Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Please welcome, friend and author...

...Eli Carros.  Thanks for taking time out from your busy schedule to be on my blog today, Eli. Book launches are intensive, to say the least! So, let's get to the questions and what is your current release?
EC   The Watcher, my debut crime thriller, releases on June 21st by Crooked Cat Books.  It’s a dark, twisted, psychological thriller that takes you right into the mind of a psychopath, and shows how he became the way he became. 
It’s a novel about sexual obsession, emotional abuse, and vengeance, and if you like a book that keeps you guessing right until the end, you might enjoy this one.  When I was writing this book I attempted to answer a question that I had often wondered about, which is, are psychopaths born or are they made?

AW   What first got you into writing and why?
EC   I’ve always told stories, even before I actually started writing anything down.  My English teacher at High School was absolutely fantastic, he really made books come alive whenever we used to discuss and dissect them.
The way he read ‘Lord of The Flies’ was magnificent, and even to this day, it’s one of my favourite books.  I wish I could have the insight and the perception of writer’s like William Golding.
AW   Me too! I really love his work and my collection of first editions of his books sits right where I can reach them from my desk so I can have a quick fix of Golding prose wherever I need one.
EC   If I had to pick a tipping point, where I absolutely knew I had to write, it was probably when I was studying Journalism, and got my first taste as a professional writer, as an intern at the Daily Mirror.  Though I wasn’t writing fiction, the experience really convinced me that I wanted to make a job out of this profession of words, so I became a professional copywriter, then, a couple of years later, after dabbling a bit, decided to write a novel.
I procrastinated for ages first though, and wish I hadn’t waited so long. 

AW  You write crime thrillers.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
EC   I do undertake some research yes, for certain little details pertaining to correct police procedure etc…  However, my book is not a standard police procedural by any means, more a psychological exploration of a deviant and malignant mind, so I gave myself a hefty dose of artistic license with it too.
I did do another kind of research too, because I actually lived in London while writing ‘The Watcher’, and the book is set there.  So I went to a lot of the places that inspired scenes in the book, to get a real feel for the atmosphere.  One of the café scenes in the novel was actually written in Patisserie Valerie in Old Compton Street, Soho.
AW  I know it well!
EC   I find London very inspiring in general, some people don’t like it I know, but I love all the bustle and life. 

Cover Art for Eli's book
AW  And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with short stories, for instance, or other genres?
EC   I wrote short stories and novellas before I ever wrote a full-length novel actually, I have quite a few of them now, sitting on my computer, unpublished.  I never tried to publish any of them, I don’t really know why, I suppose I didn’t really know what to do with them.  They are in all kinds of genres, as short form is a great way to experiment, isn’t it?
AW   Absolutely!
EC   I have post-apocalyptic, horror, crime, all sorts.  Readers can try three of my darker shorts if they like as I’m giving them away if you’d like to join my mailing list.

AW  Famous authors, such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas, had a special space for writing.  Do you have a writing ‘shed’ of your own?
EC   Honestly, no, I usually do it wherever I can find the time in the nearest comfortable place.  I do like a glass of wine to get me into the zone while I write, though I have to be careful how much, as contrary to the popular myth that writers are all gin soaked, becoming too inebriated actually really impairs your work.

AW  Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with any one individual, living or dead or a character from a book, who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
EC   It would have to be Kurt Cobain, the late front man of the rock group Nirvana, to ask him what inspired his music and to find out what truly happened, was it murder, or suicide?

A mysterious Eli Carros!
...about the author... Eli Carros is a crime fiction and thriller author from London, England.  His debut novel, 'The Watcher', was inspired by London, and by what can happen when sexual obsession, violence, emotional neglect, and madness collide.  It takes you behind the eyes of a murderous stalker with a secret past, and into the mind of the harried detective who must stop him. 
Eli loves reading crime, fantasy, and mystery suspense, and is an ardent admirer of authors Steven King, Mark Billingham, Harlan Coben, and Patricia Cornwell.
A strong supporter of causes that promote equality for all, in his spare time Eli loves sailing, camping, hiking, and sketching, and detests getting up in the morning without a strong percolated coffee.
Stay updated on Eli Carros’s latest author news, release info, and promotions on his website or on Facebook and link up with him on Twitter

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Please welcome, friend and author...

