Pen & Sword Review: Carry on Regardless, by Caroline Frost

By Caroline Frost
Imprint: White Owl
Pages: 232
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526774781
Published: 5th May 2022
Expected Re-release Date: 30th June 2022

Blurb

The completely updated story of Carry On, Britain’s largest film franchise, all the way from the gentle capers of the 1950s, through the raucous golden age of the 1960s, to its struggles in the years that followed.

We take a happy walk down memory lane to enjoy again Sid James’s cheeky chuckle, Kenneth Williams’ elongated vowels, Charles Hawtrey’s bespectacled bashfulness and Barbara Windsor’s naughty wiggle.

It all seemed effortless, but exclusive interviews with the series’ remaining stars including Bernard Cribbins, Angela Douglas and Kenneth Cope shed new light on just how much talent and hard work went into creating the laughs. For the first time, the loved ones of some of the franchise’s biggest names – on and off screen – share their personal memories from this unique era.

Was Carry On really as sexist, racist and bigoted as critics claim? Three of the films’ female stars explain why they never felt remotely exploited, plus we take a fresh look at some of the series’ biggest titles and discover that, in reality, they were far more progressive than their detractors would have you believe.

Finally, with constant talk about new films, fresh productions and tantalising speculation about a brand new era of Carry On, we ask – does this unique series still have legs?

My Review

Thanks to the publisher for sending me a copy of this book. It came with my latest box of books from Pen & Sword. I have always enjoyed the Carry On… films, they are a fond memory from my childhood, where we collected the VHS tapes and then the DVDs. I still have the DVDs but got rid of my tapes when I moved out in 2014. I have always been fascinated by the personalities behind the films, especially the ensemble cast of the 60s who come to mind when I think about the films. I’ve been re-watching the films lately. They’re a nostalgic blanket on a wet Sunday afternoon.

I can also quote quite a few lines from most of the films.

This book is an overview of the films, the cast and crew, going from the earliest film, Carry On Sergeant, to the final film, Carry On Columbus. Over the series the films poked gentle fun at institutions, cracked jokes and threw out double entendre all over the place. Unfortunately, by the late seventies, they struggled to cope with changing social mores and the attempts at keeping up with the times fell flat.

Frost writes from a position of fondness and the author clearly enjoyed interviewing as many people as she could who had been involved, and using the auto/biographies of those she could not, to give a positive view of the films. However, she doesn’t give us many details of the actual production process, and she gets repetitive at times. We hear time and time again how much the cast enjoyed filming, and how it was ‘just like going back to school’ every time they went back to Pinewood Studios. It also gets a bit ‘Great British Humour’ at times, all a bit jingoistic.

I found the discussion of criticism of the films interesting. Certainly the sort of stuff they got away with wouldn’t happen now, such as the black face used in Carry On…Khyber and …Up The Jungle. The roles for women could be a bit limited, although as the author points out, many of the women characters were strong, determined women. Carry on Cabby is a fantastic early example. However, the cheap jokes at the expense of women’s appearances is galling, and actually contributed to Joan Sims’ possible Binge Eating Disorder. I thought that Frost’s attitude to the criticism of what she and others refer to as ‘Woke’ and ‘PC’ critics is a bit hypocritical. People have made valid points about the films and the attitudes they display, and you have to be a very canny viewer to realise there’s a bit more going on.

There is a discussion of the likelihood of new Carry Ons…end the book; there are some deluded people out there that think it could happen. I’m sorry, but times and humour have changed. The films are a snap-shot of a time and place, a period of social change that is reflected in the attitudes of the films and the tension between the past and present in the 1960s and early 1970s. The films also worked because they had an ensemble cast of comedic actors. As we saw with the rebooted ‘St. Trinians’ films, what worked in 1960 doesn’t work in the 2000s; social mores and humour have changed, and there is a dearth of the sorts of comedic actors who would be willing to work as part of an ensemble cast, or with the training on stage, TV and film that the cast had.

Over all, it’s okay, but could be better.

Pen & Sword Review: Broadmoor Women – Tales from Britain’s first criminal lunatic asylum, by Kim Thomas

By Kim Thomas
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 192
Illustrations: 20 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526794260
Published: 12th April 2022

Blurb

Broadmoor, Britain’s first asylum for criminal lunatics, was founded in 1863. In the first years of its existence, one in five patients was female. Most had been tried for terrible crimes and sent to Broadmoor after being found not guilty by virtue of insanity. Many had murdered their own children, while others had killed husbands or other family members.

