The Sapphire Widow by Dinah Jefferies

Sapphire Widow

I’m so excited to be part of the launch celebrations for The Sapphire Widow by Dinah Jefferies because I always enjoy her books. I have previously had the privilege of interviewing Dinah here, when Before the Rains was published. When I began blogging in 2015, Dinah’s The Tea Planter’s Wife was one of the first books I reviewed here (and you’ll see how the blog has evolved too). I also have my review of Dinah’s The Silk Merchant’s Daughter here too.

The Sapphire Widow was published by Penguin on 5th April 2018 and is available for purchase here.

The Sapphire Widow

Sapphire Widow

Ceylon, 1935. Louisa Reeve, the daughter of a successful British gem trader, and her husband Elliot, a charming, thrill-seeking businessman, seem like the couple who have it all. Except what they long for more than anything: a child.

While Louisa struggles with miscarriages, Elliot is increasingly absent, spending much of his time at a nearby cinnamon plantation, overlooking the Indian ocean. After his sudden death, Louisa is left alone to solve the mystery he left behind. Revisiting the plantation at Cinnamon Hills, she finds herself unexpectedly drawn towards the owner Leo, a rugged outdoors man with a chequered past. The plantation casts a spell, but all is not as it seems. And when Elliot’s shocking betrayal is revealed, Louisa has only Leo to turn to…

My Review of The Sapphire Widow

With shocking news piling up thick and fast, Louisa Reeve needs to adapt rapidly to the new challenges she faces.

What I always love about Dinah Jefferies’ writing is her wonderfully evocative settings and Ceylon in 1935 is fabulously created in The Sapphire Widow. I think it’s the appeal to all the senses, from well-defined birdsong, through the aroma of cinnamon, the taste of mango and the sensation of silk against the skin, to the music of the era, for example, that so beautifully vivifies a sense of place. I could picture myself in Galle as easily as if I were walking its streets.

Dinah Jefferies’ protagonists are always wonderfully drawn. I understood Louisa completely and whilst I didn’t always agree with her actions she held my empathy throughout. It is indicative of the way all the characters are so life-like that I could quite happily have throttled Irene with my bare hands.

Setting and characterisation aside, there is so much more to The Sapphire Widow. It is a sweeping love story and can be enjoyed quite simply on that level. However, it is also a glorious cultural travelogue, transporting the reader to another country. It’s an historical tale with such a well researched level of accuracy that reading The Sapphire Widow makes the reader hugely satisfied, feeling a kind of confidence in the author. Even better, alongside all these elements there is threat and mystery too.

I thought the themes were just perfect for a dramatic romantic novel. There’s a sense of duty, love and betrayal, family dynamics, loss and grief, social mores and morality weaving in and out of the pages so that I think The Sapphire Widow would repay several rereads too.

I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Sapphire Widow and found myself completely transported to another time and place. It’s another total success for Dinah Jefferies.

About Dinah Jefferies

dinah

Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaysia and moved to England at the age of nine. Her idyllic childhood always held a special place in her imagination, and when she began writing novels in her 60s, she was able to return there – first in her fiction and then on annual research trips for each new novel. Dinah Jefferies is the author of four novels, The Separation, The Tea Planter’s Wife – a Number One Sunday Times bestseller, The Silk Merchant’s Daughter and Before the Rains. She lives in Gloucestershire

You can follow Dinah Jefferies on Twitter and visit her web site. You’ll also find Dinah on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:
poster

My Bucket List: A Guest Post by Judy Leigh, Author of A Grand Old Time

A Grand old time

I’m delighted to be part of the launch celebrations for A Grand Old Time by Judy Leigh as it was my birthday yesterday and I feel as if I’m rapidly approaching 75 myself! As I have a mountain of things I still want to do in life I asked Judy which three things are on her bucket list before she hits 75 and she agreed to tell me.

I shall be taking A Grand Old Time with me as I head off on another bucket list item of my own soon – a trip to India looking for tigers.

