Pete Davison – WIZARD WITH WORDS


This November, once again Pete Davison has begun writing an unofficial NaNoWriMo work of fiction.  Last year he wrote WASTELAND DIARIES which you will find on his site, http://angryjedi.wordpress.com/ in the side bar.  It was gripping, addictive – each day I’d read his blog before anything else as soon as my computer was on.

His work this year is as acceptional.  As-Yet Untitled Month-Long Work of Fiction, is now up to Chapter 19.  Here is the Link to the first Chapter.

http://angryjedi.wordpress.com/2012/11/01/1018-as-yet-untitled-month-long-work-of-fiction-chapter-1/

Below are some of my comments to Pete on his blog.  You may get an idea of his writing skills from them.  I hope they give you the nudge to click on the above Link and read his work for yourselves.  The first comment was in response to one of his Game Reviews, but leads in nicely to the Novel Comments.  You can see all the comments in his ‘Recent Comments’ and RSS Comments in the sidebar of his blog site.

OMG Pete (am I allowed to say that?) you are a Wizard With Words – in other words
WWW –                         I read your game-play avidly, then laughed aloud before reading the rest of the blog. The writing skills in both are so great – fluent, descriptive, complex yet ‘user friendly’ (I hate that expression but now it is in use I find it hard to think of another way of saying it because it intrudes into my mind and takes over!) Poodoo! Where was I?
Oh yes I was waxing lyrical about your hugely entertaining writing.  (About a different blog.)

A great start Pete. Drawn me in already. A question – is the current ageof your protagonist 18? Or is he now older, experiencing this with memories of 18, the time of the accident? I ask because his ‘voice’ is older, more mature than an 18 yr old, who for example would say “… my dead sister ” rather than “deceased sister”. I guess this could become clearer to us both as you write more. I know that a story unfolds, and you don’t really know where or how this will be till your hand has written the words on the page. It’s the thing I love about writing.
Love it already. Can’t wait till tomorrow!
Also, now I really have to have a go at it. Where oh where will I find the time??!! Paintings to do, blogs to do for 2 sites, games to test, books to read, life to live . . . How the hell do you fit it all in, I ask, baffled?!!

Okay Pete. I’ve started mine too – you’ve nudged me into doing so. Ta mate! https://judsjottings.wordpress.com/wp-admin/post.php?post=756&action=edit&message=6&postpost=v2
I think that should link you to its page. Or just  judsjottings.wordpress.com  should do so as well. I’d like to know what you think. It might not be worth going on with it. I’m a little unsure. I mean what if the opening is boring? Unlike yours which of course grabs your reader straight away. Mine usually do, but I’m not sure about this. I modified it as I transferred some 3am scribblings into coherence. Hope I didn’t lose the impact of the original. Si g h . . . Why am I doing this? Don’t I have enough on my plate?? Sheeeeeesh! At least, like you, I haven’t officially joined NaNoWriMo this time.

OMG Pete.. You dealt with that tiny age/language issue really well. So impressive. And of course I only know you from what your write, how you write, your apparent nuances and connotations. I don’t know what language level you and your mates used when at Uni. I only know what the young students were like from my mature age position while at my Uni over here. For all I know your language use in casual chatting may have been way more mature and sophisticated than the students I had contact with. Of course in Tutorials was a different thing altogether. And internal monologues are different again, I know.

Anyway, you dealt with it professionally, subtly, smoothly – integrated it as part of the natural narrative. And as it passed me by I didn’t stop to check it over, just rolled on through, as I should, following the text, the dialogue, on and on. It has been worth the wait – a whole long year of waiting – till you started your new unofficial NaNoWriMo. Actually – I need to correct that a little – is it just me, or does it feel like it’s been only about 6 months of waiting? I can’t believe that It’s nearly New Year – if I survive Xmas first of course.

No pressure mate . . . but I want more, more, more!

OMG!!! Sorry Pete, but your writing is so powerful that I can’t help saying it. I will probably want to start any comment to you this month with OMG!
I was almost not breathing when I was reading some of that. Gripping is the word. And I can hear you through it – your voice is so open, psychological, emotional, and delving, deep, deep into the characters.
It’s how I wish I were brave enough to write – it’s all there waiting for me to release it, but I hold back so I don’t shock or embarrass family. What a wuss I am.
I have already had 3 hits on my SINGAPORE SLASHER, so I suppose I had better get on with whatever is coming next in the story. I wonder what that will be??
Is it tomorrow yet? I want to read the next chapter of your work. Stuff mine. :!

I don’t want to keep bothering you, but hitting LIKE doesn’t seem enough somehow.
This is remarkable writing, especially considering it is ‘on the fly’. It leaves me breathless. I could see where it was going just before it went there, but that doesn’t lessen its impact! I wish I could say “Stuff all the other things you are doing in order to make a living, just get on with the f’n story because I can’t wait till tomorrow – and after all “It’s all about meeee.” S i g h . . . Abject apologies for losing control there. Deep breaths. Calm. Patience.
Is it tomorrow yet? Are we there yet?

Am writing a disclaimer for my SINGAPORE SLASHER to the effect that I need to do a lot more research before it is an accurate story set in Singapore. That way I can just let the story unfold and fix all the stuff-ups later. Otherwise I will have to write a different story completely and shelve this one till I can approach it with research in hand.

See you tomorrow Pete.

“Argh, dammit WordPress, don’t close my comment window before I’ve posted it! Ahem. Let me try again and try to remember what I just typed and promptly lost.

Re: the perspective thing, yes, it’s a challenge, but it can work. As a matter of fact, some of the “visual novel” games I’ve been playing recently handle this exceptionally well. One called Deus Machina Demonbane is the example that sticks most prominently in my head — that has a first-person “player protagonist” whom the majority of the story unfolds from the perspective of, but occasionally switches to a third-person omniscient narrator for things that are happening elsewhere without the awareness of the protagonist.

Demonbane never explicitly says “we’re switching perspectives now” though. It makes it immediately clear to the player/reader through the contrasting “voices” of the narrators. Kurou the protagonist is informal, “human” and somewhat world-weary. He often addresses the player/reader directly, and the things he describes are tinged with his own feelings rather than cold detachment. By contrast, the rather Lovecraftian third-person narrator uses rather overblown language and descriptions to make everything sound rather “grand” and spectacular. It’s an effective technique that can be used well in traditional novels too, though you have to take real care to get that “voice” right.

For this, though, I think I’ll be sticking with the single perspective. I did the multiple perspectives thing last year. I could probably work it in to this, but it’ll be a good experiment to try and stick with a single one this time around. We shall see. ” Pete Davison

 Your handling of the First Person narrative is masterful. You stay with your character all the time, and are not tempted to shift into third person to inform us of the actions of the other characters. This is a trap I fall into. I think I need to fill in the gaps for the readers, but you just refer to where they are going and leave it at that – and stay with your first person character – your protagonist. It’s wonderful stuff, and keeps the reader focussed and involved. I will give it a try next time to see how liberating it might feel.