...Katharine Johnson to my blog this week...



AW   I know how busy you are, so tell me all about your current release...
KJ   The Silence has just been published (June 8th).  It's a psychological/coming of age story, set partly in Tuscany.  The villa and the village are entirely fictional but inspired by many of the mountain villages of north Tuscany.


AW   What first got you into writing and why?
KJ   I've always enjoyed writing as a hobby.  My granny encouraged me to write and I saved up my pocket money to buy a red plastic Corgi typewriter when I was nine to write my first book.

AW   You write crime fiction.  Is it all imagination or do you also undertake research?
KJ   The Silence is about a long-held secret and is about a crime but it isn't a procedural/detective novel so it didn't need a lot of research.  I had it read by a speech therapist and GP and I also spoke about certain sections to a hypnotherapist and a firearms expert to make sure it was plausible.

AW   And what about other types of writing?  Have you ever dabbled with short stories, for instance, or other genres?
KJ   Yes, I've dabbled with various genres - romance is the one I find hardest.  I've written a few short stories which have been published in magazines and started writing a children's book with my son.  I assumed he'd lost interest but he was asking about it the other day so we may go back to it.


The view from... well I won't specify...
AW   Famous authors, such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas, had a special space for writing.  Do you have a writing ‘shed’ of your own?
KJ   I wish!  I have an office in the house but my desk gets used by everyone.  I rather like George Bernard's Shaw's revolving summer house.  This is the view from my ideal writing room in a Ligurian fishing village (although it's actually the view from a toilet!)

AW   Finally, if you had a whole afternoon to yourself and could choose to spend it with any one individual, living or dead or a character from a book, who would it be, and what would you want to discuss?
KJ   Oh that's hard! I'd hate to be disappointed and find myself wishing they'd leave after ten minutes - but I think Oscar Wilde would be fascinating and fun.  Thank you so much Angela for inviting me onto your blog.
AW   It's been a pleasure and good luck with the book!





about the author…Katharine Johnson is a journalist with a passion for crime novels, old houses and all things Italian (except tiramisu).  She grew up in Bristol and has lived in Italy.  She currently lives in Berkshire with her husband, three children and a madcap spaniel.  She plays netball badly and is a National Trust room guide.






about the book...Can you ever truly escape the past?  Doctor Abby Fenton has a rewarding career, a loving family, an enviable lifestyle - and a secret that could destroy everything.  When human remains are discovered in the grounds of an idyllic Tuscan holiday home she is forced to confront the memories she has suppressed until now and relive the summer she spent at the villa in 1992.  A summer that ended in tragedy.  The nearer she gets to the truth the closer she comes to losing her sanity.  In order to hold onto the people she loves most, she must make sure they never discover what she did.  But the reappearance of someone else from that summer threatens to blow her secret wide open.

Buy The Silence here Amazon - The Silence




Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Jacques Forêt returns to talk about his new case…

A typical cévenol village
... and perhaps to give away one or two juicy pieces of info about what has been happening in the village of Messandrierre since we last saw him…
  
AW  Welcome back Jacques, and you’re not in uniform I see.
JF  Yes, that’s right.  I’ve left the rural gendarme service and I now work in investigation Mende.

AW  So, just to recap on your career thus far.  You joined the police force in Paris as a detective until you were injured whilst on duty and then came to Messandrierre as a rural gendarme. 
JF   That’s correct.  It was after I recovered that I came here.
AW  So why the further change?
JF  I found I missed the intricacies of handling major investigations along with the thrill of solving such complex crimes.  My last case in Paris involved breaking a drugs cartel and I’ve worked on cases involving people trafficking.  All very testing with many and varied leads to follow.  My current case means that I can use those skills again.

