Saturday, February 29, 2020

A Glimpse Into the Greek Soul


I’d planned on covering the end of Carnival in Greece, a truly fun time that ends on Monday with Clean Monday.  But there is nothing to cover, because the Greek Government has cancelled all Carnival and Clean Monday events due to the corona virus.  I guess that’s to be expected in light of the worldwide response to COVID-19, and I suspect there is a lot more to come, and be cancelled.

But rather than dwelling on the downer of the current situation, here’s my upbeat take on how I see Carnival in Greece as representative of the essence of what it means to be a modern-day Greek living in Greece.  I’m talking about what makes the Greek soul tick. 

To me, whether you’re Greek or not, tiny momentary pleasures are what buoy up sagging spirits, bond us to our roots, remind us of our heritage, and reinforce our choice of worship.

Finding satisfaction in the simple acts of living is an essential ingredient of the Greek way of life.  Perhaps that’s what draws me to them so strongly. Even in winter there is joy to be found in everyday Greek life: coffee with friends in a cafenion, a stroll by the sea, a gaze up toward the mountains.  And every so often the entire country joins together in celebration of the glory of life that is Greek. Today’s blog falls in the middle of just such a time.

Burnt Thursday on Mykonos Streets

This past Thursday was Tsiknopempti, eleven days before the beginning of Greek Orthodox Lent. “Pempti” means Thursday, and though tsikno is somewhat hard to translate, most settle on “burnt” and translate Tskinopempti as “Burnt Thursday.”  It signals the beginning of a carnival atmosphere in many parts of Greece.

Actually, carnival season in Greece commences weeks before the start of Lent with the opening of a sacred text (Triodion), but that occurs in a sedate church service.  True Greek-style partying doesn’t actually kickoff in most places until Burnt Thursday, a day of engulfing smoke and scents from endless grills sizzling with meats, for it kicks off the last “legal” weekend for red meat eaters to indulge in their carnivore passions.

Which brings to mind something many of you may not know.  Carnival comes from the Latin carne (meat) and vale (goodbye), and the name for carnival time in Greece is Apokreas, derived from how an ancient (partying?) Greek would literally say goodbye to meat (kreas). And let’s not forget that those ancient Greeks knew how to party. The dancing, drinking, and feasting associated with Greece’s carnival today—not to mention all that masquerade dress-up—is a direct descendant of those reveling worshipers of Dionysis, the Greek God of Wine and Feast. 

Bet you never thought to add Greece’s Patras to the list of Mardi Gras hotspot cities like Rio de Janeiro and New Orleans?  Unless, of course, you’re Greek and know the partying runs right up until Lent. 

Back to Tsiknopempti.  Though it may be the time for saying goodbye to meat, dairy lovers get a break for another week—called white or cheese week.  But come that second Monday after Tsiknopempti (called Clean Monday (aka Kathara Deftera)), the consumption of all red-blooded animals and of anything derived from those critters is forbidden.  No meat, fish, milk, cheese, yogurt, eggs, etcetera.  

Contrary to what you might think, Greeks see Clean Monday as a day for rejoicing—and I’m not talking about just the vegetarians among them. It’s a national holiday widely held to signal the start of Spring, a day for kite flying, trips to the seaside or mountains, and a picnic feast on foods still allowed.

And there are many: Lagana, an unleavened flat bread traditionally served and eaten only on Clean Monday; taramosalata, a tasty dip made of cod or carp roe; fava (split pea) puree; yigandes, giant kastoria beans in a casserole with tomatoes, onions, herbs, and spices; salads of marouli (romaine lettuce), three beans (fassolia), and perhaps revitho (chickpea) salad with artichokes and sun-dried tomato; dolmades, the traditional grape leaves stuffed with rice and fresh herbs; peppers stuffed with bulgar and herbs; calamari (squid) prepared fried or in any number of other ways; octopus grilled as is, or dressed up with tomatoes, capers, and other special touches; cuttlefish in wine sauce with pearl onions; garides, giant shrimp grilled with lemon; stews of wild mushrooms, onions, and herbs; halvas (semolina pudding); loukoumathes (puffs of fried dough in sweet syrup sprinkled with cinnamon and walnuts); pasteli (sesame-honey candies) … and on and on.

