Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 64

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Constance Caraway P.I. ~ Episode 64

…”Fanny Renwick at your service…”

Connie and Fan have been the best of friends ever since they met in a Tallahassee eatery 20 years ago, in the midst of the Great Depression…

‘Where is that waiter with my bill?’ Constance Caraway wonders, eating out alone having vowed that she would never do so, ‘only losers eat by themselves’. Having broken off yet another relationship the week before, the 24 year old coed she finds herself alone again. She has taken her time at university, not able to focus in on any specific major, although she always fancied herself a writer, ‘You are a bore, Connie, face it. You need some excitement in your life. Why write about something, when you can experience it first hand’.

“Who are you talking to?” asks the waitress, who had been working that “lounge” side of Yancy’s Place (Yancy hates the greasy spoon designation), replacing Constance’s former male server.

She puts away her journal, looks around as if losing track of someone, “I was—well— looking for the waiter, you know I am done eating and I’d like to leave.”

The young girl notices the legal pad, “Are you a writer? I love to read, reading Agatha Christie on my breaks.”

“Murder at the Vicarage?” Constance does fancy herself the heroine type, especially a younger version of Christie’s Miss Jane Marple. “ I haven’t written much of anything lately.” Constance is secure in that statement, but upon closer examination, she takes notice of the perky redhead handing her the bill she had been looking for. Upon further inspection, this young woman seems overqualified for waitressing “I do not recall seeing you in here before.”

Fanny Renwick at your service; would you like dessert, we have lemon meringue pie, rice pudding and the chef’s famous triple chocolate cake?” Fanny does well do recite the desert menu. “I usually work the bar.”

“I’ll have that cake, thank you,” she had not planned on topping off her meal with a treat, but what the hell. She will temporarily ignore those 5 extra pounds as swimsuit season down at Panama City Beach is around the bend. For the present, she will risk the extra calories in the interest of prying into this Fanny-person’s life status.

Constance Caraway P.I.

Forever Mastadon

page 61

Author Quirks and Habits – A Custom-Writing.Org Production

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Author Quirks and Habits

 A Custom-Writing.Org


Please enjoy this article by my friend Jack Milgram

 Author Quirks and Habits

– A Custom-Writing.Org Production

Top 10 Best Sellers – WIF Bookshelf

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Best Selling Novels

of All-Time


Since these are the bestselling novels of all time, you will not find any non-fiction, religious, or political books, like The Holy Quran, The King James Bible, and Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse-Tung. If we were to include them, they would be the top three in the order that they are listed.

 We chose to exclude those books because people had a spiritual or political reason to buy them. Would these books have become mega bestsellers without religious or political pressure? Who knows, but it is a major influential factor, so they have been left off the list.

nstead, these are all fictional stories that were written by a single person who sprung the idea from their head.

10. The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown: 80+ Million

On this list, you will find some of the greatest books that showcase some of the most esteemed authors to ever live. And then there’s The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. This book that has its own Wikipedia page dedicated solely to people’s criticism of it, ranging from its historical and religious inaccuracies to its poor literary quality. Despite this, some people must have liked it because 80 million copies have been sold since it was published in 2003, and the series it’s a part of has inspired not one, but three disappointing movies from Tom Hanks and Ron Howard.

The book starts off with a murder in the Louvre in Paris, and Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is called to the scene because the victim, the curator of the museum, wrote a coded message in blood. Soon, Langdon and cryptologist Sophie Neveu Abraham are following clues to uncover a secret that has been protected for over 2,000 years. Since there are 80 million copies out there, then there is probably a good chance you know that the secret is Jesus Christ had children with Mary Magdalene. If you didn’t, well, at least now you don’t have to read The Da Vinci Code and you can pick a better book to spend your time reading.

9. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis: 85+ Million

Irish-born Clive Staples Lewis went to Oxford University and specialized in literature and philosophy. After school, he was given a teaching position with Magdalen College, which is a part of Oxford. While there, he joined the literary discussion group, the Inklings, which included another author on this list, who wrote the book in our #6 spot.

Lewis was a prolific writer, but he is best known today for his seven-book series The Chronicles of Narnia. The most famous book and introduction to the series, and the bestselling book of the series, is The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, which was published in 1950.

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe takes place in 1940 and tells the tale of four English siblings who are sent to the English countryside because of the Blitz. While there, they discover a magical wardrobe that is a gateway to another world, Narnia, which is full of talking animals and magical creatures. When the children arrive, the world is in perpetual winter because the White Witch has cast a spell to keep Narnia frozen. To help their friends in Narnia, the children must work together to defeat the White Witch and break her spell.