AW  And can you tell us anything about your new case?
JF  It’s very different from my previous cases and involves commercial sabotage, but some the evidence is pointing to other types of crime.  The more I delve the more complex this case is becoming.
AW  How interesting.  Any suspects yet or dead bodies?
JF   It’s early days yet.  I only picked up the investigation a week ago, but there are a number of suspects that need to be narrowed down.  There are also some lines of enquiry that are leading me to believe that there are other malpractices that need to be investigated which might mean a fraud is also to be uncovered.  There are no dead bodies at the moment but… if the evidence does lead me where I think it might, then yes, someone might have the motive to commit such a serious crime.  Naturally I will do all I can to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Old City of Mende
AW  Of course.  Working in Mende, has that meant many changes for you here in the village?
JF  Not really.  I’m still the Policeman from Paris to everyone living here and I still seem to be the first person they come to when there’s trouble.  Gendarme Thibault Clergue has taken my post here in the gendarmerie.  I don’t want to tread on his toes so we work on things together when necessary.

AW  Back working in investigation, does that mean you’re working with Magistrate Bruno Pelletier again?
JF  Not at the moment. I do sometimes bump into Bruno in the city, but if my case develops as I think it might, then I may need to involve him.  And I will do that as appropriate.

AW  When we first met I seem remember you saying that you would like to ‘have ‘someone to share your life with.’  Those were your precise words, I think.
JF  Ahh, I was wondering when you would get around to that!
AW  And you can tell us… what?  The Readers do need to know, Jacques.
JF   I also remember telling you that it was complicated.  It still is… But I know what I want… Beth just has to make the right decision for her.  Moving to another country requires a lot of consideration.
The Cévennes, the setting for Merle
AW  Are you saying that you’ve asked-
JF  Non!  And before you ask, I didn’t say that I was moving to England either.  What I am saying is that, if Beth and I are to move forward then we both need to consider very carefully how we achieve that.

AW  Well, you may no longer wear uniform, Jacques, but you are ever the policeman!
JF   Perhaps
AW   And that smile of yours tells me everything.  Thank you, Jacques, for being here today.


You can read more about Jacques’ new case, the village and Beth in Merle 
Book 2 in the Jacques Forêt mystery series (available for pre-order using the link above) is published on July 5th

Tuesday, 30 May 2017

Please welcome, friend and author...

... Jennifer Wilson to my blog today.  Hello Jennifer, nice to see you again and I think you've got another book out haven't you? 

JW   Hi Angela, and thanks for inviting me back onto your blog today.  I thought, for a change, I’d do one of my own Sunday Sojourn-style posts, and write about one of the locations in my new novel, Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile, which is released tomorrow.

JW  Speaking of releases, just to be cheeky, you and your readers are all more than welcome to my online launch party, this Thursday, on Facebook. We’ll be having (virtual) food, drink and celebrations, as well as competitions and guests – click here and say ‘going’, to get involved.
AW   Thanks, Jennifer and yes I will make a point of dropping in when I can.

Holyrood Abbey
JW  But now, back to the location. I’ve always been fascinated by the history of Edinburgh Castle, tales of the Black Dinner, sieges and scaling cliff-faces, but for today, we’re heading to the other end of the Mile, to Holyrood Palace, a place that for some reason, I’d never thought of visiting until a couple of years ago.  Since that first visit though, I’ve become really fond of the place, and the final room, filled with historical treasures, is one of my favourite rooms in the world.
But to the palace itself.  Sadly, I’ve no photos of the interior, but then, neither do any other visitors.  As it is still a functioning royal palace (the Queen visits at least once a year, for about a week), photos are only allowed outside, but that’s stunning enough, so we’ll be ok with that!
The original Holyrood Abbey was founded in 1128, as ordered by David I of Scotland, who, according to legend, saw a vision of the cross in the area.  The Abbey became an important location for Scottish royals and ruling, with parliaments being held, and monarchs being buried there.  Then, probably to give his new Tudor wife somewhere more pleasant than the Castle to stay at, James IV built a grander Palace, attached to the Abbey; this was destroyed when the English sacked Edinburgh during the Rough Wooing.  Over the following centuries, the Palace was modernised, and abandoned for a while by the royal family when they became monarchs of Britain, not just Scotland, but was used by Queen Victoria, who was responsible for much of the current décor.
Holyrood Palace
One of the Palace’s most famous residents, Mary Queen of Scots, arrived in 1561, and her rooms are now probably the most famous, at the end of the public rooms.  It’s in this suite that one of the most famous incidents of the whole Royal Mile took place; the murder of David Rizzio, Queen Mary’s Italian secretary.  The man had been having supper with Mary and a couple of other companions in a (surprising small) side-room, when Lord Darnley, Mary’s husband, burst in with several other nobles, dragged the poor Rizzio out, and left his body in the queen’s ante-chamber, a total of 56 stab-wounds inflicted.
It’s the ante-chamber I mentioned earlier, one of my favourite rooms.  It’s full of pieces connected to Mary and the monarchs which followed her, with beautiful hand-written notes on each, in stunning glass cases.  It makes you feel like the first tourists who came through the Palace, having paid the housekeepers and other staff to let them in when the place wasn’t being used.
With so much history in the place, there’s no way I could write about Mary, and her Edinburgh, without including her Palace, and as it gave me an excuse to go and visit again, I’m extra glad that I did!
AW   What a fascinating place it is and when I'm next in the city I will visit.  Unfortunately when I was there last month, my time was short and I had a long list of other things to do and the palace just didn't quite make i t to the top of the page.  Thank you Jennifer and I wish you well with the book.



