The story behind the story: A Case of Working With the Jones Brothers

To write a private detective serial has always been one of the items at the top of my to-do list, though trying to write novels and a serial, as well as a blog, and maintain a social media presence, well, you get the idea.

But I made it happen, from a bunch of episodes I wrote a long, long time ago, used these to start it, and then continue on, then as now, never having much of an idea where it was going to end up, or how long it would take to tell the story.

That, I think is the joy of ad hoc writing, even you, as the author, have as much idea of where it’s going as the reader does.

It’s basically been in the mill since 1990, and although I finished it last year, it looks like the beginning to end will have taken exactly 30 years.  Had you asked me 30 years ago if I’d ever get it finished, the answer would be maybe?

My private detective, Harry Walthenson

I’d like to say he’s from that great literary mold of Sam Spade, or Mickey Spillane, or Phillip Marlow, but he’s not.

But, I’ve watched Humphrey Bogart play Sam Spade with much interest, and modeled Harry and his office on it.  Similarly, I’ve watched Robert Micham play Phillip Marlow with great panache, if not detachment, and added a bit of him to the mix.

Other characters come into play, and all of them, no matter what period they’re from, always seem larger than life.  I’m not above stealing a little of Mary Astor, Peter Lorre or Sidney Greenstreet, to breathe life into beguiling women and dangerous men alike.

Then there’s the title, like

The Case of the Unintentional Mummy – this has so many meanings in so many contexts, though I image back in Hollywood in the ’30s and ’40s, this would be excellent fodder for Abbott and Costello

The Case of the Three-Legged Dog – Yes, I suspect there may be a few real-life dogs with three legs, but this plot would involve something more sinister.  And if made out of plaster, yes, they’re always something else inside.

But for mine, to begin with, it was “The Case of the …”, because I had no idea what the case was going to be about, well, I did, but not specifically.

Then I liked the idea of calling it “The Case of the Brother’s Revenge” because I began to have a notion there was a brother no one knew about, but that’s stuff for other stories, not mine, so then went the way of the others.

Now it’s called ‘A Case of Working With the Jones Brothers’, finished the first three drafts, and at the editor for the last.

I have high hopes of publishing it in early 2021.  It even has a cover.

PIWalthJones1

“One Last Look”, nothing is what it seems

A single event can have enormous consequences.

A single event driven by fate, after Ben told his wife Charlotte he would be late home one night, he left early, and by chance discovers his wife having dinner in their favourite restaurant with another man.

A single event where it could be said Ben was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Who was this man? Why was she having dinner with him?

A simple truth to explain the single event was all Ben required. Instead, Charlotte told him a lie.

A single event that forces Ben to question everything he thought he knew about his wife, and the people who are around her.

After a near-death experience and forced retirement into a world he is unfamiliar with, Ben finds himself once again drawn back into that life of lies, violence, and intrigue.

From London to a small village in Tuscany, little by little Ben discovers who the woman he married is, and the real reason why fate had brought them together.

It is available on Amazon here:  http://amzn.to/2CqUBcz

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 12

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

20161008_135142

This is Chester.  He has broken the agreement we had when we first bought the settee.

No cats allowed to sit on it.

Pleading will not cut it.  He is in serious trouble.

20161008_135120

No.  You cannot plead your case with Rosemary.

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Yes.  Hang your head in shame.

And get off the settee now!

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 11

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

20160928_161422

This is Chester.  It has been a long, hard day.

Don’t be fooled into thinking he’s asleep.

He isn’t.

It’s late afternoon, and he’s done his rounds, sitting at the back door, the side door, and the front door.

We’re having a continual discussion about food, which, at the moment, he is being very fussy about.

I’ve sent him to bed without dinner.  I can see this is going to be another test of wills.

Inspiration, Maybe – Volume Two

50 photographs, 50 stories, of which there is one of the 50 below.

They all start with –

A picture paints … well, as many words as you like.  For instance:

And, the story:

Have you ever watched your hopes and dreams simply just fly away?

