Flat Broke with Two Goats by Jennifer McGaha #BookReview #Memoir

flatbrokeTitle: Flat Broke with Two Goats
Author: Jennifer McGaha
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 368 pages
Publication Details: January 23rd 2018 by Sourcebooks
Genre(s): Memoir
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

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A charming memoir of one woman’s unexpected journey from country chic to backwoods barnyard

Just as the Great Recession was easing in some parts of the country, Jennifer McGaha experienced an economic crisis of epic proportions. Her home was in foreclosure; she had $4.57 in the bank; and worst of all, she had recently discovered that she and her accountant husband owed four years of back taxes to the state of North Carolina and the IRS. And then things got really bad…

Flat Broke with Two Goats takes readers on a wild adventure from a Cape Cod-style home in the country to a hundred-year-old, mice-infested, snake-ridden cabin in a North Carolina holler. With self-effacing humor and unflinching honesty, Jennifer chronicles the joys and difficulties of living close to nature, and in the process she comes to discover the true meaning of home.

Review

This book was not at all what I was expecting and I think that hindered my enjoyment of it. I had read the synopsis but for some reason I had it in my mind that it would be more about becoming self-sufficient in the wilderness than about a family’s fall from grace.

I don’t read that many memoirs (but I’m trying to branch out more this year), and I feel quite awkward about reviewing this one truthfully because it seems akin to slagging off someone’s life and actions. It’s much easier to slag off a made up story.

So, I really hope I don’t cause any offence with my opinion, but this book made me quite angry! I found Jennifer infuriating. How could she be so clueless about her family’s finances? I understand that her husband was an accountant so she left the money side to him, but when she listed all the ‘signs’ that they were in difficulties, the list didn’t read as signs so much as glaringly obvious incidents (such as their power and water being frequently turned off and having bailiffs at the door on more than one occasion). I mean really?

There were lots of other things I didn’t understand too. Such as how a family whose main breadwinner was on ‘six figures a year’ can get into such a terrible financial situation. The decision he made to stop paying taxes (without telling his wife, I should add), but to carry on paying for a very expensive private school for their children. I was also confused as to why they thought it was OK to break into their old house to collect their things, instead of calling the police…

Jennifer details how the house was legally still theirs during the foreclosure but that the owners, previously thought of as life-long friends, had boxed up all their belongings, stored them in the garage, and changed all the locks. The options as Jennifer believes were 1. to contact their now ex-friends 2. contact the police or 3. break in. And they broke in. Why? It was at points like this in the story in which I lost all faith in the narrator. I realise you don’t know how you would react in any given situation until it happens to you, but I simply could not fathom Jennifer’s behaviour and attitude.

The main thing that annoyed me however, was that Jennifer was never able to look on the bright side. They are offered a run-down cabin to rent for peanuts. Sure, it needs a LOT of work, but it comes with land, and is in a beautiful location surrounded by waterfalls; so beautiful that tourists travel there from all around the world. No matter how run-down the cabin is, you’d think just a little part of them would be thrilled to be in such a beautiful place, I know I would. I couldn’t help thinking that they didn’t deserve it.

I did appreciate Jennifer’s ability to keep calm and carry on though, and I guess I was a little inspired by that, and the fact that she stuck with her husband despite all of his misdemeanors, but essentially this wasn’t the book I wanted to read.

The one thing I couldn’t fault about Flat Broke however, was the writing. It was written so well I wanted to keep reading even though I wasn’t enjoying the story, and that is as high a praise I can muster I’m afraid.

unicorn rating 2

 

 

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Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention by Mindy Hardwick #BookReview #NonFiction

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Title: Kids in Orange: Voices from Juvenile Detention
Author: Mindy Hardwick
Series: n/a
Format: Kindle Edition, 220 pages
Publication Details: February 23rd 2017 by Eagle Bay Press
Genre(s): Non-Fiction; Crime; Writing
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review.

Goodreads 

Purchase

The gang leader doesn’t like poetry, but will a detention center workshop show her how to express love for her newborn daughter? A teen boy dies of a drug overdose. Will his final poem speak what he cannot say? 

In the middle of a career change from teacher to writer, Mindy Hardwick volunteered to facilitate a weekly poetry workshop at a juvenile detention center. By helping the teens write poetry about their lives, Mindy discovered strength and courage to grieve the loss of her father, find forgiveness and release the past. 

