Some well written advice about how to write well

At 6k:

I sort of knew this. I now know it better. I might buy this book. I now need a longer sentence, one that drives the point home a bit, but not too much, because after all I didn’t think of this, I just nicked it.

LATER (also from 6k): Plummenausfahrtwunderschein. In Germany, if you want to drive your point home really hard, you don’t construct a long sentence. You construct a long word.

Roz Watkins “in the front rank of British crime writers”

About three weeks ago, I mentioned the latest DI Meg Dalton book, and its author (also my niece) Roz Watkins.

The Daily Mail just gave Cut To The Bone, which comes out this month, this glowing review:

TWO years ago, I warmly welcomed DI Meg Dalton in Watkins’ debut. Now in her third outing, she has developed into a memorable detective with attitude, pounding Derbyshire’s Peak District with commendable fortitude.

A young social media star — famous for cooking sausages on a barbecue wearing only a bikini — goes missing from her job at an abattoir on a summer’s night.

Traces of blood and hair are found in one of the pig troughs, but there is no sign of the victim. Has she been killed?

Even more importantly, what on earth was she doing working in an abattoir in the first place?

Have animal rights protesters harmed her, or is there something more sinister at work? Has she fallen prey to the ghost of the Pale Child who, legend has it, announces death if once seen?

Subtly plotted, and with a delicate sense of place, it confirms Watkins in the front rank of British crime writers.

Strong stuff, especially that last bit.

Roz Watkins talks about her latest book – and about animals

Crime writer Tony Kent does a fifteen minute video-at-a-distance interview with fellow crime writer Roz Watkins. Roz is my niece, which is partly why I keep mentioning her here. But the bigger reason I keep on about her is that she is very good at what she does, which is not just writing the books she writes but also selling them. She’s an excellent public speaker, and a very personable interviewee. So, if you want to know more about what sort of person Roz is, and also about the idyllic yet sometimes spooky place she lives in (the Peak District), as well as about her books, tune in here.

Animals figure prominently in this interview. Starsky the dog makes an appearance near the beginning. They talk about killing animals in crime thrillers and about how that upsets people far more than killing mere people seems to. Also, animals are a big part of the background of Roz’s latest book, Cut To The Bone, number three in her DI Meg Dalton series. A missing girl has got on the wrong side of animal rights activists, and traces of her blood and hair are found in an abattoir. That kind of grizzly thing. It’s due out in hardback in a month’s time, and, unless I have misunderstood things badly, is already readable as a computer file.

My favourite quote from the interview is when, 4 minutes 20 seconds in, Roz says: “Everyone wants to kill all the lawyers.” Very dramatic.

That WW2 bombing offensive podcast – It’s up!

I’ve said it before, at the end of the last posting here, and I’ll say it again, at the beginning of this posting: It’s up. It being Patrick and me talking about the World War 2 bombing offensive. Patrick got it posted and listenable to less than a day after we recorded it. My salutations to him.

As you can see if you follow Patrick’s link, just by the notes Patrick offers, we meander a bit, as we do, but I hope not too intolerably.

I’ll add here a few things that Patrick doesn’t mention. Here are three blog postings by me, two here and one at Samizdata: The amazing Merlin; Dowding’s amazing lack of tact: The strange birth of the Avro Lancaster. Also, here’s a book that Patrick doesn’t mention in his notes but which I do mention in the podcast: A biography of Bomber Harris.

Our next phone conversation, we now think, will be about the Vietnam War. I made most of the running in this last one, but on the subject of Vietnam Patrick will be laying out the story, and I’ll be clarifying, or at least I hope I will. His basic thesis: The Americans won it, and then threw it away. My question, as of now, is: Did the rapprochement with China, and subsequent (consequent?) US victory in the Cold War, have something to do with the “throwing it away” bit?

You can listen to any, some or all of our recent podcasts by going here.

When you write two trilogies and only realise it afterwards

Matt Ridley:

Without planning to, I realise I’ve written two trilogies.

The first trilogy was my three books on genetics: Genome, Nature via Nurture and Francis Crick.

The second was my three books on innovation: The Rational Optimist, The Evolution of Everything and How Innovation Works

He found the time to write them all, butI’ll be lucky if I even find the time to read them all. But, hope to.

I can certainly recommend the one about How Innovation Works. One word summary: incrementally.

Expanded summary: Innovations happen when they’re ready, at which point they switch from impossible to inevitable with amazing suddenness, when everything all comes together. Individual inventors are over-rated; innovation is a team game. I think that’s about right.

Book Warehouse bag lady photoer

When I photoed this photo on Westminster Bridge, way back in 2007, well, you know what I was interested in:

But now, it’s the bag that gets my attention.

Oh, I was interested in a general way in the phenomenon of photoers photoing while carrying shopping bags, often in way that hid their faces, which I was already watching out for. But particular bags were of less concern.

But look at the list of addresses on this bag, of Book Warehouse branches in London:

Now, only one remains.

I loved those places. There was one that was only a walk away from me, the one in Strutton Ground. There’s nothing like a remainder bookshop to find unexpectedly interesting titles, old and new, at prices that make them worth it the way full prince never would be. Best of all, if you like the look of a book, you can have a leaf through it, and can soon find if you’d really like it, the way you can’t on the internet without relying on other people’s opinions. In Book Warehouse you could suck it, so to speak, and see.

