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18 January 2015

As the media-reading/watching half the world has seen of late, Prince Andrew has a friend with dubious tendencies. The media and some others too, seem to think that if your friend is a pedophile, then firstly you had to know, and secondly you must be one too. There are times when I sigh for the logic of the human race. Most pedophiles don’t go around telling all their friends and acquaintances of their proclivities. They may tell one or two, IF they are very certain that those proclivities are shared. But then too, if you happen to be a rabid rugby fan and are well aware that a good friend has absolutely no interest in rugby in any way shape or form, you usually shut up about it to them. People tend to compartmentalize. And since when did having a friend into rugby automatically mean that you must yourself (no option) also be a rugby fanatic?
On that system I am, to begin with, an attempted murderer. Back in the ’80s I worked with someone I liked. They subsequently left that employment and some years later were charged and convicted for attempted murder. I then ‘became a murderer’ when, a decade or two later, another friend of earlier times committed murder and was convicted. Except of course, that no one thinks I’m a killer just because someone I knew did that. So why is there an assumption that Prince Andrew must have known what his friend did, and, worse still, that he must have participated? I liked both people, even attempted-murderers or murderers can be likeable. In fact both had a number of friends, that hardly means that all of us are secret killers too. Yet over and over the media and others appear to believe that if a man is a pedophile then anyone who knows him has to have known that and joined in his activities. Oh, please. The average pedophile keeps such preferences very very quiet.
Then too, in this case Epstein’s activities during Prince Andrew’s visits seem to have occurred in a gray area. In most countries, sex with a woman over sixteen is legal. Why would any man accepting her apparently enthusiastic cooperation assume that there was illegality involved when he ‘knew’ her to be of age? The woman in question says that she was compelled to have sex with whomever Epstein nominated. But was there any reason for a man with whom she had sex to know this? Did she tell them so, appear desperately reluctant? It now appears that in the area of America where this occurred she was underage. Would any man involved with her at that place and time have known that – particularly if he wasn’t American?
I’m not saying that Prince Andrew did have sex with the woman in question. What I am saying is that IF he did, then he may have had no reason to believe that he was acting illegally and in most other areas of the world, he wouldn’t have been. Having sex with a consenting woman of seventeen is legal in Britain, New Zealand, Australia, and much of the USA. How was he supposed to know that in this particular geographical area in the USA, it wasn’t? And that’s if he had sex with her. There seems to have been a huge rush to judgement, based on disapproval of his friendship with Epstein as in “lie down with dogs, get up with fleas.”. I would remind anyone reading this of another saying, “all crows are black, but anything black is not necessarily a crow.’”
I had a friend who was a murderer, that doesn’t make me one. I have friends with money, that neither makes me rich nor involved in stockbroking. I have friends who are crazy about rugby, that doesn’t make me a rugby fanatic. Just because you know someone, doesn’t automatically mean that you know every single secret they have ever had. If the secrets are discreditable they are likely to keep them from you, wishing to retain your friendship and knowing they’ll lose it if you find out. What I’m saying is that association is not always contagious, and that IF Prince Andrew had sex with the lady, he may have genuinely believed it was legal and consentual and that she did nothing to inform him otherwise. How far does that go? Are we all now supposed to make any sex partner take a sobriety test, a lie-detector test and sign a form agreeing to the encounter? And still, how far will that cover someone if the person comes back twenty years later and says that – completely unbeknown to you – they were blackmailed or terrorized into it? Take this far enough and if you can’t risk sex without a 100% guarantee, the human race is going to die out because no one can ever be 100% certain. I don’t know the answer, but the questions and some assumptions drawn from them are getting dangerously illogical and unjustifiably hazardous to reputation and livilhood.

Well, we’re solidly into 2015, the year of Back to the Future (as we keep being reminded by TV) and a lot less has changed on the farm. The gaggle has had an unsuccessful year in gosling-production, so no change there. The hens managed to hatch only four chicks, no change there either. Raspberry bushes produced a little under 13kgs, down by about a third on last year, however the lemon tree did a bit better than last year so that balances. Things don’t change much on a farm from year to year unless there’s a disaster like the year we had even worse than usual gales and my covered yards were ripped to pieces, or 2003 when we had a real snow and around 150 outsiders were trapped in the village for a couple of nights. On the other hand I quite like the status quo as regards to the farm and hope it stays that way.
Not that life provides guarantees. The piglets would wish it did – if they but knew. As would the two massive steers my friend and I have been rearing for beef over the forthcoming winter. And another hen is sitting, on a very large clutch of eggs and if there WERE guarantees, she’d hatch the lot. Oh, sigh, and all my books would be best sellers. Yeah, right!

