How tragic

Here is an extract from the first book I published as an e-reader, Farholm…

Deke walked on from the school, a few steps at a time, stopping to admire the natural abundance, her mind wandering to jellies and jams, cordials and liqueurs. Perhaps she should pretend to be writing a natural cookery book, that would give her an excuse to quiz people, get into conversation with the people who lived here.

She continued slowly up the road. There was another wall, running parallel to the other, and above it was more open woodland between the elder and blackthorn, weighted with berries and sloes. Sloe gin, elderberry wine, elderberry chutney. Recipes slotted through her mind, it was the first time she had thought of cooking for a month, food had become an indifference to her.

The road wound round and the trees gave way to yellow bracken and ling and she could see the church, squat and grey beyond a pair of pink cottages. After maybe half an hour she was above the harbour and could see the roofs of the houses and the pub and social club a couple of hundred foot below her. This must have been the road the girl in pink had taken, the girl Deke had thought might have been Rachel. She stopped and wondered where Rachel was, and shivered at the thought of the sort of things that might have happened to a pretty eighteen year old.

A Land Rover was coming down the road towards her and she stepped onto the grass to let it pass. It slowed and a bearded man looked out, he had been driving last night, he had taken her home.

“Any news?” she called.

“No,” he replied and his tone and face said it all. He lifted his hand and drove on.

The pink cottages were direct onto the road but as Deke approached she could see gardens at the back, curiously urban gardens with sheds and a gazebo in one, and children’s swings and climbing frames. A whirligig washing line spun, laden with clothes.

The church was a normal little parish church, bounded by aged stone walls with mosses and lichens and tiny geraniums growing. At the foot of the wall were clumps of what her aunt called ‘ginger’ although it was a dozen shades of red and pink and purple. The church yard ran down the hill, each grave with plenty of soft bright green grass around it, not huddled together or lined up in impersonal regimented rows.

There was a kissing gate for the litch, a little old roof crouched over it. As Deke manipulated herself through there was a squeak from above and looking up she could just make out a swallow’s nest with a very late brood peeping out. They didn’t have a very rosy future at this time of year. But on the other hand, who did?

There was a bench along the wall by the gate and Deke subsided onto it. She felt sick with anticipation now, she was trembling not just from exertion, sweating not just from the toil a quarter of mile from the harbour. Her teeth began to chatter and she clenched her jaw.

Look at the church, what do you know of ecclesiastical architecture, what can you say about this ancient place of worship, for she remembered that there had been a tiny chapel on this site from before Norman times. She had read the little guide-book now in her pocket with exclusive concentration and odd facts drifted back. The present church was rebuilt about a hundred years ago to replace the previous one which had lost its roof.

Deke got up and hopped up the path and then carefully moved among the graves. Some were very old, some had lost their faces completely. Many of them had flowers, even some anonymous ones had posies in pots against the head stones. The names floated before her, Abigail Burrows, beloved wife…  Daniel Spears…. Marie Togwith… John Togwith… Thomas Thorne… Josiah Hepworth…

Deke stopped before the small white stone in the shape of a heart. There was a cherub leaning on it, one hand beside the name, the other arm arching over the top of the stone, a stubby finger pointing heavenward. Deke blinked her eyes, trying to stop the stinging. She was never going to cry again, not for anything, not for anyone. Especially not here, not here in this graveyard.

Then David Elijah Crewe. The name registered with a shiver. Perhaps this was a relation of the woman on the boat, the woman who lived in the White House. Vera Crewe, née Smythe, wife of the above. There was another Crewe, Alfred, perhaps he was her brother. Then Jonathan Crewe, most beloved husband and dearest father. Deke resolutely turned her eyes to the stone next to it, an older stone, Jabez Crewe, wife Oriana, and another old one, Serena Crew wife of Augustus Crewe. And amidst all his forebears and relations was a newly dug grave, the earth still red and raw, the brightly polished black marble headstone gleaming in the sun, the latest, Mathias Alfred Crewe, born March 13th 1967, beloved son of Brenda and Jonathon, dear brother of Alice, most loving husband of Tamsin, father of Tabitha and Sion, taken from us August 22nd 2000

How tragic. 33 years old.

