Spin The Wheel (Flash Fiction)

For terribleminds.com – Chuck Wendig’s awesome blog. Roll a D10 and get your plot triggers. Write 1000(ish) words. Post. Here goes:

10 – Locked room mystery

6 – Heist gone wrong!

4 – A bottle of rare whiskey

“The man had a yellow handkerchief around his face and a hat on. I remember thick dark rimmed glasses too because I thought he looked a little silly, what with the green suit and fez. I don’t remember much of what he said. It was just shouting. I’m afraid I was quite frightened. I hid behind the table in the hallway. But I could see that he had a gun, strangely, it was covered by a red cloth. He must have pointed it at the safe door and it was Mr Perkins, the butler, that went to open the door but by the time he did the man had scarpered. Then Roger, one of the staff, noticed that the secret door was open, it’s an old house, and that the painting was missing. I don’t know where he went to after, that door leads to the rooms in the celler.” The secretarial looking young lady explained before she began to weep again, she was still in shock. She was aided by a policewoman with thick red, curly hair and a comforting smile whilst another weedy looking policeman was furiously writing down every word ahe said in his little black notebook.

Noone noticed the looming figure of a man step out of the shadows at the back of the room. “Yes, ingenius,” the figure said, “hiding in full view. Everyone remembers the strangely dressed man arriving but no one will see the normal Clark Kent leaving through the back door. Thank you, Miss Rogers, you may go now. PC Meadows here will see that you get a cup of tea whilst PC Rodney here will continue to write in his notebook. You do not need to write what I say in there, you know.”

“No, Sir, sorry. But did he leave through the back door, Sir?”

“No, Rodney. He did not because the back door is still locked. Please write that in your book.”

“Yes, Mr Randall”

“Inspector Randall, Rodney. I think you better write that down too.”

Another imposing figure appeared at the front door. “What’s going on in my house?” Lord Downing demanded “we were out on a walk of the grounds. My wife and daughter are still in the summer house.”

“Sir,” the Inspector explained, “I’m afraid there appears to have been a robbery.”

“My God, what did he take?”

“The Picasso, Sir.”

“Really? How did he open the safe?”

“Mr Perkins was threatened at gun point to do it. He is still very shaken.”

“Oh,” Lord Downing looked a little annoyed, “well, I don’t blame the man. I would have done the same thing.”

“Sir, will you tell me how the perpetrator would have left the building through the secret door?”

“What? There’s no way. It leads to the cellars. There’s no back way out.”

“From what you’re saying, Sir, he should still be on the premises?”


“He’s been there hours. Rodney, with me. PC Meadows fetch PC Stock and follow us down. Sir, I suggest that…”

“I’m not missing this for the world. I’m coming with you.”

Lord Downing barged passed the Inspector through the lounge and down the passageway. The Inspector and Rodney followed quickly behind leaving Roger and Mr Perkins, both a little bewildered, in the lounge.

They arrived at the cellar door. There was ample room for the three of them, it was not a small cellar. The Inspector bent to look at the scuff marks round the bottom of the door. He touched the mark with a gloved hand and rubbed some dust between finger and thumb. Then he tried the handle gently. It was locked. The Inspector stooped to look through the keyhole but it was blocked. The burgler had locked the door from the inside.

“Stand aside,” he said to Lord Downing, “Rodney, break down the door!”

“I beg your pardon, Sir?”

“Oh,” the Inspector sighed and then shouted, “PC Stock?” A large, muscular policeman entered the corridor. “Would you mind awfully breaking down the door?”

“No, sir.”

“Stand back!” the Inspector said, in a dramatic tone. PC Stock broke the door down on the fourth attempt, he was a large man and the door was very old.

Inside the cellar the onlookers were greated by the sight of a young man wearing a green suit, his head was rested on a fez and the yellow handkerchief was lose about his face and moving slightly as he snored loudly. Next to him lay an empty bottle of whiskey, a red cloth and a banana, and Lilian’s painting.

“Don’t worry, Sir.” said Rodney, “It doesn’t look like he is going anywhere fast.”

Roger and Lillian, Lord Downing’s daughter, appeared behind the crowd. “I said she could come down but only if I came with her and at the first sign of danger she was to get behind me. You know how stubborn she is.” said Roger.

Lilian said, “He took a painting from the lounge, didn’t he Daddy, but he didn’t take an expensive one. It was my painting of Mummy. Which I think is worse to take but Mr Perkins said it isn’t. It was my birthday party the other day so we moved the silly Picasso into the safe and put my painting up for the party. I didn’t like the old frame much so that is OK. Is that him?”

Lord Downing addressed the Inspector “I thought you said Perkins opened the safe?”

“Mr Perkins did open the safe, Sir, but this man had left before he finished. Didn’t he Rodney, check your notebook. If he had only waited until the safe had been opened… Well, Rodney,” said the Inspector, “There’s your gun. A banana covered by a cloth.”

