THE ORPHAN SCRIVENER -- ISSUE # ONE HUNDRED AND FOUR -- 15 APRIL 2017

Despite recent record snowfall, flooding rains, and now unseasonal heat, spring has finally arrived. For as this latest issue of Orphan Scrivener was written, the ants have returned -- or at least finally become visible. Like the swallows of Capistrano, their emergence into view is as regular as well-oiled clockwork. Swarms of wasps have also shown up from wherever they hide in winter and yesterday we had our first in-home visit from a field mouse. Shakespeare opined time's whirligig brings revenges, reminding subscribers two months have passed since our last newsletter and the whirling hands of time mean this issue just appeared in your in-box....


ERIC'S BIT or BEFORE CHICKS WORE MINIS

My memories of Easter go way back, to before chicks wore mini-skirts, back to when they gave chicks away at gas stations. Those were the days.

Easter was what you get when you substituted a magic rabbit for a magic fat guy from the North Pole and a basket of candy and some dyed hard-boiled eggs for great heaps of brightly wrapped presents. That's right, a sort of second-rate Christmas. On the holiday scale Easter rated below Halloween. My trick-or-treat bag held more candy than my Easter basket and although some spoilsports gave out apples at least no one plopped any hard-boiled eggs into the sack. Even the tangerines that took up so much valuable space in the Christmas stockings were preferable to eggs. What do you do with dozens of hard-boiled eggs? I recall choking down egg salad sandwiches until the Fourth Of July (a holiday that barely deserved a ranking because fireworks were illegal in Pennsylvania and school was out for the summer anyway).

I did enjoy coloring the eggs and hunting for them Easter morning after they'd been hidden by the bunny, even if it wasn't quite as thrilling as roaming dark streets in weird costumes. My family was lucky enough to have a big lawn where eggs could hide behind tree trunks, in clumps of weeds, amidst the stones in the rock garden, up in the crook of the huge maple tree in the front yard, in the corner of the sandbox, underneath a flower pot by the back door, up in the latticework of the rose arbor.

One early Easter it snowed. Four or five inches of heavy wet snow. My gloves were soaked through as soon as I poked around the shrubbery in front of the house. I guess the rabbit must have carried out its task in the small hours of the night because there were no tracks leading to the eggs. Those eggs were a sorry sight after they'd been hunted down and carted inside. Between sitting in the snow and my wet gloves, their colors were runny, the designs smeared. And after I'd worked so hard dipping them into the different pots of dye at various angles, blocking out patterns with a clear wax crayon.(Turned out to be good practice for the glories of tie-dye).

The dyed eggs were left out for the Easter Bunny to retrieve and hide, you see. Which also served to prove the reality of the bunny, just as the absence of the cookies and milk set out for Santa proved that he had, indeed, visited.

There was more to the holiday than colored eggs, but not much that enthused me. I've never been fond of Easter candy. The big, candy eggs are so overly sweet they make my teeth ache and plain chocolate is...well...plain.

The fluffy chicks were more appealing. Not to eat, mind you. Although since my grandparents' chicken coop never got overcrowded, despite the traditional influx of Easter chicks....well, that's something I prefer not to think about. I suppose it taints my memory. That and pondering the fate of all those chicks they used to give away at gas stations. Sure, the ones we brought home had a coop to go too (and never mind the chicken that showed up on my dinner plate months later. I prefer to think I was eating fowl with whom I was not acquainted, that I had not romped with in the grass).

So the egg hunt was the big thing. Mysteriously, almost every year, there was an egg which eluded the hunt, only to be found weeks later, while I was mowing the lawn, or weeding, a thrilling find, a faded artifact of the past nestled somewhere I must have neglected to look. Best of all, you wouldn't dare use a month old egg in a sandwich.


NECESSARY EVIL or THE BSP STICKER

Our ticker's devoted to publication news of one kind or another, so let's get to it....

RUINED STONES or GRACE OOP NORTH

We're pleased to report on behalf of our shadow identity Eric Reed that a review of his WW2 mystery Ruined Stones (set in Newcastle on Tyne) has just appeared over on the For The Love of Books blog. The site is owned by a librarian whose name is not given but who opines this novel "hits all the high notes with a spunky, savvy heroine, small town idiosyncracies and a tumultuous time in world history."

https://cayocosta72.wordpress.com/2017/04/07/ruined-stones-by-eric-reed-published-by-poisoned-pen/

