Posts Tagged ‘Being Richard’

Truthful Takes on Being Richard | The Review Board.

10 star review for Being Richard!

Absolutely thrilled to receive such a positive review for my paranormal thriller Being Richard.

Being Richard by Toni Allen

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Writing Conversation and Speech in Novels

This is another one of the ‘lessons’ I prepared for my Writers’ Group. One of our members was struggling to write natural, flowing conversation in her novel, so was doing the unwise thing, and avoiding it altogether. Ooops.

Conversation is important in any novel or short story, because in real life we speak; but in a story we have to write speech as if spoken naturally. That is the craft of novel writing, the illusion of reality.

He said she said

When we hold a normal conversation with our friends and family we say whatever we like, we interrupt, and generally talk a load of old rubbish. Sometimes we have important things to communicate to friends and family, but unless we have some kind of crisis that’s probably as rare as hen’s teeth. “I’ll be there in five minutes.” “What time shall we meet?” “Is supper ready?”

When we speak to people we’re purchasing something from we ask questions. With people we’re in contention with we tend to repeat our point of argument over and over again. With other people we pass the day and recount stories of this and that, how good the supper was last night and what a fab film we saw.

Yes, this is conversation. Yawn.

When writing fiction the conversation has to be part of the story, its job is to move the story forwards and direct the reader to the next scene or point of interest. Speech in writing offers information. That is it’s only purpose.

When writing a story we don’t care that the film was fab unless the film is part of the storyline. We have to cut our conversations to the bone, but also make our characters speak naturally and clearly.

Conversations in your story also help portray what the character is like.

How do they speak? “I say, lovely day.” “Hello mate, bit of a roaster today.” Both of these characters are saying exactly the same thing, but in a different way. The key to good character portrayal is to find each character’s unique voice, without going down the line of, “Eeez very varm today.”

Alongside what your characters say is the actions we describe around their speech.

“I say, lovely day,” said Fred, waving.

“Hello mate, bit of a roaster today,” said Jim, climbing into the cab of Bert’s lorry.

We can, of course, add adverbs to flesh out emphasis of how the sentence is being spoken, but nine times of out ten we don’t need these, and they should be used sparingly. Do these adverbs add anything?

“I say, lovely day,” said Fred jovially, waving.

“Hello mate, bit of a roaster today,” said Jim wearily, climbing into the cab of Bert’s lorry.

We don’t need the jovially for Fred, because his sentence is pretty upbeat and he’s waving, however, with Jim we discover that he’s weary, and this, as it’s part of the plot line, should add additional information to the reader. Hey ho, Jim’s tired, what was he up to last night?

There are, of course, many other words that can replace said. Some I personally loath, while others can be of use. Anyone who’s interested can pop along and read a list of 218 alternatives here. http://www.spwickstrom.com/said/

The main points to remember is that dialogue must share information, move the story forwards and make something happen.


Below are some two line conversations that I offered to my writers’ group as prompts. Have a go yourself. Simply fill in the ‘he said, ‘she said,’ part of the story and see what a difference how you describe the way they said it makes each sentence sound.


“What are you doing here?”


“I don’t think that goes there.”

“Yes it does.”


“I really can’t take much more of this.”

“I know.”


“Isn’t it gorgeous.”

“That’s not how I’d describe it.”


“Well, I told you it would end up like this.”



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The inspiration behind Being Richard – a contemporary thriller

Many people ask how I come up with ideas for my novels. Sometimes it’s flash-bang and a character is right in front of me doing something that needs to be written about, their story burning to be told; but more often it’s a much slower process.

The concept for Being Richard came to me in two stages and I spent a lot of time in Sunbeerka a.k.a. Richard’s company, thinking about him, talking to him, before I started to write.

Sunbeerka, son of the swamp lord, is my immortal’s ancestral title. At the end of this article is an exerpt from Being Richard in which he reveals his true name.

So here’s how the seed was planted and the character and plot line evolved.

As a professional tarot reader and astrologer I’ve studied many occult theories and investigated a variety of paranormal phenomena. One story that’s always intrigued me is the myth surrounding The Comte de St Germain, who many people say, never died. During his lifetime people would remark how he didn’t look any older than when they’d last met him years before, and some people believed that he’d discovered the elixir of life. I would often ponder this character and wonder how someone would cope if they never grew old, while friends and family aged.

