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I’m delighted today to be playing host to the lovely David Dawson whose latest release – The Deadly Lies – is now available!

This is the second in the Dominic Delingpole mysteries, the first of which, The Necessary Deaths, is a cracking read.

Welcome, David.

~*~*~

When you aren’t writing, is there any other creative activity you enjoy? Have you ever written about it?

I sing bass with the London Gay Men’s Chorus. You could say some of my dance moves are pretty creative! I’ve been with them for five years, and it’s been a riot. This year we went on tour to New York and Chicago, and sang with the gay choruses in those two cities. It was exhilarating and very moving. The high point was singing in a Chicago school. We sang to both the lower school and the upper school, and did a workshop with their school choir. Ten years ago it would have been almost unthinkable for a gay choir to sing in a school. We must never forget how far we’ve advanced. Next year we’re off to mainland Europe.

What are you reading? Can you recommend something that you wished you’d written yourself?

Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty is a wonderful book – and I wish I’d written it! It’s set in 1980’s London, and recalls a brutal time in Britain’s history. But Hollinghurst writes it with great wit and pace. It’s not just a damn good plot, it’s also a great piece of social history. His novel The Stranger’s Child is also a very good piece of social observation, and a very complex structure, set in multiple historical periods. Hollinghurst handles the switch between periods deftly and with great lightness of writing.

Do you find there to be a lot of structural differences between a relationship driven story and one where the romance is a sub plot?

This is a great question for me, because I’ve just finished my first romantic suspense novel for Dreamspinner Press. The two Dominic Delingpole Mysteries are primarily thrillers, with strong love interest woven in. Dreamspinner asked if I could write a romance for my next novel, and I said yes! It’s been a steep learning curve for me, and involved reading lots of Dreamspinner’s great authors, to get the feel of structure. Yes, there are some structural differences. In a thriller or mystery, the jeopardy moments are usually to do with physical harm, or threat of physical harm. In a romance, the jeopardy moments are to do with heartbreak, or disappointment. Which means that for the romance I’ve drawn on a lot of personal experience! (Cue violins and tears).

When writing series, what measures do you take to keep track of those annoying little details – eye colour, car type, name of ex-spouse’s dog – that are so easy to drop into text and so easy to forget about?

I have a very detailed spreadsheet, with information about all the characters. However, the physical details of my characters are less significant. It’s what they do that’s important. This hit home to me after I spoke to a number of readers about my first book: The Necessary Deaths. I had spent time trawling the Internet for gorgeous looking men (well someone’s got to do it) that represented my vision of a particular character. Then I would describe them in the book. The reality is, readers have their own image of what a character looks like. It’s based on what the character does, coupled with the reader’s own experiences of people they’ve met. I think it’s better I allow readers to paint their own pictures. I can guarantee every one will be different.

What are you working on at the moment? Can you discuss it or do you prefer to keep it a secret until it’s finished.

I’ve just sent Dreamspinner Press the manuscript for a new romantic suspense. It features two new characters; an American living in London called Luke Diamond who falls in love with an Englishman called The honourable Rupert Pendley-Evans. It’s got a very tense plot, and there’s lots of jeopardy on the way to true love!
The project I’ve now got my teeth into is a gripping tale based on a true story I was told this year. It’s my hardest project yet, because I got far too close to the real story, and I’ve had to distance myself to allow the drama to be told properly.

