Monday, February 28, 2022

Read/ Listen/ Follow/ Share. Let them know they are heard and not alone.

 Ovidia--every other Tuesday 

Jeff on Saturday has written about the politics of what’s happening in Ukraine better than I ever could, so go read his post. 

And people in Europe will know far better than I can--half a world away--what can be done to help.

It feels wrong to ignore what's happening and go on with our lives here, in safety. But it feels equally hopeless that we can do anything about it.

Is there anything practical someone without anti-tank weapons can do?

If you have any hacking skills, the Vice Prime Minister of Ukraine and Minister of Digital Transformation of Ukraine (follow him at: is recruiting an IT army to fight on the cyber front. The first task is for cyber specialists, but he says 'there will be tasks for everyone' at:

I can't code or hack, so that's beyond me. 

But if you're like me there's other stuff we can do too. 

Elon Musk activated Starlink satellite internet service in Ukraine after massive internet disruptions. 

As a satellite internet service, Starlink is not bound by traditional internet infrastructure, working with a mesh of about 2000 low orbit satellites and providing broadband speeds up to 150Mbps via a pizza box-sized dish antennae. That means the users on the ground in Ukraine can keep sending out information--and what we can do is read / listen / follow and share. 

This is important because Russia uses disinformation as a weapon.

We can make sure these people risking their lives to get news out know that people are listening and they haven't been forgotten.

And perhaps more important--it lets them know that someone will notice if they suddenly disappear. (I hear the 'suicides' in Russia have already started...)

Here are some people and sites in Russia and Ukraine that I've started following. I hope you'll take a look too and consider sharing or following--

Elena Chernenko is a Moscow diplomatic correspondent (a veteran of over 11 years) who's been expelled from the diplomatic pool for 'unprofessionalism' after starting an anti-war petition among her colleagues. 

Steve Rosenberg

"This isn't a war by the Russian people. It's a military crime by an unaccountable, authoritarian dictator called Vladimir Putin"

Steve Rosenberg, the BBC's Moscow correspondent, said he'd had difficulty tweeting after videos and images of the invasion going viral on social media.

The MFA Ukraine :

The Ukraine Centre for Strategic Communications and Information Security:

Stand With Ukraine shares Instagram posts and stories in real time with support and donation opportunities:

Svidomi is an English version of the Ukrainian social media based outlet.

I'm really impressed by the spirit on the ground in Ukraine. From the top down.

America offered Ukraine President Zelenskyy (Russia's No. 1 target) asylum in the White House but he refused to evacuate Kyiv. 'The fight is here'. And 'I need ammunition, not a ride'

He and his government officials remains with their people. 

And there's that viral video of Ukrainians mocking Russian soldiers in a broken down tank who couldn't find their way to Kiev--presumably because all the road signs were changed.

Singapore stands in solidarity with Ukraine

A tale of two cities

 Annamaria on Monday

I have stolen this title from Charles Dickens, as I'm sure you all know. But I think I have the right. This is a story about highly improbable coincidences. But every word of it is true.

Dickens, as I have written about before in these precincts, was a master unparalleled at making outrageous coincidences believable in his fiction. No one but he could have gotten away, for instance, with the number of times David Copperfield accidentally encounters Mister Micawber. 

As you've probably noticed, I have nothing approaching Dickinsons's skill. Well, whether you believe it or not, what I am going to tell you today is the truth, every word of it.  It won't be as weird a tale as the one Caro told last week, and very likely not as entertaining, but I can't help but recount it because, on some level, my strange story also feels paranormal.

Ultra-fortunate person that I am, I live in two apartments, each in one of the most wondrous cities on our sacred planet.  Over the past few months, the buildings that house my two apartments have been living uncannily parallel lives.

Both Florence and New York have, this past year, required apartment buildings to inspect their façades and to correct any faults.  Consequently, in both cities the building managers and owners scrambled to get this work done and avoid hefty fines. In both Florence and New York, the buildings where I own apartments have found that work needed to be done.  During the work, both buildings required scaffolding to protect pedestrians from any accidents.  Both buildings also had roofs that needed repair, and it was decided that, since scaffolding would be in place, it would be a good time to repair the neglected roofs as well.

As plans went ahead in both cities, it became clear that there were not enough materials available to erect scaffolding in so many places in order to have the repairs completed before the end of 2021. In both cities, the government extended the deadline because of the lack of available scaffolding. In both cities the management and the residents of the buildings decided they would postpone beginning the work until the end of March.

