Death and Croissants – l’inspiration


19/07/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

Death and Croissants has inspired many readers, including us. So, we turned it around and asked comedian and bestselling author Ian Moore…

“What inspired you?”


The germ of the idea for Death and Croissants lies in an uncomfortable truth. The main character, Richard, owns a chambre d’hôtes, a posh B&B and likes, though that may be too strong a word, what that life offers him. That for the most part he can be left to his own devices, without his job getting in the way. Well, I too own a posh B&B and I find the life of a small-time hotelier, and I say this with apologies to my guests, phenomenally dull.

In order to brighten my days of breakfasting, bed making and stopping small uncontrolled Parisien children from throwing stones at the goats, I started to invent stories around the guests. Why were those single businessmen in the area? Why did the family from Lyon behave like they didn’t know each other? And that attractive, exotic lady from Nice, why did she think she had a right to tell me that I had my kitchen-salon ordered ‘entirely the wrong way’?

Well, the lady from Nice became Valérie for the most part, but with elements of other French women we have known since my wife and I moved here. Above all, she had to be one hundred percent sure of herself at all times; Richard had to doubt himself to exactly the same degree. A modern-day Holmes and Watson was the plan, with Valérie as Holmes. And I wanted the dialogue snappy too, playful, even if my two main characters were rarely on the same wavelength. Think Nick and Nora Charles from Dashiell Hammet’s The Thin Man or ‘screwball’ comedies of 1930s Hollywood where it’s usually the woman outsmarting the man but not always being aware of it, like Katherine Hepburn is ignorant of Cary Grant’s insecurity in Bringing Up Baby.

I also wanted the plot, and here again I apologise, to be slightly convoluted. I’ve always been intrigued that Raymond Chandler wrote The Big Sleep and even he couldn’t properly explain the plot to it. Also, the wonderful TV series in the 1980s written by Alan Plater called The Beiderbecke Affair comes to mind. It has smart, back-and-forth dialogue performed brilliantly by James Bolam and Barbara Flynn and a plot I still don’t understand today.

Death and Croissants had to be all of these things but mostly, it had to be funny. I wanted those classic ingredients of crackling dialogue but with a physical, farcical element as well; funny enough to be a humorous book on its own while the plot had to have enough depth to be a crime book in its own right. In cricketing terms, it needed to be a top-class all-rounder.

But the main inspiration, the driving force and starting point was France itself. The characters, the countryside, the foibles, the pace of life… if you can’t get inspired by that in some way well, then it really would be time to stick to bed and breakfasting. So, I though of Richard, poured a nice glass of rosé, sat on the terrasse and let the story unfold.


Ian Moore

Related articles

FREE BOOK: An Inspector Pel Mystery, Book 1


13/07/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

Moody, sharp-tongued and worrying constantly about his health, Inspector Evariste Clovis Désiré Pel ensures that no case goes unsolved, in this mordantly witty French mystery.

Introducing your free book, Death Set to Music, Book 1 in the Inspector Pel Mystery series.

Download my free book



Death Set to Music
by Mark Hebden

‘Written with downbeat humour and some delightful dialogue.’ Financial Times

Deep in the Burgundy countryside, a murder case is perplexing Inspector Pel. The body was found in the salon, an elegant room with a grand piano and a Louis XIV escritoire. The shutters were still closed and the dead end of a record of Rigoletto was still turning.

There are some obvious suspects, yet the clothes of none of them show any signs of blood. And what were the tensions that must have torn at this family? It’s only when a second murder takes place that the method of the first becomes startlingly clear.

Download my free book

Related articles

Origins of The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency

Humorous Mystery and Crime
12/01/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

This March 2021, A Pocket Full of Pie will be published: the fourth book in my No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series. With the new year underway, I took time to reflect on the series’ origins.

 

Mandy Morton

Author of the wonderful No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series

No.2-Feline-Detective-Agency-series


 

The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency series was never meant to be a series at all.
It was born out of boredom and an idea to raise money for my local cat rescue centre, but as soon as the first book was written, I found myself wanting to carry on the lives of the characters I had created; now, with The Ice Maid’s Tail as the latest book in the series and another one to be published in March, I’m amazed to be planning book ten for 2022.

 

“I found myself wanting to carry on the lives of the characters I had created”.

