Albert Einstein famously remarked that income tax was the hardest thing in the world to understand. This year US residents have an extra two days to get their returns submitted because, for the benefit of overseas subscribers, the 15th April deadline falls on a Sunday and Emancipation Day, observed in DC, is celebrated this year on the 16th.

However, for our subscribers at least 15th April is still notable -- some might say notorious -- in that the February Orphan Scrivener announced this issue was scheduled to show up on that very date.

Well, here it is. It's early, yes, due to suddenly having to deal with time consuming matters that would make it late if left, but after all, what else can you expect with Friday the 13th looming?

Those of iron nerve may wish to read on. Those of a nervous disposition might prefer to return to wrassling their Form 1040s to the mat as a less taxing occupation.


I've just enjoyed a collection of the kind of stories that aren't written any more. G.K. Chesterton's The Innocence of Father Brown was published back in 1911, and a good thing, because no one seems to write pure classic puzzle mysteries today.

Although Chesterton wrote philosophy, poetry, literary criticism, biography, and Christian apologetics, among other things, he's probably best known for his stories about Father Brown, the dumpy-looking but brilliant little Catholic priest.

According to Chesterton, no one has a nose for evil like a man of the cloth.

The stories in The Innocence of Father Brown are far from realistic. Each simply sets forth a mystifying crime which Father Brown solves mostly by insight and logic. The collection contains one of the most startling mysteries I have ever read -- The Secret Garden -- but a more typical tale is The Sign of the Broken Sword.

As Father Brown, and his associate, former criminal mastermind Flambeau, stroll back to their lodgings from a rural cemetery, they discuss a monument they have visited, and a mystery surrounding a battlefield death many years before. The story consists entirely of a presentation and explication of a puzzle, accompanied by descriptions of the winter landscape.

"...they plunged into the black cloister of the woodland, which ran by them in a dim tapestry of trunks, like one of the dark corridors in a dream."

And so also they plunge into the dark mystery of a man long dead and seek to find the truth buried by history. I found it a wonderful mixture.

There is nothing at stake except the satisfaction of a solution. Those involved in the mystery are long gone. The only challenges faced by the protagonists are intellectual. The two walkers are not attacked or threatened in any way. There is no suspense or fear for their, or anyone else's, safety. The dramatic events took place in the past. The whole tale unfolds at a walking pace, to match the only action.

Who today would write such a story? Who would publish it? Where could you find anyone advising aspiring authors to write like that?

No, these days, within a paragraph Father Brown would need to whip his .45 caliber Webley-Mars Automatic Pistol from under his robes and some hulking brute would find himself on the bloody end of bullets exiting a flashing muzzle at a velocity of 380 meters per second. The hell with those quaint little homilies Father Brown used to give. Lead is mightier than the Word. And as for Flambeau, far from being reformed, he'd remain a crazed criminal, but given to mayhem, who occasionally takes time out to assist the good father for some tangled psychological reasons.

Yes, yes, I know what you're saying already.

A Catholic priest in the early nineteen hundreds would never have packed a Webley-Mars. He probably would have used an FN Browning M1900 single action, semi-automatic pistol produced in Belgium, the gun Theodore Roosevelt allegedly kept in his desk drawer.

Then again, I suppose we could try for the cozy market and give him a hobby rather than a firearm. Something novel. Like making tin soldiers or Turkish Delight.


A shortish length of ticker tape today, but hopefully of interest. Read on!


In the last newsletter we mentioned Nine For The Devil was awarded a starred review by Publishers Weekly This time around we're happy to announce John's latest adventure is travels trailing yet more clouds of glory, being as it was Pierce's Pick in his March 5th blog over at the Rap Sheet. Our thanks to Jeff Kingston Pierce for a most welcome surprise, details of which can be perused at


Mary posted some thoughts on March 26th on Maggie Bishop's Dames of Dialogue blog. The topic was The Devil's Nine Questions, concerning riddle songs after the fashion of Scarborough Fair and how the various addressees beat the nasty fellow off with intelligent replies to seemingly impossible questions.

Visit for the skinny, and stop by often for other guest posts ranging from what Maggie describes as fun travel and animal articles to food, history, shoes, and author interviews.


Jenny Milchman is a suspense writer whose debut novel, COVER OF SNOW, was recently sold to Ballantine after eleven years trying to break into print. The book is to be published in February 2013 and her short fiction will soon appear in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine and Adirondack Mysteries II. Jenny's Suspense Your Disbelief blog welcomes readers, writers, and authors to discuss the ever-present need for story -- and the ever-changing publishing industry. Mary's contribution talks about a vicious historical figure called the Gourd -- though not to his face -- who plays a large part in Four For A Boy, the prequel to John's adventures, and reveals the villain's ultimate fate as recorded by that court gossip Procopius. Point your clickers to on April 18th for more!


