Month: May 2018

Flamingos in the Desert: Exploring Almeria (2014), by Kevin Borman

As a necessary extension of my trip to Gata Cape – Níjar Natural Park, I’ve just bought Kevin Borman’s book Flamingos in the Desert: Exploring Almeria. (FeedaRead.com, 2014). 312 pages. ISBN: 978-1784074371.

51r7b WfdCL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Blurb: From flamingos to earthquakes, gold mines to goats, prickly pears to wildfires, and white villages to the sets of cinematic history – Kevin Borman takes you on a unique journey through Almería province, from the saltpans of Cabo de Gata to the Sorbas Gypsum Karst, the Tabernas Desert and beyond, sharing his reflections and intimate understanding of the landscapes, wildlife and culture of this fascinating and little-known pocket of wild Spain. If you want to know about the reintroduction of loggerhead turtles, the history of the gold industry, the ‘ghost airfield’ near Turre, how to take your olives to the local olive mill or how to walk down the Río de Aguas from source to mouth, it’s all in here. There are floods, nuclear bombs, threshing circles, Moorish irrigation systems, and lots of details of local walks. Peter O’Toole, Sergio Leone, John Lennon and Jack Nicholson make brief appearances. There’s even a recipe for prickly pear jam.
With maps and a link to an online photo gallery, this book is the ideal companion for the curious traveller, whether passing through on foot or spinning through the sunshine on two wheels or four.
“The first book to get to the heart of Almería. A must-read for all residents and visitors.” Jackie Bragg
“This is a feast of a book. The author walks the reader through Almería’s landscapes with the inclusive warmth of a man who enjoys walking himself. The narratives are threaded through with real expertise about the history, geography and geology of the region and given all the more substance by a cast of wonderful characters whose identities and characteristics he weaves seamlessly into his writing. It is a must, not only for visitors to Almería but to anyone who enjoys high quality pieces that communicate the love of travel he clearly has.” Ian Roberts
“A lovely, informative book. A good balance of people, places and things, a celebration of nature and the landscape and the people who have shaped it and who live in it.” Peter Adeline

About the Author: Kevin Borman was born on the Lincolnshire coast in 1950. He moved to Sheffield in 1968 and from 1972 until 2004 taught Geography in comprehensive schools there. In the sixth form in 1967 he ran 10.1 seconds for the 100 yards. In 1989 he ran ‘The Fellsman’ in the Yorkshire Dales (61 miles and 11,000’ of climb) in 16 hours. Now he just walks about a bit. Between 1989 and 2004 he also worked as a writer, photographer, reviewer and news editor for High magazine. He has written several books and contributed well over 300 articles to a wide range of magazines and journals. In 2003 he received an Award for Excellence for his regular Walking World column in High from the Outdoor Writers’ Guild. His interests include natural history, hillwalking, travel, music, writing, dark chocolate and the occasional glass of red wine. He has been exploring Almería since buying a house there with his wife Troy Roberts in 2005.

I’m planning to read it soon. Stay tuned.

I share with the Author his interests on ‘hillwalking, travel, music, writing, dark chocolate and the occasional glass of red wine’, along with the year of birth.

FeedaRead publicity page

OT: Cactus Níjar

Last Saturday, together with Begoña and her sister, we visited Cactus Nijar. Its owner and founder Toni Brugger arrived at Níjar from Austria some seventeen years ago. He once told the Financial Times: ‘I wanted to create a new nursery, one that I could live in, and one where I could make a garden as well as somewhere to sell plants from.’ The inspiration came primarily from the landscape and a desire to offer plants that would thrive in the local conditions and in gardens where toughness and drought tolerance are essential. (You can read the entire article here).

Camino del Campo, 04100 Níjar, Spain. Phone: +34 650 84 60 19. https://www.facebook.com/cactusnijar/

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OT: Natural Park Cape of Gata – Nijar

