Thursday 25 October 2018

The Last Train to Helsingor by Heidi Amsinck BLOG TOUR @HeidiAmsinck1 @MuswellPress #MyLifeInBooks @Mono80

The sound of loud voices made him turn. Two old women had entered the room, obviously roused out of bed. They wore dressing gowns and their long silvery hair hung loose over their shoulders. Borg was reminded of his grandmother, a mild-mannered woman who had looked after him during his school holidays.
He noticed that the women’s faces were identical.
‘Joachim!’ exclaimed one of the twins, clapping her hands. ‘What have you got for us this time?’
From the commuter who bitterly regrets falling asleep on a late-night train, to the mushroom hunter prepared to kill to guard her secret, Last Train to Helsingor is a chilling and darkly humorous collection of stories.
Copenhagen becomes a city of twilight and shadows, as canny antique dealers and property sharks get their comeuppance at the hands of old ladies, and ghosts act in most peculiar ways. With echoes of Daphne du Maurier, Roald Dahl and the fairy tales of Hans Christian Andersen, Last Train to Helsingor will keep you awake into the small hours.

The Last Train to Helsingor by Heidi Amsinck was published earlier this year by Muswell Press.

As part of the Blog Tour, I'm delighted to welcome the author here to Random Things today. She's talking about the books that are special to her in My Life in Books.

My Life in Books - Heidi Amsinck

Fairy Tales by the Brothers Grimm   My earliest reading memories are of the dark forests, locked castle rooms, lost brides and lonely woodcutter cottages of the Brothers Grimm. I grew up in Denmark and read these gothic fairy tales in Danish with the original illustrations by Johann and Leinweber, swallowing the brutal narratives whole. Years later, I discovered and fell in love instantly with Angela Carter’s reinvention of the genre in The Bloody Chamber – so alive, so fabulous and terrifying.

A Day in the Country and Other Stories by Guy de Maupassant    I adore short stories, the single, devastating blow they deliver when well told. This elegant collection by Guy de Maupassant is one to which I keep returning, particularly The Necklace, which neatly skewers the absurd snobbery of social climber Madame Mathilde Loisel. Maupassant combines comedy and a cruel twist of fate into something exquisitely dark.

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo     A Francophile at heart, I studied French at high school and spent a lot of time in France over the years, with a particular fondness for Paris. Too many French classics to choose from, but I remember losing myself completely in this evocative masterpiece. Virtually no theme is left untouched in this epic tale of good and evil. As a novel, it has everything, and more.

Tales of Mystery and Imagination by Edgar Allan Poe    I came late to these tales, which I struggled to read, until I stopped trying to make sense of them. To read Poe is to fall into his disturbing twilight world. The Murders in the Rue Morgue – the tale of a brutal killing of two women, and often recognized as one of the first detective stories – is so genuinely terrifying to me that I still cannot read it alone at night.

Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen     Like most Danes, I grew up with the weird and wonderful tales of Hans Christian Andersen. Though rather whimsical and mawkish compared Grimm’s fairy tales, I nevertheless adored these stories as a child, and treasured my two volumes bound in much-worn red leather. My favourite Hans Christian Andersen story is The Nightingale about the Chinese emperor who banishes the nightingale for a mechanical songbird but regrets this bitterly on his deathbed. This was the inspiration for my own story The Bird in the Cage, about a man’s obsession with an automaton nightingale he sees in the window of a Copenhagen antique shop.

Ghostly: A Collection of Ghost Stories by Audrey Niffenegger     Published three years ago, this beautifully illustrated anthology, brings together some of the stories I love most of all. Not sure if I believe in ghosts, but They by Rudyard Kipling almost makes me want to. A lost motorist comes across a beautiful Sussex estate with children playing in the grounds but learns there is more to these mysteriously shy youngsters than meets the eye. Haunting and desperately sad.

Music and Silence by Rose Tremain    Rose Tremain is one of my favourite contemporary writers, and this 1600s tale of Peter Claire, a young English lutenist who arrives at the Danish Court to join King Christian IV's Royal Orchestra, is a masterpiece of historical fiction. I love how Tremain takes us so effortlessly through this fascinating chapter in Danish history, contrasting darkness and light. It’s a book you feel as much as read. To me, it was like stepping into a time machine, the kind of book I happily stay up all night for.

Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl     I watched the TV series before I read the books, with subtitles on Danish TV in the late 1970s, and to this day the music from the title sequence is enough to reignite the magic. Watching it again a couple of years ago, I was shocked to discover the low production value of the series, which I remember as utterly slick and spine-chilling. I adore the wickedness of these clever stories, and how Dahl administers comeuppance to the proud, conniving and cruel, such as in The Way Up To Heaven where a husband makes his wife wait unnecessarily for one last time. These are probably the most direct influence on my own short stories.

Don’t Look Now and Other Stories by Daphne du Maurier     I could have picked a lot of other stories by Daphne du Maurier whose hauntingly atmospheric work has made a deep and lasting impression on me. It’s hard to distract from the iconic film adaptation starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie, but Don’t Look Now is an utterly unsettling read, a post-bereavement quest for answers that takes a strange and violent turn. Something about Daphne du Maurier connects with my deepest fears, and the story itself reads like the telling of a nightmare.

Anecdotes of Destiny by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen)    Blixen is part of my Danish cultural heritage and holds a special place in my heart. Ironically, she wrote in English, under the pen-name Isak Dinesen. My first language was Danish, but I too write in English out of choice, as it gives me the freedom to make stuff up about Copenhagen, my city of birth. Blixen’s Babette’s Feast is one of the stories I have returned to most often through my life. All her writing has a mystic fairy-tale quality to it, but Babette’s Feast – the tale of a French chef who treats a remote fishing community in Norway to an unforgettable feast – nails the wonder of fiction. In the words of Blixen’s character General Loewenhielm: “For tonight I have learned, dear sister, that in this world anything is possible.”

Heidi Amsinck - October 2018 

Heidi Amsinck, a writer and journalist born in Copenhagen, spent many years covering Britain for the Danish press, including a spell as London Correspondent for the broadsheet daily Jyllands- Posten. 
She has written numerous short stories for radio, including the three-story sets Danish Noir, Copenhagen Confidential and Copenhagen Curios, all produced by Sweet Talk for BBC Radio 4, which are included in this collection .
A graduate of the MA in Creative Writing at Birkbeck, University of London, Heidi lives in Surrey. She was previously shortlisted for the VS Pritchett Memorial Prize. 
Last Train to Helsingor is her first published collection of stories.

Twitter @HeidiAmsinck1

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