Category Archives: Crime Novelists

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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The Summer Stock Murders

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Sitting in my bower in the April sunlight reading my friend Sir Max Beerbohm’s one and only novel, Zuleika Dobson, it suddenly struck me how much my latest masterpiece,  is like the tale of Zuleika.

Men, as in Sir Max’s little effort of 1911, cannot keep from falling in love with my femme fatale, Martha Flowers.

Here is an example: “…Martha suddenly looked at him. He was immediately hooked. Martha allowed him to worship her for two days and then on the third day she dumped him….. That was par for the course with Martha.”

Zuleika’s failed lovers threw themselves into the river at Oxford and drowned. (None of the men in love with my Miss Flowers does this. Their thoughts of love turn inevitably to murder.)

But, dear post-feminist readers, fear not. My gal also attracts women. They fall in love with her too. None drowns, but poor love-struck Roz Quilty plans to throw herself off a ferris wheel.

Will she be saved?

Buy the book while stocks last. Meanwhile I shall be sprawled in the April sun dreaming of those magic days I spent with Sir Max at his house at Rapallo on the Italian Riviera.

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“By the waters of the Parrett we sat down and wept remembering a dredged river,”

m2 (2)“By the waters of the Parrett we sat down and wept remembering a dredged river,” I sang to Handel’s Messiah.

I was far away in the Balkans doing my latest study of the leg-dancers of Bosnia when word of a flooded West Country came to me in the Continental edition of the Langport Leveller. I rushed back to a soggy cottage and decided to come to the rescue with Blog 25.

My television, however, that late night and early morning, was filled with men in helmets bumping into one another and then stopping for what seemed like an eternity before doing the bumping into one another all over again. I then saw that this was being performed before 100,000 persons live in a stadium somewhere in New Jersey (“the short-change state”) while 100 million watched it on their television sets. It was not a form of primitive religion.  No, this was American grid-iron football. Or put it another way: Yes, this was American grid-iron football. The Super Bowl.

It was too late outside to escape and go out to what I like to call a ragamadolion with an off-duty waitress from the Pork and Punter public ‘house. One particular waitress is such the ruggedest voluptuary that even the cops cheer the assorted sex stimuli on display.

I digress, but what the hell else can I do in weather like this?

I suppose I could plug my thrilling tale of blood and lust in the snowbanks of rural New England, Murder In A Cold Climate, or my other amazing murder mystery, Death Dyed Blonde. As you can see by that last title, this is pretty high-hat intellectual stuff up there with Kafka and a few more of the boys down at the existential bistro. When the books were not to be translated into the Grecian and Norwegian I was disappointed. Secondary education in or out of Euroland is not what it was.

Never mind, as a member of the British Davis Cup team, which had a victory over America for the first time in 80 years, said, “Colonel Reynolds has a way with words.” And this was before he read the book.

“Definitely a suitable party piece for any country manor house party,” said Lady Marjorie Truman Capote, authoress of Lunch at Boston’s Shrive, Crump and Lowe, and Brunch at Harry Winston’s.

Does what I modestly call my stuff need further booming? No, what about the rain?

Well, there is a moment in one of Mendelssohn’s Songs without Words, written when he was two years old, which seems to embody all this West Country flooding – a sense of water, of rainfall repetition, the cry of the wind over an interminable watery expanse. These are the subtler emotions which cannot be translated into words, but are to be hinted at by chords and harmonies.

Will this do?

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In last week’s exciting blog

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 In last week’s exciting blog I wrote that William Faulkner was working at a lumber mill when he wrote As I Lay Dying in 1930. This was wrong. He had a job as a night-time coal-heaver at the local power station. Local being Oxford, Mississippi. I might be fun also to learn that his family said they didn’t want him writing his moronic novels under the family name; so he changed Falkner to Faulkner.

Also in a recent blog on the Milk Marketing Board “bull” should have read “cow” throughout.

I quoted some glowing reviews for my two murder mysteries: Death Dyed Blonde, still available in hardback, and the paperback edition of the thrilling Murder In A Cold Climate.

I seem to have gotten praise everywhere for these books. It was pretty much the same  with my first novel, Better Dead Than Red, published when I was still in my twenties and working as a humour-column-heaver at the Guardian. “Up there  with Dr Strangelove,” the Guardian said.

And “A magnificent social and political satire,” said the Irish Times in a page-one review.

