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16 February 2014

large dimension trade paperback. 114 pages, contains stories, poems, column, a comic strip and an article.

Reviewed by Steve Johnson.

This magazine goes from strength to strength. I didn’t find a single story that I didn’t think to be good quality, I liked some more than others, but there were none that I disliked. Most of the poems too – and I’m not much for poetry – I enjoyed. None of that ‘let’s be obscure and pretentious,’ just good stories told in rhyme or blank verse. And a number of the stories were, IMHO, suitable as award entrants. My friend tells me that there are awards in small press publishing and I think that several of the stories in this issue should be entered. So, what did I like that much? Let’s start with Robert Redwine’s Missing Mittens. A new and cleverly amusing way to provide a dragon with treasure, and rounded off with an ending too that made me smile. Lyn McConchie’s Realities, unlike many of Lyn’s stories which tend to the optimistic/happy ending, this one was a look at reality and how – and why – many people may prefer their dreams. A sometimes harsh tale, but very well told and sadly believable set in a world where the poor have no back-up benefits. Nativity by Francis Silversmith, was a brief but engaging little gem, while Survival of the Wolf by M.E.Garber was Lyn’s counterpart, harsh but with an understandable and believable theme.

Where’d That Come From? by David B. Riley was quite simply an excellent piece of SF, I may have ended up confused as to what exactly was going on with time and other dimensions, but I liked it and my confusion may have been the point, the main character worked by intuition without quite knowing how or why herself and it’s reasonable that this transferred. The point is that I finished the story with a sense of pleased satisfaction. The Dear Cthulhu column by Patrick Thomas made me laugh, Other stories I really liked were Cunjerred by Sarah M. Lewis, Gentle Push by John C. Conway, and Clean Ricky by Steve Mitchell. I particularly enjoyed the poems The Expanding Universe by John Hayes, his personalizing of elements was delightful, and Granpa’s 682 by Karin L. Frank, is all too true, (or will be, has been, – whoops, caught in a mobius loop there for a moment.) The back and front cover art by Laura Givens was gorgeous, it puts a finishing polish on the magazine, while several of the inside illos – such as those by Tom Kelly, Laura Givens again, and Kathy Ferrell, caught my eye as being not only very good, but also art that was appropriate to the story. In short, an superior issue. I found it intriguing too that I have seen a number of the names in this magazine appearing in other small press magazines and anthologies. They produce uniformly good work and time and time again I see work that is inferior in many major anthologies and magazines. Perhaps it’s my taste  in the SF/F field that makes me think this, but I know other readers that agree. Anyway, keep up the good work.

15 February 2014

I can’t help wondering where English justice has gone of late. The newspapers and TV a week or so ago were all agog to report that yet another Coronation Street star has been cleared of sexual assault allegations. William Roache walked free of Preston Crown Court with (yet again) the prosecuter wailing that ‘the case had been treated like any other.’ Oh please! Once again the jury went out long enough to get settled, elect a foreperson, (probably discuss recent episodes of the soap) each talk maybe 15-20 minutes, have a smoke, a cuppa, run a ballot, and return to announce ‘not guilty’ on all charges. Roache was the third Coronation Street star to have been charged with this sort of thing and the third to have been acquitted with the jury talking little time to decide because the case and the complainants had no believability.

Yes, I do believe that historic charges can be viable, and I certainly do believe that they can have occurred. I worked in Rape Crisis for several years in the 1980s. What I do not believe in, is the lack of commonsense in bringing charges where a) there is nothing beyond the complainant’s word, and b) where these events happened 30-70 years ago and memories, the complainant’s and everyone else’s have faded. In fact that was what struck me about the William Roache case. One complainant said that she had told someone at the time, an aunt who had since died. But I know girls, (I was one) and if you’ve been raped who do you tell? Not usually an aunt, who you do tell is your best friend/s. Right then and there, you weep on her/their shoulders. And these women were all in their fifties so best friends should still be alive and compos mentis. The court should have been able to find at least one best friend who could testify that she’d been told about a rape (and by whom) at the time. Not remember it? Oh yes, she would have. Roache was a big star even then. But – no best friends were called. And that alone made me suspect the stories.

Incest is another matter. many victims of that don’t speak for decades, often for fear of what it will do to their family – or because of very believable threats by one who has constant access to them. But what might be termed stranger-rape? About that you tell your best friend, you receive comfort. If you are almost 16, you are also old enough for her to possibly persuade you to tell your parents and to go to the police. Even if that persuading is ineffective or doesn’t occur, you’ve still told her. Even less believable, you have in this case one complainant who said that yes, she was complaining she’d been assaulted by Roache and then admitted she couldn’t actually remember the event and it may not have happened, (that complaint was dropped) followed by a complainant who said that Roache had raped her twice. Not over the same visit, but on two separate occasions some time apart. I find that unbelievable. And it reminds me of comments someone made on a bad marriage when asked if she planned to marry again. She said no. “You don’t stick your foot in a beartrap, chew the foot off to get away – then go find another beartrap.” If you are raped by someone you have deliberately sought out, you don’t then a couple of months later, seek him out again, allow yourself to be private with him under the same circumstances, and expect nothing to happen. Not if you have the sense God gave a rabbit. And the Prosecution Service should know all this too. So why did they prosecute? I can only think that it was a case of ‘damned if we do, damned if we don’t.’ In other words, someome made it clear that if they didn’t, it would look as if they were giving him a free pass because he is a celebrity. So they ignored commonsense, lack of witnesses or evidence or any kind of medical indications, and prosecuted – to lose a fourth case while looking as if they’re engaging in a vendetta. I see their problem, I just find it very unfortunate that male celebrities are the ones paying the biggest price for it.

