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Welcome to my Blog


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

This time, a Spring break, sort of…


I have been working on a new novel (recently completed the manuscript) and a non-fiction book, to add to my list of available titles, hence the slight break in blog posts.

We are getting ready for Jab 2, enjoying the re-invigorating weather and generally keeping busy, busy, busy…

Here’s to a warm and welcoming Summer and my normal blog-posting will be resumed shortly.

I’m thinking of re-vamping my site to spruce it up now that I’ve been at it over a year and posted 44 articles. When I get to 50, I’ll come up with something to celebrate that milestone…

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Remember-member-member…

Welcome to my Blog


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

This time, a university sing-along…


I have news of an exciting scientific discovery. One of our Offspring has been identified as the next evolutionary step in Mankind’s journey, a fusion of Human and Womble to tackle all challenges that beset us.

(Drum roll)

But something changed.

Out of the product of the dry ice machine and the grinding, doom-laden industrial music (and some Taylor Swift): Something Emerged into the light (at around 11 am as usual) from behind a hillock of crockery and cutlery in its Nesting Place. A hillock tall enough to warrant investigation by the Ordinance Survey guys as a separate landscape feature.

Something that rocked our world.

What has been classified in the scientific community under the Taxonomy (nothing to do with stuffing badgers) Hierarchy as:

The Anti-Womble.

A creature that creates chaos in a 500 metre radius by the sheer focus of its awesome will.

Wearing a patched set of black bags and a necklace of used vodka bottles and glitter.

The Offspring came into the light and was fed pancakes before we shipped her back to the bosom of her Uni house now that the snacks box had been decimated and the vodka oceans drained at our Ground Zero.

The dark cloud of the Anti-Womble advanced on Uni in her Mini One – a vehicle of desolation and eight-months-old empty crisp packets – to re-colonise her Uni House, a site rich with uncovered areas of floor and rug ready to be bent again to the will of the Anti-Womble, harnessing the power and restlessness of a loaf of bread that had been lurking with intent in the dread bin for four months.

Emergency services have been alerted on campus in case there is a security breach where the Anti-Womble manifests in a lecture theatre to scatter around surrounding desks an empty Costa cup holder, cup and related detritus. Fear stalks Uni land.

And then, as with the best horror movies, there is a stirring in our attic, a sting in the tale.

There is another one, dragging itself from under the duvet.

Ready to strike, with still a week and a half left until Bin Day or, as it is known in our house…

The Bin Czar* vs Anti-Womble 2 : Judgement Day

Great to see a glimmer of the real world with that Delivery and the restriction changes.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

…you’re a Womble
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(I HOPE YOU’VE HAD A) HAPPY EASTER

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 Easter wishes…


Easter 2021 is nearly over and it’s a good time to celebrate rabbit-kind.

Whether you prefer the thought of the tardy White Rabbit, Mister McGregor’s Rabbit Pie, a re-reading of Watership Down accompanied by a few verses of Bright Eyes, a perusal of The Constant Rabbit by Jasper Fforde (recommended for fans of anthropomorphic lapins), a bit of Chas and Dave, or the footprints left by the Easter Bunny in your dusty hall, or simply no bunnies at all…

Happy Easter to all.

Cheers!

Alan

Alan Camrose

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Pinned to the tropes

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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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Havana Good Time – Part Dos

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, reflections on the sea and Cuban cats…


Last time, I looked at Hemingway’s house in Havana and his deep connection with the area over a long period.

Hemingway was inspired to write “The Old Man And The Sea” in that house, a short but perfectly formed masterpiece of the relentlessness of Nature, the triumph of carrying on, the acceptance of what has to be – and be reconciled with – and the critical importance of striving. Particularly heroic striving against insurmountable obstacles. The sweet taste of triumph: an enormous catch wrestled from the Deep. Followed by the realisation that the old man was on a small boat a long way from home. With sharks in close attendance.

The nearby town of Cojima, with its sweeping bay and crumbling fort, must have felt part of him as he wrote, the panoramic far horizon filled with different shades of blue would have offered the promise of adventure and fulfillment, but nonetheless a vista absolutely not to be taken for granted.

The book cries out the old fisherman’s love for the power of Nature and his love for the fish that he hunts, all part of the ongoing Circle of Life.

An aspect of that Circle was, for Hemingway, the allure of cats. He was a self-confessed ailurophile, owning over fifty of them during his time at the house. At the same time, not serially, a wave just as impossible to resist as the sea itself. Especially at feeding time.
He is “credited” with making six-toed cats – polydactyl cats – an important part of the feline population of Cuba. Six toes – one more with which to shred furniture. Hemingway would have hated the notorious times of the Special Period in Cuban history following the collapse of the Soviet Union when, amongst other signs of desperation, the population resorted to consuming cats for sustenance.

That is no longer needed, although the humans will need to trust in the feline population not keeping a group memory of those dark times and bearing a grudge. Not something to presume: cats play a long game. I’m reluctant to raise the subject with my cat.

There are no feline residents these days at Finca Vigia, Hemingway’s beloved Havana home. Purported descendants of Hemingway’s cats live at his other house and museum in Key West. Finca Vigia seems strangely empty without any.

Hemingway referred to his cats as “purr factories”, once saying that “one cat leads to another”. Happily he was too early to be referring to the Special Period.