A Grand Old Time will be published by Avon, an imprint of Harper Collins, on 3rd May and is available for pre-order here.

A Grand Old Time

Evie Gallagher is regretting her hasty move into a care home. She may be seventy-five and recently widowed, but she’s absolutely not dead yet. And so, one morning, Evie walks out of Sheldon Lodge and sets off on a Great Adventure across Europe.

But not everyone thinks Great Adventures are appropriate for women of Evie’s age, least of all her son Brendan and his wife Maura, who follow a trail of puzzling text messages to bring her home.

When they finally catch up with her, there are shocks in store . . . because while Brendan may have given up on life and love, Evie certainly has not.

Three Bucket Things Before I’m 75

A Guest Post by Judy Leigh

Limiting myself to just three things on a bucket list before I’m 75 is impossible: when I have finished my list of three, half a dozen more will pop into my head and jostle for pole position. I can be a bit impetuous and change my mind frequently, but here’s an attempt at my three things.

There is fascinating local history of women being accused of witchcraft, and I’m interested in researching their stories. It will become a novel. It might also become a PhD thesis, as I’m wondering what sort of prevailing culture singled these women out for discrimination.

I want to travel to places I’ve never been. I’d like to drive across the USA in a big American car and across New Zealand in a camper van, visit Sri Lanka. Of course, it’s all research for a novel.

I’d like to learn the Romani language. Words we use every day such as dosh, lollipop, pal all come from Romani. My grandmother used to use fascinating words such as hotchiwitchi, a hedgehog. There is a novel there too, about my father and my grandmother who came from a family of fairground travellers.

(These are smashing wishes Judy. I hope they all come true.)

About Judy Leigh

judy

Judy Leigh completed an MA in Professional Writing at Falmouth University in 2015, leaving her career of 20 years as an Advanced Skills teacher of Theatre Studies. She has had several stories published in magazines, including The Feminist Wire, The Purple Breakfast Review and You is for University. She has also trained as a Reiki healer, written a vegan recipe blog and set up a series of Shakespeare Festivals to enable young people to perform the Bard’s work on stage.

You can visit Judy’s website and follow her on Twitter @JudyLeighWriter.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

tour poster

Staying in with J. Q. Rose

Rose-DangerousSanctuary-ARe 200x300

I’ve been ‘meeting’ so many new authors for this Staying in with… feature on Linda’s Book Bag and today it’s another new to me author, J.Q. Rose who is dropping by to tell me about one of her books.

If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.

Staying In With J. Q Rose

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, J. Q. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books.

Thanks so much, Linda. I’m looking forward to visiting with you this evening.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

Rose-DangerousSanctuary-ARe 200x300

I brought a romantic suspense novel, Dangerous Sanctuary. The setting is in a small town in Michigan in the spring time, my favorite time of the year. Since it is or almost is spring in our corner of the world, I thought the book would be appropriate for a spring evening.

DSCF5543

(I think we could certainly do with a book about spring. It seems to have been very slow arriving here this year.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Dangerous Sanctuary?

This particular book is a quick read, perfect for an evening in, and the quirky characters will make you giggle. One amazon reviewer said, “A florist, an orphan, a cat that needs a new home, an intelligent pot-bellied pig, a wallaby and a homeless man added amusement, interest and suspicion to the story.”

(Oo. I love the sound of that cast of characters. Quite an eclectic mix!)

The story is a “who-dun-it.” Who murdered the church choir director? The handsome detective, although attracted to the female pastor, suspects Pastor Christine clobbered the unsuspecting choir director and pushed him down the stairs to the church basement. The amusing characters and situations lighten up the dark atmosphere of mystery and suspense.

(I think Dangerous Sanctuary sounds highly entertaining.)

What else have you brought along and why?

pizza

I snuck in a yummy pizza just waiting for us on the kitchen counter. Can you smell those spices wafting in here? I hope you like pizza with extra cheese, Linda. Pastor Christine and her florist friend, Lacey, often enjoy pizza and cold beer on the parsonage’s screened-in porch while brainstorming ideas on how they can catch the killer.

