Strange Reunion

I’ve always been a little bit phobic about the transporter machine, the way other people are phobic about spaceflight or cryogenic preservation, or spiders. Funnily enough, those things have never bothered me – the risks of going into space are real, but so low that they are not worth worrying about, and cryo-sleep is just like normal sleep only deeper and longer. And spiders – well, I used to have one as a pet.

Unfortunately, the reality is that, in my line of work, space travel just takes too long – way too long – if you’re doing business over long distances. I can hardly spend four years in suspended animation and then expect the deal I was chasing to be still on the table when I arrive at the far end, can I? So transportation it has to be. I know the stats – that it’s safer than space flight (no matter how safe that is) and much, much cheaper. All the same, every time I’m sitting in that booth, waiting to be digitalized and recreated in another place, it feels creepy.

I think it comes down to a bad experience I had once, in 2162, when the machine malfunctioned. I was off to Titan, planning to move there for a few years to set up a spacewear business (Titan was a booming market for that stuff at the time). I had that tingly feeling you get when the probe is reading your quantum states, and then, as usual, I blacked out. But instead of waking up on Titan, I emerged from the machine to find I was still on Mars. Equipment malfunction, they told me with profuse apologies – not something that could be fixed quickly. I was fine, but it got me thinking: if the machine can go wrong in the way it did, maybe it could go wrong in other ways too.

I never did make that trip to Titan. By the time the transporter was serviceable again, the moment had passed and I’d decided to pursue different avenues. But I’d always wanted to go there, to see the methane lakes, and to put on a wing suit and fly through the thick atmosphere in the low G they have over there. And I’d put away enough to afford a good holiday. It was time to put that jinx behind me and take the plunge.

So now I’m sitting in the booth again. It feels creepy, as usual. There’s that tingling feeling, then nothing, then …

“Welcome to Titan, Mr Jones”

“Whew, made it!”

It takes me a few minutes to adjust to the lower gravity, but otherwise this place feels fine – just like home. It’s too late today to do any ambitious exploring, so I drop my bags off at the hotel and go for a wander around Titan City.

It’s a pleasant enough place, under its big plastic dome, but a lot smaller than the cities we have on Mars. It has a rather provincial feel to it, though there’s a frenetic buzz around the little bars and cafes, as if everyone is trying a little too hard. Eventually, thirst wins over the desire to explore and I turn into one of the bars. I order a drink, and head for the nearest vacant table. I sup my drink and look around me, people watching. These Titanians, what is their style, what are their quirks?

A face catches my eye. It seems oddly familiar. Were it not for the long hair, the bleached moustache (both pretty common on Titan, it seems), that man would remind me of … me! Then I realise he is looking at me in the same way. He comes over and offers me his hand.

“Look at us two,” he jokes. “We must be twins separated at birth. The name’s Jones. Theodore Jones.”

“But I’m Theodore Jones,” I exclaim, “from Olympus City on Mars.”

“No way! Perhaps we really are twins. I was born there too. But I’ve been on Titan since 2162.”

An awful realisation is starting to creep up on me.

“You didn’t by any chance come over by transporter, did you? With the intention of setting up a spacewear business?”

“Yes, but how the hell could you know that? I met my wife here and decided to stay.”

“Tell me, when you got out of the transporter, did they tell you tell you there had been a problem?”

“Yeah. They said there had been some difficulties at the far end, so they had to give me a medical checkup. I was fine, but it kind of put me off transporters for good. One of the reasons I’m still here, I guess.”

“Funny, that. I got told the same thing when I got out of the transporter too. But I was still on Mars.”

“But … then, you’re …”

“Yes, that’s it. I’m you, and you’re me.”

Homage to Catullus

It’s been a little while since I posted a poem on here, so I thought I’d share this one today.  It was inspired by a poem by the Roman poet Catullus (one of my favourite poets), from which I took the title – it means, roughly, ‘evil Troy’.  Just across the straits from Troy is Gallipoli, which saw more slaughter millenia later, prompting me to wonder what the dead of those two wars might say to each other.

Troia (nefas!)

Do they wander unseen among the hordes

of tourists in the crumbled ruins of Troy?

Those shades of Trojan and Achaean lords,

of noble Hector, fearsome Achilles

and the unnumbered wraiths of lesser men

culled as the harvest of the heroes’ spears.

