Nightfall has noticeably crept in since the last Orphan Scrivener crept into your in-box and already it's time for the next issue. Subscribers should feel free to imagine a tootle of trombonists blaring a certain song from The Music Man when they notice the number of this issue. However, since Richard Strauss was of the opinion we shouldn't look at people playing trombones because it just encourages them, may we suggest you take his advice, ignore the trombonists, and instead read on?


One of summer's biggest treats was when my parents took me to the amusement park.

I don't know if amusement parks come so small these days, but it was big enough to thrill a nine-year old. No matter where you were, you could hear the clatter, rush and shriek of coaster and riders, the miniature train's jingling bell, the cheerful, maddening tooting and thumping of the merry-go-round's mechanical drum and organ. The air smelled of cotton candy. My sneakers crunched on gravel, sawdust, and discarded peanut shells. By the time I got home my soles were plastered with sun-heated, sticky chewing gum.

Near the park entrance, low cinder block building formed a dim, cool cave full of flashing lights and ringing bells. I never ventured into the pinball lair. The two machines at the entrance of the arcade were what interested me. One stamped the Lord's Prayer or the Gettysburg Address on a flattened penny. Behind the other contraptions' glass face a crane with a mechanical grabber hung above an enticing mountain of trinkets. I managed to snag a treasure trove: a Lilliputian pinhole camera with film, a miniature hectograph, and a trio of ceramic monkeys which puffed smoke rings from their little cigarettes even while they saw, heard, and spoke no evil.

I recall the atmosphere and anticipation more than the rides. I do remember my heart pounding as the roller coaster was ratcheted noisily up the impossibly steep incline until wooden platform and rails vanished and I looked straight up into nothing but blue sky before the bottom dropped out of the world. Then there was centrifugal terror as the whip's long, steel arms threatened to fling my car through the railings. Pressed helplessly back against the cushioned seat, I imagined a bolt coming loose, my car smashing through the flimsy railing and flying out over the passersby, over the popcorn stand to smash into the fun house. The stifling dark of the fun houses comes back to me, the abrupt turns to avoid illuminated skeletons, the far more scary touch of invisible cobwebs in the dark. Also vivid is the feeling of delight when the miniature train train chugged past the boundaries of the park proper and into a wilderness of grass and picnic tables.

Not too many years ago, I passed by the place where the amusement park had been. The wooden mountain at the start of the roller coaster remained, though sagging and probably as rickety and unsafe as I'd feared it was so many years before. Scattered humps of rotting wood were visible between the tall trees that had grown up around the rest of the coaster. One cinder block wall of the arcade still stood, covered with graffiti. There was the platform where the whip had spun, now roofless and empty. At one end of the park small, rusted tracks vanished into an overgrown field.

At the entrance a faded sign remained, promising amusements which were now ghostly memories. I was grateful that as a child I had not known it would come to this.


The ticker is somewhat shorter than usual this time around, but the big news is that the press is offering a free Kindle download of One For Sorrow at

This is the revised version slated to be published in the autumn in the UK by Head of Zeus, who will issue John's first adventure in various formats including hardcover, paperback, and ebook.

We're not sure how long this offer will last, so if you're interested, it would be best to take advantage of it immediately. Just be sure to come back to read the rest of the newsletter!


The current heatwave in many parts of the country has doubtless provided a bonanza in the form of increased sales of ice cream, soft drinks, and sun tan oil. Not to mention calamine lotion, that pink flaky stuff we wore during the hotter stretches of English summers, which despite that lying jade Dame Rumour's contention to the contrary came along now and then.

During those warm spells, since we lived in an industrial area with an abundance of concreted over back yards and no gardens -- the nearest greenery to be found was local cemeteries or parks and living in the city haymaking was not an option when the sun shone -- the heat was magnified something awful. It was excellent for drying the Monday wash strung across the back lane but us thin-blooded locals sometimes found it hard to cope with higher than usual temperatures.

As I have written in an earlier newsletter we sometimes went to the coast on sunny summer Sundays, but that was not always possible. The swimming baths part of the baths and wash house not far from our street were not free, and the only other body of water near us -- across Scotswood Road at the bottom of our street in fact -- was the River Tyne. Nobody with any sense set foot in it, given at the time if anyone fell in a certain nasty procedure involving the stomach was routine treatment because of the filthy state of the water.

Aside: cleaning-up efforts have progressed very well since then as I hear salmon have returned to spawn upriver. They must have long ancestral memories or perhaps enough of them got through the various connurbations along the river to keep the Tyne tribe alive.

But to get back to what I was saying, discomfort being the mother of invention, one day my younger sister and I devised a cooling method which these days would be called green.

We lived in an upstairs flat in a terraced street, and so steps led down from the back door into our back yard. If any subscribers have seen Get Carter, they've seen this type of housing in the sequence with the hearse in the back lane, except our back steps were open to the sky rather than roofed in.

Our brainwave was to hook up a hosepipe -- it's an enduring mystery why we even had one, since there was nothing to water and no buggy to wash -- to the cold tap in the kitchen. In passing let me mention that this was the only plumbing provided in the flat until we got a water heater. The traditional usual offices were represented by the loo in the back yard although in all fairness to the landlord, the Victorian vintage clothes boiling copper was still in the scullery although in our time it was only used as a meeting place for black beetles.

Well, we tied a broom to the top of the outside staircase and from the broom suspended a colander swinging from three bits of string. Then we tied the hosepipe into the colander, turned on the cold tap, et voila, a shower arrangement was created. We donned our scratchy one-piece black wool bathing suits and took turns standing under the cool water, our feet on sunwarmed concrete.

As the neighbours may well have said, by, but those bairns thought up a canny plan.

Now when Eric says he feels too hot, I'm not being rude when I tell him to stick his head under the cold tap.

A colander is optional.


Speaking of cold taps, while we dislike having to throw cold water on our subscribers' plans for October 15th, we wish to remind them that's when the next issue of Orphan Scrivener will hot-foot into their in-boxes.

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

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