Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Melodie Johnson Howe and Roderick Ramage

Today I'd like to highlight two very different books by two people whom I've known and liked for a number a years. First, Melodie Johnson Howe, whom I've mentioned once or twice before on the blog. She's an actor and writer of excellent short stories which have appeared in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, but I must confess that I've never come across her novels before. That's changed, though, with City of Mirrors, which is sub-titled A Hollywood Murder Mystery. The title comes from a telling line: "If you want a friend in Hollywood, get a mirror."

Melodie has used her acting knowledge to create a very appealing series character called Diana Poole, and her inside knowledge of the seemingly glamorous world of the movies is deployed her to very good effect. "Hollywood is like smog", Diana reflects at one point, "it moves and settles wherever it wants to." In this book, Diana is at an age where the ageism of the movie world works against her, but she is not someone to give up, either in her acting life or when, not for the first time, she stumbles upon murder - this time, the victim is a fellow actor. On Melodie's impressive website you can also hear her EQMM podcast of story with the excellent title "The Talking Dead".

Roderick Ramage is a leading employment and pensions lawyer who worked as a member of my team for more years than either of us care to remember. Like another former colleague, Paul Clarke, he has now ventured into criminal territory. Perhaps I'm leading good men astray, but I must say I'm delighted by what Paul and Roderick have done. Roderick's book has been produced by a small press, and I invited him to say a bit about Mid-Stafford Murders:

"In 95 of 109 pages, one murder for each month of the year is intended to enable Stafford to compete with Midsomer’s murder rate.  In this book are sixteen deaths and one attempted murder.  None of the twelve chapters, one for each month, is connected to any other, except that, in half of them, an ordinary, commonplace (except for those involved) accident, such as might be reported in a local newspaper, is given an improbable backstory and turned into an implausible murder.  The stock of accidental deaths exhausted, the remaining months, to complete the year, are filled with one whodunit (a title called Miss Marple must have a body, prone with a knife in it), incidentally the only chapter without a solution, two with obviously deliberate deaths, one in which two youngster kill each other in a real world acting-out of a computer game, one, helped by a haunted chair, retells a real unsolved crime and another, the stock of deaths being exhausted, is a failed attempt by a resentful motorist to give the elderly driver of a beaten up old Land Rover his just deserts by blowing up the Land Rover.  In only the failed attempt do the police get their man.  The last of the twelve, actually April, tells of the suicide of a teenage girl as a result of Facebook bullying.  This story might be believed, so, in an appendix, the story is retold and its unhappy ending is averted by a love letter. Pages 96 to the end contain the epilogue, a catalogue of the settings of the stories and location maps."

Roderick's book costs £9 plus £1.50 postage in the UK, and is available from 
Etica Press Ltd
The Baskervilles
147 Worcester Road
Malvern       WR14 1ET
Roderick Ramage
Stafford       ST18 9BW

1 comment:

Clothes In Books said...

I read Melodie Johnson Howe's early novels - Mother Shadow and Beauty Dies - back in 1997 (I had to look it up) and liked them very much. I'll certainly have to look out for her again now.