Ten Little Herrings; A Graph Review

Ten Little Herrings. 

A Graph Review
65 highpoints up to 75

herring seller graphBy L C Tyler

Published by Pan Books 2010

Paperback.     247pp.       978 0330 47213 5             £7.99

ten little herrings coverI enjoyed the first outing of Ethelred and Elsie enough to be curious of the second title.  L.C.Tyler’s style caught me in its fine net and I sort-of cared about the exaggerated reality of these two people.  As Tyler, rather Ethelred, says at some point, authors usually take an added interest in their characters lives, albeit those characters can sometimes go their own, misdirected routes.  As a reader you can also feel attached and it is good to be able to follow these favourites into a sequel of Herring Seller’s Apprentice.

With nice short chapters, Ethelred and Elsie take it in turn, each in different font, to tell the story.  Print is normal size for the small paperback but wider spaced lines make it a super fast and easy read.

Elsie and Ethelred, the prime characters, sometime prime suspects, take it in turn to progress the narrative in their own ways.  A useful method of giving the reader information before passing it to their companion, or not, as the story unravels. Ethelred sometimes gives a mini- tour into the arts and facts of murder and crime writing, which is interesting, especially when mixed with a seeming anarchic way of progressing in a case.  But here Ethelred is a writer of crime novels, not one of his cool creations. That is the extra interest for me, the mix of L C Tyler with a writer as a lead character and the ‘actual’ insights you can glean from Ethelred’s asides. (see my fingers twitching to emphasise the quotation marks)  Add the novelty of a long-term literary agent as co-star and their different perspectives in the relationship and ways of dealing with the misadventures they find themselves in and you have another fine crime novel.  Plus a bonus of being elemental comic.

The novel begins where the last finished.  Slight time-lapses and half-truth communications follow, with events leading to them meeting in a French hotel, a stamp-fair, two deaths, a small group of suspects and assorted comings and goings involving empty envelopes, chocolates and secret dealings.  French police are, of course, usefully involved.
What more would you want in a classic scenario by an author who probably also likes Russian dolls?

Crime can be fun! Dare I say that?  However, if you prefer your crime fiction humourless then this may not be your favourite chocolate. The plotting here is exceptional throughout with Agatha Christie-like setting in a Chateau/Hotel and a twisting of characters and plot line. The story gathers momentum nicely with action and suspicion thrown in all directions and with a fine-paced denouement at the end. And a postscript; always good to have one of those.

Titles from this series have twice been nominated for Edgar Allan Poe Awards in the US.  Herring in the Library won the Goldsboro Last Laugh Award.  Four other titles in this series have been published.
See: Herring Seller’s Apprentice; Graph Review.

L C Tyler is currently vice-chair of the Crime Writer’s Association.

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Driven to Murder:

Driven to Murder                                         A Graph Review

40, highpoints 50

by  Paul Howard

£6.99 large format paperback       pub: Peppermint Books    978 1909655034

A first novel, crime, featuring a detective and usual colleague linkages in his world, with murder being the starting and continuing theme.

driven to murder(available via Amazon)

As with many first books of new authors and new protagonists there was an initial ‘settling-in’ process of about 25 pages but thereafter the reading flowed pretty well and the story moved on at a good rate.  Towards the end of the book I found I was reading quite enthusiatically and quite a neat ending worked well.    As the blurb says, there are assorted deaths, possibly linked but also seemingly not; until the right connection is finally made.

The central character and those around him are somewhat stereo-typed but with the crime-fiction world so widely in the media it makes it difficult to create anew. There is a strength in the character of D.I. Reason and he retains his basic identity throughout with only a little development in personality by the end of the book. Similarly for other characters that look as though they could also appear in future stories.  Plotting was good, mostly based around Eastbourne but several forays to other parts of the country and forces which provided a change in step at times.

All along we follow a steady investigative method. Each new problem issuing a challenge that had to be worked through.  Pointers thrown out round Reason’s colleagues and bit-parts were picked up which fitted with scenarios and characters that a frequent crime reader has stuffed in his head.  Some potential character developments were laid out by the very end of the book which with some good plot-lines could be explored.

Eastbourne and the South Coast held most of the scenery with communication ‘dashes’ to the North and South Wales.  Press confrontations linked in with the ‘real world’ and italicised remarks from the killer broke into the flow but but served a purpose.

I quite enjoyed the overall read even if it had echoes of other characters and plots, it sped along quite nicely.  There are only so many variations on a theme of straighforward crime-writing that are possible and I would say this author has taken a well trodden line with a promise of future development.

I have to moan about the number of words that lost a letter and one missing and another mis-spelt in the first half plus of the book.  This may be the ‘trainspotter’ in me but if you are on the look out for clues in a crime novel then such errors are sore thumbs.  An odd error is no surprise, so many can be annoying.  Page layout was a little unusual with aslightly too much gap between lines and page footings.  A little closer toproduction norms. for future books, please.

This is a self-published title so limited in-store availability but always available to order and of course via Amazon.   The price is low for a book of this size.