An Excerpt of The Deadly Lies

Dominic and Jonathan stood side by side on the sand, sharing the beauty of
the moonlight dappling the surface of the sea. The air was warm and still; the hubbub
of Sitges nightlife sounded muted and distant. Dominic slipped his fingers through
Jonathan’s, squeezed his hand tight, and kissed him on the cheek.
“Thank you, Jonathan.”
“What for?” he asked. “I haven’t done anything yet. I may yet need to protect
you from the perils of the night. I anticipate we will imminently be attacked by
international drug smugglers or carried off by white-slave traders to be sold in the
markets of Morocco as the playthings of Arab oligarchs.”
Dominic laughed, rested his head on Jonathan’s shoulder, and watched the
moon-silvered waves lap the shore.
“I think I want to say thank you for so many things. You make me very happy.
And I feel guilty I wasn’t honest with you about this evening, or the meeting
earlier—”
“What meeting earlier?” Jonathan turned to look at Dominic. “So your visit to
the antiques shop was just a cover story, was it?” His face appeared severe, but
Dominic was certain it was mock anger. He knew Jonathan too well.
“No, not entirely. I did go to the antiques shop, and I did find the gift for you I
was looking for. But the reason I didn’t tell you about the meeting—”
“Dominic, stop.” Jonathan kissed him gently on the lips. “We all have
convenient lies to tell from time to time. I am confident—no, more than that—I know
you love me enough not to want to hurt me. I know there’s some good reason for your
secrecy. I love you and I trust you. You don’t have to say any more.” He looked into
Dominic’s eyes. “But if I find it’s another man—”

~*~*~

Published: December 5th 2017
Genre: Mystery & suspense
Publisher: DSP Publications
Available in: paperback and ebook
67,000 words

The Deadly Lies is the second in the Dominic Delingpole Mysteries series. The first The Necessary Deaths was published a year ago, and won an FAPA award for mystery and suspense.

BLURB:
Dominic and Jonathan are on their romantic Spanish honeymoon, and things are perfect… except Dominic has kept a secret from his husband. He’s failed to tell Jonathan that he plans to meet his former lover, Bernhardt, who is speeding on his way from Germany to present Dominic with a mysterious gift.
But Bernhardt is killed in a suspicious car accident. Shortly before he dies, he sends Dominic a bizarre text message that will take the newlyweds on a hair-raising adventure.
Lies upon lies plunge Dominic and Jonathan into an internet crime that could destroy the lives of millions of people. What is the mysterious Charter Ninety-Nine group? And will their planned internet assault force Dominic to choose between the fate of the world and the life of his lover?

BUY LINKS:

Dreamspinner | Amazon US Kindle | Amazon US Paperback
Amazon UK Kindle | Amaon UK Paperback | Apple iBooks | B&N | Kobo

book title

Links to The Necessary Deaths
Blurb:
A young journalism student lies unconscious in a hospital bed in Brighton, England. His life hangs in the balance after a drug overdose. But was it attempted suicide or attempted murder? The student’s mother persuades British lawyer Dominic Delingpole to investigate, and Dominic enlists the aid of his outspoken opera singer partner, Jonathan McFadden.

The student’s boyfriend discovers compromising photographs hidden in his lover’s room. The photographs not only feature senior politicians and business chiefs, but the young journalist himself. Is he being blackmailed, or is he the blackmailer?

As Dominic and Jonathan investigate further, their lives are threatened and three people are murdered. They uncover a conspiracy that reaches into the highest levels of government and powerful corporations. The people behind it are ruthless, and no one can be trusted. The bond between Dominic and Jonathan deepens as they struggle not only for answers, but for their very survival.

Dreamspinner | Amazon US | Apple iBooks

book title

BIOG:
David C. Dawson is an award-winning author, journalist and documentary
maker. He lives near Oxford in the UK with two cats and his beloved Triumph
motorbike.
He writes mystery & suspense, with men in love at the heart of each story. His
books have been described as “real page-turners” and “un-put-downable”. His debut novel The Necessary Deaths, won a FAPA award for Mystery & Suspense.
One reviewer for his latest book The Deadly Lies described it as “very sexy”.
He campaigns hard for equal rights, and sings with the London Gay Men’s
Chorus.

SOCIAL LINKS

Website http://www.davidcdawson.co.uk
Blog http://blog.davidcdawson.co.uk/#home
Facebook https://www.facebook.com/david.c.dawson.5
Twitter https://twitter.com/david_c_dawson
LinkedIn https://www.linkedin.com/in/DavidCDawson

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New RE-releases!

Such good news this week as various authors begin to recover from the various upsets in the publishing world!

