Monday, October 31, 2016

An Extract From my Next Art Mystery.

The Hero meets the Girl - for the second time.....

I'm on my way to Paris in the Eurostar.
Some time ago Interpol put up on their web-site a list of stolen paintings and works of art. Now they've decided to organise a travelling exhibition of replicas or digital photographs of 'recently stolen paintings', an exhibition which has just started in a room at the Louvre. Somebody in Interpol must have thought that there would be more chance of locating these paintings if more people saw them. I thought I'd take a look. When I'd finally negotiated all the Japanese students and elderly tourists in the lobby, and queued to buy my ticket, I walked up the stairs and into the exhibition. Nicely laid out and well lit. Nothing great in the way of paintings except Renoir's 'Jeunes Filles au Piano'. A lot of stuff by artists I don't know with strange names like Grimu, Albotte and even Hulk.

I am looking at Molinari's 'Hercules and Omphale' when a group of girl students comes up alongside. To my surprise, I think I recognise one of them. But why? How many students with a ponytail do I know? Zero. But this girl, very cute, seems familiar. And she's glancing at me with a surprised look on her face. Then, suddenly, I realise. She's the girl from the Grand Vefour. The one I had dinner with. The one who pushed off rapidly when I asked about getting together again. She looks different in jeans, shirt, ponytail, different from my chic dinner partner. The group moves off, but, wonder of wonders, she detaches herself from them and comes up to me.
“Hallo,” she says.
“Hallo again. It's a pleasant surprise to see you.” To say the least of it.
“I wanted to say sorry for disappearing so quickly after you had kindly bought me dinner. At that lovely restaurant.”
“Not at all. It was your driver who finished the evening.” She laughs.
“Yes. I suppose it was. Are you enjoying this exhibition?”
“Not sure. I haven't seen anything I would want to steal, except the Renoir.”
“It has a lot of names I don't recognise.”
A large lady tourist asks us to move on and have our tete a tete elsewhere. So we do. We are now looking at a group of six paintings by a guy called Willy James.
“Despite his name, he's a Swiss artist,” I say.
“Really? His work reminds me of somebody.”
“Yes, that's it. Little stick figures and urban backgrounds.”
“Willy is almost an unknown. Beats me why anybody would want to steal six of his paintings in one go.”
“It is odd, isn't it?”
“Unless it was his mother. Care for a coffee? At one of those places in the Palais Royal?”

We fight our way out of the Louvre's pyramid and walk across the gravel, go through the arch, cross the road at risk of life and limb, and settle in a small cafe, half way up the rue de l'Opera.
“So you're interested in art,” I say.
“Oh yes. I'm a third year student at the Beaux Arts. And you?”
“I'm a dealer. I have a gallery in London.”
“That explains why you're here! But, I couldn't work out why we had dinner in that lovely restaurant and why I had to give you the envelope so... surreptitiously. It seemed very odd but it was what my father asked me to do. He said it was urgent. So, of course, I did it.”
At this, I froze.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Shorter books are coming back.....

Professor Tom Ressencourt, in a recent article for the Literary Review observed that the shorter novel is making a comeback. He said, " Short novels are for busy people, for the journey to work, for the weekend, for the beach.  They have no padding, no stuffing, no unnecessary waffle to get the page count up to 500 – just the story/the action/the characters/the dialogue. They are for the modern age.  They are for today's reader. Frankly I couldn't care less what type of coffee the hero prefers or what time he gets up in the morning.  I want the story to keep moving along.  And there are plenty of examples of  knock-out short novels in the past."

Professor Ressencourt's list included:
The Great Gatsby
Animal Farm
Peter Pan
A Christmas Carol
Northanger Abbey
Fahrenheit 451
The Old Man and The Sea
The Hound of the Baskervilles
The Big Sleep
Bonjour Tristesse
Heart of Darkness.                                         They are all short novels.  About 200 pages.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A little background to Gabriella's home town - Venice.

The single, major factor that distinguished Venice in the 1500s, from the other
powerful states in Italy, is that it was not a principality or a dukedom, but was a state
run by merchants, by traders and by businessmen.
There was no permanent garrison of troops -as in other cities of the time - to
intimidate the population. It wasn't necessary. The Venetians of all classes felt that
their government was a fair and egalitarian one. The religious fraternities, the parish
organisations, the pageants and festivities gave them a feeling of belonging; and
through the magnificence of the state architecture, a feeling of pride.
If you fell upon hard times, the state would sell you bread and wine at subsidised
prices. It provided some hospitals and doctors and the Scuole (the religious
fraternities) would take also care of you if you were ill or penurious. There was
hardly any unemployment. Beggars had to be registered and the number always rested
around 400. If you were running a business, your enterprise was not at the mercy of
tyrants or the whim of a Prince, nor your premises likely to be looted by marauding
troops. Venice was an unusual and comfortable place to live in, for those times.
There were police patrols to keep drunken sailors and young hoodlums under control
and maintain the peace at night in the Rialto taverns and hostels. The state provided a
paid fire brigade as fire was a very serious matter. If you were a young woman in
danger of assault, it was better to cry 'Fire!' than 'Help!'. More people would rush onto
the street. The courts were considered fair and efficient. A young patrician was
gaoled for assaulting a black servant girl. If you couldn't pay a fine or a debt, you
could work it off with labour service. Murder was a hanging offence. There was even
legislation to curb bad language, insulting gestures and blasphemy. It generally
succeeded, although less so with the gondoliers who were inordinately proud of their
inventive vocabulary of insults.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

What does post-modern mean?