A portion of the proceeds from the sale of the book will be used as a grant for writers to work with teens at Denney Juvenile Justice Center. The youth’s poetry anthologies can be downloaded at: http://www.denneypoetry.org 


Review

 

I’m sure this book won’t appeal to everybody, but I enjoyed it. It’s part memoir, part poetry, and part inspiration.

Teacher Mindy Hardwick runs poetry workshops in an American juvenile detention centre. She is met by an interesting group of teenagers with various pasts, crimes, and issues. Most of the group appear uninterested in the workshop, greet it with trepidation, or sometimes even with defiance.

As Mindy tries to get a handle on the group, and encourage them to participate she reflects on her own past and struggles.

I don’t know what I was expecting from this book, but I just knew that it would be an interesting comparison to what I do at work. I work in two prisons as a library assistant and run creative writing groups in both of them. A lot of what Mindy described rang so true. The bizarre nature of the workplace, but how it quickly becomes the norm. Having people in your group that don’t want to be there despite having signed up, and how nothing ever goes to plan!

I enjoyed reading about the dynamic of Mindy’s group, and how it changed over time. It was also nice to see the work that they produced. The part of the book I wasn’t expecting, and also wasn’t overly keen on was Mindy’s segues into her past. Some of it was enjoyable as it gave an insight into what has shaped her as a person, but I felt like it was too much at times.

Overall, I’m pleased I discovered this book, and it certainly gave me lots to think about.

unicorn rating 3

Out Today! 13 Steps to Evil by Sacha Black #AmWriting #PublicationDaySale

 

Today I’m spotlighting and reviewing the lovely Sacha Black’s debut non-fiction book – a masterclass in writing villains – for all you writers out there.

About the Book

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Title: 13 Steps To Evil- How To Craft Superbad Villains
Where is it published: Amazon, Kobo, Nook, iBooks, Tolino, Barnes and Noble, inktera
No of Pages: 222
Release Date: 30th May
Formats: Paperback and eBook
Purchase: All good retailers! Universal book link.
Publication day sale: You can snap up the e-book for just £1.99 today! Limited time only!

Your hero is not the most important character in your book. Your villain is.

Are you fed up of drowning in two-dimensional villains? Frustrated with creating clichés? And failing to get your reader to root for your villain?

  In 13 Steps to Evil, you’ll discover: 

  • How to develop a villain’s mindset

  • A step-by-step guide to creating your villain from the ground up

  • Why getting to the core of a villain’s personality is essential to make them credible

  • What pitfalls and clichés to avoid as well as the tropes your story needs

Finally, there is a comprehensive writing guide to help you create superbad villains. Whether you’re just starting out or are a seasoned writer, this book will help power up your bad guy and give them that extra edge.

These lessons will help you master and control your villainous minions, navigate and gain the perfect balance of good and evil, as well as strengthening your villain to give your story the tension and punch it needs.

 If you like dark humour, learning through examples and want to create the best villains you can, then you’ll love Sacha Black’s guide to crafting superbad villains. Read 13 Steps to Evil today and start creating kick-ass villains.

Meet the Author

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Sacha Black has five obsessions; words, expensive shoes, conspiracy theories, self-improvement, and breaking the rules. She also has the mind of a perpetual sixteen-year-old, only with slightly less drama and slightly more bills.

Sacha writes books about people with magical powers and other books about the art of writing. She lives in Hertfordshire, England, with her wife and genius, giant of a son.

When she’s not writing, she can be found laughing inappropriately loud, blogging, sniffing musty old books, fangirling film and TV soundtracks, or thinking up new ways to break the rules.

Contact Information

Non-fiction Website: www.sachablack.co.uk

Fiction Website: www.sachablackbooks.com

Social Media

Twitter: @sacha_Black

Facebook: Sacha Black author page

Pinterest: Pinterest profile

Instagram: Sacha Black profile

Goodreads non-fiction: Sacha Black profile

Goodreads fiction: Sacha de Black profile

Tumblr: Sacha Black profile

Google+: Sacha black profile

Linkedin: Linkedin Profile

Amazon Author Page

Excerpt

Why Writers Fudge Up Their Villains

Villains are like newborn infants. So much glorious potential. Until we writers get our grubby mitts on them and balls it up. With the careless flick of a pen, we can turn a finely sculpted baby villain into a cringe-worthy cliché because we didn’t make him bad enough, or we create something so heinously evil it’s unrealistic.

