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Greatest Detective?

Well done to Carol Westron who successfully argued the case for Hercule Poirot and saw her favourite win the audience vote. Really interesting evening, with good talks from the speakers, good questions from the audience and nifty observations from Will Sutton, our moderator. Who also managed to control Carol and me, which isn’t easy.

great detectives

Charlie’s latest newsletter

Apologies this a couple of days later than usual. Blame doing a visit to a potential UK Meet 2020 venue and going to see an Agatha Christie play. Pleased to say that my cold is all better although I have infected the rest of my family. I keep offering to rub their chests with Vick, but the offer isn’t always well received. I wonder why…

News

Our “Tea and cakes with the Deadly Dames” event in Portsmouth went very well. Next up is me making a case for Cadfael being the greatest fictional detective at the Great Detectives panel on Thursday 7th March at 7pm at the Eldon Building, which is part of Portsmouth University. Tickets on sale now!

Today’s special offer is on a print book. If you fancy a copy of Lessons in Power to have in your paw, then it’s cheap as the proverbial chips (although not real chips which are actually quite expensive!) on Amazon.

Remember a few weeks back I was looking for a title for an anthology of old stories I’m republishing? I had some cracking suggestions, including the excellent-but-probably-unusable-because-of-copyright “Charlie’s Angels”. Having started work on formatting and tidying, I found the four stories fall naturally into one for each season, so am reissuing the challenge. A prize for the best title for such an anthology.

The excerpt this week is from a few years back, the novella length story Second Helpings  which is slightly more bittersweet than my normal offerings (although a happy ending is guaranteed…)

Stuart pulled his car up to the garage door, turned off the engine, and sat, staring at the steering wheel without really seeing it. Friday already—where the hell had the last fortnight gone? Where the hell had the last year gone?
Dad had rung on Thursday, no, make that the previous Thursday, to say he was taking Isabel to see a show, sounding airy, as if he was trying to give the impression it wasn’t important. Yesterday he’d reported back that they’d been to their matinee, although the old man had been cagey about whether they’d come home to deepest Berkshire that evening. The uncomfortable thought that the pair of them might be doing more than holding hands and sharing butterfly kisses got shut out of Stuart’s brain. What business was it of his anyway? Dad was happy, even if he wasn’t.
God, he hated child murder cases, especially when it seemed a member of the family might be responsible. He felt nauseous just at the thought of the tests he’d run, let alone gathering their results. Still, if the police had enough evidence to make an arrest and make the charges stick, he’d played his part.
That sort of thing hadn’t been so bad back in the days when he’d been able to walk in the house and know somebody was there to take away a slice of the pain. Somebody who could absorb it all without complaint and still come back for more.
He turned to look at the darkened windows, knowing he’d be opening the front door to nothingness. Friday evening used to be one of the highlights of the week. Mark would cook dinner, they’d share a bottle of wine, and then they’d use that big, comfortable bed. This Friday would see Stuart flicking on the television and catching up on the sleep he’d missed while helping to pin down the little boy’s step-grandfather with the crime.
It was enough to make him want to restart the car straight away. Dad wouldn’t mind, would he, if his only son appeared on the doorstep and said, “I can’t stay alone tonight”? What a bloody state to be in, when you couldn’t summon up the courage to walk through your own front door.
He tried an old trick, counting to ten then getting out of the car. Counting to ten again and getting to the door. Counting to ten again and then putting the key in the lock. Stupid, but it worked. Counting to ten again and he was in the hall. The effort seemed to expend his last bit of energy. He couldn’t face cooking, or anything more taxing than slouching on the sofa, and if his head nodded within minutes of him parking his backside, what did it matter?
His mobile went off, propelling him out of sleep and sending the remote control flying onto the floor. Who the hell could be ringing him at six o’clock in the evening? It had to be work, another bloody-awful case to deal with.
“Hello?” he said, fighting to fully wake himself.
“Stuart Collins?” The voice wasn’t one he recognised, and if it was somebody unknown from work, they would probably have addressed him as Dr. Collins. Had to be a salesman or a scammer. He tried to keep his bubbling anger in check.
“Yes?”
“I’m Isabel Franklin’s son.”
“Paul?” Stuart relaxed a bit. Known quantity, or at least known about.
“That’s me. I wanted to introduce myself.”
“Oh. Right. Well . . . hello.”
“Sorry, this is a bit awkward over the phone. I wondered if we could meet up. Have a chat. Nothing to worry about,” Paul added hastily.
“Yes. That would be fine.” A bit early for the official meet-the-family bit—and surely that should be all four of them—but maybe things had moved faster than Stuart had reckoned with. “When were you thinking of?”
“As soon as you like. Where are you?”
Stuart, brain not quite in gear, almost said, In the lounge.
“I’m not far from outside Maidenhead.”
“Great. I’m in High Wycombe. There’s a pub about halfway. Do you know The Bull, just outside Marlow, on the main road? It used to be called something else.”
“I can Google it. Although I must have driven past the place.” Mark’s family had lived out that way; the memory of driving around Marlow, in happier days, stung.
“Most people have. There’s a garage, then a church, then The Bull. Can you get there by eight?”
“This evening?” This sounded urgent. “Unless the road’s full of tractors, yes.”
“Magic. See you then.”
Stuart stared at the phone after Paul had terminated the call. Friday night could well be interesting again, at least for this week.

And finally – rare that I include a picture of me, but couldn’t resist me Deadly Daming!

Charlie

If you have the chance, this is a must see

Mr C and I went to see an extraordinary (free!) exhibition in Southampton this morning: twelve da Vinci original drawings, including anatomical studies, plants and animals, word puzzles, etc. It was nothing less than stunning. Not only were the works themselves fascinating, there was a real sense of being in the presence of genius. I kept saying, “I can’t believe Leonardo touched this paper…”

There are exhibitions of Leonardo’s drawings all over the UK at present. If you get the chance to go, please take it.

 

On this day a year ago…

We set off for our first ever cruise. We must have enjoyed it as we’re off on another in less than a month (and have done a mini one in between!) I had insomnia several nights and spent part of the first one watching the oil rigs go by. They were lovely – but I do enjoy a nice bit of industrial architecture. And lights. (Southampton docks and Southsea!)

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Also, there’s a smashing review for Old Sins over at Padme’s blogspot today. “Charlie Cochrane is one of the best when it comes to mixing murder, love, and humor.”

Rainbow snippet – Hallowed Ground

Hallowed Ground is one of the stories in Pack Up Your Troubles.

There was me, the padre and a packet of Black Cats. And bugger all else except the pitch dark night. Me, the padre and a packet of Black Cats we didn’t dare light any of, because the Germans might have spotted the glow and that would have been that.
I wasn’t even supposed to be there, but I guess neither of us were.

He’d been out to take church parade for the lads and wanted to return to base so he could do the same for another poor group of sods the next day. I’d given him a lift from the casualty clearing station, and we were both heading back, when a shell took a fancy to the piece of ground just to the left of us, the little strip we’d played cricket on just two weeks previously, before the Germans moved further forward. Up went me, the padre, the car and all, including Stevens, the poor injured lad we were taking back with us. The lad who was at present scattered all over the field, with his legs at third slip and his head lolling around square leg, if you follow me.

More excerpts at Rainbow Snippets.

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