Featured Photos July 6, 2024 – Life Imitating Art

Featured Photos July 6, 2024 – Life Imitating Art

Or is this life imitating art imitating life? 

In the Devonshire Mystery I’m working on, I wrote a scene just the other day in which Alan and a friend (no spoilers) visit a cafe on Dartmoor, the real life Ullacombe Farm. They find the place crowded, partly because a classic car club had chosen the place for their rally. Alan studies the cars on display, taking a fancy to an MG.

This was inspired by a real-life visit to the cafe many years ago, in which the same thing happened to me and my family. We enjoyed seeing the cars, but had to wait an age for our lunch because the place was practically bursting at the seams.

Our recent visit was a little different. There was a small rally of collectible cars, but it was on the nearby moor, and the cafe was actually very quiet. Still, it always strikes me as funny when I write something and then experience something like it immediately afterwards. There was even an MG, and a car like this is an important part of the new mystery.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.

 

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Featured Photos June 30, 2024 – Dartmoor

Featured Photos June 30, 2024 – Dartmoor

Mrs C and I went up onto Dartmoor for a stroll and a picnic. It was a fine day, and we stopped at Haytor Rocks. I’ve shared photos from here before, but the view varies with the seasons, and I always enjoy this spot. The light was perfect and we could see for miles, all the way to the sea on the horizon.

You may recognise the rocks from the cover of Accomplice to Murder. I believe it was also used for the cover of A Study in Stone, though it was pictured from further away and elements were added by the designer.

Many of these distinctive rocky outcrops have names in which Tor is a separate word, e.g. Hound Tor or Laughter Tor, but Haytor is one word.

I hope you enjoy the pictures.

 

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A Snippet from the Upcoming Devonshire Mystery

A Snippet from the Upcoming Devonshire Mystery

This is a very early draft and the book doesn’t have a title.

Here we have a character from Valley of Lies making another appearance.

Most writers don’t share first drafts at all, but I’m happy to share it with members of the site, and that means you’ll need to register or sign in.

Excerpt from Chapter 1

Her trusty trug in the crook of her arm, Marjorie Treave let herself into the chicken run and securely fastened the door behind her. Her bantams were a feisty bunch, and there were one or two who’d make a dash for freedom given half a chance.

But today, they obediently gathered around her, gazing up expectantly.

“Here you go, my lovelies,” Marjorie cooed, dipping into the trug to dispense a generous handful of freshly pulled weeds from the garden and offcuts of vegetables from the kitchen. The chickens set to, clucking excitedly as they pecked away. A few of the dandelions were complete with roots, and the soil clinging to them harboured slugs and insects or even, if the chickens were lucky, a worm or two.

Her flock contented, Marjorie strolled over to the hen house. The chicken wire enclosure was topped with nylon netting to keep the wild birds out—a precaution against outbreaks of bird flu and the like—but there was plenty of headroom, and she could walk across the run without stooping. The henhouse, too, was of generous proportions. The size of a small shed, she’d had it built by Jay Markham, before he’d turned his hand to painting and decorating, and he’d done a decent job. At any rate, the henhouse was a few years old but still kept her flock warm and dry, and there were extra ventilation slots that could be opened in the warmer months.

She’d insisted on the whole thing being built with good quality timber, all of it planed smooth, and though Jay had grumbled about the extra work, it had paid dividends. She’d had no problems with the mites that made their home in less well built henhouses, and while she had breath in her body, so it would remain.

Marjorie examined the wood shavings on the floor. It didn’t need changing yet, a fact helped by the drier weather, and the straw lining the nest boxes was still in good condition.

Marjorie inspected the nest boxes and murmured, “Well done, girls.” Between the four nest boxes there were five eggs, their pure white shells clean, and some were still warm when she picked them up and placed them gently in her trug. She checked the small containers of crushed oyster shells hanging on the henhouse wall, and they were fine. All that remained was to change the birds’ drinking water. Marjorie lifted the plastic drinker carefully so as not to spill a drop, but as she stepped out the henhouse, she almost let go of the thing entirely.

A young man stood in the lane, watching her over the fence. The narrow road reached her house and ended in a turning circle, so it was used only by visitors, or those who came to buy eggs or honey or homemade jam at the garden gate. This young man looked like he didn’t belong in either category.

He was tall and deeply tanned, and though he couldn’t have been more than twenty-five or so, he wore a full beard. His long hair was tied back, and there was something about his brown eyes that put Marjorie in mind of a film star, though she couldn’t, for the life of her, remember the actor’s name.

