Saturday, December 18th 2009

There you are. Thanks for coming back.

I bought a heavy new book called THE DEFENCE OF THE REALM: THE AUTHORIZED HISTORY OF MI5, and what an interesting tome it is. 1032 pages some of them detailing events and personalities from round here.

It mentions Arthur Scargill, one time leader of the NUM. It tells of the miners strike in 1984, his formation of ‘flying pickets,’ his dealings with the Russian miners union to get monetary support from them, also his successful negotiations with Colonel Qaddafi of Libya to procure funds to finance the strike. And many other interesting facts, including the exploits of heavy drinking Scottish Miners' leader, Mick McGahey, who came to Barnsley many times during the year long strike. Because his phone was being tapped, McGahey was very wary speaking on it about NUM business, but whose wife was never off the phone talking to friends and relations and innocently giving away all that her husband’s personal travel arrangements from which MI5 was able to anticipate the union’s plans.

There is comment about Roy Mason, MP for Barnsley, then a member of Prime Minister Harold Wilson’s cabinet, one time Secretary of State for Northern Ireland during the troubles. Now Lord Mason.

Geographically further away, but still no less intriguing, the book details how MI5 and the police found the Libyan who left a bomb to be detonated by a barometric fuse in a suitcase in a Boeing 747 which exploded over Lockerbie in Scotland in December 1988. There are several pages devoted to explaining how the forensic team found fragments of clothing classed as ‘category one blast damaged,’ and therefore from inside the suitcase containing the bomb, were eventually traced to an outlet in Malta. THere, a shopkeeper recalled selling the clothing to a man resembling a suspected Libyan intelligence officer, Ali Mohmed Al Megrahi.

I had always wondered how MI5 and the police had managed to make such a fantastic connection.

The book begins with the founding of MI5 in October 1909 in the office of a single private detective, Vernon Kell, at 64 Victoria Street, London. His only target was German spies. Today’s strength is around 3,300. The service occupies a massive pile on Millbank in London, and its target is any country that is, or might become, a threat to the security of the UK and the rest of the world.

To other things …
Great news about my book, WILD ABOUT HARRY. It is to be recorded onto CDs for the blind and those who like to listen in the car or anywhere like that. It will be released early next year. I don’t know who will make the recording yet. I expect it will be the same chap, Jonathan Keeble, who did such a great job with MURDER IN BARE FEET.

About Christmas ...
Well, I’ve written the cards, (unless anyone catches me out). I swear that somebody I don’t know very well will post a card to us at the very last push so that we can’t reciprocate. And we will be filled with embarrassment (if we remember) next time we see them.

I am really looking forward to this Christmas. I’ve had a quick look at the new double issue RADIO TIMES and from what I could see there’s very little telly for me.
On Christmas day, the queen and I will go to church. Hope the weather is friendly. We shall have a slap up turkey dinner at about 5 o’clock, then I shall simply sink into the quiet of the house … and rest, or I might take the opportunity to write. Also, maybe I will sleep better when things settle down and there’s just the queen and me.

Christmas is a great festival and it’s for everyone to enjoy and celebrate in their own way. The nativity is a magical story bringing love and hope to a poor working man and his wife. We can do with that love and hope here now, so, whether you’re on your own, just the two of you, or in a big party, keep the magic of Christmas alive. I hope your troubles are small ones, and whatever your dreams are for this Christmas time, may they all come true. Have a great time.

I’ll get back to you soon.
December 4th 2009

There you are.

You know, I was never much of a coffee drinker even at its peak in the 1980’s. I’ve gone off coffee completely now. I’m a 100% tea man. But have you noticed how tasteless tea is getting these days? I used to look forward to my cuppa, now I find it very uninteresting. It tastes of hot water. Or is it me? Even if you squeeze the bag between two spoons, as I do, it makes little difference. If I tried standing on it, I suppose it wouldn’t improve it. I won’t name the brand because I don’t want to get locked up. Anyway, I’ve tolerated this deterioration for about two months now until an idea came to me the other day.

About twenty-five years ago or so, I remembered the queen and I visiting an old uncle and aunt who lived in Suffolk, and they invited us to have a cup of tea. When it came, the cup (although beautifully decorated) hadn’t a handle and it didn’t have any milk in it either. I thought it was a bit queer. The queen soon realised that it was China tea and quickly declined. But I never say no. I took the special cup, tasted it and enjoyed the drink.

I also remember having China tea after a delicious Chinese meal in Leeds. That was in the days when you could choose lots of various dishes of separately cooked meats, fish, vegetables and fruits and you ‘composed’ your own selection on your plate. It made for some delightful mixtures and exotic taste combinations that are missing today. That was in the good old days, of course.

Anyway, on Monday, I had the brilliant idea of dumping traditional Indian tea and trying China tea. So I went into our supermarket on Wednesday and was surprised to find a vast selection of teas from all over the world on offer. I stood there and gawped at them. I took down some of the boxes and read the labels. The stories they told were better than the stuff I write. I thought the right one would be Pure White China Tea packed by a very well advertised beverage supplier.

I eagerly brought it home, had it made to the directions on the packet and it tasted foul. I was very disappointed. What do I do now? I suppose I’ll have to go back to my favourite drink, Champagne.

I would be interested to hear what you think about today’s tea (or anything else). The address is angeldetective@uwclub.net. If you write anything interesting, I might mention it here on the diary.

Now I really must get back to writing my new book. What I need is discipline. There is simply too much to do. Come back soon if you can tolerate the ramblings of an old writer.
Sunday, November 8th 2009

There is a quality, glossy, colour, monthly magazine called MOSAIC which circulates the posh areas of Yorkshire. Well a few weeks back their chief reporter, Adam Civico, asked me if I would like to be the subject of an article – one of several – in the forthcoming November issue.
Now, you know I’m not vain. There isn’t a more modest man strutting his stuff in Barnsley than Roger Silverwood Esquire. But vanity is a powerful magnet, so I succumbed and agreed to be a subject.
The reporter duly came out, asked me questions, which seemed all right, and then a man followed him up to take photographs. Now I don’t photograph at all well. It doesn’t matter how the picture is taken, I always come out looking fat. This is outrageous, as everybody who knows me will tell you that I’m as slim and sylph like as a celery stick. So if in your travels you come across a copy of the November issue of MOSAIC and you find the piece about me, do remember that the photographs are not of me but of some other man of the same name.

Moving on ...
Yesterday, I had a great time. I was invited to talk to the Doncaster Writers’ Group at the Central Library there. I was met by the beautiful Stephanie, who I think is chair, but is too modest to admit to it. I also met Alan, Sylvia, Phil and many other interesting writers who are having various successes, including one author whose name I have sadly forgotten, who has written a book called LOVE IN A HAYSTACK, which I think is a fabulous title. We had a few laughs in between the serious question and answer session about writing and getting books published. They were lovely people and I hope I was able to help some of them.

I say, there’s WIZARD OF OZ on the telly this afternoon. I’ve seen it several times but there is something quite magical about it. The queen is going to record it. It’ll be something to watch on a dreary evening when there is only rubbish to watch.