Natural Park Cape of Gata – Nijar was Andalusia’s first marine-terrestrial protected area. This area is also internationally recognised as a biosphere reserve on account of the contrasts it contains between marine, coastal and terrestrial environments, the numerous exclusive species to be found here and the unique characteristics of one of Europe’s most arid ecosystems. It was also designated by UNESCO as Global Geopark. Its ecology and landscape are so unusual, mainly due to the absence of winter weather and to its geological diversity, with a predominance of volcanic substrates where lava outcrops, domes and fossil beaches comprise a unique landscape whose ochre, black and red tones are captivating for their beauty. Cabo de Gata-Níjar has the best conserved 50 kilometres of coastal cliffs anywhere on the Mediterranean in Europe. Along this stunning coastline with rugged cliffs you will find: town and village beaches such as San José and Agua Amarga; magnificent unspoilt beaches such as Mónsul and Los Genoveses; hidden and all but inaccessible coves such as Carnaje and Enmedio; spectacular volcanic and corral cliffs such as Punta de los Muertos and Mesa Roldán.
Furthermore, this area has a semi-arid climate with low rainfall and a low water table leading to soils that are poor and underdeveloped but which, nevertheless, are home to one of Europe’s most unusual ensembles of flora, with more than 1,000 endemic species. There are areas of palmetto and wolf bane that cling to steep volcanic slopes, dense esparto grass, rosemary and jujube that cover the plains, and, in spring, thousands of daisies that turn the coastal cliffs yellow. They are all examples of plants adapted to the harsh local climatic conditions.
Special mention should be made of the marine ecosystem on account of its variety and abundance. Its marine beds have extensive meadows of posidonea. This plant is similar to green algae, and its proliferation gives rise to real underwater forests that are home to a wide variety of marine fauna: crabs, octopus and fish, including the pen shell, the biggest endangered bivalve in the Mediterranean, considered to be a real natural gem. Buried in the plains of sand and mud there is a wealth of varied fauna – small but vital to the health of the ecosystem as a whole. The rocky sea beds demonstrate extraordinary changes in shape and colour: algae, false corral and a wide variety of fish, including the grouper, also known as “rey del roquedo” (king of the rock fish). Eco-diving in these crystal clear waters is an unforgettable experience.
Another interesting place, very close to the fishing village of San Miguel, are the Cabo de Gata Salt Pans, home to much of the park’s bird life. A multitude of waders such as avocets, black-winged stilts and plovers come to feed in these coastal waters. It is also common to see different species of gulls, ducks and colonies of flamingos. Over the course of the year you can see more than 80 species of birds, either here or at the nearby Rambla Morales delta lagoon, known locally as “Charco”. Meanwhile, the Las Amoladeras steppe has esparto grass and thyme plants that provide shelter to a community of birds often hard to see, such as the stone curlew, common lark, short-toed lark and Dupont’s lark. Up into the mountains there are birds of prey and small mammals that complete the regional fauna.
One of the most significant aspects of this nature park is the human influence to be seen here. Many abandoned farmhouses, wind and water systems such as water wheels, wells and mills, all with the Cultural Property designation, have become part of the landscape and bear witness to a now extinct culture that made traditional use of natural resources. Phoenicians and Romans left their mark on these lands. They took advantage of the excellent fishing to be found on the coast and left behind fish salting and purple dye factories in Torregarcía, as well as workshops for making volcanic bricks at cliffs like those of El Playazo and Punta Baja. The Moors, for their part, left their mark in irrigation systems, crafts and the watchtowers that can be found along the coast.
Improved infrastructure aiming for sustainable development along with the variety of activities available, such as scuba diving, cycle-touring, boat trips and horse riding routes, will show you all the wealth of this nature area. The fishing village at La Isleta del Moro, the Rodalquilar mining village, the stunning beauty of Los Muertos beach or the incredible cliffs at Los Escullos are all unique experiences awaiting you in these privileged surroundings. (Source: http://www.juntadeandalucia.es/medioambiente/servtc5/ventana/mostrarFicha.do?idEspacio=7406&lg=EN)

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Further reading Cabo de Gata-Níjar Natural Park at Wikipedia HERE.

Georges Simenon’s Maigret Books (update)

via Georges Simenon’s Maigret Books (An Update)

Review: A Rising Man, 2016 (Sam Wyndham 1) by Abir Mukherjee

Esta entrada es bilingüe, para ver la versión en castellano desplazarse hacia abajo

Vintage Digital, 2016. Format: Kindle edition. File size: 2768 KB. Print length: 392 pages. ASIN: B019CGXRZM. eISBN: 9781473522466.

cover.jpg.rendition.460.707 (2)Synopsis: India, 1919. Desperate for a fresh start, Captain Sam Wyndham arrives to take up an important post in Calcutta’s police force. He is soon called to the scene of a horrifying murder. The victim was a senior official, and a note in his mouth warns the British to leave India – or else.With the stability of the Empire under threat, Wyndham and Sergeant ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee must solve the case quickly. But there are some who will do anything to stop them…

