An interview with Colt McCall from “An Englishwoman’s Guide to the Cowboy”

My heart is pounding with excitement at the chance to interview the irresistible Colt McCall from June Kearn’s book.

Cowboy

What were your first impressions of Miss Annie Haddon?

First off? As if a scruffy dog had suddenly appeared and attached itself to me. Yeah, someone’s stray, a pampered pet – one that wasn’t particularly biddable, either. For such a small fry though, she seemed to have a pretty big mouth. A talker, too – mite too fond of her own opinions to my mind, at the time. No idea what she’d landed herself into, either. Not … a … single, solitary clue.

Annie called you intimidating and you certainly don’t suffer fools readily.  Would your life be easier if you were more diplomatic?

Let’s face it, shall we? Annie was white, English, opinionated. Not a hope in hell of understanding someone like me. As for diplomacy! Well, the West belongs to the meat-eaters, always has, always will. The meek don’t inherit much west of Chicago. Anyway, a man needs to show he can defend himself. If people think he can’t, he’s in trouble.

You seem to have a very bad opinion of the English.  What have they ever done to you?

Ha, tried to wipe out all rotten traces of Indian for starters. At Mission School, I was taught by an Englishwoman. She thought I was barely house-trained and had the idea that a daily dose of British poets and Shakespeare was the best way to civilise little hell-raisers like me. Along with not letting me speak my mother’s language, of course – shaving my head and beating manners and the Bible into me.

Yeah, one thing I’ve learned about the English: You don’t tell them, they tell you.

You don’t seem to be a typical Texan and yet you seem to have some good friends.  What do these friends have in common?

I guess they’re all … outsiders? Yeah, every damn one, when I come to think about it. The displaced, the hunted, the ignored. Mostly fighters for their own rights, of course, their own land. For years, we’ve been killing off their food, stealing their hunting grounds, robbing them blind.

Are the divisions of the Civil War still causing problems in Texas?

Well, what do you think? Draw a line down the middle of any country – you’re asking for trouble. Somehow, it makes some folk feel more entitled to boss others around. Take Southerners, for example. Robert E. Lee still adorns many a parlour wall round here. Oh, yeah. Plenty haven’t been too keen on freeing their slaves, either.

You seem to find Miss Haddon just a little too talkative, but do you think she has changed her feelings about Texas since you first met her?

Well, I guess when we first met, Annie was just trying to make sense of everything – questions, questions, questions. Her main concern, first off – if you’d care to believe it – was about losing those bound copies of Dickens in her trunk! While I was just hell-bent on getting us as far away as possible from the Comanche.

Even from her first arrival though, she seemed to love the landscape. Nothing had prepared her, she once told me – for that vast open space, the wide, wide vista. Fluted rock on the horizon soaring to meet limitless blue sky. The throat-catching beauty, the loneliness.
You can’t just pass through this landscape, y’know. It reaches out and draws you in, every time.

And now? Guess Annie knows that she belongs here.

And have you changed your opinion of her?

Oh, yeah. My opinion probably started to shift when she teamed up with two outlaws, swallowed a quart and a half of whisky and started a bar-room brawl – after trying to stare down that Comanche brave, of course.

It was her first ever time away from the protection of her relatives. I’d expected fear, silence, trepidation. Instead, she showed intelligence and courage, plus a real delight at being able to truly be herself.

Thank you, Colt, it’s been a privilege to hear your view of Texas both from your own opinions and those of  “the Englishwoman.”

You can read my review of June Kearn’s book here

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An Interview with Crazy Amy (from the books by Rose Edmunds)

I am thrilled that the amazing (crazy?) Amy from Concealment and Exposure has taken the time to talk to me this week, shortly before another installment in her life is revealed to us by Rose Edmunds in her new book Restitution.

new conceal Exposure

Amy, you are a smartly dressed woman who had all the trappings of success in the world of corporate finance, but nobody really seems to know you well. Perhaps you could answer a few questions so that we can understand you better.

