“Strangers We’ve Become”, a sequel to “What Sets Us Apart”

Stranger’s We’ve Become, a sequel to What Sets Us Apart.

The blurb:

Is she or isn’t she, that is the question!

Susan has returned to David, but he is having difficulty dealing with the changes. Her time in captivity has changed her markedly, so much so that David decides to give her some time and space to re-adjust back into normal life.

But doubts about whether he chose the real Susan remain.

In the meantime, David has to deal with Susan’s new security chief, the discovery of her rebuilding a palace in Russia, evidence of an affair, and several attempts on his life. And, once again, David is drawn into another of Predergast’s games, one that could ultimately prove fatal.

From being reunited with the enigmatic Alisha, a strange visit to Susan’s country estate, to Russia and back, to a rescue mission in Nigeria, David soon discovers those whom he thought he could trust each has their own agenda, one that apparently doesn’t include him.

The Cover:

strangerscover9

Coming soon

 

Why can’t you get a good website for a reasonable cost?

There’s nothing more certain that a favourite web site you go to and use often, sooner or later starts charging a subscription ‘fee’.

I remember when the NANOWRIMO site had been updated, and the changes look good.  At that moment the site was free, but you do get a lot of emails and requests to purchase products, which I think is a reasonable way to raise money for keeping the site free.

But, how long is this going to last before a ‘fee’ is introduced, and then a ‘fee’ to enter your book?

It’s the airline principle, once it was a flat charge for the ticket, now you pay for this tax, that tax, fuel tax, baggage tax, tax on the tax, and then if that’s not enough, a charge for the food and water.  Soon it will be a charge for toilets, and then the air you breathe.

It’s inevitable, and once these charges start they don’t stop and only get higher with each passing year.

A lot of the sites I use are free.  Some have since started to charge and have put up a firewall to stop you getting any free information.

I’m not a rich author, so sadly I have to discontinue using these sites.

Perhaps the problem is that the owner of the site has come up with a good idea, thousands of people sign up, and suddenly a small web site becomes a big one, and hosting costs suddenly go through the roof.

Like airlines, it’s the user that pays.

Often I see or get an email from, various people with what looks to be a useful site.  Some start out by giving you a month free to have a look and use the facilities.  In some cases they are quite good, in other, well, there’s a dozen others like it that are still free.

But, after a month, you have to pay.  What gets me with some of them, they are asking somewhere between 50 and 100 US dollars a month, you heard that right, a month, which you can basically double that for me after the exchange rate and a dozen bank fees.

Sometimes there are different levels, but basically, if you look at the fine print, the lowest level set, which gives you very little, is set low deliberately.  Say it’s 10 dollars a month.  It’s no different to the free version except they probably don’t have annoying ads and advertise, what for many, is non-existent 24/7 help (via an email, no guarantee they look at it more than once a week, if at all).  Money for jam for the site owner, as the saying goes.

Why can’t there be a more reasonable option?

But I get it.  Everyone wants to get rich quick, it’s an objective that’s built into all of us, but it seems I missed the inoculation given the day after you’re born.

I also get it that these people worked hard on coming up with the web sites and facilities, and they deserve a reward for that hard work, but to me it would make more sense if they sold the service for 10 dollars or even 20 dollars a month if the systems were available and they worked.  And flowing from that wouldn’t 20,000 sales at 20 dollars, be better than 2000 at a 100 dollars?

The same seems to go for the so-called decent web site hosts, like WordPress, Wix and GoDaddy.  The free option is good but just for show and tell, but I’m sure they deliberately nobble it so it’s slow and kludgy just the sort of attributes that turn potential visitors off.

I thought if I paid a monthly charge for Wix, and reading the inclusions for what my site could do over the free one was very persuasive, so I signed up.  The site was no better than it was before and half the options that were on the list weren’t available, and still aren’t.  But I suspect if I paid them 100 plus dollars a month or more for their premium package I’d get it.

But, to pay for it I would have to be selling a million books a month, and I doubt, no matter how good my web site is, it wouldn’t attract that kind of business.

Not one of the basic packages, read affordable for me, has the ability to allow downloads after sales.  You can’t even have a sales page where you can actually sell books to people like you were a bookshop.  That’s in all of the premium packages, so they say, and that costs far too much.

GoDaddy were by far the worst, telling me if I signed up to the 60 dollars a month package I could have sales and downloads.  I tried to add it to the web page, which I might add was as difficult to create as all hell, and when it didn’t work, rang up to ask why I couldn’t have downloading after sales and was met with silence.

No, that’s not available at the moment, I was told, and not likely in the future.  What am I paying all this money for?  I don’t have a GoDaddy site any more.  I had a Wix site that I paid for, and I don’t have that any more.  They don’t offer anything useful, and they too, make it virtually impossible to create a useful site, so it sits out there in the ether with disappointment written all over it.

