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Book related & random articles by the author

A sneak peek into Room 101

The Scream by Edvard Munch

Part of The Scream by Edvard Munch

A harrowing read

Ever watched that TV show where celebrities vie to dump their pet hates into Room 101? Anyone who has read George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty Four will know of course that Room 101 was the torture room, the place wherein lurked the thing that most horrified the prisoner of Big Brother. Forget “Ve haf vays of makink you talk” accompanied by a handy Anglepoise directed into the eyes. In “1984” ordinary common or garden torture was used merely to coerce the victim into revealing his one true pet hate, the single most abhorrent horror the victim feared, the thing guaranteed to break him, to reduce him to a gibbering wreck incapable of further resistance.

No, I cannot really recommend 1984 as a Good Read despite its legendary status in the literary cannon. Apart from Animal Farm I’ve never been able to read Orwell since being traumatised by 1984 forty years ago.

But I recently had a sneak peek into my personal Room 101. It happened like this… Read More →

Faffing about with Facebook

I mean, Facebook! Me!

Facebook symbolSo I’ve just signed up at Facebook. When it asked what were my interests I wrote cultivating my inner hermit. I guess you can tell I’m not a natural Facebooker.

Now don’t get the wrong idea. If you send me a friend request and feel like I’m ignoring you it’s not because I’m a grumpy curmudgeon who hates the world (probably). It’s most likely because I’m totally incompetent at social media. That, or I’m busy Doing Something Important and haven’t time for faffing about on Facebook, which I suppose amounts to the same thing. So, apologies in advance to anyone who might be offended by my complete inability to make the wretched thing do what I want.

For the record:

I have a personal profile like everyone else which will (sometime… soon… when I can figure it all out) be there for friends and friends of friends and heaven knows (I don’t) who else. And I have an author page, which is a separate entity that is meant to be open to the world and his wife. I say meant to be because at the moment it’s not even open to me unless I sign in (see below).

My author page:

As a part time hermit and full time social incompetent I guess most of whatever time I can find for this stuff will be spent keeping and eye on my author page. I don’t know what for, as yet. I have not the foggiest clue what might appear there outside of my control (if anything) but I’ll be adding links to selected blog posts (mine and maybe others too) and maybe some book reviews and… Oh heck, I don’t know. I expect I’ll get the hang of it eventually. So again, for the record my Facebook author handle is:

But here’s the thing. If you see my page when you try this in your browser before signing in to FB (as I do in the case of most other authors) then hurrah! Do please let me know. At the time of writing Facebook seem to regard me as a suspicious character. When I try that address in my browser without logging in to FB it doesn’t even offer me the security captcha. It just tells me I’m not in the audience for my own page. Sigh!

Image: not in my own audience

It’s my guess (and anybody is welcome to chip in here with their own guess) that I’ve inadvertently changed some setting, or failed to set something that I ought. If anybody knows what or how to fix it do please let me know. I’ll be your best friend forever. :-)

Revamped and rejuvenated! Or sulking in the corner…

My dad’s is bigger than your dad’s…

book jacketI wonder if there is a collective noun for people who obsessively collect email addresses. Emailophiles? Electroepistleophiles? In the writing community it’s all the rage these days to collect readers’ email addresses, the better to bombard them with junk mail… um, sorry, I meant the better to keep in touch when Mr or Mz Author releases something new. A humungous email list has become a writers boast, like children swaggering in the school yard trying to puff themselves up: “My dad’s mailing list is bigger than your dad’s mailing list…” 

Doubtless an email list the length of War & Peace is a brilliant marketing technique for writers who can squeeze out a book every three months. And good luck to them too, I say. No malice on my part. I’m just outright jealous of their talent, that’s all. I got caught up in the craze for collecting email addresses too a while ago, but it turns out I’m not that sort of writer. I have other interests too, and I mentioned somewhere, I think, that I only write in winter, which one wag described as very Zhivago-ish. (Thinks…Hmmmm!)

book jacketIt’s marvellous what a break can do…

So after a spell of heavy duty boat building sent writing into the corner to sulk awhile, this past winter has seen me picking up the threads again. My Next Novel is still there in the pipeline and new ideas are forming, but meanwhile what used to be Sunset over Salhouse Broad has transmogrified (without a hint of irony on my part!) into the JUST ONE MISTAKE mystery and romantic suspense trilogy.

book jacketWhat’s in a title?

