Monday, November 10, 2014

Cross-over Character. The mysterious Dobri Den appears in another book by John Problem.....

.......'The Government's Top Salesman Tells All'.  Here he is:

At this moment a good old buddy of mine, a big Czech called Dobri Den appears, resplendent in evening wear. I do the introductions. The Princess seems impressed by his size.
It’s nice to meet one of Dr. Bryggs’s friends,” she says, as though there can’t be many of them. Dobri bows over her hand.
The pleasure is all mine, Princess. As a matter of fact, Jason has many friends. But few as charming as those present tonight.” I detect a glimmer of interest in the Princess’s eye. Buddy-Jo is looking less fierce. Dobri, like the cavalry, has turned up at the right moment.
But you have no refreshment, Princess. Permit me to fetch you something,” he says. He goes off to do this.
He is not an Englishman,” says the Princess.
No,” I say. “He’s from the Czech Republic.”
Ah,” she says. Dobri returns with her drink.
So you are from the Czech Republic? A small country like mine.”
Exactly so,” he replies, “Although there is a particular difference. We do not have Princesses. Alas.” 
I don’t know many people who can get away with this kind of stuff, but Dobri certainly can. And it seems to be having the right effect on the Princess who, still exuding a lot of sex appeal, is now smiling happily as well.
Have you seen the excellent display of Red-Ware here, Princess?” he says. “I should be happy to show it to you.”
What is Red-Ware?” she asks, looking at him as though he were the only person in the world from whom she would like to hear about this fascinating topic.
We shall discover it together,” he replies.
Please excuse us for a while,” he says to Buddy-Jo.
See you in the gift shop in due course?” he says to me. And off they go.
And where did you come across her, Jason?” asks Buddy-Jo.
She’s a client,” I reply brightly, “Just a client.”
Good,” says Buddy-Jo, taking my arm again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

What Do the Following Have in Common?

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.

“Short novels are for busy people, for the beach, for the journey to work, for the weekend. They have no padding, no stuffing, no unnecessary waffle – just the story/the action/the characters/the dialogue. They are for the modern age,” says Professor Tom Ressencourt. “They are for today's reader.”

And what has 'The Search for Gabriella' to do with these great works? Well, it's a short novel....

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

This Is How The Story Begins....

If you’re sitting in the Bennelong restaurant at the Sydney Opera House, that is, if you’re sitting in the big semi-circular window, then you have an all-embracing view of the harbour and the bay with Sydney’s skyscrapers (none of them overly tall) in the background. If you fancy eating the chef’s signature dishes then you order his raw yellowfish tuna in a basil and mustard soy seed sauce vinaigrette, followed by blue-eye trevalla roasted on an etuve of baby summer vegetables (trevalla is a butterfish from the Antarctic). Chilled sake is a good accompaniment. You finish up with Valrhona chocolate cream. This is chocolate ice cream and gelato mixed with praline ice cream and caramelised candied pecans, and is much admired. 

The young couple sitting at table 5 have ordered these dishes, although the girl had been tempted to have the vanilla bean crème brulee with green apple sorbet. Maybe next time. Their heads are close together when they are not eating and they smile at each other a lot, although they seem a little sad. From time to time he places his hand on hers.

“So when do you have to leave?’ he is asking.
“Term starts again on the 16th. So I must leave next weekend,” she replies. “And you? When do you go back?”
“I’m almost finished here now, so I can go pretty soon. I wish neither of us had to go.”
“Yes,’ she says. "So do I. But you will come to Prague soon, won’t you?”
“Of course I will. As soon as I can. As soon as I get the go-ahead from my client. Maybe I’ll be there for your concert!”
“Yes. Please try.”

The young man looks well in his dark suit. He has an amiable face and a confident manner. But the girl, she is a beauty. Truly lovely. Auburn hair piled high on her head, a slender neck with tendrils curling onto it, a heart shaped face, dark eyes under arching brows, a mouth which almost pouts, a feminine and gentle manner…. The young man’s mobile buzzes. He groans.