I had previously spent twenty six years as a BBC arts journalist, and the first winter of my retirement delivered me the inspiration to create a micro world inhabited only by cats. Crime was an obvious choice, as cats are naturally inquisitive, but they can also be cruel, unpredictable and calculating, the perfect mix for a detective series.

My two feline sleuths, Hettie Bagshot and Tilly Jenkins, are personal to me, as they were much loved rescue cats in real life; bringing them back in these books is a joyous thing for me to be able to do, and – in a strange way – their adventures channel bits of my own life.

Lovers of cats will, I hope, find much to enjoy in these books, but once the adventures begin, it’s easy to accept the characters as people, and I leave that decision entirely up to my readers.

 

“…their adventures channel bits of my own life.”

My characters wear cardigans, play guitars, drive motorbikes, smoke pipes of catnip and commit vicious murders on occasions. They have voracious appetites for anything wrapped in pastry, and go about their business in a high street somewhere in the 1970s that includes a post office, a bakery, hardware store, dry cleaners, a four floor department store, an undertakers and a fish and chip shop.

Just outside the town is a stately home, an aristocratic pile where The Ice Maid’s Tail is set amid a dark, atmospheric fairy tale. At this point you may question my sanity, but the world I’ve created makes much more sense to me than the one I actually live in.

 

“…cats are naturally inquisitive, but they can also be cruel, unpredictable and calculating, the perfect mix for a detective series.”

As a journalist, I was taught to become a magpie, a collector of many facts but master of none; researching for my radio shows has taken me into many areas that have become vital in telling these stories, projects on psychics, executioners, cooks and gardeners have proved invaluable, and the fact that my own life has included being a professional musician and a radio presenter offers even more scope for my characters.

My new book, A Pocket Full of Pie, soon to be published, lays bear the competitive world of broadcasting with tongue firmly in cheek, but the essence of all the books has to be to make my readers laugh and cry in equal measure, and there’s a puzzle to solve along the way. They’re playful, and – I hope – thought-provoking.

 

A-Pocket-Full-of-Pie

A Pocket Full of Pie

 

“…the world I’ve created makes much more sense to me than the one I actually live in”.

I love dolls houses, and have always enjoyed collecting tiny miniatures – and that’s exactly what I do when I write my books: I play with my characters, placing them in different rooms, surrounding them with the chattels of everyday life, and I wait to see how they will react.

I have been delighted that so many readers have chosen my series during lockdown, at a time when we would all like to live in a different world.

 

Mandy Morton

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The Stockwell Park Orchestra Interviews: One

Social comedy
06/01/2021 | POSTED BY Pete

This month, Continental Riff is published: the third novel in my Stockwell Park Orchestra series. Over the summer I had a chance to interview some characters from the series, before their tour.

 

Isabel Rogers

Author of the fabulous Stockwell Park Orchestra series

Stockwell-Park-series-banner-2


 

Interview One – Eliot Yarrow

 

Eliot opened the door of his Victorian terrace and led me to his first floor flat, then went to make coffee. Never leave an interviewer alone in a room if you don’t want prying. Is what I might have said to him.

It was a conductor’s room: upright piano, piles of music; gateleg table covered in scores, lots of pencils and empty mugs. I was pleased he didn’t put hot drinks on the piano, no matter how haphazard his tidying. Bruckner’s Seventh Symphony lay open, with one particular bar circled heavily in pencil.

Eliot returned, his hair boyishly tousled, just like his publicity pictures. Don’t flirt, I told myself. He grinned. He makes very good coffee, by the way. And has excellent chocolate biscuits.

I pressed record.

 

IR:        Tour preparations going OK?

 

EY:       Think so. David does the worrying. I stick to the music. Biscuit?

 

IR:        Will Mrs Ford-Hughes be singing? She always livens things up.

 

EY:       [sound of coughing] Not singing, no. But I think she might fly out for a concert. As our sponsor, you know.

 

IR:        Ah, yes. Tell me about your programme. I saw the Bruckner score. What’s with that bar you circled?

 

EY:       Bruckner 7, yes. We’ll be joining Cologne’s Bruckner Festival, so we have to include some. Which is excellent. Some say he’s just. Mahler who goes on a bit, but they’re wrong.

 

IR:        And that particular bar?

 

EY:       Let’s just say there’s a percussion moment we are finessing our way round, logistically. I’m sure everything will be fine.

 

IR:        What’s the one thing you’re afraid might go wrong?

