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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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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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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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A number of important people have emailed me over last week’s blog…

Stanley Reynolds Crime Novelist

 

Readers, yet more maundering.

A number of important people have emailed me over last week’s blog. In it I wrote of stormy weather aiding an author’s plot. Lady Ottoline Morrell 1V, Mr Osbert Sitwell 111, Madame Jacques Reverat, the Viscountess Cecil, V.Sackville-West, Mr T.S.Eliot OM, and Vanessa Bell V, and many other distinguished personages have written to tell me that Virginia Woolf, a leading female in the 20th Century paper trade, exceeded all others with her weather in her novel Orlando in 1928.

Sparing no effort in my desire to right wrongs (NB Miss Desirée, who does my typewriting: that’s right wrongs, not write wrongs, dear) I searched through the numerous piles of books displayed on the floor where I, with an unmade bed by my side, write both books and blogs, also cheques to duns.

There, next to The Waves (1927) and The Years (1937) which was the only novel of Virginia’s to sell 40,000 copies and make it to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. It topped the list in early June and remained there through July and finally fell off altogether only in late October.

I recently asked an Oxford-educated novelist friend what she thought of The Years. She had a PhD in Virginia Woolf and somehow managed never to have read or even heard of The Years.

In the 1970s when I was fleet of foot and sound of wind and limb I turned down a job to teach literature to the imbeciles at Harvard. Perhaps, if Oxford is anything to go by, I should have gone to Massachusetts and taught the swine.

I digress. In Orlando in the time of King James there was according to Virginia The Great Frost, which historians tell us, was the most severe that ever visited these islands.

She wrote:

“Birds froze in mid-air and fell like stones to the ground. At Norwich a young country-woman started to cross the road in her usual robust health and was seen by the onlookers to turn visibly to powder and be blown in a puff of dust over the roofs as the icy blast struck her at the street corner. The mortality among sheep and cattle was enormous. Corpses froze and could not be drawn from the sheets. It was no uncommon sight to come upon a whole herd of swine frozen immovable upon the road. The fields were full of shepherds, ploughmen, teams of horses, and little bird-scaring boys, all struck stark in the act of the moment, one with his hand to his nose….”

Virginia was such fun among the Bloomsbury Circle.

This excellent stuff comes because in my new summer holiday read, The Summer Stock Murders, the weather rescued me from not knowing what the hell I was going to do for a plot.

I recommend my book, and Virginia Woolf’s, to my many blog-fans.

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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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The Summer Stock Murders by Stanley Reynolds

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March 13, 2014 · 2:37 pm

The Summer Stock Murders – now available

New Crime Novel reviews of crime novel

 

Martha Flowers is the most beautiful actress this season at the Lakeside Players summer stock theatre in the sleepy New England town of North Holford. She is not altogether a nice person. Rather the reverse, in fact. Her intention is to make every boy and every girl fall in love with her. She is successful. Then someone keeps trying to kill her. Enter suspects – would-be Senator Sefton Greenway, Memory Babe Picard. Zeets Norris, Marie Strawberry, Roz Quilty and Dixie Smith. Also Police Chief Parker Daniels, who has to catch the killers.

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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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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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Years ago the lending libraries showed early signs of what books were going to be big sellers.

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Years ago the lending libraries showed early signs of what books were going to be big sellers. Women were particularly addicted to lending libraries. My own mother went to a lending library two or three times a week until the drink killed her.

The lending libraries and the public libraries at that time guaranteed a certain number of books (more that 2,000) would be bought.

 When Boots closed its lending library there were hard times for authors. They used to get their novels published sure of a reasonable level of sales, but after the closure publishers couldn’t afford to take a chance on them. Public libraries used to buy 2,000 books; now it has fallen to 800. Instead they keep closing, or filling the space with noisy kids playing computer games.

 In Britain, for some mysterious reason, novels were made into bestsellers by being bought by the women of Scotland. In America there was a small bookshop off Wall Street which   produced the bestsellers. That is, people would start buying the book in this shop and lo and behold the public started to buy it everywhere. Back in the 1920s the publishers first knew Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises was going to be big when 20 copies were sold in the Wall Street shop.

 There must still be some particular readers like the Scottish ladies who can decide what will be a bestseller. I have been out of the book business for some time and I’m not up to date.

 Anyway now there is something new and more modern to predict mass sales. These are the chat shows. Richard and Judy (don’t that sound a hundred years ago?) had only to mention a novel on their TV programme for it to start selling.

 And in America, Oprah Winfrey could make an author an overnight millionaire by just saying she liked a novel.

 I’ve had no such luck with Murder In a Cold Climate. But for some unknown reason it has been doing well in Bath. I wonder if Bath is now full of Scottish ladies. Murder In a Cold Climate has nothing to do with Bath or any town that is like Bath. It is set, like all my classic works of American crime fiction, in a small town in rural New England.

Come to think of it the town has no public library; I must give it one.

 

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