Book Review: Another Pair of e-book Shorts from F Paul Wilson

A while ago I mentioned that one of the reasons for getting a new Kindle was because there were a couple of short stories by F Paul Wilson that weren’t available in a physical form. The review of those two shorts can be found here and a wider Repairman Jack review can be found here.

Upon searching I found a couple more short stories from my favourite author. These two do not feature Repairman Jack, but they do exist in the same reality, with links to the ‘Otherness’.

The Peabody-Ozymandias Traveling Circus and Oddity Emporium, with it’s main character Oz, was first introduced in the short story The Last Rakosh which later morphed into the full length novel All the Rage, and is undoubtedly one of the best books from the Repairman Jack universe.


The events in the Oddity Emporium occur a year or two after All the Rage, and involves the circus travelling around the country looking for parts of one of the Infernals, which when put together will hopefully span a bridge between our world and the ‘Otherness’. It is a great little read, but it is definitely one for the Repairman Jack fans only as many of the references would be lost on the casual reader.

Wardenclyffe is again set in the same reality where Repairman Jack exists, but it is set over 100 years ago, mixing fact with fiction. Although, there is a great deal that we don’t know about Nicolai Tesla, the main protagonist in the story. Tesla was a genius, of that no one would argue, but here he is attempting to enable broadcast power, free unlimited energy for the whole world. He is struggling financially, where upon the mysterious ‘Order’ help with the funding as they are optimistic that Tesla’s work will also bring about a bridge spanning our world and the ‘Otherness’.

Again another story that I enjoyed, with similarities to Lovecraft, but again also one for the diehard fans of the ‘Secret History’.

If you are intrigued by the Repairman Jack series of books, the place to start is with The Tomb, either the original published in 1984, or the slightly updated version from 2006.

Random Wednesday

Another week and another random Wednesday, although last weekend didn’t start off too well.


I went out for a two hour bike ride, and when I came home I noticed that our front window box had been stolen, probably over night and I hadn’t noticed when I set off. It was old and cheap, and the plants needed to be replaced, but even so, why would anyone steal a window box. Sad little muppets.


Many years ago I read about the concept of ‘Everesting’, where you find a hill, cycle (or run) up and down continuously until you have climbed the equivalent of Everest (8848m). Back in August 2014 I managed my own ‘Everest’ (Strava here and  Blog here). The Everesting website has recently introduced a half Everest, or Base Camp, which this morning I submitted my two failed Everesting attempts (Strava here and here, and Blog here). There is also a Virtual Everesting challenge for those of you who Zwift, which looks even less fun than doing it out on the road.

What I’m Missing

With this lock down there are a few things that I’m missing. In the short term it is swimming and parkrun. My last swim was on the 16th March. At the time I thought missing two or three weeks wouldn’t be so bad, but now it’s looking like two to three months. My last parkrun was on the 14th March, and who knows when we’ll all be parkrunning again. We’re also missing not being able to jump in the car and go for a run or ride somewhere completely different. The Howgills are calling us!

In the long term, my wife had entered the great big Bala swim, which was going to be awesome as Helen would have to ride a train to get to the start. My amazing wife had also bought tickets for us to go and see the Back to the Future musical in Manchester. The Bala swim has been postponed, so ultimately we won’t miss out, but the musical hasn’t yet been re-scheduled.


Like many people, I’m reading a whole lot more during these strange times. Currently I have got into the habit of reading three different books simultaneously, reading a chapter of one and then swapping to the next book. At the moment I am reading a very dark thriller by Will Carver, an ultra running European adventure by David Byrne and a modern day urban fantasy romp by Amelia Hutchins, featuring Witches, Vampires and evil Fairies. Diverse to say the least.

What have you been up to?

Book Review: Swell by Jenny Landreth

This book is part autobiography and part history, both equally interesting to read. Women haven’t always been allowed to go swimming for a whole load of rubbish reasons. I’ve seen the unbridled joy on my beautiful wife’s face when she completed her longest open water swim a couple of years ago. Neither of us can imagine a world where one or other of us wasn’t allowed to go swimming. Currently, neither of us can go swimming, but the lock down won’t last for ever, and then we’ll be back in the pool or at our regular open water venue. Helen had also entered the great Bala swim, which would have involved a ride on a miniature steam railway to get to the start. Unfortunately this has been postponed until next year, but it doesn’t half sound brilliant.

