New Sherlock Holmes Xmas story

23 Sep

Another delicious new book of Sherlock Holmes stories to look forward to.

Mortal words

mx-anthology-xmas-adventuresI’m delighted to announce that I have another short story coming out this year. What’s more, it’s in a Sherlock Holmes anthology that is raising funds for a school housed in Arthur Conan Doyle’s old home, Undershaw.

The MX Book of New Sherlock Holmes Stories Part V: Christmas Adventures is the latest anthology from MX Publishing. The book is, as the name implies, the newest of the MX anthology series containing trraditional, canon-era adventures, with sale proceeds all going to support the Stepping Stones school for children with learning difficulties. (This means that I and my fellow writers have waived payment to ensure the maximum funds go to this project.)

The anthology is edited by well-known Holmesian writer, David Marcum, and its contributors include Wendy C. Fries (author of The Day They Met), Denis O. Smith and James Lovegrove, with forwards by Jonathan Kellerman and Steve Emecz, among others.

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Queen’s Gambit

18 Sep

Historical fiction set in the Tudor period is pretty much the main stay of historical fiction, so it takes something pretty special to catch my eye.

“Queen’s Gambit” by Elizabeth Fremantle is special.  A look at Henry VIII’s final queen, Catherine Parr.

It’s a very different look at the woman who survived Henry’s machinations.

Different, but, given the times, not unbelievable.

Elizabeth Fremantle has created fairly strong characters.  Catherine Parr and Dr Robert Huicke stand out very strongly.  I think this is the first historical novel I’ve read where Huicke has been more than simply been a name mentioned in passing.

A lot of the story swings on the character of Dorothy Fownten (Dorothy Fountain) who did exist and was a waiting woman to Catherine since her days as Lady Latymer.

Many Tudor historicals are male focused, which is fair, because it was a male dominated time period, but “Queen’s Gambit” is a book about strong women.

Highly readable and highly recommended.

Tooth and Nail

8 Sep

“Tooth and Nail” by Ian Rankin is one of the earliest Rebus novels, so it’s a bit shorter than the later ones.  Having said that, the story packs a punch.

Rebus is sent down to London as an “expert” on serial killers to help the Met with a killer of their own.  He battles bigotry as he tries to track down the killer that the media has dubbed “Wolfman”.

The story plods along a little, right up to the big reveal of the killer, and that point the story explodes.  I was laughing with sheer delight by this point.  I don’t think any other writer could have got away with what Ian Rankin did.  In fact, I know they couldn’t have, because I know any other writer would have had me throwing the book against the wall with cries of “Bollocks” and “This is ridiculous crap.”

Much of the story is set around parts of London that I know and love, which made it much easier for me to visualise the action.

“Tooth and Nail” is, I think, the book where we first got to see just how special Ian Rankin is as a writer.

Highly recommended.

Haematemesis

1 Sep

I was given a copy of this book by the author, Henry G. Sheppard, in exchange for an honest review.

I will be brutally honest. This book is brilliant!

It charts Henry’s dealing with a second bout of leukemia he suffered and the ramifications of it. The subject is dealt with with a combination of brutal honesty and a twisted sense of humour.

I was literally crying with laughter reading some parts. And then felt awful for laughing at poor Henry’s battle for life.

Henry’s dealings with the Australian public health system will strike a chord with many readers.

It’s a short book, only around a 100 pages, but I recommend that anyone who knows someone going through chemotherapy should read it. It will give you an understanding of the process. It will also make you laugh. A lot.

I, Ripper

29 Aug

“I, Ripper” by Stephen Hunter was recommended to me by one of my GoodReads friends, Hannah.  Hannah has excellent taste.

This is probably not a book I would have picked up if left to my own devices, but on her recommendation I got a copy from the library and I’m glad I did.

“I, Ripper” is told from both the point of view of Jack the Ripper from his personal diaries, and from the notes of a reporter from the Star newspaper, Jeb, interspersed with letters written by one of the Whitechapel unfortunates.

Even though everyone knows about the killings, if not the details, I would still call this book a thriller.  Because, believe me, even though you know the crimes, you will get caught in the twists and turns as Jeb tries to identify the man killing the whores of Whitechapel.

The last few chapters are startling, amazing, shocking, and horrifying by turns.  I worked out who the Ripper was, but the real identity of Jeb, left me stunned.

