Beautiful pubs

I wouldn’t normally associate the word ‘beautiful’ with a pub, but actually some of them are amazing buildings, whether chocolate-box thatch in the depths of the countryside, or brick and tile edifices in our cities.

The BBC has an interesting piece today about some of the best, which have either been newly listed or had their listing upgraded by English Heritage.

I’m delighted (of course!) to see several from Birmingham on the list.  But baffled that The Bartons Arms in Aston doesn’t seem to feature.  I was lucky enough to visit it once, during a road-show for an old job, and I can say hand on heart that it’s one of the most gorgeous interiors, pub or otherwise, that I’ve ever been in.  Virtually every surface inside is covered in expensive Victorian Minton tiles; there are old light fittings sprouting from every wall; and the bar is a magnificent timber edifice that wouldn’t be out of place in a stately home.  I can only assume it wasn’t included because it’s already listed as Grade II* status.  This is the second highest ranking possible and only buildings of real national importance (the Tower of London, say) are listed any higher so presumably it couldn’t be upgraded any more than it already is.  It would have been nice to see it mentioned, though…

Posted in Birmingham, History, News | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Latest news on ‘Raise the Blade’

I bet you didn’t think I could turn cartwheels, did you?  Especially not in my compact-and-bijou study, which is just 7ft x 5ft at its widest point?  Well, I can.  The reason I know this?  I’ve had confirmation that my psychological noir novella ‘Raise the Blade’, set in Birmingham and partly inspired by the lyrics of the Pink Floyd track ‘Brain Damage’, has been accepted for publication by Caffeine Nights Publishing.

To say I’m over the moon about this is a complete understatement.  It’s long been a dream to have a book with Caffeine Nights; as a relatively new British indie press specialising in gritty crime and noir they always seemed right up my street, as well as being thoroughly professional, successful, and clearly ‘on the up’.

And now that dream has come true, and I can still hardly believe it.  Hence the dents in the study walls, from those cartwheels.

The book’s due out in 2016, possibly around this time of year.  I’ll be posting more in due course about it: the inspiration behind it, the odd teaser or two; but in the meantime I wanted to share the news with you all, preferably before I explode with the excitement!

Posted in Books, News, Noir, Tess Makovesky, Writing | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Last Word

lastwordcoverThere’s much excitement in the Makovesky household, as it’s just been confirmed that ‘Last Word’, the charity anthology from Joyride Press, will be released on 1st September.

The book features eleven stories by eleven writers well-known to readers of the noir/grit genre including Les Edgerton, Paul D Brazill, Jack Getze, Gareth Spark and many more.  It also includes my own story ‘Snow Joke’, a hysterical romp involving two burglars in a snowstorm, which seeks to answer the question, ‘do the police respond to emergency calls in very bad weather?’

More details, as ever, in due course, but in the meantime I’m basking in the glow of having my name featured on the front cover!

Edited to add: the book is already available for pre-order, courtesy of Amazon.

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Trick of the Trade

This is the title of my latest short story, which I’m delighted to announce has appeared over at Spelk Fiction today.

The story involves a gang of modern-day highwaymen who get more (or should that be less?) than they bargained for when they target one particular man who follows one particular profession.

Head over to Spelk now and I promise I won’t say ‘your money or your life’!

Posted in Crime, Tess Makovesky, Writing | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Partners in… disappointment

I’ve been watching the new BBC adaptation of Agatha Christie’s ‘Partners in Crime’, based on her Tommy & Tuppence books.  It’s absolutely ages since I read any of the books, but I have vague memories of them being exciting in an easy-going sort of way, slightly daft perhaps but above all great fun.

What a shame, then, that the series doesn’t seem to be living up to its source material.  For one thing, they seem to have completely changed Tommy’s character.  I remember him as a gentle man but one whose slightly bumbling exterior hid an intelligence and inner steel.  I also remember that he’d served honourably during the second World War.  Somewhere along the lines this has been changed so that Tommy is now a complete idiot who keeps bees in his ample spare time, is apparently unable to hold down a professional job, and who was invalided out of the army in short order after an accident involving peeling potatoes.