The funny thing is, is that women are often much better swimmers than men, especially when the distance is longer or the water is colder. Just take a look at Sarah Thomas, who was the first person, male or female, to swim the English Channel four times non stop. Or look at Alison Streeter who holds the record for the highest number of successful Channel swims with 43, nine more than the male record.


Sarah Thomas doesn’t get a mention in this book, but Alison does, as do numerous other exceptional female swimmers. For example, in 1875, three weeks after Captain Webb made the first Channel crossing, Agnes Beckwith, aged 14, dived off a boat near London Bridge and swam five miles to Greenwich.

On the back of the book there is a quote from Jo Brand, “If you love swimming, you’ll love this. If you hate swimming, you’ll still love this.” Couldn’t have put it better myself.

Book Review: The Kindness of Strangers

I bought this book almost a year ago when me and my lovely wife visited one of her son’s in London for a weekend. Do you remember when you could just jump on a train and go away for the weekend; good times.

The Kindness of Strangers is a collection of stories from over two dozen different authors, with some big names from the adventure/travel genre, including Alastair Humphreys, Anna McNuff, Ed Stafford and Leon McCarron, to name but a few.


As the title of the book suggests, the stories contained within it’s pages all describe how complete strangers helped them out in some way. There are sisters who gave food and shelter to Anna McNuff during a blizzard; Cho, who intended to walk with Ed Stafford for a few days to help him through a dangerous part of the Amazon, but walked for another two years with him, and Faraz Shibli being handed life saving tea by nomads as he walked across the Gobi Desert.

All of the proceeds from the book go to Oxfam, with all of the authors writing for free. Some of the stories are taken almost verbatim from books already published, others are re-worked sections of published books, while others are completely new stories that have never been published before. Not all of the stories work for me, but with so many, you just know that the next one will. A number of the authors who I had never heard about before I have either downloaded an e-book of theirs, or intend to at some point in the future.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and will be placing it in the local Free Little Library on the next street in the next days or two so that other people can enjoy it (read about the Free Little Library here).

Random Wednesday

Continuing with my random blog post random Wednesday, what has been going through my mind since my last ‘Random Wednesday’.


My wife is an amazing baker, especially cakes and scones, but with the lock down Helen decided to have a go at sourdough, which involves making a sourdough starter. We managed to get some bread flour from the local vegetarian and organic food shop, enough to ‘feed’ the starter. Unfortunately, once the starter was ready to use to make some lovely bread, we didn’t have enough bread flour. I went to Asda, my wife went to Booths, we even tried friends and neighbours, all to no avail. So my wife’s poor old sourdough starter is stuck in the fridge, waiting. Good news though, we might be able to grab some from a small artisan bakery in Lancaster. I can’t wait to try some freshly baked homemade bread.

Stobart Spotting

My regular drive to work down the M6 and M61 usually takes about 45 minutes, and to keep myself amused I like to note down the names of any Stobart lorries that I pass on the way. In the last month I’ve only seen one lorry, randomly parked next to Tesco in the centre of Lancaster, as I’ve not been driving. I must admit that I quite like not having to drive to work, and I’m probably not the only one.

English Pointers

The English Pointer is a funny old breed of dog. Loyal, good natured, tough and fit, but above all, slightly bonkers with a small brain. They are an endangered breed with so few registered each year, and unless you are very active they don’t make great pets. They need to ‘work’, or at least run around a lot off the lead. They are also prone to misjudging barb wired fences. Nelly, our pointer, has numerous scars on her legs from mishaps. Below is from 6 years ago, off her face on drugs with another dozen stitches.


The worst accident was when she was running full pelt in the park and managed to impail herself on a branch which went right through her. She recovered, but that was the accident that got her black listed from pet insurance firms.

City Strides

With all the gyms and pools closed, there are a lot more runners about, and I’m guessing that some of them have found the website City Strides. Not being able to go for rides far from home, I’ve been trying to tick off a few more streets that I’ve not run down near to where we live. Me and Nelly get the odd strange looks as we run down a dead-ends and then run back out again, but we have now run 525 street in the larger Lancaster area, or 22.99% of them.

