‘Should I arrest ‘im, inspector? ‘E ‘as got beady eyes!’ A review of Alan Hardy’s novel The Mystery of The Disappearing Corpses…

The Case Of The Disappearing Corpses: Inspector Cullot Mystery Series Book 3The Case Of The Disappearing Corpses: Inspector Cullot Mystery Series Book 3 by Alan Hardy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Thanks for the exercise in hilarity, a well deserved five stars !

I think it safe to say that I haven’t read any mystery so complicated by Conan-Doyle or Pope. But then I can also safely say that theirs are not so farcical either.

This is the first of a collection I happen to have read by the author, one who, quite clearly, has been influenced by many of the old greats to have marked me down the years too: namely, the Ealing Comedies…

Firstly, we have Inspector Cullot. I love the French touch, especially given he happens to own a fetish for ladies’ underwear, but we’ll allow him that – he is, after all, possibly the world’s greatest detector of crime, and possibly of all time; and if you don’t believe me, ask blundering PC Blunt, and they don’t get much blunter that him! A bit of a throwback is Blunt, to Basil Rathbone’s Watson, played by Nigel Bruce – or do I mean the blundering idiot of said films, Inspector Lestrard? Or maybe ask the somewhat more competent, if impotent, Watkins – I say impotent but only when dealing with Cullot’s young and more reliable Barbara Windsor-esque kick-in-your-face daughter, Stephanie – thank God she’s on this team of fallible four!

But of course things always turn out right in the end…

As I state in each of my reviews, I will never give anything away, but what I would like to say is this: if you’re after an easy, furiously fast and funny read, then this book – no doubt this series – is for you!

I’ve already likened the book to the style of Ealing Comedy – Watkins, a young George Cole, perhaps; Blunt, Trinder? Formby? Sid James? Stephanie is positively St Trinian.

And as for Cullot himself? Will Hay every time for me.

One last thing, were you to extract the book’s witty dialogue – indeed, the dialogue – you’d be left with only a fifth of the book. And for that reason you can’t help but race along with it. All credit, then, to the author, because I myself know how difficult it is to produce flowing dialogue without it at times losing itself, and therefore the reader.

It’s thanks to the amount of dialogue, and the author’s skill and dexterity in applying it, that I not only visualised the book in film, but in the theatre as well, each scene as visual as it is humorous.

What a good old fashion romp – Bravo, Alan Hardy !

Chris,

your literary, theatrical friend

do flies fly, do ducks duck – do muses muse? an authorial guide to an authorial myth…

Hello again, and welcome (back).

I was going to write a piece about smoking for this post, given that cigarettes play something of a prominent role both in my debut novel, Wood, Talc and Mr. J: We never had it so good, and its sequel, Nancy Boy: for one year only…

… but then I wasn’t quite sure what I wanted to say about them, about cigarettes, at least this time around, other than the fact they’re bad for you, and you possibly know that already…

And so, this time around, I’d simply like to offer my opinion on that old authors’ bugaboo: ‘writers’ block’ – I can already hear you: ‘’Been done! Boring. The irony: Chris is writing about writers’ block because he’s totally uninspired – Tell us something about cigarettes!’

And you may well be right. For, at the end of the day, all I would like to say about it – well, there’s a clue in the above paragraph, where you’ll notice I placed my first mention of the ‘ailment’ in inverted commas, as I’ve just done again, there, with ‘ailment’. Why? Because there’s no such thing as ‘writers’ block’, but a mere whim amongst authors, an attention seeker – How I suffer for my art! I was a genius, and now I’m a fraud!

Thank God, then, for writers’ block! The ignorant masses – you know, the non-authors out there – those doing real work, they buy it, ’works like a charm.

And so it goes, as somebody once said.

‘What, then, Chris, might we attribute to the state of being uninspired?’

In a word: fatigue. In another: tiredness. In another – okay, I’ll make it two: mental exhaustion.

Prescription: go and do something else – a change is as good as a rest!

‘And for how long?’

As long as required – how long is a piece of string?

Writing is a consequence  the byproduct, you might say – of a head-full of knowledge, which is subconsciously working away, formulating your art, whilst ever you, the author, are engaged in other activities, like taking your kids to school, playing badminton on Thursday, and on, each activity fuelling the mind with creativity… save that, on some days, attempting to force it out , the creative process, before it’s ripe, can have the adverse effect…

No, I won’t go on, but to say that this has been my experience since I’ve been ‘putting pen to paper’, particularly with the above novels.

The sequel to the sequel, incidentally, is making progress: The Battle of Hastings – the third in the Rowlings Years series. And my policy of taking a break when it isn’t there is working a treat.