A reader in the Radio Times commented on this, and the response from the writer/editor of the series was that the changes were made in collaboration with the actor playing Tommy, David Walliams (who is much better known for his comedy roles) and that they were meant to increase the ‘comedic’ aspect of the programme.

Well, forgive me for pointing out the obvious, but comedic is supposed to be funny, and this isn’t.  It involves Tommy getting himself into one scrape after another and then standing around looking wooden and slightly scared, as though he’s just been chased into a corner by one of his own bees.  And that goes on for minute after minute after minute, episode after episode.  It isn’t funny, it’s dull.

Even Tuppence is wilder and zanier than I remember her from the books, and a little too good at riding to the rescue of her ‘damsel in distress’ husband.  Which works… once… and then becomes tedious.

Why do modern screenwriters feel the need to change everything, especially with such a master of story-telling as Agatha Christie?  It’s all rather baffling.  And in spite of looking forward to the series, I doubt if I’ll be watching any more.

Posted in Reviews, TV | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

A library without books?

Okay, I’m exaggerating a little, but this is still incredibly sad.  Birmingham’s libraries, with the partial exception of the new Central Library, have had to stop buying new books in order to save money.

I can’t think of anything much worse.  Surely this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy.  If people can’t find the books they want at the library, they’ll stop going.  If people stop going, there’ll be nobody to support the library service.  And without anyone to support it, it will become ever more impoverished and be able to afford even fewer books.  And so it goes on.

I don’t know if there is any way round this.  Could libraries become lenders of digital books only?  Would that be cheaper than having to buy print books?  Could they stock books donated by members of the public, in much the same way as charity shops?  I’m not sure, but something needs to be done before we lose the whole system of libraries as we know them.  And it needs to be done soon.

Posted in Birmingham, Books, News | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Truth is odder than fiction

You really couldn’t make this stuff up.  In order to save money, Leicestershire Police decided to only respond to half the burglaries reported to them.  But instead of applying some arcane mathematical model to decide the do’s from the don’ts, they kept it simple.  If the house number was even, they turned up.  If it was odd, they didn’t.

This was, apparently, a pilot scheme and the force has now returned to a policy of responding to all reported burglaries, having found the system had no effect on either public satisfaction or crime rates.  While it lasted, it must have been hard cheese on anyone living at number 241, if effective enough in its own way.  What it says about police funding in the 21st century is another matter.

Posted in Crime, Humour, News | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

World’s smallest coffee shop?

For some reason this story just tickled my funny bone – the smallest coffee shop in Birmingham has just opened… inside a red telephone kiosk!

This isn’t quite as mad as it sounds, since it’s only the counter which is inside the box.  Judging by the pictures in the article, the chap running the shop then puts trestle tables outside to make space for the coffee machines, cups, and pretty much everything else.  I can’t help feeling this is cheating slightly since the bulk of the shop is outside the kiosk, not in it!  But it’s still a novel idea, and a great way of using one of the iconic old red telephone boxes which might otherwise simply have been scrapped.

Hats off to charity Thinking Outside the Box for coming up with the idea.  And next time you’re on Colmore Row in Brum, stop off and grab a coffee from what might just be the smallest coffee shop in the world!

Posted in Birmingham, Humour, News | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Forensics with a difference

Most of us in the crime fraternity (that’s writers, by the way, in case you were wondering) are familiar with the use of forensics to solve crimes.  Murder, rape, even burglary – all can now be helped along by a range of techniques that were barely even known 20 years ago.

But it’s not just human crimes that benefit.  Thanks to a fascinating programme on the BBC the last few weeks, we’ve also found that it applies to the world of art forgery.  ‘Fake or Fortune’, presented by newsreader Fiona Bruce and art expert Philip Mould, takes a disputed painting each week and tries to prove whether it’s an original worth squillions, or a clever fake.

