Shipboard Characters

There are some characters you meet in real life that just have to go into a book. Last year my wife and I took a ten day Caribbean cruise. On this trip we met two of the loveliest people of our life. David and Jane, they sat at our dining table. Jane was a gorgeous fun loving gal of 92 and David was a smidgeon older. I cannot even begin to describe this couple. Jane couldn’t weigh much more then the dining chair she sat on, and David was upright and had a full head of hair.
Apparently Dave was a retired ship designer. We had several quite exciting and interesting conversations about the ships he’s designed. He has my full admiration. Jane on the other hand was a 92 year old play girl. Her favourite drink was Canadian Club Whisky. She was so delicate that the waiter had to cut her meals into tiny pieces for her.
On the island of St Kits they have a narrow gauge railway train that chugs something like half way round the island, fabulous view, magnificent scenery. Who did we meet on the train, of course David and Jane. It took three strong men to get frail little Jane off the train but she enjoyed every minute, and the attention.
Occasionally the pair would get lost on the ship and miss a meal. Sometimes we looked out for them and guided them to the huge dining room. It’s not that difficult to get lost. I found myself in the wrong dining room on one occasion. Our ship was over a thousand feet long and there were 2400 passengers. One day when I think I can do them justice I will model a pair of characters on those two lovely people.

Incredible

Some really weird things happen as you move through life. You may sometimes wonder if there is someone watching over you. I can easily believe the poor Greeks as they thought the gods amused themselves with the people beneath them. An example of that – I was walking along the cliffs at a place called Hunstanton. This particular spot was about sixty feet to a very rocky beach. Suddenly a puff of wind took my hat – instinctively I grabbed for it and found myself with no visible means of support. Needless to say I had to succumb to nature and gravity.
I clearly remember the flight down, but have no recall of the landing. Getting back to the Greek gods, I can imagine how they must have laughed as I landed flat on my back on the only part of the beach that had no rocks. I neatly fitted in-between them. Thank you Zeus, or Poseidon or which one of you who guided me down to a safe landing.
In my bathroom above the mirror are two lights in the same fitting. Gives a good light for shaving. Several years ago we went over to those confounded curly lights – miniature neon tubes. One of the bulbs went out, thus making shaving one side of my face difficult. Cursing under my breath I gently unscrewed the offending device. A very weird thing happened. Now if any of you readers are of the scientific type I would be interested in an explanation. You see I took the bulb out of the socket, and as I looked at it – totally disembodied from the power source, the damn thing lit up right there in my hand.
Although the illumination was only brief, it was quite bright. I bunged it back into the socket and hey-presto it now works perfectly.
You only need two miracles for sainthood. I’ll write the Pope and request canonisation.

Are They Real?