All of this made me think about Hemingway, his relationship with Nature, reflected in his writing, the lean and mean – some might say cadaverous – quality of his writing, particularly of “The Old Man And The Sea”, and my mind wandered to his famous bet.

It’s his remarkable wager that I shall talk about in Part Tres.

Maybe just another Daiquiri, or six…

Cheers, Papa!

Alan

Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose with beard

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Havana Good Time – Part One

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, a trip down memory lane, Cuban-style in a classic automobile…


We were in Cuba for a holiday almost exactly a year ago, before COVID took a grip on all of us.

Seems like years ago.

Havana in particular was awash with gorgeous classic American automobiles (not just cars: automobiles – they deserve to be called more than mere cars). Those automobiles are a Cuban calling card.

They had been sadly under-used, even before the outbreak of the virus, relying on a trickle of tourists rather than the flood which would descend from US cruise ships in better times. Times long gone, then re-instated, then once more long-gone with the bite of the further crushing US sanctions biting into the population, then COVID-19.

The time of cruise ships is surely gone forever, regardless of the political climate, a sobering thought for the Cuban population awaiting those better times.

We went on Ernest Hemingway’s trail in Cuba, keeping a low profile in our bright orange Buick (one of many that we hailed) in the sunshine. The trail was littered with bright shards of Hemingway’s life. Cuba was the place where he seemed most obviously at home until forced to leave by a sharp clash of revolutionary and reactionary politics. I thought I’d share with you some of that journey and what came out of it.

Finca Vigia – Hemingway’s home in Cuba for twenty years – is nowadays a place of pilgrimage and will no doubt endure. Bus-loads of tourists descended on the spectacular “Lookout Farm” (the blunt English translation from the as usual more romantic Spanish) while we were visiting. The tower that gave it this name is designed to accommodate hordes of tourists gingerly clambering up the one person wide rickety steps accommodating – or trying to accommodate – simultaneous up and down traffic. That is something to bear in mind when once again you get the chance to visit this place.

When I was already a long way up, I found that it would be a really short way down without civilised stair etiquette.

We were tourists, too, just in a smaller bus. Not that much smaller, come to think of it, given the Buick’s voluptuous curves and not-at-all dainty footprint.

The property is a place where, without the gold dust of the Hemingway connection, most people would draw level with the entrance to the winding drive, mutter ‘I wonder what’s up there’, then drive past. They would move on to the next attractive example of faded glory, inevitably mixed with pockets of quiet desperation. It’s a remarkable testament to the power of icons, infusing gravitas into bricks and mortar.The inside of the house is not open to visitors. Everyone must take their turn and crane their neck through the open windows. The house is mercilessly exposed to visitors by those open windows. That gives a strange feeling of space and connection, no tomb-like atmosphere.

Visitors are forced to perform contortions, not least to avoid an ear or a corner of someone’s parasol in their snapshots. All to catch glimpses of things like the nine thousand or so books stuffed into the building, untouched from Hemingway’s day except to be worshipped by the army of staff individually and relentlessly hand-cleaning each book. It would be a firing offence to smear a sticky finger from a stolen bite of a pastelito over one of the treasured tomes. Probably more than just firing.

Stretching the scene into a touch of the absurd, possibly even slightly grotesque, for a peso or two one of the guardians is happy to sneak your camera deeper into the house to take close-ups of the bathroom and elsewhere with the promise of transformation from the mundane to the magical. I politely refused the proffered virtual tour of Hemingway’s bathroom.

How all of that comes together with the Old Man and the Sea, will be in Part Two…

Cheers.

Alan

Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose with beard


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2021 – New Year, New Book

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, news about my new book…


I have not posted for a month. I have taken the time away not just because of the Christmas and New Year holidays, or That Bastard Virus, or the blues of January. I have just finished the first draft of my new book, and am very excited about it. The working title is “Building Memories”. It’s a supernatural thriller.

A young woman hunts a killer harking back to the Great War and finds they share a hidden parallel world.

I’m in final editing mode and I will then work out what to do next with it.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share the first few lines with you, the lines that introduce Becky Slade, the main character, and her private investigations agency:

CHAPTER ONE

Winter in Balham, South London, swathed in glamour; Becky Slade wondered whether she should have put on her best ripped jeans for the victory feast.

Golden trumpets tuned up for the start of her victory parade. Strip-lights in the walkways of the block of flats shone down on her like torches as they flickered into life to light her way. Finishing touches were made to her laurel crown in the fading late-November afternoon.

Case closed.

The sharp tang of cat wafted up to her from the cat box containing her captured fugitive, the latest success for Slade & Co Private Investigations. A yowl of rage from the Thing that seemed like it had eight legs instead of the regulation four, with a wicked barb at each end. Even its whiskers had sharp points.

Becky had needed this win. Funds were short this month, regardless. No stranger to a touch of danger about her finances towards the end of each month, this would be a bit close to the wire even by her standards. When Mrs B – the cat’s owner – later thrust some money in her direction, that would at least allow Becky to fend off her creditors for a while longer without resorting to the Mother Option.

She did not want to go beanie hat in hand to her mother; she had avoided it so far. Too much chance of there being I told you so; why don’t you get a real job, sweetheart? dropped like depth charges into the conversation. And Mother was the good cop member of the parental taskforce…

Building Memories, by Alan Camrose

Any comments would be gratefully received.

I do hope that you enjoy it and want to see more in due course.

Cheers,

Alan

Alan Camrose

Alan Camrose with beard

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