“Just like that, eh, Inspector.”


“Nevermind, I’ll write that in my book.”

“See that you do. Looks like he’s had a whole bottle of whiskey too.”

“My 18 year old Talisker! I’ve been robbed.” Lord Downing exclaimed and fainted clean away.

The noise of Lord Downing’s body hitting the floor  woke the colourful burgler, “Hic!” he said just before vomiting all over the painting of Lady Downing.

“Ewwwww,” said Lilian.



Radio Ga Ga. A poll.

I have totally added a gorgeous radio to my New Year’s stash. My 3 pre-set stations are R4, R4EX and R2. Currently listening to Simon and Garfunkel & ABBA (Ahahhhh) on R2. I am just so rock and roll. Last night I went to bed at 9pm!

Anyway, I’m a bit stuck on what to read next so I thought I’d try a poll thingy on a few books I have on my shelf. Idea is that you guys vote and I pick the book that gets the most votes and read it. Then review, I guess. Let’s see how spectacularly this fails.

The only thing I have written recently is a long discourse to Anglian Water on how they still owe me money.

Anyway, here:

Edit: poll is over, too late.

Happy New Year! And the first book review of 2013!

I hope 2013 it is a good year for all.

As I sit here surrounded by all the mod-cons, a new TV, a Nexus 7, iPhone and full house insurance, I have cracked out the old laptop to write my first post in 2013. I can think of no better way to start the year than by reviewing a new book. By deft combination of espionage and extortion I managed to get my hands on a review copy from the excellent and very astute people at Jonathan Cape.

The chances of my return to the audience at Tall Tales are, for various reasons, remote so I think I am safe to be honest…


The Dazzle (Robert Hudson)

“Sex, drugs and tuna” is The Dazzle’s tagline and it pretty much does exactly what it says on the tin, which for a delicate wallflower like myself was a little off-putting at the start, however, the prologue had already hooked me in (and it is inevitable that, without even trying, every other word written in this review will now have fishing connotations) so I wasn’t going to give up on the book.

It took me a little while to work out who all the characters  were and what their relationship to other characters might be. Being honest, I had to go back and check that the character involved in the reveal at the end was actually mentioned earlier in the book, which, of course, they were at great length. Weirdly, having looked back, it all suddenly made sense as the excellently organised story that it was.

Some of The Dazzle was written in letter format (which shouldn’t have surprised me). Personally, I find it takes a special sort of book written in that style to keep my interest (Warhorses of Letters, picking a completely random example) and I have to admit I lost the plot somewhere near the centre. In contrast though, when nearing the end, the style of plot reveal changes and it is bloody clever. I enjoyed that the most.

The book uses some words even Google itself won’t shed any light on. I liked that and am, in a strange way, kind of happy that I still have no idea what the words mean because I can guess and my wallflower is already wilting.  That was not an intentional euphemism. The author obviously had fun with boat names as well which was enjoyable. Having finished the book, I found myself hoping that the little team of characters might be written in to a sequel.

Anyway, I maintain that any book that mentions giant squid has to be a good book by default and this doesn’t buck the trend.

The Dazzle by Robert Hudson is released next month and I really do think you should give it try.

At the Final Count

Right, I have decided what my (public) New Years Resolutions are. Hold on to your hats!

1) 20 book reviews 13 short stories – already explained.

2) Play the saxophone regularly – every week, preferably more so. I read somewhere that if you start a saxophone diary you can keep track of what you have learned whether that be a trick or just a length of time without wobbling on a note. So, that will be a new blog.

3) Learn a German sentence every day. Whether that be 7 on a Sunday or one a day. This may be tough to remember to do let alone actually remember the sentences. Either way I’ll blog about that here.

4) Read the news everyday and formulate some opinions. Again, prepare yourself for news-y blog posts.

5) Remember to look after my health.

6) Already mentioned, write a list of books that I want to read and maintain this here.

I thought about spending less time online but then I realised if I did that my main form of social interaction (even if it is via social media) would be curtailed and there’s no guarantee that a real live person or people would fill the gap. So will just have to play that one by ear.

I think I’m done boring you with resolutions. We shall see how long they last. Can you tell I’m trying to fill my MSc time? Maybe this will all go to pot in February if I decide to start a PhD? We shall see.

Usually, I do a round-up of what I have achieved in the previous 12 months at this time of year but I am loath to do that here as it is a bit more personal and private. I might do it. It might be good therapy. It might not. I’ll think about it. I will say that I am generally feeling more positive so that is a very good thing.

Have a good week people!



Apparently English

I’ve been thinking about the New Year again. As you will have already read (no one reads this blog) I have decided that in 2013 I will read and review 20 assorted novels and write 13 short stories. That one still stands.

