Tuesday, December 5, 2017

A.J. Cross

A.J. Cross, like her heroine Kate Hanson, is a Forensic Psychologist with over twenty years' experience in the field. She lives in Birmingham with her jazz-musician husband.

Cross's latest novel is Something Evil Comes.

Recently I asked the author about what she was reading. Her reply:
Crime fiction has been one of my joys over many years. However, since I began writing it myself I read much less of it. The reason? I appear to have acquired a possibly irrational fear that I might subconsciously purloin another author’s plot, theme or twist as my own. Consequently, I tend to read biographies or, in this case a diary: Alan Bennett’s Keeping On Keeping On. It is very heavy but only in terms of its seven hundred-plus pages. It is exactly what one might expect of Bennett but there’s another aspect which I found completely unexpected.

What was anticipated of course  was the humour: consider this, the single entry for 18th October, 2005 where Bennett quotes a critic remarking that  he can have too much of Alan Bennett to which Bennett adds: ‘I wonder how he thinks I feel.’ Economical, modest and understated. I’m willing to bet that response wasn’t worked for but arrived as quick, clean truth. There’s a precision about his observations of people, creatures and things which is a delight. He describes the inside of a bean pod, ‘shaped to the bean and furred like the inside of a violin case.’ It’s not necessary to have seen the pod. Thanks to Bennett, we know it. We can picture it.

Despite his enormous success as a playwright and commentator on ‘ordinary’ people’s lives, the diary describes Bennett’s own modest way of living. He and his partner, Rupert spend a lot of their leisure time visiting National Trust buildings. On these jaunts they take sandwich lunches with them. The overall impression is of a modest, unpretentious man who takes pleasure in simple things. I have searched the index and the 700-odd pages of the diary and failed to locate his description of attending what I believe was a premiere of his in America, but I wanted to include it because it fits with my impression of that modesty and honesty. Picture a hotel corridor of several doors, beyond which the famous and the feted are being interviewed. Bennett describes being taken along that corridor as a potential interviewee, each door being opened and the question asked of whoever is inside: ‘Do you want him?’ at which the reply is invariably, ‘No.’ and on, eventually to a door at the very end of the corridor which opens and Bennett finds himself outside the building in the rain. I can’t imagine any situation in which the words ‘Do you know who I am?’ would ever be said by him.

So, what was so unexpected? It was the anger. Having been drawn in and beguiled by Bennett’s writing to expect someone who is avoidant of unseemly fuss about almost anything, in Keeping On he fires off some furious broadsides at the UK’s political parties. It seems to be the political right which earns much of his vitriol. Which is hardly surprising, given his expressed appreciation of his own state-provided education and his fury at the injustice of dismantling of the welfare state. He likens the closure of libraries to child abuse.

Keeping On Keeping On is a gentle read but it has very sharp teeth.
Learn more about Something Evil Comes.

My Book, The Movie: Something Evil Comes.

The Page 69 Test: Something Evil Comes.

--Marshal Zeringue