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Over at the Sinfully Blog for the In The Spotlight blog tour where I'm sharing some thoughts about gender and the theatre. Do drop in and chat.
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Am delighted to be at My Fiction Nook today, where I'm discussing the link between Chicago and Twelfth Night (there is more than one) and why Shakespeare's Antonios intrigue me.
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Am being interviewed over at Elin Gregory's blog today. She asks a good question, that girl, and she's also included a rather cheeky (literally) picture of Shane Williams in amongst the text.

Do drop in and see!
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In The Spotlight is out today, so I'm guest author at Diverse Reader, answering some excellent questions from Meredith. So drop in and find out what first sparked my interest in mysteries, which mystery author I'd like to invite to dinner and which of my series I'd like to see adapted for television.


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Since my last epistle, I’ve rather blotted my copybook with Mr Cochrane concerning that rugby game last week which I’m not allowed to mention. I just made an off the cuff remark wondering how many England might have scored against Scotland had we had our first choice team playing… 


In The Spotlight”  comes out tomorrow! Nice little mention for it at the Romantic Novelists Association blog. And yes, I’ve created a “publisher” name for my self published works – most of you will realise what “The Right Chair Press” alludes to. 

As part of the usual release hoo-hah, I’m blog touring (all over the place like a rash, one might say) and most of these appearances give you a chance to win either a copy of “In The Spotlight” or something from the back list. So for starters, there’s: 

A week of giveaways at The Diverse Reader - I was one of those on day 3.  I’m guest author there tomorrow, too.

There’s a whole month of giveaways at The Romance Reviews anniversary event. My question will show up in a week’s time, on the 24th 

My main writing job at the moment is sorting out some edits for Broke Deep, which is available for pre-order at the Riptide site. Really good offer for the e-book/print combo. Then I need to get my head down over the edits for “Better to Die”, my story for the Manifold Call to Arms anthology. Still a couple of months before submissions closes so if you’re tempted to send something along, get a wiggle on.  

And finally, I occasionally turn my hand to a bit of sketching. Yes, it's two guinea pigs driving a motorcycle and sidecar. As they do...

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I wrote this originally as part of an article for Mystery People ezine, but I'm reposting it in response to some discussion at Live Journal (about the slashiness in Moby Dick!


It comes as a shock to many people (it did to me) that AA Milne wrote a murder mystery. Just the one, published in 1922, but it was enough to earn him admission to the inner sanctum of crime writers.

Is “The Red House Mystery” a good book? I’d say it’s fair enough, and very much in the style of its time, which is fine if you appreciate the Golden Age of crime. It certainly has many of the classic elements – the country house, the house party, the locked room, the wastrel brother who reappears from abroad and, of course, the amateur sleuth, with his slightly dim sidekick. If the denouement draws on a plot line which is peppered throughout those Golden Age mysteries, it’s none the worse for that.

Of course, it’s a whole other discussion about whether the detective’s sidekick only really exists to fulfil the main purpose of allowing the sleuth to show off his or her genius and give fulsome explanations regarding his or her thought processes. In the case of Red House’s Bill, he appears to be at the dimmer end of the bell curve of intelligence and certainly hero worships his friend Tony, the man who solves the case.

Tony’s a really interesting character, a man of independent means who takes on various jobs just for fun. He’d have been well served by further crimes to solve with his sidekick. I could envisage a whole series of cases in which our two heroes pop up at house parties and the like, tackling crimes, causing chaos and generally having a whale of a time. Alas, those books were never written.

Somebody even suggested that Bill reminded him of Piglet, but Tony and Bill makes me think of Raffles and Bunny, not least because of the “slash”. I usually say if you’re not sure what slash is, get your mother to explain when you get home. This time I’ll give a definition, straight from Wikipedia. “Slash fiction is a genre of fan fiction that focuses on interpersonal attraction and sexual relationships between fictional characters of the same sex.”

Milne himself objected to love stories getting in the way of the detection, so he takes Bill’s love interest “offscreen” pretty rapidly, then – ironically – proceeds to give us an almost love story between his two leading men. If you picked up this book without knowing the author or context, you might think you were reading a romantic mystery, with a gay bloke (Tony) who pursues, and then is all over, another man. From the moment Tony serves Bill, first in a shop and then in a restaurant, "Something about [him], his youth and freshness, perhaps, attracted Tony". He arranges a proper introduction to Bill and they quickly become "intimate". Yes, that word clearly didn't mean quite the same in 1922! As the story proper gets going, Bill is flattered, delighted and proud to be liked (and needed in the cause of investigation) by Tony, who soon after tells Bill he's wonderful for describing someone so well, at which Bill is happily embarrassed.

