Oyez oyez

I marked my 5th blogiversary and promptly disappeared from the blogosphere. Ongoing family stuff, you know how it is… So this is a have-to-write-one-now-or-may-never-make-it-back post. It’s a miscellany of announcements. Are four items enough for a miscellany? A mini-miscellany, perhaps.

First, my enterprising German translator Michaela Pschierer-Barnfather persuaded me to record an extract from The Infinity Pool – me in English, she in German from Der Infinity-Pool. This is for the YouTube channel TranslatorsAloud –  also on Twitter @LoudTranslators. It’s a great site showcasing literary translators and my debut novel is privileged to provide their first item of translation out of English! Literary translators (indeed all translators) are an overlooked and undervalued breed. In the days of foreign travel I often used to marvel at the number of bookshops and the size of their translated stock, the evident enthusiasm of overseas readers for the words of other cultures and languages. Meanwhile we in Brexit Britain point our stubborn, leaky boat vaguely towards Australian harbours that probably don’t want us. I invite you to be the judges of my recording as I can’t bear to watch more than a few sentences of myself. Michaela’s came out really well and I do wish this hard working, professional translator and everyone else on this fascinating site good sales and many enjoyable projects to follow. Here we are in all our glory: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bDq9QFu2NrQ&t=4s


Second, I promised fellow author and blogger Gail Aldwin I would publicise her blog on mine. Gail has many gifts – writing, teaching, warm encouragement of fellow human beings – but also one problem. For some reason Facebook will not let her post items from her blog, which is just rotten for an author. Anyway, back in March Gail approached me for a review of her book This Much Huxley Knows. I snapped that I don’t take review requests. She apologised for asking and offered to review The Magic Carpet instead and to interview me on her blog. I took her up on both offers, and the review was great. How generous is that? I said – in some shame – I would reblog my guest post from her blog. Then WordPress wouldn’t let me. The social media gods really do have it in for this blameless person. So she suggested I copy and paste it. But I think it’s better read in its original home on Gail’s blog because then you can also explore her books and the writer services she offers. Thank you again, Gail, for the opportunity, and I wish you good luck with your books and better luck with social media.

Item three. Many indies dream of getting a “proper” publisher, but fate can still intervene against mainstream publishers and authors. You may have read a rave review I wrote of Kevin Sullivan’s first-in-a-new historic Glasgow crime series, The Figure in the Photograph, published by small but historic firm Allison and Busby. Sullivan writes a jolly good detective yarn with engaging characters, interesting themes and evocative settings. This series opener should have been launched at Glasgow Waterstones in Spring 2020. Does anything about that ring a plague warning bell? Waterstones had put up their Covid shutters and didn’t reopen for months. The stylish hardback edition was destined for a library market but libraries closed too. When the paperback and follow-up hardback, The Art of the Assassin appeared in early Spring 2021 the bookshops and libraries were still shut and launches and festivals were online promise only. Some new books have found a voice via social media but I’m sure these are not the only new books which have gone under the general radar. Anyway – three cheers for another grand yarn of Edwardian wrong doing in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Juan Cameron the Scottish/Spanish detective-photographer hurtles round gracious riverside houses, stations, theatres and slums as he mixes with Viennese professors, Cuban exiles and women who on the whole are brighter than he is. Do track this slightly bumbling sleuth down. We all need good reads this rotten May as hailstones replace lockdown to keep us still indoors.

Sacré bleu! The last laugh lies with my fourth item. Comedian Ian Moore ‘as also created a new detecteev, wiz apologeez to ze French. Death and Croissants will be published on 1st July and already comes recommended by Alan Carr, Josh Widdecombe, Sarah Millican, Adam Kay… If you can’t get to France this summer this may be the next best thing. It’s even been compared to Richard Osman’s Thursday Murder Club, although I’m too jealous to read him so I can’t comment. I wish Ian every success, and if you can’t wait there’s a free prequel available here, with a quiz thrown in. Amusez-vous bien!

It’s nice to be back, but for now au revoir.

©Jessica Norrie 2021


Marsh frogs sing loudly in the ditches


Isn’t this a lovely cadence? How thoughtful of the Environment Agency display at Rye Harbour to phrase a wildlife description so poetically. Sadly, the marshes are contaminated; walkers are advised not to pick the blackberries. But on a cold February day, the marshes did offer chilly walkers stories to keep their interest, displayed by gaunt defensive structures or wooden bird hides.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


Rye town itself was bursting with literary references, reminders of a slower but not gentler age, of swashbuckling crime, political favour, and the influence of empire. This is a town of historical heavyweights and royal visits. Ghosts jostle for position, and many of them were writers. Rumer Godden, living after Henry James in Lamb House, claimed to be haunted there by the characters he created in The Turn of the Screw and E F Benson, creator of Mapp and Lucia, also lived in Lamb House but you wouldn’t know it from the plaque outside which references only James; you can do a Mapp and Lucia themed walk through the town which is the model for Tilling and indeed, just as in the books or BBC films, we saw the genteel High Street brought to a standstill by a large vehicle selfishly pursuing its own interests without thought to those of others.