And let’s not forget the ouzo, tsipouro, wine, and beer.

I hope I’ve given you a glimpse into the Greek soul, but if not, perhaps at least some sense of where all those endless Greek diner menus come from.

Stay well and God bless.


Jeff's 2020 Speaking Engagements and Signings (in formation):

Friday, March 13, 10:15AM
San Diego, CA
LEFT COAST CRIME—San Diego Marriott Mission Valley—(Sierra 5-6)
Moderating “Tipping the Scales: The criminal justice system,” with Teresa Burrell, Keenan Powell, L.F. Robertson, and Karen Stefano.

Saturday, March 14, 2:45PM
San Diego, CA
LEFT COAST CRIME—San Diego Marriott Mission Valley—(Rio Vista F-H)
Panelist, “Murder Goes Global: International Mysteries and Thrillers,” with Annamaria Alfieri, Ana Manwaring, and Greg Randall, moderated by Jane Stillwater.

Monday, March 16, 2020, 11AM-2PM
Saddlebrooke, Arizona 85739
30th Anniversary Authors Luncheon
SaddleBrooke Clubhouse
40010 S. Ridgeview Blvd.
Author Speaking and Signing

Thursday, June 4--Sunday, June 7, 2020
CRIMEFEST—Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel
Panels yet to be announced 

Thursday, October 15—Sunday, October 18
Panels yet to be announced

Friday, February 28, 2020

Granite Noir


I was in Aberdeen again for a long standing arrangement to appear at Granite Noir, doing a workshop called Breaking Bones, subtitled ‘And other things to do to people you don’t like’. The second slide is titled ‘How to make money from violence legally’. The workshop has fallen into a format of a bit of anatomy (any bit of anatomy that is essential to life is basically well protected by another bit of anatomy!!), a wee lesson in terminology ( know your supine from your prone) and an introduction to ‘Anatomical Norm’. Then we run through a few slides showing people who have suffered ‘an insult to their person’.

Usually the workshop is for crime writers and you hope that there is an understood respect that we could be looking at a dead body, using it as an educational tool which will eventually filter down to what is in essence a form of entertainment. My take on it is we may as well get it right.


The workshop has run 4 or 5 times now. At Harrogate – the infamous time the powerpoint broke down and we did the entire thing by mime, the audience was a mixture of writers and readers. The powers that be had planned on about 30  turning up, and I believe the queue out the door was about 120. Maybe it was the attraction of the goody bag rather than my powerpoint of blood and guts.

Granite Noir was going to be interesting as it was members of the public who would be in the audience and I had a slight suspicion that the library in the mezzanine was  open to those walking past so I thought I had to be a wee bit sensitive here and altered the workshop accordingly. As it turned out the library was closed to the public so anybody there had paid to be there.


And it was packed to the gunnels.


I had been very impressed with the organization of Granite Noir; asking me beforehand about USB sticks, screens, laser pointers etc. Even the thing that was slightly wrong was a blessing. There was a couple of lights directly above the screen which made the images less intense than they might have been, this had the huge advantage of slightly dulling down the pictures that could be upsetting, and also allowing me to talk round what they were actually looking at, pointing out things with my laser pointer and glossing over things I have no idea of.


Even the hotel was fabulous. A 5 minute walk from the venue, the hotel had been converted from an old university building and our hotel room was more like a suite with a sofa and one huge TV in front of the sofa and another huge TV in front of the bed and a small kitchen, which meant we could have hot pizza while I was writing. The upshot of all that was on the Saturday the day before the event I had 7 hours plus of uninterrupted Midsummer Murders while getting on with a typescript that is lagging further and further behind due to my colleague at work suffering concussion and my inherent inability to be at 3 places at one time.  It should be at 85000 words this  week but it’s way behind at 51000.

