I bow down to Heron Carvic. Intelligent humour. British humour. If you aren’t a fan of either of those, don’t bother. I giggled. Then I giggled some more.
Each one of Carvic’s gallery is a Character in some way. I’m sorely tempted to compare with other authors, but that goes against everything I believe about writing reviews.
“Miss Seeton prepared to hurry by a couple pressed into an adjacent doorway, when the girl spat:
“Merdes-toi, putain. Saligaud! Scélérat, si tu m’muertes …” She ended on a gasp as the boy’s arm drove into her side.
Oh, no. Really. Miss Seeton stopped. Even supposing the girl had been rude – and it had certainly sounded so – that was no excuse. A gentleman did not hit … She prodded him in the back with her umbrella.
“Young man …”
He whirled and leaped. Deflected by the umbrella he landed beside the prostrate Miss Seeton. Grabbing her by the coat, he jerked her towards him. …”
Miss Seeton is close to retirement age, single and a teacher. Her thoughts are associative and others have trouble following along. She is like this all the way through the book. Well, not all the way. Other things do happen and other people have their own things going. But many of Miss Seeton’s encounters are about her minding her own business until some other person decides to intrude upon it. I have not met such a delightful creature in a long time.
Carvic (pen-name) understood that she needed a strong supporting cast for the concept to work. There is. Due to the crime’s nature, the police – Scotland Yard are involved. Superintendent Delphick (the Oracle) leads up the investigation involving a killer. Deplhick appears able to understand Miss Seeton’s way of thinking. Poor Sergeant Ranger often finds himself at a loss for what to say when Miss Seeton opens her mouth. The village of Plummergen is certainly not ready for her. Except for the gossips. Does she ever fuel their terrible rumours. Then we have Nigel who is trying to save his childhood friend from herself.
British humour is seldom solely about the humour. At least that is the way it seems to me. I did not have to look very hard to find a bit of satire. Yet kind. In that sense Carvic reminded me of a few favourite authors from that part of the world. Picture Miss Seeton is a mystery parody, or a parody mystery, set in a time before electronics took over our lives. I would guess that number one is set at around its publication date in 1968. This e-edition is based on the 1988 version. Apparently parts have been removed from the original version. There are 23 books in the series. Only the first five are by Carvic (he died). Definitely recommended.
The relative merits of my weapon of choice all became a little academic when my phone began to play the Mexican Hat Dance. I rummaged in my pocket, wishing I was better at technology so that I could change the ringtone or at least mute the damn thing. It’s hardly appropriate for a Specialist Funeral Director to have such a chirpy tune ringing out across a graveyard. I pulled the phone out and stabbed randomly at the buttons, trying to silence the thing. It was then I realized that in doing so, I had inadvertently stood up, revealing myself to the dead head.
“Hello?” Detective Inspector savage’s voice sounded incredibly loud. Somehow, I’d managed to put him on speakerphone. “Are you there, Coffin?”
The dead guy spun round. He looked fast for someone who had died a few weeks ago and just finished the impossible journey from six feet under the soil to the surface. He also looked like every one of the days of those weeks had taken its toll on him. His face was bloated and grey, the skin splitting around his forehead to reveal white bone and a lining of something creamy. He gave a low growl from his black lips which gave me a lovely view of his yellowed, uneven teeth.
“Hi, Savage, can I ring you back? It’s not a good time right now.”
Savage was one of those people who never took the hint. “It won’t take a minute, Coffin. We’ve had a report of an open grave in a place called Hampton Green…”
“I’m dealing with a lich, right now, Savage, I can’t really…” I didn’t finish the sentence. The dead guy launched himself forward and rammed his shoulder into my gut, grabbing me round the waist and forcing me backwards onto the ground. (ch. 1)
Blood, Bone and Coffin is a prequel to Demons. It is a novella about the Specialist Funeral Director whose job it is to lay the undead to rest. Sometimes the police give him work to do. Usually, they do not call him at such an inconvenient time as the one in the quote. Or perhaps Coffin learns how to silence his cell-phone.
