Category Archives: Ken Bruen

Man’s—and Woman’s—Best Friend

Zoë Sharp

I’m side-stepping my usual post, yeilding the floor to two others whose voices need to be heard today, both former Murderatos. The first is Ken Bruen, who surely needs no introduction here, and the second is Alafair Burke.

Their words speak for themselves:

GRAVE MATTERS?

Ken Bruen

In Ireland today, doctors are being paid for treating 513 dead patients.

Due to serious flaws in the HSE’s notification system.

In 2010, 5 million was written off by The Health Authority, when they discovered that 20,000 dead Medical card holders had been paid.

How seriously fucked is that?

And we wonder why, after Greece, we are in such serious financial shite?

But lest I begin to grim, we can get back to that later, here is my own grave story.

Last November, the sole remaining member of my family, my brother Declan, was found dead in his flat. His body was lying there for 8 months!

I kid thee not.

Always a very private person, disappearing for months on end was his gig. But he lived in a gated community, surrounded by pubs, his mates and right in the centre of the city.

After I had identified the remains, we had the funeral on a wet bitterly cold late November morning. Just before I was due to hold the rope that would lower the casket, the manager of the cemetery said

‘I need to speak to you urgently.’

WTF.

I snapped

‘Could it like wait, five minutes?’

No.

He whispered

‘There’s no room for you.’

‘Room, where?’

He indicated the open grave, where five of my family rested, said

‘When Declan goes in, it’s full, there’s no room for you.’

Jesus, how unhealthy did I look?

And I asked

‘Did you have to.. I mean absolutely have to tell me now?’

He was affronted at my tone.

Stalked off.

A metaphor if you will. As there’s been no room for me in my family in life, I was now banned from the grave.

Perfect for a writer.

The ultimate outsider.

 

I got a new pup.

Cross me bedraggled heart.

Named Polo as the vet said, I swear

‘He’s bi-polar.’

Well, he’s certainly the quietest dog I’ve ever had. Zen in his stillness. Maybe he’s read my recent reviews and feels silence is best. I, after all, dish out the grub.

So you know!

I remain convinced that one of the best treatments for depression is a dog. Very hard to be wallowing in the deep when a little pup is gazing at you in love and wonder.

And he’s funny.

Very.

Steals the case of my glasses, hides it, then looks like

‘Who me?’

 

To write for Murderati was one of the great joys

Privileges

Graces

Of my career.

Dusty

Louise

Alafair

Pari and JT

Alexandra and Zoe

and now new Murderati friends

Gar and Stephen and David

 

The crew of Murderati are just the very best I know. To be allowed to check in at odd moments is just bliss. To writer belong. Since I gave up cigs, I’ve become a gobshite.

Truth to sadly tell.

I started cycling, 20 miles every day, and worse, cut out brews since my trip to New York in December.

(Note to cemetery manager.)

I said to Reed, next

‘I’ll be writing cat mysteries.’

(Maybe a Zen bi-polar canine sidekick?, you think?)

Reed in his inimitable fashion, emailed back

‘Miaow.’

Flash fiction par excellence.

Read Craig’s El Gavilian

And the new Jason Starr.

Gems.

David Corbett continues to hugely entertain on the poetic nuances. I’m re-reading The Book Thief for the sheer joy and it reminds me of David in the best way.

I’m readying me own self for The German tour.

Sounds …posh………….The German tour

As opposed

To

Poor tour I guess.

The Germans have discovered my role as a dead Viking in the worst movie ever made

‘Alfred The Great.’

Which dovetails nicely

To

(always wanted to seem literary and dovetail)

My most recent news.

A role as an English professor in a new Irish –German TV series.

And my preparation?

Grow a beard.

And I suppose, act ..am.. literary.

I’ve been doing serious and intense me whole befuddled life so that’s a give.

 

The pup seems bemused by this new me, and barks when I rough house in the garden with him and won’t

No way

Bring back the old ball he used to love a month ago.

Not a grave matter you might think but in the world of pups

‘Significant.’

 

The second voice is Alafair Burke, whose French Bulldog, The Duffer, has been such a significant part of her life—and her posts during her time on Murderati.

 

Saying Goodbye to the Duffer

Wed, Mar 21, 2012

Alafair Burke

On Halloween in 2005, I walked into a pet store in the West Village, saw a black and white French bulldog puppy, and fell in love. I knew it was an irresponsible move. Bad lineage. Puppy mills. Imported.  All of that.

But I’d already looked into the piercing eyes beneath that furrowed brow and knew he and I were connected. My husband wasn’t my husband yet. We lived together. We knew we’d get married, but hadn’t bothered to set a date. Then we had this puppy, and somehow we were a family. We got married two months later on New Year’s Eve.

I wanted to name the boy Stacy Keach. There was an obvious resemblance, and the idea of a dog named Stacy Keach (not Stacy, not Keach. Stacy Keach.) made me laugh. The soon to be husband didn’t get it. Fine, I said. Come up with something better.

Duffer. Like a bad golfer. Like Duff Man from the Simpsons. And it kind of sounded like Puppy, which is what we’d been calling Puppy for nearly a week.

But not Duffer. THE Duffer. He was special, after all.

The hardest part of loving The Duffer was knowing that, despite my crazy, unprecendented connection to him, he wasn’t really human. Absent some tragedy on my end, he’d have to go first.

This week, the day I’ve feared at some level since Halloween of 2005 came. Sooner than I expected, but as late as we could hope under the circumstances. Th- I’e Duffer had a brain tumor. He got radiation last fall. He lived five extra, happy (extra-happy) months. We found out this week there were no more good days to be had.

As a good friend just wrote to me, “They live on in our hearts. He was a lovely little guy and he had a great life, and he was loved and cared for at the end. We should be so lucky.”

I will miss the Duffer, but find comfort in knowing that he never missed a thing. Thank you for letting me share him with you.

 

Our hearts go out to both Ken and Alafair. ZS

 

 

 

A Ken Bruen Tribute to Murderati

By Louise Ure

 

Last week I received a gloriously sad, thoughtful and marrow-warming note from Ken Bruen. What else would you expect from the Irish King of the Cast Out Angels? It is a love note, of course, to all of us here at Murderati, full of memories from our past years together — an accounting of both our joy and our losses.

 

He’s given me permission to reprint it here.

 

Welcome back, my Tuesday friend. I hope the sun in Algeciras is kind to you.

 

L-

 

 

TA SE AN RUD IS EH.’
(IT IS WHAT IT IS)

 By KEN BRUEN
 ALGECIRAS, APRIL 6TH, 2011.
 FOR JIM CRUMLEY, LEGEND, FRIEND, ANAM CARA.

