Tuesday 10 December 2013

Patrick Brighams's Christmas Story - Happy Christmas Everybody!

A Christmas Tale.   
By Patrick Brigham 

Once more the languor of a Balkan Christmas was upon me, and the torpor of inactivity has dulled the mind with a diet of turkey and sticky sweets; punctuated by the ever present TV set which spews out the accumulated detritus of fifty years of Hollywood’s seasonal obsessions.  
Within the remit of my little expatriate world, it was well known that the Balkan God had been practically dead up until 1989. Now his re -awakening is not one of spirituality, but the mockery of commercialism. That, and the winging family, drove me - not to despair - but to write. But what could I write about?
I made several vain attempts to start the muse working, but without a computer and many false starts, it all ended up as a pile of disjointed paragraphs scrawled on crumpled paper, which I then tossed into an ever filling wastepaper basket. Irritated by the usual family interruptions, my attempts at fiction became more absurd and desperate, but never the less I tried. 

Great Aunt Florrie sat amidst her accumulated collection of antique furniture, which gleamed and smelt of beeswax polish. As one might do when visiting an antique shop, one needed time to navigate a precarious route between the Hepplewhite and Chippendale furniture, her inheritance from more than thirty years close observance of family duty, and the ever mounting mortality of ever aging relations. During her life she had frequently admired various antiques - bric-a-brac, objects of virtue, items big and small - and their proud owners had often said to her, ‘When I die, I will leave that to you in my will.’ And true to their word, they always had.
Now; the last of her decrepit generation, she sat comfortably within her Aladdin’s Cave, enjoying the history of a large family, which in turn had collected furniture and keepsakes from all around the world. Brass topped tables from Turkey with little brass cups and a brass coffee pot, little side tables shaped like an old threepenny bit - octagonal and inlayed in ivory from India - nodoubt given to her by some long forgotten District Commissioner. Faded sepia photographs of Victorians who stared at you from round black ebony frames, little pieces of porcelain and glass standing on the worn red velvet shelves of a sparkling book case bureau. And next to it a marble mantelpiece adorned by a French sevrais ormolu gilded clock surrounded by silver framed photographs of smiling 20th century and brilliantined men with their families and dogs sitting posed on verandah’s somewhere in India, Africa or even Birchington-on-sea.
She smiled at me and said ‘Dear, it has been so long since I have seen you, I expect you have been very busy traveling around the world in your job.’ The brass faced sun and moon long case grandfather clock chimed five times, the mechanism whirred, and she looked up at the clock face not waiting for my reply. She said ‘Is that the time? We had better have our tea now dear; I’ve got a Christmas cake especially for your visit today. I don’t usually bother on my own, not these days.’ 

She opened out a pretty gate legged table, lifted the flaps, and carefully pulled out the candy twist legs. From the drawer she removed an embroidered table cloth, and then went over to the sideboard to get the Spode cups, saucers, and tea plates. She rattled around in the sideboard and finally counted out four silver tea spoons - one for each of us, one for the sugar, and one for the jam - two small silver knives and forks, and a silver cake slice. She put them on the table, and then bumping into various objects en route, she made her way to the kitchen of her crowded Kensington terrace house. I looked around the room which I had not seen for some years, and glanced at the fading wallpaper, and the ornate ceiling. 

The whole house needed some attention. I had noticed from the outside, when I arrived, a bad structural crack running over the front bay window, and sitting there I also saw that there was some movement in the flank wall. You could just see a stepped crack appearing, which also ran across the ceiling. It was here that a large glass chandelier hung, with twenty candle-bulbs. From the kitchen her thin reedy voice shouted. ‘China or Indian dear, the tea I mean?’ I could hear the water bubbling in the electric kettle. ‘Indian, please Auntie.’ I shouted back, and remembered the holidays I had spent here with her when she had been younger and more mobile. It had been a time when London was more genteel, more English, and now Kensington was full of foreigners, which was how I often felt about myself these days. 

Aunt Florrie came to the door of the kitchen carrying a large mahogany tray, on which I could see a big silver teapot and a Fortnum and Masons Christmas cake. Getting up I said ‘Let me take that auntie,’ as I collided with various tables and chairs ‘it looks very heavy to me.’ I grasped the handles of the butler’s tray, and placed it on the table next to the buttoned back chaise longue on which she had been sitting. The crustless thin slices of bread and butter sat uniformly on a crown derby plate, placed carefully on a paper lace mat. ‘Shall I pour the tea auntie,’ and without waiting I said ‘and I had better cut the cake too, this sugar icing looks very thick to me.’ She smiled at me again, and then shuffled towards her seat on which she had placed her crochet. It lay on top of an old copy of The Lady magazine.