And are they glad that still, time and again

their deaths are re-imagined for the screen;

romanticised, as if each stolen life

was taken in a worthwhile cause, and not

a pointless struggle over someone’s wife?

And do they turn their dead eyes to the west,

where in another age, across the strait

another generation spilled their blood

in someone else’s symphony of hate?

Do those men in their turn look to the east

and see their ancient kindred? Do the two

lost armies speak in strange tongues of the dead

of what has changed between the old and new

and what has not; and see for what they are

the hollow mask of glory on the face

of war; the curse of history that binds

resentful souls forever to this place.


Troia (nefas) is published in In the Company of Poets, by the Holme Valley Poets.

The painting is Achilles Displaying the Body of Hector at the Feet of Patroclus, by Jean Joseph Taillason, 1769.


Angela and Jacques

Today I’m delighted to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author Angela Wren onto my blog.  Her second novel, Merle, will be published on 5 July.  Welcome, Angela!

Thanks for inviting me to your blog today.  I’ve brought my lead character, Jacques Forêt, with me and I hope you don’t mind if we take this opportunity to talk about his new case.

I’m certainly very eager to hear what he has to say and I’m hoping that he might, perhaps to give away one or two juicy pieces of info about what has happened to him and Beth…

AW  Welcome back Jacques, and you’re not in uniform I see.

JF  Yes, that’s right.  I’ve left the rural gendarme service and I now work in investigation in Mende.

AW  So, just to recap on your career thus far.  You joined the police force in Paris as a detective until you were injured whilst on duty and then came to Messandrierre as a rural gendarme.

JF   That’s correct.  It was after I recovered that I came here.

AW  So why the further change?

JF  I found I missed the intricacies of handling major investigations along with the thrill of solving such complex crimes.  My last case in Paris involved breaking a drugs cartel and I’ve worked on cases involving people trafficking.  All very testing with many and varied leads to follow.  My current case means that I can use those skills again.

AW  And can you tell us anything about your new case?

It’s very different from my previous cases and involves commercial sabotage, but some the evidence is pointing to other types of crime.  The more I delve the more complex this case is becoming.

AW  How interesting.  Any suspects yet or dead bodies?

JF   It’s early days.  I only picked up the investigation a week ago, but there are a number of suspects that need to be narrowed down.  There are also some lines of enquiry that are leading me to believe that there are other malpractices that need to be investigated which might mean there is fraud to be uncovered.  There are no dead bodies at the moment but… if the evidence does lead me where I think it might, then yes, someone might have the motive to commit such a serious crime.  Naturally I will do all I can to ensure that doesn’t happen.

AW  Of course.  Working in Mende, has that meant many changes for you here in the village of Messandrierre?

JF  Not really.  I’m still the Policeman from Paris to everyone living here and I still seem to be the first person they come to when there’s trouble.  Gendarme Thibault Clergue has taken my post here in the gendarmerie.  I don’t want to tread on his toes so we work on things together when necessary.

AW  Back working in investigation, does that mean you’re working with Magistrate Bruno Pelletier again?

JF  Not at the moment. I do sometimes bump into Bruno in the city, but if my case develops as I think it might, then I may need to involve him.  And I will do that as appropriate.

Road to Langogne02

AW  When we first met I seem remember you saying that you would like to ‘have ‘someone to share your life with.’  Those were your precise words, I think.

JF  Ahh, I was wondering when you would get around to that!

AW  And you can tell us… what?  The Readers do need to know, Jacques.

JF   I also remember telling you that it was complicated.  It still is… But I know what I want… Beth just has to make the right decision for her.  Moving to another country requires a lot of consideration.

AW  Are you saying that you’ve asked-

JF  Non!  And before you ask, I didn’t say that I was moving to England either.  What I am saying is that, if Beth and I are to move forward then we both need to consider very carefully how we achieve that.

AW  Well, you may no longer wear uniform, Jacques, but you are ever the policeman!

JF   Perhaps.

AW   And that smile of yours tells me everything.  Thank you, Jacques, for being here today.

You can read more about Jacques’ new case, the village and Beth in Merle: book 2 in the Jacques Forêt mystery series published on July 5th.  Find it on Amazon here:

Thank you Angela (and Jacques!) for sharing your conversation with us.  I hope that Merle is a big success!

Merle CoverArt.jpg


Jacques Forêt, a former gendarme turned investigator, delves into the murky world of commercial sabotage – a place where people lie and misrepresent, and where information is traded and used as a threat.

