Villains in Fiction

November 30, 2018

Just as every book needs a good hero, the same book needs an even better villain.  Good heroes linger in the memory long after the story has finished, but what makes them memorable are the actions of the villain and I give and example of those encountered by one hero below.

James Bond is probably the best known thriller hero but what makes him so good is his confrontation with a really nasty villain and he comes up against some very unpleasant ones.  Most come across as deluded madmen who seek to dominate or destroy all that is good in the world.  But my favourite is one of the most unexpected, an evil woman called Rosa Klebb, who appears in the novel and later movie “From Russia With Love, and trys to kill Bond with a poisoned blade in the toe of her shoe.

I try to portray the villains in my books in the same vein.  In the novel “Magic Bullets”, a few characters appear to the hero as people who have harmed him or hindered his progress in some way but turn out to be “good guys”.  The real villain starts out as being entirely opposite but towards the end of the novel turns out to be entirely despicable.  In this way I hope the various twists in the story serve to keep the reader on his or her toes.

Keith Jahans

http://peatmore.com/magicbullets.htm

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You gotta dream

November 28, 2018

Cristian Mihai


“​Take the crumbs from starving soldiers, they won’t die.

Take the bread from hungry children, they won’t cry.

But without dreams, we’ll all die.”

A dream is a vision created by our imagination and stored in our minds for when we need motivation. For those mornings when we don’t feel like getting out of bed. Or when the nights feel unusually long.

To dream is to spend midnight hours dreaming about the dawn.

If you do not see what isn’t there, how can you ever create it? Achieve it? Conquer it?

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Book Excerpt – Victim of Compromise by Luke Johnson

November 27, 2018

The naked body of a young woman lay face down on the double bed like a discarded doll, a towelling cord wrapped tightly around her neck.

            “Dressing gown cord,” explained Donovan.  “The ‘otel supplies gowns for their guests.  The room’s been checked and photographed.  Mr Wallace said everything should be left as it was found till you arrived.  The doctor’s been and gone, and Forensic are waiting to move in when you’ve finished.”

            Ray had no idea why he had been summoned.  He had only received news of his promotion a month ago and was due to take up his new post in the Serious Crime Squad in two weeks.  The previous night he’d been out with the lads from the Flying Squad celebrating his promotion.  The evening had started well, then some bastard had put something in his drink.  Now his head was pounding and his tongue felt like an old dish-rag.  He had no track record of leading a murder inquiry.  However, investigating a suspicious death was part and parcel of police work, and he’d seen far too many corpses in his career – more than he cared to remember.  At least this one was relatively fresh and thankfully there was no blood.

            “When was she found?” he asked

            “About nine o’clock this morning, by the cleaning maid.”

            Ray looked at his watch.  It was one p.m.  He bent over the body, hoping he gave the impression he was an expert.  The girl was a brunette with short straight hair, cut in a bob, and may have once been pretty, but the blue and swollen face had changed all that.  He checked her fingers.  There was a silver ring containing a semi-precious stone on the right hand.  Her left hand showed no sign of jewellery, past or present.

            “Has her next of kin been informed?” he asked.

            “Yes, sir.”

            “Was she married?”

            “I don’t think she was.  We’re checking ‘er background – boyfriends etcetera.  The room was registered in the name of Mr and Mrs Roberts.  The receptionist says the register was signed by a man who was probably in ‘is forties.  She thinks she recognised him from somewhere but can’t think where.”

            Ray straightened up, glad that the examination was over and he had not felt sick.  He surveyed the scene.  A pile of clothing lay in an untidy heap on the floor.  His eyes registered a smart-looking black dress, black tights, black bra and pink panties.  He knew better than to touch anything.  They were in a double bedroom, expensively furnished with oak panelling, matching furniture and a marble en-suite bathroom.  In the bathroom, the towels were neatly folded and it looked unused.  The weather outside was hot, the hottest spring ever recorded, but both rooms were cold and he found himself shivering.

            Donovan noticed.  “I turned the air-conditioning up.  The doc suggested it – we didn’t know when you’d get ‘ere.”

            Ray nodded, relieved that it wasn’t the proximity of death that chilled the air.  He spoke quickly to maintain his air of professionalism. “Okay, tell me what you know.”

            Donovan opened his pocket book.  “The victim, as yet not formerly identified, is thought to be Mary Rayner, a twenty-two-year-old white female – up until the end of December, last year, she was a Detective Constable here at Wellstone.”

http://amazon.com/dp/B005HFLB4C


The fate of fictional heroines

November 22, 2018

I have often wondered what happened to the heroines that James Bond ended up with at the end of Ian Fleming’s novels.  It is a long time since I read the books but I seem to recall that Bond fell in love with all of them.  I like to think that there must have been a breakup scene between one book and the next.  Two died (Vesper Lynd and Tracy Draco) so any problem Bond might have had with dissolving his relationship with those were resolved.  But it seems more likely he just abandons them without so much as a goodbye when he begins a new adventure.