Now I really must get back to writing my own book. What I need is discipline. There is simply too much to do. But come back soon, for more ramblings from this old writer.
Sunday October 25th 2009

Ah, there you are.

Sunday last it was the northern regional meeting and luncheon of the Crime Writers’ Association which was held in a posh hotel. The following Monday morning I was ill. I won’t bore you with the symptoms, but they didn’t involve the sweet smell of violets, a vision in diaphanous underwear or the resonance of gentle music from a stringed quintet. Oh no!

Anyway, this morning, I have been bustled out of bed at the queen’s insistence to turn the central heating clock back an hour. And while I was in the perpendicular position, I peered at the garden from the bathroom window, had a good scratch, wandered into the study, went through the post and switched on the computer … and here I am.

Well, as soon as I am fit, I will write you more. I don’t quite know where I am. My new Angel book has gone completely to pot. All I can remember is that some poor soul in a railway ticket office gets murdered on page 2.

Anyway, I’ll get cracking as soon as I am fit. Come back soon if you can put up with more ramblings from this old writer.
30th September 2009

There you are. Where have you been?

This is publication day of THE CUCKOO CLOCK SCAM. Whoopee! This is the 14th Angel book. Whoever would have thought it?
It is also the day the queen and I set on one side for doing the shopping, so we shall be doing Tescos et al as normal today, and tomorrow - we are going out to the pub to celebrate with a terrific haddock and chips.

This afternoon, I reckon it will take an hour or two retuning our three televisions. The clever people out there say it’s easy, so I don’t expect it will be. If you’re one of the gifted people and do yours easily, why don’t you pop next door and offer to help them with theirs? Then you can call here and do ours.

Come back soon.
September 18th 2009

It’s been accepted. My latest book THE SNUFF BOX MURDERS has been accepted by the publishers and should be out in 2010. Received the letter this morning. And they said some very complimentary things about it, too. But, you know me. I’m far too modest to repeat them. (Let it never be said that I blow my own trumpet). But I am absolutely thrilled, and as my kind readers in the US might say in similar circumstances, ‘It’s awesome.’

Do you know, I feel like going to the fridge and opening a new bottle of lemonade. But I won’t. It’s too cold. THE SNUFF BOX MURDERS will be the 16th Angel book, and my diary notes tell me I started writing it on Tuesday, February 17th that’s nearly 7 months … seems more like 7 years. Anyway, now I’ve started another Angel book. I have a hot plot cooking.

Don’t forget. I’ve a new book coming out on September 30th. It’s called THE CUCKOO CLOCK SCAM. It’s a hoot. There are cuckoo clocks all over Bromersley. Angel sees them in all the crooks’ and villains’ houses, but he doesn’t know why. There should be copies in your library by the 30th. If there isn’t, smile sweetly at the lady and ask her if she’ll get one for you. She probably will, and she’ll probably smile back as well. Amazon have them in stock.

Barnsley library is very good to me. I remember going in there for a particular book, late last year. I couldn’t remember the title, the author or the publisher. The two ladies behind the counter looked at me with a blank expression. I felt a right Charlie. I told them the book was published in the 1920s or 1930s. I knew that. I told them a bit about the plot, and blow me! in about two minutes, they came up with the book I was after. It wasn’t on the shelves, but hidden away in the attic for some reason. Anyway, they stamped it, processed my other four books, and had me outside the library on Shambles Street, heading back to the car before I had time to say that I’d left my specs and a packet with two pieces of fresh haddock on a table in the reference room.

Anyway, now I’ve started writing another Angel book, I’d better get back to it.
Come back soon, for more ramblings from of an old writer.
September 15th 2009

I’m sat here like a hen sat on an egg, waiting to see if the publishers are going to accept the new Angel book I have submitted, THE SNUFF BOX MURDERS.

I already had a super plot idea in mind, so I’ve started another book. I have written the opening – a page and a half - which seems all right and I think, suitably intriguing, but I can’t think of a sub-plot, and that’s winding me up a bit. If it doesn’t come to me soon, I might paste and save what I have written somewhere, and instead, write a short story I have been carrying at the back of my mind, which I believe is ideal for a Sherlock Holmes pastiche. But I really don’t want to break away from writing about Angel. That’s what everybody seems to want and expects from me.

Now that I am between books, so to speak, I phoned my dear, old friend, the retired priest I have written about earlier in this diary. He is now 92¾, he was quick to remind me. I was ringing him to arrange to pick him up and take him to our favorite country pub for a meal and a drink together. He has always looked forward to that, as he doesn’t walk very well and didn’t therefore get out much. But sadly, much to my surprise and disappointment, he didn’t want to know. He was most gracious, but he really didn’t want to go anywhere or do anything. Not even a run in the country in the car. (He’s never been a car owner, himself) …. He explained that now he’s not keen to leave the tiny flat where he lives on his own. He said he feels confident there. He said that anyway, he can’t now comfortably wear shoes … slippers are the order of the day. He said he couldn’t eat much. He’s not very hungry, he said and his tummy is soon full. He would leave most of any meal. I said that it didn’t matter at all, but he wouldn’t have it. He said that he’d be embarrassed. There were probably other reasons, which he may have been unwilling to go into. In the end, I had to give in. I asked him if it would it be all right if I visited him. That seemed to be acceptable. Is there anything you would like me to bring with me? No thank you, Roger. I have everything I need. Just bring yourself, whenever you like.
I will, I said. Very soon. I am worried about him. 92¾ is a great age.

If you have a relation, friend or neighbour who is over 90, tell me what they like to do, what they like to eat and drink, where they like to go, what they like to see, and so on ... I am sure it would be most interesting. Email me at angeldetective@uwclub.net. I would always be pleased to hear from you and I might be able to include an extract of your letter in my next diary entry.

I say, this morning I bought ten ordinary 150 watt lamps for £19.90, that £1.99 each. The shop said that they had plenty and still expected to have stock up to 12 months from now … that is until they sell out, or the manufacturer stopped making them. I am pleased about that. I should have at least a year before I need worry about falling over the cat when going in the kitchen to make our night time cocoa or breaking my neck tripping up in the dark corner on the stairs when going to bed.

Come back soon if you can put up with more ramblings from this old writer.
September 10th 2009

Hello there. Well, I know I’ve been a bit quiet this last two or three weeks. It’s because I have been finishing another Angel book. And it’s a time when I do tend to get rather intense … worrying about the pernickety details of the plot working out right, and whether the characters are well rounded, original and interesting … And I worry about whether you’ll enjoy it or not … and whether the publishers will accept it or not. They’ve never declined one yet, but it could happen. We worriers worry about everything.

Well, I finished it last night, printed it off this morning and the queen is downstairs reading it right now. I don’t discuss the storyline or the characters in the book with her when I’m actually writing. She likes it to come to her completely fresh. However, I often discuss grammar and the colloquial meaning of words and things like that. Well, she’s far clever that I am. (I am sure she’s right because she keeps telling me what a fool I am). I accept that she’s better educated. She was streets ahead of me at school and college. She got a distinction in French, and played the violin like an angel. In fact, if Nigel Kennedy had heard her play ‘Flight of the Bumble Bee,’ he would have chopped up his violin and become a male model.

