Thursday, 30 April 2009
Doctor Syn and Russell Thorndike
Tuesday, 28 April 2009
A Memory of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'
Also, it's the 49th anniversary of it's publication in England by Penguin Books. Of course, almost as soon as it hit the bookshelves it was banned - but not before I got my hands on a book that 'you would not want your children or servants to read.'
Talking of anniversaries it is interesting to note that Margaret Thatcher became the first woman Prime Minister 30 years ago.
And what has that got to do with 'Lady Chatterley's Lover'?
Well, Margaret Thatcher was elected as the MP for Finchley in 1959 by which time I had moved from there to Orpington, Kent. About the same time that I became a butcher's delivery boy for Mr. Evans in his shop in Lock's Bottom. Right up the road was an area known as the Farnborough Park Estate - a sort of millionaire's row - and the choicest place for deliveries.
It was also where Margaret Thatcher lived - and I was her butcher boy.
Much has been written about Margaret Thatcher - but the woman I knew took time to talk to me. She asked me, once, what I intended to do when I left school and when I told her that I was thinking of going into the legal profession she offered me encouragement.
The publication of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' did disturb her and one day, out of the blue, she asked me if I had read it - or, realising that I was a schoolboy, just some of the pages. I told her, politely, that I had read the whole book. The result was that she found the book morally corrupting and I didn't but she did say that I had the makings of a good lawyer.
So when I saw a TV programme called 'The Long Walk To Finchley' and heard the character playing Margaret Thatcher come out with four letter words - I turned over because I knew that Margaret Thatcher would never have come out with expletives like that. Besides 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' had not been published at the time the playwright would have the viewer believe she said them. In 1959 those words had not entered the vocabulary.
My view of 'Lady Chatterley's Lover' has not changed.
I have no recall of the Thatcher years so I cannot judge - but I just remember a housewife and mother who made an impact on my young life.
Monday, 27 April 2009
Sunday, 26 April 2009
Author's note: The wife loves sudoku puzzles but she liked the above.
Another BEAT TO A PULP Winner
Saturday, 25 April 2009
Writers From The Legal Profession
One of the best when I was young was Michael Gilbert. He wrote crime fiction an area that is favoured by most solicitor/writers. He is, probably, remembered for his novel 'Death In Captivity' a murder mystery set in an Italian P.O.W camp where the British prisoners are planning an escape. This was filmed with Richard Todd as 'Danger Within'.
Michael Gilbert used to write his stories in long hand while commuting on the train to London.
One of his 'big' clients was the writer Raymond Chandler who's will he drafted.
It is not just solicitors who write fiction - a High Court judge by the name of Henry Leon made his name writing fiction about the British legal system with great humour and unpredictable twists in the plot. Using his second christian name as a surname Henry Cecil wrote many books amongst which was the 1955 novel 'Brothers In Law' which was filmed in 1957 and, later, turned into a TV and radio series with Richard Briers.
In modern times one successful solicitor/author is the creator of the Helen West and Sarah Fortune series of novels, Frances Fyfield. Although born in Derbyshire she practises law in London. To date she has been awarded the Duncan Lawrie Dagger in 2008 for her novel 'Blood From Stone' and a Silver Dagger for 'Deep Sleep'. Her Helen West story 'Trial By Fire' has been filmed for TV and this was followed by a series of Helen West stories.
She also writes psychological thrillers under the name of Frances Hegarty.
It should not be assumed that all solicitor/writers ply their trade in London for there is a writer up North who is ranked by the Legal Profession as one of the best Employment Law practioners.
He has a handful of Legal books to his name but he is also a writer of crime fiction.
Martin Edwards' creation Harry Devlin is a solicitor who can't help but get involved when murder is committed on Liverpool's streets. These books have titles that are so rooted in the sixties like 'Waterloo Sunset', 'The Devil In Disguise' and 'Eve Of Destruction'.
So coming full circle and back to westerns - even Jack Giles had his grounding in the English Legal Profession specialising in Conveyancing and Land Law.
These are just the writers that I have read and enjoyed and one I met in a professional capacity. My one regret is that faced with one of my favourite crime writers I never asked him about his books but I was young back then and a little in awe of the writer - but not Michael Gilbert the solicitor.