(I don’t allow myself pizza often so this is a real treat. Thanks J.Q.)

I also brought along a bouquet of fresh spring flowers for the table to celebrate this occasion. Don’t the colors just make you feel happy? I believe I chose spring to be the background of this inspiring story because I liked the juxtaposition of the bright sunny days against the dark crime in the story. Plus, Michigan winters are pretty rough. The only thing that keeps us going is the hope of spring when the landscape is transformed by trees and flowers bursting into bloom, the sun shines, and the warm breezes comfort our winter-weary souls. In the book, the pretty weather helps calm and renew Pastor Christine Hobbs when dealing with the many trying events and twists in her life.

DSCF5541

(Thanks so much for the pizza and the flowers. You’re right. They are so cheering.)

It’s been a real pleasure staying in with you to discuss Dangerous Sanctuary J.Q. Thank you for sharing it with us.

Dangerous Sanctuary

Rose-DangerousSanctuary-ARe 200x300

Pastor Christine Hobbs has been in the pulpit business for over five years. She never imagined herself caring for a flock that includes a pig, a kangaroo, and a murderer.

Detective Cole Stephens doesn’t want the pretty pastor to get away with murdering the church music director. His investigative methods infuriate Christine as much as his deep brown eyes attract her.

Can they find the real killer and build a loving relationship based on trust?

Dangerous Sanctuary is available for purchase here.

About J.Q. Rose

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

After writing feature articles in magazines, newspapers, and online magazines for over fifteen years, J.Q. Rose entered the world of fiction. Her published mysteries are Deadly Undertaking, Dangerous Sanctuary and Terror on Sunshine Boulevard released by Books We Love Publishing. Blogging, photography, Pegs and Jokers board games, and travel are the things that keep her out of trouble. She spends winters in Florida and summers up north camping and hunting toads, frogs, and salamanders with her four grandsons and granddaughter.

You can find J.Q. Rose on Facebook and visit her blog.

Staying in with A. K. Amherst

NEU-Cover-Belfast-Central-web

Once again I’m finding another new to me author to stay in with me on Linda’s Book Bag. Today A. K. Amherst, traveller and writer, has agreed to tell me about one of her books.

If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.

Staying in with A. K. Amherst

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag Andrea. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Thank you for having me. I’m always excited to talk about my favourite topics: books.

(One of mine too – along with travel and chocolate!)

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

NEU-Cover-Belfast-Central-web

Well I brought my one and only: Belfast Central. It tells the story of Ryan Goodwin, whose family made a fortune with their company in the ammunition industry. But Ryan turns down the ‘traditional family career’ and becomes a paramedic instead. He wants to help people, not arm them.

When he gets shot on duty, he suffers a major life crisis. He knows the only way to move on, to find closure, is by investigating why the shooting at Belfast Central took place – an investigation the police is not very eager to do.

So he sets off on his own, starting by searching for the stranger that saved his life. The deeper Ryan digs into this stranger’s past the clearer it becomes: There is a fatal feud going on between opposing paramilitaries and stopping them might force Ryan to let go of some of his deepest values.

(I understand Belfast Central will be published on 10th April, exactly 20 years after the Good Friday Agreement was signed. Congratulations!)

What can we expect from an evening in with Belfast Central?

Well it is a thriller so you can definitely expect suspense and unforeseen plot twists. It’s also a story about friendship, about bridging differences. Because you know, sometimes water just is thicker than blood.

Belfast Central also integrates certain true events of the Troubles in Northern Ireland. So for readers interested in contemporary history this book has a lot to offer. My two main characters live in Belfast at different times – one in 1993 and the other in the 1930s. Belfast Central tells the story of those two lives that inevitable collide at the Belfast Central Station.

The story is very authentic and well researched with a lot of details that add up to its unique charm. So yeah, readers who love thrillers and/or are interested in history will definitely find a gem in Belfast Central.