If you want to find out more about Deke… and why this grave of Mathias Crewe means so much to her,here is a link to my book, Farholm:

http://amzn.eu/8tmqdjl

Writing about your family history (iii) … the journeys they made…

It’s a bit of a fallacy that people in the past never travelled further than the nearest market; in fact, as you probably know from your own research, people moved about almost as much as we do, if not more – and probably for the same reasons, work, family, opportunities, marriage, business… Writing a family story from the point of a journey is a way to create a contained narrative, with a beginning – in one homestead/village/town/city and after staying temporarily in other places, the settling in what became the family home.

On my dad’s side of the family, the Elsdens were all ag labs, agricultural labours, working in Suffolk on farms for generations. They may have come from Norfolk, and before that from Scandinavia, but they stayed in the Suffolk area throughout the eighteenth and first part of the nineteenth century, moving from village to village, no doubt finding work on different farms. When the railways came they moved from the land to work initially on the tracks in Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, but later into the engine sheds and driving the big steam engines. The sons of the family moved out of labour and into commerce, opening a fruit and vegetable shop in Cambridge, then holding the license of a pub… and so we became a Cambridge family.

On my maternal side, my Jewish forebears left their commercial business in the hands of their brothers and cousins in London, and travelled round the other side of the world to Tasmania where they started an import export agency – they had ships travelling across the Pacific and all round the South China Sea. Eventually they returned to London and settled in a house on Regent’s Park, they were extraordinarily rich… this was an actual journey, but there followed a journey of a different kind… a journey from riches to a more modest way of life.

My character Thomas in my Radwinter stories follows his ancestors lives, tracing his family back to war-torn eastern Europe, and following their journey from their arrival in England in the 1830’s, across southern England to Easthope, where the family still lives… “I followed the story of the Radwinters, and discovered where we came from… and what an interesting journey that was. I mean journey for me in a non-literal way, but it was an interesting journey for the Radwinters, literally”.

Here is a link to the first  book in the series:

http://amzn.eu/iaeUMrD

Frightened, not by what had happened… but at what might have…

Here is an except from my book Night Vision. Neil and Beulah are living temporarily with his cousin Austin who has driven them into town to meet friends for dinner:

Austin was driving and dropped them in the car park at the back of the small plaza where the restaurant was.
“Have a great evening,” he said, eyeing Beulah in a way she’d never noticed him do before.
Was her dress too short, her heels too high?  She’d lost weight with all the visits to the gym and she’d put her hair up. She adjusted Neil’s bow tie and he pulled her to him and gently kissed her.
“Watch my lipstick,” she said with a giggle.
“Hey mister!”
Beulah gave a start and jumped away from Neil. Watching them from the municipal shrubs edging the car park was a filthy man; his hair was long and matted and he seemed to be dressed in rags.
“Got the price of a cuppa?” he growled.
“Give him something, Neil,” Beulah murmured.
The man was crouched like a feral creature, wild-eyed and threatening. Neil handed him some coins and took Beulah’s arm to move away.
Two more men stood between them and the passage through to the plaza.
“Got any change, brother,” said one of them, skeletally thin and with a dirty pony tail hanging over one shoulder.
“Sorry, no,” Neil answered aggressively.
“Let’s go, Neil,” Beulah urged quietly.
“Come on, mate,” said the other man, he had a huge fat face which had lost its muscle tone so the flesh hung down like drapes, his skin wan and seamed.
“Sorry, mate, I’ve no more change,” Neil was holding Beulah firmly by the forearm but he would thrust her away from him and rush at the vagrants if need be.
The men crept towards them and Neil moved past with long strong strides, keeping himself between them and Beulah.
“Come on mate, la-di-dah, you can afford it!” one of them called.
“Keep going, don’t look round,” Neil ordered.
“I’ll be turned into a pillar of salt if I do,” Beulah muttered, clinging to him as she tottered along on her high heels.
She wanted to run, suddenly vulnerable, as if her clothes were too thin, too tight, too short to offer any protection. They entered the passageway and Neil glanced back and slowed. “It’s OK, they’re walking off towards the shops over there.”
“God, Neilly, that was scary,” she was shaking.  “I know they’re pathetic but they look so manic, you can imagine they’d be madly strong,” she shivered.
“Thanks, I’ll remember that next time it looks as if I’m going to be mugged.”
“Or they might have a knife or an axe or something,” Beulah said, frightening herself now.
“Yeah, keep on, scare the pants off me why don’t you,” and Neil laughed weakly. “Oh, Jesus no.”
Coming towards them was another tramp, stocky and roughly bearded. He was wearing a shabby coat, faded jeans and a cap on the back of his head. He stared at Neil wide-eyed as they approached.
“Keep walking, Bee,” Neil muttered. “Don’t look at him. I’ll give him some cash or a bunch of fives.”
Beulah was very frightened. The man’s eyes were piercing, staring unblinking at Neil.
“Keep walking.”
As they got near, the vagrant took a step backwards and opened his mouth as if to speak then thrust his hand out as if he wanted to shake Neil’s.
“Don’t walk by me, brother,” the tramp begged in a low trembling voice.
“Give him some money,” Beulah whispered but her voice hardly emerged from her quivering lips.
Neil pushed past the man, determined not to give into the unspoken threat but the tramp grabbed his arm, yanking him back.
“Don’t walk by me!” he said again.
Neil spun round and swung his fist at him, and the man staggered back, his face screwed up with anger. Beulah screamed and Neil shouted to her to run.
She didn’t want to leave him – she should get help, but running towards them were two more men, one had a wide black moustache, a bandana and sunglasses, the other had a beard almost to his waist and a cap pulled down over his eyes.
Terrified Beulah turned back to Neil as the tramp’s fist connected with his face. The other two men rushed up and grabbed the tramp and dragged him away towards the car park.
“Bloody maniac!” Neil yelled. “Fucking bloody hell!” He held a handkerchief to his mouth but blood had splashed down his shirt.
They hurried out of the alley, both really frightened, not so much at what had happened but at what might have.

