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Two poems from lockdown

28 Jul


The Jazz DOS

13 Jul

Reading some of The English Library Crime Classics

8 Dec

The  ‘Golden Age of Detective Fiction’ (well, British detective fiction, for sure) was between the two world wars, but I think it actually includes the second world war and has in its tail a couple of great books from the fifites. I am essentially a fan of Scandi-noir and Cold War spy thrillers, oh and Raymond Chandler, but I’ve never been able to resist a good mystery. The British Library’s  Classic Crime Fiction books that cover this august period  have great covers. Of course, that’s the first thing that draws your attention to them, wonderful ‘period’ illustrations, often, but not always,  from advertisements of the time for places

However, you should never judge a book by its cover, so do the contents of these often forgotten tales match up to the promise hinted at by the covers? For sure, I’ve discovered, not re-discovered,  authors such as Raymond Postgate, (Verdict of Twelve; Somebody at the Door)  Julian Symons (The Colour of Murder)  and Freeman Wills Crofts (The 12.30 from Croydon) in my reading of these books, and those three authors delivered fascinating, exciting,  and well-written mysteries. I rate Verdict of Twelve one of the  most original, as well as readable, crime masterpieces, and if it’s originality you’re after look no further than Richard Hull’s Murder of my Aunt, with its helpings of dark humour. The Division Bell Mystery is unique in that it was written by a Labour MP Ellen Wilkinson and contains some very sharp insights into the practices of Westminster even then.

Less brilliant, but still well worth a read are Miles Burton’s Death in the Tunnel  with its outrageous plot and enough intuition to make hunch-merchants like Morse sit up and think, and Death of an Airman by C St. John Sprigg, a keen aviator and a communist who died in the Spanish Civil War. The aviator in him shows in his knowledge in the workings of the early aeroplanes, but never does he buff on; he makes it all interesting. Oddly enough, one of the most highly-rated books by other punters was for me the most disappointing, but it’s still a good read, and that is ECR Lorac’s Fire in the Thatch. It’s a mystery set in  Devon, and it’s a world far removed from today’s TV series The Coroner, but like that series, it does have a sense of time and place, and like many of the other books chosen by the excellent series editor, Martin Edwards, contains remarkable descriptions and glimpses into social history.

My latest poem

7 Jul

One or two of my poems I video as well and they appear on you tube. They are not necessarily the best of my work, but I enjoy them. The latest poem I have put on YouTube is called Seabound, skybound. My latest poem



The Budapest National Phil Orchestra Visits Bydgoszcz

4 Dec

Bartok was probably the most radical Hungarian composer of his generation, and both he and Kodaly  had much in common in that they collected Hungarian folk tunes and incorporated them into their work.

A world-class orchestra came to the Philharmonia hall in Bydgoszcz on 27th November. The theme of the visit was its commemoration of the 1956 Hungarian uprising, which was stopped when the Soviet tanks rolled into Budapest and crushed resistance to  totalitarian rule. Now things are rather different, but every great  orchestra should have a distinctive sound, even in this globalised world, and our Hungarian visitors were no exception.

Imagine the notes and harmonies of an orchestral piece served up as a very hot Hungarian goulash with mounds of paprika, syncopated but unifying dance rhythms and you come close to how Kodaly’s Dances of Galanta was interpreted by this astonishing band. The musicians brought off this tremendous piece with real Hungarian bravado, fiery and fast and superbly played under the baton of Gergely Vajda. The maestro had replaced Zoltan Kocsis, the great conductor and pianist who sadly recently died.

The second work, Liszt’s Piano Concerto no. 1, was also Hungarian in flavour as well as in its composer, and I’m sure Mr. Kocsis had performed it himself many times. Its sudden shifts in mood make it  a mercurial piece, but absolutely in keeping with the late romantic idiom.  This time, the pianist was David Ball (there’s an accent on both ‘A’s in his name) who performed the piece with style and feeling,  before he played a meditative piece in memory of his colleague Kocsis as an encore.

By the interval, the buzz in the audience was considerable and the final piece, one of Bartok’s masterpieces, the Concerto for Orchestra, was as eagerly anticipated as a fresh Tokaji by a lover of dessert wines. Bartok is not by any stretch an easy composer, but the Concerto for Orchestra is one of his most accessible pieces, though no easier to play than any of his other works. The audience gave the orchestra a deserved standing ovation. In response, the orchestra gave two encores, both of which were the ever popular Brahms Hungarian Dances,  to round off a memorable evening of music-making.

