Today I welcome crime author Val Penny to the blog to talk about the 3 books that have shaped her.
Val is an American author and poet living and working in Scotland. Her debut crime novel, Hunter’s Chase, is set in Edinburgh and was published by Crooked Cat on 2 February, 2018.
1.What’s the first book you remember reading?
It was my mother who instilled a love of reading in me. I remember when my sister and I were little girls, she used to sit with us on Sunday afternoons and read classic stories to us like Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens, Emma by Jane Austin and Swallows and Amazons by Arthur Ransome. Curled up on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon, reading, is still one of my favourite ways to spend my time.
However, the first book I remember reading with my mother was Noddy Goes to Toyland. It is a 1949 children’s book by Enid Blyton, the first in her extremely successful Noddy series. It was published by Sampson Low, with colourful illustrations by Harmsen Van der Beek. I can still recite large tracts of it, should you wish me to do so!
2. What book will always stay with you and why?
It is easy for me to choose the book that will always stay with me. It is The Five People You Meet in Heaven by Mitch Albom (2003). It was the first book by this author that I had read, although I have read many more since. The premise is simple:heaven is more than a place; it’s an answer. It follows the life and death of a maintenance man named Eddie.
He is a wounded war veteran, an old man who has lived, in his mind, an uninspired life. His job is fixing rides at a seaside amusement park. On his 83rd birthday, a tragic accident kills him as he tries to save a little girl from a falling cart.
He awakes in the afterlife, where he learns that heaven is not a destination. It’s a place where your life is explained to you by five people, some of whom you knew, others who may have been strangers. One by one, from childhood to soldier to old age, Eddie’s five people revisit their connections to him on earth, illuminating the mysteries of his “meaningless” life, and revealing the haunting secret behind the eternal question: “Why was I here?”
I came across The Five People You Meet in Heaven shortly after I had been diagnosed with severe clinical depression and I needed to know there was a purpose to even a simple life.
3. One book you are looking forward to reading?
The book I am most looking forward to reading just now is Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah. Double Day, Canada 2016.
Trevor Noah is a South African comedian, television and radio host and actor. He currently hosts The Daily Show, a late-night television talk show on Comedy Central.
His unlikely path from apartheid South Africa to the desk of The Daily Show began with a criminal act: his birth.
Trevor was born to a white Swiss father and a black Xhosa mother at a time when such a union was punishable by five years in prison. Living proof of his parents’ indiscretion, Trevor was kept mostly indoors for the earliest years of his life, bound by the extreme and often absurd measures his mother took to hide him from a government that could, at any moment, steal him away.
He was finally liberated by the end of South Africa’s tyrannical white rule, Trevor and his mother set forth on a grand adventure, living openly and freely and embracing the opportunities won by a centuries-long struggle.
Born a Crime is the story of a mischievous young boy who grows into a restless young man as he struggles to find himself in a world where he was never supposed to exist. It is also the story of that young man’s relationship with his fearless, rebellious, and fervently religious mother: his teammate, a woman determined to save her son from the cycle of poverty, violence, and abuse that would ultimately threaten her own life.
The eighteen personal essays collected in Born a Crime are by turns hilarious, dramatic, and deeply affecting. Whether subsisting on caterpillars for dinner during hard times, being thrown from a moving car during an attempted kidnapping, or just trying to survive the life-and-death pitfalls of dating in high school, Trevor illuminates his curious world with an incisive wit and unflinching honesty. His stories weave together to form a moving and searingly funny portrait of a boy making his way through a damaged world in a dangerous time, armed only with a keen sense of humour and a mother’s unconventional, unconditional love.
Hunter by name – Hunter by nature: DI Hunter Wilson will not rest until Edinburgh is safe.
Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson knows there is a new supply of cocaine flooding his city, and he needs to find the source, but his attention is transferred to murder when a corpse is discovered in the grounds of a golf course.
Shortly after the post-mortem, Hunter witnesses a second murder, but that is not the end of the slaughter. With a young woman’s life also hanging in the balance, the last thing Hunter needs is a new man on his team: Detective Constable Tim Myerscough, the son of his nemesis, the former Chief Constable Sir Peter Myerscough.
Hunter’s perseverance and patience are put to the test time after time in this first novel in The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries series.