Due to public holidays in certain states, the deadline for filing tax returns this month has it seems been extended a couple of days. Hopefully this latest issue of Orphan Scrivener offers lighter reading than that dense mystery with a cast of dozens and an immense amount of obfuscation, or in other words the Form 1040 Instruction Booklet.


Our neighbors had a truckload of dirt delivered this morning. They've been filling in low spots in the yard. Their two preschoolers were on top of the pile immediately. They looked giddy with delight and indecision. Should we shovel, or climb or kick the stuff around, or just sit in it?

Dirt's a kid magnet. No one's ever invented a better toy.

By my parents' house there used to be a spot shaded by big maples, behind the leafy bushes edging the lawn, where the grass wouldn't grow. There was nothing back there but beautiful, untouched earth, ready to be dug and scraped and shaped.

My friends and I bought bags of plastic vehicles at the Five & Dime. The assorted cars and trucks in each bag were barely distinguishable as such. They were hollow, just shells really, an inch long and didn't even have working wheels. One of them would have been useless. But 120 in one bag were a marvel.

That kind of traffic required roads and roads are made of dirt. Our wide, straight turnpike stretched from stone wall to hollyhocks. Small roads curved and branched off to assorted rocks and clumps of weeds and narrower tracks twisted their way into the interior of the bushes. All these routes were jammed with vehicles.

Eventually a summer thunderstorm would wash our work away and allow us to start over again.

I'm glad I didn't grow up in a city where that sort of play would probably have been confined to short visits to a nearby park. I was lucky to grow up with dirt.


History tells us Noel Coward once referred to destiny's relentless lamp. Since we'd rather not have it glaring in our eyes while a shadowy figure forcefully asks us for our news, it's as well that this time round the ticker is pretty quiet and our updates quickly told...


Subscribers may care to consult Lois Winston's blog for March 31st for Mary's contribution on the inventive ways British women got around a severe shortage of cosmetics during the Second World War. One clever makeshift was applying beetroot juice for lip colour. Did you know there was at least one prosecution for the illegal manufacture and sale of face powder during that war? All is revealed at


Just for the heck of it Mary challenged Poisoned Pen Press and Poisoned Pencil authors to try a different sort of writing, or in other words no pun intended take a bash at writing a haiku or clerihew about one of their books. M. Evonne Dobson, Jane Finnis, Judy Clemens, and Bill Cameron took up the gauntlet and the results appeared in March on the PPP blog at

Eric will be in the spotlight over there on April 18th, when he contributes thoughts on The Problem with Self Promotion. For shy authors who prefer to remain in the shadows, it's no wonder he laments if only Eric Reed were a real person who loved being a salesman.... No link yet but his blog will be reachable on that date via Poisoned Pen's page at

Meantime, subscribers may also care to check the same URL now and then to read news and blogs about and by our fellow Poisoned Pen and Poisoned Pencil authors.


Since last we lurked in your in-box more reviews of Golden Age mysteries have appeared on our Eric Reed website. It is perhaps only fitting now spring is at least thinking of arriving that they included thoughts on Edgar Wallace's The Daffodil Mystery and The Greene Murder Case by S. S. Van Dine. John Buchan's Greenmantle is next to be considered. Some, nay many, will argue it isn't a mystery as such -- but there's certainly a mystery in it, including an urgent need to solve three terse clues to certain information. That review will go live this Sunday at


It's no mystery how much I enjoy detective stories written in the Golden Age. They're not only entertaining but on occasion can also be quite instructive.

What have I learnt from them?

Well, characters with grey eyes are usually not villains, and protagonists often have a tendency to marry their second cousins. Eton, Harrow, Oxford, and Cambridge have educated more characters than readers can shake a shooting stick at, while lower class characters can be expected not to possess an haitch between them, and if they do, it was probably stolen.

Sleuths' love interests are often orphans, by the end of the book if not at the beginning. Putting aside the Baker Street resident, bachelor detectives frequently occupy rooms at the Albany or chambers in the Inns of Court, with occasional outposts at Jerymn Street, Half Moon Street, and Victoria Street -- though one at least is known to reside in Clarges Street.

Gentlemen carry handguns as a matter of course and have no problem getting them through the British customs. Such men belong to at least one London club and to be blackballed by members means social ruin. So does being caught cheating at cards. And men who talk about women while visiting their clubs are cads of the first order.

Parma violets are popular decorative wear for ladies and are usually worn at the waist, while women who dare to show their ankles should not be trusted. Any lady on the stage is almost automatically morally suspect, but this does not stop scions of noble families eloping with them.

Blackmailers get no quarter, and I say it serves them jolly well right. Cleanliness or otherwise is a sure indication of social class, unless the sleuth is in disguise.


From dirt to cleanliness is a natural progression, but as Havelock Ellis observed, what is called progress consists of exchanging one nuisance for another. Speaking of which, we'll close with a reminder the next issue of Orphan Scrivener will make itself a nuisance by its stately progress into 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 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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