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Murder In Arcady, my summertime delving into lives and loves in the rural New England township of North Holford

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Murder In Arcady, my summertime delving into lives and loves in the rural New England township of North Holford, made what I think is some kind of World Record.
While literary morons all around me are selling in the thousands, even the millions, Murder In Arcady, the fourth book in my Parker “Boomer” Daniels casebook, sold one copy. That is not a typo. Yes, one copy was sold in the six months from June to December.
I wonder who the lone reader was. He must be a remarkable person.
Since then, for the Xmas trade, I produced Invitation To A Few Murders. It has a jolly Christmas cover with a half-naked bimbo running in terror by a Christmas tree.
Unlike the first three Parker Daniels’ yarns, the last two are supposed to be comic. Not murder with a few laughs, but a few laughs with murder.
I am currently finishing off the New England mysteries with a sixth and final one. At present it is a work in progress. It will be a novella. This may please those who dislike my work because it will at least be short; but maybe with some long words.
In it one character, a Russian ballerina, performs a ballet with giraffes. This, one early reader said, was ridiculous. Yes, it is meant to be.
But in actual real life fact, the great George Balanchine (1904-1983) staged a Ballet of the Elephants with music by no less than Igor Stravinsky for one performance only in Central Park, New York.
This concerned only one of half a dozen colourful character, like Joey the Turk Palermo and Tony the Leopard Piano, which I hope will continue to amuse my one reader, God Bless him wherever he is.

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I supported three sons and several bartenders writing this sort of stuff I now give away free in these blogs

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I supported three sons and several bartenders writing this sort of stuff I now give away free in these blogs.

A beautiful young thing called Daisy came for some mysterious reason to interview me last week and told me that journalists no longer make money writing columns. Newspapers now acquire them for next to nothing off the blogs. I was lucky then, being a paid columnist and author of “colour pieces” from 1963 to 1999.

I also now write crime novels for no money at all. I have just published my fifth, Invitation To A Few Murders. My first, Death Dyed Blonde, was published by Quartet. It was half a bestseller, but only made enough money to go up to London for maybe two nights at a hotel, but no eating and no drinking.

The others – Murder In A Cold Climate, The Summer Stock Murders,  and Murder In Arcady  made enough to maybe hop on a bus and have a couple of beers – glasses, not pints.

“If you aren’t making any money, why are you doing it?” asks an old lady breaking into this blog.

It is, I suppose, a reason for getting out of bed in the morning.

It was not always like that. When I was young and lovely and couldn’t walk down a street without sexy blondes fainting, I wrote a novel that actually made money.

I mentioned  this before and I’m mentioning it again because I cannot believe there was an actual time in the long ago days before colour television and mobile phones and trips to the moon when people actually read books. Not only read them but bought them. Libraries also bought books then. You could count on the libraries in England buying 2000 copies of your novel in those days.

Now, alas, I am a lonely old scholar remote from enlightened conversation. I seem unable to know the difference between the Yukon and the Ukraine. My very up to date No 2 son said, “Are you out of your mind? The Yukon is in Alaska.”

“Alaska, like the Ukraine, once belonged to Russia,” I told him.

Who knows what Commissar Vlad Putin is up to?

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When my old neighbour, Daphne Du Maurier, was suffering in the outlandish heat and dust of Egypt…

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When my old neighbour, Daphne Du Maurier, was suffering in the outlandish heat and dust of Egypt with her new husband, Boy Browning – the military moron who thought the Battle of Arnhem was 90 per cent successful – she longed for England.  She dove into memories. Rebecca (1938) was the result.

I thought of Daffers when my latest action-packed crime novel, Invitation To A Few Murders, came out this month.

Where it is like Rebecca is that it was written in a totally different atmosphere. Many pages full of snow were actually written in longhand (all my books are written in longhand) either under a pear tree in my garden or by a bee-loud sedum in what  I call (after Walt Whitman) my dooryard – as in “when lilacs last in dooryards bloomed”.

Where my weather differs from La Du Maurier’s is that I had no desire for ice, snow and Christmas. I was perfectly happy in those summer days.

Why did I write about a New England winter?

It was a mistake. I never should have started it, but once I had started I felt I must finish. The trouble was I kept finishing it and then starting all over again.

There were small errors – like most of the female characters having names beginning with M. I reduced it to two – Mimi and Margot. More serious errors were worked over and over. Much to my surprise when I at last received a copy from the publisher and I dipped at random into the book, it wasn’t half bad.

The point of this lecture, kiddies, is that novels turn out best that are worked over and over again.

I once rewrote one 21 times. It never got published. Then I did one in one week and it was published here and in America, Italy and Germany, and earned me the equivalent of two years’ salary as a Guardian reporter.

