Flip-flops and salads: outgoing; woolly slippers and hearty soups: incoming.
Well, one of our MLAs has found a way to overcome the downbeat trend by immersing himself in books that take him on exciting adventures all year round and across the world and back... to Coleraine.
Independent MLA for East Londonderry David McClarty is a born-and-bred Coleraine man, married to Norma, also from Coleraine, where they brought up their two sons. A dedicated Coleraine FC supporter, "David champions and advocates the Milk Cup tournament not only for the development of local talent, but the huge input it creates for the local economy." He is proud to have "lived and worked there all my life. It is a wonderful place with remarkable people. The Olympic summer goes far to prove the talent that I already know exists here."
David is one of those readers that makes my life as a 'recorder of reading tastes' easy: he writes as well as he reads. You can tell in his perfectly formed answers to my questions that he loves books and maybe loves talking about them even more. Although Coleraine is his world, his literary universe has no boundaries.
David has devoured books ever since he could read. As a child he delved into "superhero comic books and classic adventure books, because like all young boys I liked adventure and fantasy. It was exciting to be transported to a different world. I often wished I was Jim in Treasure Island." His love of reading was inspired by his attentive and dedicated teachers in Killowen Primary School and Coleraine Boys Secondary School. So much so that he moved on to study English and the Classics at Magee Campus at the University of Ulster. A taste for all things artistic and a people-loving temperament have led him to develop over the years as a singer, an actor and an MC. Strongly grounded in his community, David has been singing in his local church's choir since he was 10, regularly performs with the Ballwillan Drama Group and MCs at charity events.
David's passion for reading has been growing within and outside of academia, and has never faded: David just made extra room for it when he entered political life in 1989 as Coleraine's new Borough Councillor: "I try to read as often as I can. My busy schedule means that reading is an indulgence. Getting lost in a good book is a great way to relax." David's election in May 2011 for a sixth term in office reflects a rare, natural connection with his constituents and an undeniable dedication to his work. Interestingly, and contrary to our previous readers, David separates literature from his political influences and choices. Instead, his "political career (has been) influenced by people. Whilst I enjoy reading books, people are much more interesting."
A proud Freeman of the City of London since 1994, David has had a very busy political career spanning over 20 years (and still going strong!), during which he served as chief whip at the Assembly, Deputy Speaker of the House, and has sat on various committees, including the Enterprise, Trade and Investment Committee, and more recently on the Committee for Social Development.
The book David has read and re-read is The 39 Steps by John Buchan, "because as an adult, I also like adventure. The 39 Steps is adventure, suspense and intrigue. The hero of the novel is Richard Hannay, a normal person like you and me, whose world is turned upside down by unexpected events. Set in the midst of the First World War, the book paints a delicious picture of Britain at the start of the twentieth century. I love how the story is typical of its time. It transports me back to a time that I can only dream of."
Scottish Author John Buchan's Thirty-Nine Steps is a classic man-on-the-run 'shocker' thriller in which hero Hannay, a Scottish expat returning home, embodies the ordinary man who forsakes his own safety for his country's. Stella Rimmington in the Telegraph reveals that The Thirty-Nine Steps was written "at breakneck speed in 1914, while [the author was] suffering from the stomach ulcer that would dog him for the rest of his life. He was staying in a nursing home by the seaside at Broadstairs in Kent and, according to his son, the title of the book came from a flight of wooden steps which led down to the beach from the grounds of the house."
The 'shocker' format "was a formula that readers of Buchan's contemporaries Edgar Wallace and E Phillips Oppenheim would have found familiar, even plausible. [Hero] Richard Hannay is, above all, a patriotic, public-spirited gentleman, and that fact is key to Buchan's purpose in writing the books and reflects his own social and political philosophy. (...)
"A moderate conservative in politics, a Presbyterian son of the manse and a good Scot, the fey side of [Buchan] really did believe that civilisation's wheels were coming off due to a clash of cultures, too many greedy men and large doses of human stupidity. (...) Against those nightmarish possibilities, Buchan champions the things he thinks best in British civilisation - education, gentlemanly and ladylike conduct, honesty, adventurous questing, a self-sacrificing spirit and plenty of fresh air, long walks and cold baths. (...) Like Hannay, Buchan was a skilled fisherman and hill climber, whose early career had been spent riding across the South African veldt in charge of agricultural policy and resettlement at the end of the Boer war. Later he served in military intelligence in France, and his account in Mr Standfast, the third of the Hannay novels, published in 1919, of the operations near Amiens was based on personal observation and is said to be extremely accurate. (...) The Thirty-Nine Steps is more like a series of exciting episodes strung end to end than a carefully plotted tale. (...) It doesn't matter that the reader has no clue where he is being taken or, when he gets there, how the thing happened as it did. All that matters is that once you've started, you can't put the book down."
David does not find it difficult to keep track of John Buchan's numerous novels as (contrary to me) he has fully embraced e-book technology. "My sons bought me a Kindle for Christmas last year and whilst I was sceptical at first, I am now very impressed by it. I can carry my collection of books in my back pocket. I can purchase and start reading a new book within seconds, without leaving the house and even at two in the morning if I so wish! If I leave my Kindle at home I can continue to read on the go with my iPhone. It is incredibly convenient."
This week, taking a break from Buchan, David has immersed himself in The Spire by Richard North Patterson. Patterson's "style of writing appeals to me. Patterson is a former lawyer. His previous career, interestingly, feeds into his novels giving a fascinating legal edge to his stories. He psychologically moulds his characters creating a captivating depth to his work. (...) It is fast moving and well written. It would be difficult not to finish it." Good Reads describes it as "both a razor-sharp thriller and a poignant love story, this twisting tale of psychological suspense is Patterson's most compelling novel in years" whilst Publishers Weekly confirms David's observation about an 'edgy' depth: "Thoughtful... Patterson evokes the quiet schism between town and gown... as well as the fragile relationship between blacks and whites, while [the novel's hero] Mark's probing hits exposed nerves with fatal results."
It's a bit of a mystery to me how David can sleep after his usual evening time fast-paced reading, unless a nice cup of cocoa helps reduce thriller-induced adrenaline levels!
For my heart to race and my eyes to fight Morpheus' call to the last second, I normally turn to a Rankin detective novel. Rebus is one of the most compelling characters whose investigations I've become immersed in since his first appearance in 1987 in Knots and Crosses until his Exit Music in 2007. I confess to not having read Standing in Another Man's Grave yet, when Rebus returns as a civilian. A recent Bookbag review has convinced me to run to the bookshop though: "The characters are superb and they stay in the mind long after you've finished the book. The locations are excellent. We're used to Edinburgh being an additional character in the Rebus novels but this time he ventures north from the city into the Highlands - you know - that area where pubs are few to the mile. It's the plot that's outstanding though - I really couldn't see where it was going. Superb."
What about you: what novel or author in general gets your heart racing?