The Vaux organisation is losing contracts and money, and Jacques is asked to undertake an internal investigation. As he works through the complexity of all the evidence, he finds more than he bargained for, and his own life is threatened.

When a body of a woman is found, it appears to be suicide. But as the investigation takes another turn, Jacques suspects there is more to it.

Who is behind it all…and why? Will Jacques find the answer before another person ends up dead?

Merle – the second in a new crime series featuring investigator, Jacques Forêt.


You can learn more about Angela – and her first book, Messandrierre – via these links:


Website :


Poetry Day – Thomas Wyatt

After a hard week I’m very much looking forward to the monthly Poetry Day at Huddersfield University tomorrow.

We spend the morning hearing about the life of a poet (or poets) and reading their poetry, then write something of our own inspired by what we’ve heard – it might be something about the poet’s life; a theme that crops up in their poetry; we might try out a form or technique the poet is associated with, or just run with whatever random thought springs to mind.  Then in the afternoon we read and discuss poems of our own that we’ve brought along.

Tomorrow Chris Huck will be talking to us about the tudor poet Thomas Wyatt.  I’m vaguely aware of him as a historical figure – an ambassador, courtier and alleged lover of Anne Boleyn, who was imprisoned in the Tower of London for a while but managed to escape the grisly fate of the other men who were similarly accused.

I must admit that I know very little about Wyatt’s poetry, other than that he translated Petrarch and had an important role in the development of the English sonnet, and am looking forward to learning much more about his life and work tomorrow.  Poetry AND History – what a treat!

For anyone in the Huddersfield area who’s interested in coming along, Poetry Day is in Room HWG 06, Harold Wilson building, Huddersfield University from 9.30 till 3-ish.  There is a charge of £5 to cover the cost of the room.

I’ll leave you with a sonnet of Wyatt’s that I found on the internet:

Farewell love and all thy laws forever;
Thy baited hooks shall tangle me no more.
Senec and Plato call me from thy lore
To perfect wealth, my wit for to endeavour.
In blind error when I did persever,
Thy sharp repulse, that pricketh aye so sore,
Hath taught me to set in trifles no store
And scape forth, since liberty is lever.
Therefore farewell; go trouble younger hearts
And in me claim no more authority.
With idle youth go use thy property
And thereon spend thy many brittle darts,
For hitherto though I have lost all my time,
Me lusteth no lenger rotten boughs to climb.

An Inspector Calls

Here’s a little story I wrote at Holmfirth Writers on Monday.  Hope you enjoy it!


“Are you done, then?”

The Inspector – a wiry, sharp-suited man in his late 30’s – finished writing and put his notebook in his pocket.

“Not yet. I need to look at your yard.”

The two men walked round the corner into an alley, which broadened out to form a yard behind the building, lit only by the pale glow that filtered through the window blinds.

The Inspector looked at his companion, a bearded, rotund man with indeterminate stains on his Motorhead T-shirt.

“This belongs to your establishment, yes?”

The other man grinned uneasily. “Well, yeah, but other people are always dumping their rubbish here. Bastards!” He moved towards the assortment of bin bags and dustbins occupying the far side of the yard.

“No! Don’t touch anything. This is all potential evidence relevant to my investigation.”

“Right you are, Inspector.”

The Inspector spotted a dark, viscous liquid dripping from a drainpipe attached to the corner of the wall. He opened his briefcase and produced a small plastic bottle, which he held under the pipe to collect a few drips, then sealed it and put it in a transparent bag.

“For testing later,” he said. “This pipe seems to emanate from your property. Neighbours been using your sink too, have they?”

The two men now moved towards the dustbins. The Inspector picked up the first loose bin bag and began to open it. Then he stopped dead in his tracks. Stretching out from behind the nearest dustbin was a human hand. Quickly, he moved aside the bins and bags surrounding it to reveal a prone male figure, its curly brown hair stained with blood. It was quite still. The Inspector examined it briefly, but it remained limp and motionless. He turned to the other man.

“Is this man known to you?”

“Never seen ‘im before in me life.”

“Really?” The Inspector pointed to the body’s left hand, in which sat a half-eaten burger wrapped in paper. “I believe that’s one of yours, isn’t it?” Sure enough, the logo on the paper matched the one above the door of the building.

