Tuesday 29 October 2019

Just because it's Halloween this week...

... I have a special little treat for you.  A favourite poem of mine that's a bit spooky!

Shadwell Stair

I am the ghost of Shadwell Stair.
Along the wharves by the water-house,
And through the cavernous slaughterhouse,
I am the shadow that walks there.

Yes I have flesh both firm and cool,
And eyes tumultuous as gems
Of moons and lamps in the full Thames
When dusk sails wavering down the pool.

Shuddering the purple street-arc burns
Where I watch always; from the banks
Dolorously the shipping clanks
And after me a strange tide turns.

I walk till the stars of London wane
And dawn creeps up the Shadwell Stair.
But when the crowing syrens blare
I, with another ghost, am lain.

Wifred Owen

Tuesday 22 October 2019

I'm reviewing, Poirot and Me...

... written by the actor David Suchet and journalist, historian and bigrapher, Geoffrey Wansell...

This particular book has been sitting around on my bookshelves for a while, patiently waiting for me to get around to reading it.  Having finally done so, I can't work out what took me so long.

David Suchet has played Agatha Christie's sleuth for over 20 years and is now inextricably linked with the man with the 'little grey cells', the weird moustache and the exacting habits.  I've seen all the Poirot films and adaptations, and in my opinion, Mr Suchet is the only actor who has ever come close to the character  as described in the books.  And yes, I've read all the novels and the short stories.  A significant number of them more than once.  In fact, I think it would be correct to say that I grew up on Agatha Christie's books!

This book is very much an actor's view written for other actors, I think.  And, as an actor myself, it was fascinating to understand how Suchet prepared himself for the role and very refreshing to understand that he also read all the stories and novels in an effort to get into Poirot's mindset.  The book charts how each series of Poirot was developed, and where and why changes to stories were made to make them more appropriate for a viewing audience.  There were times when it felt as though I was on set with Suchet and the rest of the cast.

The narrative style is an easy and flowing read but, when talking about the TV companies and contracts, Suchet does become a little repetitive.  Clearly, how he was treated over the years, may have rankled.  Overall, it is a fascinating insight and well deserves the 5 stars I've given it.

Tuesday 15 October 2019

Published today...

...Marseille, book 4 in the Jacques Forêt mystery series, is now available in both print and ebook format.

As a special treat, I am also offering the first three ebooks at the discounted price of 99p/c or international equivalent for the whole of this week.

Just to tempt you and to get your mind working on Jacques' latest case, an extract is below.  We're catching up with Jacques on his second day back in his office in Mende following a month's leave...

tuesday, september 18th, 2012

...When Jacques looked up, his younger colleague was concentrating on something in the paper on his desk. Folding the broadsheet in half and then in half again, Maxim got up.
“This might interest you,” he said as he pointed out the relevant article hidden in the bottom right-hand quarter of the page. “It’s an update on one of the woodland killings that we’ve been following for a while.” Maxim handed over the journal. “It’s the weapon that is of most interest in this case.”
Jacques read the first couple of paragraphs under the heading ‘No Progress on Hunting Fatality’. His frown deepened as he read the line: ‘…the recovered bullet is now known to have been fired…’ He looked up.
“From a Derringer? An antique Derringer! How can they be sure about that?”
Maxim puffed his cheeks out as he exhaled. “It doesn’t say, but I doubt your ex-colleagues in the police would have released the information to the press if they weren’t certain.”
“Of course,” said Jacques. “So, despite the journalist’s nomenclature, it’s murder, then, and not a hunting accident. No one goes hunting with a Derringer.” He got up and moved across the room to a large display board. A map, with the département of Lozère at its centre and the surrounding départements of Cantal, Haute-Loire, Ardèche, Gard, and Aveyron, was displayed and spiked with a number of amber coloured pins spread, apparently randomly, across its expanse. He cast his eyes over the map and then fixed his attention on a single pin below the centre.
“Here,” he said. “This victim was found here on the Col de St-Pierre on the south side of the D260, which is just on the other side of the boundary with Gard.” He pulled out the pin and replaced it with a green one.
“He was fourteen years old,” said Maxim joining his boss at the board, a weighty file of papers in his hands. “Found by a garde-forestier. It’s managed woodland up there, and the body was about two days old when it was discovered.” Maxim consulted his notes. “He’d been missing for just over seventeen weeks.”
“And that was?”
“May this year when he was snatched, and the body was discovered at the end of the week before last.”
Jacques stepped back and scanned the map, trying to recall a detail. “Wasn’t there another case about eight or ten months ago with a similar M.O.?”
“Here,” said Maxim pointing to another pin, located in a forested area to the north-west in Cantal. “An old Mauser, the C96, was used. A boy again, aged twelve, shot in the back. He’d been missing for over three months, and his body was discovered about a month after he was shot.” Maxim paused as he thumbed through his notes.
Jacques’ eyes moved systematically across the board. He nodded. “That’s two. It’s not a pattern…yet. But it is a happenstance that I don’t like.” In his mind, there was no rhyme or reason to the arrangement of pins in front of him, but there were apparent connections. All the bodies had been found in woodland often used for hunting. The victims had been minors who had disappeared from either home or school without any trace. The newspapers had speculated widely and wildly on the reasons for the youngsters being in the locations where they were found. As far as Jacques was concerned, not one scrap of the speculative column space could be relied upon. But it couldn’t be ignored either. Somewhere, in all of those words, was a grain of truth. He would just have to find it...

You can read more about the city of Marseille and the locations used in Jacques latest story herehereherehere and here

Marseille, the new Jacques Forêt mystery, is available for purchase Here

Tuesday 8 October 2019

Writer and friend, Sophie Claire...

... is visiting my blog today.  Hi, Sophie, thanks for making time to be here.  So, tell me, why do your books feature Provence as a setting for part or all of the story?

A sensual place
Well firstly, it’s a special place, as anyone who’s visited will know.  The colours are intense, the air is rich with the perfume of pine trees and sun-baked earth, and the pace of life is different from anywhere I know: it’s calmer and more relaxed, perhaps due to the intense heat.  All this provides a very sensual backdrop for my books, which is useful because I write sensual, emotional stories.

My childhood memories
But the other reason I set my books in Provence is that, as a child, I spent every summer there at my grandparents’ house.  They lived near Sanary, a picturesque fishing port turned tourist hotspot, and I have wonderful memories of trips to the beach, visiting hilltop villages, and big family meals with delicious French cooking (my grandmother was an excellent cook).

The weather
Although Provence is known for its heat and sun, the weather can be volatile, and this is useful in fiction writing.  The Mistral wind blows fiercely in Provence and it’s bitterly cold, even in summer.  It also brings the risk of forest fires, too, so the mention of it adds a subtle note of menace.
Storms are another dramatic feature of Provencal weather.  The last two weeks in August are notorious for storms.  I remember several occasions when our house came close to flooding and the lights went out (always useful in a book for forcing characters together), and the thunder and lightning were far more exciting than anything we’d experienced in the UK.  I like to use these kind of extreme weather conditions to ramp up the tension in my books and make my poor characters suffer.

Village life
Although tourists tend to take over the region during the high season, for the rest of the year Provence can be quiet, and there’s a strong sense of community in its towns and villages.  Family values are important here too, and in my novels I love to show the close bonds which this creates.  Travel through any Provencal village and you’ll see locals stopping to chat or catching up over coffee.  This slow pace and tightly-knit community spirit contrasts greatly with the solitary lives and busy pace most of us are used to, and is something readers are drawn to.

An escape
In my latest book, The Christmas Holiday, Provence is where my characters, Jake and Evie,
flee to at Christmas.  They hope it will be an escape because the holiday season is a painful time for them.  But being alone together also forces them to get to know each other more intimately, and it becomes increasingly difficult for them to ignore the attraction which has been simmering beneath the surface. 
When it’s raining in Manchester (which it often is), the sun-soaked landscapes of Provence provide an escape for me, and there’s nothing I like more than to let my imagination carry me away to a place where the cicadas sing all summer, and the smell of lavender perfumes the warm air.

You can follow Sophie on her Website on Facebook Twitter and on Amazon
You can get Sophie's book Here

Thank you Sophie, and another fellow Author on the Edge will be visiting the blog next month, so watch this space...

Tuesday 1 October 2019

I'm catching up with Jacques Forêt...

...and Didier Duclos.  I'm meeting them both here in Marseille by the Vieux port

AW  Nice to see you again Jacques, and Didier, great to meet you in person.  So, your new case brings you here to this fabulous city, what do you make of it?
JF   The city?  It reminds me a lot of Paris. The noise, the busy streets.  I've become so accustomed to the quiet of the Cévennes that I don't think I could live in a large city like this again.
AW  So, you don't miss Paris?
JF   Not really. My family are still there.  My sister and brother-in-law and their two boys and my papa, of course.  I was able to catch up with them at Christmas.  It would be nice to spend more time with the family, but the job...you know how it goes.
AW  What about you Didier?  Are you a city man?
DD  Not in the same way as Jacques.  I was born in Badaroux and I still have some family who live there.  Joining the police meant moving to Mende and I still live there.  Cities have some benefits, the nightlife, the restaurants, and the football.
AW  Ah, you like your sport.  And do you have a favourite team, Didier?
DD  Not particularly.  My two sons, when they were boys, both supported the local team in Mende and my eldest son still goes to many of the matches.  I'll accompany him occasionally.  If I'm asked.
AW  Do I detect a bit of a rift in the family there, Didier?
DD  No.  I'm usually included when my grandson is going too.  He's 10 years old, now.  He's growing up and has more important things on his mind these days, than watching a match.
AW  So, Jacques, your current case has brought you both here to Marseille.  Is there anything that you can tell me about that?
JF   We've been engaged by the family of an abductee.  We're here to interview a witness who believes that the person we are seeking is here in Marseille.  I want to be sure it is the person we are looking for.  We've agreed to meet that witness here at the Vieux Port.
AW  I see.  Any chance that I can listen in on your interview?
JF   I think you already know that the answer to that question is, no.  This is a very delicate matter.  The witness doesn't want to be named or to be identified to the police.  And, I don't want us to do anything, or to be seen to be doing anything, that might cause the kidnappers to panic or harm their victim.  We know of other kidnappings in the surrounding départements where the victim has died.  I want to prevent that from happening, if I can.
AW  OK, Jacques.  Got the message loud and clear.  Any news of Beth that you can share with us?
JF  She's as well as can be expected under the current circumstances, but I am worried about her.
AW  Worried?  Can you tell me more?
JF  Another time perhaps.  We need to be in place Didier.
AW  Well thanks guys.  Best of luck with the case.

Well, nothing has changed, he's still as illusive as ever!  Jacques and Didier are heading along the quai Rive Neuve.  Let's hope their witness turns up and that they get the information they need.

You can read more about the city of Marseille hereherehere and here
Marseille, the next Jacques Forêt mystery, is available for pre-order Here