At first, the critics didn’t love The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, but readers did. It’s estimated that over 100 million copies of it have been sold. The other books in the series were also bestsellers, but none of them reached the levels of the first book.

8. Dream of the Red Chamber by Cao Xueqin: 100+ Million

One of China’s greatest novels is Dream of the Red Chamber, or The Story of the Stone, which was written by Cao Xueqin, a writer and painter who was homeless and drank too much. He wrote the book in chapters during the 1750s and he exchanged the chapters with friends and family, often for food or some wine. He died in his 40s in 1763.

A collection of the chapters formed into a novel wasn’t published until 1791. However, even today, it is debated what the true version of the story is. There have been alternate endings that have survived and even completely different manuscripts have popped up. Today, there is an academic field solely dedicated to studying the variations of Dream of the Red Chamber called “Redology.”

Often compared to Gone With the Wind, Dream of the Red Chamber is a sprawling saga about the decline of a wealthy family and it is full of astute observations about life in 18th century China. It’s a massive book, the English edition is over 2,500 pages long, and there are over 400 characters and several different story lines. One of the most famous storylines involves a man named Jia Baoyu, who is in love with one of his cousins, but he is forced to marry a different cousin and this leads to a terrible tragedy.

The book was a massive hit in China, especially after a TV version was released in 1987, and it is believed that over 100 million copies of the book have been sold.

7. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie: 100+ Million

Arguably the most famous crime writer of all time is Agatha Christie, who is also considered the bestselling author to ever live. In total, she wrote 66 novels and 14 short story collections and she supposedly sold 200 billion of them; which is 28 books for every single person on Earth. Her bestselling novel of all time is And Then There Were None, which has a plot line that is so famous that you’ve probably seen dozens of variations of it in movies and television shows.

In the book (which had a really, really unfortunate original title), 10 strangers are lured to an island under false pretenses. The only thing that all of them have in common is that they were all somehow involved in the death of another person, but managed to avoid punishment. Then at dinner, they are accused of their crimes and told that throughout the night, they would be killed one-by-one. Sure enough, the characters start to die in a manner that resembles the lines in the nursery rhyme “Ten Little Indians,” which is where the novel gets its name, because the last line of the rhyme is “And then there were none.” The killer and how they performed the murders is then revealed in a post script.

The book, which is considered to be Christie’s masterpiece, has sold over 100 million copies to date.

6. The Hobbit by J.R. Tolkien: 100+ Million

While he was a professor of linguistics at Oxford University, John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was grading some papers when he suddenly wrote a line about a creature called “a hobbit.” From that line grew the book The Hobbit, which was published in 1937. At first,The Hobbit was considered a children’s book. However, that view continued to evolve with the publication of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in 1954 and 1955 and this expanded its audience.

The Hobbit has never been out of print and got a resurgence when the Peter JacksonTolkien movies were released. In total, it’s estimated that over 100 million copies of The Hobbit have been sold.

Of course, The Lord of the Rings trilogy is also a mega-bestseller. According to Forbes, over 150 million copies of the trilogy, which includes single books and all three in a single collection, have been sold.

5. Harry Potter and Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling: 107+ Million

The story of Joanne Rowling, better known as J.K., is almost as Cinderella-esque as the protagonist of her blockbuster franchise, Harry Potter. Rowling was a single mother living on welfare in Edinburgh, Scotland, and she typed the original manuscript on a typewriter; meaning that if she changed one paragraph, she had to change anything that followed it. When she finished the manuscript in 1995, she looked around for a publisher, but was rejected by a dozen of them. One of the big problems with The Philosopher’s Stone (which is called The Sorcerer’s Stone in the United States) is that it was twice as long as the average children’s novel.

The winds of fate changed for Rowling when the chairman of a small publishing house called Bloomsbury let his 8-year-old niece, Alice, read the first chapter of the book. After she did, she demanded that he give her the rest of the book. Bloomsbury agreed to publish the book and gave Rowling a $2,400 advance. They also told her to get a day job because people didn’t make a living from writing children’s books.

Today, Rowling is worth about $910 million (she was a billionaire, but dropped off of Forbes billionaire list in 2012, because of charitable donations and Britain’s high tax rates), and it all stemmed from that book that couldn’t find a publisher and no one thought would be successful. That first book in the series has sold over 107 million copies as of 2010.

The rest of the books in the Harry Potter series were also smash hits and it is considered the biggest book franchise of all time. As of 2013, before the release of The Cursed Child and Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, there were 450 million Harry Potter books in print.

