1 July @ Grousable Books: Victorians, Murder by Death, visitors and visits

Grousable Books Newsletter


In this issue: A special promo for fans of the 19th century,  Murder by Death, garden visitors, the Bowl, and the Fair.

It’s true – I’ve actually written two more scenes in Murder at the Gasworks, the Tommy Jones prequel I’ve been stuck on for almost a year. Maybe it’s not writer’s block after all. But I don’t want to talk about it too much or I might jinx it, so later, later. 

Special promo for Regency/Victorian readers

I’ve never seen such a specific book promotion before, but naturally I joined it: the 19th c Historical Fiction BookFunnel promo. Great stuff available!

The 19th century (that’s the 1800s, because there is no year 0) is comprised of the Regency and Victorian eras in the UK. So what’s Regency and what’s Victorian?

Regency and Victorian dress

The Regency era, until recently dominated by the books of Jane Austen, is considered to be 1795-1837. This is true although the actual regency (when George III was mad and his son governed in his place) was only 1811-1820. 

The popularity of the TV show Bridgerton, which is actually fantasy rather than historical fiction of any kind, attests to our interest in the Regency years. Unfortunately, Bridgerton contains little that is factual about the era.

My books, or at least the Tommy Jones Mysteries, are all set after 1850, and Queen Victoria ruled from 1837-1901. The prequel I’m writing begins in 1860.  Murder at Old St. Thomas’s is 1862, Murder at an Exhibition is 1863, and Murder on the Pneumatic Railway is 1865. These would be considered mid-Victorian. My other great interest, the young H. G. Wells, would be late Victorian and Edwardian. Edwardian is a whole other story.

Murder by Death

Mystery movies often contain in-jokes about other mysteries, but none went as far as this one. Famous fictional detectives with only slightly changed names (Sam Diamond, Jessica Marples, Dick and Dora Charleston, etc.) are invited to the haunted-style house of the rich Lionel Twain for a murder. 

Murder by Death movie still

The script is by Neil Simon, and the cast is amazing: David Niven, Maggie Smith, James Coco, Elsa Lanchester, even Alec Guinness as the blind butler. 

Is it dated? Oh, yes. It was made in 1976.  There are cultural stereotypes, set-ups now considered inappropriate, and gag jokes. If you can overlook these, it’s hysterically funny, and a real tribute to all those Agatha Christie style mysteries. Lives are threatened, the detectives are conceited and competitive, and the host is not what he appears. He has dirt on all the detectives, and grievances against them. 

The movie Clue (1985) was practically plagiarized from Murder by Death, so if you liked that, you’ll like this.

Garden visitors

My garden is quite busy in summer, and we’ve had quite a few guests.

Usually there are only one or two rabbits competing with me for the strawberries; this year there are four so far plus a baby bunny. Given their reputation, I have often wondered why only one or two come graze in summer; with two you’d think there’d be more, and this year there are.


In other news, I believe Petunia the possum has a pouchful of joeys again, so I’m looking forward to seeing new babies. Three from her first litter are still hanging around.

But there are also some predators. A hawk landed in the tree by my desk window and ate his lunch on right there on the branch. A coyote has visited during the day lately, jumping the fence and checking out my yard. Drives my cat crazy. 

The grapes haven’t yet ripened so there are no fig beetles or raccoons yet, but I’m sure they’re next!

The Bowl 

It may be unusual to discuss a composer in a writer newsletter, but I went to the opening night at the Hollywood Bowl, and they featured Henry Mancini’s music. I’ve been a fan for a long time, ever since I first saw The Pink Panther on TV as a kid (which, now that I think about it, was a mystery movie). I can hum the tunes to the theme music of Charade, The Great Race, and The Days of Wine and Roses

Hollywood Bowl fireworks

How was the concert? A little too lyrical on the playing, I thought. Yes, Moon River and Crazy World sound beautiful with violins, but the themes from Hatari and Peter Gunn need a jazzier, more rhythmic feel. (I will say I thought I was there to hear the L.A. Philharmonic, but instead it was the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra. Apparently the L.A. Phil merely “manages” that orchestra.) And I have no idea what was up with Michael Bublé coming on for only the last two songs. 

The Fair

Last weekend I went to what we all called The Del Mar Fair, now renamed as the San Diego County Fair. I go for one day usually, but I haven’t been for the last few years. The baking and cooking competition foods had been moved from the large Grandstand Building to an Exhibit Hall that is usually full of vendors. I saw few people buying anything. With online shopping, the days of going to the fair and buying a Vitamix machine, aluminum siding, or a massage chair seem to be gone.

This year’s theme was “Let’s Go Retro”, which apparently meant from the 1950s through the 1990s. The exhibit had recreated rooms from the different decades, and I was reminded of my old furniture, computer, and toys. 

Antenna balls exhibit

Do I remember antenna balls? I have one on my car right now! Not everyone has a new antenna-free car, you know. 

And more!

Want to read previous newsletters? They’re located here at my website, where you can also find information and buy links to all my books. You can post comments there too.

Until next time, keep grousing!