At the start of the presentation I name check something called Anatomy 3D which is a very cheap and useful tool available from the Google Play Store. The next slide is the cover of the book Crimewriting. How to write the science by Brian Price ( who has blogged with us if you recall ) – a great wee book to dip in and out of. At this point I like to set the scene and just say that we’ll be looking at some real injuries and for this talk we were going to play a game of ‘Criminality or Not. You decide. ’ As the slide show goes on, I start to show pictures and the audience simply have to guess. For instance I have one fabulous picture of a deep bruise on a thigh with perfect criss cross striations of white over the bruising. It  looks exactly like a stamping injury where the victim has been on the ground and the thigh has been trodden on with a boot where the sole has a rigid and well defined tread. The audience fell for that. It’s actually a hamstring injury in a weightlifter and the bleeding has come from the torn muscle fibres. The lines are from very good kinesio taping that a physiotherapist has applied to the injury to aid dispersal of the blood and to help a massive haematoma.

I’ll keep quiet about the fact I got it wrong when I first saw it.


We always pick a person who’s universally hated so that we can refer to them as the victim of extreme violence and nobody feels any  guilt at all. Piers Morgan normally fits the bill but on this occasion we plumped for Dominic Cummings. The support for causing him fictional bodily damage was universal.

And the typescript jumped ahead by over 7000 words just because I had peace and quiet and Midsummer Murders. And pizza.

Caro Ramsay
28 02 2020

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Invisible numbers

First some numbers we've no intention of hiding! MIE passed 4 million views yesterday, and we're all enormously delighted. Over the ten years MIE has been going, we've had some writers stay from the beginning, some leave and others join, and, sadly, our founder Leighton Gage passed away.

Murder really is everywhere! Our current writers set, or have set, books in thirteen countries - Argentina, Botswana, England, France, Ghana, Greece, India, Japan, Kenya, Paraguay, Peru, Scotland and South Africa.

And if you add previous blogmates and guests to the list you get at least another twelve -
Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, Finland, Iceland, Mexico, Nigeria, Norway, Sweden, Thailand and the United States. We're keen to push that number up as we move to 5 million!

Join the celebration! Email by March 7 for a chance to win a signed first edition of either A CARRION DEATH or FACETS OF DEATH - your choice. Just put '4 million' in the subject line.

Michael - Thursday

Katherine Johnson at NASA
No one will be surprised to hear that women have been neglected in science and engineering since…whenever. Yet the worst offender is probably my own area, mathematics. I have a friend who used to run the University of Minnesota Talented Youth Mathematics Program (UMTYMP to its friends) for secondary school students, and one of the things that worried him was that far fewer girls than boys took the stringent tests and enrolled. So he started a special program to encourage girls, and soon the numbers started to rise, but they never came close to the 50% one would expect. He went to a lot of trouble to try to find out what was happening. There were many issues including that parental support was much stronger for the boys than for the girls. But one important reason was that girls didn’t want to excel at math because they felt that the boys wouldn’t think that cool. 

We’re talking here about really excelling – doing better than probably 95% of the other students. Only a handful of students would come to the program from each public school, and those learners would get advanced placement in college mathematics. The girls believed that the 95% of the boys they left behind would be uncomfortable with that. They were probably right. Much crucial talent in mathematics and the physical sciences was probably wasted as a result of these perceptions on both sides, to say nothing of the prejudice that would have hit the talented women if they had followed a career in mathematics or the physical sciences.

Receiving the medal
But not all that talent was wasted. On Monday, Katherine Johnson died at the age of 101. We probably only know about her at all because President Obama awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom to her just five years ago, and a year later she was celebrated in a best-selling biography – Hidden Figures – and subsequently in a movie of the same title that picked up an Oscar nomination.

A scene from the movie.
It's pretty easy to get the point...
What Johnson did was to be a human computer for NASA during the space race to the moon in the sixties. We tend to forget just how short a time period computers have been around. We moan if our phones are slow to connect to the internet, or a piece of software has an irritating bug, forgetting how almost miraculous these devices actually are. When Johnson started at NASA in 1953 with a BSc from West Virginia State, she was literally a computer. That was her job title. She did calculations, and she was treated pretty much the same as we treat (machine) computers today – ignore them unless something goes wrong. She wasn’t alone. There was a whole department of computers – mostly women – who did calculations.

Johnson was different for two reasons. In the first place, she was black. That added another layer of discrimination on top of the female one. The director of the movie based on her life obviously saw this as a major theme – as it clearly was – and focused on it. Thus he had her running to and from the black toilet miles away, when, in fact, nothing like that actually happened. The second major difference was that she was a brilliant applied mathematician. We'll probably never know the true extent of her contributions, or those of the other computers, because they were included in reports without attribution. The computers weren’t just hidden, they were invisible.

