I am enjoying my retirement by writing. My favourite genres are science fiction and horror and I have have had some success with my short stories.
I began reading Ray Bradbury while still at school and became besotted with Dr Who from the first moment I watched the programme back in November 1963. Each incarnation is my favourite until the next one but I have to admit to preferring Matt Smith's version to any other.
My specialist subject on Mastermind would most likely be 'The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy'.
Having read Jan’s first two Bunch Courtney books I decided to finish the short series and read the third before starting other authors. What I find particularly interesting are the historical facts which are neatly woven into the story.
We are all complaining about the limitations put on us by covid, but people had all manner of limitations due to the war. Food was in short supply; travel was difficult due to fuel shortages and entertainment was curtailed because of the bombing.
The Battle of Britain had just ended at the beginning of the book and the Blitz was reaching its height. People were being forced out of their homes and everything was shrouded in secrecy. Some worked hard to get through the difficulties, but others found it difficult and shut out the obvious.
Into this mix add a fatal accident on the edge of the Perringham Estate. On closer examination it appears that it is not what it seems. Could the driver have already been dead before the car crashed? When a second body connections with the first is discovered clutching a hand-written list of names Bunch joins forces with Chief Inspector Wright to try and discover what is going on and find out who is next on the list.
If you are a fan of well-researched historical novels with a dash of intrigue and a healthy dollop of crime this is the book for you. Well written and an absolute page turner.
I enjoyed Jan Edward’s Bunch Courtney’s first adventure so much that I decided to read the second book next.
In Her Defence begins six months after the end of Winter Downs. The so-called phoney war is becoming a thing of the past, rationing is biting and the black-out is causing a few problems despite the onset of summer and the lighter nights.
Another issue to raise its ugly head is xenophobia. Anyone with a foreign sounding name or accent is a target for the frightened locals. The German army is marching relentlessly through Europe and soon there is only the Channel between the Sussex inhabitants and the enemy.
Starting explosively with the death of a young Dutch woman in a crowded pub in which Bunch just happens the be having lunch, she is then contacted by an old school chum whose father has just been poisoned leaving her homeless and penniless. The two had been working in Germany for some time and are now under suspicion by others. Bunch takes her in but soon finds her friend’s behaviour suspicious and disquieting.
In the meantime life goes on and Bunch has issues with the new CO living in her family home. He and the men under his command are taking liberties and abusing the property, Chamberlain stands down and Churchill takes over and advocates internment camps for all foreign nationals exacerbating the mistrust of anyone with a foreign background and the number of attempts on life and those resulting in deaths mounts up.
Neither Bunch nor the detective on the cases, Chief Inspector Wright believe in co-incidences and end up working together to find out who is behind the dreadful deeds.
The book is a ripping yarn delicately interlaced with historical fact and beautifully written. And a neat twist – but no spoilers!
Set in Sussex in January 1940, the beginning of the war in Europe, this murder mystery is beautifully researched and urges the reader to continue well into the night to discover the truth behind the crime.
With the family seat commissioned by the army Bunch (Rose) Courtney is left making do at the Dower House. Despite having enough to do running the estate while her father is heavily engaged in war work she finds the time to investigate the death of an old friend whose body was found on the family land while the police are busy following their own enquiries.
Not wishing to add spoilers the result is somewhat of a surprise.
Jan takes us into the world of the landed gentry during the time of great upheaval and sacrifice. The book is well researched, something I have a bit of a thing about, and you can well imagine that you are there among the cold, wet snow and warm, steaming horses.
We may not be used to the hierarchy that existed in the day, but Jan reminds us that everyone had a place and knew what was expected of them. That was the way the world turned in 1940.
Winter Downs is well written and easy to read but not lightweight keeping you guessing until the very end. It is the first of a series of books with Bunch Courtney helping Chief Inspector Wright to reach the right conclusion about a case regardless of how he feels about it.
‘There’s too much flesh,’ I mutter as I survey my handy work.
‘You should have thought of that,’ my husband tells me in that “I told you so” manner he has that I have grown to loathe. ‘If you’d have thought things through properly you would have taken that into account.’
‘Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?’ I moan.
‘Show off. You always thought you were so much better than me.’
‘Never,’ I correct him as I study the body before me.
‘At least I know you’re quoting Lady Macbeth. Which, if you ask me, I find very apt.’
‘You can shut up. Shut up!’ I stamp my foot, but the warm sticky blood reduces the effect I had hoped for. ‘If you’d shut up in the first place I wouldn’t be in this mess,’ I tell him.
‘You’re in a mess? What about me? At least your mess will come out in the wash which is more than can be said for me.’
‘O that this too too solid flesh would melt,’ I sigh.
‘Good God! Am I to become a Shakespearian tragedy?’ he snarls. ‘That would just suit you, wouldn’t it?’
‘As you won’t melt, I suppose I’ll have to cut you up. You won’t fit in the freezer in this state.’
‘If it was up to me, I wouldn’t choose to go in the freezer in any state,’ hubby whines.
I leave my husband lying on the floor of the blood splattered wet room and go in search of some sort of blade. The one I stabbed him with isn’t strong enough for sawing through bone and sinew. I find nothing suitable.
‘Where have you left the saw, you miserable old bastard?’ I weep.
‘As if I’d tell you,’ he sniggers. ‘You’ll only saw me up for dog food if I did.’
‘You never put anything away. You just leave your stuff around and then pinch mine from my hobby bag. The freezer’s too good for you.’ I am crying openly now.
