Thursday, 29 May 2014

How I got into reviewing and blogging - Week 4

Wow another week has come round!! This week I have joined by @jcorr97john Welcome John, we are very pleased you have joined us on The Book Corner to share how you got into reiewing begin, 

Hey John, how did you get into reviewing?

I have always been an avid reader, from as long ago as I can remember. Apparently I was reading long before I started school – in those ancient days of yore, when we used quill pens and the beadle supplied us with porridge and woe betide us if we asked for more.

Ok, maybe not as long ago as that, but certainly in the 1950’s. My school was in a small mining village in the county of Durham. It was a time before televisions, computers and other electronic devices. In fact our house, a small terraced place, was lit by gas lamps and our “facilities” were outside in the yard.

I had an uncle who had been injured in World War 2 ( you may have heard of it; very noisy and was in all the newspapers), and he would spend long hours reading to me. I don’t recall being taught. Perhaps it was a form of osmosis, but I was a fluent reader when I eventually began at school.

Comics were very popular in those days, and a much more varied selection were available than today’s output. Of course being a boy, I eschewed the girly comics and concentrated on such tomes as ‘The Eagle’ and ‘The Victor’, with forays into the more exotic world of American comics. I suppose it was these, added to my Uncle and his love of books that fuelled my thirst, and indeed my favourite gifts for birthday or Christmas were comic annuals and books.

Our village, despite being small and quite poor by most standards, did boast a library. In fact, two of them. One was contained in a newsagents shop ( Stephen Johnston was the name, obviously made a huge impression on me) and the books were mostly Penguin publications, with Ellery Queen being prominent amongst the authors. It cost a penny a week to rent these books.

The second library was a public one, and was held – or rather assembled – each week in a church hall. No shelves, but instead the books were laid out on trestle tables, and what a wondrous sight these were. I went every week and would take as many as I was allowed and eagerly devour them. I recall that one of the first that I read, and it has remained my first love, was by Baroness Orczy and was called ‘By The Gods beloved’. I had a copy of my own for many years but it was lost many years ago.

Over the many years since I was a small child I have developed my love for books and must have read thousands and yet I never tire of them nor lose the sense of excitement when a new one comes to me. I have even adapted to electronic books and nurture my kindle with almost as much adoration as I give to a proper book.

I fell into reviewing books by accident. I subscribed to a ( ostensibly) military website; www.arsse. And, although a surprising number of people are sceptical about it, service folk are great readers. I was in the regular army and our barrack rooms were like mini libraries with books scattered around, all well thumbed. Our N.A.A.F.I shops sold books and the turnover was huge, and I can’t recall ever seeing a comrade not pack a book on whatever operation we were doing. This still continues to be the case, because when one considers it, the army are frequently and commonly deployed to places that lack much in the way of entertainment. I once spent an 8 month tour in Borneo, in jungle camps, and books became as much of a currency as anything else one can imagine.

Of course they were not what could be regarded as classics, nor even respectable books by most standards. Indeed they tended to be Westerns or war stories, but that does not detract from the fact that reading books was a major occupation of time.

Today the soldiers and sailors still read with a great hunger, and perhaps the books are more sophisticated or learned, but the app├ętit is the same. We had been having discussions on the site about various books, including reminiscent ramblings by us of the old and bold on what we used to read, when someone suggested a book section.

This small section soon became a much larger thread and it was suggested that a few of us might like to give a review and recommendation of our favourite books, and so it began, until like Topsy it ‘growed and growed’. The thread became a review section and I volunteered to write for it. Now we have around a million hits a week on the site and because of that, and our membership of about 135,000 we have managed to become something of a small force in the area.

We began by approaching publishing companies with our begging bowl held out and now we have publishers and writers actively seeking us out and offering books. Transworld and Random House are some of our biggest suppliers and smaller firms as well as independents send updated catalogues with the exhortation of pick and choose.

I help to run the section, along with a colleague in Scotland ( I live in Cambridge), and as well as reviewing books I also attend launches, festivals and other events including a couple at the House of Commons. I also carry out interviews with authors and anyone else of interest to us, and although we are billed as a military website, our membership and readers encompass every walk of life, including MPs, actors and just about any other profession.

So, that is how I got into book reviewing. I don’t get paid for it but I do get lots of lovely books for free.

John Corr.

Thanks John, it has been wonderful that you have stopped by today, you can follow John here it's wonderful to see how many different ways people get into reviewing and blogging. I personally have really enjoyed reading about your journey. 

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