Not a Fan of British Television

Susan and I have…specific?…tastes in our TV viewing.

Probably comes from being an author and studying story structure (and all associated with it) so much.

Example: Some episode, show, or movie doesn’t catch our attention in the first ten-fifteen minutes, we move on.

Example: Characters behave in unprecedented ways, meaning there’s no reason for their behavior, we move on.

Example: The plot has holes you could fly a Saturn rocket through, we move on.

We mourn when this happens with a show we’ve watched for years and something changes behind the scenes. The best example was taking The West Wing away from Aaron Sorkin. The dialogue suffered, the action suffered, the plots suffered, the characters went from deeply three-dimensional and interesting to surface and glandular (bed-hopping).

More recent (and specific to British television) are Midsomer Murders and Shetland. Changes is scripting and production values resulting in weaker plots, less interesting characters, and a bit too much WTF? for our tastes.

Still, we remain loyal for the remainders of this season and hope.

Meanwhile…this young lassie caught me catching her and you’ll notice her attention wavers from me to what’s going on behind me (and is reflected in the window on my left (as you view this).

I leave food and am known.

So her departure can only be due to not liking what’s on the TV.

Which is a pity, because what’s on is Shakespeare&Hathaway: Private Investigators, which remains a gem and if no other reason (there are several) to watch Patrick Walshe McBride as Sebastian.

Pity this pretty young thing didn’t hang around.

It was a great episode.


Fiction Editor, Wilderness House Literary Review

In a new and somewhat surprising development, I’ve become the Fiction Editor of the Wilderness House Literary Review.

Steve Glines, EIC, asked me to take on the role and I, of course, replied, “You’re kidding, right?”

I think Steve chose me based as much on the similarity of our ages and life-experiences as on our reading and writing preferences.

I’ve often wondered what makes an editor say yes to story A and no to story B.

Well, in my case, the wondering is over. At least as far as Wilderness House is concerned.

The View from This Side of the Desk
There’s a staff of first readers I work with and the final decisions are mine. I agree with their evaluations, usually. On some occasions I’ll ask the basis for their yay/nay/neutral decision, more to educate myself than question them.

Sometimes I’m completely lost why they rejected/accepted something. That’s when the real learning begins.

Mine, not theirs.

But for anyone wondering what I’ll accept above and beyond all else?

Continue reading “Fiction Editor, Wilderness House Literary Review”

The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery) – Chapter 38

Welcome to 2024!

Where’s my flying car?

I should put one in this story as a joke, or as something people joke about.

By the way, I spent most of December starting with Chapter 1 and rewriting as necessary to foreshadow, backshadow, illuminate, and decalcify.

Okay, maybe not the last, but at this point I’m not sure the finished novel will look much like that’s being offered here.

Forewarned is Fivearmed, as they say.

The Alibi – Chapter 38

Leddy sat on the T, her backpack under her seat and with one leg through a shoulder strap to stop thieves from boosting it, and frowned at her tablet. The replay of SIMON’s transmission showed the black Surburban traveling Boylston to Thompson Square. “That’s not where Lane, Cuomo, and Greenberg’s security keep their vehicles. And it was no where near Brigg’s office.” The Suburban took a turn towards Incubation Square. “You’re taking her to the crime scene?” The Suburban jagged across lanes of traffic and went into the Ted Williams Harbor Tunnels city-side entrance.

Leddy considered. “Yeah, take a tunnel, easy to follow. But who do you think’s following you?”

SIMON signalled LOW CEILING and waited for instructions. SIMON could navigate the tunnels unaided but Leddy wasn’t sure how people driving would handle a drone flying over their heads, plus its power meter was closing on Low/Empty. Leddy signalled back DOCK MARIA | SLEEP. SIMON gracefully flew an arc over and across Boston’s skyline from the tunnel entrance to Maria’s North End apartment building. There it lowered itself into a cradle docking station Maria let Leddy place on her rooftop. SIMON signaled EOT | LATER GIRL and powered down.

Leddy chuckled and swiped the screen. “Why build one when you can have two at twice the price?”

A kid in a BU t-shirt sitting across from her looked up and smiled. He lifted an oversize mobile and pressed it against his throat. The mobile spoke in a SIRI like voice. “John Hurt? Contact?”

Leddy smiled back.

The kid pressed the oversized mobile against his throat again. “Only, this one can be kept secret. Controlled by Americans, built by the Japanese subcontractors. Who, also, happen to be, recently acquired, wholly-owned subsidiaries…”

Poor guy. Young to have throat cancer. She finished the line. “… of Hadden industries.”

The kid smiled and pressed his mobile agianst his throat a third time. “They still want an American to go, Doctor.”

