Hazel McHaffie


Every now and then there comes a patch in life where a complete break away feels imperative. One reason after another (all legitimate and unavoidable) has prevented escape for me up till now, but this past week a snatched few days away helped to recharge the batteries.

What to take in the way of books? – well, reading has to feature in recuperation, doesn’t it? Something undemanding that might well incidentally teach me things about writing, but the real aim is to lose myself effortlessly in a fictional world. Escapist indulgence, pure and simple.

The answer came in a special deal of three books by Harlan Coben in a local bargain store: Back Spin, Fade Away and Drop Shot, lumped together I suspect because they’re all sport-related: golf, basketball and tennis respectively. I’ve got a fair collection of (some still unread) books by this American crime writer, acquired since I read and was impressed by Tell No One. He’s easy reading, fast paced, witty, clever with his plots, entertaining without too much hard work, with a nice line in self-deprecation and sarcasm. In his acknowledgements, he ascribes all errors to those who helped him! – so a guy with a nice line in humour then; someone who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Just the kind of chap to help me de-stress.

And indeed these three novels served the purpose very nicely. Something I could just pick up and put down at will, without needing to analyse technique or remember detail. Coben has the confidence and street-cred to break plenty of writing-course rules, but somehow it all adds immediacy and appeal. The pages just kept turning; the twists just kept coming till the very end.

I’ve returned to ‘normal’ life refreshed and unwound. Not just from reading, but from wandering through intriguing mansions and fabulous gardens too (a little glimpse below). A real get-away-from-it-all break. Just what the doctor ordered.


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