Another hero I was a fan of at about the same time was the Leslie Charteris character, Simon Templar, better known as the Saint.  Templar seemed to treat his women in the same manner as Bond but one heroine, Patricia Holm, appeared as his long standing girlfriend in some of the novels despite the fact that he had other lovers in between stories.  Again, like the Bond girls, I have no idea how he broke up with these beautiful women, as they were always described as being beautiful.  It must have been hard on all concerned.

The above are only a few examples of heroines from two popular thriller writers and their effect on me is such that I may have regarded them as models for female characters in my own stories.  But the problem of how to resolve what happens to them at the end of a story remains.  I remember watching the TV western series Bonanza as a teenager in the 1960s and pitying the women who fell in love with Adam, Hoss, Little Joe or even Ben (Pa) Cartwright for they were most always doomed to die.

I have been tempted to develop some of my books into a series.  Such series can help to develop a fan base and become very profitable so it is extremely tempting.  But I am not a great fan of sequels.  My heroes tend to be men and what to do about their heroines will remain a problem that I have a difficulty in grappling with.

 

Keith Jahans


Why Scientists are Allergic to Statistics

November 21, 2018

Physics and Art

This article in Medical Xpress addresses a huge pet peeve of mine. Scientists largely suck at statistics! Especially for experimental scientists, this is insane. Yet I cannot express how frustrating it has been to me throughout my career as an experimental scientist to see study after study proven invalid because the statistics were botched. And I’m not just talking about bad scientists; even the very best are constantly caught in this trap. Many a brilliant scientist has treated statistics as an afterthought and been burned by it. In fact, I’d bet many non-scientists can name multiple times that some big breakthrough was announced in the media, only to fade away into nothingness. Virtually always this was due to the responsible scientists not understanding their statistics.

This article delves into possible causes for this. I myself was drawn into the fray a few years back, to try and stem the tide of poor…

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Moby-Dick by Melville

November 16, 2018

Pen & Ink Reviews

mobyCall me Ishmael. It is one of the most noted lines in literary history. Thus beginsHerman Melville’s Moby-Dick, a classic in America’s literary body. Complex and dense, the tale revolves around a depressive former school teacher who instructs the reader to call him Ishmael as he becomes embroiled in an ill-fated, epic voyage around the world aboard the Pequod. While the straightforward plot is well-known—an insane captain pursues an insane white whale—the nuances, imagery, allegories, and symbolism are what make this tale a classic.

The most prevalent theme in Moby-Dick is that of man versus nature, human versus animal. Fear, pain, and rage have all combined to create Captain Ahab’s relentless obsession, and the mysterious, deadly white whale has become a symbol for all of the man’s (and humankind’s) suffering. Nature in all its might, apathy, and sometimes seeming-intent is personified in the figure of the white whale…

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Writing Crime Fiction

November 16, 2018

I find writing crime fiction easy but the editing process is hard as I am slightly dyslexic.  I am also lazy which is why my stories take a long time to write.  I began my newly released novel, Magic Bullets, a ridiculously long time ago in the 1970s.

My first draft is always bad and contains all kinds of spelling, grammar and continuity errors because I am a story teller and not a literary writer.  I write ideas down as they come into my head while I sit at a computer.  I do think about the story as I go about my daily life, planning plot lines and sometimes endings.  But the story really evolves into something I feel worthwhile publishing during the editing.  The advantage of this style is that I do not recall getting writer’s block.  I subscribe to the Raymond Chandler view, “When in doubt, have a man come through the door with a gun in his hand”.  I don’t take this literary but I do like to throw in something to put my protagonist reader, and occasionally even myself off guard.

I self publish and therefore have to be extra vigilant with my editing.  Online and offline spelling and grammar checkers are invaluable.  Oh, if only I had these when I grew up in the years BC (Before Computers) when dyslexia was unheard of.  But even these tools are not good enough.  I get computer text-to-voice software to read my writing back to me and at least three people, whose views I respect, to read through what I consider to be my final draft.  In reality it never is.  Even after all these checks a few mistakes creep through.  But the beauty of self-publishing and publishing-on-demand means that I do not produce more than ten or twenty copies at a time.  This means that by the time my work gets to the reader the mistakes are gone and, who knows, some of the early error filled copies may eventually be worth a lot of money as collectors’ items.

Keith Jahans

http://peatmore.com/magicbullets.htm