(I imagine doing that research was a totally absorbing experience. I love reading about recent history.)

What else have you brought along and why?

Belfast Bap

I brought a Belfast Bap – the best regional food I ever ate. The bun is a speciality of Belfast and it goes with everything – eggs, bacon, sausage … simply delicious.

(Ooo. I hope you’re not expecting me to share that. I could do that justice very easily right away!)

You know with all the research I did about Belfast beforehand I really didn’t expect to come across something I never heard of before. But there I was, on my first day in Belfast, stepping off the train and stumbling across this local speciality at the market.

It’s more than just food to me, for me the Belfast Bap is a symbol for how important it is that a writer does his homework and researches to the fullest. And if your tummy is full by the end of the day as well … how could life get any better?

How indeed? Thanks so much for staying in with me Andrea to tell me all about Belfast Central. I think it looks a cracker of a thriller. 

Belfast Central

NEU-Cover-Belfast-Central-web

Belfast 1993: A nocturnal ambulance service at the Belfast Central Station almost turns deadly for the young paramedic Ryan. In the crosshairs of the IRA, he is badly wounded and wakes up in the hospital with muddled memories. The police close the case fast, leaving too many burning questions unanswered. Most importantly, who was that old man who appeared at the scene out of nowhere and saved Ryan’s life?

Not fully recovered yet, Ryan begins searching for the mysterious man, only to get dragged into a feud between opposing paramilitaries – with fatal consequences…

A thrilling story about fates in 20th century Northern Ireland.

Belfast Central is available for preorder in paperback here and the e-book is available for pre-order on Amazon.

About A.K. Amherst

andrea

Born and raised in Austria Andrea travelled the world from a young age. Besides travelling she loves to try new and unusual hobbies, always looking for the next great story to tell.

You can follow Andrea on Twitter @amherst_ak, find her on Facebook or visit her website for more information.

The Stranger by Kate Riordan

the Stranger HB jacket

My enormous thanks to Jenny Platt at Penguin Random House for sending me a copy of The Stranger by Kate Riordan in return for an honest review and for inviting me to be part of the launch celebrations for this wonderful read.

Published on 22nd March 2018 by Michael Joseph, an imprint of Penguin, The Stranger is available for purchase here.

The Stranger

the Stranger HB jacket

Cornwall, 1940.

In the hushed hours of the night a woman is taken by the sea.

Was it a tragic accident? Or should the residents of Penhallow have been more careful about whom they invited in?

In the midst of war three women arrive seeking safety at Penhallow Hall.

Each is looking to escape her past.

But one of them is not there by choice.

As the threat of invasion mounts and the nightly blackouts feel longer and longer, tensions between the close-knit residents rise until dark secrets start to surface.

And no one can predict what their neighbour is capable of . . .

In a house full of strangers, who do you trust?

My Review of The Stranger

Three new landgirls at Penhallow Hall will find their lives changed for ever.

Oh my goodness me. What a book! I adored every word of The Stranger. It was like reading a modern day Daphne du Maurier, but for me, so much better. The quality of the poetic and beautiful writing is gorgeous. Kate Riordan has the ability to create a tangible sense of foreboding that permeates the reader’s skin, giving them goosebumps. There’s a fabulous use of pathetic fallacy so that the weather, the sea and Cornwall all become inextricably woven into the narrative making reading The Stranger visual and filmic. The absolute power of place is deftly and convincingly created, with an oppressive, self destructive and menacing atmosphere crackling like an approaching storm that I found utterly compelling.

There’s a preternatural evil and claustrophobia lurking around Penhallow Hall making a tragedy an inevitability. Ghostly echoes of the past weave in and out of the narrative, tantalising the reader and making it impossible for me to pull myself away from the book. The plot is a cracker too. I was sucked into the story as if I were a character myself.