That was neatly done Pete. The section in the middle I mean. It gave me a feeling of deja vu, to the point where I went back through your previous chapters from the first one forward to see which one you had lifted it from. I stopped at about no 6 as I didn’t think it was beyond that. I was thinking what a cool idea that was continuity-wise to repeat a section as a flash-back. But you hadn’t. It was the stuff about the being chased nightmare, and then the clock radio digits which you did use from the beginning that gave this impression.
But the fact that you hadn’t, meant that it was the totally believable familiarity of that section that created the impression – a going back over known territory – a great device.
Don’t think I am reading this in an analytical mind-set – I am gripped by the story, speed through it avidly, pick on the emotive nuances and subtleties, comprehend where the story is going as it happens, and as I finish each chapter sit back with a smile on my face in total satisfaction, and admiration for your ability to write this well ‘on the fly’. In fact I find as I’m reading it that I speak to the characters, telling them what the obvious answer is to their questions, and saying “Of course it’s that” when they get there. I am an outside observer though, caught up in their tale, while they are embroiled in the confusion and emotions of the events.
I’ve tried not to comment for a few days, so you don’t feel bombarded, nor overseen by me – if you get that? But I am waving the flags, tooting the horns, and generally cheering from the sidelines for you. Like in a rock concert, I want to yell “More! More! More!”
PS: By the timeyou finish this novel, I will have an essay on it from all my comments!!

Wow!  Dynamic!  Dynamite!

SINGAPORE SLASHERS – Part 4


This is my NaNoWriMo entry Part 4.

(While all locations are real, by necessity and for authenticity, the events and characters are entirely fictitious.  Please read this as a Draft.  I am writing this from memory.  Please excuse inaccuracies.  I will amend these as I get the chance to peruse my old diary entries and copious brochures and pamphlets I acquired while living there.  A murder mystery requires research, but in order to try to keep up with the spontaneity of NaNoWriMo projects, I will get on with the narrative, and tidy up the errors in the Second Draft stage.)

Singapore Slasher – Part 4

Next morning the team arrived at Orange Grove Road for a more thorough search, while as predicted a snarl of traffic snaked along the road, squeezing through the narrowed section with inches to spare.  But nothing was found.  No sign of the weapon.  No traces in the undergrowth, behind the gate, behind the wall, in the gutter other than soggy leaves washed there by the early morning drizzle, or on the pavement.  Apart from the already-swabbed, coagulated blood on the steps, and a ‘clean patch’ on the darker aged pavement at the base of the steps, there was nothing.  The team had also swabbed this area the night before to determine if detergents had been used there.  These samples were in the CSI laboratories awaiting testing.

Watching the writhing traffic from her living room window vantage point, Lara Castle cradled her coffee mug against her chest, and turned down the corners of her mouth.

“Troy’s not gonna be happy about this, then.  He’s gonna blame me.  Bugga.”

She turned away, replenished her coffee, and turned on the TV.  The news was full of the story of the murder.  A rare occurrence in Singapore, it warranted the major news time-slot, with ‘On The Scene’ footage.  There on the screen was the crime scene, a close-up of the blood on the steps, pulling back past the fluttering Police Tape, and the searching minions in their eerie jumpsuits, to a generic reporter in her make-up, sleek hair, and fitting suit, speaking at a higher pitch and, due to the traffic, higher volume.  The fact that the TV crew and their vans were adding to the congestion didn’t seem to faze her at all.  It just increased the horn honking.  Suddenly Troy moved into the shot.  Lara gasped.

“Here is Mr Troy Castle, whose wife discovered the body last night.”  She shoved a hand-held microphone into his face.  “Tell me, Mr Castle, what happened?”

“My wife was coming home from work late last night, when she found the body sprawled on the steps over there.”  He pointed behind him to the steps in the background, leaving no doubts as to the exact location of the crime.  This ensured that all the ghouls and thrill seekers would know exactly which steps to have their photos taken in front of, as soon as the crime scene tape was gone.

“Why was she late?”  The mike was thrust towards him again, then retracted as she added, “And why was she walking alone in the dark at such a time?”

Disconcerted at the twist to his first statement, Troy’s eyebrows snapped together into a scowl.  The reported smirked.  “She always walks home late at night. She teaches at a language school and the classes are always after hours.”

It was the reporter’s turn to look a little disappointed – she’d expected a bigger bite, an angrier response than that.  She tried again.  “Well, can you tell me what happened?”  She smiled encouragingly.

“She, my wife, was walking home, came round that bend (pointing), and there it was.  Sprawled on the steps.  With its head back and its throat cut.”

Delighted by these salacious details – a real bonus – she rewarded Troy with a wonderful smile.  Mollified, and smoothing his already slick hair, he grinned back at her.  She edged a little closer to him.  “How do you know these details, Mr Castle?”

“Because I saw the body too.  I came down with her to wait for the Cops – the Police.  And there it was.  Well, there she was.  It was a pretty Singapore girl.  Lovely hair, and tiny feet.  But dead.  Quite dead.”

The reporter took a step back from him.  This was a little more than she had expected, and though it was much more than she’d hoped for, and could only boost her career chances, there was something rather unsettling about the way he had responded.

“Well, that’s all for now,” she began, but Troy interrupted her.

“It’s a damn nuisance though.”

Startled she said, “What?!” a thing she tried to never to say – well not like that.

“Well.  Look at all this bloody traffic.  How am I supposed to get to work on time now?”  Troy waved his arms around indicating the very obvious traffic, totally oblivious to the fact that he had just cursed on Singaporean television.

Watching the screen, mouth open in shock at Troy’s revelations, but not at his attitude, Lara hoped there would be no repercussions.  Shaking her head at his folly, she moved to the bathroom.  She needed to shower and dress, then catch a taxi to the police complex to make her statement.

* * *

In his office earlier than normal – the investigation of murder wasn’t the norm – DI Lim watched the screen in disgust.  How could that Expat be so indiscreet?  Now he would have to go into immediate damage control.  And he’d probably get dressed down by his Superior.  He shook his head, lips in a tight line.  What a way to start an important investigation.

The door crashed open as DS Lee burst into the room.

“Sir.  Sir.  Did you see that on TV?”  He registered, the news footage on the TV screen behind his boss’s shoulder, then the angry expression on his boss’s face.  “Oh.  You did.”

Other than compressing his lips till the line became white, Lim didn’t respond, but turned to move behind his desk.  “I will deal with that man when he comes in to make his statement after work.  I should go down and haul him out of work, when he gets there, but as we didn’t take down those details last night we can’t do so.  Well we could go back to the apartment and get them from his wife, but I think we’ll just hit him with it when he gets here.  He won’t expect it.”

Lee nodded, afraid to comment.

Realising that he should have stopped speaking after the first sentence, Lim sighed, shuffled some papers on his desk, and asked, “Has the post mortem report come in yet?”