Everything I thought I wanted and needed had just left in an aeroplane, and although I said I was not going to, i came to the airport to see the plane leave.  Not the person on it, that would have been far too difficult and emotional, but perhaps it was symbolic, the end of one life and the start of another.

But no matter what I thought or felt, we had both come to the right decision.  She needed the opportunity to spread her wings.  It was probably not the best idea for her to apply for the job without telling me, but I understood her reasons.

She was in a rut.  Though her job was a very good one, it was not as demanding as she had expected, particularly after the last promotion, but with it came resentment from others on her level, that she, the youngest of the group would get the position.

It was something that had been weighing down of her for the last three months, and if noticed it, the late nights, the moodiness, sometimes a flash of temper.  I knew she had one, no one could have such red hair and not, but she had always kept it in check.

And, then there was us, together, and after seven years, it felt like we were going nowhere.  Perhaps that was down to my lack of ambition, and though she never said it, lack of sophistication.  It hadn’t been an issue, well, not until her last promotion, and the fact she had to entertain more, and frankly I felt like an embarrassment to her.

So, there it was, three days ago, the beginning of the weekend, and we had planned to go away for a few days and take stock.  We both acknowledged we needed to talk, but it never seemed the right time.

It was then she said she had quit her job and found a new one.  Starting the following Monday.

Ok, that took me by surprise, not so much that it something I sort of guessed might happen, but that she would just blurt it out.

I think that right then, at that moment, I could feel her frustration with everything around her.

What surprised her was my reaction.  None.

I simply asked where who, and when.

A world-class newspaper, in New York, and she had to be there in a week.

A week.

It was all the time I had left with her.

I remember I just shrugged and asked if the planned weekend away was off.

She stood on the other side of the kitchen counter, hands around a cup of coffee she had just poured, and that one thing I remembered was the lone tear that ran down her cheek.

Is that all you want to know?

I did, yes, but we had lost that intimacy we used to have when she would have told me what was happening, and we would have brainstormed solutions. I might be a cabinet maker but I still had a brain, was what I overheard her tell a friend once.

There’s not much to ask, I said.  You’ve been desperately unhappy and haven’t been able to hide it all that well, you have been under a lot of pressure trying to deal with a group of troglodytes, and you’ve been leaning on Bentley’s shoulder instead of mine, and I get it, he’s got more experience in that place,  and the politics that go with it, and is still an ally.

Her immediate superior and instrumental in her getting the position, but unlike some men in his position he had not taken advantage of a situation like some men would.  And even if she had made a move, which I doubted, that was not the sort of woman she was, he would have politely declined.

One of the very few happily married men in that organisation, so I heard.

So, she said, you’re not just a pretty face.

Par for the course for a cabinet maker whose university degree is in psychology.  It doesn’t take rocket science to see what was happening to you.  I just didn’t think it was my place to jump in unless you asked me, and when you didn’t, well, that told me everything I needed to know.

Yes, our relationship had a use by date, and it was in the next few days.

I was thinking, she said, that you might come with me,  you can make cabinets anywhere.

I could, but I think the real problem wasn’t just the job.  It was everything around her and going with her, that would just be a constant reminder of what had been holding her back. I didn’t want that for her and said so.

Then the only question left was, what do we do now?

Go shopping for suitcases.  Bags to pack, and places to go.

Getting on the roller coaster is easy.  On the beginning, it’s a slow easy ride, followed by the slow climb to the top.  It’s much like some relationships, they start out easy, they require a little work to get to the next level, follows by the adrenaline rush when it all comes together.

What most people forget is that what comes down must go back up, and life is pretty much a roller coaster with highs and lows.

Our roller coaster had just come or of the final turn and we were braking so that it stops at the station.

There was no question of going with her to New York.  Yes, I promised I’d come over and visit her, but that was a promise with crossed fingers behind my back.  After a few months in t the new job the last thing shed want was a reminder of what she left behind.  New friends new life.

We packed her bags, three out everything she didn’t want, a free trips to the op shop with stiff she knew others would like to have, and basically, by the time she was ready to go, there was nothing left of her in the apartment, or anywhere.

