Saturday, June 6, 2020

Year of an Indie Writer: Week 23 - Discovering the Hinterland TV Series

Scott D. Parker

Since most of us are still spending most of our time at home, I thought I'd pass along a new-to-me TV series: Hinterland.

My wife discovered this Welsh series via Netflix and started watching. I didn't watch at first mainly because of time. Each of the 25 episodes is 90 minutes and, with everything going on, I down to about an hour of TV a day. To watch Hinterland meant I'd have to carve out an additional thirty minutes. So I begged off.

But she continued through the four episode of season 1, liking each episode more than the last. The story centers on Detective Chief Inspector Tom Mathias (Richard Harrington) as he tries to pick up the pieces of his life in the small town of Aberystwyth, Ceredigion, Wales. The something isn't really explained, but that's not really the issue. He is partnered with Detective Inspector Mared Rhys (Mali Harries) and a couple of subordinates.

The Big Town Cop who goes to a small town thing is common in many TV shows and books so there's nothing new here. But Harrington is remarkable at playing Mathias as simultaneously troubled and brilliant, invasive and compassionate. He genuinely cares for the victims he encounters and wants to help them reach a resolution, even if doing so is not exactly according to the letter of the law.

As his partner and local girl Harries plays Detective Rhys as a good-hearted person, trying her best to raise her teenaged daughter on her own. The pair of detectives on the team--Alex Harries as Detective Constable Lloyd Elis and Hannah Daniel as Detective Sergeant Siân Owen--serve their purpose to find clues and pass them on to Mathias and Rhys. And there is Chief Superintendent Brian Prosser (Aneirin Hughes) who took on Mathias but might have a different agenda than he's letting on.

My wife kept pressing me to watch the series. She played a couple of trump cards: Hinterland reminded her of Wallander (Kevin Branagh) and The Missing (Tchéky Karyo). With that kind of recommendation, I started watching at episode 1, season 2.

And I was hooked.

Everything she said about Mathias is dead on. I was instantly drawn to his character, especially the compassionate part. The stories are engrossing and rarely did I see the ending coming.

I have to comment on the landscape. Wales is an interesting place and half the fun of watching this show are the long shots when you see a car driving along the roads. It also looks quite cold. Interestingly, this show is part of an initiative to bring more Welsh shows on TV. Every scene is filmed twice and the actors perform in both English and Welsh. Which brings up another fun side project: seeing which scene doesn't need to be re-filmed.

Literally, as I write this, I have NOT seen the last episode. After the penultimate episode--which features a remarkable secondary character in the form of an elderly woman out on a farm--my wife highly suggested I watch episode 1, season 1 (which is seemingly to play into the series finale). I did that last night. Heck, I'll probably watch the other three episodes of season 1, too.

So, Hinterland, no matter how the series ends, gets a high recommendation from me.

Have you see it?


Last night, I watched the series finale. Just like The X-files or Castle, there is a larger, over-arching thread that runs through the entire series...and it paid off in the last episode. There was a moment, two actually, in which Mathias's personal character is mentioned. The first is when he learns the truth. The second is something another character commented on. It comes toward the end of the episode and it speaks directly how and why Mathias does what he does when being a detective. 

Wonderful show, wonderful ending. I told my wife that I almost wish Hinterland were an American show because then we'd get at least twenty episodes. I definately would love more from this character and series. Alas, with the third series now four years in the past, it is unlikely to happen, but we have a marvelous show to watch. 

Not sure what our next show will be. Any suggestions? 

Friday, June 5, 2020

Beau does a recap

This week, find out how Beau's Book Nook started, plus get a taste of Pluck.

Thomas Pluck

Thursday, June 4, 2020

The Things You Remember

It’s funny what you remember – and what you forget. Especially on days when the world shifts.

I remember growing up in Dublin. I remember being surrounded by love; my family was a small unit, but a solid one. It was us against the world and the weapon we had to protect us against whatever the world threw at us was our love for each other.

I forget when I first knew I was gay.

I do remember when kids told me I was a sissy, a pansy, a poofter, a Nancy boy, a faggot.

I remember spit on the back of my black wool duffel coat; huge green globs of it left there by kids who’d followed me home from school, who were calling me names and challenging me to react.

I remember the fear all the way home, and the shame of having to explain the mess to my parents without telling them why the mess was there.

I forget how I survived growing up in a culture where people like me were either invisible, or there to be laughed at, spat on and abused

I remember leaving the place I grew up in and going where I could live the life I wanted to live.

I forget when I realised that, although you can leave the place you grew up in, that place is going to be with you til the day you die.

I remember my pride when Ireland – the backwards, priest-ridden country I’d left – passed a law that finally – more than a century after English law instituted it, and almost thirty years after Britain had repealed the law – decriminalised Homosexual activity.

