Featured Photos February 13, 2024 – Bovey Tracey

Featured Photos February 13, 2024 – Bovey Tracey

The nearby town of Bovey Tracey is often mentioned in the Devonshire Mysteries, so I thought I’d share a few photos to give you an idea of its leafy environs.

Generally shortened to one word, Bovey, and pronounced ‘Buvvy’, the town is an old one and still small, but it is an official town, complete with a mayor. I sometimes mention real-life issues in the books, and you’ll find Alan chuntering about the building of new houses. Bovey is a case in point. Quite a few of the surrounding fields are being turned into housing developments, and it’s not hard to see why. People want to live in a small town on the edge of Dartmoor, and the old houses weren’t built for those demands. Towns need an influx of young people and families to thrive, but if there’s no infrastructure for those people, there will be issues, e.g. with schools, doctors, transport links and so on. And if people jump in their cars and drive to an out-of-town supermarket for their needs, then there’s a chance that they won’t contribute much to the town.

That said, it’s a nice town and there have been lots of improvements. A new library and community hub was built, and an old pub that was almost falling down has been restored and converted into an arts centre that will one day include a small cinema and cafe. I’m looking forward to that.

I offer all this as background information to the books rather than as social commentary, and I hope you enjoy these few photos.

The old mill is a rather fine building, and it now houses a craft centre, gallery and cafe. The items for sale are made by local craftspeople, and it’s interesting to see the furniture, ceramics and so on. There’s a lot of skill on show, and these handmade items are things of beauty.   The V-shape stonework in the foreground is the edge of the bridge I was standing on – it’s a sort of refuge in the centre of the bridge where you can escape from the passing traffic, which is just as well as there’s no pavement on that side.

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A Snippet from the Upcoming Devonshire Detective Novel

A Snippet from the Upcoming Devonshire Detective Novel

The new crime series set in Devon is on its way.

Set in the 1990s, this isn’t an adventure for Dan and Alan since the duo would’ve been far too young to go chasing criminals. But this book will give a starring role to a character from the Devonshire Mysteries.

Tim Spiller, the world-weary detective inspector you’ve met before, is a fresh-faced detective constable starting his first job in CID. He’s done his time in uniform, but he’s ready to do some detective work, and he’s moved to Exeter to take up a post. Tim is young and full of zeal, and he’s only been married to his wife Sheila for a year.

He’s keen to impress, but how will he get on with his first case?

This is a crime novel of the kind often called a police procedural, and it’s a shade darker than the Devonshire Mysteries. The villains tend to be nasty pieces of work. There are violent crimes, although I’m not interested in going overboard with blood and gore, so I don’t think it will keep anybody up at night (unless they’re eagerly turning the pages to see what happens next). Fans of Ian Rankin or Anne Cleeves will, I hope, find something to enjoy in this book.

If you’ve read my work, there are elements that you’ll recognise. There’s a little wry humour in almost everything I write, and I’m always very interested in characters I create.  The story takes place over a few days, and I think it’s fairly pacy. I’ve found it quite quick to redraft, mainly because I’ve enjoyed racing through the chapters, and that’s a good sign.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy this snippet which is an early draft. I will be looking for beta readers soon, and the book will be edited after that.

I’m not revealing the title just yet, but that will come soon.

At this point in the story, Spiller has arrived early for his first day, and the only other person in the CID office is Detective Chief Superintendent Mark Boyce. Spiller is somewhat in awe of his new boss. They’ve exchanged a few words over a mug of tea, but DCS Boyce is quite a reserved and formal officer, so the pair quickly run out of things to say. It’s about time the other detectives show up, so let’s dive in!

Excerpt From Chapter 1

1992

The door opened, and both men breathed easier as a besuited man strode into the room.

The new arrival greeted Boyce, then acknowledged Spiller with a nod. “You must be my new DC. Tim Spiller, am I right?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Tim was here early, raring to go,” Boyce said. To Spiller, he added, “This is Detective Superintendent John Chisholm. He’ll set you on the straight and narrow. You’ll be seeing more of him than you will of me, although…” Boyce looked from Chisholm to Spiller. “I’ll be keeping an eye on you, Tim. I’m not going to hold your hand; if you need that, you’re in the wrong job. But I can see your potential, and I’ll be having a chat with you now and then, just to see how you’re doing.”

“Thank you, sir. I appreciate that.”

Boyce nodded. “Gentlemen, I’ll leave you to it.” He took a sip of his tea and then marched across the room, disappearing into a corner office and closing the door firmly.

Chisholm strolled over to his own large desk at the far end of the room, then he shrugged out of his jacket, hanging it on the back of his chair.