about the author... Jennifer is a marine biologist by training, who spent much of her childhood stalking Mary, Queen of Scots (initially accidentally, but then with intention). She completed her BSc and MSc at the University of Hull, and has worked as a marine environmental consulting since graduating. Enrolling on an adult education workshop on her return to the north-east reignited Jennifer’s pastime of creative writing, and she has been filling notebooks ever since. In 2014, Jennifer won the Story Tyne short story competition, and also continues to develop her poetic voice, reading at a number of events, and with several pieces available online. She is also part of The Next Page, running workshops and other literary events in North Tyneside.


Jennifer’s debut novel, Kindred Spirits: Tower of London, was released by Crooked Cat Books in October 2015, and Kindred Spirits: Royal Mile is coming June 2017. She can be found online at her website, on Twitter and Facebook, as well as at The Next Page’s website

Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Interview with an Artist...

Just recently, I had the very great pleasure of spending the day with a long-time friend of mine.  As we were travelling by train to our destination, and a leisurely lunch followed by a play, we discussed a number of issues ranging from art to honesty.  But it was the debate about art that has kept creeping back into my mind.

My friend, who knows I’m writing this post but wishes to remain anonymous, so we’ll call her C for ease of reference, is an artist.  She produces lovely scenic views in watercolour but also likes to work with acrillic paints.  I happen to be the very proud owner of one of her watercolours of a village in France and it hangs in my lounge.

But – the conversation! It has stayed with me because I have realised that her talent for drawing and painting is not so very different from my own capability to spin words.  You see, we’d got to the nitty gritty of how she put what she could see in front of her onto a piece of paper.  ‘There’s a spontaneity about watercolour,’ she said. ‘You have to work quite fast.’  And later she said, ‘Washes are good for sky and the changes in the density of the colour can suggest the clouds, for instance.’

As the discussion progressed I was reminded of a time some years ago when we sat in balcony area of The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond and I made a comment about how to reproduce on paper the people opposite. ‘I would look at the light and the dark,’ she said.  ‘And the shades in between.’  On the train, she talked about recreating the colours on the paper which helped her to suggest shadow and light, depth and detail.

She then looked out of the train window at the houses we were passing and talked about finding a small detail of particular interest, an arrangement of brickwork, a lintel across a window or door, perhaps a fracture in the stone, anything of interest.  ‘I focus on that and draw it,’ she said.  ‘Once I’ve got that small detail I can add in the surrounding features and expand the picture.’

It was at this point I realised that, although C is a gifted artist and I’m only a spinner of words, we are not so very different after all.  As a reader, I never look at blurbs on the backs of books to help me decide if I want to read them.  I always turn to the first page and start reading and if I can’t see the colours in the writing after the first couple of paragraphs, the book goes back on the shelf.  And it’s the same when I’m sat in front of my computer screen.  If I can’t see the scene in my mind’s eye in full and glorious technicolour, then the words won’t be there.

I guess C and I just use our ability to see colour in different ways.  I did suggest to C that she become one of my interviewees for this blog – but she said no.  Asked would she consider making some of her pictures available for my blog.  And you guessed it, she said no.  So, to illustrate this particular post, I’m afraid you will have to put up with a couple of pieces of art that hang on my walls.  I hope yoiu like them.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Introducing Merle, the next Jacques Forêt mystery story...

