Wednesday 31 January 2024

The 39 Steps and Three Days of the Condor

I've recently watched again two high-calibre thrillers, The 39 Steps and Three Days of the Condor, and it struck me that despite many obvious differences - one is British and one American, and they reflect the concerns of different generations - they have a great deal in common. In each story, an ordinary guy is thrust into a dangerous conspiracy involving high-stakes espionage, and doesn't know who he can trust. It turns out that his enemies are in the heart of the establishment, and he finds himself being pursued both by the establishment (which believes he is a maverick killer) and the really bad guys. 

Each story is based on a novel rather than being an original screenplay, but in each case the script varies greatly from the source material. In each film, our hero relies on an attractive blonde woman - whom he meets by chance - for help, and finds himself bound to her in more ways than one. The pace is unrelenting in each film, with no wasted words or scenes and effective but straightforward characterisation (the jealous crofter and his mistreated wife are brilliant cameos in the Hitchcock movie). And each film benefits from having a strong cast and a gifted director.

A further common factor, I suggest, is that the films are such good entertainment that they bear watching more than once. I've seen each of them at least three times (and I'm not counting the remakes of The 39 Steps); I reviewed Three Days of the Condor on this blog way back in 2012 and my views about its merits haven't really changed since then.

Over the years, there have been plenty of good manhunt thriller novels and films, but this pair are hard to beat. Watching them again was truly pleasurable.

Monday 29 January 2024

A Kiss Before Dying - 1956 film review

I've mentioned Ira Levin several times in this blog and I talk about him in The Life of Crime. He wasn't a prolific novelist, but most of his books were filmed. He was also a top class mystery playwright, responsible for Deathtrap and the much less renowned but intriguing Veronica's Room. A very talented writer indeed.

Yet even though I'm a Levin fan, for some reason I've not yet covered his brilliant Edgar-winning debut novel A Kiss Before Dying on this blog - one of these days! - although I've mentioned it in passing. Now I've seen the original film based on the book, which dates from 1956. I gather a remake in the 90s was pretty dire, but this one is a good watch.

For reasons I won't elaborate on here, the screenplay structures the story in a different way from the book - and this is a perfectly reasonable thing to do in the circumstances. The young Robert Wagner plays Bud Cortiss, a handsome but slightly raffish young student who is less than pleased to be told that his girlfriend (played by the equally young Joanne Woodward, who was also destined for future success) is pregnant and that her father is likely to disinherit her.

The key plot twist in the film isn't as effective as the comparable revelation in the book, but nevertheless this is a fairly short, snappy movie that kept me entertained. And it's a bonus to see two well-known film stars right at the start of their careers.

Friday 26 January 2024

Forgotten Book - Redemption


Redemption was the second book in Jill McGown's Lloyd and Hill series, her fifth novel in all. It was first published in 1988 and it has in recent times enjoyed a new life as a Christmas mystery and retitled Murder at the Old Vicarage. There is perhaps an element of dumbing-down in the alternative title compared to the original, but I suppose that if it helps to draw the book to attention of more readers, that's not a bad thing.

Because it is a really good book in the traditional vein. The early chapters in particular made me think of the writing of Ann Cleeves; there are definite similarities. Jill was perhaps slightly less concerned with landscape and setting and slightly more concerned with plot than Ann, but they are both very good at characterisation and creating engaging police detectives.

A striking feature of this traditional mystery is that the pool of suspects is small and there isn't a sub-plot (in the sense that there's a single puzzle to be solved - one can argue that the tangles of the emotional relationships are in lieu of that kind of sub-plot). At first we see things from the point of view of the vicar, Graham, whose daughter Joanna has a husband who has hit her more than once. Graham's wife Marian is a doting mother and perhaps the strongest member of the family. And then there is Eleanor, a young and very attractive widow, to whom Graham is increasingly attracted. A violent murder is committed early on, and suspicion and viewpoints shift regularly.

I think it's fascinating that the spark for the story came from a joke that Jill McGown was told, and which features towards the end of the book, prompting a lightbulb moment on the part of Judy Hill. One of the interesting features of the story is that the most emotionally compelling writing concerns two affairs - one of them between Lloyd and Hill. In each case, it's clear that the author's sympathies seem to be with the marriage-breaker and that she favours putting an end to a marriage that has gone stale. This approach contributes to the moral complexity and ambiguity of a novel that I found very readable - a first-rate example of Jill McGown's craft. 