Charlie Cochrane’s wonderful Cambridge Fellows books are once more available, in paperback too this time!

We have a schedule for the re-release of JL Merrow’s Plumber’s Mate books, including exciting news of a brand new one.

And – like lightning – KJ Charles has got her self pubbed titles out of defunct Pronoun and back up with D2D.

I can’t believe that anyone who reads this blog is not as much of a fan of the above authors as I am but if you have missed out do yourself a favour. There’s nothing quite like the rush of warmth you get when reading something excellent for the first time.

Something for everyone today in new releases from Manifold Press! Click on the covers to find out more.

Firstly there’s Call To Arms, an anthology of LGBT themedstories set in and/or related to the Second World War and ranging from the 1930s to the modern era.

I’ve read this and there’s some absolute gold in there courtesy of Heloise Mezen, the editor, and authors Julie Bozza, Barry Brennessel, Charlie Cochrane, Andrea Demetrius, Adam Fitzroy, Sandra Lindsey, JL Merrow, Eleanor Musgrove, R.A. Padmos, Michelle Peart, Megan Reddaway, Jay Lewis Taylor and there’s one of mine too. Plus all the profits from sales go to the British Refugee Council!

This month’s full length novel is Spring Flowering, a stunning debut novel by Farah Mendlesohn

Everything changes for Ann Gray when her father dies and her closest friend Jane marries and moves away. Ann must give up the independence and purpose she found as mistress of her father’s parsonage in the country, and move to her uncle and aunt’s new-style house in the growing city of Birmingham. The friendship of Ann’s cousins – especially the mathematically inclined Louisa – is some compensation for freedoms curtailed. But soon Ann must consider two very different proposals, either of which will bring yet more change. Should she return to her village home as wife of the new parson Mr. Morden? Or become companion to the rather deliciously unsettling widow Mrs. King…?

And finally there’s my Calon Lan, the world’s weirdest m/m romance short!

As war rages in France, battles are also being fought on the Home Front.

Bethan Harrhy, farmer’s wife, does her best to keep her family happy as prices rise and the weather worsens. Nye, her husband, is angry and worried. Alwyn, her brother, is injured and shaken by his experiences in the trenches. Her baby is teething and there’s another on the way. Surely having her brother’s best friend to stay, another face, another voice, another pair of hands, can only be a good thing? But when Joe arrives, Bethan is forced to confront ideas she had never even guessed at and makes a terrible mistake.

With conflict at home and abroad, can there be a happy ending for any of them?

I feel as though I’ve been waiting for this book for ages but now it’s finally here!!

 

THE JACKAL’S HOUSE

 

 

About The Book

Something is stalking the Aegyptian night and endangering the archaeologists excavating the mysterious temple ruins in Abydos. But is it a vengeful ancient spirit or a very modern conspiracy…

Rafe Lancaster’s relationship with Gallowglass First Heir, Ned Winter, flourishes over the summer of 1900, and when Rafe’s House encourages him to join Ned’s next archaeological expedition, he sees a chance for it to deepen further. Since all the Houses of the Britannic Imperium, Rafe’s included, view assassination as a convenient solution to most problems, he packs his aether pistol—just in case.

Trouble finds them in Abydos. Rafe and Ned begin to wonder if they’re facing opposition to the Temple of Seti being disturbed. What begins as tricks and pranks escalates to attacks and death, while the figure of the Dog—the jackal-headed god Anubis, ruler of death—casts a long shadow over the desert sands. Destruction follows in his wake as he returns to reclaim his place in Abydos. Can Rafe and Ned stand against both the god and House plots when the life of Ned’s son is on the line?

Title:    The Jackal’s House

Series:    Lancaster’s Luck: Book II.   Sequel to The Gilded Scarab

Publisher:    Dreamspinner Press

Publication Date:   30 October 2017

Genre:    Steampunk adventure m/m romance

Wordcount:    c111,600

Cover Artist:    Reese Dante

Illustrator (Map):    Margaret Warner

Goodreads

 

About The Series

 

description here description here
The Gilded Scarab The Jackal’s House

Lancaster’s Luck is set in a steampunk world where, at the turn of the 20th century, the eight powerful Convocation Houses are the de facto rulers of the Britannic Imperium. In this world of politics and assassins, a world powered by luminiferous aether and phlogiston and where aeroships fill the skies, Captain Rafe Lancaster, late of Her Majesty’s Imperial Aero Corps, buys a coffee house in one of the little streets near the Britannic Museum in Bloomsbury.

