Roddy Williams – The Atheist Poet

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dream monkey (2009)

i’ve painted a mandril behind your head
glaring out from your dream
watching your eyelids tremble

i’ve tasked him to guard your thoughts
when you’re not awake
his pupils bleed oiled orange

sits soft in a jungle, moonlit
half-dissolved in shadow
so not to frighten other dreamers

rough paw clutches silk pillow
long mask face tilts like a threat
balanced. it could fall either way

but behind that, miles beyond his warpaint
there’s a calm wilderness where nothing
uses words or mobiles

Murderous Reviews: Never Preach Past Noon (Leigh Koslow #03) – Claire Edie (2000)

Never Preach Past Noon (Leigh Koslow Mystery #3)

It’s really nice to have a series of books where you look forward to reading the next one.
Leigh Koslow’s Aunt Bess is on the board of ‘The New Millennium Church’. Leigh is summoned to hospital where her aunt is being treated for burns and an an ankle injury, having apparently saved the new pastor, Reginald Humphrey, from burning alive in his parsonage.
The truth is somewhat different since Aunt Bess has her suspicions about Humphrey and had sneaked in to the parsonage to look for evidence. Humphrey arrived back however and while Bess was in hiding, someone threw a Molotov cocktail through the window. Trying to escape she fell down the stairs and was carried out by the pastor.
Subsequently the pastor goes missing and Leigh finds herself dealing with yet another mystery while trying to keep secrets from practically everyone, as well as sorting out her complicated relationship with her neighbour.
Edie writes those novels that fit into the ‘cosy murder’ genre although labeling them thus would be doing her a disservice. She does pay close attention to plot, and I have so far always been surprised and blindsided by the subtlety of her clues and last minute revelations.
She almost stretches the boundaries of credibility here at one point but just about gets away with it.
Her strength is her characterisation, as she manages to deftly sketch even the minor characters into living breathing real people.
Got the next two lined up now.

Murderous Reviews: A Journal of Sin – Darryl Donaghue (2014)

A Journal of Sin (Sarah Gladstone, #1)

OK. Somewhere in England the village of Sunbury is cut off following a devastating storm which floods the surrounding countryside.
A policewoman, Sarah Gladstone, is visiting her mother and finds herself – along with the rest of the villagers – cut off from escape, electricity and communication.
The local Catholic priest then goes missing and is subsequently found dead by a Yorkshire terrier and its alarmed owner.
Sarah then has to mount a single handed murder investigation, handicapped by uncooperative locals, and their fear of having had their confessions recorded for posterity in Father Michael’s secret journals.
It’s not a bad read but I had several problems with it.
The premise relies on the priest being Catholic since he has recorded details of his confessions in several journals.
I’m not convinced that a village like this would have a large enough Catholic population. It’s not clear to me where Sunbury is, but presumably somewhere in Middle England prone to floods.
Catholics in England, in my experience and I am happy to be proven wrong, tend to live in towns and cities. but, even given that there may well be villages with large Catholic populations, the characters that may have confessed are either not Catholic or don’t appear to be. The one person with an Irish name, Sean, has not it appears confessed himself but wants to see the confessions of someone else.
Then there’s the characters. There’s not a lot to make one care about any of them. There’s a kind of bleak realism that isn’t supported by any tension or real drama. The characters are defined only by their bad behaviour and one sees little of another side to them. Some occasional light relief would have been welcomed. They come over as cold and unlikeable. Even the heroine herself goes through the novel in a state of worried annoyance.
Thus, now and again, the reader’s switch gets flipped from exciting to depressing.
It’s well written and I stuck with it. Given some work on characterisation and perhaps a subplot I would have been more sold on it but as it stands it doesn’t encourage one to read more.

Murderous Reviews: The Dark Vineyard – Martin Walker (Bruno #02) – (2009)

The Dark Vineyard (Bruno, Chief of Police #2)

Bruno is another of my favourite detectives. St Denis, in the Dardogne, is a French kind of Midsomer, and St Denis happens to be the domain of Bruno, Chief of Police, a fit young police chief who, between hunting, raising hens, making omelettes and training the local rugby team, somehow finds time to solve crimes and have a complicated love life.
It must be the French air.
An arson attack on an unsanctioned experimental GMO farm generates an investigation by a Brigadier as it appears there was government involvement in the farm. Meanwhile American investors are planning to buy half the valley to mass produce cheap wine. Things get complicated when the chief arson suspect is found dead and Bruno finds himself torn between two lovers, feeling like a fool, as Shakespeare once said.
I recently criticised a novel which was set in London, but if you didn’t know London, you’d be no better off after reading the book. It might as well have been Hull or Omsk.
Here the setting is so well realised that I ache to be there. It is a separate character in the novel. I want to be invited to Bruno’s dinner where one eats the birds that Bruno shot himself, wiping the plate with fresh bread to make way for the next course and drinking a fantastic variety of local wines.
I don’t care if I’m in line for murder. I am seduced by the writing and the characters and the place.
More Bruno… and more wine please.