 

EY:       Just one? [laughs] This is Stockwell Park. As long as we play brilliantly I’ll be happy. Orchestral tours are a bit of a party. One day maybe Ann will spill the beans about the Trevi Fountain and that thong, but she’ll have to get more drunk than I’ve ever seen her. And I’ve seen her pretty drunk.

 

IR:       Do you prefer orchestras or choirs?

 

EY:      I can’t possibly … anyone could be reading this.

 

IR:       Such a diplomat. But you sing, yourself?

 

EY:      Did you come to my recent –? We did some lovely Baroque stuff. And Spem.

 

IR:       No, but I heard it went down well.

 

EY:      [inaudible snorting]

 

IR:       Sorry. Questions. Pianoforte or fortepiano?

 

EY:      Crikey. I do have a soft spot for a fortepiano. Is that pretentious? But then no modern stuff! This is hard.

 

IR:       Chips or salad?

 

EY:      Cold Friday after rehearsal? Chips. Sunny day by the sea? Well, maybe chips too. But I do eat salad, honest.

 

IR:       Mrs Ford-Hughes or Florence Foster Jenkins?

 

EY:      Mrs Ford-Hughes every time. She’s a trouper.

 

IR:       Which player do you wish would leave?

 

EY:      Let the tape note I’m drinking coffee very deliberately. Not avoiding the question.

 

IR:       Damn, you are good at this. Heard anything of Joshua since you nabbed his job?

 

EY:      Nabbed ..? No. He’s not conducted anything since. Maybe he’s emigrated. We can hope.

 

IR:       Ambitions?

 

EY:      Obviously to take Stockwell Park to the Albert Hall, land a recording deal with Gareth Malone and fund kids’ school music lessons. Dunno. I just love making music. Corny, but true.

 

IR:       Don’t apologise. I’m sure the orchestra would follow you anywhere.

 

EY:      Fools. Another biscuit?

 

So I drank coffee and ate more biscuits but, since I’d forgotten to charge my phone, the rest of our conversation has evaporated into myth and rumour.

_________________

 

If you have a question for any other Stockwell Park Orchestra musician, please send it to me and I’ll ask on your behalf. Find me on Twitter @Isabelwriter, or drop me a line using the contact page on my site isabelrogers.org.

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NEW: Your online Farrago shop!


10/12/2020 | POSTED BY Pete

 

2020. What a year. Unprecedented challenges, difficult moments, and lots of Zoom calls: everyone has had to adapt in one way or another, including us at Farrago…

 

It is therefore with a beaming smile (and a giggle of excited trepidation) that we introduce you to a new chapter in the Farrago story:

 

Your online Farrago shop!

Farrago-shop-logo

(CLICK TO EXPLORE)

 

Here you will be able to purchase our reads at exclusive offers found nowhere else. By buying with us directly, not only will you be saving but you will be supporting our mission to make the world a more smiley place.

Features:

  • Ebooks for both Kindle and Non-Kindle readers
  • Exclusive offers and savings for Farrago titles and series, found nowhere else online
  • Farrago’s famous series are now available to buy as brand-new bundles, at greatly discounted prices
  • Weekly promotions, featuring unique, themed bundles and more
  • Easy checkout process, with short and clear instructions of how to upload your purchase to your specific reading device

The online shop is a new adventure for us too, and so there may be some snags here and there. If you come across any issues, please do let us know. We want to hear your honest feedback so we can make the shop as user-friendly as possible for you. You will certainly notice changes and enhancements throughout the next six months as we continue to optimise, improve and adapt.

Thank you for all your support this year. We hope we have brought you many smiles, and we aspire to bring you many more.

Related articles

“If it isn’t a coincidence, what is it?”

Guest posts
02/10/2020 | POSTED BY Pete

Author Lee Farnsworth about the strange coincidences that occurred while he was
writing his debut novel Odd Bird. Because it was all just coincidence… right?!

 

Over recent months, I’ve had several circular conversations with my Mum about coincidence. We always end up mutually baffled. For example, she recently told me she had tried to call my godmother, but she was engaged. Later she discovered my godmother was trying to call her.

‘You’re going to say that’s a coincidence aren’t you?’ she said.

And of course I say it is. And then Mum says but it’s too unlikely to be a coincidence. And then I say that if it wasn’t unlikely it wouldn’t be a coincidence. And so on.

