Kathryn L. Ramage has a B.A. and M.A. in English lit and has been writing for as long as she can remember. She lives in Maryland with three calico cats named after the Brontë sisters. In addition to being the author of numerous short stories, reviews, essays, and period mystery novellas, she is also the author of a series of fantasy novels set in a dukedom called the Northlands on an alternate Earth whose history has diverged from ours somewhere during the medieval period.
A short day. Our driver Sean had the day off and so we had a substitute, a local man named Martin.
The morning’s tour began with a drive to the village of Leenane–a scenic little place, wedged in at the foot of the mountains at the point where the river flowed out into Killary Fjord (Ireland’s only fjord).
The village and surrounding countryside featured in a film called The Field, starring Richard Harris, Sean Bean, John Hurt, and Tom Berenger. I’ve rented it from Netflix since I returned home, primarily to see if I could spot places I’d been. It’s set in the 1930s. Harris’s character is an old farmer who had rented and tenderly cultivated a field for many years, until the owner of the land put it up for auction. The person most interested in buying the field is an American businessman whose grandfather had emigrated from the same part of Ireland. Things end badly for everyone concerned. Not a bad movie, but very depressing.
Storylandia, The Wapshott Journal of Fiction, Issue 10. The novella “Death Among the Marshes,” a murder mystery set in the Twenties, by Kathryn L. Ramage.
Death Among the Marshes
A Murder Mystery Set in the Twenties
The Great War had made many boys into old men, but in spite of all he’d
suffered, Frederick Babington still looked surprisingly youthful for his
26 years. He was a pale, intense, and solemn young man—more pale, Billy
thought, since he’d been wounded so terribly. At least he no longer
limped and the burn scars on the small and ring fingers of his left hand
were now only puckered reddish skin. His dark hair had been cropped
short during his last stay in a private nursing home over the winter
past, but it was growing out again and beginning to curl just as it used to.
Billy watched as one loose curl fell forward over Freddie’s brow as he
returned his attention to the book he’d been reading before the
interruption, a newly published mystery novel titled Whose Body? When
Freddie lifted his eyes from the page a moment later, Billy pretended an
interest in the book.
“What’s that one about?”
“There’s a dead body that turns up in a bathtub, quite starkers—not a
stitch on except for a pair of gold pince nez—and nobody seems to know
who the dead chap is, not even the people who live in the flat where the
“I don’t see how you can read such things, about dead bodies and such,
after– well– after seeing so many dead folk yourself in the trenches.”
Billy felt sure that dwelling on the subject of murder had done no good
for Freddie’s state of mind.
But Freddie responded, “This is different. It’s not real, you know. The
murders in these stories are always somewhat fantastic and never have
the true stink and ugliness of death about them, not at all like the
terrible things you and I have seen. And it’s all cleaned up in the end.
I’m quite certain the detective chap in this one will find out who the
naked body in the bath is and discover who put him there in the last
chapter. They always do. It’s quite comforting in its way.” Continue reading “Death Among the Marshes: A Murder Mystery set in the 1920s”
The next morning, we drove over to Westport House, which is just on the other side of the town; later in the day, one of the couples on the tour walked on the path along the river in Westport and found their way back to it.
Westport House was the home of the Marquis of Sligo. The family still owns it, though they no longer live there.
Their most famous ancestor was the 16th-century pirate queen Grace O’Malley, who once met with Elizabeth I. There are statues of O’Malley in the house and on the grounds, as well as a pirate-themed children’s park. Continue reading “Irish Travel Journal, Day 4”
After getting in so late from dinner at the Abbey Tavern, I was up the next morning at 6:15 and had my bag ready outside the door of my room for the hotel porters to take down to the bus before I went downstairs for breakfast. We had a long drive ahead of us–all the way across Ireland.
We were out of the hotel by 8:30 and soon heading west on a highway that grew more narrow the farther we left Dublin behind us. It was soon down to two lanes. Once again, the morning sky was overcast and there were occasional spatters of rain on the bus windows during the first part of our journey. But it was beginning to clear by 11:00, when we arrived at Strokestown Park. Continue reading “Irish Travel Journal, Day 3”
When the tour group gets onto the bus the next morning, our first stop of the day is at Trinity College to see The Book of Kells. Fortunately, we arrived just before an even larger busload of tourists got there, so we didn’t have to wait in line behind them.
Once inside the library, before you reach the book itself, there is an exhibition about how the book was made and about the art and craft of medieval book-making in general.
The Book of the Kells is under glass in a separate room, open to pages that show some very delicate blue ink tracery between the lines of script.
