Thrills and Spills at The Snow Witch Launch

There were more thrills and spills than planned for at the launch for Matt Wingett’s The Snow Witch on the night of Saturday 28th October at Blackwell’s bookshop, Portsmouth as part of the Portsmouth Darkest season.

Thrills came in the form of Eilis Philips’ singing and guitar playing. Her extraordinary clear and powerful voice cast a spell on the audience that set the tone for an evening dedicated to Wingett’s magic realist story that is set in Portsmouth. Eilis’s first song of the night, also called The Snow Witch, was directly inspired by Matt’s novel, with a haunting melody backed with icy chords on the guitar that caught the mood of the novel brilliantly.

Two readings from the novel were given by Matt, and Eilis treated the audience to another song before a break for book signing.

Spills came when Dr Karl Bell, Darkfest organiser and co-host of the evening, slipped from the stage on his chair, sending him in a slow motion backward somersault to the gasps of the audience. Dr Bell recovered his poise with humour and grace, and, like a trouper, the show went on.

Despite the impromptu acrobatics, the Q and A session was lively, covering questions as varied as the use of myth in storytelling, symbolism in the novel and why Portsmouth is a fascinating place for telling tales. With ironic humour, Matt and an audience member penned a new slogan for the city: “Portsmouth, not as sh*t as you think,” which raised a laugh all round.

Bookshop manager Jo West was on hand to help the evening go with ease, where many people bought multiple copies of the book, while others who had received preview copies described how compelling the story is.

The evening was also enriched on this Hallowe’en weekend by audience members arriving in wonderful outfits that reflected the Darkfest theme.

A great evening, and thanks to all concerned.

The Snow Witch is available in paperback and hardback from Blackwell’s Bookshop, and from the shop on this website.

No doctors were harmed in the launching of this book.

Line-up for Portsmouth’s Holmes Fest 2017 Announced

Conan Doyle revisiting the site of his surgery, No 1 Bush Villas, Elm Grove, in 1911 – by then a corset shop! (courtesy of the Conan Doyle Encyclopedia https://www.arthur-conan-doyle.com/)

 

10 brilliantly talented storytellers will be joined by musicians, a projectionist and a duellist on Wednesday 28th June at the Square Tower to celebrate Arthur Conan Doyle’s life in Portsmouth.

The writers who will be regaling us with their stories include internationally published authors of Victorian crime fiction, local authors with a knack for spinning the perfect yarn and song writers, too.

The story tellers are:

  • William George Sutton – creator of the Campbell Lawless series of crime novels
  • Diana Bretherick – doctor of criminology and author of City of Devils and The Devil’s Daughters
  • Tony Noon – experienced storyteller well-known for his appearances at the Square Tower’s Day of the Dead event
  • Justin MacCormack – prolific author across genres, with a wicked sense of humour and a sense of the creepy
  • Christine Lawrence – author of Caught In The Web, with a unique brand of story-telling
  • Alan Morris – joyous performer who loves to dress up in Victorian gear and regale us with something unexpected
  • Zella Compton – playwright, short story writer, News columnist and children’s novelist
  • Charlotte Comley – organiser of Lovedean Writers’ Group and one of the funniest, wryest and most brilliant tale tellers in the south.
  • Amanda Garrie – smooth deliverer of intriguing tales.

Find out more about the musicians and the duellists, soon.

Tickets are selling – snaffle your seats at Holmes Fest now!

 

Arthur Conan Doyle and the vicar of St Jude’s, Southsea

Southsea – St Jude’s Church and Vicarage

In his book A Study In Southsea, Geoffrey Stavert traces Arthur Conan Doyle’s life in the seaside town, partially through Doyle’s fictionalised account of Southsea life in his novel The Stark Munro letters. His real-life surgery at No. 1 Bush Villas, was renamed “Oakley Villas”, while St Jude’s was newly Christened “St. Joseph’s”. Stavert writes:

At “Elmwood”, a pleasantly commodious Thomas Owen house situated just off Elm Grove between Grove Road South and the Woodpath (on part of the site now occupied by Telephone House), with lawns and hedges on three sides, lived the Reverend Charles Russell Tompkins, a curate of St Jude’s Church, Southsea. Not content with a wife and seven daughters to minister to his creature comforts, the Rev. Tompkins also maintained a cook, a housemaid and a nurse. It sounds as if St. Jude’s was a comfortable parish in 1883.

I suspect the Rev. Tompkins was the original of the un-named “High Church Curate of St. Joseph’s” whose encounter with the new tenant of Oakley Villas is described in The Stark Munro Letters. The curate had been one of the first to call after the new doctor had put up his plate, with high hopes of welcoming him to the flock, and had been considerably taken aback when he was firmly told that the doctor had no intention of becoming a regular attender at his church or any other…

Come and celebrate Conan Doyle’s life in Portsmouth at Holmes Fest on 28th June 2017 at The Square Tower, Old Portsmouth. Tickets are selling, so book your seat here before it’s too late. https://www.wegottickets.com/event/401304

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