Monthly Archives: March 2013

Featuring the Saint by Leslie Charteris

Featuring the SaintPhil: Last week I looked at a character many people will only know from the big screen. This week,it’s one firmly from television. Coincidentally, both were played by Roger Moore.

The Saint is harder to pin down than James Bond. Bond works for MI6, Simon Templer (his initials provide his nickname) is an independent gentleman adventurer. Bond is firmly on the side of the law, Templar less so. Early novels had him a thief but like most characters, as the war approached, he joined up and did the descent thing fighting the axis powers. By the time we get to the three stores in “Featuring the Saint”, Templar is on the right side of the law even if he meats out punishment as he sees fit.

As I read the book, two things struck me. The first is that The Saint and Sherlock Holmes have an awful lot in common. Like Holmes, Templar is infallible, annoyingly so in my opinion. There is never a fight he does not win. No plan is too preposterous. He is a master of martial arts, flying, driving and pretty much anything else he wants. Despite this, he maintains membership of a number of London gentleman’s clubs and appears often enough for half of the city to know who he is. To be honest, this all seemed a bit smug. Holmes at least has a limited sphere of operation whereas The Saint roams the world at will so I found it difficult to believe in the character.

Second, the stories have dated badly. There is the casual racism common in the period between the wars. We don’t generally use the phrase “doing the white thing” for someone performing an honourable act for example. Worse, the storytelling veers between a Dr Watson style narrator and a third-person narrative to occasional first person point of views. Unlike Watson, we aren’t told who the narrator is, except that it sometimes seems to be Charteris. This is at odd with the forwards before each story. Perhaps without these, everything would make more sense.

I never warmed to Templar. Maybe he is from a time now long gone when crime was less random. A man operating on the margins of the law could have a chat with Inspector Teal from Scotland Yard (presumably in an office down the corridor from Inspector Lestrade), wear the best clothes and operate with impunity. I keep drawing parallels with Holmes and perhaps this is part of the problem. The great detective lives firmly in the Victorian era, a time very different to today. Templar operates in the halfway house between the wars that seems a little unreal – both modern and old-fashioned at the same time.

Charteris recognised this and one of his forwards, comments that he considered updating the stories for their 1961 re-publishing but decided that the results would be a complete re-write and it was better to leave them as period pieces. Was he right to do this? I’m not sure. I’d be interested to read an updated version but suspect that it would need a considerable amount of work. These stores were even pulpier than the Bond tales. The hero wins and there is no doubt about this from the outset or at any point in the narrative.

All this is good stuff for the wanabee writer. Reading a book and spotting things you don’t think will work saves the bother of making the same mistakes yourself. Every cloud has a silver lining as they say.

Featuring the Saint at Amazon

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Searching for inspiration

Candice: I have to admit to not feeling inspired today while trying to come up with ideas to blog about.  Keeping it fresh for our lovely readers each week means that by Friday I’m starting to rack my brains for ideas, looking for news stories and by Sunday really dredging through anything to come up with something interesting to write about.  You guys don’t want total tosh, you want something about writing!

I have to admit I have quite a good excuse this week.  On Friday I had a last minute call to see if I could do Casualty on Saturday, down in Cardiff.  Without checking the weather forecast I said yes.  I havent done any extras work this year so fancied a day out.  Anyway, got up at 5.30am on Saturday to find my car 3 inches deep in snow.  Off I went for my 110 mile drive, let us just say there were points where my heart was in my mouth as the traction control kicked in when I was slipping on snow.  After all that rushing, they didn’t use me until 5pm!

Had an interesting lunch break though, as they are currently filming Doctor Who at the same studio, so we lunched with some weird and wonderful creatures.  I shall look forward to seeing that episode!

Anyway, that plus now having a lovely cold means that my head is not in the right place for inspiration.  However, its got to get there by Friday as Phil and I have booked a writing day, utilising the Easter weekend and the fact the other half is not around.  And we plan to use it to tackle ‘The Book’.  Obviously said novel has been languishing in the back of a cupboard, and our minds, for over a year while we try to find inspiration to work out how to make it from good to great.  Once done we can start sending it out to Agents again, but we need to knuckle down to it.  Both Phil and I have ideas floating around in our heads but we need to sit down with a blank sheet of paper and give it one more go.   I’m excited by the prospect but also daunted as this is the ‘big’ thing, the thing that we think might get us somewhere, but is just frustrating as no one has picked it up yet.  Patience is not one of my virtues.

