Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Sarah Ward's ‘A Deadly Thaw’ out in ebook

UK-based author and blogger Sarah Ward has announced that her second novel A Deadly Thaw is out in ebook.

© Sarah Ward
A Deadly Thaw, the follow-up to In Bitter Chill, "sees the return of DI Francis Sadler and DC Connie Childs but has a new protagonist, Kat, who sets out to discover why her sister lied about the identity of the man she killed."

The synopsis of the 384-page Kindle edition published by Faber & Faber says the following:

Every secret has consequences.

Autumn 2004: In Bampton, Derbyshire, Lena Fisher is arrested for suffocating her husband, Andrew.

Spring 2016: A year after Lena's release from prison, Andrew is found dead in a disused mortuary.

Who was the man Lena killed twelve years ago, and who committed the second murder? When Lena disappears, her sister, Kat, sets out to follow a trail of clues delivered by a mysterious teenage boy. Kat must uncover the truth - before there's another death...

"Gives the Scandi authors a run for their money," Icelandic crime writer Yrsa Sigurðardóttir said in praise of the author and her new book.

On December 20, 2015, I reviewed In Bitter Chill and interviewed Sarah Ward, who reviews books at her blog, Crimepieces, and is a judge for the UK-based Petrona Award. She lives in Derbyshire, England, the setting of both of her novels.

The 3Cs wishes Sarah good luck and success.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The Laws of the Spirit World by Khorshed Bhavnagri, 2009

In Ghost, Sam (Patrick Swayze) is killed by a thief in an alley, leaving his girlfriend Molly (Demi Moore) shattered. It is no ordinary street mugging. Sam comes back as a spirit to warn Molly that her life is in danger. But since he cannot be seen or heard, he takes the help of a reluctant psychic, Oda Mae Brown (Whoopi Goldberg), to communicate with Molly and save her from his crooked friend and mastermind Carl Bruner (Tony Goldwyn).

The film was a big hit because of the unusual storyline and the romantic poetry of Swayze and Moore and, I suspect, its underlying theme—afterlife—and the mystery surrounding it.

Everyone at some point or another wonders—is there life after death? If yes, then what is it like? So far a credible answer has been as elusive as the possibility of life in space. It has even eluded mystics who, for want of a better response, instruct us to keep our faith and not question the here and hereafter.

In The Laws of the Spirit World (2009), Khorshed Bhavnagri takes the reader through her painful quest to find the answer that eventually helps her turn her personal tragedy into an endearing spiritual journey—and come to terms with the death of her loved ones. Along the way she rediscovers peace, solace, and more.

Khorshed’s small world and her faith in God came crashing down when her two motorsport-loving sons, Vispi, 31, and Ratoo, 30, died in a car accident one winter’s day in December 1980. It was all but the end of the world for her and her husband, Rumi Bhavnagri, who lived in Byculla in central Bombay (now Mumbai). 

“I had been very religious. Now, for the first time, I began to question whether there was a God. If there was a God then why should He do this terrible thing to me, snatch my sons away when I have never harmed a hair on anyone’s head? I was ready to give up God, religion and life,” the distraught mother said.

Khorshed Bhavnagri
A few days after the funeral, a chance encounter with a powerful medium changed their lives once again—only this time for the better and for the spiritual benefit of scores of other sufferers. The Bhavnagris provided guidance and comfort to both young and old, and offered counsel to troubled people. Questions about personal and spiritual matters were addressed and minds set at ease. These are reproduced in the second part of the book.

The psychic held seances to help Khorshed and Rumi “communicate” with their sons in the spirit world. They did so first by automatic writing and then via telepathy. “You must not cry for us or miss us, we are much happier here,” Vispi and Ratoo told their parents who, guided by the boys, set out on their noble mission of spiritual awakening. The devout couple were inspired by the life and teachings of spiritual messiahs.

The 380-page book, published by Mumbai's Jaico Publishing House, is the true and affecting story of grief-stricken parents and their desperate search for the meaning of existence, the realms of life and death, the power of the subconscious mind, and concepts of good and evil and heaven and hell. It is borne out of their sons’ desire to explain the laws of the spirit world to the mortal world.

The Laws of the Spirit World is not out of my comfort zone. Since I have been reading spiritual books from my early teens, the book resonated with me. But there is plenty of food for thought even for those not inclined to the metaphysical. What is required is an open mind and the willingness to accept concepts beyond one’s deep-rooted beliefs and principles. It offers a refreshing perspective on various aspects of life and death, and it is up to readers to accept or reject them. For example, readers who don’t believe in the afterlife and the mediums and seances associated with it can still take away valuable tips the author offers on how people, as individuals or families, can lead a happy and contented life. Isn’t that the purpose of every beautiful life?

The writing is simple and lucid and set in broad typeface that makes the book aesthetically appealing.

Rumi and Khorshed Bhavnagri passed away in 1996 and 2007, respectively, and as they would've, no doubt, liked everyone to know, “happily reunited with their sons in the spirit world.”

A few reviews from Amazon

“The book has changed my life, and I am sure it will change yours too.”
— Shiamak Davar, noted Indian choreographer and follower of Khorshed Bhavnagri

“An excellent read. Changes one's perspective towards life. A book for believers in God, Karma and reincarnation. Death, the imminent event in everyone's life, is mostly an enigma. This book enables the reader to strike peace with death and solve that mystery i.e. death is nothing but a foray into eternal life.”
— Radha

“For one who has read Indian philosophy, and works (of) Dr. Brian Weiss etc., I find that this book reinforces the same universal message. It takes faith to believe in the spirit world but the message is universal—we need to connect with our inner selves and everyone around us is a noble person living out his/her 'spirit'ual goal.”
— J. Mallaparajuon

Sunday, August 07, 2016

Preview: The Ghost Squad by John Gosling, 1959

Being a member of the Ghost Squad was a lonely job.