What begins with the request to lay a zombie to rest, ends up being a search for the killer of residents at the Twilight Grove Nursing Home in Hampton Green, England.
BB&C is a fun little paranormal whodunit with odd people all over the place. Recommended.
Heide Goody & Iain Grant‘s collaboration began with Clovenhoof. They enjoyed it enough to continue collaborating on at least eleven more stories. I adored Clovenhoof. If you enjoy British humour, this is a must. Life right now needed Clovenhoof. When my Asperger struggles to deal with what life hands me, laughs are precious. Clovenhoof was fall over funny and relevant. Probably relevant for any person who has had siblings, parent issues or have struggled to fit into their local cultures and bureaucracies.
“We’re a little disappointed,” said Saint Peter. “Let’s take the measure of suffering. This was very straightforward. All suffering should be graded as good or higher.”
“And we’re certainly getting those grades in a lot of the suffering that we deliver,” said Satan.
“A lot. Not all.”
“Yes, but it wouldn’t be reasonable to expect it for everything,” Satan argued. “We got some clients who simply enjoy it too much, and then there are those who lie about the experience because they can’t help themselves.”
… “You give me no choice but to recommend your immediate removal from the post.”
Poor Satan. The guy can never catch a break. First he gets thrown out of Heaven, and made master of Hell for wanting to save God’s children. Then he gets thrown out of Hell for trying to meet the demands of the assessment board. Fired by uptight Michael and conniving St. Peter (helped by, hmmm, not telling). Where does he end up? Earth. England. Birmingham. Sutton Coldfield.
“Having restocked the shelves of the Thriller section with a newly arrived box of Deightons and Le Carrés and settled down for a mid-morning cup of tea, Ben heard a muffled roll of thunder, looked up and saw that a naked man had appeared on the pavement outside the shop.”
Ben Kitchen is one of our main characters, the owner of the aforesaid used book-store (Books ‘n’ Bobs). He lives in the same building as Mr. Jeremy Clovenhoof (Michael’s sense of humour), and is painfully shy towards women he might be interested in. The two coincidentally end up on the same floor of an apartment building in Boldmere. They live in flats 2a and 2b.
We also get to know Nerys from the third floor of the same building. She works at Helping Hand Job Agency. One of her clients turns out to be Jeremy. And what a client he is. Both she and Ben try to figure out where Jeremy is from and why he is such an odd person.
The story moves between the new and unusual experiences Satan has on Earth and the reason Satan got kicked out of Hell (it might not be what you think it is).
Satan has no concept of money, credit cards, bills, rent, making food, what to wear, social rules, how to find a job or any of the other hellish things we are expected to magically understand upon reaching adulthood. Add in the fact that Satan is an Alien, and as one might expect of The Devil in such a situation, he makes a mess of things – both in his life and in others.
However, Satan is an OK guy. He knows he did his best in Hell and wants to get a second opinion from God. Michael and he have not been on good terms since the War in Heaven, so Clovenhoof is not about to trust any decision made by him and St. Peter. Getting that second opinion is not a simple matter when the opposition refuses to cooperate.
Because he is an Alien, Satan sees the world without the prejudices we grow up with. He also does not have the same moral compass humans like to imagine they have. In many ways Satan makes me think of the experiences many Aspergers have in trying to connect with their surroundings. So many rules and regulations make no sense and “morals and empathy” are just words people use to persecute others.
I have learned several vital things about English society. Good thing there are search engines:
Once again Alan Scott serves us a plateful of humour with a dash of serious. OMG, that talk-show. “Women Who Bitch With Other Women” remind me of some very popular talk-shows that definitely do not have ASD’s in mind. “Next season’s must-have fashion accessory!” indeed.
Once again, the idiotic government wants to kill their once-upon-a-time tool. This is one of the worst thing about governments around the world. For heavens sake, let SCoT-1 get his well-deserved revenge instead of wasting unnecessary lives trying to stop an unstoppable person – especially with Terminal Flatulence on his side.