So begins the romantic steampunk adventures which have Rafe, a member of Minor House Stravaigor, scrambling over Londinium’s rooftops on a sultry summer night or facing dire peril in the pitch dark of an Aegyptian night. And all the while, sharing the danger is the man he loves: Ned Winter, First Heir of Convocation House Gallowglass, the most powerful House in the entire Imperium.

Find out more about the Lancaster’s Luck books and the world of Rafe and Ned

Excerpt

I like kissing.

Like Ned, I’d spent years in hiding. His constraint had been matrimony and the sense of honor and duty that would never have allowed him to be unfaithful to the mother of his sons. Only her untimely death had released those bonds. Mine had been less noble: I had no desire for a court-martial and a dishonorable discharge from Her Imperial Majesty’s Aero Corps. Most of my encounters over the years had been quick and furtive, but I’d taken every chance I could to practice my technique.

I not only liked kissing, I was good at it.

Fast little kisses to start with, kisses that barely made contact with the skin of Ned’s throat, kisses meant to tease. He tilted his head back to let me in, closing his eyes. His mouth opened on a soft sigh. I hoped he was giving himself up to the pleasure, losing himself in it, that nothing mattered to him at that moment except the feel of my mouth on his throat and lips. I hoped so. I wanted to please him.

I kissed and licked the delicate skin under his ear until he choked with laughter at the tickling. He tightened his grip on my hands and tugged at them until I raised my head. Ha! He’d lulled me into trusting him there and took full advantage of it. He swooped to capture my mouth with his, cutting off breath and thought, bringing a dizzying warmth with his hot tongue, and making me moan.

Of course, they were very manly moans.

 

Buy Links

Dreamspinner Press ebook  |  Dreamspinner Press paperback

Amazon.com  |  Amazon.co.uk  |  Apple iBooks

B&N  |  Indigo  | Kobo

Giveaway

Enter the Rafflecopter draw for

  •  1st prize—$25 or equivalent Amazon gift card
  •  2nd prize—a signed paperback of the first Lancaster’s Luck book, the Gilded  Scarab.

About Anna

Anna was a communications specialist for many years, working in various UK government departments on everything from marketing employment schemes to organizing conferences for 10,000 civil servants to running an internal TV service. These days, though, she is writing full time. She recently moved out of the ethnic and cultural melting pot of East London to the rather slower environs of a quiet village tucked deep in the Nottinghamshire countryside, where she lives with her husband and the Deputy Editor, aka Molly the cockerpoo.

Website and Blog | Facebook | The Butler’s Pantry | Pinterest | Twitter

Sign up for Anna’s quarterly newsletter

It’s always fun to try something new and, for me, this week, it’s a podcast story. I’ve listened before to Night Vale – who hasn’t? – but I’ve never listened to an audio book or heard a story read by an actor in a less formal setting.

This came about as part of a Facebook thread on the Queer Sci Fi group. We were all invited to post about what we wrote – which meant I was completely out of place since the majority of my work is historical – and then the person who made the original post paired off all the writers with the idea that we could read each other’s work and maybe do a bit of cross promotion. I’m delighted to say that I was paired up with Heather Rose Jones whose rendering of the stories of the Mabinogion as Merchinogion are absolutely my type of thing to read.

My favourite edition of the Mabinogion is the one illustrated by Alan Lee

The Mabinogion is a collection of ancient stories that weren’t written down until the 12th century and weren’t properly translated until the 19th century. Lady Charlotte Guest, a friend of our local Welsh loving Lady Llanover, made the first translations expanding upon previous work by scholar William Pughe. These stories contain many of the themes found in British mythology and also some of the oldest references to King Arthur. Just for clarity, in Welsh ‘mab’ means son/boys so Mabinogion is stories of the sons – ‘merch’ = daughters/girls 🙂 and that makes a lovely change.