Perhaps others have had better luck, or things have changed in the last few years but I won’t be going back.

Maybe one day someone might understand the needs of the majority who can afford to pay exorbitant monthly charges but just not as much as we are expected to, for very little in return.

What’s that saying, hope springs eternal.

PS Sorry about the rant!

The story behind the story – Echoes from the Past

The novel ‘Echoes from the past’ started out as a short story I wrote about 30 years ago, titled ‘The birthday’.

My idea was to take a normal person out of their comfort zone and led on a short but very frightening journey to a place where a surprise birthday party had been arranged.

Thus the very large man with a scar and a red tie was created.

So was the friend with the limousine who worked as a pilot.

So were the two women, Wendy and Angelina, who were Flight Attendants that the pilot friend asked to join the conspiracy.

I was going to rework the short story, then about ten pages long, into something a little more.

And like all re-writes, especially those I have anything to do with, it turned into a novel.

There was motivation.  I had told some colleagues at the place where I worked at the time that I liked writing, and they wanted a sample.  I was going to give them the re-worked short story.  Instead, I gave them ‘Echoes from the past’

Originally it was not set anywhere in particular.

But when considering a location, I had, at the time, recently been to New York in December, and visited Brooklyn and Queens, as well as a lot of New York itself.  We were there for New Years, and it was an experience I’ll never forget.

One evening we were out late, and finished up in Brooklyn Heights, near the waterfront, and there was rain and snow, it was cold and wet, and there were apartment buildings shimmering in the street light, and I thought, this is the place where my main character will live.

It had a very spooky atmosphere, the sort where ghosts would not be unexpected.  I felt more than one shiver go up and down my spine in the few minutes I was there.

I had taken notes, as I always do, of everywhere we went so I had a ready supply of locations I could use, changing the names in some cases.

Fifth Avenue near the Rockefeller center is amazing at first light, and late at night with the Seasonal decorations and lights.

The original main character was a shy and man of few friends, hence not expecting the surprise party.  I enhanced that shyness into purposely lonely because of an issue from his past that leaves him always looking over his shoulder and ready to move on at the slightest hint of trouble.  No friends, no relationships, just a very low profile.

Then I thought, what if he breaks the cardinal rule, and begins a relationship?

But it is also as much an exploration of a damaged soul, as it is the search for a normal life, without having any idea what normal was, and how the understanding of one person can sometimes make all the difference in what we may think or feel.

And, of course, I wanted a happy ending.

Except for the bad guys.

 

Get it here:  https://amzn.to/2CYKxu4

newechocover5rs

 

Just one of many reading lists – part 2

**Please don’t assume that you have to, nor would I ever expect you to,  read any or all of these books.  You don’t.**

Everyone, it seems, will publish what they call the top 100 books that you should read.  Some are voted on, some belong to the opinion of the editor of the book review section of a newspaper, and, as you know, there are a lot of newspapers, a lot of editors, and a lot of opinions.

I’m not a newspaper, I’m not an editor, but I have a list, based on personal experience, and many, many years of reading.

It’s in no particular order.

21.  Passage of Arms by Eric Ambler, I have to say I have read most of his novels and they are very good

22.  Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, a very powerful story of a courageous, independent woman

23.  The Riddle of the Sands by Erskine Childers, a 1903 secret service story, and a good example of an early espionage novel

24.  The Father Brown stories by G. K. Chesterton, which features a Roman Catholic priest who is also an amateur detective

25.  The Grantchester Mysteries by James Runcie, similar to the above, but featuring an Anglican vicar Sidney Chambers and set in the 1950s.  Recently brought to life on television.

26.  The High Commissioner by Jon Cleary, an Australian author, this novel introduces Sargeant Scobie Malone, in the first of many adventures

27.  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, the first Dickens book I read, possibly because it was one of the shortest, and paved the way to read all of his books.  Who could forget Madame Defarge

28.  Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh, another of those delightful but depressing stories of the 20s through to the 40s, perhaps for some, the golden age.  What could be said, in the end, about the Flytes?

29.  The Godfather by Mario Puzo, is the story of the Corleone mafia family, and for me, the most interesting part was that of the horse’s head, and of course, the death and mayhem

30.  The Shipping News by Annie Prouix, a Pulitzer Prize winner, and a story about a man, Quoyle, who against all odds puts his life slowly back together

31.  Detection Unlimited by Georgette Heyer, noted mostly for her Regency romances, she also wrote a series of detective novels.  This was her last detective novel published in 1953

32.  Poldark by Winston Graham, a series of stories about the Poldarks and Cornwall, and his arch-nemesis, George Warleggan

33.  Our Man in Havana by Graham Greene, one of many very interesting novels, this the first I read, followed by the Quiet American and Travels With My Aunt.  Seeing movies of some didn’t enhance the reading experience.