“Just a preliminary one so far, Sir.  Throat cut by a right-handed person.  And it looks like someone washed her feet carefully, and creamed them.  And her hands as well.”

“Like she had a pedicure, and manicure?”

“Yes, Sir.  Same, same.”  As Lim frowned, he added, “It looks like that, Sir.”

“A right-handed person doesn’t help us much – that’s the majority of the population.”  He tapped his pen on the desk.  “Nothing else?  Had she been interfered with?  There was semen in her hair.  Was it anywhere else?”

“Yes, Sir.  It was in her hair.  And some on her neck.  And her knickers, her panties were missing, Sir.”  Lim’s eyebrows shot up.  “They had been removed.  We didn’t notice before, because her knees were together.”  Lim nodded, as an image of the girl, sprawled up the steps, knees together and feet placed carefully on the pavement, flashed into his mind.

“What about ID?  Did they find any purse or handbag?  Any ID cards?”

Lee shook his head.  “Nothing, Sir.”

“Did they look in the gardens of the Shangri-La?”

Lee nodded.  “Yes, Sir.  Nothing there, Sir.”

“Widen the search area.  Look in all the garbage bins, and dumpsters, and skips, at all the buildings along Orange Grove Road, and Stevens Road.  Maybe they’ve been thrown in a bin nearby.”

“I’ll arrange it now, Sir.”  Lee moved towards the door.

“Then come back here.  We need to go to the Shangri-La and look for witnesses.  And I think we’ll go and talk to Mrs Castle on her own.”

“She is coming in this morning, Sir.  To give her written statement and sign it.  Will we wait for her?  Or go to the Shangri-La first.”

“Yes.  Yes, she is.  Bother.  I wanted to talk with her first.”  He paced up and down a few times while trying to mentally sort out his priorities.  “I think we’ll head over to the Shangri-La first.  We don’t want to alienate the Manager.  If Mrs Castle arrives while before we return, she can give her statement to DC Yeo.  And then wait for us.  Then we can add to it after we chat with her.  See to it.”

Lee nodded, then hurried out.

* * *

In a Salon on the third floor of Lucky Plaza on Orchard Road, a pretty Singaporean girl reclined into the relaxation of the special massage/pedicare chair, and wriggling her toes presented her feet for attention.  She smiled into the face of her attendant.

(C) Jud House  15/11/2012

* * * * *

THE REPRESENTATION OF WOMEN IN GREEK MYTHS.


Basically the quote by Roger D Abrahams that “male values are embodied in narrative form.  And . . . [that] the male ideal of women is projected in such [hero] tales” is a reasonable evaluation of Greek myths.  However, that the latter comprises mainly of “inaction, constancy, and a willing subordination” on the part of the women in these Greek myths is an understatement  which seems to ignore the main characteristics of most of the women therein.

These were portrayed as Goddesses, nymphs, semi-immortal and mortal humans who were usually the wives and daughters of Gods and/or royalty.  On rare occasions there were passing references to serving-maids, of the latter, who were indeed passive and subordinate both to the royals and to the story to which they were incidental.

According to my references, the characters of all the above women were portrayed with little disparity, for example the authors’ views of Hera were virtually identical.  Hera was acknowledged as Queen of Heaven, wife and sister of Zeus, Lady of marriage and guardian of children, and , as were most of the women of Greek mythology, very beautiful.  However, it was also agreed that she was jealous, revengeful, cruel, and capable of great cunning.

Proud, revengeful, and jealous, Hera resented the fickleness of her husband’s affections, and was wont to wreak her revenge on any being, mortal or divine, upon whom he looked with too much favour.  (Guerber, 1978 ed., p. 33)

Hera was anything but subordinate to Zeus, though when necessary she would appear to obey him until an opportunity arose to defy him surreptitiously.  As evident in many of the myths she meddled in the lives of various heroes and heroines, often through an agent.  For example, having engineered his subservience to Eurystheus, SHE chose the tasks, which Heracles must perform to earn his freedom, that were apparently set by Eurystheus.

Admittedly, these negative traits of jealousy, meddling, revenge and guile are male ideals of the negative side of women, just as beauty, nurturing, and kindness are the positive ideals. It is balanced to show both negative and positive traits, but in the Greek myths the balance was often heavily weighted on the negative side.  This view of the dual nature of women as seen and portrayed by the male may be traced to the very nature of motherhood, that of nurture and punishment.

The fact that it is woman who bears and rears children means that it is first and foremost a child’s mother who not only loves and protects him but also thwarts and punishes him.  The twin experiences of mother’s love and mother’s rage seem to implant an ambivalent attitude to women in general, which is reflected in beliefs about the supernatural.” (Encyc. of World Mythology, 1975, p. 29)

It is believed by many of my references that the Greek males saw the negative traits of the women as representing the anima, or femaleness in themselves, which they considered a weakness to be resisted and subdued at all costs.  Hence they had to overcome, on their journeys, many females both mortal and immortal who displayed various combinations of these negative traits.  An example of this was the variety of feminine types that Odysseus came into contact with – Circe, Calypso, the Sirens, Nausica – with Athene throughout his ordeals.  Each were faced and dealt with according to their difficulty, with Odysseus using the anima in himself to solve the problem set and to outsmart them.

His wife, Penelope, was beautiful and apparently subordinate to men, patient and faithful to her husband despite the pressure brought to bear on her by her family and the suitors.  This last characteristic revealed a strength and determination which does not fall within the parameters of Abraham’s quote.  In addition to these traits, she also displayed a degree of deviousness in the way she chose to foil her suitors – by unravelling her cloth at night, and setting the suitors a task that she knew was beyond them.

Curiosity, gullibility and vanity are traits depicted in mortal women.  Pandora, whose curiosity caused her to open the box and let out all the ills that have since plagued mankind, condemned all women to be labelled thereafter as she was – the bringer of evil, and the downfall of man.  The daughters of Pelias were gullible when they allowed Medea to trick them into killing their father in the hope of giving him new life, as Glauce was vain when she donned the poisoned robe and tiara that Medea had sent as a wedding present.

Medea was portrayed as an evil and wicked witch who led Jason astray – another of those supposedly feminine traits.  Circe, on the other hand was shown as a good witch, once she had been over-powered by Odysseus.  She released his men and regaled them for a year, cleansing him and advising him on the obstacles ahead of him.  Essentially I find her to be distinctly feminist in her reaction to male visitors to her palace, and she definitely does not fit Abraham’s quote.

Finally there is the representation of woman as the Mother-Goddess, or rather the lack of it.  Admittedly, Hera was the Goddess of marriage, and Demeter was the Goddess of Harvest and epitomised the mother/daughter love-bond.  But the kind, loving, nurturing mother figure that Goddesses originally were was alter -ed by Homer and his fellow mythographers to become less threatening to men.  Any mature Goddesses were given strong negative traits as already discussed, or presented as androgenous figures (like Artemis) whose youth and innocence was non-threatening.

