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28 July 2014

Hardcover, published July 2014, Minotaur, (St Martin’s.)

This is the 17th in the ‘Meg Langslow’ series and as good and as funny as ever. I first ran across this series with the fourth book ‘Revenge of the Wrought-Iron Flamingos.’ I brought it because it had RPGs in it, (er no, not rocket-propelled grenades -but role-playing games) and I thought that looked interesting. It was, and I shot out to buy the previous three, then all the others in the series as they appeared. I’ve happily followed Meg through her blacksmithing career, her meeting with the man working in the bridal-wear shop, to her engagement, marriage, and production of twins. I love her eccentric family, the weird things that happen around her, and some of her coping mechanisms. So this is more of that and I have the next book already on order and prepaid – The Nightingale Before Christmas – I don’t want to miss out.

Meg’s father had always wondered who his parents were. He was found abandoned in a library, and a several books earlier his father finally appeared. But what of his mother and the circumstances in which Doctor Langslow had been abandoned? P.I. Stanley Denton, hired to find the missing mother has discovered who she was and surprise, surprise, she has lived much of her life only an hour’s drive away from the Langslow family. Then the bad news, Cordelia is dead – and her cousin insists that it was murder. Meg and Stanley set out for Riverton to dicover the truth about her grandmother’s demise, and with them go a convoy of volunteers led by Meg’s grandfather, a well-known wildlife preservationist. However grandfather Blake and the volunteers aren’t there to assist in solving the mystery, they’re in hot pursuit of a number of feral emus around Riverton, which were released by their bankrupt owner. How the emus fare, how Meg finds the truth about Cordelia’s death, and how she discovers just who is behind more deaths and skullduggery, makes a very funny and entertaining story. Recommended.

I’m not sure if this should really appear in Writing Updates or in Comments from Farside, but a couple of weeks ago I had a throughly pleasant afternoon. To my surprise I was asked to be live-theatre critic for a local theatre’s production of The Vicar of Dibley. In the end my review  of this appeared in two different versions, one in the Dannevirke News(paper.) and the other three days later in the Bush Telegraph. A third and more extensive review went direct to the theatre for possible placement on their notice board in the foyer. The real upside was that I had a great afternoon, laughed like a drain at some of the events and one-liners, and renewed appreciation for live plays. (It’s been many years since I was last at a play rather than some sort of live variety show. In fact the last play was The Rocky Horror Show in the Wellington Opera House – with Russell Crowe in sparkly gold shorts – and I still have the programme signed by him and most of the other cast members.) So this was a treat, and one that gave me a very enjoyable afternoon out.

Yes, Bathsalts and Bedlam has just sold to Tales of the Talisman magazine, to appear in vol.10, issue 3, out in the USA in the coming winter. At my own request I get this in copies, since I normally send a copy of any suitable work to my old High School (Freyberg High in Palmerston North) for their library. Considering that I have 1-4 books out most years, and around 6-10 stories in magazines/anthologies, they get a steady trickle of incoming items.

16 July 2014

I was checking on something else last week when I discovered that my collection of new Sherlock Holmes short stories (Sherlock Holmes: Repeat Business) had been nominated for the Silver Falchion Award in America. I was somewhat surprised, but really pleased. It’s nominated in the category of Best Anthology/Collection, and while I don’t expect it, I would be delighted to win and hope to be at least a finalist. I notice with interest that another Sherlock Collection is also in that list, and if I don’t win, I hope it does.