Tuesday, 21 April 2009
I J PARNHAM - Black Horse Western writer
I J Parnham
A Black Horse Western
Publication: 31st July 2009
Jeff Steed rode into Carmon looking for work, but when he got caught up in a bank raid he found himself running from both Cassidy Yates and the bank raider Blake Kelly. To escape from the net that was inexorably closing in on him he assumed the identity of a dead man. But as that man was the leader of a supply convoy he had to undertake the hazardous journey across the Barren Plains to the silver miners at Bleak Point. With the convoy escorted by the lawman who was trying to catch him and the bandit he double-crossed hiding out in the Barren Plains, can Jeff ever hope to survive?
I J Parnham was one of the first four Black Horse Western authors that I read following my stroke and that novel was his first 'THE OUTLAWED DEPUTY'. It was, also, the first book to feature the lawman Cassidy Yates a character that has returned several times since. I found the style and storytelling easy on the eye so when, a few years later, a copy turned up on Ebay I bought the book. Much to my surprise it was signed and came from the author himself.
Just recently I had read 'DEVINE'S LAW' - in fact a review of this book was posted at The Tainted Archive. Quite a coincidence that the two of us should be reading the same book at the same time.
Jake T. Devine is not the nicest of lawmen. As soon as the reader meets him he guns down the unarmed family of Seth Randell - but it is the eldest son Max who he is really after. Jake T. Devine has been hired by former sheriff, Roy Cowie, now Mayor of Carmon to sort out the problem that Max Randell poses. Into this mix comes a lawyer from San Francisco who turns out to be Roy's estranged son, Gabe. Gabe's older brother, Frank, is the law and with a sense for justice Gabe becomes his deputy and joins Devine on the hunt for Max Randell who holds a key to secrets and blackmail that no one wants him to use - you think.
In the character of Marshal Jake T. Devine the author has built not only his best character but a man who is a law unto himself. He kills to survive after all as he says 'not many lawmen live to get old'. He contrasts so well with the younger well-meaning Gabe Cowie who the reader sees as the 'hero'. Again, Devine points out an arguement that Cowie has no 'experience'. This raises the issue of age and experience and the cynicism that comes with it vs youth and a lack of knowledge of life.
Again, this is one of those books that keep you guessing and all the motives, ulterior and otherwise, of the characters are revealed at the end. Whichever way you look at it 'DEVINE'S LAW' is one good read.
Sunday, 19 April 2009
BEAT TO A PULP No 17 - First of a double bill by Frank Bill
A real rampage of words that pumps up the action faster than the reloading a 12 Guage. The clipped style has been well mastered and a joy to read.
A second story by Frank Bill will appear later in the week.
Right, off you go and enjoy.
Friday, 17 April 2009
Friday's Forgotten Book - Captain Blood by Rafael Sabatini
Thursday, 16 April 2009
FEAR OF THE DARK by Ray Foster
Darkness creates it's own fears. A fear of the dark in daylight familiar places.
Where monsters hide in the shadows. Lurking predators with their own agendas.
Night is my time and I have no fear.
Emptying city streets. Only the passing trade as clubs and pubs empty, spilling out loud talking, staggering drunks needing to find their way home.
They are nothing to me.
A car passes by and a girl on the corner sticks out her chest hopefully. A seductive pose that goes unnoticed. A drunk makes a lewd remark and she laughs him off.
I walk on determined to make my mark.
A side alley. I lose myself in the blind darkness. Trash flits around my feet blown on a swirling eddy of breeze. A dustbin lid crashes onto the ground. A cat yowls.
Nothing disturbs me as I ditch my raincoat.
I emerge from the alley into a damp world where the street is etched with neon colours.
Night is my time.
And right on cue a kerb crawler pulls up alongside me.
I slide into the passenger seat.
I direct him to the back of a deserted, derelict warehouse.
The mark parks up and I get to work.
He leans back, breathing heavy. His eyes close. His skin is stretched taut across his throat. A throat that opens bleeding red from a smiling wound. His shocked eyes open briefly then close as he chokes up blood. Blood that smears the windscreen and drips from the steering wheel into the gap of his open flies.
I snap shut the cut-throat razor and slip it back into my stocking top.
Night, I tell the corpse, is a time to die.
I am a predator of the night.
A predator who feeds on those predators like the one that killed my sister.
Yes, night is my domain.
I am that fear in the dark.
And my hunger is unabated.
Wednesday, 15 April 2009
Butch Cassidy and My Wife
Sunday, 12 April 2009
Saturday, 11 April 2009
BEAT TO A PULP No 16
I have never read any of Jake Hinkson's short stories before but I will be looking out for his work.