I had been laughing at the fact that these buildings were leading parallel lives, and chalked it up to an unlikely but possible coincidence. I do know for sure that I am the only person who owns an apartment in both these buildings.

Then something really weird happened. About a week ago, I came into my building here in Florence and found the elevator was out of order. Some nitwit had opened the doors before the elevator came to a halt, managed to get out, but left the elevator out of service. I called the number posted to ask for assistance and walked up to the seventh floor. When I got to my place, I checked my email only to find that my neighbors in New York were emailing each other, including me, that the elevator was broken.  These two buildings, six time zones apart, both had a broken elevator at the same moment                                                                                               

The next thing that happened put the icing on the paranormal cake. At 3 o'clock in the afternoon in Florence, my doorbell rang.  It was the elevator technician, asking me to let him in so that he could make the repair. As I was pressing the button to open the front door, I received a message on my phone.  It was from the building manager in New York, where it was 9 AM, asking if I could buzz in the elevator technician who was waiting at the front door.


Sunday, February 27, 2022

A Prayer for Peace and Shelter

 -- Susan, every other Sunday

As I've mentioned before, for centuries the ume (Japanese plum) blossoms have been viewed as harbingers of spring--a welcome sight after the long and often brutal Japanese winter.

This week, I walked to En'yū-ji, a Tendai Buddhist temple three minutes from my home in Meguro's Himonya neighborhood. The temple is home to the oldest wooden building in Tokyo (more on that in a minute) as well as a lovely grove of ume trees. 

The entrance to En'yu-ji

En'yū-ji was founded in 853; the ume that line the entry walk and dot the grounds are not that old, though their position in Japanese history is even more timeless.

Ume (Japanese plum) trees at the entrance to En'yu-ji

I go to En'yū-ji every spring to see the ume, but this year, I visited with a heavy heart. Frankly, it felt unfair that I could walk in peace beneath the blooming trees while across the sea people fought--and died--in Ukraine to preserve the right to live, and work, in freedom I so often take for granted.

The Amidado - a post-war addition to En'yu-ji

Temples like this one have survived through many wars. The Amida-do hall shown above was constructed after World War II--a war that ravaged Tokyo in ways I hope the current conflict will not destroy Ukraine (though I fear it will).

The temple bell

The oldest building at En'yū-ji, the Shakado, enshrines an image of Gautama Buddha. It is also the oldest wooden building in Tokyo, and dates to the 16th century. The original thatched roof was replaced with copper in 1952, but aside from that, the building is original. It has survived disasters, wars, and human politics--and its improbable survival reminded me (not for the first time) that while the evil men do lives after them, the good is not always interred with their bones. Sometimes, monuments of faith, and hope, and prayer, survive as well.

The Shakado

I am not a Buddhist, but I stopped to pray at the Shakado regardless. I believe God hears, no matter where we stand, and that prayer is powerful. I know not everyone agrees with either statement, and I respect the rights of every person to seek, and find, the truth (s)he believes in.

I also believe in the sovereign right of persons--and nations--to live in peace, and without fear. And so, I prayed for the people of Ukraine, and for an end to war--both there and elsewhere.  

Ume blossoms at En'yū-ji 

When I finished praying, I walked among the ume, thinking of the many years in which their colorful petals opened, and fell, on wars, and famines, and people being terrible to one another.

Ume at En'yū-ji 

And I thought of all the years they opened on times of peace, when poets and artists could sit beneath their branches, look at the blossoms, and be grateful for the times in which they lived.

Ume at En'yū-ji 

I wish I could end this post with a good report about Ukraine - but as I go to sleep tonight, the fight continues.

So instead, I will leave you with an ancient Japanese poem, composed by an unknown hand, that appears in the Man'yōshū--a 9th-century compilation of classical Japanese poetry:


The plum blossoms
Are scattered by spring rains
--a savage fall.
On your travels, my darling
What hut provides your shelter?

I pray for peace, and shelter, for the people of Ukraine. May they have their peace, and freedom, soon--and shelter and protection as they fight. May they prevail before the flowers fall.

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Is Our World at War?