It’s not just the title that has changed. The new titles and jackets reflect new editions with substantial interior revisions. In each book the main character is now in first person POV and the endings are much more uplifting. Mixing first and third person POV’s in this way is a writers’ technique that I mentioned in a previous post. I think the result really suits the story too, as does the all-new Happy Ever After treatment of the ending.

My hero!book jacket

Or rather, my heroines (Sally in Sally Does Hair/Lucky, lucky Me! and Annie & Kate in Sophie Sews for You) now have a much stronger and more satisfying voice. They have become confident, sassy, independent young women each with a distinctive and I hope entertaining outlook on the world. In fact, I’d really like to meet them all, now. (What, they’re only fictitious characters in a book? Okay, okay, don’t send for the men in white coats. I’m not round the bend yet. But… Sigh!)

Look Inside and you’ll see…

To check out the new versions use Amazon’s free LOOK INSIDE feature to start reading a sample. Or download the Amazon sample direct to your Kindle for free. You’ll notice the difference right from the start. If anyone has a mind to critique the new versions they are available at Amazon now. If you’re quick you could be first to get your review up on Amazon too…

To read the free samples tap one of these buttons. Choose a book and click LOOK INSIDE.

button amazon UK

button amazon US

The more the merrier!

Just FYI, anyone who bought the original Sunset version will not be able to buy the new JOM3 omnibus (all three titles in one omnibus) because it retains the original Amazon identity number for copyright protection reasons. The three individual titles, though, are new books in their own right and can be bought and reviewed by anybody with a mind to do so. The more the merrier, and I hope you enjoy them.

OK, shameless plug over. Normal service will be resumed.

Disgraceful behaviour in Beccles:

Podcast: download (duration 6min 23s/8.77mb)

I happened to be in Beccles recently, a smallish town in Suffolk, UK, not far from the limit of navigation on the river Waveney. Beccles is a lovely old market town with winding streets and buildings of brick and flint, painted render, whole and half-timbered oak frame, the hallmarks of this part of England.

Beccles is just the sort of romantically twee place people managed to build centuries ago before the invention of planning control; the sort of place beloved by many who live in today’s rigidly regimented, planned-to-death urban streets and avenues. I’m tempted to believe that if only we could be left alone, free of the little Hitlers of modern Town Planning, we might again build what suits us instead of what suits them. (Please forgive my italics: I get overwrought sometimes, being a second generation survivor of my father’s run-ins with Town Planning.)

Image: Church tower

The church in the town centre has a peculiar detached tower.

At the heart of Beccles is a quaint town square and a large boat dyke. Situated at the quieter southern end of the Norfolk and Suffolk Broads rivers system, from the boating visitor’s viewpoint it seems a friendly, welcoming place, with all the facilities of civilisation including water hoses at the staithe (WT*? Water hoses? Okay, most tourists don’t care much about water hoses, but trust me they’re vital to visitors by boat). With pubs, restaurants, shops and banks Beccles is often the highlight of a Broads holiday.

You can easily find out about Beccles on the interwebz (start with the links at the end of this post) so instead of regurgitating other people’s stuff I’ll tell you a couple of personal tales about this favourite of Broadland towns.

Tales from the Riverbank

Image: Collage of photos.

The 1947 crew (collage of photos courtesy of UD)

My mother told a tale of Beccles. She visited there in 1947 on a three-boat family holiday. In the hopeful, forward looking spirit of those post war times when rationing was still in force, the holiday party were in high spirits when the combined crews spent the evening at a certain pub in Beccles town centre. Pubs in those days didn’t have jukeboxes, much less broadband or giant screen TV showing the footy. If you wanted entertainment you had to make your own.

Image: The Bear and Bells.

The Bear and Bells in Old Market, where mum played piano, unless…

My mother, being a pianist, was encouraged to play the pub’s piano which she did to such effect that the landlord begged her to return and play again the next night. His takings had soared, so he said.

Image: The Swan House.

…it was at The Swan House. Or maybe…

My uncle says he remembers the incident very clearly but as the party visited so many pubs that night he can’t now remember which pub had the piano, which must go to show what a good night out it was.