Does this intrigue you? Who was the tramp? Who were the men who rescued Beulah and Neil? Here is a link to my book:

http://amzn.eu/0Nv9Cjy

Thomas in his new office…

Here is another little excerpt from my next book… Thomas is very proud to have his own office:

My office

I sat at my desk and twiddled a bit in my chair, clicked the mouse a couple of times, then another couple of times and smiled to myself. I have an office! I have an actual office!
It’s only very small, it’s what used to be the upstairs flat of the veg shop run by my friend Val, but now the small sitting room is where I might meet any clients, three easy chairs but uprightish (some of my clients are a bit elderly) a coffee table and then to one side a desk with a couple of chairs in case we might have to look at some papers. It is very plainly decorated, so it just looks nice and clean and light, and I think it looks quite professional – well, I am a professional! There are a few black and white photos on the wall by a young photographer I know, Niqqi (I’m sure she is really Nicky, but never mind) and there are nice blinds at the window.
The small room which used to be the bedroom is now my office, and this is where I was, sitting in splendour. I have bookshelves for my law books, I have a filing cabinet because some things still happen on paper, and I have three computers, yes three, and another big table where I can do my family tree stuff… because as well as being a solicitor I do people’s family trees.
The veg shop down below is very small – it’s the end of a row of other shops and whether the builder ran out of land or whether he wanted a small shop, or whatever, it is much smaller than the others, which is why the flat has just one bedroom, a miniscule bathroom, and an even more miniscule kitchen… The kitchen, empty of any cooking stuff, apart from a kettle, microwave and a fridge, is just there to make tea and coffee.
Hmm… my first day in my new office… well, half a day. I have to collect various kids from various places and then I’ll be home getting dinner ready for us all and doing dadly things… perfect!
There was a ‘dong’ and I enquired through the entry phone who it was, feeling rather full of myself – I’d only been here an hour on my first day; I had plenty to do, and wasn’t expecting anyone, but here was a client…
My optimism deflated like a punctured football – I’d been playing footie on the beach with Kenneil and Terri and I confess I rather booted the ball, it hit a rock, bounced off and then sat there deflating…
“Come up, Inspector Graham!” I said with false heartiness. I slapped down a feeling of anxiety, I had nothing to be anxious about, I’d done nothing wrong… well, nothing that anyone apart from my friend David knows about.
Last year I was involved in a rather nasty incident which ended up in two people being dead… I’d spent rather more time with the police than I wanted, and had to go to court – well two courts, a coroner’s court and a Crown Court. I had a few nightmares after that, I can tell you… a period of insomnia, and altogether an unpleasant few months… But I battened it all down, locked it all away and got on with being a dad and a husband…
“Thomas, good to see you, I hope you don’t mind me dropping in without an appointment,” Graham said as we shook hands. I greeted him as enthusiastically and normally as I could and he asked me to call him ‘Charles’ which I took to be a signal that he wasn’t here on police business and my heart rated slowed back to normalish.

