Monthly Archives: October 2016

I don’t believe in ghosts, but…



One of my writer friends posted a true ghost story of her own for Halloween so I thought I’d apologise for my long (inadvertent) absence by doing the same thing.

She presents her story very simply and leaves it to her readers to decide whether or not there is or was anything supernatural going on.

My own story is similar in that I know there are all kinds of subconscious effects that might well have influenced what I am about to tell you. I am not a believer in any kind of afterlife but I do think there are a lot of unexplained things in the world. One day, some of them will be better understood.

A few years ago we went on a long trip that took us from Harwich in UK to Hamburg in Germany and then along the Baltic coast into Poland until we reached the eastern border. We alternated between camping and staying in small hotels or B&Bs. At the border we turned inland and decided to visit the Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s military headquarters on the ‘eastern front’ where he planned a lot of his campaigns. At the time, I knew very little about it, being more familiar with Berchtesgaden in Bavaria and the V1 and V2 launch complexes in northern France.

We found ourselves booking to stay on the campsite inside the complex. This meant we got the campsite ‘free’ as part of our ticket and could explore the site before the main tourist influx in the morning, both of which benefits appealed. However, once we had registered, the gates were locked and we were stuck with the bar etc. they provided. We could have walked out of the site but the car was effectively imprisoned overnight. The nearest village was quite a distance and of course we had no idea whether it would be worth the walk. It wasn’t a particularly good campsite (inadequate hot water) but we settled down after eating at the bar. Poor food but we didn’t starve. I still knew nothing about the place other than the fact that it existed.

During the night I awoke several times, aroused by noise. I am virtually certain I was actually awake and not dreaming, though I have no such certainties about the actual source of the noise. There were two types of noise. One was very loud barking by a group of dogs – large breeds judging by the pitch of the sound. The other was the noise of trains, arriving, slowing, stopping, and then leaving. Neither sound was accompanied by anything else – no ‘visuals’ and nothing to suggest any kind of story. Nor did I hear any kind of conversation.

In the morning, I complained about the dogs and we realised that there were none on the site and that the nearest farm was too far away for me to have heard their dogs so clearly under any kind of weather conditions. As we walked around the site I saw rail tracks and thought fleetingly that they might explain the trains. But they were overgrown with grass and ended at the border of the complex. There were no railways in use anywhere near the site.

I read about the site and how it was used later, both on the way round through the explanations at each of the ruins, and in booklets we bought and were given. Yes, there were guard dogs, and yes, there were trains. I suppose I might have thought of both in advance but neither were things I would necessarily have associated with headquarters of this kind. Most of my reading had suggested Hitler’s staff travelled by car and that guards would have been soldiers. It was only when we learnt how massive the headquarters was that I realised that the dogs and trains made sense. And that only happened when we toured the complex after a broken night’s sleep.

A nice finishing touch to the experience was seeing and hearing a (very live) raven sitting on a tree opposite the ruins of Hitler’s bunker. He seemed to be expressing an avian opinion of the entire thing.

You can see photos and information about the site here:

We took a lot of photographs (including one of the raven) but at the time did not have digital cameras. Rather than trying to find old albums and scanning in pictures I have merely used and photoshopped one of my more recent photographs of summer trees. My abiding memory of the site is of trees encroaching, softening, and eventually hiding all evidence of this ‘wolf’s lair’.

Ghost noises? I have no idea! I just know I heard them.


Posted by on October 30, 2016 in travel



Psycops Briefs – a review.


As a long-time subscriber to Jordan Castillo Price’s newsletter I was asked to review her new publication in return for a review copy. A bonus (from a writer’s point of view) is that she is doing her own research into how the number of reviews affects sales in the early days of a book’s life.

Psycops Briefs is a delightful addition to the Psycops series. At first I was dubious and thought it couldn’t stand alone, but am now persuaded it would actually act as a good introduction to the lives of Victor and Jacob, luring the reader into their world and getting them to buy the main novels.

Victor is a medium who works for the police and his lover is also a policeman. The chronicles of their experiences include m/m romance, straightforward policing, supernatural effects, some philosophising, and quite a lot of humour. Their world is like ours except that psychic abilities are recognised and employed. Although the characters live and work in Chicago, they seem, like the characters in all the best books, to be people the reader has actually met and liked. I feel quite sure that if I were ever to cross the Atlantic and visit their city I would expect, confidently, to see them at work and to visit them in their lovely converted home.

The short stories in this collection are not a sequel to the novels but are concurrent – glimpses of the lives of our ‘heroes’ outside the main narrative. There is a lot of variety. The point of view is sometimes Vic’s and sometimes Jacob’s. The stories are in turn sweet, mysterious, gruesome and gripping. Some are very brief and some are chaptered novellas. Few of them are mysteries in the sense that the main novels are, but they explore those other mysteries of character and motivation and give us more insight into the personalities and backgrounds of all the people involved.

I have loved the whole series from the start. The characters, including the minor characters, are so rounded, and the details are engrossing, whether we are reading about the ghosts Vic encounters, the meals the men eat, the trials of home decoration or the things their friend Crash stocks in his ‘magic’ shop. The writing is beautiful – the kind of writing that seems so effortless you absolutely know a great deal of work has gone into it. It is elegant, sophisticated, grammatical, well-structured, and well edited, and the plots draw you in from the first page. Not by any means always the case for the genres these books fall into! This applies to the shorts in Psycops Briefs as well as the longer novellas and novels. Moreover, Price always sets the scene carefully, making sure her readers are not worried or distracted by trying to think about who minor characters might be, or exactly what Vic’s abilities encompass.

There are particular favourites of mine in this collection: Stroke Of Midnight is the perfect New Year’s Eve story, the novella Everyone’s Afraid of Clowns is exciting enough for Halloween reading and also thought provoking at any time, and the final novella, Witness, gives a lot of information about both our heroes in a ‘show-don’t-tell’ fashion that could be used in a writing master class.

In short, I admire the whole series immensely and this is a very worthy addition. I see it is named Psycops Briefs I and I really hope this means there is at least another volume to come. Buy it if you already know Vic and Jacob. Buy it if you don’t, but would like to meet them. Buy it and enjoy!

Highly recommended.


And in other news, yes, I’ve been MIA – internet problems in Portugal caused a total breakdown of even my erratic posting habits. I’m back in UK and will try to do better!


Posted by on October 12, 2016 in reviews