Are you still with me?

Lamb House

I was attempting a homage to James by extending my sentence multiple clauses beyond any memory of how it began, but the master could hold his syntactical nerve longer than I can and already I spot a full stop approaching like a cannonball to stop my train of thought. I was going to add to the ghostly layers by pointing out Joan Aiken, who was born in Rye and is now better known as the author of the fantastic Wolves of Willoughby Chase children’s series, wrote The Haunting of Lamb House (1993), three linked stories featuring James and Benson (who both wrote ghost stories too). Cannonball time again!  Notwithstanding, I recently re-encountered Henry James, and it’s worth persevering, though you need a deep breath for some expressions and views we would now find offensive. But the psychology of What Maisie Knew, about a child watching her parents’ marriage implode, is bang up to date. It was reimagined as a film in 2012 and is a compelling watch, along with many other film versions of James’s works (perhaps because  someone else has navigated the syntax and distilled the themes and characters). Meanwhile let me point out if you haven’t read Joan Aiken you should stop what you’re doing and hunt her down now whether you have a child to share her books with or not.

The cannons of Rye Castle couldn’t always stop incomers, writers or otherwise. Wrye-foreigne were amused to drive through “Rye Foreign” on the outskirts, so called because this harmless looking village once belonged to the French, in the days when the English used to retaliate by swiping parts of Calais when they were off their guard. Rye Foreign it remains, and I’d love to know how the residents voted in the referendum. They must keep a low profile: the locally born barman at our hotel hadn’t heard of Rye Foreign, though there it is, lurking on his very doorstep.

Built in the 12th century, rebuilt in the 15th, the Mermaid Inn had stories to tell too. This listed – and listing – building has at least four visible staircases, a warren of beamed rooms, stone fireplaces, a priest’s hole, more hidden staircases, a medieval cesspit (en suite with our room, but we had more modern facilities too), and graffiti and murals dating back centuries. In an exciting twist, proof that Shakespeare acted and may have stayed there was confirmed just this year: receipts show payments to his troupe by the Mayor, and wall paintings within the inn, some restored in the 1920s, appear to reference a performance of Love’s Labour’s Lost. Actors who definitely have stayed there include Dame Judi Dench, and Joanna Lumley among others. It was pleasant to read the history of the inn, sitting in Dr Syn‘s Chamber, which is named after the smuggling Romney Marsh vicar of Russell Thorndike’s novels. (Much odder, to spend time by the roaring fire of the bar, with the most incongruous book I could have thought to bring, The Orchard of Lost Souls by Nadifa Mohamed, which I’m reading for background research for my own novel. This searing story of women living through the  Somali civil war of the 1980s did make Mapp and Lucia seem irritating and trivial. But I was in an anti Mapp and Lucia minority, to judge by the chat around me.)

This slideshow requires JavaScript.



Rye is a good town for pottering. Each cobblestone has its own tea shop, and each tea shop a neighbouring antiques dealer. rye-tiny-book-store-2I picked up some second hand designer clothes and a jigsaw, to be kept for a reward when the novel’s first draft really is finished. There wasn’t room for us in the Tiny Book Store, and Lamb House was closed until March so we drove on to Bateman’s, 20 miles away, where Rudyard Kipling lived. This was, frankly, disappointing: their collection of Kipling editions was mainly closed and they couldn’t find a copy of the Just So stories whose illustrations I wanted to show my partner. He didn’t have them as a child and what a treat he missed! But there was an exhibition about film versions of The Jungle Book (not only Disney), and gardens that would have been a pleasure to explore but for the drizzle. Hopefully the event below for World Book Day will be more fun – if I lived nearby I’d certainly go.


Rye was quite a contrast to my trip last week down Leyton High Road. It was a reminder of UK variety: you can drive for just a couple hours and encounter (or not) a completely different spectrum of classes, races and interests. I’ve returned from chocolate box views to chocabloc traffic, expansive marshland to suburban housing, but each area has as many stories to tell in the unexpected places as in the obvious ones. While I was away more suggestions and responses came in from the helpful network of informants I’ve sourced to authenticate the background to my novel. I think one of the things they’re telling me is: stop swanning around the likes of Rye, Dartington Hall and Stratford-upon-Avon, and get on with that first draft before your young heroine grows grey hair and wrinkles. Otherwise all our generous help will have been for nothing.

© Jessica Norrie 2017