Johnson’s work went far beyond computing, however. She developed sophisticated equations and was regarded not only as the best computer there, but as one of the best – probably the best – mathematician there. (No doubt the men didn’t think that was cool, and that certainly didn’t bother her one bit.)

A page of the paper
Johnson developed the equations to determine the timing and trajectories for launching a spacecraft into space, orbiting the moon, and bringing it back. That’s a challenging problem by any standards, and much more so when the only computers you have at your disposal are human ones. Half the problem is to design the equations in such a way that the calculations can be done manually, usually by using an efficiently converging iteration. Johnson did that. I took a look at the NASA report: “Determination of Azimuth Angle at Burnout for Placing a Satellite over a Selected Earth Position” by Ted Skopinski and Katherine Johnson, and it’s very clever. It was the first NASA Langley research report ever co-authored by a women.

Even when the cumbersome mainframes took over the computer jobs, Johnson’s calculations were regarded as more elegant and more reliable. Her mathematics would still be used today for similar missions. She should probably have been running the whole show, but she played it all down with characteristic modesty, telling the Washington Post when the movie came out that “There was nothing to it – I was just doing my job.”

Rest in peace, Katherine.

Upcoming events

Knysna Literary Festival 

Crimefest – Bristol, England

Four Million and Going Strong



Today Murder is Everywhere has past a wonderful landmark - more than four million page views, by the official Google count.  We are all over-the-moon delighted and incredibly grateful to all of you and to our blogmates of the past for helping to establish MIE as one of the most successful literary blogs on the planet.

More great reading is ahead.  Please follow us.  You will find something new every day from our team of crime writers and our marvelous guests.


Wednesday, February 26, 2020

An Adventure on Pali Hill

Sujata Massey

The first welcome I had in Pali Hill was from a rooster.

I'd just entered my bedroom in the Airbnb rental. It was about three-thirty in the morning. As I put down my suitcase, exhausted after eighteen hours of flying and lots of airport waiting, a series of mournful squawks began. The glass window was latched shut; it was January, with evening temps in the sixties. But the valiant rooster's cries carried, despite the earplugs I’d brought on suggestion from the host and previous Airbnb guests in the review.

You may wonder why I decided to stay in a flat where I knew a rooster made an impact. The answer is two-fold. First, I thought the rooster would just wake me up a little eary in the morning. And the second is that I really wanted to stay in a residential neighborhood of Mumbai with a local host, rather than a hotel. I am willing to try new things, because I'd rather stay in the real world.

But is Pali Hill, a posh historic neighborhood within the area known as Bandra West, the real world? Plenty of people would say no--it is too elite and full of many people of different countries and faiths. It is far more mixed, and liberal, than a typical Indian community.

I was a temporary visitor, so I am not a Pali Hill expert, let alone one on Bandra itself.The larger village known as Bandra (Vandre means port in Marathi) began as a fishing village. Its identity was stamped in terms of architecture and a grand Catholic Church, during the Portuguese colonization. The British took over, and the new buildings that went up--charming bungalows and flats--were home to wealthy Parsis, Anglo-Indians, and others with the taste for quiet living in the hills north of Bombay. In the 1930s, film people began settling here. Today there are splashy new shopping areas with crowded streets, but most  in bungalows and apartment buildings that were grand in the 1920s and are faded-grand today. The simpler places are still locally owned and many are rented to the French and other international residents.

Some grand houses that aren’t occupied are held close by the owning family and rented for use as film sets. Many homes are guarded by high walls with signs proclaiming stern statements such as: “This is the home of the Perreira Family. Absolutely no trespassing upon penalty of law” or “This home belongs to J Winslow and family. It is not for sale and do not enquire about it.” 

Keeping one’s hold of property in Mumbai is not always easy. A charming sky-blue cottage across from my favorite coffee place is titled to an elderly couple. They traveled for a few months and left the property in the hands of a servant who promised to take good care. When the couple returned, the locks had been changed and the servant had taken over the house, refusing them entry…saying the house was now his. Because of the city’s rules affirming the rights of people to stay on properties where they’ve had a history of living, the servants may trump the owners in this contentious case that has Pali Hill neighbors talking.  

