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30 September 2013

And I notice that in the past couple of weeks I’ve been inundated by a slightly different spam type. This all in a frenzied spate of French. Since I speak – and read – no French it’s a complete waste of time sending it to me. It appears to come from a list of women’s christian names and looks to be all the same. Sigh. I really do wonder about spammers. What the heck is the use of sending me long messages about something or another in a langauge I can’t understand? I mean, even if I was interested in the product and wanted to buy it, I’d never know because I can’t read the message. Something that applies even more to the even longer still  messages that I’ve been receiving in Chinese. Several pages of chinese characters is – er Greek to me. And a waste of everyone’s time. Do spammers even have a brain? Or could that perhaps be the subject for a new medical investigation…

29 September 2013

softcover, published Whortleberry PressSeptember 2013.  16 stories.                     reviewed by Steve Johnson.

Another interesting anthology from Whortleberry. I grabbed this the day after it arrived and read it yesterday, writing this review while Glen took her turn at reading it. This bunch of stories adds up the same way as an increasing number of Whortleberry anthologies, in that while I may not particularly like a story, it isn’t because it isn’t well-written, but for personal reasons…and I wonder where they find so many good writers, because Ghod knows there are too many lousy ones out there, many of them getting into print with badly written or even unreadable books as well as short work. And at times when I run across this sort of thing, I also wonder why the heck the publisher was wasting mnoney on something like that when far better authors have problems finding a buyer.

Amongst the stories I liked best in Strange Lucky Halloween were: Worthless by Warren Bull, which is a clever story of retribution in the most appropriate medium, I chuckled long and loud after this one. Lyn McConchie’s Wolf in the Fold is a cleverly written tale in which the way retribution was carried out is a neat mix of old-fashioned and very modern. Night Music by Wayne Scheer is something different in hauntings and all the better for that, it’s good to see a haunting that isn’t bog-standard. Dianne Arrelle’s The Cutout is  a very nicely done story of obsession and horror. While  A Butterfly Beginning by Sandi Reed-Chan is a future history tale that’s sweet, gentle, and optimistic, an ideal story on which to end the anthology.

I thought that a couple of the tales were a bit bland, others rather standard in theme, but I couldn’t honestly say that any were badly done or had obvious faults and that says a lot about the editors’ ability to select work. I continue to watch eagerly for Whortleberry anthologies and I am only sorry to hear that because the owner has medical issues arriving about that time, this year’s last in line, the Christmas anthology, has been cancelled. I hope that once she’s back on her feet we can expect the 2014 anthologies to begin appearing again on schedule and of their usual quality. Because it would be a great pity were it otherwise.

 

22 September 2013

I was in the kitchen with my house manager when there was a loud buzzing and we became aware that we had a companion – a large irked bumble bee. I grabbed for the bee-jar just as the bee vanished iunder the sideboard. My house manager took the jar from me, dropped to her knees and peered under the sideboard from whence came an agitated buzzing. She emerged after several minutes with the bee safely in the jar although it had quite a lot to say about that. Fortunately translation wasn’t currently occuring, although after 25 years of this, I could make a fairly good guess – “Interfering humans! I don’t want to be imprisoned! And I don’t want to be in this kitchen either!” We agreed with that last, so the bee was conveyed outside, shaken from the jar, and departed as if equipped with Jato units. I know that now and again Thunder catches a bumble bee and lets it go inside. But he’d been nowhere near the action this time. I can only think that the idiot bee had entered of its own free will and then found where it had arrived at, wasn’t where it had planned to be. And that won’t be the last time we see one by any means…not now that it’s spring.