‘Excuse me,’ he says, raising his eyes to heaven, and looks at the screen. It is a text message. ‘Ur Uncle Edward seriously ill. Pls call asap.’ and it gives a London number.

“I have to make a call,” he says. “It’s urgent. Won’t be long, I promise.” He strides off to the foyer.

A waiter clears the dishes, smiling at her. When he has gone she puts her elbow on the table, rests her chin in her hand, and looks out at the bay.

In a corner of the foyer, the young man calls the London number. It is his uncle’s solicitor. His uncle wants to see the young man as soon as possible. He is very ill. The young man walks slowly back to the table and the girl. He knows he has to go to see his uncle, without delay. They were very close. But it is difficult to leave her, the girl sitting looking pensively at the bay. She is so beautiful, he thinks, still surprised that she should be with him.

“Oh," she says. "I am sorry. For you and for me…” He takes a long look at her as though trying to record every detail of her face.
“I’ll come to Prague as soon as I can.”

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

How Does Gabriella Get Here? Gin Lane.

Gin Lane, London. 1720.
They make an incongruous couple, Grotius and Forlan, as they pick their way along Gin Lane. Grotius is a stocky figure, strong and confident, dressed soberly with sensible boots, while Forlan is slight, although tall, and decked out in silks and folderols, twirling a cane as he walks along one pace behind Grotius.
"Hold on to your purse, Master," says Forlan. "They can steal it away and replace it with one full of counterfeit coins, whilst you don't feel it."
Grotius looks at him pityingly. "Do you really believe that?"
"No," says Forlan.
They have come from Covent Garden, walking along Henrietta Street and turning into Gin Lane, making for The Strand. Gin Lane is filthy, dirty gutters, wretched houses with broken windows, ("beware the slops, Master," says Forlan), windows patched with rags and paper and, out behind, hideous stinking drains and latrines with, behind them, the dark hulk of Newgate Prison. The only building in good repair is the pawnbroker's shop, its windows heavily barred.
A drunken woman sprawls on the pavement while her child picks about in the gutter. A man fights with a dog for a bone. Old men, drunken, besotted, stagger by. Wretched, broken-down, miserable women shuffle along. A group of young men standing on a corner look at Grotius and Forlan, with feral eyes, move forward, but then hesitate. Grotius and Forlan step round a drunken fight between labourers in the gutter. A man dressed like a parson stands in the middle of an ill-coloured puddle reading loudly from a tattered bible.
In a doorway is a group of young women. They have rouged cheeks, matted hair and are dressed in scant and dirty apparel. One of them approaches Grotius.
'Very well, sir," she says. "You are here and so am I. What say you then?"
Forlan lifts his cane and pushes it into her stomach. "Let your business be whatever it will, but leave us," he commands. She trots along beside them.
"Come, sir," she says. "Why, this is a civil gentleman and cannot he answer for himself?"
"Do not be more stupid than you are, woman," says Forlan. "Go now, before I call the magistrate."
Call the magistrate! In Gin Lane!" she cries and laughs in his face. Grotius stops and looks at her. He sees a dirty face, of no beauty, not even pretty, but with a certain determination and spirit. Not yet destroyed by the years of poverty no doubt to come. He pities her and knows that this is not a good reason to be kind.
"Let her come with us," he says. Forlan says "Surely not, Master. 'Tis a harlot, simple." Grotius says nothing and strides on.
A young man blocks his path.
"And what kind of a man are you, sir? Eh? This young lass is my sister. What would you have with her, eh?" Grotius looks at Forlan and says "This fellow may delay my business this morning."
Forlan steps up to the young man and says "Do you wish, sir, to continue this folly? Or do you wish to see your mother tonight? Your mother would regret it greatly were you not to kiss her cheek again. Think on't." He shoots his cane out at the young man.
The girl says "Oh, shove off, Bart, and leave me alone. Go! Do!"
Bart replies, "Make it pay, girl." And walks off laughing.
Forlan says "Master?" Grotius says "Leave him."
Before they had left Rillstein's house, where they had spent the day comfortably, Rillstein had said to them, "In Gin Lane, the young woman will come and when you show interest in her, then comes a blood who says she is his sister and then come his friends to rob you."
"It's an old act," Forlan had said, twisting the handle of his cane and looking at the blade inside.
"Are you back tonight, Grotius?" Rillstein had asked. "There is the new opera. It's called 'The Beggars' Opera'. Apparently, particularly enjoyable after a walk through Gin Lane."
"It will depend on my business," Grotius had replied.
They reach the end of Gin Lane and turn into The Strand. Here all is light and brilliance. Cleaner. Ornamented parapets, illuminated clocks, plate glass windows surrounded by stucco rosettes, gas lights glinting in richly gilt burners, finely dressed men, showily dressed women. The hum of many voices issues from the gin-shops on either side - elegant gin-shops with French-polished mahogany bars. Grotius strides on down towards Charing Cross. Forlan and the girl follow, she marvelling at the women's dresses. Forlan is singing to himself;
"Ye walkers all that youthful colours wear, Three sullying trades avoid with equal care;