Thus, rather than possessing “attributes of female sexuality and motherhood” they tend to be virginal, and they “combine within themselves attributes of generosity and grace and also those of horror and destruction.” (Encyc. of Greek Mythology, 1975, p. 32) There is a duality in which “the giver of life is clearly seen as the being who also takes it way, and in which promises are hollow and temporary, and hope a mockery.” (Encyc. of Greek Mythology, 1975, p. 32)

(C) Jud House  28/08/2005

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Camus, A. (1982)  THE OUTSIDER.  Harmondsworth: Penguin Books

Dundes, A. (Ed.)  INTRODUCTION: SACRED NARRATIVE.

ENCYCLOPAEDIA OF WORLD MYTHOLOGY (1975).  London: Phoebus Pub. Co.

Evslin, B. Evslin, D. & Hoopes, N. (1966).  THE GREEK GODS.  New York: Scholastic Book Services.

Green, R.L. (1958).  OLD GREEK FAIRY TALES.  London: Bell & Hyman Ltd.

Green, R.L. (1958).  TALES OF THE GREEK HEROES. Puffin Classics. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd.

Guerber, H.A. (1978 ed.)  THE MYTHS OF GREECE & ROME.  London: Harrap & Co Ltd.

Guthrie, W.K. (1977 ed.).  THE GREEKS AND THEIR GODS.  London: Methuen & Co Ltd.

Homer, retold by Lister, R. (1992).  THE ODYSSEY.  Kingfisher Classics. London: Grisewood & Dempsey Ltd.

Le Guin, Ursula (1975).  ‘This Fear of Dragons’ in THE THORNY PARADISE. ed. Blishen, E.  Harmondsworth: Kestrel Books.

Lewis, C.S. (1952).  ‘On Three Ways of Writing for Children’ in BOURNEMOUTH CONFERENCE PAPERS. Library Association.

Liberman, Anatoly.  ‘Between Myth & the Wondertale’ in MYTH IN LITERATURE.

Ralston, M.V. ‘Mythology for Today’s Children’ in Lees, S. ed. A TRACK TO UNKNOWN WATER: Proceedings of the Second Pacific Rim Conference on Children’s Literature.  Melbourne: Melbourne State College.

Saxby, M. & Ingpen, R. (1990).  THE GREAT DEEDS OF HEROIC WOMEN. N.S.W.: Millennium.

Saxby, M. & Ingpen, R. (1989).  THE GREAT DEEDS OF SUPER HEROES. N.S.W.: Millennium.

Shekley Hyde, J. & Rosenberg, B.G. (1976).  ‘Images of Women in History and Mythology’ in HALF THE HUMAN EXPERIENCE. Lexingham: Heall & Co.

Sidwell, R.T. (1981)  ‘Rhea Was a Broad: Pre-Hellenic Greek Myths for Post-Hellenic Children’ in CHILDREN’S LITERATURE IN EDUCATION. New York.

* * * * *

ALLEGORY IN MEDIEVAL LITERATURE


 

What are the chief characteristics, the significance and function of allegory in Medieval Literature?

To be an ‘allegory’ a poem must as a whole, and with
fair consistency, describe in other terms some event or process; its entire narrative and all its significant details should cohere and work together to this end. …. But an allegorical description of an event does not make that
event itself allegorical. (Tolkien, 1995, p. 8)

Tolkien’s definition describes succinctly the requirements necessary for a work to be considered allegorical.  As the “mode of expression” (Lewis, 1958, p. 48), allegory is the vehicle used to convey the event or process, usually in a narrative form. While he refers to a poem, this definition applies to both prose or verse narratives, though the latter were the common form in Medieval literature.  “There is nothing ‘mystical’ or mysterious about medieval allegory; the poets know quite clearly what they are about and are well aware that the figures which they present to us are fictions.” (ibid, p. 48)  These fictional figures enable the poets to isolate and clarify abstractions, and put them into narrative action that conveys a moral message to their audience.  And this could not be achieved if the characters lacked a connection with reality.

According to Paul Piehler: “Allegory proper pleases by the appropriateness, ingenuity and wit displayed in the translation of the basic material into allegorical form.” (Piehler, 1971, p. 10)  The conception of allegory as the unification of psychological and moral qualities motivated the poets, directing the action of their narratives. And according to Stone, Packer and Hoopes in their introduction to The Short Story, and to the section on ‘Fable, Parable, Exemplum, and Allegory’ “[e]arly stories were vehicles of assertion” (Stone, Packer & Hoopes, 1983, p. 2), where, in allegory,

everything stands for something else, everything is sym- bolic, so the reader is inevitably involved in a process of discovery and interpretation.  It is a clever device, since it relieves the reader of the feeling that he is being preached at; instead he is participating in the story. (ibid, p. 39)

In the allegorical universe, everything is a reflection of something else.  Everything has a physical reality that corresponds to a spiritual reality – an organic relationship between the physical and spiritual that enables spiritual narrative to be conveyed in physical terms.

The function or role of medieval allegory was as a vehicle for moral lessons disguised as tales – homilies, both oral and written.  To understand the reason behind the moral lessons, it is necessary to understand the role religion played in the lives of medieval people. The medieval world had a clear idea of the Universe/Cosmos – what it meant, and man’s place in it. Their belief in God’s power was unquestioning.

Almighty God was acknowledged as the Source of all life; the world was God’s world, and Christians were God’s people.  The workings of God were recognized in everyday life, and any unusual or striking events, whether storms and comets, victories and recoveries of health were regarded as signs of his direct intervention in human affairs …. (Shirley-Price, 1978, p. 29)

He created the world in which they lived transient lives, in whatever class, noble or peasant, into which they were born.  It was necessary that they accept their lot in life, however base it may be, and work through prayer towards salvation in the next life after death.  Thus the moral lessons were intended to keep the population on the narrow path to salvation by condemning all sins and discouraging free-thinking. For example, in Piers the Plowman the two ‘covetous’ men, Worldly Wisdom and Cunning, are described by Conscience to Reason:

They don’t give a straw for God – “There is no fear of God before their eyes.”  These men, I tell you, would do more
for a horse-load of oats or a dozen chickens, than for all
the love of our Lord and His blessed Saints. (Langland/Goodridge,  1959, p. 94)

The inference or lesson is that Worldly Wisdom and Cunning are to be shunned by all right thinking men, if they are to follow the safe path to salvation.

