Category Archives: Katherine Dewar

I Want to Hold Your Hand*

As this is posted, it’s 55 years since the Beatles first appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show. Talent, hard work, serendipity and luck came together, and the Beatles became an international phenomenon. Even now, there are Beatles fan clubs, online Beatles discussion groups, and so on. And that’s not to mention the myriad Beatles cover and tribute bands.

It’s interesting to speculate on what it is that brings some people and bands worldwide fame. Whatever it is, fans flock to their concerts and other appearances. And those fans can be passionate about their hero-worship, too. We see that in real life, as people pay top dollar for tickets and memorabilia, and try as hard as they can to get close to their idols. It’s there in crime fiction, too.

In Agatha Christie’s The Mirror Crack’d From Side to Side, for instance, we are introduced to Heather Badcock, who lives with her husband, Arthur, in the new council housing in St. Mary Mead. She is thoroughly excited when she learns that famous film star Marina Gregg has purchased a local property, Gossington Hall, and will open it to the public for an upcoming charity fête. Heather hero-worships Marina Gregg and can’t wait to see her. On the day of the big event, she takes her turn to speak to her idol. Not long afterwards, Heather sickens and then dies of what turns out to be a poisoned drink. At first, it’s believed that the poison was originally meant for Marina, since it was her drink. But before long, we learn that Heather was the intended victim all along. Miss Marple interests herself in the case, since she’s already met Heather, and she and her friend, Dolly Bantry (the original owner of Gossington Hall), work to find out who the killer is.

Fans of Stuart Kaminsky’s Toby Peters series will know that those novels often take place in Hollywood, among the ‘Hollywood set.’ Several of the characters are megastars, who’ve got avid fans and large followings. That doesn’t keep these stars safe, though…

In Michael Connelly’s The Overlook, L.A.P.D. detective Harry Bosch and his police partner, Ignacio ‘Iggy’ Ferras are investigating the murder of physicist Stanley Kent. He was killed on an overlook near Mullholland Drive, and, as you can imagine, Bosch and Ferras are interested in anyone who might have been in the area at the time of the murder. And that’s just what worries twenty-year-old Jesse Milner, who’s moved to Hollywood to try to ‘make it.’ He was near the crime scene, sneaking onto the property of superstar entertainer Madonna, with whom he’s obsessed. His goal was to get a photograph or some sort of memento to send back to his mother to let her know he’s all right. Instead, he becomes a witness to a complicated crime.

Lynda La Plante’s Above Suspicion introduces readers to beloved television personality Alan Daniels. He’s got an absolutely devoted following, and quite a lot of money and ‘clout.’ In fact, he’s poised for big success in films, too, and is hoping the crossover will work well. Then, everything changes. The body of seventeen-year-old Melissa Stephens has been discovered; and, in several ways, her murder resembles the murders of six other women being investigated by the Murder Squad at Queen’s Park, London. And it’s not long before some of the evidence begins to suggest that Daniels might be involved in these crimes. Detective Chief Inspector (DCI) James Langton, Detective Sergeant (DS) Anna Travis, and the rest of the Murder Squad know that Daniels has a devoted following and a lot of influence. He’s a media darling, too, which makes things even more challenging. If he is the murderer, of course, he’s responsible for some terrible crimes. If he’s not, then the police will have wreaked media havoc for nothing. It’s a delicate investigation, made all the more so by Daniels’ superstardom.

Superstar Gaia Lafayette is the subject of one plot thread of Peter James’ Not Dead Yet. She’s become a worldwide sensation, with avid fans everywhere. When she announces her plan to visit her hometown of Brighton to do a film, everyone’s excited. Well, not quite everyone. Detective Superintendent Roy Grace of the Brighton and Hove Police is well aware that having such a megastar in town will mean large crowds and plenty of opportunity for mischief and more. What’s more, his supervisor has made it clear that Grace and his team will be responsible to work with the celebrity’s personal staff to provide security. Grace’s team is spread thin enough, and he doesn’t relish the idea of giving up even more of his people. But this isn’t optional. There’s already been one attempt on the superstar’s life, and it’s quite likely there’ll be another. Gaia and her entourage arrive, and the filming begins. Now, Grace and his staff will have to protect Gaia as best they can, as someone out there is trying just as hard to kill her.