But here’s what inspired this post, thus confirming my philosophy, you may want to call it: earlier today, again basking in a week away from the ‘pen’, I was lying in the bath whilst my beautiful other half sat on the side of it. We were chatting, about how we arrived where we are today, and via many an adventure, I’m very happy to say – I wouldn’t have had it any other way; did you know that swords actually evolve into pens if you survive? Anyhow, what evolved from this conversation was my mental formulation of the fourth book in the Rowlings Years series: Two Big Bags and a Guitar…

How about that!

It’s just a case of getting it down, that’s all. Which will happen when it so wishes I do so.

In the meantime, if you are an author, I hope this post has given you a better sense of perspective – or you’ll at least give it a thought when it just isn’t happening for you.

Thanks for reading.

Chris,

Your literary, theatrical friend

in love with the alien (curiouser & curiouser); my review of Deb Cassidy’s The Plucker…

The Plucker: From the World of Spilt Milk by D K Cassidy
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Curiouser and curiouser; plucky author, plucky book!

I think we’ve all heard the phrase that there’s no such thing as a normal family, only those you haven’t met yet. Or: Normal? It’s a cycle on a washing machine, isn’t it?

I couldn’t resist reviewing this book in order that I might use those two lines. Because nothing exemplifies the idea – that we’re all kind of weird, in our own way – than the books I’ve read to date by D K Cassidy. That being said, she’s difficult to review without giving anything away – which I will not do, and state as much in all my reviews.

But let me tell you about the book’s disturbingly hilarious qualities, because, for black comedy, this is a true gem.

Firstly, I found myself cringing for most of the characters concerned, thanks to the author’s wonderfully adept method of drawing the reader to centre-stage, by way of her pithy and at times repetitive phraseology – repetitive use of proper nouns, for example; again, we have one of those books, written in 3rd person, and yet which leaves you feeling as though you’ve read it in 1st. But then do we? Because we’re able to discern how the protagonist must come across to those other characters – I must point out here, too, that I didn’t cringe for those reasons alone, but for a personal, more physical one. But like I said, I’m giving nothing away…

Then let’s think about the ‘alien’ the author’s provided us with. An intelligent alien, an astute alien, particularly with regard to her own ‘failings’ – or what society recognises as failings, and so she must too. Call her Pria – that’s P R I A, in case you’re wondering, an unusual name, but then it matches her different shade of skin. And what are we left with? A page turner, whereby we turn each page with only the one eye open; Pria’s essence so being that, while she may differ from the rest of us, we can’t help finding a little bit of ourselves in her at the same time.

Thought provoking, I guess the description is, whereby the author presents us with no more than what some might view as mundane – sorry, no vampires, no bare-chested cowboys, no time travelling knights. Just someone a little different… who, I might add, IS capable of bringing about the ‘paranormal’. Or is that just in her head?

Whatever the case, we’re all supposed to be on the ‘…’ spectrum somewhere. Aren’t we?

Bravo, D K Cassidy, I’ve not only learned two new words describing skin conditions, but these truly are the kinds of books I like to read!

Chris,

your literary, theatrical friend

A “Quixotic quest for life’s meaning and purpose, and love” – an extraordinarily intelligent review…

Little over a month ago, with Christmas very much upon us, I was talking with a couple of friends about how, as an author, it feels to consider that, upon the morning in question, December 25th – why I can hear the tune as I write:  ‘December 25th, December 25th! ‘ You know, from the musical production of Scrooge, starring Albert Finney? Anyhow, I was saying that it gave me a warm feeling to know that, while we’re all opening our presents, there are people out there, around about the same time, depending on time-zones and such, unwrapping one of my books – title, author: ‘Chris Rose; looks interesting, must read that, thank you so much!’

It sort of makes it all worthwhile.

Something else, to make it worthwhile, is when an author receives such a review as I’ve had the pleasure to do of late. The kind of review that just keeps coming back, overwhelmingly, whereby, whatever may be happening out there in the big bad world, all is good within, for however long – and yes, cliché I know, but it really does make it all worthwhile.

That is, when an author receives a review demonstrating a truly intelligent reading.

Well, not only have I been lucky enough of late to receive such, for Wood, Talc and Mr. J: We never had it so good…, but it’s cleverly thematic in its praise to boot.

And so I thought I’d share it with you.

Enjoy!

“What a meandering, mesmerizing journey this novel is. It’s poetry in motion, pause and read-again worthy. “Wood, Talc & Mr. J” is unique yet familiar. There’s elegance in its grit, morality in its liberation, pathos in its humor, discipline in its anarchy. It’s confident in its vision whether depicting raw reality or taking off on flights of fancy. This is storytelling in black and white yet vividly descriptive, rollicking and reflective, street-wise with the mark of fine literature in its layered narrative and smart, nimble use of language and form. Its chapters grow out of quotes from ancient Chinese wisdom and classical writers like Blake, Dickens, Stevenson, Shakespeare, Shelly, and Wilde in order to, as Mr. Rose states in the foreword, “play with themes eternal”.