Image: The King's Head.

…it was at The King’s Head.

But my abiding personal memory of Beccles is the day we moored there when I was a teenager. Our boat, the Amethyst (or maybe it was the Knave of Hearts?) was moored stern-to in the boat dyke and after our evening meal my would-be brother-in-law, no doubt keen to impress his girlfriend’s parents, volunteered to do the washing up. The skipper (father) detailed the most junior member of the crew, an archetypal moody, monosyllabic teenager (me), to dry.

Image: The boat dyke at Beccles

The boat dyke at Beccles, now called Beccles Quay.

We toiled at the galley sink which was right in the stern under an open port that looked out across the staithe, a spread of neatly mown grass under the dappled shade of trees. Families picnicked on the grass. Children played under the trees. Ducks and geese roamed freely, unafraid, hoovering up scraps from the picnics. Across the dyke a great crested grebe, among the shyest of Broadland birds, glided silently through the shadows under the bank, shunning human contact, its cute black and white striped Everton Mint chicks hitching a lift on its back. An elderly gentleman sauntered along the staithe in the balmy summer evening, leaning on his walking stick, looking at boats and enjoying the pleasures of a peaceful evening stroll, lost perhaps in his fading memories.

Right outside our boat was a sort of hoarding with a poster advertising some event in the town. I was just thinking there could hardly be a more peaceful impression of pastoral contentment and all right in the world than the happy scene at Beccles that evening, when the old gentleman bent to read some small print on the poster and delivered the most enormous, resounding, trouser-ripping thunderblast imaginable, right outside our open port.

Sound carries across water. The report rumbled around the boat moorings like distant thunder. Heads bobbed up from surprised holidaymakers, eyes shaded in search of a blackening sky but finding only cloudless blue.

Crestfallen, my brother-in-law and I stopped dead in our dishwashing and looked at each other accusingly. Then the truth dawned. The old gentleman strolled off to continue his evening walk without a word. Vic, quicker than me to recover his wits, poked his head out of the port. “COME BACK HERE AND EXPLAIN YOURSELF,” he bellowed indignantly across the staithe. All went quiet. The picnicking families stared in bewilderment. Mothers gathered their children close. People began to chunter about morons spoiling the evening peace and quiet.

The culprit appeared to be as deaf as he was flatulent, and continued his stroll unperturbed. As the startled ducks resumed their quacking my brother-in-law quietly closed the port and we slunk back to our shipboard duties. The elderly gent who caused all the trouble got away with it entirely.

Later, our sense of shame appeased by an hour’s perspective and the wine bottle uncorked, our whole crew fell about laughing. I imagine the pubs of Beccles were awash with chatter about the incident that evening.

As Michael Green says in The Art of Coarse Sailing*, I do like Beccles.

[* first published by Hutchinson & Co (Publishers) 1962. Sadly out of print. At time of writing one vendor is offering a copy on Amazon for £350]

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All photos copyright C.Beddingfield except as indicated. If you want to borrow for your own blog please include a clear link back to

Playing Bottom: an alternative Easter message.

Podcast: download (duration 8mins 32s/12mb)

Image: A Midsummer Night's Dream

The play by William Shakespeare

So, it’s nearly Easter. Listening to breakfast radio the other day I heard of a feud between rival amateur dramatics societies somewhere in England. (Bear with me: this is relevant). One group planted saboteurs in its rival’s audience to disrupt their production by heckling.

No, don’t laugh! I expect this was deadly serious for the folks involved. But forgive my cynicism if I wonder out loud whether the whole thing was a setup to gain publicity for an upcoming performance of Jack and the Beanstalk. I expect it would be sold out after its mention on a high profile national news program, and I for one wish them well with it. I’d tell you where it is (or was) if I had caught the venue, but I was too busy spluttering into my cornflakes. Anyway, the incident spurred me to write this essay and as it has an Easter connection this seems an apt time to post it.

I will come clean at once and admit that apart from playing 13th sheep, duly mystified by the unnatural happenings in a primary school nativity play, I have only once been on stage with a speaking part. In my first year at secondary school I played 1st Roman Centurion in the Easter play. I forget the production. For some reason I have it lodged in my mind that it was some variation of Shakespeare.