She switched on a nearby table lamp, announcing the fact that darkness had begun to descend on a wintry London. Through the window I noticed that the street lights had begun to automatically switch themselves on, and so I got up and went to the window to pull the thick draped curtains. What happened then I will never forget!  

For a moment I stood there looking into the street, watching someone attempting to park their car in the snow, and then looked at the heavily restored houses opposite. Someone had ostentatiously erected a Christmas tree in their front garden, which was covered by hundreds of white glittering lights. Then it happened!  

As I pulled the curtains I heard a slight cracking noise, so I naturally turned to see where the noise had come from. As I did the cracking noise turned into a roar, and before me the room seemed to disintegrate into a cloud of dust and plasterwork, pressing me closely and painfully into the bay window.

Aunt Florrie had her back towards me, and I could just see her head through the dust as a large four poster bed crashed through the ceiling, its passage lit by the blazing glass chandelier. This was followed by two large six draw drop handled walnut chests, a French armoire, and a large marble statue of Gladstone …………. 

This is complete rubbish. No one will ever believe this! I had better start again, and write a new story. 

It was Christmas and the gray haired man wiped a tear from the corner of his eye and contemplated his life so far. He was confused. But why? After all, he was one of the most powerful men in the world.
However power was not everything, particularly when it came to family life. His wife Tensing was not only uncontrollably ambitious, but had been pushy throughout their entire marriage. Their daughter Fulham was spoilt, and he strongly suspected a little promiscuous. His love for her had been demonstrated by his relentless indulgence, and her love for him, by her total self indulgence. The family power struggle was reaching its peak within the metamorphosis of his marriage, and the visible signs of discontent were now more difficult to contain. This was despite his professional advisors and the public relations experts who daily surrounded both him and his family. Had he come all this way, only to concede that his loneliness now far exceeded his sense of political adventure; the adrenaline on which he existed? 

In the background the TV set blandly kept him in touch with international events - with the help of CNN - but on it right now the pundits were discussing domestic issues and the country’s constant obsession with popularity ratings. His were dwindling. But, it was the all too frequent discussion about his private life - and almost historical business deals - which were beginning to irritate him. Was there no part of his life that the media had access to? How anodyne did he have to be, in political office, in order not to attract adverse publicity? 

On the glass topped coffee table next to his leather buttoned back chair, there was a copy of Readers Digest, and a Freeman’s catalog - left there nodoubt by his wife Tensing. He pushed them to one side, and then out of a heavily ornate silver box he removed some cigarettes, a packet of Rizla cigarette papers, and a small ball of crumpled kitchen foil - which he undid - revealing an innocuous small brown lump.

First he removed four cigarette papers, which he stuck together in a stepped fashion, seeming to form one large paper. Next he broke open one of the cigarettes, which he sprinkled onto the paper. He then picked up the brown substance, and removing a small gas lighter from the box, he started to burn it. The smell was quite noxious, and he smiled with expectation. He then crumbled some of the warm brown substance onto the tobacco, and then assembled the whole thing into a large cigarette. He twisted one end of the now tightly packed cigarette, so it looked like a fuse. Finally, he ripped off a piece of the cigarette packet, which he rolled up like a tube, and inserted it into the remaining open end.  

He tidied up the table top, leaving the long cigarette in the ashtray, and then sat back in his club chair, watching - once more - the hourly announcement of his declining popularity. He put the cigarette in his mouth feeling the hard cardboard tip between his lips, and with his soft manicured hand, he squeezed the firm paper tube. He then lit the cigarette carefully, and sat back in his chair awaiting the effect to manifest itself; the craved for feeling of peace and well-being. But, it never happened. 

As he puffed on the rocket shaped cigarette, he carefully blew the highly scented smoke out of his mouth, making sure that he did not inhale any of it, because he knew that it was wrong …………..

I can’t go on! No one will believe this either. Better start again. 

            I don’t know why I particularly noticed her; after all she was only one of many old and poor people who were shuffling through the snow that day. I think it may have been her shoes which I noticed, they were made of plastic. On her feet she appeared to be wearing short white socks, which only partially covered her thin bare legs as she trudged to the tram stop. 

She hugged herself, as the cold wind blew. It seemed determined to find a circuitous route through her threadbare coat, chilling her thin body with its callous breath. The fat woman looked at her through her thick glasses. She was perched inside her kiosk, her fur hat pulled down to cover her ears, her nicotine stained hands holding a dirty coffee cup. The old lady cleared her throat, and with refined deference, she inquired the price of a tram ticket. 

The gruff and uncouth mouth spat out the answer, flecks of white cheese hanging precariously to her chin. ‘Two Leva each, Maminka.’ The old lady was already clutching a ten Leva note, which she then held out in her trembling hand.  

