Tuesday 28 January 2020

Writer and friend, Val Penny...

...makes a very welcome return to my blog this week to talk about the setting for her very intriguing books...

VP  I chose Edinburgh, the capital of Scotland, as the setting for my novels that form The Edinburgh Crime Mysteries.  Hunter's Blood is the fourth book in the series and has been published by darkstroke.  Edinburgh is a beautiful city of around half a million people.  It is situated on the south banks of the Firth of Forth.  There are some lovely views across the Forth from Edinburgh to the county of Fife on the north of the river.  There are three bridges crossing the Firth of Forth: the oldest is the Forth Rail Bridge, built in the nineteenth century, the Forth Road Bridge was built in the twentieth century and the most modern, a bridge for road traffic was completed in the early part of this century, named the Queensferry Crossing.
In the Holyrood district of Edinburgh sits the delegated parliament of Scotland, that has wide powers over how the people are governed, meets in the Scottish Parliament Building.  Following a referendum in 1997, in which the Scottish electorate voted for devolution, the current Parliament was convened by the Scotland Act of 1998 which sets out its powers as a devolved legislature.  Since September 2004, the official home of the Scottish Parliament has been a  new Scottish Parliament Building in the Holyrood area of Edinburgh.  The Scottish Parliament building was designed by Spanish architect Enric Miralles.  There was much concern at the time as the building was completed many years late and several times over budget.
The main protagonist of Hunter's Blood is Detective Inspector Hunter Wilson.  He lives in Leith, an area to the north of the City and drinks in his local pub, the Persevere Bar. His home is also close to one of the main soccer grounds in Edinburgh, the Hibernian Football Ground.  Hibernian Football Club, commonly known as Hibs, is a Scottish professional football club based in Leith.
The other main character, Detective Constable Tim Myerscough lives across the city from Hunter, in the south-west of the city.  He moves into a flat in Gillespie Crescent between Tollcross and Bruntsfield.  His local pub is the Golf Tavern, off the Bruntsfield Links.
A wonderful free activity to do all year round is to play golf on Brunstfield Links.  It is believed to be one of the oldest sites of golf as it pre-dates the seventeenth century, the short hole course was founded in 1895.  Situated south of Melville Drive, there are two courses available to play on.  A summer short 36 hole course (open end of April to September) and a 9 hole winter course (open October to end of April).

DC Tim Myerscough's father, Sir Peter Myerscough, lives even further to the south in the Morningside district of Edinburgh. From his large house he has fine views across the Pentland Hills. The Pentland hills are situated just outside of Edinburgh. The reservoirs are
picturesque and each hill is slightly different. If you are fit enough, you can go on top of all of the hills in one day.
Edinburgh is such a diverse and cultural city, home to The Edinburgh International Festivals that represent all aspects of art, three universities and several colleges and the Scottish national rugby ground at Murrayfield. It is the perfect place to situate 'Hunter's Chase' and the mysteries DI Hunter Wilson has to solve.
I hope readers will enjoy Hunter’s Blood, the most recent mystery featuring Hunter and his team.
AW  I'm sure they will, Val.  Thanks for visiting.

about the book… DI Hunter Wilson never has just one problem to solve.  He finds three elderly women he knows dead in mysterious circumstances.  A little girl is lost on a cold winter night and then his team finds cocaine hidden around the farm where she is living. Hunter is worried that he cannot keep his family safe.
Why did the women die? What did the child witness?
Hunter must find the answers to these questions to ensure his family and his city are safe.
about the author… Val Penny is an American author living in SW Scotland.  She has two adult daughters of whom she is justly proud and lives with her husband and two cats.  She has a Law degree from Edinburgh University and her MSc from Napier University.  She has had many jobs including hairdresser, waitress, lawyer, banker, azalea farmer and lecturer.  However, she has not yet achieved either of her childhood dreams of being a ballerina or owning a candy store.  Until those dreams come true, she has turned her hand to writing poetry, short stories and novels.  Her crime novels, Hunter's Chase, Hunter's Revenge, Hunter's Force and, Hunter’s Blood are set in Edinburgh, Scotland, published by Crooked Cat Books.  The fifth book in the series, Hunter's Secret, follows shortly.

