Sunday, September 25, 2016

You Only Die Once

Beaton, MC, 2017, Death Of A Ghost:, ISBN hardback 978-1-4555-5830-8, e-book 978-1-4555-5828-5, audiobook 978-1-4789-0248-5, US $26, $13.99, $32.48 respectively.

The title kind of gives it away. There wouldn't be a ghostly death in this book. Beaton's Hamish Macbeth mystery series doesn't have a whiff of the supernatural in it, unless you count "Highland telepathy," which is actually a form of intuition.

The latest installment about the unambitious and easy-going Highland detective is as entertaining as ever. The village of Lochdubh is lucky to have the smartest detective in Scotland. Following the twists of this plot is like trying to wrestle an alligator (without the possibility of being eaten). If it wasn't for Macbeth, it's very likely that no crime would ever be solved in the Highlands. Yet he stays in his quaint tiny village, taking his dogs with him almost everywhere, fishing and loafing whenever possible, and keeping his head down. This is not easy, given the crowd of busybodies and disreputable characters surrounding him, and the screwups at the police station in the "big city" of Strathbane.

The titles of these books follow a very strict formula. However, the stories themselves are quite inventive. In this case, a disappearing ghost is replaced by a dead professor, convincing evidence of recent smuggling activity, and more deaths. Not to mention attempted murders. The book is a page turner. Even right before the end you still don't know how everything is going to come out. Spoiler alert: Macbeth is still alive on the last page.

One nice thing about this series is that Macbeth actually has a life. Things happen to him, romantically and in other ways, that have consequences. If you want to observe the unfolding of his life, it would be best to start at the beginning of the series. However, the murder mysteries themselves are completely independent of one another and you can jump right in with Death of a Ghost and enjoy it thoroughly. I also like how comfortable the author is with Highland life. Things are not explained for an American audience, but it is not difficult to pick up on slang and culture from context. One last thing. If you buy this book and like it, there are 31 more that you can be sure you will like as well. And they are still coming out regularly. A good and prolific author is a treasure.

Out in February, 2017.


he keeps bespelling wands
they get mislaid
so he makes more
it's a menace
a spellstorm in dry weather
that house would go up
like a fire elemental lost its temper
in a grain elevator

Bad Roberta Moves Two Times

Bad Roberta Moves Two Times

Chapter One: Moving to Alabama

Once upon a time there lived a little girl. Her name was Roberta, and she was about eight years old. Roberta was bad. She was very bad. In fact, she was so bad that most people called her Bad Roberta. 
At the time of this story, Bad Roberta had acquired such a reputation in her town that her family had to move to a new place far away where no one had ever heard of her. They moved to Tuscaloosa, Alabama. The move cost a lot of money, partly because Bad Roberta was so bad when the movers were loading up the moving van that the moving company quit and her parents had to hire another one. When the second set of movers came, Bad Roberta's parents locked her in her room so she couldn't bother the movers.

 After they got to Tuscaloosa, they went to a real-estate office to look for a house to rent. Bad Roberta's mother said "Bad Roberta, please be good. We want to make a good impression here in Alabama." Then she told Bad Roberta and her little brother that they would have to wait in the car, and Bad Roberta's parents went into the real-estate office.

While her parents were gone, Bad Roberta amused herself by tying their seatbelts together. She also unpacked some of her toys from the trunk and filled the car up with them. While she was doing this, a boy about her age stopped and stared at her.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

"What does it look like I'm doing, stupid," Bad Roberta said.

"It looks like you're being bad," the boy replied.

"That's right," Bad Roberta said, "what's it to you?" And she kicked him in the shin.

"Ow!!" he said. "What school are you going to?" he asked, while he hopped around holding his leg.

"I don't know," Bad Roberta said.

"Well, please don't go to Northtown School," the boy said, "that's my school." Then he hopped away.

Chapter Two: Bad Roberta's Crime Spree Begins

The real-estate office was in a mall. Bad Roberta got bored waiting for her parents, so she went into the mall. In the middle of the mall was an exhibit of antique cars. People strolled around, shopping and looking at the beautiful cars. Bad Roberta noticed a couple of boys looking at a baby blue Cadillac convertible. She crept up behind them.

