Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet

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Murderous Reviews: Dying to Get Published – Judy Fitzwater (1995)

Dying to Get Published (Jennifer Marsh Mysteries, #1)

Jennifer Marsh has written at least eight novels but has had no luck publishing anything. Watching Oprah Windrey one say she sees a woman being interviewed who was falsely accused of murder and now has a best selling book. This gives Jennifer the idea that were she able to carry out the perfect murder, and have a watertight alibi, she too could be a best selling author. She also has the perfect victim in mind, Penney Richmond, an unscrupulous sociopathic literary agent who, it seems, has been responsible for ripping off and demoralising countless authors.
Via her work with a catering company, Jennifer meets Sam, a handsome young journalist who wants her to assist him with an investigation into the apparent suicide of a TV presenter.
Jennifer puts her plan into action but at the last minute decides she is not actually the murderous type and leaves the scene of her attempted crime. Later she is arrested as it seems someone else had exactly the same idea and murdered Penney Richmond anyway. It’s up to Jennifer and Sam then to identify the real killer.
It’s not bad at all, this. An enjoyable read with some interesting characters. One might suggest that the protagonist, who has written several unpublished crime novels, might well have come up with a better plan, but that’s a minor point. The plot is decent enough and the murderer was something of a surprise, at least for me. It’s funny without trying too hard to be funny and it ticks all the boxes as an amusing cosy murder mystery.

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Oh Look! Jesus! (2008)

Oh Look! Jesus!
No, I mean, it is
him
there,
in the next carriage.
I knew he wasn’t white like in the Bible pictures.
No, don’t take a picture. That’s so tacky
And I bet it won’t register the halo.

He’s getting off at Vauxhall
Why would he do that?
I’m sure he’s needed more in Stockwell.

Oh Look! Morton Harkett!

Fox (2007)

As I savoured the day’s last cigarette
a fox appeared, brazen, from Nando’s yard,
too cocky for one so ill-proportioned,
tongue proffered with a wet invitation
as he turned to gaze at me, appraising
my place in the general pecking order.

He swaggered from the car park then, slunk off
into the darkness like a one-night stand
who’d not even stayed for the entire night
but left while the streetlights were still burning.

I’d seen those eyes before, on a cool prowl
for something uncomplicated, easy,
sweeping languidly around a packed bar,
sometimes from the mirror, bounced back to me.

On Poetry – Glyn Maxwell (2012)

.On Poetry

The Poetry Society recently had a giveaway of five copies of Glyn Maxwell’s ‘On Poetry’ and on a whim I chucked my name into the hat – via an e-mail – and promptly forgot all about it.
About a week later a package arrived. I’d actually been pulled out of the hat.
I hadn’t known very much about the book beforehand, presuming it to be one of your regular ‘How to Write Poetry’ books. I’ve a shelf full of them. The only really useful one I previously read was ‘Teach Yourself Poetry’.
This is not like any of those. It’s a joy and a revelation.
By the end of the first chapter I realised I knew nothing. This is a good thing. It’s what they did to us at University when I was doing my illustration degree. They tear away all your bad habits and preconceptions then reassemble you.
This is a collection of Maxwell’s writings about Poetry itself, dramatised by a possibly fictional Poetry workshop/class where his four students write and critique each other’s exercises.

Maxwell is – as you may be aware – one of our foremost poets and clearly knows what he’s talking about. For anyone struggling with their writing – and my view is that if you’re not struggling with it you’re not doing it right – this book will make you reappraise how you approach writing, maybe shrug off some bad habits and evolve some new approaches.
I feel I really want to read the whole thing over again, and that’s something I hardly ever do without an intervening period of years.
It’s a brilliant piece of work. Thank you, Professor Maxwell.

Murderous Reviews: The Man With The Dark Beard – Annie Haynes (1928)

The Man with the Dark Beard (Inspector Stoddart, #1)

This is great vintage stuff, introducing Inspector Stoddart who is called in to investigate the murder of a doctor, a doctor who recently confessed to a top defence barrister that he had information about a crime that had gone unpunished.
The doctor was found dead, shot in the head in his study, having left a mysterious note saying ‘It was the man with the dark beard’.
There’s quite a lot going on, what with red herrings, sundered love trysts, disappearing parlour maids, mysterious men with beards, secretaries behaving strangely, another murder and a missing Chinese box. There’s also some interesting characterisation such as Miss Lavinia, who is quite delightful and whom I pictured in my head as Joan Sanderson, one of the UK’s most indomitable battle-axe actresses.
To be honest it’s not hard to work out who the murderer is, although rather more interesting trying to guess the how and the why.
The only failing here is that the denouement fails to fully explain the entire sequence of events concerning the murder.
It’s a good read though, and quite fascinating to read a contemporary account of how British fashions and cultural mores were noticeably changing at the time.
I’m very much looking forward to reading more.