Cover of my hardback first edition.
There are books read and reviewed. And then there are books unread and written about. Because you can’t wait to tell your readers about it. The Ghost Squad by John Gosling, a former police officer with Scotland Yard, is the kind of book you feel unusually excited and compelled to write about as soon as you buy it. I’m doing so after reading only the first chapter.

You see it at a book exhibition and you grab it and you run out and down the stairs waving it in the air.

“Hey, look what I got! I bet you don’t have it. I bet you haven’t even heard of the book and its author.”

Pardon my exaggerated reaction to this book. But how else do you react to the discovery of a 1950’s hardback first edition of a forgotten nonfiction that tells the story of the Ghost Squad, a secret operation undertaken by Scotland Yard to flush out London’s underworld?

Reconstruction of a chapter episode.
This actually happened. Gosling was Detective Sergeant when the Yard chose him as one of the four phantom detectives on the Ghost Squad, which began work on January 1, 1946. This is his story told in first person.

And this is what the front inside of my pictorial book jacket says:

“(Gosling) was one of the four top C.I.D. men chosen from London’s 1,200 detectives to be enrolled into the Ghost Squad, and he remained with it throughout the four years it was operational. In that time more than 1,000 men and women were arrested and over half a million pounds worth of stolen property was recovered. But none of the phantom detectives responsible for this clean-up of London’s underworld were appeared in court nor were their identities ever disclosed. The Ghost Squad worked undercover to catch the biggest crooks in London who were too clever to be caught by orthodox methods.

“It was a battle of wits between the “ghosts” and the criminals; cunning was matched against cunning and the stealthy encroachment of the “unseen force” into the deepest haunts of crime struck terror among the master-minds of the underworld.”

The four-year long secret operation was a success. John Gosling retired in 1956 with the rank of Detective Superintendent.

The book inspired the crime drama series, Ghost Squad (also known as G.S.5), which ran on ATV between 1961 and 1964.

Now on to chapter two of The Ghost Squad, which Gosling thought was
a revolutionary idea at the time because, among other things, “Crooks are our enemies and the best of them will try to outwit you. If you don't learn how to handle a crook he'll soon learn to hand you—and then the tail is wagging the dog.

Friday, August 05, 2016

Drabble #7: A story in 100 words

She took my hands in hers and said, “I love you but I can’t go on with you...anymore.”

“Who is he? Anyone I know?”

She shook her head.

“Why now? Why after...all these years?”

“I am tired of us, tired of our marriage. I want more out of life.”

“Can we have one last drink?” I said resignedly.

She nodded.

I handed her glass to her and kissed her. I sipped my drink and waited for the cyanide to kick in. I wanted out. Lord, make it painless.

Note: For previous Drabbles, click here.

Monday, August 01, 2016

The Intern, 2015

My password to Tuesday's Overlooked Films, Audio & Video over at Todd Mason’s blog Sweet Freedom.

Robert De Niro is 72, robust, and still making films. Sometimes four to six flicks a year. The Raging Bull star is probably the busiest actor of his era. He made 24 of his hundred-odd films only in the past six years. I have seen less than half of the total. So I'm no authority on his body of work.

The Scorsese veteran plays a widower in at least five of his recent films, including Nancy Meyers' The Intern (2015). As I watched the family drama on cable TV Sunday evening, I recalled an article I'd read in The Independent on why De Niro making bad films was wildly depressing

Is it because there are no constructive roles for actors of his calibre and generation? Is he doing it for the money? I'm inclined to go with lack of suitably challenging roles rather than a love for the green bucks. I'm sure he has made enough. But who doesn't want more? 

Illeana Douglas, who worked with the actor on Goodfellas, Cape Fear and Guilty by Suspicion, had this to say in the UK paper: "They talk about De Niro walking through roles, just collecting the money, and I do think that’s true. I’ve heard from financiers that if you have the money De Niro will be in anything, and that he seems to just have checked out, that he knows in a way the gig is up and he’s just getting to the finish line, but I'm not sure if that’s true concerning his performances in Silver Linings Playbook for example, and even in something as benign as The Intern he brings a strange kind of authorial presence to a very lightweight movie."

I can't say if De Niro is making bad films considering that he has appeared in serious dramas, too, in recent years. Action thrillers like Stone, Killing Season, and Heist, which may not match his previously more enduring films. But I quite liked him in The Intern as opposed to his other widower-movies, Dirty Grandpa, Last Vegas, and Everybody's Fine. I have not seen Being Flynn yet.

The Intern is a lighthearted and lazy-Sunday flick in which his character Ben Whittaker, experienced, retired and 70 years, works as an intern in a Brooklyn-based e-commerce fashion startup owned by its hands-on founder and chief executive Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). Ben endears himself to his much younger colleagues, always willing to lend a hand, even break the law, and helps Jules cope with office pressures and repair her marriage. Jules learns to respect and value Ben’s trust and friendship, and the two bond like father and daughter. This is their film only.

De Niro is charming in a role that
“suits” him well, perhaps because he looks the part of an elderly, kind and affable gentleman and because he doesn’t say much in the film. Along the way he meets Fiona (Rene Russo), a masseuse, and rediscovers love and companionship. And you’re glad he does.

The Intern is a nice film about friendship, love and relationship. There is nothing "wildly depressing" about it. De Niro gets the film out of the way with the flick of his wrist.