Murderous Reviews: Voodoo Daddy/State of Anger – Thomas L Scott (2012)

STATE OF ANGER: A Thriller (Detective Virgil Jones Mystery Series)

I get very confused by authors naming or renaming their novels as something that is either meaningless or unconnected to the novel. When I bought this book it was called Voodoo Daddy and at some point changed to State of Anger.
The first title has some relevance which is revealed near the end. The replacement title is a bit rubbish to be blunt and is so vague as to be meaningless.
Virgil Jones is a seasoned cop whose team is called in to investigate a double shooting at the governor’s residence. The shooting however was of a cop and one of the governor’s neighbours. Further seemingly random shootings occur which appear to be linked to a disaster at an airport years before.
I don’t really want to get into any more of the plot as there lies the problem.
Structurally the novel holds up until about 80% in and then falls apart. The murderers are dealt with in quite an anticlimactic way while the author has left the hero too physically damaged to be very heroic.
Then there is the extended tidying up of a subplot involving corrupt televangelists and Jonesy’s army buddy who turned up out of the blue bringing trouble.
There’s also an odd ghostly incident which would have been best left out. In fact there’s a whole lot of spiritual philosophising that would have been fine if it actually went somewhere or helped to define Jonesy’s character, but it doesn’t. It ends up seeming somehow out of place.
I suspect there was just too much going on in this book. It also didn’t help that we know who the murderers are, if not their motive. It also suspends disbelief slightly that Jonesy’s ex-wife is connected to both the murderers and the corrupt godbotherer, as well as a rather too convenient connection between the murderers and the Governor.
One expects a novel to build to a certain climax with perhaps some suspense, some drama, a twist, but it never gets there. The bad people are dealt with before you know it, and then we are left with tying up what’s left of the plot.
Characterisation isn’t too bad although some romantic scenes are a little schmaltzy. There’s even an attempt at ethnic diversity since Jonesy and his dad run a restaurant with a Jamaican chef. He doesn’t appear a great deal. Everyone else is white. I am not sure how realistic that is, and thinking about it although it is made clear that we are in Indiana there is little sense of ‘place’.
Having said all that, however, it’s not a bad read, and some revisions to the last 20% of the book would make an enormous difference. I didn’t see any of the typos and grammatical errors that others have pointed out and presume that these have been amended, with the exception of the word ‘taught’ being used where it should have been ‘taut’ in the sense that something is pulled tight to a state of rigidity.

The Drowning Man (2008)

You remind me of that bible story about the drowning man
who expects God to save him.
He dies and asks why God didn’t save him
and God says ‘I sent you a motor boat and
a helicopter.’

You’re quite right
There were no helicopters in the bible…
Or motor boats.

It must have been made up later,
after helicopters were invented,
but that’s not the point.
The man did not see that God was
trying to save him.

Well, yes, the man was dead
when he found that out.

I don’t know how we know
what God said, but that’s not the point.

It’s a story.

I don’t see what’s funny about that!
You should be drowning, not laughing.

1 am (2016)

I think of you at 1am
when heat can’t get to sleep

will not rest till the rain’s come home.

You’re a call to the head.
I have no voicemail there.

On Radio Four a man is telling
a story about a spider in a tower
who only speaks the language of itself

can never learn another.

A man climbs the tower.
He knows only the language of shoes

or so I remembered,

as I fell asleep at this point

sweated hot rain

dreamt of someone else.

Preparing for the onset (2014)

I should make a list
of the people I despise
in case I forget;

start being pleasant.
It’s a side effect of this
I never thought of.

But if i forget
where the list is, or that there
was a list. What then?

Feeling the Pull of the Fringe Magnet

If you are in Edinburgh, Try this out.

melaniebranton

I’m taking my first full-length spoken word show to the Edinburgh Fringe in August (see Forthcoming Events page for details) and I’m going to try to blog about how it’s going, starting from now, when I’m about a month into full-time, serious preparation.

In many senses, my expectations are modest. I know, for instance, that I’m not going to make any money. Edinburgh is always just a very expensive holiday. I’m going with PBH’s Free Fringe, an organisation which doesn’t charge for venue hire, but also doesn’t charge audiences to watch (although a bucket is passed round at the end, so they can pay you if they want to). While this eliminates the single biggest cost of taking a show to the paid Fringe (if you’re paying for venue hire, you can be looking at anything between £300 and £2000 a week), all the other costs involved (accommodation, travel, printing…

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the chief petty officer (2013)

your anger’s like the water in an argos kettle
battering its fists on a cheap lid.
your mouth can’t help it
lets go of anything
not loose lips so much as careless.
they just don’t care.

those socks do you no favours either.
your moaning; it’s professional.
i’d pay good money for someone like you
to moan on my behalf

with your round flat face
like a platter of fried grouch.

there must be good money in that.
you should look into it.