I enjoy genealogy and recently discovered that one line of my ancestors used to live in a local village, Elstead, in Surrey, UK. This led me to not only research my family, but also find out more about Elstead in general. On the outskirts of Elstead is a wonderful place called Thundry Meadows, where the River Wey meanders, and archeologists have unearthed ancient artifacts that suggest there was a settlement there some two thousand years ago.

I started making up stories in my head about who this ancient tribe might have been and then I thought…what if one of them was still alive today?  What if one of them was like The Comte de St Germain, and for some reason or another, had never died? With those two ideas Sunbeerka was suddenly in front of me, walking around a local graveyard, hunting for yet another new identity, so that he could never appear to be too young for whom he was meant to be.

I didn’t decide that Sunbeerka needed a problem, I just knew that one would appear while I wrote, because in all good stories the protagonist needs a problem. The first ‘problem’ that came into my mind was that the owner of Sunbeerka’s new identity had a troubled history. This was initially going to be the main thrust of my novel, Sunbeerka exploring Richard’s past and getting himself into all kinds of trouble while he unearthed family secrets that Richard’s living relatives would much rather keep secret. How did baby Richard die? It’s a question Sunbeerka is determined to answer.

Out of the blue Gilbert Hawkins appeared. Hey, I don’t recall inviting you into my novel! Yet there he was, sharp witted, keen eyed and creating another set of issues for Sunbeerka to overcome. Now Sunbeerka had S.I.D., the Special Investigation Department, telling him what to do. Obey or get locked up forever. And forever is a very, very long time when you’re immortal. Furthermore they insist he stops researching Richard’s family.

With the appearance of Gilbert I had all of the elements required to keep the tension running. Now Sunbeerka has people getting in the way of his goal…and that makes everything all the more difficult for him.

Here’s an excerpt from Sunbeerka’s first meeting with Gilbert.


“How long have you been observing me?”

“Long enough to know that you’ve way out lived your four score and ten. Before Julian you were Mike; and killing Bobby off just after the war was a real mistake, maybe one of your biggest. Records, Richard, records and photography, they really have been the bane of your life in recent years, even though you’ve proved extremely camera shy.”

There was no point in answering him. He was my worst nightmare come true, all of my fears realised into one forty something man leaning against my gate thinking he was clever. Those sharp brown eyes were scrutinising me, eyeing me up and down, searching for answers in my face and eyes, and the way I smiled or frowned.

“I have all of the evidence,” he said, turning his collar up against the fine mist of drizzle that had begun to grey the surrounding green.

“I’m sure you do.” I pushed myself off the gate and headed back towards the cottage.

In the kitchen I put the kettle on for instant coffee, quick and easy.

He stood in the doorway, blocking out the last fragments of natural light and feeling like an ominous guardian of the gate. I couldn’t get out and he couldn’t get in; neither of us could cross the threshold.

“My first name’s Gilbert,” he said at length.

“Well that’s a bloody stupid name if ever I heard one.”

“Unlike you I didn’t get to choose mine.” His tone was brittle, defensive.

Laughing I placed a mug of coffee on the table, next to the teaspoon and honey, goading him to have another try. Maybe this time he wouldn’t notice the chip and cut his lip.

“If you don’t join I’ll have to call my people and get them to arrest you.”

Leaning my palms heavily on the table I glared at him. “I don’t believe that you have any people. You’re just a lone wolf, a weirdo scientist, some crackpot snooper who sticks his nose into places where it’s likely to get burnt.”

“Unfortunately for you…no.”

“Prove it.”

“I can’t take you into the office unless you come on board, top secret, hush-hush, you know.”

I jerked my head towards the coffee on the table, but he didn’t budge so I shoved him out of the doorway. It was my backdoor and I needed to breathe the fresh air.

“I don’t do…emotional involvement, not anymore.” I sipped my coffee.

“Who’s asking you to…”

“You are!” I kicked the doorframe. “Everyone is. Every conversation creates a connection. Every smile, every embrace, every kind words builds a bond.”

“You don’t have to like me.”

“I’m not talking about liking!” I smacked my chest. “Here, it all takes place in here. And up here.” I tapped my head over and over again. “The thoughts, the memories, the missing and the yearning.” I stepped outside, took deep calming breaths. “You don’t understand. The body lives on, untouched, unscathed by every knock and cut… but the mind…” I rounded on him and shouted, “My mind is shot Gilbert! Completely fucked up, screwed up, destroyed! How many friends do you think I’ve lost? Hundreds? Thousands? They grow old and die, or get mangled to pieces in stupid battles… their guts spew out over my hands and I can do nothing to save them. They die of disease, long lingering deaths, and I harbour the smell of their feted breath and their last kiss on my lips… and I miss them! I yearn to have them back. To hear their sweet words again, their words of love and truth. To hear the timbre of their voice and to join in with their laughter.  I yearn to join them in man’s dream world called heaven, and to leave this physical world far, far behind… There is no god to give me salvation, no hope of relief from the bitterness and anger and the sorrow…”

Gilbert was staring at me, absolutely dumbfounded.

“I miss them all,” I said quietly. “Every sweet soul who has trodden on my heart and left their footprint in my mind.”

He picked up the jar of honey and fiddled around spooning it into the coffee.

“These days they call it post-traumatic stress disorder. How many wars do you think I’ve been in, Gilbert?”

He shrugged.

“How many times do you think people have stuck a rifle to my face wanting to kill me? How many times do you think I’ve been locked up, strung up, stoned and spat on for being out of step with their reality?”

He took off his cap and swept a hand through his hair. “It can be different now…”


“There are drugs that can help…”

“I’ve tried Laudanum and diazepam and…

“I get the picture.”

“I’ll be useless to you. I don’t know what you want me to do, but whatever it is, I can’t do it. I shake under duress, and get angry… and at other times I simply don’t care.”

“You’re depressed, Richard. You need company.”

I laughed. “And then that company dies and the depression is exacerbated. Get your anger out they say…but to whom? My god who did this to me? My father who sanctioned the ritual? The invading army who started it all by murdering my mother!”

There was a moment’s painful silence.

“Do you have a real name?” Gilbert tipped his coffee down the sink. “An original name? I mean, who were you to start with?”

“Tuesla Gunchilld.” It felt strange saying my name out loud. I hadn’t voiced it for so many years that it rang through my mind like an aching echo from the past.

“Now who’s got the bloody stupid name?” He spoke very quietly, a hush of awe hissing through his pursed lips. “How old are you?”

“I stopped dying when I was thirty years old. I have lived on this mortal plane for two thousand, five hundred and sixty two years.”


The paperback edition of Being Richard is now available and has 25% discount direct from Lulu.

Being Richard is available from Amazon US  |  Amazon UK for Kindle and in paperback. iTunes and from Lulu

It’s also available for Nook and other platforms.

If you’re not on WordPress and would like to keep up to date when more visuals and information about Being Richard are posted, then come along and follow on Facebook ToniAllenAuthor or @listansus. Come along and follow me anyway!Toni Allen Logo

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Police ‘used dead children’s ID’

That’s the Yahoo news headline, click through and read the full story. I just had to share this with you because in Being Richard this is exactly what the immortal Sunbeerka does at the beginning of the novel; he hunts around a graveyard searching for a suitable new identity. It has to be a dead child so that they would both be the same age now.

“I turned back to my task and spotted Richard Ridley; wondered if he was a good enough contender for my attention. Born in 1979 he’d died three months later, much loved and missed by his devoted parents; who could only afford stone and not tough granite. I crouched to read the inscription. Lichen painted it green and although he was age appropriate I didn’t feel like sharing my life with someone that sad. It felt sad. He felt sad. Not that I was sad, that was an emotion I had long since learnt to set aside. No, the boy had no history, no love, no… I sighed and jotted down his details. He was perfect.”

The article says, “Over three decades generations of officers went through national birth and death records in search of suitable matches, the newspaper said. The creation of aliases resulted in officers being issued with official documents such as driving licences and national insurance numbers.”

This is how Sunbeerka has kept under the official radar for years, decades, centuries; by taking on the identity of someone young who has passed away. In today’s modern society this new identity helps provide Sunbeerka with all of the official documents required to survive unnoticed so that he can continue with his quiet existence.

The article says, “Keith Vaz, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, which will hear evidence about undercover policing on Tuesday, said he was shocked at the “gruesome” practice. He told The Guardian: “It will only cause enormous distress to families who will discover what has happened concerning the identities of their dead children.”

This is precisely the scenario that Sunbeerka comes up against when he is forced into taking on the identity of Richard Ridley. Family. A family who have a vested interest in whether Richard Ridley is dead or alive. Family’s have history, and the more Sunbeerka digs, the more tragic Richard Ridley’s short life appears to have been.

Sunbeerka never feels that taking on Richard’s identity is safe, and with this news report today I just wonder how many of those police officers also felt uncomfortable with their new identities.

It appears that in fiction there is an element of truth.

Read the whole news report Police ‘used dead children’s ID’

Being Richard Cover2
The paperback edition of Being Richard is now available and has 25% discount direct from Lulu.

You can buy Being Richard on Kindle or on iTunes It’s also available for Nook and other platforms.

If you’re not on WordPress and would like to keep up to date when more visuals and information about Being Richard are posted, then come along and follow me on my Facebook ToniAllenAuthor . Come along and follow me anyway! Toni Allen Logo

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Being Richard. A novel about an immortal who lives in Surrey.

I thought it would be fun to start building up some visual references for Being Richard so that anyone who lives outside the area can see what kind of landscape the story takes place in.

This first map is of Thundry Meadows near Elstead, Surrey where Sunbeerka a.k.a. Richard Ridley was born. In the map you can clearly see the meandering line of the River Wey and the war time pill box, where the great oak used to stand, is situated near the left hand upwards sweep. I went over to take some photos the other day but the water level was so high where the river had burst its banks that my mission failed. I’ll return at the first opportunity when the sun is shining so that you can see the pill box for yourselves.

This second map is a larger view of Elstead, Surrey where Sunbeerka lives now. Woodman’s Cottage is towards the bottom left of the map moving out of town and you can clearly see the triangular shaped Village Green mentioned at the beginning of chapter 3

“We took Gilbert’s car, a modest saloon, to drive down to Elstead village and buy sugar. I didn’t go in. Too much gossip and tittle-tattle bounced around in corner shops, the lies and hurt erupting from twisted stories something I had learnt to fear and despise. It was raining quite heavily now, the droplets spangling on the windscreen as street lights came on around the village green. Over the years I had seen that patch of grass triangulate as men first walked, then rode, and later drove horse drawn carts or motor vehicles off towards either Farnham or Godalming. If I half closed my eyes I could see their spirits walk past through a blur of eyelashes. Roman soldiers, the monks from Waverley Abbey… oh yes, those damned monks.”

I’ll be adding more maps and visuals as the weeks go by.

You can buy Being Richard on Kindle or on iTunes It’s also available for Nook and other platforms and will soon be available in paperback.

If you’re not on WordPress and would like to keep up to date when more visuals and information about Being Richard are posted, then come along and follow me on my Facebook ToniAllenAuthor . Come along and follow me anyway!Toni Allen Logo

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Being Richard Cover2I’ve been working hard on getting the paperback version of Being Richard finalised and my proof copy arrived just before everyone shut down for Christmas. Everything looks tickety-boo apart from a colour bias on the cover, and, as you can see, the cover is predominantly black and white so a magenta cast does make it look pretty weird. I’m checking out with Lulu that this is a one off printing error and no doubt they’ll get back to me as soon as the holidays are over.

I trained in photography and have spent a life-time fiddling around with images in all formats, including fine art and design. Hence I prefer to create my own cover images. They say that people judge a book by its cover, and I’m pretty sure that’s the case in most instances. I say most instances because with well publicised books the hype takes over and often the cover becomes pretty meaningless. Take Fifty Shades of Grey as an example. I first took the book of a shelf in a supermarket while my partner was browsing the magazines. I read a couple of pages, didn’t think much of it and put it back on the shelf. A couple of weeks later I heard all of the hype about its content and went, ‘Wow! Did I miss something? The cover never suggested it was about that!”

So, here I am mulling the colours on the cover of Being Richard and emailing For men only - coverLulu to get some clarity on the issue when a newsletter comes through from one of my favourite websites www.creativepro.com and they just happen to be running an article about Men’s Pulp Magazines from the 1950′s that has a great display of cover artwork. Here’s the link to the article Men’s Pulp Magazines

Some of the cover designs are pretty aggressive, and certainly very macho, giving the reader a clear signal as to who they’re directed at. There’s no doubt that the stories in these magazines were written with strong men in mind. Women were often treated in a sexist manner, as something to be won, saved or used, but hardly ever as equal.