If you haven’t yet had the chance to read about Thomas Radwinter and his adventures, here is a link, and if you are kind enough to buy any of my books, I would really appreciate you visiting my Amazon page and writing a review!! Thank you in advance, and here is the link:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_16?ie=UTF8&qid=1518045012&sr=8-16&keywords=lois+elsden

A sneak preview, and a catch-up with Thomas

I’m working on my next Thomas Radwinter novel, possibly to be called ‘Saltpans’ – although I have a dilemma; the title is perfect except it gives away a crucial element of the plot, so maybe that will be book VII… unless my readers become fed-up with the story of Thomas!

Here is the opening chapter – maybe you could call it a prologue:

My name is Thomas Marcus Pemberton Radwinter; I was born in 1980, so I’m thirty-seven. I’m about five foot nine and I have grey-hazel eyes and dark reddish sort of hair and a beard.
I live in Easthope which is a small old-fashioned seaside town, with my wife Kylie who’s half-Tobagan, and our five children, Terri-Ann who we adopted last year and is eight, Kenneil, six, Casimira, two, and our year-old twins, Vitalija and Marko.
Kylie works full-time and I used to say I’m a stay-at-home dad, but so many things have changed in our lives. I still do lots of stuff at home, and most of the cooking, but I also now have a small office in Easthope, a room above the veg shop. I’m a solicitor and I work independently, doing conveyancing and will-writing and stuff like that, but I also do genealogical research for other people.
Over the last few years, I’ve been commissioned to do other things … like finding people, a vanished woman, a dodgy Moroccan, and a mysterious and manipulative Tibetan Lama … Most recently I was asked to investigate a haunted hotel… yes really… This ‘adventure’ if you want to call it that, nearly cost me my life – it sounds as if I’m exaggerating, I’m not. Fortunately, at the time, everything happened so quickly I didn’t realise, but afterwards, afterwards I had to think about things a great deal.
There are four of us Radwinter boys, Marcus who’s fifty-eight, Paul who is fifty-one, and John who’s forty-four…  And then there’s me, the youngest.  In 2013, Paul asked me to find out about our family history and I followed the story of the Radwinters … and what an interesting journey that was. I mean journey for me in a non-literal way, but it was an interesting journey for the Radwinters, literally.
I use a genealogical site, MyTimeMachine, and when I looked into us Radwinters, I went about it in a sort of back-to-front way. I guess most people would start with their parents, and find their birth details, and their marriage record, and then move back to their grandparents and so on. It’s not too difficult, especially if you have an unusual name like we have, but even if it isn’t unusual, you can still soon become a real genealogical detective and find your way back into the past.
I did it the other way round; I found my namesake Thomas Radwinter in the 1841 census and worked forward. John has the middle name of Magick, and that’s our maternal line and in 2014 I followed that side of our family… and it led me to some very dark places I can tell you, but eventually I found the truth about my Magick family.
I continued to investigate the people who brought us up, Edward Radwinter and Sylvia Magick, and through this journey into our recent family history, I discovered what caused us to have such traumatic childhoods. Maybe it’s because of this we’ve had to think about our own lives, Marcus and Paul in particular.
In my Radwinter story I discovered some difficult truths about myself as well, which really changed me in ways I can hardly describe. Looking back to me four years ago, I really do feel like a different person now; I think I’m strong and confident… even though I’m still a bit of a bumbling, wittering idiot sometimes…. Well, a lot of the time to be honest! After last year’s dramatic and traumatic events, I’ve had to reassess the sort of commissions I undertake, I’m Mr. Boring now!
So… now our history is closed, and our lives seem settled, well, as much as anyone’s can be!