I’ve titled the new book THE SNUFF BOX MURDERS, but that could change. If it is accepted, it’ll not be for publication until next year. I am very excited about it, but I can’t say anymore. The publishers don’t like me saying too much about a new title before it is released.

Incidentally, the last three weeks I have been able to write in a lot more comfort, because, for our wedding anniversary, the queen bought me a posh chair for my little den. Those who know me well will know that I had back trouble twenty years ago, and like Brideshead, it came back again in 2004. Since then, I have been writing, resting on the bed, on my left side, elbow on the pillows, on a laptop on a sloping table and tapping the keyboard with one finger. I did that for four years … wrote eight books like that. However, after all that time, that position caused me to develop pain in the shoulder. After numerous injections and consultations, the doc said that I must change my writing position. Now that my back was so much better, she said, I should try to sit up at a desk as normal but in a comfortable super duper padded adjustable swivel back chair.
I was unsure about it. Anyway, at enormous expense, the queen has bought me, an all singing all dancing, fully adjustable, multi padded, twelve cylinder diesel chair with integral microwave, toaster, 16 free channels and automatic 12 second flush. Now I sit upright and tap away like Fred Astaire, hopefully not aggravating shoulder or back. So please keep your fingers crossed … it would we be wonderful for me if it works.
Now I know the cynical of you will be saying, ‘That’s OK but what have you bought the queen?’ Well, all right, the truth will out. I haven’t bought her anything yet, but as soon as she makes up her mind, I will get it for her. She can have anything she wants. I’ve told her that, and I mean it. I draw the line at anything that’s both big and alive though. She knows that I won’t shell out for a couple of elephants. Or even a little one on its own.

I had a good bit of news yesterday morning in the post. I was told that my book WILD ABOUT HARRY is going to be recorded to be accessible to the blind and anyone who wants to buy it or borrow it from a library. I do hope they get a Northern voice to record it. I write my books as I feel and I think any other accent but Yorkshire wouldn’t sound the genuine article, if you know what I mean. The CDs should be out in the libraries and shops in a couple of month’s or so.

Moving on …
What are we going to do about these new electric lamps? We have been led like innocent lambs into this green environment lark. I wasn’t consulted. Were you? I have a few of these monstrosities in the house that give off a dirty creamy glow. I tried one. Last winter, it made my den seem like a Victorian outside lavatory. They have mostly been given as free gifts by power companies who couldn’t get shut of them. Frankly I don’t know what to do. I have to confess that most of the important lights in the house are currently 150 watt. We wouldn’t be able to see around the room safely with anything less powerful.
The two lamps at each side of the bed are 60 watt spot bulbs. Now spot bulbs reflect the light from the back of the lamp, which is usually wasted, to the front. So for a small area, up to about a yard away, spot lamps work perfectly satisfactorily for small work. I don’t know if these lamps are also to be banned by the European ruling.
But how are people with defective eyesight going to manage? I have a friend who can only see out of one eye… and not very well at that. He doesn’t know how he’ll manage.
I notice all the big houses round about are still keeping their powerful all night outside security lights on. I don’t blame them for that, but how will they be able to buy replacement lamps? Maybe I’ll ask them and then go down and get a stock in hand.
‘We are listening to you,’ these politicians say. But they aren’t. It’s just so much guff. Nobody ever listens to us, do they? It’s all a con. This new law has not been thought out properly or fully. We are being ruled by idiots. Overpaid idiots. And it’s been like this for years.

The government took us into a war we don’t need, didn’t want, and didn’t seek, and today, our troops are fighting in the wrong country. We should be punching Al Quaeda out of Pakistan.

The banning of smoking in public places has seriously damaged people’s social lives, and is an interference with our liberty. That law was a step too far. Pubs are closing in their hundreds. I have heard all the arguments and the anti smokers have a good case, but it is wrong in a free country to make such absolute laws without thinking of all the consequences. I should add that I neither smoke nor drink, but I did my share until ten years ago. But, do you know, a strange thing …. I could just smoke a Benson and Hedges right now!
Help!!!

Come back soon if you can put up with more from the ramblings of an old writer.

If you’ve any bright ideas or comments you’d like to say about this diary, or anything else for that matter, email me at angeldetective@uwclub.net. I would be pleased to hear from you and I might include an extract of your letter in my next diary entry. Then again, because I am not a politician, I might not.
August 22nd 2009

Hello there. Now I know I owe you an apology for not keeping this diary going the way I should have done. You regulars expect a paragraph or two every day. I will try and do better, but the truth is that old enemy, time.

I have been working hard on my current Angel book which is taking me longer than usual because, friends, the book will be longer than usual. The big white chief at Hales, the publishers, said my next Angel book needed to be 20% longer to match up with a new format they have devised to give a better deal to readers of their ‘Hale Crime’ series.

I am writing this diary today because frankly, I need a breather. I have to review the plot and make sure it is coming out right. The only way I can do that is to read it phrase by phrase from the beginning again. Anybody who tells you writing is easy doesn’t know what they are talking about. Of course it’s easier on the spine than cutting out a face of coal, or on the feet and legs serving behind a deli in Tescos for eight hours at at stretch, or on the eyes and nerves excising an appendix and tying off the bowel through a keyhole incision. But as my back is strong enough to keep me sitting upright, my feet and legs to keep me walking about, and I had my appendix out years ago, writing I can manage just fine. How I ever finish writing a book though, I’ll never know.

Got an invitation to speak to the Writers’ Group at Doncaster Central Library in October or November. Just working out the details with Alan Archer, their right hon. sec. If you’d like to attend in Doncaster, or you want to contact me, my address is angeldetective@uwclub.net. I would always be pleased to hear from you.

Well those who could afford a holiday I reckon will have had theirs. If you are among them, I hope you managed to go abroad or if at home chose rain free days. The queen and I often talk about a trip we had in July up in Ullapool about ten or fifteen years ago in our motorhome. We parked on a great site at the front close by the water and it rained for 36 hours non-stop. It wasn’t a storm. The rate of water coming down didn’t change. It was as if God had turned on a million hosepipes over us, set them on medium fine spray and then left them to run while he went to watch the Aussies play for the Ashes.

I hope you will enjoy the sun while it is warm, and all the flowers and trees it helps to grow. Summer is a great time, we must make the most of it.

Please come back soon for more ramblings from of an old writer.
July 11th 2009

Hello there, Playmates. Welcome back.

I had a great time with the ladies group at Emmanuel Church on Huddersfield Road in Barnsley on Wednesday evening last. I spoke about how I started writing and the adventures of Inspector Angel. The ladies asked a lot of questions and then told me what they looked for in a good crime novel. They also confirmed what I already thought about books laden with foul language. There’s a place for them and it isn’t in Barnsley. We had a few good laughs and an enjoyable evening. They say they’re asking me back later this year. That’s nice, isn’t it?

