Posted in Uncategorized

The top 20 crime authors as voted for by UK crime book club

Confessionsofareadingaddict

We recently held a poll of our members on the UK crime book club site on facebook, to discover who their top authors were, the only rules we had were that the author had to be a member of our book club, the results surprised us and make a pretty awesome list of book recommendations from us to you.

With no further ado here are our top 20 starting with number 1, also to be the author of the month for April, I will include amazon links if you want to check them out, if you do purchase pop over to the UK crime book club on facebook, we have author chats with a lot of the authors on the list lined up over the next few months:

1) Caroline Mitchell – Caroline is renowned for her crime thriller series, featuring DC Jennifer Knight. These crime thrillers are infused by Caroline’s…

View original post 795 more words

Posted in Uncategorized

Shakespeare Week.

Shakespeare Week!

When I was a kid, I never got Shakespeare.

So much so, that if I am being totally honest, he actually used to make my head hurt.

Seriously, he really made my head hurt.

It wasn’t the Bards “thee-ing” and “thou-ing” that caused the pain, it was Miss Elwell my English Teacher. She used to swipe me sidewise with a copy of the Complete Works every time

I started fooling around when I got bored in class.

And I got bored a lot, and Miss Elwell loved old Bill.

She was an older lady. The kid of teacher who always had chalk dust on her clothes, and stayed later than all the other teachers because she had nobody to go home to. She was posh, or what passed for posh to a gang of kids in an inner-city, down at heel school that could only afford one book between two kids, that was so old, our parents probably shared it before us.

Miss Elwell tried so hard to sell us the Bard.

She used to stand by the window giving us soliloquy’s in sunlit silhouette as she read Shakespeare to a class that was bored, and wished she would move so we could daydream through the windows light she was blocking.

She would sing the words, roll them around and then roll them out for us. She would thrust swords, shout commands, whisper to lovers, and bellow speeches. While we, like the thick kids we were, would stare at the bell and will it to ring.

We didn’t care about Henry V, we didn’t care about Caesar, and we never had no Midsummer Night’s Dreams either.

Bill and Miss Elwell, fell on their swords and deaf ears as we wasted our youth, and waited for the weekends.

It took me nearly twenty years before I met Bill again, and we fell in love.

It was a summers day. One of those hot ones that hurt your eyes, and make you think of cold beer when you can’t have any. This was back before I became a full time writer and I was driving a cab for a living, and hating pretty much hating every minute of it.

I parked up next to Liverpool’s semi derelict St Luke’s Church (bombed during the war, and left roofless as a memorial to those who died in the Blitz). I was tired, hot, hungry and most importantly low on cash, and even lower on customers. I opened the window, closed my eyes, rested my head back, and then heard a voice coming from the church yard:

“That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?…” 

I opened my eyes, lifted my head, and looked through the iron railings into the gardens that make up the churchyard. I could see a small crowd gathered around a low stage.

They were watching an actor giving it his all.

Back then I didn’t recognize Hamlet, but that was who it was.

I got out the cab and wandered in to watch the show (it was free). The actor was raging, shouting at the sky, just like Miss Elwell done all those years ago.

The difference was that this time it moved me, this time it mattered, and this time… it didn’t hurt my head.

Shakespeare finally got me, and I finally got him.

I probably owe Miss Elwell an apology.

Tony Schumacher on Amazon

80Brit

Posted in Uncategorized, writing

The Cat, the Tree, and the Bird.

Back in the days when I drove a cab for a living, I sat and watched a cat get beat up by a bird one morning.

I say it was beaten up, in truth, it was just sort of knocked around and chased for a bit, but whichever way you look at it:

I saw a cat, being assaulted by a bird.

Maybe I’d better tell you exactly what happened?20160417_220054-1

I’d been working all night, ten hours or so, up until about five thirty in the morning. Hunger got the better of me until I had to give in and grab a sandwich and eat it somewhere quiet.

I found the perfect spot, a beautiful place in Liverpool called Sefton Park.

