Lee to Lena Grey!

cover t and f edit 4This week it’s Lena’s turn to meet one of the gentlemen from my books, and she’s chosen Lee. And because it’s a beautiful day, Lee in his turn has decided he’d like to chat with Lena high up on beautiful Bodmin moor, beside the enigmatic Cheesewring rocks…

Lee: I thought you might like it up here because you can get a bird’s-eye view of the whole world I share with Gid. The heart of it, anyway – Drift farmhouse is a long way away from here, right over on the far west coast. There’s Dark, though, laid out like enamelwork in the valley. You wouldn’t think a few little streets in the middle of nowhere could have held so many changes, so much adventure. Not to mention a worried police constable who, three years later, is not only a detective sergeant with CID but my lawfully wedded other half.

Come and sit down on the turf over here. It’s a bit of a suntrap, and the wind’s quite sharp even though it’s April. Gid’s going to come up and join us later for a picnic, and we can spread out this nice tartan rug, which he’s assured me has been washed since Tamsyn and Isolde shared their last messy snack session on it. It’s actually quite strange for me to talk about the village and what it means to me. Harper’s told our story from Gideon’s viewpoint so far, though I understand that might change in future.

To tell you the truth, I’d never even heard of Dark until the Truro police called me in to see if I could help find Lorna Kemp. I came along as I always did back then – expecting nothing, fearing as much as hoping that I might pick up a clue. Because it hurt so much when I did, you know? It was so very frightening, so lonely, and I didn’t understand why the bad guys had started to present themselves as monsters, terrifying apparitions I had to unmask.

Looking back, I was pretty close to the edge, although I didn’t know that at the time. My previous boyfriend Michael wasn’t the love of my life, but we’d been very good mates, and he’d helped keep me stable in his own way, even if it was just having to deal with his unwashed socks and tuneless saxophone jazz sessions. When he left, there was only the voices, and the walls of my empty flat. I knew my gift had a purpose – I’d been able to help people over and over again, and I won’t say the proceeds from my stage shows weren’t a help when the rent fell due – but I wasn’t sure how long I’d be able to carry it on my own. Where it would take me, how it would end. If I’d even survive it for long.

You can see Sarah’s house down there, the little one in the middle of the terrace with the yard full of plants and the three kids romping around in the lane behind. That’s where I was when he walked in. I find myself capping him up inside my head sometimes – He, like he was God or something. (Please don’t ever tell him that. He’s pleased enough with himself as it is these days, what with his promotion and his beautiful kid and his fine life as a Cornish married man.) He thought I was the social worker, and ripped that poor lady off a strip for being a charlatan before the penny dropped and he realised the charlatan was me.

Talk about getting off on the wrong foot with someone. But the thing was, I could see how lovely he was right away, even while he was growling at me and warning me away from his friends. I didn’t need to be psychic. I just looked at him – this gorgeous rugby-player in a copper’s uniform, those brown eyes that couldn’t hide how sick with fear he was about the little girl. I felt like I’d known him forever, just in that one flash.

There’s the street I walked along to try and get my bus. I’ll admit I walked slowly. I don’t often get that kind of prescience, but that day I did know something was going to happen. Getting mauled by his mad dog, was my first thought when Isolde came barrelling after me. But she was just carrying out the will of the universe, and when Gideon caught up with me – poor Constable Frayne, pale with sleeplessness, not sure whether to see me off the premises or ask me to stay, because by then he was so desperate he was even prepared to ask a charlatan for help – something very deep inside me came to rest.

And, you know, after that, we were never far apart for very long. Can you see the long lane that leads up along the edge of the moor? That’s old Pastor Frayne’s house, where I spent my first and very memorable night in Dark. There’s Bill Prowse’s dilapidated shack, on the same street as Sarah’s house but about as huge a contrast as you could imagine, with its bare little yard and that horrendous blue-rose wallpaper visible even from here, and probably from space. Across the main road and turn right by Mrs Waite’s shop, and you’re on Pellar Street, where Granny Ragwen used to cast her spells and sell charms for good weather to the farmers. She never came home after that night in Penzance, but her daughter never worried about her, and it’s strange how like the old girl Madge looks these days, and the farmers and lovesick kids still make their way to her door. Pellar’s a very old Cornish word for a witch or a sorcerer…

Ah, and there’s our flat, or what’s left of it after Dev Bowe took it into his head to blow it up. We’re still camping out in the rooms next door, but it’s not such a big deal anymore to get it fixed. We’ve got a move in store, such an amazing change that I can’t quite believe it’s going to happen, and I’d better not tell you much more about it just now – Gid’s superstitious about revealing too much before things are finalised. As if I couldn’t tell him everything will be all right!

Eventually, anyway, and not in any way either of us could possibly have planned.