Her friends would be seeing her off at the airport, and that’s when I told her I was not coming, that moment the taxi arrived to take her away forever.  I remember standing there, watching the taxi go.  It was going to be, and was, as hard as it was to watch the plane leave.

So, there I was, finally staring at the blank sky, around me a dozen other plane spotters, a rather motley crew of plane enthusiasts.

Already that morning there’s been 6 different types of plane depart, and I could hear another winding up its engines for take-off.

People coming, people going.

Maybe I would go to New York in a couple of months, not to see her, but just see what the attraction was.  Or maybe I would drop in, just to see how she was.

As one of my friends told me when I gave him the news, the future is never written in stone, and it’s about time you broadened your horizons.

Perhaps it was.


© Charles Heath 2020-2021

Coming soon.  Find the above story and 49 others like it in:

Searching for locations: The Lingering Gardens, Suzhou, China

The Lingering Garden

These gardens are very tightly put together and are interspersed with buildings that you can go in and look at as distinct from just looking in from the outside.

There are lots of paths that wind around interspersed with rocks which may or may not be sculpted, and equally interspersed with trees, bushes, and small plants.  In the middle is a lake which usually has lotus plants in bloom, but they are not in season.

The gardens were built around a small lake that was filled with fish of all sizes and colours

The buildings were also a contrast for those built for the men

and those for the women

In the middle of the garden was a significant rock pillar

surrounded by certain areas of the garden that had smaller rock formations

 

At the end of the garden is a large collection of bonsai trees, some of which are quite exquisite.

In a word: Piece

Aside from the fact that it really means part of something else, we’ve got to remember that it is one of those ‘i before e except after c’ things.

I have a piece of the puzzle.  Well, maybe not.  You know what it’s like when you’re assembling a 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzle.  Yes, you get to the end and one piece is missing.

You’re so angry you want to give someone a piece of your mind.

Just remember not to give too many people pieces or you will become mindless.

We might be listening to a musical piece, which can be a movement, I think, in a symphony

Or we might piece together the parts of a child’s toy, especially on that night before Christmas when everything can and will go wrong.  I’ve been there and done that far too many times.

I’ve been known to move a chess piece incorrectly, no, come think of it, I’m always doing that

Some people call a gun a piece.

This is not to be confused with the word peace, which means something else, and hopefully, everyone will put away their pieces (guns) and declare peace.

And, every Sunday, at the church, there’s always an opportunity to say to the people around you ‘peace be with you’.

I wonder if that works very well if the person standing next to you is your enemy?

Memories of the conversations with my cat – 9

As some may be aware, but many not, Chester, my faithful writing assistant, mice catcher, and general pain in the neck, passed away some months ago.

Recently I was running a series based on his adventures, under the title of Past Conversations with my cat.

For those who have not had the chance to read about all of his exploits I will run the series again from Episode 1

These are the memories of our time together…

20160921_071506

This is Chester.   He’s undercover.

I’ve asked him to investigate the mouse problem, and this is how he responds.

Hiding in the ‘grass’.

Waiting, watching, ever wary.

Those mice will not see him coming.

I try to tell him that hiding on the chair, whilst the mice are on the floor doesn’t make much sense.

We’ll just have to wait and see.

Searching for locations: The canals of Suzhou, China

This morning is a boat ride that will take us along a small portion of the main canal, and we head through a number of back streets, to a landing where there are a number of boats all vying with each other to get us passengers on boats.

But…

These boats don’t have a wharf to tie up to and then put out a stable gangplank.  No.  They just more into a concrete step and you take your life in your hands getting on.  One wrong step and you’re in the canal.  And not a very clean one at that.

That’s if another boat doesn’t come along and bumps you, knocking you off balance.  We managed not to lose anyone in boarding the vessel.

This is where we get on the boat

We go along what appears to be downstream towards another larger canal, past tree-lined streets until the canal narrows and we’re looking at the backs of houses, which look very dilapidated.

And the canals?  Well, it’s not quite like it is in Venice

Though some parts of the canal look better than others

What doesn’t bear thinking about is the electrical wiring which is a nightmarish spider web of cables going off in all directions.  How anyone could troubleshoot problems is beyond me.