Thursday 25 January 2024

Writing about blind detectives - part two

Today, Christina Koning continues her discussion of blind detectives:

'The stories collected in Clinton H Stagg’s The Problemist (1915), about New York detective Thornley Colton, are no less entertaining than Bramah’s Carrados tales — and no less improbable, as regards their protagonist’s extraordinary powers of perception. Although blind from birth, Colton has an uncanny ability to describe someone he has never met from seemingly inconsequential details — the colour of a woman’s dress is correctly guessed, on the principle that ‘all stout women who breathe asthmatically wear purple’ and so on.

John Fergusons’s The Man in the Dark (1928) offers a more plausible account of blindness, as its central character, blinded war veteran Sandy Kinloch, finds himself an unwitting witness to the murder of a campaigning journalist. I liked the fact that the novel begins in a London pea-souper (as mine does) —so that the reader isn’t at first made aware that Kinloch is blind. The emphasis on what he can hear, touch and smell adds realism to the portrayal too.

Then there is Bruce Alexander’s Blind Justice (1994) about the eighteenth century magistrate (and brother of Henry Fielding), Sir John Fielding, whose blindness — in this story at least — does not prevent him from solving a complicated locked room murder mystery. In this, he is assisted by Jeremy Proctor, an orphaned boy who acts as his ‘eyes’. The wonderful historical detail in this book, the first of a series about Fielding, makes it well worth reading — as does its convincing portrayal of the central character’s blindness.  

There have been blind detectives in cinema and television, too.  In the 1971 TV series, Longstreet, set in New Orleans, the eponymous detective, played by James Franciscus, solves crimes — including the murder of his wife — with the assistance of a white German Shepherd called Pax. More recently, Blind Detective (2013), described as a ‘Hong-Kong Chinese action crime/ romantic comedy film’, starring Andy Lau as a blind detective who makes a living solving cold cases, shows that stories about differently-abled detectives still continue to intrigue.'

Christina's new book, Murder at Bletchley Park, the eighth book in the Blind Detective series, is published by Allison and Busby. I'd also like to take this opportunity to mention the books of Vicki Goldie, the Secretary of the CWA, which include Blind Witness and Blind Pool.



Wednesday 24 January 2024

Writing about Blind Detectives - Part 1

I had the pleasure of meeting Christina Koning (above) some years ago at a Christmas crime writing event at Heffers in Cambridge. Since then, I've been pleased to see her growing reputation as a crime novelist, author of a series of novels published by Allison & Busby which feature one of the genre's enduring tropes, the blind detective. She's kindly contributed a guest post on this subject, split into two because of length. Here is part one:

'When I started writing the first novel in the Blind Detective series in 2014, I had no idea it would be a detective story nor that there would be a series. I just wanted to write about my grandfather, a veteran of the First World war, blinded at Ypres, on the anniversary of the start of that conflict. It was only as the book progressed that it struck me that it would make a good murder mystery, and that the central character’s blindness, far from being a disadvantage as far as his sleuthing abilities were concerned, would give him some distinct advantages. I also liked the idea that, as readers, we are all ‘blind detectives’, navigating our way through the narrative with the aid of clues which might or might not prove misleading.
In order to give some authenticity to my portrayal, I first turned to autobiographical works such as Sir Ian Fraser’s My Story of St Dunstan’s. From this, and other accounts by blinded veterans of both the First and Second World Wars, I found that it would indeed be possible for my detective to be blind, and still function effectively in a sighted world. In some respects, my character’s disability makes him more effective, since he has been obliged because of it to train his memory and wits in ways a sighted person would never need to.
I extended my reading to other works of crime fiction which had blind characters as their protagonists. It turned out that there were quite a few of these — indeed it might be said that ‘blind detectives’ are a sub-genre of the form. Perhaps the best known of these is Max Carrados, in the series published from 1914 by Ernest Bramah. Carrados is a gentleman-sleuth in the Lord Peter Wimsey mode, and the stories are very engaging. However, their treatment of the central character’s disability is far from realistic. In addition to a kind of sixth sense which enables him to describe a stranger’s appearance in minute detail the minute he walks into the room, Carrados can ‘read’ newspaper headlines, using only his fingertips — this, long before Braille newspapers were available.'

Thanks, Christina. Part two comes tomorrow...