My book and publishing

13 Jul

I am sorry if anybody has turned to this blog in search of English Language teaching tips or methodology; there are none in here, because there are so many blogs out there talking about these two things, while I prefer to use this blog as a way of talking about my hobbies and interests, and, alas, methodology is not high on the list.

So, what have I learned about self-publishing my book, a novel set in Bydgoszcz, Poland, a thriller combined with a crime story and a love story? On the positive side, it has been a great experience, and I have enjoyed learning about so many aspects of publishing. Secondly the feeling of having achieved something just by completing something was great. I don’t pretend to be a 21st Century Le Carre or Graham Greene, though these are both writers I admire. So now to the book.  Well, the most important thing is that in the first edition of the book there were enough typos and howlers to remind me to proof read much better, and so I adjusted accordingly and went through the book with a tooth and comb and still there were one or two typos, and so it went on. Now I understand the difficulty even the most experienced proof reader faces.

The second thing about the publishing process in this case is the fact that you have to do your own marketing. You can’t pretend that everyone on your Facebook account is going to want to buy the book, or even read it, or even your friends and family who are not out there in cyber space. But this is where you begin, without shoving it down their throats. So, what to do. Word of mouth is not enough, especially if you want people to part with their hard-earned cash. I know people who have publishing launches in bookshops. But my book is set abroad, and I’m selling it not just on feed a read and amazon, but also trying to sell it in Poland.

That’s the thing I’m coming to. I thought, since the book is set in Bydgoszcz, surely the English language bookshop in Bydgoszcz would be interested? Given the fact that not everyone in Byd speaks English and certainly doesn’t read it to the standard of the book, and they’re hard pressed enough as it is, I suspected a no and I got one. If I’d published another version of it using a Polish printers it might have been possible to do something.  I also tried the tourist office with the rebuke (after considering it) (justified) that they didn’t sell fiction, they sold guide books and leaflets.

So I’m thinking of other routes: the radio comes to mind. I used to know the person who ran a TV arts show in Bydgoszcz, but she’s moved on. So I will from now on occaisonally issue bulletins about various aspects of this. But do get it if you’re interested, it’s on the and other amazon websites, and it’s also available from feed a read. Soon I will be talking about why I wrote the book I did.

Shakespeare anecdotes

24 Apr

A writing blog I’ve been following relates a few Shakespearean anecdotes, because of the 400th anniversary celebrations that are going on.  I’ve decided to do the same, but very much in note form. I remember our English teacher telling us about why he had just had his haircut which tidied up his trademark unruly hair :’my mother,’ he told us,  while we were studying All’s Well That Ends Well. Or the time we went to see the great Paul Scofield as Prospero in my favourite Shakespeare play The Tempest at Leeds Playhouse. A very imaginative production with spirits standing on top of ‘clouds’ and singing down at the stage and with of course great performances.

I saw a lot of Shakespeare plays while I was at school, and I always wanted to play the Fool in King Lear, for reasons that are still obscure to me. I never did get to play the Fool (nor any other character in King Lear), but I did get to see that difficult and brilliant masterpiece a couple of times.

I’ve also seen an awful, truly awful production of The Tempest done by the Pip Simmons Theatre Group – they decided to go for a Freudian interpretation of it and it was , when it boiled down to it, mostly orgy-on-stage and trying to get the audience to participate… Unforgettable for all the wrong reasons.

And Shakespeare starred quite recently in my post about the Zlotow inter-schools drama competition a few years ago.

The man from Stratford-Upon- Avon keeps cropping up, though I’m not complaining. My wife,  on seeing Millais’ pre-Raphaelite painting of Ophelia said: ‘I know where I’ve seen that painting before: they’ve paid homage to it in a pop video with Nick Cave and Kylie Minogue.’ So, we you tubed it and yes, there was a red-haired Kylie lying in a pool of water and singing before she drowns in the same way as in the picture, only placed the other way round. And from a TEFL teacher’s perspective,  you only need to google the phrases and expressions the Bard has given to the English language to see how much of his language we still use today.


And now it’s on amazon

27 Feb

Yes, indeed, my novel the Burning Chasuble is now on and on amazon.

The novel is published

15 Jan

And here is the link:


(for the book, of course)

The novel is near

23 Dec

Yes, this is to say that I’ve published my novel The Burning Chasuble.  At the moment, it’s available from the feed- a – read website, but they only deliver books directly to the UK, the US, Germany and Spain, so for my Polish readers they will have to wait for a few more weeks if they are interested in purchasing it, when it will become available on Amazon. I will of course make my second announcement when that happens. It’s a thriller set in Poland but it’s also a tragicomedy about human relationships. I will leave a link later.


The Burning Chasuble by Daniel James Villiers is available from feed a read