Looking back on 2014 I had a certain amount of status quo there. Eleven stories published in 2013 in anthologies and magazines, and twelve in 2014, so not much difference. Twenty-one articles in 2013, twenty-seven in 2014, a minor improvement there. But books may be the major change this year.
2014 saw only one book out, Sherlock Holmes: Repeat Business, and my western South of Rio Chama was republished as an ebook for the first time. Two other books were intended for publication that year (TO SERVE AND PROTECT, and WINTER OF WAITING) but owing to a temporal glitch they have been rescheduled for early 2015, but then with them, and barring another glitch will be the Sherlock Holmes: Beastly Mysteries volume, and possibly although not certainly, the fourth and final book in my Four Seasons Quartet, Spring of Decisions, and there wil be, again barring glitches or gremlins, the publication of my disaster novel, VESTIGES OF FLAMES, later in the year. So if all goes well, four if not five of my books will be out in 2015. 2014 wasn’t a bad year all in all but 2015 shows promise as being even better.
The books appearing this year should be a good spread too, a double mystery volume, a collection of mystery short stories, one, or perhaps two farm adventure YAs, and the disaster novel.

short story collection, softcover, published Crippin & Landru, 2002.
Just after the New year I settled to re-read half a dozen of the author’s short story collections. Gilbert was a wonderful writer, one of those whom readers are furious to lose since in a very long career he produced no book that was less than good ranging up to superb. At least and happily, he produced a long list of them so if you start reading the lot you’re occupied for months and months depending on how fast you read. The thing I love about the author is not only that he tells a compelling and believable story, but also that he tends to drop in those touches of casual or accidental humour that exist in real life too. For instance the story Miss Bell’s Stocking, in which the local publican and a policeman friend are discussing the hoard of money (stocking) supposedly held by Miss Bell, and wondering where the money might be secreted.
“I heard she keeps it in a cage.”
“A cage?”
?t’s the cage she keeps her old parrot, Joey, in. Got a false bottom.”
Petrella choked over his coffee.

I choked too when I read that, and even now, after reading the story several times over the past twelve years, I still smile. It doesn’t come across as an author deliberately being funny, it’s simply the sort of thing someone says without initially realizing what they’ve said.
And that was Gilbert’s art, to make his people real, and the events that befell them the sort of thing that you could see happening under the circumstances described. Or that you could see happening to you, the reader, under those circumstances. Nor did he discriminate, his main characters were policemen and criminals, young, old, and inbetween, male and female, contemporary and historical, most nationalities, and of all levels of education. His work sold for over sixty years and those of us who’ve collected it over the years have only one regret, that he died and we’ll read no more of his wonderful yarns. I am in some ways mildly fortunate, I know that I don’t have one of his story collections Even Murderers take Holidays, and depending on whether two other books on his list of published volumes are new to me, or simply retitled for the USA market, I may not have read that duo either. One day I’ll find that missing collection at least, and have the thrill of reading a ‘new’ Gilbert. All of which is something rarely said about an author, and if you like a good crime/mystery story or novel then find some of his work, you can’t do better and you often do much worse. I particular recommend his collections, including the Patrick Petrella stories, Mr. Calder and Mr. Behrens, and the novels, Sky High, SmallBone Deceased, the 92nd Tiger,and The Night of the Twelfth.

10 January 2015

Yup, I’ve signed contracts with Lethe Press for my disaster novel (set in New Zealand in 2039) – VESTIGES OF FLAMES. I’ve sold a short story or two to Lethe published anthologies in the past, finding them professional, competent, and producing a nice result. So I’m delighted that FLAMES should be out with them sometime late this year.