Yesterday I was busy book signing in Sheffield’s OXFAM Bookstore. I met some delightful people and made a few pounds for OXFAM. I also enjoyed some very interesting but - of necessity - hurried conversations with some of Oxfam’s many disparate customers, and was surprised at the wide range of interests the shop caters for, from Spiderman to Darwin. The delightful manager there, Darren Vogelsang has invited me back in the autumn, so I must be doing something right.

Do you know, my old watch went funny about three years ago. So being near Christmas, the queen dragged me into a jewellers shop to buy one for me, bless her, as if I couldn’t buy one myself.
Anyway, this jeweller had watches on offer from £4.99 to £10,000. Well, I didn’t want an expensive one in case I lost or damaged it. Those under £25.00 tended to be gaudy plastic coloured jobs which I didn’t fancy. She wanted me to have something really expensive, but I was amazed to find out from the jeweller that a watch costing £25 tells the time just as accurately as a £10,000 one. You would have thought that for all that extra money, it would have told you better time, wouldn’t you? But the jeweller told me quite clearly that the time on the £25 watch was exactly the same as that on the £10,000 one. And he showed me them side by side to prove the point. He couldn’t even say that it kept the time for a longer period or that it slowed the good time down so that you got more time for your money. I wondered if I could do a deal with him to have one of his £10,000 watches for an extra years’ worth of time. But no. It was then that I started losing him, if you know what I mean. The queen told me that I should go and see if the car was parked safely. I said all right, but I told her not to spend more that £25.00 and I would be highly chuffed, then I came out of the shop to look for the car.
Of course she bought the watch I liked at £25.00 but also had it fitted with a spring loaded gold coloured wristlet that she also knew that I liked. But she wouldn’t tell me what that cost!
Anyway, I was delighted with it. It kept spot on time, the dial was easy to read, and in every way, it was perfect. However, on Tuesday last it stopped. I was surprised. The queen immediately said take it back to the shop, which I did. Fortunately, it was not the man who served us three years ago. It was a pretty young lady. She glanced at it and said could I come back for it in about an hour. I thought that was quick, but I went back in the hour and was surprised to find it working and telling the right time.
‘Is it all right?’ I said.
‘Oh yes,’ the shop assistant said brightly.
‘How much is it?’ I said.
The shop assistant smiled. ‘There’s no charge,’ she said.
I blinked. I wasn’t used to hearing those three old fashioned, heart warming words. ‘Why?’ I said.
‘All it needed was a battery, Mr Silverwood, and we supply and fit batteries free on all watches sold by us.’
I had to sit down on one of their free chairs and have a sip of their free water.

Take care and come back soon.
June 16th 2009

Hope you’re enjoying the sunshine. I’m busy with all sorts of interesting diversions.

The manager of the OXFAM bookshop at 276 Glossop Road in Sheffield has asked me to do a book signing on Friday, July 10th at 12 noon, to help the fundraising. Of course I am delighted to do that. Please come and meet me, buy a book or put a few quid in the box. OXFAM is such a worthy cause. Did you know that 1 in 5 people in Britain live below the official poverty level? I don’t know why past and present governments haven’t dealt with it. Prime Ministers of all political colours have said that they are dealing with it, but they simply don’t. But they allow people in government and industry and commerce to swindle the exchequer, which is you and me and more importantly the poor, out of millions. And it’s been going on for years. It’s simply not good enough. I get really worked up about this. Apart from flexing our muscles at election time, what more can we do? If anybody sends me a good letter answering that question, I will publish it here. And I will withhold your name and address or not as you wish. The address for all your emails to me is <angeldetective@uwclub.net>.

We’d better move on while I cool down.
I have also been invited to talk about ... how I started writing and where it has taken me ... at the Ladies Group at the Emmanuel Church, Huddersfield Road, Barnsley at 7.30 on Wednesday evening, the 8th July. That’s nice, isn’t it? Pop in if you are near. I’d love to meet you.

I hope you are going off on holiday this summer. A change of scene and a bit of sunshine does us all a bit of good.
We won’t be going anywhere. The queen isn’t as mobile as she was but we will enjoy the garden. I don’t mind, as it gives me more time to write and avoids all that messing about packing and unpacking and the stressful business of keeping to times set by other people.

Whatever you’re doing, enjoy the summer...

And come back here soon.
May 27th 2009

There you are.

Sorry I’ve been longer than usual, but I fell into the trap. I could see it coming but I couldn’t stop myself. I had managed to avoid it for a few years now, but in a weak moment I was caught and I succumbed and agreed. You see, I have always boasted that the queen can have anything she wants. And she can. She’s already got everything (everything that can be bought with money, that is), so it wasn’t a difficult commitment to make. But she thought of something she said we needed and, at first, I didn’t know what it could possibly be. She was of course referring to DDD, the Dreaded Disease of Decorating. And of all places, she wanting doing, was the kitchen. Yes, the kitchen ... the hub of domestic comfort and organization of the house.
Well, I wished I had emigrated.
For a start, we had quotes from all over the place and, of course, finished up with the dearest!
She had me running up and down looking for wallpaper. Not that colour, not that with roses. I like that Italian style with a jug and plate on it, she said. Not that. It looks old fashioned. That one is too modern. Who wants paper designed using a motif of squares and triangles? That cream one. Might as well get white, it’ll be cream soon enough! Too cheap, she said. How much is it a roll?
Fifty pence? Eighty pence? Oh no. Surely not a pound?
More than a pound?
Twenty pounds? she said.
For the whole room?
No. A roll. Twenty pounds a roll!
It has to be waterproof you see.
Yes, but does it have to keep out the North Sea? I asked
And it didn’t finish there, did it? We had to have plasterers in to tidy up a damp corner and while they were here, they replastered an entire wall in the pantry.
There’s more.
The queen said that the big kitchen cupboards screwed to the wall are a bit too high. A bit too high. After 38 years, a bit too high?
Could they be lowered?
Could they be lowered?
Lucky old Roger. They couldn’t be lowered because there was an electric socket in the way. And no, the electric socket could not be moved.
Well, you’ve got to put your foot down somewhere.

Anyway, the decorators came and went like a barium enema.
The kitchen looks lovely and clean. They’ve broken the TV aerial and banged the kitchen TV about that much so that I can’t get a picture anymore. And the new DAB radio is all spotted with white Dulux. And they’ve hidden the wall clock. I think they’ve papered over it.

What's more important to me is that they’ve also put a stop to my book. I can’t write with people running in and out like MPs at the Fees Office. Also I can’t stand the distraction of the smell of paint and a big bill hovering over my head, like that. This happened to me last year, I remember. I can’t recall what it was, but it took me a month to get my mind back into the right atmosphere and pick up the plot.
If the queen has a rush of blood and this daft idea comes up again, I have threatened to leave home, and stay in a posh hotel on a warm tropical island to write until the agony is over.

Moving on ...
I got an email from Jack Lindsey who lives near Stratford-On-Avon. He was a copper in Mexborough. (That’s about ten miles from here). I know Mexborough as having a great hospital there, the Montague, which relieved me of great pain in my back a couple of years ago. A surgeon used a specialised technique incorporating X ray and pain relieving injections. It is absolute magic.

