Contents:

What can you find here? Reviews of new and not quite so new Sherlock Holmes novels and collections. Interviews with authors, link to blogs worth following, links to where you can purchase my books and some reviews of my work garnered from Amazon sites. Plus a few scary pics of me and a link to various Lyme Regis videos on YouTube...see what we do here and how....and indeed why!!! Next to the Lyme Regis Video Bar is a Jeremy Brett as Holmes Video Bar and now a Ross K Video Bar. And stories and poems galore in the archives.

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Holmes and Watson: An American Adventure

Holmes and Watson: An American Adventure is available for pre-ordering from Amazon. This tale involving Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson features Holmes looking into the infamous Borden murders that occurred in Fall River on a hot summer's day in 1892. It is now 1897 and two more axe murders rock Fall River society. Is Lizzie Borden to blame?

Order it here:  Amazon UK and is already available on Amazon US

And a look at a work in progress now: Sherlock Holmes and the Scarborough Affair. A tale of strong women, chambermaids, spies, murder and cricket.. It is a collaboration between myself and Gill Stammers. A quick peek:

Miss Poole turned to face me and for the first time during the interview, she showed surprise.  I was a little abashed as I realised immediately that I had been somewhat curt, having berated Holmes for his own rudeness earlier.
            “Ah, you and I have come between Dr Watson and his supper, Miss Poole.  A very unwise course of action, of which I have been guilty many a time and should know better.  Liberate our food from beneath its cloche, Watson and we will all partake of the meal.  Perhaps, then, we can continue our discussion in a less formal manner and Miss Poole may consider us as colleagues rather than foe.”
            Although I found Holmes’s choice of words unexpected, I wasted no time wondering about them and gave my full attention to removing the covers.  I was delighted to see, not only the fare that lay beneath, but also that the food was still warm.  I barely registered Miss Poole’s response.
            “Colleague, Mr Holmes?”
            I busied myself with creating space for our plates.  The chef had prepared a luxurious selection of the finest fish, meats and an array of English vegetables, transformed with Gallic flare, to create a merger of the two culinary cultures.  The Beaune had been opened by the sommelier before being despatched to the room to allow it to breathe.  I decided it had breathed long enough.
            “Miss Poole, may I pour you a glass of wine to apologise for my former manner?”
            “Thank you, I accept your apology, but there is no need to give up your wine.  It is a vintage for gentlemen, not housemaids.  Besides, I observe there are only two glasses.”
            I looked at her with some scrutiny to see if she was mocking me.  Holmes chuckled.
            “Even with your experience of women on three continents, Watson, on occasion, you are still able to be silenced by them.  I will forgo the wine.”
            Chastened, I set about dividing the food and despite Miss Poole’s protestations, I poured her a little of the wine to see if indeed it was acceptable to a housemaid.  She, at first declined the food, declaring that it may be too rich for her.  I persuaded her to take a small amount of fish.
            “Fish is excellent food for the brain, Miss Poole.”
            “Thank you Dr Watson, I will be sure to eat as much fish as possible in future. It is fortunate that it is in ready supply in Scarborough.
            “May I repeat my query, Mr Holmes?  You said ‘colleague’.”
            “Your self-proclaimed attention to detail suggests to me two occupations, neither of which is housemaid.  The first, although I have discounted it, is that you are a writer, following in your father’s footsteps.”
            “That must be it, Holmes!  Miss Poole is writing detective fiction.  No doubt, we are to be rewritten as characters in her book and the setting is The Grand Hotel,” I exclaimed with excitement as it seemed to fit her actions.  “You must have blessed your fortune to be able, not only to observe, but discourse with the great Sherlock Holmes.”
            “Watson, you have overlooked the fact that I have discounted the theory that she is an author, using the hotel and ourselves for material in a penny-dreadful, for housemaids by a housemaid.  I believe Miss Poole, that you consider yourself to be an amateur detective.”
            “How are you able to arrive at that theory, Holmes?” I said, somewhat disappointed.  I had envisaged Miss Poole entreating me for advice, being a published author myself.
            “The answer is, as always, simple, Watson.  Had Miss Poole been immersed in a plot for her own novel, she would have been unable to keep it to herself when she spoke of her father’s work.  In my experience, writers are not known for hiding their profession modestly under a bushel.  Self-promotion is key to success and ego.”
            I felt I had been admonished; my character tainted.
            “Come, come, Watson, grant me a little amusement at your expense.  You are aware that I suffer your writings of my exploits with forbearance.
            “So, Miss Poole, am I correct in my reasoning or is Watson going to spirit you away to discuss villains and nefarious deeds?”
            “My half-sister, Elizabeth and I are in the process of establishing our own two-woman detective agency,” she announced.            I was pleased to observe that she did not pander to Holmes’s vanity by exclaiming his genius at discovering her secret.
            “I am, as I explained earlier, a housemaid and have been since my arrival in May.  My intention was to join my sister in Scarborough at the beginning of the summer to work as a means to an end in supporting myself whilst my sister takes care of the arrangements in setting up our agency.”
            “What nature of cases do you intend to investigate?  Whom do you expect to use your services?  It is an unusual occupation for young women and I am intrigued.”
            “We are ambitious, Dr Watson and hope that our business is not restricted to finding lost cats for wealthy women, although I suspect there may be many of those.”
            “Do you not see, Watson, a detective agency run by women is a capital idea.  Surveillance by a woman would be so unlikely as to go entirely unnoticed.  Baskets of shopping, waving parasols, taking tea, gossiping on street corners in various apparel; hiding in plain sight; it is the perfect cover.  Sisters going about their daily routine, uncovering crime; who would suspect them?”
            “That was precisely our conclusion, Mr Holmes and of course, we could keep a look out for lost cats at the same time.”
            “So, as I have said, we are colleagues, Miss Poole.  I assume you stumbled on this case quite by chance.”
            “I may be working here to make ends meet, but I keep my eyes and ears open at all times.  I have watched the events of the last two days unfold and not only do I know that there is a jewel thief in the hotel, but I also know his identity.”
            Holmes leant forward on his elbows, his eyes shining, “So, Miss Poole, perhaps you would care to enlighten us, although I have my own suspect in mind.  Are they one and the same?”