Back to the names on the cottages. Many of the names are Portuguese ones like Almeida, Pereira, and Braganza. It turns out that the Catholic community in Bandra is quite different ethnically from the Christians of Goa, Kerala and other areas. Bandra and the villages around it like Santa Cruz were home to a very old Marathi speaking community who lived in the area as farmers, fishing people and salt gatherers. They were converted to Catholicism during Portuguese rule in the 15th and 16th centuries. This is when they began taking Portuguese surnames, celebrating Christian holidays, and enjoying roasts and sausages. 

Today, Bandra is a prime location to  run a restaurant or cafe with high prices, offering sustenance to foreigners in search of almond-milk cappuccinos, as well as affluent young Indians wishing to have fun away from the prying gaze of their family and neighbors. A number of Airbnb listings for Bandra West state that "unmarried couples are welcome," which would not necessarily be true throughout the city.

In The Widows of Malabar Hill, Perveen travels secretly to meet an attractive young man. The Bandra Bandstand area is where she experiences a burning kiss on the rocks close to the Arabian Sea. This business was inspired by the kind of hanky-panky that has been going on there for at least a century.

One of my favorite rituals while staying in Bandra was fitness walking in Joggers Park, a scenic park with greenery in the center of an oval track. Along one side, you can see the sea. The park is popular all day long with friends who come to walk together, or to do yoga and training exercises. 

There was a series of oval tracks—one dirt, another stone, another brick, and so on. The youngest or fastest people usually moved on the outside track, while the old friends wishing to catch up could meander and stop on the old-fashioned walkways and take time to gossip sitting on benches. 

Just like a beautiful Indian garden, the track has floral flourishes and a dramatic center point: garden with a bridge over a pond with ducks. And on its banks, to my amazement, was a cage holding a rooster and some chickens. This fellow was quieter than the one near me; perhaps because he had so much to look at around him.

Monday, February 24, 2020

A Clockwork Orange

Annamaria on Monday

Fragments of ideas have been swimming in my consciousness this past week, most of them having vaguely to do with US politics at this moment.  Suddenly, I thought about A Clockwork Orange - both the movie and the book. That story was predictive, in ways I could not have imagined.

When the movie came out in 1971, I was already a fan of Stanley Kubrick.  I saw the film, and was so struck by it, that I then read Anthony Burgess's book and saw the film again within a week.  What forced that story into my consciousness in the past few days where the reports of renewed Russian tampering with US electoral process.  In both the book and film, in a near dystopian future, violent young thugs speak a slang Burgess called "Nadsat," a language he invented - a combination of American English and Russian.


I was toying with idea of writing about this today when, completely by chance, I came across the fact that tomorrow - the 25th of February - is the 103rd anniversary of Anthony Burgess's birth. That kind of coincidence always makes a big impression on me. So here we go.

Let's talk a little bit, first, about Burgess.  He was an educator, novelist, critic, composer, libretist, screenwriter, essayist, TV broadcaster, translator, a linguist and polyphone,  speaking not only "easy" languages like German, French, and Russian, but also Arabic and Malaysian.  While in the British military during WWII, he was arrested for insulting Franciso Franco.  His wife once said something obscene to the Duke of Edinburgh and got him thrown out of the colonial service.  These are some of the many facts about his life that I find amusing.

In 1991, I heard Burgess speak at my beloved New York Public Library, when he was introducing his then new novel - Mozart and the Wolf Gang.  That evening, I was aware from the outset that Burgess was the smartest person I had ever heard give a speech.  My mind raced, did cartwheels, tap-danced, and tried to leap tall buildings in a single bound trying to keep with his discourse.  The man's mind was breathtaking.

What has struck me, this past week, is that A Clockwork Orange predicted a violent world in which, because of their strong influence on each other, American and Russian cultures blend to such an extent that out-of-control fifteen year olds speak in slang that combines the words and grammars of their two languages.  Also, because of his weird hair color, friends of mine and I refer to the toxic current denizen of the White House as Agent Orange.  How could Burgess have known the US-Russian blending would involve the color orange!