A villain might be a plot device, but he still needs a purpose and a goal, or he’s unworthy as an opponent for your hero (See STEP 3 for motives and goals).

While researching this book, writers told me all kinds of problems they encountered while creating their villains. From getting the dialogue right and avoiding clichés, to knowing how evil to make a villain, to how to reveal her motives without using blatant exposition.

Behind all these issues lie two basic barriers that are the Achilles in every writer’s villainous heel:

1. Depending on the point of view (POV) the book’s written in, the villain is usually seen through the eyes of your hero.

A solitary POV gives you a page-limited amount of time to show your villain’s best, most authentic and devilishly evil side. Page-limited to the point it makes it eye-wateringly difficult to convey her backstory effectively without information dumping. You have to be better, clearer, more tactical and more concise with your words to create superbad villains.

2. Writers are hero worshippers.

We love our heroes and protagonists more than our spouses. And as a result, we spend shameful amounts of time honing our protagonist’s muscular heroics into shape. But that relegates our villain (the plot-driving conflict-creator) to the corner of our book, complete with a nobody-loves-you-anyway hat. In other words, writers don’t pay enough attention to their villain.

Review

I’ve been following Sacha’s blog for a while now and love the energy, humour and passion that she puts into helping writers hone their craft. In 13 Steps to Evil, Sacha has put together everything she has learnt about writing and focused on how to create superbad villains – something she believes is often overlooked.

I thought this book was brilliant. Even if like me, you’re not currently writing anything and therefore not using it directly as a writing tool, it’s still a great read and one that you can apply to any kind of writing. It’s full of tips, examples, and in-depth exploration of writing bad guys (and girls).

“It will teach you to craft villains so brilliantly twisted they’ll make your readers throw themselves like sacrificial lambs between the pages of your book.”

I was especially impressed by the way the book structured with each chapter acting as a different step, exploring a different facet of writing a convincing and complex villain, and each point is backed up with an example from a well-known book or movie. I thought this was a great idea – it made it really easy to picture exactly what Sacha was explaining, and each example was totally spot on.

The end of each chapter also has a bullet-pointed summary and finishes with questions to ask yourself as you work through your own manuscript. But the best part of this book, is definitely Sacha’s wit and wisdom. Her personality (and potty mouth – which I love, obviously) really shines through, making it an enjoyable read and not something to trawl through like a lot of writing books.

“Motives are story mechanics, pillars of structural necessity. Without them, you’re fuckled, sideways…With a giant piranha covered pogo stick.”

It’s also clear that Sacha did a lot of research for this book, and I felt like I was in good hands the whole way through! If you’re struggling to create an evil character, or even if you’re just interested in the writing process, I think this book will help and entertain.

Many thanks to Sacha for providing me with a copy of the book and letting me join in the publication day partayyy! Let’s dance!

 

 

 

This Week in Books 08.03.17 #TWIB #CurrentlyReading

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Welcome to This Week in Books, where we share what we’ve been up to in bookland this week and look ahead to next. 

Bit later than I usually post but I made it!  Here’s what my week has looked like:

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Now: The Invisible Hand ~ James Hartley // Girl in Disguise ~ Greer Macallister // The Time Machine ~ H.G Wells

I’ve only just started The Invisible Hand but it’s been a good first impression. I’m just over half-way through Girl in Disguise with is released on the 21st of this month. I’m really enjoying it. I’m also stiiiiiiiiiiill going on The Time Machine at lunch-times.

Then:   All the Good Things ~ Clare Sita Fisher // The Mercy of the Tide ~ Keith Rosson

I really enjoyed All the Good Things which is an emotional read about one woman’s road to prison and coming to terms with what she did. I’ll be reviewing it soon. It’s not out until June. I unfortunately had to DNF Mercy of the Tide. It was really intriguing, and didn’t start off badly, but I just really wasn’t in the mood for it for some reason.

Next: ??? 