Being no actor (as Mr Jones, our English master and director, made a point of telling me) the part allotted me was mercifully brief and utterly disastrous. Mr Jones directed me to listen for my cue, stride purposefully on stage and arrest the accused party. Don’t ask me what he was accused of: I doubt I ever knew and have long forgotten anyway. As it was an Easter production possibly the miscreant was Jesus, though I don’t recall actually nailing the poor blighter to a cross.

“Centurion, arrest that man…”

Grousing at being coerced into what I didn’t want to do in the first place I grudgingly donned my centurion’s getup and waited sullenly in the wings for the rest of the class to play their pieces. Uninvolved in the principle action, I got talking to a friend, another centurion who was supposed to accompany me on stage to effect the arrest. Unforgivably bored by the playwright’s genius and finding greater interest in some puerile joke of our own, as boys will… yes you guessed it: we missed our cue.

“Centurion, arrest that man,” said the principal actor. Thinking about it now, I suspect the play was some biblical plot entirely concocted by Mr Jones himself. Whatever, nothing happened. The stage froze as though someone had shouted “CUT…”. The audience grew restless. We centurions didn’t even notice. I think maybe we were amusing ourselves rehearsing a more interesting fight scene with our wooden short-swords.

“CENTURION, ARREST THAT MAN,” bellowed the principal again, glowing red with embarrassment before his audience of a hundred or so parents whose onerous duty it was to attend.

Thus prodded, we centurions rushed on stage, took Jesus in a severe headlock and unceremoniously hauled him off into the wings protesting all the way at the excessive realism of our performance. “But we’re acting,” we responded, astonished that Jesus had the temerity to complain. “You’re supposed to make it look good.”

“Not that good!” Jesus whined, massaging his stretched neck. I don’t suppose it occurred to him he was lucky this was England in the 1960’s, not Palestine in the year zero. I daresay but for Mr Jones’s intervention we bloodthirsty centurions would have gleefully sharpened the six inch nails and carried the thing through to its logical conclusion.

All this was clearly audible to the audience, who sat stony faced and silent (miserable lot!). I forget whether Jesus ever forgave we centurions. I suspect we all fell out permanently, but out of common courtesy I offer Jesus my apologies now for any permanent injury to his neck.

Curtain down, play over, our excuses cut no ice with Jesus or with Mr Jones. Having ruined the reputation of the whole class, we centurions remained in deep disgrace for the rest of that term, and in my case at least never recovered from the excruciating shame of it all.

So it was that when, a year or two later, Mr Jones pressed hard for me to play Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I refused outright, and being both disastrously shy and determinedly belligerent in those horrible teenage years I stoutly maintained my refusal even in the face of thundering authority. I was no actor; I knew it, and Mr Jones knew it, and I was more than glad to tell anyone so who would listen. I remain to this day rather proud of that particular teenage rebellion.

Bottom’s revenge:

Thankfully, I was relegated to backstage duties and after a period of disgruntled, monosyllabic teenage skiving found myself out of the loop altogether, merely part of the audience watching rehearsals with no part in the production at all, which suited me just fine. But I was later to regret my stubborn strop.

The boy appointed Bottom in my place (I forget his name; I’ll call him Johnny) was no better actor than me. At some point he was directed to lift a pint of ale and glug it down enthusiastically. Johnny did his best, but I guess a whole pint was too much for him. It took a while. The rest of the cast stood about woodenly on stage waiting for Johnny to swallow his pint of cold milkless tea and play his next line.

“No, no, that’s no good,” boomed Mr Jones from the hall in front of the rehearsal stage. “Leave the glass empty for now, Johnny. Just make some swallowing sounds as you pretend to drink. Positions, everybody: we’ll do it again.”

This time, coming to the point of the scene, Johnny lifted his empty glass, tipped it to his lips and said loudly, “Glug glug, glug glug, glug!”

The whole class in the rehearsal hall erupted in laughter. Johnny was a hero and Mr Jones, to his credit, agreed to keep the glugs in. It went down a storm with the audience on play night as I recall. But I was kicking myself. I could have done that, I thought, and been the hero of the class. But of course, now we’ll never know. Maybe my teenage Bottom would have been as disastrous as my earlier Roman Centurion.