I mean, if it isn’t a coincidence, what is it?

To set the record straight: I like coincidences. In fact, there were several joyous coincidences during the writing of Odd Bird.

 

Coincidence 1:

My working title for Odd Bird was The Birdman of Acton – yes Burt Lancaster, I was thinking of you. The opening chapter takes place in pub in Acton. I called the pub The Swan because ─ spoiler alert ─ Simon, my protagonist, loves birds. Next thing I knew I had invented the ‘Swan Song’ in order to show Simon and his friend Phil sparring.

I’d already written that opening chapter when I visited Acton for the first time. I walked around its streets and parks to decide where Simon would live and eat and shop. Finally that afternoon I walked the route that I knew Simon would run in Chapter 3. Ahead on Acton Road I could see a pub. As I neared, I could see a sign. The Swan.

What are the chances?

Swan is not a rare pub name. There are two-hundred and eighty-nine in the UK which means it pips White Horse to the number 7 most popular pub name slot. However, there are approximately forty-nine thousand ‘settlements’ in the UK. This means that for every Acton there are one-hundred and sixty-nine settlements that don’t have a Swan.

I had a beer in the Swan obviously and I garbled the premise of my novel to the lady behind the bar. Soon I will return, clutching Odd Bird.

 

Coincidence 2:

This is a good one.

I decided that Kim, Simon’s love interest, should live in an area which was more up market than Acton and yet it needed to be nearby and close to Empirical. I plumped for South Kensington.

I suspect I wasted a lot of time on little details that nobody would notice while writing. For example, I spent time on Rightmove finding accommodation for characters and I found their faces and clothes on the internet too. But I found Kim’s address in my little, battered London AZ.

I was writing a scene about Simon and Kim having a spat on the way to her flat from South Ken Tube. I needed her flat to be far enough away from the station to let the argument build. I got out my AZ, opened it to page 73, drew a red line around the boundary and then dropped the pen down onto a street. ‘That’s where she lives,’ I thought.

The pen landed on Selwood Terrace. Simon’s surname is Selwood.

What are the chances?

There are sixty thousand streets in London and just three that include Selwood. That’s quite a coincidence.

 

Coincidence 3:

The bullfinch has an important role to play in Odd Bird. It’s the second most important bird species in the book. I can’t explain why here, but it is.

My little house backs on to a small wood and I put out a lot of bird food and so I’ve seen a lot of birds in my garden since I began Odd Bird. I rarely see bullfinches though. I was putting the final touches to my Odd Bird submission when I saw my first. She was sitting on the grass beneath the apple tree. I picked up the binoculars and stood by my window and watched her.

What are the chances? I wondered.

The BTO say that there is only a 10% chance that a garden will receive at least one visit a week by a bullfinch. But I hadn’t seen a bullfinch in in four years…

 

Let’s agree that it was all a coincidence. Except, that by the time the bullfinch flew off, I was feeling more confident about my submission.

I must ask Mum what she thinks.

 

Odd Bird by Lee Farnsworth is publishing 15 October 2020.

Pre-order it from Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play Books, Kobo,
Waterstones or Hive.

Related articles

Lee Farnsworth on Writing ‘Odd Bird’

FICTION
03/08/2020 | POSTED BY Pete

The Odd Bird author on books, birds and bikes.

 

Odd Bird took a while to fledge, it’s fair to say.

In March 2003 I moved to North Carolina with my girlfriend. By June, she had returned to the UK and I was licking my wounds. Heartbroken and a long way from friends and family, I moped.

I’m a gifted mope, but I soon started to tire of it. Seeking a breakthrough, I bought the kind of bike which makes your arse plead for mercy and I enrolled in a creative writing workshop.

I arrived at the workshop expecting flip charts and biscuits but almost immediately we were writing from prompts and the teacher was encouraging us all to read to the group. Read! Did she say read?

I was terrified, but eventually read a very short piece about three boys and a treehouse. At the end of the workshop, the teacher came over to speak to me. ‘You have to keep writing,’ she said. ‘You have a voice.’

I was so happy that on the ride home I almost forgot about my arse.

I started to think about what I was going to write. ‘Write what you know,’ the teacher had said. I knew about molecular biology and genetics and I definitely knew that relationships were tricky. One Saturday afternoon in a sprawling Barnes and Noble bookshop, I came across a popular science book called Mating Games. In it I read about a mischievous little bird called the pied flycatcher. ‘Hmm,’ I thought, ‘they’re as a bad as we are.’