            “Perhaps, if you had enlightened us at the beginning of the interview, I could have been enjoying an evening in the ballroom,” I muttered.

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

WHEN SHERLOCK MET LIZZIE

Taken from forthcoming book; Holmes and Watson: An American Adventure. It is 1897, five years since the Borden murders in Fall River. There are two more axe murders and both victims have connections to Lizzie Borden. Sherlock Holmes, in Fall River to look into the original murders interviews Lizzie Borden:

After he had done so he invited us to the holding cells to see Lizzie. Holmes insisted that if were to interview her then he would rather it take place in different, more congenial surroundings. Hogan agreed that it was probably a good idea and invited into an empty office on the second floor, empty save for a desk and two chairs.
         A short while later Hogan entered the room with Lizzie Borden who cut an abject figure, manacled as she was to an officer. Abject, yes, but strangely proud, almost dignified, at least that’s how I saw her. She was small of stature, but she seemed to dominate the room somehow. Holmes asked if the manacles could be removed. The officer looked at Hogan who nodded his silent assent. I invited Lizzie to sit, which she did hesitantly. I sat in the other chair and Holmes perched on the corner of the desk.
         “Miss Borden, my name is Sherlock Holmes and this is my colleague Dr Watson. The other gentlemen you know of course, but they are just leaving.”
         “This is pretty irregular, Mr Holmes, I have to say, this is my case after all.”
         “Yes, Chief, and it will remain your case I assure you, but if you could indulge me just this once, I would be forever in your debt.”
         “Very well, Mr Holmes. I will leave you to it, Come on, Smith.”
         “Now, Miss Borden, can I fetch you anything? A drink maybe?”
         Lizzie did not speak, but shook her head.
         “Very well, now, do you know why you have been brought here?”
         “Yes.” The voice was clear and free of emotion.
         “What is your connection to Sansom Weinberger?”
         “I have none. I do not know the man.”
         “Some five years ago you attempted to purchase prussic acid from his drugstore.”
         Lizzie did not respond.
         “Do you deny that was the case?”
         “I may have done. I can’t remember all my dealings from that time. If I did, what of it?”
         “The police are suggesting that his murder may be an act of revenge by one who felt they had been wronged.”
         “I have nothing to say on the matter.”
         “This is a murder investigation; you would be well advised to keep nothing back.”
         “I do not know the man. I am sad that he has been murdered, I deplore the act, but I cannot help you further.”
         “You do not recall attempting to purchase poison from the man?”
         “No,” she answered with an emphatic shake of the head.
         “Very well, perhaps you are more familiar with the name, Mrs Honoria Walters?”
         “I do not recall the name.”
         “Miss Borden, just a few weeks ago I am given to understand that Mrs Walters caught you in the act of stealing items from the clothing store she manages, perhaps you cannot recall that event either.”
         “It was a misunderstanding. I am prone to forgetfulness and once I realised the situation I apologised and Mrs Walters, if it was her, accepted my apology.”
         “My understanding of the matter is that Mrs Walters threatened you with police action. This was in fact overheard by others in the store.”
         “Then I fear you understand very little. The truth is as I have told it. Why you choose to bring this matter up I do not know.”
         “The answer to that is simple; Mrs Walters too, has been murdered.”