Yes, changes coming, but not today. Today is ordinary and perfect. There’s Gid now, striding across the moor to start the climb to join us here. Any second now we’ll start picking up shrieks of joy from Tamsyn, because no matter how often we bring her out here in her harness, seeing it all from the shoulders of either one of her half-deafened parents makes her hysterical with delight. And that makes Isolde start to bark, and I think I can hear the mutt already. There she is, dancing in circles… So strange, those patterns she makes around Gid and the baby, and you can only really see them from above. Do they mean something, I wonder, or is she just a fat old collie who can’t express her happiness any other way?

That’s a question for another time. He’ll be ravenous. Let’s get the sandwiches unpacked, and I’ll pour the tea.

 

Well, dear Lena, I hope you enjoyed that. The blog will be taking a break for the next two Sundays because I’m off to Cornwall, but I’ll be back on the 8th of May to talk to Logan Penta, who said…

Hmmm….can I ask to meet all of them?? If I have to choose, which seems so very wrong, it would be Aaron. Life After Joe was the first HF book I read and it became the bar to which all others have been measured.

I’m sure Aaron will look forward immensely to meeting you, Logan.

Dan and Rayne calling Jacquie!

SalisburyKey72LGHello, Jacquie! Dan and Rayne hope you don’t mind that they dragged you all the way out to this paradise-beach bar in Bali to answer your question…

Jacquie said…
I’d like to meet up with Rayne and Dan from The Salisbury Key. I’d ask them how their adventures turned out and are they up to nowadays.

Rayne: Here he comes. God, will he ever stop worrying that he turns every head on the beach? He took to wearing baggy trousers and a long-sleeved T for a while, but I managed to persuade him out of those – which was fun – and back into his cutoffs and vest. He carries some guilt even now that his innocent magnetism was a factor in Jason’s death. He knows what Jase said in his last message, but those scars go deep.

It’s preying on his mind at the moment because we’re in Bali, the last place Jase and Dan visited together. Dan had those tantalising aerial shots of the Kyon Kam temples, and after a lot of diplomatic manoeuvring with the South Korean government – North Korea wouldn’t even pick up the phone – we got permission to take a small team into the jungle. I won’t go into details of what we found there because Dan hasn’t had the chance to write it all up, and you can’t be too careful what you say in the bars around here. We had two lots of followers all the way from Incheon. The Americans were just kids, harmless treasure hunters, but…

Dan (appearing behind Rayne with three ornate cocktails balanced on a tray): But the second lot were Korean paramilitaries, from which side of the border I still don’t know. That’s when having a hardarse soldier glaring out the back of your Land Rover really comes into its own.

Rayne: What? I didn’t do anything.

Dan: Right. I must’ve imagined that shotgun poking out of the window as well.

R: The ranger loaned me that. In case of tigers.

D: The point is that they left us alone.

R, sighing: The point is that they’d have ripped us a new one if they’d seen us lifting anything a single artefact out of those temples. And you didn’t. You were a really, really good boy. Jason would’ve been… Oh, shit, love. I’m sorry.

D: Don’t. I want you to be able to say his name. I want me to be able to. And you’re right – he would’ve been proud. He taught me everything I know about curation from a distance.

R: And once we’ve documented the sites, backed the reports up with all your photographs…

D: The diplomatic channels might open. Yes. I still can’t help thinking that solid-gold buddha with the sapphire eyes would’ve looked nice on our mantelpiece.

R: He would, and I could’ve sold him to pay for your funeral.

D: Like Kim Jong-un wouldn’t have sold him to hire the assassin… All right, all right! Point taken, though I love it when I piss you off just enough to make you look like a Kyon Kam tiger yourself. Save it for later. We’ll be sleeping in a proper hotel room tonight for the first time in weeks. You can pounce on me there.

R: That had better be a promise. This isn’t really answering the question, is it? What are we up to these days?

D: Other than buggering about in the jungle? Well, we’ve been out here since March, and we’re having a few days’ holiday before we head home. Windsurfing, dancing on the beach with the hippie kids, open fires and sleeping under the stars. Then we have to get back, because…

R: Because I’m in the middle of my part-time degree in archaeology. I don’t mind the bodyguarding work, but I’d sooner be home guarding yours. Anyway, it’ll make the long winter evenings go by faster if I know what the hell you’re talking about, won’t it?

D: That it will, although I didn’t notice them dragging last winter. And I have to get home to start a conversation with the Korean cultural attaché in London. And finish my book on the Staffordshire Saxon finds, and get ready to start teaching full-time again in autumn term, because Dean Anderson never came back to the university, and his successor didn’t know and couldn’t care less about him, me, Jason, or any of the rest of the story. He told me that wasn’t the kind of history he was interested in, renewed my offer of the assistant department head’s chair, and that was that.

R: Don’t say that like it means nothing. It’s what you want, isn’t it?

D: Yeah. Sorry. It means the world. We can get that beautiful flat we were looking at, the one that looks out over the river, and… Well, settling down is good. I dunno, though, sweetheart – sometimes I wish we could keep doing this. Running around the world with a jeep and a backpack and you.

R: We’ll still do plenty of that, I’m… Hang on. Is that my mobile or yours?

D: You’re the one who thought the Indiana Jones theme tune was funny, not me.

R: Oh, yeah. I forgot about that… You know what, Danny boy? Don’t get your pipe and your slippers out yet.

D: Why not?

R: Because this is from my brother. Just three words. Here, look.

D: “The key fits.” Wait. What – is he serious?

R: Who the hell knows? But that was his signal. Something big happening back in England, something to do with the souterrain stone – the key.

D: Whoa. We’d better grab our kit.

R: No need. Everything’s still in the Rover. Come on!

 

Jacquie, grab your bag! The boys will give you a lift back to the airport and see you safe onto your plane. No matter how big the adventure, they’re always gentlemen. We all hope you enjoyed this meeting, and next week it’s Lena Grey’s turn. Lena said…

Who would I most like to meet? Lee Tyack, of course, hands down.

Well, Lee will be waiting in the Merry Morgawr next Sunday, and I know he’d love to have a chat with you.

 

Laurie Fitzroy to Jan!

This week Laurie Fitzroy is with Jan at the Buck & Flutter, a community theatre he’s founded with Paul Jacob from the Raynes. There’s a little coffee shop and bookstore tucked away at the back, overlooking the gardens where they do outdoor performances in summer. It’s a shabby place and Laurie (being Laurie) wanted to buy it outright and pay to have it fixed up, but Paul persuaded him just to take out a five-year lease and let the kids and volunteers who run it see if they can turn it into a paying concern. Laurie can see it’s a much better idea, but twice a year he puts on a benefit show there with as many huge-name actors as he can persuade to take part, and these days that’s quite a few… But I don’t mean to tell his story for him. Jan, I hope you’re comfortable on the battered sofa with the rainbow-crochet throw. The coffee and tea are excellent. Your question was…

I’d like to ask Laurie if he could ever be persuaded back to Hollywood? Maybe now he’s older and more aware of how bad it can be he could be better prepared?

Laurie: Oh, Lord. The truth is that I have been back since the last time I caught up with you.

It wasn’t a case of temptation, exactly. You know I crashed and burned my career three years ago. I couldn’t get theatre work because I was “that actor” who’d sold out for the big screen and Hollywood, and I couldn’t get film work because I was “that actor” who’d been too posh to darken a studio door before Blood Moon. Yeah, I really nosedived. I deserved it all. I couldn’t kid myself I’d done it all for Sasha’s good when I looked back and saw how my ego and insecurities had come leaping out for a mad waltz the second Douglas Brett offered me the job.

The thing is, I owed Sir Ralf, the theatre director who gave me the part of Romeo before I went nuts and ditched out on him. I really owed him. I liked him a little bit less once I found out how many old boys’ clubs he and my father had had in common, but unlike the Monster of Mayfair, he’s a decent man. Once my face had healed up enough not to scare the kiddies, I got in touch with him again. Sasha had helped me believe it was okay to start again from the bottom, and I knew that was what I should do. Building it up for real this time, you know – not in a great big Hollywood flash. I offered Sir Ralf my services for one season, unpaid, any role he liked.

Well, he took me up on it. With a vengeance, the old sod. He took a bloody-minded delight in using me as an example, a dire warning to any other junior stars who looked like getting too big for their Louboutins. He didn’t even let me on the boards at first – set me to work as a coach and a prompt, with a bit of scene-painting thrown in. Weirdly, I didn’t mind. I’ve always had a knack for getting other actors into the swing of their roles, and it was so bloody peaceful, perched on my stool in the shadows of the wings or splashing paint onto the props. On his “at home” days, when he let groups of RADA students in to have a look around and get the smell and taste of a top-end theatre production, the kids would sometimes escape his eagle gaze and creep up to me to get my autograph, then scuttle off like mice again because they knew I was meant to be in disgrace.

His Romeo and Juliet did brilliantly. The lad I’d knocked back to the role of Mercutio, stepped into the Montague pants with tremendous dignity. I’d like to think I’d be as gracious in the same circumstances: he never once had a pop at me. Look, I was serious when I told Sasha I hadn’t gone as far as rolling the trolley in front of his dressing-room door that time when we were trying out for parts, but I didn’t help the poor guy, either, and his kindness taught me a thing or two about not being so damn cut-throat in pursuit of my ambitions.