Monday 22 January 2024

The Lansdowne Literary Festival

Last year, I was pleased to receive, out of the blue, an invitation to the inaugural Lansdowne Literary Festival, hosted by the Lansdowne Club in London. I'd not had any previous dealings with the Club, so I didn't really know what to expect, but the Festival was held on Saturday and I had a great time, on a flying visit to the capital, in between checking proofs and trying to meet my next writing deadline.

The Lansdowne Club is in Mayfair and the heritage of the building dates back to the eighteenth century, although the Club itself was formed in 1935 after major changes to the structure. Because my visit was so brief, I didn't have as much time to explore as I'd hoped, but what I saw was very impressive.

I was invited to take part in a lovely dinner on Friday evening with some delightful companions, including the MC for the festival, Stephen Taylor, Veronica Hollander, the organiser, and Lindy Woodhead, who wrote the book on which the TV series Mr Selfridge was based. All very convivial. The first speaker on Saturday was Lara Prendergast, executive editor of the Spectator, and then Veronica interviewed me.

There was a very good audience and some excellent questions. I enjoyed myself enormously and was only sorry that, for various reasons including transport challenges, I had to dash off after lunch. But I thought that the festival was a great success, especially given that it was a new venture, and I hope that it turns out to be the first of many.  

Friday 19 January 2024

Forgotten Book - Miss Hamblett's Ghost

Alan Brock, whom I've mentioned before on this blog, strikes me as an interesting and under-estimated writer, but there's no doubt that his work has long suffered from neglect and today's book really is forgotten. In fact, I was unaware of it until I saw a first edition (see the above photo) go relatively cheaply to someone in an online auction recently. I found a very cheap copy elsewhere and enjoyed reading it.

The novel is Miss Hamblett's Ghost and it was published in 1946, although there is a prologue set during the First World War and most of the action takes place during the Second World War. In a disclaimer at the front of the book, Brock explains that several of the incidents in the story have equivalents in real life. I'm not sure which cases inspired the story, and I'd be intrigued to find out. 

Brock was very interested in true crime, and wrote about it himself. He also wrote a history of fireworks, as he was a member of the Brock family whose name was closely associated with firework manufacture for many years. He claimed to be 'of the eighth generation of a family of pyrotechnists', which is a nice way of putting it! Several of his books are based on real life cases - a good example is Earth to Ashes, which I discussed here more than eight years ago.

This novel features in Bob Adey's Locked Room Murders, because of the intriguing events described in the prologue, which - perhaps uniquely -  show someone taking steps to commit a locked room murder. The central mystery doesn't, however, concern a locked room. In some ways, this is more of a howdunit than a whodunit. As a detective called Beach figures out the strange goings-on concerning an inherited title, it's fairly obvious who is the villain of the piece, but that's not the key question. I think the constraints of the real life inspiration may have inhibited the building of excitement, as the story falters (but only slightly) after a great start. Perhaps it's a story that would work better artistically (not commercially, though!) as a novella. That said, I did relish the unravelling of the criminal's cunning - and remarkably long-term - scheme.

Wednesday 17 January 2024

Return to Liverpool

Last weekend saw a family celebration, focused on a big birthday for Andrew, one of my brothers in law. He decided he'd like to spend the weekend at Liverpool, which was perfect as far as I was concerned, as it's a city which is full of memories for me. I first started work there more than forty years ago and my office (which I have to admit, I visit infrequently these days) is still in the city centre.

Liverpool's a terrific place and when I was thinking about my first novel, it seemed an ideal setting for the first in a series of murder mysteries. I was trying to marry a strongly atmospheric contemporary vibe with plots in the Golden Age tradition. A good idea, I still believe, even if the Golden Age elements were generally overlooked at the time. And the fact that the books are still selling is hugely gratifying.   

My life and work were very different - thankfully - from Harry Devlin's, but I enjoyed researching the city and its history in order to make sure the books were as authentic as possible. Visiting clients and witnesses meant I saw the inside of plenty of fascinating places and it was fun to revisit one or two of them over the weekend. Harry's flat was in Empire Dock, which was a fictionalised version of Albert Dock, seen in the photo at the top. There have been many changes in Liverpool since I first worked there, but its character remains indomitable.  

We also had a day 'over the water', on the other side of the River Mersey, at Port Sunlight. When I lived in Wirral, I enjoyed visiting Port Sunlight, an extraordinary 'model village' on the edge of urban Birkenhead. It's also the home to a museum and a fantastic art gallery, the Lady Lever, where my old friend Eileen Dewhurt volunteered many moons ago. I've always been intrigued by 'model villages' of this kind, and this visit inspired some ideas for a forthcoming novel. 