I guess that once again I don’t know what I’m talking about.

If someone is foolish enough to start writing novels (real ones and not like that serial killer rubbish that earns millions if done on TV) they are in for a hard, poverty-stricken time, that every once in a while pleases the author when he comes up with something good, like “long legs attached to an English accent” seated at a bar in Invitation To A Few Murders.

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Invitation To A Few Murders

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“He couldn’t believe how thick she was. But beautiful, and horny.”

That opens the batting for my fifth volume of the Boomer Daniels New England hick location  murder saga.

No one is going to read it. I blame education.

I’ve got a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter with high class university degrees and with noses constantly in a book. Well, in Jinny Woolf’s books.

Two of my three sons don’t read nothing. A third, No 2 son, says he’s too busy writing his own stuff for leisure reading. He read the first Boomer, Death Dyed Blonde, and reckoned, by using foul lingo and a bit more blood, he could make a motion picture out of it.

He’s too busy in America getting interviewed on TV and the radio to knock off a script of my little effort.

Also I don’t want to be a film.

And I also don’t mind not being read.

My latest book, with that snappy opening I quoted, is called Invitation To A Few Murders. It is an aid to Christmas cheerfulness.

Unlike current crime bestsellers, Invitation To A Few Murders  doesn’t take itself seriously. It’s what used to be called a dime novel in America, and a shilling shocker in England. It was meant to make you feel OK. With the world the way it is I wonder why the eejit masses are reading about serial killers, vampires and zombies written in words of one syllable. Do they make them feel good? No, it’s because they need a bloody good jolt to get them to read at all. Give them something good to read and their minds start wandering.

My next Boomer Daniels adventure, I’m going at least to make short. A novella. That may assist them. Except, of course, it might be a short book full of long words.

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Invitation To A Few Murders

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Invitation To A Few Murders – A Country House Mystery (Parker Daniels Casebook)

Throw another log on the fire, put up your feet and revel in an old-fashioned, murderous, New England Christmas. Invitation To A Few Murders is the fifth in the Parker Daniels Casebook. A comic dime novel to aid seasonal cheerfulness; and a puzzler with sexy antics. Our old friend Dr Phyllis Skypeck is at it once more; also horny Mimi of the Movies and Vita and Margot Cuncliffe. Evil-tempered millionaire Andrew Burgess is the host everyone would like to see dead at the country mansion in the snowy rural township of North Holford. Murders start happening and Parker “Boomer” Daniels, the police chief, and Sgt Davy Shea have to solve them before there are even more.

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The death of my old friend Lauren Bacall set me thinking of her first movie, To Have and Have not.

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The death of my old friend Lauren Bacall set me thinking of her first movie, To Have and Have not. She was 19 and Humphrey Bogart was 45. The became lovers and they married. The difference in their ages was hardly mentioned. That was in 1944 and they were happily married until Bogart died in 1957.

To Have and Have Not has one of those great movie lines. It comes when Bacall is leaving a room and turns to Bogart. “If you want me, whistle. You know how to whistle, dontcha, Steve, just put your lips together and blow.”

This line doesn’t come from Ernest Bogart Hemingway’s novel. In fact nothing in the film except the title comes from Hemingway.

The film script was written by Hemingway’s great rival, William Faulkner. I wonder if he abandoned Hemingway’s tale in order to annoy the great bearded bully. Perhaps he was simply following orders from the studio. But why should they buy a book only for its title?

(A few years later a very good movie, starring John Garfield, was made, under another title, of Hemingway’s book. It starred Patricia Neal, being extremely sexy singing “Please don’t talk about me when I’m gone.”)

I think of this because someone has been talking about making cinema out of my first crime novel, Death Dyed Blonde. I’ve got three others featuring the same ‘tec in the same town. I was told I would have a “franchise”.

This pleased me because my latest murder mystery, Murder in Arcady, could not be made into a movie. It is a farce but it is written with what critics call “a poetic sensibility” – that don’t film.

The dialogue ain’t bad but the best of the book is the storyteller being poetic; in a funny way, and using long and unusual words to amuse.

This is the very opposite of what reviews in the Guardian, the Spectator, and The Times Literary Supplement liked about me, which was the “unfussy, flattened style. Classic American crime fiction”.

At a great age, sitting in a corner of my bedroom in my 17th Century West Country cottage, in a tweed jacket and club tie, and with a fountain pen, I have been writing what pleases me. The lady who does my typing for me says it also pleases her.

After scribbling away for two or three hours (I don’t want to overdo it) I have been going out to sit in my garden in the shade thinking of sex: a silly business, also disgusting, which I have now at last reached an age and condition when I can put it behind me.

