Tuesday, 20 March 2012

I'm dreamy about Phryne*!

There is a problem with the (almost) universal nature of the internet.  While it's possible to tip-tap-tip-tap one's way around the world from the comfort of your own home, international boundaries still exist.

A good example of this I can vouch for personally.

I'm an avid reader of Kerry Greenwood's Phryne Fisher mysteries.  Set in 1920's Melbourne, the heroine is an outstanding, sometimes infuriating "flapper" who investigates everything from murder to drug-smuggling.  Wealthy, intelligent and determined, Phryne's adventures are a pleasure to read.
I was pleased to hear that Kerry Greenwood had been offered for Phryne to be televised - a whole television series based on the gal!  Aired on Australia's ABC Network, the series has a great following on Facebook.  It even has short trailers.
Of course, I can't access Aussie TV - even on the internet.  I can't access the channel's iPlayer facility due to the copyright issues.  So I know the series is "out there" on the internet but I can't actually see it!

I've now got to wait for the inevitable DVD publication.  I can wait.  Because of the internet, when it comes out I could probably order it within an hour.  However - what about DVD "regions"?  I've got to make sure that when purchased, the Aussie "region" plays on my old UK DVD player.  Or, perhaps, it'll be produced on a multi-region format; after all, international sales are a big attraction.

Until then, I've got to nibble my fingernails while waiting to see how the series will come out.

*  Rhymes with "Tiny" - so my title isn't, quite, alliterative.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

"Trying to be a good person is seeking to do what others say are your good points while avoiding what you consider are your bad points."

"Accentuate your positives but confront your negatives!"

"Life is never black and white.  The Road to Hell may be paved with good intentions but the stones are greased with righteousness."

Who said 'em?

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

I take great heart in the fact that our local branch of Waterstones has a large and well-stocked Crime section ... as well as a separate section called Cosies.

Now I shall shy away from defining a "cosy" mystery, only saying that many would name one major "cosy" author - Agatha Christie - and also be able to read the jacket blurb and say "Yup ... it's a cosy, all right!"

I just think it's sweet that a major chain has a particular section for this time of crime fiction.  The trick is in the judging of what comprises of the type.  I've no complaints - I'd always look through this section as I would through a hypothetical "hard boiled" or "serial killer" fiction section.

I think I'll also let the authors know of their novels presence in the section; they might disagree with the label.  I would also like to point out that about 80% of the titles are independent publishers - here in the UK, this is largely US publishers such as Poisoned Pen Press or Berkley Prime Crime.  However, is this an indicator of the reluctance of major "mainstream" publishing houses to bother with cosies?  Since Waterstones has seen fit to make a section devoted to them, perhaps they're missing a trick!

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Ah, sweet suburbia

Taking advantage of early summer weather here in Robin Hood's hood, I've been incredibly suburban in that I've done a bit of D.I.Y. then cleared out the greenhouse for some constructive growing - and my homebrew - then did a bit of weeding in the front garden.  It's very pleasant.  It's surprisingly relaxing.  You feel a sense of "getting something done".
It isn't, then, so inexplicable that so many true crimes - and therefore fictional cases - were based on respectability, social acceptance and, shall we say, bourgeois suburban standards.  You may scoff at a crime being motivated by a neighbours cat constantly dropping "its business" among the peonies or someone else "bringing down the tone" of the street but the drive for social acceptance is strong, no less for it being in a social group that the offended demanded entry.

People like labels and being able to pigeon-hole others.  Bad or not, appearances do count.  And if one has set a standard or target milieu, then woe betide anyone who bucks against it.  Every country has it's class system but England has had it for far longer - the feudal system is only the most basic example.  Throughout the Victorian days, social standing was highly prized and quite complex.  Two world wars - and the slaughter of men from all social strata - meant that the class system took a hammering and changed, but never left.  The fifties and sixties saw the Middle Class become a desired power in of itself and, by extension into the present day, the suburban ideal of ... what?

A nice-looking house (from the outside, at least) with possibly one garage/garage extension to demonstrate a substantial yet modest income.  A pleasant garden showing an abundance of pretty flowers throughout the growing season and, most desired, a lawn.  The average Mr Average will not employ a gardener to get the latter.  By the very fact that they have enough time to get the desired effect means that they are employed but have enough time to treat gardening as a hobby.  I once lived next to a "professional" couple with two kids.  They employed gardeners once a week to cultivate a lovely garden, trim hedges, cut trees and so on.  Their statement was "we can afford workers and we have such busy lifestyles ..."  I'd have loved their garden, just to potter around in and work on myself.
The thing is, appearance is all.  You may do some things because that is the way "it's done" or the way you were told.  But, essentially, most folk limit themselves on public displays by considering what the neighbours see.  I could happily plant vegetables in the front garden but the entire street would be outraged and wear their lower jaws out in their vitriolic outpourings - to the right people, naturally.  But I'm an easy-going chap and like a decorative flower.  So I'll trim the hedge to regulation height, fight an ongoing conflict with dandelions and mutter about wall flowers.
And this leads me to crimes committed for "respectability" or standards or such.  It is important to many, even more so to those who care.  All it would take is someone whose sense of social position is all they have as a benchmark for acceptance and "tribal" rank and they'll be as brutal with the neighbours as with the weeds!

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Much Loved Classics

To give relief to to those interested in my blog not for my domestic tribulations but for my enthusiasm for Historical Crime Fiction ...