Seems a time ago, Le Temps, if not Perdue, at least so mourned.
I was happy then.
Being a member of Murderati, what was not to love?
Pari minding the crew, Dusty extolling on politics in a way that stirred the grand days of TS O’Rourke, being blog buddies with Louise, Alex having me back, always, and icing on the cake, Murderati was nominated for The Anthony. Plus, Toni Causey and Brett, turning out dark gold.
Heady lovely days.
Barack was the real whisper in the wind and hope was tangible.
I wanted this post to mark the best and the brightest then, for me.

I remember Louise’s post on her late brother, one if the most compelling pieces I ever read, cross me bedraggled heart.
My friend Jerry Rodriguez, his death un-ravelled me in ways I didn’t know.
As would so many to come.
Codlamh samh  … means ‘sleep well my loved ones.’
Louise’s beloved Bruce
And oh Sweet Jesus, Elaine Flinn
Robert Parker
Ed
Joe Gores
Oh Lord, so many, I can’t name them all.
But didn’t know.
Then.
So wrote as If all were indeed possible
Edgars
Movies
The whole espero-que-si scenario.

I’m sitting on the sea front at Algeciras as I write this tribute to the best and brightest. There is a ship for Algiers at 7.00 in the morning.
Tangiers, that ferry sails at 7.00. I’m seriously uncertain. After my graduation, going to try and find Paul Bowles with Irini.
The web, never take the bollix for granted, I shit thee not, on Amazon, in German, a bio of me and my marriage at 21 to a Greek Millionaire’s daughter.
I would have sworn, Mathair An Dia, ( Mother of God) that would never surface.
Me mother would have killed me.

I don’t know.
Peut-etre?
Remembering my languages but eerily, only the terms of ambiguity.
Photos?
Oh yeah, snapshots of the torn mind.
One of my used-to-be favourites, a beach in Galway.
See, the two stick figures, like Zorba, clearly dancing.
She’s gone now.
My wife took that photo, in days when I think she liked me, a bit anyway.
Or Aine, late to my life, a photo, rare as we had little time,
On that promenade in Spiddal, dancing, again! Me? Like seals who didn’t know predators are attracted to motion, especially happy tide.
Emotional chum in the water, frenzy freely.

One of my favourite books, ‘A Movable Feast’, and Hem talking of his delighted love for Mary, says:
‘There was wood all around, I never touched it.’
I’m sure around me, there all kinds of driftwood, in my ignorance, I didn’t touch it either.

Telling some of these tales to David Thompson, ridiculously young and brilliant. Oh Sweet Mother of God, the most get-go publisher I ever had the grace to know.
On tour with Jason ( Starr) in Germany last Sept, we get the call, he is gone.
No.
No
No
Fuckit-dammit-no.

I was 60 on the third of Jan, finally free I hope, espero que si, of cigs but the rest? Jesus wept.
In the blessed nigh on nine years I’ve been part of The Mystery Family, it’s been bliss. I stop here, un momento and sure enough, a guy approaches, goes:
‘Amigo mio, que passé?’
He truly doesn’t want to know so I give him some dinero, he goes:
‘Hoy, el muy bueno hermano.’
Like fook.
I lost my only brother ten years ago.

In my wallet is a photo, I never, ever look at. She’s there, smiling, shite, I know that and who knows, I might have been too but I forget. Thank Christ. I do know she has an expression of such longing, yearning even, but now, I still wonder, for what?
You believe it?
I never asked.
Swear to the God whom I amuse so highly, I never did, lest she tell me and I couldn’t deliver.
I should have asked.
You think?

My Dad, always (siempre) had a look in his eyes, one that defied:
‘Take your best shot.’
Me, the photos, I look like the best shots were already over the day I thought I could live in the world.
In Delaware, Princess died.
And I go:
‘Enough already.’
Well, not really, I’m too nice, Jesus, to utter that but I feel it.

I stand up, think:
‘I really should pay tribute to those I love and respect.’
Murderati
Craig
Jay
Lou
Louise
And the list is endless.

As Paul Brady sang in The Island:
‘Hey, this was never meant to be no sad song.’

I think of the wondrous blogs:
Peter and The Rap Sheet
Ali, of course
Duane (go win that Edgar buddy)
Crime Always Pays
Paul Brazil
Derek Haas
Jen’s Books Thoughts
Spinetingler
Mulholland

The lady I’m with approaches, she’s French so melancholy is not that much of a mystery, she goes:
‘K, there’s a party for your award in like, half an hour.’
I give her me best smile, the one that leaks
Compassion
Empathy
And no humour
None.
I know, I got to practice it a lot at all the funerals.

I start up the incline to the villa provided by the publishers and she asks, slight frown, as me quiet is not common, asks:
A gra, OK?’
Sorry, I’ve been teaching her Irish, saved me from talking about the friends I’d so wish to Christ she’d known.

I nearly smile, say:
‘No, I’ve been doing some stuff on the laptop.’
She stops, never … no matter how in the wind they are … underestimate the intuition of a lady who cares for you, she asks:
‘Tom? ( Piccirilli) Lukas? Philip?’
Then she lights up, gets it, says:
‘Jason…. Jason Starr.’
Right.

I have 2 new books near completion but I haven’t written for 2 days.
That’s it, the freaking reason I’m out of sorts.

Man U play Chelsea later and the bar will be full, giving me support for me team and all good stuff, as Lukas (Ortiz) says,
‘It’s all good amigo.’
I drink the equivalent of maybe three Buds (light). God be with the days, yada, but come morning, I’m sitting on our balcony and she, God Bless her, moves right in beside me and you have to know me God-forgive-em moods, to come that close in the morning, she hands me a café con leche, her  arm round my shoulder, casually, like we’ve doing it for twenty years:
‘Yeah… right, I know.’
I think, say:
‘Alanna, what I’m writing is, Je pense, mais no, un cri de coeur.’
Gives me that rare to rarest look, of someone who gives a tinker’s cuss as to what I really think, I know at home in Ireland, cri de coeur is simply, whining … worse, what they call, off-white whining.
She looks out at that Ocean, stretching to Africa, she  still doesn’t know if we’re travelling, asks:
Que pense, Kay?
Tempted to go Galway, channel Charlie Stella.
‘Fug-ed.about.it, Kay.’
But I uncharacteristically tell the truth, say:
‘I’m thinking … ti kema, quelle dommage … of Murderati, of the crew of damn nigh Cowboy-angels there.’
And she laughs.
The French laughing is nigh on as wonderful as the Irish telling the truth. She hugs real close and, God forgive me, the warmth makes me afraid, afraid I’ll get used to it. She misinterprets my shudder, asks:
Andiamo, diga me?’
Our slumming in about five different languages is one of her main appeals for me, plus, she never …like seriously … judges me. WTF.
I truly tell the truth, tell:
‘It
      Is
           What
                     It
                          Is.’
Ken Bruen.

