Tuesday, 9 June 2015

The Unkindest Cut of All by Sue Barnard.

Happy Tuesday! 

Sue Barnard
I'm delighted to welcome my friend - Sue Barnard - from Crooked Cat Publishing. She'll be grinningly busy, today, since it's her turn to have a new book launched. Her Facebook Launch party is going on right this minute as this goes post live on Tuesday 9th June 2015. Pop in and join her. I'll be there when I get a free non-grandchildminding moment.

I really enjoyed reading Sue's previous books. The Ghostly Father  has such a fresh take on the story of Romeo and Juliet and their interaction with Friar Lawrence. Nice Girls Don't is a very different sort of story set much closer to our own times since it's around the 1980s. Sue's love of history and literature shines through in the work I've read so far and, you know, she might even be as obsessed about history as I am!

I've got her new novel The Unkindest Cut of All already on my kindle and look forward to reading it as soon as I can. From the blurb below it sounds brilliant - I'm sure you'll love it, too. I also think the front cover is stunning, don't you? Read on to see what I mean...

Welcome again, Sue, and over to you...
Hello Nancy. Thank you so much for welcoming me on to your blog to talk about my latest novel, which is released today.

The Unkindest Cut of All is my third novel for Crooked Cat Publishing.  It’s a murder mystery (with a touch of romance thrown in) set in a theatre.  The story takes place during an amateur dramatic society’s production of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.
Nancy Jardine's ancient copy of Julius Caesar
To write this book I’ve drawn on my love of the theatre, my own experience of amateur dramatics, and my dim and distant memories of studying Julius Caesar at school for my English Literature O-Level.  (For those of you below a certain age: O-Levels are what we had way back in the Dark Ages before the days of GCSEs.)   I was extremely fortunate to have an excellent teacher who not only made the play really come alive, but who also managed to achieve the near-impossible task of making a group of stroppy teenage girls appreciate the finer points of Shakespearean tragedy.  
The book’s title is based on one of the lines spoken by Mark Antony, in his crowd-turning speech after Caesar’s murder.  The actual quotation is “This was the most unkindest cut of all” (according to my English teacher, the double superlative is intended to add extra emphasis), but it was generally agreed that this was perhaps a little too fussy – especially for a book by a writer who is notorious for her insistence on correct grammar!

Nancy says: Not quite ditto about the school experience. I studied Julius Caesar in my first year at secondary school along with A Midsummer Night's Dream as a contrast between his tragedy and comedy.  The two plays were my first taste of Shakespeare and they made me want to study a whole lot more of his work. It was timely that we were reading of Julius Caesar's death scene on the 15th March, the ides, which also happens to be my birthday. From that 13th birthday, for me, the play Julius Caesar has been very memorable. I was looking over my shoulder in the school corridor for days afterwards because one particular clown ( a boy in my year) pummelled my back pretending to 'give me the ides' treatment. My secondary school had segregated classes for girls and boys in the first two years but the syllabus was exactly the same so the 'mirror image class of boys' (same intellectual grading stream) were reading the same bits as the girls had, though with a different teacher. 

What the book is about...

Beware the Ides of March... 

Brian Wilmer is God’s gift to amateur dramatics – and he knows it. So when the Castlemarsh Players take the ambitious decision to stage Shakespeare’s
Julius Caesar, there is only one man who can play the title role – even though Brian’s posturing ‘prima donna’ attitude has, over the years, won him few friends and many foes. 

Rehearsals progress apace, and the production draws ever closer. But when another member of the cast has to drop out due to illness, local journalist Sarah Carmichael (a stalwart of the Players’ backstage crew) suddenly finds herself called upon to step into the breach at the eleventh hour. 

Not surprisingly, Sarah finds that Brian is in his egotistical element playing the mighty Caesar. The fact that the final performance of the play takes place on the infamous Ides of March – the day when, according to tradition, Caesar was fatally stabbed – only adds to the excitement. 

But tragedy is waiting in the wings. And when it strikes, it falls to Sarah – with the help of Brian’s personable and fascinating nephew Martin Burns – to uncover the incredible truth about what really happened… 

And here, to whet your appetite, is a (slightly adapted) brief extract:

“Drink, Sarah, dah-ling?”
Sarah hadn’t heard Brian approaching as she stood waiting to be served at the bar, and in view of what she’d heard about him the previous evening, she felt more than just a little uncomfortable in his presence. But for the sake of keeping things on an even keel, at least until the end of the run, she turned to face him and forced a smile.
“Thanks, Brian. That’s very kind of you. I’ll have pint of bitter, please.”
“OOOH, a lady who drinks pints?”
Not for the first time, Sarah had to suppress her irritation at having to explain it.
“Yes, I drink pints. I like beer, and there’s no point in my drinking halves. I get very thirsty and they don’t last.”
“Fair point, I suppose, fair lady! And I can’t say I blame you. I’ve worked up a pretty thirst myself. I think I might take a leaf out of your book. Now, you go and find us some seats, and I’ll be right back.”
He strode up to the bar and returned a couple of minutes later with two brimming pint pots.
“Cheers, sweetie!” Brian sat down opposite her, raised his glass and took a swig.
“Cheers. And thank you.” Sarah smiled and returned the gesture.
“That wasn’t a bad audience, for a Wednesday,” Brian went on. “I can’t believe we’re halfway through the run already. How time flies when you’re enjoying yourself!”
“Are you enjoying it?” Sarah asked as she took another sip of her drink. She knew before she asked that it was a pointless question, but all the same it made something to say.
“Am I enjoying it, dah-ling? Tell me, sweetie, is the Pope a Catholic?”
Sarah forced a smile.
“I knew it was a stupid question. Have you done any Shakespeare before?”
Brian’s face creased into a broad grin at the prospect of talking about his favourite subject – himself.
“Oh yes. I started very young, you know. Oddly enough, my first role was in this very play.”
“Really?” Sarah called on her own acting abilities and pretended to look interested. “What part did you play?”
“Lucius. It was a school play. Most of the other parts were played by sixth-formers, but they needed a younger boy to play the servant. It wasn’t a huge part, but it was the first of many. I was well and truly bitten by the acting bug by the end of it.”
“Oh yes? What came next?”
“The following year the school did A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I played Puck.”
“Then what?”
“After that, it was The Tempest. That time I played Caliban. Then the following year it was Hamlet, and I was Polonius.”
“Wasn’t he the one who was stabbed through the arras? I always thought that sounded slightly rude!”
Brian chuckled. “So you see, I’m no stranger to the Bard. But until now I’ve never managed to play the mighty Caesar.”
All those Shakespearean performances, Sarah thought. No wonder Brian was such a prima donna.

The Unkindest Cut of All is available now, at the special early bird price of only 99p.  There’s also a launch party going on on Facebook even as we speak.  Click here to add yourself to the guest list!

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Thanks for coming today, Sue, and all the best for great sales of your new novel. See you at the party.


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