‘You will have to have five tickets, I’ve got no change,’ said the round red Slavic face, snatching the crumpled note. She grinned as she handed over the five white tickets. Her rotting teeth bit hard into a frankfurter sausage. 

‘Please I only need two,’ the old lady said, ‘I am going to the cemetery to visit my husbands grave, I always do that at Christmas.’ 

‘Too bad,’ said the woman, slamming her window shut. ‘Who the hell did she think she was, talking like a lady; talking to her in that way?’

Grinding down the road between the cobbled stones, the old yellow tram rocked as it crossed another track, metalically squeaking as it attempted - very reluctantly - to stop in the square. When it had finally come to a halt, the workers climbed down the steps, pushed past the old lady and made for their shops and offices. They would toast the health of Father Frost later that day, with a half liter bottle of Rakia, which they drank most nights to blot out the relentless frustration of their lives. 

Slowly she climbed the steps, put one of her tickets into the broken ticket punch and then settled herself by the folding door. Through the window there loomed the heroic statue of the communist worker; it stood arrogantly before the backdrop of the forest, the Vitosha Mountains glistening in the distance through the mist.  

It had all been so different in the old days. She could remember waving a bunch of flowers, as the Russian troops drove over Eagles Bridge in their tanks, having fought their way from the Danube. Things had been different then. They all believed that finally their dreams would all come true and everything which they had held so sacred; and for so long, would at last transform their world into a socialist utopia. One that would last forever. 

The Jew had been right, and the intellectuals had realized that Marx was their only salvation, from the war raddled country which the Nazi’s had left behind them. But since the silk revolution everything had changed. People like her - the old guard and the conservatives - had become objects of scorn. Now everywhere she looked there were foreign businessmen, and the only Marx that people spoke of these days, was a new shop that some English company would open in the City center.  

The yellow tram swiftly ran down the hill towards the town, past the drab empty shops, past the newspaper stalls and the Gypsy’s who sold sunflower seeds. She looked at the faces of the people as they shoved their way through the crowds, frantically going nowhere, or mindlessly queuing. Where was her dream now? What had happened to all those dedicated Communists? What had happened to their spirit? Had everyone forgotten all her rousing speeches? 

The cemetery was about a kilometer from the tram stop, a journey which she had taken for almost forty years. She remembered the tears which she had shed in the early years, as she walked the well trodden path to her husbands grave; clutching a single flower, trying to visualize his face.  

Now the only thing she took with her, were her memories. Memories of the strong handsome man she had buried so long ago. Soon she would see his familiar face staring so passionately at her, from the sepia photograph attached to his grave; the same one she had on the wall of her little room.  

It had been a difficult walk for her, age making even the simplest task an ordeal. But having stopped and rested a number of times, she finally came to the gates of the municipal cemetery. The man was sitting in his hut, hoping that the gas bottle would last another week. She tapped gently on the window and watched as he turned and smiled at her, his plastic cap pressed firmly on his head, a scarf wrapped tightly around his neck, the double breasted greatcoat buttoned up to the collar. 

‘Ah! It’s you madam, I wondered if you would come again this year. May I extend the season’s greetings to you, and say how pleased I am to see you.’ 

She smiled at him, an old friend – ‘Thank you Vassil, and the same to you and your family.’ 

‘There is only me now Madam, I buried my wife last year; I am now on my own comrade Petricova. I am on my own.’ 

‘I am sorry to hear that Vassil, but we are all getting so old, you know,’ she offered by way of consolation. 

‘I buried her over there under the linden tree, so I could be near her; so I could talk to her when I was not busy.’ He paused, ‘but, I expect you would like to visit the great man, comrade - your husband the comrade professor.  I’ll open the gates for you Madam. I do hope we meet again next year. Goodbye comrade Petricova.’ 

The trip home was cold and wretched, the tram crowded, and full of rude and angry people who pushed, shoved and blew sour breath into her face. Were these the perfect citizens who she had once so fervourantly and profoundly believed in? Could these people possibly be the result of her much loved ideal; a socialist democratic state. The self doubt only served to make her feel more useless, and her old body shook with fatigue, in years spent in the service of others.  

The biting wind blew through a broken window, and the tram returned once more to the square from where she had come. With great care, she slowly extracted herself from the tram, the closing doors only missing her by centimeters. The driver smiled to herself and thought ‘Who does she think she is? She is nothing now.’ 

The children were playing in the street, and a little girl playfully threatened to throw a snowball at her, but kissed her instead. ‘Where have you been Maitche, you have been gone such a long time. There is a Christmas card for you; I think it is from America.’ 

Home once more, the proud and passionate face of her husband stared impassively once more from the otherwise bare wall, as she lay on her iron bed, watching the dead screen of her old Russian TV set; exhausted by her mornings travels. Picking up the envelope, she carefully inspected the stamp, and saw that it had come from her daughter in San Francisco.  

