If lockdown or self isolation or simply a nervousness of our circumstances at the moment is keeping you close to home, you are perhaps taking the opportunity to catch up on your reading. In fact, there might never be a better time for reading your own Lanzarote library of books set in or about Lanzarote and The Canary Islands. Come follow your art down the Sidetracks & Detours, round behind The Drago Tree, where novels and travel guides change shape and form.

Among the titles that fit that remit is PS, I Love You by best-selling writer Cecilia Ahearn that is comprehensivly reviewed on mappit at
https://www.mappit.net/bookmap/books/4962/ps-i-love-you/

This classic million-copy bestselling love story is described as ´meaningful, moving and magical,…
Everyone needs a guardian angel…

Some people wait their whole lives to find their soul mates. But not Holly and Gerry. Childhood sweethearts, they could finish each other’s sentences and even when they fought, they laughed. No one could imagine Holly and Gerry without each other.

Until the unthinkable happens. Gerry’s death devastates Holly. But as her 30th birthday looms, Gerry comes back to her. He’s left her a bundle of notes, one for each of the months after his death, gently guiding Holly into her new life without him, each note signed ‘PS, I Love You’.

As the notes are gradually opened, the man who knows Holly better than anyone sets out to teach her that life goes on. With some help from her friends, and her noisy and loving family, Holly finds herself laughing, crying, singing, dancing – and being braver than ever before.

Life is for living, she realises – but it always helps if there’s an angel watching over you.´

Dr. Who. Planet of Fire by Peter Grimwade, also set on Lanzarote, was first published as long ago as 1985 but copies can still be found for sale on line.

Also worth noting is David Penny, the author of the Thomas Berrington series of historical novels set in the last remnants of Moorish Spain. Published at an early age, David is the author of four science-fiction novels which appeared between 1975-79 published by Robert Hale. He has now returned to writing after a break of over 30 years and chosen to pursue an independent publishing route. To hear about new releases and special offers you can join his mailing list on his social media sites.

Born in London in 1950, David Penny began writing at a tender age after moving to Mid Wales. Initially obsessed with all things science-fiction he read avidly and wrote even more. His first publications came at the age of seventeen in small fanzines. At the age of twenty-three a short story was accepted by Galaxy magazine – his first payment for writing.  This was followed by appearances in the UK magazine Vertex. At the age of 24 his first novel, The Sunset People, was accepted for publication by Robert Hale and David was taken on by the Leslie Flood Literary Agency.

Three other science fiction novels followed: Starchant, Out of Time and Sunshine 43. David enjoyed a dissipated and wasteful (but not wasted) youth, doing little other than writing, growing his hair (a pursuit sadly no longer available to him) and following an alternative lifestyle. In his mid to late twenties real life intruded into this blissful state of affairs and in order not to starve he sought paid employment. After a number of jobs -including melting old lead type in a print works and store-man in a frozen food warehouse where he worked for eight hours a day in minus 10 degrees – David became a science laboratory technician at Welshpool High School. It was here he met his wife Megan.

Unfortunately, with real life and the need to study for an Open University degree (his initial academic studies having been hijacked by illicit substances and abject laziness) writing was placed aside. However, the urge to create fiction remained and later in life he has now started writing again.

David is now retired from his position as Managing Director of Pillar Software Ltd, which develops, markets and supplies timesheet systems for both the public and private sector. It was the kind of job that makes being an Accountant sound exciting.

David lives just outside the small village of Dymock, close to the Gloucestershire, Herefordshire border, and spends part of the year in a property in Spain to the east of Malaga in the beautiful Axarquia region of Spain, where he is able to conduct more on the ground research than is probably good for both him and his readers. He enjoys fly fishing, sailing and walking, as well as continuing to read over a wide and catholic range of both fiction and non-fiction. He is currently working on the Thomas Berrington series of historical mysteries set in Moorish Spain between 1482-92.

Social media comments from readers show he has a supportive fan based. Posts I have seen include the following;

Ever since I started reading the Thomas Berrington books, I was hooked. David Penny is excellent on providing detail about a location that I’m not familiar with and didn’t think I would ever want to read about a novel in this setting. I feel I am right there with the characters that he paints so clearly and I care about them as well. I just can’t put the books down and am amazed that he can write a novel so well in a short amount of time. Saying that, I have to close my impatient mind while waiting for the next book.´

and another that read

´Love the Thomas Berrington series. If the first 8 books, I found #7 least favorite but very much liked the series & will continue to read them. Before there was law & order, csi or ncis, there was long ago, a physician with a curious mind named Thomas Berrington. We are so glad to have found this series. Look forward to reading more about their lives & adventures.´

David Penny also co-hosts regular podcasts based on the subject of how to be a travel writer, though the broadcasts actually cover a lot more ground than that. I caught one podcast, lasting twenty minutes or so and heard the hosts talk about the basics of Facebook Advertising for travel writers with books to sell.

The programme fully explored what kind of business mind-set a travel writer (or any writer in any genre) needs to have to be able to build his brand. This covered cost-effective marketing techniques independent freelance travel writers could consider, such as utilising simple video ads instead of image ads. They also looked at mistakes or oversight that sometimes see authors fail at Facebook Marketing. The co-hosts further advised on the need to keep Facebook ads simple with a single message. and offered tips on how to reach an identified target audience. The podcast clearly illustrated the business mind-set required to become a travel writer, or even to be a successful author of historical novels set in foreign climes distant from the author´s core readership.

This flip, by the way, from novelist to travel writer can sometimes be achieved without any work at all from the author. The Drago Tree was a novel by the now Australian- based author, Isobel Blackthorn, who once lived on Lanzarote. The plot was based on the perception of corruption in the local politics of the island but when, after selling well, whilst promoted as a novel, its sales began to wane the publishers looked again and decided Isobel´s location were so vividly drawn and clearly identifiable, they re-launched the book as a Lanzarote travel-guide. Sales were re-invigorated and the titled enjoyed a second-wave, and even longer, shelf life.
There are, of course, other writers ploughing the same fields as David Penny.

When answering the question of what is appropriate reading material during a global pandemic, some people immediately simply supply the name of author Michel Houellebecq ! In his gloomy novella, Lanzarote, he demonstrates that the joys of tourism are overrated anyway.

His anonymous, forty-ish protagonist travels to the title-giving island to spend his holidays. (having obviously not read my earlier post to Sidetracks & Detours about Adventure Holidays Lanzarote) He partakes in some stale touristy actvities (capitalism! fake fun!), hangs out with a depressed policeman from Brussels who has been dumped by his Moroccan wife (crime! the European capital! loss of traditional values! spiritual emptiness! Islam!), encounters members of a cult obsessed with human optimization (alienation! dehumanisation!) and has sex with two queer women from Germany (sex! transgression! sex! sex! sex!) – this narrative of disillusionment is classic Houellebecq. All of this is set in front of Lanzarote’s volcanic landscape (you get the implication, boiling under the surface etc.).

Realising that his New Year is probably going to be a disaster, as usual, our narrator, on impulse, walks into a travel agency to book a week in the sun. Sensitive to his limited means and dislike of Muslim countries, the travel agent suggests an island full of 21st century hedonism, set in a bizarre lunar landscape – Lanzarote.

On Lanzarote, one can meet some fascinating human specimens, notably Pam and Barbara – ‘non-exclusive’ German lesbians – who can give rise to some interesting combinations. Will they succeed in seducing Rudi, the police inspector from Luxembourg, currently living in exile in Brussels? Or will he join the ‘Azraelian’ sect, as they prepare for humanity to be regenerated by extra-terrestrials? As for our narrator, will he consider his week’s holiday on the island a success?