Should I mention how often Tony takes Bill's arm when they're walking? I know that this practice was not uncommon between men in the early twentieth century, and nobody batted an eyelid, but they seem to be at it all the time. Then there's the hand holding; Tony tells Bill he's the most perfect "Watson" before taking Bill's hand in both of his to say, "There is nothing that you and I could not accomplish together..." (That's the sort of thing he says a lot.) Bill responds by calling him a silly old ass, and Tony replies with "That's what you always say when I'm being serious" which is very similar to a tense, flirtatious interchange between Laurie and Andrew in Mary Renault’s "The Charioteer".

They even end up sharing a bed, although strictly in the way the characters share a bed in “Three Men in a Boat”. That’s another element which is hard to interpret innocently with modern eyes, although those of us who were brought up on “Morecambe and Wise” know that Eric and Ernie weren’t “at it” when the lights went off.

So what the heck was going on in “The Red House Mystery”? It’s terribly easy for us to look back at books written so long ago with our “slash goggles” firmly in place and see things which the author didn’t intend. Perhaps we see things which aren’t there at all. You only have to look at the volume of Holmes and Watson romances that have sprung up to find people interpreting old stories in a very present-day fashion. But gay men did exist in the 1920s (and at any point in history) and gay or lesbian characters can be found, thinly veiled, in classic books such as “A Murder is Announced”.

Maybe Milne was just being observational in his writing, basing Tony on somebody he had known, weaving in elements of conversations he had heard, as so many of us do. I have little doubt that he had no intention of giving us that romantic storyline, but he did so, nonetheless.
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And indeed many another goodie. Over at Diverse Reader there's a week of giveaways, including mine. While you're there you can find out what this genre means to me. Will you be surprised or will you say, "Charlie, you are so predictable?" Why not nip over and see?
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Our local Oxfam bookshop is an Aladdin's cave. My latest acquisition is a hilarious little volume called "I Could Pee on This: And Other Poems by Cats". If a moggy didn't actually dictate these I will eat my titfer. My favourite so far is "I Lick Your Nose".

When I'm finished I'm happy to pass this on to a good home, so comment somewhere if you want it. (More than one show of interest and I'll pick a name out of that titfer.)
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In The Spotlight is out next week and available for pre-order. The second of the two stories in the combo is a story of love, loss and the healing power of the Bard. Rick's just agreed to take part in a production of "Twelfth Night".

“Okay. I’ll do it. Just for you.”

“Magic. It’ll be good to have you as my wingman again. Although I promise it won’t be as bad an experience as ‘Arsenic and Old Lace’.”

“I’m pulling out if it is.” Rick shuddered in remembrance of a particularly spiky old bat who’d played one of the lead characters. “E-mail me with all the details.”

“I’ll do it right now.”

Eddie had a good, logical mind, and he was a doer. He also possessed a disconcertingly honest streak that meant he’d soon tell Rick if his return to the stage wasn’t working out. This might turn out all right. Maybe.

“Am I barmy doing this?” he asked Coldstream, but the cat just went back to licking his tail.


Lots more excerpts at the fantastic Rainbow snippets group.
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What a game yesterday. What you'd call a right hammering. Shame that Scotland lost their form when England hit theirs. Mr C, who is Glaswegian, was taking it stoically until I said, "Think of how many points we might have scored if we'd had our first choice team playing."
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This wasn't the post I'd planned, but after England's stunning victory today, including a hat trick by Jonathan Joseph, I had to commemorate another Calcutta cup hat trick three quarter, Cyril Lowe. Not only an ace of the Royal Flying Corps, Lowe is also one of the names in the frame for the original of Biggles.

And funny how RAF pilots seem to feature heavily among England's record scorers...
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Is there anything more pleasing than finding summat you thought you'd lost? Well, my favourite sock (the one with the guardsmen on) has reappeared to join its twin brother. I'll be wearing them tomorrow. And just as good is finding something you wrote ages ago and going, "Oh, that's quite good." This is from a piece of crossover fanfic:

This strange boy, the one who shares Archie’s name, who wears his features, who uses his voice, lights the room as much as the sunshine, his hands cradled around a steaming cup and an intense look of concentration on his face.

There's a real freedom to writing fanfic that lets you try all sorts of things.
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The things I don't know could - of course - fill a library the size of Venezuela. I picked up a great book in a library sale a few years back (The Originals - Who's Really Who in Fiction") and every time I dip into it I discover new wonders. Like the fact that the originals of Biggles and William (as in "Just William") served with the RAF together in Iceland. And that Ernest Shackleton's brother Francis was implicated in the disappearance of the Irish crown jewels - I'd never even come across their disappearance!