So here’s to lots of Beecham cold and flu tablets and hopefully a clear head on Friday.

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The Man from Barbarossa by John Gardner

The Man from BarbarossaPhil: A meeting between a debonaire man and a femme fatale in a fine restaurant, surely it can only be another lunchtime chat with team nolanparker?

No, this time it’s James Bond sharing some banter with one of this french counterparts, Stephanie Adore.

In book form, James Bond novels are the blokey equivalent of chick-lit. There’s some clunking product placement, pacey plot line and a bit of shagging. Compared to most chick-lit novels the products and rumpy-pumpy are toned down to a huge extent but I guess this tells you a lot about the difference between men and women.

John Gardner was the first author to be officially sanctioned by Ian Flemings family to write Bond stories. He took the existing characters but moved the plots from the 1950-60 period into the near past. TMFB takes place in 1991 during the run up to the first gulf war. The Cold War has ended, the Soviet Union is falling apart and so Bond operates in a far less certain world than he used to. Some changes have been made, there’s no mention of Bond’s Bently for example – it would be an anachronism in the 1990s when the marque was seen as a luxury brand rather than the sports car Flemming originally intended. Besides, by this point it would be a vintage vehicle and probably conk-out if he tried to drive it accross Europe as he had in previous stories.

Bond books are, apart from On Her Majesties Secret Service, very different from the films. The main characters have far more depth. There’s also a lot more build-up. The main adventure doesn’t get moving in this one until over half way through the novel. That’s not unusual for Book Bond, the “Spy Who Loved Me” doesn’t even see his appearance until 2/3rds of the way through the story. Mind you, Flemming seemed to recognise this wasn’t a great idea and never experimented this way again.

The thing is, that despite the big adventure not happening from page 1, it doesn’t matter. There are little adventures, including an assassination attempt, in the run up. The story seems to build and there is plenty of mystery to go before we get to the finale. Maybe the James Bond brand carries things along but this is one book that defies many of the conventions writers have to follow if they want to get into print.

Another is that the text is a bit clunky. Flemming suffered from this, Sebastian Faulks did a better job years later, but nothing like as badly as Dan Brown does. Despite this, the story is strong enough that you want to get to the end. I read the book in stages while waiting for glue to dry on another project and that seems just the right way to handle it. Bond books are not high art. They are good fun pulp reads writen in a hurry and meant to be read like this.

Anyway, I enjoyed TMFB – Action, adventure, beautiful women and incomprehensible cocktails, what else could a man want?

The Man from Barbarossa at Amazon

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The best places to live in Britain?

Candice : After the last post I am somewhat at a loss as to what to follow it with.  I’ve also got a stinking head ache so excuse me if my post is short!

I was reading with interesting in the Sunday Times about the supposed “Best places to live in Britain”.  Flicking through I went straight to the Midlands section and looked for the lovely place where I live.  But no, it was not there, shock horror, but Leamington, where Phil lives, was.  Now, there is nothing wrong with the Spa town but I was surprised that the ‘hull, as Phil likes to call it was not there.  I have to admit I was planing to add £10k on to our house price when we go to sell it again just based on this!

Anyway, it got me thinking about locations and how one might pick where a story is set and why.  I did look to see if March, Cambridgeshire, was in the listing, as this is where our book is based, but no it got away too.  Funnily enough, that probably helps as we don’t give it the best write-up in the novel.

So, where are the best places to live and why is my question.  How did the Sunday Times come up with this somewhat arbitrary list that in such hard times might be to difference between sale or no sale.

Apparently it is based on ‘crime statistics, transport links and life expectancy’ amongst others.  Have they not heard HS2 is on its way? After the nasty nature of JK Rowling’s  A Casual Vacancy that I blogged about the other week, it makes me wonder is there a story in living in the best place to live?  I can see it going a number of ways, Stepford Wives, Stephen King’s Children of the Corn, and other options but none of them pleasant.  Maybe that’s just how my mind works?

I don’t know if I’d want to be marked against such strange criteria, and its the same for our writing.  It’s all personal opinion, what one likes another hates.  We’ve been entering our stories into competitions and have got nowhere, but I’m not going to get down hearted as it’s all just that markers feelings on what they like.  We can’t all like One Direction or the X Factor, you know.

Luckily for the other half, he is working on a development based in Edgbaston and that gets a listing.

