Archive for August 29, 2011

On the Coast of Somewhere Beautiful*

Posted: August 29, 2011 in England

I hope everyone on the East Coast of the USA will be safe in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene. Last night we went to walk along the Budleigh Salterton seafront, and the contrast with the pictures coming in on the TV from New York was stunning. I felt I should share them with you to prove it is not always raining in Devon, most of the time but not all the time. Agatha Christie’s Torquay is to the extreme right of the photo about 30 miles away on the other side of the River Exe Estuary.








* The title is taken from a song  by Kenny Chesney, former husband of Renee Zellweger.

Historical crime fiction is frequently based on real events. The gap between the events and the books about them can be very  lengthy such as the 35 years in the case of John Lawton’s A Little White Death published in 1998, which was based on the Profumo Affair of 1963; or much shorter as in James Lee Burke’s 2007 novel The Tin Roof Blowdown based on events surrounding the devastating Hurricane Katrina in 2005. 

Last year around the time of the 2010 UK Election I commented that our political leaders lacked some of the toughness of the contenders for the US Presidential Election in 2008. You would have had to go some to match the political shrewdness of Barack Obama, Joe Biden, or Hilary Clinton, and the tough life experience of John McCain. Our lot seemed just a rather bland bunch of rich Oxbridge graduates in comparison. Would this come back to haunt us, when PM Cameron and Deputy PM Clegg were faced with a crisis?

Well the recent UK riots proved a point, it seems everyone in the political establishment from the Prime Minister , and Mayor of London, down to the police borough commanders in London were all on holiday. No one took charge, things drifted while the riots spread and escalated, until after a few days David Cameron decided he just had to take his mind off bombing Libya, to finally return from Tuscany to look after this country. 

Contrast that failure with the recent rapid  reaction of President Obama, Mayor Bloomberg and the East Coast state governors, who were all there directing operations and coping with the far more menacing situation of Hurricane Irene. President Obama read the situation correctly, Irene would not be another Katrina, better to be overcautious than to  be negligent. Hurricane Irene has tempted me to pull down The Tin Roof Blowdown from the bookshelf, and insert it into my reading plans for  the next few weeks. That is what events do, they alter plans.