The Killing Code by J D Kirk, a review.

The Killing Code by J D Kirk

My daughter knowing of my interest both as a writer and reader of crime fiction gave me a copy of The Killing Code as a birthday present.

I had not read any of J D Kirk’s books before and this was my first encounter with Glasgow’s DCI Jack Logan.

It is always a difficult thing to write a review you want to give a reader a sense of what the book is about but give away as little of the plot as possible.

The story gripped me from the start. After the murder of a nurse, Logan’s desperate search for a brutal killer; kept me metaphorically on the edge of my seat. I raced through the pages, hoping Logan would find the murderer before another death occurred.

I really enjoyed this book it was well written, engaging and credible. I am really grateful to my daughter for introducing me to JD Kirk and DCI Logan; I shall be back to read more books from Mr Kirk.

Alison Bruce at Huntingdonshire History Festival

Alison Bruce at Huntingdonshire History Festival

I try to visit Huntingdonshire History Festival every year attending events that interest me. The month-long festival hosts a number of diverse and interesting events.

Alison Bruce’s talk, “Forensics and Stopping People getting away with Murder”, was hosted and organised by Niche Comics and Books, Huntingdon’s very own unique, independent book shop.

Alison shared her extensive knowledge of forensics and criminology with a spellbound and engaged audience, explaining how advances in forensic science had helped to capture criminals who could without the availability of these techniques have evaded capture. She gave real-life examples of how these advances had helped solve actual cases and the use made of IT by law enforcement agencies to thwart criminals.

Alison believes it is the lack of resources available to the law enforcement agencies which is the biggest obstacle to increasing prosecution rates, not the lack of tools. She also touched on the lack of literacy amongst the prison population believing that it together with poverty is a prime cause of crime.

Alison Bruce is a favourite author of mine; I own copies of just about all her books. She takes her crime writing craft very seriously, her latest degree is in Criminology. Alison lectures at the Anglian Ruskin University, in Cambridge, amongst other things training the police.

A few years ago I was fortunate enough to attend a one-day writing course hosted by Alison at Ramsey, it was organised by Ramsey u3a. It proved to be a very useful day and I learned a lot.

This was an interesting, informative evening with a terrific author and wonderful lady.

Alison with a scruffy old man

I am looking forward to reading her next book promised for 2023.

Alison Bruce

Niche Comics and Books

Huntingdonshire History Festival

July Story Chat: “Not a Proper Job” by Philip Cumberland

Marsha Ingrao - Always Write

If you love to read short stories, you will enjoy Story Chat. For links to all of the stories bookmark the Story Chat Y2 Page. Comments are closed after 30 days because of scammers. If you have comments on other stories, you can make them on this current post.

Something to Think About

  • What theme or themes did “Not a Proper Job” have?
  • What might Sheila’s Grandma say if she understood Sheila’s line of work?
  • What famous story or character does Sheila remind you of?
  • Who do you imagine Sheila’s employer is?
Photo © Philip Cumberland

“Not a Proper Job” by Philip Cumberland

The guided bus was an unusual getaway vehicle, but it had served Sheila well in the past.

It’s their vanity that makes them vulnerable, she thought. What dignitary full of their importance could refuse an honorary doctorate from one of the World’s leading universities?

”More wine…

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Killing with Confetti by Peter Lovesey, a review.

Killing with Confetti by Peter Lovesey

I am a big fan of Peter Lovesey and his hero Peter Diamond. Killing with Confetti has been on my; to be read list for a while now and I wish I had been able to get to it sooner.

We are into the action very early on with a plot that moves from a riot at a prison to the forthcoming marriage of a crime baron’s daughter and a senior police officer’s son. DCS Peter Diamond has the unenviable job of managing the security for the wedding at Bath’s Abbey Church and reception at the City’s Roman Baths; he hopes it won’t prove to be a poisoned chalice.

Peter Diamond has to ensure that Joe Irving the bride’s father, a target for any number of assassins is kept safe. Not an easy job, given Irving’s numerous enemies and with the events taking place in Bath’s historic buildings, offering plenty of hiding places for a killer.

Deputy Chief Constable George Brace, the father of the groom is very anxious the day goes well but whatever the outcome, his association through marriage with Bath’s crime Lord is going to be a difficult one to manage, career-wise.

The responsibility for managing Irving’s safety, a successful wedding and reception weigh heavily on Diamond’s shoulders.