4. The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: 140+ Million

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry was a French aristocrat, writer, and pilot. After the Fall of France, Saint-Exupéry went into exile and ended up in New York City, where he continued to write. In the second half of 1942, he wrote and illustrated his magnum opus, The Little Prince. The novella was published in 1943 in North America, even though it was originally written in French because Saint-Exupéry spoke English poorly. It wouldn’t be published in France until 1946, an event that Saint-Exupéry wouldn’t live to see. In 1943, he joined the Free French Air Force and in 1944, he disappeared while doing a reconnaissance mission over Germany. His ID bracelet was found 50 years later in a fisherman’s net off the coast of Marseilles, but his body has never been found.

The Little Prince looks like a children’s book, but it actually has a lot of keen observations and insights regarding human nature and relationships. The book is about a pilot who crashes in the Sahara desert and meets a young boy with curly blond hair. The boy tells the pilot that he’s a prince that fell from a small planet called Asteroid 325, however on Earth we call it Asteroid B-612. The Prince left his home after he fell in love with a rose and he caught her in a lie, so he is traveling across the universe to cure his loneliness.

While the story and the pictures are a bit simplistic, the complexity of the emotional impact has resonated with readers for decades. It has been translated into 250 languages and two million copies are sold every year. Altogether, it’s estimated that 140 million copies of The Little Prince has been sold since 1943.

3. The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho: 150+ Million

Famed Brazilian writer Paulo Coelho’s beloved novel The Alchemist was published in 1988, and it is about Santiago, a young Spanish boy who has a dream that urges him to go to Egypt. Before he sets out, he learns about the Personal Legend, which is something that someone always wanted to do with their life. If someone decides to follow their own Personal Legend, then the universe will try to help them. And the universe is a very powerful ally. If the universe will bend to help a person on their Personal Legend, then it’s possible to do the impossible, like alchemy, which is the process of turning lead into gold.

The book and its message of following one’s dreams has made it a favorite of many famous people. Pharrell Williams gets choked up when he talks about the book, whileWill Smith thinks of himself as a metaphorical alchemist. If you know anything about Oprah, you shouldn’t be surprised that Oprah loves it. She suggested it to Madonna, who said that it was life changing.

Of course, non-famous people also love The Alchemist as well, quite a few of them in fact. In under 30-years, 150 million copies of The Alchemist have been sold.

2. A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: 200+ Million

Charles Dickens was born into a poor family in England in 1812. When he was just 12-years-old, his dad was put into prison over debt and Dickens had to drop out and work in a run-down factory labeling cans. He was able to go back to school when he was 15, but only for a short time before he was forced to drop out again to work as an office boy to help out his family. A year later, Dickens started working as a freelance reporter. He also became a notable cartoonist who published under the name Boz. His work as a writer and cartoonist eventually led to his first novel, The Pickwick Papers, which was published in 1837.

22-years later, Dickens’ published the book that would go on to be his bestselling and arguably his greatest piece of work, A Tale a Two Cities. The book takes place before and during the French Revolution and is set both in England and France. It follows over a dozen characters, both peasants and aristocrats. It’s a rich and complex book that has been a bestseller since it was published in weekly installments from April 30 to November 29, 1859.

While it is impossible to figure out the exact number of copies that have been sold in the 150 years since it was released, most estimates put the sales figure at around 200 million copies.

1. Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra: 500+ million

Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra’s Don Quixote does have a huge advantage over the other books on this list; mainly it’s centuries older than all of them.

Don Quixote is considered the first modern novel and was published in 1605. It follows the adventures of Alonso Quixano, an elderly man who lives in La Mancha, Spain. As he loses his sanity, he reads books about chivalry and decides to become a knight. He declares himself Don Quixote de La Mancha and sets out on his old horse, Rocinante, with his loyal assistant at his side, Sancho Panza, to right wrongs and dish out justice. However, nothing goes right from the start and he gets into a bunch of hilarious adventures.

The book was an instant hit when it was released and it was reprinted six times in its first year, but Cervantes didn’t profit much from it and died poor in 1616. After his death, the popularity of the novel continued to flourish and the book is still popular today. In 2005, which was the 400th anniversary of the original publication, 10 publishing houses released a version of the book. One version from the Royal Spanish Academy sold out their entire stock of 600,000 copies in two months in Spain and Latin America.

To get an estimate of how many copies of Don Quixote have been sold since 1605, the website, calculated how many editions and how many translations classic novels have gone through. By their estimates, Don Quixote has been translated into 25 languages and there have been 963 editions, which calculates to over 500 million copies.

