Going Off Alarming by Danny Baker
Baker’s initial memoir, Going To Sea In A Sieve, was by far my favourite non-fiction read of 2016. His completely madcap life, his brushes with celebrity, his storytelling all came together to form the perfect autobiography and I feared all others I read would pale in comparison from then on. How then would Baker’s second memoir fare?
It’s not as good – that’s a kind of given – but it doesn’t mean it’s not enjoyable. The first dealt mainly with his early life up to his mid-twenties or so, and featured some quite amazing anecdotes. The best stories spring to mind straight away of course so there was always going to be a ‘runt of the litter’ element to book ii. A little wanky in places, but that’s a given.
I actually went to see Baker’s stage show this month, coinciding with my reading of Going Off Alarming. He repeated a lot of the anecdotes within it on stage (more from book ii than i) which meant they lost their sparkle a little given I had read the punchline just days before, but I only have myself to blame there. I was intrigued to see how he presented himself on stage – as one of the youngest people in the audience, I am of course not as culturally of him as those aged 35+. I’ve never really seen anything he’s been involved with and, to be honest, he always came across as a little up himself. Viewing him on stage though, he’s just honest about his bizarre success – his frankness and vivacity and knowledge that he has talent and is watchable is so alien to me that I think that’s what must have made me think he was a little obnoxious previously. Book iii is in the works (delayed!) and is apparently more football focused. A shame for me, I wasn’t keen on the football elements in book ii… tales of his career in the media were obviously more interesting to me, but I’ll inevitably read book iii anyway.*
Baker was more than willing to meet with anyone and sign anything post-show even with his Radio 5Live show mere hours away. He signed Going Off Alarming for me…
Love Lies Bleeding by Edmund Crispin
I’ve waxed lyrical about the little known Edmund Crispin novels many times before on this blog. This was the final one in my collection to read – there are others but annoyingly, their covers won’t match those of the collection. I will have to bite the match and order them though!
This tale follows the classic Crispin dynamic – Gervase Fen is temporarily in a setting, we meet the characters, there’s a murder and the plot proceeds over the course of little over 48 hours. These are jam packed crime novels and much like Shakespeare’s plays, confine the story to one broad setting and a fairly short period of time. Broadly it’s more of the same good stuff, great writing, wit and descriptions. The actual wrap up of this particular plot is a little convoluted. You can understand it broadly, but the necessity for such a long ‘this is how it happened’ conversation section at the end probably should point towards there being a few too many unnecessary elements added in.
Long Reads & Articles
Direction, One This is lengthy but a great read – it’s a write up of a talk given at a tech conference about what the writer learnt within the One Direction fandom and the power that a new generation of teenage girls hold and should, but often don’t, utilise to its full potential going forward as adults.
Strike A Pose If you’re an active Twitter user you’ve probably seen a whole load of Teen Vogue stuff in your timeline even if, like me, you don’t follow them or follow a whole bunch of teenage girls either. And yet, their reach is increasing at a rapid rate with a new focus on politics and cultural affairs with an ever switched-on and connected teenage audience. This is the story of the changes and Teen Vogue’s increasing importance.
Mysteri DeatH Subterfuge. Death. Russians. Americans. Real life.
Flung Do you remember Fling? It was ‘big’ for a while; I downloaded it and deleted it pretty soon after. This is the story of how a tech start-up becomes an overnight success, struggles to keep on top of it’s problems its sycophantic CEO and collapses. Notable line:
He swore at his father before hurling a partially-open Pret a Manger baguette in his direction. The baguette, believed to be prosciutto ham, narrowly missed and collided with a glass window above his head.
What more could you want?
*P.S if you’ve read Going Off Alarming and are still wondering who the nameless celebrity is in one of his anecdotes, Baker accidentally let slip on stage… initials (stage ones anyway) are HH. I’ll let you ponder.