Then, I was sent a link to this: The Plain English Campaign (for the record I think this is a very good idea)and thought why not use it to increase my vocabulary too? Well, I read their A to Z of Alternative Words for those pompous moments and I use most of them regularly. The only words I have not used before (out of 35 pages full) were:

  • ameliorate (improve, help)
  • axiomatic (obvious)
  • evince (prove)
  • ex officio (because of his or her position)*
  • hold in abeyance (postpone)
  • profusion of (plenty)
  • promulgate (advertise)
  • pursuant to (under)

* singing in carols doesn’t count

I guess I’ll have to find a different way to learn some words. Any ideas? I should probably concentrate on German really. I shall look into appropriate ways to make this happen.

Also, I have decided it’s a sensible thing to write a list of the books I want to read. I hear lots of people do this.

And finally, not just cleaning up your home…



Book Review: The Year of the Hare (Arto Paasilinna)

Weird book but then it is Finnish. Recommendation taken from a blog that I follow.

The translation was OK. I can’t say I’ve read worse because this is the only Finnish book translation I have ever read. It had a beginning, a middle and an (happy) end. And I don’t blame the protagonist for his actions.

I think I should like to move to Scandinavia.

6/10 – worth a shot.

“Coincidence?!” (Agrajag)

An author (a horsey letter one) whose blog I follow like a wet Monday after Sunday sun, made a weird almost-symul-post last night when I was mentioning Stevyn’s book on linked facts (of course, really, you can link anything to everything if you try hard enough) and lying about bothering to learn facts to swap  in the pub. We talk about philosophy like everybody else. And sex.

He linked to this article which I am grateful for because it is very interesting.

Interesting but not ground breaking. Human error plays a part in science as much as it does in picking the right colour tie to match your undies. I did know that spinach doesn’t have as much iron in it as people think and Popeye didn’t really help to put the record straight. But I still eat spinach “for the iron” because I enjoy it. Like the dubious facts, we keep on masticating because the facts are so fantastic or cool or easier to say than Apatosaurus that we love chewing the cud again and again.

I didn’t know the “meso-fact” (or that there was such a word) that Mount Everest’s height changes every so often with the tectonic plate movement. I guess every girl needs her heals on a Saturday night in the Himalayas. But would not the scientific fact be that the height of Mount Everest is “xyz” with an associated margin of error to cover the change? A step too far? Of course, we are talking about pub facts and not a Nobel prize entry here.

The article finishes with: “In other words: In a world of information flux, it isn’t what you know that counts—it is how efficiently you can refresh.” That’s the beauty of science – always question, always doubt, always test, test, test. Roll with the changes. Pluto was a God, then a planet and now a dwarf planet – just can’t catch a break, eh?

All this is easy to say when you’re no longer a scientist but a faux lawyer.

Anyway, I need to go for a swim (hopefully not through the flood that stranded me in my flat last Wednesday…).

Oh, and in other news, at 28 yrs old, I am now a Great Aunt (great-aunt?). I shit you not.

52 Books (ish – don’t judge me) A Year

And so, after nearly a whole year, I have finally completed my resolution to read and review 52 novels. That is what I did.

Sort of.

The real (main) idea was simply to read more because for the last couple of years I’ve only read a handful of books and I love reading. The secondary idea was to have a go at a review or two because I enjoy that as well. How did I really do? Here come the stats!

I read a grand total of 26 novels, 1 play, 3 loo books, 4 (officially) kids books, my first e-book, a science book, a CV, a biography on Shakespeare, 2 autobiographies, some letters written by horses, at least 3 really bad books, a good few short stories, a Pratchett, a practical guide for wartime American soldiers, a social reading project book (mammoth count of 5 books because it was huge) and 1 non-finisher. And I reviewed them all! Even if some reviews were very short. I’ve tried some new genres and re-discovered my love of Science Fiction. More importantly I have read more! I think the most I read in a week was 4 books. Unheard of.

I have also found a plethora of weird photos online.

So, that’s that. I will continue to make more time to read. I collected a good number of book recommendations and will enjoy reading them at my leisure. I hope to continue to review the ones I like too.

Which brings me to my 2013 resolution…

Read and review 20 books AND write 13 short (or long) stories.


We’ll see how it goes. And, oh yes, next year… no cheating!

And finally, book 52: Joined-Up Thinking (Stevyn Colgan)

My mind is befuddled by all the facts in this book. But I like a book full of facts. Facts and the odd innuendo. It’s the sort of book you’d read a chapter of here or there (maybe but not exclusively on the loo) and then have to read it again every other day to try to learn then regurgitate in the pub.

Why not take the book to the pub? You’ve obviously not met my friends. If they knew I got most of my facts from a book they’d be very disappointed. Where they think I get my facts from is another debate entirely.

8/10 – It’s just like those conversations you (I) had as a kid which start off with yesterday’s botched chemistry experiment, to clouds and tennis then end up with Henry III and pickled onions. Really interesting.