But the one I enjoyed the most was from the Daily Telegraph. I don’t read the Telegraph anymore, ever since I stopped writing amusing obituaries for it – when the Telegraph specialized in amusing obituaries.

In ye olde days when my first novel was published the Daily Telegraph was a most objectionable imitation fascist sheet. It appealed to a large readership by telling stories about how everyone was always doing and saying nasty things about England.

This, for some reason, cheered up Telegraph readers. They also thought “foreigners” when not being insulting were very funny.

In the novels that the Telegraph liked there was a former whodunit.

In my novel everyone was nasty and also funny. That was because I, a barefoot boy liberal with cheeks of tan, was destroying the extreme right-wing with savage satire.

I didn’t think it would be reviewed by the Telegraph, but there it was; reviewed by its Literary Editor just as if it were an important book.

There was one line in the review which I loved so much I considered getting it tattooed on my sit-upon.

“Sheer vulgarity,” it said, “covered with muck.”

I wanted to get that quoted in advertisements and in paperback and foreign editions.

Unfortunately the various publishers were not bored by reading glowing reviews.

The German edition, translated by the linguistic genius who also translated James Joyce into German, got an amazing review. “The best thing about this novel,” it wrote, “is the photograph on the back cover of the Adonis who wrote it.”

Apparently 16 blondes in downtown Frankfurt fainted just looking at my young and lovely self.

I am now ending my career as a blogman.

Adios chickadees.

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January 31, 2014 · 10:11 am

I must pause once more from writing my villanelles (pastoral or lyrical poems of 19 lines, with only two rhymes throughout and some lines repeated) and blog again

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I must pause once more from writing my villanelles (pastoral or lyrical poems of 19 lines, with only two rhymes throughout and some lines repeated) and blog again in a desperate attempt to get you to buy my little murder mystery, Murder In a Cold Climate, “a complex mystery with terrific dialogue, an entertaining pastiche with snappy repartee.”

I wish to speak of the enemies of promise which keep the artist from his art. Mostly it is, they tell me, one enemy: the need to earn a living.

The idea is that if the novelist was not forced to dig ditches, plumb plumbing, wait on tables or write light pieces for magazines he would produce War and Peace. Tolstoy, remember, was a Count (repeat Count; last week’s error was a typo) he did not have to earn a living although the old fool tried to turn himself into a peasant and went on working side by side with the boys in the fields. I wonder what they thought of the boss doing that? They thought the old bastard was spying on them, of course they did.

Byron was another lord who was freed from toil. What did he do? Got himself killed in a Greek war. By the way, few people know this, but Byron only scored 4 runs in the Eton v Harrow match at Lords in 18 something or other.)

Cyril Connolly wrote Enemies of Promise (1938) in an attempt to explain why he, the biggest brain in England at the time, only wrote one novel. His genius was locked up while he made a splendid living writing book reviews for the Observer and others.

The Cyril Connolly novel was The Rock Pool (1936), in which a snobbish and mediocre young literary man from Oxford, with a comfortable income, spends a summer on the Riviera in an artists’ and writers’ colony. He studies this collection, seeing them as the denizens of a rock pool. He is, of course, dragged down into it. Compton Mackenzie got in ahead of Connolly with his novels of Capri, and Aldous Huxley got in ahead of all of them with Chrome Yellow (1921).

They are all wonderful reads, much better than anything in busy, busy, grim grey today.

Both Connolly and Huxley went to Eton and Balliol College, Oxford and the slow-paced grand manner of their prose springs from the lives they were born into, as Lucy Tantamount says in Huxley’s fourth novel Point Counter Point (1928), “You can’t cart a wagonload of ideas and romanticisms around with you these days. . . The good old-fashioned soul was all right  when people lived slowly. But it’s too ponderous nowadays.”

What keeps today’s wordsmiths from penning anything wondrous could be the speed of modern life rather than having to earn a living. For example F.Scott Fitzgerald was writing advertising copy when he wrote his first novel, This Side Of Paradise; Ernest  Hemingway was typing out newspaper copy when he published The Sun Also Rises, and William Faulkner was night-watchman at a lumber mill when he wrote As I Lay Dying.

We haven’t heard yet of anyone writing a novel worth reading while writing Blogs.

And what is a Blog? More disgusting-sounding today talk. I really don’t think, after 22 blogs, that I can go on doing this. As another kid with money, Shelley, said:

      “We look before and after,

      And pine for what is not:

      Our sincerest laughter

      With some pain is fraught.”

I think I’ll go out and have a beer. Or at least dream about it.

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