‘You should have put your tools ready before you started the job,’ he quotes me at me in a put-on whiney voice. ‘Isn’t that what you are always telling me?’
That really makes me see red. The claw hammer is to hand so I smack it into his mouth to stop the prattle. Then I smack it into his eyes so he can’t see what I’m doing. I just hammer away at him because he has annoyed me so much. I hammer away until I feel all my frustrations leak over the floor and mingle with the blood drying on the tiles. I hammer away until I am exhausted and empty. I drop the hammer and head towards the kitchen where I flick the switch on the kettle. If I do something different – take my mind from the task – I might remember where the saw is hiding.
A nice cup of tea will help.
This is Day 1 of my diary, and not, as someone will surely, remind to me, Day 1 of the drama that is going on around the world.
I don’t get out much. You may big ah if you like – okay then.
My joints have long outlived my brain function and decided eons ago that they’ve had enough of my overly active lifestyle. Over the years my knees and shoulders took the brunt of falls from horses, out of trees, exuberant children and energetic folk dancing on a Saturday night. They now complain painfully when I try to walk more than a few feet, so it’s taken a little while for me to realise the effect of this social isolation the younger folk find themselves in. Mostly, it’s been just like a normal week for me apart from more than usual phone calls. Thank you, everyone I do appreciate our chats.
That said, I normally attend my local church on a Sunday morning, so today is the day the effects of social isolation kicked in. Instead of going out I watched a virtual service with two dogs at my feet and a cat snoring in front of the screen. And, if it’s not too much information, I was not struck down by a bolt of lightning for being in my nightie, so I shall do that again.
I have a plan. It’s no different from last year. I shall be growing my own veg in my adapted garden in order to have enough to eat when the apocalypse does arrive. I intend to intersperse the gardening with writing in order to give my joints a rest when they complain, hopefully, ensuring a productive day and a relaxed attitude to what the virus intends for my age group.
Christmas is a religious festival I know; the clue is in the name. However, whatever we believe in, how many of us enjoy a good ghost story when the nights turn cold and dark?
It’s the best excuse ever for curling up near a warm body – or fire if you’re not so lucky to have a spare body to hand, lights low and a favourite drink to hand.
If you fancy a change from the old much-loved but well read tales it’s time to try something new. Something for the twenty-first century, perhaps.
Okay, so I tend to favour the seventeenth century and will be heading there, no doubt in December but I have been lucky enough to have been allowed to read some of the newest and most exciting ghost stories submitted to Corona Books this year. The result being The Corona Book of Ghost Stories.
If you like ghost stories, or know a man/woman/person who does, why not treat them to a copy for Christmas? Books are so easy to wrap! What are you waiting for?
Have you ever wondered about the origins of Halloween?
Samhain is a ancient festival marking the end of the harvest season and the beginning of winter. Traditionally, it is celebrated from 31 October to 1 November, which is roughly halfway between the autumn equinox and the winter solstice.
Samhain is believed to have Celtic pagan origins and there is evidence it has been an important date since ancient times. It was the time when cattle were brought back down from the summer pastures and when livestock were slaughtered for the winter. Special bonfires were lit with protective and cleansing powers providing the rituals involving them were followed.
Samhain was seen as a liminal time, when the boundary between this world and the Otherworld could more easily be crossed. The souls of the dead were also thought to revisit their homes. Feasts were had, at which the souls of dead kin were invited to attend and a place set at the table for them. Ghosts and ghostly tales abound at this time of the year.
Mumming and guising were part of the festival, and involved people going door-to-door in costume (or in disguise), often reciting rhymes in exchange for treats. Rituals and games were also a big part of the festival and often involved nuts and apples, plentiful at this time of the year.
The Christian Church put a new spin on the idea as a means to remember the dead, both those who achieved sainthood (November 1st) and mere mortals (November 2nd). The evening before the religious festival, October 31st was known as All Hallow’s Even. This gradually became shortened to Halloween.
Do you recognise any of this?
If you fancy a good fright this Halloween why not try one or all of the books below. You won’t be disappointed.
See what happens should you find a strange box on your window sill.
I’ve been a bit on the busy side recently. Corona Books put out a call for horror stories back in the spring and I offered to help read some of the submissions.
I told a friend about this and she asked if reading so many stories in a given time frame took the shine off reading.
824 stories comprising of 3,000,000 words later I have an answer for her. No, it doesn’t. I still love reading. The reason being, the stories were brilliant and I really enjoyed being part of the procedure. It was just a shame there wasn’t room for them all.
After all the reading, re-reading, discussion, re-reading and yet more discussion it was decided that instead of the one horror story anthology there was enough material for a book of ghost stories as well.
So, for your delight on a dark winter’s evening, put out the lights, light a candle and curl up with these –
When you have enjoyed these try others from Corona Books.
See what happens should you find a strange box on your window sill.
Have you ever wondered where narrow, dark alleyways in your hometown might lead? James Brogden follows them in his novel ‘The Narrows’. The blurb on the back cover tells us that Andy Sumner lives a perfectly conventional life until a chance encounter with a wounded and pursued Bex, one of a society of misfits who live in the Narrows, leads him into another world. In this world the laws of time and space are malleable.
The Narrows are closing and it’s up to Andy and Bex to find out why. I’m saying no more for fear of spoiling the book. If you want to know what happens then read it. Its twists and turns are fast paced and will grip you to the end. For a first novel this is well crafted with believable characters. A sort of grounded fantasy, if you will.