Apparently next week there is a second supplement, all about top spots for families and the great outdoors.  Forget putting the house on the market if we don’t get in that one!

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Deleted Scene – Gareth meets Olivia

It’s Comic Relief today so we thought we’d post a funny scene that found its way to the cutting room floor from The Book. To be honest, how Gareth (Kates business partner), met his wife only slowed the early part of the story so reluctantly it had to go. It’s too good to throw away though, so here it is in all it’s rough and ready glory.

Warning: Unlike a ready-meal, Contains traces of cow.

Cow!Olivia Trumpington-Thomas was best described as “Good Country Stock”. Her great passion in life was breeding cattle.

Belgian Blue’s were her favourites, although some had cruelly have suggested that the breeds square set stance and stocky features were not that different from their owner. She hadn’t really wanted to marry but her father had said that it was her duty so the task was set about with the same efficiency that she used when choosing sires for her livestock. The list of requirements was short; good temperament, reasonable features and respectable family lineage.

Sadly, the markets where husbands are acquired wern’t really to Olivia’s taste. She preferred the straw and dung of the cattle version, but there were events where eligible candidates could be found. Some old school friends were persuaded to issue invites to the right sort of parties and after a few drinks, the process didn’t seem quite so unpalatable.

The annual young farmer’s ball was coming up so Olivia slipped into her best black and white ball gown, making her look more Friesian than would normally be desirable, and joined in. Waddling into the marquee someone caught her eye, a rather dashing looking young man lurking standing in the corner, looking a bit sheepish and lost in his tuxedo.

As the evening wound on Olivia kept seeing this young man wandering around, but none of her friends seemed to know who he was other than he had gone to school with someone or other. To honest, she wasn’t really that interested but after the meal and a few gins she was starting to feel a bit randy. Having either shagged or frightened off most of the other members of the local group she felt in the need of new blood and set out to find someone who might be interested in a demonstration of her cattle impregnation techniques.

*

Gareth had been invited to the do by an old friend who proceeded to abandon him for the first girl flashing her pig tattoo in his direction. He tried propping up the bar for a while but became convinced that the man behind it was eyeing him up. Eventually he took to circling the room until it started to circle him thanks to the amount of scrumpy he had consumed. More of a G and T person he had resorted to the local brew after his attempt to order something more refined had been ridiculed by the locals and seemed only to make the bar man even keener to become acquainted. Unfortunately the drink was more potent than he was used and attempts to soak up the alcohol with something solid hadn’t gone well thanks to cuisine as rural as the alcohol.

The countryside all looked the same to Gareth so finding his friend’s house earlier in the day had been due more to luck than judgement or map-reading. Worse, when he did arrive, he discovered that he’d packed a suit but no shirt and since the local shops consisted of a village store and a farm supplier, there was no chance of buying something so he’d had to borrow one. Unfortunately this shirt had been a bit of a comedy purchase and while the marquee was getting hotter and hotter he really didn’t want to take his jacket off.

*

Olivia saw Gareth attempting his fourth lap of the marque. By this point he had begun to look green as the hosts well manicured lawns. Stumbling and half falling into a chair on the table next to her, she watched as he begin to put his head into his hands, and then seemed to be struggling to remove his jacket.

“Bugger this,” she thought, “Everyone is coping off and it’s about time I wrapped my lips round someone.”

She marched over to his table. Gareth, by this point, was fighting to keep his head between his knees and try get his jacket off at the same time. Olivia grabbed the back of his tux and practically ripped it off his shoulders.

“Oh,” she screamed, as the design on the back of Gareth’s shirt was exposed. Being a comedy dress shirt, from the front with a jacket it looked plain white. However, the sleeves and back where covered with a pattern, which happened to be cavorting cows in various positions only seen in a bovine version of the karma-sutra.

Gareth looked up in surprise, partly to find out who had so rudely ripped off his jacket also to find out who was screaming his ear. At the same point the numerous pints and pastries all came to a head and he proceeded to vomit them down the front of Olivia’s frock with some force.

“Argh!”

Olivia, now covered in pints of the local brew mixed with several partly digested pies, screamed. “What are you doing!”

Gareth looked up sheepishly at the rather large girl looming over him and started to mumble a string of apologies. He desperatly hoped she would not berate him too hard as a roulade and several champagne cocktails might be making their way up at any moment.