She slowly opened the envelope, savoring the suspense and enjoying the moment. She looked at the silver bell on the front of the card, and words which said Happy Christmas from the USA. She remembered the words of the old man at the cemetery, and smiled to herself. Feeling the warmth creeping back into her hands and feet, at last she opened up the card. 

Now this, I do believe - Happy Christmas!

Monday 25 November 2013

Judas Goat:The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery - Interview by 'Zita Martin of Dream Writing.'


Author Questions and Answers:

1. What’s your favorite organizational tool or item to help you keep your stories in chronological order? Do you prefer to write series or Stand alones?

I don’t actually. In the case of Herodotus – the Gnome of Sofia, as the story progresses it goes backwards and forwards in time anyway, in order to underline or explain why certain things occur. The story itself covers three decades and goes from a promising start at Oxford University – by British Ambassador Sir Arthur Cumberpot – to the disastrous end of his diplomatic career in Sofia, Bulgaria. In the case of Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery, it takes place over a period of about two months, so it is hard not to keep it in chronological or even logical order! But, it has been a problem in the past, until I realised that unless you were dealing with a very pedantic reader, most will not notice the odd glitch nor care as long as the story bounces along.

2. Do you play the What if game with a basic idea? Do you come up with your story idea first or do you come up with characters/who the main ones are before you can come up with the plot?

There will always be throw away characters in books generally, and in murder mysteries there can always be henchmen. The secret is to concentrate on the main characters and give your protagonist a strong presence and good dialog. But, it is often easier for me to see a story like a TV film or even a stage play, although the latter has far more rules implied and is the best analogy, as far as I am concerned. No actor in his right mind walks across a stage for no reason at all – they are far too lazy I believe – unless they are smoking and need to use an ashtray! The text is about action, and dialog is about justification and cross examination and why we know that people love or hate us.

3. How do you decide on locations for each story and when you pick a place you never been for the story how do you research the place?

I have lived in the Balkans for many years and first visited South Eastern Europe in the 80′s at a time when Communism was the norm. So I am not researching as much as one might imagine. As the Chief Editor and owner of the first English Language magazine – The Sofia Western News (SWN) – from 1995 to 2001, I was totally aware of the political humbug and well aware of the realities of living in post Communist countries. That is why I set my stories either in passing or in part in South Eastern Europe. The rest is about the north of Europe which is something I have always known about and loved. Europe is 27 nations in the EU, and I have been to all of them!

4.How do you pick out names that you feel fit your characters and do you try to tie most if not all your characters from different books together?

You may have noticed that my humorous stories attract slightly humorous names. England is full of ambiguous and often defining family names, many of which were abandoned on Ellis Island like many American immigrants who chose to leave Europe and join the melting pot of Europe. That and of course the immigration officers inability to pronounce or even read certain family names created a plethora of new names in the new World. As to my solid and dependable English policemen, well they would never last in the British police force if they had a silly name, would they?

5. What’s your best advice to new writers on building a new “story” world and how to keep track of it all?

I am of an age where dystopian characters are implanted in someone else’s brain, not mine, and there are times when I wish Harry Potter would make himself disappear! But somehow even in the world which he inhabits, there are recognizable types and who one might actually meet down at Wall-mart or Tesco’s! My advice is always to concentrate of characters who you have met and who you understand and that way they will happily follow you through the process of writing, leaving you to concentrate on the plot because by then they will be like a good friend.

6. Do you use any special programs to write or just word? (examples like Writeway, yWriter, Scrievner etc). do you do all of your writing by the computer or are you crazy like me and you write it in a notebook you can drag around and then add it to the computer later?

Both. As you describe your wring process it sounds like the very first sentence in a book.

7. Are you a plotter or panster? Do you need complete silence while working or do you like listening to music?

Peace and quiet please, and no telephone calls.

8. How many words do you write a day and is there a time that you’ve found is your “best” writing time? If so, is that morning or night?

The best time for me is when I am fresh in the morning, but of course many of your readers have jobs and families to look after and do not have the luxury of time. When I am in good sorts, I can write for eight hours a day and about five pages or more. It is a very difficult question to answer, because we all have out quirks and work patterns.

9. How do you deal with rejection and when the muse rejects to help, what do you do about it?

Do something else. If the sun is shining, cut the grass or go out for lunch with your agent.

10. Have you ever felt like giving up on writing or stopped to question yourself of why your are writing?

I am not an obsessive writer, because I read and spend time watching the world go round. But in truth I write easily, and do not find it hard to start once the detritus has been cleared away.