I liked the style of writing which comes with the narrator's voice - this came in stereo from the opening word. It is truly one of those 'must read' stories. So stop reading this and get on over to Beat To A Pulp instead.
Is This Misfit Lil?
Is this Chap O'Keefe's creation Misfit Lil?
No, this French singing star Francoise Hardy.
I will be doing a piece on Francoise soon.
Maurice Jarre 1924 - 2009
Maurice Jarre became well known for his themes to Lawrence Of Arabia and Doctor Zhivago amongst many others like Grand Prix, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, Is Paris Burning? and Jesus Of Nazareth.
Like many others it is that single piece from the film 'Witness' titled the Building Of The Barn that I remember him for.
There is a brilliant tribute to Maurice Jarre at Scott D Parker's blog.
Maurice Jarre was the father of the composer Jean Michel Jarre and the scriptwriter of 'Tombstone' Kevin Jarre.
Friday, 10 April 2009
Wild West Monday is next June
Seems like the idea has gained an interest with a young gun who is wondering why Penguin Books publish westerns in the US but not in the UK. Is he asking that question of The Tainted Archive? No - he's gone to Penguin Books with his question.
Not only that but he's gunning for Transworld Publishers' brands Corgi and Bantam with the self-same question - and in doing so has pointed out something that should have been obvious (well, to me at least).
Well, Gary at The Tainted Archive has written off to Penguin and so will I and I'll also follow the young gun and give him some back up with the Corgi/Bantam lot. Then I'll hit some of the other publishers.
It occurs to me though that there are some American western authors out there who have their books published by Bantam. Have they never wondered why their books are not available in the UK? Seems to me that this is a question that they should be asking.
Thursday, 9 April 2009
Friday's Short Story: Uncle Ernest by Alan Sillitoe
Uncle Ernest is a lonely man who makes a living as a freelance upholsterer. His wife has long deserted him and his only family have moved away.
Ernest Brown had seen most of his friends die amongst the wire of the First World War and the advent of the Second World War brings back reminders that he should not have survived the first war.
Every day he visits the local cafe for his dinner. It is part of his routine - a routine that is disrupted by the arrival of two young girls of 12 and below. The youngest is seated at Ernest's table while the eldest goes to the counter to purchase two teas.
When she returns an arguement ensues as the youngest girl demands cake. The eldest responds by saying that if she bought a cake then they would not have their bus fare home. Ernest finds himself drawn into the arguement and goes off to buy them some cake - and gives them sixpence for their bus fares home.
After this encounter the girls turn up from time to time and Ernest treats them to dinner and buys them presents. To Ernest they are the daughters that he never had and they bring life and light into his empty life.
But this relationship does not go unnoticed and it is not long before he is spoken to and warned off. This destroys Ernest who turns to drink to drown his sorrow and blot out the anger that consumes him.
Uncle Ernest is a sad and tragic story and that is the way that I read it at the age of fifteen. These two girls just filled a void in an old man's life - but here I am many years older and I can see the hole that Ernest was digging for himself. As a result I see the story with a darker hue and an understanding for the intervention by the authorities - mistaken though it is.
Thursday, 2 April 2009
Friday's Forgotten Books - Up The Junction by Nell Dunn
Wednesday, 1 April 2009
Paul Brazill - Short Story Writer
The short story is an art form and a rare thing in this day and age. I have one small bookshelf that holds the short stories by the likes of O.Henry, Somerset Maugham and H.E.Bates amongst others.
The Internet is full of short stories (found at sites like Beat To A Pulp and Twist of Noir) by interesting writers and readers leave comments but no one goes further to say more.
Take a story like 'Sins Of The Father' by Paul Brazill.
This is a short story within a short story and very neatly done it is too with the other part of the story acting as 'bookends'. I liked the double standards of the priest who listens to the confession while preferring to be at home watching 'Antiques Roadshow' and plays a game of Snake on his mobile phone to pass the time.
Paul Brazill's characters are human and speak so naturally that the reader 'knows' them or someone like them.
'Sins Of The Father' as well as 'The Man Behind The Curtain' and 'The Magic Hour' are the March offerings in Twist Of Noir.
Paul Brazill is a very observational writer who's style is reminiscent of Alan Sillitoe but a lot darker and grittier. But there is humour within his stories- and that's dark as well. If you haven't read any of his work then now is the time to look him up.
Personally, I would like an anthology of his short stories sitting on my shelf.