I think everyone would agree that the world is a very different place today than it was one week ago.  24/7 news coverage of Russia invading Ukraine has driven that home to American audiences. But how do Europeans see the war?  For that I turned to Ekathimerini, the newspaper of record in Greece, and found three interesting stories directly bearing on the topic. The first is an opinion piece by Nikos Konstandaras, titled,“A Geopolitical Earthquake:” 


History’s tectonic plates are shifting. No one knows the magnitude, depth or duration of the earthquake caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on Thursday. What is certain is that our world is changing. We will either see a strengthening of the system of global government and Russia’s retreat (and consequent loss of great power status), or we will enter an era of absolute fluidity and danger, with neither laws nor principles. February 24, 2022, did away with the illusion of a collective understanding, in which powerful countries maintained balance with each other, kept to certain rules, avoiding confrontation even when they disagreed over important issues. 


When a nuclear power and permanent member of the UN Security Council invades a neighbor, with arguments that are aimed more at convincing its own citizens than the international community, this is a direct threat to the global system of governance and to the principles of behavior that developed after World War II. The Russian president is fully aware that his actions can open the gates of hell, issuing a direct threat that “anyone who would consider interfering from the outside… will face consequences greater than any you have faced in history. All relevant decisions have been taken. I hope you hear me.” It is clear that, after this statement, there is no return to the world that we knew. Either the international community will get its act together and stop Vladimir Putin, or we will enter a period of instability and barbarism, where those who can will tread all over international law at the expense of the weak. The last time such circumstances prevailed, Europe was led to 1939.


The last decades do not inspire optimism. The United States often set a bad example with unilateral actions, autocratic regimes have taken hold in many countries, liberal democracy is under fire, the UN has been weakened. But disaster is not a given. Putin faces two insurmountable obstacles: His country, with a population of 144 million and GDP of 1.5 trillion dollars, is not as powerful as he considers himself to be; the only great power that could support him, China, has invested in stability and development. With the United States and the European Union putting on a united show, with China looking after its own interests, Putin – though always dangerous – will be on his own.


Picking up on that point is Stathis N. Kalyvas, Gladstone Professor of Government at the University of Oxford, with his observation on what Greece’s stance on the Ukrainian crisis should be:


Russian aggression is justified with geopolitical excuses: It feels surrounded after losing a large geographical zone over which it once held complete sway. Such analyses usually also contain some reference to the catastrophe that befell Russia with the collapse of communism and the trauma that caused.


But a closer look at the situation in Russia reveals that it is less at risk from being surrounded than it is from other factors: Its economy is overly reliant on energy (with the production of oil and natural gas accounting for some 40% of its economy), its demographics are nosediving (its population shrank by a million between 2020 and 2021 alone), and its young and educated people are migrating in droves. Politically, it is a combination of an old-school autocratic regime that openly stomps on individual freedoms and an oligarchic economic structure with all the traits of a mafia.


The real threat, therefore, lies within its own borders. Regardless of the mistakes made by the United States from 1990 onward, Russia could have chosen to take a different path, similar to that of the European countries that were once part of the Soviet bloc, just as Ukraine is trying to do.


So, the real issue is about politics and principles. On the one hand, we have an autocratic power that is employing methods harking back to Austria or Czechoslovakia in 1938 and behaving toward its neighbors like a colonialist. Vladimir Putin himself even wrote that the Russians and Ukrainians are one people, a position rejected by the vast majority of Ukrainians. On the other hand, we have a nation that is trying to get ahead and threatening nobody in the process, by adopting modern political and economic practices. The situation is crystal-clear and there should be no hesitation whatsoever about what stance Greeks must take.


In reporting on the Greek government’s position
, Ekathimerini wrote:


Greece’s Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis told an emergency summit of NATO countries on Friday that Revisionism is the main threat to world peace and should not be tolerated, no matter where it comes from.


The Prime Minister stressed that Russia’s aggressive actions violate international law and are a blow to European and international security and stability.


He reiterated the Greek position on respect for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of all countries, and condemned in the strongest possible terms the Russian revisionist actions that run counter to those values.


With so much of the sane world of the same mind…albeit each nation facing differing potential political and societal consequences, the question on everyone’s mind is simply this: NOW WHAT?


Perhaps I’ll have that answer for you next week.



Friday, February 25, 2022

A bit of a shocker

It's a little weird living in a haunted house.

The poltergeist,  who we call Agnes, mostly leaves us alone. We understand that this is her house and that we just happen to live here. As regular readers of the blog will know,  my house is listed  as an area of  paranormal activity by  Glasgow University and in the past it has been wired up and tested by strange machines with dials and beeping noises.
 All I can say is that I've seen somebody wandering around the garden - when there was nobody there. Friends have seen the same woman in the garden, again when there's nobody there. My friend's dad who is now 92, grew up on the street and the house in those days was known as the haunted house. Nowadays, it's known as spooky towers.