Jack began criticising some of the things I had the pathologist do in IN THE MIDST OF LIFE. Also he pointed out that police cars now have blue lights flashing on their tops in emergency conditions not amber, as I had written. I’m sure he’s quite correct. Also he doesn’t have much of a good opinion of people from Barnsley. But he sugared the pill by saying, ‘My wife Mary and I are both avid readers of yours and find it difficult to discover an author that we both enjoy. Inspector Angel is a real gem and Mary sits there chuckling at your descriptive phrases.’

That’s nice, isn’t it? I shall tell Angel next time I see him.

Enjoy the rain, and come back soon.
May 9th 2009

Thanks for coming back.

I say, on Monday last, I was working away on my laptop as usual, when it started making a strange ticking noise, then an information box came up on the screen that I didn’t understand. I never understand what it says in those boxes anyway. They’re written by chimpanzees crossed with computer geeks who live in boxes like battery hens underground in California. They are thrown bananas and sugar-coated pep pills every six hours. Anyway, among other things, it said that I had done something illegal. Well, I haven’t done anything illegal for years!
Anyway, I quickly stuck a memory stick into the thing and fortunately saved all my work.
I couldn’t close the laptop down in the conventional way. The machine wouldn’t have it. It kept throwing up more information boxes full of threats, insults and telling me that I needed permission to do certain things.
These days I do pretty well what I want ... I don’t reckon I need anybody’s permission ... except maybe the queen’s.
Anyway, I switched off the electric at the plug, pulled out the cable, pulled the wire out of the transformer socket and the one out of the machine, but it still kept on throwing out orders, information and telling me I was doing everything wrong. That’s nothing new. I’ve known that for years. The little lights on the outside of the case kept blinking furiously showing me that things were desperate.
I knew there was a battery in it somewhere, so I turned it upside down. It didn’t like that – and sent out a groan. I quickly found the compartment where the battery was hidden and after a struggle with two catches that you have to operate simultaneously, managed to take it out. The laptop made a small hopeless resurgence for a second or two, then its lights went out, the screen went to black and it finally expired on the table in front of me.

That was that. It was caput. And so I was out of work. I needed a laptop, and I needed it straightaway. I dashed into town and had a quick look round, saw over fifty different models and came home with a beauty. New design. Fully guaranteed. Ideal for a writer. Every feature you can think of. Programmed ready. Just plug it in. As the man said, all I had to do was press the keys. It was so up to date, it would practically write the stuff for me! Magic.

I got it unpacked and followed the simple diagram enclosed to set it up. Then switched it on. Big screen. Lots of colour. Great sounds. It was like Wonderland. But to my horror I discovered that everything had changed. And I mean everything. I had been using a computer every day for about twelve years and suddenly I was lost. I couldn’t find anything that I understood. All the sequences had been changed and all the names of the moves had been changed, the jargon had changed. Only the mouse was the same. I am plodding through and with help from James who looks after the website I am disciplining the great monster and trying to get back to writing my book.

To something else ...
I had a super surprise in the post this morning. A voucher copy of MURDER IN BARE FEET in audio. It’s chiefly for the blind or registered blind, of course. It was recorded by the actor, Jonathan Keeble, who has recorded many other writers books ... he does Reginald Hill’s DALZIEL AND PASCO and others, so I am in good company.
I listened to a bit of it and it sounded just great. I understand it is out in the libraries and shops now.

You’re going to get more Angel in future. The publisher is changing the format of the Angel books to make them 30% bigger. I will therefore be writing the stories appropriately longer, which will be much better. I will have more space in which to develop the plot. And, for the same money, you will get more Angel. As I write this, I have just realised, everybody wins, except me. I won’t be getting any more money!

Got to go. You wouldn’t believe it. The queen wants me. Unusual. There’s a nasty smell on the patio. Grant, who does our garden has lifted an inspection cover and found that the drains are blocked. Will I do something about it? Yes. Find a plumber.

I’ll never get back to writing my book.

If you can stand the tension, come back soon.
April 30th 2009

Zipperty do dah, zipperty hay. My, oh my, what a wonderful day. This is the day my latest book, WILD ABOUT HARRY, my 13th Detective Inspector Angel story is being published. It also marks the winner of the competition for the best entry of a celebrity, over 80, who is still regularly working. I have had so many entries that I feel I should give more than one prize, but I’m not going to.

As a late entry, the queen has come up with Pete Seeger, who is 90 on May 3rd, and is playing in a huge concert in the US on that day to celebrate. I can add it to the list, but I can’t award the prize to her, can I? It would be a right twist. Besides the house is full of books. She has a free entitlement to a half interest in any book in the place. In fact, she has a half interest in everything in the house. She says that her solicitor told her so!

So the winner I have chosen is Simon Wellman from Leeds who submitted the name of Nicholas Parsons who is an amazing 85. Simon! A signed copy of WILD ABOUT HARRY, is on its way to you, with many thanks.

There were older celebrities submitted by you lovely people, but they had been already suggested by Alan Titchmarsh, or the celebrities were not British, and I thought the competition should have been confined to Brits, although I didn’t say so, (with apologies to my readers in the US and elsewhere). I do hope you think that I have been fair.

The complete and amazing list of celebrities, believed to be over 80 and regularly working, submitted by reader's of this column is…

Betty Turpin 88 years
Peter Sallis 88 years
Liz Smith 87 years
Dora Bryan 85 years
Robert Hardy 84 years
Angela Lansbury 83 years
Jean Alexander 83 years
Geoffrey Palmer 82 years
June Brown 82 years
Bruce Forsyth 81 years
David Attenborough 83
David Jacobs 82
Lauren Bacall 85
Honor Blackman 81 or 82
Andy Williams 81
Sir Jimmy Savile 82
Les Paul 93
B B King 83
Leslie Phillips 85
June Whitfield 83
Nicholas Parsons 85
Pete Seeger 89

Well, it’s been a lot of fun and quite revealing to find so many lovely old people still working, but the competition is, sadly, closed.

About something entirely different …

Can I let off a bit of steam?
My car insurance is coming up for renewal, and it’s £36 dearer than last year. I don’t like prices going up like that. I haven’t had an accident or anything.
Well, you know those heavily advertised comparison websites, where you submit the details of your car and the drivers and so on, and they automatically come up with cheaper insurance offers? In some of their ads, I’ve heard grinning actors say, ‘I saved £170.’ ‘I saved £200.’ ‘I saved £90.’
Well, I spent 20 minutes submitting all the details of the car, the queen, the house, my marital status, my occupation, my age, my sex, even told them what side of the bed I sleep on, and the result was two quotes … one, £126 more than my present insurer and the other £180 more. Then I phoned two other famous high street names directly for a quote and both were also dearer, so needless to say, I re-insured with my present insurer. Well, what would you have done?
But that was about an hour’s writing time lost by their persistent (and in my case, wasted) advertising.
In that one hour, I could have written about five paragraphs of my new Angel book, deleted four of them and pruned the other down to two sentences. And tomorrow morning, I could condense those two sentences into one, and then tomorrow night, if those sentences were full of unnecessary description, I could delete them, because nobody reads description anymore.