Fast forward a decade comprising a load of busy and a bit of writing – and I got dumped again. This time the wounds were inflicted by an employer, but they needed licking all the same.

On the evening of the announcement I met with my friend Antony for a curry because he is the world’s foremost optimist and because curries are good for endorphins.

‘What will you do?’ he said, snapping off half a poppadum.

I told him I was going to take some time out. ‘I might write a book about strategic marketing,’ I said, trying to sound brighter.

‘Ha! Don’t be ridiculous, man,’ he said, reaching for the lime pickle. ‘You should write that novel you’re always rattling on about. About a bird, isn’t it?’

Next day I started telling everyone in my path that I was going to write a novel. It was going to be about a scientist who studies the sexual behaviour of birds but struggles to find love.

This might all sound very foolish, and I am often foolish, but I wasn’t, I think, foolish on that occasion. You see, I knew that writing would be hard. I knew that I would be tempted to give up. I knew that fear of public failure would drive me on.

Writing Odd Bird was a great experience. It’s definitely the best inanimate thing that ever happened to me. I loved getting to know Simon and the rest of the characters. People tell me, my daughter especially, that it’s not appropriate to laugh at your own jokes ─ but I did. Sorry.

So what about my prediction? Yes, writing was hard, especially at the start. The ‘voice’ that kind teacher from North Carolina had spoken of proved to be elusive.

In fact, I used to positively dread turning on the computer. In order to force myself to write I would set a timer. For twenty-five minutes I wasn’t allowed to do anything but write. When the alarm chirped I was allowed a fifteen minute break, during which I would try to learn to juggle. Why juggling? Because I reasoned that if I could teach myself to juggle then I could teach myself to write. Of course this seems crazy now ─ except it kind of worked. Gradually, the dread dissipated, the pleasure grew, the breaks got shorter and finally, the juggling balls were forgotten.

After that initial period, Odd Bird was a huge amount of fun to write. I hope people will feel that as they read it.

Odd Bird by Lee Farnsworth is publishing 1 October 2020.

Pre-order it from Amazon, Apple Books, Google Play Books, Kobo,
Waterstones or Hive.

 

Related articles

The Perils of a Book Pet

Guest posts
31/07/2020 | POSTED BY Pete

I write about animals quite a lot. In my books, I mean, not random notes scribbled in crayon about the fact that next door’s cat has pooed in my window box again. Book Animals can do a lot for a plot; show a character’s caring nature, necessitate an emergency drive to the vet, unite a neighbourhood to search for a missing pet, even wear a cute apron and cap if you are prone to Mrs Tiggywinkle. They can bring characters together, give them reasons to argue and just generally be cute and adorable and picturesque if you are short of something to put on your book cover.

But, because I have Realism running through me like Scarborough through a stick of rock, my book animals must also behave like real animals. I couldn’t write Mrs Tiggywinkle-type fiction if I tried, because I’d spend too much of the book wondering whether slug stains wash out of aprons and who goes around picking up the caps after the inevitable car collision. So my book dogs go through rubbish bins, embarrass their owners in public and dig enormous holes in the garden when left unattended; my book cats bring in headless rabbits which they leave in the middle of clean duvets – just like the real thing.

So my recent book has a hand-reared seagull in it. Which gave me a slight advantage, because nobody expects a seagull to be cute and fluffy. Everyone has had their chips stolen or been sullenly regarded from a nearby roof by a bird that looks as though it’s wondering what you’d taste like. A seagull can get away with being a little bit unlikeable, because they are basically big, noisy sandwich-thieves with worryingly mad eyeballs who can fly. Like insane burglars in a hang-glider. With a vuvuzela. Basically, seagulls are not a traditional ‘pet’, but that’s fine because my couple aren’t a traditional couple either! Neither character would have suited a typical book pet, in any case.

In real life, I have a cat who shouts outside my front door at irrational hours, and a uniquely horrible terrier. Neither one of them would make a good Book Pet. Cat only turns up occasionally and thinks he belongs to most of the village, so is no good for plot development. Unless I were to go around the neighbours to search for him with hilarious consequences, but I know he’ll come back on his own, so I don’t. Dog won’t let any potential love interests come within a lead’s length of me without trying to take their leg off, and will kill and eat anyone who spontaneously calls at the house, so she’s hardly going to add to my character arc. Unless my arc is to become housebound and terrified of people, which would be a bit of a rubbish story really.