He glared at the other man. “Stay where you are, and don’t touch anything. I need to collect more evidence.” With his phone, he took a couple of dozen photos of the body, the drainpipe and the rest of the yard. From his case he retrieved some more plastic bottles, into which he put samples from various bin bags and the ground around the body. His notebook reappeared, and he filled several pages with writing.

“This is nothing to do with me,” pleaded the other man, a look of desperation on his face, “people are always wandering in here and dumping things. Don’t blame it on me.” The Inspector studiously ignored him.

As he was working, a seagull flew into the yard and landed on the head of the prone figure. It began to peck at the remains of the burger.

“Oi!” The noise came from the hitherto motionless figure. Its right arm now flailed wildly at the gull, which flew away. The head now lifted itself from the ground and stared at the other two men. “Who are you?” said the man on the floor, then an expression of horror came over his face and he vomited copiously on the ground. He staggered to his feet, looked at the burger in his hand and threw it into the nearest bin. Then he stumbled away, groaning.

“Well, that’s all right, then,” said the bearded man, hopefully.

“I don’t think so,” replied the Inspector. “Judging by what I’ve seen on this inspection, I’m not surprised your customers are throwing up. Your food is a hazard to human life. I’m closing you down.”


Life Imitates Art

Readers of this blog will know that over the past year I have been writing a novel about a woman’s relationship with her elderly father, who moves into a Care Home during the course of the book.  I am in the process of editing a draft now – watch this space for further news.

My own life has been echoing the plot of the novel during the last few weeks, as I have been helping my Mum move into Greenacres Residential Care Home, just down the road from my own home in Meltham, West Yorks.  Greenacres seems to be a very good place of its kind, as far as we can tell – it’s clean and pleasant, the staff seem competent and caring and we’ve heard good reports about it.  Mum seems to be settling in reasonably well so far, touch wood, though of course it’s a big upheaval for her.  She has got to know some other residents, and seems to like the food.  And its comforting to know that she is safe and well looked-after.

I hope Mum will be very happy at Greenacres. And I certainly hope that our experience doesn’t continue to follow the plot of the novel.  My character Herbert – who unlike Mum has dementia – thinks he’s in a POW camp and spends much of his time trying to escape!  You can get a flavour of this from a blog post I did a little while ago:

So let’s hope that, in this instance, life doesn’t imitate art too closely!






Welcome, Katy

Today, I am delighted to welcome fellow Crooked Cat author Katy Johnson – who hosted me a few weeks ago.  Hi Katy, nice to see you again.

Hello Tim and thank you very much for inviting me onto your blog.

You’re very welcome.  I hear you have a book coming out soon.

Yes. My new psychological/coming-of-age novel The Silence is coming out on June 8th. I’m excited but also quite nervous! 

Tell us more …

Here’s what it’s about:

Can you ever truly escape your past? Doctor Abby Fenton has a rewarding career, a loving family, an enviable lifestyle – and a secret that could destroy everything. When human remains are discovered in the grounds of an idyllic Tuscan holiday home she is forced to confront the memories she has suppressed until now and relive the summer she spent at the villa in 1992. A summer that ended in tragedy. The nearer she gets to the truth the closer she comes to losing her sanity. In order to hold onto the people she loves most, she must make sure they never discover what she did. But the reappearance of someone else from that summer threatens to blow her secret wide open…

Sounds intriguing. Where did the idea come from?

I wrote The Silence because it was the book I wanted to read. I love stories about houses which harbour dark secrets and I love Italy. The part of Tuscany where I have had a house for fifteen years struck me as the perfect setting for this sort of story. Our house is nothing like Villa Leonida – it’s much smaller and we haven’t discovered any skeletons there but one was found at a nearby house which gave me the idea.

I’m working on another novel about Villa Leonida, this time revealing a secret that goes back to the Second World War.

The Silence is available to pre-order now on this link:

Come along to my virtual book launch on June 8th and find out more. For details

Click here

I’ll be there!  Thanks for coming along today, Katy.  Very best wishes for your launch! 

Thank you Tim, I’ve enjoyed my visit to your blog. 

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About the author: Katharine Johnson is a journalist with a passion for crime novels, old houses and all things Italian (except tiramisu). She grew up in Bristol and has lived in Italy. She currently lives in Berkshire with her husband, three children and madcap spaniel. She plays netball badly and is a National Trust room guide. 



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