I have attempted in my latest book to make fun of romance. I do however get sex one favourable mention when a leading female character says, “I am not a slut but I thank the gods I am foul.”

Where is that from?

I can’t remember.

Why don’t I look it up?

I can’t be bothered.

Shakespeare is dragged into Murder in Arcady giving me the filthiest line in the book: the eye that weeps most when most pleased.

I go now into my garden. I wish someone would write a farce as good as Murder in Arcady to amuse me seated under the shade of the pear tree.

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One of my Constant Readers expressed surprise that there were tobacco fields in New England, also Indians.

Murder in Arcady

 

One of my Constant Readers expressed surprise that there were tobacco fields in New England, also Indians.

She thought tobacco was only grown Down South and Injuns only lived Out West.

Our tobacco in New England is cigar tobacco – the best outside of Cuba. When I first started Murder In Arcady I very carefully put in the history of tobacco in the Connecticut River Valley. Then, reading it over, it looked exceedingly boring.

Now the Native Americans in Murder In Arcady are somewhat like that wonderful branch of the Algonquins that I covered in South County, Rhode Island, in the 1960s when I was a young reporter on the Providence Journal.

But I juiced them up, under a different name and located in a much different part of New England – on the Mohawk Trail, in fact. This gave me the chance to indulge in colourful speech coming out of the mouths of colourful people.

For instance, Miss Prudence Appleseed writes a novel featuring the sex lives of the people of North Holford.

Shotgun Logan, the chief of the Nonotucks, lives just outside of North Holford. Murder In Arcady contains this:

Out in Frenchtown Shotgun Logan’s wife, Bella, said, “Cigar Store Injun, how come none of our gals is in this filthy book? Ain’t our gals horny enough for that stuck-up Miss Prudence Appleseed?”

Little does Bella know that Miss Prudence is at the moment writing another sex saga, Venus is Overalls, starring Tula Salome, the beautiful Native American princess of the Nonotucks, who is Bella’s granddaughter.

In Murder In Arcady I also thought I might invent a religion, The Holy Astrology Church of Divine Guidance. It is, of course, a total scam, with the Rev Chuck Pierpoint, and his partner Wazoo Annie Longstreet, confidence tricksters taking in the suckers.

What with all this going on I almost forgot the murder, which would give work to my detectives, Boomer Daniels and Davy Shea; also the amorous police doctor, Phyllis Skypeck.

Other dolls include Calypso Mae and Atalanta. Girls for whom foolishness rises like a weed firmly implanted in their unmentionables, creating such an itch.

That is perhaps filthy enough to be in Miss Prudence’s novel, Satan With An Ice Cream Cone. That title comes from…but I’ll stop.

You’ve got to find something to discover in the book.

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Real life is such a miserable affair that I thought it would be better for me (and you) to bring Farce to the rescue.

Murder
Do you Blogland folk ever buy a bloody book?

Well, here goes, I’ve got a new one but I don’t know why I bother when I could be drunk in a nineteenth hole complaining about my putter.

Real life is such a miserable affair that I thought it would be better for me (and you) to bring Farce to the rescue. I hadn’t done any novel-length farce for 50 years (Yes, darling, Papa Stan is that old). I was in my twenties and had something of a success way back then with a satire on the American right-wing. Better Dead Than Red, I called it and it won rave reviews in England, America and in translation in Germany and Italy. The Italians thought I was like Marco Twain.
Satire it was called, but I thought it was farce; doing anything for a laugh, short of farts and belches which is what the half-wit scribes use. I was surprised when I was praised for my dark humour.
At that time I was earning a crust writing a humorous column two days a week for the Guardian, a weekly piece for Punch, and book reviews every month for the New Statesman.
Melancholy used to creep into my work. I don’t think it is supposed to. You won’t find it in Wodehouse. Nor in the great Frenchman, Feydeau.
Voltaire’s Candide is the best ever, and it’s got melancholy.
Joseph Heller’s Catch 22 was the heavyweight champ of the 20th Century. Personally I’d rather read Aldous Huxley. Crome Yellow started him off in 1921. “Delightful, witty, worldly and poetic” The Times called him. Brave New World (1932) was called “the greatest novel of the future ever written.” In it children are produced to order. It is an insane Utopia. In the Fertilizer Rooms the Director of Hatcheries produces Alpha, Beta, Deltas and Epsilons. I think they’re turning out modern Wimbledon lady tennis players now.
I like Huxley better when he’s being comic and poetic, as in Crome Yellow or the first part of After Many A Summer (1939) when he describes the mad people and places in Hollywood, California.