... Over the last 18 months or so I’ve been busily writing book 2 in my Jacques Forêt series of stories.  The book is complete and is in the final stages of editing and I thought you might want to know a little more about it.

The old town of Mende
Merle, like its predecessor, Messandrierre, is set in the Cévennes in the south of France.  The title of this story is a real French word, unlike Messandrierre, which is a corruption of the name of a real place.  It means blackbird, but it is also used as a girl’s Christian name and as a surname. Capitaine Mathieu Merle, being one famous, or perhaps more accurately, infamous holder of the surname.  Mathieu Merle (1548-1587) was a Huguenot captain who was feared during the religious wars in France.  But he spent some time in Mende, the préfecture city of the département of Lozère.  A city that features in this story and where my fictitious suburb of Merle is located.

In Messandrierre, the story followed Jacques as he unravelled a police investigation into the mysterious disappearances of travellers to the tiny village of Messandrierre.  At the end of that story, Jacques had a decision to make and his love interest, Beth Samuels, had some serious thinking of her own to do.

Merle begins a few months after the end of the first book and...

Jacques Forêt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat.

The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened.

When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it. 

Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?


And here is a little taster from the very beginning of the story.


la fête des morts

   It was the tightly scrunched ball of paper that captured the attention of Magistrate Bruno Pelletier. His trained eyes swept around the room, only glancing at the naked body in the bath, and came to rest once more on the small, ivory-white mass, challenging and silent against the solid plain porcelain of the tiles. He stepped over the large pool of dried blood, iron red against the white of the floor, and, with gloved hands, he retrieved the object. Carefully prising the paper back into its customary rectangular shape, he stared at the contents and frowned as he read and re-read the single six-word sentence printed there.
    “Je sais ce que tu fais”
    After a moment, he dropped it into an evidence bag being held open for him by the pathologist.
    all hallows’ eve, 2009

Merle is published on July 5th and is available for pre-order  Merle

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Please welcome friend and author…

… Joanne Mallory.  Great to see you Joanne and thanks for finding time in your busy schedule to be here.

JM  Many thanks to you for inviting me over.
AW  I’m intrigued, Joanne.  You’ve got a new book coming out soon.  What’s that all about?
JM   I’d like to chat with you today about writerly things…
AW  OK.  You’ve got my attention!
JM   I’m a fiction writer – a romance, fiction writer no less.   Now this has been known (from time to time) to give a writer a bad name.  You see romance writers tend to get labelled for writing fluffy, chic lit, formula fiction or, my personal favourite; bodice rippers, and we get, well, written off, as not being able to do anything else.  Which kind’a narks me, because writing is hard, in all it’s forms, and all its genres.  I recently read a post (on Instagram) that said “Non-fiction writers have it easy…”
And I just want to clear up a myth here; No writer has it easy.  We just write what works best for us, as best we can.
AW  I couldn’t agree more!  I’ve tried writing romance myself and I found it especially difficult, for many different reasons, so I turned to crime, my current genre of novels.
JM   I write romance because I love the happy ending, life is confusing and sometimes cruel, hence I like my fiction to be of the warm and fuzzy kind – sue me.
But I’ve taken on a non-fiction project this year, I mentioned to my publisher that I could put lots of marketing tips in one place, and design the book around ‘cheap as possible ways to help writers organically grow their audience.’
And let me tell you, it was TOUGH.  I’m used to being able to switch up the plot and lead my heroine on a merry dance, but non-fiction is a whole different animal.  I checked and double checked my facts, putting as much information down on the page as possible, covering as many platforms as I could, and do you know what I was left with?
AW  I can guess, but tell me anyway.
JM  A dry text -- dry like the Sahara, with reams and reams of instructive, yawn inducing information. Now, stay with me here, because I’m going to tell you how I made it better in the hope that you might like to buy a copy…
AW  OK, let us in on the secret then…
JM  Saving this book-baby was going to take more than a little jiggery-pokery – It needed a full-on Frankenstein!   So, I went back to methods I hadn’t used since Uni; I printed the whole lot off, took a black Sharpie and a red pen and attacked it.
The manuscript looked like the remains of a horror victim by the time I’d finished with it.  All that was left was a few chapter headings and some ideas, and thus started the beginning of what is now the finished project.  It took lots (and lots) of runs to get the content to a place where the text, (hopefully) has a humorous tone, so that the reader (hopefully) feels like they are having a personal chat about their on-line self, and how they can make it work better for them.
I wrote Building An Author Platform and filled it with all the simple things I wished I’d have known when I first started, it would have saved me so much time.
AW  Thinking back to my first book… the number of times I said to myself, ‘I wish I had known that sooner’… So, I get that!  And what’s happening next?
JM  If you’re interested in finding out more, I’m having an on-line launch on Facebook on the 19th of
May, where I’ll be giving lots of tips and tricks on author marketing. Just click Joanne's Launch Event  to 
come along.

