I’m delighted to welcome back an old friend to Linda’s Book Bag. Peter Bartram has previously written about his 1960s setting for Stop Press Murder, here, and about why he wrote his Morning, Noon and Night trilogy here. Today, Peter is taking a back seat as his two protagonists from The Tango School Mystery tell us a little about each other.
The Tango School Mystery is available for purchase here.
The Tango School Mystery
Welcome to Brighton, England – where they do like to murder beside the seaside…
Want to know what it’s like when a quiet romantic dinner ends in murder? Ace reporter Colin Crampton and his feisty girlfriend Shirley Goldsmith are tucking into their meal when Shirley discovers more blood on her rare steak than she’d expected. And once again Colin is on the trail of a big story that can only end in more murder. Colin reckons he’s cracked the story when he uncovers a plot involving a sinister figure from the past. A Tango Academy seems to lie at the heart of the conspiracy. But nothing is quite what it seems as Colin peels away the layers of the mystery. He tangles with a cast of memorable characters including a professor of witchcraft, the former commander of an army mobile latrine unit, and a tango instructor with two left feet. Join Colin and Shirley for another madcap mystery in Swinging Sixties’ Brighton, where the laughs are never far from the action.
It Takes Two to Tango!
How Shirley Goldsmith met Colin Crampton…
G’day. I’m Shirley Goldsmith. And as you might have guessed I’m not from around these parts. That is unless those parts are Adelaide in the Great Country of Australia. I’m often asked how I ran up against Colin Crampton. I was doing the Oz thing – taking a year out to work my way around the world. I’d pitched up in Brighton broke, hungry and as thirsty as a kookaburra at a dried up billabong. I crashed into this pub, slapped my last four pence on the bar, and said to the barman: “Give me food and drink.”
I was sitting in the corner when Shirley walked in. I remember it was the beginning of August 1962. I’m Colin, by the way. I’m crime reporter on the Brighton Evening Chronicle and I was waiting for a contact in the pub. Did I say pub? More like a drinkers’ doss house. There was a glass case on the bar with two cheese sandwiches and a dead fly. The fly looked the most appetising. Get the picture? Anyway, because the place never had any customers I used to meet my underworld contacts there. You don’t want witnesses when you’re meeting shady types. But then Shirley pitched up. And I just gawped while the ice melted in my gin and tonic.
There was this bozo behind the bar. I later discovered his name was Jeff. You know those scarecrows you see in farmers’ fields? He looked like one of them – but not as well dressed. Anyway, I was so hungry I could have eaten Ned Kelly’s daks. So I pointed at the sandwiches and said: “Give me one of those.” A voice behind me said: “I wouldn’t have the sandwich.” I spun round. A young guy had sprung from nowhere. I hadn’t spotted him when I walked in. He was tall, slim and reasonable looking. Okay, on the dinkum side of reasonable, if I’m honest with myself. He had brown hair and the kind of look on his face which could make a girl sorry she’d put a padlock on her panties. But a girl from the meaner streets of Adelaide is no push-over. So I said: “What’s it to you?”
As soon as she spoke, I knew she was from Australia. I’d heard enough episodes of Flying Doctor on the Light Programme to recognise an Aussie accent. But that wasn’t the only think I was noticing right now. She had short blonde hair that curled round her face, blue eyes and the kind of wild lips you immediately want to kiss. I said: “It’s August Bank Holiday next week and the sandwich has been there since Easter. If you want to eat and not die I can take you someplace else.”
If a guy had tried that pick-up on me in a bar in Adelaide I’d have kneed him in the nuts and laughed as he dribbled Fosters down his shirt. But a girl’s gotta eat. So I said: “Okay, Mr Big Shot, but you keep your hands on your knife and fork.” Colin took me to a café on the seafront. And then to another bar. We laughed a lot that evening. It was nearly midnight when I said: “Have you heard the one about the Australian girl who walked into a bar?” Colin shook his head. “How does it end?” he asked. “I’m waiting to find out,” I said.
It hasn’t ended yet. Although we’ve had our ups and downs. But Shirley has been great – got me out of one or two tight spots. She was fantastic in my latest adventure when we tangled with a mysterious tango school. We tried to learn the dance, but didn’t get far.
Why am I not surprised? I know Colin and his dancing. It may start off as the tango but it ends up as the hokey-pokey. At least that’s what we call it in Oz. It’s the one where you go “in-out, in-out and shake it all about”. Colin’s tried to tell me Brits call it the hokey-cokey. But as I told him: only when you do it standing up.
(I have a feeling these two could be in for quite an adventure Peter!)
About Peter Bartrum
Peter Bartram brings years of experience as a journalist to his Crampton of the Chronicle crime series – which features crime reporter Colin Crampton in 1960s Brighton.
Peter has done most things in journalism from door-stepping for quotes to writing serious editorials. He’s pursued stories in locations as diverse as 700 feet down a coal mine and a courtier’s chambers at Buckingham Palace. Peter wrote 21 non-fiction books, including five ghost-written, before turning to crime – and penning the Crampton of the Chronicle series of humorous crime mysteries.
Peter is a member of the Society of Authors and the Crime Writers’ Association.