The little chimney-sweeper skulks along, and marks with sooty stains the heedless throng;
The dustman's cart offends thy clothes and eyes, when through the street a cloud of ashes flies;
Protect thy shoes and coat; resign the way; And shun the surly butcher's greasy tray."
Opposite the stone cross, Grotius turns into a large, brightly- lit gin-shop. The bar, elegantly carved, extends the whole width of the place 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.
Grotius walks purposefully through the saloon to the back and knocks at a door marked 'Office'.
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."
Grotius knocks again, harder. The door is opened by a thin fellow with sandy whiskers, wearing a fur cap to one side of his head.
"Yiss?" he says squinting at Grotius. "Ah. Is it Mr. Grotius, sir?"
"I am he. And you, I collect, are the Captain's brother in law? Is the Captain here?"
"No, Mr. Grotius. 'E's gorn away."
"Gone? Where?"
"'E's a gorn to the colonies."
"To the colonies? Which one?"
"Virgineeyah in the Americas. Gorn to make 'is fortune, 'e said."
"Indeed." says Grotius.
"Yiss, sir, but 'e did say as how 'e was indebted to you and what a fine and civil gentleman you was, but 'e got in a sad pickle over a sword fight, wot 'e won of course, and so 'e went."
"Who is in charge now?"
"Me and his wife, my sister."
"I don't think I have made that lady's acquaintance."
"That's 'er, in the fevvered 'at."
"Well. I am here to collect the final part of payment owing to me for the provision of 47 barrels of best genevers to the Captain. A debt which is now one month overdue. Did he leave payment with you?"
"Not exackerly, Mr. Grotius. No. But 'e did leave you a inventry. Excuse me whiles I get it." Grotius turns, glances at Forlan and the girl.
" 'Ere we are, sir. The inventry! All writ up wonderful."
"What use is it to me?" asks Grotius.
"Well. The Capting offers you all the items on that wall as part payment of 'is owings to you. An' 'e 'oped you, bein'g a 'onest and sober gentleman, would not think that you 'ad been robbed by 'im, which considers 'imself a friend and 'opes to see you again under better circystances. An' 'e draws up the inventry of the items, all square and legal like."
Grotius takes the inventory and approaches the wall. Looks carefully at the various items, takes a small painting off the wall and turns it over, looks at the back, turns back a corner edge of the backing cloth. Replaces it on the wall.
"Is you Mr. Grotius, sir?" It is the lady in the feathered hat.
"At your service, ma'am."
"I warrant there's good value in some of those items, sir. Would you not say so?"
"I shall have my agents retrieve them shortly and then we shall see where they can be sold profitably. I shall advise you truthfully of the amount of my profit and how much that leaves owing by your husband. These are mostly curios with a limited market. They are not select artefacts, ma'am."
"Oh," she says. "Oh. Then you might, as a gentleman, Mr. Grotius, let me keep the picture of my husband on his charger. He looks so fine and it will do me good to see him there every day whilst he is away, sir."
"With pleasure, ma'am. On one small condition."
"Oh, thank you, sir! What small condition might that be?"
"That you take that girl over there in employment."
"Oh, bless you, sir, but we get twenty girls a day asking for employment! We cannot afford the dress and the food for a girl, no matter how hard she work!"
"I shall make it easier for you. I shall give you money for her clothes. I shall have that disappointing painting of your husband improved by an artistic acquaintance of mine for your personal greater pleasure. Which will also make it more valuable. In three months' time we shall come for the girl and take her away. Does that suit?"
"Well. I suppose.... I suppose I could use her. Just three months, you say, Mr. Grotius?"
"Yes. However, when I come, she must be in fine health. And have not been abused or ill-used by either your customers or your brother. Do you agree, ma'am?"
"Oh yes, sir."
"If she has been, then I shall take her away and sell her in Africk."
"Sell her in Africk! You could not do it! Surely not, sir?"
"I most certainly could. And the guilt for that would be on your head. And your brother would be punished by my man Forlan.
"Oh, sir! Don't you trust me?"
"I trust no-one." He gestures to Forlan. "Bring the girl."
"Listen carefully, girl. You are to stay and work here for this lady who will house you, feed you and look after you for three months, when I and your friend Forlan will return for you. No harm will come to you. But if you drink one drop of gin during that time, I will know of it and will not come for you. Do you agree?" The girl is numbed by what is happening and nods feebly, looking for re-assurance to Forlan. He smiles at her, touches her shoulder.
Out in the street, Forlan says, "So I'm her friend, am I?"
"I observed she was interested in you and you in her." replies Grotius.
"Do we go back through Gin Lane?" asks Forlan excitedly, twirling his cane.
"No, we must go to Hartshorn Lane, near the river," replies Grotius, striding out once more. "To give the inventory to my agents."
"Why did you offer to improve the painting of that man who owes you money, Master?"
"Before I was a merchant, I did some soldiering and he and I were friends. He was a good fellow, unafraid and brave. But wild. And our ways drifted apart until I sold him the gin."
As they walk down towards the river, Forlan sings to himself, "There is a lady sweet and kinde, Was never face so pleased my mind......"