Now Sefton Park is always beautiful, but early morning, sun coming up, blue sky, and a light mist rising off the dew makes it extra special. The place takes in a willo-the-wisp look to it, grey and green with a tiny gap in-between. Just occasionally, if you are lucky, you’ll see a fleet footed fox splashing a dash of red across the dew dropped grass. A deft dash of paint on canvas from the old master.

That morning I sat, door open, with nothing but the sound of morning yawning birds and a cooling engine for company.  I was sniffing my sandwich (I wasn’t going to leap straight in) when there, just out of the corner of my eye, I saw a cat sitting under a tree watching me. It was maybe thirty foot away, a little tatty, with the look of a beast that has never really found a lap to relax on.

I smiled at the cat, but he didn’t smile back.

Cats can be like that.

He was sitting and staring, when out of the tree, a massive blackbird swooped down and knocked the him over.

Poor old puss jumped up, hopped around sideways a couple of times and then stopped and stared at me. Now I am no expert on cat body language but I know for a fact that cat was saying,

“What…the hell… was that?”

I smiled and shrugged and said out loud,

“You must be in his spot mate.”

The cat didn’t reply, he just glanced around and then regained some composure and sat back down. It was then, just as he nestled his bum back into its spot, the bird came down and did it again. This time, hit and run wasn’t good enough, this time it did a bit of pecking and flapping its wings at poor old puss, who in turn, desperately tried to get away, and failed miserably.

Puss rolled and tumbled as the bird slapped and flapped a blur of yellow and black. The only sound I could hear was the rustle of the grass, and the beat of wing, until finally, the bird flew back up into the tree.

Puss took a couple of steps away and sat back down. He was looking even more confused and maybe a tad embarrassed, I guessed if he’d been wearing glasses they would be twisted half around his head and that he would have scrambled to put them back on his nose to restore his dignity.

But cats don’t wear glasses, so he didn’t.

I broke off a piece of sandwich and held it out to him. I waggled the titbit and “puss pussed” a welcome until eventually he wandered over. Each step slow and nervous, until he sat about five feet away sniffing the air. I tossed him some tuna and he ate it and did that cat thing of not looking at you, but looking at you closely.

“Yeah, whatever.”

I tossed him some more tuna, just a little short, and this bridged the gap between us enough for him to wander over and offer a nuzzle on the back of my hand. He stood and stared at what was left of my sandwich, pushing out his bony ribs to make a point, and I gave him some more.

Eventually, when he’d had enough of me, he licked his lips, looked at the park, thought cat thoughts, then wandered back to the tree.

I swear he almost sighed as he did so.

I felt sorry for him and said out loud as he went:

“She’s not worth it.”

But he didn’t listen, cats never do, he just sat back down under his tree and went back to watching the world.

It was only later, when I was driving home, that I thought of the old lady and her husband who I met many years before when I a policeman.

It was late night, probably about three am, maybe a Tuesday, maybe a Wednesday, but definitely midweek. Now I think it would be fair to say that where I was working wasn’t a hotbed of crime. St Helens is more Mayberry than Hill Street, so any job that came out on the radio was seized more as a means of staying awake, than an opportunity to battle the forces of evil.

A report came in from a neighbour reporting shouting from the house next door. I was the first car at the scene and after some banging on the front door I was surprised to be met by an old guy, about mid-seventies, wearing a pair of too big trousers, and an old gray vest. The trousers had once made up part of a brown suit, but now they bunched over his belly like a Christmas cracker and his vest bore the color of a thousand hot washes with one black sock rubbing up to it.

20160417_220054-1 (2)  He ran his hand through thinning hair that looked like it hadn’t woken up yet, and then told me everything was okay and the neighbor had been mistaken.

“It doesn’t work like that,” I said as I looked over his shoulder into the house, “I have to check everyone is okay, so step aside and it’ll only take a second.”