What random stuff have you been getting up to?

Book Review: A Trio of Travel Writing e-books

In the midst of this lockdown I am really enjoying my Kindle, especially searching and finding a few free hidden gems. Amazon only allow authors to publish books for free for a maximum of five days a month. First off though, why do authors publish e-books for free? There are various reasons, to get the book out there, for example if you were raising money for charity and wasn’t too fussed by the meager royalties available, instead wanting a wider audience. Most often people publish e-books for free to raise their profile. Good reviews and ratings pushes a book higher up the complicated Amazon algorithms. Additionally, if people like your book then they are more likely to purchase one of your other books.

Without any further preamble, here is a trio of travel writing e-books. First up is;

Narrow Margins by Marie Browne

Marie and her husband own a business, working hard, but doing not too bad, when the Rover car group falls into receivership. Bad news for the Browne’s as this was one of their largest clients, owing them many thousands of pounds. Left with very little chance of getting any money, they had to close their business and lay off staff, but with mounting debts were forced to sell their house as well. Not being able to afford another house, and not wanting to move in with either of their parents, they went left field and bought an old narrow boat.

I have decided that while ‘necessity’ may be the mother of invention, she also has three other children: Stupidity, Danger and Futility (those three obviously left home early and didn’t go to university).

The book is full of silly quotes like the one above, as Marie, her husband, son and smelly dog fix up the old boat, learn about boating, have a few crashes and all get very emotional. The book reminds me somewhat of The Salt Path by Raynor Winn, with facing adversity head on and not succumbing. The book definitely was a ‘laugh out loud book about life on the waterway’.

Next we have;

Three Men, Five Bikes and Four Hundred Miles by Chris Walker

Reaching 50 after many years of inactivity exercise wise, too many hours at work and followed by some serious illnesses, Chris wanted to raise some money for charity. Opting against the classic Lands End to John O’Groats ride, Chris and two friends aimed to cycle from Dumfries to John O’Groats, but going their own route. I started reading this at Manchester Airport while we waited for our plane to Iceland, and had finished it before we landed. Not the longest of books, but very readable.

The group headed north and island hopped across Arran, an amazing place where I was lucky enough to stay for two weeks on an Atmospheric Science course while doing my PhD. Very tough cycling with constant hills around the coastal road. They also cycled from Fort William to Inverness, a route that me and my lovely wife did in the opposite direction three years ago when we cycled the Highland 500 (read about it here). There is a fairly long section of rough track, which if you’re on a skinny road bike is more than a little problematic. One of the guys in this book definitely struggled here.

They also avoided the busy A7, the main route up the east coast, instead going up through the middle towards Tongue. Both me and my wife can attest that the A7 is a horrible road, even though we were only on it for a few miles. Good little book with regular people instead of full time adventurers.

Talking about full time adventurers, we have;

There Are Other Rivers by Alastair Humphreys

I’ve read many books by Alastair, and they never fail to be interesting. This one is no exception, although it is slightly different. The book is all about a walk that he undertook across India, from coast to coast, but instead of talking about the journey, the book is more about the minutiae, the day to day stuff and the random people. It’s about how he feels each day, how the days unfold and the unending monotony of having to move forward, in the heat and dust. I’m not making the book sound appealing, but Alastair candidly writes about the difficult days, the days where nothing of note happens and the days when he wanted it to end and to be able to go home. I liked it, and it’s a good starting point for books by Mr Humphreys, if you can find it for free.

Three free travel e-books with three small reviews. One cycling, one walking and the other on a boat.

Millom Parkrun

Continuing with my parkrun project (read about it here) where I write about all of those parkruns that me and my lovely wife have done in the past, but hadn’t blogged about at the time. Like many people I have a look at the weekly parkrun stats from Elliot Line, where one of the stats he lists is the smallest parkrun of that week. More often than not, Millom parkrun would be one of those listed, often with less than 30 runners. The winners time was also often over 20 minutes. Potentially, on a good day, I might be able to ‘win’ a parkrun.