How I ever finish writing a book, I’ll never know.

Come back soon for more ramblings from of an old writer.
April 18th 2009

Glad you came back.

Have you ever wondered what it must have been like to have been the small boy who saved his country from sinking under the sea by sticking his finger in a hole in the dyke? Must have felt really good. Made the boy seem important for once in his life. Well I had an experience a bit like that last Thursday. You see the head interviewing honcho at BBC Radio in Sheffield, Roney Robinson, a sort of cross between Dr Anthony Clare and Jeremy Paxman, had a slack half hour in his programme to fill. His troops had arranged for some poor soul to be interviewed but the interviewee had apparently taken fright at short notice and cried off, so they had a half an hour to fill at very short notice, so they phoned me.

‘Would you do it? Can you be here for two o’clock?’
‘Yes. Of course,’ I said, ‘I’ll do it.’

Well, it all started very well. I was met by a delightful producer lady, all smiles, fingernails, high heels and a cup of BBC tea in a BBC pot. When I got into the studio itself, there he was, Mr Robinson, hair sleeked back and wearing a khaki jungle suit. He was talking away, pressing buttons and sliding faders as slick as a Las Vegas croupier spinning a roulette wheel to a packed table of punters. Slaves kept running in and out with cups of tea, sealed envelopes, and bits of paper with secret writing on them. Messages kept popping up on CCTV screens. A red light behind him kept bobbing on and off erratically. It was all a bit unnerving.

Roney Robinson started off being charm personified, but slyly introduced questions such as, ‘How old are you?’ and ‘How long have you been married?’ and ‘Are you rich or mega rich?’ and subtle stuff like that. He asked me where I lived, and whooped with delight to hear that my house was smaller than his.

News reports and travel information were being interspersed throughout the interview so that I never quite knew whether our chat was being broadcast or it was merely private between the two of us. That’s how he caught me. There’s no time to think, you see. It’s live. You reply. It’s transmitted to the listening millions and then it’s on record.

I had prepared stories about my childhood, such as how I set fire to the bedroom curtains when I was only three or four, and how my parents moved house without telling me and when I got back from school I didn’t know where they had gone to (true!), and ditties like that, but he didn’t ask me about my early life. I also wanted to tell him all about my books and Angel’s success both here and in the States, but he hardly gave me a chance. Anyway, the time soon passed and it was all over. He said that I had done well. Frankly, I came out of the studio a bit dazed. The producer lady with a big smile also said I had done well. I beamed. I’m a real sucker for a bit of smarm. I felt warm all over, and I drove home singing, ‘Onward Christian Soldiers.’ But, you know, thinking about it now, I know that I had said far too much.

Anyway, can’t do anything about it.

Now about other things …

Did you see the piece in the Daily Telegraph on March 29th?

Reading can help reduce stress’

‘And it works better and faster than other methods to calm frazzled nerves such as listening to music, going for a walk or settling down with a cup of tea, research found.

‘Psychologists believe this is because the human mind has to concentrate on reading and the distraction of being taken into a literary world eases the tensions in muscles and the heart.

Reading can reduce stress levels by 68%, according to the University of Sussex research.’

It’s absolutely true, if you get a really good book. Don’t you agree?

Moving on …

I’ve had more entries in the competition, but only three names are valid. One is from Joseph Herries, an ex pat living in the town of Mandeville in Jamaica, in the West Indies. (This blog gets everywhere). He remembers from old films, Leslie Phillips, who is 84. Well done, Joseph.
A lady, she doesn’t indicate anything more than her name, Mary Cleary from near Aberdeen, reminds us that June Whitfield is still hard at work and is 83. Also Simon Wellman from Leeds submits Nicholas Parsons who is an amazing 85.

They are all valid and added to the list.

Unfortunately, I am still getting names of celebrities who have sadly died or retired. Remember, the entries have to be celebrities, over 80, and still working. The competition closes on April 30th. For the most interesting addition or additions, I’ll send the winner a copy of my latest book, WILD ABOUT HARRY, which is to be published on April 30th. I’ll even write in it if you want me to. My email address is <angeldetective@uwclub.net> Good luck.

The full valid list so far is

Betty Turpin 88

Peter Sallis 88
Liz Smith 87

Dora Bryan 85
Robert Hardy 84
Angela Lansbury 83

Jean Alexander 83
Geoffrey Palmer 82
June Brown 82 years
Bruce Forsyth 81
David Attenborough 83
David Jacobs 82
Lauren Bacall 85
HonorBlackman 81 or 82
Andy Williams 81
Sir Jimmy Savile 82
Les Paul 93
B B King 83

Leslie Phillips 84

June Whitfield 83
Nicholas Parsons 85

The competition closes on April 30th.

It’s always nice to hear from you. Keep submitting. See you soon.

April 7th 2008

Hello puzzlers.

Had lots of entries of celebrities who are already on the list - please see last three diary entries.
Had an an entry from James Corbett of Barnsley. His entry was David "Honey Boy" Edwards who is 94. Now I've never heard of him. I told James that I didn't think he could fairly be regarded as a a 'celebrity' if I'd never heard of him. James hinted that I must live in the dark ages. I think if six people tell me that he's a celebrity, I'll put him on the list, otherwise he stays off. That's fair isn't it?

Easter will soon be here. Oh the glories of chocolate!

See you soon.
April 4th 2009

The competition is hotting up. More names have come in …

David Attenborough 83
David Jacobs 82
Lauren Bacall 85
Honor Blackman 81 or 82
Andy Williams 81
Sir Jimmy Savile 82
Les Paul 93


I’ve had Les Paul aged 93 submitted by fellow author, Shirley Wells. Plays the guitar. Used to work with Mary Ford. This must be the oldest celebrity so far.

Elaine of Wombwell submitted the man on our doorstep, Sir Jimmy Savile. Fancy me not thinking of him.

Keep submitting.

Nice to hear from you.
April 2nd 2009

Replies to the competition are pouring in, but the only additional acceptable entry so far is B B King who is 83 and is still touring. That’s from Sue of Stocks Lane. Great stuff! Sue says, ‘Age is just a number.’ Quite right too.

Remember, for the most interesting addition or additions, I’ll send you a copy of my latest book WILD ABOUT HARRY which is to be published on April 30th. I’ll even write in it if you want me to. My email address is angeldetective@uwclub.net.

Adrian in Berlin suggested the Queen. Well, she is over 80, she’s still working, but she’s not a celebrity, she's a VIP.

I am even getting suggestions of celebrities who have retired or have died, or who simply aren’t over 80. Entries must be of celebrities, over 80 years and still working.

Keep submitting. Love to hear from you.
March 28th 2009

Ah, there you are.

