Tuesday 17 September 2013

Read in 2013 - 35: What's Tha Up To Nah?

For the sequel to "What's Tha Up To", once again Martyn Johnson has put together many snippets from his life on the beat in the 1960s in Sheffield, interspersed with his thoughts about how things have changed since then for the police and the people they are supposed to be looking out for (and not always for the better).

For some reason I can not quite put my finger on, I enjoyed the second book a bit less than the first one. Maybe I should have left more time between them, or maybe I simply wasn't in the right mood. Still, if the author decides to have a third book published, I am quite sure I will buy and read it as well.

In the previous book, we accompany Martyn Johsnon on his first day as a 19-year-old bobby on the beat, and from then on, the reader is lead through many events that have taken place over the years, not always in chronological order. Some of the characters we were introduced to in the first book make an appearance in the second one, and more than once, the author refers to something that he wrote about in the first book, but you can still read them independently from each other without getting confused.
Not really confusing, either, but maybe slightly annoying to an impatient reader is how Mr. Johnson often digresses. He starts a chapter saying that this and that reminded him of some event or other, but it takes him several pages to get to the point of what he was reminded of.
His writing is as if you were listening to an elderly friend or relative, whose narration is not meant as much to impart facts, but more about reminiscing and then adding their comment about how different things are today. This is charming, but can be slightly overdone.

The author never pretends to be a "proper writer", he does not have much in terms of formal education (left school at the age of 15), and you won't find elegant descriptions and fancy words in his books. Instead, you will find sentences like this one:
I love history, although I hated it at school and as a metal detectorist of many years I would love to find the battle site.
Everything in this book has really happened; some of the stories told are funny, others tragic and very sad, but even with the most gruesome things happening on his beat, this bobby tries to bring forth the good in people, and rules are never there for their own sake, but can be adapted to make life a tiny bit better for the less fortunate.

As I said, I did enjoy this book, just not as much as the first one. But that is not necessarily Martyn Johnson's fault.


  1. I'm glad you read this second book by the same author. Sometimes, I find a "follow-up" kind of book is never quite as good as the first. It reminds me of two books that I read over and over as a teenager, "Karen" and "With Love From Karen". I really do need to write a post about those books. (Written by Marie Killilea, I found out recently that her father was a journalist, and books by journalists are usually my kind of books!!)
    Also, it seems that a good editor could have helped with some of the sentence structure, don't you think? I am glad that you have reviewed these non-fiction books, they have always been my first love in books!!

    1. Most other comments on both the author's website and on Amazon say that they love the writing style. And most of the time, it is charmingly simple; I guess the editor left it that way deliberately so that the book would be authentic, just like the author wrote it, and how he would tell his stories to his mates. But you are right, a few of the sentences could have done with a bit of editing ;-)

  2. I'm not going to get away without buying these am I?

    1. Up to you, of course, but I'd like to know your opinion about them if you do get them - and get round to read them!