 Top 10 Best Sellers

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Read with me

– WIF Bookshelf

Agatha Christie Retrospective – Power to Women

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Agatha Christie

Rocks Girl Power

We may find it difficult to believe that Agatha Christie, a Victorian wife and mother who wrote crime stories set in rural England, supported feminism through her writings.

Indeed, we will find many critics like Johann Hari who tell us that Christie did exactly the opposite, incorporating “a hostility to feminism” into her stories. The writer is perhaps better known for her partiality towards young and dashing archaeologists and for the most successful disappearing act since Houdini. The latter earned her the title of ‘original Gone Girl‘ in the English media.

But in her own way, Dame Christie was as firm a believer in equal rights for women as the staunchest bra burner.

10. She was a well-paid writer at a time when any woman attempting to claw her way out of the kitchen was diagnosed hysterical


Christie was born in late Victorian England, an era marked by Queen Victoria’s belief that women had to be “what God intended, a helpmate for man, but with totally different duties and vocations“.  The best employment most women could aspire to involved serving tea to the remaining aristocracy . Those who escaped the indignity of domestic service to work in factories could expect the same working conditions as those in the worst sweat shops today.

Christie, instead, became a published writer and amassed an undisclosed fortune. Although the writer’s heirs have always refused to disclose the exact worth of her estate, there is the widespread belief that “by some standards Dame Agatha was a millionaire.” Not bad going, considering most of her female contemporaries could only hope for £500 a year and a spot of sexual harassment as housemaid to the lord of the manor.

9. She was one of the first to introduce the idea of the strong female detective in fiction


Up till the 19th century, there was a very clear formula for female characters in novels. This had more to do with snagging eligible bachelors than polishing mental prowess, as seen in books like Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice .

Women in detective stories didn’t fare much better. From the detectives in Wilkie Collins’s The Moonstone to Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, they invariably featured the “duo archetype of two white middle-class males.” Women were merely ornamental to the story.

Enter Christie’s unlikely Miss Marple, who solves some 37 murders through the simple expedient of using logic and drinking tea; Victoria Jones, the antithesis of the Bond Girl in They Came to Baghdad; Bridget Conway in Murder is Easy; and a whole list of other women who acted much like your average man upon being faced with murder; i.e., rashly and with a disregard for possible consequences.

8. Her heroines beat the men to it


Christie’s women win, even when it’s not their job to do so. In Murder is Easy, it is the amateur Bridget Conway who cracks the mystery and not retired police officer Luke Fitzwilliam.  In N or M, Tuppence beats her husband Tommy to the scene of a spy investigation, causing the British Intelligence’s head to bestow that ultimate praise, calling her “a smart woman.” In The Man in the Brown Suit, it is Anne Beddingfield who gets all the action and the final victory, not the distinguished Colonel Race. And in 4.50 from Paddington, Lucy Eyelsbarrow – a professional housekeeper – pulls all the strings and manipulates the events that lead to the discovery of the killer, while Detective Dermot Craddock is busy buttering his scones. Christie’s leading ladies manage to defy the gender constraints of the time, “repeatedly subverting patriarchy” to steal the spotlight away from their male counterparts.

7. Her murderers are both male and female


The patriarchal society of the time accepted nothing but the most ideal of female character traits, even in fictional women. Writers created females who were devoted wives, caring mothers and all-round snoozefests. When Ellen Wood introduced the idea of a female killer in her 1860 novel Danesbury House, the plot came complete with a strong moral message about the dangers of women indulging in alcohol. Women did not kill for gain and even less did they kill for the fun of it, because the ingredients that make up a ruthless murderer were just not considered to be part of their genetic make-up. Instead, writers made sure to turn their female protagonists into ministering angels.

Christie broke the mold by allowing women to add murder to their CV. Many of her books have female killers who are just as calculating and strong as the male villains and, just like the latter they are perfectly willing to be corrupted for money, love or other gain.

6. Her stories depict married couples as equals


In Christie’s day, well-to-do married women behaved like today’s WAGs. Christie pooh-poohs these life choices through a series of female characters who refuse to conform to the patriarchal structure of marriage.  In stories like A Pot of Tea andThe Affair of the Pink Pearl, Tommy and Tuppence Beresford are a husband-and-wife sleuthing team; they operate like a power couple minus the expensivedivorce attorneys. Prof Gillian Gill describes them as “a team of equals, not as boss and female sidekick”, adding that in many ways Christie’s female characters were the ideal role models for young women of the time and that they “may also have reflected aspects of the author herself”.