11. What is on your writing wall? What pics do you have for inspiration?

Gas bills mainly and the occasional photograph of a sunny beach or a classic car.

12. What will you be writing next?

My main character in murder mystery is Detective Inspector Michael Lambert. In Judas Goat – The Kennet narrow Boat Mystery, due to a difficult divorce, he moves away from his job at Thames Valley Police Authority and goes on secondment to Europol, which is Europe’s answer to the FBI. In it he goes to Italy to discover the whereabouts of a little English girl who has been abducted although it is clear that she might have been murdered. While he is there he follows up on own family history and that of his rather mysterious father who had been stationed in southern Italy during WW2 in the RAF. Whilst he is there he discovers some rather disquieting facts about his fathers time in the Royal Air Force, and his relationship with an Italian woman.

14. Who is your go to author when you are looking for something to read?

John Le Carre, Graham Green, Robert Ludlum, Colin Dexter, John Mortimer, J.C.Ballard P.D.James et al!

15. What got you into writing and what made you write this book?

I am a writer by inclination, I just do. But in the 80′s I joined a writers club in Wimbledon a part of London, and met other writers, some of who were quite well known. They told me that they liked to be amongst other writers which was a very modest statement from a good writer. It just proves that there are two types of writer; one who talks the talk and one who walks the walk.

16. Is there a message in your novel that you want readers to grasp?

Stop arms dealing and killing innocent people!

17. If you could describe your book in a 140 character tweet, what would it be?

This is a book that starts off with the baffling murder of some anonymous individual on a Narrow-boat near the town of Reading in the UK. Set in a tranquil river setting it starts like any other murder mystery, but then it changes dramatically. In the end the story takes a turn, and we find ourselves reading about an international arms deal that has gone wrong. This is Morse meets James Bond!


About the author

Patrick Brigham was born in Berkshire England to an old Reading family. After attending an English Public School and College, the author Patrick Brigham went into real estate. After the economic crash of 1989 and a few other bitter experiences, in 1993 he decided to abandon London, and he moved to Sofia in Bulgaria.

In a new country with a different culture, and whilst trying hard to set up a home, a new life was definitely in store for him. A master of the comic vignette especially when consumed with disbelief, he set up the first English Language News Magazine in the Balkans called the Sofia Western News (1995-2000). As a journalist he witnessed the political and economical changes in this once hard core communist country.

Now Patrick Brigham resides in North of Greece, enjoy’s writing and his collection of classic cars.

Patrick Brigham links




Saturday 23 November 2013

Mystery Sequels Book Review - Judas Goat:The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery - by Patrick Brigham

Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery

by Patrick Brigham

Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery by Patrick Brigham

Judas Goat - The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery by Patrick Brigham
Published by Memoirs Publishing on 2013
Genres: Detective Mystery
Pages: 328
Source: Review Copy


Sitting in a Lloyd Loom chair on a Narrow Boat, moored on the Kennet and Avon Canal, a dead man stares into oblivion. Who is he and what is his name?

Chief Inspector Michael Lambert from Thames Valley Police Authority unravels a murder case which stretches from Reading to Bulgaria, South Africa to Belorussia, and finally Taiwan to Peru.

What at first appears to be a straightforward murder is revealed to be part of an international manhunt, the result of a major arms deal which has gone horribly wrong. The story begins with the discovery of a small mobile phone on the narrow boat and ends with the murder of a Chinese shipping magnate in the streets of London. Will anyone’s life be the same again and how will our provincial policeman cope with these different layers of intrigue?
Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery by Patrick Brigham is one of the two mystery novels published by the author this year. When I have received a request to review the book and also interview the author, I agreed for a couple of reasons.
While the author was born in England, he has also lived for several years in Bulgaria. I was born in Romania (Transilvania – yes, yes, Dracula’s home, lol), which is an ex-communist country located right next to Bulgaria. I literally spent my first 21 years there before we emigrated to Germany the first time we got the opportunity to do so.
While I never got a chance to actually visit Bulgaria, the situation couldn’t have been much different from what we experienced day in, day out back at home.
Thus I truly welcomed the chance to read and review the book because it got me curious about his view on this ex-communist country.
Judas Goat is a solid mystery. I enjoyed it right from the start. Chief Inspector Michael Lambert is a middle aged guy who has a rather unhappy marriage, but quite a successful job. He is even looking forward to be promoted next year when his boss will retire.
In the meantime he has a very strange murder case to solve. A body is discovered on a boat in his area of jurisdiction, and initially the task seems simple enough: identify the murder victim and then go from there. However this is where the complications start: the body is not so easy to identify and as it seems, he might have not even be a local, but someone with ties to another country in Europe, Bulgaria.
CI Lambert, to get to the bottom of the case and also to get away for a bit from his nagging wife, asks permission to fly to Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria, to try to find out who the murder victim is and why was he found in England.
Now the actual crime solving part is a solid mystery worth reading. I’ve long noticed that the British mysteries are a bit different from most American ones in that they have a slower pace. So I was not surprised when I didn’t find many nail biting moments. What I found instead was a well crafted crime story with a character that you can’t but like.
There were moments when I was reminded of Sherlock Holmes in the way detective Lambert found clue after clue – and diligently followed them – until he solved the case. And what a surprise the ending turned out to be – I would have never seen that coming.
This was a case that took Lambert across several countries that were very beautifully described. In fact I found the whole novel to have a rather lyrical quality which I admired. The people really came to life in the author’s hands and the places gave me a long lost nostalgia for my own place of birth.
The truth is, life was (and I suppose still is) difficult in the communist regime. People have it hard and they have to live with it. Most of them can’t afford all the luxuries that the Western world so easily offers to their kind, and I find that this makes people a bit more cynic and seeming more harsh to outsiders. And I can very easily imagine the culture shock that Chief Inspector Lambert got soon after entering Bulgaria. It is, afterall, Eastern Europe, which has different values, customs and philosophies from those found in the West.
Currently Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery is a stand alone novel, however as I’ve been told in the interview with the author Patrick Brigham, it might get a sequel afterall. I truly enjoyed reading about detective Lambert, and seeing how at the end of the book he was about to do a career – and life – change, I’m really curious about where he’ll end up and what interesting cases he will be given to solve next..

