Here we are in mid August and the soundtrack of summer is in full cry. Crickets chirp loudly in an invitation to the ladies to dance, and whatever insect it is that sounds like a demented sewing machine operator treadles the day away. If Orphan Scrivener were fitted with a soundtrack, it would probably be screeching violins. Fortunately it is mute, so we hope you'll leap in and see what's going on...


When I was thirty and writing about my so very recent childhood, I remarked on how summers between school years seemed to stretch on forever as if that was something that anyone who'd ever gone to school or been a child needed to be told. Recently I've come to realize there is a different kind of truth to the old cliche. In fact, those summers have lasted forever for me.

The detail and persistence of my memories of living at a lake have permanently shaped the mythology of my life and my interpretation of everything that has happened to me since. This is true of all my recollected past, but those summers, early and filled with fresh, vivid experiences, have had an especially strong effect.

Just the other evening as I started up the stairs to the office I paused to glance out the back window into a gray twilight, already thickening into night under the bushes and ferns at the border of the woods. At the edge of my vision a flash of green appeared high in the air, vanished, then reappeared closer to the center of the yard for an instant. My mind wanted to draw a dim line of imagined luminescence, a stop-action animation, joining where the flash had been to where it was.

On an another July evening, over fifty years ago, around the edges of a big lawn at a lake, in the dark massed brush between the cottage and the creek, in the shadowy bergamot, beneath the black, drooping boughs of hemlocks, a thousand fireflies flashed in and out of existence. Our brains do not like randomness, particularly when it is too big to grasp so almost immediately, practically before the last pale line of sunset had faded from above the rolling mountains, the insects appeared to have synchronized, like a neon sign, shattered into innumerable tiny pieces yet still blinking in unison. No longer tiny, individual fliers, but a huge, mysterious pattern beating against the darkness.

After that, how could I ever be satisfied with a single firefly or even a few? Right then there was fixed in my mind the ideal summer night, against which all summer nights would be judged.


There's a fair bit o' news to report this time around, so let's get to it.


We're now writing John's next adventure. Currently untitled, it is set in Rome, a location we visited in the short story The Finger of Aphrodite in Mike Ashley's The Mammoth Book of Roman Whodunnits anthology. John receives a plea for help from Felix, former captain of the excubitors, who is in besieged Rome. Now a general, Felix does not indicate the difficulty in which he finds himself and if John leaves exile in Greece he endangers his own life. But Felix is an old friend....


Murder In Wartime is the theme of the July issue of Mystery Readers Journal. Mary writes about Harry Dobkin, who murdered his wife and concealed her body in the rubble of a London chapel, doubtless hoping if found she would be mistaken for the victim of German bombs. As so often happens he overlooked a few details. Fellow Poisoned Pen authors appearing in this issue are Triss Stein, Libby Hellmann, and Donis Casey and the full line-up of articles may be perused at


And here are the last few blogs in it.

Marilyn Meredith's blog 3rd & 4th July. Concerns the layout of Newcastle maisonettes aka Tyneside flats. The Reed family live in maisonettes when Mary was growing up, and Grace Baxter's lodgings mirror the one in which her older sister began married life.

Patti Nunn's Breakthrough Productions 10th July. Viewing the Ravenna mosaics of Justinian's court resulted in an admittedly wild idea: paper dolls as a promotional tool for authors. Instruction links included!

Lelia Taylor's book blog 18th July. We met the Bagpiper On The Beach and the tale of how this led to his playing the melody of the British national anthem. Illustrated with a photo of the elusive Reed and Mayer.

Bonnie Stevens' blog 25th July. Bonnie's First Two Pages feature deals with the challenges of those brutally difficult -- and vitally important -- pages. Our contribution analyses the first two of Ruined Stones, which as it happens form a complete chapter.

Chris Eboch's blog 26th July. Mary's Cinematic Disappointments. If only she could have told her younger self one day she would talk to Mr Mohair Sweater Who Lived Up The Street again and not skip a single heartbeat!

Lois Winston's Killer Crafts blog 11th August. An interview in which is revealed among other things the quirkiest quirk one of our characters has displayed, the three must-haves when stranded on a desert isle, and the worst jobs we've ever had.


We all know how the Grim Reaper is depicted, right? As a skeleton wearing a hooded cloak and carrying a scythe he uses to harvest a life when the time comes, for as is said all flesh is grass. Compared with the shears with which Atropos cuts the thread of life, scythes have a much larger cutting edge, a fact Ray Bradbury used to telling effect in his short story aptly entitled The Scythe. *

Perhaps it's as well Grimmy appeared in the collective unconsciousness wielding one of these extremely sharp agricultural implements before lawnmowers were invented, which Mr Google tells us was by Edwin Budding in Gloucestershire in 1830.

Because sometimes a lawn mower can be difficult to start and Grimmy is a very busy skeleton.

This train of thought came about when reflecting we've had problems getting the mower going the last couple of times it was hauled out. We eventually deduced the difficulty (you know my methods, Watson) was due to either meteorological conditions, mower machinery problems, or, if I may lapse into dialect for a second, manky petrol. Our reasoning was the petrol was purchased just a short while ago so should be usable and the mower must be in order given it attempted to start up a couple of times but could not continue. So the culprit must be meteorological conditions, and why not? They were much as the same as the last time we had attempted to start the mower, given damp air has lingered this past couple of weeks after several frog stranglers arrived between outbreaks of gully washers.

The disappointing thing is our mower was purchased only a couple of years ago, whereas we never had this sort of bother with its two predecessors, one of which was third hand and the other second hand. They built them tough in those days. Our third hander was struck down by a galloping case of rust making it dangerous to operate (a condition which also did in two of our buggies) and the second hander died when its innards failed for reasons unknown.

In any event, yesterday the mower was cutting capers the same way as it did last time. First it would not start at all and so, repeating what worked to get it going when it previously refused to (co)operate, we gave its spark plug a goodly blast of WD-40 and then moved the mower into a patch of direct sunlight to help dry it out. However, this treatment had to be repeated a couple of times even though the mower struggled valiantly to start. Then the starter string got itself messed up and hard to pull to get things moving. After that was untangled, more WD-40 and another pull or three to start the mower revealed, if it came to life at all and the starter string was let out slowly, the engine would continue working.

So our hanky sized lawns are now cut, and since the grass was rather long the occasional lines of heaped grass suggest miniature hay fields.

Which is pretty much where we came in.

* The Scythe was originally published in Weird Tales and has been reproduced at


In the last newsletter we spoke of our engagements in the red-headed woodpecker war. We're now able to give an update but alas, it resembles the curate's egg, which had both good and bad parts. The good: our avian friend's visits ended not long after we attached iridescent streamers to the gutter. The bad: his departure coincided with the end of the nesting season, so it may have been merely coincidental and we shall see him again next spring. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, the next issue of Orphan Scrivener will fly into your in-box on October 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 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 Intrepid subscribers may also wish to know our noms des Twitter are @marymaywrite and @groggytales Drop in some time!

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