(And on that too, latest result on this sort of thing has been the Southwark Crown Court clearing of the former BBC Radio 1 DJ Dave Lee Travis of 12 counts of indecent assault. They failed to reach a decision on two further charges. The jury tossed out twelve of the 14, and were hung on two. The Crown Prosecution Service has now to decide if those two complaints will go back to trial. What do you want to bet they do – because if they don’t there’ll be an outcry that they are giving celebrities a free pass. I don’t hold with that either, but in my opinion the truth is, that too many of these guys are paying for being celebrities of the Jimmy Saville era and not for what they’ve done. I don’t believe that in these cases the men would have been charged at all if they had not been well known.)

But then too – the standard of evidence for taking a case to court and for convicting are two different things. One is a question, do we have enough to take this to court? The other is, do we have sufficient evidence, believable witnesses/ complainants to get a conviction? And the answer is often yes to the first but no to the second, after the evidence has been disected, shaken out, held up, considered and throughly chewed over. Two different standards apply to the decisions. And they can be very difficult decisions to make. However I still believe that too many of these historic cases are being brought, driven by public outcry, and by the determination of the CPS not to be seen as being weak on such events or because the defendants are well-known. I think however, that when you have a string of such cases and we’re seeing the defendants being acquitted after very little discussion by the jury, then perhaps the case was too weak to have been brought in the first place. But then, in a way the CPS are defending themselves against an accusing public by doing so. I don’t know the answers here, I only know that I think it’s very hard on a defendant being charged with offenses they probably didn’t commit, that may or may not have happened fifty years ago, for which most sensible juries are going to acquit, and that the defendants have to defend against,  spending vast sums to do so, and suffering  emotional trauma to themselves and their family in the process. I wish there was a better way. Something in which the CPS and the defendants and their families probably wish too – even more so than I do.


the usual egg trickle is down as of late January. I have four hens visibly sitting (3 on hot air and hope, one on 7 eggs) and heaven alone knows what some of the other hens are up to. I’m averaging an egg a day instead of half a dozen. That’s enough to keep me in eggs, and friends who usually get the surplus will just have to buy them from the supermarket. I understand why, when I ask if they’d like a few eggs, they say yes. My hens are completely free-range and their egg yolks are a rich orange and taste like real eggs. It’s one reason why I have hens, I love eggs like that. The other reason is that I like to see the hens scratching about, clucking to each other, being rude to Ed the cat, and generally living life as hens should. It’s a ‘twofer’ and you can’t beat that.

An excellent Friday, the sort that can hardly be beaten. I received several packages of books/magazines. For a start I got my copies of Tales of the Talisman. This contained my story Realities, and the rest of the magazine was excellent too. Very good reading, and tomorrow with luck I’ll also be posting a friend’s review of the magazine.  Next parcel was author copies again, this time of my newest book, Repeat Business, my collection of 14 new Sherlock Holmes short stories. Wildside have done a great job. The cover art is a silhouette of Sherlock with highlights and in a dark brown, cover in white, information (title/author)  in black. very stylish.  Those interested please note that these items are available on-line at their own sites, and at and Barns and Noble.    So what about the third parcel? That was two hardcovers and a paperback from a friend for my reading pleasure. As I said, a really great mail day, the only way it could have been better would have been if there’d been a large cheque to go with all those parcels…

4 February 2014

Yes, Over My Dead Body has accepted a story of mine, The Nit-Picker, for publication on their site. I first sold to them (believe it or not) back in spring of 1994 and it’s nice to know that after 20 YEARS they are still going and I’m still selling to them. That sale made my day!

I recently found an article that says the subduction zone off the North Island East Coast has been ranked as being at high risk of generating a giant earthquake. New research rated a 600-kilometre section of the Hikurangi-southern Kermadec subduction segment, starting at the lower North Island and stretching to the northeast, as having the highest risk of producing a giant quake of a greater magnitude than 8.5.How nice, how charming, and of course, you can guess where I live. Yup, that’s right, within that zone. It isn’t enough that we’ve had a whole string of quakes in the past three years, now we should watch for really really massive quakes and tidal waves?

It goes on to say that “ateam led by Associate Professor Wouter Schellart, of Monash University in Melbourne, developed a global map in which individual subduction zone segments were ranked in terms of their predicted capability to generate such a giant. The largest earthquakes happen only at subduction zones. Each zone segment was ranked according to six parameters. In the highest risk segments all six parameters fell within the ranges seen in previous quakes of greater magnitudes than 8.5. According to the research, the Hikurangi-southern Kermadec subduction zone segment had the characteristics of the locations of previous giant earthquakes, Schellart said. “It should be capable of generating a giant earthquake as well.”