         Lizzie’s face remained blank, her features unmoved, registering neither shock or surprise at Holmes’s words. Unblinking, she stared at Holmes.
         “I am mighty sorry for the poor woman, but I cannot help you, you must search for your murderer elsewhere.”
         “Elmer Hogan will be asking you to account for your movements during the night, perhaps you can enlighten us?”
         “I do not see I have the need to do so, but as you obviously feel that you can trample all over my privacy, I can tell you that I was at home all evening, but when I retired I found I could not sleep so I rose and left the house and just walked to clear my head. It’s something I often do, for the good folk of Fall River deny me the freedom to do as I like and go where I like without fingers being pointed in my direction. And yes, I hear the comments and the spite in their voices. Is it any wonder I have taken to parading the streets under cover of darkness?”
         “Was you sister aware that you had left the house?”
         “I very much doubt it; she is in Concord visiting friends of the family. If only I had known I would need an alibi I would have asked her to cancel her visit,” she responded with a sweet smile, but devilment in her eyes.   
         “Your sister, Emma has requested my help in ascertaining the truth of what befell your father and mother. Were you aware of that fact?”
         “She was NOT my mother, she was my step-mother” she spat out. Emma is always wanting to know the truth of what happened that day, she can be rather tiresome on the subject.”
         “Do you not want to know the truth, Miss Borden or do you know it already?” asked Holmes pointedly.
         “The dead are dead and buried, leave them be. They cannot be brought back to life even if anybody wished it.”
         “Would you wish it?”
         “I have nothing further to say on the matter.”
         “Very well, although I certainly have a mind to tax your memory of that day at a future date. Do you use perfume, Miss Borden?”
         “Your questions are most amusing, Mr Holmes. Why in the world would you ask such a thing?”
         “It may have a bearing on these current crimes.”
         “As I know nothing of these crimes then I fail to see the relevance of your question, but as the answer is of supreme unimportance then I am willing to give you that answer. No I do not use perfume or any kind of scent.”
         “You are not aware of a perfume which rejoices in the name of ‘Midnight in Paris’?”
         “I have never heard of it. Will that be all? For, as you say, Elmer Hogan will want his turn now.”
         “Thank you for your help, Miss Borden, that will be all for now.”
         Holmes rapped on the door and Lizzie was escorted back to her cell.

         “Well?” inquired the Chief. “What do you think, Mr Holmes?”
“She is, I believe, a very strong-willed woman, but if you want to know whether I believe her guilty or not, then you may have to be patient.”
         “Thank you Mr Holmes, the evidence points to her guilt and that is enough for me to go ahead and charge her.”
         “Chief Hogan,” I protested, “you have no evidence to speak of unless it’s a crime for Lizzie to have known these two people.”
         “Not only knew them, Dr Watson, but had run-ins with them. There were bad feelings and look at how the murders were committed, with an axe or hatchet.”
         “My dear Hogan,” interrupted Holmes, “on that basis we must attribute every such murder in the whole of the United States to Lizzie Borden! No, it will not do. Watson does have a point; there is no evidence as such.”
         “As to that, this is my case and you must allow me to run it as I see fit and I will apprise Marshal Hilliard of my suspicions and intent.”

                                           ***************************************

“Well,” asked Holmes as we walked towards Second Street, “what did you think of the infamous Miss Lizzie Borden? Your impressions may be invaluable to me as is often the case.”
         “She brought to my mind the image of a cobra, poised and ready to strike. I believe her to be a formidable woman who is capable of anything.”
         “Upon my word, Watson, she certainly made an impression on you and you her great defender too.”
         “I am none too sure I should be cast in the role of defender, Holmes, I have merely noted the incongruity of someone acquitted of all charges in a court of law, but declared guilty by so many people. Can anyone really know the truth of what happened that day?”
         “That remains to be seen, but who knows, two old sleuth-hounds like us may yet find a scent which has remained dormant these last five years.”
         As we walked past the Borden house, I shivered involuntarily, but I was sure I was not alone in that. For everyone for whom the house held a morbid fascination there were no doubt others who gave it a wide berth.

Thursday, 11 December 2014

Holmes in Oz

So, how about a slice of Holmes and the land of Oz for the festive season.

It is a fact that even whilst we are cocooned in this great city of ours, nature can make her presence felt. A gale shrieked and moaned outside on this particular day that I write of. I looked out of the window and was met with the sight of debris being picked up and hurled down Baker Street as though they were children's playthings. The windows rattled in their casement and the gas dimmed and lowered every few seconds. Holmes was busy continuing research he had undertaken into Early English Charters and appeared to be oblivious to the furious display of nature outside.  As I crossed the room to pour myself another coffee, the wind shook the very fabric of the building so much, that it felt like we were in motion.  Then, inexplicably, there was silence, followed by what seemed like an explosion. Everything inside the sitting-room that was not held down securely, jumped into the air.
                "Good Heavens Holmes, what on earth was that?" I asked.
                "I think, perhaps dear fellow, we should investigate and make sure no one outside has come to any harm."
                The wind had died completely as had the normal street sounds we associated with this busy thoroughfare. We descended the seventeen steps, opened the front door to be met with quite an unbelievable sight. The house was surrounded by a great deal of what I thought were children, but then I recognised them as adults suffering from a form of Dwarfism.  They were pointing at us and gesticulating wildly and peering at the very foundation of the house with looks of wonder and amazement. I feel I cannot do justice to what we observed, everything we now saw. The road, houses and indeed these little people were cloaked in the most vibrant hues; reds, oranges, yellows, greens. The surface of the road was a garish yellow and radiated out from a central point.
                 Holmes whispered to me, "Watson, I have a feeling we are not in Baker Street anymore."
                Before I could answer we were approached by a most beautiful creature, who seemed somehow illuminated from within. She pointed at Holmes.
                "My name is Glinda.  Are you a good wizard or a bad wizard?" she asked of him.
                Holmes took all this in his stride as though it was the most commonplace of dialogue, "I am not a Wizard of any kind, my name is Sherlock Holmes and this......"
                "Oh well, is he the Wizard then " she asked, now turning her attention to me.
                "I assure you, madam, that neither of us is a wizard, why on earth would you think such a thing?" Holmes asked her.
                 "The Munchkins called me and said a new wizard had just dropped a house on the Wicked Witch."
                "Munchkins," I asked, "who or what are Munchkins?"
                 "Why, these are Munchkins," she answered, indicating the throng of little people surrounding us," and there is the Witch, under your house."
                 "My dear we owe you a thousand apologies, we had no intention of harming anyone."
                 "There is no need of an apology; the Munchkins have declared you both national heroes."
                One of the little people, the Munchkins as she called them, stepped forward to me, "we'd like to thank you sweetly for doing it so neatly." 
                 I stammered a reply and looked to Holmes, "how on earth do we get out of here, Holmes?"
                "We will possess our souls in patience until we have gathered sufficient data to enable us to make good our return," he replied.
                A piercing scream filled the air and an ugly looking witch, straight out of a child’s story book descended on a broomstick.  There were cries of, " Oh no, the Wicked Witch," all around.
                 I turned to Glinda, "Have we not destroyed the Wicked Witch?"
                "This is her sister, and she's worse than the other one was."
                 "Who killed my sister? Was it you?" she screamed, fixing her eyes upon me.
                 "I assure you, madam, it was a complete and utter accident."
                 "Well," she said, looking even more threatening, "I can cause accidents too."
                She walked over to all that was left of her sister, "where are the ruby slippers? Who has them?  Give them back to me," she cried, working herself into a veritable frenzy.
                "There they are," answered Glinda, pointing at me, "and there they will stay."
                 I looked down at my feet to find that instead of my normal footwear, my feet were now adorned with these ruby slippers; not a shade that best suits me it has to be said.
                 The Wicked Witch became hysterical at this point screaming over and over, "Give me back my slippers."
                 Holmes said to me, "Keep tight inside them, Watson, their magic must be very powerful or she would not want them so badly."
                After issuing yet more threats of dreadful violence against our persons, she mounted her broomstick and was gone. Holmes took me to one side as the Munchkins continued their unrestrained celebrations.
                "I am of the opinion, Watson that these slippers with the magic that is undoubtedly contained within them may hold the key to our safe return to dear old Baker Street."  He stretched himself out on the ground and examined them for several minutes.
                Glinda looked on, bemused, "Mr. Holmes, what are you looking for?"
                "I am hopeful of using the magic powers of these slippers to return my friend and me back to our own life."
                "Your friend has that power already."
                 "I do?"
                "Those magic ruby slippers will take you home in two seconds. Now then, close your eyes and tap your heels together three times.  Look at your friend and think to yourself, 'There's no place like home. There's no place like home.'
                 "There's no place like home, Holmes. There's no place like home, Holmes. There's no place like home, Holmes."
                I awoke to find Holmes standing over me, with a smile on his face.
                 "My dear Watson, you are especially garrulous in your sleep today and surely only you could sleep with such a storm raging outside."
                I stretched my limbs, got to my feet somewhat shakily and glanced out into the street. I was relieved to see normality, no Munchkins, no witches, just a resolutely ordinary Baker Street.  Odd how the mind can play tricks on you like that whilst asleep.
                "Watson?"
                "Yes, Holmes?"
                "Whatever have you got on your feet?"


