One day last year, not long after I started working at Mr B’s, my morning started like any other – with my colleague Sam asking what I was reading. When I replied that I was reading The Syndicate, a sequel to the excellent Guy Bolton thriller The Pictures, I was met with a strange look. “A sequel?”, he pondered, “but you’re a bookseller, sequels are for when you retire.”
There is something in what Sam said – as booksellers we strive to read as widely as possible and are always looking for new voices to bring to readers. But there is also something to be said for book series. I love following character arcs as they move through books, and there is no better feeling when you reach the end of a brilliant story than knowing there is more to come. The lockdown period provided me with the perfect opportunity to revisit some old favourites and remember why I loved them in the first place. So here is my little celebration of the glorious sequel!
Don Winslow is, for my money, the greatest living crime writer. I read Savages, his cool, sexy novel of beach bums-turned-drug-dealers a few years ago and absolutely loved it (the movie adaptation by Oliver Stone is pretty hip, too). Somehow, I have managed to read both a sequel (of sorts) and a prequel to that novel in the past few weeks. The Kings of Cool is the prequel, a dip back into the past of Ben, Chon and O, our heroes from ‘Savages’. ‘The Kings of Cool’ sucks us from 1960s SoCal to the recent past, as we learn how the trio’s parents and their actions helped determine who their kids would turn out to be. It’s a lightning-paced thrill-ride of a crime saga, all set against the sun-kissed backdrop of California. I also read Winslow’s latest book, ‘Broken’, a collection of masterful novellas which demonstrates the full range of his abilities. Each is very different, all are superb. From corrupt cops to drug dealers to the surfers and beach bums of his early career – and a very welcome surprise visit to post-Savages Ben, Chon and O. A real treat for fans of his work.
Moving at a totally different pace is Roy Jacobsen’s ‘White Shadow’. Jacobsen, one of the great contemporary Norwegian writers, brings us stories that force us to slow down. ‘White Shadow’, a sequel to the beautiful ‘The Unseen’, sees us catch up with Ingrid 20 years after we left her. Now in her thirties and facing an uncertain future with Norway now in the grip of Nazi occupation, Ingrid is drawn back to her family island of Barroy, yet terrified of the memories that still haunt her there. Jacobsen’s lyrical, salty tales of the Barroy family and their windswept and sea-battered island force you to slow everything down and just be. He conjures such a vivid sense of place and time that you feel part of the family yourself, invested in their everyday, struck by their misfortune, buoyed by their small successes, entranced by the skill and dignity of their work. Lovely as ‘White Shadow’ is, I would urge anyone to go back and start this astounding trilogy from the start to get the full effect of this family’s epic story.
I have written here before about Sam Copeland’s brilliant children’s book, ‘Charlie Changes Into A Chicken‘. Well, the follow up, ‘Charlie Turns Into A T-Rex’, is even better. Charlie and his friends still have not worked out what it is that’s causing him to morph into various animals of all shapes and sizes. But they are damned-well determined to solve the mystery – cue an epic quest filled with laughs, scientific experiments and multiple animal-morphing disasters. My kids have loved having this read to them and there are plenty of jokes in there to keep the adults interested, too. (Age 5+)