Monday, April 28, 2014

A Different Kind of Hero......

......appears in John Problem's thriller - "The Bankers' Assassin".   Here is a description:

"Someone is assassinating bankers. One by one. And very cleverly.
Is it because the bankers' greed left millions without homes and without jobs? Yet no banker was ever brought to trial; they were never prosecuted. Are these killings revenge? Is there a vigilante who wants retribution?
Someone is assassinating bankers. Firstly in London, New York, Paris and even on a transatlantic flight.....then in Venice and Beirut. Who is the assassin? How is he able to avoid detection? What are his motives?
Bankers are dying. Why?"

John Bale is not at all like Ben Fletcher!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Most blogs have advertising...... here's a little on this one.
If you like action/adventure stories, thrillers and similar, then you might like to try 'The Bankers' Assassin'.
If you like dogs, then you might like to try 'Seven Short Stories for Dogs'.
If you're fed up with politicians, then you might like the satire 'The Government's Top Salesman Tells All'.
They're all e-books by John Problem on Amazon.  Who hopes you'll enjoy one or more.

Monday, January 6, 2014

How many potential romances?

There's the narrator and his girl, in Sydney and Prague,

Tancred and Gabriella, in Venice,
Forlan and the street-girl, in London,
Tom and Diana, in Abyssinia.