34.  The Mayor Of Casterbridge by Thomas Hardy, another of his interesting but sometimes hard to read novels of rural England.  This led to Jude the Obscure and others in the ‘series’.  It all started with Tess of the D’Urbervilles.

35.  A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, set during the Italian campaign of World War 1.  He also wrote The Old Man of the Sea

36.  Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis, I don’t think he was all that lucky

37.  Whiskey Galore by Compton MacKenzie, the story of the ‘rescue’ of several hundred cases of whiskey and the locals’ efforts to hide it.  Also famous for writing Monarch of the Glen, later a television series

38.  The Expedition of Humphry Clinker by Tobias Smollett, a collection of satirical observations of English life in the 1700s in spa towns and seaside resorts

39.  Barchester Towers by Anthony Trollope, part of the series known as The Chronicles of Barsetshire and features the unpopular Bishop Proudie and Mrs. Proudie

40. The Mysterious Affair at Styles by Agatha Christie, Christie’s first book published in 1920, and introduced Poirot, Arthur Hastings, and Inspector Japp.  Who knew so many books would follow

The list continues

The first case of PI Walthenson – “A Case of Working With the Jones Brothers”

This case has everything, red herrings, jealous brothers, femme fatales, and at the heart of it all, greed.

See below for an excerpt from the book…

Coming soon!

PIWalthJones1

An excerpt from the book:

When Harry took the time to consider his position, a rather uncomfortable position at that, he concluded that he was somehow involved in another case that meant very little to him.

Not that it wasn’t important in some way he was yet to determine, it was just that his curiosity had got the better of him, and it had led to this: sitting in a chair, securely bound, waiting for someone one of his captors had called Doug.

It was not the name that worried him so much, it was the evil laugh that had come after the name was spoken.

Doug what? Doug the ‘destroyer’, Doug the ‘dangerous’, Doug the ‘deadly’; there was any number of sinister connotations, and perhaps that was the point of the laugh, to make it more frightening than it was.

But there was no doubt about one thing in his mind right then: he’d made a mistake. A very big. and costly, mistake. Just how big the cost, no doubt he would soon find out.

His mother, and his grandmother, the wisest person he had ever known, had once told him never to eavesdrop.

At the time he couldn’t help himself and instead of minding his own business, listening to a one-sided conversation which ended with a time and a place. The very nature of the person receiving the call was, at the very least, sinister, and, because of the cryptic conversation, there appeared to be, or at least to Harry, criminal activity involved.

For several days he had wrestled with the thought of whether he should go. Stay on the fringe, keep out of sight, observe and report to the police if it was a crime. Instead, he had willingly gone down the rabbit hole.

Now, sitting in an uncomfortable chair, several heat lamps hanging over his head, he was perspiring, and if perspiration could be used as a measure of fear, then Harry’s fear was at the highest level.

Another runnel of sweat rolled into his left eye, and, having his hands tied, literally, it made it impossible to clear it. The burning sensation momentarily took his mind off his predicament. He cursed and then shook his head trying to prevent a re-occurrence. It was to no avail.

Let the stinging sensation be a reminder of what was right and what was wrong.

It was obvious that it was the right place and the right time, but in considering his current perilous situation, it definitely was the wrong place to be, at the worst possible time.

It was meant to be his escape, an escape from the generations of lawyers, what were to Harry, dry, dusty men who had been in business since George Washington said to the first Walthenson to step foot on American soil, ‘Why don’t you become a lawyer?” when asked what he could do for the great man.

Or so it was handed down as lore, though Harry didn’t think Washington meant it literally, the Walthenson’s, then as now, were not shy of taking advice.

Except, of course, when it came to Harry.

He was, Harry’s father was prone to saying, the exception to every rule. Harry guessed his father was referring to the fact his son wanted to be a Private Detective rather than a dry, dusty lawyer. Just the clothes were enough to turn Harry off the profession.

So, with a little of the money Harry inherited from one of his aunts, he leased an office in Gramercy Park and had it renovated to look like the Sam Spade detective agency, you know the one, Spade and Archer, and The Maltese Falcon.

There’s a movie and a book by Dashiell Hammett if you’re interested.

So, there it was, painted on the opaque glass inset of the front door, ‘Harold Walthenson, Private Detective’.

There was enough money to hire an assistant, and it took a week before the right person came along, or, more to the point, didn’t just see his business plan as something sinister. Ellen, a tall cool woman in a long black dress, or so the words of a song in his head told him, fitted in perfectly.

She’d seen the movie, but she said with a grin, Harry was no Humphrey Bogart.

Of course not, he said, he didn’t smoke.

