Tuesday, 26 January 2021

I'm in Mende today to meet...

...Didier Duclos, Jacques' right-hand man at JF Associates.  It's freezing outside with the remains of the snow from the weekend still clinging to the mountain tops and the streets.  We're here in the warmth of the Drap d'Or in place Urbain V…
AW  Tell us a little about yourself, Didier.
DD   There's not much to tell.  I was born in the village of Badaroux, which is between here and Messandrierre.  I've lived here all my life.  I joined the Police Nationale when I was twenty-two.  I retired in 2008, and I joined Jacques and his team in 2010.
AW  Oh come on Didier, it's not that simple, is it?  You were a detective, weren't you?
DD  Yes that's right.  I was the equivalent of one of your English detective sergeants.
AW  Any significant cases that you worked on?
DD   I worked on mostly minor crime.  Cases of theft, criminal damage, arson.  I've never worked a murder case until I came to JF Associates.  Of course, Jacques has handled many murder cases, but then he comes from Paris.  It's not surprising.
AW  Ah yes.  Jacques is a great guy.  But what's he really like to work for?
DD  He's a good boss.  He's fair, and he always wants the best.  Sometimes that can be a bit wearing.  He has an excellent eye for detail.  We both do, and I think that is a requirement for all people in the police.  It's those tiny little details that can lead you to a solution for a case.  It's also those details that often give away the criminal.
AW  Interesting.  And when you're not sleuthing, Didier, what do you get up to?
DD   I have a grandson that I see regularly.  We are all football fans, and I sometimes go to a game with them.  I like walking, and hiking and this area is suitable for both of those pursuits.  It also helps to keep me fit, too.  We always follow the Tour de France, and I sometimes take my grandson cycling.  He's a lot faster than me, of course!
AW  Anything else?
DD  I go sailing when I can, and last year I hired a canal boat for August and spent my holiday with my eldest son and his family on the canal du Midi.  It was enjoyable and very leisurely.
AW  A little bird has told me that you have a hankering for a boat of your own.  Care to expand on that?
DD  I see you are well informed.  I have often thought of having a boat, but it's a lot of work and expense.  I do enjoy sailing in the Mediterranean and have spent my holidays hopping from one port to another.  But owning a boat…  I don't think that will ever happen.  I'm content to let someone else pay the mooring fees in winter and cover the cost of careening and the upkeep.
AW  OK Didier.  Anything else you want to share?
DD  I don't think so.
AW Thanks, Didier.
Didier and Jacques will be solving more crimes here in Mende and you can read about the next case in #Mercœur which is available for pre-order Here

You can read more about the #Cévennes and #Mercœur Here

Tuesday, 19 January 2021

I'm celebrating...

... the life and work of one of my favourite authors, Patricia Highsmith...

One hundred years a go today, Mary Patricia Plangman was born in Fort Worth in Texas.  Her biological parents were both artists and they divorced just before Mary was born.  In 1924, Mary's mother married the artist Stanley Highsmith enabling Mary to become Mary Patricia Highsmith.  The family moved to New York but six years later Mary was sent back to Texas to live with her grandmother for a year.  This rift between mother and daughter never really healed and it was fictionalised in a short story called The Terrapin.
Writing as Patricia Highsmith, her first novel, Strangers on a Train, was published in 1950.  She received an award for the book from the Mystery Writers of America and, it was subsequently adapted for film to be directed by Alfred Hitchcock and released in 1951.  This story has also been adapted for stage and television.
Highsmith went on to write more than 20 novels and perhaps the most recognised are the Ripley books.  She wrote a total of five with the first one, The Talented Mr Ripley, being published in 1955 and the last one, Ripley Under Water, being published in 1991.  Three of the Ripley books were adapted for film but only one, the first one, was adapted for stage.  The Talented Mr Ripley is a script that I still have on my bookshelf.  I had a hankering to direct a production, but one of my colleagues put the play on stage instead.
Way back in 2009, all five of the Ripley books were dramatized and broadcast on BBC Radio Four.  Regrettably I missed that too!  However I do still have my copies of the novels and from time to time I find myself dipping into them to savour the fabulous prose.  I've read all five of the Ripley books more than once and I can't see me ever parting with them, as I still want to re-read them.  But then, I guess that's the magic of Highsmith's story-telling - even though I know the outcome, I'm still mesmerised by the journey through the story.
Novels were not her only contribution to the written word.  She wrote numerous short stories, essays and articles.  She also wrote some fiction for children along with a book about writing - Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction - which was published in 1966, revised in 1981 and is still available in paperback.
Her last novel, Small g: a Summer Idyll, was rejected by her usual American publishing house.  It was published in the UK shortly after her death in 1995 and it took a further nine years before the first American edition came onto the market.
In 1982 Highsmith relocated to a small village in Switzerland.  On February 4th, 1995 she died in a nearby hospital.  Her literary estate was left to the Swiss National Library in Bern.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Long-time friend and author, Liz Reeves...