Poisoned Pen Press has released a new batch of 99 cent ebooks, the majority of them the first in assorted series. Fans of historical mysteries will doubtless be interested -- no, we insist -- to hear titles currently on sale include Aileen Baron's Torch of Tangier, The Trunk Murderess by Jana Bommrsbach, Margit Liesche's Lipstick and Lies, A Spark of Death by Bernadette Pajer, and Charlotte Hinger's Deadly Descent.

If you don't care for historical mysteries there are a number of other PPP authors whose works in various sub-genres may be sampled at this very reasonable price. To see what's available take a look around

While you're over at Poisoned Pen's website, consider a glance at the blog du jour, You may be unfortunate if you arrive on the 18th as that's Mary's day, but with the blog's rotation of authors and an occasional guest post subscribers are bound to find something of interest sooner or later. Unless of course you'd like to read Mary's revelations entitled Fourteen Things I Have Learnt By Reading Golden Age Mysteries, which goes live on 18th March. It's no mystery where the blog resides. Just pop over to and you're there.


There's a saying in Yorkshire, particularly popular to those in the plumbing profession, that where there's muck there's brass.i

Plumbers of course also carry out cleaner work such as, oh, repairs to hydronic heating systems and it is in this connection, no pun intended, that we have contributed a fair amount to our local plumber's IRA yet again. Enough brass, indeed, to provide raw material for at least a trombone for a colliery's brass band.

Truth, they say, lies at the bottom of a well. To be truthful, we prefer not to dwell on the two days last year without water on tap when our well conked out, though certainly it was an impressive reference for the quality of the manufacturer's work to learn via its coded label the dead pump was thirty years old. As those who have been without easy access to potable water will agree, henceforth let us never scorn Adam's ale!

Since then a trickle of other water-related problems have made life at Casa Maywrite interesting in the sense of the proverbial Chinese curse.

To set the scene, readers should picture a boiler that would not have been out of place in the Titanic engine room. Cube shaped with pipes going in and out like the worms in the children's rhyme about worms and pinochle, not to mention various locations on it are ornamented with dials and knobs and levers, all part and parcel of its profound mysteries.

In this particular and literal water go-round we started off with the upstairs heating loop kicking in every time the downstairs loop came on, even though no heat was being called for upstairs. Diagnosis: the upstairs zone valve was jammed open and under the immutable laws of the universe hot water rises.

So the plumber came to call. On his first visit he arrived with the wrong sized parts due to a mix-up at the shop, but the second time all was in order for replacing both valves, a good plan seeing as he was here anyhow and it would save yet another trip should the second valve turn up its toes. The job involved sawing out copper pipe as well as setting valves in. Eric put on his apprentice plumber's hat and held a large coffee tubby to catch occasional solder drips. There was much hammering and colourful language of a comical nature rather than your really ripe, raw stuff, but after a couple of hours the job was done.

About a week later, the loo's feed line suddenly parted company at the joint and water sprayed the bathroom. Talk about pressure! Were it in a hosepipe we could have power-washed siding, quenched a small fire, or dispersed a riot. We turned the line off -- fortunately without breaking the stopcock gizmo -- and until the plumber arrived next day used the fabulously useful for all manner of purposes large coffee tubbie to flush the loo.

All this unwelcome excitement pointed up the prescience of the plumber's observation during the earlier proceedings that at the rate we were going the entire plumbing system will eventually be replaced bit by bit. Malfunctioning plumbing is a trial to be sure but as Flanders & Swann were wont to sing It All Makes Work For The Working Man To Do.

So as we are sure subscribers will understand after the past couple of months don't think us ungrateful but it's just, you know, we'd prefer it if you didn't offer us water biscuits with the cheese board selection.


A couple of days after I scribbled the foregoing high winds blew in and blew down a pine tree next door by the garden wall. Most of its trunk is lying in our neighbour's garden with a few branches poking snouts in our direction, but by great good fortune it fell parallel to and between the houses. If it had fallen forward it would have crushed our buggy, if in our direction we'd have little roof remaining if not worse, and if it had tilted the other way the neighbour's cars and/or house would have been damaged. But as a wise man once said to me, all ifs are followed by buts, and in this case it's ... but it didn't.

So in the recent past we've weathered difficulties connected with air and water. Provided we don't have an earthquake or conflagration we shall happily not complete a hand composed of the classical elements. However, as I write the entire state is under a red flag warning, meaning conditions are ripe for fires to start and spread rapidly.

And the ubiquitous they reckon rural life is peaceful!


Philip James Bailey once observed that, like clouds, curses pass away. So indeed does this latest issue of Orphan Scrivener, but bear in mind the next will fly in to cloud subscribers' brows on June 15th.

See you then!
Mary R and Eric

who invite you to visit their home page, hanging out on the virtual washing line that is the Web at There you'll discover the usual suspects, including more personal essays, the Doom Cat interactive game written by Eric, 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! Intrepid subscribers may also wish to pop over to Eric's blog at and/or visit the Poisoned Pen Press author blog at

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