Definitely something from my physical TBR shelf. Maybe Six of Crows, The Chemist, or King’s Cage depending on what mood i’m in after my current reads.

New on the Shelves

 

From Netgalley:

kidsinorangeThe gang leader doesn’t like poetry, but will a detention center workshop show her how to express love for her newborn daughter?  A teen boy dies of a drug overdose. Will his final poem speak what he cannot say?  

I’m Waiting on…

I’ve already been approved for this which I’m delighted about. Love the idea of The Little Mermaid in graphic novel form. 

littlemermaidThe Little Mermaid is Hans Christian Andersen’s most celebrated tale and is beautifully adapted here as a graphic novel by the Eisner award nominated duo Metaphrog (Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers), winners of the Sunday Herald Scottish Culture Awards Best Visual Artist 2016, and authors of the acclaimed The Red Shoes and Other Tales.

The Little Mermaid lives deep under the ocean and longs to see the world above. When at last she is allowed to rise to the surface at age fifteen, she falls in love with a young prince. In order to become a human and to be with him, she makes a dangerous pact with the Sea Witch.

Expected Publication: 4th April by Papercutz

 

So that’s my week in books, now why don’t you tell me about yours!?

Leave your answers or the link to your post in the comments and I’ll take a look 🙂

A Mother’s Reckoning by Sue Klebold #BookReview #Memoir

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amothers

 

Title: A Mother’s Reckoning
Author: Sue Klebold
Series: N/A
Format: Digital ARC, 296 pages
Publication Details: February 9th 2017 (reissue) by Ebury Publishing
Genre(s): Biography/ Memoir; True Crime
Disclosure? Yep! I received a free copy in exchange for an HONEST review. 

Goodreads 

bookdepo

 

On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold walked into Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado. Over the course of minutes, they would kill twelve students and a teacher and wound twenty-four others before taking their own lives.


For the last sixteen years, Sue Klebold, Dylan s mother, has lived with the indescribable grief and shame of that day. How could her child, the promising young man she had loved and raised, be responsible for such horror? And how, as his mother, had she not known something was wrong? Were there subtle signs she had missed? What, if anything, could she have done differently?


These are questions that Klebold has grappled with every day since the Columbine tragedy. In”A Mother s Reckoning,” she chronicles with unflinching honesty her journey as a mother trying to come to terms with the incomprehensible. In the hope that the insights and understanding she has gained may help other families recognize when a child is in distress, she tells her story in full, drawing upon her personal journals, the videos and writings that Dylan left behind, and on countless interviews with mental health experts.


Filled with hard-won wisdom and compassion, “A Mother s Reckoning”is a powerful and haunting book that sheds light on one of the most pressing issues of our time. And with fresh wounds from the recent Newtown and Charleston shootings, never has the need for understanding been more urgent.


“All author profits from the book will be donated to research and to charitable organizations focusing on mental health issues.”

 

Review

I was interested in this book because I remember when I first heard about the Columbine shooting – the first of many tragic school shootings to come (in America), in 1999.

I was of similar age as the shooters and in my penultimate year of high school. I was going through my goth phase (Goths 4eva IDST – LOL!) and was big fan of Marilyn Manson at the time. The media was singling the band out as the reason for the shootings. Because we all know how damaging rock music is to impressionable teens don’t we!? Sigh.

Even back then I knew that was a load of bull, however the media spotlight was infuriating but also seen as some sort of badge of honour. Of course that sounds ridiculous and callous now but being full of teenage angst – it was “cool” to be a Marilyn Manson fan for a while because of that.

This book is the account of Dylan(one of the shooters)’s mother Sue. It’s a really interesting look at parenthood, adolescence, mental illness and tragedy but I can’t say I enjoyed it.

The first 20% of A Mother’s Reckoning seems to solely aim at frantically proving how normal the Klebold family were; what such good, normal parents Sue and her husband Tom were and how they couldn’t possibly understand how their nice, normal son could have killed so many people. The idea of normal really annoyed me throughout this part of the book – Sue of all people should understand that there’s no such thing as normal.

The disquieting reality is that behind this heinous atrocity was an easygoing, shy, likeable young man who came from a ‘good home’. Tom and I were hands-on parents who limited the intake of television and sugary cereals.