Olivia was about to let rip. Who did this boy think he was? Her dress had been specially made by her mother and now it was covered in something that looked like you would only encounter while wearing wellies. As she turned to give Gareth what for, her gaze was met with a pair of soulful brown eyes that bore a startlingly resemblance to her favourite cow, Winny.

And with that she was lost.

Many years of working with animals meant that Olivia had been covered by much worse than a bit of posh vomit. Grabbing Gareth, she dragged him off to the toilets and proceed to clean herself up. After letting him be sick a few more times, it was time to test the staying power of the portaloos. Stories after the evening always included comments about the particularly loud mooing that seemed to be coming from the direction of the next field, though no one had seen any cattle.

Perilous Portaloo

After checking Gareth’s family credentials, Olivia was quick to hook him. A quickie wedding, didn’t give him the chance to change his mind even if he had been brave enough to consider it.

The required heir and spare rapidly followed to ensure continuation of the family name, or blood line as Olivia refered to it. Barely had the cords been cut when the boy’s names were down for all the right schools and they were dispatched to the care of a nanny. Neither parent had come from families where their mother or father had been fans of modern “hands on parenting” and saw no reason to do anything different with their offspring.

She returned to bovine matters and it being explained that he was under no circumstances to come between a lady and her herd, Gareth looked around for something else to occupy his time…

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Last Dance with Valentino by Daisy Waugh

CaptureCandice : As you will remember, our little blogets (Nolanparker version of Gaga’s Monsters) we posted an interview with Daisy Waugh a few weeks ago.  So, as Phil and I were discussing the questions for Ms Waugh I thought it might be good to get some background material.  Next door to our regular tea and cake haunt in Solihull is Waterstones.  We popped in and I came away with ‘Last Dance with Valentino’.

Now, not really being a historical drama person myself, and not really being too sure what Daisy’s style was outside the Sunday Times, I didn’t know what to expect but I hoped I’d like it.

‘Dance’ is sent in the 1920’s, around Jennifer and her relationship with the man who becomes Rudolph Valentino.   They fall in love but, due to circumstances out of their control, they are then separated.  By the time she travels across America to find him again, he is gone from the hotel they are to meet at and she has no other way of getting in touch with him. So 10 long years go by before they meet again, during which time he goes from being a paid dancer to a huge movie star. I’m sure I’m not giving the game away to say Valentino dies in the end leaving Jenny lost and alone after just finding him again.

Based on actual events, Daisy has crafted a fictional story around the mysterious Jenny who Valentino is said to have cried for as he is dying.

Now, you could say I am biased, but I have to say this is the best book I have read in AGES!  I couldn’t put it down from the word go as I became totally immersed in the world of Jenny and Rudy as they fight against the class system that confines them and limited communications available at that time.  The last section, where she is trying to get in touch with him as he lies dying in the hospital literally left me desperate to know, such that I read it solidly on a train journey from London and then carried on as soon as I got home.  I don’t think I said hello to the other half as he walked in the door, I was so desperate for Jenny to get to her Rudy.

I think it helped that the book was based in fact, making the situations that they come up against much more plausible.  From my point of view, also helps that the idea of being the one true love of a famous person takes me back to when I had pin ups on my walls and hoped that one day one of them would find me and sweep me off my feet.  I also loved the drama and behind the scenes look at Hollywood, being a film buff and actor.

I’ve leant the book to my sister as I think it might make her smile and then its on its way to Phil for a boy’s view-point.  I’m now off to see what else Daisy has done as I enjoyed this one so much!

http://www.novelicious.com/2011/07/review-last-dance-with-valentino-by-daisy-waugh.html

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Liebster Award

Phil: Thanks to Realm of the Goddess for awarding us the Liebster Award. It’s always nice to be recognised, although Candice is a bit disappointed that there is no Hollywood ceremony to attend as she has bought a new frock. I haven’t bought a new frock but I did get my hair cut which is nearly the same thing. (Candice – Phil I’m sure you’d look lovely in a frock!)

Anyway, as part of the deal, we have to answer some random questions, so over hot drinks and warm laptops, we had a go.

Why did you start blogging?

Candice – Phil told me we had to. To be honest I wasn’t very into blogs when we started but he wouldn’t shut up about it.

Phil – I started blogging back in the late 90’s when it was just starting to take off and have run a couple of blogs for my hobbies, so one for Nolanparker seemed the natural thing to do. The discipline of having to produce words regularly is useful for anyone who aspires to write and we need something to stop us just sitting around and eating cake.