Brilliant book.  A must for all ripperologists, and all fans of Victorian crime fiction.

The Game’s Afoot

21 Aug

Currently, at Madame Tussaud’s in London, an event of mystery, imagination and excitement is taking place after the doors close of an evening.  I refer to the interactive theatrical experience that is “The Game’s Afoot”.

I attended with a close friend, not really expecting very much.  I had a ball.  It was adrenaline fueled fun from start to finish.

I cannot go into the plot.  The Game’s Afoot people ask very nicely that you don’t over share on social media.  I can understand this, because if you gave away clues and solutions, then you take the fun away from others.

There are two scenarios, that play out on different nights, but the workings are much the same.  The attendee is a junior Scotland Yard detective. This is really a case for Sherlock Holmes, but he has gone missing, so Scotland Yards finest (!) must fill the gap.

Each person is given a notebook to jot down clues, a pencil, and a sheet of paper that has a map on one side, and photographs of the suspects on the other.  Inspector Gregson gives you the back ground, then you are let loose to examine the area, talk to suspects, and look for clues.  There is also one other thing.  Each person is given a clue, just for them, that was left for them by Sherlock Holmes.  I will say one thing.  The clue I was given set me on the path.

As well as the suspects and Gregson, Doctor Watson, Lestrade, and the coroner are around to ask questions of, and advise.  I did notice that as individuals hit on the right track, then the help from certain characters became slightly more overt.  Lestrade gave me the threads I needed to pull everything together.  But never outright.  A clue, which lead to another clue, etc.

One thing I will share: the crypt set.  It will have any Sherlock Holmes fan hysterical with laughter.  When you look at the names on the graves.  I nearly got sidetracked because I was so delighted with the crypt.

“The Game’s Afoot” is brilliant.  It’s almost like a live action version of Cluedo.  The plots are intricate, and there are clues, evidence, and red herrings EVERYWHERE.  And fiendishly difficult.  I think less than half of those there solved the case.

If you’re going to be in London between now and 30th September 2016, do yourself a favour and go.

Oh, and I solved the crime.

Romeo and Juliet

15 Aug

Whilst in London I went to the Garrick Theatre to see Kenneth Branagh’s production of “Romeo and Juliet”.

I found the production uneven.  Two things disturbed me a lot.  One was the setting.  Shakespeare’s plays are, mostly, timeless, in that you can shift them quite happily through time and space without upsetting the story.  However, because “Romeo & Juliet” deals with teenage love, and the marriage of a girl not yet 14, shifting the setting to the fascistic Italy of Mussolini, just feels so badly wrong.  As if Lord Capulet is pandering to a paeodophile in attempting to marry Juliet to Paris.  In Shakespeare’s own time and earlier, this was nothing to quibble about.  Marriages were contracted early.  But by the 1930s-1940s, this simply was not done.

The second thing was the sheer brutality of Lord Capulet.  Turning him from a harried father to a brutal, abusive, psychopath, changed the tone too much.  There was no need for the violence displayed on stage as he throws Juliet around in his rage.  No, sorry, if I want to see that I’ll watch the bloody news.

However, the production does have three things going for it.  Three of the actors.

Sir Derek Jacobi – I freely admit that I wanted to attend the play purely for the chance to see one of the greatest actors of our age on the stage.  Having adored him in the BBC Shakespeare’s productions of “Richard II” and “Hamlet” in my teens.  Sir Derek played Mercutio.  Usually a young man, full of pomposity and arrogance, in Sir Derek’s hands, Mercutio becomes an avuncular oracle to Romeo, dispensing advice, wit, and sarcasm in equal measures.  His death scene is a delight.

Meera Syal – Meera played Juliet’s nurse, one of Shakespeare’s most delightful comic creations.  She captured the stage and the audience in the palm of her hand and never let them go.  A brilliant performance.

Samuel Valentine – Friar Laurence is one of those characters, like Horatio in “Hamlet”, where the role is small, but pivotal.  Samuel’s Friar Laurence was a creation of strength, honour, and love.  Watch for this actor.  I am positive he will go on to greater things.

Though, as I said, the production was uneven, I would not have missed it for the world.  The chance to see three fantastic actors at work, was well worth the cost.

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