It is said that you are exceptionally ambitious and obsessed with material things which demonstrate your success. Does this conceal hidden insecurities?

Before I started out on my painful journey of readjustment, I would have vehemently denied this, but now I’m inclined to agree. Having grown up in squalor due to my mother’s compulsive hoarding, I felt driven to live the “perfect” life I’d been denied as a child. The material possessions were merely symbols of this quest for perfection. But the shame and embarrassment of my childhood never left me, and I felt unworthy of my beautiful home and designer wardrobe, and dissatisfied with my professional achievements. So I drove myself harder and harder until it all imploded…

Would you agree that keeping secrets make relationships impossible to sustain?

Yes and no. In the past, I believed everyone would shun me if they knew about the hoarding, and so keeping the Big Secret was essential. This has been my undoing on occasion. Now, I’m much more open about that aspect of my life, but I still haven’t told anyone about Little Amy. People already regard me as crazy and I shudder to think what they’d say if they knew I was haunted by a hallucination of my fourteen-year-old self.

Did you enjoy the chance of assuming a new identity by changing your appearance? Shorter hair suits you, by the way.

Thanks for the compliment. I like the short hair too, and now realise that the long flowing locks were just part of the illusion I was trying so desperately to maintain.

The new identity was exciting to begin with. I relished the opportunity to be someone different and leave behind all my emotional baggage. But ultimately I came to realise that no matter who you’re pretending to be, you can’t leave your weaknesses behind.

Did you benefit from your stay at the Priory?

Not as much as I should have done. It was useful to retreat for a few weeks, but I never really fully engaged in the therapy and was always trying to hold something of myself back (those secrets again!). With hindsight, I shouldn’t have been on the rehab program anyway, because obviously I’m not an alcoholic.

We have seen you in a variety of relationships. Who was the one who got away?

Toby Marchpole. We first dated when I was sixteen and I realise now I should have confided in him about the problems at home. He was hurt when he found out what I’d been holding back, as it demonstrated a lack of trust, and ended the relationship. On the other hand, he ferretted out my secret in a very sneaky way, but I can hardly hold that against him in the circumstances. Unfortunately by the time we reconnected, time ran out before we could put the past behind us.

Is Little Amy a help or a hindrance in times of stress?

Both. She talks a lot of bullshit, but on the other hand from time to time there are nuggets of common sense in what she says. But lately she’s been a real bitch and it’s stressful to deal with her. Plus it’s obviously concerning that she’s around at all, which makes me wonder if I really am crazy. I’ve also been wondering why she’s fourteen? Did something stressful happen then which I can’t remember? Maybe some day I’ll find out.

Thanks so much for the interview. I do hope my answers have cleared up some of the mystery surrounding me. You’ve given me much food for thought and maybe I should try to be more open with people in the future. But it’s so hard to shake off a habit of secrecy ingrained over a lifetime. Perhaps I should have been a spy…

Rose Edmunds

Rose Edmunds

My reviews of Concealment and Exposure

An Interview with Miriam from “No More Mulberries” by Mary Smith

Set in rural Afghanistan during the 1990s, we quickly realise that Scottish-born midwife, Miriam loves her work at a health clinic and the warmth and humour of her women friends in the village, but she has personal problems which she can no longer ignore.  I am grateful that she has agreed to share some of her feelings with us.

Mulberries

Miriam, when you first settled in Afghanistan in 1986, did you have difficulty coping in a house where there was no running water, a latrine outside and no electricity?

Oh, god, yes. Although I’d tried to prepare myself for it, the reality was difficult. It was ages before I stopped reaching for a light switch when it became dark in the evening. I didn’t try turning on a tap for water – there was no sink. It all had to be brought from a spring. Fine in summer but not much fun in winter. Cooking was a nightmare. We stayed at first with Usma, who became one of my closest friends, and her family. I was amazed at how she could cook several dishes at once in such primitive conditions. The kitchen was always full of smoke which was supposed to go up and out of a hole in the ceiling but didn’t. It just swirled around. It’s no wonder so many village women have eye problems.

