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The Protagonist Speaks

Interviews with the characters of your favourite books

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Mystery

Tillman Rosenbaum (of the Tawny Lindholm Thriller series, by Debbie Burke)

Dear readers, tonight in an interesting twist we have both a character — and his author! He’s a lawyer assisting the protagonist, and has his own style of doing things.


Debbie Burke: Tillman Rosenbaum is the brilliant, arrogant, cynical attorney who elbowed his way into
the first book in the Tawny Lindholm Thriller series and refused to leave. Today, I’m interviewing Tillman for The Protagonist Speaks. Thank you for talking with me, Tillman.

Tillman Rosenbaum drinks Glenfiddich single malt scotch while his intense dark eyes pin.me to my barstool. His baritone sounds like God in a cave.

TR: Get this straight right up front—I didn’t agree to this interview. Tawny did.

DB: You seem hostile?

TR: We can talk all day about landmark cases, precedents I’ve set, innocent people I’ve
gotten acquitted. But nothing personal. Understand?

DB: Uh, okay. Since Tawny is one of the innocents you saved, why don’t you tell us how
you first met?

TR: Tawny had unwittingly gotten involved with a terrorist (Book 1 – Instrument of the
Devil
). Feds were after her, seized her bank account. She was in deep shit and her only crime
was trusting the wrong guy. I like a righteous cause.

DB: You’re the crusader hero?

TR: I’m the asshole who backed down Goliath. Afterwards, I offered her a job. She was
broke from her late husband’s medical bills, doesn’t have much education, dyslexic—helluva
time reading, can’t spell. But she’s really bright and has this gift. People open up to her. Clients
tell her the secrets they’re afraid to tell me.

DB: You’re six-seven, aggressive, and sarcastic. Can’t imagine why clients would be scared
of you.

TR (snorts): I scare prosecutors and judges, too. Underneath this gruff exterior beats a heart
of stone. In more than twenty years of practice, I only lost three cases.

DB: Your style of questioning differs from Tawny’s.

TR: Hell yes. I jump on ’em with both feet. She just smiles, like the sun breaking through
clouds, and then she listens. Finds out the damnedest shit that way. (shakes his head in
amazement
)

DB: So your skills complement each other?

TR: Oh yeah. Like when my old man was targeted by this sexy con artist (Book 2 -Stalking
Midas
). He’s a smart financier, made millions, but an unprincipled prick. Serial womanizer.
Drove my mother to suicide. Suddenly he’s broke. Refuses to talk to me. But damned if Tawny
doesn’t get him to open up. She cracked the scam. Unfortunately, the con artist almost killed her
in the process. (looks away, blinks hard, and swallows)

Continue reading “Tillman Rosenbaum (of the Tawny Lindholm Thriller series, by Debbie Burke)”

Alexander Southerland (of A Troll Walks into a Bar, by Douglas Lumsden)

Dear readers, tonight we conduct our interview in a bar, pretending to be the bartender for a private investigator and summoner of elementals.

He’s here to tell us about trolls and shape-shifters, witches and femmes fatales, and murder investigations that take him from dangerous dark alleys to the dazzling lights of downtown Yerba City.


What’ll it be, buddy?

Whiskey. Neat. Leave the bottle.

Here you go.

Thanks. Slow night?

It’s early. It’ll get busy later.

Got time to grab a glass and join me for a drink? Today’s my thirtieth birthday, and I’m in the mood for a party.

Thanks, I believe I will. Here’s mud in your eye! …. I’ve seen you in here before. You’re a private dick, right?

That’s me. Alexander Southerland, P.I. Call me Alex.

Sounds like an interesting racket, Alex.  Is that something you always wanted to do?

What’s with all the fuckin’ curiosity, pal?

Hey, it’s a party, remember? And you’re the guest of honor. I’m just being sociable.