 The most common thing I'm aware of is somebody playing the piano, quietly and  hesitantly, as if they are learning the piece of music and not quite got it up to speed yet.

 This music is always from the room next door. So when I go into the next room, it's in the room beyond that. Or upstairs, or downstairs.
 Opening doors and windows make it no louder and no quieter. 
 The music is always 'elsewhere.' 

 To add to that, the one symptom that I've been left with post covid is tinnitus in my ear. It seems to be a very common remnant of the virus. My tinnitus is very mild, just noise like the background drone of being in a plane. It can be louder or quieter, but it's always there.

 So, when I was getting ready to go out to writers' group yesterday ( one of the writers has had his characters stuck on a 45 minute ferry crossing for the last two and half years and if  he doesn't get those gangsters off the boat soon I'll take the book off him myself, sink the ferry and see him try to write himself out of that!)

 Anyway, as I was getting ready for the group I was aware of a kind of banging and slapping, noises coming from the garden outside. I thought that some reprobate had stopped his car to dump  rubbish in our skip.

 Then the house lights started to flash on and off.
 Agnes has been known to do this but this was more like the light display at the dancing fountains of the Bellagio.

 I came down the stairs and asked the other half if he thought the electricity was going to go on the blink, not uncommon after all the weather we have had in the last few days- storms, gales, floods and snow.

 He said, in a very matter of fact way, that the electricity box in the street outside was making all kinds of noises.

 So I went out to look, and yes, the metal plate  on the pavement was banging and clattering like a scene from Ghostbusters. As I watched there was a very loud bang, the plate lifted up and then battered back down again, with a huge spiral of smoke floating up into the night air.

  The other half decides to call the electricity board.

 I phoned the Fire and Rescue Service, who are at the end of our road. They know this house well as they have been called here in the past when Agnes has locked people in. I kid you not.

  While I was on the phone to the emergency services from behind our high garden wall, there was an almighty flash and clatter, an intense bang, some sizzling and then the pavement went back to its smoking and bumping.

 I think I may have  used a few choice words to the  call operator. She could hear the cacophony as well.
So the appliance arrives, I'm pointing from a very long way away, to where the thing was. As the vehicle stopped at the side of the road, the pavement 'exploded' again and the one firefighter who had come out, shouted to get the vehicle moved a little down the road, told them to close the road and told me to get back in the house and not to come out again.

 At that point, I realised that the other half had locked me out.

 I decided to go to group, the house was very noisy by this time. We drove round to pick up our writer friend- an ex fire fighter.
'Oh,' he said. 'That's  very dangerous, they'll keep well out the way of that!'

 It was all round the village that the road was closed. Our wee facebook page was full of the drama. The picture is from a passer by who snapped  the situation with their phone.

I thought that we might need to leave the house. The dog and I would be fine but I had no idea who would take the other half over night.

Once I got back from group, the road had reopened, the fire appliance was gone. The road was being dug up by a pneumatic drill that continued to about three in the morning.

They are back today with all kinds of machinery and jiggery pokery.
The clattering and banging continues but hopefully this is more of a restorative nature.

Tonight, I am hopeful that Agnes will do some piano practice and that my tinnitus will be back in action.

As the old joke says ; there's a hole in the road and the police are looking into it.



Wednesday, February 23, 2022

PASSAGE WEST: The Long-Buried History Inside Rishi Reddi's PASSAGE WEST

Sujata Massey 

Rishi Reddi

I recently read an incredible novel: PASSAGE WEST by Rishi Reddi. I fell hard for the small cast of sympathetic characters, Indian and Mexican immigrants in early 20th century America, and I yearned to know more from her about this mysterious part of American history. I’m sharing an interview that took place in a series of emails. Join me as I learn more about the history of Indian activism and the great sacrifices of early Punjabi immigrants to California.


Rishi, welcome to Murder is Everywhere, a blog that highlights the very best crime writing set in locations worldwide. The first thing I want to ask is about the origination of your idea to set PASSAGE WEST in California’s Imperial Valley. 