As the crow flies, Millom isn’t too far from Lancaster, but to drive there takes a fair old time. Fortunately, Helen’s brother has a static caravan in the south lakes, so one weekend we borrowed it, giving us a much shorter drive to get to Millom. It was a typical July Saturday, in that it was absolutely chucking it down, and didn’t stop raining until later that afternoon. We parked up at the school in Millom and had a look at the ‘park’. The route is five laps of the school playing field, not the best route, but there aren’t too many other parkruns in the area.

With a wide starting area there was plenty of room for everyone. Helen was running with Nelly, while I was hoping for a speedy run. And we’re’ off! Two or three runners sped off much quicker than me, but by the end of the first lap I was in second place, although the guy in front was setting a storming pace. Slowly I started to reel him in, and at the start of the fourth lap I overtook him, and with the playing field being quite small, each time I turned a corner I could have a quick glance behind to see where he was. By the start of the last lap I was fairly confident that the ‘race’ was mine.


I crossed the finish line in first place with a great big smile. Chatting to the barcode scanner he told me that there are usually a couple of guys who go under 20 minutes, but neither of them were here that week. My time of 20:30 is probably one of the slowest ‘winning’ times ever. The organisers posted a photo on Facebook of the top three, and as you can see the 2nd and 3rd placed runners are giants.

My brilliant wife, with our silly pooch, wasn’t far behind me, finishing in 13th place overall, 2nd female and 1st in her age group. A great day, apart from the rain, was had by all.

I love how a parkrun like Millom exists, with so few runners and seemingly stuck out far from anywhere. We probably won’t go back as there are too many other parkruns nearer that we’ve not done, but I hope it continues, and if you’re looking for a high placing, this is the parkrun to do.

Book Review: Kings of the Yukon by Adam Weymouth

I bought this book thinking that it was be all about the author canoeing almost 2,000 miles down the length of the mighty Yukon, through Canada and Alaska. The book is more about the greatest salmon of them all, known in Alaska as the King and in Canada as the Chinook.


The locals say that the king salmon is the finest tasting fish in the world, and Adam is on a journey, maybe a quest, to paddle from far up stream all the way to the ocean. Interacting with the locals and the indigenous people, talking about the old ways, how the salmon were caught, eaten and preserved, and more importantly has the catch changed over the years. The obvious answer to the last question is yes, there are far fewer salmon than there used to be, and they are smaller and younger. The catch for many years was unsustainable, which greatly effects the upstream communities, who are not to blame for the decrease, but who have to ration their fishing.

Adam looks at the history of the area, with it’s cold dark winters, the early settlers and how the indigenous population was badly treated by the Canadian and American governments. Many indigenous children were forcibly removed from their families to go to schools hundreds or thousands of miles away, in an attempt to make them less ‘indigenous’. Obviously this policy has had a profound effect on communities for generations, with alcohol and drug problems rife.

A well written book and deservedly winner of the Sunday Times Young Writer of the Year Award 2018.

Running Books by the Dozen

Here is a list of 13 of my favourite books about running. Many of them I have blogged about in the past, but quite a few are ones that I haven’t read for ages. If I have blogged about it then I will add a link to my review, rather than repeat what I said last time. This is by no means an extensive list, or even a ‘best of’. Fiction and non-fiction, serious and humorous, it is just 13 books about running that I have particularly enjoyed. I think that they are all worth reading.

So, without further ado, in alphabetical order, I give you an odd selection of running books.

Running up that Hill by Vassos Alexander

A book mainly about ultra-running written by the sports guy from Chris Evans’ Breakfast Radio Show.


I found this book to be particularly helpful and inspirational as I was about to have a go at my very first point to point ultra marathon. Vassos isn’t the most organised person, although Nicholas Turner (reviewed later) is far worse. I would like to think that I have learned from the mistakes I made many years ago. Much of the book covers the epic Spartathon run across Greece, but there are a whole load more interesting races which are more attainable to us mere mortals. Vassos has a great way with words and is genuinely very funny. Read a full review here.