Ghosts, goblins, devils and demons don’t exist – do they? Of course not. But sometimes it would make you wonder. How many times have you heard, “Why him and not me?” Or even, “Why me and not someone else?” Personally I do not believe in the supernatural, or aliens from outer space. I believe that each and every one of us has a mental power, the ability to tune into the world, though most people don’t. Kindness without thought of repayment or reward seems to breed its own reward, if only satisfaction. Coincidence leads people to believe in the unnatural.
Long ago I worked in a munitions factory we were building the electronics for a anti submarine weapon. On this particular occasion we four technicians walked over to the main building at lunchtime laughing and joking. We reached the pop dispensing machine. It turned out each thought the other was going to do the honors. I had no money as did two of the others, the third had only large denomination bills.
As a joke I said “This machine owes me at least four drinks.” And I slapped the thing a good friendly bang on it’s side. Unbelievably, it went “Chug, Chug,” and spat out four Coca Colas. Now if that’s not supernatural I don’t know what is.
Another time I worked at the same factory I finished work and walked to the parking area. The temperature was almost 20 below Fahrenheit. The snow was thick and crispy. Jumping in my car I turned the key and the only response was “Clunk.” Annoyed and somewhat perturbed, I popped the hood (bonnet) and waggled all the battery connections. Hood open I pressed the solenoid, “Chug, chug, chug,” she turned over three times and died.
By this time just about everyone had left the parking area and my prospects looked real bad. Suddenly a voice behind me said, “Having a little problem, Mal.”
I turned and there stood Archie Smith, the local bible puncher. “Yeah. She won’t start, flat battery.”
Archie smiled. “Try again.”
Knowing it to be pointless I pressed the solenoid again. This time I got a quiet, ‘click.’ “No good she’s dead.”
There and then in the cold, Archie kneeled down in the snow, put his hands together and … would you believe prayed? I felt embarrassed. Thankfully no one was around to see this ridiculous charade. After some two or three minutes he got up and smiled. “Try it now.”
Like as if. The man was obviously a nitwit. Just to prove my point I pressed the solenoid again. “Varuum,” and it started like a midsummer morning.
When I was in Singapore they had a Shackleton airplane at Changi. The thing was a total waste of space, obsolete, and awkward. The thing was barely airworthy. For inexplicable reasons even after an expensive overhaul it would not fly to Seletar, about twenty miles. Every time one of the engines would fail. Twice they had a fire in the dog kennel. It’s the space directly behind the engine. Seletar is where they were scrapped. Eventually they decided to cut her up at Changi and ship it out in pieces. The very day before the destruction was to occur, a dispatch came from Whitehall stating that it was the last one in service and was to be flown to England for the RAF museum. As if.
This is where the magic comes in. Only a week later, all four engines started and the thing flew all the way back to England, landing several times to refuel, but not once having a problem of any kind.
Beats me !!

From the Mouth of Innocence

I’ve been busy doing my taxes, writing a new book and finishing publishing the tenth Bill Reyner story. I know, it’s just an excuse. So I thought I’d like to write something a little different. Kids often say things that adults wouldn’t dream of saying, therefore let’s have a little look at some.
Teacher – Children do any of you know where Christ is?
Boy in front row – Yes Miss, he lives in my bathroom.
Not wishing to destroy the child’s faith she asks – How do you know that, Johnny?
Johnny – Because every morning my dad bangs on the bathroom door and shouts, “Jesus Christ are you still in there?”
A little Irish lad from poor parents playing with my children. I thought I would be nice to go see the sea. “So Christopher we’re all going to the beach would you like to come along?”
“To the beach?”
“Yes. Would you like to come with us?”
He shook his head and looked puzzled. “To the beach?”
“Yes. You do know what a beach is don’t you?”
The kid smiled. “Sure, it’s, a female dog.”
Showing off I thought I’d show my granddaughter how good I was at flying a model helicopter. We took the machine outside and I demonstrated several neat manoeuvres but whilst returning from a particularly difficult exercise the machine collided with a tree – pieces of helicopter all over the place. “Oh dear,” I said. “I seem to have made a bit of a blunder.”
Three-year-old Kate placed her hands on her hips and admonished me with, “Well, Grandad, you will just have to try harder next time.”