The results are sometimes surprising but always intriguing.  And they don’t always have a happy outcome – only last week a man desperate to pay off his father’s death duties so he could keep the family farm going was devastated to be told that there was no proof his picture of a fountain in the south of France was by Winston Churchill.

On the other hand, the elders of a church in rural Lancashire discovered that their dark, dingy and bat-poo-speckled scene of the Pieta (the dead Christ being taken down from the cross) was a 16th Century Italian ‘old master’, painted by Venetian artist Francesco Montemezzano (don’t worry, I’d never heard of him either) and worth a cool £100,000.

Of course, some of the investigation is based around traditional methods – paper trails, provenance, proof that a particular artist sold their work to the particular gallery where the owner bought it.  But on top of that, there is now a huge amount that can be added with the use of various kinds of forensics.  X-rays, to see if the work has been altered in any way, or painted over an earlier image.  Examination of the brush strokes.  Detailed testing of the pigments used, to show up any rogue elements such as modern chemicals that wouldn’t have been available at the time.  Ditto the composition of the paper or board the scene is painted on.  High-definition photography of the backing material to show up any writing, labels or codes that might have faded away.  Every last detail can now be inspected, checked and tested, so that when an expert announces that the painting is genuine, he’s basing that opinion on a wealth of scientific evidence rather than just his own personal opinion.

It makes for a clever detective story, and a mesmerising hour of television.

Posted in Art, Crime, TV | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Dropping in again

As promised, my flash story ‘The Drop’ is appearing at Out of the Gutter Online right now.  Hurry along to find out what links a pervert and a mobile phone… and why everything is not as it first appears!

This story first saw the light of day as part of the peer review session at this year’s Crime and Publishment course – where the belly laugh it generated helped give me the courage to submit it to a couple of markets.  So thank you to all those people who inspired me.  You know who you are!

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Dropping in…

…to say that my flash fic ‘The Drop’ will be appearing (God and the editors willing!) over at Out of the Gutter Online this Thursday.

The story is a little something about a pervert and a mobile phone, which I came up with for the peer review session at this year’s Crime and Publishment event.  As usual, all is very much not as it seems.

I’ll pop back with a link and a few more details on the day but in the meantime, watch this space and don’t drop off.

Posted in Tess Makovesky, Writing | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Running Late… again

shp-bbv3-locked-loaded-front-cover-c2I’ve just realised that I never got round to posting an excerpt from ‘Running Late’, the story I have in Shotgun Honey’s Locked & Loaded anthology.  So, better ‘Late’ than never, here it is.  Hope you enjoy, and if you want to read the rest of the story, plus all the other great stuff in the book, you can find out how here.

He scrambled through the gap, tearing a sleeve himself and nicking his arm.  It bled freely, spattering on the window frame, and he knew he was destroying potential evidence but didn’t care.  Finding Karen alive was what mattered now, not groping around after clues and DNA.  He didn’t know what he would do without her if she’d gone.  She was always the stronger of the pair.  She was the one who’d jumped him, at the last Christmas party.  She’d laughed because her nickname was a backwards version of his name, then dragged him into the stationery cupboard and stuck her hand down his pants.  She hadn’t even been particularly drunk.

“Why?” Zak had said afterwards, tucking himself away.  “Why now?  Why me?”

“If I’d left it to you I’d still have been waiting next year,” she’d said, and given his privates a pat.

She was the one who’d decided to keep the whole thing quiet, so they could go on working the same shift.  The rules said you had to notify the DI if you became ‘romantically involved’, but that would have meant different hours, or even a move to another division.  “Bugger that,” Karen had said.  “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“That’s the US Army,” Zak had said, but she just laughed.

He could do with the army now, or at least a few good well-trained men.  You couldn’t ask for back-up when you’d taken the law into your own hands, though.  He was on his own.

Posted in Books, Crime, Tess Makovesky, Writing | Tagged , , | 5 Comments