SNOW, BUT NOT TODAY

A few photographs from 2013 as I can’t get out today. These were taken at Clumber Park in 2013.
The temperature was a chilly -10, colder than I would be willing to endure now.

FEEDING TIME IN WINTER
HOAR FROST AT CLUMBER PARL
FEEDING THE DUCKS

BOBBY MARCH WILL LIVE FOREVER

BOBBY MARSH WILL LIVE FOREVER
ALAN PARKS

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is the third book to feature Detective Harry McCoy. Having read the previous two – Bloody January and February’s Son – my expectations were high. Set in a very gritty Glasgow, it is a complicated and fast moving tale of seemingly unrelated cases – a series of armed robberies, a missing child and the drug overdose death of Bobby March, a waning rock star.
McCoy is excluded from the missing child investigation, an act of spite by his temporary boss who carries a grudge, is allocated the drugs overdose and has the robberies foisted on him by his usual partner, who has been seconded to the missing child case.
Sounds complicated? It is, especially when McCoy is also asked to find the teenage niece of his actual boss, as a favour to be kept under wraps.
The first part of the book is unexciting, as McCoy wanders the city, seemingly aimlessly, catching up with characters who were introduced in the previous books, dealing with side issues and also slowly garnering information.  Most of these strands eventually mesh as he

pieces together the nearly impenetrable plot. At this stage, I felt that some of the ‘asides’ could well have been abandoned and the relevant portions more fleshed out, particularly where characters from the previous books were concerned. When quite a while and quite a few books have flowed through the reader’s mind between visits from McCoy, it’s a little difficult to remember just who everyone is.
Its a good yarn, written very much in a weird combination of tartan noir and an Agatha Christie-like scattering of clues throughout, but not enough for the reader to make any informed guesses. The final twist comes out of nowhere, neatly handed to McCoy by another character, but nevertheless very entertainingly written. I was left a little disappointed as there is no neat ending and there are quite a few loose ends left waving in the breeze.
Read it, enjoy it and suspend belief for a few hours.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

FIVE FACES OF HANNAH

A few pictures of Hannah, pulled from the archives; my favourite model, not just because she’s my grand-daughter but also because she’s so versatile.
Girl in a Red Scarf was a serendipity moment. Hannah was waiting to go on set when I noticed the drama created by the red wall, the scarf and her pink hair. This is literally a grab shot as she moved a few seconds later and the moment was gone. It did fairly well in the international Salons, garnering twelve acceptances and a Silver Medal.
Sunshine and Showers was taken for a competition at Beeston Camera Club. The category was Wet and Hannah’s young man was stood on a stepladder pouring water from a watering can. We hadn’t factored in the wind and she did get quite wet when gusts blew the water In her face. It was all for naught, as well, because I had to add rain in an overlay anyway. Not only that but the picture didn’t overly impress the judge on the night.
Geisha Girl was shot at my daughter Beverley’s home. I took my portable lights round and Hannah’s sister, Sian, painted her face. The flowers were a leftover bouquet from Mother’s Day which was languishing in he shop at half price so we made good use of them. It got accepted into five international Salons.

GIRL IN A RED SCARF
GEISHA GIRL

Wild Child and The Chase came about because I wanted to photograph Hannah’s dad’s Harley Davidson. We couldn’t get it into the studio (two flights of stairs) so Dave Severn arranged for us to use a small room in a car dealership. Wild Thing has only been sent out once (I stopped competing just after I made it) to a circuit in Finland, but it was accepted into three of the four Salons. The Chase has only seen the light of day at Beeston Camera Club where it scored 20/20.

SUNSHINE AND SHOWERS
WILD THING
THE CHASE

A MORNING WALK

It was bright and sunny this morning, although very cold, and we drove over to Colwick Park, reckoning that 1.7 miles was pretty much within our own area. We had planned to drive round the circumference of the lake, stopping occasionally in the lesser populated areas for some fresh air and a bit of a walk. Unfortunately, the path is now gated off so we were confined to the car park area, not having the mobility scooter available to us.
Nevertheless, we saw pochard, tufted ducks, greylag and Canada geese, lots of black-headed gulls and swans. And, of course, the Colwick Park cormorants, some perched on the rocks like totem poles, drying their outspread wings, some swimming and diving for fish.
It was very crowded so we didn’t stay too long but we filled our lungs with the (very) bracing air and felt quite invigorated on the way home.