You Never Know

The thing about writing novels, they are – ‘must be’ – based on fact. You see something on TV or the movies and you say “I wouldn’t have done that.” Or “I wouldn’t have acted that way.” Thus when you create a situation in a novel, you make the character react as you think he should, based on your own knowledge, or what you think is true. If in reality you have been through these situations you have a better and more realistic understanding of what would or might happen. Of course it is reasonable that different people would react in different ways.
How would you react? I lived in a luxury 6 apartment building which was situated in a large wooded piece of land that had lawns at the front and a large parking area. The building was in an elite area of Nairobi on State House Road. Quite countryish for a major city.
One morning around three o’clock I was awakened by the sound of the door bell ringing, and a few moments later I heard another door bell. Obviously some drunk or prankster at work. Some time later I heard unusual noises. I climbed from my bed and quietly exited our front door, there I stood silently in the shadows listening. Sure enough there was activity in the corridor above. I remained quiet and in the shadows, unseen. After some time the noises ceased and I assumed all was well and returned to my bed. Only minutes after laying down I heard more unusual noises, this time outside. Quietly and gingerly I eased the curtain aside and peered out of the window. I saw two men carrying of all things a hi-fi cabinet. Piled on top of the hi-fi were lots of other things, making the trip difficult for the thieves. Without doubt these ‘gentlemen’ were absconding with someone’s private property. What would you have done?
What I did, in after thought is quite humorous. Making as little noise as possible I walked to the kitchen and took the largest knife I could find – a bread knife. Then in pajamas and slippers I eased my way out through the front door of the building. Outside I could see the thieves still struggling with their load. By now they were at least a hundred paces away and heading for the main road. I screamed at the top of my voice and ran at them waving the knife. They must have thought it was some fearful demon from hell. They dropped their ill gotten gains and fled. One ran for the main road and one ran toward the back of the gardens. Not a swift move. At the rear of the grounds was an old pit dug for rocks to make the apartment building’s foundations. It had become filled with garden rubbish and thorn bushes. I heard the man scream as he descended into the dark hole.
Although I saved the day, I received no thanks, but I did have the satisfaction of knowing these particular crooks would think twice before trying it again.

Vandalism

As a youngster I was known to my friends as Prof, short for professor. I knew dozens of ways to create explosions and did so. One favorite was what we called a hand grenade. In reality it was a tightly wound and heavily glued paper tube, the interior of which was filled with a home made explosive. We also used to make pipe bombs, but they were harder to conceal. I remember one lunch break three of us thought it might be a fine bit of fun to go blow up a few garbage cans, or as we called them dustbins. This particular time we picked on the district known as Little London.
I suppose children do not think things through properly as we walked down a dead end street we found a large selection of dustbins placed out for collection. I placed my prize bomb in one and we walked on nonchalantly waiting for the explosion. ‘Bang’ and the bin made like the John Kennedy space center. A magnificent display of pyrotechnics. The bin blew out its bottom and took to the sky just like a dirt propelled rocket. It crashed down on the roof of the nearby cottage and fell to earth. Who should come out of the cottage and looking extremely angry? Oh boy, it was our very own headmaster, Mr. French, and typically, there was nowhere to go. As he looked in our direction we ran for cover, but there was none. He knew we would have to return the way we came and so stood by his wrecked bin and waited.
Our only escape was round the back of a nearby house and through their back garden to the open fields. The problem being even there the only escape was to cross the river. We reasoned that if we crossed the river we could reach the school before the Head, and no one would be the wiser. Unfortunately the only way across the river was by a skeleton of a bridge just under construction. Being lunchtime there were no workers and we scrambled across the iron work. Geoff slipped and fell into the middle of the river. Fortunately he was the only member of our little group that could swim. Although we managed to escape detection, we learned nothing and continued our vandalism. Once we blew up a greenhouse, but that’s another story.

