Death in Captivity – some sly slash

I’ve just done an immediate re-read of this little gem from 1952 and there are some some smashing scenes connected with an in-POW-camp production of The Barretts of Wimpole Street, which clearly has to have one of the chaps playing Elizabeth (and getting the Italian commandant a bit hot under the collar in doing so). Some beautifully sly dialogue:

“I love you,” said Rolf-Callender.
“I should have refused to see you again after our first meeting,” said Peter Perse. 

Then it becomes obvious it’s a rehearsal scene, with the great end line, “…and will you boys please remember that you’re in love”, but it does deliberately initially toy with and amuse the reader.

Then, when the escape is at last attempted and the POWs exit in disguise…

“Did you see Rolf-Callender?”
“No–I missed him–he was dressed as a girl, wasn’t he? What was he like?”
“Gorgeous,” said Byfold. “I hope he got through the tunnel without wrecking his corsage. He was heading for Vatican City.” 



Greetings from what is at present a workmen free zone! Until the next calamity strikes, of course. Meanwhile, I’m looking out of the window and were it not for the green on the trees I’d think this was winter. Anybody else freezing cold and soaking wet?
I have at last got around to working on a print version of Lessons in Playing a Murderous Tune which is up for pre-order in kindle version. Apologies if it isn’t ready for the e-book release date of 26th August – I’ve been up to my eyeballs in stuff to do with the voluntary activities I seem to get myself roped into.

I’m happy to say that my author copies of An Act of Detection have arrived and very pretty they look. I know I’m a bit old fashioned but I do like a paperback to hold in my hand and read. Not usually one of my own, though! Too many excellent book by other authors to work through.
Bargain of the week is Lessons in Love, on offer again. Lovely to see the old warhorse still ploughing on. 

This week’s excerpt is from the upcoming Cambridge Fellows novella. Orlando has received a letter with a commission to investigate not one but two mysteries…
“The police believe the sudden death of Peter Denison was due to heart failure, and there had been no need of an inquest. An outcome which Professor Lewis-Duckworth refuses to accept, believing that diagnosis covers a multitude of sins and might actually mean that the doctor doesn’t know what killed him and doesn’t want to admit the fact.”
“Professor Lewis-Duckworth?”
“Warden of Gabriel. Equivalent to the master of St. Bride’s. Not a bad chap if rumour is to be believed. Better than the bad tempered anti-social curmudgeon who was warden in my day.”
Jonty hid his smile behind his tea cup. That would have meant two bad tempered anti-social curmudgeons at Gabriel back then.
Orlando continued. “The chap who died was a retired musician. In his day he’d been a virtuoso—quite famous in musical circles—but he’d been stricken with arthritis that had come on so swiftly and severely that he’d had to give up playing.”
“That’s sad. Did the warden include all these facts in his letter?”
“Some of them. He also enclosed a selection of cuttings from the local newspapers. I can show them to you later, if I—we—choose to accept the request for help.”
Back to the uncertainty. Jonty took a deep breath. “I think it would be very hard to turn down such an appeal, Orlando. I know that’s not the answer you wish to hear, but what reason could you give that would be believable? We’re right at the start of the long vac, so no great college or university commitments to constrain us and if we pretended we were about to go on holiday, we’d be sure to be found out. You know how gossip, academic or otherwise, gets about.”
Orlando nodded. “I know that. I realise I’m being stupid and I should snatch this case up readily, because I can also imagine your mother taking me by the arm, walking me round the garden at the Old Manor and telling me that were I to have a triumph it would overlay my memories of Oxford with a layer of triumph.” He cast his eyes down. “But I’m scared.”
“Oh, Orlando.” Jonty left his seat, took his lover by the hand and—just as he’d done in the study, earlier—eased him out of his seat. Only this time he took the man into a warm embrace. “I’m not going to tell you not to be scared, that you’re fretting for nothing as all will be well, because that’s just stupid. I will say that if you’re inclined to be brave then I’m here at your side and will be in Oxford. As you’ve been at my side all the times I’ve been scared or upset because the old memories have bubbled up again. And before you start apologising for having started off a train of thought towards that particularly unpleasant station, don’t. I’m enjoying being the strong one.” He couldn’t resist a chuckle. “And from the way your body’s reacting, you’re enjoying this cuddle. Such a shame that it would scandalise Mrs. Ward if we went back to bed.”
“You’re insatiable.” Orlando kissed the top of Jonty’s head then eased out of the embrace. “If that was me being told off, it was one of the more agreeable chastening experiences.” 

And finally – more from our Jersey adventure. Part of the amazing St Ouen’s Manor, which is like something out of a fairy tale. 

Oh – and an addendum. I did the draw for my goodie bag and it’s currently winging its way by air and land to Texas. I’ll be doing another giveaway in the late autumn so stay tuned. 

Next Cambridge Fellows novella hull up on the horizon!

(You can tell I’ve been re-watching Master and Commander…)

It’s less than a fortnight until the next CF romantic mystery – Lessons in Playing a Murderous Tune – gets let loose on the world. To answer a question I’ve had a couple of times, yes, there will be a print version but at present I am so busy with having-to-be-adult-and-responsible-type-stuff that writing life is a bit on hold. This too will pass and normal service be resumed at some point.

Orlando Coppersmith is called in to solve not one but two problems: a suspected murder and a mysterious violin. So why is he reluctant to take the case – is it because it came from the warden of his old college? Once more, it’s up to Jonty Stewart to get his partner through the challenge and employ their own, unique, way to finding a solution.


Death in Captivity

You all know how I love a classic age mystery book – and also my fondness for war films such as The Great Escape. So I was delighted to come across Michael Gilbert’s book Death in Captivity – better still it’s proved to be every bit as good as it promised. I’ve put it aside for a reread in a couple of weeks because I enjoyed it so much. Good mystery, good characterisation and an excellent depiction of POW life (in Italy, which is unusual in itself).

Thoroughly recommended.


Battle Proms

Now that my arms have recovered from waving my flag of St George – and Mr C’s saltire – and the voice has returned after blasting out all the prommy favourites I wanted to do a bit of a write up of the Highclere Battle Prom. It can probably be summed up with one sentence – I loved every little bit of it. The beautiful setting, red devils, the cavalry re-enactors, the WWI field gun that featured when they played the 1812 overture, the spitfire flying overhead, doing victory rolls while the orchestra played Elgar…I could go on for ages. Did I mention the fireworks, that were in time to the music? Or the best part of 200 guns?

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But one of the best bits was simply the endearing British dottiness of the occasion. We set up tasteful little camps in the queue waiting for the gates to open, where we listened to the cricket via our phones and had pre-picnic snacks. People wore union flag clothing and light up hats. They brought elaborate picnics and, once in the spectator area, made bases that were surrounded by union flag bunting, with lights and tables and – in one memorable cases – a life size cardboard figure of the queen. If you think the Brits are restrained and boring, go to one of these events and have all your ideas changed.

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PS Next year I’m getting a Ginger Spice type dress to wear.