Yeah, yeah. Okay, pour me another glass and I’ll tell you my life story. This shit is pretty good. Hits the spot. Anyway, to answer your question, no, being a P.I. isn’t something I ever imagined I’d be doing back when I was a kid. I grew up in a working class neighborhood, the kind of place you spend your life trying to get away from. My old man was a factory worker. When he worked at all, that is. My mother stayed home and did her best to keep me out of trouble. Turns out that I had a special talent. Since before I can remember I’ve been able to summon and command air elementals. Nothing big. No hurricanes or tornadoes or anything like that. Just little funnels of air. I used them to find out things I wasn’t supposed to know about. Still do. I also used them to annoy all the other neighborhood kids. That led to a lot of fights. I liked fighting. I got to be really good at it. Anyway, I was an only child, and as far as my parents were concerned, I was one child too many. I guess I was quite a handful. 

Sounds like a rough childhood.

Not really. I got nothing to whine about. My parents weren’t going to win any prizes, but they weren’t any worse than most. The only thing my old man ever taught me was that after the fourth drink they all taste pretty much the same. And the only good advice I ever got from my mother was to stay away from my old man after he’d had that fourth drink. 

Seems like good advice. 

Yeah. I didn’t always take it, though. When my old man was soused he used to beat me silly! But I kept getting bigger, and one day I ended up bouncing him off the walls. After that he stopped bothering with me. Stopped talking to me, too. That was fine. I learned to get by on my own.

What happened after that?

I quit school and joined the army. Gave three years of my life to the state of Tolanica. All hail Lord Ketz-Alkwat! And so on and so forth. I did some time up-country in the Borderland, mixing it up with the Qusco insurgents. 

That would have been, what, about ten years ago?

Thereabouts.

What unit were you in?

The 27th.

I was in the 33rd about the same time. I heard about this wild-ass sergeant with the 27th named Southerland. They say he was a stone-cold killer, but you could count on him when the pressure was on.

You shouldn’t believe everything you hear. Those stories tend to take on a life of their own. Anyway, after spending the better part of two years fighting for the cause, I was rotated into the military police, and a year later I was discharged and sent home. Problem was, I didn’t really have a home.

So how did you become a P.I.?

I bummed around a little, and then I went to see the grandmother of a buddy of mine who didn’t make it out of the Borderland. She was a well-heeled old dame named Mrs. Colby, and she owns a lot of commercial rental property, including some units here in Yerba City. Anyway, she had a rental app from a joe that she had a funny feeling about, and she asked me if I would do a little snooping. I dug around a bit and found out that the guy was a were-rat. Mrs. Colby was impressed with my work, and she not only helped me set up a business, but she rented me an office with some living quarters on the second floor. I’ve been working as an investigator ever since.

A were-rat?  Wow! Those guys give me the creeps! They say that they’re all a little nuts!

Yeah, that’s mostly true. But this guy had trained himself to put a lid on his baser instincts. Turns out he’s a pretty fun fellow. Mrs. Colby went ahead and rented him some commercial space and he turned it into a nice business. I invited him to lunch one day and we’ve been friends ever since. He helps me out sometimes. Rats can go pretty much anywhere, and they see and hear everything. And he’s mostly stable, although he’s hinted at some dark shit in his past that I’m probably better off not knowing about. 

Your racket must be exciting.

It can be. It’s usually fairly routine, and the cash flow is far from steady. I do a lot of background checks, and I find missing people and missing items. I do a lot of investigative work for attorneys and occasionally for big corporations. Some of the cases can get a little intense. Like this one about a year ago when a gorgeous doll asked me to find her little sister.

What happened?

There were three problems with that case. First, the client was trying to use me for her own purposes. I couldn’t trust her as far as I could throw her. The dame didn’t even give me her real name! Second, some extremely corrupt sons of bitches in the Yerba City Police Department didn’t want me anywhere near the case. This one detective–a seven-foot tall, five-hundred pound troll–tried to get me to lay off it. I probably should have listened, but I didn’t like the way he asked. So I stuck my nose in, and the troll decided to get physical. Actually, he fucked me up pretty good!

A troll? You’re lucky you’re still breathing!

It could have been worse. But, yeah, he rearranged my face a little and threatened to rip out my eye with an icepick. But I’m better off today than he is. I still have nightmares about that troll, though.

You said that there was a third problem with that case?

That’s right. The third problem was that my client was an adaro.

One of those water nymphs from the Nihhonese Ocean?