5. The success of her female leads is based on brains, not looks


Christie’s murders are solved using the Sherlock Holmes method of deduction. The writer prided herself on creating mysteries that could be solved not by happenstance or guesswork, but by employing logic.

Although Miss Marple was fond of humbly claiming that she only managed to solve the murder thanks to female intuition, the denouement that would invariably follow at the end of every novel pointed at everything else but that. In classic who-dunnit tradition, Christie’s stories always close off with the detectivegiving a blow-by-blow explanation of the facts that led to the murderer’s cover being blown. Miss Marple’s simple reasoning succeeds in making us feel like complete chumps with every logical deduction revealed, making us wonder why on earth we didn’t manage to reach the same conclusion ourselves – particularly as we are always given access to the same information as Miss Marple herself.

4.  Her alter ego is a feminist


One of Christie’s female detectives is Ariadne Oliver, a novelist-turned-detective whom Christie admits is very close to her in character. The list of common personality traits between the two women is substantial. Both created non-English detectives that they then grew to hate – Ariadne found her Finnish detective Sven Hjerson ridiculous, while Christie “wanted to exorcise herself” of Poirot and, in fact, wound up killing him off in Curtain.  Both women were shy novelists who never quite knew what to say in public and both had an inexplicable fondness for apples, leading many critics to conclude that Oliver is an exaggerated version of Christie herself.

Oliver is also a straight-shooting feminist, spouting lines like “if only a woman were the head of Scotland Yard and “Men are so slow. I’ll soon tell you who did it,” both from Mrs McGinty’s Dead.

3.  Her influence extended to real life crimes


Christie’s impact was not limited to a few local book clubs. Iraq’s first serial killersourced her inspiration directly from the writer. And the novel The Pale Horse is quoted by FBI profiler John Douglas as having influenced convicted murderer George Trepal to use the poison thallium to dispose of his victim in a case that happened back in 1998.

When Florida resident Peggy Carr succumbed to a mysterious, four month-long sickness, everyone blamed some obscure stomach bug. But medical professionals soon turned a suspicious eye towards Peggy’s next door neighbor, Trepal, a known Agatha Christie enthusiast who regularly organized murder mystery parties.

A police search on his property yielded a copy of The Pale Horse, in which a series of victims are killed by means of thallium poisoning. Peggy’s symptoms did, in fact, coincide with those of thallium poisoning, despite the fact that the toxin had been banned in the US since 1965. A months-long sting operation finally confirmed Trepal’s guilt.

2.  When Christie’s first husband left her for another woman, she bagged a man 14 years her junior


Divorce for your average Edwardian woman meant a lifetime of poverty and pity. Not for Christie. Upon being dumped, she immediately landed her errant ex, Archibald, in hot water by disappearing without a trace for 11 days.

When that spot of revenge was out of the way (Christie chose to call it out-of-body amnesia), the writer packed up her bags and went off gallivanting to the other end of the world. This was an unheard-of move for a single mother in the early 20th century. In true yummy mummy style, she then married the much younger Max Mallowan.

But even before her first marriage was shipwrecked, Christie never quite embraced the staid lifestyle expected of married women. In 1922, she parked her toddler Rosalind with her mother for 10 months while she toured the world – a move that certainly didn’t help the writer win any mother of the year awards.

1. Her women drive autos


During Christie’s lifetime, gallivanting behind the wheel with no chaperon was viewed more as a lucky privilege rather than a right. For starters, the majority could not afford to buy a car. The advent of World War I, however, soon put a stop to gender restrictions and women were, at least temporarily, allowed to take their place behind the wheel. Once they got a taste for it, British women immediately recognized the ability to drive as the gateway to independence that it was andfeminist groups worked hard to stop the skill from becoming a man’s sole domain once again after the war.

In keeping with the other modern characteristics Christie gives her female characters, not only do many of them drive but they are also exceptionally good at it. They unabashedly show off their “skill in traffic,” like Henrietta Savernake inThe Hollow and their “skill… nerve… and reckless pace,” like Bundle in The Seven Dials Mystery.


Agatha Christie Book List


Agatha Christie Retrospective

– Power to Women

Man Schemes — God’s Does

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Agatha Christie

“Plots come to me at such odd moments, when I am walking along the street, or examining a hat shop…suddenly a splendid idea comes into my head.”

― Agatha Christie

John Henry Newman

“I sought to hear the voice of God and climbed the topmost steeple, but God declared: “Go down again – I dwell among the people.”
― John Henry Newman

Man schemes – God Does