Finally, I achieved a long-held ambition on a sunny Monday morning, by having a trip on the Wheel of Liverpool. Fantastic views and a great way to round off a memorable weekend.

Monday 15 January 2024

Saltburn - 2022 film review


Saltburn is an intriguing new film, written and directed by the super-talented Emerald Fennell, which has understandably given rise to many talking points. It's not an easy film to discuss without giving away some aspects of the story, and one immediate question is how to describe it - a satire? a thriller? a love story? a country house mystery? For me, it's a black comedy of the darkest hue.

The main part of the story takes place in 2006. Oliver Quick (Barry Keorghan), a young student from Merseyside, goes to Oxford (Brasenose College, very photogenic) and becomes fascinated by a glamorous and super-rich fellow student, Felix Catton (Jacob Elordi). At first the story follows a relatively conventional path, as Oliver is dazzled by Felix and patronised by Felix's posh chums. But when Oliver tells Felix that his father, a drug addict, has died, Felix invites him to spend the summer at his extravagant family home Saltburn (actually Drayton House in Northamptonshire, which looks fantastic) and this is where the film really takes off.

Rosamund Pike, who plays Felix's glamorous mother, is given some wonderfully witty lines and delivers a terrific performance So does Richard E. Grant, as Felix's eccentric father. There's also a wonderful cameo from Carey Mulligan as a family friend who has overstayed her welcome at Saltburn. Mulligan starred in Promising Young Woman, also directed by Fennell, which I enjoyed, despite some flaws. Saltburn also has flaws, but I think it's a more powerful film. Andrew Taylor summed up the pros and cons of the film on Facebook recently, describing Saltburn as 'A bonkers Brideshead 2 with a script that reads like Highsmith having a bad trip. Progressively absurd and disgusting. And alarmingly watchable.' It certainly is watchable, and I agree that there are very strong echoes of Highsmith.

If you focus on the plot, you will spot plenty of holes. There's a brilliant twist about half-way through, but it relies in part on Oliver's assertion at the start of the film that he was always honest with Felix - which is a rather naughty bit of cheating as far as the script is concerned. And there are numerous implausibilities which can't be discussed without spoilers. Yes, there are some graphic scenes, and yes, perhaps too much time is devoted to them, and yes, the scenes just before the finale could have been handled a bit more smoothly. As for the final scene, it's truly memorable and it's certainly revived interest in Sophie Ellis-Bextor's 'Murder on the Dance Floor'. 

Fennell cites The Go-Between and Rebecca as key influences, whilst downplaying the Highsmith influence, but although the script isn't quite in the Highsmith class, it does a good job of focusing quite relentlessly on excess and obsession. All in all, a film I rate pretty highly, despite some reservations.

Friday 12 January 2024

Forgotten Book - The Murders of Mrs Austin and Mrs Beale

I find with some astonishment that in the course of over three thousand posts on this blog, I don't seem to have mentioned Jill McGown. Time to put that right. I read a number of her books (including a stand-alone published as by Elizabeth Chaplin) during the 80s and 90s. I only had one proper conversation with her, at a festival in Manchester in the late 90s, when I found her very pleasant. She also inscribed a number of books to me. It was with some shock in 2007 that I learned she'd died at the age of 59.

Jill wrote a good series about a cop duo, Lloyd and Judy Hill, who were in a relationship. A TV film was made in 2001, starring Philip Glenister and Michelle Collins, but it didn't make an impression, and there was no series. A good example of the reality that TV adaptation doesn't necessarily bring a writer fame or huge fortune. She also wrote several non-series books, while the Chaplin novel, which I ought to re-read, struck me as an attempt to move into the territory of psychological suspense in which, at the time, Minette Walters reigned supreme in Britain.

I was tempted to re-read Jill's 1991 novel The Murders of Mrs Austin and Mrs Beale by a discussion of her work by Barry Pike in CADS. He described the novel as a tour de force, although my own recollection is that I preferred her next novel, The Other Woman. In this one, Judy has just gained promotion and the dynamics of her relationship with Lloyd are changing subtly.