This was made even more frustrating by the next 20% of the book where Sue goes from describing Dylan’s perfect childhood and the morals and discipline (a ‘normal’ amount of course) they imparted on him, to all the worrying behavioural signs they missed. One minute he was perfect, the next he was a teenager who had made some worrying life choices.

And the more ‘normal’ and good at parenting she was trying to prove to be, the more strange she sounded; the type of parent I’m glad I didn’t have. A control freak…

I thought of all the times I’d called the mom hosting a sleepover to find out what movie she was planning to show. More than once, I’d asked for a less violent selection.

Now, I’m certainly not one of those people who blame the parents for everything, but don’t write 100 pages with your hands in the air saying ‘look at what good parents we werewe couldn’t possibly have known…he showed no signs,…we couldn’t have done anything’ etc and then tell us the exact opposite. Argh!

I was also not happy about the conclusion Sue came to about Dylan’s actions being caused by ‘depression or some other brain illness’. It is perfectly possible that Dylan was depressed – aren’t most teenagers!? but depression does not a murderer make!

In this book Sue Klebold researches what she calls ‘brain illnesses’ (she doesn’t believe the term mental illness is as accurate) and suicide, especially in teenagers. It is researched well and I found it interesting but it just felt like she was trying lay blame on anyone but herself or her troubled son.. I can’t blame her for trying to find a reason for her son’s actions, but I think it was a very one-sided view.

For me there was a huge elephant in the room the whole way through this book. I think working in a prison has given me a little insight into criminal behaviour and how people tick. And the one thing that people never want to believe is that humans are capable of hideous things, without making them evil.

Every single one of us has the occasional evil thought but thankfully most of us wouldn’t dream of acting upon them. Lots of things prevent us from doing so. But something didn’t stop Dylan from that terrible act. In fact it sounds like instead of him having lots of reasons to not act on those thoughts – he had lots of reasons to go through with it. School is hard, adolescence is hard, and his circumstances sound worse than most. As one of the survivors said at the time ‘I’m surprised it hasn’t happened sooner’.

Klebold does make some insightful psychological points which – although few and far between-  did make this book worth reading for me.

The expertise with which desperate people can mask their true feelings and intentions is the far more important message.

It’s nothing groundbreaking but was interesting enough to keep me reading and thinking. This is definitely a book worth reading for those interested in psychology, especially criminal psychology, but despite the fact that this whole book is Sue pouring her heart out, I couldn’t relate to her because I didn’t believe that she completely believed what she was saying. I think there is a huge element of denial here, and that she wrote this story to rid herself of guilt.

I’m not saying she has anything to feel guilty about – who am I to make that judgement – nor am I saying that she doesn’t deserve empathy or closure, but I just felt like she is masking something in this book, which is strangely something that the victims’ friends and family have said from the beginning. Maybe that’s the only reason I’m so suspicious, but maybe not…

unicorn rating 3

 

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Top books recently added to the dreaded TBR pile. #TTT

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Top Ten Tuesday is an original feature/weekly meme created by The Broke and the Bookish (click the link to visit them) who pick a different topic each week.

This week the topic is… Top ten books recently added to your TBR pile.

Well, this is a nice, easy topic, although I have been buying more books recently so it’ll be hard to choose just 10.

Added from Netgalley:

The Silent Songbird ~ Melanie Dickerson: I shouldn’t have requested this book because I knew I wouldn’t be able to get it read and reviewed by the pub date (today!) but I just couldn’t resist. I really fancy an epic historical YA. The opening line of the synopsis had me instantly…I mean castles =  DONE. “Evangeline longs to be free, to live in the world outside the castle walls. But freedom comes at a cost”

The Girl Who Saved Christmas ~ Matt Haig: You should all know by now that I love Christmas, and festive reads. I’ve wanted to read Matt Haig’s books for ages so this one was also impossible to resist.

The Twelve Days of Dash & Lily ~ Rachel Cohn & David Levithan: I didn’t even know this book was on the cards until I saw it on Netgalley. I loved Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares so I’m thrilled that these authors have got together once again for a sequel. This time, Dash and Lily’s brother have just 12 days until Christmas to cheer Lily up after her grandfather became seriously ill. Can they recapture the magic of Christmas in New York for her?