 

PS from Louise: I’m on jury duty again and will check in during the day as we get breaks.

The Essence of Character

– by Alexandra Sokoloff

I so loved Stephen’s post on character yesterday I wanted to continue the discussion, from a slightly different angle.

First  I just have to say this.  In just a few paragraphs – tiny black marks on paper, or bits on a screen – Steve put a REAL PERSON into our heads.   An unforgettable person.  

That’s great writing.   But I don’t think you can break it down into the words he used and what order he used them in.   It’s not a technical skill so much as – well, as another Steve says in On Writing – it’s telepathy.   Steve  – Our Steve – was struck to his core by a unique human being and so moved by the experience that he used his own being to communicate that profound encounter to us – whole – so that we could have that encounter with Henry, too…

AND IT WORKED.

How awesome is that?

That is the real magic of writing.

And that doesn’t have a lot to do with details, really. It has to do with ESSENCE.

Note what SJS didn’t put into his characterization of Henry.  He didn’t say what he was wearing (didn’t need to – we’ve all seen how men dress to move furniture).  He didn’t say if he was married, with or without children, gay, straight.  He didn’t give us his long and involved back story, what kind of cereal he likes, what team he roots for, what side of the bed he sleeps on, what his astrological sign is.   There weren’t even any descriptions of fascinating tattoos.

I’ve seen character bio forms that have writers list all of those things and more, and they always make me uneasy.   It’s too much information.  A character comes through not because of a mountain of details, but because of those one or two unmissable things that define him or her – in this case, Henry’s infinite patience and presence in a frustrating, mundane situation (and the contrast of that personal serenity in the body of a bruiser.).

Steve’s portrayal of Henry doesn’t have much to do with the words he used, either, with technical skill.  Oh, we need technical skill all right, but mainly so that we don’t get in our own way while we’re writing.   We learn all those things, the words, the pace, the grammar rules and how to break them, iambic pentameter (yes, we all use it if we’re writing in English…) – but that’s just a pianist’s scales, or a dancer’s barre work.   We do those things so that we have a finely tuned instrument that is always ready on a moment’s notice to communicate the pure ESSENCE of a character (or love scene, or  fight, whatever we’re needing to communicate in our story.)

I think I’m going on about this because – well, of course it’s what I do, but also I’ve been thinking about the essence of character because I went on a Reacher binge recently and caught up on a few of the older books I hadn’t read yet.  And then I wanted more, and I started up rereading the ones I’ve already read.

As I have confessed here before, I’m not much of a series reader.   I realize that part of it is that I am generally doubtful and cynical that any one author can continue to build depth and complexity in the same characters for more than three or four books.  And that’s if they’re really good and really lucky.   With a series, I am always bracing myself for ennui to set in.   Now, I think TV can do series brilliantly – but TV has the incredible advantage of having ACTORS along with a whole staff of writers looking after character development.   And actors are fanatically devoted to exploring their particular character, exclusively.   That specialization and focus can, in the best of circumstances, carry TV characters much farther than authors are usually capable of carrying them.   That’s by no means a slight on writers, it’s an acknowledgement of the art, craft, magic and specialization of actors.

But Lee Child’s Reacher is an exception, and so is Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch, and that has to do with unbelievably great plots, for sure, but I think it also has to do with character essence.

In any Reacher book you care to pick up, on the first few pages you are going to find this character who is almost always out on the open road, and preternaturally observant. Okay, sometimes you meet him right before a fight in which he is always outnumbered and always the last man standing, but the fight will be portrayed moment by moment so that we experience Reacher’s mental and psychological calculations at every second of the action.    I don’t much think about what Reacher looks like – muscle seems to have very little to do with anything that happens.  In fact, Reacher is huge, but is constantly dispatching bigger and stronger men because he’s fighting with his brain.  It’s the Sherlockian powers of observation, whether in a fight or in the course of an investigation –  that are compelling about the character.

There are a few other constant, essential things about Reacher that make him unique.  He HATES a situation in which a big guy, whether an individual or corporation, is dominating or oppressing a weaker person or entity; he is driven to right that imbalance time and time again.   He hates having any encumbrances – house, clothing, place, or even money.  And he must have the companionship of an intelligent, unique woman to feel balanced and whole – that is, as balanced and whole as Reacher will ever even temporarily be (he doesn’t say this, but it’s constantly played out).  

Harry Bosch is another character I never get tired of.  Harry was devised with a particular back story of being a tunnel rat in Vietnam, which – without being stated – gives a sense of why this man is damaged.  And Harry is wounded, no doubt – while he is often heroic, you worry about him, wonder how he even gets through a day, sometimes.   As an LAPD detective, Harry is constantly up against overwhelming forces – it’s not just about the case he’s working on, but the bureaucracy and sometimes malignance of the police department in general, or superiors in the department in particular.  Sometimes the very family Harry is trying to help is working against him.   Sometimes there’s a bigger, amorphous evil like racism.   In fact, there’s always a sense of a greater evil that might finish Harry off for good.  Harry is on some level aware of these larger forces and still he goes out there and does his job with a dogged determination that is both relentless and slightly – autistic, is the word that comes to mind.

Of course both Reacher and Harry are wounded knights, an archetype that has captured the popular imagination for hundreds of years, if not since the beginning of time.

I loved Denise Mina’s prickly, scrappy Paddy Meehan instantly because of her in-your-face Scottishness.  Irishness.  Mongrel-mixedness.  She’s a new journalist from the wrong side of the tracks and too young to have any practical experience who ends up uncovering more than any of her male colleagues combined because of sheer cussedness.  The lone woman up against a force of often hostile male colleagues has always done me (the brilliant BBC series Prime Suspect is one of the best examples I’ve ever seen) because it’s so true to my own experience.   Paddy’s also like Tess’s Jane Rizzoli, who startled me as a female lead because she is so desperately unhappy, so NOT a Cinderella.  In the book which was Jane’s introduction, The Surgeon, Jane DOESN’T get the guy – she nearly gets killed instead.   She gets no respect on the job because she’s a woman and she gets no respect from her Italian family because she’s a woman.  And experiencing her pain and outsiderness made me a devoted fan.

Margaret Maron, to me, captures the essence of the South in her Deborah Knott books.   Margaret’s own laser perception masked by that “Who – little ol’ me?” Southern slyness oozes through in Deborah.

Cornelia’s Madeline Dare is a fascinating character to me because she lives in – or at least has lived in – a world that is completely alien to my experience, and yet I completely relate to her razor-sharp smarts, wicked tongue, and feminism.  SJS’s Hayden Glass being driven by this demon of addiction is compelling to me in essence.  Ken Bruen’s  Irish cop Jack Taylor’s essence to me is his wide-open heart and purity of soul.   