The worst was the latrine: the 100-yard -walk to reach it so everyone knew where you were going, no flush and the lack of privacy. At Usma’s there wasn’t even a latrine. People just said they were going ‘outside’ and everyone knew what they meant. Jawad built a latrine at the clinic but I soon discovered while Afghan women may be modest in front of menfolk they have no such modesty amongst other women and think nothing of following you into the latrine to continue a chat. When we came to Sang-i-Sia, I insisted we had a proper door (rather than a bit of sacking) with a bolt on our latrine. I became used to everything except having an audience when I went to the loo.

Why do you feel closer to your friends in Afghanistan then you did to your friends in Scotland?

My mother was incredibly strict when I was growing up, and terribly worried about appearances and what the neighbours might say. When I was a young teenager I wasn’t often allowed to hang out with my friends and missed out on all the giggly, flirty stuff. I was actually quite scared of my mother – she could make like difficult for me and my dad if challenged. Unless you’ve witnessed a Scottish ‘humph’ you’ve no idea. By the time I was older I didn’t seem to fit in. I felt I was being judged – not able to flirt, lack of make-up skills, the wrong clothes and wrong taste in music. In Afghanistan I felt free to be me and it was wonderful.

If you had returned to Scotland after the death of your first husband, wouldn’t you have given your son, Farid more opportunities and a better education?

You ask tough questions! It makes me feel I am a terrible mother to think I was denying my son a better education in Scotland than he’d receive in Afghanistan. At the time, though, I couldn’t think of anything other than the loss of his father, my husband. I was utterly devastated. It seemed – still does – to be so important Farid was not completely cut off from his father’s country and culture and family connections. Besides, it could have been quite tough for him in Scotland dealing with everything, including racism. I’d have hated him to feel he didn’t fit in.

What are your hopes and fears for the women of Afghanistan?

While Taliban controls the country I have only fear for the women of Afghanistan, no hope. Before they came I felt that things were changing for the better, however slowly, for women. Schools were opening for girls, giving them opportunities their mothers never had. Health services, including ante-natal care was becoming more available. There was never peace, always fighting somewhere, but in Sang-i-Sia and Zardgul life went on in its own way. People were poor, work was hard and we all hoped peace would come to Afghanistan. Instead the Taliban came and swept everything good away.

How would you describe your husband, Iqbal, to someone who had not yet met him?

If you mean physically, then I’d say he was quite handsome: tall, broad, a lovely smile. Like most Hazara people he has a small nose and slanting eyes. He is self-conscious about his lack of eyebrows from when he had leprosy. I never notice but I’ve learned how important eyebrows are in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Funny isn’t it, my friend Janet in Scotland has hers waxed almost into oblivion and Iqbal would give anything to have bushy eyebrows.

He’s a good man with a strong sense of fairness and doing what’s right, but he’s also a complex person carrying, as we all do, a certain amount of baggage from his past. I didn’t understand for a long time that he struggles with wanting to change things but not wanting to go against his culture. It almost always comes down to our fear of not belonging, doesn’t it?

You can find No More Mulberries on Amazon UK

My review of the book is here

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With thanks to Mary Smith for allowing me to interview Miriam.

An Interview with Lachlan Greig from “Rack and Ruin” by Carol Hedges

Rack &

“Greig is an imposing man, thirty years old and well above the regulation five foot seven inches. He is handsome, with a clear complexion, broad shoulders, bright chestnut hair and a certain glint in his eye. Life had taught him, sadly, that being gifted with a high degree of intelligence didn’t always play out well with those of his colleagues, and those of the criminal fraternity, who were not equally gifted.”