His hand scraped his hair again and it rose and fell like his chest until finally, he sighed, and let me pass. I smelt beer on his breath as I squeezed through the door, but once inside all I could smell was polish, leather, gas fires, farting dogs and the family that had lived there for fifty years or more.

I went into the living room; it was one of those that are full of brass, rugs, and photos of grandkids in university gowns who never phone but expect a card every birthday.

I looked around, and saw that over in the corner, almost forgotten, sat on a chair, was a sparrow of an old lady. Thin pink flannel dressing gown clutched tight to her throat, two tiny furry slippers peeking out from its hem. The skin on her hands was wrinkled and brown and looked like half scraped wet wallpaper, bunched over bone.

Those wallpaper hands were clutching a tissue to her nose.

It was red with blood.

The old guy had followed me in. I looked at him, his eyes flickered with sadness and shame.

Before he could speak I already had my hand on my handcuffs.

“You’d better put your coat on.”

He nodded and did as he was told.

I drove him the three miles to the custody suite. He didn’t speak all the way there, and to be honest, neither did I.

The custody sergeant heard the story, then politely asked the old guy for his details. The old guy stood still, did as he was told and called us both “Sir” more times than he really had to.

At the cell door, as I waited for his shoes, the old man asked his first question of the night:

“What happens now sir?”

“I’ll go get a statement off your wife, then I’ll interview you, then the sergeant decides what to do with you.”

“I’m sorry son.” He said, and for the first time his voice cracked.

“Don’t be sorry, we’ll sort it out.”

“I just snapped.”

“Don’t tell me here, we’ll talk about it on tape.”

“There is only so much you can take.”

“Don’t say any more, I’ll be back soon.”

“Go easy on her.”

I shushed him again and closed the cell door; and then drove out to see his wife.

When I arrived she had dressed and had fashioned her hair into one of those cotton candy blue styles that only old ladies have. I followed her into the living room and she gestured for me to sit, and then offered me tea. I declined and pointed to the chair opposite for her to sit, in that way that only cops do in other people’s homes.

Like they own it.

“So what happened?” I asked, pulling out a pen, all business with an eye on the clock,

“It’s my fault.”

“No, you mustn’t blame yourself love, it’s easy to blame yourself, you’ve been assaulted, nobody should have to put up with that,” even though I meant what I was saying, I’d said it a thousand times, and it probably sounded like it.

“No, you don’t understand. Really, it is my fault, I started it, I always start it… he lets me hit him. I batter him, really beat him… I’ve done it for years,” she paused, looked at the clock even though she had nowhere to go, and then said softly. “I hate him for it, I hate myself for it. I don’t know what happened tonight… but he hit me back for the first time ever.”

To say that that wasn’t what I was expecting would be an understatement.

I was dumbfounded; I looked at the blank statement, up at her, back at the statement, and then realized I hadn’t even clicked my pen yet.

She told me they had three kids, four grandchildren, they had been married for fifty plus years, that she loved him, that he loved her, and that he had never raised a finger until that night.

She told me that he had come home from the pub and fell asleep in the chair, that she had woke up and come down and that they had argued and then she had slapped him, then punched him, then slapped him again.

Just like all those times before, and then this time, for the first time ever:

He had slapped her back.

“I called him names, terrible names.”

I looked at my pen for some help, but it just looked back at me and shrugged.

“I deserved it, I wish he’d done it years ago,” she shook her head and then lifted her chin. “I’ll not make a complaint, I’ll tell them I walked into a door, you can’t make me say anything I don’t want to.”

There are times when you are a copper, and I am sure many police officers will have felt this way, when you just don’t have a clue what to do next. As I sat there that night on that couch looking at that little old lady who could have passed for Tweety Pie’s grandma…

I did not have a clue what to do next.

I can remember staring at my statement forms for a minute or two, and then finally scribbling down some stuff about her not wishing to cooperate with the police. With hindsight, I maybe should have locked her up for assaulting him, she had just confessed to it.

I knew that wasn’t going to happen, I just didn’t know why.