We pass under a number of bridges, and then, about 30 minutes after leaving, we reach a larger canal and do a 180-degree turn, and head back to a drop off point the will enable us to walk through a typical everyday Chinese market for food and the other items.

This drop off point is much the same as the starting point, a concrete step which is as hazardous as the first.  At least we don’t have to compete with other boats for the landing spot.

We take a leisurely stroll down a small section of Pingjiang Road with small shops on either side, selling all manner of goods

but my interest is in the food and the prices, which at times seem quite expensive for so-called local people, so maybe because the tourists go down this street every day, the prices have been inflated accordingly.

I find it rather disappointing.

We walk to the bridge, go under to the other side crossing the canal and find the coffee shop which is also the meeting place.

So…

When is a coffee shop not a coffee shop, when it takes an eternity to make a cup of coffee, we waited 25 minutes?

We also ordered beef black pepper rice and it took 20 minutes before it arrived, but it was well worth the wait.  Strands of perfectly cooked beef with onion, carrot, and capsicum, with a very peppery and spicy sauce, with a side of boiled rice.

A pizza was ordered too but it did not arrive at all before we left.

“Trouble in Store” – Short Stories my way: Editing becomes re-writing (7)

 It’s time to look at what’s been written for the unfortunate Annalisa, who had been caught up in a situation that is rapidly getting out of her control, not that she had it under control in the first place.  Perhaps it’s time to start reassessing her bad boy phase and think about a new lifestyle. 

Drugs, for her, were fun to begin with, but she can now see the effect they have on long term users, and the question will be, can she learn from this and move on?

 

Annalisa looked at the two men facing her.

Simmo, the boy on the floor, had told her that the shopkeeper would be a pushover, he was an old man who’d just hand over the drugs, rather than cause trouble for himself.

Where Simmo had discovered what the shopkeeper’s true vocation, dispensing drugs to the neighborhood addicts, she didn’t know, but it was not the first place like this they had visited.

She had always known Simmo had a problem, but he had assured her he had it under control.  Until a month ago, when he had tried something new.

It had changed him.

The breaking point came earlier that day when, seeing how sick he was, she threatened to leave.  It brought out the monster within him, and he threatened to kill her.  Not long after he had changed into a whimpering child pleading with her to stay, that he hadn’t meant anything he’d said before.

All he needed was one more ‘score’ to get his ‘shit’ together, and he would do as she asked, and find help.

She believed him.

He said he knew a place not far from the apartment, a small shop where what he needed was available, and said he had the money.

That should have been the first sign he was not telling the truth because she had been funding his habit until her parents cut off the money supply.  She suspected her father had put a private detective on to find her, had, and reported back, and rather than make a scene, just cut her off so she would have to come home or starve.  Her father was no better than Simmo.

And, as soon as they stepped into the shop, Simmo pulled out the gun,

Instead of the shopkeeper cowered like Simmo said he would, he had laughed at them and told them to get out.  Simmo started ranting and waving the gun around, then all of a sudden collapsed. 

There was a race for the gun which spilled out of Simmo’s hand, and she won. 

That was just before the customer burst into the shop.

It had been shortly before closing time.  Simmo had said there would be no one else around.

Wrong again.

Now she had another problem to deal with, a man who was clearly as scared shitless as she was.

This was worse than any bad hair day, or getting out of the wrong side of bed day, this was, she was convinced, the last day of her life.

She heard a strange sound come from beside her and looked down.  There was a trickle of blood coming out of his mouth and Simmo was making strange sounds like he was choking.

Any other time she might have been concerned, but the hard reality of it was, Simmo was never going to change.  She was only surprised at the fact it took so long for her to realize it.

As for the man standing in front of her, she was safe from the shopkeeper with him around, so he would have to stay.

“No.  Stay.”

Another glance at the shopkeeper told her she had made the right decision, his expression said it all.  Gun or no gun, the moment she was alone with him, he would kill her.

 

© Charles Heath 2018-2020