If you haven’t yet caught up with Thomas and his adventures, here is a link to my books:

https://www.amazon.co.uk/RADWINTER-5-Book-Series/dp/B072HTG366/ref=sr_1_15?ie=UTF8&qid=1518005713&sr=8-15&keywords=lois+elsden

Swords and stabby things

I guess all of us get irritated when we are reading a novel, or worse watching a TV programme or film and see something which is just wrong! It might be an unintended error – a glimpse of a Roman gladiator wearing a watch, or visible train tracks before trains were invented, that sort of thing, or it may be carelessness or ignorance when especially these days it is much easier to check because we have the vast resources of the internet available.

There has been correspondence in the newspaper recently about whether in Edwardian times, someone eating a meal, for example afternoon tea, would lift their plate from the table and eat from it held in their hand… Some people said it absolutely would not have been done, others say, well, actually, it jolly well was done! I got a bit miffed when watching the series ‘Grantchester’ set in the fifties, men embraced each other to say goodbye – well, no… men absolutely would not have done that in those days! A firm hand shake, a clap on the shoulder or a grasp of the upper arm, that would have been it. However, did it really matter to have such a tiny inaccuracy? Did it affect my enjoyment of what was a very engaging fiction? No, no it did not!

However, if you are an expert in something, say swords and sword fighting, you might really cringe if you see stupid and careless errors in the prop department… such as the wrong sword! Wrong in terms of date, in terms of the type of sword used for a particular sort of fighting, in terms of how it was used, in terms of which country’s swordsmen were using it, in terms of whether there ever actually was a sword such as the one the character was wielding so dramatically.

I came across a very interesting video, which picked out five crashing errors in swords:

The 5 worst movie swords:

  1. Braveheart – a film not really known for its historical accuracy
  2. El Cid – the Hollywood version
  3. 300 – based on a graphic novel – but also a true event!
  4. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Arc – a fun spoof
  5. Robin Hood Prince of Thieves – even if there wasn’t a real Robin Hood, there was a King John and a King Richard

This little video is really interesting, and is explained in a lighthearted way which even someone who knows nothing about it might find engaging – and even humorous (‘why is there a lack of armour, why are the Spartans so naked, they do seem to like wearing their little pants and not much else‘) It is informative and explains about the development of weapons, and how they were designed for specific types of fighting and warfare.

I know nothing about swords really, but my character Thomas Radwinter came across one in my novel ‘Beyond Hope’:

