October 29, 2014 · 4:56 pm
The blog has been a bit quiet for the past few weeks. Yet again work has gotten in the way of blogging, plus there was the small matter of a couple of week’s holiday in the good old USA to take up my time. Long distance travel is always a good time to catch up on reading as there isn’t much else to do on an 8 hour flight, especially one that didn’t even provide a tv (considering even the squirrels are obese in America, their planes are surprisingly small!)
However as much as I do love reading crime novels I like to start a holiday with a good selection of guidebooks, and lists of must see places. So with New York, Boston and New England to research in one trip the novel reading was put to one side for a bit. I’ve realised I do become a bit obsessed with ticking things off lists though, in fact I’ve been known to write things on lists just to tick them off. New York therefore became one long blur of tourist attraction after tourist attraction, punctuated occasionally by the search for a good pint of beer in order to keep Mr F happy. Luckily with the American’s love of all things Halloween there were plenty of festive themed ales to choose from.
It’s easy to understand how some of the authors of the best novels in recent times were inspired by America. We stayed in a motel at Weir’s Beach, which was a lovely seaside resort. I can imagine at high season the place would have been packed. However arriving the day before Columbus day things were rather more subdued. In fact other than the woman who checked us in, we didn’t see another sole. Apart from a bloke chopping what I hope were logs in the morning, I didn’t catch his name although it did sound suspiciously like he said it was Norman. Robert Bloch had probably signed in the visitor book if I’d looked closely.
During a session at the festival a couple of years ago there was a discussion around why so many crime writers hail from Scandinavia, and although I’m paraphrasing a bit they said it was because the Scandinavian countries had such a low crime rate and were so pretty that they had to make up scary things themselves. The same may be said of Portland, Maine. From my experience of a short drive to Portland, it’s a beautiful place and the views over the sea from the lighthouse we visited were stunning. Certainly not the stuff of horror, however it doesn’t stop the output of prolific horror writer Stephen King who is based there.
Probably the best views of the holiday (apart from seeing a baby black bear walking along the side of the road) came from a visit to a place called Castle in the Clouds. Although I was very disappointed to find it wasn’t a castle at all but just a big house built in 1914. I used to live in a flat that was built in 1620 so something 100 years old isn’t really that impressive. The view over the Lake was stunning however, and whilst not crime related was apparently where some of the film ‘On Golden Pond’ was set.
In between New York and New England we spent a couple of nights in Boston. One of my favourite authors is Tess Gerritsen, who sets her Rizzoli and Isles novels in the city. As a fan of the TV show as well I was quite excited about the prospect of finding the police department where it is filmed. Until Mr F did a quick internet search and found the show is actually filmed on set miles away from Boston. We had to content ourselves with following the freedom trail instead, which came with a handy painted line on the road to follow so no map reading necessary.
After a final night back in New York it was heading home time, and back to reality. It’s potentially given me an idea for a new challenge though, to read a crime novel set in every city I’ve visited. That sounds to me like its time for a new list to be created, and my train journey back from working in Manchester might be a good time to start.
Filed under crime fiction, Holiday, Theakstons Festival
Tagged as #newyork, #rizzoliandisles, boston, crime writing, holiday, portland, psycho, tess gerritsen, usa, weirs beach
December 24, 2013 · 1:53 pm
Its Christmas time, there’s no need to be afraid. A classic line sung first by Paul Young and then latterly on the much ignored Band Aid II by Kylie Minogue. However judging by my trip into town yesterday I would disagree and say there is much to be scared of, and not just the fact I seem to have been forced to listen to that song every time I’ve set foot inside a shop since mid September.
Never mind the fact that at this time of the year the world goes mad and suddenly everyone is buying up brandy snaps as though their life depended on it. There is another recently discovered scary issue around. Namely the tragedy that is the complete destruction of the humble colouring book. I braced the mad rush of final shoppers yesterday to try and find two colouring books for presents. A simple task you might think? Well you’d be wrong.
Firstly all I wanted was a normal standard picture book for young children to colour in. Just the normal colouring books I had as a child with pictures of dogs and cats and houses. I didn’t want stickers or activities or doodles (that must be the cleverest money making idea since the shampoo companies started putting the words rince and repeat on the bottles, just put some blank paper together, call it a doodle book on the cover and charge twenty times the cost of the paper)
Secondly and most scary of all, when did colouring become a gender specific activity? Everywhere I looked the only colouring books I could find were labelled either girls colouring books and were full of pictures of princesses and castles, or boys colouring books full of cars and tractors. Talk about pushing gender stereotyping. Why do simple activities such as colouring need to be ruined? I realise it is a money making scam and people will unconsciously fall for it. I also know that in the scheme of things it’s quite a minor issue but it really bugged me. It is as stupid as the pink lego thing (read about them here) Well it didn’t work on me, and I walked away without purchasing any of them.
I realise that people have to try and reinvent the wheel. Essentially that’s what crime writers do all the time. There are a finite number of ways to kill someone and also motives for doing so, yet writers are able to take this idea and revamp it thousands and thousands of times. That’s a good thing for someone like me, who wants to read this revamped idea over and over again. Yet surely this revamping wasn’t needed for colouring books, to a six year old a picture to colour is about the actual act of colouring rather than the picture itself. I don’t think they really care how it is packaged. I bought a gift for a friend’s daughter this weekend and she was more interested in playing with the wrapping paper than the actual gift. (It was very nice wrapping paper though) There is certainly no need to give children different pictures to colour depending on whether they are a boy or girl.
Anyway despite my mini strop with the woman in Waterstones who asked if I’d found everything I wanted. All is not lost and the receivers of the colouring books are not to miss out. Luckily the sister works for a large retail brand (in the interest of not advertising let’s just say, think of a posh pound shop where you can buy a full size dancing Father Christmas and you’ll know where I mean) and she saved the day with some nice general colouring books with no stickers or activities in sight. She can therefore now be known as the Sister who saved Christmas. Of course is she could also work out a way of banning shops from playing Christmas music before the 23rd December then she really would be a superhero.