"I'd sure like to be in that car," one of the boys said fervently.
"You just got your wish sucker!" shouted Bad Roberta, and she pushed him into the car. Then she dodged away into the crowd, laughing.

Bad Roberta wandered through the mall. She stole a lollipop from a small child, and later stuck it into a little old lady's hair. She pushed fragile things off of shelves when no one was watching. She pushed a giant potted fern into the fountain in the middle of the mall. She stole candy from several of the stores, and ate it. She went to a music store and took a whole armload of CDs off of the shelves, then she left them at the checkout. She did the same thing in a bookstore. About this time, mall security caught up with her.

"So you're the bad little girl who's been causing all of the trouble today. What's your name!" demanded one of the security guards.

"Puddin Tame," Bad Roberta said, and she dodged between the guard's legs.

Chapter Three: Bad Roberta Whacks Just About Everybody

Bad Roberta ran through the mall, pushing everybody out of her way. Several people fell onto expensive displays of glass and jewelry. Bad Roberta dodged into a toy store and took a plastic whiffle bat. She ran back out of the store. The clerk ran after her. She ran all through the mall. Lots of people tried to catch her, but they couldn't. Every time they got close, she whacked them with the whiffle bat. She whacked just about everybody. She whacked kids, she whacked grownups, she whacked men, she whacked women, she whacked security guards, she whacked mall employees, she whacked shoppers, she whacked and whacked, and whacked, and whacked, and whacked, and whacked, and whacked, and whacked. When the people got close, she ran out of the mall and back to the car. Hundreds of people poured out of the mall after her. Her parents and little brother were standing by the car with the real-estate agent.

Chapter Four: Moving to Montana Soon

Bad Roberta ran up and shouted: "Get in the car!"

Her mother looked at all the people chasing Bad Roberta, and said to her husband, "Get in the car, dear. Get in the car," she said to Bad Roberta's little brother. Bad Roberta's father looked at the real-estate agent and shrugged his shoulders.

"Maybe next time," the real-estate agent said.

They drove away, tires squealing, just as the first of the crowd had almost caught up to them. They got back on the highway and headed west.

"Where are we going?" Bad Roberta's mother asked.

"Maybe Montana," her father sighed.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Bad Roberta

Now you've seen a bit of Bad Roberta, and I hope you find her entertaining. You'll get to read another Bad Roberta story every day for the rest of this month.

These stories were written in the early 80's for my daughter. For some reason, kids like them more than parents do.

Bad Roberta's Baby Brother

Bad Roberta's Baby Brother

One day, Bad Roberta's parents had a worried conference after Bad Roberta had gone to bed. "I have very bad news," said Bad Roberta's mother.
"What's that?" her father asked.
"We're going to have another baby."

"Aieeeeeeeeee!!!!!!" screamed Bad Roberta's father.

"Wait, dear," his wife said, "think for a minute. There can't be TWO children as bad as Bad Roberta."

He thought about it. "That's true. Our next child will probably be an angel. It will have to be, to put up with Bad Roberta."

Time passed, and eventually Bad Roberta's mother had a baby. The new baby was a boy, and they named it Gerald. Bad Roberta liked having a baby brother. He was fun to play with. He could play baseball (he played second base). He could play with dolls (he was a mountain plagued by earthquakes). He could even play tic-tac-toe (his tummy was the board). He was also useful for holding doors open, and he was great fun in mud puddles. Bad Roberta's mother said "You can never play with Gerald again!" and she took him away.

"Spoilsport!" grumbled Bad Roberta.

Even if she couldn't play with Gerald, Bad Roberta found him convenient. He kept her parents busy, so they paid less attention to what she was doing. She could eat a whole jar full of cookies, and make a scale model of the Eiffel Tower out of flour and water on the dining room table and they didn't even notice. They weren't getting much sleep, so they were too tired to tell her to go to bed. She saw a lot more horror movies on late-night TV! The most fun part of having a baby brother was giving him presents. Bad Roberta loved Gerald and gave him many presents. She gave him markers, raw eggs, open jam jars and honey jars, and many other toys.

"Go out and play in the yard," Bad Roberta's mother shouted. "I have to clean Gerald up again. I don't know how he gets into all this stuff!"

Bad Roberta took the sugar bowl with her, and made the ants spell "Take us to your leader!" by pouring sugar in patterns in the yard. 