Yeah, the ones that the government herds into the refugee settlement in the northern part of the city. You probably know that female adaros are extremely attractive to men. It’s part of their evolution, something that stems from the fact that female adaros outnumber the males by about ten to one. And we’re not just talking about physical attributes. They emit powerful pheromones that make lugs like you and me want to get down on our knees and beg for table scraps. It wasn’t easy being in the same room with my client. It was hard not to believe her lies. It’s a good thing that I’ve got a lot of willpower. Or maybe I’m just fuckin’ stubborn. In the end, I guess it amounts to the same thing. I still dream about her, too.

How’d that case go?

It was a clusterfuck from beginning to end. I got myself mixed up in a turf war between two drug-running street gangs up in Placid Point. I met my client’s charming but homicidal sister, and I somehow got my hands on a mysterious locked box that a lot of powerful people wanted. The mayor’s own private fixer threatened to frame me for murder if I didn’t sell the box to him. And, of course, I was tortured by a troll. 

What was in the box?

I’m not at liberty to say, and you don’t want to know. Get me?

Gotcha! So what can you tell me about your most recent case? I hear that you were working for the Barbary Coast Bruja.

You hear a lot of things.

I’m a bartender. It comes with the job.

Yeah, I was hired by Madame Cuapa herself, the most powerful witch in western Tolanica. She told me that she had murdered a man, but that he wasn’t dead. 

Come again?

I know. It’s complicated. Anyway, someone had managed to put a compulsion spell on the witch and turn her into a deadly weapon. And when I say deadly, I mean lethal enough to end all life on this planet! That was the only case in which my own client tried to kill me.

The witch tried to kill you?

Twice. The first time, I wound up shooting her in the chest. It didn’t bother her all that much, though. The second time was really weird. I remember following a giant shadowy dog with no eyes right up to the gates of the Azteca realm of the dead. It was a near thing! In fact, lately I’ve been wondering if maybe I actually died. In any case, Madame Cuapa brought me back.

She brought you back? Didn’t you say that she was the one who tried to kill you?

It’s complicated. But that wasn’t even the scariest thing that happened to me on that case. That scariest thing was when another witch tried to sacrifice me to a giant hummingbird.

A…. Sorry, did you say hummingbird?

Well, some kind of spirit in the shape of a winged man with a bright green hummingbird’s head complete with a three-foot beak that was sharp as a spear. Believe me, it was no joke! 

I guess not. Hey, do you want me to break open another bottle? This seems like a lonely way to spend your birthday. 

Sure, let’s drink up. Don’t worry about me. It’s not that I don’t have friends. It’s just that I’m not in the mood for them tonight. Besides, they’re busy with their own shit. Take Lubank, for example. He and I get along fine, but he’s a real pain in the ass. He’s a buck-toothed gnome with the world’s most obvious hairpiece. He’s my lawyer and I do a lot of investigative work for him. Mostly to dig up dirt for his blackmail files. In return, he comes to my rescue when the cops drag me to their downtown clubhouse and cuff me to the iron tables in their sweatboxes. For my money, Lubank is the most corrupt attorney in the city. But his human wife, Gracie, is a treat! She’s an outrageous flirt who will have you howling at the moon if you’re not careful.

Did you and she ever….

Don’t be ridiculous. She may talk a big game, but she’s devoted to her husband. I don’t know what she sees in the slimy rat, but he’s nuts about her, too. They’re an odd couple, but they make it work. 

They sound like a unique pair. Any other women in your life?

Not in the way you’re suggesting. In my last case I became friends with a homicide detective named Laurel Kalama. And before you ask, she’s also happily married. But she proved herself to be a real standup partner when the shit came down. She’s seen it all and isn’t fazed by any of it. She’s rock solid and good with a gat. Too bad she doesn’t have a sister.

Sounds like all the dames you know are married.

Well, there was this one doll I ran into in the bruja case. Cindy Shipper. Looks like an angel, but she’s hard as nails. My kind of sweetheart. The heat between us was real, and if circumstances had been different we might have had some fun fanning those flames. But she may have been involved in the murder of her husband and her stepson. That kind of put a damper on things. Still, you never know.

You sure run into some interesting people. 

Yeah, I do. I haven’t even mentioned the two rock-addicted were-snakes. I hope they’re still alive, but I wouldn’t want to go all in with that hand. And then there’s Cody and his pet manticore. 

Manticore?