Heather’s stories also feature a leading lady called Elin who is WAY cooler than I am!

Even more interesting – these stories have been produced as a podcast so you can listen to them or read the text. I particularly enjoyed the bilingual blurbs. I may not know more than basic Welsh but it’s a lovely language to hear spoken. Because it is an ancient language it has had to work hard to catch up with the 21st century. Old words take on new meanings and so the language builds up layer upon layer. The first story “Hoywverch” can be split neatly – hoyw and verch – and could be rendered merely as ‘gay women’ according to the dictionary, but scrape away just a little from the surface and they are also “radiant, illuminated and brilliant ladies” and I find that very satisfying. Book two is entitled “Hyddwen” – the white deer – and that taps straight into a powerful otherworldly celtic motif. These stories are beautifully written, with a wonderful rhythm to them and delicate little descriptions spark throughout the plot.

Here is Hoywverch and here Hyddwen. I hope you enjoy them as much as I did.

Bio:

Heather Rose Jones writes fantasy, historic fantasy, and historical fiction, including the Alpennia series with swordswomen and magic in an alternate Regency setting. She blogs about research into lesbian-like motifs in history and literature at the Lesbian Historic Motif Project which provides inspiration for her fiction. She has a PhD in linguistics, studying metaphor theory and the semantics of Medieval Welsh prepositions, and works as an industrial failure investigator in biotech.

Heather has a page on Facebook and can also be found on Twitter.

I’m more than happy today to be hosting my good friend and mentor Charlie Cochrane, general good egg and huge fun as well as being the wildly talented author of some of my favourite books. Her latest offering in the terrific Portkennack series was released recently and she has been kind enough to answer my questions about it.

Welcome, Charlie!

I’ve read all the Porthkennack books so far and have been delighted at how they paint a picture of the community, past and present. With each book a little more is added to the portrait. What do you like best about writing in the Porthkennack sandbox?

Where do I start? Playing with other people’s toys is always fun, as is working with their ideas. I confess to having had concerns about writing in a universe that had been invented by somebody else, but it’s been remarkably freeing. I guess all the hard work of world building has been done for us.

It’s also been good working with other authors who are also friends. In the early days be bounced lots of ideas of one another, from where the museum would be and who’d run it, to names for the local beer. These things are vitally important!

What non-spoilery plans do you have to add to the village or, on the other hand, is there anything you feel would be inappropriate to find in such a thriving community?

I’ve been fortunate to write one contemporary and one historical, so the different time settings has allowed me to write in a totally different way about the same place. The storylines haven’t had to interact, although there is a thread of buildings and locations which recur in the two stories. I think I’m the only author – so far – exploring Porthkennack in its immediately post Great War guise.

In terms of inappropriate, the thing which would worry me is if Porthkennack turned into a community where everyone was LGBT, a sort of fantasy land which would not be true to its geographical location. Avoiding that will mean a light touch from all those involved, but I’m sure we can deliver on that.

What one commemorative event do you feel has best encapsulated the tragedy and pathos of the “War to End All Wars”?

Oh, what a question. I’d have to say the poppies at the Tower of London. For me, it captured the sheer scale of the losses; every poppy was somebody’s child. Running those a close second would be the events commemorating the Battle of the Somme and the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendale). Russell Tovey as Tubby Clayton was superb.

What are you working on now and can we have an excerpt, please?

I’m working on the second draft of another Cambridge Fellows mystery novella. This is very rough and ready! Orlando is trying to get two minutes of peace in the college garden.

“I wondered if I’d find you here.” Jonty’s voice sounded through the railings of the gate.

Orlando looked up, as though completely surprised. “Oh, hello. I was trying to find a moment’s peace.” He waved the papers.