Shock and Awe ~ Simon Reynolds: This book chronicles the legacy of glam rock from the seventies to today and as such will heavily feature my hero, David Bowie. I don’t often read non-fiction, but I’m really looking forward to this one.

Recently Bought:

The Red Eye Box Set ~ Various: This set of four YA Horror books from Stripes Publishing arrived at the beginning of October. I’ve already read one of the books, Frozen Charlotte and really loved it so I hope the others are as good too.

A Christmas Party ~ Georgette Heyer: I picked this up from a charity shop recently. ‘Tis’ the season for…Murder‘ is the perfect tagline that enticed me.

City of Dark Magic ~ Magnus Flyte: I bought this book in an English bookshop I found in Prague. It sounds amazing.

“Once a city of enormous wealth and culture, Prague was home to emperors, alchemists, astronomers, and, as it’s whispered, hell portals. When music student Sarah Weston lands a summer job at Prague Castle cataloging Beethoven’s manuscripts, she has no idea how dangerous her life is about to become. Prague is a threshold, Sarah is warned, and it is steeped in blood.”

Six of Crows ~ Leigh Bardugo: This arrived just this week. I’ve heard nothing but good things about it.

Borrowed:

The Rest of Us Just Live Here ~ Patrick Ness: It’s Ness. I don’t have to say much more. Other than perhaps my shame that I haven’t read it yet.

Koko Takes a Holiday ~ Kieran Shea: I think I can safely say that this will be my first ever Cyberpunk book. It sounds mad, in a good way. My friend Dora enjoyed it and passed it on to me.

Have you read any of these? What should I go for first?

 

 

Something for the Weekend… #BowieExclusive #BookPromo

Earlier this week an email appeared in my inbox which was not only a refreshing change from all the dull, badly-written press releases for books with home-made covers, but was also asking if I’d like to share news of this new book of never before seen photos of David Bowie…err would I ever!

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About the Book

A limited edition of 5oo copies, featuring stunning unseen photos of David Bowie. Released 22nd April 2016

This 45cm by 30cm book with its full bleed over the 20 pages of magnificent images produced in Black and White Duotone throughout the entire book, sporting a front cover of Galerie Art Gloss laminated 350 gram paper whilst the inner pages of text are laid out on 300 grams of Galerie Art Gloss paper. Nothing has been spared here when only the best would do for ‘The Legend’. Each copy will be hand signed by Michel Haddi, shrink wrapped and numbered from 1 – 500. The book is beautifully designed by the creative director, Roberto Da Pozzo. 

About Michel Haddi

Michel haddi has worked for more than 20 years as a leading photographer in fashion & celebrities. His editorial collaborations include the most important magazines in Europe, Asia and the USA. British, French and Italian Vogue, Uomo Vogue, Tatler, GQ, Interview, Vanity Fair, Italian Glamour, Elle, The German Harpers Bazaar, Marie Claire, Rolling Stone, The Sunday Times, The Washington Post, Face, Arena, Details, Vibe, Premiere, Stern are among them. He is not only a photographer but also owns publishing house One Eyed Jacks in London which publishes his own books and more.

David Bowie, the Legend…

Los Angeles, the 90s I don’t recall the exact time, but what I can remember I am at home, in my studio in Venice Beach. 

I am preparing some shoots for Vogue Hommes and some clients.

I get a phone call from Ingrid Sischy in New York asking me to photograph David Bowie for Interview Magazine.

Well as you can imagine I was ecstatic, my first proper record was an LP that my stepfather gave me following a visit to London: Diamond Dogs by Bowie and I still have it.

Anyway, I am with the production team, that includes Paul Starr for make-up and Kim Bowen for styling at the Peninsula Hotel in Beverly Hills. An hour later, I see a man in a sharp suit, it is David Bowie.

I introduce myself and tell him that he looks like a fashion icon straight out of a Luchino Visconti movie. Bowie smiles and says he’s very much into neo-realist Italian movies.

The most unnerving thing while photographing Bowie was his intensity of looking, his eyes with those hypnotic dual colors felt like he was looking right through me. The shoot lasted an hour and I had a real blast.

In that time I tried to pay homage to Bowie through these portraits and indeed he looks like a character from Visconti’s film Death in Venice. – MICHEL HADDI

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