The Long Walk by Richard Bachman

Technically this book isn’t about running, as the title suggests it’s all about a walk, and a very long walk it is. The premise is that every year 100 boys between 15 and 17 years old walk until they can walk no more. If you drop below a certain pace three times in one hour, you are shot and killed. The ultimate last man standing competition. Each chapter has a quote from a different TV quiz show presenter, and some of them are quite dark. In fact the whole book is quite dark. A dystopian future if ever there was one. Richard Bachman is a pseudonym used by Stephen King many years ago and he admitted that the books he wrote as Mr Bachman were an attempt to write ‘seriously’. Another of his Bachman books is The Running Man, which was made into a film staring Arnold Schwarzenegger. As expected the film bares no relation to the book, apart from the name. It also doesn’t have any running in it. The Long Walk also doesn’t have any running in it, but if you’ve ever completed an ultra marathon, you probably walked on more than a few occasions, everyone does, which is why I have included it.

Hell’s Event by Clive Barker

I’ve been a fan of the multi-talented Clive Barker for many years. He paints, writes screenplays, directs films, and of course writes books; wonderful inventive books covering all genres, although mainly quite dark. This short story is from The Books of Blood collection, and is definitely in the horror genre. Every 100 years a running race is held through London, with one entrant representing Hell. If he wins then Hell wins everything for the next century. It is full of historical imagery, including Lot’s wife and Dante’s Gates to Hell. The book only takes an hour to read, at the most, but it is a dark gem. There is a pandemic sweeping the world and Trump is president. Did Hell win the last race?

No Map in Hell by Steve Birkinshaw

A different kind of hell this time, a self inflicted one as Steve Birkinshaw recounts his attempt to run all 214 Wainwrights in as short a time as possible.


Most people who attempt to walk or run all of the Wainwrights take years, or even decades. Steve attempts to complete the feat in one week. It is worth reading the foreword while standing in a bookshop before buying this nook, as it was written by the legendary Joss Naylor, the current holder of the Wainwrights run. Read what I thought of this book here.

Parkrun by Debra Bourne

I miss parkrun. It is looking likely that we won’t be parkrunning until May at the earliest, so here is a book all about parkrun. The book contains the history of parkrun, how it evolved, new runs added and new countries, but the best thing about it are the stories from regular people explaining how parkrun saved their life.


Nelly also likes parkrun. Read my full review here.

Running Britain by Sean Conway

Sean Conway, the great big ginger bearded adventurer. He has swam up the coast of Britain, cycled across the world and in this book he runs from John O’Groats to Lands End. One stand out moment of the book is when he contemplates eating dog food as it contains lots of protein, which he finds difficult to eat enough of when running everyday. Anyway, a full review can be found here.

The Gingerbread Girl by Stephen King

Ginger beard to gingerbread. This short story is from the Just After Sunset anthology and Mr King is also the only author to have two entries on my list, although you could argue that Richard Bachman is a different author. I was browsing Goodreads (read about it here) and someone recommended The Gingerbread Girl. My local bookshop didn’t have a copy although they could have ordered one for me. On Amazon the e-book for this short story on its own was more expensive than buying a second hand copy of the full anthology. I haven’t yet read any of the other stories, but The Gingerbread Girl was a right good read. It’s not too dark as there are only a few grizzly murders, and definitely not as dark as Hell’s Event.


After the cot death of their daughter, Em, the main character, turns to running to make sense of her life, running longer and more often. Stephen King suffered a very bad road accident a few years ago, and part of his mental and physical rehab included running, which is one reason why he looks a lot more svelte than he used to. The power of running (or exercise in general). Back to the book, and Em leaves her husband and takes a trip to a deserted cabin on a small peninsula. The rollercoaster starts here as she is stalked by a deranged murderer and has to run and run to escape.

Adventureman by Jamie McDonald

One of my most recent book reviews and what a book it is. Jamie runs across Canada, meets hundreds of people and raises half a million pounds for childrens’ hospitals. He is also living with Anna McNuff (see next book).


Don’t bother reading my review (which can be found here), just buy the book as all proceeds go to various charities.

Pants of Perspective by Anna McNuff

Anna was a competitive rower, very competitive, as she was looking at representing the UK at the Olympics. In the book she describes the reasons why it didn’t happen, and how she was looking for something else. The ‘something else’ ended up being a bike ride through all 50 states in America and then a run along the spine of New Zealand. I’ve yet to read her cycling book, although it is on my wish list.


Anna is an amazingly upbeat and hyper person, as well as being incredibly infectious. You will believe that you are capable of anything after reading one of her books.

