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Showing posts from 2022

The Ben the Tramp Novels of J Jefferson Farjeon

I took plenty of books on holiday with me this summer and enjoyed them all. Even so, I couldn’t resist looking at the small library at the property we stayed in, which consisted of books that previous guests had left behind. You could see why they hadn’t bothered to pack them: most were tired, tattered paperbacks representing an unappealing mix of romance, thrillers, and historical fiction along bodice-ripping lines. But four of the books caught my attention, partly because they were in quite good condition; partly because they were by J Jefferson Farjeon, one of the writers of the “Golden Age” of detective fiction; and mainly because I was intrigued by the protagonist, Ben the Tramp. I read No. 17, Murderer’s Trail , Ben on the Job and Ben Sees it Through .   The first Ben the Tramp novel, originally a stage play.   Ben really is a tramp. He’s not Sherlock Holmes in disguise, and he’s not a toff slumming it. He’s a full-blown, hungry, homeless destitute in ragged clothes, who sle

Bitten by the writing bug: Alison Morton, Romans and Me

In my last blog, I reviewed Alison Morton's exciting new novel, Julia Prima . (You can read the review here .) I'm delighted that Alison was able to join us today to let us know more about her work.  Tell us a bit about yourself and your books.     The writing bug bit me in late 2009 when I was watching a beautiful film spoilt by badly chopped up dialogue and clumsy continuity. I thought I could do better. It took me three years to learn through classes, mentors, courses and manuscript assessments that it wasn’t that easy. Being a voracious reader able to string sentences together grammatically wasn’t enough; structure, characterisation, plot layering and dialogue were essential crafts to master. Inceptio , the first Roma Nova thriller came out in March 2013. The setting is south central Europe where a remnant of the Roman Empire has survived through the centuries and today is governed mostly by women. Now there are ten books in the series – three novels and a novella featu

Julia Prima by Alison Morton: Pagans v Christians

Julia Prima , Alison Morton (Pulcheria Press, 2022)   Alison Morton is the inventor of Roma Nova, a small but influential state (about the size of Luxembourg) founded in AD395 by 400 Romans led by Senator Apulius and his daughters. Apulius, his daughters and the people who followed him had seceded from the Roman Empire when their freedom to worship Rome’s traditional, pagan gods was obliterated by the new official religion of Rome, Christianity. Alison Morton has written nine thrillers about modern-day Roma Nova, which has developed over the centuries into a state which has retained many Roman republican qualities – the Roman gods are still worshipped – but where women have come to wield real political and social power.  It's a fascinating and well-developed alternative history, and in Julia Prima Alison Morton takes the reader back to the beginning and gives us the story of Apulius and his wife, Julia. From the minute they set eyes on one another it’s a tale of stormy passions

Fanny Fields, the Bristol Favourite: Dutch Girls, Suffragettes and Music Hall

My postcard collection includes this picture of Fanny Fields, a music hall star whose song The Suffragette was one of many music-hall references to the militant suffrage campaign of the 1900s. Fanny Fields found fame playing an American-Dutch girl with a lager-swilling fiancĂ© called Schultz. She entertained her audiences with songs, clog dances, and comic patter. She was one of the most popular stars of her day, and perhaps nowhere was she more loved than in Bristol.  Happy Fanny Fields She was born Fanny Furman in New York on 15 September 1880, and started performing in Vaudeville at the age of thirteen. According to her own account, she went on the stage to help refill the family’s coffers after her parents’ fruit importing business failed. Her brother, who had been an actor, taught her to dance, and her brother-in-law, Joseph Fields, was an actor and encouraged her talent for mimicry. After a year in variety, she spent five years touring with various companies, and then joined th