If you could come back as anyone else, who would it be and why?

Candice – Hmmm, not sure. I don’t think I’ve ever really wanted to be anyone else.

Phil – I’d quite like to be King I suppose. Would I get to behead people who annoy me?

Candice – Like who?

Phil – BMW drivers mainly. And people who play music out of their phone on the bus.

Who did you most want to be like as a child?

Candice – No one specific. I had pop star posters on my bedroom wall but I never wanted to be any of them. Snog them possibly. What I wanted to be was an actor or writer, some sort of performer but definitely me.

Phil – Peter from Enid Blyton‘s Secret Seven stories. I remember him being quite clever and being good at disguises. With hindsight, there was a lot of Sherlock Holmes in him, another character I’ve always admired.

Who is your favourite character from a book?

Candice – I read a lot of books and so my favorite character tends to be someone from whatever I’m reading at the moment. Perhaps that makes me a bit fickle!

Phil – Edward The Blue Engine from the Thomas the Tank engine stories.

What do you like to write about?

Candice – Strong female characters. The genre doesn’t matter so much but the lead will have a lot of me, or at least a lot of who I might like to be, in her. It’s escapism really – putting yourself in different situations and seeing what happens.

Phil – I’m really not fussy. Since we started writing fiction seriously I’ve had a go at genres that I’d never considered such as chick-lit and horror. This means going and reading some examples and that’s been good fun. I tend to start with a story and have no idea where it’s going to end up anyway.

What country would you most like to visit?

Candice – Thailand or China. I want to go somewhere I haven’t been before to experience something different.  I always like to come back from a holiday feeling like I’ve learned something not just sat reading a book. Of course there are places where I feel I’ve only scratched the surface like America or Mexico so those would be good too. Wherever it is, there needs to be some nice beaches to so the tan can be topped up.

Phil – I’ve always fancied America by train. Coast to coast and back again, perhaps with a loop through Canada. Trouble is, I hate flying so I want to cross the wet bits on a boat. Mind you, I’ve always wanted to see Moscow, although I suspect a lot of the old Communist stuff has gone so North Korea perhaps? I don’t need a beach though.

What kind of music do you enjoy the most?

Candice – Indie stuff. Foo fighters (Dave Grohl – Yum), Ed Sheeran, Bastille. Maybe a bit of R’n’B/dance on a night out too.

Phil – Anything but R’n’B/dance please. I’m listening to a lot of Bellowhead at the moment with Thea Gilmore and Golgol Bordello in the mix. And some Wombles, because I look like Wellington.

Do you like the feeling of holding a book in your hands or do you prefer e-readers?

Candice – No contest, a proper book.

Phil – Me too. I can see the point of e-readers I suppose but nothing beats the feel of a book, especially an old one.

During which part of the day are you most productive?

Candice – The afternoon. I tend to get a slow start in the morning because I can’t focus.

Phil – I need something to focus on. If I have to get something done then I’m fine. Otherwise I can faff around and achieve nothing, If I’m excited about a project I’ll disappear into it and time doesn’t matter.

If you could have any superpower, which would it be?

Candice – Time travel. I’d like to visit myself when younger tell myself school is not as bad as I think it is. Finding out next week’s lottery numbers would be nice too!

Phil – Invisibility.

Candice – Who said that?

How did you feel when you were nominated for this award?

Candice – It’s really nice to be acknowledged. You can write all this stuff and wonder if there is anyone else reading it. Getting a “Like” or even an award makes it seem worthwhile.

Phil – Like most bloggers, you wonder if anyone reads your stuff and more importantly, whether anyone likes it. Getting an award is nice recognition that we’re doing something right. Thanks very much.

 ————————–

Notes on the Liebster Award: The origins of this award seem lot in the mists of time. The general consensus is that it originated in Germany, Liebster meaning favorite or
dearest, to showcase bloggers with fewer than 200 followers (or less than 3000 according to some rules). Upon accepting the award the recipient must then pass it on to 5 more blogs. Or maybe 11.

Basically, it’s a positive pyramid scheme where bloggers pass on the award to other bloggers in the hope of a bit of coverage. One day, every blog will have a Liebster award. In the meantime, we’ll take it because it IS really nice that someone has read our stuff and enjoyed it. Sometimes, a warm glow is worth more than awards, even if you can’t wear a posh dress to it.

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