And I remember, in a way that makes me cry even as I type these words, the twenty-second of May 2015.

The Irish government wanted to repeal the section of the constitution that described marriage as being exclusively between a man and a woman. There was overwhelming interest in the country – both pro and anti – in the topic, but one of the problems was this: The terms of the constitution, designed to prevent future governments enforcing amendments against the wishes of the population, expressly stated that no such amendment could be made without the majority of the electorate voting in favour of it.

So Ireland, this country which in my adulthood had moved from socially conservative – not to say repressive – to finally honouring the equality it promised in its declaration of independence, had a problem: Human rights would have to be voted on.

And this was a huge problem and a huge risk. Imagine if slavery was something that could be repealed or allowed to remain based on the wishes of the majority. Imagine if Universal Suffrage – the right for everyone above a certain age to vote, regardless of their wealth or their gender – had been decided by a male landed gentry that had a vested interest in keeping women and the working class disenfranchised.

Imagine how these issues – which we now see as some of the key Human Rights discussions in Western History – had been put to the vote. Human rights – the very equality enshrined in the Irish constitution – was being voted on. A “No,” would cause a crisis for the government and – for people like me – deliver a clear message: You’re not one of us. Some of us might be alright with you, but most of us are still the boys jeering and spitting.

But a vote had to be had, and – as you might expect – the fight was on. But this wasn’t just a skirmish. This was a War. On one side, for the soul of a country and, on the other, for the freedoms and right to equality that had been promised one spring morning in 1916.

And for me, it was a battle against the boys who spat on me, the teachers who told me I was lesser. On the people – the ones I’d met and the ones I’d never meet – who had made it clear that they viewed people like me as unnecessary, degenerate, worthless.

On a blisteringly hot day in July 2006, in a town called Midhurst, the shy boy I’d met in a disco in 1990 and I got civil partnered. My whole family. His whole family. People who’d flown in from almost every continent on the planet, attended our wedding and I cried through the whole thing because I realised at the exact moment they opened the doors and the two of us started walking up towards the officiant that I’d been keeping one thought locked inside my whole life:

People like me were never going to have this. We might love, but we’d never be loved. We might find someone to be with, but what we had – what we were – would never be celebrated.

And here it was.

And yet. And yet. It wasn’t marriage.

The spitting boys were still able to sneer and remind me that I was not the same as them. Not as good as them. Not entitled to the same joys as they were.

Then Ireland announced the Marriage Equality Referendum.

Just as my life fell apart.

My mother had been ill for a long time. I’d convinced myself that a long life of illness awaited her; that we’d adjust the pace of her visits to my husband and I, but that she’d be back for Christmas like she always was. Then, at least I wouldn’t have to argue with her about who was cooking Christmas Dinner. But from the end of the summer before it had become serious.

COPD, then cancer. Pneumonia. Sepsis.

And I was still planning Christmas. And she was still going to be there. And it was all going to be alright. And it was impossible – absolutely fucking impossible – that it would all be anything other than alright, because I was doing everything I could to make it be okay.

I wasn’t praying; I’d stopped praying a long time ago.

But I was working; I was planning. I was cleaning and visiting and doing. I was fixing. My whole life – even as the spitting boys in my mind told me how worthless I was – I found worth in fixing whatever needed fixing.

Except, here was something I couldn’t fix.

And so the Marriage Referendum war went on largely beyond my tunnelled vision. I knew about it, but I couldn’t look at it. I posted Facebook posts and I tweeted, and I cried my eyes out when Panti Bliss took the Noble Call at the Abbey Theatre after right-wingers had turned on her and homophobes had been allowed to explain what people like Panti were – and weren’t – allowed to call homophobia. But what could I do? I couldn’t fix the biggest crisis in my life. I couldn’t make it right.

And I couldn’t bear a “No” vote. I think that would have done for me. I think the spitting boys would have overpowered me at that point.

So I let it happen, remotely. Until the day of the vote.

I was working at an Investment Bank in Canary Wharf in London. Like most banks, they block access to almost all social media via the company systems. And so I had my iPad open on my desk from 0700 when I arrived. I had Twitter open. I surreptitiously hit refresh. I refreshed again. I found the #HomeToVote tag.

I hit refresh. Repeatedly.

I cried. Oh Jesus, how I cried. At my desk. Without shame. Without fear. With pure joy.

People came back. Voters flew in from every corner of the globe. <Inner editor’s note: Do globes have corners?><Authors note: Fuck you Sharon. You’re not the boss of me. I’m giving this Globe a series of corners> People took trains planes cars. They hiked. The national airline had to add extra flights.

And I kept crying. Because– despite my already being Civil Partnered in England – this still really really fucking mattered. No other boy was going to feel as unworthy as I had.

But we might lose. What if all those returnees were outnumbered by No Voters? What if my homeland once again chose to tell me I was not entirely worthless, but Worth Less? What then?