“First things first, Tim,” Chisholm said. “Milk and two, and leave the bag in. I can’t stand weak tea in the mornings.” He sat down and frowned at Spiller. “When you’re ready, in your own time.”

“Sorry, sir. I’ll get right on it.” As quickly as he could, Spiller made a mug of tea. He’d kept a keen eye on Boyce earlier, so he found everything he needed without difficulty. But when he splashed milk on the counter, he searched in vain for something to mop it up.

“Leave it,” Chisholm called out. “You can get a paper towel from the loo later. Bring my tea over, will you? I’ve got a tongue like the bottom of a budgie cage.”

Mumbling an apology, Spiller hurried over to Chisholm’s desk. He felt the colour rising to his cheeks, but Chisholm didn’t seem to notice. He was rifling through the stacks of cardboard folders cluttering his desk.

“Pull up a pew,” Chisholm said. “Any one will do, but that purple one is good.”

Spiller hesitated. The only purple chair in the office was noticeably newer and smarter than the others, its upholstery pristine.

“Go on,” Chisholm went on. “I haven’t got all day.”

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Featured Photos February 9, 2024 – A Run in the Sun

Featured Photos February 9, 2024 – A Run in the Sun

I often run up to the nearby reservoirs of Tottiford, Kennick and Trenchford because I can step out the front door and just start, running from one lane to the next.

It’s pretty much uphill all the way, but it’s good for the legs, and I’m rewarded by lovely views when I get there.

Also, it’s mainly downhill on the return journey, so there’s that.

I hope you enjoy the photos.

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Finally Festive – Featured Photos for December, 2023

Finally Festive – Featured Photos for December, 2023

I’m behind with my Christmas preparations, as usual, but I finally got my mincemeat made for the pies. No real recipe this year – I just used whatever dried fruit and spices I had. The white pieces are toasted cashews. I don’t use suet and never have – I don’t see why anyone would add fat to a sweet preserve. There are chopped dates, nice big raisins, the zest and juice from a couple of oranges and a lemon, cinnamon, soft brown sugar and candied ginger. I didn’t have port, but there was a bottle of whisky lying around so I used that and added a glug of red wine, which I figure amounts to the same thing. Boil it up, simmer and place in a sterilised jar. There should’ve been mixed spice or at least nutmeg, but it still tasted good, so I don’t think anyone will notice.

A trip to Winchester. the city was very attractive with its Christmas decorations. Above are a small contingent of a brass band playing festive songs by the tree. It took me back to my childhood, watching Kirkbymoorside Brass Band playing Silent Night, one of my mum’s favourites, in the glow of a streetlight.

I wish I had photos of the lights at night, but it was bitterly cold so I wasn’t hanging around to take pictures. Sorry about that.

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Another Snippet from the New Devonshire Mystery – A Must-Have Murder

Another Snippet from the New Devonshire Mystery – A Must-Have Murder

The new Devonshire Mystery, A Must-Have Murder, is currently available to pre-order.

The next adventure for Dan and Alan is finally here, so as it makes its way into the world, here’s another snippet to give you a flavour of the book.

A Must-Have Murder – Snippet 2

If you’d like to see an excerpt from the previous chapter, the first snippet is here.

Note: At this point in the story, Dan and Alan have arrived at the house of a potential client, Zadie Barrington, where they were met by Zadie’s assistant, Natalya. Natalya was a favourite with early readers of the book. From Ukraine, Natalya is decidedly feisty, and I hope you enjoy meeting her.

Excerpt From Chapter 2

“Zadie is in her studio. Upstairs is much better, it has been…” Natalya gestured impatiently at the uncarpeted staircase.

“Renovated?” Alan suggested, and Natalya nodded gratefully.

“Yes. Renovated. Exactly.” Natalya sighed and her expression softened. “Forgive me, gentlemen. It has been a hard day, but please, come up, and everything will be explained. Do not stand on the fifth stair. It isn’t safe. The man was supposed to fix it, but…” she shrugged.

“We’ll mind our step,” Alan said with a smile.

Natalya gazed at him. “You’re making a joke.”

“Sort of,” Alan admitted. “Sorry.”

“No need to apologise. Follow me.”

Dan and Alan did as they were told, making their way up the stairs in silence. The fifth tread was badly split, and Dan stepped over it with exaggerated care. When he reached the landing, Dan said, “I see what you mean about that step. It can be hard to find good tradespeople. We met your decorator outside. How are you finding him? Is he reliable?”

Natalya grunted in disapproval. “Very slow, I think. He drinks tea instead of working. I tell him this, but he doesn’t listen.” Natalya drew a long breath, flaring her nostrils, then she added, “You should know that Zadie does not like to be kept waiting. She has a livestream at four, and we must fix her hair and make-up before then. She cannot be late. Do you understand?”