My take: A Rising Man, Abir Mukherjee’s debut novel, is set in 1919 Calcutta. The story features Captain Sam Wyndham and Sergeant Surendranath ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee. Wyndham, a former Scotland Yard detective, after serving his country during the Great War, losses his wife and child in a flu epidemic, on his return to England. Seeking a fresh start, Wyndham joins the Calcutta Imperial Police Force,  accepting an offer from Lord Charles Taggart, his old superior during the war, and actual Commissioner of Police in India. Without almost no time to acclimatise himself, he finds himself involved in a murder investigation. The victim, Alexander MacAuley, a senior official, has been found stabbed to death in a shanty area of the town with a crumpled paper stuffed in his mouth, warning the British to leave India. With rising political dissent, the stability of the Raj is threatened. Wyndham, a newcomer and with no previous India expertise must rely heavily on his team, arrogant inspector Digby, who makes no secret of his contempt for the natives and feels offended for not been promoted to the position that currently holds Wyndham to which he believes to be entitle, and Sergeant Banarjee. Banarjee, the youngest son of a Calcutta barrister, like the rest of his brothers was educated in England. His father would have liked him to have entered the Indian Civil Service but, against his father’s view, Banarjee joined the police force instead. When being asked for his reason to do so, Banarjee explains that one day they may have Home Rule or the British may be forced to leave India completely. Either way, India will need the skills to manage the posts that will become vacated, including the law enforcement forces, as much as many others.

I’ve found A Rising Man, a very impressive debut, that ticks all the boxes of a good historical crime novel. Mainly, an exciting time period and an extremely engaging setting;  a well documented and nicely told story; excellent characterization, and a rich and well-constructed plot. The only quibble I would make is that, some of the views, often expressed in the course of the novel by its main character, have seemed to me far too advanced for the time period in which the action takes place. I find somehow difficult to believe that some of Wyndham’s ideas could have been even thought at the time, no matter how idealistic is his role, as evidenced in the following passage: ‘Our justification for ruling India rested on the principles of impartial British Justice and the rule of law. I we were willing to pervert the course of that justice, …….., then our justification for ruling, out moral superiority, would amount to naught.’  But in any case this is a minor remark, after all A Rising Man is an outstanding historical thriller and I look forward to reading with much interest the rest of the books in the series. Ultimately Taggart tells Wyndham: ‘Justice is a matter for the courts, Sam, and is best left to better men than you or me. Our job is to maintain law and order within His Majesty’s province of Bengal. We are here to keep the status quo.’ Highly recommended.

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the author: Abir Mukherjee was born in London, but grew up in the west of Scotland. Married, with two small children, he now lives in London and spent the last twenty years working in finance before achieving his literary breakthrough. Mukherjee submitted A Rising Man to the Telegraph Harvill Secker Crime Writing Competition in 2013. The competition, for unpublished would-be crime writers, attracted 427 entries that were whittled down to just 6. A panel of judges then deliberated over these 6 finalists and declared A Rising Man their unanimous winner. A Rising Man was shortlisted for the 2017 CWA Gold Dagger and won the 2017 CWA Endeavour Historical Dagger Award. Mukherjee’s second novel, A Necessary Evil, was published, in hardback and ebook form, in June 2017 to be followed by Smoke and Ashes, in June 2018. Harvill Secker has signed two new books from Abir Mukherjee. The books will be the fourth and fifth entries in the Captain Sam Wyndham series, set in 1920s Calcutta (as it was then).

A Rising Man has been reviewed at FictionFan’s Book Reviews, Crime Fiction Lover, Crime Thriller Girl, Criminal element, Clothes in Books, Mysteries in Paradise, Crime Time, Raven Crime Reads and Raven Crime Reads (2),

Penguin UK publicity page

Pegasus Books US publicity page

Official Website of Abir Mukherjee

Abir Mukherjee on the history of Calcutta 

Author interview with Abir Mukherjee about Calcutta crime novel A Rising Man 

A Rising Man – Abir Mukherjee Talks To Crime Time 

Extract: A Rising Man by Abir Mukherjee

audible

A Rising Man,de Abir Mukherjee

Sinopsis: India, 1919. Desesperado por empezar de cero, el capitán Sam Wyndham llega para hacerse cargo de un puesto importante en la policía de Calcuta. Pronto lo llaman a la escena de un horrible asesinato. La víctima era un alto funcionario, y una nota en su boca advierte a los británicos que salgan de la India, o de lo contrario. Con la estabilidad del Imperio amenzada, Wyndham y el sargento ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee deben resolver el caso rápidamente. Pero hay algunos que harán cualquier cosa para detenerlos …