Allegory permeates fables by Aesop, such as The Fox and the Crow, with its moral rhyme at the end – “The Flatterer doth rob by stealth,/ His victim, both of Wit and Wealth.” ((Stone, Packer & Hoopes, 1983, p. 39)  If it was only a story about a fox and crow in their animal form, the narrative would not qualify as allegory.  By giving them human speech and high-lighting their human qualities of greed, vanity, cunning, and flattery, the whole narrative tells a quite different tale, representing those qualities – “everything stands for something else” (ibid, p. 39) – with the resulting moral as a homily for humans.  An Exemplum is a sermon containing an allegorical narrative in order to drive home the moral – for example, “greed is the root of all evil” (ibid, p. 38) conveyed through the story of a priestly con-man fleecing his congregation.  A parable is a shorter exemplum “pithier … with a more or less clear-cut allegorical twist” (ibid, p. 39) – like the stories of the five wise and foolish virgins, and the servants and the talents.  Both were narratives that, by the example of the lessons learnt by their protagonists, conveyed these lessons to the audience in order to prepare them and/or modify their behaviour.

In the Exeter Book, a tenth century manuscript collection of Old English poetry (source: The Norton Anthology of Poetry), poems, The Wife’s Lament and The Seafarer, are narratives with an underlying allegorical meaning quite different from the surface tale.  The story of a woman separated from her husband and lamenting the fact, The Wife’s Lament allegedly can mean the protagonist “represents either the soul or the children of Israel during the Babylonian captivity”. (Norton, 1983, p. 8)  In lines 5 – 8:

I ever suffered grief through banishment.
For since my lord departed from this people

Over the sea, each dawn have I had care

Wondering where my lord may be on land.
(ibid, p.9)

the ambiguity as to which lord the wife refers, her husband or God, is highlighted.  This double meaning which permeates the whole poem, defines the allegorical nature of the narrative – one meaning is the event/process, that of a lonely wife, while the other is the vehicle/mode of expression, the allegorical allusion to the Jews in Babylon.  With either meaning, the notion of separation, loss, exile, and helplessness prevails.  “Grief must always be / For him who yearning longs for his beloved.” (ibid, p. 10)

In The Seafarer, the shift from a narrative about the hardships and pleasures of “a seafaring life” to a Christian homily, suggests that “it is an allegory in which life is represented as a difficult journey over rough seas toward the harbor of heaven.” (ibid, p. 10)  In the narrative, the seafarer recalls his physical life, then moves to his spiritual: “Because the joys of God mean more to me / Than this dead transitory life on land.” (ibid, p. 11)  As already explained, this attitude typifies that held by the medieval society.  Not only does the seafarer extol his own attitudes but exhorts his audience to

  … control himself
With strength of mind, and firmly hold to that,
True to his pledges, pure in all his ways.
With moderation should each man behave
In all his dealings with both friend and foe ….
Let us think where we have our real home,
And then consider how we may come thither;
(ibid, p.12)

As the whole can be read as the physical sea-faring journey to land at a safe harbour, or the spiritual journey through life to Salvation in death, the real home is both physically Earth, and allegorically Heaven.  And by the use of the above characteristics man may face his difficult physical and spiritual hardships on his journey to this real home.

In Piers the Plowman, “a long religious, social and political allegory” (ibid, p. 58), the author, Langland, used the dream-vision, “ a popular genre during the Middle Ages in which the author presents a story as the dream of the main character” (ibid, p. 58), in this case, William, as a vehicle for his homily.  His dream, including its own protagonist, an imaginary vagrant, Piers, introduces allegorical figures, personifications of abstractions, such as Truth, Falsehood, Lucre, Theology, Chastity, Charity, Gluttony etc, and of the institution of Holy Church.  As a “fundamental … expression for the Middle Ages for realities beyond the world of matter”, (Wrenn, 1967, p. 31) this personification of the abstract traits could be used today in a Postmodern text, and, if in a narrative verse form, would bring Literature full circle.

The allegoric method which seemed necessary and natural to Langland had been used by the Anglo-Saxons: and indeed some of its devices, such as the dream-vision and the personification of objects had been magnificently employed …. Langland’s more profound spiritual quality is integral (Wrenn, 1967, p. 31)

to his theme of Salvation.

According to Goodridge, the form of moral allegory allowed the poet to present his tales linked together freely by the personifications, mixing “realism with fantasy in whatever proportion he chose” (Goodridge, 1959, p. 12), and introducing into the narrative a variety of discourses from the religious philosophical dialogue to the “gossip of the street or tavern.” (ibid, p. 12)  He had the freedom to introduce any characters from all classes who would suit the subject matter of the story.  The personifications revealed the moral qualities that were usually hidden by the conventions of society, by focussing the one trait, either good or bad, in one character, e.g., Love, or Conscience; Sloth or Fraud.  It was a medieval form of stereotyping, intentionally practised to stress the moral point of the tale.

The primary medieval audience for the oral and written homilies were the literate clergy and nobility (although not all the nobility were literate), who then read or told the tales to the illiterate masses.  The peasant class of serfs and free-men had the tales read to them by the priests, either travelling from village to village, or in church.  The merchants, and towns-people heard them in the taverns and churches; the knights, lords, and kings heard them in courts, churches or cathedrals.

The significance of allegory therefore lies in its ability to inform its audience of acceptable social, political and religious behaviour.  Allegory was used satirically as a parody of society, to point out its sins, crimes, corruption.  When Liar fled from the Court’s Officer, the Pardoners took him in and

sent him on Sundays to the churches with seals, selling pounds-worth of Pardons,  Then the doctors were annoyed, and sent [for] him … to help them analyse urine.  And the grocers also sought his help … for he knew something of their trade…. [S]ome minstrels and messengers kept him …. [till] finally the Friars lured him away and disguised him in their own habit.” (ibid, p.82)

Liar is seen in this way to have infiltrated all these areas of society, which could therefore not be trusted to deal with people truthfully. What appears to the modern reader as sanctimonious preaching, would be deeply understood and appreciated by the fourteenth century audience as necessary guidance for their achievement of salvation.  Recognized by them, the satirical attacks on particular institutions, political and clerical, and on particular individuals within their society, are lost through time for modern readers.  In fact, according to critics of Langland’s Piers the Plowman, the inside knowledge was lost to the literary critics of the following century.

Dressed in allegory, Langland’s homily revealed the social conditions of the Ages, e.g. exposure of the legal system, with its ducking stools and pillories, of the huge influence of the Church over the king and country, and the corruption of both.  For example, the character Lady Lucre, Falsehood’s daughter, aided by Fraud, Flattery and Guile, first beguiles Father Simony and Lord Civil Law, and then bribes the members of the King’s court – the Clergy, Counsellors, a Friar, the Mayor, with a variety of gold and silver coins, jewels, titles, seats in the Bishop’s court, stained glass windows and donations of funds.  When the King, in an attempt to reform her, suggests she marry Conscience, she complies hurriedly.  But Conscience wants nothing to do with her, and is backed in his judgements of her by Reason, who finally sways the King with his arguments.  By her actions Lucre represents “another kind of payment … which men grasp at – the bribes they get for supporting evil-doers” (Goodridge/Langland, 1959, p. 89), rather than money “which labourers receive from their master … [as] … a fair wage.  Nor is there any lucre in trading with goods”. (ibid, p. 89)

This personification of characteristics is obviously allegorical, used to bring home the message of corruption within the systems, caused by the Seven Deadly Sins, and to offer an alternative way of life involving prayer.  Lady Holy Church, the daughter of God, representing the heavenly Church, talks with the dreamer, William, when she comes to interpret his dream.  “[H]e bows before her and asks the crucial question from which the action of the poem springs: ‘Tell me, O Lady whom men call Holy, … How may I save my soul?’” (ibid, p. 17 & 72)  He also asks her: “…show me some way by which I can recognize Falsehood” (ibid, p. 76) illuminating another theme that flows through the narrative.