Thursday, 2 October 2014

A FURTHER TWIST OF LYME

A Further Twist of Lyme, the final part of the Twist/Lyme trilogy of comedies is due to be published on December 10th. This final part of the saga of the Hamilton family in Lyme Regis will hopefully be of special interest to Sherlock Holmes for it contains the opening chapter of Sherlock Holmes and the Scarborough Affair. This marks a return to the world of Sherlock Holmes for me after an absence of two years. It is a collaboration with Gill Stammers of Lyme Regis and a tale of thievery, murder, chambermaids, strong-willed women and espionage. Watch this space....

Friday, 22 August 2014

Coming soon.....

SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE LYME REGIS TRILOGY.....A special hardback edition of the Sherlock Homes/Lyme Regis novels. Sherlock Holmes and the Lyme Regis Horror, Sherlock Holmes and the Lyme Regis Legacy. Sherlock Holmes and the Lyme Regis Trials. This edition is complete with glossaries which give copious background information on all the major characters; we learn what happens to them all in later life. There is also information on all the locations mentioned in the
three books and what part they play in the tales. Hey, and photographs too of most of the major players and locations. However, I could not find any photographs of Sherlock Holmes or Doctor Watson! Odd that. There have been a few editorial changes made to the text, primarily to get rid of those annoying errors that I allowed to creep in. Pesky things, errors.

Also to come, Sherlock Holmes and the Scarborough Affair (Long promised I know) and a new Sherlock Holmes tale for the new year set far from Dorset.

In the meantime:


Sherlock Holmes and The Lyme Regis Horror is available from all good bookstores worldwide including in the USAAmazon and Barnes and Noble, in the UK Amazon, Waterstones. Fans outside the US and UK can get free delivery fromBook Depository. In ebook format it is in Amazon Kindle, Kobo, Nook and Apple iBooks(iPad/iPhone).

Sherlock Holmes and The Lyme Regis Legacy is available from all good bookstores worldwide including in the USA AmazonClassic Specialities and Barnes and Noble,  in the UK Amazon and Waterstones, elsewhere Book Depository offer free worldwide delivery - and in all electronic formats including Amazon KindleNookKobo and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone)

Sherlock Holmes and The Lyme Regis Trials is available from all good bookstores worldwide including in the USA Amazonand Barnes and Noble, in the UK Amazon, Waterstones . Fans outside the US and UK can get free worldwide delivery from Book Depository  - and in all electronic formats including Amazon Kindle, Kobo and Apple iBooks (iPad/iPhone)

Thursday, 14 August 2014

ANOTHER TWIST OF LYME

'Another Twist of Lyme' in which we once more encounter the Hamilton family is published and available. A comic look at one family through birthdays, parties and various events. After 'A Twist of Lyme' was completed I had no thoughts whatsoever about re-visiting the Hamiltons, but in the end I
couldn't quite leave them alone as I am having too much fun with them; I only hope that the books are as much fun to read as they were to write. The action, as in the first book, moves between the present, the recent past and the future. Ah yes, about the future; I state quite categorically in my notes at the end that there were be no third instalment....but.....there will be! I am 20,000 words into 'A Further Twist of Lyme', but that will be the final visit to the Hamiltons. Honestly! Available throughout the world on Amazon and all book selling websites. An extract:


“Let me get this right, you haven’t brought a change of clothes. Is that what you are saying?” asked the officious young man with the officious looking clipboard.

