A Free Book but sadly, no Easter egg!

A Freebie for Easter!

To be honest, I’d like both – a free book and an Easter egg – but sadly the egg will have to wait until lockdown ends. Unless the Easter Bunny sneaks in through the back gate. However, I can manage the free book, thanks to my lovely publishers at Crooked Cat Books, so here it is: The Convalescent Corpse, absolutely free on Good Friday, Easter Saturday & Easter Sunday. Tell your friends (oh, go on, do!)

This picture shows Rosalie playing the part of Christabel, the narrator of The Convalescent Corpse.

A story of Family, Rationing and Inconvenient Corpses.
Life in 1918 has brought loss and grief and hardship to the three Fyttleton sisters.
Helped only by their grandmother (a failed society belle and expert poacher) and hindered by a difficult suffragette mother, as well as an unruly chicken-stealing dog and a house full of paying guests, they now have to deal with the worrying news that their late – and unlamented – father may not be dead after all.
And on top of that, there’s a body in the ha-ha.

An Amazon Bestseller, this book has been described as: a war story for people who don’t like reading about war. Funny, touching, witty, beautifully-written; it feels like an actual portrayal of the times.With Bobby, the inspiration for the Fyttleton family dog

With the characters’ struggle to maintain a normal family life (though ‘normal’ is never quite the right word for the Fyttleton family) during abnormal times, there are some echoes of the current crisis although I sincerely hope nobody has to resort to some of the meals described in the book. These, believe it or not, are taken from genuine recipes of the time.

I have a pull-out section from the March 1918 copy of the women’s magazine, Home Chat. ‘Plain Puddings and Cakes’. It’s a great example of how people – in this case, women – were encouraged to be resourceful because the recipes are very adaptable. For instance:
Date and Nut Pudding (Hot, boiled) If you can’t get dates, however, figs, soaked dried apples or any other dried fruit can be used for this. Or it is quite nice with a couple of spoonfuls of jam or marmalade instead of fruit. 

4 ounces each of barley or wheat flour, fine oatmeal and dried fruit, or you can use all GR* flour

2 ounces chopped suet or other fat

3 ounces chopped or ground monkey (peanuts) or other nuts

1 heaped teaspoonful baking powder

Half a pint water or any fruit juice

Method:

Stone (if necessary) and chop the fruit. Simmer in half the water for 10 minutes

Mix all the dry ingredients then work in the stewed fruit and water, adding as much more water as required to make a firm dough

Form into a roly-poly shape, tie up securely in a cloth, and put into plenty of boiling water. Boil for two hours then turn out and serve with a sweet sauce. (NB there’s a recipe for a thin, rather nasty sounding custard in the pull-out too)

*GR Flour: ‘G.R.’ (government regulation) flour. This flour was milled coarser than its pre-war equivalent, so that less grain could be used to make the same amount of flour.

I haven’t made this recipe but here are some I made earlier. Hampshire Pie which is strangely lacking in pastry, so it’s a cheek to call it a pie! Or Savoury Fried Oatcakes aka cold porridge mixed with anything you can find and then fried.

So there we are – a distraction from being stuck in lockdown, complete with murder, mystery, authentic recipes and possibly galloping indigestion! Here’s the Amazon link: http://mybook.to/TheConvalescentCorpse And seriously, folks, keep safe!

GALLOWS HUMOUR (Dying of Laughter)

The British have always been good at black humour. An older friend told me that when she was a little girl in WW2, there was a litter bin at her local shops. It had Adolf Hitler’s face painted on it and you threw the rubbish into his mouth. When the name of Osama bin Laden began to strike terror around the world, one of the British tabloids rechristened him, Osama bin Liner.

Irreverence instantly defuses anxiety.

If you read the experiences of the Beirut captives, John McCarthy and Brian Keenan, you soon discover that their very dark humour was vital to their survival, although I’m betting a lot of it was far too rude to go into the books they wrote. I met a woman once who had been in a Nazi concentration camp; she told me people found it uncomfortable to hear that humour had been a part of her life there. It seemed inappropriate to them but it was a survival strategy to her.

Ah yes, inappropriate humour. Er, I plead guilty to that, m’lud. I’m the woman who cracked jokes all through planning her mother’s funeral and at the service, conducted by a jolly old locum vicar who must have been well over eighty and very doddery, I nearly disgraced myself by thinking how lucky it was that the funeral was at the crematorium and not at a graveside. It was a cold, windy day and I knew mum, wherever she was, would have been on tenterhooks lest he fall into the grave with her. I swear I heard spectral giggles when the image slid into my mind.

Back to the books then. When I was struggling to get published an experienced writer told me to work out what it was that always turned up in my writing. ‘There’ll be something,’ she said. ‘What crops up in your writing however hard you try to suppress it?’
‘That’ll be the jokes then,’ I confessed.
‘But didn’t you say you’re writing a murder mystery?’ she exclaimed.
Er, yes.

Let me get one thing straight. Murder isn’t funny. In my books I don’t trivialise either the act of murder or the effect it has on people. What does turn up though, are the everyday little sillinesses that go on cropping up at the most inappropriate moments. A doddery old vicar who falls into the open grave isn’t actually funny, it’s horrifying, but like the proverbial banana skin, the image provokes a hastily suppressed shiver of mirth.

Humour is an outlet for other emotions because it creates a distance from the horror, almost turning it into a fantasy and this is common in a ‘cosy’ mystery. In ‘Spotlight’ by Patricia Wentworth I found this: ‘We’re talking like this because we’ve got to make it all seem like nonsense. It’s like turning it into a play – it stops it being real – and frightening.’

I tell people I write cheerful murder mysteries; there’s no other way to describe them, really. Not laugh out loud, but sneaky humour that creeps up on you and I’m happy to say that readers have commented on my ‘obviously irrepressible sense of humour’ (thank you, blogger Geranium Cat!)

So there you have it: In the midst of doom, gloom, despair and terror, ‘cheerfulness will keep breaking in.’