Oh right, that’s just what I wanted to hear. Although it could be worse, at the some 1400 ftabove sea-level that I am, it’s unlikely any tidal wave will reach farside, and if it does I’ll have the thin consolation of knowing that almost all of the country has preceded me into oblivian. Then again if the quake was 8.5 or thereabouts I’ll probably have died before any wave gets here, which again is rather thin consolation.

Schellart said “The crust in the southern part of the North Island is being shortened and compressed, which implies that the subduction zone fault has high stress on it, which can mean that the fault is temporarily locked. If that part slipped it could create a large earthquake and potentially could result in a cascading effect, causing segments further to the north to slip as well.”

Great, so we are informed that not only could there be a ‘great quake’ but that it may even be likely. In the Boxing Day quake of 2004, 400-500Km slipped in similar circumstances and that’s what this subduction could do too. The expert thinks that the biggest worry would be that a giant quake could also cause a tsunami. Hmmm. If I’m dead under the ruins of my 8.5-quake-struck house, I doubt I’ll care. But the final two items made me twitch slightly. The expert said that “he was not an expert in tsunami modelling but thought the tsunami could be “metres” high.and “he could not comment on when such an earthquake might happen. My conclusions are that I probably don’t have to worry about the tsunami – unless he really meant “hundreds of metres. (and it would have to be over 400m high to reach here.) I can ignore the giant quake as well. If an 8.5 hits my immediate area there’ll be nothing I can do, not even my 130-year old solidly-built farmhouse will stand up to that. The big shelterbelt trees all aound the house will fall, and it occured to me that as I can’t move fast, I’m bound to be under something when it lands. I’ve therefore decided to forget it. There’s nothing I can do, and right now I’m in the middle of writing a book, x weeks short of birthday celebrations (my 68th) and anticipating friends arriving in a couple of hours to have lunch with me. I don’t have time to worry about earthquakes, scientists, or tidal waves. I have to go out and push a hen off her nest so I have eggs to scramble…


Yes, it’s ‘that’ time of the year again, and yesterday I went out to the paddock where the flock is currently grazing and found two new arrivals. Rachel sheep has had twin ewe lambs. Charming little wobbly-legged creatures that look to be thriving thus far. Foley (the ram – who belongs to a friend) seems to have done an excellent job, and if it was also an expeditious one, I can expect more woolly arrivals this month. Ah, the cycle of life.

Hardcover, Pan McMillan, 2013,

At the present rate of production which has slowed considerably from the original books in this series, I estimate that the author will be well into her 80s when the final Z volume is published. I can only hope, in view of the uncertainty of life, that she has actually written X/Y/Z in first draft already so as not to disappoint loyal readers just in case. This one was a Christmas gift and came with a note that it the giver’s opinion it was one of the best. It certainly is well up to scratch, 23rd in the series and no drop-off in quality is a heck of a record and why I have continued to collect and hold onto this series which I reread regularly.

This series entry has a very good intertwining of two major cases that at first seem to have nothing to do with each other. A sleazy small-time private detective Kinsey knew very slightly years ago is found murdered, apparently the victim of an over-enthusiastic mugger. Six weeks later a homeless man is found dead on the beach in his sleeping bag, apparently from natural causes. Yeah right! Us readers know from experience that it won’t have been either a genuine mugger or natural causes and we’d be correct. Kinsey becomes involved when an irked ex-lover turns up asking why she recommended him to the sleazy detective. Dietz did three thousand dollars worth of work for Pete Wolinsky and now finds that he isn’t being paid, so why did Kinsey recommend him to the man, what does she know about him, where can he be found, and…

Then there’s the homeless man who when Kinsey is dragged into looking at him is discovered to be a distant relative, and far more startling that he’s left her a very substantial estate over an ex-wife and his three children. Then there are his homeless friends who conspire to haul her into raiding the camp of a couple of dangerous men, a medical examiner who discovers that no, it wasn’t natural causes, Dietz, the ex-lover who isn’t always ex, and her landlord Henry, who has cat trouble, brother trouble, and has accidentally become infested by one of Kinsey’s distant relatives – daughter of the dead man.

That’s the great thing about Sue Grafton. She makes you nod thoughtfully, laugh quietly, and occasionally snort disbelievingly. She’s the only mystery writer I know who can get away with lyrical and quite long descriptions of a sunrise or scenery and make you like it. Her books are readable, despite this one being as I judge around 190,000-200,000 words, there’s no sag anywhere. That’s the advantage of a double plot, in single plot mysteries where they run to this length I find that there are stretches of the book that I skim rather than read. And most likely I’ll mark that book/series as a good read-once, but not a keeper. With Sue Grafton’s books I started reading them with A is for Alibi, have never stopped, and have every book. This new entry is excellent – and recommended.