A first crime novel?  Yes.  Would I read the next?  Yes.   In the expectation that character growth happened, good tempo and plotting remained and a more standard page layout.

fiction

Alfred Smollson, a brief description

Alfred Smollson developed his style of concrete poetry during an early collision with Dadaism before moving into Surrealism and finally fixating on Vorticism, none of which were able to stifle his ability to failure.

His disappointment in himself was perhaps overlaid by a sense of justice in that his chosen areas of exploitation had been on the edge of artistic expressions that were ahead of their time.  He anticipated that on his death the true worth of his service to art would be recognised.  In the belief that minimilism was inherent in true value he spent the last year of his life taking photographs of his total output, all of which he had stored in his garage.

Finally the last roll of film, he only used monochrome, was wound to the endless flutter of the loosened wheel.  With pride he assembled the pyre of his works in the garden.

With the words,  ” By this will I be remembered”, he carefully lit the cartridge paper and the canvas frames and stood back.  With a soft smile of remembrance he watched his passions blossom and rise.  Scorched echoes rose through the smoke.  One flaming poster was caught in the breeze and in the evening light twirled like a loosened Catherine Wheel and settled in the pile of dry leaves rusting inside the door of the garage.

He was charmed as the blisters of yellow and orange highlighted the red jerrycans beside them.  The juxtaposition of nature and man’s profligacy hit his senses as he watched the leaves crinkle and burn round the cans.  The sparkling burst, like a ray of golden sunshine, thrust upwards, shearing the darkness of the garage.

He remembered the rolls of film, safely stored in their air and waterproof, duck-tape-sealed tin and stepped over the threshold to retrieve them.

“Oh, shit!” he managed to say as the lids poped off the cans and the petrel-blue flume consumed him.

Wordparc copyright 2014

George and the Dragon. A short, short story

George got out of bed and looked out of the window.

What would he do today?

Yesterday he saved a pirate captain from being eaten by a crocodile.

The day before, he had flown his space-ship and defeated the alien fleet.

On Sunday he had climbed and chopped his way through thick trees and brambles to rescue the dinosaur egg from the sleeping witch.

What would he do today?

He looked out of the window.  He saw a dragon.  The biggest, angriest dragon he had ever seen.  Not just big, not just green and red but enormous.

A big, big body with a bottom that sat on the house opposite, a foot in the pond and a long neck with a big, lumpy head that rested on a car.  The dragon looked at George.  The dragon had big red eyes and looked at George and blinked.

George looked at the dragon and smiled.  ” I can fight a dragon today. Hooray” he said out loud.

The dragon heard George and sniffed a snort and turned his head towards the window to look.

“Oh dear!” he said with a sigh.  A sigh that pushed out black, smelly smoke which drifted over to George and made his window all sooty.

George dressed quickly, put on his cloak, picked up his sword and shield.  Put them down again and went to the toilet.  After drying his hands he picked up his shield and sword and marched down the stairs.

The dragon put an eye close to the window and looked, through the soot, as George got ready to fight.

“Oh dear!” sighed the dragon again.  This time the soot from his nose made the wall of the house all black and the glass of the window thick and sticky like black glue.

“George, you must have some breakfast.  You should not fight dragons on an empty tummy.  Have some toast and milk first.”

So George sat down with his cloak upon his shoulders and his shield upon his arm and his sword on the table ready to fight.  And drank milk as white as falling snow.  He ate a slice of toast as black as dragon’s breath with jam as red as dragon’s eyes.  And a packet of crisps as crunchy as, well, a packet of crisps.

With his other eye the dragon saw all of this.  “Oh dear”, he sighed and a tear rolled out of his eye and rolled down into his big black nostril.  And he sneezed.  The whole street was covered in black, like glue, like dark toffee but not so nice.

“Oh dear, oh dear!” said the dragon and sighed as he pulled out a great big hanky, as big as a double-sized bed sheet, from under his wing.  The ghastly coloured dragon, with scaly green and yellow body, huge red eyes and nostrils puffing smoke, wiped away all the mucky black, sticky goo from off the house.  Cleaned the windows, wiped the door and polished the car.

George finished his breakfast and grabbed his shield and sword and walked to the front door.  He was just about to open it, to fight the dragon, to chase him away when he heard the noise outside.

There was a swishing, a banging, a clatter and a hiss.  Steam came in, under the door, through the letterbox and the cracks in the floor.  There was a clang and a cough and a sigh and then silence.

There was a flapping outside as the dragon stretched his wings to tuck his hanky away.

George stood with his hand on the latch, thought he would just take a look then go read a book.  The dragon licked his lips and sat quietly waiting then knocked on the door, tapping everso lightly.

George opened the door, shield and sword at the ready.  There stood the postman with green coat flapping in the wind, bag tucked under his arm and red van at the roadside.

“You are no dragon” called George at the postman.  The postman stepped backwards.

“Oh dear!” he sighed and wiped his nose with a dirty, smoke-stained hanky, ” I am too old to be a dragon anymore” he said to George gently.  Gave him the letters he held in his hand and went back to his van.

George watched him leave.  The van gave a snort and a belch and smoke filled the air as it moved away and up.  Circled twice round the house and with a toot of its horn flew towards the mountains far away.

“Now what shall I do?” said George with a sigh.

 

DJS     fiction