“Hello,” she called out, her tone making it clear that she didn’t enjoy being spied on. “Are you lost?”

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Featured Photos June 20, 2024 – Hull and Back

Featured Photos June 20, 2024 – Hull and Back

Mrs C and I went to a family gathering up in Hull recently, and of course, I took a few snaps to share.

Hull is one of those places that is much maligned, but it has a lot to offer.

There’s an old saying, “From Hell, Hull, and Halifax, may the Good Lord deliver us.” A quick search reveals that this dates from the 17th century and may have originated as a thieves’ litany: a type of prayer or incantation used by thieves as they parted ways. It’s easy to see why thieves wanted to avoid hell, but you may not know that Hull had a notorious jail, although it would’ve been spelled gaol, and Halifax had a gibbet, which was an early type of guillotine.

Once a fantastically busy and important port, Hull has some fine buildings. I don’t know enough of the city’s history to comment on where that wealth came from, but these days Hull is a mixture of ancient and modern. It was awarded the city of culture status a while back, and I believe that entails some investment. Certainly the old part of the city is very nice, with waterside bars and cafes and independent shops selling vintage clothing and the like.

I hope you find some interest in the photos. 

A theatre, and in the foreground, Queen Victoria looking down from on high.

A lightship.

 

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Featured Photos June 1, 2024 – The Exeter Quay

Featured Photos June 1, 2024 – The Exeter Quay

We took a trip to Exeter to stroll along the quay the other day, and I was impressed how this area has been brought to life with cafes and shops and bars. It almost feels like being on the Med.

The Exeter Quay features in a couple of my books, so that may be of interest. In Accomplice to Murder, Dan runs along the quay and also talks to a certain policeman, and in Lawful Duty, characters visit a nightclub and a cafe. The cafe is shown below, although I did fictionalise it. There is a nightclub, but I invented one for the book.

I hope you like the photos.

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Featured Photos May 21, 2024 – Springtime in the Devon Lanes

Featured Photos May 21, 2024 – Springtime in the Devon Lanes

As spring prepares to give way to summer, the Devon lanes are lush with fresh growth and teeming with life.

Farmers aren’t allowed to cut back the hedgerows once the season for wild birds to nest begins, and the result is glorious. All that foliage restricts your vision as you approach a corner, so it pays to be extra cautious when you’re bowling along, whether you’re proceeding under your own power or driven by a machine (or a horse). There’s a stable near the village, so we often encounter riders, and more than once I’ve seen a horse stop to graze from the hedgerow even though its rider may have other ideas. I suppose all that delicious greenery is too hard to pass up.

I also have yet another run to report – The Great West Run, a half marathon in Exeter. I really enjoyed the day, despite a sudden downpour that had all of us soaked to the skin. Thankfully, modern sportswear dries in next to no time, and I finished the run in sunshine.

I hope you enjoy the photos. The landscapes were all taken near our village in the Teign Valley.

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Featured Photos May 15, 2024 – The Ocean City and a Fleet-footed Messenger

Featured Photos May 15, 2024 – The Ocean City and a Fleet-footed Messenger

I recently went to Plymouth to take part in the half-marathon, and we decided to make a weekend of it. Plymouth isn’t far away from home, but it’s very different. Much as I like living in the countryside, it’s fun to experience the buzz of a big city every so often.

Below are a few photos from our trip. The race started and finished at Plymouth Ho, and we went up to have a look the night before.

There are photos featuring the war memorial, which is rather grand, a view over the city, and some of the relatively new statue outside the theatre, which I believe is of Ariel from The Tempest. I’m not sure I was quite so fleet of foot, but although I didn’t  race around the world, I did complete the race.

The pictures aren’t my best, and some look a little wonky to my eye, but I hope you enjoy them.

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Featured Photos May 10, 2024 – Devon Lanes and Fields

Featured Photos May 10, 2024 – Devon Lanes and Fields

I know I keep saying how lucky I am to live in the midst of the glorious Devonshire countryside, but I never tire of the landscape.

Since I’ve started running, I’ve experienced the lanes in a different way, and though many of them are narrow and slightly hairy when a vehicle needs to squeeze past, I don’t encounter a lot of traffic.

Most drivers are kind and will slow down or stop until I can get safely out of the way – they get a thank you and a wave and a smile and a thumbs up. The few who don’t show any consideration get nothing, but let’s not dwell on them.