I am very proud to know a dear man who is 92 years. He is a widower and has eight children (5 stepchildren and 3 his own). We go out for lunch every few months or so. He doesn’t walk very well but we all take our time. He enjoys a pint of real ale and tells us amusing stories about his first job as a humble clerk for Tate’s, the sugar people in the East End of London. He wanted to become a parish priest, so he left the office and went into a seminary. After many struggles, he eventually he got a living in the ship building area of Govan in Glasgow and then later he served in beautiful Campbeltown on the road down to the Mull of Kintyre. He married a widow (a lovely dear lady) who already had 5 children and he had three more with her. Years later he served in Barnsley in the 70’s, where he retired ten years later. He never owned or drove a car but managed well enough on a bicycle. His mode of transport lately, which he jokingly calls ‘the car,’ is a three wheel electric invalid scooter. He has a great sense of humour and is always searching the conversation for puns. I remember a joke he told me last time I saw him. It went like this:

There was a family of cannibals sat round the stewpot with a fire underneath. It was mealtime and one of the children said, ‘I’m not hungry. I can’t eat anymore.’Mother said, ‘All right. You can leave your grandmother, but you must eat your potatoes.’
After he told it, his face creased up with laughter. He’s a lovely man. And he never grumbles.

Anyway, by happenstance, the queen was watching the Alan Titchmarsh chat show on afternoon telly a couple of days ago, which made her sit up and take notice. She told me afterwards, it was about actors and actresses who are still working. Several names and their ages were mentioned, I’ve added a few more …

Betty Turpin 88 years
Peter Sallis 88 years
Liz Smith 87 years
Dora Bryan 85 years
Robert Hardy 84 years
Angela Lansbury 83 years
Jean Alexander 83 years
Geoffrey Palmer 82 years
June Brown 82 years
Bruce Forsyth 81 years

Isn’t it fabulous? Do you know of any more famous people who are, say over 80 and still working? Send their names and ages to me (they must be famous and still working) and for the most interesting addition or additions, I’ll send you a copy of my latest book WILD ABOUT HARRY which is to be published on April 30th. I’ll even write in it if you want me to. My email address is <angeldetective@uwclub.net> Good luck.

Thanks for looking in. I’ll get back to you soon.
February 26th 2009

Hello there …
I have just heard that the publishers have accepted my new Angel book, SHRINE TO MURDER. This is the fifteenth book in the Angel series.
Blow the trumpets. Bang the drum. Put out the red carpet. The Milky Bars are on me! Somebody up there likes me, or is it Inspector Angel they like?
I haven’t got an official publication date yet, but it will likely be December this year or January 2010.

Less pleasing, I had to have a barium enema at the hospital on Monday afternoon.
No solid grub for the one and a half days before the enema … just jelly, consomm√©, tea and coffee without milk, and water. Absolutely nothing else. Not a lot of fun. They sent me all the detailed preparatory instructions including two pouches of a special laxative, which I had to mix carefully with water, stand well back, leave to stand for five minutes then drink it. It tasted of salty petrol. Well, about two hours later, I knew it had found its target. I think it’s the same stuff they use to power rockets to the moon.
Anyway, as Roy Barraclough asked Les Dawson on his return from his holiday to Athens, ‘Did you get on the Acropolis?’ And the comedian famously replied, ‘I was never off it.’
Well, I was never off our Acropolis.
Anyway, on Monday afternoon, I went to the hospital, went through ‘the procedure’ … it wasn’t so bad. It took about an hour. I returned home and since then I have been back on a normal diet. But it’s now Thursday afternoon and I’m just working away … I’ve had no call to … go back to visit our Acropolis.
It’s all a bit worrying … I’ve heard these stories about doctors doing operations and leaving a retractor or a scalpel inside the patient … I wonder if they’ve left anything up there? I've just remembered, a very rude man once said something to me. I wonder if one of those doctors was him in disguise, and there's a manuscript of one of my books causing the blockage?

Thanks for looking in. I’ll get back to you soon.
February 16th 2009.

Last Wednesday, the queen stumbled coming down a step out of the pantry and hurt her leg. It was very painful for her to walk, so she rang our GP and asked him to have a look at her. He said an X ray was necessary so a hospital trip was unavoidable. He could organize an ambulance or we could make our own way to A & E. It was a struggle getting her in and out of the car, but we managed it, and after three hours waiting around in the hospital, the doctor pronounced that she had a damaged cartilage and that she must rest it for a few weeks! Weeks!!
Well I’m very sorry for her, bless her, and I know it hurts a heck of a lot, but who do you think is back on the old washing up, cooking and cat feeding routine?

Anyway, rejoice. I say rejoice and be exceeding glad because I have finished writing my 15th Angel book. Yes. And I have finally settled on the title – SHRINE TO MURDER. The book’s a bit scary and very different, but it’s fun. I hope my loyal band of followers will enjoy reading it. (It won’t be published before November at the earliest, and that’s assuming Hales accept it! The financial climate being what it is, who knows what to expect?)
I started printing the finished copy on my PC last night to submit it to the publishers, but it went wrong. It printed a few pages then started missing the top half of the letters across a full line, irregularly down the page. I phoned James, who looks after this website for suggestions. He suggested cleaning the heads, but I told him that I had done that several times: he was tending to think that the thing had printed off its last book narrative. I phoned Leigh who looks after my computers, and he thought the printer head had probably had it, but as a get me by, he suggested that I changed the Printing Preferences setting from ‘Text only’ to ‘Text and pictures.’ He said it would push more ink through and might work. It did work and seemed a great idea. However, after printing 5 or 6 pages it pushed too much ink through which meant that a untidy spider marks sometimes appeared on the page. Anyway, I have persevered and have finished up with a reasonably tidy and clean copy to submit to Hales.
I can’t be messing about like that so I’ve asked Leigh to kit me out with a laser printer which is supposed to be much more reliable and quicker. It only prints in black, but I reckon colours are for wimps, don’t you?
Of course, the queen has to read it first and give me her verdict. She is always very kind (too kind). She always says it’s good to encourage me and keep me happy, when it might be rubbish, so I have to take her opinion with a pinch of salt. But I can often tell by her questions, if I haven’t covered a point sufficiently well, or I haven’t reasonably or adequately explained something, or she simply doesn’t like it.

Hey! What do you think to the mild weather? Soon have to think of getting our cossies out again. Where’s the suntan?

Thanks for looking in. Wish me luck with the book. I’ll keep you posted, and get back to you soon.
February 8th 2009

Hello there.

Is the white stuff getting you down?

We live in an old ostler’s house near the foot of the Pennines. It’s at the bottom of a steep lane, which makes access difficult in winter weather. We are surrounded by snow. On two sides its snow as far as you can see. It’s beautiful in sunshine but can be spooky when the sky comes dark. We haven’t been able to get out for five days. Had no post, and the dustbin men haven’t been. It’s been like so quiet. Unexpectedly on Thursday, there was a knock on the door. I couldn’t imagine who it was. I thought it might have been a passing reindeer who had lost his way, seeking directions to the North Pole, but no … it was a pretty lady called Vicky, who must be new to the big house further down the lane. She and her husband were going to tackle the hill on foot (sounds like the Eiger) and wondered if we needed anything from the shop. How very kind. Thankfully the queen had been very clever. We did an extra big shop last weekend in anticipation of a heavy snowfall, which has meant that we hadn't been short of anything during our forced isolation. But it was very kind of Vicky (whoever she is) though, wasn’t it?