Monday 18 November 2013

Sarah E. Cradit of Wordpress - interviews author Patrick Brigham in Greece

Sarah E. Cradit of Wordpress   -   interviews Author Patrick Brigham


Patrick Brigham – at home in Greece


Q1. How many books have you written? This can include both published and unpublished works. Describe each of them in 1-2 sentences apiece (if published, feel free to include the links as well)  

 A1. I have written a few books over the years but my most recent publications are the most important ones.

This year I published Herodotus – The Gnome of Sofia:  

Against a backdrop of political change in South Eastern Europe, this murder mystery embraces disgruntled communists, cold war warriors, intrigue, deception and finally murder. Sir Arthur Cumberpot has an unspectacular career which is swiftly drawn to a close when he is appointed British Ambassador to Bulgaria. Due to some unforeseen mishaps his wife Annabel is accused of being a spy and sent home to their house in Watlington while her background is checked by MI5. Annabel is guilty of nothing, other than being the biological daughter of Jim Kilbey, Britain’s most famous spy. It seems that a jealous god has sought to visit the sins of the father upon her, but so has everyone else. She is the victim of serendipity, but also of cover ups, the duplication of thin evidence and exaggeration. But she is also heartless, treacherous, self indulgent and without shame.
 I also published Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery:  

Sitting in a Lloyd Loom chair on a Narrow Boat, moored on the Kennet and Avon Canal, a dead man stares into oblivion. Who is he and what is his name? Chief Inspector Michael Lambert from Thames Valley Police Authority unravels a murder mystery which stretches from Reading in the UK to Bulgaria, South Africa to Belorussia, and finally from Taiwan to Peru. What at first appears to be a straightforward murder is revealed to be part of an international manhunt, the result of a major arms deal which has gone horribly wrong. The story begins with the discovery of a small mobile phone on the narrow boat and ends with the murder of a Chinese shipping magnate in the streets of London. Will anyone’s life be the same again and how will our provincial policeman cope with these different layers of intrigue? 

Q2. Tell me a little bit about your current 'Work In Progress. '

A2. Working title An Angel over Rimini this is a continuation story involving Detective Chief Inspector Lambert. In this murder mystery DCI Lambert is working on secondment for Europol which is the EU equivalent of the FBI. In it he visits Italy in order to track down a little English girl who has been abducted. Whilst he is there in Southern Italy he also tries to find out more about his mysterious father, who had served in Italy during WW2 in the Royal Air Force. As he simultaneously seeks the whereabouts of the little girl, so he finds out some disquieting facts about his father’s time in Italy, when serving with a Pathfinder Squadron in Bari. Both of his investigations unearth some very unnerving facts as murder looms on the horizon. 

Q3. What does writing preparation look like for you? Do you do full outlines and character profiles, or do you just start with a general idea and write? 

A3. A story ferments in my mind for some while before I finally make the trip to the computer. Good murder mystery books need a strong element of truth about them, especially concerning the intricate details of forensic science – readers are becoming very aware of the facts these days. So there is a lot of research to be done, but presently through the wonder of Wikipedia, our travel costs are few. The main characters appear almost immediately, and the throwaway ones and the inevitable ‘henchmen’ easily fade away in the readers mind, as they concentrate on the main story. So in answer to your question, it is a bit of both. 