It was the cover that lured me in. Sometimes I am lucky and the cover actually presages the contents.
Dominic Green‘s Ant & Cleo series is as well-written and ridiculous as only British humor can be. These two young (12 years old) people go through experiences that are disconnected to reality as we prefer to believe it. Unless, of course, Britain, Russia (USSR) and the US have actually managed to get colonies into space. I suppose it is possible?
First, Antony and Cleopatra, the main characters. Their characters have little to do with the portrayal by Shakespeare but more in common with the originals. Ant seems to be bluff, passionate and a little simple-minded (and highly underestimated by Cleo), while Cleo is fairly intelligent and practical.
It all begins with a trip to the woods with Ant’s father. Forests are great places for adventure, though I doubt many people get to go into space with an alien from Lalande 21185. Strangely enough, this alien looks like a human:
“The new man looked tired and thin, and had a haircut that suggested he spent a lot of his time in prison. He was wearing neither a suit nor combat fatigues, but a pair of Levi’s which still had the label dangling from the back of them, and a maroon T shirt. The T shirt had aliens in flying saucers on it, along with the words SPACE RASTA.”
Mr. Green throws Ant & Cleo into situations that keep them wondering about the things they have learned in school. The spaceship they leave Earth in is their first clue to their ignorance. “Made in Britain by Hawker Siddeley Aviation” seems a bit far-fetched to them. But that is what the maker’s plate says.
Then they meet Americans (US) in space. What a parody of every prejudice non-US citizens have had of them. White-supremacy, a confederate flag and deep southern accents along with names like Billy-Bob, Billy-Hank and Wayne-Bob. A whole sleuth of movies go through my memories as I write this. The funniest thing about these stereotypes is that Hollywood is the worst perpetrator of the image (and early James Bond). Their new compatriots join them on that planet. Glenn Bob and Truman make an odd couple. One very curious and the other diligent in carrying out assigned jobs.
After the US, Ant & Cleo get to meet members of the Soviet Union. Yes. In space the USSR still rules and feelings between the US and Russians continue to be very cold (I guess a bit like today). Here, too, accents and behavior copies movie and television stereotypes. Mr. Green nails these stereotypes.
“Glorious Soviet Yutopia does not kyill wyomen and chyildren”
OMG, non-russians speaking English with Russian accents drive me crazy. Finally, Ant & Cleo get to meet and talk with the British. Their poor kidnapper has been unconscious ever since their spaceship broke Earth’s orbit, so they do not know who he is and where he is from. He is British. Here again, Green nails every stereotype. These are the British who shake their head and carry on with the job even when they are severely wounded, wring sweat out of their long underwear to make water and express strong feelings by saying things like “Golly”, “Gosh” and “Bally good”.
Nothing is realistic. Well, except that quite a lot of it is. Tension between countries, secretive and lying governments and people who try to follow the propaganda they have been brought up are all things Green portrays as is. Propaganda, my goodness, what a great examples of propaganda and the brainwashing citizens are put through and accept.
I enjoyed this book immensely and think it would be appropriate for people from around 10 years old and up. Adults might have to explain some of the references, but with the I-net available to many, they might not.
On the Tuesday morning following Labour Day, rather than listening for the 8:50 bell to ring, I will be casually chatting over a steaming cup of sweet, frothy something with a close friend and former colleague at a neighbourhood coffee shop.
It won’t be our first Day 1 of school spent not at school. But our conversation will doubtless return to reminiscing about our days in the classroom.
I gave my Grade 12 English students a memorable assignment in the late 1990s, one that I used again several times.
I found the idea buried in a professional journal. It’s a prime example of John Gray’s Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.
An English professor from the University of California described it in her instructions to a first-year English class:
“Today we will experiment with a new form called the ‘tandem story.’ The process is simple. Each person will pair off with the person sitting to his or her immediate right. As homework tonight, one of you will write the first paragraph of a short story.