AW  Thanks Joanne, I will be at the theatre on the 19th, but I will certainly drop in at some point during the day.  I hope it goes well and thanks for being here today.

Joanne’s book Building an Author Platform is available for pre-order on Amazon.
myBook.to/Buildingmallory

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Edinburgh, Robert Louis Stevenson and Me...

... Last weekend I was in Edinburgh for the Crime Writers' Association Conference - and what a fantastic event that was too!

Edinburgh is one of my favourite cities and whilst I was there I could not help but take advantage of any spare time to go and visit the Writers Museum which is located in a small secluded close just off the Royal Mile.  Lady Stair's House, as the museum is known, is worth a look before you go in.  The small door, the round turret above that houses the spiral staircase, the blonde stone of the lintels and windows against the darker and more varied  stone of the walls.  It's an  amazing piece of 17th century architecture.

Built in 1622 for Sir William Gray of Pittendrum it was a family home for many generations.  Lady Stair, Elizabeth Dundas, was the grand daughter of Sir William Gray, who married John Dalrymple, the first Earl of Stair.  She purchased the house in 1719 and lived there all her life.  By the end of the 19th century, the house had fallen into disrepair and was due for demolition.  However, the Earl of Rosebery, a descendant of the Lady Stair's first husband, bought the property, restored, renovated and gifted it to the city in 1907.  It first opened as a museum in 1913 and became the Writers' Museum in the 1960's.

Some of my Stevenson
The Writers celebrated by the museum are Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson.  As much as I like the work of Burns and Scott, it's Stevenson that really brought me to the museum.  The rooms dedicated to Burns are interesting, if you want to see his sword-stick or a plaster cast of his skull. OK.  I'm more interested in the three pictures on the wall on the left as you enter the room.  A small, but colourful, scene from Tam O'Shanter, an engraving that depicts a scene from 'Tea a Moose' (To a Mouse of 'tim'rous beastie' fame) and a coloured engraving entitled 'Death and Dr Hornbeam'.  The rooms dedicated to Burns have equally interesting bits and pieces in them.

Downstairs are the Stevenson rooms.  The toy theatre, similar to one he would have played with as a child immediately captured my attention.  Considering my background in real theatre, I suppose that's not so surprising is it?  But its his wardrobe that is the most fascinating item to me.  It was built by a man called Deacon Brodie (1741-1788), a cabinet-maker, respectable tradesman and city councillor by day and a gambler, womaniser and thief by night.  Following a robbery from the Excise Office and Deacon's double-dealing, his thieving companions turned him in to the authorities.  He was tried and sentenced to hang.  But, Brodie would have no truck with that and he supposedly struck a deal with the hangman, to use a short rope, to leave him hanging for as short a time as possible and, to protect his neck he wore a metal collar under his shirt.  Did he get away or not was the question that seemed to attract everyone else's attention.

Not me!  I was left wondering if, little Robbie, alone in his room in the dark, thought about the maker of that wardrobe and perhaps 'The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde' was born.  But then there's that scene in 'The Master of Ballantrae' where one of the brothers, thought long dead is resurrected from his grave only to apparently die again.  I was intrigued.  But then I remembered something from my own childhood, being awoken and frightened in the middle of the night by the door of my wardrobe
Edinburgh Skyline
suddenly swinging open.  Robbie's wardrobe in the museum was firmly locked.  But, perhaps one dark, damp Edinburgh night it too had swung open and maybe provided the inspiration for the tale 'The Sire Maletroit's Door.'  As I moved round the display cases and looked at the objects, other stories popped into my head - 'The Rajah's Diamond', 'The Wrong box', The Body Snatchers'.  There seemed to me to be something in the items on display that connected with each of these fantastic tales.  
Hmm... I guess I now know what I will be reading over the summer!