Burgess wrote the book, he said in three weeks, as a jeu d'esprit, because he needed money.  He even let the American publisher chop off his last chapter to get the book out in the USA.  Kubrick paid only $500 for the film rights.  But the movie made the book a bestseller and gave Burgess a well-deserved international reputation.

Both the book and the film portray a violent world and explore the nature of free will.  Burgess's 21st chapter did not make it into the American edition of the book on which the screenplay was based; so its content was then also left out of Kubrick's film version.  Burgess's story follows the exploits of a young felon from drug-crazed violence followed by drug-induced reprogramming.  In Burgess's ending, his young character finds redemption.  Burgess disliked the omission.  Kubrick agreed with the American publisher that it was a better story without the final salvation.

Whether or not you would prefer that happier ending, say happy birthday to Anthony tomorrow.  Oh and by the way, the last day of shooting on Kubrick's film was today's date - 24 February - in 1971.  A fact I found out while researching for this blog.  

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Ellie Gould: the case for self-defence

On May 3rd 2019, the police were called to a home in Calne, Wiltshire. There they found Ellie Gould, a 17-year-old student, dead from multiple stab wounds. The knife used was still in her neck and her hand had been placed on the handle of the knife.

The police quickly arrested her ex-boyfriend, now revealed as Thomas Griffiths, then also 17 years old. In November, he was convicted at Bristol Crown Court of her murder and sentenced to serve a minimum of twelve and a half years.

The evidence apparently showed a ‘frenzied attack’ which included an attempt at strangulation and thirteen stab wounds. Ellie fought back, scratching Griffiths’ neck, but was overpowered. She was found dead by her father in the kitchen of the family home.

The pair attended the same secondary school and had known each other for around five years. They had been dating for three months, until Ellie broke up with Griffiths to concentrate on her exams. She had told friends that he had “not taken it well.”

On the morning of the murder, he walked out of school, drove to Ellie’s home and first strangled her, then stabbed her. He then tried to make it look as if the wounds were self-inflicted, and passed off the defence wounds Ellie had inflicted on himself as ‘self-harm’. He had also sent a series of fake messages to her phone and to friends, playing dumb about what had happened to her.

Until that point, Griffiths had been welcomed into the Gould home by Ellie's parents. He had celebrated her birthday with them and had frequently eaten meals with the family. They had no inkling that he was capable of such an act.

The reason I’m writing about this story now is that last week school friends of Ellie’s appeared on national radio and TV as part of their campaign for self-defence to be taught in schools. They are convinced that her life might have been saved if she’d known some basic skills to defend herself. 

I confess that whenever I hear of such a senseless crime as this, I wonder much the same thing. When I first started writing the Charlie Fox series of novels, Charlie is teaching self-defence classes, having herself been the victim of violent crime. As she tells one of her pupils in KILLER INSTINCT: “It takes remarkably little time to be strangled. You can’t afford to waste it.”

The throat is a highly vulnerable area. Relatively unprotected, usually not covered with heavy clothing, it’s more or less just a narrow tube that houses blood vessels to the brain as well as the main airway. Running down either side of the trachea are the vagus nerves. I go into a little bit of detail about these in HARD KNOCKS: ‘They control just about everything of importance in the body, from the heart and lungs to the abdominal organs. Hit the vagus nerves hard enough and your victim ceases to breathe, his heartbeat stutters, his nervous system crashes. And then he dies.’

In one-third of homicides by strangulation, the hyoid bone is fractured. This is a U-shaped bone in the front of the neck, to which the tongue is anchored. It sits between the lower jaw and the largest cartilage of the voice box, or larynx. Damage to the hyoid is often accompanied by damage to the cervical spine, larynx, pharynx (the area of the throat behind the mouth and nasal cavity) and possibly the lower jaw itself.

Given a choice—or possibly that should be if given no choice at all—I would always choose the throat as my first self-defence target. Doesn’t matter how big you are, or how covered in muscles, the throat is always vulnerable to a well-directed blow.

But if someone grabs you around the neck, there are a lot of ways to avoid being strangled. It fills me with both anger and sadness when I hear of tragedies such as Ellie Gould’s murder. A good self-defence instructor could have shown her a variety of techniques not only to escape such a hold but to put her attacker on the floor while she was at it.