Three months on the job, and it had been a few calls, no ‘real’ cases, nothing but missing animals, and other miscellaneous items. What he really wanted was a missing person. Or perhaps a beguiling, sophisticated woman who was as deadly as she was charming, looking for an errant husband, perhaps one that she had already ‘dispatched’.

Or for a tall, dark and handsome foreigner who spoke in riddles and in heavily accented English, a spy, or perhaps an assassin, in town to take out the mayor. The man was such an imbecile Harry had considered doing it himself.

Now, in a back room of a disused warehouse, that wishful thinking might be just about to come to a very abrupt end, with none of the romanticized trappings of the business befalling him. No beguiling women, no sinister criminals, no stupid policemen.

Just a nasty little man whose only concern was how quickly or how slowly Harry’s end was going to be.

© Charles Heath 2019

Searching for locations: A typical diner, New York

We decided to have lunch in a traditional Diner.

On an early morning walk, I discovered the Brooklyn Diner, a small restaurant tucked away in a street not far from Columbus Circle, perhaps a piece of history from the American past.

After all, if you’re going to take in the sights, sounds, and food of a country what better way to do it than visiting what was once a tradition.

This one was called the Brooklyn Diner.  It had a combination of booths and counter sit down, though the latter was not a very big space, so we opted for a booth.

The object of going to a Diner is the fact they serve traditional American food, which when you get past the hot dogs and hamburgers and fries, takes the form of turkey and chicken pot pies among a variety of other choices.

Still looking for a perfectly cooked turkey, something I’ve never been able to do myself, I opted for the Teadition Turkey Lunch, which the menu invitingly said was cooked especially at the diner and was succulent.  I couldn’t wait.

We also ordered a hamburger, yes, yet another, and a chicken pot pie, on the basis the last one I had in Toronto was absolutely delicious (and cooked the same way since the mid-1930s)

While waiting we got to look at a slice of history belonging to another great American tradition, Baseball, a painting on the wall of the Brooklyn Dodgers at Ebbets field, long since gone from their home.

The Turnkey lunch looked like this

which didn’t seem to be much, and had this odd pasta slice on the plate, but the turkey was amazing and lived up to the menu description.

The Chicken Pot Pie looked like this

And looked a lot larger in reality than the photo shows.

But, sadly while it was not bad, it was a little dry, and could possibly do with using the more succulent thigh part of the chicken.

All of this was washed down by Long Island Ice Teas and Brooklyn Lager.

AS for the Diner experience, it’s definitely a 10 out of 10 for me.

“The Things We Do For Love” – Coming soon

Is love the metaphorical equivalent to ‘walking the plank’; a dive into uncharted waters?

For Henry the only romance he was interested in was a life at sea, and when away from it, he strived to find sanctuary from his family and perhaps life itself.  It takes him to a small village by the sea, s place he never expected to find another just like him, Michelle, whom he soon discovers is as mysterious as she is beautiful.

Henry had long since given up the notion of finding romance, and Michelle couldn’t get involved for reasons she could never explain, but in the end both acknowledge that something happened the moment they first met.  

Plans were made, plans were revised, and hopes were shattered.

A chance encounter causes Michelle’s past to catch up with her, and whatever hope she had of having a normal life with Henry, or anyone else, is gone.  To keep him alive she has to destroy her blossoming relationship, an act that breaks her heart and shatters his.

But can love conquer all?

It takes a few words of encouragement from an unlikely source to send Henry and his friend Radly on an odyssey into the darkest corners of the red light district in a race against time to find and rescue the woman he finally realizes is the love of his life.

The cover, at the moment, looks like this:

lovecoverfinal1

In a word: Prior

Of course, prior means gone before, as in past history, or perhaps only a few moments ago; it happened prior to my arrival on the scene.

But it can also mean, quite confusingly, to something in the future, when trying to get out of a meeting by saying I’ve got a prior appointment.

If you are an aficionado of American police dramas then you will be well acquainted with the prior, meaning a previous criminal conviction.

 

And for something quite different, a prior is a priest of sorts, who to me were named as such in the middle ages.  A prior is below an Abbot and is head of a house of friars.  By the way, the most notable friar I know is Friar Tuck

A prior could also be a magistrate in the medieval republic of Florence.

 

It is not to be doubly confused with Pryer or Prier

Someone who pries into another’s business, the most notable prier, the woman across the road from Samantha, in Bewitched.

 

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

A private detective story lends itself to be written in episodes

** A new episode has just been published**

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 was finally completed as Walthenson’s first case, ‘A Case of Working with the Jones Brothers’.

He has now embarked on his second adventure, as yet untitled, but the latest episode can be found here:

https://www.walthensonpi.com/

The first is here, for those who wish to start with the first episode of his first case:

https://bit.ly/35I1Ddn

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 breath life into beguiling women and dangerous men alike.