“Yes. We’ll be as quick as we can,” Dan replied. “We also have a schedule to keep.”

“Okay,” Natalya intoned. “Follow me.”

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book cover of A Must-Have Murder by Michael Campling

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Cool Runnings – Featured Photos for November, 2023

Cool Runnings – Featured Photos for November, 2023

This was after the Park Run in Winchester. Minus 2 degrees Celsius, so my hands were in my pockets with good reason. Still, I followed a pacer (a volunteer who sticks to a certain pace) and managed to keep up with him, covering the 5K in under 24 minutes. This was a personal best for me, so I had the warm glow from a sense of achievement.

A sprinkling of snow, a rarity in Devon where wet and mild is the rule. This is the view from my writing room, out over the allotments and to the hills beyond, though the hills are partly lost in the mist.

Not gorillas in the mist but cows. I took this photo while I was out on a run, enjoying the solitude of the Devon lanes. I wasn’t so keen on the drizzle that came later, but it was still good to be out and about.

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Islands and Mist – Featured Photos for October, 2023

Islands and Mist – Featured Photos for October, 2023

Some more photos from the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales.

We took a boat trip around the islands off the coast, including Skomer, a haven for birds in the breeding season. The birds had mainly flown elsewhere for winter, but the islands were beautiful and we saw seals on the beaches with their pups, and some swam near the boat.

I hope you like the pictures.

The jetty disappearing into the water didn’t inspire confidence, and when the boat arrived, the chap in charge didn’t like the mist. He went to ponder the situation over a coffee, while the gaggle of potential passengers cooled our heels on the beach. Miraculously, the mist cleared, and we set off.

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A Snippet of the upcoming Devonshire Mystery

A Snippet of the upcoming Devonshire Mystery

Well, it’s taken me a long time to get the next Devonshire Mystery ready.

It’s been a long road, and it’s a long book. Very long.

Today, I’m sharing the first part of chapter 1. This is just between us, so you’ll need to be a member of the site and logged in to read it in full.

The woodland pictured is one of my own photos, taken on a local walk, and I think it gives you an idea of the setting for this chapter.

I hope it gives you a flavour of Dan and Alan’s next adventure, and maybe it will whet your appetite.

A Must-Have Murder – A Snippet

Chapter 1

Alan ran through the forest, his thigh muscles cramping, sweat slicking his back, his chest, his scalp. The crisp air of early spring did nothing to cool him, and his breath rasped in his throat, every exhalation a low moan of pain. But he couldn’t stop to get his breath back, couldn’t slow down.

Ahead, a shadowy figure raced into the distance, sometimes vanishing in the shadows or hidden by a curve in the trail. He was getting away, and Alan couldn’t allow that. He had to catch him.

Alan threw back his head and gasped for air, pouring everything he had into a headlong dash. Arms pumping, feet pounding the dirt, he urged his tortured body onward. I can do it, he thought. I’m gaining on him.

The trail was rougher here, the path littered with loose stones and fragments from broken branches. Alan scanned the ground as he ran, but the dappled shadows made it hard to see, and the sweat from his brow stung the corners of his eyes. He blinked, lifted a hand to wipe his eyes, and that was all it took.

In mid-step his left foot caught on something, and he almost fell, but he spread his arms and twisted his body, keeping his balance. His momentum carried him forward, but his next stride was clumsy, and his right foot hit the ground at an awkward angle. A jab of pain jolted through his calf. He ran on, but each time his right foot met the trail, the pain in his calf intensified as if the muscles were being torn apart.

“Oh hell!” Alan had no choice but to stagger to a halt, wincing with every step. He pressed his hand against the nearest tree trunk, and took the weight from his right leg, staring down at it, half expecting to see the signs of some terrible injury.

There were footsteps on the trail, growing closer, slowing as they approached, and Alan looked up to see the man he’d tried so hard to catch. This was it: the moment he’d been dreading. He’d failed, and now he’d pay the price.

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A Misty Morning in Wales – Featured Photos for September, 2023, part 2

A Misty Morning in Wales – Featured Photos for September, 2023, part 2

We had a holiday on the Pembrokeshire coast in Wales.

There were several days of lovely sunshine, warm enough to sunbathe on the beach and swim in the sea, but this being September, there were also some misty mornings.

On our first day, we went for a run along the coastal path, largely unaware of the cliff’s edge just a few feet to one side.

Thankfully, we stayed firmly on the path, and as the mists cleared, we started to see the lovely views.

I hope you like the pictures.

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