While taking a law school class about U.S. immigration, I learned that, during the 1920s, certain applicants’ racial classification as “white” was a pre-requisite for a path to citizenship. I grew very interested in a case called United States v. Thind. Mr. Thind was a Punjabi-born United States Army veteran who had gained his U.S. citizenship based on his military service. He was later stripped of his citizenship by the U.S. Supreme Court, which reasoned that although he was Caucasian, he was not considered “white” under popular belief and therefore his citizenship had been improperly granted. I was fascinated by the racial aspects of the court’s decision and also the fact that South Asians had immigrated to America so early -- at the turn of the 20th century. I didn’t understand how much those early South Asians had contributed to American society. The population was mostly comprised of men living in bachelor-like conditions, trying to make a life for themselves in very isolating circumstances. Many who had settled in rural California found sweethearts among the Mexican population and earned reputations as very good farmers. They made friends among other immigrant groups and also earned the respect of American business associates. This was the real-life multi-cultural historical community I wanted to write about. 

SS Minnesota, Seattle June 23, 1913, courtesy WA State Historical Society

From what I’ve read about the current situation in the Imperial Valley, a high number of its residents live in poverty and have limited access to health care. A few massive agri-business companies are the chief employers in this area north of Baja California, with Arizona on its eastern border. How did the location fit into the crimes you write about in your novel?


The crime is based on a true event. It is horrific but also understandable in some way. The act committed by one of the protagonists was sparked by how farming immigrants were being treated in the 1920s; how these families worked to develop agriculture in the Imperial Valley, yet were ultimately robbed of the profits of that hard work. The story is set in this specific time and place, but portrays nationwide social dynamics. I meant it to be a story about America itself. 


How common was it for Asian immigrants to find themselves in “unsettled” parts of the United States?


It was very common! These “unsettled” areas allowed immigrants a certain amount of social freedom, away from the cultural constraints of mainstream, conventional American society. They were wanted and needed in areas where many privileged folks did not care to go. In Imperial Valley, many immigrants stayed through the severe heat of the summer in order to earn a livelihood, but many non-immigrant whites could leave during those months, even if they were not particularly privileged, to find work in cities and other more populated areas without the fear of being driven out through violent mobs or other ways. 

Mexican gang labor in1930s, by Dorothea Lange, courtesy Library of Congress

One of the most startling things for me was the redefinition of race by the US government for Indian immigrants. What were the things they could—and could not do—because of laws based on national origin and color?


It was tricky to untangle all the ways that the Supreme Court rulings in those years defined the term “white,” and the way that the designation, while interacting with federal, state, and local laws, affected their lives. In the novel, I reference the Thind case, which established a racial classification for South Asians. Because Thind was classified as neither “white” nor “black,” he was deemed to be of a race that was ineligible for U.S. citizenship. That happened under federal law. And, under California’s state law, people who belonged to a race that was ineligible for U.S. citizenship could not own land or enter into long-term leases to farm any land. So, the federal and state laws worked together to prevent the Punjabi immigrants from farming for their livelihood, even if they had been doing so for many years. That situation provided the central plot issue for Passage West. Also, under the state miscegenation laws, people of differing races could not intermarry. This law was not uniformly enforced, which is why Karak and others were able to find wives in the United States, but technically, what he did was illegal. At that time in California, if the clerk of their county refused them a marriage license, many “inter-racial” couples would cross the state border to marry in other states.


Closeup of Young India story about Indian-American soldiers in WWI


What additional research did you do for the novel? How much of it is based on actual events?


I had not set out to write a huge novel. I was hoping for a smaller book dominated by a love triangle between an immigrant farmer named Ram Singh, a daring Mexican woman named Adela, and Ram’s devoted wife Padma, whom he was forced to leave behind in Punjab. But after I researched the topic more deeply and interviewed the descendants of early South Asian immigrants to California, I realized I had a much larger story to tell. 


I got lost in the research! I discovered the South Asian men who fought for the United States in World War I, and also learned about covert US-based plots to overthrow the British in India. The vast majority of the novel is founded on actual events that I learned about from the children of that community or that I read about in newspaper articles from the 1920s or from reading modern sociological studies. The research was so fascinating that it was hard to decide which story to tell. Basically – I decided to include all of it. 

I smile when you mention “covert US-based plots to overthrow the British in India” because that turns up in my 2021 novel,  THE BOMBAY PRINCE. Can you tell me more about the Ghadar Party?