       It was indeed what Judy was saying. He was right in that respect.

       “But it would have been in the emails, sweetie. It was just below the approved limits for the mini-bar in your dressing room. You must have seen it.”

       Judy had not seen it. He was wrong in that respect.

       “The emails went through my publisher, Connor Milligan. He didn’t mention a change of clothes,” Judy offered, realising how lame this sounded.

       The officious young man with the officious looking clipboard thought this excuse very lame. Judy was right in that respect.

       “But you do know you are appearing in two shows, yes?”

       Judy did know that and she wasted no time in telling him so.

       “So, tell me when you think your second appearance will be?”

       “Something tells me it will be today.”

       “Correct. I’ll wander down to the wardrobe department, well I say department, but it has more in common with a cupboard mostly because it is a cupboard. There may be something there we can utilise.”           

       This was Judy’s introduction to the television quiz show Chapter and Verse or Worse, a light-hearted, some would say humourous look at the world of literature. Less unkind souls would label it humourless. A young woman approached Judy.

       “I’m Alice,” she announced, offering Judy a firm handshake.  “Programme assistant. I’ll tell you what’s happening when and introduce you to how it all works. We’ll get you to make up first.”

       “Make up what?”

       “No, I mean take you to have your face and hair made up…oh, you were being funny weren’t you.”

       “I was trying. To be honest, I’m not a make-up kind of gal. I prefer the natural look.”

       “The natural look is one thing, but trust me love, you need a little extra something for the cameras to love you. And believe me they have to love you. I suppose they might just in your case.”

       Judy was not sure whether she had been insulted or complimented so decided on silence and a certain amount of compliance. She was led off to make-up, like a lamb to blusher. There, the officious young man with the officious looking clipboard caught up with her.

       “I’ve not had much luck,” he said, “all I can offer is a Dorothy costume from a ‘A Wizard of Oz’ production and a banana outfit.”

       “I quite like the look of gingham dresses on me, but I’m not too sure about wearing those ruby red slippers. They’re so not me.”

       “It’s no problem. Neither the studio audience or the viewers will see them. Oh…you were being funny weren’t you.”

       She was. He was right in that respect. “Trying, yes. I’ll just wear this outfit of mine for both recordings. There can’t be any harm in that surely.”

       The officious young man with the officious looking clipboard looked Judy’s outfit up and down and was of the unspoken opinion that there may well be lots of harm in it. With a scarcely concealed sniff of disapproval he walked away.

       Alice collected Judy after the studio’s make-up artist had struggled valiantly with her and had admitted defeat. “You don’t look any different,” Alice said, also with a sniff of vague disapproval. “Right, now you should  meet your fellow guests.”

       Judy was led to a small lounge which had all the appearance of a doctor’s waiting room. There was even a six months old copy of Good Housekeeping and three even older National Geographics.

       “Clara, this is Judy Hamilton. I’m sure you have heard of her.”

       Clara Snelling also wrote novels in the espionage genre, in her case with a twist in the tale or to be more accurate, the tail. Her spy thrillers had liberal helpings of all manner of fetishes and regular bouts of BDSM, something Bradley Steel would never approve of, but possibly something Mrs (?) Sheila Barry would have enthused over. Her latest, Thirty Days in Mandalay was being lapped up by an adoring public. The newspapers all acclaimed her hero, Daniel Ryan, as being a James Bondage for the modern age. Shaken, stirred and whipped.

       “Ah yes, Judy Hamilton,” she said, as though the name was in some way distasteful to her. “You write…those…er…um…”

       “Books?” offered Judy.

       “Don’t tell me…it’s coming to me…thrillers in the tennis world.” She too sniffed with mild disapproval.

       ‘Perhaps everyone is coming down with a cold,’ thought Judy idly.

