Nicola Upson: Fear in the Sunlight Sunday, May 19 2013 

Nicola Upson’s fourth mystery featuring real-life Golden Age mystery writer Josephine Tey proves once again that Upson is a master at plotting, and at figuring out the complexities of personality and psychology.

Fear-in-the-Sunlight-Nicola-Upson-Cover

An intriguing setting is provided by Portmeirion, Wales, the imaginative architectural transformation of Clough Williams-Ellis, who created an Italianate village out of a section of northwest Wales’ coastal wilderness.

Noel Coward wrote Blithe Spirit at the resort, and it was frequented by actors and writers, including Tey and her circle, as a place of undeniable beauty and peace, a refuge from the hectic reality of their celebrity lives. It is to Upson’s credit that Portmeirion springs to life in the reader’s mind.

Into this tranquil setting of medieval buildings and fragrant gardens, Josephine has arrived to celebrate her fortieth birthday with the circle of friends readers will recognize, including detective Archie Penrose. Also present are celebrated director Alfred Hitchcock and his wife Alma Reville and a few of their company.

Hitchcock wants to convince Tey she should allow him to adapt her mystery, A Shilling for Candles, for the screen. (The film was made as Young and Innocent, released in 1937 and was Hitchcock’s favorite British film.) But Tey needs to meet the Hitchcock’s first before granting her approval.

It is the eve of World War II, and the Hitchcock’s are being wooed to come to America, a move that will certainly change their lives. This decision weighs heavily on the director’s mind, as he listens to the wise counsel of his wife, the woman who served as his editor, writer and confidante.

But Hitchcock was known for elaborate and sometimes perverse pranks, a master manipulator of people and their reactions, fodder for his superb psychological thrillers. As Josephine and Archie each struggle with their own private demons, the group at Portmeirion will fall prey to one of the filmmaker’s most unusual and absurd tricks.

Then a grande dame of cinema is found horrifically murdered in a nearby cemetery, and each person at Portmeirion will have their past explored.

The bodies continue to pile up until a resolution is reached that leaves more questions than answers.

For Archie, the case had a very unsatisfying conclusion. It is only in the opening and closing chapters, set in 1954, that readers will learn the truth behind the string of killings that had deep-seated roots.

For readers not familiar with the series, Upson does exhaustive research into the 1930’s in the entire series, so readers are transported to the spell of that era. She has immersed herself in the life of Elizabeth Mackintosh, the Scottish author who wrote her mysteries as Tey and historical plays under the name of Gordon Daviot.

In Fear in the Sunlight, the resort village will spring to life. Portmeirion in all its glory becomes a character in itself, in this compelling mystery that hints at the future of several of its major characters. Each character is finely drawn, visually imagined, with distinct voices and sometimes surprising viewpoints.

Don’t miss this newest blend of fact and fiction from an author whose stories leap off the page. Highly recommended.

Writers Read Sunday, Apr 20 2008 

That’s the name of my Screw Iowa outreach program; the first was Thursday night and I am still reeling from the great success of the evening.  I had a keynote reader, a friend who agreed to read a snippet of her novel, and hoped for at least two others to sign up to read.  I’d rented out the local coffeehouse for two hours, done up flyers, sent them out and hoped for six people to show up.  I had 15 there and 6 read!  It was a huge success!  When I told them I wanted to do it again in the fall, they clamored for an earlier date, so we are doing it again in June.

I may read this next time, but the point was to stimulate other writers to get together and from critique groups of their own and get experience reading in public.  I had an essay, some novelists, and even a playwright read.  Even Doc, who graciously accompanied me, said the evening was a huge success and he enjoyed it.

The friend who was the keynote reader is thanking me by taking us to a chamber music concert tomorrow in the newly renovated old time theatre in town, so it’s a double-whammy weekend~I was so giddy I spent three hours in the sun today helping Doc with a gate he’s making to keep our puppy Radar from going over the marsh bridge to play where he’s not wanted.  I have weird neighbors who are hermits and don’t like puppies.  They happen to be relations, too (big sigh).  But that’s for another blog and another weekend~

Writing on the River Sunday, Mar 9 2008 

I have to admit I’m very fortunate.  Each day that’s nice enough, I can drag my laptop onto our screened porch and sit and watch river life whilst writing.  The weather is just starting to turn enough here that I can do that soon, the bulbs coming up and the trees budding.  Fred and Ethel, our pair of mallards, visit the dock and swim along the bulkheading.  If they’re seen by our dogs, Murray and Radar take off down the dock, barking their respective heads off, saying in doggie language: “SCRAM! This is our dock!”

While I try to look up frequently, my eyes are usually cast down to the computer screen.  Now that the manuscript for our Screw Iowa book is in good shape, I can get back to my own writing.  Right now that means revision, where P. D. James told me ‘the real writing gets done.’  I’m trying something new, changing to first person POV, and with that comes the challenge of my main character having to be present in every scene, or the action can’t happen.

And in between that revising, I’ll be working on my bits for our Screw Iowa website, finding pieces to revise to send out to other publications hoping to garner another publication credit, querying the editor at the magazine send articles to with my latest idea, and working on dividing our Screw Iowa concept into five coherent small ‘talks’ as we prepare to publicize our project with panel discussions.

And you thought a writer’s life was just sitting there having fun, right?

The Royals Monday, Mar 3 2008 

Anglophile that I am, Auntie M will be glued to the Ba-Ba Walters special tonight on the Royal Family.  It’s supposed to contain footage gleaned over several months showing how they live on a daily basis.  Don’t have a clue why I care; guess it’s because I lived there in another life, I swear.  And love their mysteries; and those crooked little streets and gorgeous buildings; and Dickens and Christie and Wilkie Collins and Shakespeare; the Lake District and canals; gardens and High tea and OXFORD–should I stop now?

On the home front, heading to the airport tomorrow to pick up one of the Screw Iowa gals.  We’re a writers workshop of five women who live across the country.  We met at the U of Iowa a few years ago in a novel class and bonded.  After maintaining email contact all year and trading bits and pieces of our novels for critiquing, we approached Iowa and asked for a course that would allow us to critique our entire novels, instead of the lowly 20-25 pages that are usual.  They said no.  We said, with great respect, “Screw Iowa, we’ll do it ourselves.”  And so we did, and continue to do so, meeting annually to critique each other’s entire novels, trading and supporting and communicating by email all year long.  It’s been so successful we’ve written a book about it.

Screw Iowa: A Twenty-First Century Writers Guide to Success is represented by Curtis Brown, Ltd.  Our book proposal and sample chapters are making the rounds to potential publishers.   And Miss L from Baltimore is arriving for 3 days of work to put the finishing touches on the complete manuscript.  One that five women have written together.  Now, I want you to picture that: five women agreeing on any one thing.  And then multiply that by about 200 pages and you can see how busy we’ve been this past year.  It’s a labor of love, intended to encourage writers out there everywhere to keep on writing.  Once it’s in print, copies will be available on our website, soon to be up and running.  Watch this spot for news at that launch.

And enjoy the Royals tonight!

Pamela J Castrucci

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The Wonderful World of Reading

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the care and feeding of our little fish

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Reading is a wonderful adventure!

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"I tramp the perpetual journey." Walt Whitman

MiddleSisterReviews.com

(mid'-l sis'-tǝr) n. the reader's favorite sister

My train of thoughts on...

Smile! Don't look back in anger.

Decor and diy

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