Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Now for my first BAD Review!

Well, you can't please everybody. Here's my first less than enthusiastic review in New Books Magazine:

The Dropout is a book about Paul dropping out of university and returning home. Interestingly, only the first half is written from his perspective, in the second half other points of view are recorded. It was good to get the background to some of the characters and I was interested all the way through. However, the characters were a little unpleasant and I can’t say I warmed to any of them, especially the lead character Paul.

I also found that the plot was tied up in quite a lazy way (you’ll understand if you read it but I don’t want to give away the whole plot!) and it didn’t quite seem believable as a story.

I don’t think I would read anything else by this author and I think that the amount of sex scenes may make it an uncomfortable discussion at a book group.
Reviewed by: Nicky Hallam - Exeter

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Wot I'm reading (about): NUCLEAR IRAN

OK, I'm not reading this - not my kind of read - but a review in yesterday's Independent made some revealing - and disturbing - points which I'm sharing with you here. 

Iran's nuclear programme started way back in 1957. Tehran's first so-called 'research reactor' went critical in 1967, using weapons-grade enriched Uranium 235 supplied by - surprise! - the USA. The Shah saw nuclear power as a symbol of Iranian 'modernity', a notion that the Islamic Republic has also taken on board. Current American thinking is, of course, that naughty Mr Ahmedinijad wants Iran to become not just a modern state, but a regional superpower, likes those highly responsible nuclear-armed regimes in India, Pakistan and Israel.

As the Bible tells us (just looked it up: Hosea, 8:7): "For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind." 

They have - and perhaps they shall.

The second series of the near-apocalyptic series Homeland, currently airing on UK TV, is set in the  here and now - or at least in a very nearly present time - but between the end of of Series One and this new chapter Israel has destroyed Iran's nuclear research sites.

For the next week or so we will be "celebrating" the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis (which I'm using as the backdrop to my next novel). An appropriate time to be concerned about Iran's nuclear ambitions.

Remember the ancient Chinese proverb or 'curse'? "May you live in interesting times." 

We do!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

First review of THE DROPOUT

This is from my first review on Amazon, posted by "Timbo".

David Gee’s tongue-in-cheek, if dark, social and sexual satire (a sort of cross between David Lodge and Tom Sharpe) leads us through a topsy-turvy world of sexual shenanigans and unconventional relationships conducted behind the outwardly respectable façade of small town life, a façade which the return of the prodigal son, Paul, cracks wide open, to reveal the unsavoury secrets lurking behind it. 

This is a highly-absorbing, entertaining and ultimately satisfying read, and one which I would unhesitatingly recommend.

A longer version of his review was first posted at    
 http://www.polarimagazine.com/bookreviews/dropout-david-gee/

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Storm over the cover of THE DROPOUT

Here's an article from the Brighton Argus today:

Anti-suicide campaigner slams Beachy Head book cover

An anti-suicide campaigner has criticised the cover of a new novel showing a car plunging over the edge of a notorious suicide spot.

Keith Lane said the cover of The Dropout, using an image of Beachy Head, was in very poor taste and accused the book’s author of “making money on the back of suicide survivors”.

Mr Lane, whose wife Maggie killed herself at the beauty spot in 2004, criticised the cover designed by Newhaven author David Gee.

The book, Mr Gee’s second novel, is |a coming-of-age drama focusing on a year in the life of a 19-year-old university drop-out who returns to his Sussex hometown after his girlfriend dumps him and his gay best friend commits suicide.

The book, which the 70-year-old author is self-publishing through Troubador books, follows the sexual exploits of lead character Paul Barrett.

He said he paid an American company $50 to create the controversial front |cover.

Last Christmas, brewer Beachy Head had its beer Beachy Head Christmas Jumper removed from supermarket shelves after it was accused of being insensitive to suicide victims.

Mr Lane, who has talked dozens of people away from the cliff, said: “Someone could see that in a bookshop and be horrified.

“It doesn’t seem that the author was thinking about the people he might be upsetting, he was just thinking about selling his book.

“Beachy Head is a very poignant place for a lot of people and this image will have a profound effect on them.”

Author Mr Gee said he did not believe people would take offence at his book cover.

He said: “The car going off the cliff is not in context of a suicide attempt in the book, it’s an accident.”

Mr Gee will be signing copies of the book at a Macmillan Coffee Morning in St Andrew’s Church in Waterloo Street, Hove on Friday.

Here's the text of an email I sent the Argus:

I regret having so grievously offended Keth Lane. I genuinely did not think that the "high drama" of my cover would be viewed as in any way disrespectful to the memory of Beachy Head's many suicide victims. The novel begins with a suicide (off a university tower) inspired by one from my college years, so I am mindful of how terrible such an event is.

Here's the reply from the reporter:

I did add controversy to your book piece a little reluctantly but I was under orders and unfortunately controversy is what sells paper and hopefully your books.

I would say all publicity is good publicity definitely applies, an article on your book would not have made a lead article in the paper without the controversy angle.


After concern was expressed that the bad publicity might put people off going to a vital fund-raising event I have withdrawn from the event.

But I don't plan to change the cover! One of my friends commented that: "you don't avoid photos of high-rise buildings because planes were flown into them on 9/11, do you?"

Hopefully a local bookshop will give me another chance to sign copies of THE DROPOUT.

Saturday, 22 September 2012

Coming of age drama that’s laced with sex, by Sussex author

{Article in the SUSSEX EXPRESS, Thursday 20 September 2012}

A car plunging off Beachy Head is the arresting cover of The Dropout, the newly published novel from Sussex author David Gee.

