So this is the scene in which Graham Norton’s new book club podcast comes into play. And Norton being the consummate entertaining broadcaster that he is, that’s a lot of fun. The podcast adopts a magazine format run by Norton and one of his co-hosts, alternating passages from novelist Sara Collins and literary journalist Alex Clark.
Norton, a novelist himself, has a habit of interviewing writers on his old Radio 2 show and new radio house at Virgin, and he was at home interviewing detective writer Denise Mina for the first episode. After the interview, the “book clubbers” – literary enthusiasts and people working at different levels in the book business – discussed Mina’s novel, The Less Dead, and then gave marks out of 10 for the probability that they recommend it to others.
I had predicted that, since the author herself was participating in the program, these notes might be massaged a bit to complete the book; but in fact, those who were less enthusiastic made no secret of their criticisms, and there was a real sense of fair and open discussion. As you would expect from Audible, there was also a focus on audiobooks and an interview with Maxine Peake recalling her audiobook reading of Lady Chatterley’s Lover.
Norton can be an anarchic presenter, especially in his late-night TV show and wickedly conspiratorial comments on Eurovision, but here he looked a lot more grown-up, even to the point of being frustrating at times in the script. . Hope he relaxes more, as he clearly wants. But there was room for a few laughs, especially when he bounced off his co-host Clark and enjoyed the more explicit elements of Chatterley. Together, the book clubbers have created a warm, welcoming, and bookish atmosphere, and the podcast is a happy new addition to any bookworm’s subscription list.