Ruined Stones will appear in July but is already available for pre-order via the usual suspects on- and off-line as well as the Poisoned Pen Press website. Like to read an excerpt? Point your clicker to

http://poisonedpenpress.com/books/ruined-stones-author-guardian-stones/

JOHN RETURNS or A NEW LORD CHAMBERLAIN SHORT STORY

It's been a while since one of our short stories appeared, but readers could not hope to escape forever. Time's Revenge is our contribution to the newly published anthology Bound By Mystery: Celebrating 20 Years of Poisoned Pen Press. Edited by Diane DiBiase, the collection offers over thirty short stories by authors published by the press -- the irony of the collection's title and that of John's new adventure has not escaped us. A list of contributors, along with mini biographies, is to be found here

https://www.amazon.com/Bound-Mystery-Celebrating-Years-Poisoned/dp/1464208328

MORE GAD REVIEWS or A DIFFERENT SORT OF LOCKED DOOR MYSTERY

We've uploaded a few more Golden Age reviews to our blog since the last newsletter, to wit one dealing with the mystery half of Conan Doyle's Tales of Terror and Mystery, not to mention Locked Doors by Mary Roberts Rinehart (a novel Constant Reviewer particularly enjoyed, especially the explanation behind all the truly mysterious shennanigans going on), Anthony Rolls' Scarweather, and The Winter Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine. Links to each here:

http://ericreedmysteries.blogspot.com/


MARY'S BIT or I'VE HAD A FEW

Regrets, that is. But not too few to mention since I intend -- we appended our signatures to the Fair Warning Act -- to speak of things I never got around to doing. But it's not all gloom. Brooding is not good for us, and so being a glass is three quarters full type of person, even so there are ways of dealing with regretful remembrances.

Take for example the fact I was amused recently on hearing Elle King's Good To Be A Man, a song I am informed led to her recording contract. Her tongue in cheek lyrics are directed at her notion of traditional male thinking, but what I found particularly attractive was her banjo playing, give one of my regrets is never learning to play that particular instrument. I can toot along on a kazoo and that's about the extent of my musicianship but a banjo, now that's really neat. On the other hand with all due modesty I can say I have a reasonable singing voice. On a good day. Indeed, I once sang a duet with Judy Collins at the Albert Hall. Honesty compels me to admit over five thousand others were singing Wild Mountain Thyme with us at the same time, but still.

Long time subscribers may recall that a couple of our short mystery stories featured our protagonist Herodotus investigating strange goings-on in Egypt, as set forth in Chosen of the Nile and the Oracle of Amun. It's likely my interest in Egypt was sparked by my father's stories about his WW2 adventures in the Western Desert, not least the snake discovered in the latrine -- the unfortunate reptile wound up being transformed into a belt -- and daytime heat so intense it was possible to fry eggs on the bonnets of RAF lorries. That spark was fanned into a blaze by subsequent extensive reading about Egyptian mythology. Sad to relate, I have yet to set foot in Egypt although (it's that shining glass again) I did see the Tutankhamun exhibition at the British Museum on my second try.

As part of a well-rounded grammar school education our lessons included French, geometry, and algebra. I didn't do too well with the first and last subjects. A few years later, Mr Pittman's shorthand was a similarly closed spiral notebook to me until suddenly one day there was a mental click and it began to make sense. If only French and algebra had fallen into place as suddenly but alas, it was not to be. I've never really had any need for French or algebra since I left school, but on the other hand geometry has been very handy at times when cutting pizzas or pies into three equal parts. As for French, I may not be able to read Simenon in the original but I do speak three languages: British English, American English, and Geordie, my native dialect. (May I whisper at this point we've included a Geordie glossary in Ruined Stones?)

Embroidery is another skill I'm sorry never to have acquired, though it's not for want of trying. As a result, my sideboard runner has been a family joke for years. Without exaggeration, I started work on it decades ago and it's still not finished. I didn't bring it with me when I came to America and I believe it's in the possession of someone in the family in the old country but I've made no enquiries about its whereabouts as then it might turn up in the post and I should feel obliged to take a stab at finishing it. But should it appear and I never manage to complete it it would at least be handy for polishing a banjo, even if I never get round to learning how to play one.


AND FINALLY

Humorist Dave Barry once described the internet as a world-wide network exchanging data that allows a computer modem to emit a noise such as would be made by a duck choking on a kazoo. We emphasise no water fowl were harmed in the writing of this newsletter as, with a quick burst of syncopated tooting on what was once dubbed a southern submarine, we close with a reminder of the date of the next Orphan Scrivener. Which, through the wonders of the intertubes, will arrive in subscribers' in-boxes on June 15th.

See you then!
Mary R and Eric

who invite you to visit their home page, to be found hanging out on the virtual washing line that is the Web at http://home.earthlink.net/~maywrite/ There you'll discover the usual suspects, including more personal essays, a bibliography, and our growing libraries of links to free e-texts of classic and Golden Age mysteries, ghost stories, and tales of the supernatural. There's also the Orphan Scrivener archive, so don't say you weren't warned! Our joint blog is at http://ericreedmysteries.blogspot.com/ Intrepid subscribers may also wish to know our noms des Twitter are @marymaywrite and @groggytales Drop in some time!


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