Think two-hundred pound flying jungle cat with huge bat wings and a scorpion’s tail. He and Cody have this strange mental link. You’d know Cody if you saw him. Six five, solid muscle. Likes to dress in skin-tight leather with purple trim. He’s training to be a butler. 

Well, it’s been interesting, but I need to get ready for the evening crowd. Are you working on anything currently?

Not yet, but do you see that troll back over there in the corner booth? The one in the suit that would cost you three-month’s salary and tips? He’s been following me all day. I suspect that he’ll follow me when I leave. I don’t know what he’s up to, but I have a hunch it might have something to do with the supposed suicide of that good-looking nightclub torcher, the one who called herself Zyanya. The scuttlebutt is that the canary had something goin’ on with our own Mayor Teague. Looks like I might have to miss out on poker night with the boys. 

Best of luck to you, buddy.

Thanks, pal. Finish off the bottle. You’re a right gee in my book.


Dr. Douglas Lumsden is a former history professor and private school teacher. He lives in Monterey, California, with his wife, Rita, and his cat, Cinderella.

You can fix Alex Southerland on the pages of his first case A Troll Walks into a Bar, and his next case, A Witch Steps into My Office.

Join us next week to hear from a tattoo artist from a dystopian, cybernetic near-future. Please follow the site by email (bottom-right) to be notified when the next interview is posted.

Nick Walker (of the United Federation Marshal series, by John Bowers)

Dear readers, tonight with us a is law-enforcement officer on a visit between his interstellar travels. He is here to tell us about space travel and gun-fights among the asteroids.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I was born and raised in Chowchilla, a farming community that became the capital of CentCal when the old California was split into six states. It’s not a large city, only a million people, and it’s still an idyllic place to grow up. My family lived just outside the city, so I was a country kid. We were surrounded by cotton and alfalfa fields.

A neighbor had horses and we rode them sometimes; we also raced our hoversleds, usually at night so my parents didn’t find out.

What made you the person you are today?

Oh, Jesus, what a loaded question!

First off, my dad was a Protestant minister and my mother was Catholic. My dad raised me Protestant and my mom raised my sister Catholic. That’s how they compromised. But I’m an avid reader and I love history. In the course of my studies, I came to have serious reservations about religion, and eventually I quit going to church…which didn’t make my dad happy.

Then I joined the Star Marines. Everything that happened afterward pretty much started with that.

Were you ever in combat?

Yes. A year after I finished boot camp, the revolution exploded on Alpha Centauri 2 and my unit, the 33rd Star Marine Division, was deployed. The next two years were the worst of my life; I was convinced I would never come out of it alive, but somehow I did.

Weren’t you awarded the Galaxy Cross? Tell us about that.

I’d rather not, actually. I lost too many good friends, saw too many innocent people die. What happened in that church tower…well, I didn’t have much of a choice. We were surrounded, cut off, and outnumbered nearly ten to one. The Freaks were cutting us to pieces, and I was the only surviving Star Marine who was qualified on that sniper rifle, so…

Sorry. Next question, please.

What do you do now?

I’m a U.F. Marshal. Retired…I think.

What does that mean?

Well, I’ve been doing this for almost ten years. Lots of close calls. That was okay when I was single, but I have a family now, and I’d like to live long enough to enjoy them. Maybe, when the kids are grown, I’ll go back to it. Right now…I’m not sure.

Continue reading “Nick Walker (of the United Federation Marshal series, by John Bowers)”

Annabella Cordova (of Initiated to Kill, by Sharlene Almond)

Dear readers, tonight with us is a deaf art student, who was dragged into a trail of murder, revenge and vengeance spanning centuries and countries.


What was it like living in London, then moving to Spain with your Aunt and Uncle?

For some reason, I don’t remember much about living in London. Snippets of events pop up here and there, they just don’t seem real. I remember our house in London. It always felt so cold, impersonal. I felt I had to tip toe around everywhere.

My father had inherited the house from some long lost relative. I think a part of me blocks out a lot of my earlier childhood.

It felt so different when I moved to Spain when I was 10. My aunt had made sure to make her house a home. Everything in their house felt like it had meaning. My bedroom actually felt like a sanctuary, instead of some place just to sleep in.

I missed my mother; however, for the first time, I felt safe, I felt part of a family.