A SUCCESSFUL FAILURE

This is Ticket to Ride, one of my more successful images in my early days of competing. It was accepted into Salons in twelve different countries and won a Gold Medal, a Silver Medal and an Honourable Mention. It’s a composite image; nearly every element in it was placed there by me, including the ticket in her hat. I worked hard on the final overlays to blend the tones. I should be very proud of it, but it makes my eyes bleed to look at it.
Why? Because the perspective is completely wrong.
I shot the model at a group night, in the days before I hired my own model, where you had to dive in for a few minutes to take your turn, no input into pose, costume etc. I was happy enough at the time. The model, Kelli Smith, knew what she was doing and the studio owner excelled at lighting.
It was only when I came to put it all together that I fell flat on my face. I had the photographs of the railway station already, so

all I had to do was cut out Kelli from the stool she’d been sitting on and pop her on the bench. Right?
I couldn’t have been more wrong. If you look closely, it appears that Kelli’s legs would have been about six feet long to have been in that position. And it’s all down to perspective.
I was looking down on Kelli when I photographed her, using (probably) an 85mm portrait lens. I shot the railway station at eye level with a 50mm lens. To get the perspective right, I should have shot both pictures in exactly the same circumstances – bent knee, same distance, same lens, same lighting etc. OK, same lighting can be difficult but that’s adjustable in Photoshop.
And, finally, shadows – they’re all over the place. I’ve learnt a lot since then and still learning all the time.

But, hey, two medals and an HM – I’ll take that.


SAFE AND SOUND

Jennifer Arden, a housing officer,  discovers the body of a woman in a flat she manages and sets out to solve the mystery of what happened to her. I wasn’t quite sure why she did this because she already had plenty of problems in her own life to contend with – a single mother with mental health issues, panic attacks and worries about her seemingly autistic son. Her decision to involve herself in this mystery puts her in danger and exacerbates her already existing problems. My initial question was why she would do this and this niggle did affect my acceptance of the plot.
Philippa East writes beautifully, which I did appreciate but the main character is not very likeable and the story was agonisingly slow in places, verging on the preachy.
Sadly, I didn’t finish the story, becoming more dispirited and frustrated with Jennifer as the story went on.
Thank you to NetGalley and to the publisher for providing me with a free ARC copy in exchange for an honest review.

SAFE AND SOUND
PHILIPPA EAST

Rating: 2 out of 5.

A WASP

This is the first Nature picture I ever entered into competition in the FIAP International Salons, on a wing and a prayer really. It was accepted into twelve Salons worldwide and, although it never won any awards, it encouraged me to keep competing.
I still don’t like wasps, though.

THE HOUSE OF KILLERS

THE HOUSE OF KILLERS
SAMANTHA LEE HOWE

Rating: 2 out of 5.
I was very attracted to this book by the synopsis. Neva, a female assassin presented to the reader as a cross between Villanelle and Orphan X, sounded fascinating.
Ultimately, however, I found the book lacking in substance and containing elementary errors. 
Neva is described as an emotionless killer, having been conditioned in some way as a child. This was never fully explained; there were just vague references to brainwashing and injections. She's very young, early twenties, and begins to shake off her conditioning, for a reason I never fully understood. She then takes on the might of the organisation that created her.
She has mysterious 'sources', very rarely named or described, who she calls on every time the plot needs moving on. I found it hard to accept how she had acquired all these sources in a relatively short period of time and while under the influence of her masters.
I felt that the author had done some sketchy research but had not enlarged on it. Neva finds a car, 'hot wires it' and drives off; in the morning she looks under the car in case there's 'something' there. Another character 'does something' on a computer to move the plot along. Suddenly she has a 'storage unit' when she needs to acquire something to move the story along. She goes to an opera where they 'sing songs'.
The ending is, frankly, incredible. The author move characters around willy nilly to fit her denouement.
I was impatient to get to the end of this book so I could put it behind me. I gather it is part of a series. I can only hope that the author gives serious consideration to rounding out her characters, making them more realistic and gives a more solid, believable background.
I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

PRACTICE, PRACTICE, PRACTICE

Today I’ve been working with the remove background tool in Photoshop. I want to use this photograph of Devonn on the front cover of Ashes on the Tongue, due for publication around Easter time. I was having great difficulty in separating her hair from the black background and was on the verge of giving up when I attended a Zoom lecture last night at Nottingham & Notts Photographic Society where John Bermingham drew my attention to this neat little tool.
This is a quick and dirty practice run on a very low res photograph but it has encouraged me enormously. That’s the trouble with Photoshop, it’s so bloody enormous that the answer to a problem can be right under your nose and you don’t know it. Move the slider to see the results.

This original painting, Tirkane Road, Maghera, is another image I am using for the Ashes on the Tongue cover and the reason why I was so anxious to separate Devonn’s hair from the background.
It’s by George A Gourley, an Irish artist, who has given me permission to use it. I am delighted because it has just the right feel for the era I am writing about.

TALL BONES

TALL BONES
ANNA BAILEY

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A missing teenager, an unhappy home life and a selection of suspects within a small town. We’ve been here before but Tall Bones rises above the average thriller.
The author tells a good story and is adept at inter-weaving characters and events. There are not many (if any) likeable characters in the book and this gave me pause for thought a few times but it did not detract from my enjoyment of the book as it was always clear that, to a large extent and with very few exceptions, their futures were destined to follow that of their parents in the depressed area they lived in.
A bit of a grim read; I wouldn’t say I enjoyed it but it did leave a lasting impression.
I would like to thank Netgalley, Random House UK, Transworld Publishers and Doubleday for an advanced digital copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

%d bloggers like this: