James Ward's "Other Books"

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Before the author of Tales of MI7 started to write espionage fiction, he wrote books in other genres. What are they called, and what are they about? (If any title takes your fancy, you can click on the cover and buy it at your preferred online bookstore.)

The Weird Problem of Good is a novel that won a gold star on the Harpercollins website (now defunct), Authonomy, and was also longlisted in 2010 for the Harry Bowling Prize. It is a romantic comedy about an arranged marriage between two Hindus: Prem Sharma, a deeply moral, clinically obese priest's son, and Nasreen Sanim, a beautiful but spoilt dreamer; and what happens when she dumps him at the proverbial altar, and a Czech gypsy woman comes out of nowhere and into both their lives. It is about how love and friendship can triumph even in the unlikeliest of situations. Yes, there is evil in the world, and decent people sometimes make stupid choices, but with enough determination and goodwill, things can nearly always be turned around. It is set in and around Middlesbrough, the author's birthplace.

  

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The House of Charles Swinter is the most ambitious and sweeping of J. J. Ward's original novels, and is his first serious attempt to write a 'state of nation' novel, on the 19th century model, for today. It went through three re-writes before finally taking its present shape in 2005. It deals with old age, as we experience it in the West, and the exploitative aspects of globalisation, and sees the two as subtly linked. It is by turns a ghost story, a detective novel and a thriller - although, more than all of these, it is a romance. It is based partly on actual events at the time, principally the Asian Tsunami of 2004. It begins when eighty year-old Charles Swinter goes to Thailand seeking a bride. And the destruction he wreaks as a result. Luckily, love wins out. It takes 160,000 words to do so, but the outcomes are so good, it is worth it.

The Bright Fish is a supernatural novel about two young people who have won a trip on a luxury cruise, and find themselves in odd company. As the novel moves forward, the 'oddness' becomes more pronounced, until they realise that they are not quite where they thought they were. More, that some of their fellow passengers are undergoing horrifying transformations. This is not a gruesome novel, nor is it meant to scare anyone. Rather it uses the disorientation (probably) involved in entering a subtly alternative universe to address deep questions about who we all are and what, if anything, we are doing on Planet Earth at all. And why there is anything rather than nothing.  

An Evening at the Beach is a collection of 27 short stories in different genres. One - ' 'London Virgin' - won the Republic of Ireland Writer's Club prize in 2009. Another, 'The Bacchae' was highly commended by Aesthetica magazine in 2010. 'In Munro House' won the Dark Tales competition, and was subsequently published in that magazine's collection. Of all the stories in this book, however, the author's favourite is probably 'The Utter Tat Milk Jug'. Which never won anything!

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21st Century Philosophy uses selected popular texts as a window through which to examine contemporary social and cultural issues. J. J. Ward has a master’s degree and a DPhil, both in Philosophy from Sussex University. His doctoral thesis was examined in viva and passed unconditionally by David McLellan, Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Kent and author of many standard texts about Marx in English. In 1998, he won joint first prize (along with Martha Nussbaum and Lars Gårding) in a philosophical dialogues competition organised by the Humanities Research Centre at Oxford University and the Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm. Its subject was Søren Kierkegaard. The dialogue was performed at the Royal Dramatic Theatre, Stockholm, in front of an invited audience, and subsequently published in Comparative Criticism vol. 20 (Cambridge University Press, 1998).

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A New Theory of Justice and Other Essays consists of four articles, each of which attempts to break new ground in philosophy. Altogether, it runs to just over 40,000 words – just over half the length of an average novel. More details can be found on Amazon. Click on the cover if you are interested.

The Latest Noel and Metals of the Future are two volumes of poetry. All poems are different, and, as rule, there is not much to be said about collections. And even among professional writers, poetry is a minority interest. However, it is probably more durable than novel-writing; it likely takes more skill, and it probably says important things that philosophy can't. Which is not to say that any of the poems in either of these books is any good. In the author's defence, they weren't written for a profit!

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