Q4. Editing is a challenge for many writers. Give us some of your tips for editing efficiently and well. 

A4. Editing and proofreading are essential, and anyone who feels that they can do without, is on their way to nowhere. Writers are readers too, and we all get a bit miffed when horrible errors start appearing in the text. One is OK, two is unfortunate, but three is too much. I know what people have said about my past efforts when I was Chief Editor of a magazine for some years – so it applies to us all. 

Q5. Research is another challenge writer’s face, but it is an important part of the writing process. What are some of your research tips? 

A5. Don’t be in a hurry. If you get it right the story becomes more interesting - believe me - and you never know you might learn something new! 

Q6. If you have been published (self or traditionally), what type of marketing did you find worked the best for you? What was the least helpful? 

A6. I am self published. I always knew that marketing a good murder mystery was 10% writing and 90% marketing, so with Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery, I have launched myself and others heavily into a structured campaign – as they say – on both sides of the pond! Marketing is easier in the US because Americans have practically invented the sympathetic use of the internet. With Don McCauley and Daniela Hampson on www.theauthorsshow.com I found a high level of professionalism and very helpful information. In the UK, things are still fairly dominated by traditional publishers, but – as they say once again– things are changing. 

Q7. What genre do you write in? What are some of the challenges to writing this particular genre well? 

A7. I write within the spectrum of Murder Mystery, meaning that I also take a swipe at humbug and the idiosyncrasies of human nature. Murder is very serious I know, but meanwhile people are living their normal lives, and there is always some humor in that. I have also spent many years in The Balkans and so I know and understand Communism and the intrigue and myths surrounding Eastern Europe, before and after the changes. That is why I have set some of my books in that part of the world, colored by some of the many sometimes unbelievable characters and happenings, which prevailed at the time. 

Q8. What advice would you give to a writer who is starting out? 

A8. Don’t be in a hurry, and don’t chase after the glitter when if you wait bit, you might find some gold. 

Q9. What are your writing, editing, marketing, and research goals for 2013? 

A9. I expect it will be more of the same, but with more recognition and finally more interest from others. Writers should stick together and take an interest in each other’s writing. 

Q10. Pretend I am from a publishing house and you are looking for me to take on one of your books. Pitch it to me in 1-2 paragraphs. 

A10. It is not all about the simplicity of genre, and there are writers out there residing in the ether who don’t always write to order or fit into the over simplistic categories that publishers present to us these days. But if one does not comply with these strictures then the wastepaper basket and the slush pile is waiting for you. So this is what I say:- 

“The author Patrick Brigham has recently written two good mystery books, including Herodotus – The Gnome of Sofia, and Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery. Set once more at the end of the Cold War and Communism, his most recent book features the jazz loving, classic car enthusiast and fictional police murder detective, Chief Inspector Michael Lambert. Faced with political intrigue and in order to solve cases which often involve Eastern Europe, he genuinely needs to understand how an old Communist thinks, during the course of his investigations. 
There are few good books on the subject of international crime, especially mystery stories which delve into the shady side of politics. There are also few mystery novelists, who are prepared to address the thorny political issues of arms dealing and money laundering in their mystery crime fiction. As a recently seconded officer to Europol - the new federal European police force –Police Detective C.I. Michael Lambert will bring a refreshingly new slant to good crime fiction books, as they emerge in the future from the pen of the author Patrick Brigham. “  

Q11. Finally, is there anything else you would like your readers to know? 

A11. Writing is not about money, although that is how it is often presented to an aspiring writer by the press and in the mind’s eye of the general public. It is hard to make a living as a writer, but moreso is the damage to your soul if you don’t. So, don’t give up!



Wednesday 13 November 2013

Patrick Brigham - An Interview by 'Authors Promotion.'

Patrick Brigham’s Interview – writer and journalist


trip trough Europe 136
My guest today is Patrick Brigham, former Editor in Chief of Sofia Western News, Writer and Journalist

You cannot hope to bribe or twist,
Thank God for the British journalist.
But seeing what the man will do - unbribed,
There’s no occasion to.
Humbert Wolfe – The Uncelestial City

Hello Patrick, could you introduce yourself to my readers and tell them a bit more about yourself?
Leaving England in my late 40’s was not such a big wrench for me – as one might have imagined –but to go from a relatively civilized and cultured background to a country steeped in the remnants of Brezhnev and  Soviet  Communism was a challenge. This is where my story as a writer and journalist begins and where the very core of my murder mystery novels is to be found.

I understand that you lived in Bulgaria for more than 20 years. Why did you choose this particular country?