It became a kind of in-joke that the great Laurence Fitzroy was working as a gopher for Sir Ralf, and it did me a huge amount of good. Whatever hot air Stefan’s bullet hadn’t taken out of me, that finished the job. I was completely and happily deflated. I wasn’t working all the hours God sent. Sasha and I had time to go over to France to see Tante Elise, time to go and see Clara dance, time to… Well, you know my poor Sash went through the meatgrinder while I was buggering about playing vampires, and we had time to catch up with each other. To see, in the new peace after Stefan’s death, how much we’d changed. This isn’t the right time to go into details – though I promised Harper I’d be more forthcoming when she writes our next book – but I took Sash on a fortnight’s holiday to Sofia, where he was supposed to show me all the scenes of his childhood, but we never really got out of bed.

This is beside the point! How did I end up in Hollywood again? This is a ridiculous story, but true. Sir Ralf did so well with his latest R&J that he was invited to take it on international tour. Broadway first, of course, but then, unusually, on a run up the West Coast as well, and I don’t mean Blackpool and Barrow-in-Furness.

I’m not sure why he dragged me along. At first I thought it was just to ram his point home further still about who was boss, but maybe he had an underlying scheme. This time Sasha came with me without being asked. He wasn’t about to leave me alone to face my Los Angeles demons. He’d made himself so indispensable at his office by that time that no-one argued his request for leave, and I’m not sure I’d have survived that first sight of LAX – so many ghosts, people I’d hurt without meaning to, memories of Libby Palermo and poor Bailey Price – without him by my side. (He didn’t get spot-checked that time, and I managed not to freak out.) So, almost exactly a year since I got my release from the Blood Moon contract, I found myself unpacking properties in the Jacaranda Playhouse, West Hollywood. On our first night, Third Swordsman came down with food poisoning five minutes before he was due on the boards for his fight scene with the Capulet mob. Sir Ralf materialised behind me in the wings, shoved a sword into my hand and practically chucked me onto the stage.

No make up, just my shirt and jeans. Unlike Kenneth’s All’s Well, this production of R&J was full traditional dress. I knew the choreography and lines, of course, just as I know – can’t help knowing – every other part in every other play I’ve ever done. I might have got away with it, if Sasha hadn’t broken character completely from the front row of the circle and greeted my appearance with a yell and a wolf-whistle.

And people began to notice. I carried on with my swordfight like a good Veronese bit-player, but the acoustics are phenomenal in the Jac, and I began to pick up on the whispers sweeping through the audience. When I went down as prescribed to a Capulet thrust through the heart, there was a roaring round of applause, a lot of booing and hissing for my opponent, and then a gale of laughter.

After that, Ralf started throwing me in for stray parts at random, the old devil. He gave me the chance to dress and make up after that first night, and he never admitted to me that a packed house for every performance and queues round the block for cancellations had anything to do with me, despite the hundreds of Blood Moon T-shirts in the crowd.

So much for working my way up slowly again. When we got back to England, apparently he’d tired of the joke, because he very solemnly offered me the lead in his next production – Richard III, where he said my scarred-up face wouldn’t matter. And there I was, out in the limelight again.

Not blinded by it this time, though. Harper will tell the story of my last few months in another book, but let’s just say I did well. I doubt I’ll ever be tempted to the film industry in Hollywood again. I’m no saint: the money was nice, and even as a top-ranking theatre actor, I’ll never see that kind of pay packet again. Things have changed for me inside and outside of work, though, and – well, I could have afforded to buy the Buck outright, if Paul hadn’t stopped me.

I like what money can do. The thing is, though – the thing that’s different with me now – is that Sasha showed me I could do without it. I’m in no hurry to go and starve in a garret, but I have a calm feeling in my heart that – provided he was in the garret with me, feeding the electricity meter with magic coins, making our shared single bed feel like an emperor-size deluxe at the Ritz – I’d be fine.

I’m not sure how far I’ve gone towards answering your question. You’re a very good listener and I seem to have run on about a hundred things you never asked in the first place. I don’t think I’d ever be prepared for Hollywood, no – not the Hollywood of bright lights and broken dreams. Yes, I’m older and wiser, but all that’s made me realise is how much I want to hang on to the life I have…

Speaking of which, I must run. I’ve got an appointment, and I can’t go into details, but it’s with a jeweller, and a ring might be involved, and a discussion of what shade of gold goes best with shadowy olive skin and deep brown eyes… and I’d better leave the rest of that story to Harper, too.

Harper: Yes, I think he really better had. I can’t believe he’s giving spoilers about his own sequel! Hope you enjoyed that, dear Jan. Next week it’s over to Dan and Rayne from The Salisbury Key, and they’ll be talking to Jacquie, who said…

I’d like to meet up with Rayne and Dan from The Salisbury Key. I’d ask them how their adventures turned out and what are they up to nowadays.