The marriage, trial and downfall of Lady Lucre, Falsehood’s daughter follows as examples of recognizable falsehood and evil.  The Seven Deadly sins confess and Piers the Plowman appears to lead the crowd on a physical journey of their spiritual quest to find Truth.  During this narrative phase their mode of social life is exposed, via their coarse behaviour, and colloquial language – with the use of similes like “Dead as a door nail”/ (ibid, p. 75)”as ded as a dore-tree” (Passus I, Line 185 – Skeat, 1958, p. 14), and humour, such as, Crime “shall sit in [the] stocks till his dying day …. [and] make sure he never sees his feet for years.” (ibid, pp. 96 & 95)    Stereotypical characters such as inn-keepers, and blacksmiths are mainly seen in relation to the allegorical personifications, and to the converted pious Piers himself.  In his work, Langland used personification of abstractions and institutions to achieve an interaction between them and individuals within the community.  Also his use of real places, intertwining reality with the imaginary, generates an authenticity within the narrative – “the numerous allusions to London, are taken as facts in someone’s life”. (Tolkien, 1995, p. 11)

Another form of allegory was achieved by the use of symbolism, often in conjunction with personifications.  While, as already mentioned, “allegory is a mode of expression [which] belongs to the form of poetry, more than to its content … [s]ymbolism is a mode of thought…” Lewis, 1958, p. 48)  Allegory while incorporating it in creative action, can be “distinguished from symbolism, whose ancient and profound images are less readily interpretable in rational terms.” (Piehler, 1971, p 11)  Symbols are used to represent things rather than events, for example a dove representing peace symbolizes it in a narrative (or painting) about war. It is important to understand that “…we are dealing with a period when …. their waking imagination was strongly moved by symbols and the figures of allegory, and filled vividly with the pictures evoked by the scriptures, directly or through the wealth of medieval art.” (Tolkien, 1995, p. 10)  Dream-visions were accepted as signs from God, and particularly believable when experienced and recorded by a poet in “great bereavement and trouble in spirit” (ibid, p. 10), as was the author of Pearl.

The narrative poem, Pearl, was an example of this symbolic allegory – using symbolism juxtaposed with personification.  As a symbol of purity and innocence, a pearl represents the author’s daughter, named Pearl (Margaret or Marguerite), who dies as an innocent child, two years of age. The author, in Pearl, “enlarged his vision of his dead daughter among the blessed to an allegory of the Divine generosity…” (ibid, p. 3)  She returns as a young maiden, the bride of Christ (one of many), dressed in white embellished with pearls, in a dream-vision to visit her grieving father as he sleeps by her grave.  Once again the overall theme is one of salvation – Pearl is essentially

an argument on salvation …. aris[ing] directly from the grief, which imparts deep feeling and urgency to the whole discussion …. the debate represents a long process of thought and mental struggle, an experience as real as the first blind grief of bereavement. (ibid, p. 13)

The author, in his role of bereaved father argues with his daughter initially for her return to him, and then for permission to cross the river and join her in Heaven.  When he tries to do so the vision vanishes and he is left alone by her grave.

I woke in that garden as before,
My head upon that mound was laid
Where once to earth my pearl had strayed….
And I cried aloud then piteously:
‘O Pearl, renowned beyond compare!
How dear was all that you said to me,
That vision true while I did share. (ibid, pp. 126-7)

By her revelation of the city of Heaven, and her blissful sanctified position as Christ’s bride there, despite her infancy and because of her innocence, she allays her father’s fears for her and lays his grief to rest.  Allegorically the fears of the poem’s audience are reassured of the attainment of salvation by all who are pure and innocent, whether baptized or not.  Mourners should get over their grief and move on with life in a manner that could lead to their re-union in Heaven later.

It is important to understand the importance of the first-person narrator in these medieval allegorical tales. According to Tolkien in his Introduction to his translation of the poem,  “… in Pearl…. the ‘I’ of the dreamer remained the eyewitness, the author, and facts that he referred to outside the dream … were on a different plane, meant to be taken as literally true …”. (ibid, pp. 10-11)  This imaginary narrator, in reality the author, acted as an eyewitness to the events of the tale as they unfolded – “[t]ales of the past required their grave authorities, and tales of new things at least an eyewitness…”. (ibid, p.10)  Tolkien knew that the Middle Ages was a time when men believed that dreams, though confused and unreliable, held “visions of truth”.

This was one of the reasons for the popularity of visions: they allowed marvels to be placed within the real world, linking them with a person, a place, a time, while providing them with an explanation in the phantasies of sleep …. So even explicit allegory was usually presented as a thing seen in sleep.” (ibid, pp. 9-10)

I have quoted Tolkien at length here because he explains the phenomenon of the dream-vision as allegorical vehicle with clarity.  And both works, Piers the Plowman, and Pearl, rely on the dream-vision to convey their important moral message to their audience. Tolkien believed that “the narrated vision in the more serious medieval writing [like Piers the Plowman, and Pearl] represented, if not an actual dream at least a real process of thought culminating in some resolution or turning-point of the interior life …”. (Tolkien, 1995, pp. 10-11)  William experiences this turning point at the end of Piers’ search for Truth, and Pearl’s father experiences it upon waking by the grave.  As a narrative vehicle, the dream-vision allowed the author/ poet great flexibility of material and character within this thought process that created the forms of allegory – moral, religious, social and political.

(C) Jud House  30/04/1998

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Piers the Plowman

Langland, W. (1377) Piers the Plowman.  Edited by Skeat, Rev. W W (1869)Edition: (1958)  Oxford:  Clarendon Press.

Langland, W. (1377) Piers the Ploughman.  Edited by Rieu, E V  Translation by Goodridge (1959)  Harmondsworth:  Penguin Classics, Penguin Books.

Pearl

Tolkien, J R R (1995)  Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Pearl, and Sir Orfeo.  London:  Harper Collins Publishers

General Texts

Arnold, R. (1963)  Kings, Bishops, Knights and Pawns – Life in a Feudal Society.  London: Constable Young Books Ltd.

Brooke, C. (1971)  The Structure of Medieval Society. London:  Thames and Hudson Ltd.

Lewis, C S (1936)  The Allegory of Love – A Study of Medieval Tradi-tion.  New York: A Galaxy Book, Oxford University Press 1958.

Ker, W P (1896, 1908) Epic and Romance – Essays on Medieval Literature.  New York:  Dover Publications, Inc. 1957.

