October: Bush sojourns, second-guessing and jambusting

Roving

October was a relatively quiet month – I went camping with some friends, had a friend from interstate come stay, and did some exploring close to home. I love living in a national park, there’s so much to see and do here, it’s never dull. And Spring was springing all over the place – we chanced across some amazing waratahs in bloom. I also had a bit of home time and pawed through boxes of old books, some I’ve been carting around since I was 10 years old! Sadly the rats in the shed also enjoyed some of my books, turning my old paperbacks into true pulp fiction.

Writing

A bit of progress on the writing front with some short stories and a larger story arc. Sometimes it doesn’t pay to keep re-reading your work. Listen to all of those gurus who tell you just to purge the story from your mind before you set about reworking sentences and perfecting dialogue. The muses won’t linger…

Reading

October was a good month for books.

Dead Water by Ngaio Marsh (St Martins) – I love new reads but I compulsively pick up lots of vintage mysteries thanks to my local train station book exchange and the many antique and op shops I haunt on a regular basis. New Zealand-born Ngaio Marsh is one of the four original ‘queens of crime’ – the others being Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers and Margery Allingham. Dead Water starts off with a village miracle (or is it?), which divides the islanders. When a murder occurs, it draws the attention of Inspector Alleyn. A golden age whodunnit, we sort through the red herrings and suspects one by one before our killer gets the collywobbles and…well, you’ll just have to read it.

Pagan Spring by GM Malliet (Minotaur Books) – I am a solid fan of GM Malliet whose wit and beautiful writing make reading her Max Tudor novels such a delight. Max is a priest and ex-MI5 agent who left the grim work of a spy to pursue a spiritual calling. Thankfully Max is an Anglican (potential for wedding bells!) so the books include a bit of romance with the local pagan hippy shop owner Awena Owen. In Pagan Spring, a washed-up actor returns to Nether Monkslip and is later found dead. Max must investigate to restore order to his picture-postcard English village. Malliet is also the author of the St Just mysteries (which I’ve also dipped into) and a writer to follow. The first book in that series, Death of a Cozy Writer (we’ll forgive the American spelling just this once), picked up an Agatha Award. Let me quote the New York Times here because this pretty much sums up the author and her writing: “There are certain things you really want to have in a village mystery: a pretty setting, a tasteful murder, an appealing sleuth, a festive event, some eccentric locals, a dash of humor and maybe a nice map. G. M. Malliet delivers…” She sure does!

Jambusters: The story of the Women’s Institute in the Second World War by Julie Summers (Simon & Schuster) – For historians, historical re-enactors, feminists and Home Fires fans, this book is a must! Julie Summers’ history of the Women’s Institute and its amazing work during the war years in Britain is absolutely fascinating. There was nothing this army of women couldn’t do to keep those proverbial home fires burning while their menfolk were away fighting in the trenches. I can see why the book was the springboard for the equally engaging TV series Home Fires (sadly axed after two seasons). Julie is the author of many books including Fashion on the Ration, which is my next on my history reading list.

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