Book reviews by Steve Earles: FICTION

Radio Girls

By Sarah-Jane Stratford

It’s difficult in this 21st century era of mass communications to understand just how important radio was in its early years (think of Rush’s “Spirit of Radio”!). It literally opened up the world. I remember my mother telling me her granny would listen to the radio all day, transfixed by the worlds it opened up for her. Imagine it for an elderly, blind lady living in rural Ireland – it must have been magical.

Radio Girls is set in the world of the British Broadcasting Corporation of 1926. It tells the tale of a certain Maisie Musgrave, who lands her dream job of working for the BBC, but finds herself being drawn into a battle between her two bosses: John Reith, the Director-General, and Hilda Matheson, Director of Talks Programming. Maisie unearths a conspiracy that shocks her, and must join forces with Hilda to make both their voices heard both on and off the air.

An excellent book, well-researched and well-written, featuring many real characters (as well as the aforementioned Matheson and Reith, it features Virginia Woolf!). It would make a fine BBC drama ironically!

The Circus Train Conspiracy

By Edward Marston

Amazingly, The Circus Train Conspiracy is the fourteenth book in the bestselling Railway Detective series.

For a book series to have this degree of success and longevity, it must have a number of things going for it. In this case, that’s a superb writer, first class research, and characters the readers love. In Colbeck and Leeming, Marston has certainly succeeded in creating two characters who in their own unique way are a kind of Holmes and Watson for the Victorian railways of England.

I won’t spoil the plot save to say that the Moscardi Circus is travelling by train to get to Newcastle. The train collides with a couple of sleepers left on the track, causing chaos, with animals escaping into the night. When a woman’s body is discovered in the nearby woods, Inspector Colbeck believes the two incidents may be connected and investigates both the dead woman and whoever is targeting the splendidly named Moscardi’s Magnificent Circus.

Long term and new readers alike will find much to enjoy here.

Steve Earles is author and co-author of numerous projects, including To End All Wars: The WWI Graphic Anthology, available summer 2014 (