Monday, 18 June 2012


Devil’s Chimney, an e-book by Tim Larrick
A murder-mystery
Published by The Obscure Cranny Press
Available on Amazon - $2.40 or £1.53

There are some disadvantages to being a writer. For instance, it makes you excessively critical as a reader. You’re constantly raising questions about the way the author is going about his task. Isn’t that piece of dialogue a bit clunky?  Would that really happen? Why doesn’t the story flow better? So it goes on, always pick, pick, picking away, endlessly asking questions, suggesting improvements instead of just enjoying the tale. And though I can’t speak for others, at the end I often find myself asking, Could I have written that story? Would it have been better if I had? And then comes the big question, Do I wish I had written it?

And so how does Tin Larrick’s murder-mystery story, Devil’s Chimney, measure up? The story is set in Eastbourne where I live so not surprisingly I was attracted to it. It’s jam-packed with places I know, the seafront and the beach, pubs and coffee shops, the police station and the Wish Tower, Sovereign Harbour and the Belle Tout lighthouse, now a private house high up on Beachy Head. And the body of a savagely murdered woman is found in a hotel not five minutes’ walk from where I live. And another body is later found in a seafront shelter fifteen minutes away.

Caution: do not be misled. Just because it mentions locales known to you, the reader, your judgment of the story must not be distorted. I told myself that I must not be beguiled by the familiarity of such scenes, that I must judge the description of the town by the way in which they might appeal to readers who do not know it. Well, Tin Larrick has interpreted the place so vividly. His clear descriptions of the town are apt. By day, it has many charms. At night, this elegant town has another face.

They do say ‘Write about what you know.’ This is a police procedural and Larrick is a former policeman. No more to be said. He knows his stuff.

I very much liked the central character, the young, novice detective constable, Chalvington Barnes, a man clearly destined for the top. As for the back-story, he and his wife being unable to conceive, that was absolutely convincing and moving too. And I thought his ambitious young woman reporter made quite an impact. I hope that we shall meet her again.

And of course, Larrick knows his low-lifes. He has them to a tee. You can recognise them. They are believable. They aren’t just Eastbourne manifestations. You see them everywhere. Worse luck!

This is a really enjoyable story, very well structured, with some heart-thumping situations.

If I had a reservation it was that there was little humour in the account. Maybe even at the worst times, in fact especially at the worst times, I should have expected some wry police station humour. But that is a small quibble.

As to my question: Could I have written this book? No. I couldn’t. But I wish I could have done.

I ought to add perhaps that I bought the book and that I have had no contact with Tin Larrick of whom I had not heard until four days ago.

Friday, 1 June 2012


We are talking about going back to the Philippines this coming winter. In fact we’re already making some preparations. There is , you see, the business of the ‘pasalubong,’ the gifts that visitors are expected to take with them when they go back home.

This gift-giving is normal and is expected. These charming and kindly people have no hesitation in asking if you have a ‘pasalubong’ for them. This is not scrounging: it is an expectation. So Fay is hunting round the charity shops for good quality stuff and I’m contributing my old computer and its monitor. We’ll pack boxes which will collected from home for shipment to our house in the Philippines where they’ll be waiting for us when we arrive.

The above is to explain in part what followed one Sunday.

[Extract begins here]

When Fay came back from church, she announced that we were going out to a cousin's house for lunch. It's a fiesta (of what or of whom I cannot make out but apparently it's only in one part of the town) so I get into the car and find five ladies, Church members, who chatter away and speak to me in English. 'How old are you, Sir JJ?' one of them asks very politely and I tell her. The ladies exchange comments and then one of them announces that I look no more than seventy. I’m pleased with that assessment even though it may be flattery! Ah, ladies, I smile, wagging a finger at them.

We arrive unannounced at the cousin's house - a very pleasant bungalow - where there is a fine spread of food - meats, fish, salads and fruit salad and soft drinks. I've already loaded my plate and am preparing to take the first mouthful when Fay nudges me. My party has been hovering around the table for ages and are now preparing to break into a sung grace. I'm saved at the last minute from committing an unpardonable social error.

There is more talk about me as we chew away and get up from our seats for second and third platefuls. Is he an actor? Fay is asked. Apparently my English is so clear that they can easily understand what I am saying.

The ladies speak so highly of Fay and say how she is much missed at the church where earlier in the morning she has dispensed generous 'pasalubongs'. I make the usual comments, expressing my appreciation of her but they like it when I tell them that I am less than enthusiastic about her driving. At first they laugh and exchange quiet comment but then female self-interest comes into play and they spring to her defence because she used always to drive them to Cabanatuan or Gapan or whatever other local hotspot. And who knows, she may do so again. They look at me presumably assessing how I look in health terms and no doubt wondering how long it will be until the widowed Ate Fay returns with her driving licence. They mustn't jeopardise the future.

[After lunch we returned home.]

At home the six ladies stayed only twenty minutes, enough time to work their way through more handbags, dresses, shoes, holding them up to the light, inspecting, comparing and rejecting, until finally most were satisfied though one never did get a nice big handbag to take on a forthcoming visit to her daughter in Manila. Another took a pink dress of Fay's for her daughter who had some or other function to attend.

These ladies selecting their 'pasalubongs' do not have the appearance of poor women. They are smart, in decent print dresses, and you might imagine them as Women's Institute or Mothers Union members on an outing but boy, did they show some energy in finding a good present for themselves and they were not afraid to turn up their noses at anything which did not meet their requirements.

After they went, Fay was a little miffed. It was all very well but only two of the ladies were relatives and the other four should have taken their pick at the earlier distribution in church!

And if you haven't run out of patience, do have a look at my reviews on Amazon. And no, they not all from fromfriends an relatives!!