Back in the 1980s, I started writing a series of mystery tales about Deetctive-Lieutenant Luisa Garcia of the Los Angeles Burglary and Homicide Squad. Over the 1990s I sold a number of them to a small USA print magazine, but even when that market collapsed on me, I continued to write another Luisa Garcia story every now and again. I LIKED Luisa. She lost her parents young and has been brought up by her grandmother in a working class suburb of small frame houses in a cul de sac. Luisa and her family are originally from Mexico but have been living in LA for several generations and since she is regarded as ‘one of them’ locally, there is no prejudice that she has become a cop. Hence Luisa’s cases can be anything from a murder that she attends in her official capacity, right down to the after-hours helping an ex-schoolfriend whose job is at risk.The stories remain set around the 1980s, and Luisa depends more on her understanding of human nature, common sense, and knowing the habitual criminals which whom she regularly deals, than scientific and laboratory findings.

Other series characters arrived, and the total of Luisa Garcia tales has climbed past 20 and looks likely to reach 30 in another year or two. I’ve sold a collection of them (To Serve and Protect) officially scheduled for 2015 (although that could be delayed) but don’t think I’ll stop writing them once that’s published. They’ve been accepted by a continuing trickle of theme anthologies in the past five or so years so it’s clear that others like them too. They’ve never made it to book-lengh and I don’t think they’re likely to however. Luisa fits better for me as 1500-4,000 word short stories, but she is so much fun to write. Any time a new Luisa plot pops into my head it’s like an old friend dropping in. In a way it’s what I say about my tiny farm, that you don’t make money with a place this size, but you save some and you eat very well. And with writing Luisa I may not make much money but I have a great time and I settle for that very happily.

An excellent read as ever and I’ve ordered the next. In this book Precious Ramotswe is approached by a farmer who complains that two of his cattle have been horribly slaughtered and he wants to know who and why. And while Precious never quite discovers who did the deed she does succeed in stopping further deaths. All the usual characters appear, her husband, his apprentices, (Charlie is accused of having sired twins on a respectable girl, Precious investigates this too and solves the problem) Ms Makutsi, assistant detective at the Number One ladies Detective Agency, and others, and the book ends with a very happy event, the wedding of Grace Makutsi and her fiancee, Phuti Radiputi. I’ve never been quite sure that these books truly fit the ‘mystery’ category, and the only reason that bothers me is that I wonder if claiming that they are specifically mysteries doesn’t limit sales. But regardless of whatever category in which they are listed, they are great reads, gentle, amusing, often very clever in their display and understanding of human nature, and I regard them with affection, buying each as available, reading, and subsequently re-reading them many times. I hope that the author continues this series, I’ve never much enjoyed his other books, but I have always really enjoyed the tales of Precious, her family, friends, and her clients and I hope that they will continue for many years to come.

13 September 2013

Bantam paperback. Published January 2012. 15th in the Home Repair is Homicide series.

I started reading this series back in 2001 when I was staying with Andre Norton and she recommended it very strongly. I went right to the nearest bookstore and bought the first three that were out in the series, read them, and agreed. They were good, they were fun, (loved the titles) they had an interesting background and I’ve been buying them ever since. In this one Jacobia Tiptree is starting work on the big porch of her home. The porch needs the old paint stripped, then it requires repainting, and there are other things that may improve it as well. Jacobia has started on that work, and then too, she needs to make concrete anchors for Sam’s (her son) for-sale boats, and, as she’s just discovered the presence of a stalker in her small town, that isn’t helping her concentrate on painting and anchors. And being only a stalker isn’t all he is – or plans. Not when Jacobia finds graphic photos appearing. The first on her laptop shows a gruesome murder, the second, found in an abandoned building, shows her son with a target circle drawn around him. And between those pictures, Jacobias has remembered where she saw her stalker, and identifies him as someone with what he thinks is good reason to punish her. Friends and family gather to help, but in the showdown, it will be Jacobia against her stalker, and only her ability to talk fast and speak the truth may save her. I have really loved this series,. But –