Speaking of characters, Diana is a magnificent creation. Kate Riordan uses the perfect voice for Diana’s first person diary accounts so that I loathed her entirely for the first hundred pages of the book. Diana created a visceral and physical response in me that quite shocked me by the violence I felt towards her. It’s a terrible thing to say but I wanted her dead because of her tainting and corrupting effect. I found her a far more malevolent person than the controlling Mrs Fox. However, as the book progressed I came to understand, pity, and even respect Diana and this is such skilled writing by Kate Riordan to be able to effect such a change of opinion.

There are so many layers to The Stranger too. Not only is it a love story, a mystery and in many ways an homage to other literature through subtle reference, but it explores so many fabulous themes. Oppressed and suppressed sexuality, relationships, the nature of good and evil, the present and the past, identity and the basic human need to be loved and accepted without which we all become the stranger, all reverberate through the story giving it a brilliant depth and making it oh so satisfying to read.

In case you hadn’t gathered, I loved The Stranger. It is one of those books that will stay with me a very long time. Wonderful.

About Kate Riordan

Kate

Kate Riordan is a writer and journalist. She is an avid reader of Daphne du Maurier and Agatha Christie, both of whom inspired her first two novels, The Girl in the Photograph and The Shadow Hour. She lives in the Cotswolds, where she writes full-time. The Stranger is her latest book.

You an follow Kate on Twitter @KateRiordanUK, visit her website and find her on Facebook.

There’s more with thse other bloggers too:

The Stranger blog tour

Remembering Philippa: A Guest Post by Sophie Duffy, Author of The Generation Game

Generation Game Cover

It’s a real privilege to be part of the Legend100 team of bloggers and I’m delighted that today that gives me a very special guest post to share on Linda’s Book Bag. Legend Press are reissuing some of the most popular titles for the last ten years and 5th April marks the reissue of The Generation Game by Sophie Duffy. To celebrate, Sophie reminisces about her protagonist Philippa and the setting for the novel.

Published by Legend Press, The Generation Game is available for purchase here.

The Generation Game

Generation Game Cover

Philippa Smith is in her forties and has a beautiful newborn baby girl. She also has no husband, and nowhere to turn. So she turns to the only place she knows: the beginning. Retracing her life, she confronts the daily obstacles that shaped her very existence. From the tragic events of her childhood abandonment, to the astonishing accomplishments of those close to her, Philippa learns of the sacrifices others chose to make, and the outcome of buried secrets.

Philippa discovers a celebration of life, love, and the Golden era of television. A reflection of everyday people, in not so everyday situations.

Remembering Philippa

A Guest Post by Sophie Duffy

I know Philippa Smith better than I know myself. I first started writing about her in 2005 where she showed up in a short story of mine. I’m not quite sure where she came from – probably an amalgam of a school friend, Benny from Top Cat, and maybe a teensy bit of me – but she was here to stay, living on in my imagination while the short story became a novel.

Philippa is naïve, innocent and slow, but not stupid – though some of the things she does are admittedly daft even if they are carried out with the best of intentions. She is fiercely loyal and if she loves you, she will love you forever. (Once a Torquay United fan, always a Torquay United fan.) She could be seen as a victim if it weren’t for her good heart and her blundering resilience. She loses the people she loves the most but, somehow, she ends up with more than she ever thought possible – most importantly her baby.

This is where we first meet Philippa in 2005, giving birth in St Thomas’ hospital, the very place she was born forty years earlier. As she tries to make sense of being a new mother, she tells her story to her baby. She tells her about Helena, her feckless mother, Lucas, her best friend, Mr Bob Sugar, owner of the sweet shop where she lived, and Wink, the old lady from across the street.