       The other member of the panel was Raymond Stevens (no relation) who wrote what the press called ‘serious’ novels about ‘serious’ issues. Raymond Stevens seemed just a little too high-brow for this decidedly low-brow show. His publisher however had urged Raymond to consider doing the show to help spearhead a campaign to make the general public more generally aware of his books. Raymond therefore was performing under sufferance which had the effect of making him even more insufferable than he had been previously. Still, on the plus side, he had heard of Judy too. But, just as with Clara Snelling he had not deigned to read any of her work.

       The question master was Jeffrey Hopper, a failed stand-up comedian, a failed chat show presenter, but a tolerable quiz master. The assistant producer went through the format with the panellists. Keep it lights folks, this is not The Book Review, be topical, be funny, but not too funny. Jeffrey has to get 71% of the laughs, it’s in his contract.

       The floor manager set up the camera angles, checked the panellists postures, noted Judy’s lack of make-up and sniffed disapprovingly. Judy was as nervous as she had ever been, not even fully understanding what was required of her, for unlike her fellow guests she had never seen the show. The producers had sent a DVD of the previous series, but these Connor had not forwarded. Still, she was a natural, everyone said so in the studio. And reassuringly, there was an editor attuned to the faintest blip or error who could carpet the cutting-room floor with embarrassing or otherwise unworthy footage. It was his job too to ensure the loudest laughter coincided with Jeffrey Hopper saying something he perceived to be funny. Judy was in safe hands. The seconds counted down…

       The warm-up man, a failed quiz master and failed chat show host, but a tolerable stand-up comic had kept the studio audience on the edge of their seats, wondering when the quiz would start. It was now.

       Jeffrey Hopper greeted the small studio audience and much larger (although not that much larger) television audience with an affability honed during the previous eighty-four editions of the show. There were ripples of applause for Clara Snelling and Raymond Stevens. Then it was Judy’s turn. A light flashed on top of the camera which seemed to be intent on examining her nasal hair in minute detail. She smiled as Jeffrey introduced her as an upcoming star of the literature world, one whose following was bound to grow. She nodded, not in agreement, but just for the chance to give her head something to do. She smiled, hoping Jeffrey had reached the end of his embarrassing eulogy.

       “First round then, folks. I give you each a random phrase and you have twenty seconds to use it within a well known quote from any piece of literature you like. We’ll start with you, Judy. Your phrase is ‘a bear hug’.”

       She couldn’t remember the last time her mind had been so blank. Or if it had ever been so blank. She was well read. Everyone said so. There must be a quote she knew and loved that she could adapt. She smiled as the camera captured every nuance of the  dilemma that her face displayed.

       “Ah, yes,” she started confidently, “A bear hug won’t be a bear hug without presents, grumbled Jo.”

       The studio audience sniggered.

       “Thank you, Judy,” oiled Jeffrey Hopper, “a good effort although a tad lacking in humour.”

       “They laughed,” she said, pointing at the audience.

       “They’d laugh at anything,” Jeffrey replied.

       To prove his point, the studio audience went into hysterics. If the aisles had been wide enough they would have been rolling in them.

       “I see what you mean, Jeffrey,” said Judy, warming to her task.

       The studio audience laughed uncontrollably at this. Judy was worried in case some of them became physically ill as a result. There has no doubt been a study of how being exposed to high levels of mirth can result in major and long-lasting damage to the body’s immune systems.

       Judy fared a little better in the following round, ‘Famous writers in uncharacteristic poses’, although deducing it was F. Scott Fitzgerald in the gorilla suit was more of an inspired guess rather than due to any well-informed reasoning. Add to that, a successful bout of miming in the final round (East of Eden, no easy thing to mime the closing paragraphs of ) and not even Jeffrey’s opening line in the second show of “nice outfit, Judy…is it new?” (which predictably was followed by gales of laughter from the studio audience) could dampen Judy’s enthusiasm for the whole television experience. She thought that she could even be persuaded to take part again when invited. Alas, the invitation never materialised.

 

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

An Interview with David Nobbs.