I’ve also just read the next in the series and it made me nervous. Many years ago I read Patricia Cornwall’s series and loved it for the first few books. Then she got into the habit some mystery writers fall into, of making her main character the constant target all of the time, with the events and attacks on Kay Scarpetta in each book being more and more horrendous. I don’t read mystery/crime/detective books for that. I read them for the main character solving crimes against others. I don’t mind one now and again that focuses on attacks on them, but not over and over again. (Thanks be that J.D. Robb has never fallen into that trap because I grab every book of the Dallas series as it appears and she uses that plot only around once every 10-12 books.) On the ‘Kay Scarpetta’ series, after two books of that sort and the next indicating clearly that it was similar, I took the entire armful down to the library, donated them, and never bought or read any further books by Patricia Cornwall. She had turned me off her her writing permanently. And to my worry I find that this book is of that type, and the next (Dead Level) is too. However happily, it looks as if A Bat in the Belfrey, latest in the series may not be. Looking forward to it while hoping that it’s another dozen books before Jacobia has a stalker again. That’s if the author wants to keep selling to me, because I’d like to keep buying.

 

and they certainly were. Although they could have been worse, we didn’t lose power as half the South island did, and we had only 28mls – just over an inch- of rain, not the flooding others had. But it was a wild couple of days. I was watching the 6pm news on TV Wednesday when the first gust came out of nowhere, and if that wasn’t around 150K I’d be surprised. The whole house shuddered, Thunder dived for cover with me, and I sat clutching my cat and being very thankful that I’d anticipated the gale and let the fire go out much earlier. We had a fairly wild night although where I am I doubt that the basic gale rose much above 100k, although in lower immediate areas it was a solid 120k. But no damage here, and even the goose currently nesting doesn’t seem to have been that bothered. But any time we have our gales, I’m reminded that in the USA winds of 119 are classified as a ‘hurricane.’ Yes, well, we just had around 36 hours of ‘hurricane.’

Last month I was offered a contract for my Sherlock Holmes new (14) short stories collection. REPEAT BUSINESS is now my first book sale for 2013. There is a suggestion that it may be offered to Large Print markets in the UK too. Not as a single collection, but as a duo since they prefer a lower word count. I should be seeing the suggested cover art soonish too, and I look forward to that. I’m very happy that it’s sold, AND that both publisher and editor really liked the stories – written very much in the original style. Yes, I like the Elementary TV series, but  I prefer the written tales to be in the old style and background. If you too like that sort of Sherlock Holmes story, go and buy the collection when it appears from Wildside.

 

11 September 2013

I see on TV this morning that Michael le Vell of Coronation Street fame was acquitted of rape and assault charges after the jury deliberated a bare four (or five, reports claim both)   hours. And when you add in going out to the jury room, sorting out who’s sitting where, hearing from the court official about meal breaks, where the toilet is, being warned at length about not discussing it outside the jury room etc. etc. then  selecting a forewoman/man, and getting started, and once done, having lawyers and others informed that a decision has been made and recalling them to the courtroom, the jury (and judge) coming back and getting seated again, then the time of actual discussion and deliberation by the jury could be down to three hours – or even less.  Three hours to decide if the evidence presented was convincing! And clearly it wasn’t. Evidence that had been even moderately convincing would warrant a day’s discussion. And since when do twelve widely different people agree on something – anything – in three hours? In this case, when it’s clear virtually from the moment they were seated in the jury room that there wasn’t a believable case to answer and so said all of them.

I am not necessarily saying that Le Vell, was innocent. What I am saying, is should this prosecution have ever been brought? This trial in all its ramifications has gone on for two years from start to finish. It’s almost certainly cost Le Vell a fortune, huge anxiety, and caused massive stress for him and his friends, family and employer. Then the jury considered all the evidence that they heard over 7-8 days – and rejected it in three hours. There’s only one reason for a rejection that’s that fast. And that is that no member of the jury believed it. Not that half thought it was reasonable and were argued around. Not that one was a holdout and dug his/her toes in for a day. No, three hours, just long enough to talk it through with each jury member speaking for an average of fifteen minutes. And then – consensus. “We don’t believe any of the evidence presented, we don’t believe any of the witnesses, or the victim, and we’re in no doubt about it. There’s either insufficient evidence or we don’t believe the evidence.” So why on earth did the British Prosecuter bring a case so thin a jury took a mere three hours to dismiss it?