I got very excited when it appeared that Father Brown was based on the same person who inspired Dorian Gray but, alas, it was the wrong Father Brown.
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As our daughters often remind us, and this was brought home to me again today as I was reading folk on social media complaining about teenage sleepovers.
One of the things I really miss now that my girls are in their twenties are the hordes of pals descending on us. A lounge full of sleeping over peeps and me making batches of Scotch pancakes for breakfast. Keeping emergency supplies in the freezer in case of occasions like rustling up a hot meal for eight cold and wet teens who'd been singing at the village fete.
So yes, dear daughters. We are not normal.
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Some of you may have noticed I like rugby. Just a bit. So I was delighted to discover this site, dedicated to preserving the stories of Saracens players and their contribution to the Great War.

I've been discovering all sorts of stuff about players I'd never heard of. Norman Brabazon Dick, Frank Pilley (from my old neck of the woods, Stoke Newington), the adorable Charles Dearing and many others. It's a fantastic resource - I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

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Bonjour, all! Spring is sprung at last, even if today is a touch dreary. Hoping you all find something to lift your spirits today, whether it’s a beautiful daffodil or an unexpected smile. And for any of you who are Italian, please make sure you engage in the ruck in future. (That will make no sense to non rugby fans.)


The Cambridge Fellows have a new home (contract signed and posted yesterday) but I can’t say anymore as yet. Oh how I hate having to sit on my hands and keep my mouth shut.

I hope you don’t mind me sharing this here, but Sean Dellenty (one of our excellent speakers at UK Meet 2016) flagged up this really good resource on tackling homophobia. It’s intended for schools but applies anywhere.

There are lots of good offers at this time of year, including The Romance Reviews hosting a monthlong party of goodies and giveaways. I’ll be giving away a copy of In The Spotlight later this month. Talking of which...

“In the Spotlight” is now up for pre-order. It’s a double header of “All That Jazz” and “If Music Be”, two contemporary stories with a theatrical flavour. Excerpt below:

The sudden ringing of Rick’s mobile jerked him out of his thoughts. Incoming call from one of his mates.
“Hello, Eddie. If you’re going to sing happy birthday, warn me in advance.” Eddie had never been able to hold a tune.
“Spoilsport. I’ll just wish you many happy returns, then. How are you doing?”
“Not bad. You?”
“Run off my feet, Rick. Got a new production coming up. You wouldn’t be interested?”
“Nah.” Rick’s amateur dramatics days were behind him.
“Can’t twist your arm?”
“Sorry to disappoint you, but my heart’s not in it anymore.” Not without Steve to cheer him on.
“You wouldn’t take pity on an old pal?”
“An old pal who’s the king of the brainless plan?” Rick laughed. “Remember that ice fight down at Cardiff Bay?”
“Still got the scars. Got dialler’s finger, too. Need a few more ‘yeses’ to get this project off the ground. It’s Shakespeare, you know,” Eddie added, clearly aware of the appeal the Bard had.
“That’s not fair. Which one?”
“‘Twelfth Night’.”
“Ah.” Funny how that play kept coming up today. And appropriate, too, given that Rick was sitting like Patience on a monument, smiling at grief. “Who have you still got to cast?”
“Bit parts only, I’m afraid. I didn’t think you’d be interested in anything too big at the moment. Do you fancy Antonio, the sea captain?” The serpent in the garden couldn’t have spoken so temptingly.

And finally, Spring!

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There are so many prizes - goodies galore on a daily basis and a grand prize of a $50 gift certificate. You've got to be in it to win it though, so get over there and get clicking.
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And, as someone pointed out to me, I hadn't posted any blurbs or anything here. *heads desk*
In the Spotlight: Two stories by Charlie Cochrane

All That Jazz
Francis Yardley may be the high kicking star of an all-male version of Chicago, but bitter, and on the booze after the breakdown of a relationship, he thinks that the chance for true love has passed him by. A handsome, shy rugby player called Tommy seems to be the answer to his problems, but Tommy doesn't like the lipstick and lace. Can they find a way forward and is there still a chance for happiness "nowadays"?

If Music Be
Rick Cowley finds himself taking up am-dram once more, thinking it’ll help him get over the death of his partner. He’d never anticipated it would mean an encounter with an old flame and the sort of emotional complications the Bard would have revelled in. Still, old Will had the right word for every situation, didn’t he?


In the Spotlight available for pre-order, release date 18th March.
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The Samhain site goes dark tomorrow, so if you want any of the first eight Cambridge books in their present incarnation get in quick. They do have a new home, of which more anon, but I'm not sure when they'll reappear.

Enjoy your pancakes today, those of you who make them; as in previous Lents, I'll be making relevantly themed posts at my Mylodon blog. This year we're trying to make it a season of positivity.

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