Two stories I keep close to my heart but I want to share here today:

My dad. Paul. Mid morning. Walks from his house to the post office to get his pension. He’s going to vote then go to visit my mother in hospital. He walks from Leonards Corner up the South Circular Road past Griffiths Barracks.

It’s a bright sunny late spring morning. He passes what used to be the South Circular Road Synagogue on the right, past the Dublin Mosque on the left, and he turns right, at a crossroads, onto Donore  avenue. As he passes the old Church of Ireland Chapel, he’s thinking of his vote.

Then something slaps his hip. Hard.

It can’t be a bullet, though it feels like one. And as he processes the feeling, his eyes register a car passing him, wobbling away from him, curling into the road he’s on and crashing, definitively, into the bollards in the road ahead of him.

The young woman in the car is being attended to by an army of people who are trying to make sense of the situation, and my father has only one thought: ”I don’t have time to wait; I need to vote.”

So he passes the car. He votes. And only later – much later – does he realise he’s been hit by a car.

Inches another way and he could have been seriously injured. Or worse. The car was travelling at speed. Lives turn on moments like this; worlds shift, and what happened to him – even as he pushed it to one side and focussed on voting and getting to his wife – could have been one of those moments.

He waved it away For my dad, at that moment, it didn’t matter. He had more important things to do.

I called my mother that afternoon. She was in St James’ hospital, and holding the phone was hard, so we’d sorted out the whole answer-then-click-to-speaker approach, and my mother and I talked about nothing. She’d been in hospital for an age, and beyond her room was vague; I was trying to avoid referencing what went on outside, and then she said, from out of the blue:

“We’re voting today. For you.”

And I choked. It wasn’t a vote for me. But it was.

“Have you heard how it’s going?” I asked.

Then, before I could speak, there was noise. My dad arrived in her room, she told him <I imagine she gestured at the phone on the side> that she was talking to me, my dad said “Hello Derek,” and the conversation went something like this…

Me: Hey Dad. Are you okay?

Dad: I’m great. Are you still at work?

Me: I’m home. I left early; couldn’t focus with the vote bothering me.

Dad: <confused> Vote? Oh, OUR vote.

Me: Yes, Your vote. <worried> I hope you voted.

Dad: <Pause> Of course I voted.

Mam: Did you do one for me?

Me: And I hope you voted the right way.

Dad: <chuckles> I voted the only way. Of course.

Me: <chokes>

Mam: <to Dad> And did you put one in for me?

Dad: What?

Mam: Did you post a big yes for me?

Dad:<used to years of my mother’s desire being something he could deliver against> No.

Me: Mam-

Mam: Well they’re not closed yet, are they?

And what follows, via the medium of smartphone, and with the acoustic of a St James’ Hospital room, was a discussion on the concept of voter fraud versus voter intent.

She didn’t get to vote, and a little over a month later she was dead. But my mother got to see the moment. Got to see the change.

And the spitting boys? They didn’t go away, but I learned to turn around and face them. And their sputum right in my face is easier, because I know that the small unit; the family that was us with love against the world, has grown. And now there are thousands of us, who will fly or sail or rail or travel from wherever to be with me.

And I’m mostly good.

The day after the vote I went to lunch with my mate Warren. I still remember we had the most unbelievable short ribs I have ever had. The waiting staff were the most beautiful people I’ve ever seen outside of Tel Aviv.

I remember smiling at them and loving the food.

I remember chatting to Warren about how important the vote was to me.

I forget when it became obvious that my mother would not recover.

I remember the day she died, a little over a month later. And I remember that a month after that David and I – lost and shellshocked and still reeling – converted our Civil Partnership into Marriage as our families and friends surrounded us with Love.

It’s funny what you forget – and what you remember – but here’s what you never forget: LOVE.

And that day in May 2015 LOVE won. The whole country came out in love. People came home from every place they could to vote yes.

I will never be able to forget the spitting boys. But it’s okay, because I will always remember the day a whole country told me – loudly, clearly, and without equivocation – that I was not only alright, but as good as every single one of them.

I remember that. And I will never forget it.


Derek Farrell is the author of ‘Death of a Diva’ ‘Death of a Nobody,’ ‘Death of a Devil’ ‘Death of an Angel,’ and the novella "Death of a Sinner," all published by Fahrenheit Press.

The books have been described as “Like The Thin Man meets Will & Grace.” “Like M.C. Beaton on MDMA,” and – by no less an expert than Eric Idle – as “Quite Fun.”

Derek’s jobs have included: Burger dresser, Bank teller, David Bowie’s paperboy, and Investment Banker. He has lived and worked in New York, Hong Kong, Istanbul, Tel Aviv, Prague, Dublin, Johannesburg and London.