Bottom gets a walk-on part:

So, I’m no actor, but I do count myself a novelist and fictional characters need background and personal interests if they are to appear real to readers. That breakfast radio item caught my ear because I wrote a fictional AmDram society into one of my novels when (at least in later editions) I gave one character, an unhappily divorced woman more than a bit prone to jealousy, an interest in amateur dramatics. This tied in with another character who needed a stage crew to help him set up an unconventional wedding for the love of his life, and as a by-product, in fond memory of Mr Jones’s long-ago production, Shakespeare’s Bottom from A Midsummer Night’s Dream got a walk-on part.

I did worry that someone might be offended by my humorous take on AmDram, but that Jack and the Beanstalk story might have been made for the purpose. I’ll keep it in reserve for a light hearted moment in My Next Novel. Just think yourselves lucky you will never be exposed to my dreadful Bottom!

Ever thought of writing your own novel? I’ll be glad to answer queries in the comments below.

Do you want to be immortal?

Within our grasp…

Image: HeadstoneWouldn’t the earth become terribly crowded if nobody ever died? Where would we find space for new people to be born? Babies would have to be banned at some point, wouldn’t they? But here’s a thought:

I heard on the radio this morning (BBC Radio 4, Today, 19/2/15) an interview with Professor Michio Kaku in which he said that experiments on mice had shown that their memories could be recorded by means of an MRI scan, and when later replayed into the mouse’s brain the mouse immediately “remembered” its previous behaviour. Okay, that’s an over simplification. The MRI scan records blood flow in the brain, which Kaku said is thought to represent memories in action. But consider what this might mean:

We already have the concept of preservation of DNA in the sense that we can clone living creatures, including ourselves. Dolly the sheep. Dinosaurs resurrected from fossilised toenail clippings or whatever to eventually break out from their pens and wreak havoc on humanity. Never mind the cynicism. You get the idea.

Kaku suggested that if a person’s memory could be scanned and recorded by MRI or some similar future technology, then we have also the concept that a clone of ourselves could be programmed with all of our own memories, knowledge, emotions, reactions to everything and all circumstances. Would this not then be to resurrect ourselves after death? Shades of the horrors of immortality mentioned above?

Except, how many times have you wished you could live your life over again? I guess not everyone would want to do that, given the horrific experience of life some people suffer. You get born, life’s a bitch and then you die. But I for one certainly would, if it was possible, even if it meant starting out as a new born baby and making all the same stupid mistakes that I have. For me, and I hope for many, the good times have been worth suffering those periods of doom and gloom, the regrets for opportunities missed and things said and unsaid that were hurtful to loved ones and can never be taken back after their death, and so on.

If I have seen further…

But how much better would it be to live your life again starting as a new-born baby, but knowing all that you know now, possessing from the get-go all the wisdom that you have accumulated through your present life of strife and struggle? Think about that. Newton (was it?) said, If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of giants. How much more wisdom might be accumulated in the world, and how much more rapid the progress of mankind and civilisation if we could start our lives already possessing that wonderful store of hindsight that took us a previous lifetime to acquire.

Yes, like many developments of technology it opens the way to a bunch of horrors. The time delay would be a handicap if we tried to clone a lost loved one. We would grow old while the clone is growing up. But how about, when a loved one dies and we are sunk in grief, we abduct someone else’s body and reprogram their brain. Some useless, worthless person, say. Any volunteers? Yes, we’ve lost the original body, but way-hay! we have a substitute for that, and with reprogramming have we not in essence re-created the person? By careful choice of target we might even improve on the original. Perhaps you fancy a slimmer/blonde/blue-eyed/taller/shorter/chubbier/more curvy/more muscular spouse than the one you just lost. Oh dear! Meat there for dystopian future fiction, I think. Any takers? Hugh Howey?

Anything that possibly can happen…

Hmmm. Needs a bit more thinking about, I guess. But I’m a believer that anything that possibly can happen, will happen eventually, regardless of laws against it or human disapproval. So bring it on, Professor Kaku. You want a guinea pig? Look no further; I’m your man. Given another lifetime or two maybe even I could achieve something approaching wisdom.

