A Crime Fiction Classic: Cyril Hare’s “With A Bare Bodkin”

My latest You Tube talk suggests Cyril’s Hare’s With a Bare Bodkin as a Crime Fiction Classic.  Here’s the link to the You Tube Video


I’m not sure that my talk gave enough prominence to his short stories.  He is an acknowledged master.  So many times, I have come to the end of a Cyril Hare story and thought how silly he was to waste such a good idea on a short story.  Of course, that misses the point (and shows my prejudice); the short story is no poor relation and deserves its share of the good ideas.

In the introduction to The Best Short Stories of Cyril Hare, detective writer Michael Gilbert tells how he read his first Hare book in a PoW camp, sharing it, chapter by chapter, with another captive with neither of them revealing the progress of the story.

I was staying at the Crown in Bawtry when I read my first book by him.  Suicide Excepted.  I sat in the corner of the bar and leafed slowly through the pages.  Cottage pie and two or three pints of beer were delivered to my table and, whenever I wanted to pause, I looked at the other characters in the room.  I could picture Hare during much the same during his life as a judge.

Pettigrew, his hero, is an unsuccessful barrister who, through the series of novels, learns to do as his wife tells him, but there is nothing here of John Mortimer or Rumpole.  With a Bare Bodkin reminds me of Hadfield’s Love on a Branch Line and, although I can’t explain why, the prose style of C P Snow.

If you write … pop in for a chat

A couple of writers have visited the bookshop in the last two days; there’s nothing like a chat with fellow sufferers for releasing the energies.

Tom Groom, who has had a couple of fantasy stories published in anthologies with a third on the way, tried to introduce me to the pleasures of Steam Punk (but I reckon I got away unhurt).

He recommended The Home Front by L M Cooke, which seems worth a look.

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Tom and I spoke about the importance of production values, professional looking book covers and the value of real-life writers groups.  His own group recently reduced to two members and then gave up.

(He bought a copy of Dracula … does that qualify as Steam Punk?)

Richard came in the shop yesterday.  He has had fishing articles published in journals for several years now and is busy writing a fisherman’s history of a particular river.  The trouble is, he says, he has been busy writing it for so many years that he’s beginning to wonder when it will be finished. I hope he does get it published because it sounds a truly great book!  To encourage him, we agreed (I think) an informal deadline for its completion.

We discussed the pain of editing, taking out your favourite pieces for the sake of the whole.  Richard concentrates on non-fiction (something I could never write) but we soon picked up that the tellers of truth and lies have much in common when it comes to the task of getting things down in print.

Both these visits show the usefulness of sharing with other writers, face-to-face, in an unstructured atmosphere.  (Richard got trapped in the shop for 90 minutes before I let him go!)  Yes, there are plenty of on-line forums but they’ve never worked for me (too much self promotion and, usually, not so interested in UK topics).  And, with the increasing disappearance of pubs, the evening writers’ circles are getting fewer.

But, running a bookshop means that I still get the opportunity to benefit from the stimulus of meeting other writers.

You know where I am — I hope you’ll pop in sometime!

OK? Before we go, what’s this all about?

Everyday Fashions of the 20th Century by Avril Lansdell

Here’s a handbook that’s never far from my writer’s desk … as the buckled corners on this copy show.  Everyday Fashions of the 20th Century is a Shire Paperback, less than 150 pages, but crammed with hard facts about the fashions of the general public. Essential for anyone thinking of writing historical fiction of the era.  Avril Lansdell (whose talents go much further than this book, but that’s another story) shows an interpretation of old photographs isn’t only detailed (picking up points that an ordinary bloke like me would never notice) but she lends a lifetime’s learning to her analysis, so we can see how people were adapting their hand-me-downs and which parts of high fashion they were accepting or turning up their noses at. Thanks to her informative approach (this is not a chatty book) we are left with an insight to social manners and social change.  The highest praise is to say that we trust what she says.  No, the highest praise is to say that I wouldn’t think of working without it.

Thank goodness she didn’t write one of those heavy bulky books.

What else is going on at my writer’s desk?  I’m writing my letter to Father Christmas. What else would a good boy do in November?

This evening, will upload my latest You Tube talk about a Crime Fiction Classic. Take a look.

(I think anyone with chocolate bars on their desk should post them immediately!)

One Working Day of an Author in a Bookshop

New tablets from the Doc gave me the best night’s sleep for a long time!  Thanks for that! Managed to write a couple of letters to some regular Timberdick readers before opening the bookshop. On the way to the postbox, bumped into Lucy (on her way to college); she likes the latest photo on the Facebook page, she says.

A quiet day in the shop, but made entertaining up by some customers with a sense of humour.

Spent much of the day writing some interview responses for Stephanie Hopkins blog, Layered Pages. http://www.layeredpages.blogspot.co.uk/   Emailed them, with two dreadful photographs this evening.  If all goes well she will publish the interview on 20 November. She provides an interesting and professionally produced blog that’s always worth a visit.

This afternoon, signed a copy of Poisons of Goodladies Road for Dilys in Wales. Had a long chat with a lady who used to work in a secondhand bookshop in Norfolk  …. And managed to sell some books.

Around a qtr to four, took a look at the latest effort, having avoided it for the best part of a week. Very aware that I’ve 30,000 words here that need a lot of rewriting.  All looks like an awful lot of work.  However, the first chapter is now pretty much as I intended, and I’ve a sense that I’ll be able to knock Chapters 2-4 into shape without too much difficulty. That sounds gloomy … but I’m safely ahead of the schedule I’ve set myself.

This evening, worked on the website, http://www.bookcabin.co.uk/ Did a little more tidying up of the new library and carefully avoided looking at the writing I did this pm!

(Need to send out some more review copies of Poisons of Goodladies Road tomorrow)

Today’s teaser.  Here’s a pic of my policeman’s car.  Any idea what model it is?