Many Indian intellectuals, revolutionaries and laborers who were working for the overthrow of the British in India settled in the United States, a place where they could continue their organizational activities outside of British scrutiny. Despite their efforts, they attracted the attention of the United States government, which had been heavily lobbied by the British to curtail their efforts. The Indian revolutionaries drew upon the ideological roots of America, Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry among others, in their efforts to draw people to their cause. They led a movement called Ghadar, meaning ‘Revolution,’ and published a globally-distributed newspaper under the same name. Although they may have been unsuccessful in their immediate efforts, their ideology certainly pushed the Subcontinent toward independence two decades later. 


What else did researching for PASSAGE WEST reveal about the history of the United States?


I am fascinated by how many people were written out of the history books. My research took me to old newspaper accounts and government studies about immigrant communities in the United States in the first quarter of the 1900s. Newspaper journalism is often called “the first draft of history,” however, when we study that history in school, it is in the form of a highly edited subsequent draft that excludes so many that lived and worked in this country. Unfortunately, it is the edited draft of history that has formed our American Narrative, and it is inaccurate. 


The novel’s first chapter opens with the protagonist Ram Singh, in his elder years, taking possession of a dead man’s document, and remembering something of a past crime. Ultimately, you narrate the long road toward a killing and a complicated, twist-filled murder trial. Had you thought of your novel fitting into a crime fiction genre, and would you have crime in future writing?

I did not think of this novel as fitting into the crime genre while I was writing. It was only after the book was out in the world that I read a very flattering review by Doreen Sheridan on the website “Criminal Element,” and I thought – yes – the novel could be seen in this light, too. The crime that lies at the center of the novel was based on a real multiple homicide, so I don’t know why I never thought of that angle before. And as a lawyer, I just couldn’t keep myself away from a good old-fashioned courtroom scene, where something crucial is revealed! It was certainly fun to write. If I thought in terms of genre at all, I was thinking of a classic Western…. A gun, a horse, a wind-blown landscape…. 

You and I have similar family journeys from India, to Britain, and then finally the US. Do you feel viewed as a Westerner at times in India, or are you welcomed as a home comer? How did your diaspora upbringing affect research for this book when you went to Punjab?


I have always felt that I did not wholly belong to either place: India or the United States. Part of that is because when I was growing up in America in the 1970s and 1980s, India and America were very far apart culturally and politically. Years later, when I was in India for a couple of readings for my first book, Karma and Other Stories, I realized that I was being viewed essentially as a foreigner author. I had always been aware of this “foreignness” in my many childhood trips there, but it was ironic – given that the book was about trying to remain “Indian” while living in the US! It was even more interesting to go to Punjab for my research for Passage West. In Punjab, I was seen as an American, but I was also seen as Telugu, not Punjabi. I certainly don’t speak Punjabi, and the customs and culture of north and south India, where I was born, can be very different. 


Was this your first novel, or is there another novel in the drawer? 


I do have another novel “in the drawer” from a long time ago -- don’t we all? It will never see the light of day. I managed to create a few good scenes – and I sure learned a lot writing it. 

I am grateful to Rishi for honoring a community that's been largely forgotten.  PASSAGE WEST, selected by the LA Times as one of The Best of California Books of 2020, is a must for anyone interested in South Asian crime fiction, historical mysteries, and immigration stories. Find out more about Rishi, including her availability for book club conversations, at her website

Tuesday, February 22, 2022

No ordinary Twos-day

Australian cricket captain turned legendary broadcaster Richie Benaud's pronunciation of the number two led to 222/2 being known as Benaud's score

Craig every second Tuesday

Kia ora and gidday everyone.

I hope you're all having plenty of great moments so far in 2022, whether things are warming into Spring in the northern hemisphere, or coming off the sunshine off summer in the south. Given that Waitangi Day, New Zealand's national day, occurred earlier this month I had considered doing a New Zealand crime fiction-themed post today. 

Then I realised that my latest post for Murder is Everywhere would fall on an auspicious date, the 22nd of February, which this year of course is amplified to 22/2/22 (or 2/22/22 for those in the USA). All the twos, as they say. 

And on a Twos-day, too. 

So, something different: a celebration of the number two, in a bookish way, of course. 

Many readers may wonder why I have a picture of a dapper grey-haired gentleman at a sports stadium atop the post today. Well, as plenty of Aussies and Kiwis know - along with millions of cricket fans worldwide, that gentleman is the late, great Richie Benaud. A past captain of the Australian cricket team who became even more famous as a commentator on the game. He was the voice of summer in cricketing terms, a larger than life personality whose fame saw him parodied by the likes of 'the 12th Man', comedian and voice artist Billy Birmingham. 

