I mentioned last time that I have had a significant event recently (the 20th anniversary of my 40th birthday) and we’re having a family celebration for it this weekend. I get to see my beloved Saracens, whom I’ve supported since they played in the local park, turn out against Bath at their impressive London stadium. This is very close to Hendon RAF museum so I get to see a plane or two as well. I’ll be losing my short on the Grand National somewhere in between…
Most months I conduct interviews for The Big Thrill (the International Thriller Writers e-zine) so it was a great thrill to be interviewed myself in this month’s issue about the release of Lessons in Chasing the Wild Goose. John Darrin certainly comes up with something whackier than I usually manage to. He certainly got a lot of interesting answers from me!
I’m always blogging hither and yon, and this month I’ve got some thoughts about authors getting out of the house which will go up at the BSB blog this weekend and the blog hop for Autism awareness I’ll be taking part in next week.
All Lessons Learned is still on special offer on kindle so if you need to nab it, get in now.
Don’t forget to drop into the Cover? Art! exhibition at Harbour Lights cinema gallery if you’re in the Southampton area. The exhibition runs from 4th to 30th May 2018.
Today I’m including an excerpt from Awfully Glad, which gets referenced briefly in Lessons in Chasing the Wild Goose.
A stockbrokers’ office in London, clearly a prosperous business. Sun streaming through newly polished windows. At a desk, one of the junior partners, doing very well considering it’s only been a year since the armistice.
A year. Was that all? On occasions it felt like a hundred, at other times like it had only been last week.
Madeleine’s costumes were long gone, donated to the local operatic society, who’d been extremely grateful, given the quality of the fabric, although they’d need adjusting for any woman who wasn’t built like a wing three-quarter. That was a part of Sam Hines’s life that had been put away along with the puttees and other mementos of the war.
He kept a picture, though, on one of the office shelves, framed in silver and with his Military Cross draped casually over it. If anyone asked, Sam said it was his cousin, that his medal was dedicated to her. If they asked further—which they usually didn’t unless they were female—he said she’d died that December, just weeks after the war ended, which was figuratively if not literally true, as that had been when the Macaronis had given their last, triumphant performance.
And the cousin story explained the remarkable resemblance between the glamorous girl in the photo and the respectable stockbroker in the office. A wiser man might have kept the picture hidden altogether or been bold as brass with the truth itself. Sam wasn’t ashamed of what he’d done—he knew how much his audience had valued his performance, the part he’d played in keeping up morale—so why would he want to distance himself from it now? He honestly couldn’t say.
Still, he had other things to keep his mind on now, not least a diary full of work for the week.
He studied the appointment book, seeing several familiar names there. Some old buffers coming in to discuss their portfolios, men he’d have to smile and be polite to when they started on about the war. He’d make sure he had his medal out in plain view when they came along. One or two names he noted with real pleasure, widows he was helping to eke out their mite—not the usual clientele, but they’d been drawn under the wing of old Mr. Mullally and he’d been pleased to help. Then there was a name which rang a bell, but he couldn’t quite work out which belfry it came from.
Mr. J. Browne. New client.
School? University? He’d run across somebody with this name before, although he guessed it wasn’t that uncommon. He hadn’t been one of the Macaronis, certainly, nor—Sam was fairly confident—in the regiment. At training? At the rugby club?
A sickening idea hit him in the stomach. At one of his other clubs, the ones where you might well meet a fellow rugby player, but not an institution dedicated to that game. A club at which to indulge in a more dangerous sport, one that could leave you open to blackmail—or violence—no matter how discreet you tried to be.
Browne. Yes. While he still couldn’t pin down the name, that was the belfry from which it rang. He was certain Browne had been an attractive man. One he’d been involved with at some point in the past? Sam didn’t think so. He usually remembered their names. Then maybe someone on the fringes? An observer of the game? And was this chap Browne coming here to make the ultimatum—pay up or else?
Pull yourself together.
He’d let his imagination run away. It would probably turn out to be some other old buffer with nothing to do with what Sam got up to of a weekend. By Wednesday he’d know for certain, so why worry about it now? But the still, small voice in his head kept nagging at him, wishing that the appointment was sooner, so the cloud of worry wouldn’t hang over him all through Monday and Tuesday.
For whatever reason, the name of Browne buzzed like a fly in his head. Or a bullet passing too close for comfort.
And finally, a picture from last spring, seeing as this one seems to be so long in coming!