Pretty Girls

How come every book of the Bill Reyner series has a good looking girl on it except one – Mania? Now that’s an easy one – in fact all books of the series have a beautiful girl on the cover. Fiend’s Gold depicts a blond psychopathic killer. She’s beautiful and very deadly as Bill quickly found out. In Mania the front cover depicts the unfortunate little Mary Bean, she was murdered by the cult and buried in the forest. Forman Roy found the skull. With Edinburgh Cuckoos we only show the sexy leg of a hostile and gun toting Scottish murderer who fools Bill into thinking she’s his friend. Meall McLean is friendly, sexy, willing and polite, but turn your back and your dead. When Bill looked into the mystery of a vanishing Jean Williams he runs into an evil genius who trades in spare body parts. Poor Jean is on the cover. Damp Graves refers to the disposal of the unwanted body pieces. Now Lions and Christians is a fun story, where Bill gets into loads of trouble, but like all good heroes he comes through in the end and he gets the girl. This time the girl is a lovely Chinese woman Tan Chu. The very serious woman on the cover of The Canadian is in fact Bill’s mentor and sometimes his tormentor, Jane Overland. The Dutchman is much brighter and sports a lovely American Miss with the stars and stripes. She is of course Deloris Sondecker, one of the captain’s many willing young assistants. I didn’t want to use Deloris twice so when it came to The Mermaid I made use of the motorcycle gang’s moll. I thought she looked nice, even though her master was not. Although Bill tries to be a good business man he can’t make up his mind what business he wants to be in – helicopters, airlines, mining, or even detective work. But with a little push from almost everyone he makes a million out of the three inventors who created The Magnuscarter. The cover is a depiction of the dead girl found in the snow. Lastly we have The Agency, the newest one in the series. The cover picture is the pitiable mindless Pauline Eldridge who Bill rescues -oh, wait a minute, maybe it’s the other way round? Keep your eyes peeled, for The Agency, it should be on the market any minute now. Excitement, murder and mystery abounds, but Bill comes to the rescue.

Bill Reyner

Some people ask me, “Why Bill Reyner?” I suppose that’s a good question, as I don’t really have an answer. I like Bill, but I think I like poor old Newf more. Bill’s a little bit of a bully and a show off, whereas Newf merrily wends his way through life absorbing Bill’s derogatory remarks. Bill has a knack of finding trouble – he’s the magnet and disasters are the iron filings. If there’s any problem in any neighbourhood Bill will surely stumble into it. I particularly enjoyed writing Lions and Christians. For some reason that story just flowed, I could see every detail through my mind’s eye. Wilson was just asking for it and poor Bill wasn’t up to it, but the Canadian Air Force surely did a fine job on him, and the Major, I just loved giving him his comeuppance.
In Damp Graves Bill was up against a man of high intellect but none-the-less managed to confuse him into making mistakes, even so Newf was the hero and actually did all the rescuing. I think the Dutchman is my second favourite. The story is loosely based on the London gold robbery. They got caught because they were too greedy. In the Dutchman my bad guys were smarter, but not quite smart enough. I visited the area and the church in question. I had a ball along that wonderful Norfolk coast. Bill fell head over heels in love with a girl from a local post office. In real life I met her, she was magnificently beautiful, but one early morning when I went to buy my breakfast, (yes from the post office.) I saw her kissing another woman. Well I just had to introduce her to Bill, not that the real girl would ever know.
I’ve just finished the tenth story in the Bill Reyner series, Agency. This time Bill’s up against an evil genius scientist. After starting his new detective agency Bill takes a holiday in the wild. Only Bill Reyner could pick the exact spot where evil abounds. Outwitted at every turn, his old buddy Hugh Zaskin quietly threads the pieces together.
Now of course I can’t just sit and hope there’s another story somewhere. No, I’ve started the eleventh book in the series. This one’s called Cursed. It will explain all the background skipped in the first ten books. For example, what happened to Newf’s mother? Why does Newf speak so funny? How did Bill’s parents die? Where did Jane Overland come from? and a hundred other questions that fans have asked me. Cursed neatly ties them all together into a another horrifying and deadly tale of mystery and suspense.