It was shearing this week. I got all the woollies in, the shearer arrived, and we ran the sheep into the shearing pen and got started. No problems there, but boy, were they confused when we finished. For the rest of the day I had ten sheep running about the place screaming, unable to recognize family and friends who were now ‘naked.’ They calmed down after twelve hours and by next morning things were back to normal, although the gaggle, now sharing the big front lawn, aren’t quite so laidback about it. But that’s their problem, if they’d hatched goslings the lawn would still be their’s alone. They didn’t, so it isn’t.

Paperback, anthology – 23 stories, published BAEN April 2012.

This is excellent value for money. I received a book voucher and landed on Mighty Ape seeking a good book. I found this one and initially dallied over the choice. The theme is ‘power armor’ and I wasn’t sure what sort of stories I’d find. But then I saw the list of contributors and was hooked. I mean, Jack McDevitt, Simon Green, Mike Stackpole, Tanya Huff, the list went on and I surrendered and bought the anthology. I read it as soon as it arrived and sighed with satisfaction. I’d been right. Jack McDevitt’s story was great (it even had a cat as well as one of my favourites of his characters) Simon Green’s story reminded me of some of Andre’s work, Tanya Huff’s, You Do What You Do, was poignant, and…
I could go on but I won’t. What I can say is that I judge an anthology by how many stories in it there are, where I’d keep the anthology for that story alone. The usual count where an anthology is a ‘keeper’ is 3-5. Now and again particularly with Andre’s anthologies, the count was much higher, she understood that putting together an anthology is an art, not just dumping together a bunch of stories on a similar theme and with a sprinkling of known names. But in this editor I may perhaps have discovered another artist. In 23 stories I found 11 in that ‘keeper’ category, while all of the others were solid work, just not so much to my personal taste.. So sometime in the next few weeks when I have time, I’ll go on line and look up other anthologies John Joseph Adams has edited and buy a second, and if the count is as good in that one, a third, a fourth… but take a look at this one, you too may end up hooked on an editor who really does know what he’s doing.

2 January 2015

hardcover, published July ’14, Grand Central Publishing (Hatchette).(It may also be an interesting sign of the times that this publisher is now adding a line in the information at the front – “The publisher is not responsible for websites or their content that are not owned by the publisher.) I’m left wondering what event made that necessary.

As always, a great read. A friend sent this as part of my Christmas present and I saved it for Christmas Day. It may be a little shorter than usual, my estimate was around 80,000 words, but it packs the same old McCone punch. Sharon is approached by clients sent by a friend of Sharon’s, Jay and Camilla Givens report stange sights that Camilla has been seeing, and want Sharon to investigate. She doesn’t much like Jay, but Camilla is genuinely distressed and Sharon agrees to take the case. She then finds that Jay is involved in a shady urban treasure-hunting group, who may be doing a lot more than play games. Gradually as she is drawn into the action she becomes aware that this may also impinge on a ransom case that her husband is negotiating, and the next thing that she knows accusations to Homeland Security and the FBI are being made against her. Sharon goes to ground while she and her staff work to uncover the truth, which when it is exposed, is – in a way – one of the standards of PI cases. But there are some very nice twists, interesting characters, and a good solid resolution. Another book for the ‘keeper’ shelves, and as always, recommended.

and I began the new and final book for my Four Seasons’ Quartet well before Christmas and hope to have it done and away to the publisher by the end of January. Working title is Spring of Decisions, and it’s the fourth after Summer of Dreaming (Winner of the YA Vogel,) Autumn of the Wild Pony, and Winter of Waiting. It’s going well so far, and if that continues I’m on track with my schedule. In fact the publisher already knows what cover she wants to do for it…

As may be guessed from the recent HUFF review, I’ve been re-readinmg all my Tanya Huff books over Christmas. Last to be read were the three ‘Summoning’ books which I like best of all her work. I was just reading Austin the cat’s demand yet again to be fed – when my own resident feline leaped onto the bed, marched up and applied a paw to my arm. “I’ve been scaring starlings from your raspberries and I’m starving, Feed Me, NOW!” I looked at him and laughed, to his indignation. But it struck me as funny that I was reading a cat’s demand for food, at exactly the moment Thunder arived with the same plea. I shouldn’t have laughed however, it cost me extra cat biscuits to placate my friend. Because cats really don’t like being laughed at.