What is your most cherished memory, and how does the bad memory of your father haunt the good ones?

Going to the Art museum with my mum is one of my most cherished moments, I guess one of the only times I can clearly remember from back then.

My nightmares always involve that museum, and would rapidly take me to the night the car crashed. In my nightmare, I clearly remember hearing my mum call for me, and then I see my body falling down the stairs, my father watching from above…

I don’t know if my nightmares cloud my actual memories, I struggle to picture what happened.

Yelling, threats, my fear of my father all felt so real at the time. When I wake, I just don’t know what is real, and what is imagined… Except that Art Museum.

This is a pretty personal question, how does being deaf affect what you are doing now?

Being deaf has both advantages and disadvantages. I don’t hear if someone is behind me, I sense it, I guess. When I was younger, I was terrified something bad would happen, I couldn’t ‘hear’ it coming.

So, I guess I fine-tuned my other senses. Trained myself to sense a change in the way the air flowed around me when someone was close.

The way nature and objects moved, birds suddenly scattering when something or someone disturbs it.

The smell of cologne or perfume, a hint of curry, tobacco or coffee.

Smelling, tasting, seeing small disruptions to create a more detailed picture around me. Learning to understand how to interpret those small changes.

Now, I use that to watch people. Watch how their lips move when they talk, how their feet are positioned, the way they hold their hands, small ticks that indicate to me they are holding back.

I can’t hear the tone of voice, I can’t hear if they’re angry or sad. Instead, I watch their face, learn the intricacies of their expressions.

That gives me the confidence. I don’t have to rely on others, that’s important to me.

Which is why, I guess, I love Art. I was studying Art History at Seville University, taking after my mum, in some ways. The picture holds so much depth; we only need to understand what we are seeing. Like body language, art has many interpretations to one single image; you just need to understand the workings behind it.

Continue reading “Annabella Cordova (of Initiated to Kill, by Sharlene Almond)”

Luke Ryder (of Death in the Holler, by John Bluck)

Dear readers, tonight with us is an alcoholic game warden, drawn into a police murder investigation when a dead gangster is found on a farm’s food plot.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

I grew up in the Holler, a small wooded valley in Kentucky. There’s lots of woods, some small farms, but mostly beat up houses, shacks where most folks live. It’s pretty country, but the people are nearly all poor. And now, even in the year 2029, you think yur takin’ a step back in time when you go to the Holler. You’ll see the cinder block saloon next to a gravel road by thick woods and a couple of country stores with gas pumps out front. You’ll notice fields of tall weeds and scrawny trees with plenty of space between the small houses.

Folks usually have vegetable gardens, sometimes well-tended, but there’s the feelin’ that if you take a few too many steps, you’ll be walking into a dump, yur feet crunching down on crumbling, rusty cans between the tall islands of grass. On the edges of their properties people throw out garbage. There’s general junk, broken glass, and maybe some old furniture. They don’t have garbage pickup in the Holler. You have to drive your trash bags to the dump, but some folks don’t do it all the time. There’s the occasional rusty car or old, smashed pickup with rotten, flat tires, just sitting there on overgrown lawns. Folks often leave their clunkers next to their gravel driveways or off to the side of their houses when their vehicles stop working.

The first thing I remember when I think back to when I was a little kid was the rough wooden floor in the living room, if you could call it that. I had to be careful not to get splinters stuck in my fingers when I played with my plastic, toy soldiers. It was the biggest room in the clapboard house. I slept on the old, worn couch with my face against the back, ‘cuz it usually was still light in the house when I went to sleep. My eyes burned from the tobacco smoke. My little sister slept in a crib in the kitchen, and Mama and Paw slept in the only bedroom.

We didn’t have many close neighbors. Those that lived closest to us ignored us. Most likely that was because of my mama being an immigrant from Naples, Italy. Her accent made her seem even more foreign. She was a Catholic, but Paw was born in the Holler and was a Baptist. Before I was born he was in the Navy working at an airbase in Italy as an airplane mechanic. My parents met in a bar in Naples.