In this book, as I mentioned early, Anna plans to run from the southern tip of the south island all the way to the northern tip of the north island of New Zealand. I went to New Zealand 17 years ago for two weeks, which wasn’t long enough, but I can safely say that it is the only place in the world I’ve visited that I could imagine moving to and living permanently. The people are so friendly and the land is stunning with so few cars.

Running every day with a heavy rucksack is not easy, especially when you have to carry a tent, water and food, and are then aiming to run close to a marathon every day. As expected there are plenty of ups and downs, tears and tantrums, as well as a blossoming long distance relationship with the equally crazy Jamie McDonald.

I’m not giving anything away by telling you that she does indeed run the whole way, as the book is more about the journey and the people she meets along the way. Another excellent book about running.

Why I run Long Distances by The Oatmeal

Probably the best book about running, ever. There are so many truths in this book, mostly running to avoid becoming ‘The Blerch’. The Blerch is that voice that tells you to stop and it’s the sound food makes when it is squeezed from a tube. However, the blerch can be outrun.


They say you should treat your body like a temple, I treat mine like a fast moving dumpster.

Running through forests, over mountains and under cityscapes makes me feel alive, eating iceberg lettuce and counting calories makes me feel tired and robotic.

The DOs and DO NOTs of running your first marathon are particularly funny. DO delude yourself into thinking that energy gels taste like the milk from a cyborg. DO NOT remind yourself that you paid good money for this.

Seriously, every page of this book is a gem. Buy it, laugh about it and then recommend it to your running friends.

401 by Ben Smith

Ben Smith was bullied as a child and decided to raise awareness of bullying and raise money for a couple of worthy challenges, by running 401 marathons around the UK. When he visited Lancaster I was one of many runners to run with him. I was with Nelly at the time and she was being very unruly, wanting to sprint to the front of the group and run at her pace. It was hard work so we said good luck to Ben and cut the run short. He did a couple of marathons near Hull when I was living there, and I wish that I had had the sense to run with him then.

My beard was longer and a bit of a mess back then, but Ben’s book is a brilliant read. (Read my review here).

Just a Little Run Around the World by Rosie Swale-Pope

This book is one of the more inspirational. When Rosie’s husband died she looked for something truly epic to do in his name. Running around the world fitted the bill, especially taking the northern route, which involved winters in Siberia, Alaska and Canada. Even more impressive when you realise that Rosie is now in her 70’s. As with Jamie McDonald earlier, she started her run with a rucksack which was soon ditched for a long trailer. Read my full review here.

How Not to Run 100 Marathons by Nicholas Turner

Last but not least is Mr Turner, who shows us what can be achieved, even when you do everything wrong.


Getting drunk the night before a marathon is one of the favourite misshaps, along with getting lost finding the start, something we’ve all done in the days before Sat-Nav, and getting lost once the race is underway. I wasn’t sure whether to include this book or not, because by marathon 50 or 60 you start to wish that maybe he could have learned something from all of the previous cock-ups. Anyway, you can read my full review here.

This isn’t by any means an exhaustive list of running books, but each and every one here has something to offer, and are a good mix of fiction, non-fiction, humorous, serious and the long distance.

I would love to hear from you if there are any running books that you would recommend.

Double Training Days

There’s something special about training twice on the same day. I’m not talking about brick sessions, or going for a swim in the morning with a run in the evening. I mean training twice with the same discipline. Recently I have been increasing my running in preparation for the Oldham Way Ultra (now cancelled, obviously), and a few times I’ve been for a run on my own in the morning, and then been for a run with my amazing wife later the same day. Running twice on the same day is hard on the legs, but it also feels great.

In the summer we like to go open water swimming, but a few times I’ve been for a swim in the pool before work, and then been for an open water swim that evening. The shoulders and arms always feel a bit tired, and afterwards I want to eat the whole contents of the fridge.

Commuting by bicycle is one way of training twice in one day, but why don’t you smash it up on your best bike in the morning, and then amble around later the same day on a slower bike (if you own more than one bike).

I would recommend taking it a bit easier than normal, but every once in a while, twice a day training will give you a definite buzz.

However, you might have to wait a couple of months as current government guidance states that you should only go out for one form of exercise per day.