Farrell is married to the most English man on the planet and lives in West Sussex. They have no goats chickens children or pets, but they do have every Kylie Minogue record ever made.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Doing the YA Hustle

Scott's note: Richie Narvaez guest blogs this week, and with good reason.  He has a new book out.  But it's a type of book he's never written before. It's...

Let him tell it.

Doing the YA Hustle
by Richie Narvaez

I recently wrote my first young adult mystery novel. Some writers might balk at the thought of writing what they consider to be watered-down pandercandy, and I would’ve agreed with them before starting this project. But I realized I had nothing to lose. I’ve a couple of books out, but there is no Richie Narvaez brand to undermine, and what few fans I have (Hi, Pete!) seem open-minded. So I said: “YA? Why not?”

There But for the Grace of God
At first, my decision was strictly mercenary. Ever since I started writing crime fiction (in the aughts), people have kicked my shins about the idea. “You should write a YA.” “The only money is in YA.” “Nobody cares unless you write YA.” I thought: I wouldn’t mind not having to worry about paying rent next month. Let’s see what gold there is in them thar hills!

But, also, part of that shin kicking took place because there was and continues to be a desperate call for representation of diverse voices in all genres, particularly the most popular ones. Here was a chance for me to help fill that void.

And then I was curious if I could do it. Writing is a craft, like pottery, and I didn’t want to keep turning out the same old coffee mug. Here was a way I could stretch my creative muscles.

Born to Be Alive
In fact, I had a premise ready to go. Back in 2011, I contributed a short story called “Hating Holly Hernandez” to the anthology You Don’t Have a Clue: Latino Mysteries for Teens. In it, a character named Xander Herrera, a sort of Puerto Rican teen Ignatius J. Reilly, plots against his school rival, a famous Latina teen detective/Nancy Drew type who is tired of her fame.

To prepare, I read lots of YA to see what was being done. And, yes, much of it is pandercandy. But I can still recommend Nancy Drew as well as YA by Jess Lourey, Maureen Johnson, Adam Silvera, and E.L. Lockhart. With these books, I saw how flexible and fun the genre could be.

Pull Up to the Bumper
Now you might think I worried about content. The general edict with most, but certainly not all YA is the usual American hypocrisy: no sex scenes or hardcore cursing, but violence is A-OK. Now I do like a graphic murder scene and the occasional mention of naughty bits, but I avoided both here in order to stick to character and plot and eschew any inkling of excess. And as far as blue language, I try not to overdo it anyway, so, fuck it, I felt secure.

What I did worry most about was being a man in his 50s trying to write/think like a teenager. Many of my friends might say, “Yeah, not much of a stretch.” Still, I feared I was out of my league.

Could I ever really understand the mindset of modern teen? Did I even want to? There would be a lot of argot to assimilate, and it’s not easy to sling slang smoothly in any era. So I decided to set the story back in 1979. I happened to have been a 14-year-old then, so I could reasonably do the walk-talk. Plus, it allowed me to ignore the modern elephant of Deus Ex Cell Phone.

Plus, placing it during my teen years in Brooklyn during the (purported) end of the Disco Era gave me all the material I would need for setting and plot.

Last Dance?
The result is Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco (Piñata Books, 2020). I think it features the naturalism I like to have in all my work, and I enjoyed revisiting 1970s New York City and commenting on the historical importance of disco music.

Would I write another YA? I think there are more stories to tell, but let’s see how this song plays out first.
Holly Hernandez and the Death of Disco can be ordered here.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Ordinary and Loving It

I went to a bookstore yesterday. Such an ordinary sentence. Once. Such an ordinary act. Before.
Now it was like a rock concert, a hug from a friend and dinner in a restaurant, all rolled into one. Hopefully we’ll get back to those three someday, too. For now, though, I’ll take my bookstore and be damn grateful for it.
California is slowly loosening its coronavirus restrictions, and retail businesses are now allowed to open their doors to limited numbers of people at a time. My happy place, Face in a Book bookstore in El Dorado Hills, Calif., decided on a maximum of four customers at a time. They’d been offering free local delivery for a while, which was great—but not a lot of browse-able fun. So yesterday, I was there, my masked nose pressed eagerly against the glass as I waited my turn to get in.
Once inside, two other customers and I kept our distance and soaked in everything on the shelves. Cookbooks, gardening, the new Mary Kubecka, a biography of Billy the Kid, the Hunger Games prequel, so much more. After restraining myself from actually touching every book in the store, I was rewarded by getting to talk to a friend. She works there and we were able to catch up. What would have pre-Covid been a nice chat became, now, a meaningful, wonderful conversation.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been places since the pandemic started. I’ve gone to the grocery store and the hardware store. I’ve gone into work a few times when I couldn’t do an office task from home. But this … this was a place I wanted to be. Those other outings were getting on with living; this was getting on with life.