Well, my new one, Murder In Arcady, the fourth Boomer Daniels murder mystery set in the same rural New England town,
is not heavy stuff.

So what is it like?
I don’t think I really know.
I start it off with this:

Arcadian charm wrapped in a summer day luxuriated on the lakeside beaches of the cozy New England township.
Up and down the pure white lakeside sand strolled stunners with sex-stained eyes; and also waddling overgrown tourist ladies of a certain age offering massive views of flesh, some of which was even faraway New Jersey backsides. “Bebop a Lulu you’re my baby.” A radio sang the antique love song. And the air was so wonderful in North Holford that nobody died unless they were murdered.

That’s the way it starts and that is the way I wanted to go on. The critics will shout: “Roll over Voltaire, tell Wodehouse the news.”
I kept it down to 37,000 words – not a shilling shocker but a threepenny novella.
Farce is always full of character who could not really be real – that is the charm of it.
In Murder In Arcady I’ve got Miss Prudence Appleseed, who looked like a chicken who was for some reason wearing a wig. She’s written a saucy novel called Satan with an Ice Cream Cone.
There is her twin sister, Patience, who is writing a history of the 119 species of Connecticut butterflies.

Also a gunman called Sweeney; a crook clergyman, the Rev Chuck of the Holy Astrology Church of Divine Guidance; billionaire Alonzo the Arch Dude Stagg; sexy Savannah Moon, writer of dime novels; Hapless Jones, a journo; Shotgun Logan, Chief of the Nonotuck tribe; his granddaughter, Tula Salome, a beautiful Native American princess. Plus Boomer Daniels, the police chief, his sidekick crazy Sgt Davy Shea; and amorous Dr Phyllis Skypeck, the police doctor.
What I am doing with characters like that, with French Canucks, Bog Irish, Italians and Red Indians, is giving the folks a real New England which is something the late John Updike never did. Ditto the later John Cheever with his Yankee paradise. In other words, farce or no farce, I am truer to life than them guys, as Davy Shea would say.

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Coming Soon…..

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June 26, 2014 · 10:27 am

I have just run into the sort of trouble authors of a series of novels involving the same characters in the same location might watch out for.

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I have just run into the sort of trouble authors of a series of novels involving the same characters in the same location might watch out for.

Currently I’m writing number 4 of my Parker Daniels’ crime stories. I’ve got a local newspaper reporter, Ed Steiger of the Holford Evening Transcript. I myself worked on the Holyoke Evening Transcript, but there is little true stuff thrown into the novels, with the possible exception of the lesbian Transcript reporter in the Summer Stock Murders.

The trouble came while working on the fourth draft of the new novel. In it I am changing my approach. It is full of farce. One comic character is Hapless Jones, the North Holford reporter for the Holford Evening Transcript. But regular readers will know that this position is held by Ed Steiger, the nephew of the Major and a terribly serious person. At first I simply took Ed Steiger and made him incredibly stupid. But whatever I did, Ed Steiger wouldn’t do in farce. So there has to be an entirely new character, Hapless Jones, a comic fool. To be fair to Ed Steiger, I got him a job on the Boston Evening Lightning or perhaps the New York Daily Jolt.  These characters are real to me and unless they murder someone or get themselves murdered I treat them just swell.

I want to write 6 Parker Daniel’s Casebooks. I picked 6 because that was the number of Philip Marlowe novels Raymond Chandler wrote. Restricting your sleuths to something under 10 crime novels stops readers from becoming bored by the character. Conan Doyle wrote 56 Sherlock Holmes short stories but only 4 novels.

As much as I love Agatha Christie I cannot stand Hercule Poirot on TV. P.D James ‘tec, Dalgleish, in God knows how many crime novels since his debut in the 1960s, in Cover Her Face, becomes extremely tired; or maybe it’s the reader who became tired.

Ruth Rendell’s country copper, Wexford, appeared in a select humber of her books. She didn’t overdo it. Her trouble with Wexford is that he suddenly, for no reason at all, started to get very familiar with French literature. Then he seemed able to speak some Chinese.

I don’t think novelists should be blamed for being inconstant. But readers don’t like mistakes.

A friend of mine, a hotshot book reviewer, went completely off Martin Amis when I told him that rug is a wig; Amis, throughout his much praised bestseller Money, keeps going on about his main character’s natural hair as his rug.

What I do like is a novelist suddenly dropping out of character. For example there is the comic line about “collecting petticoats for the portly poor.”

You might think this is from Pickwick Papers. But no, it is the great E.M.Forster.

Stay tuned for my next crime novel. In the meantime go to Amazon and buy Murder in a Cold Climate and The Summer Stock Murders.

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June 7, 2014 · 6:05 am