15 November

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Included within is a retro take on a classic TV show, an eclipse, garden news, a timely featured blog post, baseball, and The African Queen.

A look back at: Murder She Wrote

It was the 1980s, so the haircuts are embarrassing, but the show was cozy mystery at its finest. 

Angela Lansbury as Jessica Fletcher

The main character, Jessica Fletcher, is a mystery writer. She likes to write at her kitchen table, so we have something in common. Preferring a quiet home life, she nevertheless gets tangled up in murders both in Cabot Cove and on her travels to publicize her books. One of her zillions of nieces and nephews, or a close friend, are usually accused. This means she must to step in and find the real killer, often at some danger to herself. 

Although Jessica Fletcher is much younger than Rosie McMahon, the 72-year-old protagonist in my upcoming beach cozy, they have in common a determination to get to the truth, a puzzle-solving intelligence, and a useful relationship with a gentleman friend (Seth the doctor in Murder She Wrote, reporter Lou in my cozy).

What is a cozy? Most people think of books with brightly illustrated covers, a quirky female sleuth, and some form of hobby or business that’s based in domesticity but requires specialist knowledge: catering, quilting, etc. Certainly cozies are supposed to have no explicit sex or violence. I’ve gone back and forth on whether my Victorian mysteries are cozies.

They contain nothing gruesome or explicit. They have some humor and lightness, certainly, but there are important themes riding beneath. One reader said to me, “Well, they make me feel cozy when I’m done reading them!” So I’ll keep the cozy designation and wear it with pride.

Garden news

As promised, here’s what’s up in the Grousable Garden. 

Little Petunia the possum disappeared for awhile. When she returned she was so much bigger I had trouble recognizing her. But the big dark triangle on her forehead gave her away. She’s the size of a cat now, and still a little timid when others are around.

Petunia the possum

Panda 3 is a regular now, and she’s hungry. Judging by the waddle and her very slow walk, I am pretty sure she has a pouch full of joeys. And in case you’re worried that the garden will be overrun with possums, only Petunia remains from Cassie’s litter, and Cassie herself only occasionally comes around. Being a possum is a tough life with cars, coyotes, and dogs just waiting for you to come out from hiding. 

Flower-wise, I have a very confused German iris, blooming in autumn. They’ve been pretty successful in my sandy, alkaline, So Cal garden and I’m happy about that. Veggies didn’t go well. The tomatoes pretty much came to nothing, and my gardening neighbors blame the weather. And allow me to present to you the entire watermelon crop.

Well, as they say in baseball, there’s always next season.

An eclipse

Back on October 14, we had a partial solar eclipse in this part of the country. I got a picture through a telescope. 

Partial solar eclipse on October 14

Alexander the Great was on the eve of battle in Mesopotamia, traveling with his entourage of soldiers, scholars, and priests. A lunar eclipse occurred, and the moon glowed red. Many of his followers became fearful. What kind of omen was this? The quick-thinking Alexander said it was a sign that they were going to eclipse the Persians in the war. 

I can think of a couple of baseball teams that could have used that interpretation as they headed (or not) to the playoffs.

Featured blog post

It’s not Victorian, nor H. G. Wells, nor about writing fiction, but if you’re interested in the historical roots of today’s Middle Eastern conflict, check out my history blog post.

WWI movies

In keeping with events surrounding the First World War (1914-1918), we’ve just celebrated Armistice Day (known as Veterans’ Day in the U.S.). I notice that in Britain, commemorations are deeply felt and widely understood. In America, the war seems longer ago than it does in the U.K. This is likely because the U.S. participated for a much shorter time, arriving only in 1917.

The Great War, they called it then. That’s wasn’t because it was super, but because so many European countries were involved. And because many of them had colonies, all of their colonies were involved, too, making it a global war. 

There are many WWI movies I could recommend, but I’m going to speak for the 1951 John Huston film The African Queen. It takes place at the beginning of the war, in German East Africa. The plot involves a missionary (Katherine Hepburn) and a Canadian who pilots a supply boat (Humphrey Bogart). Although imperfectly based on E.M. Forster’s book, and the events that inspired it, the film holds its own. 

The African Queen ad

Why mention it in an author newsletter? Because the two main characters are the focus of the film as they try to open up the supply route by torpedoing a large German gunboat. Two people against the opposing navy, overcoming the challenges of their dodgy little boat, the tropical heat, and the enemy being nasty. Their relationship develops as they attempt an impossible task fighting for their side. Sure, it’s a romance, but it’s also the little guys against the big guys. A classic story that still manages to give the sense of  a war at the human level, fought in isolated places around the globe. 

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.
  • Want to read my blog posts on historical research and writing? They’re here.

Until next time, keep grousing!