When her father came home from work, he saw what the ants had written, shook his head violently, and went into the house. He didn't even notice the butter on the floor just inside the door. At least, he didn't notice it until he stepped in it! Fortunately, he was only in the hospital for a few days.

About this time, Bad Roberta became interested in science. She did a science project for school, and this was the first time she had EVER done ANY homework. Her parents were pleased, until they discovered the subject of her project: "What makes Gerald cry the loudest?" When the experiments abruptly ended, there was a tie between "taking away his favorite toy" and "waking him up with ice-cold water." The teacher was so surprised Bad Roberta turned in the project that she gave her a "B." Bad Roberta was furious, because this ruined her straight F record!

Bad Roberta tried to teach Gerald how to be bad, but he wasn't very good at it. He didn't like playing "push the china cups off the highchair lid" or "roll around in paint and then hug Mommy." But there were some good times too. Bad Roberta had many opportunities to break things and blame the damage on Gerald. Also, Bad Roberta had broken all her toys long ago, and people knew better than to give her new ones. However, Gerald got lots of toys, and Bad Roberta had fun playing games like "how many bricks squash the doll" and "do board books burn?"

One Saturday Bad Roberta's mother took her aside. "Bad Roberta," she said "do you like having a baby brother?"
"Yes," said Bad Roberta, "he's icky and smelly."


Your pages' curled edges
flying before a hot wind
blowing steady from tomorrow
look back! Can you see the shore?

Friday, September 23, 2016

Bad Roberta goes to work

Bad Roberta goes to work

      Bad Roberta was so bad that after she had been going to school for a while, none of the schools in the city would let her come back. Her parents hired tutors to teach her at home, but Roberta was so bad that soon no tutor would come and teach her. In desperation, Bad Roberta's father took her with him to work while they tried to decide what to do.

     Bad Roberta's father worked in a big office building downtown.

      Bad Roberta and her father rode the bus to his office. At least, they tried to. But when a little old lady got on the bus, wearing a hat with flowers on it, Bad Roberta stuck out her leg and tripped the old lady.

     Then she tripped a little boy, a postal carrier, and three people wearing suits. She was very bad! 

     The bus driver said that Roberta would have to get off the bus. They had to walk to work.

     It took a really long time, and when they got there, Bad Roberta's father was late.

     "Why are you so late?" asked the guard at the front desk. Bad Roberta's father explained what Roberta had done on the bus.

     "You are a very bad little girl!" said the guard. Bad Roberta kicked her in the shin. The guard chased Bad Roberta around and around the lobby, until the guard got dizzy and fell into a big display of roses. All of the flowers were smashed, and the guard had dirt and rose thorn holes all over her white uniform.

     Bad Roberta's father hurried her to the elevator to take her up to his office before she could cause any more trouble. As soon as they got on the elevator, Bad Roberta pushed all the buttons so they stopped at every floor.

     "Roberta, why are you so bad?" asked her father.

     On the second floor, she ran out of the elevator, drew with a crayon on the wall, and then ran back onto the elevator before the doors closed.

     On the third floor, she drew on the shirt of a man waiting in the elevator lobby, and when he tried to chase her, the door closed on his nose.

     Bad Roberta did a bad thing on every floor all the way up to the 25th floor. That was where her father's office was. When they got to his office, Roberta's father was very glad to get away from where they would see other people. He did not want Roberta to be bad any more where other people could see her.

     Bad Roberta's father sat her down at his drafting table and he worked at his desk. For a while, Roberta was very quiet. Her father got worried about what she might be doing, so he came over to see. She had drawn with crayon on all the pages of all of his books!

     "Roberta! How can you be so bad all the time? Don't you get tired of it and want to be good?!" He shouted.

     "No," said that Roberta.

     Just then, there was a knock on the door.

     "Come in," said Bad Roberta's father.

     The door opened and a giant pile of pizzas walked in. Then Roberta's father could see that it was not a giant pile of pizzas, but a man carrying about 400 pizzas.

     "Someone here order 398 anchovy pizzas, and two with pepperoni and sausage?"

     Bad Roberta's father looked at Bad Roberta. She smiled.

     "I was hungry," she said.

     Bad Roberta's father never took her to work with him again!