Inspector Greig, I have admired your tenacity and upright bearing as an officer of the law. I can tell from your accent that you are not a Londoner by birth. What made you join the metropolitan police?

Good day, Mistress Lloyd, and may I say your name reminds me of my own country, Bonnie Scotland. You are right, I am a long way from home, and there is a reason for that state of affairs. I joined the police force at the age of eighteen, but this was the Edinburgh force, and it was there I learned my training, much as my colleagues in Scotland Yard, by pounding the streets, and arresting the thieves and villains that frequent them. Of which there were many, I can assure you.

The reason I came south, to this strange city that seems to have no end to it, was because of a young women. Her name was Mary, and I met her at the house of a family friend. She was seventeen, and as sweet as the red red rose that our great Scottish poet Robert Burns writes about, but her father did not want her to marry a poor constable, and she respected his opinion too much to go against his wishes. So we argued and debated and I pleaded my case, but in the end, she chose a rich young man over me and for pride, I left my father’s house and came down to this smoky city, for I could not bear to see her sweet face or be close to her again.

I hear from my dear sister Jeanie that the match is not a happy one, for he drinks and spends long hours at the tables, but she has made her choice, and so have I, and we will not meet again upon this earth, I think.

Do you miss your family and friends?

I miss my father, who picked me out of the gutter when I was an abandoned bairn, and took me to his house. He brought me up as his own child, schooled me and has always supported me in all I wanted to do. Sadly, he died a year ago, of the fever, which he caught from some cloth that came over from the Americas ~ perhaps you have heard the story? Many importers and merchants died, for the cloth was all infected with the smallpox. He is buried in Greyfriars kirkyard, with a white angel over his tomb. He was a good man, and without him, I would surely have perished in the street, for my own mother abandoned me.

My sister Jeanie and her bairns are my only family now. I am ‘Uncle Lackie’ to the little ones, and send them toys and sweetmeats whenever I can. I hope this year to visit them for the Christmas festivities, if our superintendent will give me leave..

Will you return to Scotland in the future?

When I first arrived in London, my whole intention was to go home as soon as my heart had healed ~ for London was like some heathen wilderness to me: I didn’t understand its ways, nor how the inhabitants spoke, for their accents were strange and I confess, I was very lonely for quite a while. But now I have joined the detective division, and have found a friend in Jack Cully, and have been welcomed into his home by his wife Emily, I think I shall stay here. There is a lassie that I like ~ her name is … but maybe it would not be right to tell you her name, as we are not yet courting, but I intend to broach the matter with her as soon as this new investigation is over.

Reports of your bravery or perhaps foolhardy behaviour in stopping a moving omnibus have been printed in the newspapers. What made you act in that manner?

You are referring to the newspaper report in the Telegraph? I was merely carrying out my duty, which was to stop a woman taking a baby from its mother. You must know that there are many such women in this city who, for a fixed amount, will remove a child and dispose of it. My friend Jack Cully’s brave wife Emily was acting as a decoy to lure this evil woman into the open. Had I not stopped the omnibus, her own child could have been taken. The cut on my head and the broken collarbone are healing nicely and I do not think my actions justified the ‘Hero of the Hour’ headline!

Do you have ambitions for further progress in the Metropolitan police force or any other plans?

I have now moved from Bow Street to Scotland Yard, where I am a working detective. It is an increase in salary, which is most welcome and I hope soon to rise to the rank of Detective Inspector. My current case concerns banking fraud and gambling on a grand scale. You have maybe heard of the runs on several city banks who have defaulted on their loans? There is more to it than meets the eye, and DI Stride and I are looking into who is behind it. I hope we will be able to tell you the tale later in the year.

I am very much looking forward to reading about your current investigations.  Thank you for giving us your time today.

Rack and Ruin can be purchased at Amazon UK

And here you may read a review of Rack and Ruin

 

An interview with Patsy from the “Wild Water” series by Jan Ruth

This week I am interviewing  a book character from the Wild Water series, whom we love to hate.