Here are a few photos I’ve taken while out for a run recently, all from the Teign Valley area in which the Devonshire Mysteries are set. I hope you like them.

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Featured Photos April 30, 2024 – Stormy Seas

Featured Photos April 30, 2024 – Stormy Seas

Another trip to Teignmouth on the Devon coast. An unseasonably stormy day, but it can be fun to watch the waves crashing against the sea wall. Not so great if you have to put to sea in the lifeboat, I imagine, but for a landlubber like me, the sound of the waves makes an excellent accompaniment to a stroll.

Afterwards, we retired to a cafe for a mug of tea, and later on we discovered there was a play on in the arts centre, so we decided to make a day of it and stay for the performance. It was called The Haunting, and though it was very entertaining, most of us in the audience were rather nonplussed at the ending.

Ah well, the play’s the thing. 

I hope you find the photos interesting. First. here’s a snap of me at the local Park Run on the Parke estate in Bovey, just to prove that I really do these things.

 

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Featured Photos April 19, 2024 – Location Scouting in Exeter, plus A Study in Stone Reference

Featured Photos April 19, 2024 – Location Scouting in Exeter, plus A Study in Stone Reference

DC Spiller’s books, The Devonshire Crime Thrillers, and Dan and Alan’s adventures in The Devonshire Mysteries are all almost all set in the local area, and I sometimes like to scout out locations.

In Exeter the other day, I was thinking about the grittier world of DC Spiller and decided to look for the seamier side of the city. Heavily bombed in WWII (as you’ll know if you’ve read Accomplice to Murder) Exeter is a city of contrasts. Beautiful old buildings and picturesque streets of small shops are surrounded by hastily built, and rather boxy, concrete and brick buildings with all manner of designs.

As we walked through the area known as Sidwell, I thought back to Dan and Alan’s first story in A Study in Stone. The area and the legend of Saint Sidwell, a figure known by variants of that name, e.g. Sativola, figure in the story, and I thought how great it would be to capture a picture of the woman herself.

I looked up and there she was, portrayed on the side of a building. I don’t recall seeing that image before, but that might just be my memory playing up. At any rate, it was a nice surprise, and I included a couple of photos below, along with my location-scouting shots.

I hope you find them interesting.  

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A Snippet from the Upcoming Devonshire Crime Thriller, Lawful Duty

A Snippet from the Upcoming Devonshire Crime Thriller, Lawful Duty

Lawful Duty – The new crime novel set in Devon

Set in the 1990s, this book features a much younger Tim Spiller, the detective from the Devonshire Mysteries.

I hope this snippet will whet your appetite.

Preorder Lawful Duty now to read it as soon as it launches on 26 April, 2024

or buy direct and read it now at: mcamplingbooks.com – my official store

Find it on all retailers at: books2read.com/lawfulduty

Excerpt From Chapter 2

1992

With an effort, Lynsey opened her eyes. The blindfold was tight, the fabric pressing hard against her skin, its edges digging into her cheeks and forehead. It flattened her nose and made breathing difficult, so she opened her mouth and gasped for air.

Lynsey tried to free her arms, but the ropes had left her wrists and ankles raw, and struggling only made the pain worse. She was tied to some kind of bed, and she could hardly move a muscle.

She thought of calling for help, but she’d tried that before, and he’d pushed her down and threatened to cut her throat. His voice had been little more than a whisper: a low, guttural growl intended to frighten her. Lynsey had tried not to react, but it hadn’t been easy. The man’s sinister, soft voice had sent a shudder of revulsion through her whole body. She’d been tempted to provoke him, to make him shout and yell. Anything would’ve been better than his insidious whispers. But she hadn’t dared. She’d heard the anticipation in his voice. He hadn’t been making idle threats; he wanted to cut her throat.

Lynsey almost wept, but she’d run out of tears some time ago. She had to make herself strong and focus on surviving. It was the only way she was going to come out of this alive.

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Featured Photos April 07, 2024 – Barcelona part 2

Featured Photos April 07, 2024 – Barcelona part 2

A few more photos from our recent trip to Barcelona.

I hope you enjoy them.

We stayed near the Arc de Triomf, and the area around it and nearby park were both busy from dawn until dusk (and beyond). As you can see, the park was flat as a pancake, so we went for a few runs in the warm evenings – a treat compared to the hills of Devon. 

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