Perhaps for the same reason that other cases have been brought in the past. Because Michael le Vell is a celebrity. It may be that it was argued thus…If we don’t bring a case the plaintiff will say we were prejudiced because the accused is a celebrity. Justice must be seen to be done, therefore we’ll charge this guy and let the jury decide. Did anyone protest that there was insufficient evidence, that very probably the jury would acquit? If so, the reply was likely to have been that so long as it went to a jury, the prosecuters were in the clear, they’d displayed a determination to prosecute no matter how well known the defendant. Did someone point out that a case would cost the defendant a very large sum of money for lawyers, stress, anxiety, appalling media intrusion, and possiblydamage his relationships with family or friends? If so they probably received the same reply. That so long as it went to a jury, the prosecuters were in the clear, they’d displayed a determination to prosecute no matter how well known the defendant.

The trial took a week, and must also have cost the Crown Prosecution Service a small fortune, not just over the trial, but also in the two years leading up to the trial. The question that troubles me is – would this case have ever gone to trial had the defendant been an ordinary mechanic in a garage? Or would the CPS have looked honestly at the probable outcome and decided against bringing such a case, on the grounds that it would be a waste of taxpayer’s money. Le Vell has been pilloried by the media because he drinks and has one night stands. If these things were criminal offences I have little doubt that a solid percentage of the UK Bar Association would be in the dock too – as well as large numbers of the ordinary British population – or the population in any country including ours. But they weren’t charging him on those counts. They were charging him with child rape, indecent assault on a child, sexual activity with a child and causing a child to engage in sexual activity – in a case where there was no physical or forensic evidence or psychiatric reports, where no one else ever reported unease at having him around their children, and where no child porn was ever found in his possession. And one point, he was charged with child rape. This implies full penetration – of a 6 year-old-girl by an adult male. I should have thought that such on-going activity at this age would have produced clear physical damage. Something that her mother should have noticed, and even possibly this would have produced scarring that would still be evident to a medical expert. Yet there was no evidence given on any of this.

And, interestingly, the CPS did originally decide not to prosecute because of insufficient evidence, then a year later the CPS head changed her mind – possibly because the plaintiff and her mother threatened to make a fuss in the media as I understand it.  Celebrities have always been easy targets. I suspect that in this case, Michael Le Vell has been another such. Which also leaves me wondering now about the other celebrities who have been changed  in the wake of the Jimmy Saville furore. Are the cases against them as weak? Just how honestly guilty are they? Or are the real charges they face, those of being a celebrity, a male, and being able to produce a media frenzy that makes the CPS look impartial? I guess we’ll be seeing about that…

5 September 2013

Some time ago I re-read my volume of the collected Sherlock Holmes short stories. Around the same time I received a fanzine on that subject and the two things, along with one or two other items promptly set off the sort of chain reaction that such events can in the writer’s subconscious. Over the next three week I wrote like crazy, 14 new Sherlock Holmes short stories, (84,000+ words)  based on the idea that one of the reasons for his success was that people he’d helped, and the friends and family members they’d recommended apply to him, added repeat business. I had huge fun writing the tales, keeping to the original language, background, and fitting new stories in that framework. I didn’t want to modernize the works, I wanted the feeling of the originals, and I believed that I’d caught that.

Two of the stories appeared this year in THE GREAT DETECTIVE: HIS FURTHER ADVENTURES, an anthology from Gryphon Press in the USA. And that produced interest from a different quarter. Last month I was offered a contract for the collection by a different publisher. I’ve accepted, signed, and the contracts are on their way back by post – so, unless things go belly up over a clause I’d like added to cover both parties, REPEAT BUSINESS, is the first book sale of 2013. There is a suggestion that it may be offered to Large Print markets in the UK too. Not as a single collection, but as a duo since they prefer a lower word count. So, as soon as the signed contracts reach their destination and I know the publisher agrees with my clause, I’ll be able to announce who that is and possibly a publication shedule as well. This will be the first of two mystery short story collections contracted to appear in the next 2-4 years, and I’m looking forward to both.

 

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