It is billed as a “coming-of-age drama that offers a sly, edgy twist on themes from The Graduate and American Pie”.

The story covers a year in the life of 19-year-old Paul Barrett who drops out of university in the Midlands after his girlfriend dumps him and their gay best friend, who has a major crush on Paul, commits suicide.

Paul returns to his Sussex hometown and goes to work as a sales rep for his uncle, a furniture tycoon. The town is a lightly fictionalized Eastbourne which Paul ungratefully calls Boredom-on-Sea.

It totally fails to live up to this image as Paul’s sexual ‘odyssey’ takes him through one-night stands with foreign students, a shack-up with his uncle’s stepdaughter and an affair with the office receptionist who is his uncle’s gold-digging mistress. Paul also attracts another gay admirer: unable to forget Neil’s suicide, how will Paul deal with it this time?

David Gee was born in Plumpton, grew up in Hailsham and went to school in Lewes. After a career which took him to London and the Persian Gulf he now lives in Newhaven.

“Paul’s university and the factory are taken from my own experiences,” he said, “although Paul himself is largely based on someone on I knew in my gap year.

“Two years ago I met a student in Brighton who was having a hard time dealing with a gay ‘stalker’, so I built up that element of the story, which I’ve set in 2003 with the Bush-Blair ‘War on Terror’ in the background.”

Gee’s first novel, published in 2009, was Shaikh-Down, a spicy comedy set on an imaginary island in the Persian Gulf, where a ‘bedroom coup’ offers a handy shortcut to Regime Change. His third book, coming next year, is intriguingly titled The Bexhill Missile Crisis.

Who is in the car that goes off Beachy Head? “You’ll have to buy the book to find out,” says Gee. You can read the first two chapters on the author’s website: www.davidgeebooks.com

He will be signing copies of The Dropout at a Macmillan Coffee Morning in St Andrew’s Church, Waterloo Street, Hove, on Friday, September 28.

The book is published by Troubador and priced at £7.99.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Wot I'm reading: CARLOS RUIZ ZAFON

The Prisoner of Heaven re-introduces us to Daniel Sempere who runs a bookstore in Barcelona with his ailing father. But the main character in this sequel to both The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel's Game is their oddball assistant Fermin who spent a few of the early Franco-era years in the city's medieval Montjuic prison. A fellow prisoner was the impoverished potboiler writer David Martin, falsely convicted because the venal prison governor wanted a captive literary 'ghost'. Fermin resolves to escape and seek vengeance for both himself and David.

Zafon always hints honestly at his sources, and references to Les Miserables acknowledge that this is, partially, a "hommage" to Victor Hugo. There is also another nod to Great Expectations, and some riverside scenes put me in mind of Vincent Price's camp extravaganza The Theatre of Blood!

The first 50 pages of this keenly awaited new novel suffer from an uneven pace and, for a book set in the 1930s and 50s, there are some jarringly modern words (Zafon's fault or the translator's?). An intermittently humorous tone, together with the plot emphasis on Fermin's impending wedding and David Martin's not-so-secret passion for Daniel Sempere's mother Isabella, nudge the book to the edge of romantic comedy. It's only the prison scenes that are rich in atmosphere and pop a surprise or two.

What we expect from Senor Zafon (and Isabel Allende and Salman Rushdie) is Magic Realism. This time Zafon serves up a bit more realism and a lot less magic. From almost any other author The Prisoner of Heaven would be regarded as a considerable achievement but The Shadow of the Wind was a magnificent achievement, raising the bar for all authors, including Zafon. In The Prisoner of Heaven he seems to be "treading water". It's a good book, but it's not a great book.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

RIP: Gore Vidal

Gore Vidal famously described Tennessee Williams's death in 1983 (choking on the cap from a bottle of eyedrops) as "a good career move". Well, now he too has made that good career move. Another great writer joins the celestial 'pantheon'.

He will be remembered (and missed) as much for his barbed wit, his put-downs and his spats with other writers (Mailer, Capote, William F. Buckley) as for his writing. Born into a Washington 'dynasty' he ruthlessly pilloried every president from FDR to George W. His epic cycle of political novels began crisply with Washington DC (1967) and ended flatulently with The Golden Age (2000) and included three of the most outstanding American historical novels of all time: Burr, 1876 and Lincoln. Personally, I was more an admirer of the brilliantly outrageous Hollywood comedy Myra Breckinridge and its sequel Myron. Duluth was also a joy to read.

His gay novel The City & The Pillar was incredibly daring for 1948 (and almost destroyed his reputation); the re-write in 1965, with its less melodramatic ending, was an improvement but the book was no longer ahead of its time. Charlton Heston was not told (and later refused to believe) that there was a homo-erotic 'subtext' to Judah Ben Hur's friendship with Stephen Boyd's Messala in Vidal's (uncredited) contributions to the Oscar-nominated screenplay. Gore's script for Suddenly, Last Summer (1960) added more great lines (and the splendid madhouse scenes) to Tennessee William's provocative one-act play and gave Elizabeth Taylor one of her best roles.

His best-remembered quotes include such gems as "Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little." and "No good deed goes unpunished." Here's one of my favourites: "There is no such thing as a homosexual or a heterosexual person. There are only homo- or heterosexual acts. Most people are a mixture of impulses if not practices.".

It doesn't have to be true but it reads well. Gore's life was like that.