Mi opinión: A Rising Man, la primera novela de Abir Mukherjee, se desarrolla en 1919 en Calcuta. La historia está protagonizada por el capitán Sam Wyndham y el sargento Surendranath ‘Surrender-not’ Banerjee. Wyndham, un antiguo detective de Scotland Yard, después de servir a su país durante la Gran Guerra, pierde a su esposa e hijo en una epidemia de gripe, a su regreso a Inglaterra. En busca de un nuevo comienzo, Wyndham se une a la Policía Imperial de Calcuta, aceptando una oferta de Lord Charles Taggart, su antiguo superior durante la guerra, y actual comisionado de policía en la India. Sin casi tiempo para aclimatarse, se ve involucrado en una investigación de asesinato. La víctima, Alexander MacAuley, un alto funcionario, fue hallada muerta a puñaladas en un barrio de chabolas de la ciudad con un papel arrugado en la boca, advirtiendo a los británicos que salgan de la India. Con el aumento de la disidencia política, la estabilidad del Raj se ve amenazada. Wyndham, un recién llegado y sin experiencia previa en la India, debe confiar mucho en su equipo, el arrogante inspector Digby, que no oculta su desprecio por los nativos y se siente ofendido por no haber sido ascendido al puesto que actualmente ocupa Wyndham, al que cree tener derecho, y el sargento Banarjee. Banarjee, el hijo menor de un abogado de Calcuta, fue educado en Inglaterra como el resto de sus hermanos. A su padre le habría gustado que ingresara en el Servicio Civil Indio, pero Banarjee, en contra de la opinión de su padre, se incorporó a la policía. Cuando se le pregunta por el motivo para ello, Banarjee explica que un día pueden tener autonomía o los británicos pueden verse obligados a abandonar la India por completo. En ambos casos, la India necesitará las competencias para administrar los puestos que quedarán vacantes, incluidas las fuerzas del orden público, tanto como muchos otros.

Encontré A Rising Man, una primera novela muy impresionante, que cumple todos los requisitos de una buena novela histórica criminal. Principalmente, un emocionante período de tiempo y un entorno extremadamente atractivo; una historia bien documentada y muy bien contada; excelente caracterización, y una trama rica y bien construida. La única objeción que quisiera hacer es que, algunas de las opiniones, a menudo expresadas en el curso de la novela por su personaje principal, me han parecido demasiado avanzadas para el período de tiempo en el que tiene lugar la acción. De alguna manera, me resulta difícil creer que algunas de las ideas de Wyndham pudieran haber sido pensadas en ese momento, sin importar cuán idealista sea su papel, como se evidencia en el siguiente pasaje: “Nuestra justificación para gobernar la India descansaba en los principios de imparcilaidad de la Justicia Británica  y del imperio de la ley. Si estamos dispuestos a pervertir el curso de esa justicia, …….., entonces nuestra justificación para gobernar, nuestra superioridad moral, equivaldrá a nada.” Pero en cualquier caso, esta es una observación menor, después de todo A Rising Man es un excelente thriller histórico y espero leer con mucho interés el resto de los libros de la serie. En última instancia, Taggart le dice a Wyndham: “La justicia es un asunto de los tribunales, Sam, y es mejor dejarlo a hombres mejores que tú o yo. Nuestro trabajo es mantener la ley y el orden dentro de la provincia de Bengala de Su Majestad. Estamos aquí para mantener el status quo.” Muy recomendable.

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Abir Mukherjee nació en Londres, pero creció en el oeste de Escocia. Casado, con dos hijos pequeños, ahora vive en Londres y pasó los últimos veinte años trabajando en finanzas antes de alcanzar su reconocimiento literario. Mukherjee presentó A Rising Man al certamen de escritura de novela negra organizado por The Telegraph y Harvill Secker en el 2013. El concurso, para promesas inéditas de escritores de novela negra, tentó a 427 participaciones, que quedaron reduciidas a sólo 6 finalistas. Después, un comité de jueces examinó estas 6 novelas finalistas y declaró por unanimidad ganadora a A Rising Man. A Rising Man fue finalista al CWA Gold Dagger de 2017 y ganó el premio CWA Endeavor Historical Dagger de ese mismo año. La segunda novela de Mukherjee, A Necessary Evil, se publicó, en tapa dura y como libro electrónico en junio de 2017, seguida de Smoke and Ashes, en junio de este año. Harvill Secker ha obtenido los derechos de dos nuevos libros de Abir Mukherjee. Los libros serán la cuarta y quinta entrega en la serie protagonizada por el capitán Wyndham, ambientada en la década de los años 20 en Calcuta (como se llamaba entonces).