Drawing on Broadmoor’s rich archive, this book tells the story of seven of those women, ranging from a farmer’s daughter in her 20s who shot dead her own mother to a middle-class housewife who drowned her baby daughter. Their moving stories give a glimpse into what nineteenth-century life was like for ordinary women, often struggling with poverty, domestic abuse and repeated childbearing. For some, Broadmoor, with its regime of plain food, fresh air and garden walks, was a respite from the hardships of their previous life. Others were desperate to return to their families.

All but one of the women whose stories are recounted in this book recovered and were released. Their bout of insanity was temporary. Yet the causes of their condition were poorly understood and the treatment rudimentary. As well as providing an in-depth look at the lives of women in Victorian England, the book offers a fascinating insight into the medical profession’s emerging understanding of the causes and treatment of mental illness.

My Review

Rosie Crofts, who does the marketing for Pen & Sword, sent me an email about this book a couple of weeks ago. I sat down and read it over the weekend.

I quite enjoy microhistories; the life of a single person or building can tell you something about the world around them. This book investigates the lives of seven women who were incarcerated in Broadmoor in the first forty years.

Most of them killed their children, one killed her husband and one killed her mother. Most of them had hard lives, limited by social conventions and/or poverty. Respectability was important to them all, and in court could be leveraged by a defendant so that they received a ‘guilty but insane’ or ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’ verdict. Often judges and juries were sympathetic to women who killed new born children in ‘puerperal insanity’ or ‘lactation insanity’. Psychiatrists and doctors didn’t really understand what was going on in people’s minds, and were still clinging to the idea that uteruses could cause madness; one particular belief was that women were so fragile that breast feeding for too long would cause madness.

Some of them had pre-existing mental health conditions before they committed their crimes and hadn’t received any or very limited care. Medical care for mental illness was limited at the time, as people were expected to look after their family members and doctors didn’t really understand how brains and hormones worked. Really bad cases were dropped in asylums and either left or experimented on, observed and drugged. Except in rare cases, like Tukes’ Retreat in York where the Quakers believed in calm, purposeful activity and loving kindness.

They averaged about 7 years in Broadmoor and were often released back to their families. Some husbands started petitioning for their release almost immediately after they were convicted, out of love or desperation for someone to care for their children. Returning to their families was often the worst thing that could happen to the women for several years, since it was the family/home environment that triggered the mental breakdown in the first place.

The regime at Broadmoor in the early years was based on improvement and calm, providing patients with a safe place to recover from their madness, time to heal and return to equanimity before being released. The early superintendents took after Dr. Tuke in their care of the patients; nutritious food, rest and care by sympathetic staff. Their regime was based on the latest (in the 1860s) scientific information. It would still be considered good care, now. Unfortunately, in between 1900 and 2000 there was a change in attitudes from care to abuse and back again. Seriously, I’m working on a project about this for work and it gives me nightmares to think about what happened to people with mental illnesses, learning disabilities or who were otherwise neurodivergent in asylums and residential centres.

I found this book interesting, it humanises the history of Broadmoor and gives us a snapshot into the social conditions of the late Victorian period. It would have been interesting to learn about the lives of the women warders alongside the patients. How did some working class women end up as warders and some as patients?

Could have done with some copy editing.

Review: The Blood Trials, by N.E. Davenport

│14 APRIL 2022│
PB £8.99│EB £5.49│EA £12.99

Blending fantasy and science fiction, N.E. Davenport’s fast-paced, action-packed debut kicks off a duology on loyalty and rebellion, in which a young Black woman must survive deadly trials in a racist and misogynistic society to become an elite warrior.

It’s all about blood.

Blood spilled long ago between the Republic of Mareen and the armies of the Blood Emperor, ending all blood magic.

Now there is peace in the Republic – but there is also a strict class system, misogyny, and racism. Her world is not perfect, but Ikenna survived in it.

Until now.

With the murder of her grandfather, Ikenna spirals out of control. Though she is an initiate for the Republic’s deadly elite military force, Ikenna has a secret only her grandfather knew: she possesses the blood magic of the Republic’s enemies.

Ikenna throws herself into the gladiatorial war games at the heart of her martial world: trials that will lead her closer to his killers. Under the spotlight, she subjects herself to abuse from a society that does not value her, that cherishes lineage over talent – all while hiding gifts that, if revealed, would lead to execution or worse. Ikenna is willing to risk it all to find out who killed her grandfather…

So she can end them.

