Wednesday, 30 January 2013

A new page for my short stories

Hi friends and readers;

I have now added another page to my blog, which is displayed on the right hand side of the blog, and is titled 'Short stories by this author'.

The short stories are then listed as separate pages in a sub-index thereafter.

They are a little different from 'The Borough Boys' and 'The thin red line' - which I am currently working on.

They will all, hopefully, appear in an anthology, sometime later in 2013.

I hope you enjoy, and I would be grateful for any feedback!

Monday, 28 January 2013

Review - Episode 5 - Ripper Street

A much simpler and specific crime this week, which brought out quite a bit more about the troubled DS Bennett Drake (Jerome Flynn).

Following the skilled killing of a horse, clearly by a skilled marksman, in order to allow a team of criminals to blow open the safe in a security wagon, with clear Military precision, Drake encounters his former Colonel, Madoc Faulkner (Iain Glenn).

I am always disappointed when TV companies cast 'bad guys' as bad guys - it somewhat gives away too much, too early. Why can't we have some bumbling comic or romantic surprise us all with a villainous role BBC?

Knowledgeable of Drake's demons, and aware of his current weaknesses - Rose (Charlene McKenna) - one of Long Susan's top 'toffers', Faulkner looks to tempt Drake into becoming part of his merry band of Robbers, and 'do his duty' to put up two fingers to 'the bitch Queen'. Faulkner has clearly been stalking Drake and has the initial edge.

I was not aware how much revulsion there actually was of our beloved Queen Victoria and her Governments,  until I started researching the second novel in my series, which will be called 'The thin red line', a story of anarchists and war (set against the backdrop of the Crimean conflict) and their pursuit by 'The Borough Boys'. Only then did I read of the anti-war feelings that the ordinary people had, and of the appalling way our servicemen were treated back in 1854, et seq.

Drake's love of Rose, clearly not reciprocated - and seen by all but Drake, including Captain Homer Jackson (Adam Rosenberg), who is busy smoking some recreational drug whilst Rose herself shows she really is a multi-skilled tart, 'pleasuring' the hedonistic American, and being warned not to break Drake's heart! 

Drake starts to have his flashbacks, vague to begin with, and eventually succumbs to temptation, or so it appears, joining up with Faulkner's band, who include other ex soldiers he has served with.

In an attack on the Mint, we see Drake's moral integrity tested, when one of his ex corporals shoots one of the Mint staff, against the plan, and his honest 'copper' comes through all the temptation and he dutifully intervenes. 

Suddenly he is alone in a group of heavily armed bad guys. Surprise, surprise, he is infamous to Faulkner and to the Corporal as having single-handedly killed huge numbers of the enemy back in Khartoum, when the only survivor in his unit. This is the source of his flashbacks, it would appear.

In a funny sort of twist, we find that Faulkner is not looking for gold, but to seize and destroy minted medals to be awarded in future circumstances, and show his disgust for the treatment of fellow soldiers. Drake spoils the event by pouring water over explosives and Faulkner's wrath is exposed.

This fighting spirit and fearlessness is demonstrated and the 'beast is let free' as he mercilessly overpowers many of the group before being overpowered and threatened with death by the irate Faulkner.

He is 'rescued' by the adaptable Homer Jackson, who shows us his own military skills, using a recovered sniper rifle to pick off the captors, before Faulkner has the final say and shoots himself dead rather than losing his dignity as a criminal. Jackson's American Civil War role has still to be fully exploited.

Free again, and trust restored by Reid (Matthew Macfayden),Drake goes back to Long Susan's and seeks out Rose, telling her he wants her and that he will give her everything a woman would want. Sadly, Rose has other ideas, and clearly prefers her present lifestyle.

The touching release of two Lovebirds that Drake has bought her in anticipation, was a bit of an obvious irony.

So, Drake is an ex soldier - we knew that. He suffers from flashbacks and has ghosts and monsters - we knew that. Now we know that he was a lean, mean killing machine - I suspect most people had worked that out. He suffers from what we would now recognise as PTSD? - I pointed that out two episodes back! What I am waiting for is when and how it will finally come out in full - that will, hopefully be worth waiting for!

Monday, 21 January 2013

A comparison. Ripper Street v ' The Borough Boys '

We are now four episodes into Ripper Street, and it is nice to see how Police are being portrayed as of circa1889, some forty years after my first novel 'The Borough Boys' is set.

