From “The Red Petticoat”



  1. Midnight, and the pale moon paley lighting up

The worm beds on the beach. We hoked them out

Threw them wriggly into buckets. Damp knees

In the damp sand. Uneasy in the stillness, watching for

The yellow hair of fairies hidden in the tide,

Voices from another world. That white beach

An other world itself that sent me home a changeling

Waiting forty weeks a year, patient, to resume myself.

  1. Barely rose, pearly in the dawn, an angry sea throws

Spray across the wall, wrecks the boats tied up

Beneath the lighthouse on the pier. Its flashing light

Lights up the summer picnic island. Foam spuming

Flying, keeping all indoors. Spattered windows;

Seaweed stranded on the road like giant insects. And

I, an elemental on a swing, lick my salty lips and

Laugh and watch the sea for Manaman, its King.


Excerpt from “Ablutions” by Patrick de Witt.

“Discuss your wife. She calls the bar phone and says that she needs to talk to you about proceeding with the divorce, a word that has the force of a physical object, and you suddenly have no hearing in your ears and though you have long expected this news it paralyzes you, and your wife is concerned by your nonresponse and she calls out your name, frantic and guilt-ridden. In a moment your tongue loosens and you find yourself able to speak and communicate, though your voice is small, your words pathetic and lost-sounding. She begins to cry and then curse you for making her cry, though you are doing nothing other than absorbing the painful information, and she reminds you of all the terrible things you have done and how poorly you treated her when you were together and, she says, why couldn’t we talk like this before? And you know that it is wrong, your coveting her only after she has left, and that if you were back together you would only return to ignoring her, and you think of what tricky a thing your heart is, and you wonder for the first time if perhaps you have been against yourself all this while?”

A little bit of Keats

“O for a draught of vintage! that hath been

Cool’d a long age in the deep-delved earth,

Tasting of Flora and the country green,

Dance, and Provencal song, and sunburnt mirth!

O for a beaker full of the warm South,

Full of the true, the blushful Hippocrene,

With beaded bubbles winking at the brim,

And purple-stained mouth;

That I might drink, and leave the world unseen,

And with thee fade away into the forest dim:”

The beginning of Felix Finds Out!

Felix was sitting on the floor in front of the fire, his short legs sticking straight out and his homework balanced on his knees. One side of his face and one arm and leg were hot; the other side of him was frozen. He was trying to get through his maths homework so he could get back to his book (he was reading Dracula) but Uncle Eddie wouldn’t stop talking. He was upset again, worrying about his job at the pub on the corner.

Felix was only half-listening to his uncle. He was thinking about the fancy dress party; to be held in the evening of the last schoolday before the Christmas break. He didn’t want to go; the whole school would be there and all the teachers and all the parents. He wouldn’t be able to breathe.

Eddie’s voice rose and Felix sighed and looked up at him.

“The only thing I know for sure,” Eddie said, walking up and down and squeezing his hands together, “is that someone is stealing. It’s not me, and it’s not Mrs Boyd. We have our suspicions, you know, oh indeed we do. In fact we’re quite sure it’s that Hennessy who works weekends but we can’t prove it. And now we’re on our last warning! The boss says he’ll get the police in and then he’ll sack the lot of us, guilty or not.”

Eddie took a breath and strode to the wall. He stared at the picture of a red yacht in a white frame and shook his head.

“The caretaker in our school is called Hennessy,” Felix said.

“Oh aye, that’s him,” Eddie said, starting to pace again. “We know all about that, he talks enough about it, so he does. A big fella? Fair hair and a red face?”

