Arts

Top Irish writers share lockdown reading and viewing favourites

As another week of lockdown draws to a close, no doubt you've already burned through a fair number of books, TV programmes, films and podcasts that you'd been looking forward to. Luckily, three more of our top authors are on hand to share what they've been reading, watching and listening to...

How's your lockdown reading list looking?

EMMA HEATHERINGTON

Bestselling novelist Emma Heatherington is from Donaghmore, Co Tyrone. Her latest book, Rewrite the Stars, features a song penned by singer/songwriter Gareth Dunlop entitled You. Her novels are available to download on Amazon, iTunes and all usual digital outlets.

Books

:: The Other Half of Augusta Hope – Joanna Glen

A MESMERISING story about a girl who never fitted in to her own family and who slowly finds her way in life – but there's someone for her in a parallel world. How the two lives intertwine is both uplifting and emotional.

:: The Secret – Rhonda Byrne

I think we all need a bit of focus and hope at the moment and this famous book helps us define our goals and reset our minds. It's a good time to read it now before the movie based on the concept comes out. I'm looking forward to that.

:: Saving Missy – Beth Morrey

This is another story of a misfit, only this time it's from the point of view of an elderly main character, Missy whose isolation and loneliness is very much her own fault. It's feelgood, it's 'coming of old' and it's a very life affirming story.

TV/Film etc

:: The Split (BBC iPlayer)

I love multi-layered, family led dramas and I'm currently enjoying BBC series The Split, which follows the Defoe sisters who are divorce lawyers in London living a very fast paced life both at work and at home. I've just started it and I'm finding it a compelling watch with sharp dialogue that takes a look at gender politics. So far, it's a series that is sassy but still has a lot of heart!

:: Flesh and Blood (BritBox.co.uk)

Starring our very own Stephen Rea, this is a very clever, twisty ITV drama again based on the ins and outs of a family who are dealing with their mother's new relationship after their father's death. The scenery is absolutely stunning (it was filmed in West Sussex) and can sometimes steal the show, but there's enough tangled up drama to keep you guessing all the way to the end.

:: The Slumbering Slothcast Episode 49 (Slumberingslothbooknook.podbean.com)

If you're interesting in the world of publishing or creative writing, my editor Emily Ruston was a recent guest on this podcast where she gives a behind the scenes look as her role as an editor on many best-selling novels, her relationship with authors and what it's like to work with some of the world's biggest publishing houses.

MICHAEL HUGHES

Keady-born author Michael Hughes took inspiration from The Iliad for his novel Country

Co Armagh writer Michael Hughes is the author of two novels, The Countenance Divine and Country: A Novel, and lectures in Creative Writing at Queen Mary University Liverpool.

Books

:: The Best of Myles – Flann O'Brien

FOR me, this has been a time for re-reading, and my Desert Island Book has always been The Best of Myles by the man from Strabane, Flann O'Brien. It's a collection of his wildly funny Irish Times columns, many dating from the period of The Second World War, so with a few uncanny echoes of the current situation.

:: Doctor Who – Terrance Dicks

Above all, I've found myself drawn to reassuring nostalgia, digging out childhood favourites from the bookshelf. That means getting back to the classic Doctor Who novelisations by Terrance Dicks, which I read obsessively as a child, and they're a wonderfully absorbing comfort now.

:: Anna Karenina – Tolstoy (read by David Horovitch)

If you want to go highbrow, I've been hugely enjoying the audiobook of Tolstoy's Anna Karenina, read by David Horovitch, available on Audible. It's one of those big fat classics I've always felt I should have read, but it's defeated me three times on paper. In my ears, though, it's a total pleasure.

Movies & TV

:: The Awful Truth

The classic Hollywood screwball comedies came out of the Great Depression, a series of glorious romantic capers lovingly crafted to lift that country out of dread and anxiety for a couple of hours. I'll recommend one of the less obvious titles: The Awful Truth, with Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as a divorcing couple who set about ruining each other's new relationships.

:: Backlisted

If you're missing your night out with a local book club, the next best thing is the podcast Backlisted, where an invited guest chooses an old title they feel is unjustly neglected, and discusses its merits with regulars Andy Miller and John Mitchinson. Brilliantly informative and entertaining, even it'll only add to the list of books you absolutely need to read.

:: Disney+

And we've just signed up for the new video streaming service Disney+ – ostensibly for our kids, but really so my wife and I can finally binge-watch The Simpsons again. I hope it'll prove the perfect way to escape the dismal news.

GERARD BRENNAN

Author Gerard Brennan. Picture by Mal McCann

Warrenpoint-born author Gerard Brennan's acclaimed 2018 novel Disorder was the first publication from No Alibis Press, the publishing arm of Belfast crime fiction emporium No Alibis, and is available to buy direct from them at Tinyurl.com/disordergb. Check out his new video book The Point at Tinyurl.com/thepointgb.

Books

:: The Last Crossing – Brian McGilloway

A SOMBRE look at the past, The Last Crossing unearths individual truths, unreliable memories and personal mythologies with a complex character-driven story that will leave you breathless until the final page. McGilloway has delivered what I think is his best novel to date.

:: Fifty/Fifty – Steve Cavanagh

Another high-octane novel in the Eddie Flynn series. And another fantastic hook. Following on from the runaway success that was Thirteen (the murderer isn't on trial, he's on the jury), Cavanagh has done it again. The hook? Two sisters on trial for murder. They accuse each other. Who do you believe?

:: The Sleeping Season – Kelly Creighton

I confess, I haven't read this one yet. The plan was to buy a copy at Creighton's book launch but… everything happened. However, based on the strength of her fantastic novel, The Bones of It, and going by Simon Maltman's praise, I know I'm going to love it.

Film & TV 

:: Hunters (Amazon Prime)

Al Pacino as a Nazi hunter? Crazy over the top violence? Style and charisma? It's got all of this and more. You'll know within one episode if it's a yes or a no. It was a big "YEEEOOO" from me, though.

:: Ozark (Netflix)

Jason Bateman (the lesser-famous American Bateman – Hiya Colin) is a money launderer who's moved to the back end of nowhere to escape a Mexican drugs cartel. Except there's no escaping them! Season 3 just came out on Friday past. It's mega.

:: The Boys (Amazon Prime)

Based on a comic book penned by Bangor's own Garth Ennis, this TV show had all the craziness of Hunters spliced with a slightly higher concept supposition. What if superheroes weren't all that nice? Horrible, even. Evil! Could a band of not-so-super-human vigilantes take them down?

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