In 1889, significant development had been made in terms of the role and responsibilities of Police Officers. 

  • Laws were being created that targeted the most common, persistent or repugnant of crimes.
  • There was a defined rank structure and chains of command, and an established Detective career path was evolving in some forces.
  • Officers were becoming more well equipped, with better uniform, handcuffs, whistles, the first 'Black Mariahs' were available.
  • In some force areas proper mortuary facilities were created for the Police, and dedicated Police Surgeons conducted structured post-mortem examinations and had bodies and crime scenes photographed.
  • Galton's use of fingerprint identification was now being utilized and recognised as both a proof and at the same time a safeguard.
  • The population was starting to understand that the Police were here to stay, and law and order was becoming an established pillar of society.
  • Courts and legal processes have become more streamlined and professional.

Ripper Street is starting to portray that evolution, and really does suggest the early shoots of a modern criminal investigation service. 

In my novel - 'The Borough Boys'  -  so far they have not had much, if any, of that change facilitated for them.

My central characters, Beddows and Shepherd, would be amongst the Police Officers who will shape the Police of 1889.

They have very basic uniform and equipment. Why? Because to many they are still glorified 'nightwatchmen', updated guardians of people and premises, shaking doorhandles, and trying windows, and watching out for fire and health problems.

They have to learn from scratch, and create the tools they need, and influence the Magistrates, Recorders and Judges that laws need to be put in place to deal with a new, Industrial and Commercial society, transient and rapidly expansive.

Initiative, imagination and innovation are the three key skills and abilities that my characters will have to demonstrate, together with a physical and mental toughness to turn around a drunken and lawless community.

Leicester in 1850 is a bit like Dodge City or Tombstone, and 'the Borough Boys' their Sheriffs and Deputies. It needs tough good guys to put down the bad guys - tougher than Reid, Drake and Jackson!

They do not have whistles, helmets, 'Black Mariahs', science or technology,  so have to beg, borrow and coerce the community to work with them.

In many respects I believe that this makes them special characters, and gives me so much more room to grow them, as it will be their sons and grandsons who will be the lucky officers of 1889 Leicester!

I think they will make for interesting reading.

Review - Episode 4 - Ripper Street - 'The good of this city'

Hi folks;

As I suggested last week, the series, in my humble opinion, continues to improve, episode by episode, even allowing for a residue of strange language.

This week yet again adds far more to the depth of the characters, and we are now starting to see relationships bloom.

'The good of the City' sees a prominent Industrialist Stanley Bone (Paul McGann) exposed as a good guy on the face of things, but a troubled and manipulated 'Frankenstein'  at heart, 'engineered' in his epileptic treatments by a cold and clinical psychiatrist Dr Karl Crabbe (Anton Lesser).

An imaginative and simple multiple murder scenario, exposed a former 'Toffer' - Lucy Eames (Emma Rigby)  - as a lost and confused epileptic, used and abused in so many ways, and a real 'victim' of 19th century England; the mother of Bone's children, introduced to Bones by their common ailment.

As 'Long Susan' (MyAnna Buring), her former 'Abbess', rescues her from one risk, by stabbing to death a rent collector who has just shot dead Lucy's Mother, she is inadvertently returned to the hands of the scheming Dr Crabbe.

Long Susan is unceremoniously detained by DI Reid (Matthew Macfayden) and her relationship with Captain Jackson (Adam Rosenberg) tested, as Reid dramatically challenges Jackson, pinning him to the wall and making clear his real views, whilst Long Susan is locked in the cells.

The keeper of the Jewish Orphanage, Deborah Gohen (Lucy Gohu) becomes involved, taking in two of Lucy's children, only to be beaten and have them abducted from her. The scene where Reid returns to apologise, subtly gave us a glimpse that Reid clearly has 'feelings' for her, and seemingly the feelings are reciprocal. A plot to watch in the next four episodes, no doubt!

DS Drake (Jerome Flynn) continues to display the hard but slightly insecure or hesitant sidekick.

PC Dick Hobbs (Jonathan Barnwell) continues to emerge as a budding bright cop. I hope he is allowed to grow, and not become a sacrificial lamb, as often happens in an emerging hero.

'Off the wall' Captain Jackson demonstrates his unique scientific genius, swallowing a potion Reid has picked up from Dr Crabbe's institute, before going off on a humourous gun-toting 'trip' and declaring "Its amphetamine!" in a Eureka moment!

The local 'Hack' Best (David Dawson) emerges as a contemptuous but useful ally in the fight against crime in H Division's area, and a subtle shift from intolerable nuisance to tolerable nuisance was nicely developed.

As always, good overcomes evil, and the victims are rescued and their lives bettered; Long Susan gets away with murder - well, manslaughter more probably, putting her on par with both Jackson and Drake; Mrs Gohen gets her feet inside the Reids' front door; it is assumed Dr Crabbe gets his comeuppance and Stanley Bone meets the only form of ironic death that could come from the episode...SHOCKING!

I hear rumours that the BBC may not make a second series after the first eight episodes if opinion is generally bad. 

I hope this is not the case, as a convert!

Monday, 14 January 2013

Am I alone in nervously awaiting first publication?

I get really nervous about the novel that I now have sat waiting, either for potential agents, competition deadlines, or the possibility of self-publishing.

As you may have seen from my other blog entries, I am an avid viewer of BBCs 'Ripper Street' series, set in 1889 Whitechapel.

I know that the 19th century had limited opportunities for hobbies and interests, but during the first episode, I noted that DS Drake was an accomplished Pugilist, as is my own main character!

In yesterday's episode, during the arrest and interview of a suspect, the man had his arm broken during the arrest, and then during interview the arm was used to 'lever' the confession from him that the Police required...

In Chapter eleven of 'The Borough Boys' a similar event occurs with one of my suspects, but purely during the arrest.

My novel's progression is captured by a file full of version specific drafts, each dated, and I can show that on 1st November 2012 my chapters included the above storyline...

But, the similarity to a current BBC drama worries me!

I just want to get the book out now so there is no doubt about where the ideas have come from. But boy - am I anxious or what?


Review - Episode 3 Ripper Street - Long live the King!

Hoorah! I feel like the series has finally come to life...

Episode 3 saw the fear of the return of the King (Cholera) which had affected England so badly, previously, and spread through infected water from the conduits...and which had, ironically, been the catalyst for its discovery in Bow, In 1854, during the 'Broad Street' epidemic.

For some bizarre reason, Leicester had escaped the woes of the epidemic that had killed 50,000 nationally in 1848/9, even though its own water supplies were suspect! It left the population in fear of its return, as this episode clearly portrayed.

The interaction between the three main characters came across as much more 'joined up' and interaction with the other constables ditto.

A great side line regarding the conflict between the Met Police and City of London, and the introduction of the pompous Insp. Ressler (played by Patrick Baladi), who I warmed to as the programme developed, and whose eyes opened wide and in admiration at the assertive, if not at times aggressive policing the Met pursued. I wouldn't be surprised if he put his transfer papers in there and then!

Marvellous scene where PC Hobbs (Jonathan Barnwell) was thrust (literally) into Captain Jackson's post-mortem examination - brilliantly acted - great expressions!.

The arrest and 'interview' of the psychotic mass-poisoner, to gain the missing consignments destination, was a nice touch, not that police officers would stoop to such techniques! (Chapter Eleven of my book 'The Borough Boys' has a similar event..honestly! I remember the use of crepitus as a painful encouragement from initial course at Ryton in 1976!) DS Drake (played by Jerome Flynn) was so matter of fact that he had got the result! Just like the best days of 'The Sweeney".

What I liked most was a move away from the dramatic 'Shakespearean' dialogue, to something more befitting 1889, with 'Mollies' and 'backgammon players', and the excellent young 'Toffers' - the street language I had expected from episode one onwards!

The series has really captured the pace at which crime investigation and effective policing must have evolved, and this episode to me has been long overdue to get the series really moving along. 

It also reflected that for a long time Public Health was one of the roles the Police were held responsible for, which may seem odd, compared to today with our modern? Health Service and environmental health capabilities.

We are still getting little bits of history and personal background fed in in good measure, and it is interesting to see some other themes being allowed to filter in, such as Emily Reid (played by Amanda Hale) who is clearly an archetypal potential Sufragette, strong and resolute, and not going to be out done by her determined husband, DI Reid (played by Matthew Macfayden).

Hope this episode is truly a turning point, and if so, it should be re-titled "Long live 'The King'..."



Friday, 11 January 2013

New writer's nerves

A strange week has elapsed in the writer's studio!

Only one week ago, I was enjoying the positive feedback and constructive criticism of early readers of my first novel 'The Borough Boys'.