I am very pleased to present  another brief question and answer session with David Nobbs, a master of the humorous novel, one of the UK's finest novelists working in that vein. Well known for the creation of Reginald Perrin, the eponymous hero of four novels and subsequent TV series starring Leonard Rossiter. His other works include the quartet of Henry Pratt novels which contain my own favourite, 'Second From Last In The Sack Race' the funniest book I have ever read. So there. 'The Second Life Of Sally Mottram' is his 20th novel and I was able to catch up with David and throw a few questions at him which he duly caught and returned to me:

Your latest novel 'The Second Life of Sally Mottram' takes place in the Pennine town of Potherthwaite. Did you have an actual location in mind or is the town an amalgam of various towns you know?
Potherthwaite is not based on anywhere specific, and in the main is based on my  vague knowledge of towns in the Pennines.  The one specific reference that I can trace  to an actual town  is the reference – I think it’s in the very first chapter – is to the stone houses climbing the hills as if trying to escape from a flood  This image came to me from houses I saw in Hebden Bridge, but I have taken great care to ensure that the lay-out of the town doesn’t resemble Hebden Bridge or anywhere that I know.  I love making up towns – Thurmarsh (Henry Pratt), Throdnall  (Sex and Other Changes).

Sally's motivation in the novel stems from her chance reading of a couple of books detailing the 'Transistion Movement'. Was this an epiphany for you too in the sense it gave shape to a novel which was already in your head? Or did the delving into the 'Transition Movement' give you the idea for the novel?
There’s no clear cut answer to this one.  I did know of the Transition movement.  I was very interested in it because I care very much about what is happening to our towns, and I was also influenced by a cluster of tweets revo0lving round the actor Neil Stuke, who played C.J. in the Martin Clunes version of Perrin.  He was involved in a strong anti-Tesco campaign, and a Save Our High Street initiative.  Then, when I went to visit my stepdaughter Kim in the Lotoise area of France, near Cahors, I discovered that she was involved in making a film about local Transition projects, and she had the books, which I dipped into and decided to buy.  In fact I didn’t use the books very much, I wanted this to be Sally’s story  and Potherthwaite’s story, and didn’t want to tie it in too closely with facts from elsewhere.

Did you or do you find writing from the viewpoint of a woman more challenging than say, writing the characters of Reggie Perrin or Henry Pratt?
I seem to take to it very naturally, and with about two exceptions women seem to be convinced by my women.  This is only my second book with a female protagonist.  The first was Going Gently.  I think this is my best book since Going Gently,so maybe I should try it more often.  Incidentally, Sally (and Kate in Going Gently) is not based on a specific person any more than Potherthwaite is.

No arguments here, I believe too that it's your best book since Going Gently. How do you structure your writing day? Do you treat it as a 9-5 job or only write when the muse pays a visit?
9 to 5 is a bit long for me at my age.  In fact it always was.  Quality is the aim, not quantity.  Four hours of truly inventive work is usually about the maximum.  I very rarely  set the alarm in order to start work at a particular time.  Good sleep is never a waste of time and should be interrupted as little as possible. Sometimes I bang some clothes on, sometimes I have breakfast first.  I almost always start work before breakfast over a cup of tea, and then carry on, usually for the rest of the morning.  None of it, though, is set in stone.  A couple of weeks ago I worked all evening almost till midnight – the first time I had worked in the evening for several years.  It just came to me that I wanted to, but it didn’t set a pattern.  I always say to young writers, if a day isn’t working, give up, do something else. But never do this two days running.  It’s no use waiting too long for the muse.  Evasive blighters, muses, as Jimmy would say.
 
Tricky coves indeed. For all the ups and downs that any career must have, is there anything you would change? Another direction you feel you could have taken?
Lots of things could have been done differently and better, but I don’t regret anything because I’m happy where I am now, and I might not be here if things had gone differently.   

Once the characters are in your head, fully-formed as it were, do you then have trouble jettisoning them when the novel is complete?
At last a really simple answer. No.  Sometimes, though, they come back to call on me, and then I’m into a sequel.

And what next? 80 next year (it's okay folks, it's not a secret), do you intend to slow down? Can you slow down? Have you slowed down?! Are there ideas in your head continuously just waiting to be turned into a novel? If so, will there be another?
I will be seeing my publishers next month, and I will be hoping to secure a two book deal.   We usually work in terms of two book deals. I have five ideas for novels, and we will talk them through and, I hope, arrive at a decision.  I am also presenting one or two TV ideas to various companies.  Who knows what will come of them, but I feel more inventive than I have for many years.
 
Thanks, David.  Good questions!

And thank you, David for your time and customary good humour. Visit David's website: www.davidnobbs.com