“You will e-mail your partner that paragraph and send another copy to me. The partner will read the first paragraph and then add another paragraph to the story and send it back, also sending another copy to me. The first person will then add a third paragraph and so on, back-and-forth. Remember to re-read what has been written each time in order to keep the story coherent. There is to be absolutely no talking outside of the e-mails and anything you wish to say must be written in the e-mail. The story is over when both agree a conclusion has been reached.”
Here’s what two of my students turned in. Let’s call them Marla and Neil.
The Tandem Story:
(First paragraph by Marla) “At first, Betty couldn’t decide which kind of tea she wanted. The chamomile, which used to be her favourite for lazy evenings at home, now reminded her too much of Bruce, who once said, in happier times, that he also adored chamomile. But she felt she must now, at all costs, keep her mind off Bruce. His possessiveness was suffocating, and if she thought about him too much her asthma started acting up again. So chamomile was out of the question. She’d switch to chai.”
(Second paragraph by Neil) “Meanwhile, Advance Sergeant Bruce Harrington, leader of the attack squadron now in orbit over Zontar 3, had more important things to think about than the neurotic meanderings of an air-headed, asthmatic bimbo named Betty with whom he had spent one sweaty night over a year ago. ‘A.S. Harrington to Geostation 17,’ he said into his transgalactic communicator. ‘Polar orbit established. No sign of resistance so far …’ But before he could sign off, a bluish particle beam flashed out of nowhere and blasted a hole through his ship’s cargo bay. The jolt from the direct hit sent him flying out of his seat and across the cockpit.”
(Later in the story: Marla) “Bruce struck his head and died almost immediately, but not before he felt one last pang of regret for psychically brutalizing the one woman who had ever had feelings for him. Soon afterwards, Earth stopped its pointless hostilities towards the peaceful farmers of Zontar 3. ‘Congress Passes Law Permanently Abolishing War and Space Travel,’ Betty read in her newspaper one morning. The news simultaneously excited her and bored her. … “
(Even later in the story: Neil) “Little did she know, but she had less than 10 seconds to live. Thousands of miles above the city, the Meribian mothership launched the first of its lithium fusion missiles. The dimwitted, bleeding-heart peaceniks who pushed the Unilateral Aerospace Disarmament Treaty through parliament had left Earth a defenseless target for the hostile alien empires who were determined to destroy the human race. … The prime minister, in his top-secret mobile submarine headquarters on the floor of the Arctic Ocean, felt the inconceivably massive explosion, which vaporized poor, pathetic, stupid Betty.”
(Marla) “This is absurd, Mrs. Melnicer. I refuse to continue this mockery of literature. My writing partner is a violent, chauvinistic semi-literate adolescent.”
(Neil) “Yeah? Well, my writing partner is a self-centred, tedious neurotic whose attempts at writing are the literary equivalent of Valium. ‘Oh, shall I have chamomile tea? Or shall I have some other sort of freakin’ TEA??? Oh no, what am I to do? I’m such an air-headed bimbo who reads too many Jackie Collins novels!’ “
(Marla) “Brain-dead jerk!”
(Neil) “PMS witch!”
(Marla) “Drop dead, you neanderthal!! “
(Neil) “In your dreams, you flake. Go drink some tea.”
Time for the teacher to interject.
(Mrs. Melnicer) “I really liked this one. Good work!”
Since the objectives of the assignment focused on the appreciation of another’s point of view, the building of respect for another’s opinion and heightening motivation to continue a meaningful dialogue, what took place seemed to the students a dismal failure.
However, in terms of meeting the objectives I had set for the assignment, and fully knowing where their “mistakes” were going to take us, the exercise couldn’t have been more successful. Or more fun!
Every good teacher – every effective leader, for that matter – knows that it is from our mistakes we all learn. It follows, then, that failure is something to celebrate; it is the very soil in which learning grows and knowledge blooms.