“Wood, Talc & Mr. J” IS playful, even picaresque. It’s episodic, at times a burlesque rendition of a quixotic quest for life’s meaning and purpose, and love. Like a young Don Quixote, its protagonist Phillip enjoys the ride and the fascinating, challenging, at times farcical characters and situations he meets along the way. He pursues adventure like Don Quixote did “flailing at windmills” and exalting the objects of his desire. Yet, also like Cervantes’ fiction, Mr. Rose’s novel seriously connects to the conflicted, complicated, chaotic human experience of wondering, doubting, rebelling—and searching, especially for what may never be found.

For me the Britishness of this novel is a bonus to its brilliance and a great part of its charm. I lived in England during the 1970s and 80s, so the settings, cultural and political issues, values, humor and anecdotes are familiar and nostalgic. It’s also reminiscent of my favorite films of the “angry young men” “Look Back in Anger” era of British cinema, so I was prone to envisioning actors like Alan Bates, Albert Finney, Richard Harris and Peter O’Toole slipping into the fascinating roles of working class people that enliven this novel.

Despite the wanderlust and internal isolation of this novel’s main character, there is such a feeling of hearth and home (a definite place to set out from and return to), with the importance of family and friendship at its core. The historical context is vividly conveyed through characterizations, settings, and current events, and, most essentially, the pop and jazz music playing on the juke box, turntable, radio, or even just in Phillip’s head.

From its opening lines to its last, “Wood, Talc & Mr. J” is challenging, intelligent, out of the ordinary and beautifully written, full of adventure, lively conversations, compelling action, laughter and tears, an imaginative memoir of past times, people and places Mr. Rose honestly and cleverly transforms into something unforgettable for his readers, too.!

DM Denton.

* * * * *

Wow ! Here’s a link to a chapter, if you should so wish >>>>>> LINK

Thanks for stopping by, and enjoy.

Chris,

Your literary, theatrical friend

the truth hurts; or it might if I knew what it was – Wood, Talc and Mr. J, a 2nd-person perspective…

I introduced my previous post by once again declaring my fascination for storytelling, and how it might be best achieved. For literature, I also declared a preference for first-person narrative, or point of view, attracted, as I am, by the thought that, like life, we might only ever be privy to segments of the truth. Can an author be reticent with information, whether fiction or not? Can s/he be deluded? Can s/he bend the truth? Can s/he lie? 3d-book-wood-editedIn posing such questions, I thus suggested I only part-knew the first-person narrator, Phillip, of my debut novel, Wood, Talc and Mr. J: We never had it so good… you’ll find the second chapter here – whom I therefore decided to interview, the Phillip of 1978.

I interviewed a character of my own creation, and plan to do more.

My experiment, a philosophical one, a quest for ‘truth’, caused quite a stir in certain quarters: how can a first-person author lie?

Well, perhaps we should begin from the premise that all fiction is a lie.

But how can you not know your own character?

My character is based on my own experiences, someone you might see totally differently…

And on it goes. And I could, go on, but I won’t. ‘Truth’. If ever a word was weighted down with possibilities, then that one is…

I’m reminded of the groundbreaking 1950s film by Kurosawa: Rashomon, a psychological thriller in which a man is murdered and his wife raped. Four different people give four different accounts of the incident; indeed, the film studies the very idea of ‘truth’; and the very power of storytelling. Four people are out for the same thing: to persuade others.

wood-tal-paperback-3d-book-template-editedAs I type these words, incidentally, my eyes keep rising upward and back to my line of “all fiction is a lie”. It brings to mind how Phillip, somewhere in an early chapter of the book, describes his father:

* * * * *

   The good to come out of it was that it rendered him a real-life character. And I was sure he knew; he’d often laugh at himself. Crowds smothered him up in our local, my friends included, since he’d recount a tale like no other; spice it with a unique passion. And never would he let one of those ‘‘injustices’’ go by if he believed there existed a solution. Although the consequences weren’t always favourable, they made for an extensive repertoire.

* * * * *

Phillip, our fictional character, talks of his fictional dad as being a real-life character”… No, I’m not even going there. What I want to say is that his father would “recount a tale like no other; spice it with a unique passion.”

