Friday, April 24, 2009

More From Our Own Correspondent is a collection of radio transcripts originally broadcast on the BBC World Service programme From Our Own Correspondent (FOOC). For those unfamiliar with the format of FOOC it is, according to the introduction, “a simple collection of radio essays written by correspondents eager to tell you about events unfolding in their part of the world”.

In More FOOC the correspondents look beyond the good and the great and for a few minuets tell us how the events making the headlines effect the ordinary everyday people. For a few moments the doctor, the nurse, the farmer, the clerk replace the president and the ministers and tell their story on the main stage.

Many of correspondents will already be household names including among them are Fergal Keane,Mark Tully and Jim Muir. The reader will move from report to report, from one corner of the globe to the other. With the correspondent the reader will attend a Maoist Wedding in Nepal, accompany honey hunters in Bangladesh, visit Iraqi refugee camps in Syria or visit high security prisoners with evangelical Christians in Mississippi.

There are however moments of poignancy and bravery. Alan Johnston recounts his 114 days spent in captivity in Gaza. While Natalia Antelava reports on the murder of an outspoken journalist in Osh, Kyrgyzstan.

Some of the reports from correspondents will come from counties caught in seemingly intractable conflicts. In a Kabul Hospital, Emma Jane Kirby accompanies a doctor returning from exile. The two discover a dilapidated hospital which is short on medical supplies and in a state of infectious decay. As she leaves a pharmacist plaintively enquires of her “I wonder if you could tell me: is anyone coming to help us?”.

In conclusion the last transcript could well be a paean to all those forgotten by the scribes of history, the very people FOOC reports on. Monica Whitlock, the correspondent in question, is reporting from Kampyr-tepe in Uzbekistan. Founded by Alexander the Great Kampye-tepe was at its height an important military base. Long since abandoned and forgotten, the city had only been recently been discovered and partially excavated by archaeologists. Outside of Kampyr-tepe at the site of an underground Buddhist monastery, far from all the glamour and gore of armies and empires, papers belonging to the monks are discovered in sealed jars.

“What did they say” Monica Whitlock asks her guide.
“Oh, they said that we too lived here”.

More From Our Own Correspondent is edited by Tony Grant.


Sunday, April 12, 2009

Guy Fawkes night in Primrose Hill, Camden Town, London. From within a blazing bonfire screaming is heard. Literally thousands of witnesses look on in shocked silence unable to assist in any way. When the forensic department of the local police department examine the charred remains they discover that the victim is non other than retired Police Superintendent David Peters.

Thus begins “The Beautiful Sound of Silence” ninth in the Detective Inspector Christy Kennedy series of crime novels. For those unfamiliar with DI Christy Kennedy you will be introduced to an amicable tea drinking police officer and team leader from Northern Ireland. A man who is given to introspection both on his duty as an officer of the law and his romance with local news reporter ann rae.

Aficionados of the Christy Kennedy series will be well aware of the supporting cast of fellow police officers which include DI James Irvine, DS Derek Allaway and Superintendent Thomas Castle. The author also supplies us with titbits of information on the lives of these background characters such as old romances and former cases they worked on with Kennedy.

Throughout the novel we observe Kennedy and his fellow officers in their methodical approach to the murder investigation. We soon learn that not is all as it seems. For example the deceased Superintendent Peters was not above abusing his power as a police office in order to feather his nest.

As the investigation gathers pace an army of suspects is paraded before us, a local builder and former gangster, the merry widow, the grieving mistress and various criminal elements that the murdered Superintendent associated with.

But there comes a point in the novel when Kennedy switches gear. The questioning is over. He knows who the murderer is, only the method is in question. DI James Irvine points this out for us with the following,

“When Kennedy starts to concentrate on the method of murder, it usually means he’s quite convinced that he knows who thee murderer is”.

It is immediately obvious that the author Paul Charles clearly has a great love of Camden Town. The sights, sounds, smells and colours in short a warts and all display of this particular quarter of the city in all is glory as a setting for the novel is presented before us.

As the novel concludes the reader is left longing to find out more about the characters. Their inner dynamics, their dreams, trials and tribulations. In particular those of Detective Inspector Christy Kennedy. Hopefully it will not be too long before we see this police officer out on the streets of Camden Town again.


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