They come from a different time and many of the covers would probably never be Woman in doorwayused now. Women are no longer permitted to be seen as alluring sex objects in the voyeuristic manner that many of these covers depict them as. The women are distant femee fatales, alluring yet remote, embroiling the male protagonist into dangerous and deadly situations. Sixty years on and we’re more likely to see the man and woman in a tight embrace indicating that these people somehow have a connection and, even though they may lead each other into danger, are less likely to be the other’s ultimate undoing.

With Stephanie Meyer’s cover art for Twilight we don’t even see a man or woman, let alone a vampire, but we do have the allusion of temptation with the rosy red apple. Is this the temptation of Eve or the seduction of Snow White by her wicked step-mother? Either way it symbolises a fall from grace and that by eating the apple we are either removed from Eden and perfection, or must face up to the challenges of puberty and take our place amongst the grown-ups.

Does all this mean that the reader has become more sophisticated or that we’ve become more secretive about what lies inside the cover?

I’ll leave you with a final image from Raymond Chandler’s hard boiled detective crime novel The Big Sleep featuring the famous down at heal detective Philip Marlowe. It’s a classic. This is the cover art from the first edition as referred to at Wikipedia. It has no picture, only words.RaymondChandler - TheBigSleep We know that ‘the big sleep’ is a euphemism for death; so do we need to be told more?

You can find more Pulp Fiction cover art at Pulp Covers

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Being Richard by Toni Allen is a contemporary paranormal thriller about an immortal whose quiet life is turned upside down when he has to choose yet another new identity. He’s used to changing his name, becoming someone else before suspicions are raised because he doesn’t appear to be growing any older. This time it’s different. People have been watching him, studying him, and now they want to rule his life, force him to become Richard; even though he’s already rejected Richard Ridley as a totally unsuitable identity.

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Chapter 1

The little ones were always easy to spot. A vigil of small black headstones, tucked away at the back of the cemetery, their teddies and trains weather beaten; the gold faded. Twilight and rain drops shrouded them in pathos, but come dusk the solar lights would flicker on, permanent candles used as protective sprites to ward demons away from these precious spirits. Such short lives, their pasts a heartbeat in time, their names etched in granite to live on forever. If I was lucky and could find someone suitable I would be able to help him live on far longer than his grieving parents ever imagined.

I wasn’t interested in the girls; and knew to avoid the ones with cherubs and angels. It was also best to avoid the ones with recent gifts. Steven Johnson may well have passed over in 1975 but the plastic Christmas tree; that would have endlessly chimed out silent night until its batteries ran down, warned that someone still cared, and cherished him.

A train rumbled past, heading south out of Ash Station having dumped its weary commuters back to Surrey. They would dice with the barriers and tail back of irritated drivers, all walk home fast to be away from the wind and threat of further rain. Their perfume and after-shave hitched a ride on the wind and dropped its heady scent on the wet grass. I could envisage the women click clacking past men in suits, high heels dodging puddles as they strained their backs to stay proud and upright while carrying heavy briefcases in the pursuit of equality. The men would duck their heads down and plough on, up the road and past the front of the church, searching for a key to a front door, and home, and comfort.

I turned back to my task and spotted Richard Ridley; wondered if he was a good enough contender for my attention. Born in 1979 he’d died three months later, much loved and missed by his devoted parents; who could only afford stone and not tough granite. I crouched to read the inscription. Lichen painted it green and although he was age appropriate I didn’t feel like sharing my life with someone that sad. It felt sad. He felt sad. Not that I was sad, that was an emotion I had long since learnt to set aside. No, the boy had no history, no love, no… I sighed and jotted down his details. He was perfect.

When the birth certificate arrived a week later I savoured the opening by sitting outside under the apple tree with a mug of coffee. I enjoyed this type of ritual, the peace and quiet of birdsong, a single candle in a glass jar on the rickety table, and the bright morning sunshine dappling patterns through the leaves. The wooden chair was damp and wetted through my trousers, but that didn’t matter. The piece of paper inside the envelope was what mattered.

Leaning my elbows on the table I spun the A5 envelope round and round between my fingers, thinking. I knew I wasn’t going to like him before I had even opened it, but it was just one of those things I had to get used to living with. My coffee was getting cold so I drank half of it before easing open the envelope and reading the document. Perhaps I had misjudged poor Richard. His father had been one David Ridley, salesman. Now how vague was that? What kind of salesman? Cars? Insurance? His mother had been Elizabeth Ridley, nee Wilkinson, housewife, which meant that David had achieved enough prosperity through sales for his wife not to have to work.

