In Bruges

P1020247Last week my ‘other half’ and I spent a couple of memorable days on a city break to Bruges.  I’d never been before, though I’d seen the pictures and always wanted to, and Other Half had only spent a few hours in the place and always longed to go back.

Sometimes, achieving a dream can be rather a let-down, but not in this case.  The city is quite simply magical.  We stayed in a hotel on one of the two main squares, about two minutes’ walk from the most famous building (the Belfry) and well within earshot of its charming carillon, plinking out the hours and quarters with a selection of tunes.  This, memorably, is the staircase Brendan Gleeson’s character Ken advises an overweight tourist not to go up because “it’s really narrow”, in one of my favourite films ‘In Bruges’.  I don’t really do heights so we didn’t clamber up the 360+ steps ourselves, but I can easily believe the climb is challenging, even for those of us who aren’t fucking elephants.

Instead we spent a happy couple of days following walking tours around the city – first the well known, touristy bit, full of stunning medieval houses and pretty canals; and then the slightly less-well known parts, still full of medieval houses and canals but with fewer tourists milling about.  And you know what?  Everywhere is lovely.  Everywhere there’s a new and equally scenic view.  Every bridge over every canal, every corner on every street.  Even the back alleys are beautiful.  I took photo after photo – over 80 in all – and almost all are amazing.

On the second day, when we’d just about walked the soles off our feet and needed a bit of a rest, we sought out the Groeningemuseum, the city’s main art gallery, and spent a happy couple of hours pottering around in there.  They have an amazing collection of Flemish ‘primitive’ art (from the likes of Jan Van Eyck and Hans Memling) as well as a Hieronymous Bosch, a Brueghel or two, and even work by Magritte.  It was well worth the 8 euro entrance fee.

So, would we go back?  Sure, like any World Heritage site it’s packed to the last edges of the sardine tin with tourists.  There are tour parties following raised umbrellas, tour boats churning up the canals, tour coaches roaring round the ring road.  Some of the museums and attractions are decidedly cynical – museums of beer, fries, chocolate, diamonds, all seemingly there to part tourists with their money and give as little back as possible.  And every now and then we came across some distinctly unwelcoming attitudes from the locals.  But overall, we loved it, and can’t wait to go back.  Especially to seek out some of the other locations from the filming of ‘In Bruges’.

Posted in Art, History, Visits | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Tangled web

I was intrigued by this story appearing on the BBC website this morning, about heroin smuggled into the country in carpets.  Not just chucked into packets and rolled up inside the carpets, either, but placed in hollow straws which were then woven into the actual carpet fabric.  That’s ingenuity for you.

What the article doesn’t mention, and what I would love to know, is how the authorities ever found out about it.  I mean, a carpet is a carpet.  You don’t start examining the warp and weft of every rug that comes into the country from abroad.  So, did sniffer dogs raise the alarm, or was the UK Border Force warned or given information about the shipment in advance?  I don’t suppose I’ll ever find out, but what a wonderful basis for a story!

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

Of planes, frogs and scorpions…

I’m being evil with the title of this post, I’m afraid, but it’s quite appropriate since my latest short story, ‘Scorpio’, which appears at Thrills Kills ‘n’ Chaos today, is also pretty evil.  The story, about a pilot having to take a convicted murderer into the air to spot the burial site of his victim, was inspired by the old frog and scorpion fable – so don’t expect a Happy Ever After ending!  It’s all pretty dark and desperate.

I know nothing at all about handling small aircraft, but am indebted to my Other Half for the details as he regularly flew Cessnas when he was training for his Private Pilots’ Licence.  He got it, too, but has had to let it lapse since, as all the suitable airfields are too far away.  There are drawbacks to living in the Far North of England…

I hope you enjoy the story, if ‘enjoy’ isn’t too optimistic a word!

Posted in Noir, Tess Makovesky, Writing | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Wheely good news

Good news seems to be like buses at the moment – nothing for ages then three come along at once.  Today’s nugget is that Betty Fedora, the magazine for kick-ass women’s fiction which published ‘Going Off The Deep End’ in their first issue, have accepted another of my tales for the follow-up.

‘Last Chance Saloon’ is a dark revenge story featuring (of course!) those kick-ass women protagonists as well as an unhealthy twist.  A dirty weekend, a clapped-out car, a deserted country road: what can possibly go wrong?  Well, quite a bit as it turns out, especially for one half of the couple involved.  But which half?  You’ll have to read the story to find out!

The book’s due this autumn (fall). As ever I’ll post more details when I have them but in the meantime I’m delighted that Betty Fedora continue to support my work.

Posted in News, Submissions, Tess Makovesky | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Having the last word

lastwordcoverHave you heard the one about the two burglars in the snowstorm?  It’s snow joke.

Ahem.  Sorry.  Just popping in to say my hysterical snowy romp ‘Snow Joke’ is now available in charity anthology Last Word from Joyride Press, which hit the streets (with or without the snow) yesterday.

The book features “hard-hitting stories from eleven of the best writers in the crime, pulp and noir genres” and is available on Kindle from either Amazon UK or Amazon US.  Every last shred of profits is going to charity (for prison reform) so when you rush off to get your sticky mitts on a copy, you’ll be supporting a good cause as well.

And watch this space for a snippet from my story in day or two.

Posted in Books, News, Tess Makovesky, Writing | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

Dead Man… Reading?

exiles-cover-preview-2This is something a bit special – the first ever audio version of one of my stories, courtesy of Darren Sant and the guys at Near to the Knuckle.

Darren reads ‘Dead Man Walking’, the story featured in ‘Exiles: An Outsiders Anthology’ last year.  It’s a particularly fast-paced, action-packed story which I thought might be ideal for audio treatment; you’ll have to listen in to see whether you agree with me.

Many thanks to Darren for this opportunity.  I’ve never heard my work read aloud before (apart from the odd snippet at writing courses, usually followed by the words ‘Now, what’s wrong with that?’) so this is a completely new experience for me.  It’s a little… odd hearing my words echoing back at me, but tremendous fun.  Presumably this is how playwrights and screenwriters feel when they hear actors taking over their lines.

If you’d like to hear the story for yourselves then head over to Soundcloud.  Don’t forget to turn your computer’s sound up  nice and high – but do watch out for the loud music once the story’s finished, which made me jump!

This is only one out of the twenty-plus stories in the ‘Exiles’ anthology so if it tickles your fancy, why not pick up the book?  All proceeds go to charity (the Marfan Foundation) so you know the money’s going to a really good cause.

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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.

Posted in Books, News, Tess Makovesky, Writing | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

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