weathering (2016)

these headstones
gaussian blurred
by time’s brassrubbing
graverobbing
fingers
into something it can recognise
without those edges
those words slicing sharpness that
it can never
curve the smooth rumba past

the dead are slowly worn
to forgetfulness
ground ground
as memories are sanded down
rounded into
dream bokeh
mossy grain

Murderous Reviews: Crime in The Community – Cecilia Peartree (2010)

Crime in the Community (Pitkirtly Mysteries #1)

I am in a quandary about this book. On the whole I enjoyed it, but I can’t help feeling there was something missing. A murder might have livened things up, but despite my best hopes nobody died.
Amaryllis Peebles (There is one problem identified at least) is a young-ish but retired Secret Service Agent who moves to the quiet town of Pitkirtly, and there joins the Pitkirtly Local Improvement Forum, a disparate band of people who essentially have regular meetings in the local pub out of a lack of anything else to do.
Steve Paxman, a Council Official, turns up at Amaryllis’ first meeting and suggests that the PLIF request funding from the Council in order to restore the derelict village hall. Very soon after, Paxman goes missing and things start to get a bit weird for Christopher Wilson, the chair of the PLIF and carer for his mentally unstable sister and her children.
It’s a novel that hasn’t really made a decision as to what it should be. Is it satire, light comedy, cosy mystery, spy thriller or something else entirely?
Let’s return to problem number one. Amaryllis Peebles is completely the wrong name for this character. My wider view is that it’s the completely wrong name for any character. However, if you are going to use an eccentric name, then it has to be for a good reason, or else in a context where others have eccentric names (no one else does). It also has to suit the character, and this doesn’t. There seems no good reason why such a name should have been chosen. If Amaryllis was hoping to blend in to the background then such a name doesn’t help. It seems like a senseless affectation which should have been abandoned after the first draft. You also have characters called Steve Paxman and Simon Fairfax, which have enough common S’s, X’s, M’s and N’s to cause confusion.
There are points where the reader will wonder ‘What the Hell is going on?’ with good reason, although most of it is ultimately explained. The explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense. There were far easier ways for the bad guys in this book to achieve their objective.
Having said that, there is some wonderful characterisation and it is nice to see Christopher’s view of his PLIF colleagues change as they help him to face various random crises which are hurled at him. Christopher himself is a well-drawn character, beset with problems with his family, his PLIF commitments and the strange creature that is Amaryllis, who has entered his life and seemingly brought turmoil in her wake.
Will I read another one? I’ll give it another chance. I’m hoping that the characters might dictate the next book and help it find out what sort of a beast it wishes to be.

Murderous Reviews: Exit Stage Left – Adam Croft (2011)

Exit Stage Left (Kempston Hardwick, #1)

I started this during my hour’s commute to work and finished it on the way back. Yes. It’s that short.
Once famous TV star Charlie Sparks’ career has sunk to the point where he is doing spots in local pubs. Kempston Hardwick is in The Freemasons Arms on the night of a scheduled performance and there makes the acquaintance of Ellis Flint, who pays the landlord for a private meeting for them both with Charlie. During the performance Charlie collapses and dies. Kempston suspects murder and shanghais Ellis into helping him in a private investigation.
It’s all a bit odd, as the book is not really sure whether it’s a comical adventure or not. One also suspects that the dated style of the narrative suggests it was written a long time ago and just put out for free for the sake of it. Fair enough if that’s the case, but one would like some sense of date establishment. One presumes from the nature of his comedy that Charlie was famous in the seventies. Most major stars of the seventies of this nature where in their thirties or forties or older which would make Charlie a little too old today for regular stage appearances and frolicking with strippers. You never know though. Also there’s only one appearance of a mobile phone, which I suspect may have been added as an update.
Characterisation isn’t too bad apart from the case of Hardwick himself, of whom we learn nothing. In other scenarios this may well work but here it just doesn’t.
The plot is fine and it’s well written which makes it more of a shame that this wasn’t treated as a decent first draft and rewritten to at least twice its size, to allow some character development and to establish where we are in time.

kfc (2016)

he tripped in kfc
milkshake lava slowmo foaming
over tiles
then staff erupting
efficient termites
sprouting buckets, mops, signs and smiles
tackling this vast disaster
fretting milkshake from the grouting
‘do I get another milkshake?’
‘yes.’

I’m still waiting there to order
while they’re making molehills
into milkshake mordor mountains.

Fossils (2006)

On the other side of that window there
secrets incubate like wall based time-capsules.
Traces were abandoned, mostly unremembered
by me and the other person of interest.

My fingerprints may cling, patient wrinkled fossils
waiting to wake, testify to white-clad strangers
of an ancient private moment, already lost.
The future may uncover more of me than I.

I envy them this clean forensic memory.
Mine has been dusted but no evidence, nothing
admissible anyway, remains to present.
My thoughts I should have bagged and labelled at the time.

Had it been murder, then the scene would be preserved,
but love is left unrecorded, even by me.