My phone had been buzzing from time to time and in a quiet corner of the hall, leaning against the newel post I glanced at it and saw Tanya had been trying to ring me, several times…
I was feeling quite hot so I opened the front door and escaped the racket to ring her; I walked into the middle of the front lawn and looked back at the house, full of all the people I love, and who were celebrating Paul’s birthday with such joy… and all the unpleasantness and uncertainty was in the past.
I stared up at the sky, full of stars, looking like Kylie’s face…
“Thomas! Where are you?” Tanya almost screamed at me. “Marius is coming looking for you! I’ve tried to ring the police but just have people taking messages… Thomas!”
“Good evening, Mr. Radwinter… I have a score to settle with you, my friend!”
Oh… fuck… Marius Hix was standing between me and the house and he had a spade in his hands…  A spade! He could do a lot of damage with a spade, he could do me a lot of damage with a spade!
“Now, Marius… I think you need to put that spade down… I think we need to talk about this…”
“I’ve done enough talking, thank you, you – “ and he called me the rudest word. “I’m going to kill you, Radwinter, just like you killed my dreams and my life!”
What could I do…? I couldn’t run away, he’d be quicker than me, and his glasses were glinting in a really sinister way… this man is mad… and everyone is in the house and no-one knows  I’m out here…
Even as I was working out my options, he made a stab at me, lunged at me with the spade as if he wanted to dig out my heart. I dodged out the way and he swung it round like a battle-axe and I ducked and I seemed to hear the blade whistle over my head… this man was going to kill me with a garden spade!
I was yelling now, yelling for help but I could hear Django’s electric guitar whine as his band began to play – no-one inside would be able to hear anything. Marius was taller than me, fitter than me, angrier than me and certainly crazier than me.
I daren’t turn my back on him and run…
I was dodging about, getting caught on rose bushes and screaming for help. The spade sliced down and honestly it would have cleaved me in two – clove me, cleft me… I tripped over and landed on my bottom as he was trying to wrestle the spade out of the ground.
“Here! Take this boy!” there was an old man beside me, a bundle of old coats and strange scarves, but I didn’t bother to take in what exactly he was wearing, just grabbed what he was giving me and sort of sprang to my feet… I am much niftier now, and I was terribly frightened and fear can make you do extraordinary things and I didn’t want to die and leave Kylie and our children, I didn’t want to leave my brothers and Marcus – I know writing this now it seems hilarious and cartoonish – I assure you it wasn’t, my life kept repeatedly flashing before my eyes and I really thought I was going to die, really, I’m not joking now… and fuck, I was very angry, very, very angry!
I rushed at Hix as he heaved the spade out of the ground showering soil and bits of plant everywhere and I thumped him straight in the face with my fist wrapped round the handle of a … of a scimitar… what? What the fuck? The old tramp had given me a scimitar…
Hix reeled back and blood was everywhere and he swung wildly with the spade and for the first time it made contact but luckily only the shaft, whacking me painfully on the shoulder.
I thumped him in the face again, and something crunched, his nose or his teeth and he was screaming at me, spraying blood which looked a weird colour in the light from the street lamps – where was everyone?
I daren’t look away from Hix but I could hear the old man shouting help, somewhere up near the house, but there was such a racket going on..
Hix thrust me away and I tumbled backwards landing on my bottom again. he lunged at me with the spade and I lashed out with the bloody sword thing as I rolled away, and there was a great crack and the spade broke in two as he jabbed it into the ground where I had been a moment ago… he might not have a nasty sharp blade any more but he had the splintered end, like a broken stabby thing.
Well, he could stab at me all he liked but I wasn’t going to have it… I was on my feet I don’t know how and I rushed at him sweeping the shattered spade handle aside with my weapon and then I slashed at him… and this is going to give me nightmares I know, I sliced into his arm and he screamed but actually at that moment I didn’t fucking care, and I bowled him over and straddled him, punching him in the face and anywhere to hurt him, to hurt him… and maybe to kill him…
“Enough, boy, enough,” and the tramp grabbed my arm… he was old but he had a strong grip and it brought me to my senses and I knelt there on top of Hix who was moaning and swearing but at least not killed by me… that really would have complicated my life, murdering someone…

Who is Marius? Why did he want to kill Thomas? Find out –

http://amzn.eu/8fxKOY8

And to find out about swords in movies –

 

 

Crash!

This is an excerpt from my 2016 novel, Lucky Portbraddon. Noah Portbraddon and his uncle, Nick, who is very drunk, are heading home from a gig in a club in Easthope… Be aware there are a few ‘naughty’ words in this episode:

Nick was revived by the cool night air and began to sing ‘I can see clearly now.’  He stumbled and lurched into the road and a car screeched and swerved to miss him.
Noah grabbed him and dragged him onto the pavement.
“I’ve changed my mind; I’m taking you home and dumping you there!” Noah was angry.
The car had stopped further up the street.
“Oh shit, I hope we don’t get no hassle from this,” Noah complained as the car began to reverse towards them.
“We can handle it, big boy, give ’em a twatting! I’ll give ’em a twatting!” Nick was excited at the prospect of a fight.
The car stopped and the driver got out and it was Ismène.
“Nick?” she called, anxiously.
“He’s drunk, I’m taking him home,” Noah answered, Nick was grinning inanely at Ismène.
“Noah, is that you? My god, I didn’t recognise you,” she laughed and Noah realised she’d been afraid. She’d thought that Nick was in some sort of trouble from him and was brave enough to get out of her car to help.
He suddenly felt foolish; she always made him feel ridiculous. She was so kind, trying to be nice to him and he, as usual, became a tongue-tied idiot.
“I’ll give you a lift, come on,” and they followed her to her car. “I’ll drop you off Nick, then Noah as you live nearer me.”
Nick in his blurry way thought about suggesting going back with Ismène for a coffee… maybe… she’d give him a bed for the night… maybe she’d share her bed… But what was he thinking… she wasn’t interested in him, she had more class…
It was warm in the car and he slumped comfortably in the back, beginning to drift into sleep as the night flashed past… Where was Zofia? Would she be home? And if she was at home would she be alone?
Ismène was talking to Noah and he was mumbling away as usual… that boy was a surprise… who knew he could sing like that, brilliant! let alone write what he was singing… maths… he’d studied maths.
Ismène braked so suddenly that Nick was almost strangled by the seat belt jerking sharp against his neck.
They were saying something about an accident… stopped at traffic lights and on the adjacent junction there were two cars, one up against the back of the other.
Ismène pulled round the corner and stopped… She had an urge to giggle, this night was becoming ludicrous. First she’d nearly run over Nick as he lurched into the road, pushed, she’d thought, by the massive Goth… then the Goth turned out to be Noah, with fantastical make-up, and now, driving them home, a car crashed before her eyes.
The driver who’d crashed into the car in front was trying to open its door, shouting at the other driver, his face contorted with rage.
“Noah, what should we do?” she wanted him to say ‘you stay in the car, Ismène, I’ll sort it out’ but of course Noah wasn’t like that.
The angry man was banging on the window of the other car.
“Hey, that’s Alex’s car! It’s Dad!” and Noah jumped out and Ismène followed.
“You fucking twat! Why did you stop!!” the man was thumping his fists on the windscreen.
“What’s your problem, mate?” Noah bellowed.
“Hey, you tosser, what you doing?” Nick called, he was lurching towards them.
“This drunken idiot just stopped!” the man said belligerently, staring in disbelief at Noah.
“He’s a friend of mine, if you exchange insurance details we can get everything sorted,” Ismène spoke reasonably, smiling in a pleasant and unthreatening way. Her calmness belied her anxiety and nerves. Not only did this man look capable of attacking any of them, but Nick and Noah were obviously ready for a scrap. It was like being a teacher in a playground full of aggressive teenagers, unpredictable and possibly dangerous.
Unexpectedly Noah stepped forward, grasped the man by the shoulders and thrust him aside so he tumbled and fell over. A woman appeared and with a screech rushed to the man now sitting on the road looking bewildered. Noah wrenched open the door and peered in at his father.
The man got up, walked towards them and suddenly, unexpectedly, lashed out at Nick who staggered sideways. He swiped at the man, catching him on the ear as the woman swung her handbag full in his face.
Ismène was shrieking ‘stop!’ ineffectually as the woman, man and Nick wrestled together. Noah was getting Alex out of the car. In the lurid light of the street lamps he looked deathly, and he looked drunk. The lights must have changed because several cars came by slowly, rubbernecking as they passed.
“You fucking drunk!” the man suddenly lunged at Alex but cannoned into Ismène, and she tumbled backwards, pulling him over. For a moment they were bathed in light as another car went past then its tyres squealed as the driver braked.
A man got out of the car and suddenly everything would be alright because there were four Portbraddons… It was Antoine.

Here is a link so you can find out what happens next to this extraordinary family:

http://amzn.eu/3T4M60V

 “Lucky Portbraddon… a rather rascally ancestor of my late husband, or so family legend has it, was a favourite friend of the Prince Regent, apparently, but Lucky made, not lost, his fortune…”
A few days before Christmas, as the Portbraddon family gathers at their grandmother’s big house up on the moors, the last of the cousins drives through a blizzard to join them: 
…There was a severed dog’s head stuck on the gatepost. There’d been a few seconds pause in the driving snow and in those few seconds, lit by their headlights, she glimpsed the wolf-like creature, maw gaping, tongue lolling, teeth bared in one final gory snarl. Then the blizzard obliterated the stone beast and everything else in a seething maelstrom… 
A near-death experience does not seem an auspicious start to their family get together, but the cousins determine to celebrate as they always do. 
However as the old year ends and the new begins it seems their good fortune is about to run out. An unexpected death, a descent into madness, betrayal… and as the year progresses other things befall them, a stalker, attempted murder, a patently dodgy scheme for selling holiday homes in a dangerous part of the Caucasus… Maybe the Portbraddons are not so lucky… except there is also love, a new home, reconciliation, a spiritual journey, music.. .
One thing remains true, whatever difficulties arise between them, whatever happens, family is family, family first… “They’re like a big bunch of musketeers, all for one and one for all!”