The new issue of The Big Thrill is out, and in it, there’s an interview by Your Correspondent with Math Bird, the Welsh crime writer. Math and I spent about 40 minutes back in September chatting by Skype about his writing. Something that stood out from that interview, besides getting a chance to know Math a bit better, was that he and his wife live on the Dee Estuary in Wales. This waterway creates a boundary between England and Wales.
Just a couple of days after interviewing Math, my wife and I were watching an episode of a BBC show called “Escape to the Country” on Netflix when the show focused on a couple looking to move to Wales to a house overlooking—the guess it—the Dee. Strange coincidence, considering that I’d never heard of the Dee until a couple of days before.
Math is a great writer, and you can read more about him—and Wales—in this article.
It seems like readers everywhere—or maybe that should be listeners—are really getting into audiobooks. Why is that? I think that a huge factor is technology. It’s so easy now to listen to an audiobook. Simply click on a title and download a sample or the book itself to your phone or tablet. Pop in your earbuds, and off you go to ancient Rome, or Nantucket, or heck, a WWII battlefield!
I have surprised myself by discovering that I also enjoy listening to books in this way, simply because it is so convenient.
I remember when listening to an audiobook wasn’t so easy. In fact, I distinctly recall listening to an Ed McBain novel while stripping wallpaper and then painting one of the upstairs bedrooms in our old house. This was a book on cassette tape, played over a boombox. It always seemed like when I was up on the ladder, the tape ended! I was always juggling tapes, trying to find the right order. If I missed some of the story due to the wallpaper steamer hissing too much, it was a pain to rewind and find that spot again.
CDs were a little better, but there was still the problem of juggling the 8 or 10 CDs in a typical audiobook. Also, CDs were OK for the car, but still not terribly portable.
With your smartphone, it’s all right there! One especially cool feature is that if I am reading a book using the Kindle app on my phone, and then I drive somewhere and listen to the audio version, the device magically syncs and picks up where I left off in the story, whether I am listening or reading.
Of course, it’s very easy to take along a book when out for a walk. However, I have to admit that I do love a good podcast when out for a walk. Podcasts may be a topic for another day!
Someone mentioned to me recently how he listens to books on planes and in coffee shops. These are both noisy places, but when he puts on those headphones, he is transported to another time and place.
As a writer, I find it interesting how the performance of the book can add a new dimension to the story. The way that a line is delivered, or the pacing of dialogue, can take me by surprise. It might not be how I would have read the story on the page. Of course, a good narrator can make or break a novel for listeners. It takes quite a talented person to perform a novel, for make no mistake, it is a performance. As a general rule, I don’t think that the authors themselves tend to do a very good job because they are not trained voice actors.
Three of my novels have received the audiobook treatment to date. Give them a listen at the links below!
One of my favorite recent listens has been the Jefferson Tayte series by Steve Robinson. The main character is a professional genealogist who solves mysteries by what the family tree reveals. He has a whole slew of these novels out now. Generally, Tayte’s cases take him to England. There are those who would rather that some family secrets stay in the past—that’s an example what puts Tayte in terrible danger. Who knew that genealogy could be so exciting? I have tried reading the books, but there is something about the delivery of the story in an audiobook that elevates the level of excitement.
Unfortunately, all of us occupy a busy world that doesn’t leave us much space or time for stretching out in the hammock and reading a proper book. Audiobooks are a way to absorb a novel or nonfiction book in new ways. Give them a try. You may surprise yourself by enjoying the experience. I know that I have!
For this anthology, I wrote a short story called “Last Stand at Turkey Point Light” that imagines an attack by a German U-boat on Turkey Point Lighthouse. This may seem farfetched, but some of the historical facts back up the fact that there were concerns about security at what was then an important aid to navigation for wartime shipping. U-boats prowled the Atlantic coast, so the Intracoastal waterway provided a safer alternative route for everything from supplies to troops. Could one of those U-boats slipped into the upper Chesapeake Bay intent on wreaking havoc? All that stands between these German saboteurs and Turkey Point is a character who closely resembles Fannie May Salter, the brave light keeper personally appointed by President Calvin Coolidge.
Read the story and you may find yourself wondering if the attack really could have happened and was simply kept out of the news.
It was a pleasure to have this story selected for Bay to Ocean, and the story is in good company. Some of the offerings are fun and some are serious. In particular, I really enjoyed the poetry by Tara A. Elliott, Pat Valdata, and Wendy Elizabeth Ingersoll, among others. The thing about poetry is that a poem may take just a few minutes to read, but it echoes for a long time so that you will find yourself savoring the thoughts and images that these words bring to mind.
This book is a must-have for those interested in the culture and history of the region. Of course, sales help to support the Eastern Shore Writers Association and its activities, including the Canal Town Writers Conference. Copies are available at amazon.com and also at small shops throughout the region.
“I’m a working-class kid from a generation that speaks in emojis,” says Ian Truman, a Montreal writer with a French accent who has been known to lapse from time to time into Franglais, a patois of English and French spoken by the young and hip in one of North America’s most European cities.