Dad was a drinker and got kicked outta the Navy ‘cuz of it, according to Mama. My guess is he got her pregnant with me. She really didn’t want to move to the Holler, but Paw had inherited an old house and a few acres after his parents died. He got a job fixing cars and trucks. He didn’t make a hell of a lot of money, and there wasn’t much left after he bought his booze. Mama wasn’t innocent, either. She ended up on pills and died of an overdose. Paw’s liver rotted away. They died when I was in my early twenties. Now, fifteen years later, I have a drinkin’ problem. I guess I got a few bad genes from my parents, but that ain’t a good excuse. I’m fightin’ it. It’s tough, but admitting you got a problem is half the battle.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

I can’t think of a favorite toy, but my favorite thing was a BB gun my Paw gave me. I used to shoot mostly sparrows with it. I even killed a mouse in the shed oncest. After a while though, I felt sorry because I’d killed a bunch of innocent birds. They were gentle, pretty creatures. I had cut their lives short, and I never forgave myself totally for that. I guess that’s why I eventually became a Kentucky game warden.

My favorite memories are from when I was a little older, in middle school. Me and my best friend, Jim Pike, played hooky from school, and fished in the creek.  Later on, in high school Jim wanted to be a psychologist.  Sort of a funny choice for a kid from the Holler, huh? Well, though he got his college degree in psychology, he ended up as the county sheriff. He couldn’t find a psychologist job. But he told me a few times that studying psychology helped him a bunch when he became a peace officer.

What do you do now?

I’m a game warden. Truth be told,  that wasn’t my first choice. I really wanted to write about the animals of the Holler and Kentucky. You know, the deer, the possums, turkeys, fish. To do that, I wanted to be a public affairs officer for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources.

When I was a kid in school I read a lot. Maybe that’s ‘cuz most kids ignored me except for Jim Pike. Anyway, there was this old bus that the county converted into a library on wheels. I got books from it. Actually, you won’t believe it, but I can write a lot better than I can talk. But writing about wildlife didn’t work out. There aren’t many people doing that job, so I did the next best thing. I became a game warden. We have to carry a pistol. Technically, we are law enforcement officers. But mostly we deal with poachers and people fishing without a license.

Continue reading “Luke Ryder (of Death in the Holler, by John Bluck)”

Natasha Bernard (of The Masada Faktor, by Naomi Litvin)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the child of a holocaust survivor. She is here to tell us about life in both the USA and Israel, and about how horrible things that should have been buried in the past refuse to stay dead.


Tell us a little about yourself.

I am the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who grew up in America. My identity became meshed into hers as I was deeply affected by her experiences, some of which are manifested in The Masada Faktor. Eventually I became Mother’s caregiver until her death.

Did you have any favourite toys as a child? Any cherished memories?

Favorite toys? That would imply that I had fun as a child? Hmmm. I remember toy guns being my favorites to play with. I fought Nazis with my little brother in war games.

What do you do now?

I follow my gut looking for clues to a mystery that Mother left me with. A mystery with deadly consequences for Israel. I live with past, present, and future adventures that seem to control me in an odd way. I am a writer in the book.

What can you tell us about your latest adventure?

The mystery of The Masada Faktor had taken me to Israel. The case was left for me after Mother’s death and not only is it a hard trail, certain personal issues have arisen that are forcing me to look inside myself. Was I really affected by Mother’s experiences in World War II? Why is it up to me to save Israel? What did I do to deserve this? Well, I am a Jewess and I have a responsibility to fulfill. So I accepted that and got on with it.

Continue reading “Natasha Bernard (of The Masada Faktor, by Naomi Litvin)”

Svetlana Smetana (of Wizard Ring, by Clare Blanchard)

Dear readers, tonight with me is the mother of the protagonist. She is here to tell us about life behind the Iron Curtain, about spies – and about a magical ring inherited from the famed John Dee, which she passed to her daughter.


Tell us a little about where you grew up. What was it like there?

Well, I was born in Prague, Czechia, between the two World Wars. It was exquisitely beautiful and yet terrifying at the same time. We lived in a grand old flat in Novy Svet, an old quarter of Prague up near the Castle. From an early age I was steeped in a culture of mystery. I used to love wandering around the old quarters of the city, especially the Jewish Quarter, and reading about old legends like the Prague Golem. There always seemed to be an air of unseen reality behind everyday life. A sense of the occult at work. It was sinister, in a way, and yet there was also a lot of laughter in our lives. That must be where I got my anarchic sense of humor! And my nose for the occult at work in public institutions.