What is it about well-known, widely available classics that makes one return to them?  I'm referring mainly to whodunits which - when all is said and done - once the reader has read the solution, should be like a completed crossword puzzle; discarded after completion or "reveal".

Look at it like this:

All murder mysteries - regardless of period setting - are puzzles.  It doesn't matter the writing standard or the background plot, a reader is presented a puzzle ... who done it?  The reader gets enjoyment from the mental exercise of trying to predict the solution that, in time, the author will reveal.  I cannot deny nor underplay the factor of good writing.  A plot can be clever but if it's dressed in dull, uninspired prose then, let's face it, we'll loose interest.  But, in essence, a murder mystery once revealed is a puzzle with the solution given.

So why do we return to read them again and again?  Or why do we studiously watch a television production of a puzzle "play" which has been solved?  Or, taken to logical conclusion, why do we watch a film or read a book of such a challenge over and over again?

I have no all-encompassing revelation.  I can only speak for myself (well, this is my blog after all) and put it this way.  I've been asked "You've seen this episode of Poirot so many times.  Why do you want to see it again?"

Because it's good!

Why read a mystery book that you know the solution?

Because it's good!

There can be an unspecific something - use the overused phrase X-Factor - that appeals.  Like trying to explain a favoured taste, it's difficult to put your finger on it.

I'll always listen to radio productions of novels that I know well - I'm currently listening to Gaudy Night on BBC Radio 4 Extra, a story I've read many times and seen in one excellent production.  Why am I listening?  Because I want to see (or hear) what "they've" done to a much-admired story.  When I find out about a production of Lindsey Davis' Falco series, I'll do anything to hear it.  I have the complete DVD series of Sherlock Holmes cases, played by Jeremy Brett (let alone others) and I'll watch them over and over again.

And I do this because I enjoy the production, I appreciate the work for itself - it's fair presentation of a practically memorised plot.

But why do we return to read favourite puzzles over and over again?

Hmm.  It isn't familiarity.  It isn't even the challenge.  For me - not particularly intellectual - it's to read and enjoy.  And discover more in the writing that I might not have seen before.

And the nice thing is, good writing gives many things to read that may've been missed before!

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

It seems that once one thing goes wrong, it wants company and invites anther problem.  Who brings along a friend.  And so on until there's a regular party of trouble.
First the household becomes a tenuous link to normality then our poor, overworked car conks out!  Here's us who are finding finances tough and our work essential motor decides to have a conniption fit.  Still, it's been going for over ten years from new and, lately, been doing loads of running around for the firm.

So, what's next?

Monday, 5 March 2012

Well, we spent a lovely - if wet - day with the wolfhound (AKA The Great Hairy Fule) in Clumber Park with several others from the Facebook group of owners.  For "Facebook Group" read "Support Group".

Today, I've discovered that my rented home's electrical wiring is "scary" according to a qualified sparks.  All I wanted to do was power my shed in which resides my books, my PC, my music ... and me for much of the time!  To quote this nice, and very qualified bloke - "I can't see how the owner thinks he can rent with a house wired like this!  He leases through an agency?  Then the agents are at fault for not checking the certificates."

So we're living in a death trap ... er ... problem home and I've got to tell the agents that either they or the owner has let a bunch of "cowboys" play around with the electricity mains!

This is going to be fun, considering the tale of the dripping tap ...

Since we'd moved in, the kitchen tap has dripped.  On inspection, we'd commented on it and the agents told us that "the owner" had it fixed.
Since then, drip in the kitchen tap has got bigger.  Since we're on metered water, every drip costs us money!
Three weeks ago we again reported it to the agents.  They got a plumber to give a quote.  They passed this onto the owner, who also gave a quote: "That's too much, I'll do it myself."
That was the last we've heard of the issue.  The tap still drips.

So you can imagine my joy at the prospect of telling the agents that the house wiring is illegal and needs to be re-done.  It reflects on their business if they've overlooked shoddy - and possibly - dangerous work.  But I can see them reporting back to the owner, the owner thinking that we (the complainers) are too expensive and looking to evict us.

And in case anyone thinks this can't be done, it happens.  Litigation takes money and time.  Meanwhile, we've lives to lead, kids to go into school and me to tip-tap on this keyboard!  And my family - being renters rather than mortgage-owners - is at the mercy of an antiquated system which favours property owners over people who live in properties.  Thanks to the 80's, the concept of owning land rises supreme over actually using it.  There's rules about what can be rented and is safe to rent ... but the rules about finding and looking after a place to rent are still lacking. 

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Good discussion today on BBC Radio Nottingham, concerning E-books considering today is International Book Day*.
Managed one of my sporadic gibbers on the phone, mainly pointing out that while I've over 3000 books - and will always want more - I adore my Kindle as a versatile adjunct to the printed novel.

*  It seems that every day in the calender is an International *Somesuch* Day, usually decided upon by someone no one has ever heard of, for unspecified motive, for no other reason than, perhaps, to highlight said item/cause.  There's never any publicity or drive apart from - I assume - a press release to the usual agencies, such as Reuters.  Hypothetically, I imagine it's possible to pick a random date and declare it "National Scuff Day" and have media with space to publicise the plight of badly treated shoes!  Perhaps I could get fiscal sponsorship from the Shoe Manufacturers of Great Britain.