Image: Millions long for immortality who don't know what to do with themselves on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

Millions long for immortality image by Duncan C. (Creative Commons)

Site update: re More Books

I read a good book the other day…

Regular readers may notice the new MORE BOOKS item in the menu above. When I started this blog I never intended to offer reviews of other author’s work, and I still don’t intend to do that, at least not in the sense of literary critique. I am not inviting submissions for review nor will I discuss books I did not like. Instead I’m going to tell you about some books I happen to have read and enjoyed. You might like some of them too.

Generally, I’m not going to give much of a précis of the story as many reviewers do. You can perfectly well read the author’s blurb to find that out. I’ll just say what caught my attention. First up to test the system will be a modified version of an old post about Peter May’s THE LEWIS MAN. I’ll add new posts from time to time in my usual haphazard way. Use the RSS feed or the email feed (sidebar, on the right) if you want notice whenever something new is added, and by all means add your own comments at the foot of any page, provided they’re not libellous or otherwise objectionable.

Want an email when I release a new title? Click the yellow button in  the sidebar>>>>>>>

Boiling bunnies: Oranges are not the only sauce

Podcast: download (duration 8mins/11mb)

Image: Tin of Spam.

Hold the thought: all will become clear.

Waiting patiently for my breakfast Shreddies to soak up the milk the other morning – coz I like ‘em soggy, y’know – I heard on the wireless about author Jeanette Winterson’s trollbashing on twitter after she tweeted about killing and boiling a rabbit that had invaded her garden. 

‘Rabbit ate my parsley. I am eating the rabbit.’  said Jeanette pithily.

(link to story in the Guardian)

Jeanette – author of Oranges are not the only fruit – put up a spirited defence against the critics who jumped on her black humour tweet.

I commend Jeanette for standing up to her critics. She made the cogent point that if you eat meat you ought not to cringe at the killing of animals for your delight. Jeanette’s tweet went viral and she has been swamped with comments both critical and favourable: Twitter red in bark and bite, you might say. You won’t find me on twitter, but the story set me thinking…

I once killed a rabbit…

It was a long time ago, but Read More →

Vindicated! Shares in Elastoplast set to soar…

I occasionally stand accused of being a curmudgeon. The persecution point to the facts that I’m not much into Skype or social media generally. You won’t find me on Facebook or twitter. I don’t even have a reliable home broadband connection, but rely instead on a mobile device that sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. I was eventually badgered by well-meaning relatives into having one of these new-fangled mobile ’phones, but hesitated the other day to open a PayPal account because PayPal wanted to know my number (Why?).

I admit to writing some time ago tongue-in-cheek about the precautionary sticking plaster that covers the lens of the webcam on my laptop. Faced with such damning evidence I plead guilty m’lud, with knobs on.

But whadayaknow? On the TV news this week I hear that an eighty-strong international nest of thieves and spies have been arrested for using software that can remotely turn on the webcam of your laptop and spy on you while you work (or whatever it is you do with your laptop…)

Call me paranoid, but if industrial espionage-ists (is that a word?) can do that then you can bet your boots there is some sad, twisted nutter out there who has nothing better to do than spy on you!

I confidently predict a worldwide rush on sticking plasters. In fact, I’m off to the corner shop now to buy a copy of the FT. Forget Pfizer/AstraZenica: What price are shares in Elastoplast today… :)

Spring Gardening & the Politics of the Workhouse:

One gardener’s eccentric philosophy.

Image: Bluebells.

Bluebells in my garden

Podcast: download (4 mins 52s/7mb)

Isn’t it wonderful to see the trees and the hedgerows turn green again in spring? All winter, between bouts of clearing away the wreckage of my workshop wrought by a succession of storms, I have been working on a re-edit of Sunset over Salhouse Broad for its forthcoming release in paperback. But recently, with the return of the sun and the slow draining of floodwater, like millions of my fellow citizens I found myself out in the garden tidying winter’s ravages and fettling the lawnmower, that tyrant of summer Sundays. Call me eccentric, but though I am always glad to put the mower away in autumn and enjoy a few months relief from the tyranny of ever-growing grass, I am just as glad to dig the thing out again in spring. It makes its annual debut in the garden along with the daffodils, soon after the snowdrops have wilted and nature spurs me to threaten the pink climbing rose with its annual haircut.

In my garden I am God… kind of. At least, I am in control to the extent that Read More →