Edinburgh Cuckoos

I thought it would be exciting to visit as many British Islands as possible, without being silly of course. As a family we sat down and examined the map of Britain. Hmm, quite a daunting task as the islands are scattered and very numerous, and how does one get from one island to another? Having been to Scotland several time before I knew that P&O supply just about all the ferry ships in that part of the world. Not knowing where P&O were based – I assumed London. I wrote a nice little request for travel information and mailed it to P&O London England. I figured the postman would know the exact address. Surprisingly some three weeks later I received a large manila envelope and in it were timetables, suggested routes and everything you would ever want to know about travel between the Scottish islands. Oh yes and the P&O headquarters is in Lerwick Shetland Islands, not London. We landed at Heathrow in London and took a hire car. Our first island was St Michael’s Mount – excellent, a beautiful castle on a rock just off the coast. Next we took a helicopter ride to St Mary’s Scilly Islands, and then a boat to Tresco Island. This is not a travel guide so suffice it to say it was interesting and exciting. You can look the places up in any good travel guide. The big plunge, so-to-speak, was when we arrived in Scotland. The Isle of Sky is not a place that can easily be seen in one day. There are castles, soddies, (Turf houses.) and beaches, cliffs and very interesting locals – both pubs and people. The next part of our trip was definitely the most dramatic. A ferry ship took us to the Orkney Islands, where we stayed several nights and visited many of the adjoining islands. History abounds there and goes back to the Stone Age. The idea of a story came to me, the islands and the island people would make a perfect backdrop. The power and ruggedness of the coast was quite intimidating. We found one area where ships had been deliberately sunk to block the channels between islands. Some of the ships you can actually walk on if the tide is out. The trip to the Shetland Islands was long and the sea quite rough. One of our party succumbed to seasickness. Personally I’ve never been travel sick on anything, and on one occasion I was at sea for 25 days. The Shetlands are fabulous and I highly recommend them. Oh yes, we actually visited P&O headquarters, which is right on the harbour front. We hired a fisherman to take us out to Mousa Island where I have never seen so many seals in my life before and been so dangerously close to them. That island also has a brock (Stone fort) which is in excellent condition and it predates Christ by a couple of thousand years. Having had such an exciting tour I couldn’t wait to write about it in some form or other. I created another adventure for Bill Reyner. In my story The Secret of Castle Duncan I called Mousa, Percies Island. In Edinburgh Cuckoos I changed the names of places and castles, not wishing to upset any real people.

I Don’t Believe It

Considering I love to write science fiction – I don’t believe in aliens from another world. Let me explain, firstly it defies common sense, assuming aliens have any. Just think about it, any perfectly happy alien living on a world that has to be more advanced than ours, what possible reason could there be for him, her, or it, to come to this part of the galaxy. It would be a one-way journey and cost millions of alien dollars, not to mention the immense time it would take. Okay, nuf-said.
Several years ago when I lived in England our house was the last in the street and as it happens almost dead centre in a quarter circle of railway. The rail track came up from London then took a left turn where I lived, but it was a long slow turn. Our house was a good quarter mile from the turn. At this point in the railway there were some thirty sidings that accompanied the curve, known as East Junction.
So what’s all this got to do with aliens? Ah! You see this particular night my friend had just left and it must have been close to one in the morning. Only a few moments after he had left our house I went outside, just before locking up for the night. The railway attracted my attention. There for all to see was a huge light. Obviously it must have been on a wagon, as it was not there earlier. The sight of this light puzzled me – why would they have a light on a wagon, especially one that big. I wandered down the back garden to have a closer look at this light. By this time my eyes were becoming accustomed to the night. I could see clearly that this – er, thing, was in fact twice the size of the large signal house over at East Junction. What kind of wagon could carry such a device? As I watched, totally confused, the thing moved slowly. It appeared to be following the curve of the railway track again it stopped. Now the object was clearly in my sight, it had moved from due east to north-north-east. The sudden and frightening realization of what I could be watching rattled my bones. I ran to the house and called my wife.
“Look, look, what do you see?” I yelled.
Like me, she thought it was a light, and like me, as she watched it the realization of what it wasn’t became obvious. After several more minutes it moved again, more toward the north, then suddenly shot off at an angle directly away from us and vanished almost instantly into the night sky.
Nothing on earth could move that fast or accelerate that quickly. There was no engine noise, no sonic boom, and it didn’t make a sound as it moved the air aside. We both agreed as to what we had seen but differed in the translation. My wife was and still is convinced it was a visitor from another world. I say it has to be some form of natural phenomena and really wasn’t anything like it appeared to be. Yes, that’s true I am in total denial. When the little green man shakes my hand, I will be prepared to give him the benefit of the doubt, maybe.