“Sorry. Didn’t realise you were hard at work with your sums. I thought you might be sunbathing. Or resting your legs after the cricket.” Jonty plonked his backside two feet along the bench.

“And how exactly did you know I might be here?” Orlando asked, neatly sidestepping the aching legs issue.

“You were seen by Swann, that rather nice new porter. Limping along—you, not him and his words, not mine—in this general direction. I deduced,” Jonty grinned at the word, “that you’d not make it all the way home so would likely seek a few minutes of repose. And what nicer place could a man find to repose in than this?”

“That last point is indisputable,” Orlando conceded. “Although I’ll take issue with ‘limping’. I merely had a stone in my shoe and had to find a suitable place in which to remove it. I have killed two birds with the proverbial stone.” He brandished the papers again, having risked contradicting his earlier statement.

“You’re not very good at telling fibs, so I don’t know why you bother.” Jonty gazed up at the sky. “What a beautiful day. God’s in a very blue heaven and all is right with the world. Have you had a good day?”

“Excellent, thank you.” Orlando slipped the papers back into his briefcase—what was the use of pretence? “You?”

“Pretty good. All set for the arrival of the dreaded dunderheads. I see the college staff are fumigating the rooms and nailing down anything pawnable in preparation.” Jonty narrowed his eyes then sighed. “All we need now is a case. I think I’ve sufficiently recovered from the last one.”

“I’m not sure I’ll ever recover.” Orlando rolled his eyes. Being asked to defend one’s deadliest enemy on a charge of murder, and in circumstances where superficially he appeared to be as guilty as sin, would have tried the patience of any man. “But another case would be very gratifying.”

“And it would stop you moping.” Jonty gave a sly little sidelong grin.

“I haven’t been moping! Have I?” Orlando added, guiltily. He couldn’t deny his thoughts had turned more than once to the intellectual stimulation of a case, and how much he had missed it through the summer months. Even when they’d holidayed on Jersey he’d occasionally wished a nice, juicy mystery might fall across their path. Not a murder, as he wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but perhaps a missing item to be located or a—

Jonty’s voice cut into his thoughts. “Are you listening? What do you think?”

Orlando, who’d learned it was pointless to pretend he’d been listening or to venture something like, “I need time to consider the matter,” said, “I think I’ve forgotten to pick up the post from my pigeon hole. I’ll need to go back to the porters’ lodge.”

About the Book


Michael Gray returned from World War One injured, but at least he returned. Others were not so fortunate, including his first and greatest love, Thomas Carter-Clemence, with whom Michael had parted bitterly before the conflict began.

Broch, the Carter-Clemence home in Porthkennack, was an integral part of pre-war holidays for the Grays, the two families drawn together in the wake of their sons’ friendship. Returning to the once-beloved Cornish coast for a break with his sister and her family, Michael has to find the courage to face old memories . . . and dare new relationships.

When Thomas’s brother Harry makes an unexpected appearance, Michael is surprised to find himself deeply attracted to Harry for his own sake. But as their relationship heats up, it unearths startling revelations and bitter truths. Michael must decide whether Harry is the answer to his prayers or the last straw to break an old soldier’s back.

Buy Links

Riptide Publishing | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Kobo | Smashwords | iTunes

 

About the Author

Photo by Templedragon


Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries, while her romances feature in the Portkennack series.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.

 

Links

Website: http://www.charliecochrane.co.uk

Blog http://charliecochrane.livejournal.com/ and https://charliecochrane.wordpress.com/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/charlie.cochrane.18

Twitter: https://twitter.com/charliecochrane

GR: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2727135.Charlie_Cochrane

 

 

Snippetry

Time for another totally random snippet of a work in progress – because there always in a work in progress even if the progress is sometimes veerrrryyy veeerrrryyy sloooooow.

Here’s a bit – rough as a badger’s – of Close Shave, book 2 of the Pemberland series, in which barber Terry plies his trade:

Market day in Pemberland was always a crush. The market hall, echoing abode of pigeons on most days, was cleared out and stalls set up. Cars lined the streets, many of them genuine off road jobs with mud to the hubcaps and dog hair, binder twine and sheep shit on the back seats. If the farmers, their kids and spouses only came to town once a week they had a lot to fit in and hair-cuts were popular.