At 35, he is also an up-and-coming writer who is becoming known to audiences well beyond Montreal with the release of his second novel, DOWN WITH THE UNDERDOGS. Told in first person, the novel unwinds the story of D’Arcy Kennedy, a working-class tough guy drawn into employment with the Irish mob during a get-rich-quick gentrification boom that is seeing the old neighborhoods and criminal order of the city upended.
As a writer and Montreal native, Truman knows the subject well. He has watched the rising popularity of this city of 4 million with interest. He said that the city itself it a fascinating mix of languages and accents, with French-Canadians rubbing elbows with newcomers from places like Algiers, and even waves of transplants from France drawn by a lower cost of living and the comfort of French culture.
“You can walk down the street and hear all sorts of different accents,” he says.
While Montreal is a vibrant place to be based, he says that being a Canadian writer has its challenges: “It’s a different market. It’s smaller.” Also, given the travel involved, he says that it’s difficult to tour. “It’s harder to get your name out there.”
And did we mention the long, cold winters?
But that’s okay. He says that Canadians have a strong work ethic to overcome all that. “We’re kind of used to it,” he says. “It makes us work harder for things.”
Set in 1933, THE FAIRFAX INCIDENT by Terrence McCauley seems at first to be a traditional noir detective story with a Raymond Chandler-like vibe. However, it soon becomes apparent that Charlie Doherty is an evolved and nuanced private eye. Imbued with a sense of history and complex characters, there’s more than meets the eye at first glance in this novel—much like the case that Doherty takes on.
The novel begins with Doherty interviewing the widow of a wealthy New Yorker who appears to have committed suicide. However, the widow insists that her husband did not shoot himself. Thus begins a case that leads Doherty through a twisty plot filled with politics and intrigue.
The author’s earlier trio of thrillers was actually set in the near future, with some futuristic predictions that have already come to pass. In Sympathy for the Devil, for example, he incorporated the kind of fingerprint recognition technology that exists today but that was more predictive of the future when the book came out.
Now, he’s delving into the past with a series of novels set in the 1930s.
Several real-life events are woven into the story for historical context. In fact, it might be challenging to find a historical setting more interesting than 1930s New York City, rife with Depression-era events and politics. FDR had just taken office to begin what would become a 16-year term in the White House. Mobsters still called the shots in much of the city. There was still great wealth among those who weathered the economic crash. However, there was also terrible poverty described in the Hooverville camps (named for President Herbert Hoover) made up of penniless homeless men.
“There were several Hoovervilles all over New York, with the biggest in Central Park,” McCauley says. “New York was a really different and dangerous place.”
The threatening political dynamic leading up to WWII plays a role in the story. The economic conditions have sparked an American brand of Nazism that is all the more chilling for its historical accuracy.
The beautiful and historic town of Ellicott City was devastated again by a flood on May 26, 2018. The Washington Post did an interesting historical piece to give the recent disaster some perspective. Above, a Harper’s Weekly illustration of the 1868 flood.
‘Beyond rescue’: Ellicott City’s bizarre, rainless flood and its deadly 20-foot wall of water
By Kevin Ambrose
It did not rain, at least not in Ellicott City. That’s what made the 1868 flood so bizarre and unexpected for the residents of Ellicott City, Md., who were reeling again this week after being devastated by their second 1,000-year flood in two years.
A 39-year-old National Guard sergeant was swept away Sunday as he tried to rescue a woman trapped by the raging waters on Main Street.
But the flood on July 24, 1868, was far deadlier, claiming the lives of dozens of people. According to David Healey, author of “Great Storms of the Chesapeake,” the tremendous thunderstorm that caused the flood 150 years ago stayed west of town.
On that fateful day in July, light from the setting sun was completely blacked out by tall thunderstorm clouds to the west of Ellicott City, which was founded in 1772 at the site of a grist mill along the banks of the Patapsco River.
Birds stopped singing, mill workers were forced to quit early, and flashes of lightning filled the western sky. Residents of the thriving town, which served as the terminus of the first section of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, braced for a storm, but it never arrived. The storm, probably stationary, didn’t move east, but its runoff certainly did.
For the full article, please click the link below:
The Canal Town Writers Conference sponsored by the Eastern Shore Writers Association will offer an opportunity for engaging with fellow writers and energizing your own writing in the beautiful setting of historic Chesapeake City, MD.
Set for Saturday, September 22 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., the conference will offer three sessions in the meeting room at the Chesapeake City branch library: “First Lines: Getting Started with Your Creative Project,” a panel discussion called “Finding Time to Write,” and “Writing 5/7/5.” The sessions are intended to be of interest to writers in all genres and experience levels. There will be an opportunity to enjoy lunchtime fellowship and networking, followed by a cruise on the C&D Canal with a brief overview of Canal Town history.
The conference itself is free. Attendees will be paying for their own lunch in a group setting. Cost for the canal cruise with Chesapeake City Water Tours and Captain DJ is $15 at the dock.
“Chesapeake City has a rich literary heritage with ties to Jack D. Hunter, Edna Ferber, and George Alfred Townsend,” said David Healey, a local author and Eastern Shore Writers Association board member who is helping to organize the event. “The Canal Town Writers Conference builds on this heritage by gathering writers from across the region to improve their craft, enjoy fellowship with other writers, and to explore historic Chesapeake City.”