The part of The Generation Game that is real is the setting. For two years in the early 70s, my parents owned and ran a sweet shop in Torquay. Mum, Dad, my two brothers, Sammy the cat, and I lived above it, a pretty cool place to live when you are five years old. The shop wasn’t just about the sweets. It was also a newsagent’s and a tobacconist’s. My older brother can remember measuring out snuff for the old gents who used to come in. I was too young to serve so I would sit behind the counter on the step that led to our back room and I’d watch and learn. We also sold the football pools and tacky gifts for the holiday makers. Boxes of chocs and saucy seaside postcards. Sandcastle paper flags and ice lollies. It was the best place in all the world and the ideal backdrop for my first novel.

sophie lecture 009

Sophie and her brother in the back yard of the shop on Sophie’s first day at school

Across the street from the shop was a chemist’s where Agatha Christie was said to be a Saturday girl, learning about poisons. On the other corner was a chippie. And because we only had a small back yard, we used to play out in the ‘boneyard’ of St Andrew down the road. There really was an old lady called Wink who lived opposite us. We ‘inherited’ her from the previous shop owners and visited her every Saturday for fish and chips. And she really did love Brucie.

The Generation Game was first published in 2011 by Legend Press after winning the Luke Bitmead Bursary. Not long after this, Brucie became Sir Bruce. Since then, many of the TV figures of my childhood have been disgraced, but never Brucie. He was a hero to the end. Which brings me back to Philippa. I wonder how the news of his passing would have affected her? I reckon she’d be as sad as I am but proud too. Proud that her loyalty in him was not misplaced. (Unlike her loyalty to The Gulls.) And I’m thrilled that I get to share Philippa, Helena, Lucas, Mr Bob Sugar, Wink and Brucie with some new readers.

(A fascinating insight into the background to The Generation Game Sophie. Many thanks for sharing it with us.)

About Sophie Duffy

SophieB&W-Matt-Austin-8

Sophie is the author of three novels. The Generation Game was her debut novel, inspired by her childhood growing up in a sweet shop in Torquay. Her second novel, This Holey Life, is about a reluctant curate’s wife. Her latest novel is Bright Stars, a modern day Brideshead, the story of students reunited after 25 years.

As part of Creative Writing Matters, Sophie appraises manuscripts, runs workshops and mentors novelists. CWM run the Exeter Novel Prize and the Exeter Story Prize as well as other writing competitions.

She lives by the seaside in Devon.

You can follow Sophie on Twitter @sophiestenduffy, vist her website and find her on Facebook.

There’s more with these other bloggers too:

generation game Blog Tour Banner jpeg

Staying in with Ken Kuhlken

Newport Ave

I’m delighted to welcome Ken Kuhlken, another former English teacher like me, to Linda’s Book Bag to tell me about one of his many books.

If you’re an author who’d also like to stay in with me to tell me about one of your books, please click here for more details.

Staying in with Ken Kuhlken

Welcome to Linda’s Book Bag, Ken. Thank you for agreeing to stay in with me.

Tell me, which of your books have you brought along to share this evening and why have you chosen it?

Newport Ave

I brought along Newport Ave, because it’s brand new and a favorite of mine and  I wrote it as a sort of ode to my cousin Virgie. She was extraordinary. Smart, beautiful, and kind.

I often write about families and how the members affect each other. And I have to wonder what would’ve happened if Virgie’s dad hadn’t gotten sidelined by liquor. He was a warm and charming guy. Virgie loved him dearly. But he shot somebody and went to prison. Not long thereafter, Virgie was dating guys who appeared to also be headed for prison.

Later, while she was a flight attendant, she met and married an older fellow who was once a bodyguard for the infamous L.A. mobster Mickey Cohen. (By the way, you could read about Mickey Cohen and some of his wicked deeds in my novel The Angel Gang.)

angel gang

I adored Virgie. She was two years older but always treated me with respect and affection.

When her marriage dissolved, leaving her with big financial and other troubles, I wanted to help her but could think of nothing to do except to exercise what I’m all about, which is making up stories.

(Virgie sounds as if she’s had a really tough time. I bet she was a fascinating lady too.)

What can we expect from an evening in with Newport Ave?

Well, plenty of suspense. And you’ll meet some memorable characters: my lovely cousin disguised as Olivia; Greg, who attempts to make light of a probably fatal disease; James, a brilliant alcoholic on the run from the FBI; and FBI agent Miles, who’s falling for Olivia while trying to nab her brother.