... joins me on the blog today.  Hello and thanks so much for being here.  It's been quite a while since we last chatted about writing and I know you've been very busy...

AW  So, tell me what is your current release?
LR  “Sprotbrough: An Historical Perspective including An Oral History: From Rural Estate to Real Estate 1925-1964”
This is basically the story of the village I was born and grew up in from pre-history to the end of the time period stated in the title.  In 1925, the Sprotbrough Estate, which is 3 miles outside Doncaster in South Yorkshire, covering 3,627 acres, was sold following the double deaths of Lord and Lady Copley and the fact that their heir, Lord Cromwell, didn’t feel able to pay the double death duties due and maintain the estate.  At that time there were only 343 residents living in the village, their homes and livelihoods being dependant on the estate.  During the sale, entrepreneurs purchased large tracts of land and building began.  By 1965 the population had risen to 1014 and, when farmers began to sell land for more residential building in the 1960s and 70s, several new housing estates sprang up within the village bringing many more residents.
It therefore seemed important to capture the stories of those who were still alive, or who had family memories of that time, for future generations and newer residents who knew very little, if anything, about ‘their’ village.  After over a year of meetings, interviews and writing, the 186 page book has just been launched.
AW  What first got you into writing?
LR  I never set out to be a writer or gave it any thought whatsoever.  Though I disliked making up stories for essays, English was perhaps one of my better subjects at school so I decided to train as a Secretary. I had several long-term jobs, during which I gained lots of background information regarding medicine, education, psychology and theology.  I had also started a community project and struggled with my son’s new-age traveller lifestyle, resulting in his leaving home at 16, going missing for several years, being homeless, dependent on drugs and death at 47. 
However, at 50, having been reunited with my son in Gibraltar, I felt compelled to write something for the family and “Two Lives” was eventually brought to life in 2010.  Several other personal memoirs followed, all of which were published on Amazon.  My real concern in writing has been to come to terms with the happenings in my own life, by recording actual events, which I hoped might inform, interest or be of help to others.
After returning home to Lower Sprotbrough from Derbyshire in December 2002, I involved myself in local issues and became secretary to the Don Gorge Community Group.  Some years later, I was asked by Amberley Publishing to write “River Don: from Source to Sea”, which was published in 2014.
AW  Famous authors, such as Roald Dahl and Dylan Thomas, had a special space for writing.  Do you have a writing ‘shed’ of your own.
LR  No, I don’t.  I don’t have any particular method of writing either.  I have an idea of what I want to write about and usually start with the Preface, setting out what I expect to cover.
As everything I write is from experience, the ideas will have been going round in my head for a long time anyway, so I just begin.  I edit as I go along, but once a book is ’finished’ I will read it through and note any inconsistences or things to re-check.  Rarely do I ask anyone else to read through for me, I just trust my own judgement.  My Sprotbrough book was slightly different because I was representing the lives of so many others, so each person was asked to read their part and two other people read the whole thing before it was published.  I self-published and just employed a printing company to print 300 copies.
AW  Finally, what would your eight-year-old self think of, and say about, you today?
LR  I don’t think she would have thought or said anything very much about her future.  I think she was a very quiet and naïve child who had a wonderful childhood, roaming the woods and playing on the farm with the many children and young people who lived alongside in the tiny hamlet of Lower Sprotbrough on the side of the River Don.  Her father was killed in a road accident at Christmas time when she was ten and her grandfather who lived with the family died on bonfire night when she was twelve, so I think life was more about getting through rather than having any idealistic notions of her future.  Now that she has grown into me, she is absolutely amazed at the wonderful things she has done and the life she has lived for nearly 77 years, despite all its tragedies and disappointments.
You can follow Liz on Amazon
You can get the book by contacting Liz at  soh.lizreeve@gmail.com

Sunday, 10 January 2021

Another year and...

 ... another lockdown.  But at least we can  be a bit more optimistic, I think, as a number of vaccines are available to us.  Despite the current confinement, I can see a light at the end of the tunnel and I'm going to focus on that...

This year we are beginning with a visit to the blog from a long-time friend and fellow author - Liz Reeves.  She's been writing for many years and has a number of books under her belt.  I feel very priviliged that she will be with us on Tuesday.  Liz will be the first of a number of visiting authors.

I will be continuing with book reviews every so often on here and will be starting with a book about Paris - a little gem that I happened upon by accident.  Watch this space!

There will be news about my own book, which will be published in March along with articles about the story, the location and the new characters.  

I will be taking trips along the canals of France and letting you know about little pieces of history and interesting facts as I trundle around the country.  And I will be taking you on strolls through favourite towns and villages - I have no doubt that pâtisserie will feature along the way!

There will be appropriate literary celebrations too.  For instance, in September it will be the 700th anniversary of  the death of the Italian poet, Dante.  I have a special post for that event.  In the not so distant future, I will be celebrating the work of Patricia Highsmith. Highsmith is a favourite author of mine and I hope you will be able to join me on January 19th for that little shindig!

... keep safe and well everyone and let's continue to look forward...