Okay, you know what I want from you today.   Who are YOUR favorite series characters and what is it about them – what is the essence – that draws you back, again and again?

Alex

 



FUN IS GOOD, PART III: WIT

In this, our third installment of what gives a book the elusive element of fun, I’m going to talk about something that may seem obvious, but which is hard to quantify: wit.

In these times where far too many people  treat ignorance as something of which to be proud, the word “wit” seems at times to have fallen into disrepute. It carries with it a vague aroma of snootiness, of elitism, of cruel jibes delivered over dry martinis by callous sophisticates.

But wit–which I define as intelligent, incisive language that also manages to be amusing–is one of the things that can make a book fun to read. As just one example, take the works of Laura Lippman. Laura writes two kinds of books: her standalones, like her most recent book I’D KNOW YOU ANYWHERE, are engrossing, heart-stoppingly suspenseful, and gorgeously written; her Tess Monaghan series, about a female PI in Baltimore, are all of those things, and they’re also huge fun to read. The difference is wit. When Laura writes of a character, as she did in her book IN A STRANGE CITY:

Tess Monaghan couldn’t help thinking of her prospective client as the Porcine One. He had a round belly and that over-all pink look, heightened by a rash-like red on his cheeks, a souvenir of the cold day. His legs were so short that Tess felt ungracious for not owning a footstool, which would have kept them from swinging, childlike, above the floor. The legs ended in tiny feet encased in what must be the world’s smallest–and shiniest–black wingtips. These had clicked across her wooden floor like little hooves.

you can’t help but see him, and you can’t help but smile at the image, if you don’t actually laugh out loud. The wit comes from the delicious, wicked sharpness of the picture. 

Sometimes wit comes out of a deadpan description of the mundane that ignores the big, dark, sometimes even scary thing that’s really going on. The humor comes from  the dichotomy created by the characters’ apparent obliviousness or nonchalance about the rabid elephant in the room. Examples are the opening conversation in RESERVOIR DOGS, or this exchange from Donald E. Westlake’s BANK SHOT:

Kelp drove one-handed for a minute while he got out his pack of Trues, shook one out, and put it between his lips. He extended the pack sideways, saying, “Cigarette?”
“True? What the hell kind of brand is that?”
“It’s one of the new ones with the low nicotine and tars. Try it.”
“I’ll stick to Camels,” Dortmunder said, and out of the corner of his eye Kelp saw him pull a battered pack of them from his jacket pocket. “True,” Dortmunder grumbled. “I don’t know what the hell kind of name that is for a cigarette.”
Kelp was stung. He said, “Well, what kind of name is Camel? True means something. What the hell does Camel mean?”
“It means cigarettes,” Dortmunder said. “For years and years it means cigarettes. I see something called True, I figure right away it’s a fake.”
“Just because you’ve been working a con,” Kelp said, “you figure everybody else is too.”
“That’s right,” Dortmunder said.
Kelp could deal with anything at that point except being agreed with; not knowing where to go from there, he let the conversation lapse.

 Often, wit takes the form of an impossibly perfect and well-composed comeback, the sort of riposte that you realize no human being could ever come up with on the spur of the moment, but which you wish you could. Like this exchange from Chandler’s THE BIG SLEEP:

 

      I grinned at her with my head on one side. She flushed. Her hot black eyes looked mad. “I don’t see what there is to be cagey about,” she snapped. “And I don’t like your manners.”

  “I’m not crazy about yours,” I said. I didn’t ask to see you. You sent for me. I don’t mind your ritzing me or drinking your lunch out of a Scotch bottle. I don’t mind your showing me your legs. They’re very swell legs and it’s a pleasure to make their acquaintance. I don’t mind if you don’t like my manners. They’re pretty bad. I grieve over them during the long winter evenings. But don’t waste your time trying to cross-examine me.”

 It’s sort of like one of those Eric Clapton guitar solos where he tears off on a phrase so long and harmonically  complex  that you can’t imagine a human mind creating it, much less doing so on the fly.


 Other times, wit isn’t so elaborate, but instead lightning quick, like the jab that you don’t see till your opponent’s pulling it back and you’re wondering where that ringing sound is coming from.  Ken Bruen is a master at this sort of thing,  as in this quick yet perfect  description of a cop at a traffic stop:

He wasn’t wearing shades, but he wanted to…and badly.

Note that you’re unilikely to find the works I’ve quoted above are to be found in your bookstore’s humor section. some of them, like Our Ken’s work, are downright dark. All of them have humor, however. Smart, witty humor, and that’s one of the things that makes them fun.

Tell us, O ‘Rati: Who are your favorite witty, fun writers?

Murderati Rules You Betcha

What a joy when this kind of post lands in the inbox! Our beloved Ken Bruen sent this to Louise Ure and she offered to have it run today. What a gift.

Have a blessed week,
Pari

End of year approaching

Wondrous wind of change in America.

That elusive near dead concept, HOPE, has re-surfaced.

One of the highlights of 2008 was being part of Murderati.

It is quite unique to have such a disparate crew of writers in nigh perfect synch on one site and the outstanding aspect is the huge affection they have for each other.

You only had to see the crew in Baltimore to see how like family they are.

And between them, they cover just about every aspect of mystery.

The lack of rancour, vindictiveness, envy is magical.

I will always be delighted that I was a part of such an unique and warm team.

How rare it is to make deep friends with people you’ve mostly never met!

And a sad and wrenching year with the terrific people we’ve loved and lost.

Still love and deeply grieve.

Elaine Flinn

Jerry Rodriguez

Jim Crumley

David Foster Wallace

Gregory McDonald

Michael Crichton

They are carved in our hearts, imprinted on our psyche and live in our collective affection.

To have known nigh most of them, being close friends and sparring buddies, is the grace I was given gratis.

I cherish that.

The year saw awards go to so many deserving emerging writers.

Of course, during any year, feuds develop, arguments flare, words are spoken in rushed anger but as Baltimore demonstrated, they are but part of the whole tapestry that is the mystery community.

I truly believe there is no other family quite like it.

I had a brew with a writer who has often professed to hate me guts, we had a beer, talked of books, deals, agents and if there was any lingering enmity, it dissipated on the B’con air.

As it should.

Already, I have received galleys of new books that have fired me imagination.

From tried and trusted names to new and stunning debuts.

The economy sucks

The dire warnings of gloom proceed apace

Nothing really new there.

But you log on to Murderati, Bill Crider, Dusty Rhoades, and guess what, business as usual.

That’s the real hope.

My heart aches for those we’ve lost, I deeply regret losing touch with many I care about, but that is, if not exactly, the business of living, it certainly is the way life continually sideswipes you.

