Archive for February, 2020

AZ Murder Goes … Professional (book #170)

14 February 2020

Book cover: AZ Murder Goes ... Professional

Edited by Barbara Peters, 2002. This is a book of conference papers by mystery writers Joanne Dobson, AJohn Dunning, Nicholas Kilmer, Thomas Perry, Nancy Pickard and William G Tapply, on the general theme of professions or occupations in crime novels.

I liked this, in Thomas Perry’s paper “But What Do They Do For a Living?”, an extract from his book Death Benefits about the amateur detective / insurance data analyst who is the protagonist.

He had been placed under the distant but sane supervision of Joyce Hazelton. She had explained to him what an analyst did: “They give us raw data. We cook and serve.” Information about all company operations was brought in, and he would screen the numbers for meaning and wrote reports that revealed trends and anomalies. She had said, “If we suddenly have seven per cent of our clients dying on a full moon, I want that in block letters. If it’s fifteen per cent, I want it underlined too.” Since then she had left him alone, except to smile cordially at him once a day and meet with him every six months to show him that his performance ratings were all excellent.
He had found an unexpected pleasure in his work. The analysts all made jokes about the job, but it was intoxicating. Examining the figures was like being a cabalist searching for messages about the future encoded in the Talmud. Some of the messages were reassuring. At certain ages, people had children and bought term life. By consulting actuarial tables, he knew how many of the policies sold this year would come back for payoff at what future dates, and how many premiums the company would receive in the meantime. … Because of the large number of policies and the long stretch of time, the individual deviations from the norm disappeared to produce reliable predictions.

The collection is worth reading if you’re interested in mystery fiction. The editing retains the individual voices of the contributors.

Ranger Rose (book #169)

13 February 2020

Cover of Ranger Rose

Ethel Talbot. My edition is 1954, but I think it was originally published 1928. Possibly has been cut.

This is a disability leads to self-renunciation book. I enjoyed it, but it’s not flawless. To take some of the flaws first: it’s too short, at 96 pages. The ending feels rushed and is also more down-beat than I would have liked. There is a missed opportunity to explore Rose’s future plans – for instance, will she work with her unofficial Brownies again? I would also have liked to have seen more use by the People (trippers) of the People’s Wood, once Rose has had her vision of improving it for them.

Interesting aspects include the advice Rose is given at the start of the book by her father:

Rose’s father had served from beginning to end of the Great War. He had lost a leg, too, in his country’s service, and it was partly “not to make a fuss before Daddy” that Rose’s resolution had held firm for all this time. …
“Do you know, Rose, that I’d not change back now, I think, even if I got the chance … I am jolly glad I had the leg when the war came on, you know. Otherwise I couldn’t have fought. And I was jolly sick when I lost it, even though there was only a month of the war to run.”

He gives Rose a copy of the Little Flowers of St Francis and she find her way through service. She is sent to a different, smaller, school, where Guiding is important. There is quite a lot of detail about enrolment and badges.

Fathers, dementia, etc #1

7 February 2020

Ad for Benger's Food: Better health in old age

Ad from The Illustrated London News 11/10/1930.

My title looks a bit like Coffee #1. I don’t think it will take off as a business model.

My father says he “knew a chap once by the name of Brokenshire [as in the local govt minister]. He stole clocks from army accom and sold them to the Germans”. I may have to follow this up.

I am trying to send a thing to his address (my father’s, not any of the Brokenshires) every couple of weeks, as an added contact. He’s moved into assisted living accom which has … not exactly been a difficult transition, but moving is hard at the best of times, which if you’re confused and have strong views on things is not. Logging here that the first was chocolates, the second a book about aviation.

He thinks of writing a novel (he has form in that area) about

an advertising agency that has a contract to promote a dementia charity. Everyone is to some degree potty, and those who are actually demented are not the craziest. Begins when the agency team first meets the head of the charity, who is (himself or herself, not yet decided) crackers in a frantic way … The agency team includes some who are extremely laid back and ironical, others who are plain silly etc etc. Obviously the central idea is that those actually demented can be less mad than the sane. I am quite taken with this, especially since its author is one of the demented, which ought to make it quite saleable …

I don’t know what to say about dementia. It seems to have taken over my life in the last year or so. Which it has not at all; even the fortnightly London trips for research I am sharing with other family members, which makes me exceptionally fortunate. But it is on my mind a lot.

Also, people! Why can they not be better? The staff at the research clinic, which work with people with dementia all the time – why don’t they wear name badges, or remind us who they are? One of the took my father off to a consulting room last time, saying to him as she went “you’ll be very familiar with the environment and process here by now”. No! He has memory loss!

Anyway, rant.