I had been out each day to feed the wild birds and the feral cats, of course. Must look after them, particularly when there’s snow on the ground. But it has been very very quiet. The quietness has had its advantages though. It has enabled me to finish the first draft of my Angel book, which I’m very excited about. Another two weeks and I should have completed it ready to go the publishers. I’m toying with SHRINE TO MURDER for the title. I had originally thought of MURDER BY NUMBERS. What do you think?

The postman delivered a load of post the first time this morning. Included in it was my bank statement, which doesn’t make for good reading so close after Christmas.
Also had an email from the publishers. It was the artist’s book jacket rough of my Angel book, THE CUCKOO CLOCK SCAM, which is to be published in October, which looks positively great.

Hope you’re managing through these cold, inhospitable days. They are really testing some people. The bad weather usually finishes by the end of February, so there’s only 20 days to go …. Then cometh the Spring, daffodils and all that. So hang on in there.

PS. Late yesterday afternoon, we went out to Tescos for some victuals after all. The queen had taken stock and looked at the weather forecast. It had been thawing a bit in the sun, so I said I thought we’d be able to get the car up the hill. We managed it easily and the roads at the top were clear. We dashed out and brought back a boatload of stuff without any difficulty. I quickly unloaded it and plonked it in the kitchen, and put the car in the garage, while she unpacked it and put it away.
When I came upstairs to write this, the queen was in her favourite chair with a cup of coffee, purring.

Take care.
January 25th
The Conversion of St Paul.
Also the 250th anniversary of the birth of Robert Burns.

There you are. I wondered where you were.

I apologize for neglecting this diary but I have had my head down writing my new Angel book, and trying to avoid the responsibilities of husband, householder and citizen of the world. It was all going terribly well until I estimated that I was going to overrun by around 40/45 pages. Now that’s a lot. I couldn’t expect the publisher to find room for that much excess, so I’ve had to adjust the plot slightly and make some changes; it will necessitate some re-writing. The whole thing will set me back about a month. It’ll make a better book out of it (else I wouldn’t do it). There will be fewer characters and that will streamline the story and make it easier (that is quicker) to read.
It’s quite a scary tale about a serial murderer who seems to know what is happening and therefore must be very close to Angel and the team. Its tentative title is MURDER BY NUMBERS, but that might change.

Hey! Yesterday I was conned by the queen. She knows I won’t go into shops during the lunatic period some people call ‘The Sales,’ when sweet reasonableness, good taste and commonsense fly out of the window and idiocy and greed take over. She asked me at very short notice to take her to Cortonwood. It’s a retail shopping centre about twenty minutes away. You know I can never say no to her. She always gets her own way. She was so excited. Anybody would think I was taking her to see Karen Mathews being banged up. She wanted some blouses of a certain size, colour, design and fastening, but they were not to be had. It gave me the opportunity to browse round a book shop. It was great. I found some old reference books about crime that I was eager to have, also I bought RAVEN BLACK by Ann Cleeves I had wanted (I met her at a Crime Writers’ Association dinner, she’s a prize winning writer and a very nice woman) and THE SUSPICIONS OF MR WHICHER by Kate Summerscale which I had also been told was great. I don’t have a lot of time to read, but I like to have something on hand when sitting around in doctor’s surgeries, hospitals and waiting rooms at railway stations (and in bathrooms!).

By the way ...
Have you noticed how difficult it is to get hold of a really nice sponge? Well you have to buy artificial because, I am told, the natural ones are shapeless and soon fall apart. Artificial ones are made from plastic foam I believe. You would think the ingenuity of man would be able to devise a simple sponge.
I have had four rubbishy ones over the past 12 months. Even the best of them had to be washed and squeezed and massaged to remove all the soap I’d rubbed into them time after time, and they all eventually turn into slimy lumps beyond redemption. I seem to remember as a child having great fun in the bath with a big one. Oh, somebody out there make me a sponge!

If you want to write to me, you can, at <angeldetective@uwclub.net>, and if it’s really interesting, I might publish it here.

By the way, don’t believe all you see on television, the newspapers and on the radio. Journalists, reporters and newsmen have never had it so good. The end of the world is not imminent. Disaster is not about to knock on your door. The world will survive. This chaos in the banking and financial world is all about readjusting the distribution of wealth. The easy days are over. The jackpot, crackpot days of something for nothing are gone. The magic dust has turned into sand. Luck has run out for the incompetent leeches who run businesses, banks*, institutions, large and small, and they will now have to start working for a living. It may be tough for some little people - and I greatly regret that – but for those who will work hard and are worth their wage packet, it will be a lot better in the end, so hang on in there.

I’ll get back to you soon. Take care.

*Banks are businesses just like Woolworths. I don’t believe they should have special treatment at our expense, do you?

January 6th Twelve Night 2009

There you are.

Well it’s all over. Would you believe it? Taken the cards and tree and trimmings down. Hope you had a great time. If you had a party I hope it went with well. If there was just the two of you or you are on your own, hope you managed to keep warm, well and happy.

I bought myself a big posh expensive looking volume called, “Great British Fictional Detectives A – Z”, by Russell James. Published January 1st. It’s supposed to be the latest authority on the subject. Well, you’ve got to keep up to date with what’s going on. Of course it’s full of big wheels like Sherlock Holmes, Poirot, Morse and so on. You would expect that. But it also included Maigret, Columbo and some others, who are not British, which surprised me greatly, considering the title of the book. Anyway, I wanted to see what they had written about Angel. I was pleasantly surprised. I reproduce the entry below …

MICHAEL ANGEL
by Roger Silverwood

DI Angel is a serious, hard working copper from South Yorkshire, who thinks for himself and does his own thing while relying nevertheless on his team of four close colleagues. Off duty, he loves his wife, his cats and murder – but the only time he ever smiles is when a murderer gets Life. The series is set in the present day, in real time, with Angel currently in his mid–forties.
In The Midst of Life (2001), Choker (2002), The Man in the Pink Suit (2003), The Importance of Being Honest (2003) Mantrap (2004), Salamander (2005) Sham (2006) The Umbrella Man (2005), The Man Who Couldn’t Lose (2007), The Curious Mind of Inspector Angel (2007), Find The Lady (2008), Wigmaker (2008), Murder in Bare Feet (2008).

… Don’t you think they did him proud? I was tolerably well suited. It summed Angel up very well, I thought. I found the book most interesting … included a few writer friends I know or have met.

Did you know that it’s illegal to take chewing-gum into Singapore? Perfectly true.
Importing or distributing chewing gum is a crime punishable by a fine or up to one year in prison.
I found that out the other day when I was reading a legal book, researching a smuggling story I am thinking of writing. Personally I don’t use chewing gum. I only mention it because it just sounded so ridiculous.

It is very cold today, but cheer up, the forecasters say it’ll be warmer tomorrow and at the weekend.

Thanks for looking in. I’ll get back to you soon.