I’ve got a good mind to make both of them wear aprons and caps. That would teach them.

 

A Seagull Summer by Jane Lovering (featuring Roger, the seagull!)
is publishing 6 August 2020.

You can pre-order it here.

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The Difficult Second Book

Science Fiction and Fantasy
23/06/2020 | POSTED BY Pete

…That Isn’t So Difficult When Your First Book Was Actually An Unloved Pilot

Gabby Hutchinson Crouch, author of the beloved Darkwood series, on writing
her second book Such Big Teeth.


Darkwood
wasn’t supposed to be a book. Darkwood was supposed to be a CBBC series. Part Avatar: The Last Airbender, part Steven Universe, part Maid Marian & Her Merry Men.

I wrote a pilot script in a hurry, out of several different ideas that had been in my mind for years, for a BBC Writersroom competition, where it was swiftly rejected.

By then, I loved the characters and the concept too much to just let it die, so, in quiet periods of work, I tried rewriting the pilot script as prose.

Writing a book from a script had a few surprising side effects. One was that the narrative voice naturally took on a conversational tone in the present tense, as if I was writing directions for a production team I was friendly with.

Another side effect was that, because I’d been thinking about a longer-term series, I already had a rough idea sketched out of how I thought a series of books might pan out.

I wrote the first half of the first book, started looking around for potential publishers, and happened upon a tweet about Farrago looking for genre comedy series, at just the right time. I had the synopsis for the second half of the first book planned out, and like a good little broadcast media writer, I had some loose ideas for a bigger story arc.

I’m not going to lie to you, mostly those loose ideas for an arc structure came from movies and video games.

One of my concepts for expanding the world in three books was as such: Isn’t it great when you’re playing a narrative open world game where after you complete one big boss level about a third of the way in a new chunk of the map opens up for you to explore?

Darkwood has a literal map of the forest in the narrative, with large parts of it still blank by the end of the first book, for Gretel to fill in. This is absolutely influenced by my love of games like Red Dead Redemption 2 and Zelda: Breath of the Wild.

I also wanted to introduce some new fairy tale characters for the expedition into the uncharted northern woods in book 2.

I had a lot of fun coming up with the northern witches. I’d already had an idea that the north would be the territory of witches who could control larger, scarier animals such as wolves and bears, so Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks were obvious choices.

The third ‘witch’ was initially going to be The Fox Prince, but I decided I really wanted to go with a character from an obscure fairy tale that I love – the cursed youngest brother from the six (or sometimes seven) ravens story. I also wanted to open up a bit more of the antagonists’ territory, so we see a lot more of the huntsmen and their Citadel.

Also, because Darkwood is a trilogy, I got to use The Star Wars Trajectory, so the second story is a little bit darker, with the heroes suffering more losses. In the second story of a trilogy, you have to up the stakes while still leaving plenty of room for the third story to go. The upside of this is that you can leave a few story threads unresolved for the third and final story.

That’s Future Gabby’s problem to solve.

Such Big Teeth, the second book in The Darkwood Series, is publishing on 25 June 2020 – find out all about it here!

Related articles

Lockdown laughs: our favourite mood-lifting reads

Lists
07/04/2020 | POSTED BY Abbie

Here at Farrago, we specialise in fiction to make you smile, and our mission feels more important than ever at the moment. The news is scary, we are worried about our loved ones, and a lot of what we thought of as normal everyday life has changed beyond recognition.

This is when books can really come into their own. When you’re immersed in a story, everything else in the world drifts away just a little – reading can provide a holiday for your mind. And that’s what drives us at Team Farrago. We look for the funniest, most imaginative and enjoyable stories, and we bring them to you, to give you a break from the everyday and, we hope, make you laugh along the way.

There are plenty of titles to choose from in our book list, but here are ten highlights to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step.

Cherry Slice

When Kenny Thorpe, a contestant on Expose TV’s Big Blubber, the hot new celebrity weight-loss show, is murdered on live television in front of 3 million viewers, the case seems pretty watertight. But Cherry Hinton knows there’s more to this than meets the eye.