As sure as hurleys are made of ash, as sure as new controversies will arise, I know one thing for sure. Mystery is the beautiful game and in all its manifestations, I’m grace-d to be a player.

Con corazon

With A Mercy That Outrides All Of Water

By Ken Bruen


My trinity of sorrow and loss


Barbara Serenalla
Eddie Bunker
Ed Mc Bain


I have been truly grace-d to have counted those people as my friends and no exaggeration, I think of them every day.


I had a completely different friendship with each.


I made friends with Barbara through the warmth of Donna Moore. She had sent me Barbara’s books and when I finally met Barbara, she got right in my face, asked


"How come you never quoted me as a chapter heading in your books?’


I said

"I hadn’t read you then."


At the Edgars three years ago, she gave me that ferocious hug she had and asked


"So, am I quoted?"


She was very ill then and would you know it, not for a New York minute


She treated her illness with humour and style


When she won The Anthony, she was over the moon.


Me too.


She gave me a huge kiss on the mouth and when I must have looked astonished, she laughed, said


"I just won so I’m hysterical."


Few people in the Mystery Community were as loved or respected as Barbara and she was no shrinking violet. She had that edge and granite humour that if you didn’t get it


Your problem


Her books are on my shelf like the saddest line I can utter and all I know is that knowing her, I felt like more than I was.


Eddie Bunker was one of the gentlest men I ever met and he looked like the darkest alley you’d avoid. He came to Galway in 2000, he was the star attraction in the city’s Literary Festival. Dressed in a trenchcoat and fedora, he looked like he just stepped out of a fifties gangster movie.


His opening words to me


"You did time."


He said it was in the eyes and like cops, us of the dark, always checked the exits and were forever scanning the room.


Something I thought I’d hid pretty well, the constant watching I mean.


He drank gin and tonic and back then, you could still smoke in pubs, I’d managed to get hold of a carton of unfiltered Lucky Strike, had to send to Dublin for them. His health was failing but he showed up for every event, and women adored him. When I told him how much they liked him, he
said


"The bad boy gig."


And then that half smile like who the hell knew from shinola.


His favourite country was France, told me they worshipped mystery writers there and treated mystery writers like heroes.


Added


"You need to get you some of that."


I was doing a launch with another writer and when we’d finished, the writer announced he would not be signing any books and Eddie, standing near me, grunted


"The fook is that, gimme the suckers, I’ll sing em."


I told him how much the fedora fitted his image and he laughed out loud, said


"Image is for the muttahs who can’t write for shit."


When he was leaving, I was arranging when I’d next see him and he leaned over, gave me the warmest hug I’d had in a long time.


It was the very last time I saw him.


Ten days after he’d left Galway, a parcel arrived from France and you guessed it, a fedora.


Fit perfectly.


I met Ed mc Bain due to the wondrous help of Bonnie and Joe from The Black Orchid Bookstore. He was in remission from his illness but still had to use a voice box. Very first thing he said was


"Brant is great."


My whole series on that character had been inspired by Ed and when I told him, he asked


"Who is your favourite character?"


No argument
"Fat Ollie Weeks."


He was delighted, said
"Me too"


There was a huge line of fans waiting and he treated each one like a personal friend. The following year, in January, even New Yorkers agreed it was seriously cold and every store I hit, there was Ed before me and I had to ask
"Why?"


I mean, he was beyond legend and going out in such appalling weather, he certainly didn’t need to.


He said


"My readers come out."


Those three amazing people couldn’t be more different in
Style
Character
Appearance


Yet they all shared one thing, the most important person was the reader. And each of them was genuinely delighted to be a writer.


It’s commonly held
"Don’t meet your heroes, you’ll be disappointed."


That wondrous trinity gave the lie to that.


Last weekend I was at a literary convention in Clare, and among the writers in attendance were Roddy Doyle, Joanne Harris, Hugo Hamilton, Brian Keenan, Nuala O Faolain and of course, a whole cluster of poets.


My slot was on the Sunday, high noon so to speak and phew, you let out your breath as you see people come in.


Twenty minutes at the end for Q and A … a man said


"I knew you when you were a child and you haven’t changed a bit’


Jesus, I hope that’s not true. Muhammad Ali said that if you’re the same person at 50 as you were at 20, you’ve wasted your life.


I don’t confuse having changed with having improved.


Two women and a man seem to have every book I ever wrote, even the pamphlet published by Otto Penzler and after I sign the books, they ask if they could buy me a pint?


The weather is wet, cold and miserable so we head for an old Irish pub with a roaring fire and as we order the drinks, the two women reveal that they are Ban Gardai! Irish Guards and they tell me more about Jack Taylor than I ever realised.


The time goes by all too quickly and as they prepare to leave, they say


"We’d like you to have this."


I open the package after they’ve gone and it’s the gold insignia they wear on their uniform.


I’m deeply moved.


They had told me of various writers of repute who treated them with nigh on contempt and I’d told them about my trinity of late friends.


The man said


‘Colamh sabh le do cairde.’ … Peaceful rest to your friends.


The title of this blog comes from Gerald Manley Hopkins, The Wreck of the ‘Deutschland’.


I hold the gold insignia in my hand like the most treasured award and stare into the fire, I see the faces of my friends, the charismatic trinity, those Ban Gardai with their stories of patrols on the streets of Dublin and the lines of the above poem seen a fitting tribute

… to flash from the flame to the flame then,

tower from the grace to the grace.

KB

In A Late Style Of Fire

By Ken Bruen


This sounds like an Irish joke and a very sad one.


170,000 Irish blood donors had their details stored on a laptop and on February 7th, the laptop was stolen in New York.


"Not to worry,” say the blood bank.“It’s encrypted.”


Thus throwing down the gauntlet to every would be hacker out there.


And … all of the donors will be informed by email.


That is a lot of email.


There will certainly be Irish blood circulating for St Patrick’s Day.


Mostly they say, the important thing is not to panic?


My postman who tells me all of the above, says


“Blood will out.”


Is there a response to this, I mean one that bears any semblance of sanity?


The title of today’s blog is from a poem by Larry Levis. If ever there was a poet of connection and separation, he’s it.


He termed “souvenirs," the symbols objects and places by which people interact during their lives.


If you had to name one vital one, what would it be?


For me, it’s always the same, books.


As I prepare to move home again, I gaze with dismay at the mountains of books that cover my study and I can’t take them all with me.


I’m listening to my MP 3, sent to me by Craig and just now, Leonard Cohen is doing “Who by fire."


Pure coincidence, I think, as I finish reading the Levis poem, a line resounding


It is so American, fire. So like us.
It’s desolation. And it’s eventual , brief triumph.


The very essence of the Irish mentality is also in those lines.


I remember at college, a lecturer describing what makes a writer and after a long winded harangue, he finally said
“Fire in the gut.”
Without that, he said,
“Go work in a bank.”


Tony Black, in an email, working on his 2nd book, wrote
“It’s cooking, I’m on fire.”
No sweeter words or better feeling.
God, when it’s hot, when it sings, you think you’ll always have the flame.
Would it were so.


Most mornings, if you can rise to a damp squib, you’re lucky. I don’t think the flame is ever fully extinguished but it sure does dim.


Alex recently wrote an amazing blog about The Price, not only the title of her 2nd stunning book, but the deal we do to get published/reviewed/known.
The price we pay as Bruce sang, and how much you’re willing to give for your craft.


Charles Willeford was asked what was the hardest thing for a writer to do?
“Stay in print," he said.


There was a time I’d thought it would be bliss to be a painter and I actually went to Art college for a year, completed the course and my tutor on graduation asked me
“So, are you any good?”


He was genuinely interested in what I thought.
I told him the truth, I said
“I have a certain technique but talent, no."


He smiled, said
“You’re right.”


I’d done a few paintings and gave them to friends who were gracious enough to say thanks and nothing further.


A month ago, one of them turned up on e-bay and I’d love to say it was going for a small fortune. The only word that really applies is small.


My grumpy priest was round the other evening, one of those bitter cold nights, your breath making clouds of, if not unknowing, certainly of desperation.


Flattering me is not one of his traits but he did manage
“You make a great fire.”


It’s true, turf and the tiniest hint of peat, it lights up the whole room, you could almost aspire to contentment. Throws odd shadows along the bookcases and you’re glad you don’t have any real reason to head downtown.


He said
“I’m perished.”


Which not only tells me he’s freezing but is a heavy hint to get the Jay out.
I make it with cloves and sugar, brown sugar, not of the Rolling Stones type I hasten to add, and the real trick is ensure you have heavy tumblers. Literally add weight to the enterprise.


He gets on the other side of that then picks up my notebook, looks at some lines I’ve scribbled down

… the slightest comprehend If slight-indeed
As such
The comprehension.


He has no compunction about reading whatever is to hand and I’m putting it down to long friendship as well as sheer nosiness. I wait and then


“What does that mean?"


I’m not sure yet and tell him so


He is holding out the tumbler for another and says
“I suppose we’ll find it in the next book when you have another lash at the clergy.”


He is standing in front of the fire, so close that I’m half afraid his pants will burn. Burning a priest will do wonders for my rep but not much for my friendships.


He spots the Louisville slugger in the corner, goes over and takes a swing of it, says


“Now that’s a handy yoke.”


He reads the inscription on it and asks
“Who do you know in Ohio?”
Before I can answer, he says


“Tis nearly as good as a hurly."


No higher praise


And dare I say, he knows I have a hurly because he gave it to me
In lieu of communion perhaps.


Then, as is Irish habitual, he veers off in another direction, asks


“How’s the young wan?"


My daughter
I say she’s doing good and almost like him more till he adds


“I haven’t seen her at mass?"


I go and get him a refill


He nods when I hand it to him and comments


“You’re not having one?"


I say I’ve work and he laughs


“Sure that writing isn’t work.”


I give him my best smile as that usually makes him nervous.


Alex comes into my head and I ask him


“What do you think of the devil?"


I can see by his expression he thinks I mean the government then realizing what I really mean, he tosses off his drink, gets his coat and at the door, leaves me with


“As long as he isn’t thinking about me, I’m leaving him to his own tricks."


I’d meant to tell him about Rabbi David and his latest email where he wrote
‘Shrouds have no pockets.’
But it will keep
I’ll let it … simmer.


My daughter was going out with friends last Friday and for the first time — she is fifteen — she had eyeshadow, lip gloss and it shrieved me heart.
I know the whole gig about father’s not wanting their little girls to grow up and go out into the world and Jesus, maybe run into the likes of me.


I could see by her serious face how essential my answer would be when she asked


‘What do you think Dad?"


I lied
I lied big
I said
“You’re gorgeous."


After she’d gone, I stood in the hall and if I wasn’t such a hard ass, I’d have wept


I kept telling me own self
"This is like a cliché, father’s always react so."
Damn cliché didn’t ease one bit the agony in me soul.


I finally moved and said aloud what I’d promised my friend Lou I would, I say
"The very meaning of the word Grace, is, a free gift."

My surrogate sister, Kathy in New York, is having a real tough time and I resolve to get to the church and light her candle


The email brings Lisa from Delaware agreeing that "The Blessing” by James Wright is her favorite poem by him.


I try to count me blessings and would love to have just one that isn’t in disguise!


Mainly I wish, and I know how selfish it sounds but fookit, I wish my daughter was five years old all over again.


Me home looks like a battlefield in the process of selling it and the killer is the books. I give a ton away but there are obviously signed copies from friends that mean more than money.


To make me smile on all of these shenanigans, C.J. emails to say … you want to make the sale go smooth, bury a statue of St. Joseph in the garden!


Of course I have St Joseph, and I do have a shovel, one that the troops use in Iraq, sent to me by Craig, I have a garden but do I have the … suspension of disbelief, vital to burying a saint?


I just know I’ll get caught


See the headline


"OBSCURE MYSTERY WRITER ARRESTED FOR BURYING SAINT IN GARDEN!"


As I pass through the sitting room, where St. Joseph is perched, I can’t look at him, I’m thinking, “I’m on the verge of burying you buddy."


I head for the garden and sure am going to miss the basketball mini court I’d built for Grace.


There is a nice plot (sic) under me one oak tree and as I survey it, I mutter
"C.J. … hell of a woman."

KB

She Glides Along … the Solitary Hearted


By Ken Bruen

Dusty, on his blog, wrote an amazing piece on depression and it always takes cojones to write of such. I’ve suffered from clinical depression all me life and when I finally got diagnosed, I tried the medical route and it didn’t suit me. Now, when it hits, I bury meself in work and try … Jesus, do I try, not to let it affect those I love.

Depression is still unacceptable here, you tell someone you have it, they go

“You need a hobby to take your mind off yourself!”

Maybe fooking knitting, you think.

I can certainly knit me brows.

One bright spark, a life coach, told me and I quote

To “get a grip on meself!”

Through gritted teeth, I asked him

“Which bit of me should I grab?”

As a child, I learned to turn anger inwards, the classic cause of depression, recently, I’ve tried to do the opposite and not that I’m now a latent fuse but I reply faster and more openly to abuse.

You call me out, I’ll reply.

Dusty raises another oft discussed topic, if you had the choice, would you be happy and not write or … unhappy and writing.

No contest for me.

Writing is what keeps me going.