When Gramex was in its final address in Lower Marsh before closing, that was in a basement right underneath the Waterloo version of Book Warehouse, which itself had had to move. But as Lower Marsh went up market (they should now start calling it Upper Marsh), it went beyond the reach of such places.

Memo to self: When all this Coronavirus nonsense is over, make a pilgrimage to Golders Green to check out the last resting place of Book Warehouse. If it is even still there. According to Google Maps it is, but that can often be out of date.

More and more, I now suspect, my prodigious archive of photoer photos will be of use at least as much for what else is in the photos, besides photoers.

When Dowding said to Leigh-Mallory that he often couldn’t see beyond his little nose

I’ve just read James Holland’s account of The Battle of Britain. Holland has a very low opinion of Leigh-Mallory, who commanded 12 Group in the Battle in question, and famously tangled with Dowding and Park of 11 Group. Later, in his book about Big Week, Holland mentions Leigh-Mallory’s contribution to the bombing offensive against Germany, and he is again deeply unimpressed.

As Holland notes, Dowding and Park got their London statues, however belatedly, while Leigh-Mallory, in addition to getting himself killed in 1944, got no such recognition. As far as Holland is concerned, justice was, belatedly, done, both positively for Dowding, and negatively to Leigh-Mallory.

But I possess another book entitled The Battle of Britain, the one by John Ray, which tells the story of the battle but which particularly digs into all the feuding that happened on the British side. I only read this book very casually when I first acquired it, so I’ve been having another go, to see if Ray could explain things a little more from Leigh-Mallory’s point of view.

I didn’t have to read long. Here, on page 18, is an episode described by Ray that does a quite a bit to illuminate why Leigh-Mallory didn’t get on with Dowding, and in general why it took Dowding so long to get his statue:

There was a general view that Dowding could be prickly and difficult, lacking the golden virtue of tact. Even his obituary in The Times noted that he was not an easy man, and one to whom ‘slackness, hypocrisy and self-seeking were not peccadilloes, but scarlet sins’.” These views have been summarized by Denis Richards, author of the official history of the RAF, in referring to Dowding’s unclubbable and less than co-operative nature, often displayed to those with whom he disagreed. ‘Dowding was really very difficult’, in his opinion and, as several opponents appreciated, ‘tact was not a weapon in Dowding’s armoury’.

The relationship between Dowding and Leigh-Mallory, ADC, No 12 Group, was far from cordial and a factor in the later controversy over tactics. At a conference following an air defence exercise in 1939 Dowding spoke for over an hour on the agenda’s 56 items, then allocated only five minutes each to his two Group Commanders. Worse was to follow when Dowding, in front of several other senior officers said, ‘The trouble with you, Leigh-Mallorv. is that you sometimes cannot see further than the end your little nose’.

Bloody hell.

Ray agrees with Holland that Dowding deserved better than he got in the way of public recognition once the war had ended. But Ray also makes it clear how Dowding got his nickname: “Stuffy”.

Isn’t it one of Macchiavelli’s rules that you shouldn’t insult a powerful adversary unless you also crush them?

I’ve never been anywhere near a battle, but it occurs to me to guess that commanding an airforce could be such a difficult thing to do well because the skill of flying an airplane in a war is so very unlike the job of being a senior commander. You could be wonderfully clubbable, but that wouldn’t make you any better at flying, at killing enemy flyers or at bashing you way to a target and then getting back home again. Likewise, great air warriors could be decidedly eccentric, or worse utter bastards, when back on the ground. No wonder, when some of these guys got older and became commanders, they were often a lot better at instructing their awed subordinates in how to fight, than they were at getting along with each other when grappling with other more subtle and complex dilemmas.

Cat kindergarten

Why was I not informed about this remarkable building, erected in 2002 in Karlsruhe, Germany, until now?:

I am interested in unusual buildings. On Fridays, I like to do creature-related postings here, which are not just regular cats-or-dogs-doing-endearing-things postings, or at least not always. And, for a while, just after this building was built, I was an education blogger. So, The Internet really should have told me about the Kindergarten Wolfartsweier a decade and a half ago, rather than only yesterday.

The above photo is one of these, of Buildings That Look Like Animals. (Again, this list was published nearly two years ago, and only now am I being told about it. Come on Internet, you can do better than this.)

The Internet only got around to mentioning this building to me because Owen Hopkins has written a book about Postmodern Architecture (subtltled “Less is a Bore”), and The Internet finally deigned to send me an email, linking to an article about this book, at a website called “Luxury London”.

This article is quite informative, but the subheadings that sell it are a bit silly. As usual, the stupidest stuff in media is perpetrated by headline and subheading writers. For insteance, this:

London has become the global epicentre for postmodern architecture …

Which merely means that London, being quite big and quite rich, has quite a bit of postmodern architecture.

And this, which is silly, given what the article is about:

… narcissistic steel-and-glass megaliths of the City …

London is about to start seriously pining for more new narcissistic steel-and-glass megaliths, now that it has stopped building them, for the time being anyway.

What the world now needs is a narcissistic steel-and-glass megalith, shaped like a cat.