You can follow Val on her Website on her Facebook Page and through her Facebook Group and on Twitter

You can get the complete Edinburgh Crime series on Amazon

Tuesday 21 January 2020

Come stroll with me…

…through the fabulous city of Paris…

Today, we're taking the metro to Place de la Concorde at one end of the Champs-Élysées, one of the most famous and busiest thoroughfares in the world.  Just take a look at this street.  You can stand here in the middle of the road, looking directly at the Arc de Triomphe - wanted by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1806 but finally inaugurated by the King Louis-Philippe in 1836.  Turning your back on the Arc, you face the peace and quiet of the Jardin des Tuileries with the Louvre straight ahead.  It's about a twently minute stroll from here to the Louvre and that gives me plenty of time to tell you all about Jean-Baptiste Poquelin.
In January 1622, Jean-Baptiste was born into a wealthy family, here in the city of Paris.  He was well educated, and after working for some years as an itinerant actor he began to be noticed.  I guess that, when you have such benefactors as the Duc de Orléans - Louis 14's brother - you are bound to be noticed by the King himself at some point.
Jean-Baptiste, much better known to you and I by his stage name of Molière, became the go-to scriptwriter and actor of his day.  His troupe of actors was known as the 'Troupe du Roi' and the royal patronage brought Molière a suizable pension and guaranteed him an audience.  Any of this sounding vaguely familiar yet?
As we leave the Tuileries we're going to take the rue Rivoli down to where it interescts with rue de Rohan and we'll take a left here and stroll onto avenue l'Opéra and pause for a moment.  We are now standing outside the Comédie-Française.  Founded in 1680 by Louis 14, this is one of the oldest working theatres in France.  It is also the only theatre in France that is state controlled and that has maintained a permanent troupe of actors.  The works of Molière, Racine and Corneille, and many, many others have been preformed in this building.  That's 340 years-worth of great actors' feet treading those boards!  Well, perhaps not exactly those particular pieces of wood that are currently on the stage at this moment… but you can perhaps understand my sense of wonder when I remind you that I've been treading the boards since I was a kid of 6.
But, back to Molière.  He wrote more than 30 plays and across differing genres.  His experience as an actor and his use of comic timing enlabled him to write farces and comedies that are still performed today.  He also wrote opinion pieces that got the court talking and, at times, also got him into hot water.  His plays have been translated into every major language.  His texts have been studied, crtitiqued and, are regularly quoted.  His plays are performed more often at the Comédie-Française than any other writer.
Sadly, Molière himself was not able to see his work on the stage at the Comédie as he died in 1673 on February 17th.  He suffered from TB, and having given a performance as Argan in Le Malade Imaginaire - The Hypochondriac - he suffered a fit of coughing and died shortly afterwards.
And that familiar thing?  Well, Molière was and still is, the epitome of French theatre.  So, as an actor, I've spent my life learning and reciting Shakespeare and I think I can honestly say that, had I been born in France, it would very probably have been the work of Molière that I studied instead!

Tuesday 14 January 2020

Please welcome, friend and author, Miriam Drori...

...to my blog this week.  Hi Miriam, and it's great to have you make a return visit.

MM  Hello Angela, and thank you so much for having me on your blog.  When I think of you, I think of France, mystery and history.  So I thought, what if Martin, the main character in my novel Cultivating a Fuji, had been sent to France instead of Japan in 1977.  How would he have coped there...

Martin turned off the slide projector and flopped onto the chair behind him.  His presentation had been beyond awful.  If he’d been nervous before starting, and he had, that was nothing compared to the way he felt as soon as he began. Despite all his practice runs in the hotel in front of the mirror, when he tried to give a repeat performance in front of these office workers his confidence went out of the door and the words refused to form themselves properly.
He wasn’t helped by the smirks he saw planted on every face in the audience. Couldn’t they have shown a little understanding?  Apparently not.
Now they were talking amongst themselves, the discussion becoming quite heated and so fast that Martin’s schoolboy French didn’t help at all.  In fact, he wondered whether, in their rush to talk, they were really listening to each other.  Through it all, the smirks remained, becoming especially pronounced at the word rosbif.  He doubted they were planning lunch, which had to mean they were referring to him and his compatriots.  Did it show their disdain for everything English?  Did they think all English people were like him?
Finally, they turned back to Martin and one of them spoke. 
  “Thank you for this… presentation.”  He spat out the last word, as if he thought any similarity between Martin’s performance and a real presentation was minimal.  “We have decided we will not buy your system.”
  “But you haven’t seen the demonstration yet!” The shock made Martin forget to be his usual quiet, enclosed self.
  “What we saw and heard, it is sufficient.”
By the time Martin was again soaring through the clouds on the short hop back to Heathrow Airport, he’d assigned this trip to the weighty sack of failures he’d collected over the past twenty-four years, wishing the first one had never happened.  Why had he been born?

MM  I assure you I have nothing against French people, in general, but I do think Martin wouldn’t have fared nearly as well in France as he did in Japan.
AW  What a great post, Miriam, and thank you.

about the book… Convinced that his imperfect, solitary existence is the best it will ever be, Martin unexpectedly finds himself being sent to represent his company in Japan.  His colleagues think it’s a joke; his bosses are certain he will fail.  What does Martin think?  He simply does what he’s told.  That’s how he’s survived up to now – by hiding his feelings.
Amazingly, in the land of strange rituals, sweet and juicy apples, and too much saké, Martin flourishes and achieves the impossible.  But that’s only the beginning.  Keeping up the momentum for change proves futile.  So, too, is a return to what he had before.  Is there a way forward, or should he put an end to the search now?
Gradually, as you’ll see when Martin looks back from near the end of his journey, life improves.  There’s even a woman, Fiona, who brings her own baggage to the relationship, but brightens Martin’s days.  And just when you think there can be no more surprises, another one pops up.
Throughout his life, people have laughed at ‘weirdo’ Martin; and you, as you read, will have plenty of opportunity to laugh, too.  Go ahead, laugh away, but you’ll find that there’s also a serious side to all this…

You can get the book from Amazon.

Tuesday 7 January 2020

Another year...

Image by Pezibear from Pixabay 
…the decorations are neatly stored, the Christmas tree is back in its box, and the cards are on their way to be recycled. Yes, Christmas might be done for 2019, but there are now only 354 days left before next Christmas!

And just think about the opportunities that those 354 days can offer. Here on the blog, we will be kicking the New Year off with a return visit from a great friend and fellow writer, Miriam Drori. There will be other authors visiting too. I will be heading to London for some fabulous exhibitions, and I will tell you all about those as they come along.

If you haven't picked up on this already, 2020 is the 100th anniversary of the publication of 'The Mysterious Affair at Styles', by Agatha Christie - the very first book that featured my favourite detective, Hercule Poirot. This year is also the 130th anniversary of Dame Agatha's birth. As I grew up on her stories, I thought that now would be an appropriate time for a trip to Torquay. The hotel is booked, and my train tickets are waiting at the station to be collected. I'll be telling you all about that little adventure here on the blog in a few weeks.

As for Monsieur Jacques Forêt, well, I will be catching up with him much later in the year. In the meantime, if you have a craving for France, perhaps you could accompany me as I meander along the canals of Burgundy. I can promise fabulous views, interesting and historic chateaux along with gorgeous little villages that lie hidden and away from the tourist trails.

I hope you can join me…