Tuesday, 25 April 2017

I'm reviewing 'The Snowman'...

... by Jo Nesbo

This in one of the Detective Harry Hole stories and a first for me.  So, as usual, I’m reading the series from the middle rather than from the beginning.

The narrative moves about in time, which I found a little tiresome as I did have to flick back to previous chapters from time to time.  The story begins in November 1980 and specific snippets of information are held in this scene, but their importance does not become apparent until much later in the story.

The plotting is incredible with twists and turns in the police investigation that kept me on the edge of my seat right the way through to the very end of its 550 pages.  However, despite the excellent plotting, I found the pace a bit pedestrian.  Even the chase and the final capture scenes, seemed to me, to be less than break-neck speed.

I liked all of the characters, even the baddy!  They were all very well drawn with their own individual idiosyncrasies, strengths and weaknesses.  It was easy to identify with them and understand their choices.  The central character, Harry Hole, I found particularly interesting.  He carries emotional scars, he has a history and he’s a brilliant policeman, all of which adds up to an engaging lead character.  So engaging, that you can forgive him his failings.

As this is book 7 in a series of 11 novels, there are references to past cases and previous incidents involving Harry and a couple of the other characters.  Whilst the connections were made clear, I still felt as though I had not fully understood the real significance of the referrals to the other stories.  But then, I will insist on starting a series of books in the middle, won’t I?

An absolutely brilliant read and I will be reading all the rest of these books, but in the right order!

Sunday, 23 April 2017

The Bard's Birthday...

... is always celebrated on April 23rd, and today, it is also World Book Night.  Naturally, I had to join in and I have some of my favourite speeches along with some beautiful engravings to illustrate...



O, what a deal of scorn looks beautiful   
In the contempt and anger of his lip!
A murderous guilt shows not itself more soon
Than love that would seem hid: love's night is noon.
Cesario, by the roses of the spring,
By maidhood, honour, truth and every thing,
I love thee so, that, maugre all thy pride, 
Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide.
Do not extort thy reasons from this clause,
For that I woo, thou therefore hast no cause,
But rather reason thus with reason fetter,
Love sought is good, but given unsought better.
Twelfth Night - Olivia





     If we shadows have offended, 
     Think but this, and all is mended,
     That you have but slumber'd here
     While these visions did appear.
     And this weak and idle theme,
     No more yielding but a dream,
     Gentles, do not reprehend:
     if you pardon, we will mend:
     And, as I am an honest Puck,
     If we have unearned luck
     Now to 'scape the serpent's tongue,
     We will make amends ere long;
     Else the Puck a liar call;
     So, good night unto you all.
     Give me your hands, if we be friends,
     And Robin shall restore amends.
     A Midsummer Night's Dream - Puck




It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue; but it is no more unhandsome than to see the lord the prologue. If it be true that good wine needs no bush, 'tis true that a good play needs no epilogue; yet to good wine they do use good bushes, and good plays prove the better by the help of good epilogues. What a case am I in then, that am neither a good epilogue, nor cannot insinuate with you in the behalf of a good play! I am not furnished like a beggar, therefore to beg will not become me: my way is, to conjure you; and I'll begin with the women. I charge you, O women! for the love you bear to men, to like as much of this play as please you: and I charge you, O men! for the love you bear to women,'as I perceive by your simpering none of you hate them,'that between you and the women, the play may please. If I were a woman I would kiss as many of you as had beards that pleased me, complexions that liked me, and breaths that I defied not; and, I am sure, as many as have good beards, or good faces, or sweet breaths, will, for my kind offer, when I make curtsy, bid me farewell.
As You Like It - Rosalind

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Please welcome friend and author...

...Christine Hornsby who is here today to interview her character, Bethany, from her wonderful story Kindred Spirits

CH  Bethany, I followed your teenage love affair with interest but, from an early age,  you clearly loathed, Daniel with a vengeance.
Bethany I did.  I thought he was arrogant and patronising.  In short, a schmuck!  To my shame, I remember referring to him as having been spawned by something that crawled out of a swamp.  A spawned geek with half a brain.