Patsy

My conversation is with Jack Redman’s beautiful wife Patsy.  Even after she cheated on him, she remains a significant part of his life as the mother of his children.

Patsy, you seemed to have everything when you were married to Jack; a beautiful house, a hard-working husband, delightful children.  So why were you unfaithful to him?

Oh, rubbish! Everyone only ever sees Jacks side. He was a workaholic when I was married to him, just like his father, and look what happened there I was unhappy, neglected, and bored. I didnt plan to be unfaithful – it just happened. I know everyone says that and I admit I was stupid to fall for Philipes promises and his plans: yes, he had an amazing business plan for combining my beauty salon and his hairdressing chain but, well things change and it progressed in a different direction from there. I suppose it was inevitable it all got in a mess since Jack was never around and Philipe just kind of got me. Above all, he understood fashion and style in a way Jack never did. And anyway, Jacks behaviour was no better. He couldnt wait to get Anna Williams into bed the minute my back was turned.

 

Your daughter Lottie seems such a lovely girl, but are you finding her behaviour rather challenging as she grows older?

Lottie and I have never seen eye to eye, she was always a daddys girl. Still is, always will be. Which is why I made the decision to move away. It wasnt easy, but I did it for her and Jack, in the end. You dont believe me, do you? Its true. Lottie has never needed me in the way that Oliver and James have. Even Chelsey was far more independent, but shes another story altogether, isnt she? Actually, I dont want to talk about Chelsey because my words will be twisted and everything will come out about Banks and that awful, awful time when he well, as I said, I’m not going to be drawn into that other than to say that Jack and Anna had a lot to do with it, surprise surprise! As for Lottie, shes happy enough. Shes going to stage school, thats the last I heard.

 

What do you think about Anna?  In other circumstances could you have been friends?

Haha! Anna? There are no circumstances where she and I would ever be friends. What on earth do we have in common? Shes a mess! She lived in a falling-down farmhouse surrounded by swamps of mud before Jack sunk a load of cash into it. So far as I know she still looks and behaves like a hippy from the seventies; long straggly hair, big boots, dirty skirts. Does she still waft incense sticks around and make her own polish out of beeswax? She used to be boring when we flat-shared in our student days but these days she takes it to a whole new level. Lottie told me the other day they baked liver biscuits for the dogs and dug up mealworms on the beach, so that says it all. Anna Williams has always been, and still is, fat and uninteresting, and she stole my husband.

 

Why do you spend so much time and money on shopping?  Are you depressed?

I did go through a stage of depression after losing everything, but I met another man, and you know how it is, some things just fall into place and I gradually got my mojo back. I love shopping, so why not? Theres nothing more satisfying than filling the boot of my car with lots of shiny bags. I dont think it had anything to do with my depression I see shopping more as a hobby, so in the end I think it helped me. It has to be better than taking pills, surely?

 

Some people call you manipulative, but do you really deserve our sympathy?

Do you know, Ive never asked for sympathy but yes, I do think I deserve a least a little. Ive had a really hard time with my family. My parents, for example, have been no support at all. I know I had to move back in to their place and I was grateful for that but emotionally, you know? Ive never felt good enough for them, nothing I could do to impress them. And its the same now. Another reason I moved away. I cant see where I’ve manipulated anyone I dont know what you mean. Oh, do you mean all those complicated paternity issues with Jack? Look, I did what I thought was for the best, for the children, at the time. I honestly think I deserve some credit for that, it wasn’t easy, holding it all together. I’ve no hard feelings towards Jack. I’m in a better place now. Although, I do miss him sometimes, after all we never forget our first love. I wonder if he thinks about me?

Wild Water Box Set (2)

If you would like to hear Jack and Anna’s side of the story and read how Patsy’s past actions put them in danger, you can find the Wild Water books on Amazon UK and Amazon US

My Review of the three books which make up Wild Water