There is also Stairlift To Heaven 3, the latest in a trilogy by Terry Ravenscroft. In the latest volume of the series, Razza, his wife The Trouble, and his best friend Atkins are at it once more, growing older and even more disgracefully than ever. (Well Razza and Atkins are.) Learn, amongst other things, how to deal with pests who leap out from the roadside and start cleaning your car windscreen, how to organise a session of pole dancing in your garage, how to cope if you have problems with your prostate gland (outside), and how to be the rudest of rude shop assistants. There are lessons in man management, tips on obituaries (writing one and getting yours in the Daily Telegraph), how to deal with Neighbours From Hell (method 2), how to deal with Jehovah’s Witnesses should they persist in knocking on your door, and, fortunately, how to survive hospital after-care having undergone heart bypass surgery.

An Amazon reader review opines that ´most television writers talented enough to be employed confine their efforts to cranking out scripts because it pays much better than freelance writing. Such was the case with this author until he turned sixty-five and was turned out to pasture (or put out to stud, as he would probably prefer me to say.) At that time, he started a series of books about his life as a ´coffin-dodger.´ This is the third and a cause for rejoicing for die-hard Ravenscroft fans. I pre-ordered it and attempted to get myself into the proper frame of mind by re-reading the first two. That was a mistake since my sides were already sore when this one showed up on my Kindle. I’ll know better next time.´

Novels employing Lazarote as a location will soon include the intriguingly titled The Wind Off The Small Isles by Mary Stewart, due for publication later this year.

There are, of course factually informative books about Lanzarote, and The Canary Islands including Lanzarote Directions by Emma Gregg, Lanzarote (Islands S) by Brian Dicks and Lanzarote by John Goulding

Emma Gregg´s book is under the rough guide umbrella and ´covers glorious beaches, world-class windsurfing spots and the famous volcanoes. This guide contains accommodation and eating recommendations that cover the main resorts and inland villages, revealing plenty of hidden gems, such as tucked-away gourmet restaurants, beautiful coastal villas and charmingly rustic hotels.´

One of my own favourite books on the subject of Lanzarote offers a more historically accurate and informative view of Lanzarote and its connections to The British Isles. Winston Churchill, Francis Drake, Horatio Nelson, William Shakespeare, Agatha Christie and The Beatles might not seem to have anything in common other than their fame. However, The British Connection To Lanzarote And The Canaries, by Larry Yaskiel, suggests these names are linked in ways we might not have imagined.

Larry himself is always keen to pay his respects to those who have made a difference and a name he mentioned several times this evening was that of Olivia Stone who was the first writer, male or female, to suggest in print that Lanzarote would one day enjoy being a tourist destination. I should stop here, though, before I start talking of The Beatles and Agatha Christie and Racquel Welch and their links to The Canary Islands. To do so might reduce your enjoyment of what is a fascinating read, of aged history and forgotten facts.

“The British Connection to Lanzarote and the Canaries / La conexión británica con Lanzarote y Canarias” is written by Larry Yaskiel and published by Ediciones Remotas, with the support of Yaiza´s Town Hall.

This may be an unwieldy title but in the English-language words of the famous Ronseal advert on British tv, ´it does exactly what it says on the tin !´

You can now introduce a new companion to place beside Larry´s work on your bookshelf.

Lanzarote antes Del tourismo, pre tourism, is the strap line of 100 Years Of Photography In Lanzarote, 1850 To 1950, written by author and historian Mario Ferrer. The book paints a portrait of Lanzarote over a hundred year period, in the first of what is set to be a series of books about The Canary Islands.

By the way, remember that if you are looking for a wonderful present for children or grandchildren who may be visiting soon, there is a new publication available called Cesar Manriqué Pop Up Book. This is a bi lingual Spanish English book, both written and illustrated by Mayte Pozo, and including exquisite pop up features that are in themselves a work of art, and illustrate perfectly Manrique´s wide imaginings and how he brought them to reality in the form of windmills and architecture.