And then there’s Katherine Dewar’s Ruby and the Blue Sky. In it, a band called the Carnival Owls makes it big, winning a Grammy Award for one of their songs, During the acceptance ceremony, the band’s lead singer, Ruby, makes an impassioned speech that encourages sustainability, and urges people not to shop for new things. And this isn’t the rant of an unknown zealot, either. The band has become a phenomenon, and millions of people are eager to heed what Ruby says. That ‘star power’ ends up being a real disadvantage when some very dangerous people try to stop her from pushing her sustainability agenda.

It’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that propels some people to international superstardom. But something does. And when it does, there’s all sorts of fame, fortune and more to be had. But it can be dangerous, too…

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is…oh, come on, you know this one, right?!

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Filed under Agatha Christie, Katherine Dewar, Lynda La Plante, Michael Connelly, Peter James, Stuart Kaminsky

I’m Running a Small Shop in the Age of the Superstore*

In Katherine Dewar’s Ruby and the Blue Sky, we meet the Carnival Owls and their lead singer, Ruby. When they win a Grammy Award for best song, Ruby makes a passionate acceptance speech that encourages sustainability, and not shopping for new things. Before she knows it, she’s caught between two powerful forces. The eco movement now has a superstar spokesperson, and wants her to get involved in all sorts of activities. But there’s also her bandmates, who want her to focus on the band’s world tour. And there are some very dangerous people who don’t want her to push the sustainability agenda. There are others who target Ruby, also. Before she knows it, she’s caught up in a spiral of events that aren’t necessarily going to end well…

There. That’s your crime fiction ‘daily dose’ from this blog. 😉 Here’s the thing. Ruby may have been on to something with her idea of not shopping. Well, not in the traditional sense. Have you noticed that a lot of the advertisements you see are now trying to get you to buy things – a lot of things – for holiday giving? Of course, holiday giving is a treasured part of the season, and there’s nothing wrong with it.

But if you think about it, there are a lot of ways to remember the people who matter to you without standing with crowds of other people, waiting for ‘doorbusters,’ or driving frantically around trying to check off all the names on your list. Even shopping online can be frustrating. If you’re as eager as I am to avoid the stress, here are a few ideas for easing the strain (and financial burden!) of holiday shopping.

One idea is to think small. Business, I mean. Small businesses often have the unique sorts of products and services that the ‘big boys’ don’t offer (because they don’t see it as profitable). And those small businesses may be closer than you think. For example, I live next door to a very skilled personal trainer (trust me, anyone who can help me get into shape is skilled!). Also living near me is an independent representative for Arbonne, a specialist in holistic, sustainable beauty and health products. Within easy striking distance of me are dog trainers, cleaning services, and many other small businesses. You probably have your own circle of friends and acquaintances who run their own small enterprises. Why not look there for gifts? Why go to the large furniture place when you know someone who can refinish that end table and make it perfect for a friend’s living room?

There are also some terrific online small businesses. For instance, Literary Book Gifts offers all sorts of creative tees, totes and other gifts for the book nerd in your life. The customer service you get from small businesses like this one is often more personal and dependable than what’s available from the ‘big boy.’ When I did business with Literary Book Gifts, for instance, I got a personal note from the company’s owner, checking to be sure I’d received my order and that it was what I wanted (I did. It was.). You can find any number of ‘just right’ things at small online companies, too. For example, if you’re looking exclusively for things that are upcycled, sustainable and ethically made, you can search for small companies that meet those expectations in ways that the larger corporations can’t always match.

This is, of course, a crime fiction blog, so let’s talk about ‘shopping small’ if you’re in the market for books. Secondhand bookshops and library bookstores often have titles that are harder to find, and in very good shape. Why not take advantage of that? That one book that someone on your list needs to complete a collection will be very much appreciated.

We all have our list of ‘auto-buy’ authors whose books we pre-order brand-new. But there are lots and lots of – ahem – less well-known authors whose books aren’t always in bookshops or bestseller blockbuster lists. Why not consider an independent author, or one who’s with a small publisher, for the crime fiction fan on your list? You could be introducing the recipient to a fantastic reading experience. And authors everywhere, who work hard and need all the support they can get, will be eternally grateful to you. Trust me.

Another idea for holiday giving is to do or make, not buy. Can you cook? Fix computers? Style hair? Build shelves? Tutor? Speak another language? Why not consider giving your time and skills as gifts? You’ll spend a lot less money, and you’ll be giving your recipient something useful and personal. You can’t get much better than that when it comes to giving.

