I had a very special treat this Tuesday – an invitation, along with four other book bloggers, to attend a recording of Specsavers’ TV Book Club at Cactus TV’s studios in Kennington.
It was all thanks to Richard and Candice from MEC’s Social Media team, and the fantastic team at Cactus and Specsavers and a very rare treat and insight as the show has never had an audience in attendance before.
We all arrived in time for the 3.40pm meet in the Green room at Cactus and were instantly supplied with refreshments and a rather nice goodie bag each.
It was great to meet fellow bloggers – all of us from a variety of locations and a range of areas of book blogging.
Check out their sites after you’ve read this piece;
stuck-in-a-book.blogspot.com – Simon Thomas
davidhblog.wordpress.com – David Hebblethwaite
http://www.cherrymischievous.com – Cherry
http://www.paperback-reader.co.uk – Claire Boyle
We sat and chatted a while, checking out the goodies supplied to us; including books, glasses case, glasses, cleaning kit, eyemask, pen and a very handy £150 voucher towards our next pair of specs – many thanks Specsavers! It was at this point that Richard told me the good news (I’d been asking if the book up for review might be the one I was looking forward to the most – being a crime fiction fan – and it was), Michael Robotham’s Bleed for Me was that recording’s review book. I was over the moon.
It was soon 4pm and time to leave the Green room and head into the studio – a surprisingly small space – and take our chairs which were lined up just in front of the kitchen counter for the other show in recording there, Saturday Kitchen – the magic of television, it all appears huge on the telly!
We’d glimpsed Nigel Havers walking through reception earlier, so there was no surprise that he was this week’s guest reviewer when he walked on stage to take his seat along with panelists Jo Brand, Dave Spikey, Meera Syal and, after one of the Cactus team had located her jacket which was on the back of my chair, Laila Rouass.
The recording got underway and, I think we were all surprised, took just over 45 minutes to record the show including a couple of retakes and pick-ups. Having been to a few recordings of other tv shows a few years back (which took hours to get half a hour of good tv) this was a slick professional machine at work.
The book went down extremely well, both with the panelists on stage and with the recorded session with a book group (ironically based at Betty’s Tea Rooms in Harrogate – the town where I had the pleasure of meeting Michael Robotham at last year’s Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival) with all saying similar things about it.
Nigel Havers said he was already a fan, having read the previous novel in the series, Shatter, and that he had a vested interest as he’d love to play the central character of psychologist Joe O’Loughlin should the opportunity arise. Despite all the dark themes within the book of abuse and a predatory school teacher, both reviewer groups agreed that it was handled very well and was fast paced page-turner rather than something more blood-soaked and nasty as the title may have suggested. Without exception, everyone loved the character of Joe and those who had joined him in Bleed for Me said they’d certainly seek out Shatter to read more of him. One of the reviewers at Harrogate chose to highlight the closing paragraphs as the best way to sum up Joe’s character and, from the video section with the author, it’s clearly a reflection of how Robotham’s own values reflect within his character, he uses Joe O’Loughlin to try and cure ills in the world around him and us. Meera read this paragraph to show exactly what was meant;
If I could give my daughters one piece of advice I would tell them to make the most of their first times – their first kiss, their first date, their first love, the first smile of their first child…
There can be only one.
This was the perfect episode for crime fiction fans, with even the special feature section having a crime theme: a section on Val McDermid and her relationship with long time friend, Dr Susan Black. We watched as the two discussed some gruesome details of cases Black had worked on, discussing how uniqueness in hands and knuckles which has led to many recent abuse convictions. Again this took me right back to the first year I attended the Harrogate festival, where Val and Susan took the stage together and a comment made by her there led to Val McDermid’s novel The Grave Tattoo. Val McDermid’s latest, Trick of the Dark is out in paperback now.
And then, when the filming was all done bar a few pickup shots, we were whisked into the editing suite to see the crew at work, editing the sound and the images (from five cameras) together to create the final show that we’ll get to see on More 4 on Sunday. I was amazed at just how many people were lined up across the desk, all with an individual role to play but that in the time we were there the show was complete and ready to go.
Executive Producer/Managing Director of Cactus TV, Amanda Ross, was the perfect host, guiding us through the process and introducing us to all of the team as they went about their work – we were treated to the full behind the scenes view of what work goes into the show.
And then it was back to the Green room for the last time, for drinks, food and a rather large chocolate birthday cake for Charlotte of the production team. The presenters all joined us for a chat and we discussed the selection process (all the production team are about to start wading through 300 new books in manuscript form to start making selections for next year’s list), that ‘other’ book club, book jacket design, the task of making selections from the shortlist and just how they all find the time.
It was clear from the cast and crew that the sheer logistics of getting all the presenters and guest for a recording slot is a nightmare on its own, with all of them so busy with acting work, tours and other commitments – but, above everything else, what came out was a genuine love of what they do, and a sheer adoration of reading.
It is hoped that future series may be able to expand on the use of bloggers to increase awareness and link to their own reading groups – something I’m sure we’d all be very keen to see and be a part of.
I will never again be able to hear the opening titles of the show without the image of Jo Brand and Dave Spikey jigging along to it on the sofa !
And so, with a huge thank you to the whole team at MEC, Cactus and Specsavers, I leave you with this link kindly provided to me, which will take you to a selection of photos of the afternoon’s event (Warning: May contain me).
Keith B Walters