I told her I was going to go back to the station to speak to her husband. She didn’t follow me to the front door. As I stepped out into the street, I could hear her sobbing behind me, right until the door clicked shut, and I stood alone and watched the sun coming up.

At the time Merseyside Police Force had a zero tolerance policy when it came to domestic violence. It was an excellent tactic of everyone being arrested and interviewed at the very least. We aimed to protect the weak, and charge the aggressor, and I used to feel that I was doing good every night I pulled on the uniform, and stood up for the people who had no one else to stand up for them.

But back at the police station as I sat opposite that gentleman, that gentle, gentleman, in the interview room that morning, just me, him, a duty lawyer and a tape recorder that picked up the solicitors every yawn in stereo. I felt like reaching across the table and giving the old man a hug.

He was ashamed, tired, and he looked very, very, old.

I gave him a lift home so that he wouldn’t have to wait for the bus in his vest. As we drove I told him what his wife had said, I told him he didn’t have to put up with it. I told him about various charities that could support him, and his wife, to find different ways to communicate without violence and I tired, oh god I tried, to explain his life could be better than it was.

He didn’t say that much back to me, he just stared out at the passing view thinking about the passing years.

As we pulled up outside the house, I killed the engine, and tried again.

“Please let me help you.”

He shook his head, looked at his front door, and said:

“I’ve put up with it for fifty years, and there’s not many left to go now. I’ll be okay son, thanks for your help.”

He then got out and walked up the short path, then disappeared inside.

The cat under the tree made me think of him, the cat could have just walked away and found another tree to sit under but didn’t. Something made it go back, sit down, then wait for the next onslaught from the angry bird.

It had the whole park to sit in, a thousand other trees, all better than that one, but that tree, with that bird, was where it had to sit.

Strange things cats.

     Tony Schumacher on Amazon 

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump, Sanders, Corbyn, Geoff, and Me.

Back in the dim and distant past, when I used to sell trucks for a living, there used to be a thing Geoff my boss used to call: “Customer Relationship Maintenance.”

It basically entailed driving around the North West of England, visiting harassed men in too tight nylon trousers and shirts (them not me), sitting in leaky porta-cabins, drinking bad tea, and making worse small talk.

I knew they didn’t want to speak to me.

They knew I didn’t want to speak to them.

And we both knew we were wasting each other’s time.

Sadly, this is what Geoff told me to do, and if I wanted to keep my Vauxhall Cavalier (2.0 GLS, (these things matter)) I had no choice.20160414_164306_001

One day, when I was sitting in one of those leaky porta-cabins, I had an epiphany.

I turned to the customer and said:

“Listen, I come here every two months to take up your time, all because my boss Geoff tells me to.”

“Oh yes?” He replied, looking at his watch.

“He thinks you’ll buy a truck if I keep coming around and getting on your nerves. Is he right?”

“No not really, I’m actually busy, and I have to sit here for half an hour talking to you. To be honest, it does get on my nerves.”

“Well how about you call me when you need me, and we keep this our little secret?”

“Grand.”

We shook hands, and I came up with a new method of “Customer Relationship Maintenance” which basically involved not getting on people’s tits.

I quickly spread this new model out across all of my customers. It worked well, until the day Geoff figured out I had strayed from what he believed to be right. He called me in the office, gave me a telling off, and threatened to take my Vauxhall Cavalier
and replace it with an Austin Maestro.

Geoff reckoned he always knew best, and he was always pretty patronising about it too. That wasn’t the only reason I disliked Geoff though, the other reason was that Geoff was greedy.

He kept all the best customers for himself. He wined and dined them, he took them for “jolly” weekends away, he bought them presents, and in return, when they wanted trucks, they rang him, and not me.

He scratched their back, and they scratched his.

If a salesman dared to complain he was told:

“I’m the boss, like it or lump it.”

He would then hand them the keys to a second-hand skip wagon and tell them to go and earn forty quid commission on it.