‘If you’re in need of comic distraction (as we all are…) this is extremely funny.’ Harriet Tyce, author of Blood Orange

(find out more here)

Battlestar Suburbia

When Darren Stubbs accidentally short-circuits a robot lamppost, life on the Dolestar Discovery changes forever – for everyone. This anarchic comic adventure travels from the shining skyscrapers of Singulopolis to the hidden depths of the internet, and reveals what happens when a person finally puts down their mop and bucket and says ‘No.’

‘McCrudden’s debut is festooned with cunning punnery, sharp turns of phrase, and jokes about emojis and the internet, making this very much a comic novel of our times.’ James Lovegrove, Financial Times

(find out more here)

The Ice Maid’s Tail

The town is gripped by a big freeze, leaving shops and businesses snowbound. Hettie Bagshot and her sidekick, Tilly Jenkins, are called to investigate the disappearance of the town’s kittens as – one by one – they are taken in the snow. Join them in another frost-biting case for The No. 2 Feline Detective Agency.

‘I loved it. The whole concept is just so “real”!’ Barbara Erskine

(find out more here)

The Cuckoos of Batch Magna

When Sir Humphrey Strange, squire of Batch Magna, departs this world, his estate passes to distant relative Humph, a short-order cook from the Bronx. Humph is persuaded to make a killing by turning the sleepy backwater into a theme-park image of rural England. Will the long-time residents of Batch Magna manage to put a stop to his plans?

‘I loved this book. It’s lyrical and very amusing, with all the charm of an old Ealing comedy. … More please Mr Maughan!’

(find out more here)

Life, Death and Cellos

The Stockwell Park Orchestra is in trouble – could this be their final performance? In a tale marrying the insight of Sue Townsend with the farcical humour of John O’Farrell, a priceless cello is abducted, a conductor is stranded on the wrong side of the Atlantic, and Erin the cellist stumbles (eventually) on her true calling in life.

Life, Death and Cellos is that rare thing – a funny music book. Rogers knows the world intimately, and portrays it with warmth, accuracy and a poetic turn of phrase. Sharp, witty and richly entertaining.’ Lev Parikian

(find out more here)

The Great American Cheese War

A mysterious illness afflicts friends of Governor Bill Hoeksma of Michigan, and his conspiring advisors point to a rumoured viral weapons attack by the Wisconsin government. When the conspiracy runs out of road, and guns are drawn in a showdown outside a Cracker Barrel, will anyone emerge victorious from the Great American Cheese War?

‘A rollicking riot of insanity and I mean that in the most wonderful sense! I laughed my way through this story.’

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Darkwood

Magic is forbidden in Myrsina, along with other abominations such as girls doing maths. This is bad news for Gretel Mudd, who doesn’t perform magic but does know a lot of maths. When her inventions prompt the sinister masked Huntsmen to accuse her of witchcraft, Gretel must act fast to help the Witches save the Darkwood and her home village.

‘…very funny. If you like Terry Pratchett, or think gothic fairytales should have more LOLs, ’tis the book for ye.’ Greg Jenner

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Christmas Secrets by the Sea

Tansy Merriweather has lost her business and her relationship, and her home is now a campervan on a Dorset beach, with a scruffy dog called Brian as her only friend. When she finds a job as a location scout for a new TV show, things start looking up. But with the grumpy star Davin O’Riordan to work with, storms are certain to follow…

‘It’s a wonderful story, fully of whimsy and gentle humour, a terrific story and wonderful characters, all wrapped up in a very satisfying ending.’

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The Truth About Archie and Pye

Join disillusioned junior PR exec Tom Winscombe and a cast of disreputable and downright dangerous characters in this witty thriller set in a murky world of murder, mystery and complex equations, involving internet conspiracy theorists, hedge fund managers, the Belarusian mafia and a cat called µ.

‘Funny, clever, and sometimes brilliantly daft.’ Scott Pack

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Mr Finchley Discovers His England

Mr Edgar Finchley, unmarried solicitor’s clerk, aged 45, is told to take a holiday for the first time in his life. He decides to go to Margate. But Fate has other plans in store…

‘Quite delightful, with an atmosphere of quiet contentment and humour that cannot fail to charm … The longer we travel with Mr Finchley, the better we come to love him. He makes us share his bread and cheese, and beer and pipe. His delight at the beauties of the countryside and his mild astonishment at the strange ways of men are infectious.’ Daily Telegraph

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