Back in 1990 I saw that a new book was out from Katherine Kerr. I ignored it. For some reason I have never enjoyed her Deverry books and without even reading the title I assumed that this was more of the same. A year later I observed the same book, this time in a UK hardcover and paused long enough to look it over. Ah, not fantasy, this one was SF and it looked interesting. I borrowed my local library’s copy, read it, went straight out and bought my own hardback. POLAR CITY BLUES had me hooked. I loved the characters, the background, and the situation – Polar City is the capital of Hagar, one of the few worlds on which the tiny, human-dominated Republic sits, squeezed between the Interstellar Confederation and the enormous Coreward Alliance. (Known to the inhabitants of Hagar as ‘the cons’ and the ‘lies.’) When an alien from the Confederation Embassy is murdered, Police Chief Bates faces an explosive situation. The main characters are neatly balanced. There is Lacey, human and female, involved in assorted semi-legal and definitely illegal activities, Mulligan, human, male, psychic and hates it. There is Buddy the comp(uter). An intelligent machine, a genuine characters in several ways, and good value, and there is Nunks, an alien, friend of Lacey and Mulligan, and telepathic but unable to speak verbally. I loved the book, read and re-read it for years (and am still doing so) and mourned that there didn;t seem to have been more than that one.

Then in 2005 and quite by accident I ran across a sequel that had been published in 2000 and must not have been that widely publicized since I’d never heard of it. POLAR CITY NIGHTMARE was a collaboration with Kate Daniels, and yes, it’s just as good. All the original characters, new and original problem being a mystery with political twists. The investigation of smuggling, blackmail and murder on two planets uncovers a plot that may unbalance the political equilibrium between the human dominated Republic and the two major alien dominated governments. Set both in Polar City on Hagar and on the capital planet of Sarah, Polar City Nightmare develops themes from the original book: machine intelligence, prejudice, and human relationships, along with a consideration of what is ‘alien’. And it’s a very good read! It took ten years to produce book two, and it’s been fourteen years since that one. I guess that book three won’t be out any time soon and for that I am truly sorry because I enjoyed the heck out of both books. They are warm, clever, excellently written, and I fell in love with the characters. The author is regularly writing new books so it isn’t as if she couldn’t do a third of this series. Ms Kerr, won’t you please do another Polar City book for those of us out here who loved the first two. Please

Yes, it continues wet but not that cold. So far this month we’ve had one medium frost – to my approval – but 66mls of precipitation which is keeping the ground very soft, and – to their outrage – the hens very damp. However we’ve had too many gales and the woodshed has sprung a leak! Oh, well, it’s still better than pouring rain and freezing cold on top of the gales. Must get the woodshed roof fixed however.

Softcover, 2009, Harpercollins (New Zealand.)

Our local video shop, accepting that sometimes people like a book instead, has a set of half a dozen bins along the shopfront, containing books at $2.95 each or 4 for $10. All used but in almost new condition, and it’s common if I’m in town for me to stop and graze my way along them. Which is how I discovered this book. I was surprised that I’d missed it in 2009, because I tend to like ‘horse’ mysteries and to add to it, this one was written by a kiwi and is set very solidly in New Zealand. Better still, the writer knows what she’s talkjing about and manages to write backgrounds in the world of three-day-eventing, and long-standing family problems, with a foreground of everything from arson to murder as someone tries to win a lucrative contract at all costs.

Dr. Caitlin Summerfield gets a message while she is at work in the hospital, to be told that her mother, whom Caitlin hasn’t seen or spoken to in seven years, has been found unconscious in a field at her breeding and horse training establishment, apparently after a fall from her horse. Caitlin goes there, and finds that her mother is in a coma, in massive debt, and that the girth on the saddle that was being used has had stitching deliberately cut. From there things escalate, as Caitlin finds her mother’s car has been stolen, one of the best horses has vanished, the next-door neighbour is both attractive and attracted to her, she has a live -in assistant, a foul-mouthed stroppy sixteen-year-old girl, and that the local police are wondering – if none of the continuing crimes are accidents could it be that they are Caitlin’s work for the insurance? With Dom, the attractive neighbour and Kasey the assistant, Caitlin sets out to discover what’s going on, who’s responsible, and all of this while competing in three-day eventing around the country. I read this, closed the book and there was no question but that it was going on the permanent shelves. I must see if I can find the author’s website in case she’s written more great mysteriues like this one. (And I did, to discover to my considerable annoyance that this book seems to be a one-off. Arrgghhh. I liked the book, and wanted more of this type. I can only hope that the author does produce another sometime…)

