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I’m singing along to myself: ‘books are lovely, books are wonderful’ because I have an Amazon parcel due to arrive today. There will be two books inside: the latest Jenny Crusie novel, Agnes and the Hitman, which she co-wrote with Bob Mayer, plus an Ariana Franklin novel, The Mistress of the Art of Death.

Jenny and Bob have already written one novel together, Don’t Look Down, which was pretty good, but Agnes and the Hitman is an absolute cracker. I haven’t read it yet, but I have read the outtakes which are on the website, and they are fab. My favourite character so far: Detective Simon Xavier. Jenny’s also in the process of collaborating with two other writers on another book, Dogs and Goddesses (and if you go to that website you’ll see more cracking scenes) as well as writing a solo novel Always Kiss Me Goodnight. So, lots to look forward to, all Jenny needs now is a UK publisher so she’ll come visit.

I’ve only this week found out that Ariana Franklin is a pseudonym for Diana Norman, who has to be the best historical novelist going but doesn’t have a web presence. I can highly recommend  The Vizard Mask which I reread, either fully or partially, several times a year.

I am extremely torn – which book do I read first? Off to the shops to buy crisps, dip and chocolate to accompany my reading marathon.


Oh come on, Jenny, come to Dewsbury, do. Get on that plane and fly from Ohio. I want to take you to Dewsbury Market ( and buy you warm pork pies from Elliot’s Butchers, then walk you past Toffee Smith’s so you can smell the sugar from the thousand and one bags of boiled sweets. Wednesday and Saturday are full on market days, so over 300 stalls to inspect then, and if you like we can go back on Friday, when the secondhand market runs, so we can buy bric-a-brac galore and search for your out of print titles on the bookstalls.

You like a bit of bling and fabric, so you’ll love the Asian dress shops, and the glittery shoes at Unze, and while we’re up that end of town we can call at the Indian kiosk, at the bottom of the Kingsway arcade, which always has the heavenly smell of onion bhajis and samosas wafting forth. Yes, I know you want to see the Poison Garden at Alnwick Castle (,3604,1185676,00.html) and we will drive up to Northumberland to see it but mainly I want to show you Dewsbury.

It’s an old textile town – also known in the past as a shoddy town – so not glamorous, but we have a nice Victorian town hall and a few of the old mills have been preserved ( There is plenty of history round and about – the parish church is very old and is built on the site where St Paulinus is reputed to have preached when he came to convert the north early in the 7th century, and there is also an old and very lovely church up the road in Thornhill, where a Civil War battle took place. We can see the ponies (I’m campaigning for Doris’ foal to be called Jenny, if we get a filly), go for lots of walks, and buy ice cream from Charlotte’s ice cream parlour.

But mainly I want to show you the market and the pork pies.

You may laugh, but it’s a valid question. Especially when you have a generous bosom, and you’ve had three children so exposing your midriff isn’t an option.

For the last few years I’ve worn tankini tops with a ‘secret support’ shelf, but no matter how much I push them down to my nipples I always end up with a white, untanned strip between my boobs. I thought about going topless but my children refused to allow it, no matter how much I offered to sunbathe behind the windbreak. So this year I splashed out at Bravissimo (THE website for the larger busted woman – and bought a Panache plunge front, boned cup tankini top . Lo and behold, I have a tanned cleavage.

The downside to this is that I can’t manage plunge fronts very well. Maybe my boobs are the wrong shape? I seem to spend half my life looking down to see more boob hanging out of the cup than in. Are you supposed to buy a bigger size in a plunge bra? The consequences for the tankini were that every time I caught a good wave on the body board, I had to discreetly wriggle my chest back into place, while my sons looked pointedly in another direction. Hopefully they’ll make very understanding husbands for generously chested women some day.