(Gosh – that sounds quite a cast of characters!)

The story goes like this: As teenagers, Greg and James get jumped by the brothers of Greg’s girlfriend. In the scuffle somebody dies. James flees and only years later returns home to their California beach town, still wanted by the FBI.

Hoping to protect his sister Olivia from her estranged husband, a mob-connected gambler, he enlists the help of his old friend Greg, now a devoted Christian family man and Sunday school teacher. After exploring all options, they decide the only sure way to protect Olivia is to kill the gambler.

(It sounds as if you’re exploring all kinds of themes as well as writing a cracking narrative Ken.)

Though my novel fits into the noir tradition, it’s quite unique in that it explores the crimes from several perspectives, a bit like Lawrence Durrell’s Alexandria Quartet, which I consider a masterpiece.

(I have to confess I haven’t read Durrell.)

And, of course, since I did time as a high school English teacher, the our evening will conclude with discussion questions.

(We’ve BOTH done that time Ken so it could be a long plenary session!)

What else have you brought along and why? 

I brought this poem about Virgie:

Warner Springs 1958

 Outside in the mineral pool where kids

shout and splash, our mothers —

one widowed, one divorced —

lounge and gab.

 

Inside, our cousin Stevie — orphaned last year—

and I slouch against the wall between

the swinging doors and the jukebox while

Virgie, two years older, ages wiser,

like the girls on American Bandstand

or in news clips screaming their vows

to Elvis — Virgie reigns here in the rec room,

commanding obedience with her poise, tight

pedal pushers, bare feet and fleecy

sweater, short sleeved and pink.

 

A boy with glossed black hair, his chinos

pleated and pressed, has won her provisional favor.

 

Virgie and this stranger dance

belly to belly,

to “Twilight Time.”

 

Stevie and I twitch and squirm.

 

Because we too are boys, we know of his scheme

to steal her away from us. We would

banish him from our world but

we’re only thirteen.

 

The jukebox lifts the record off the turntable.

The boy’s hand slides low on Virgie’s back —

he steers her toward the far door and his chopped

Mercury painted to match

Virgie’s scarlet lipstick and nails.

 

But she knows everything.

She spins toward us, dismissing

him with her royal smile. He freezes.

Only his throat moves.

He’s swallowing a lesson

about class, as in classy,

about family.

(I love that poem Ken. Thanks so much for sharing it with us.)

Thank you very much, Ken, for staying in with me to introduce Newport Ave. You’ve really whetted my appetite to read it. I hope it’s very successful.

Newport Ave

Newport Ave

A fugitive from a manslaughter charge returns home to a foggy California beach town hoping to protect his sister Olivia from her estranged husband, a mob-connected gambler.

He enlists the help of his closest old friend, now a devoted Christian family man and Sunday school teacher.

After exploring all options, they decide the only sure way to protect Olivia is to kill the gambler.

Newport Ave, a gripping novel in the noir tradition, explores crime and its endless consequences.

Published by Hickey’s Books, Newport Ave is available for purchase from all the usual places including here.

About Ken Kuhlken

ken kuhlken

Some of Ken’s favorites are early mornings, the desert in spring, kind and honest people, baseball and other sports played by those who don’t take themselves too seriously, most kids, and films he and his Zoe can enjoy together. He reads classic novels, philosophy, theology, and all sorts of mysteries. On his blog, he offers some hard truths and encouragement about living as a writer. He has long been the author of novels, stories, articles, poems, and essays. Lots of honors have come his way, including a National Endowment for the Arts Literature Fellowship; Poets, Essayists and Novelist’s Ernest Hemingway Award; Private Eye Writers of America Best First Novel and Shamus Best Novel; and several San Diego and Los Angeles Book Awards. Though he advocates beer in a video, he actually prefers Scotch.

You can follow Ken on Twitter @kenkuhlken, find him on Facebook and visit his website for more information.