It chose me as a matter of fact, because even though I was aware of the immanent changes in the political structure of Eastern Europe, it was not until I met a certain Bulgarian writer that I even bothered to find it on the map. I asked him where Bulgaria was, and he said come and see for yourself. That was in 1985, and five years before the alleged changes.

How was it there in the beginning, coming from UK – a country with a well established democracy and culture – and going to an ex-communist country? It was quite a challenge I guess.

When I arrived to live there in1993, I think by then I had heard all the myths and precursors that a floored political system could invent for itself. It is not difficult to see the truth, if you look hard enough, and it was easy for me to see that Bulgaria was a floored democracy and a floored economy.

As a journalist, you had the opportunity to meet a few politicians and business man in that country. Can you tell us about a public person who impressed you the most, whether good or bad?

Most of the politicians were reinvented Communists, because that was how the country was run after the fall of Todor Zhivkov the Bulgarian Communist Party Chief Secretary. It was all a sham, including the house arrest of Zhivkov himself and also the absurd election of the nominated ex-Communist leaders. The first election was a total joke, the only difference between the old regime and the new being, better tailors, nicer cars and whiter teeth.

You recently published two novels, Herodotus – The Gnome of Sofia and Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery. Can you tell us a bit more about each of them; is there a common link about them?

The common link in a way is my experiences of Communism and my knowledge of the circumstances surrounding the political changes. In Herodotus – the Gnome of Sofia, I lampoon the remnants of the Cold War Mentality and the way that diplomats perceived the alleged democratization of Eastern Europe and the ignorance with which they approached the subject of political change. So, the story of Herodotus is mainly one of self indulgence and indifference, plus Herodotus himself of course, who is a garden gnome which MI6 has filled with highly technical spying apparatus, all ready for the 21st Century.

Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery is quite different, but it also partly takes place in Sofia Bulgaria, and is about an arms deal involving the purchase of a squadron of MiG29’s from Belorussia and also a small arms shipment to FARC terrorists in Columbia. This is a good murder mystery which starts off in the English countryside and then expands around the world, leaving various dead bodies in its wake.

Why did you choose these two particular subjects: the conspiracy and electronic espionage for Herodotus and such a complex murder mystery with international ramifications for Judas Goat? Are there some real facts which were inspired you?

Most writers are avid readers and in the case of Judas Goat, it was based on a newspaper report concerning certain individuals who were in the Peruvian Government during the 1990’s. In the public domain, it was a question of researching the circumstances and then fictionalizing the outcome into a novel. The main theme concerns an arms deal that has gone wrong, and the murder mystery is about tracking down the culprits and finding out the truth.

Where does your passion come for murders and crime investigation, because both books sound very professional to me; both full of technical details. The forensics reports, the electronic spying devices or the arms deal details are absolutely amazing.

Most of this stuff has been on TV for years! One might say that I was brought up with TV murder mystery from the 1960’s onwards. The technical details come from Wikipedia and elsewhere and represent a great deal of hidden study on my part. A similar electronic spying device was once discovered by the Russian secret service in Moscow – a few years back – apparently just outside the British Embassy!

Did you ask advice from an organization or from public services? And, did you get it?

I found SIPRI very useful when it came to details. They are an ‘independent think tank,’ in Sweden.

I understood that clever Detective Chief Inspector Lambert appears in both books. Are they part of a series?

He is only in Herodotus – The Gnome of Sofia in passing, but features heavily in Judas Goat – The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery. My next book also involves the energetic and thoughtful Detective Chief Inspector Michael Lambert, who this time is employed by the newly formed Europol – European Police Organization – where his special skills are used to track down missing people and solving difficult historical cases, which have not always been satisfactorily investigated by local police.

What is the next book about and can you give us a clue?

DCI Lambert is asked to track down a young English girl who has been abducted from Southern Italy. Whilst he undertakes his duty as a policeman, he also finds himself retracing the wartime history of his own father who was stationed in Bari in Italy serving with an RAF Pathfinder Squadron. Whilst his travels are mainly to do with the missing little girl, he also discovers some disquieting revelations about his late father’s wartime service and his secret private life.

When do you expect this book to be published and what are your plans for the future?

Good question, because I have only recently begun writing, but early next year would seem reasonable.

What is the struggle point in the writing process for you and what is your advice for any aspiring writers?

Time is the enemy and writing needs discipline. I come from an old school of writers who fundamentally believe that a book writes itself, and that we the writers are just scribes who follow our muse. That and a lot of hard work, of course, is how it is done!

Where can readers find out more about you and your books?

You can see more about me on my website – www.patrickbrigham.co.uk and find my books with most well known book sellers, in paperback and Kindle.

Thank you for being with us today Patrick and I hope to have you again as a guest on my blog, talking about your new book and many others to come.

Something for A Quiet Time- by Patrick Brigham

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