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Month: March 2021

French culinary delights – no “pain”, no gain

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, some French food to tickle your taste buds…


I find myself looking out through the shutters of my study window at the dark skies and the whipping rain.

I’ve unsurprisingly taken a moment to pine for the delightful markets in Southern France, the friendly people, the blazing sunshine, and several bottles of regional wine with good friends. And the baguettes and the cheese and everything else. God’s larder.

Those times will come again, with a bit of patience and a lot of endurance.

For the moment, I want to share with you some glorious French food, wrenched from the clinging hands of local farmers near Montpellier in France a few summers ago. I came upon these images again today and they have made a wonderful end to my week. I hope they bring some much needed joy to you.

Fab toms

And more, with amis

Transformed into magic

And accompanied by unsung heroes

Fig 1. Beautiful figs.

A glorious note to end on. Thanks, Marie!

Au revoir!

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Pinned to the tropes

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, some genre mish-mashing in an epic battle of thriller vs historical romance


I thought that I’d have a play with a couple of books, in totally different genres: thriller and historical romance clashing head to coiffure (one of the two is not the type that I usually read, but Lee Child shouldn’t feel left out by that).

I thought I’d see where they took me when trying to compare the genres, checking out the tropes in the first few chapters…

GEORGETTE HEYER

“Sylvester”

First published 1957

Novel

Historical romance

Essentially timeless, allowing a reader to sink into it.

Style

  • Third person omniscient narrator, perfect tense – provides distance. Do not necessarily want to get inside the characters’ heads in this genre. Need that distance.
  • Various elements are used to paint a picture of opulence and privilege as the overall setting for the story.
  • Very formal, “old-fashioned” writing style with archaic language used – scythemen, breakfast parlour, things are agreeable, matters are of sufficient moment. Infelicitous. In keeping with the genre.
  • Names – Sylvester, Edmund, Ianthe.

Setting and character

  • Difficult to place in history with precision from the first few pages. The reader would be expected to place it in the Regency period, late 18th, early 19th century without the author spelling it out. You would be forgiven for expecting period historical detail later to place it more fully, but light touch.
  • Difficult to place geographically. Sylvester is the Duke of Salford, but it doesn’t really matter where it is, it’s the characters which are the important feature of the story, unless later the place becomes more relevant. I would not expect that to be the case in this genre other than to reinforce the sense of privilege. I would expect visits to the equivalent of the Pump Room and extravagant balls. We are set up for all of this in the first few pages.
  • First line: Sylvester in his breakfast parlour – sets the scene and prepares the reader for “Chance”, which has an “east front”. This genre demands a lavish house as a starting point to establish wealth and social importance.
  • Tudor-origin winged staircase, gallery guarded by two figures in full armour (not just any old armour). Building the feeling of solidity and the weight of history.
  • There are “scythemen” in the grounds, servants, a nanny, a butler, a footman.
  • The weather has robbed him of two hunting days – hunting would be a suitable pastime for a gentleman. Horse riding too.
  • Sylvester has a “huge inheritance”. Born to a “great position”, with “a long line of distinguished forebears”. Standard to have a well-established family. Therefore he has rank, wealth and elegance. All the pre-requisites of a historical romance leading man.
  • He is handsome, with a singularly charming smile, but with a slight rakish look when he frowns…He has the tiniest glimmer of a fault in his appearance no doubt intended to make him more attractive.
  • There is a liver-and-white spaniel, which is to be expected in this type of setting. No doubt it is graceful and loyal.
  • All tropes present and correct.

LEE CHILD

“Killing Floor”

First published 1998 – the first Jack Reacher book.

Novel

Thriller

Punchy title, punchy delivery.

Style

  • First person narrator, perfect tense – provides immediacy. Breathless. Things happen quickly and IN YOUR FACE.
  • Various elements are used to paint a picture of grit and toughness.
  • Clipped, aggressive writing style with modern language used – in keeping with the genre.
  • Short chapters for faster pacing.
  • Names – Jack Reacher – blunt and no nonsense. Baker and Stevenson (the cops) – everyman names.

Setting and character

  • First line: I was arrested in Eno’s diner. Compelling start. The impending arrest immediately sets the scene for the novel and does not relax.
  • There is a low-key, ordinary, everyday setting as the launch point – a diner, filled with non-descript civilians. Adds an air of earthy reality to the scene.
  • Drama injected early with police cruisers pulling up outside the diner.
  • Violent language and violent moves: screamed, yelled, focus on hardware and police tactics. Exclamation marks! Very short sentences and fragments to allow tension to be cranked up.
  • Rebellious language: reading about a President he hadn’t voted for and wouldn’t.
  • Set in the US, but assumes reader knows that. Good introduction of place – Georgia – when he is arrested and read his rights, including a state-appointed attorney, rather than saying: “I was in Georgia”…Then, arriving at the police station precisely places the action in the town of Margrave.
  • Action is more important than the exact location except for providing colour in this type of fiction to ground the action.
  • Reading Miranda rights – readers are expected to be aware, and reading the rights adds a further air of officialdom and authority to the scene. Typical in a thriller of this kind.
  • Description of the car and the tarmac again ground the action.
  • All tropes present and correct.
Sylvester is the Champion!