Over time I became more and more uncooperative with Geoff. We wound each other up no end. Him by being Geoff, and me by hiding his car keys, not answering my phone, and leaving coffee cup rings on his desk diary all the time.

For all my efforts though, he didn’t really care what I did. Even though there was always a high turnover of staff, he didn’t care he was about to lose another one. He was okay, his mates were okay, so what did it matter if I lost interest? He was still the boss, and the world would never be short of a salesman to take my place.

One day he called me into his office to give me some rubbish sales leads. Outside his office window sat five brand new trucks he’d just sold to one of my customers. He’d just ripped me off again, and I was angry and humiliated, so I resigned by chucking my car keys onto the table, spilling some more coffee on his diary, and then walking out the office.

What had happened between us was that I’d lost all respect for Geoff, because he didn’t care if I lived or died. He was going to keep doing whatever he wanted, whether I liked it or not, and there was nothing I could do about it.

So even though it cost me my Vauxhall Cavalier (2.0 GLS), I was prepared to walk out, just to give me back some small sense of self-worth, and integrity.

A few months later I found out the other salesmen had finally banded together and gone to senior management to complain about Geoff and his practices.

After this “Arab Spring” of an uprising, Geoff was wobbled, then fi
nally, a few months later, toppled when all the sales staff decided to no longer cooperate with him in any way.

It was his turn to resign.

So why am I telling you this?

It’s because I think the average person on the street now think governments are a bunch of Geoff’s.

Governments in return, just like Geoff, have a sense of entitlement, and a general disdain, for the guy in the street because for all their complaining, there is always another guy in the street to take their place with a vote.

Be it cuts, corruption, tax shenanigans, war, expenses, scandals, lobbying, back door deals, ignoring public opinion, governments are acting just like Geoff (I’m not sure Geoff declared war on anyone, but I wouldn’t have put it past him.)

In return, by voting for Trump, Corbyn, Sanders, or Brexit, all we wa
nt to do is wind them up, and show them that we still matter.

A friend of mine said the other day: “I’m voting Brexit not because I want to leave Europe, but because the Government want me to stay.”

In other words, due to their “we know best” attitude, he doesn’t care if he loses his Vauxhall Cavalier (2.0 GLS), he just wants to be able to irritate the hell out of them.

So what could Geoff have done to make things better between us?

He could have stopped taking people for granted.

He could have stopped abusing his position.

He could have stopped patronising us.

He could have listened to us, and acted on our concerns and not in the interests of him, and a few of his mates.

He could have been honest and accepted that just maybe, he didn’t know best all of the time.

And he could have upgraded my car to the CDX, the one with the thicker velour seats and sunroof, but in fairness this probably doesn’t apply to governm
ents around the world.

So what is the lesson for those governments?
Well unless they do the above, there really isn’t much point in spending 9 million on a leaflet, wheeling out Peter Mandelson, or generating billions in donations from their mates, because all of that just makes us want to throw our Cavalier keys on the table even harder, then slam the door behind us after we’ve spilled their coffee for the very last time.

Tony Schumacher on Amazon

@tonyshoey 

Posted in Uncategorized

The British Lion by Tony Schumacher

For winter nights - A bookish blog

The British Lion | Tony Schumacher | 2015 | William Morrow | 450p | Review copy | Buy the book

The British Lion by Tony SchumacherIt is November 1946 and Britain is defeated, part of the German Third Reich, its government fled to the US, itself largely tolerant of Germany, and the exiled George VI replaced by Edward VIII. Life has been turned upside down and nobody exemplifies this more than the British Lion, John Rossett. Before the war Rossett was a detective, during the war he was a hero, earning the accolade of British Lion alongside his medals, but once the war was lost he became involved in rounding up Britain’s Jews, his only friend his Nazi commander, Major Ernst Koehler of the SS. Lying in a hospital bed, shot up, Rossett can no longer stomach his part in the Final Solution, wanting nothing more than to return to his life in London’s police…

View original post 523 more words

Posted in Uncategorized

Downhill Fast

I would have thought, what with the amount of snow we have had this year, that there may have been a bit more interest in the Winter Olympics displayed in the car. Normally any major sporting event is seized upon as a temporary topic of conversation to while away our moments together.