Continue reading “Review: The Blood Trials, by N.E. Davenport”

TBR Review: Neuroqueer Heresies, by Nick Walker

Available from Amazon for £14.99

My Review

I’ve come across Nick Walker’s work before, seen neurocosmopolitan and Neuroqueer referenced by other writers, and used Walker’s list of definitions in my own work, particularly the heritage project I’m working on – many people are unfamiliar with neurodiversity, the concept, paradigm and movement, and the vocabulary tha to has developed around it – but I hadn’t done more than skim until someone suggested we read some of her work for a Narratives of Neurodiversity Network Salon. Since I like to support small presses, I bought a copy of Walker’s book.

I’m very glad I did. I’ve spent a decent amount of time reading and cogitating in the contents. I am slightly annoyed to find that the ideas I thought I had that were original have actually been thought before, and articulated more elegantly than I could have done.

Although the stars and constellations metaphor is still mine and mine alone. So far as I know.

Nick Walker has been part of the neurodiversity movement for the last couple of decades, and knows people who were there at the beginning when autistic people started meeting and building culture online. She coined a lot of the words, or knows the people who did, and gives difinative histories and meanings for the words. This book also goes on to explain concepts like neurocosmopolitan and Neuroqueer in ways that people can understand. With examples.

I’m donating a new, un-Rosie-marked copy of this book to the little autistic library I’m building at my work. I think it’ll be helpful in giving people a different way of looking at their diagnosis and understanding of themselves through the neurodiversity paradigm rather than the pathology paradigm.

Review: Crimson Reign, by Amelie Wen Zhao

3rd March 2022 | Hardback | Ebook | Audio | £14.99

The Red Tigress, Ana Mikhailov, has returned to Cyrilia, but the country she once called home has fallen under a dark rule. Across the land, the Empress Morganya is tightening her grip on Affinites and non-Affinites alike.

Ana dealt a blow to the Empress when she and her allies turned back Morganya’s troops, but she couldn’t stop Morganya from gaining possession of a dangerous new weapon with the power to steal Affinities. Ana’s forces are scattered, and her alliance with the rebel group, the Red Cloaks, is
becoming more frayed by the day.

What’s worse, she’s lost her Affinity to blood and without it, Ana barely knows who she is anymore – or if she has the strength to defeat
Morganya.

Morganya’s reign of terror is close to crushing the nation Ana was born to rule. And now Ana will finally face the sinister empress, but will she survive? Will anyone? And will her Empire welcome her back to the throne, or turn her out to survive on her own.

The Affinites and Non-Affinites of Cyrilia will determine Ana’s future, if Morganya doesn’t kill her first.

Continue reading “Review: Crimson Reign, by Amelie Wen Zhao”

Review: Death in the Mist, by Jo Allen

Death in the Mist

A drowned man. A missing teenager. A deadly secret.

When Emmy Leach discovers the body of a drug addict, wrapped in a tent and submerged in the icy waters of a Cumbrian tarn, she causes more than one problem for investigating officer DCI Jude Satterthwaite. Not only does the discovery revive his first, unsolved, case, but the case reveals Emmy’s complicated past and opens old wounds on the personal front, regarding Jude’s relationship with his colleague and former partner, Ashleigh O’Halloran.

As Jude and his team unpick an old story, it becomes increasingly clear that Emmy is in danger. What secrets are she and her controlling, coercive husband hiding, from the police and from each other? What connection does the dead man have with a recently-busted network of drug dealers? And, as the net closes in on the killer, can Jude and Ashleigh solve a murder — and prevent another?

A traditional British detective novel set in Cumbria.

Purchase Links

UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Mist-DCI-Satterthwaite-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B09KYJK6H9

US – https://www.amazon.com/Death-Mist-DCI-Satterthwaite-Mysteries-ebook/dp/B09KYJK6H9

Continue reading “Review: Death in the Mist, by Jo Allen”

Review: Every Star A Song, by Jay Posey

ISBN13 9780008327170

Blurb

Jay Posey returns with the much-anticipated second installment of the critically acclaimed Ascendance series following a powerful woman who can destroy planets with a single word but who is suddenly faced with an adversary that threatens the entire universe.

Far in the future, human beings have seeded themselves amongst the stars. Since decoding the language of the universe 8,000 years ago, they have reached the very edges of their known galaxy and built a near-utopia across thousands of worlds, united and ruled by a powerful organization known as the Ascendance. The peaceful stability of their society relies solely on their use of this Deep Language of the cosmos.