I think Historical Romance has marginally kicked ass and left Reacher gasping on the tropes, although the re-match is likely to be brutal (and quite polite).

I found this an interesting exercise in getting to the heart of those genres, peering at what makes them tick…Difficult to mix up, and difficult to position wrongly in a book shop…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Cuban Coffee Break – maybe make it an espresso?

Welcome to my Blog


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, reflections on the sea and Cuban cats…


This is a selection of six word stories, following on from my three earlier articles about the form, Hemingway and his extraordinary (and hopefully true, but what the hell) bet…

I have started with a six-worder that I have written as an homage to The Old Man and the Sea.

I have tried to capture the essence of the book – a futile exercise in many respects, but a fitting place to start…It’s not a movie trailer or blurb, but an attempt to encapsulate the book’s essence as an evolving story. Ironically, Hemingway’s book title comprises six words. They elegantly tell you what the book is about; it is not in itself a six word story that stands in for the book as a whole, it simply sets the scene, promises a story. About an old man. And his interaction with the sea. Hemingway had the whole book to dazzle us with that interaction. I have instead endeavoured to tell the story within the self-imposed limit…

Here it is:

Elder catches marlin. Sharks. Start again.

There’s an old man (an “elder” – it seems to me important, for dramatic effect, that the balance of power is shifted even further away from the fisherman in his struggle). He catches a marlin (an impressive catch), but is thwarted by relentless sharks and is forced to start again his almost Sisyphean task of battling the elements and Fate. A survivor, but a battered survivor.

In the stories below, I have sometimes played a little with the font and spacing in the stories for dramatic or comic effect, but always sticking to the rule for the body of each story.

Here we go…


Receding tail lights.

Rain.

FadIng hope.


Shiny licence. Road trip. Twisted metal.


The Four Horsemen arrived.

THE END


Measuringdevicesland coup.

I’m the new ruler.


Lifeboat. Two passengers. The non-vegetarian survives.


I have given the final SWS a title, to see whether it’s: 1. cheating, 2. helpful for context, 3. see what you think…


NCIS: Lothlórien

Galadriel slain!
Elf-defence?
First degree Mordor.


That’s all for now. I hope you have enjoyed these voyages into tragedy / thriller / very silly.

Please do let me have your comments; all welcomed.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Bet out of Hell

Havana Good Time – Part Tres

Welcome to my Blog at The Lair Of The Camrose


It’s my bespoke stomping ground in the Intermatrix. You are very welcome, and thanks for stopping by…

This time, getting to the heart of six-word stories and the Bet Out Of Hell…


Ernest Hemingway, one lunchtime with friends, reputedly took on the seemingly crazy challenge of paring down his already wafer-thin prose to a six word story, no more, no less.

My slightly longer than six words story goes that he made that bet at a lunch, possibly in The Algonquin hotel in New York.

He famously wrote it on a napkin.

For sale: Baby shoes. Never worn.

He collected his winnings while his companions gladly paid up, knowing that something extraordinary had just happened. I cannot help thinking that, if this is indeed how it happened, there’s a faint whiff of him setting up his literary friends with something pre-prepared, possibly to fund his next dozen or so daiquiris at the Floridita bar in Havana.

Another ,daiquiri, por favor, barman!

Whether the bet took place, where it took place or anything else about it has become a matter of legend. Urban legend in this case. If it were in New York, that is one of the most urban settings imaginable.

In many respects it matters not whether the concept fought its way into the world on that day – whatever day it was – or whether it was a confidence trick on the part of Hemingway or a wily agent to highlight and publicise his Spartan writing method. Whether it was effectively copied or adapted from earlier newspaper stories or word-games does not matter either.
It is one of those stories, fictional or otherwise, that I want to be true, not to be taken away from me. Comfort can be taken from the fact that the six words differ from the earlier apparent sources and the least of it is that Hemingway perfected the form.

It is a clean and brutal format.

The Hemingway baby shoes story sets the scene, homes in and then tears your heart. The baby shoes on offer have never been worn. A clear and dramatic pointer to ultimate tragedy.
Interestingly, if the shoes had been a boy’s shoes and the expectant parents had, by a twist of fate, welcomed a daughter into the world, then the same words would have simply described a correction of an unfortunate mistake; there would have been no drama, simply the acquisition of pink shoes with the proceeds to replace the blue. No tragedy. More importantly, no story to speak of.

We are made complicit in accepting the presence of tragedy to ensure that the dramatic weight of the piece crashes home. In those syllables, some collaboration is required between Hemingway and the reader to arrive where he wanted to be.

With all of this in mind, I decided to have a go at creating some more of these fiendishly awkward one-liners. The rules are quite simple, unchanged over the decades:

Six words. No more. No less.

That’s it.

I have found a sense of poetry, seriousness and playfulness in this form of story which I hope you will share with me in my stories in Part Four.

Hasta La Vista, Baby!

Cheers!

Alan

Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose with beard

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