On the surface they appeared to be nice, respectable people, but I had learnt never to accept life at face value. Oh how I wish I had. Mistrust, and more than a little curiosity, egged me to go against my better judgement and do what I had always promised myself not to do. I went to look at their house.

Before going I spent some time online researching what I could of Richard’s family tree. It was always difficult investigating living people, and generally drew a blank; so I was shocked to discover that Elizabeth, or Lizzie as she liked to be known, had died less than a year after Richard. The how of her departure from this mortal plane bothered me, so I ordered a death certificate. Father David might still be alive, and that bothered me too. People survived longer and longer these days, so I guessed he might be in his mid to late fifties by now, which was really no age at all.

They had lived a short distance from St Peter’s in Ash so I parked my Land Rover opposite the church and walked up the road and across the railway line. It wasn’t very far, but by the time I stood outside the house street lights were already coming on and curtains being closed against another damp evening. Something about the stillness of the place made me shiver. I turned my collar up and tried not to look as if I was staring into the abandoned cottage. At one time it might have been pretty, those straggly roses around the door abundant with fragrant blooms, only now it appeared deserted, the wrought iron gate rusted on broken hinges. I really don’t need to know this, I told myself, and turned to walk away.

A light flashing on in one of the small top windows made me glance up, but it went out as soon as my head shifted. Was I being watched? For a moment I stared up at the glass and half imagined that I saw a shape move beyond the reflected tungsten of the street light. Land registry, check out who owns the place; get your facts straight. I made a mental note to follow it up as soon as I got back. Head down I went to join the bright lights and throng of commuters spilling out of Ash station. There was little point in hurrying to move my car, the traffic being jammed and slow moving, so I broke another rule and went to amuse myself by saying hello to Richard Ridley again before going home.

“You’re proving to be more trouble than you’re worth,” I said, squatting down to brush stray grass away from his headstone. The girl next door, Kimberley Jones, had elbowed into his territory, her mourners filling his space with dusky pink chrysanthemums. “What’s wrong with putting them on her grave?” I asked, lifted the pots and placed them in a straight line from her head down to her toes. “You’ll respect her, but not him.”

Suddenly angered I spat on her grave. “Leave Richard be,” I said harshly. “He’s mine.”

My fingers trembled as I ran them around my lips. It was wrong to become emotionally involved. Control yourself. You don’t want it all starting again. You’ve put all that behind you. I stood and bowed my farewells.

Maybe I wasn’t as composed as I believed I was by the time I passed the church’s Norman entrance because the Rector loomed out of the shadows saying, “Can I help you?”

Lights flashed on as I tripped the motion sensors. Blinded I shielded my eyes and gaped at his silhouette, an anonymous shape that could identify me.

“I’m fine,” I said, continuing to shield my face from recognition.

“If you’re troubled…”

“No…no, I’m fine, thanks.” I hurried off, ducked down the lane opposite, and didn’t drive my car away until I was certain that he wasn’t going to associate me with the vehicle.

Back home I tried to calm down. As I filled the kettle my entire body was shaking. It was happening again. I was waking up. Fear, anxiety, anger… Something or someone was waking me up. I dreaded the signs. How long was it since my last episode? I couldn’t recall, didn’t like to think about it. Drink coffee, focus, stay calm.

I settled down for an evening of research on the internet. Land registry. Ancestry. Supermarket shopping. I could stay home. I didn’t have to go out. Groceries could be delivered.

“I’ll need to get a 4x if you order again mate,” the delivery driver had said last time. “That track is treacherous.”

Yes, the lane was rutted, and narrow, and liable to moderate flooding in winter. It was unlit too, so I chose an early delivery time, made another coffee and hummed and harred over what I might like to eat for the next week or so.

Lizzie Ridley’s death certificate upset me. I’d run out of milk and the drive into Farnham to buy some more was supposed to be a distraction, not a stressful ordeal made worse by a road traffic accident that blocked the whole of Hinckley’s Corner. Trapped in traffic there was nothing to do but sit in my car and think. Lizzie had committed suicide. She’d hung herself. What, I asked myself, had made her feel so desperate? The question went round and round in my head, like one of those revolving doors that always made me giddy. The loss of her son? It was the only answer I had… for now. The car behind tooted its horn and made me jump. My windows had steamed up and I hadn’t noticed the police officer waving me on.