A knife is a different matter. Go up against someone with a knife and you’re going to get cut, like it or not. It takes a different attitude—one you need to have decided upon in advance. But it can be done.

So, if those school friends of Ellie’s decide to set up a petition to have self-defence made part of the curriculum, I’d sign it. Would you?

This week’s Word of the Week is supervene, which means to follow something closely, either as a consequence or in contrast, while intervene means to come between persons or things.

Upcoming Events:

May 1-3, Newcastle City Library, Newcastle upon Tyne.

June 4-7, Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel, Bristol.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

O Nation, My Nation!

N.C. Wyeth "O Captain, My Captain"

As some of you may have gathered, I like to tinker with classic poems, sometimes for fun, sometimes to crystalize my thoughts on a troubling or complex circumstance. This past week led me back to Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, and his “O Captain, My Captain!” 1865 mourning tribute to the loss of our Captain, President Abraham Lincoln. 

I like that template,
As we wait,
To meet with fate,

Walt Whitman

O Nation! my Nation! I fear we’ve come undone,
Our land’s confronted every threat, with pride, brave deeds and fun,
As men revered, for deeds so clear, led people all exulting,
But narrow eyes did bring to heel, our land of faith and caring;
                         Burdening its heart
                             With foreboding pain and dread,
                               While all the world endures the lies,
                                  Not yet cold and dead.

O Nation! my Nation! rise up and face the hells;
Rise up—for you the time has come—for you there’s no untils,
For you no more the ribald tweets—for you they must be ending,
For you they call, the huddled masses, their trusting faces turning;
                         Hear Nation! dear saviour!
                            We turn to you instead!
                               To save the dream about to wreck,
                                 Not yet cold and dead.

Our Nation needs an answer, to many lips so shrill,
As many souls who suffer harm, in battles all uphill,
Are turned against those safe and sound, with worries near to none,
By false fearful tales, that once brought dire victory not won;
                         Come together, confront the hells!
                            End the reign of dread,
                               Of our Nation steeped in lies,
                                  Not yet cold and dead.

Here’s the Original

O Captain! My Captain! by Walt Whitman

O Captain! my Captain! our fearful trip is done,
The ship has weather’d every rack, the prize we sought is won,
The port is near, the bells I hear, the people all exulting,
While follow eyes the steady keel, the vessel grim and daring;
                         But O heart! heart! heart!
                            O the bleeding drops of red,
                               Where on the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.

O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
                         Here Captain! dear father!
                            This arm beneath your head!
                               It is some dream that on the deck,
                                 You’ve fallen cold and dead.

My Captain does not answer, his lips are pale and still,
My father does not feel my arm, he has no pulse nor will,
The ship is anchor’d safe and sound, its voyage closed and done,
From fearful trip the victor ship comes in with object won;
                         Exult O shores, and ring O bells!
                            But I with mournful tread,
                               Walk the deck my Captain lies,
                                  Fallen cold and dead.


Jeff's 2020 Speaking Engagements and Signings (in formation):

Friday, March 13, 10:15AM
San Diego, CA
LEFT COAST CRIME—San Diego Marriott Mission Valley—(Sierra 5-6)
Moderating “Tipping the Scales: The criminal justice system,” with Teresa Burrell, Keenan Powell, L.F. Robertson, and Karen Stefano.

Saturday, March 14, 2:45PM
San Diego, CA
LEFT COAST CRIME—San Diego Marriott Mission Valley—(Rio Vista F-H)
Panelist, “Murder Goes Global: International Mysteries and Thrillers,” with Annamaria Alfieri, Ana Manwaring, and Greg Randall, moderated by Jane Stillwater.

Monday, March 16, 2020, 11AM-2PM
Saddlebrooke, Arizona 85739
30th Anniversary Authors Luncheon
SaddleBrooke Clubhouse
40010 S. Ridgeview Blvd.
Author Speaking and Signing

Thursday, June 4--Sunday, June 7, 2020
CRIMEFEST—Mercure Bristol Grand Hotel
Panels yet to be announced 

Thursday, October 15—Sunday, October 18
Panels yet to be announced