On the floor above this display is the long gallery of the Old Library, which houses a large and impressive collection of old books and more rare and interesting items under glass.
The first and last time I visited Ireland was in the summer of 1987. I was a student at the University of Lancaster and my sister Chris was studying in Madrid; we made plans to meet in Dublin. My journey was a relatively short one–just across the northern end of Wales by train, then a ferry from Holyhead to Dublin’s port, Dun Laoghaire (that’s pronounced “Dun Leary”). I was there the next day. Chrissy, on the other hand, had a longer train ride and much longer boat ride. I waited around the Dublin Youth Hostel for her for 4 days and I had to go back to the UK soon after she got there, so I had little chance to look around Ireland then. I always meant to go back one day.
When we last visited the charming coastal town of Collinsport, Maine, Laura Collins, Roger’s long-absent wife, had returned to ask for a divorce and to reclaim her son David. But as her story progresses, it becomes increasingly obvious that something is not-quite right about Laura. She has a peculiar effect on certain people, especially her son, and some very odd and interesting things are happening.
Sam Evan’s painting of a woman amid flames is almost finished. The woman portrayed is clearly Laura Collins. Lines fan out behind her like rays of light or stylized wings. A David-shaped blank spot remains in one lower corner. Everyone who sees the painting is appalled by it and calls it horrible. Actually, I think it’s kind of cool–Sam’s best work from what I’ve seen.
In spite of her opinion of the painting, Vicky feels compelled to buy it and take it back to Collinwood to show the family. When David sees it, he loves it and wants to hang it in his bedroom.
That night, the painting glows and the head of Laura Collins emerges from it until it looms large over the foot of the sleeping boy’s bed. The huge, blonde head does not chant “Tom Stewart killed me! Tom Stewart killed me!” although the floating head of the murdered singer in Tormented is the first thing that springs to my mind.
Since the 3rd set of DVDs for the early episodes of Dark Shadows isn’t available from Netflix, I debated whether or not to wait for them or to go on to the 4th set.
It was the appearance of Josette Collins’s ghost at the very of the 2nd set that prompted me to skip ahead and hope I wouldn’t miss very much.
No, as it turned out, I didn’t miss much at all. The murder mystery is drawing toward a conclusion
To my delight, the first episode in the 4th set begins just after Roger Collins has been arrested for the murder of Bill Malloy. I gather that there was some business about a distinctive pen being found by Vicky in a suspicious place (I did see the beginning of this; Burke gave the pen to Carolyn, and Roger took it from her). Roger apparently dropped the pen, and then made an incriminating ass of himself. And now he’s being questioned by the police. Continue reading “DVD Review: Set 4 of Dark Shadows: The Beginning”
I started out to watch the first two DVD sets of Dark Shadows: The Beginning, 70 episodes in all, and have reached the end of the second set. At this point, the investigation into Bill Malloy’s murder still going on.
My overall impressions:
Before I started watching Dark Shadows, the one thing I’d heard about the very early shows is that they were laughably bad, with frequent boom shadows and flubbed lines. Yes, these things do happen. Curious shadows appear on walls behind the actors, or an object that might be a microphone or part of a camera rigging is glimpsed at the edge of the screen. My favorite was the shadow of one of the TV crew crossing the foot of Vicky’s bed in a very early episode. Lines are sometimes misspoken, but they aren’t huge gaffs. I note from the chalkboard held up at the opening of each show that almost all of the shows as filmed are first-take efforts; the poor actors don’t get a second chance if they slip up. So I’m inclined to be forgiving. Continue reading “DVD Review: Winding up the first 2 sets of Dark Shadows: The Beginning”
As I mentioned in my first review of Dark Shadows, the earliest episodes following Victoria Winters’ arrival at the little Maine town of Collinsport are rather tedious to get through. Most of them are taken up with the Burke Devlin revenge plot, which I can’t work up any interest in. Even in that story line, it seems like something only happens every third or fourth episode; the others consist of different pairs of people talking over the same points again and again.
To be fair, the show’s writer sometimes shows a clever turn in jumping from one conversation to another, both discussing the same topic and each picking up where the other left off even though the two are occurring in different parts of Collinwood or even miles apart in the town. But if this was usual for soap operas of the era, I’m surprised people could watch them from day to day. On DVD, an episode runs about 20 minutes with the commercials removed and I would watch 4 or 5 in an afternoon. That helped it move a little more briskly.
At this early point, I could see why they eventually brought a vampire into the story to liven things up. Some of the characters were definitely begging for a good bite to the jugular vein. I was about to give it up. Then, at about episode No. 40, things began to improve. Continue reading “DVD Review: More of Dark Shadows: The Beginning”