Elyth—a former agent of the religious arm of the Ascendance, The First House—is on the run after the events of Every Sky a Grave, when she and the fugitive Varen Fedic exposed the darker side of Ascendance hegemony on a planet called Qel. Though she just wishes to put the past (and Varen) behind her, she is soon tracked and cornered by the Ascendance agents. Surprisingly, they aren’t there for punishment. Instead, they offer her a deal in exchange for her help in exploring a new planet that seems to have appeared out of nowhere. If she agrees, her sins against the Ascendance and the First House will be forgiven.

Elyth reluctantly agrees to join the team of elite agents (including some former allies-turned-enemies) but almost as soon as they touch down on the planet’s surface, things start to go awry. Strange sounds are heard in the wilderness, horrifying creatures are seen stalking the forests, and even the landscape itself seems to change during the night.

But as expedition members start dying, two things become clear: the planet is conscious, and it’s trying to kill them.

Continue reading “Review: Every Star A Song, by Jay Posey”

Review: Cold As Hell, by Lilja SIGURÐARDÓTTIR

PUBLICATION DATE: 28 OCTOBER 2021 | ORENDA BOOKS | PAPERBACK ORIGINAL | £8.99

With rights sold in 14 countries, Cold as Hell is the first in the riveting, atmospheric and beautifully plotted five-book series An Áróra Investigation, from one of Iceland’s bestselling crime writers.

Estranged sisters Áróra and Ísafold live in different countries, and are not on speaking terms. When their mother loses contact with Ísafold, Áróra reluctantly returns to Iceland to look for her. But she soon realizes that her sister isn’t avoiding her … she has disappeared, without a trace.

As she confronts Ísafold’s abusive, drug-dealing boyfriend Björn, and begins to probe her sister ’s reclusive neighbours – who have their own reasons for staying out of sight – Áróra is drawn into an ever-darker web of intrigue and manipulation.

Baffled by the conflicting details of her sister ’s life, and blinded by the shiveringly bright midnight sun of the Icelandic summer, Áróra enlists the help of police officer Daníel, to help her track her sister ’s movements, and tail Björn. But she isn’t the only one watching…

Continue reading “Review: Cold As Hell, by Lilja SIGURÐARDÓTTIR”

Review: Plan Safe Travel Solo, by Alex Starr

Publisher ‏ : ‎ Clink Street Publishing (28 Oct. 2021)
Language ‏ : ‎ English
Paperback ‏ : ‎ 86 pages
ISBN-10 ‏ : ‎ 1913962857
ISBN-13 ‏ : ‎ 978-1913962852
Dimensions ‏ : ‎ 10.16 x 0.53 x 15.24 cm


Do you want to travel the world but feel overwhelmed and unclear where to begin? Don’t let fear stop you.

Filled with useful advice and tasks, Plan Safe Travel: Solo is a straightforward 5-stage planning process that transforms your dream into a safe reality:

Assess

Set your travel needs, concerns and budget.

Design

Decide trip style, itinerary and accommodation, including how to meet other travellers.

Adapt

Fine-tune your design, by answering important questions.

Prepare

Make practical choices, like luggage, insurance, money and mobile coverage.

Travel

Read safety tips.

For five years, I have travelled as a female, solo traveller. People ask how I do it. Pre-trip decisions instil confidence. Let my knowledge help you experience this world. Use Covid times to plan for lifelong memories.

City hopping, gap year, career break, or once-in-a-lifetime trip, create your perfect journey with Plan Safe Travel: Solo.

Continue reading “Review: Plan Safe Travel Solo, by Alex Starr”

Review: Death In The Woods, by Jo Allen

Death in the Woods

A series of copycat suicides, prompted by a mysterious online blogger, causes DCI Jude
Satterthwaite more problems than usual, intensifying his concerns about his troublesome
younger brother, Mikey. Along with his partner, Ashleigh O’Halloran, and a local
psychiatrist, Vanessa Wood, Jude struggles to find the identity of the malicious troll
gaslighting young people to their deaths.
The investigation stirs grievances both old and new. What is the connection with the
hippies camped near the Long Meg stone circle? Could these suicides have any
connection with a decades old cold case? And, for Jude, the most crucial question of all.
Is it personal — and could Mikey be the final target?

Purchase Links

Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B09BG9BY1N

Amazon US https://www.amazon.com/dp/B09BG9BY1N

Continue reading “Review: Death In The Woods, by Jo Allen”