6 July 2014

Yes, to my delight a story I wrote for a new anthology has been accepted and contracts signed. THE WHEEL sold to Zombiefied 111 anthology which will be out from Sky Warrior Press. And one of the reasons I’m so pleased about that one is that I am also a member of the International cat Writers Association. Since The Wheel featiures cats in a mnajor way, the story will be eligible, once published, for the 2015 awards – Muse Medallion for Best Short Story featuring cat/s. I like the medallions, I like writing and selling cat stories, and I like winning. The perfect trilogy.

I’ve heard some friends being rude about automatic spell/grammar/punctuation checkers in the past. But the one that slew me was hearing about a rightwing Christian group in the States that programmed their computer to replace the word ‘gay’ where ever it appeared, with the word ‘ homosexual.’ The problem is that the word gay, particularly in old material, does NOT mean homosexual, nor does it always mean certain things in name contexts. For example there is a well-known American Olympic runner whose name happens to be Tyson Gay.  I don’t imagine he was happy with the website’s transposition. There is the Emily Kimborough book, written as I recall around the 1930s, about the overseas trip of her and her friend to Europe – Our Hearts Were Young and Gay. Our Hearts Were Young and Homosexual lends a whole other meaning that I doubt the author – if she’s still around – would appreciate either. Then there is my favourite quote for the re-purposing of the word gay anyway. In the western song, The Streets of Laredo, there occurs the lines, t’was once in the saddle we used to go dashing, t’was once in the saddle we used to go gay. Transpose that and the mind boggles. I hear that the group in question found the transposition more trouble than it was worth and negated it. And I’d say that was as well. before assorted people named Gaylord, Gayson, or town like Gay in Georgia, start lawsuits. In fact considering all the possible pitfalls of that, I think I can live with the occasional oddities of my spellchecker.

1 July 2014

Worldwide Mystery, paperback, September 1994.

I picked this up in a bookarama in 2007 and some time later heard that the author was dead. I was annoyed about that, as I was also given to understand that this was her only book. I liked the background and the characters and muttered again my mantra that, ‘good authors have no right to stop writing or die!’ What was my surprise when looking up something else, I found that the lady had gone on to write four further books in this series before her death in 2005. I now need to see if I can lay hands on those. Would anyone who can offerme  paperbacks of the other 1-4 either free, in swap for a book or two of mine, or at a fair price, let me know.

The mystery’s background locale is the small town of Purple Sage, Jolie Wyatt is very recently divorced from her second husband and Jolie and her son Jeremy (from her first marriage) are living in the town now, and not on the Wyatt ranch with Matt. Jolie is managing, having a job as campaign manager for her friend Diane’s husband who is running for mayor and attending meetings of the Purple Sage Mystery Wtriters group. All is well until the judge, regarded as the patron saint of Purple Sage is murdered, using the exact method and poison Jolie created for the mystery novel she’s writing. So was her method stolen by one of the writers, by the policeman who helped with her research, or by someone they told? And why should anyone kill an old man who had done so much for the town? Or was he, perhaps, not quite the saint that everyone claimed him to be?

For her own sake as chief suspect, Jolie starts investigating, and finds that either the town really believes she did it, or someone is stirring up the inhabitants against her. A rock through a car window, an physical attack on Jolie in the dark of her own garage, a car following her, where will it end, in her death or her discovery of the killer, and what about Matt, her ex-husband who is still around? I liked this book, it was a good read with interesting characters, a clever murder method, and well-written peripherals such as the other writers in Jolie’s group, the Mayoral campaign, and the problems that Jeremy has with his mother being chief suspect. I recommend it (and hope to lay hands on the other four at some stage.)