For instance, I’ll never forget the irony of discussing Jenson Button with an old lady who was clutching an old Lidl bag full of cat food as we sat in a traffic jam on West Derby Rd,

“I’m made up for the lad, he deserves it after what he has been through”

She sad this as she counted out, in five pence pieces, the fare. A sudden image of Jenson Button, toiling against the odds, spiralling fuel prices, a traffic planning department organised by a council that digs more holes than a mole that has lost his keys sprung into my mind… “poor old Jenson” I thought ” it must be murder when someone throws up in the back of your Ferrari on a Saturday night.”

But, as a night worker with easy access to a radio I am normally excited by the prospect of any event that will fill the small hours and drag me away from local radio . Even if it features sports that quite frankly, verge on the insane.

So I tuned in the first night of Radio Five Lives coverage, the normally excellent Monday to Thursdays “Up All Night” programme promised to flit back and forth to Vancouver with coverage of all the key moments… what could go wrong?

Initially I was a little confused, as all the commentators seemed to talk about was that there was a lack of snow,

“They should have held it in Bootle last week” one passenger muttered

And then, I wondered, who was this mysterious “Team GB” they spoke of? Over and over I heard “Team GB are really looking forward to this event” or “Hopes are high for Team GB”

When did we start putting words in the wrong order? I don’t order a “Pizza to Out Take”, or a “Curry Indian”. Woe betide the first person who declares that they support “Team Everton” in my cab… they are out, and I’m not stopping whilst they go!

But leaving that aside, I was impressed as the BBC told me they had sent a team (Team BBC?) of over seventy to cover the event… I was impressed until I had a look at the Team GB (its catching) Winter Olympics website where it told me, and I quote

” approximately 50 athletes across six sports” would be attending… erm, “approximately”? Shouldn’t someone check exactly how many are going? I mean any loser could bunk in. All you need to do is get an old shell suit, a posh name and jump on the plane… although judging by the medal table that appears to be what has happened!

We are standing (or maybe that should be lolling), as I type, in joint twenty fourth! (makes you proud doesn’t it!) only seven places behind Australia! Now leaving aside the facts that the table only goes up to twenty four and Australia doesn’t have any snow it makes me proud to be from Country GB! Sorry I mean Great Britain. Although, thinking about it, maybe we should have asked the BBC to represent us, seeing as there were more of them than there was athletes. Good to know my licence fee is being well spent.

Our sole medal winner is Amy Williams, she won Gold in something called the skeleton… which, and I am only guessing, involves sliding down a hill on something. Apparently, according to the Olympics website, Amy’s friends call her Curly Wurly, her father is a Dr of Chemistry and she attends Bath University studying Sports Science (although in view of her event I would have thought Medicine or Archaeology might be more apt).

I’m pleased for Amy, it must be great to work towards something for years and then to be told you are the best in the world for it, I’m really pleased for her. Although… and I don’t want to sound a bit churlish, it made me wonder exactly how many people do the “Skeleton”? I’ll wager there are thousands around the country who would love to have a go of it (whatever it is, I could look on Google but I’m not sure I want to, for all I know it involves a spade and a grave yard or even worse… Tony Robinson).

You see maybe that’s what is wrong with the Winter Olympics, if you aren’t middle class or above, you’ve no chance of ever taking part. A quick audit of Team GB’s (aaaaarrrggghhh) website reveals host of names that wouldn’t sound out of place in a St Trinians film, Chemmy, Lorna, Eleanor and Elise aren’t likely to  be seen dead buying a pasty from Sayers, and the blokes? Well Kristan, Benjamin and Edward wouldn’t be caught dead climbing over the gates at Creamfields either.

So maybe that’s why nobody in the cab has cared about the Winter Olympics, its not that Vancouver is too far away, its maybe the chances of  competing in them is a world away.