Now, you may be thinking, ‘I don’t have special talents like that.’ Doesn’t matter. Pet/home-sitting, child minding, errand-running, snow shoveling, car washing, and cleaning don’t take any special skills. And those gifts can mean an awful lot to people. I mean, wouldn’t you love it if someone gave you the gift of getting your list of errands done? Wouldn’t it be great if you knew you could take that getaway trip, because someone was watching your home and pet(s)? And to me, giving of one’s time and skills can be a powerful way to teach (grand)children the value of helping others and of what real giving means.

I’m not saying the large companies don’t have their place. They do. There are certainly things I buy from such businesses. And there’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But there’s a lot to be said for thinking first of small businesses and people who have their own companies. There’s a lot to be said, too, for giving what only you can give – your own time and talents. You’ll save a lot of stress, wasted time, and money, and you’ll be giving truly meaningful gifts. Oh, and you won’t have to contend with the traffic or with a lot of crazed shoppers all trying to rush through their lists. Just sayin’

ps. Oh, the ‘photo? In that package is a blank book and a puzzle (for my granddaughter) from Bare Books.  They make unique blank books, cards, puzzles, game boards, and other items, as well as sustainable erasable crayons and markers. This lets young people write their own books, create their own puzzles and games, and do their own illustrations. Talk about creative and sustainable!

 
 
 

*NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Glenn Tilbrook’s G.S.O.H. Essential.

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Filed under Katherine Dewar

Everybody in the World Likes Chocolate*

Recently, FictionFan, at FictionFan’s Book Reviews, conducted an interesting scientific study of chocolate. Using the My Life in Books meme from Adam at Roof Beam Reader, Fiction Fan compared two sets of data. One set, collected before eating any chocolate, was an initial list of responses to the My Life in Books prompts. Then, FictionFan provided answers to the same prompts after eating chocolate. As you can clearly see from FictionFan’s answers, there was a definite positive effect of chocolate on mood.

Of course, any study ought to be replicated, if possible, in order to lend support to the results. So, I decided to do just that. Like FictionFan, I collected two sets of data: one was collected before eating chocolate, and the other after. My own data is presented below:

 

Prompts

Before Chocolate

After Chocolate

In high school, I was:

Among Thieves

In Like Flynn

People might be surprised (by):

The Colaba Conspiracy

[What] Harriet Said

I will never be:

You

Wife of the Gods

My fantasy job is:

Nunslinger

An Easy Thing

At the end of a long day, I need:

Burial Rites

A Jarful of Angels

I hate it when:

Days are Like Grass

Not a Creature Was [is] Stirring

Wish I had:

The Frozen Shroud

Greenlight

My family reunions are:

Murder and Mayhem at Honeychurch Hall

Above Suspicion

At a party, you’d find me with:

The Hidden Man

Ruby and the Blue Sky

I’ve never been to:

The Cemetery of Swallows

China Lake

A happy day includes:

Dead Lemons

Crystal Ball Persuasion

Motto I live by:

Can Anybody Help Me?

Happiness is Easy

On my bucket list is:

Talking to the Dead

The Dawn Patrol

In my next life, I want to have:

A Moment’s Silence

A Three-Pipe Problem

 

As you can see, chocolate also had a positive effect on my mood. Now, of course, this study is limited, as all studies are. For one thing, I made use of Belgian chocolates for this research. Other sources and types of chocolates would have to be studied to really confirm the hypothesis that chocolate enhances one’s mood. For another thing, FictionFan’s data and mine are only two iterations of this study. More researchers would be needed, to rule out effects based on any similarities between me and FictionFan (I mean, we are both crime fiction readers, etc..). There are other limitations, too, as any academician can tell you.

That said, though, I think it’s safe to say that this study certainly lends support to FictionFan’s conclusion that chocolate has mood-enhancing effects. Anyone else care to take part in this all-important research?

Thanks, FictionFan, for your groundbreaking study!

 
 
 

NOTE: The title of this post is a line from Soul Control’s Chocolate (Choco Choco).

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Filed under Babs Horton, Beryl Bainbridge, Christopher Abbey, Don Winslow, Edney Silvestre, Finn Bell, Gordon Ell, Hannah Dennison, Hannah Kent, Harry Bingham, Jane Haddam, Jean-Denis Bruet-Ferreol, John Clarkson, Julian Symons, Katherine Dewar, Kwei Quartey, Lynda La Plante, Meg Gardiner, Paco Ignacio Taibo II, Rhys Bowen, Robin Blake, Sinéad Crowley, Stark Holborn, Sue Younger, Surender Mohan Pathak, Zoran Drvenkar