What would you say were your defining memories as a child?

I seem to remember we read a lot, went to the theatre, and like most families in that part of the world we had a log cabin in the  forest where we spent weekends and holidays. You have to remember hardly anybody went abroad on vacation in those days.

My favorite memories are of sitting by the log fire at our cabin and reading fairy stories with my grandmother. It seemed idyllic, until  the Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia in 1939. Then my whole reality changed forever. I guess that’s the origin of my contradictory personality. And why I became a spy. I witnessed Nazism and then Communism in only a few years. The point of all this, for me, as I say, is to understand the occult aspects of power and institutions.

Even in your life today?

Well, on the face of it I’m now just a retired, respectable grandmother, living in England, where my daughter Sylvia was born, and being a granny to my grandson Rusty. He’s quite a character. Takes after me in many ways! My daughter was pretty angry with me for a long time, on account of my spying career, which took me away from England a lot, but of course I couldn’t tell her about it.

Sometimes people tell me I’m just being paranoid, but I think I know better. It’s hard for me now, though, in a way, having to sit on the sidelines and just watch it all playing out, all over again. This time it isn’t a sudden cataclysmic event. It’s a slow creep. I could see my daughter Sylvia being sucked into this false reality of today and I meant to help her by giving her the ring, but in the end it just made her life more complicated.

So what, then, is this ‘wizard ring’? And what’s playing out all over again?

It was a gift from a dear friend of mine called Stanislav, who found it in Prague and I gave it to my daughter Sylvia. I meant it to enhance her consciousness. It was made in the Prague workshop of the famous English alchemist, John Dee, who lived in Czechia for a few years with his family. I completely underestimated its magic powers, as it turned out. But then perhaps I also underestimated my daughter. Parents often do. What’s playing out all over again? The colonization of our minds with propaganda. Misdirection about what’s really going on. The dark arts of money.

Continue reading “Svetlana Smetana (of Wizard Ring, by Clare Blanchard)”

Jarvis Mann (of his eponymous series, by R Weir)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a young private detective from Denver. In a classic hard-boiled style, he tangles with anything from small-time gangsters to serial killers.


Tell us a little about what you were like growing up?

I was a good kid for the most part, until I hit my teen years. Then all hell broke loose and I was constantly getting in trouble; stealing items when I thought I could get away with it and getting into fights with my older brother. It got to the point where my father had a Polk County Sheriff friend of his lock me up in the county jail for a few hours to give me a taste of what prison life was like. And I didn’t care for the incarceration at all, the restrictive confinement getting my attention.

What did you enjoy doing as a child? Any cherished memories?

Cherished memories were of playing little league baseball, shooting hoops with friends and occasionally throwing around the pigskin, at least when I wasn’t getting into trouble. Even though I was athletic, it was too bad I wasn’t proficient at any of those sports. Going pro would have been an exciting career choice, and infinitely less dangerous than the one I chose.

What do you do now?

After I got my life straightened out, thanks to being scared out of my wits by the Sheriff, I decided I wanted to be a detective. Not one who worked for the city, county or federal government. But a private detective. I wasn’t the best at following orders and being my own boss became the logical choice. I was always good shadowing people as a kid; lurking and stalking to see what they were up to. And best of all I would get paid for it, though not a lot for the first few years.

Continue reading “Jarvis Mann (of his eponymous series, by R Weir)”

Marcus Corvinus (of his eponymous series, by David Wishart)

Dear readers, tonight with me is a Roman nobleman, scion to the patrician Valerii Messallae family. Living in the times of the emperor Tiberius, he was privy to some of the most interesting events of the early Caesars, from a unique behind-the-scenes view. He’s here to tell us about his life and his times.


Tell us a little about your family and early life.

Gods! How much time have we got here?

I was born in Rome, where the family’s been a fixture practically ever since Romulus ploughed his first furrow eight hundred years back. Father Marcus Valerius Messalla Messalinus (yeah, all four of them; we Roman aristos don’t skimp when it comes to names), mother Vipsania (just the one name this time. Women have it easy). Paternal grandfather another Marcus Valerius Corvinus. That last is relevant. More about Grampa Marcus later.