A great read, that kept me engrossed from start to finish.

Paranormal City by Stephen Oliver a review

Paranormal City by Stephen Oliver

Paranormal City is unlike any other city or maybe it isn’t, it could be that this city is also here; unseen in the city we inhabit but hiding in plain sight, sharing its existence but in a different way to the one it lives within.

Paranormal City’s inhabitants walk our streets in a form of normality we recognise, rubbing shoulders with the daily commuters, sharing our places and lives but they are in some way different. These are the werewolves, shapeshifters, vampires, cyborgs, demons and creatures which only become strange to us when assuming their other, true hidden identity. 

Paranormal City becomes the battleground of a titanic struggle between strange forces and creatures. It is a fascinating tale and a damn good read.

Hopefully, these creatures are purely a work of fiction.

Great stuff Stephen, more, please.

Stephen’s Paranormal City is available to buy on Amazon

Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves a review.

Silent Voices by Ann Cleeves

This was my first read of a novel featuring Vera; Ann Cleeves’ DCI Vera Stanhope, as seen on TV, as it says on the cover of this edition of the book. Vera is presented to us, warts and all. Brenda Blethyn is a supremely confident actress to be able to portray this woman so accurately.

The plot is dense, convoluted and engaging, drawing me in from the first moment. After her morning swim, Vera finds the body of a young woman in her local health club’s steam room.

The characters are well-drawn, the descriptions of places and people believable. However, what I found was most interesting, that despite being presented on television with a very believable version of Vera, I found a different Vera in the book. A woman who entered my imagination on her own terms. This for me was extraordinary, although the television Vera is good, I preferred the Vera of my imagination.

It was for me a quick read I wanted to know how the story ended and who the murderer was, I hadn’t worked it out.

A thoroughly good read. I am becoming a fan of Ann Cleeves.

The new bike basket.

The new basket but old bike

I have an ancient Pashley Delibike, similar to the one Granville used in the Open All Hours, television comedy programme; someone once asked me what was I doing with Granville’s bike?

The bike is used primarily for my Sunday Paper rounds but also for litter picking excursions with Whittlesey Sreet Pride and occasional shopping trips.

The large wicker basket used for carrying my papers and other goods finally succumbed to the ravages of time and the base parted company with the sides. I managed a temporary repair by cutting a piece of plywood and fixing it to the frame below the basket’s base while I searched for a replacement.

It had seen better days

I tried local cycle shops, without success, Huntingdon’s Blind Shop used to sell baskets when I was a lad but they no longer do. Finally, I tried the internet. Initial searches found basket makers well out of my area and although the price for the basket was reasonable, when carriage costs were added, things started to mount up.

Eventually, I found a fairly local basket maker, Sue Kirk, based in Kings Cliffe, near to both Oundle and Stamford.

A really great improvement

After an exchange of emails with photographs and dimensions, we agreed on a price and time scale.

Kings Cliffe is a picturesque village of stone houses and in places narrow streets.

The Old Brewery Studios is on Wood Street and itself is an old stone building

of character.

I dropped the bike off in my van and left it to Sue to sort out. Two weeks later I was able to collect my bike with its new basket.

The quality is excellent and the price was very reasonable. However, the new basket puts the rest of the bike to shame, I will have to set to and bring the bike up to the same standard as the basket.

It is great to see traditional crafts still being carried on and to find such outstanding craftspeople, if you are in the market for a willow basket of any kind Sue’s studio is well worth a visit.

Sue Kirk – Willow Baskets (suekirkwillowbaskets.co.uk)

I wrote an earlier post about delivering papers and my bike.

https://fenlandphil.com/?s=Delivering+the+news

A flight of time.

Northern Soul plaque on a door

I watched two thought-provoking programmes one recent Friday evening. The first Keep on Burning, a documentary about Northern Soul reminded me of my own teenage years. My teenage years preceded the Northern Soul era and its music, to a large extent the soundtrack of those later years.

In my own case, the music I enjoyed was predominately Soul and Motown, although the Rolling Stones did get some of my attention. These special years are fleeting. I am sure for a great many of us; as the music changed, as it always does, the magic of those years is quickly lost. There has been good music since, as there was good music before but none that I felt I had the same ownership of, it could never evoke the same memories or hold the same wonder.