Leddy laughed. “Wanna take a ride?”

Press. “Clever girl.” He pulled the mobile away and laughed silently.

Leddy caught a glance of his wide-open mouth and turned away as the T pulled into the station. “This is my stop. Bye.”

Leddy stood on the platform as the train left the station. “Poor kid. Wonder how long he’ll have those scars in his mouth? Wonder if he can swallow with a tongue like that?” She pulled her tablet out of her pack while waiting for her transfer to come in and reviewed SIMON’s transmission. Both her father and Briggs would want to know about this, but Pop had some serious issues with unauthorized surveillance.

Their last discussion on the matter ended not well. She’d stood up to him, hands on hips, a damp dish towel flopping against her legs because it was her turn to dry. “You mean like the government does? You mean like BPD goes when it needs to?”

Cranston mimicked his daughter’s stance as they squared off in their kitchen. “The BPD does it with a court order. So whatever we learn can be used in court.”

She shot back. “How about to gather enough evidence to get a court order?”

Cranston shook his head and dipped his hands back in the steaming, soapy water to retrieve the sponge and another of the pots used to make dinner. “You’ve been talking to Dr. Cuccello too much.”

“Yeah, well at least she appreciates what I’m doing.”

Bill slumped against the sink counter. Leddy reached out to his arm. “No, Pop! I didn’t mean you. I meant all the other pinheads who can’t keep up.”

Cranston nodded but kept his eyes on the soapy water. He made spaghetti with a bag of Maria Francesca’s homemade sauce and the still steaming water’s suds were taking on a distinct orange hue. He muttered, “Pinhead.”

“Pop, I didn’t mean it. You know I didn’t mean it.”

His hands kept busy in the water. His frowned a few times. No pots, pans, plates, or silverware emerged.

Leddy shrugged her right shoulder up and wiped a tear from her face. “Pop, please.”

He looked at her and smiled. A hand slowly lifted from the water and pointed. “Know any pinheads who could do this?”

A sudsy happy face smiled up from the water. Cranston dried his hands and held his daughter close. “I know you’re frustrated, Leddy. I know you didn’t mean it. But let’s face it, Led, there are some damned idiots out there, and they’re always in positions over you, aren’t they? So you need to talk, and your SIStah MaRIa ain’t around, give your old Pop a try.” He let go and went back to washing.

But she knew that wasn’t steam he wiped off his cheeks when he thought she wasn’t looking.

She vowed never to let her frustration get away from her again.

Leddy focused on her tablet, checked its time and the timestamp on SIMON’s last send. “They’re not through the tunnel yet. Can’t be.” She tapped an icon and SIMON TOO, SIMON’s twin and one of Leddy’s deepest secrets, responded YES MISTRESS.

Leddy shook her head. “That’s the last time I code language engines watching old Doctor Who episodes.” She tapped in the GPS co-ordinates of the East Boston end of the Ted Williams.

SIMON TOO dutifully arced over Boston and the Harbor to I90’s Logan-side. Leddy transmitted the Surburban’s information to the drone and it began matching vehicles from two-thousand feet up. Too small to be picked up by radar, she set SIMON TOO’s proximity sensors high while it perused the area.


Tunnel traffic crawled. It crawled in SIMON’s transmission, it crawled in SIMON TOO’s transmission.

“They couldn’t have made it through already.”

SIMON TOO stood station at 500 feet, right at the FAA’s navigational ceiling for unlicensed aircraft.

She watched, checked her phone, watched. Still nothing.

And no reports of a backup on the Boston side, coming or going.

“Where’d they go?”

She looked up as her next ride screeched inot the station. “Better not tell anyone until I’ve learned more.” She put her tablet back in her backpack and boarded the T. “You’re right, Pen. I’m a lot like my father.”

SIMON TOO beeped an alert. FOUND IT.

Leddy glanced at her tablet. Yep, there it was, emerging from the tunnel on the Logan side. She snorted. “Finally!”

She boarded the T as SIMON TOO flashed another message. ASPECT CHANGE.

SIMON TOO superimposed calibration lines on the shifting image. The Suburban rode higher than before, than before it went into the tunnel. “What, did they change the shocks? In the tunnel?”

SIMON TOO transmitted a microwave image of the SUV’s interior. Only the driver.

“Pen and the others got out? In the middle of the tunnel?”

The subway car pulled out of the station. On the opposite end of the car’s track, on the side where it entered the station, the kid in the BU t-shirt walked out of the darkness, his eyes on Leddy’s departing train.


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Previous entries in The Alibi (A John Chance Mystery)

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I wrote in Great Opening Lines – and Why! (Part 3 – Some Great Opening Lines) that I’d share more great opening lines as I found them.

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