There's a good surprise at the end of the book, but overall I feel it's an example of her competence rather than a masterpiece. I say this mainly because the central story relates to the interlocking relationships between three couples, and I didn't find any of the individuals engaging. The mood is rather drab and after the early deaths of two women, there is an awful lot of talk. So, not the best example of Jill McGown's work in my opinion, but a sound mystery and a reminder that she is a writer who definitely doesn't deserve to be forgotten.

Wednesday 10 January 2024

Changing Direction - guest blog by Simon Dinsdale

Simon Dinsdale is a retired murder detective - and a very successful one - who has turned to writing crime fiction. His first novel, Dark Shadow, is out now, and his journey from one career to another makes an interesting story, in my opinion. So I invited him to contribute a guest blog post about that journey. Here it is, and because Simon is a good storyteller, it has a great last line!

'In April 2010, I retired from Essex police. I enjoyed my twenty-seven years as a detective and had risen to senior rank. During that time, I encountered and investigated the very worst humanity is capable of and saw things no one should see or suffer. All this experience has given me a fund of stories to tell, and not all of them tall.

 My retirement plan was straightforward. To fulfil a long-held ambition and write the book I had been itching to start but never had the time for.

I set myself two objectives. To sign a publishing contract and be accepted into the Crime Writers Association. With an OU creative writing course under my belt and a fully formed character and plot ready to go, what could stop me?

My knowledge of police procedure, forensics and how to investigate a murder inspires my writing, although there is, of course, a healthy dollop of poetic licence.

I soon discovered things weren’t as rounded as I thought. Early drafts were greeted by readers with an embarrassed smile and advice to not write it like a police report. First submissions to literary agent slush piles were rejected at lightning speed.  

As time went on, self-doubt crept in, and I occasionally considered giving up. But I am passionate about my stories and enjoy the process, so I persevered. But continued rejection takes its toll.

Then COVID hit, the dreaded lockdown followed, and my luck changed. Through a mutual contact Martin Edwards and I formed a double act as we delivered a series of lectures together on Zoom. Martin enthralled the audience with his encyclopaedic knowledge of crime fiction, and I followed with my experience of real murder investigations. When he discovered I was an aspiring crime writer Martin was full of interest. He gave me sage advice, practical assistance and gently encouraged me to not give up and self-publish. 

I took his advice, persevered, and signed that elusive publishing contract with Sharpe Books last year. My first book, Dark Shadow has now been released. It follows the adventures of Christian Dane, a Senior Investigating Officer, as he hunts down the ruthless killer of five men. Along the way, he encounters trials, tribulations and finds a soulmate as his past threatens to destroy him.

 It has been a long journey, but I have achieved my objective. The feelings I experienced when holding a paperback book with my name on the cover for the first time are difficult to describe.

The CWA has accepted my application to join as a full member, and more adventures of Christian Dane are on the way. So, I can say, with some pride, the first mission is accomplished. Although snaring a publishing contract is harder than catching a serial killer, believe me.'


Monday 8 January 2024

Happiness is a Warm Gun, edited by Josh Pachter

Happiness is a Warm Gun, subtitled Crime Fiction Inspired by Songs of the Beatles, is a new anthology edited by Josh Pachter and published by Down and Out Books. I'm one of the contributors, so I can't write an impartial review - this post is simply a celebration of a book that I'm delighted to be part of. It's the second anthology edited by Josh that I've contributed to, following a book of stories inspired by the songs of Paul Simon, Paranoia Blues.

Josh is a notable editor and writer of short stories. I first came across his name back in the 1980s, long before I was published, when I borrowed from Moreton Library his excellent anthology Top Crime. Many years later we met, introduced as far as I can recall by our mutual friend Janet Hutchings, editor of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine. Both Josh and I had our first stories published in EQMM, the difference being that Josh was a mere 16 when he made that great breakthrough. We've kept in touch ever since and it's always a pleasure to spend time with him and his wife Laurie.

When Josh mentioned to me the possibility of a Beatles-themed anthology, I was very keen to take part, especially given that - as I never tire of telling people! - I am not only a Beatles fan (and former lawyer to the Cavern Club!) - I once saw them live, improbably opening Northwich Carnival. I was lucky enough to have a lightbulb moment straight away. It concerned a story inspired by 'She's Leaving Home', which is really one of the greatest Beatles songs (my all-time faves are 'The Long and Winding Road' and 'Eleanor Rigby', a line from which supplied the title of my first novel, All the Lonely People). My story is quite a dark one, but I enjoyed writing it and I like to think it's one of my better efforts.