Keep on Burning told the story of Northern Soul, from its roots as an underground movement, (much in the way many music genres are born), to its rise and fall in popularity. I had heard of Northern Soul but knew little about it, many of the bands and singers who had performed live at The Twisted Wheel Manchester, the Golden Torch (Tunstall, Stoke-on-Trent) and Wigan Casino live were the soul bands that I knew from my teenage years. Martha and the Vandellas, Edwin Starr, Junior Walker and the All-Stars, among them.

Other artists were unknown to me; I had heard some of their names but didn’t know their music.

There are those who resolutely cling to that Northern Soul era, as there are those in every generation; holding on to a time and music that is special for them, their own soundtrack. A hardcore of fans of every music genre clings onto memories, freshened by gigs where for a few fleeting hours they can relive their own time of magic. In that respect, the Northern Soul diehards are little different to those who attend Rock and Roll weekends or live only for times they can watch favourite Trad Jazz bands.

Chic photo from http://www.liveabout.com

Nile Rodgers.

I mentioned good music since; I was not a watcher of top of the pops after the sixties and listened rarely to pop music radio stations. It wasn’t until groups like Chic, Rose Royce, Sister Sledge and in a different genre, Dire Straits had been and often gone that I became aware of them. Fortunately, as they say, their music lives after them, as it has for Louis Armstrong, Benny Goodman, Ella Fitzgerald, Ray Charles and so many others.

Nile Rodgers photo Wikipedia

Chic became a particular favourite, I would search out their videos on YouTube and bought CDs. The band’s co-founder and principal songwriter was Nile Rodgers, the BBC 4 programme about him is the first part of a series. I am interested in creative people, things that inspire them and fuel their creativity.

The disco sound and scene formed the special years of another cohort of teenagers, ten maybe fifteen years younger than me although Nile Rodgers is only younger than me by a year. He would have listened to the same music as I had but went on to create music of his own.

 One of his quotes, in particular, struck me, “Find your own style, do not merely imitate someone else.”

As a writer I think I have found my own voice,  there are writers who I admire and who have influenced me but I think my style is my own, my way of seeing the world.

Nile gave an interesting insight into songwriting; with his collaborator Bernard Stevens, who was Chic’s bass player. They started their songs with a hook singing the chorus first, leaving the listener in no doubt what the song is called. The first lines of a story work in the same way to hook the reader, to capture their imagination and attention.

The reference: Drip the sugar in a bit at a time building up for when the chocolate cake comes, is much the same as: “Keep it moving action, action, feed the descriptions in bit by bit with the action.”

For me, this is how a good story should work.

Writing a book? My advice? Let’s Ask The Experts

A mention from an author I admire greatly and this after a fantastic review from the same lady, I am so chuffed.

Eva Jordan

“Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout with some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”––George Orwell

Over the last few years, I’ve had the privilege of interviewing some amazing authors. Each one different, but all equally fascinating. However, I always end my interviews with the same question, namely, what’s your advice to anyone thinking of writing a book or taking up writing? So, this month, I thought I’d take some of those fabulous responses and put them here, in one helpful, and hopefully inspiring article.

The only advice that is guaranteed to be correct is to pick up your pen and begin. Then you are a writer, whatever anyone says. ––Ross Greenwood

It’s a real cliché but read. Read in your genre and out of…

View original post 399 more words

Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne, a review.

Only to Sleep by Lawrence Osborne

Raymond Chandler’s shoes are very difficult to fill. Philip Marlowe, Chandler’s hero is someone who has inhabited the imagination of all those who have read Chandler’s novels. My Marlowe will be different to everyone else’s Marlowe but our own original has its own presence.

‘Poodle Springs’, Chandler’s unfinished novel was completed by Robert B Parker and worked well for me; I have since discovered that Parker wrote another Marlowe novel, ‘Perchance to Dream.’ This is one I will seek out and read.

Marlowe is engaged by The Pacific Mutual Insurance company to investigate the death by drowning of Donald Zinn; before the million dollar payout is made to his widow.

Donald Zinn is an all too easily recognisable pastiche of a contemporary character, one who it appears has followed a similar career path to Zinn’s.

It was a good idea to base the action in Mexico; the location of Zinn’s demise.

Only to sleep didn’t work well for me, perhaps it was taking Marlowe out of his time and place; California’s, the thirties, forties and fifties or maybe at 73 Marlowe just hadn’t aged well. I didn’t recognise him even as an older version of himself

Other Chandler and Marlowe fans may enjoy this book; it just wasn’t a good read for me.

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