Typical of bloody Kevin, Terry thought. Why did he have to pick now to play the family card.

Not that Kevin was family – not any more. Julie had fled their grim little flat in Pemberland and had returned to the family home with her kids and just what they had stood up in. Terry and his Dad had to go to the flat to collect her clothes and the kids’ things and Rob had come along to, as he put it, provide some muscle. The state the place had got into, just in the week since Julie had left it, had been shocking. Kevin just didn’t seem to be able to see that being a layabout might hurt his family but the final straw for Julie was when he’d forgotten, again, to pick them up from school and their six year old twins had been found trying to walk home in the rain. Terry could have killed Kevin for that alone, but Julie had admitted that was the least of it.

“I don’t mind working,” she said, “and I don’t mind being the responsible one, but he drinks every penny and his friends – oh dear lord, his friends make me sick and that Wiggy… He’s just not normal and Kevin thinks the sun shines out of his arse. I don’t think Kev’s normal either, not when he’s on the cider.”

“Like father like son,” Dad said. “Though I guess you wouldn’t have had this trouble with Rob.”

Terry thought wistfully of Kevin’s brother who had led the tweedy little museum curator astray and seemed to have moved into in the flat upstairs. Not that Terry and Rob had ever… Not really each other’s type. And not that Mal was little – everyone seemed a bit on the small side to Terry – but their blissful domesticity sounded so nice.

He made one last sweep of the razor across Gary’s gleaming scalp and wiped the blade with a towel.

“You’re done,” he said. “If you could settle up with Lil on the way out?”
They all drew back as Gary called Morris and the mountain of fur got up and padded after him to the door. “Rugby practice Monday?” Gary asked.

“Usual time, usual place,” Terry said. “Next.”

“That’d be me.” Kevin began to get up.

“No it wouldn’t.” The heavy set farmer next to him nodded to the other room. “It’s that young bloke in there, then me, then Alwyn, THEN you.”

Terry, who knew exactly who was where in the queue but had been giving Kevin a chance to do the decent thing, leaned into the doorway of the ladies’ salon. “Mal, your turn.”

Mal was perched on a stool by Lydia Garth and seemed to be showing her photos on his phone. He grinned at Terry, murmured to Lydia, making her laugh again then got up and hurried in.

“Lydia’s going to London to see Kinky Boots,” he said as he got into the chair. “Lucky lady. She’s offered me a lift to Hereford.”

“Meeting at County Hall again?” Alwyn Derry looked up from his copy of the Chronicle. “What’s it about this time?”

“Budget cuts, as usual.”

“What do we need a museum for anyway?” Kevin muttered, levelling a poisonous look at Mal. “It’s shameful the way they’re wasting our tax money and cutting benefits to people who need ’em.”

“Since when did you need them?” Alwyn turned a page in the paper. “When I was in Rowbottom’s he said he’d given you a job clearin’ out those old garages.”

“Yeah? So? That’s why my back’s bad now, isn’t it?” Kevin rolled his eyes then went back to glaring at Mal. Terry caught his eye in the mirror and Kevin flushed and turned away.

“Now Mal,” Terry ran his fingers through the fine brown hair still holding its shape well from the last cut but a little shaggy around the ears. “Just a trim is it or do you have something more ambitious in mind.”

“Oh God no, just a trim please.” Mal grimaced. “Got to look smart and professional if I’m going to beg, haven’t I?”

Terry snipped away at the fine brown strands until he felt Mal passed muster – smart but not too traditional – then rubbed some product into the hair and combed it into a rather racier shape than, he knew, Mal could be bothered to achieve on his own.
“There,” he said. “Knock ’em dead.”

“I’ll try.” Mal grinned his thanks as he got out of the chair. “I’ll go keep Lydia company, she must be almost done.”

“Cool, and can you send Adrian in to sweep up?” Terry waved him out of the way. “Next.”