As usual, Josh has gathered an interesting and eclectic group of contributors. They include Paul Charles (himself a great music man), Christine Poulson, Vaseem Khan, Tom Mead, and Kate Ellis from the UK. The American authors include Robert Lopresti and Michael Bracken, both of whom I enjoyed chatting to at the San Diego Bouchercon. And a special treat is a debut mystery by two pillars of the blogging world, Dru Ann Love and Kris Zgorski. Their story is 'Ticket to Ride' and I very much hope that this success will encourage them both to keep writing fiction as well as blogging and everything else they do in the mystery world.

Friday 5 January 2024

Forgotten Book - The Eternal Journey

There is no doubt that The Eternal Journey, a novel of 1930, is a forgotten book. I've not found a single review, nor any analysis of the story in a reference book or online. Nothing too unusual in that, except that the author was famous enough to be honoured with a blue plaque on her former home in Abergavenny. Yes, I'm referring to Ethel Lina White.

This was White's third novel. It followed The Wish-Bone (described by one reviewer as 'a charming little romance') and Soon 'Twill Be Dark ('the love interest is strong') and although there is quite a lot of romance in the story, it's probably best described as a cross-genre novel, with elements of the supernatural and also fantasy. The first section is set in 1794 and the third in 2331 (that's not a misprint!) - these shortish segments sandwich the main body of the book, a contemporary story set in 1930.

I don't want to say too much about the story for fear of ruining it, but it begins promisingly from the crime fan's point of view. The second sentence on the first page, which follows a paragraph introducing a young woman called Ursula Pike reads: 'She had committed murder.' This is not in any sense, however, a conventional mystery novel.

This book marks, I think, a significant stage in White's development as a novelist. She was moving beyond the conventional romance-dominated story to a more ambitious style of writing. There are some interesting musings on the role of women in society, and it's striking that the male characters are much less engaging than the female leads. Women consistently take centre stage in White's fiction. Her next book was Put Out the Light, which clearly qualifies as crime fiction. I don't claim that The Eternal Journey is in any way a masterpiece - I think that White had an unusual idea for a story which she executed imperfectly. But I definitely found this novel intriguing and I'm glad I read it.

Wednesday 3 January 2024

New Year, New Writing

 A very happy New Year to all readers of 'Do You Write Under Your Own Name?' I hope you've had an enjoyable and refreshing break over the festive season. I've done plenty of writing, and in due course I look forward to talking in more detail about what I've been up to. But I've also had plenty of time off!

Among other things, I followed a very good recommendation from Bethan, my lovely editor at Head of Zeus/Aries and indulged in a couple of games of Cryptic Killers. I'll probably write more about this another day, but basically it's an update of the old Wheatley/Links crime dossiers, and it's very well done.

I've also watched a variety of good things, including Red Joan, starring Judi Dench. A Ghost Story for Christmas is a long-time favourite of mine and I enjoyed catching up with one I'd missed, A View from a Hill, which dates from 2005 and was based on a story by M.R. James. This year's story (see the above photo of the actors) was an adaptation by Mark Gatiss of Arthur Conan Doyle's Lot No. 249 and it was very entertaining. A striking new element was introduced into the storyline which may be controversial to some, but I felt it was appealing and well done.

There was also what promised to be an interesting new element in the latest version of Murder is Easy. It's in the nature of adaptations that changes have to be made to the source material. Furthermore, there's not much point, in my opinion, in doing the same-old, same-old thing with the work of famous writers who have already been extensively adapted. This Christmas, I've reacquainted myself with the films of Evil under the Sun and Death on the Nile, both starring Peter Ustinov as an unlikely Poirot, and the original The 39 Steps starring Robert Donat. All of them hold up pretty well. The key to the success of an adaptation is that the script is capably written - for instance, the Ustinov films were written the gifted Anthony Shaffer. Unfortunately the reviews of Murder is Easy that I've read have been scathing. 

'Doing it well' is a reason why I think it's important for writers not to prioritise quantity over quality. I've been working very busily on my writing in recent times and that's set to continue for a while to come. But I'm very keen to have breaks every now and then, so as to keep my writing fresh, and I've more or less managed to stick to my principles on this. I'm looking forward to what 2024 holds in store, and I do hope to meet some of you, the readers of this blog, during the course of the next twelve months. And please keep your comments and emails coming!