming memories of my life.  I know that Mr. Horrocks’ regrettable attack on his native dialect, entirely unwarranted as it is, must be a blow in the face of every good Cumbrian.  It has been so to me, and I sincerely hope that those Cumbrian patriots who have undertaken the fine work of upholding and preserving their native tongue and the ancient and fine traditions and culture of Cumberland will keep up their good work.

BORJE BRILIOTH, Ph.D., Stockholm, Sweden.

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A significant section of this website is devoted to Cumbrian dialects and the Lakeland dialect, including a large glossary of word meanings.  View it here.