Summer proceeds apace and that sure sign of advancing autumn, the back to school sale, is becoming more widely broadcast across the land every day. There's no stopping the passage of time and, to misquote Charles Cowden Clarke, its vast wheel now drags subscribers to the dreadful sight that is this latest issue of Orphan Scrivener. Whirl on...


Here at Casa Maywrite the creepy crawlies continue their summer offensive although so far the summer has not been as memorable as one a few years ago.

One morning a monstrous black beetle was hiding in ambush next to the washing machine. I grabbed the first weapon to hand -- a can of insect spray -- and blasted the invader with enough poison to peel the paint off the linoleum.

The horror shook the poison from its mandibles and scuttled under the washer. I bent down to investigate and it came at me from the other side. I shot it again. This time I kept my finger on the button.

The poison was designed to take out flying nasties, but a bug's a bug, and I was using the heavy duty spray, with enough muzzle velocity to knock a white-faced hornet out of the air at a range of five feet. The force of the blast lifted the beetle up and threw it back against the side of the washer. It slid down and finally lay still. Maybe it broke its carapace. Maybe it drowned.

These bugs were getting to me. A few days earlier, on the way to the shower, I was greeted by a huge spider. Just what you need to see when you walk into the bathroom naked -- an arachnid as big as your thumb.

This terror was at least four inches end to end, with a obscenely huge, bulbous body. I'd exchanged pleasantries with his great grandfather a couple of years ago. Which is to say, I'd had to hammer him five times with my shoe. The present spider could've put up a good fight against a tarantula. As for a skinny, naked guy without even a shoe...

I backed away, found my trusty bug spray, and soaked the intruder. He sauntered out of sight. There are few sights more hideous than an eight-legged saunterer. However, the poison must have taken effect, because he didn't return that evening. Or the next.

Maybe, with his dying breath, he'd sent the black beetle after me.

Probably it was just my imagination. But I was jumpy. Next morning I sprayed a menacing scrap of lettuce leaf on the floor in front of the refrigerator. Stopped it in its tracks too.


Only a short length of ticker tape this time around but carrying some big news...


We're happy to announce Ten For Dying has officially entered production with the appearance of its page on the Poisoned Pen Press website

While there's as yet no cover image, it will unveiled soon and it's a corker!

This latest entry in the series begins on a hot summer night at the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople with an attempt to raise Theodora from the dead as demons vanish into the night with one of the city's holiest relics, a fragment of the shroud of the Virgin.

John's friend Felix, captain of the excubitors, is ordered to investigate the theft, but becomes suspected of murder himself, thanks to an anonymous corpse left at his house. If only John were still in the city and could assist him!Unfortunately, the former Lord Chamberlain is on his way to exile, having sailed away the morning after the theft. It isnít easy solving a mystery in Constantinople while aboard a ship on its way to Greece.

A former madam turned leader of a religious refuge, a wealthy and famous charioteer, a generalís scheming wife, and a superstitious man who wears so many protective charms that he jingles when he walks, all play their parts in a story of misdirection and murder.


Information on John's adventures may be consulted at the websites of Poisoned Pen Press at and the page devoted to our shadow identity M. E. Mayer at Head of Zeus

HoZ has also published Three Great Historical Mysteries, a compendium composed of MEM's One For Sorrow and novels by fellow PPP authors Bruce Macbain (Roman Games) and Priscilla Royal (Wine of Violence). Details here:


One of my brothers in law once remarked he kept changing his locks, but his grown children still managed to get back in.

Doubtless this is not quite what Thomas Wolfe had in mind when he opined we can't go home again.

Sometimes it's just not possible for reasons other than different locks. On one occasion after some years away, I returned to Gateshead to see family and while there went to visit our old street. Imagine my consternation when I turned the corner and the street had disappeared. There was only an asphalted space where it had been, and -- even more sinister, in my opinion -- the streets framing it were still there and still inhabited.

What was also remarkable was the space originally occupied by a row of terraced houses facing another across the narrow street looked so tiny it seemed impossible fifty or so families had lived in that street at one time.

Another street where the Reeds lived across the river in Newcastle had also disappeared some years before, but its passing was not unexpected given at the time we left the city the wrecking ball had almost reached it as slum clearance efforts got under way. My spies tell me new housing was built on the site, set horizontally to the river rather than at right angles to it as the original street had been. Unfortunately, after storms water rushing down the very steep slope caused flooding so the new housing had to be taken down and rebuilt in the same configuration as the old.

Of course, when you can't go home again you're usually either living in, or on your way to, your next dwelling, which reminds me of one of my mother's more eventful moves, which involved a journey from Oxfordshire back up north to Gateshead not that far around the corner and down the main road from the street mentioned earlier. Various of the family assisted, loading up a large van with furniture and rolled up carpet and other household goods, including four wardrobes from a three-bedroomed house -- they are so useful for storage was one of my mother's mantras. A large box was punched with for transporting the budgie north, the reasoning being if he perched on the swing in his cage during the journey the continual wild oscillations caused by the vehicle's movement would not be good to the little fellow and so far as we knew no avian tranquilizers were available.

The last items to be put aboard were two sacks holding mother's remaining stock of coal, for she was determined not to leave it behind.

It was almost midnight and everything was in the van except the budgie, leaving only these two sacks of coal to be loaded. The ladies were in the kitchen making tea when all of a sudden two family gents rushed in, one with blood running down his face and both chanting a registration plate number. They'd been loading the sacks when a car stopped, a man leapt out, assaulted one because he thought a sack of coal lying on the shadowed pavement by the garden hedge was a body -- or so he claimed -- and then raced off.

With the aid of the number, the police tracked down the car and were round at the owner's house within a short time. He claimed he hadn't set foot out the door all night but, as we later learned, his car bonnet was still warm when the police arrived. But there was nothing to be done.

In any event, tea gulped, mother, a couple of family members going north, and the budgie left for the journey, driving past numerous illuminated windows from which peered neighbours who had got out of bed on hearing the police car siren howling.

To this day I am convinced they thought a moonlight flit was in progress and we had been caught in the act.

Happily the budgie suffered no ill effects and not long after she settled in mother purchased another wardrobe, making six in a two bedroom flat. But then they are so useful for storage.


As Tennyson pointed out, seasons too flower and fade and although this newsletter arrives in high summer, autumn will beginning when the next issue of Orphan Scrivener escapes from the wardrobe of time and manages to get into subscribers' inboxes on September 15th.

See you then!

Mary R and Eric
who invite you to visit our 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 or visit M. E. Mayer's blog at

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