Paxson, J J (1994)  The poetics of personification  Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press.

Piehler, P (1971)  The Visionary Landscape – A Study in Medieval Allegory.  London:  Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd.

Sherley-Price, Leo (1978) (Translator: 1955, 1968) Bede – A History of the English Church and People  Harmondsworth:  Penguin Classics, Penguin Books

Stone, Packer & Hoopes (1983)  The Short Story – An Introduction.  New York:  McGraw-Hill, Inc.

PART 1.  BEGINNINGS: FORMS OF EARLY STORIES – Myth and Legend;  Fable, Parable, Exemplum, and Allegory – pp 1 – 67.

Wrenn, C L (1967)  A Study of Old English Literature.  London:  George G Harrap & Co. Ltd. 1970.

Poetry

Allison, Barrows, Blake, Carr, Eastman, & English Jnr; + Stallworthy (essay) (1983)  The Norton Anthology of Poetry 3rd Edition.   New York:  W W Norton & Company.  Pp 3 – 83

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SINGAPORE SLASHERS – Part 3


This is my NaNoWriMo entry Part 3.

(While all locations are real, by necessity and for authenticity, the events and characters are entirely fictitious.  Please read this as a Draft.  I am writing this from memory.  Please excuse inaccuracies.  I will amend these as I get the chance to peruse my old diary entries and copious brochures and pamphlets I acquired while living there.  A murder mystery requires research, but in order to try to keep up with the spontaneity of NaNoWriMo projects, I will get on with the narrative, and tidy up the errors in the Second Draft stage.)

Singapore Slasher – Part 3

Back in the apartment a silence had set in.  Troy shoved their now cold dinner into the microwave to reheat, then plonked the hot plates down on the table mats and flung himself into his chair.  He began to eat, cutting the food with sharp movements, stabbing the meat with his fork, chewing aggressively.

“Why do you always have to get involved in things?  In other people’s business.” He scowled at her lowered face.

She raised her head and looked him straight in the eyes.  “It’s funny, isn’t it?  That’s just what I was expecting you to say.  Not ‘what an awful night you’ve had’.  Not ‘what a dreadful thing to find’.  But that somehow, by walking home from work, I had brought this on myself.  Somehow caused this murder to happen so I could find it and get involved.”

With shaking hands she placed her cutlery as neatly as she could on the plate, folded her napkin, pushed her chair back, and left the table.  She picked up her handbag, and her keys, and left the apartment.  He didn’t speak.  He didn’t make a move to follow her.  He just sat there fuming.

Outside, the humidity smothered her as it always did when she left any air-conditioned environment.  She made her way to the lift, rode it down to the ground floor, then walked through the collonade of bourgainvillea to the pool.  Hitching up her good work skirt, she sat on the edge, dangling her legs in the water.  The breeze was cool by Singapore standards – her standards now as she had acclimatized some time ago – and ruffled her hair and clammy face and neck.

Not for the first time, she asked herself why she stayed with him.  She knew he had this side to him.  This need to control – to be the boss – to blame her for anything that went wrong.  If there was ever an accident it was “Why did you do that?”  Not “Are you hurt?  Are you okay?” Nor even, “How did it happen?”.  He had so many nice characteristics – he could be kind, though not often; he was clever and not boastful, though he never seemed to recognise that she was clever too; he was diligent at work – a workaholic in fact – and stuck to what he believed, even when proved wrong.  Stubborn.  Controlling with money, yet generous to others.  They shared humour – when they saw things that amused them together – but not verbally.  You had to converse to do that.  And they didn’t do that much, because he was ‘all talked out’ by the time he got home.  That’s why she had taken this teaching job – to be with people and have conversations.

Yet if any of these things were pointed out to him, he just denied them flat.  He did not recognise that he was like this.  He was Mr Wonderfullo.  He’d do a little dance to make her laugh – and she couldn’t help herself – she had to laugh.  He could be such a clown.  It was like the cloud of repression that surrounded him would lift and he’d behave without inhibitions, a free spirit.  But only briefly.  Then the restraints would descend and he’d resume his usual negativity.

She realised, sitting there with her legs licked by the almost tepid water, that that was why she stayed with him.  Every time she saw this breaking free, this exposure of the clown, the closest he came to a sense of ridiculousness that she had as part of her humour, she felt that there was hope for him – and for them.  She sighed, withdrawing her legs from the pool.  Sloughing off the water from her legs with her hands, she slipped her sandals back on, and headed back to the apartment.

* * *

Down in the street, the Police Tape was up, ribbons of authority defining the crime scene, the ‘no go area’.  By the morning, the traffic that  used Orange Grove Road as a short-cut between the northerly Stevens Road and the junction with the south-westerly Tanglin Road and the south-easterly Orchard Road, would be snarling through the now restricted winding undulating hazardous street, causing jams at either end and along the three tributaries.  People from the adjoining apartments would be trying to exit their driveways into the unyielding stream of vehicles, cursing in the saunas that their car interiors would become.  Taxis, shuttle buses, and delivery vans would be trying to enter the driveways of these apartments and hotels, holding up the jammed line behind them, and succeeding only in allowing a tenant to pull swiftly out to be replaced by the next in line.  Chaos and noise would ensue.  But no-one would remove the Police tape, or brashly just drive through it.  This was extremely law-abiding Singapore.  Besides they would also be curious as to what the tape was doing there – it was rarely seen by the general public.

In the cool of the night, the tape fluttered, reflecting in the glistening road, now damp from the misting air.  In the gutter a tiny trickle of water moved past the Shangri-La,  around the sharp curve dropping towards the bottom of the S-bend in front of the RELC Building, then the apartment complex driveway, then vanishing from sight as it rounded the next bend.  Orange Grove Road embraced this complex, bringing the heavy peak traffic twice a day, a steady flow during the day, and a quiet swish of the occasional car at night.

The gardens that jostled for space, created a false oasis, an apparent peace, a liquid green tranquillity that was shot with flashes of daffodil yellow as small birds flitted amongst the dank lush foliage.  Tropical flowers thrived – Helaconia, Frangipani, Orchids, Bougainvillea – their colours splashing the flashy architecture at every glance.  It was an exotic, lush, glorious heady mixture.

But on the steps, the colour was not from petals.  The bright red had already changed to dark ruby as it coagulated.  In this mist, the likelihood of it drying was minimal.  Until the entire area had been thoroughly searched, both the blood and the police tape would remain.  The young Constable, looking as many Singaporians look, at least ten years younger, stood on the pavement  near the steps.  Not too near in case there was still evidence they hadn’t found in the dim streetlighting supplemented by torchlight.  His was a boring yet onerous task, and it was important that he be alert, as the DI had made quite clear to him.  There was always a slim chance that the culprit might return.