Benaud with Billy Birmingham, who impersonated the entire Wide World of Sports commentary team in some hugely popular comedy performances

For US readers, Benaud was akin to John Madden in the NFL, or Vin Scully in baseball. 

And among Richie's quirks and eccentricities - played up hilariously in the 12th Man tapes and CDs that my sporting mates and I loved listening to growing up in the 1990s - was his pronunciation of the number two. 

'tchoo' or 'chew'. It became such a thing that the score 222/2, or 'chew twenty chew fer chew' became widely known in cricket circles as Benaud's score. So while this will largely be a bookish post, let's start with a wee nod to Richie.

So for this day, Twenty Chew, Chew, Twenty Chew I thought I'd showcase some novels with two in the title. 

A rather famous 'Two' novel ...

"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times ..." The first 'two' novel that I can recall reading was A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens' adventure-historical novel set against the French Revolution and Reign of Terror. Confession: I didn't read the full novel, but a version that was in a large set of hardcover Reader's Digest Condensed books that my parents had on our home bookshelves (where three classic-ish book would be in each hardcover).

Perhaps I read some kids books with two in the title, but I can't think of any right now, eg while I read several Dr Seuss books growing up, his One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish wasn't as popular where I grew up in New Zealand compared to the likes of The Lorax and The Cat in the Hat.

Growing up I loved fantasy as much as crime, and was a big fan of The Lord of the Rings long before the films were made in my home country

My favourite 'Two' book growing up was The Two Towers, the middle instalment of JRR Tolkien's epic trilogy. After my Mum bought me f The Hobbit when I was about 9 years old, I read The Lord of the Rings as an adolescent, leading to reading long-running epic fantasy series from the likes of RA Salvatore and David Eddings.

So it was pretty cool years later when the movies were shot in Aotearoa (and I even did a miniscule bit of post-release legal work on them as a young lawyer - though moreso with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe and King Kong).  When I was working at a summer camp in the United States I read The Hobbit to the 7-8 year old kids on our cabin, and I recently read it to Miss Now-Seven when she was still Miss Six. She loved it. So perhaps it will be onto further Hobbit-ish adventures, including The Two Towers, at some point not too far down the road.

Harry Bosch and Mickey Haller star in Michael Connelly's 2017 novel,
which also formed the basis of Season 5 of Bosch. 

While Tolkien was a favourite author of my adolescence (who I still enjoy revisiting), modern crime fiction master Michael Connelly has been one of my favourite authors of my adulthood. I first read a Connelly novel twenty years ago, as a newly graduated lawyer in Auckland. I bought The Poet from the Whitcoulls in downtown Auckland (I also picked up Sleepyhead by Mark Billingham and Purple Cane Road by James Lee Burke that day - three new-to-me-authors, and one hell of a trifecta of talent to discover on a single bookshop excursion). 

I've read pretty much all of the Harry Bosch novels now, including 2017's Two Kinds of Truth, which was the 20th Bosch novel and the 10th appearance by Mickey Haller, who is a supporting character in this book. As you'd expect from Connelly, it's a terrific read. I got an advance copy and absolutely tore through it. In this one, Bosch has left the LAPD but is volunteering on cold cases for the tiny San Fernando PD. He gets involved in a fresh murder entwined with a local drug store, while also having one of his own past cases come back to life when an incarcerated killer claims that Harry framed him. (Read an excerpt)

The twin premises of this book were used for Season 5 of Bosch, the outstanding Amazon Prime drama based on Connelly's books - though the character of Haller was absent due to rights issues, so 'Money Chandler' stepped in where it came to Bosch fighting off the frame-up accusations. 

Some other 'Two'-ish novels:

Okay, I may have stretched things a little with the last two - 'twice' and 'seconds' being related to the number two, but not on the nose. Still, how many of these books have you read? What are some of your favourite books with two in the title? Are there other crime ones worth checking out?

Whakataukī of the fortnight: 
Inspired by Zoe and her 'word of the week', I've been ending my fortnightly posts by sharing a whakataukī (Māori proverb), a pithy and poetic thought to mull on as we go through life.

Ehara taku toa i te toa takitahi, engari he toa takitini

(Success is not the work of an individual, but the work of many)