Wednesday, 26 November 2014

Sekabo – Utopia on t’Moors?

Sally Bavage writes:
Photo courtesy Shanghai Daily
Richard Woolley was founding Head of the Northern School of Film and Television at Leeds Metropolitan University (now Leeds Beckett University) as well as founding Dean of Film and TV at the Hong Kong Academy of Performing Arts, all part of an illustrious CV. You could describe him as a musician and composer.  Or filmmaker.  Or scriptwriter.  Morphing into a serious novelist.  

Speaking at a LitFest 'Between the Lines' event in the intimate surroundings of the Heart centre's café yesterday evening, he told his audience that he was first set thinking about the premise for this novel after watching Chris Patten in tears on the eve of the handover of Hong Kong, a place where the British tried out political, social and economic experiments which disturbed the watching Chinese.  And still disturb the present Hong Kong youth.

This imaginative teller of tales has written his third novel, Sekabo, strongly influenced by close to two decades living in Leeds and a decade living in Hong Kong.  It has two time frames – 1990 and 2097 – and two key locations – England and Sekabo.  It has two parallel plots that gradually interweave in sometimes expected, sometimes surprising ways, leaving you uncertain as to your powers of prediction.  Plots and sub-plots abound in a tale that is as much about entertaining contexts as it is about the fates of our heroine and hero.

Cover graphics designed by Daniel Reeve
The book is a lively “mix of research, imagination and personal experience”, clearly written by a writer employing strong visual imagery; it intercuts the plotting to maintain the suspense with the immersion in another timeframe.  Vonnegut undertones and many subliminal sci-fi references fuse into a book that really is Something Else. 

Be prepared to be surprised, drawn in, perhaps slightly shocked - there are a few raunchy episodes.  Most of all, enjoy the many references to local places around the North Yorkshire Moors.  You have probably walked there.  Prescient comparisons - political, social and technical - are referenced more obliquely but give many pauses for wry thought.  Utopia on t’Moors? 

And the denouement?  Ah, you’ll have to buy the book - or download it to an early prototype reading device that by 2097 will be viewed as a museum piece. 

Read this piece in The Shanghai Daily:

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