Just what, then, might that imply? That his dad would bend the truth? Lie, even? And why? To persuade?

narrative-794978_1280In this blog post, all I’d like to do is allow you to read the shortest chapter in the novel. He and Jed have just left a bar on a seaside promenade and are making over the road to a nightclub, where Phillip ends up being something of a war casualty. Or at least that is how Phillip would have us view said situation: might he be exaggerating a tad? Who knows…

Following the passage, I’ll attempt to rewrite it from Jed’s point of view, Phillip’s so-called “best friend”. What I should point out is that, in doing so, I’ll be by no means dogmatic; I am not dictating what Jed is really thinking, for that would be impossible. I do but conjecture:

* * * * *

   April hauled ex-Macca’s ex-body, directing our army via the fairground, supposing her beguiling beam would secure that crucial last ride, even if the boys had put the toys away half an hour back. As all but two of us fell for it, it was a sight to behold, evoking flashes of dizzy Disney scenes – that our band of tearaways should sprout tails from trench coat vents for their excesses!

   Jed was taken more by life on our side of the road, his eyes reflecting a medley of promenade hue. ‘Look at this lot,’ he said, nipping my question of where on earth Ilkeston was in the bud. ‘None of ’em have any convicts of their own.’

   ‘Do you mean convictions?’

   He didn’t hear. But asked had I noticed how ‘Mod’ and ‘Ted’ rhymed. He barred my smirk with a hand: ‘Three letters, ending in d…’

   The rhetoric was cut short when someone turned to meet us dead on, pressed us in a North-eastern accent to offer our allegiance, until the glaze of anxiety was snuffed by a frothing beer bottle, a stick-grenade of sorts, impacting against his head, granting Jed a light ale-blood facial. The beggar collapsed into my arms. The bottle crashed onto the kerb.

   Screams of a different nature rippled like a breeze of bitter change, and yet I couldn’t put my finger on its source. Groups silhouetted, an approach, a retreat; a car shunned dug-in feet, the to-ing and fro-ing. And then, in squadron-like re-formation, on a general’s growl, all became as plain as a size ten boot: ‘Skinhead! Skinhead!’

   There was something malevolent in the way they did that.

   Jed yanked my hood as I laid my patient to the ground. He dragged me down a street leading to the park, safest bet, but for a division of our craven copraphagics catching on, screeching forth their personal excreta.

   I took the knee-high wall Red Rum-style, only to recognise that one of us had committed an error of judgement: a step, a day out-stepped, my grand-national winner falling to dust at this last hurdle; a frantic thought on which to cling, this short-straw-of-a-moment million. And so again I placed a glossy sole upon a Jolly Fisherman’s sun-bathed stairway, in past imitation or practice for the future – I had the world at my feet after all…

    Teeth penetrated the footwear in Morph-ish splatter. Courage cared for the spine.

   “You’re going to fall flat on your face,” echoed a warning, before a nervous laugh above…

© Chris Rose

* * * * *

Romantic. He paints a picture, does Phillip.

raebgwAs for Jed, I don’t know what to make of him, he’s quite a character, though rarely gives clues as to his thoughts. That said, the Phillip of 1978 would have us believe – particularly during the interview of my last post – that there’s little else to know about him, beneath the surface, that what you see is what you get; Jed worries about, and is scared of, nothing. This point of view hardly differs with the one of today’s Phillip either, as he looks back… Or is the Phillip of today simply asking you to make up your own mind?

As a mere exercise in creative writing, I’ll now playfully offer another version of the above scene, from Jed’s point of view:

* * * * *

As we come out of the pub, April does as I’ve told her: leads everyone off to the fairground. And I can’t believe everyone except Phillip follows on; it’s only him I need to get rid of – that’s the point, he sticks to me like glue at times. The gear Vicky’s promised me in the bar’s the business, and she’s ready to give it me half price along with a lay – talk about my birthday! But what do I do, with Phillip clinging on?

And as always I end up taking it out of somebody else, like the lot in front doing all the mouthing. ’Thing is, I’m totally gone on barbiturate and so start slurring. I mean to say something about ‘convictions’ but it comes out wrong – and I should never bring poetry into it! And he pulls his smug look – God, I feel like smacking him at this point! But someone in front cops a beer bottle from nowhere, and before we know it we’ve got skins giving it the big boys.

So we decide to take a side street leading to the park – too many skinheads for my liking. Some of ’em follow on, and then Phill just jumps over this wall and completely mistimes it – this skinhead thought it was hilarious; he asks me for a cigarette and then the coppers turn up so he goes over the wall as well.

Phill, talk about fall flat on your face…

* * * * *

Well, I don’t know what you make of that but Jed does tell a different story, or what you might call a variation of the same story. I like the stream of consciousness effect, in the way he draws us in with his use of present tense… And I just can’t help but wonder how big that wall is in ‘reality’, and who is it that laughs once he’s “mistimes” his jump.

Again, I could go on but I’ll refrain.

Things may not always be as they seem, the moral of this post may be. And that there are rewards in taking a different perspective from time to time, either in book-form or everyday life…

Chris,

Your literary, theatrical friend