When I was asked recently, are you a very dark person? … I told the truth, always a no brainer, I said

“I write dark, I try to live in the light.”

My Rabbi, David Wolpe, in Floating Takes Faith writes

“Sometimes a mitzvah is seeing for yourself and coaxing a smile from the darkness.”

I ran that line by the grumpy priest I know and he sighed, his eyes expressing

“God almighty, here he goes again.”

He said

“Be more in your line to follow the faith you were raised in.”

But I knew he wouldn’t leave it alone and sure enough, later in the day, I was watching Boston Legal and he phoned, said

“I’ve been thinking about those Zen things you read and I’m now convinced, you’re a holy terror.”

I was delighted.

You get the clergy to actually come back at you, you’ve certainly got their attention and he finished with

“I can only hope it’s not true that the new book of yours isn’t, as I hear, taking a shot at nuns?”

I said

“Nuns, why would I do that?”

He said he’d pray for me.

The title of today’s  blog comes from the poem ‘She was a Queen’ by Hartley Coleridge and has as a second line, “a smile of hers was like an act of grace.”

Few moments as shining as when you see a person’s face light up in pure delight.

The Hilary/Obama duel gets huge press coverage here and yes, we have found an Irish ancestor for Obama, as we did for Reagan and, whisper it, Nixon.

Last week, I was at a function for Down syndrome and it ran late, I was walking home along the canal and a guy was calling a girl every obscenity under the sun. Plus, he had a grip of her hair and not gently. I’ve sworn so many times to mind me own business but his language was beyond belief so I said

“Could you ease up on the language?”

He let her hair go and she faced me,  called me every kind of bad bastard under the Galway sky and, bottom line, to go fook meself.

I wondered if that was in the neighborhood of  “Get a grip on yourself?”

I don’t see her having that smile of grace but maybe I caught her on a bad night.

When I got home and was making some soup, I realized me hands were shaking, doing a veritable full on jig.

The line in me head

She walks in darkness.

It’s been that kind of week, full of twists and turns, it started with the revelation that Gerry Adams driver was a double agent, followed by the announcement that for the coming student Rag week, they were handing out 65,000 condoms and I can’t wait to hear what me priest has to say about that.

Me doorbell went early on Valentine’s Day and no, not a bunch of heart scented cards, god forbid, but a package of books I’d been waiting on. The postman,  I’ve known for longer than I care to admit, gasped

“Jaysus, what happened to yer hair”

I said it was a buzz cut and thinking, I haven’t even had me coffee and I’m explaining me hair?  … or lack of. He said

“It’s fooking brutal is wot it is.”

But the ones who know you, they lash you and then try to leave you with a little something, if not uplifting, at least less harsh, he said

“You look fooking dangerous, you know that.”

Try telling that to the girl on the canal.

I get me coffee, tell meself

“Two months to Noir Con, plenty of time to have the hair grow back.”

I open the package and the day brightens considerably

Among the gems

Gutted … by Tony Black

The Cold Spot … the Picc himself

Damnation Falls … Ed Wright

And Will Thomas

Few authors quoted as often as Mark Twain but I can’t help but think of him and

Good friends

Good books

And a

Sleepy conscience

This is

The ideal life.

I’d trade a lot for that sleepy conscience

As I sit before the blank screen, I read a quote I’ve put aside for a chapter heading

… above the roar of the wind, Hector hollers,

“If we survive this, bud — if you take those cocksuckers out — well, then I’ve got a hankering to head into the high country.”

If I could only quite figure out where the high country for me is?

If I could take on board what my friend Lou Boxer says

“To let go

No seeking, no striving

No stewing

In my own juice”

I receive a query as to where is the best place to start with Louis MacNeice and ‘Autumn Journal’ remains as fine as ever and you have to love a writer who described his own race as receiving from their country

… neither sense nor money

Who slouch around the world

With a gesture and a brogue

And a faggot of useless memories.

Lest all of the above tends more to the dark than the light, I remind meself of the following:

“Why have you come my son?”

Pause

Then

“To seek truth

To ask salvation

But mainly … to have a good laugh.”

KB

The Urgency of Shadows

By Ken Bruen

The title of today’s blog is from an email by Louise Ure.

Yes, our very own.

Louise was home in Tucson, on book tour and letting me know how it was going.

Describing being back in Arizona, she mentioned she’d forgotten the urgency of shadows. Apart from it making a hell of a title for a book, it describes her new book, The Fault Tree, too.

Rarely has blindness been better described.

It’s three years since I lived in Tucson, we’d brought my daughter there and she was entranced by the desert and cowboys.

The only cowboy she’d ever known was me, and in Ireland a cowboy is not
am … flattering.

The locals were mesmerized by this tiny wee thing with an Irish accent who had a mouth on her like Bart Simpson. Like me, she loved America and it never ceased to surprise her.

Our very first meal, in a steak house, when they brought the food, we were stunned.

Enough on the plates to feed Galway for a week.

We did our best but there was a mighty pile of food still remaining when we
cried … we’re done.

The waitress, asked if we’d like a doggy bag.

Grace said

“We don’t have our dog with us.”

I explained to Grace that you can bring the food home and she asked

“Why?’

I said you could have it later or even the following day.

Her look was beyond skepticism.

Took her a week to realize that chips were called French Fries.

Mostly, she was taken with the dry heat and not having to wear coats, jackets or search for umbrellas.

Paul Theroux gave what I think is the best advice to writers

“Leave home.”

In every sense of the term.

My previous visit to Arizona had been on tour, and in Scottsdale I finally got to meet Craig Mc Donald. We were staying in a hotel that was closing in two days. When we ordered a beer, we were asked what brand and we rattled off various fine ones only to be told

“You can have Miller or Miller Lite.”

I did a reading at the wondrous Poison Pen and got to have dinner with Patrick Milliken, Dennis McMillan, James Sallis, Craig and Debbie. We didn’t drink Miller.

It was one of those magical evenings where the company is as fine as it could be, the weather was amazing and I thought … all of this bounty because I sat down and wrote.

Craig told me he was planning a book titled Head Games.

If you’d told us then it would be nominated for the Edgar, we’d have drank a crate of Miller.

I have been truly graced with the writers I’ve met and mystery writers are the best of all.

See the sheer volume of care and warmth extended to Patry Francis on January 29th.

As writers, we might work in the shadows but when we come out in the light, watch the glow.

Which brings me to The Legacy

A poem, for Judy, Bill Crider’s wife, the way I see Bill talk not only to her but with her.

Bill’s blog, despite the harsh shadows on their lives, remains upbeat and yes, life-affirming, no matter what comes down the Texas pike.