He tapped on my window as I edged forwards, beckoned me to wind it down. “Keep alert; we don’t need any more trouble. Get your blowers on and clear that screen.”

I nodded my agreement, made a show of flicking the switch on the vents, and wiped the glass with my hand at the same time to show willing.

“Has this heap got an MOT?” He was already speaking into his radio so I don’t know why he bothered to ask. These days he would have the answer quicker than I could respond.

“Yes, officer, squeaky clean.”

“Stay in the left hand lane,” he said, and jerked his hand, impatient with me now that he didn’t have any sport.

By the time I got home to Elstead I was exhausted. Eventually I’d paid twice the price for milk at a corner shop, and decided that in future I should avoid going into town. Towns, traffic, horns, noise… it was all getting on top of me, shattering my nerves. I lit a candle and took it, and my coffee, out to sit under the apple tree. It was so peaceful here, as it had always been. I closed my eyes and listened to the silence. Lizzie Ridley had hung herself three months after the death of her baby boy. She had been forty two years old. I didn’t like the echo of my own life in his.

“You’ll have to go Richard,” I said out loud, and opened my eyes in time to witness the candle blow out in the still night air.

The postman never came down the lane. Years ago I’d erected a lockable metal box for him to leave my letters in, so I either took a stroll down to fetch them, or, if feeling particularly lazy, drove down. It was wonderful walking along early in the morning, smelling the dew, the freshness, and in winter counting the cobwebs. Now he barely delivered before eleven, so unless there was anything I was keen to receive, I left it until the following day, and continued with my early morning routine.

I’d already given up on Richard and was eagerly awaiting Mark Wellbeck’s birth certificate. I’d found him over at Farnham, didn’t much like the name, but had a much better feel about my involvement with him altogether. It was about mid-day, the sun was shining, and a cluster of snow-drops hinted at warmer days to come. I was happy and whistling, a robin joining in as it hopped along the hedgerow keeping me company. I took out my key and unlocked the box. Disappointment. It was empty. I sighed and fastened it up again.

“You looking for this?” The man’s voice made me jump and I turned, startled. He was holding an official envelope, but not the type a certificate was sent in.

I shook my head.

“This is the post box for Woodman’s Cottage.” It was a statement, not a question.

I nodded. He was middle aged, maybe forty, his beige weather proof coat and flat cap making him appear older. His eyes were brown and shrewd and staring at me with such intensity it hurt.

“I told the postman I was calling on you, so he gave it to me,” he said, and read the front of the envelope. “It’s illegal that, you know, handing someone’s post over to someone else.”

I shrugged.

“Unless, of course, you show him one of these.” The man drew a wallet out of his pocket, flipped it open and artfully caught the light with his ID so that it winked in my face.

I swallowed hard and smiled. My throat was uncommonly dry.

“Richard Ridley,” he said, tipping the envelope onto its side so that the passport slid out into his hand.

Shit, I couldn’t even remember ordering that passport.

“Inspector Hawkins,” he said, tucking his wallet away and handing me the passport. “Special Investigations Department, SID for short.” He motioned down the lane. “Perhaps you’d like to make me one of those coffees you’re so fond of, while we have a little chat.”

Creasing the passport open with my thumb I peered inside. That was the photo I’d used on Julian’s passport, and I never used the same photograph twice, never. The clothes were outmoded and would immediately cause suspicion. Someone, with a lot of influence, had ordered the passport on my behalf.

My hackles rose as Inspector Hawkins said, “How about that little chat?”

I nodded.

“That’s if you do speak,” he said, and laughed, and made sure he was half a step behind me, so that I couldn’t run away.

You can buy Being Richard for Kindle or as an ebook.

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Being Richard Book Cover

Being Richard Book Cover

I’ve spent ages designing a cover for my latest novel Being Richard and would really appreciate some feedback. I’m not going to saying anything at this point about what the story is about because I’m looking to see if the cover works as a concept.

If you saw this Book Cover in a bookshop would you be interetsed in having a closer look? What does the concept suggest? What impact does it have? First impressions?

I shall be publishing Being Richard on Kindle, epub etc. and it’s so important that I take time and make sure the cover is the best it can be.

All comments and feedback welcome.

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