Mother and Dad were different as chalk and cheese, which was one reason why they divorced around the time of my fourteenth birthday, just after the old Emperor Augustus popped his clogs. Became a god. Whatever. No coincidence there, mind, and not the only reason. As you might guess from her name, Mother was the daughter of Vipsanius Agrippa, the old guy’s erstwhile deputy and hoped-for successor, so contracted marriages at our end of the social scale being what they are it had been a pretty shrewd move originally on Dad’s part, politically speaking. And Dad was nothing if not political. Only it bombed. Agrippa pegged out not long afterwards, and by the time Augustus died (was promoted) where the succession – and political power – was concerned the only game in town was Tiberius, aka the Wart, son of his wife Livia by an earlier marriage (are you following all this? Questions later). No coincidence there, either, far from it. Believe me, I know; as things turned out, sussing out the details of that little bit of political engineering on the bitch’s part nearly had me in an urn before I hit twenty.

Anyway…

Okay, you know how things go for a kid with my background, from their mid-teens on. It’s pretty much standard, and mapped out from day one: a couple of years’ featherbedding with a legion so’s you’ll know, when the time comes, exactly how to beat the hell out of the poor buggers beyond the frontiers who are benighted enough to want to keep it that way, or stupid enough, if they’re inside them, to want out; followed by a strictly-regulated move up the political ladder ending in a consulship and the parking of your well-upholstered middle-aged bum on one of the benches in the senate and a lifelong place on the political gravy train. That, of course, was what Dad – being Dad – had planned for me originally. Only – equally of course, and fortunately – it didn’t work out that way. Thanks, primarily, to Grampa Marcus.

Oh, sure, he’d come up through the system himself. In spades. Unlike Dad, though, he was no political arse-licker: believe me – and again I know what I’m talking about here, having had personal experience of three of the buggers so far, plus Bitch Livia, who counts as an honorary fourth – it takes guts to tell a ruling emperor to take a hike. Which seemingly, on one memorable occasion, he did. Even as a know-nothing kid I had a lot of time for Grampa Marcus.

He had a lot of time for me, too, fortunately; surprisingly so, considering that, not to put too fine a point on it, I was an over-bred, snotty-nosed, spoilt brat, but there you are, that was Grampa Marcus for you. I can see now in retrospect (he died when I was eight) that we had a lot in common, character-wise, and he must’ve seen the same. Whatever his reasons were (although I have a sneaking suspicion they included a less-than-perfect liking for how Dad was turning out) he left me enough in his will – property and cash – to make me financially independent when I came of age. Which meant that when at fifteen I told Dad in no uncertain terms where he could stick his plans for my future the threat of being disinherited wasn’t something I needed to worry about.

Not that at fifteen I wasn’t still essentially an over-bred spoilt brat, mind (at least I’d got past the snotty-nosed stage). But then that’s par for the course: what upper-class Roman fifteen-year-old isn’t?

Enough about family. That side of it, anyway. And at least me and Dad made it up in the end, before he died, with allowances made on both sides. I’m really glad about that. You don’t want bad blood in a family, you really don’t.

So how did you get into sleuthing?

That was Perilla’s doing. My wife. Or she is now, at least, and has been for – gods! – the past twenty-five years. Her stepfather was Ovidius Naso, the poet exiled by Augustus and never pardoned. Grampa Marcus had been his principal patron, which meant that when Ovid died and Perilla wanted his bones brought back for burial she gave me the job of arranging it. Not Dad as his eldest son and head of the family, mark you; me. Which, it turned out, was my Uncle Cotta’s doing: elbow-in-the-ribs, nudge-nudge wink-wink stuff, which was typical Cotta. A nice enough guy in his opportunistic, duplicitous way, and he meant well, but the bugger almost got me killed.  Like I said, I was just an over-bred spoilt kid of nineteen at the time, party-party, smashed out of my skull for thirty days in the month. But that was a lady you couldn’t say no to – think Amazon minus the battle-axe but with added attitude – so I didn’t. And that was how it started.

She’s not as bad as she sounds, mind, Perilla. Or not really. Not when you get to know her.

Continue reading “Marcus Corvinus (of his eponymous series, by David Wishart)”

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