They are usually on my mind with the urgency of shadows

… leave you
 
   The leavings of

… an inarticulated thanks
 
   Will to you

… the echoes of the lines
 
    As yet unwrit

… term you the keeper of my conciliatory heart

    That heart

… as mortgage

    Hold.


I heard my daughter say her prayers in Irish last night.

She began, as we do, with Mhuire an Gras (Mary of Grace) and then she prayed for all the ones I’ve asked her to pray for and I’m just about to go answer the phone when I hear her add

“And God, will you let Dad get me a Big Mac today and no doggy bag.”

I’m thinking of three wondrous ladies I have the blessing to know

Susan Smiley

Honora Finkelstein

And Lisa from Delaware

All three have sent me warm and warmest emails just after I’d been castigated on a German mystery site for not responding to fan emails or readers queries.

As Honora expresses it, Hands on a healing heart.

What else do I need to know?

On Elaine Flinn’s blog, I’m laughing out loud at her responses to the comments to her Edgar remarks and she is all I love best in women

Feisty

Funny

And oh so full of true grit.

Louise Ure adds a terrific line, which applies not only to depression but to the insecurity most writers I know undergo

I have a black belt in self-recrimination.

C.J Carpenter sends me a piece about an English coin I’d given her and mentions St. Jude, Patron of Hopeless cases and I want to phone the priest I know and tell him.

But like the true Irish he is, he’d ask

“Are you saying I need to pray to St. Jude?”

Lou Boxer reminds me of the wondrous question posed by Merton

“What can we gain by sailing to the moon if we are not able to cross the abyss that separates us from ourselves?’

I’m about to end this entry when Bukowski’s collection, "Poems Written Before Jumping Out of an 8 Story Window", catches my eye and I open at random and light on this fitting end line.

… the only thing needed

    Is a little more strength

    Visions on bad film seldom

… repeat.


Exactly.

KB

Shards in Desperance


By Ken Bruen

                      Jan 29th is PATRY FRANCIS DAY

Here be … grace under fire.

Battling with a serious health problem, she stands as a shining example of:
“She may have the illness but goddammit, the illness will never have her.”

Her debut novel, THE LIARS DIARY was and remains one of the highlights of the year.

She has true grit and heroism doesn’t always have to be writ in neon, sometimes it shines brightest from the most unassuming of people.

Her novel sits on my desk and her sheer spirit rests in my heart.

I’m not often associated with gratitude but today, I give thanks for a world that has such wondrous people as Patry in it.

For today, I hope she will know that she is deep and deepest cherished.

                                           ______

February is looming, dark and rapid. Here, that means the Feast of St Brigid, and I know, we have a Saint for most everything but St Brigid has her own cross.  You’re thinking

“Don’t we all.”

Like the drunk staring up the crucified Christ and muttering

“Any chance of me getting a turn up there?’

St Brigid’s cross is made of reeds, and beautifully interwoven and naturally, if you hang her cross in your home, the house will be blessed.

A close friend of mine from the UK moved here recently and rented a house near the ocean.

So, to keep things green if not downright Irish, I got hold of one of the very old St Brigid’s Crosses and gave it to her.

I ran into her a few weeks later and she glared at me. I went

“What?”

She said her house had been broken into, all her valuable stuff taken. I felt it was more St Brigid’s fault than mine but am I going to lay it off on a Saint?

Me life has enough dark shadows without having a Saint pissed at me. I muttered some half-arsed apologies and commiserations. She let me run me course and then delivered her blow, hissed

“They took everything except that bloody cross!"

Had I an answer?

No.

I could have told her the burglars must have been Irish as they’d never steal St Brigid.

That would be like … mi-adh … which is Irish for serious bad karma.

You can take it as gospel , to coin a phrase, that I won’t be sending any crosses to you guys in the near future.

My doctor friend was round yesterday and is one of the few remaining Irish people to still drink tea. Now that we’re prosperous, we’re into designer coffee and tea is rare and rarer.

You can’t fob him off with a tea bag, he wants the whole nine yards, the leaves and the tea pot heated, plus the cups, left warming on the stove.

He also likes scones with lashings of butter. He’s a doctor so am I going to mention cholesterol etc.

He wouldn’t listen

He’s the one who gives the advice and when I finally get the tea gig arranged, he sits back, asks

“So, what changes have you made for the new year?"

Apart from not handing out any more St Brigid crosses, there isn’t a whole lot of resolutions I’ve made. Before I can answer, he says

“Course in your case, change is not to be confused with improvement.”

He can bring his own damn scones next time.

Here are some lines I recently came across


The bluebird of happiness

Sits upon your shoulder

It used to be afraid of you

But now

The bird

Is getting bolder.

For some bizarre reason, I read these lines aloud to the Doc and he goes

“What do they mean?"

I think they’re self evident and say so.

He sighs and among my least favorite sounds is the sigh, especially when it’s directed at me, he rolls his eyes and I had thought that rolling your eyes was something they did in sitcoms.

I ask him

“You don’t like it?”

He gives me his medical look, the one they instill in training, it’s a blend of pity and artificial sympathy with just a tiny hint of impatience and he asks

“Can we expect that you’re now going to be happy?"

God forbid

True to my heritage, I answer a question with a question, go

“Would that be so startling?"

His mobile shrills and he answers then turns to me and says he has to go.

At the door, he leaves me with

“I think those scones were a tiny bit stale.”

I had a scathing reply to this but alas it didn’t occur to me till an hour after he left.

It’s that time of year I give my lecture in the college, twice a year I get to do this and it’s on my doctoral subject.

I get a real buzz from those occasions as it keeps me in touch with my teaching days and I get to stalk the podium, if not exactly like Rilke’s Panther, then at least with a certain amount of glee. The Head of The Department was going to cancel this year as the last time I gave the talk, it was mystery fans who turned up.

I’d been reading David Wolpe’s wondrous book, Floating takes Faith and trying to get my tongue around beautiful words like

Tzaddik

K’dushah

Hayatzer hara

And a line that sings to me

“God” says the Kotzker, “Has plenty of angels. What God needs is some holy human beings.”

My priest friend is beguiled at my friendship with a Rabbi and my fascination with the Torah and tells me

“Every time I think I have you nailed down, you go off in a new direction.”

As a recovering catholic, I tell him

“The more I learn, the less I know.”

I am aware that will piss him off.

It does

He mutters

“No wonder you write such dark books.”

He’s a priest so I let him have the last word, call it my good deed for the day.

The ferocious winds continue to batter the city and when I wake this morning, no kidding, my gates have been blown clean off, I find part of one a few hundred yards down the road and the rest, is, if not … gone with the proverbial wind, then certainly headed towards America.

In truth, I’m not even thinking about gates or replacing them, my mind is focused on

Patry Francis.

My hand rests lightly on her novel, my heart sends out its warmest wish.

KB

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