When it’s too cold to go out…

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Excerpt from A Stirring in the Blood

Chapter One

INSOMNIACS do sleep, they just don’t get much of it, and Harry Paget was no exception. So, when he found himself awake in the middle of the night, he didn’t immediately look for a reason for his sudden wakefulness. It was just how it was and had been for the past 730 sleepless nights. Nor did he open his eyes straight away, preferring to keep them shut in the vain hope that he might, just might, against all the odds, drift off again.

When a floorboard creaked, he wasn’t alarmed. Harry had grown used to lying in bed just listening to the sounds his old house made in the depths of the night; the ticking of a cooling radiator or the creak of the woodwork as it contracted. Some nights he imagined himself alone at the wheel of a sailing ship in the middle of a dark ocean, with only the groan of the ship’s timbers and the crack of the wind in the sails for company.

As the seconds ticked by, he became conscious of the wider world beyond his bedroom; the sighing of the wind in the trees that lined the avenue, and the distant barking of a dog. A car pulled up to the junction and waited for the lights to change. Its idling engine and the muted sounds of the car’s radio carried up to him on the still night air – ‘You’ve got a friend,’ sang James Taylor – one of Annie’s favourites. The music took Harry’s mind shooting straight back to the 70’s when he and Annie were courting. That song had been their song, but he was abruptly dragged back to the present by the familiar sound of a dressing table drawer being slowly withdrawn.

Harry froze. That drawer couldn’t have moved by itself…

His mind racing almost as fast as his heart, he cautiously opened one eye to find a dark figure peering at him, the face a ghastly red, caught in the glow from the bedside clock radio’s digital display. In his gloved hands he held Annie’s jewellery box. Before Harry could say or do anything, the intruder brought the box smashing down on his face and made for the door. But he had to run round the bed to get to it and, with an agility that surprised both men, Harry rolled out on the opposite side of the bed and hurled himself at the fleeing burglar. The impetus of Harry’s dive sent the man crashing against the wall, dislodging one of Annie’s framed watercolours. All three tumbled to the floor. As the man attempted to get to his feet, Harry jumped on his back, wrapped both arms around his neck, and clung on like a limpet as the man sought to shrug him off.

‘Get off me, you dirty old bastard!’ growled the man, and Harry caught the whiff of stale cigarette smoke on his breath.

Harry hadn’t worn pyjamas for years and his pale limbs showed up ghostly white in the darkness. In any other circumstances, he would have found the situation amusing. His intruder was clearly more alarmed at the prospect of being buggered by a naked, middle-aged man, than he was of being arrested. The impression Harry had was of a young man and a strong one, and he wondered how much longer he could hold onto him.

‘I just want my wife’s jewellery box,’ he said, through gritted teeth.

‘I dropped it when you jumped me, didn’t I.’

Harry cast around. His eyes had grown more accustomed to the darkness, but his night-time vision wasn’t good.

‘I can’t see it.’

‘Fuck sake! I’m lying on it,’ snarled the intruder. ‘If you want it, you’ll have to get off me.’

Harry was quite prepared to let the thief go if that meant he got Annie’s jewellery back. But, and it was a big but, could he rely on this vicious criminal to keep his word?

‘Hurry up, this thing’s digging in me.’ whined his assailant.

It was risky but he would have to go with it. ‘All right, but you keep one knee on the floor. You hand me the jewellery box, and then you leave. OK?’ His captive grunted. ‘OK?’ Harry repeated, this time louder.

‘Yeah, yeah. Just get off me.’

Harry slowly withdrew his arms from around the man’s neck. He was half expecting a trick of some kind, but was still caught off balance, when the young burglar brought his head whipping back into Harry’s face, smashing his nose. He felt the warm gush of blood and his hands shot up to stem it. At that same moment an elbow was driven with great force into his abdomen. Harry rolled off onto his side where he lay doubled up, and gasping for air.

Bleeding and winded, Harry was defenceless as his assailant jumped to his feet and, accompanied by a stream of expletives, delivered a series of kicks to his body. The last thing Harry saw was a large boot coming towards his head, and then blissful unconsciousness; sleep of a kind, a rare event since losing his beloved Annie.

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Rock Music, Murder and Mystery…

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Introducing DS Glyn Tudor…

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The ‘Real’ writer’s block…

 

It’s far from easy to write a full-length novel.

It’s even harder to get it published.

You can help me get my novel, ‘A Stirring in the Blood’ published through amazon’s kindle scout scheme. Just click on my book’s cover picture below. That will take you to my kindle scout page, read the short extract, then nominate it.

I can’t promise you a share of the royalties but I will be grateful.

 

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Featured Painting: Pete Postlethwaite, actor

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Pete Postlethwaite (1946-2011)

My portrait of the actor, Pete Postlethwaite was recently bought by the owners of The Green Dragon, Little Stretton, Shropshire and now hangs in the bar above the chair the actor used to sit in. Best known for his roles in films like; The Usual Suspects and Brassed Off, he was also an extremely accomplished stage actor.

Steven Spielberg called him “the best actor in the world” though he was far too modest a man to describe himself in those terms.

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Spots before the eyes…

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Picture this, you buy a house for £471,000 and discover that you have a Damien Hirst spot painting on one of your walls. It’s painted directly onto the wallpaper so you think, “I’ll have that off there, mount it and sell it – it must be worth a few bob.”

No problemo, you might think, but you would be wrong… oh, so wrong. It’s not yours to sell, not without a certificate of authenticity signed by Mr Hirst anyway, and his company Science have got that. You see, the painting was originally bought as a present for the previous owner and, when he sold the house, he was given an alternative version of the painting on canvas in exchange for Mr Hirst taking back ownership of the original, which should have been painted over.

Now, I’m sure Mr Hirst is acting within his legal rights (there are precedents for this) to demand the return of the, now portable wall painting, for destruction. Incidentally, I’d be happy to lend him a hand with the destruction of any of his works, but I digress. The real artwork apparently is  in the concept, not the work itself – in this instance a few scribbled half-circles of  colour and some written instructions on a scrap of paper. I note the youthful Mr Hirst has misspelled surrounding on this early example of  one of his certificates of authenticity.

Call me naive but I’ve always assumed that an artist was a man or woman who, not only conceived, but created works of art with his or her own hands!  After all, if you pay $12 million dollars for a Picasso, you have a right to expect that the great man himself actually put the paint on the canvas. Surely, it ain’t a Picasso if he didn’t!

What makes it different in the case of a Damien Hirst or others of his ilk? And if they do get someone else to turn their ideas into a physical piece of art, shouldn’t the maker also get a credit for his work?  I think a little more transparency is called for here. When this type of work is displayed in a gallery or placed with an auction house, perhaps the catalogue listing should be something on the lines of; ‘A spot painting by (insert the name of the assistant or contractor) based on an original concept by Damien Hirst.’

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