CH  So why a complete change of heart?  Was there a seismic, earth shattering moment when you saw him in a different light or did he grow on you?
Bethany  The former.  It was when the whale beached.  We met purely by chance.  I think.  We both stood there feeling something akin to grief.  It was heart-wrenching seeing the whale dying and then there was nothing we could do about it.  Daniel was looking out to sea. I pretended it was the cold wind that made my eyes water, but I knew he was hurting too.  In a strange way, we connected.  His good looks, his physique and all that has always made him popular with the girls but, call me weird, I’d never been particularly impressed with those.  His arrogance had always put me off but, at that moment, I realised that was a sort of mask.  I suppose I saw his sensitivity and vulnerability.  I liked that.  Suddenly he seemed human.

CH  You come across as being a sporty type, not interested in girly things – and, I might add – too straight talking for your own good.  Would that be a fair assessment of your character?
Bethany  Absolutely!  I suppose I had to learn, didn’t I?  And my poor mother bore the brunt of it really.  Our relationship was fraught to say the least.  Still, many teenage girls don’t get on with their mothers.  It’s normal.  I used to think we could do with a psychiatrist, a counsellor or someone to unravel the problems, though.

CH  Hmm.  But you could just as easily have fallen out with Veronica!  Now there was a feisty character if ever there was one!  Your tantrums didn’t wash with her, did they?
Bethany  You can say that again!  She always told me top wake up and smell the coffee, as they say!  And I did!

CH  And what about, Daniel?  I felt for him when you ‘went off on one’ after you told him about your ghost!  I mean, how did you expect him to react?  If you’ll excuse the pun, you didn’t give him a ghost of a chance!
Bethany  Ah yes, my ghost.  Wasn’t that something?  And yes, like I said, ‘I had a lot to learn.’  It was difficult. I was obsessed, I suppose.  It was a lonely journey.  There was a kind of force working in and outside of me if you know what I mean?  Something or someone else was in the driving seat.  I was left wondering about the possibility of an alternative world only seen and understood by a select few – and I was one of them. I had no choice but to go along with it.

CH  Deceiving your mother in the bargain!
Bethany  Yes, especially my mother.  And that taught me how important it is for people to feel they can talk to one another openly without stress.  I could never talk to her, so guilt came into it, big time, and I hated that.

CH  Yes, I remember when you came downstairs to put the barrel back in the cabinet, hoping your mother wouldn’t notice that you had taken it.
Bethany  I do.  It was the cauliflower that got me.  I saw it out of the corner of my eye.  Its shape took on the image of a face.  Sitting there on the kitchen table with its high cheek bones, it was sort of accusing me.  I had never felt so guilty.

CH  Yes, and I think that guilt came out in your   writing.  At least you could be honest with yourself there.
Bethany  That’s true.  Especially when I tried to express my romantic and sexual feelings towards. Daniel.  I felt son confused, so alone.  I wanted to shout my love from the rooftops and yet, like the old song says, ‘they try to tell you you’re too young, too young to really be in love.’  I suppose you think that sounds cheesy, but it’s true.  Well, it was my reality.

The east coast, where Kindred Spirits is set
CH  And how about fear?  Did you ever have an adrenalin rush when you were scared?
Bethany  You bet I did.  On the headland in the make-shift lean to.  Daniel told me about the Alphonse wandering about the moors with his eyes torn out by the hawks and the sockets full of maggots.  And then in the real world, two legs emerged out of the sea fret and a bunch of dead rabbits were dumped in my lap.  Oh yes, I was scared all right!

CH  Finally, Bethany, was there ever a moment, a poignant moment, that spoke to you in a very special way?

Bethany  There was.  My mother had been so worried and I knew she was concerned about me and Daniel spending the night on the moors together.  I knew I would have some explaining to do.  For most of the journey home neither of us had spoken.  Even so, I was sitting in the backseat of the car with my ankle resting across her knee.  She suddenly started fingering the travel rug.  The years melted away.  Mum was tucking me in just as I remembered her doing when I was a little girl.  I seemed to have a Eureka moment.  Suddenly, I understood the real meaning of unconditional love and I knew everything was going to be OK. 

You can follow Christine on her website  and on Facebook