Yesterday, I finished a comprehensive edit of the work in progress, having taken into account ideas that had been raised by some of those who had helped by responding to the preview or rough draft, and some tweaks gained from published articles, particularly the 'does' and 'do nots'  of completing your first novel.

Last night I printed off the latest version, and was amazed at how much more I began to see that could be improved, or that no longer sounded as effective. Also, the number of typos and basic errors that again had slipped through the net. As such I went mad, yet again, with my trusty red pen.

I had heard people say 'read and re-edit', 'read again and re-edit', yet I could not have imagined how much more I could find with each subsequent review.

I am hoping that the current version is now nearer the finished 'first draft'. But - I am getting the 'jitters'!

At the same time I have had a couple of very polite rejection e-mails from initial submissions to agents, and, I suspect, going through a period of self-doubt, with which, no doubt, other authors and writers will be familiar.

I am stepping back today, and passing the latest version to my good lady wife, to ensure that I have not forsaken the spirit of the storyline to endeavour to achieve literary compliance!

When people say 'there is at least one novel inside everyone', there probably is, but I suspect many have given up before it has seen the light of day. I do not wish mine to go the same way!

Any imaginative trusted ideas out there as to how to review in a different light, and restore self-confidence?

Or am I just being hyper-sensitive?


Monday, 7 January 2013

Review - Episode 2 - Ripper Street. Ghosts and Monsters

Well folks, the second episode has been and gone. I am still a little confused about how the series has been written, and starting to feel a bit like I did when I watched Hamlet set in the twentieth century - or in this case Shakespearean language with 19th century imagery. Is that the writers' intention? I do not see it as either a classical or cultural programme...but it could do with Sub-titles at times!

More than a hint of Dickens, yet again, as you would probably expect, mixed in with the opium culture exposed by Conan Doyle.

Dicken's Fagin - in this case a Scouser named Carmichael, played by Joe Gilgun, the sinister head of a gang of boys who were covered in tattoos - each of which was a 'badge of honour' for each type of crime they had committed, tearing up H Division of Whitechapel under the noses of the Metropolitan Police. 

Gilgun's was the Monster figure - fearless of the law and of the consequences - great - and probably a fair portrayal of some villains of the time.

This is where my personal views start to divert me from what is going on in each of the first episodes. H Division at around 1889 / 1890, when this series is depicted, covered an area of 1 and 1/4 square miles, policed by over 200 officers, spread between four stations. 

Leman Street, which is where our series heroes are stationed, was H Division HQ, and would have been the hub from which the Division ran, and now blooded by its experiences of the Ripper inquiries.

Yet here we are in episode two, where there are experienced and "ex Ripper" detectives, who don't even know who this gang are, or have any knowledge of such tattoos and have seemingly never become aware of Carmichael. Really?

Little wonder they didn't detect the Ripper, if that had been the case...but I don't think so, somehow.

The storyline based on the beating to death of a toymaker was actually a good plot, but I could have done with sub-titles as the language strayed yet again. Where is the rhyming slang or back slang that I would associate with the area of that age?

The ghosts? We are starting to get some background now on each of our main characters. DI Reid (played by Matthew Macfayden) carries the ghost of a lost daughter. DS Drake (Jerome Flynn)  has mental scars from his visions in the Army - and an Egyptian tattoo to connect them to. When will his violence be diagnosed back to PTSD? And Captain Jackson (Adam Rothenberg) and the case of the lost ring, appears probably not to be who he has been introduced to us as...or did I get that bit wrong? 

Jackson is starting to look a bit like a lover of the Opium dens of Conan Doyle...with a quick hangover cure containing coke to boot! An American Sherlock Holmes?

Plenty of room for each character to develop, and next week's preview looks like it is going to rain bodies, so time for improvement - But, I am not holding my breath!!!

I am afraid my heroes, Shepherd and Beddows will be plain speaking Midlanders, who do swear, and who do speak about "me duck", "ginnells", "ganzies" and will not have  trodden the boards...cos I think thats how most people will want them to speak.

I was hoping Ripper Street was going to be that bit more "Gritty" all round!


Friday, 4 January 2013

A new page on my blog!

For your delectation, I have started a new page, which can be accessed from the menu on the right of this blog.

The new page is dedicated to my central character, Samson Shepherd, and will be kept up to date as his character grows.

Please click on the page link to find out more. 

Those voices in my head...

The voices inside my head have finally started, once again. I have been struggling with how to adapt the work I have already under...