Well, it means that a book is not written in the usual way.  In the case of 'The Search for Gabriella' the story is revealed in the usual prose, but also in screenplay form.  As below:


Tancred walks along the quay leading away from Gonzaga's palazzo.

Several berthed gondolas line the quay wall, side by side. Tancred steps into one.

A crossbow bolt thuds into the wood of the gondola.

Two masked men appear, swords drawn. They leap into the gondola, attack Tancred.

Tancred retreats to the next one, drawing his sword. They press him and he jumps to the next gondola. The gondolas sway and dip, sword blades flash in the dark, Tancred keeps his balance, holds them off. He sees Guido watching from a corner.

Two more masked men run up, one has a crossbow.

A GONDOLIER jumps into the gondola alongside Tancred's.

Jump aboard, Captain, and we'll
leave 'em behind.

Tancred lunges (his characteristic lunge) at his two assailants, they retreat, he quickly joins the gondolier.

The gondolier expertly shoves off, rapidly leaves the quay.

The four masked men jump into two other gondolas and begin the chase. The gondolas race alongside quays, through narrow walls, under low bridges.

Tancred's gondola makes good speed, but the others won't give up. The crossbowman fires again and again but it is too dark to be accurate.

They near the Bridge of Sighs.

Come back and pick me up.

As his gondola passes under the bridge, Tancred grasps the iron under-structure and heaves himself up.

He drops onto the first of the pursuing gondolas as it passes under the bridge, knocks the men into the canal.

His gondolier has expertly turned back. Tancred jumps aboard. The gondola races off. The assailants follow close, they won't give up.

The racing gondolas approach a junction with another canal.

Madonna just around the corner.

He swings the gondola round the corner, hugging a high wall. In the wall is a niche with a Madonna statue above a narrow shelf.

Tancred leaps onto the shelf. The enemy swing round the corner.

Tancred leaps onto their gondola, wounds the crossbowman, and punches the second man into the canal with the hilt of his sword.

His gondolier is back again and Tancred jumps aboard.

I'm almighty grateful.

Glad to be of help, Captain.
Where shall I drop you off?

Here. Thanks.

He gets out, hands him a small purse.

No need, Captain. It's already
taken care of.

What do you mean?

The client has already paid.

What client?

The one who sent me to find you.

Someone sent you to find me? Who
was it?

The gondolier shoves off.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

John Problem Interviewed.

Incho Blink interviews John Problem about 'The Search for Gabriella'.

IB:         You've said your book is a post-modern-novel.  
              What is the definition of post-modern in connection with a novel?

JP:          It means the author doesnt have to stick to the old ways of writing novels - with a hero, 
               a heroine, narrative and a clear-cut beginning and end.

IB:          So your new novel doesnt have any of those? 

JP:          Yes and no.  It has four or five heroes all of whom act independently, and it has four 

IB:          Does it have a narrative?

JP:          Actually, it has five narratives.

IB:          Five.  Right.  And where is it set?

JP:          In London, Venice, Prague and Abyssinia.

IB:          Abyssinia?

JP:          Yes, Abyssinia plays one of the seven key locations in the plot.

IB:          I forgot to ask you what type of novel it is - what genre?

JP:        Well. Its a mystery story.  And also an action/adventure story.  Its historical, but also      contemporary.  Its a romance - well, there are three romances in it.  And it jumps back and forth in time.  And it contains two screenplays. 

IB:         It certainly is unusual!

Monday, June 15, 2015

In Gin Lane, London

Opposite the stone cross, Forland and the girl turn into a large, glittering gin-shop. The bar, elegantly carved, extends the whole width of the long wall and on each side there are great casks, painted green and gold, enclosed within a brass rail and labelled for the different varieties of gin, 'Old Tom 549', 'Young Tom 360', 'Samson 1421'.  Beyond the bar, is a lofty and spacious saloon.  On a counter in the middle are little baskets of cakes and biscuits, continuously renewed by a garishly dressed woman wearing a faded feather hat. 
Forlan looks around admiringly.  One wall of the saloon is hung with a jumbled collection of bric-a-brac and military paraphernalia.  Swords and lances (all firmly secured), breast-plates, shakoes, copper pans and pots, a few small paintings in dirty wooden frames, pieces of textile with Arabic writing, a saddle bag and, proudly situated in the middle, a poor but colourful painting of a mounted soldier. 
Forlan and the girl sit at a table and he orders a half-quartern of gin and peppermint. 
Forlan says "Art hungry?"  She nods.  Forlan orders soft biscuits.  When the gin arrives, the girl dips her fingers in it and wipes her face clean. She sips from her pot.
"Ugh!" she says. "I don't like that!"  Forlan sighs and beckons the waiting-woman. 
"Does your Old Tom have all the right herbs in it?" he asks.
"Oh yes, sir. All of 'em is present." 
"Then bring us a pot," says Forlan.
"What 'erbs is that, then," asks the girl.
"Juniper, angelica, coriander, cardomon and orange peel," Forlan tells her.  "You will like that, I warrant." 
"I dunno," she says, dubiously. "Still. 'Tis a frolick, mister.  Bein' with you, 'ere."