The beginning of “Ghosts in Trouble”

The house looked like any ordinary house from the outside. It stood on its own on a small hill and a pretty garden ran down to the road. The Summer blossoms were gone but shiny, evergreen trees and shrubs caught the October sun and fat dahlias still spotted the green with bright colour. Lizzie stood at the window gazing at them, thinking of nothing at all, just gazing. Lizzie looked ordinary too, a small, neat, old lady with silver curls and soft, brown eyes.  But she wasn’t ordinary, she was a burglar. Not a top-class, professional burglar but a comfortable, occasional one, content to steal beautiful things which her husband, Cormac, had picked out. He was a burglar too and they had met while trying to steal three velvet, embroidered cushions from the same house. Sometimes Lizzie wished that they could retire like other business people. They were getting old and slow and she was afraid they would get caught. Her fingers clutched at the curtain as she thought of the two of them spending their old age in prison. And even worse was the thought of losing all their lovely,  precious things.  There were lamps of every shape and colour, made from bottles and glass slippers and shaded with silk and satin and lace. There were polished coffee tables piled one on top of another. Tea-sets and dinner-sets balanced on the mantle-piece or wobbled together under tables and behind chairs. Brass and ebony ornaments lay heaped in odd corners and great, shaggy piles of patterned rugs had to be climbed to get from room to room. More were rolled up and shoved under beds. Cormac could never resist just one more rug. Even the bathroom had three.  And the kitchen! It was a big kitchen with a wide fireplace, and plenty of shelves and cupboards crammed full of tins and packets of food, all sorts of food, from plain chicken soup to the most exotic of curries and sauces. Any time they were burgling Cormac just took whatever there was in the cupboards and dropped it all into Lizzie’s sack. Lizzie couldn’t remember the last time she had peeled a spud or scraped a carrot.  Their days followed a regular pattern, worked out over the years. Every morning Cormac left the house after breakfast . . .

Ogrodnik by Gary Coffin

Elliot Forsman has a new PI business with his partner Rivka Goldstein. When his father is killed and the police set the case aside he decides to go after the murderer himself. He gets involved with Dr Banik of Biovonix – a pharmaceutical firm – and with the mercenaries who work for him, putting his own life, and Rivka’s, in danger. He enlists the help of an old friend, Rayce Nolan, an expert on guns and knives and on how to outwit an enemy.

Elliot is an interesting person, grieving for the death of his wife, starting up his new PI business and trying to find out why his father died. He is a courageous man, determined and focused.

The characters in this novel are uniformly good, believable and layered. The narrative drive is compelling and the dialogue is realistic. However it seems strange that the book is called “Ogrodnik” the name of one of the characters. There is a hint of why at the end but there are many sections of the book where Ogrodnik doesn’t feature at all. Elliot is the main character and he holds the narrative thread together although there are times when the book seems to lose direction.

Technically there is a problem with capital letters. They are used indiscriminately in all the wrong places:

“. . . Rivka Replied . . . “like this, Said Rivka  . . .”

Several words are used incorrectly:

“After I declined captain Brebouef for a couple of years . . . ”

There are some awkward sentences:

” . . . and the soldier spoke in a loud voice “Milos. Milos. Are you here?” In a thick eastern European accent as he walked down . . . ”

And a very strange simile:

” . . . beside the couch was Rivka’s Smith & Wesson, lying on the floor like a dead fish.”

Overall the book is really good and very enjoyable. It deserves 4 stars but the whole would work much better if the material was organised and had a further edit.

Published on, and Feb. ’17

Excerpt from “Dolly”

Everything was all right until the day of Maguire’s funeral. It was in the middle of June and even early in the morning it was hot. Dolly was out the back hanging up the washing – sheets, it was – I remember how white they were in the sun. They looked like they weighed nothing the way Dolly bent and lifted and flung them across the line. She stood there with the empty basket and I could see her smiling at the rooster after the hens, and the black cat licking and washing. She was nearly like a cat herself, only a great, big strong one.

You’d never think she was my sister and me next door to an invalid. Her eyes were half-closed and she was so still in the heat and you knew there wasn’t one thought in her mind. You’d think she had nothing to do and there were the rashers and sausages lined up beside the pan and Denis’ suit to be pressed.

“Dolly!” I roared out the window. “Stop mooning about. We have to eat, don’t we?”