A visible shudder shook his slender body, and he glanced around anxiously.  He fiddled with his cigarette packet in his pocket, wishing he could indulge but knowing that would be ‘out of bounds’.  He could not contaminate the crime scene with his ash or butts.  At the thought of the DI finding one of his damp squashed cigarette butts, he shuddered again, his face momentarily distorted by sudden dread.  His hands dropped to his sides and he stood to attention.

Finally home, his wife, Wan, called out to the DI from their bed “That you , Jun lah.”

“Yes.  Sorry I am so late.  There has been a murder in Orange Grove Road.”

“Was it bad this killing?”  She stood by the bedroom door, her silk dragon gown folding round her slight frame.  As he always did, on seeing her Lim felt a rush of warmth, of enveloping good luck that she was still his.

“Yes.”  He passed her wearily, touching her face fleetingly with his fingertips as he made his way to the bathroom.  The hot water washed away the clinging miasma of death that always resulted from contact with these violent crimes.  He stood there lathering and rinsing until he felt his shoulders relax.  Then he turned off the water, clambered out of the bath, over which the shower hung, and dried himself vigorously.  He cleaned his teeth, quickly shaved – better to do it now in case he gets called out again during what was left of the night – and joined his wife in the comforting dark of their bedroom.  The thick shantung drapes had blockout linings, and tulle behind them for daylight hours.  This ensured a dark sleeping chanber no matter what hour of the day or night he lay down.

“You want to talk about it yet?”  Wan was curious, but also was his sounding board.  he often talked to her about his cases, as it helped clarify his thoughts, arrange his perspectives, and often provided sudden solutions.  She was highly educated, held a respectable, and respected, position in one of the Ex-Pat apartment/shopping complexes near Orchard Road, and so was a capable listener.  It was necessary for her work to be adept at listening to others in order to solve their problems.  She had many satisfied clients.

“Not really.  I need to sleep.  We have to examine the scene at first light in case we missed something.  The sooner we can release the road from ‘out of bounds’ the better.  The traffic will be awful.  I’ll tell you about it tomorrow when I get home.”  He sighed.  She put her hand on his chest, leaned forward and brushed his cheek with her lips.  He smiled.

“Sleep well.”  Wan  turned over into her customary position facing the outside of the bed, snuggled into her pillow a little, then drifted back to sleep.

Lim gazed into the dark, then slowly lowered his eyelids.

(C) Jud House  10/11/2012

* * * * *

SINGAPORE SLASHER – Disclaimer


While all locations are real, by necessity and for authenticity, the events and characters are entirely fictitious.

Due to the fact that Crime novels are not exactly compatible with the NaNoWriMo writing method – that of pushing out 1800 words a day, writing on the run, free-wheeling, or whatever other cliche suits you – I feel compelled to inform you that if I am to do just that, then it’s imperative that you read the story as a Draft.

Normally I would take the time to do research regarding the judiciary system, police procedures, language nuances etc, prior to commencement.  It is about 10 years since I lived in Singapore, for 8 months, but it seems that that has made my memory of dialogic quirks fade making me unsure of the authenticity of the work for the reader, and squashing the spontaneity.  Also having had no contact with the police, I am unsure how they would address each other – formally or informally.

Having said that I will proceed with the story ‘on the fly’, let it unfold, and take me and you where it will, and return when all is done to fix the glaringly obvious after some research – which, with a bit of luck, might entail another trip to Singapore!

Jud House  9/11/2012

* * * * *

SINGAPORE SLASHER – Part 2


This is my NaNoWriMo entry Part 2.

(While all locations are real, by necessity and for authenticity, the events and characters are entirely fictitious.  Please read this as a Draft.  I am writing this from memory.  Please excuse inaccuracies.  I will amend these as I get the chance to peruse my old diary entries and copious brochures and pamphlets I acquired while living there.  A murder mystery requires research, but in order to try to keep up with the spontaneity of NaNoWriMo projects, I will get on with the narrative, and tidy up the errors in the Second Draft stage.)

Singapore Slasher – Part 2

Detective Inspector Lim JiaJun looked down at the sprawled body, then sadly shook his head and sighed.

“Poor girl,” he said softly, to himself.  Turning, he waved the SOCO team to go ahead, then moved over to where the Australians stood, half turned away from the coming indignities that the dead girl would go through, yet not wishing to leave in case it were the wrong thing to do.

“You are Lara Castle?  I believe you called the crime in to the SPF?”  Still he spoke quietly, but there was no doubt as to his authority.  A quiet authority.  Impressive.

“Yes.”  Lara nodded.  Then shivered.  The night was clammy and a little cool now.  “I ran – well staggered actually – up to our apartment complex over there,” pointing towards it, “as soon as I saw she was dead.  I didn’t touch her.  I could see the gash on her throat.”  Drawing a ragged breath, as she relived the moment, she continued.  “I called from the lobby.  Well – the Concierge called for me, then I spoke to someone and told them.  About the body.  And where it was.  They said to wait by the body till you came.”

DI Lim nodded.  “What time did you find her?  And how long before you returned?”

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t look at the time.  All I could think of was to call you, the police, as quick as I could.  To get you here.  But the Concierge may know.  And the phone record will tell you.”  She paused, then added, “I’m sorry.  I didn’t come straight back here.  I went to our flat and told Troy what had happened and that I had to go back, come back down here.  I wanted him to come with me.  I didn’t want to stand here alone waiting in the dark.  I didn’t feel her skin so I didn’t know if the killer was still here watching, or if he had long gone.”

DI Lim had been listening and watching her closely.  She was obviously someone who believed in accuracy – she had corrected little details as she spoke – so was probably honest and truthful.  Her husband had said nothing so far.   He turned to him.

“Can you verify that?  And do you know what time it was?”

“Yep.  I reckon it was about twenty past nine when she came in.  Roughly.”

“I knock off at the school where I teach English at eight thirty.  It’s in a side street off the Raffles end of Orchard Road.  It takes me about half an hour or a bit more, to walk home, depending on whether I have to wait for traffic lights, or if there’s things I stop to look at.”

DI Lim suppressed a smile.  Not the right time to be smiling.  But he liked this woman.  “And was there anything to look at tonight?”

“Not really.  And I got mostly green lights, though I had to wait by the old Art Deco theatre.  You know, the one they are remodelling, or renovating into apartments.  I love that building.  I wish it would stay as a theatre.”  She smiled unconsciously.

“Lara.”  Troy spoke sharply, startling her.  “He doesn’t want to hear that rubbish.”

“I’m sorry.  I didn’t mean to waste your time.”  She swallowed convulsively, then looked Lim in the eyes and proceeded.  “No.  I had a good walk home, till I got to the bend and the steps, and the – body.”  Another shiver.  “Poor girl.  I wonder who she is.  And why  she ended up like that.  No-one deserves that!”  Her suddenly angry voice echoed along the street, shattering the silence that had descended once the police sirens were turned off.

DI Lim took a step back, Troy put his hand on her shoulder and gave a little shake, the SOCO team all lifted their heads, looked at her, then returned to their tasks.  Camera flashes flickered intermittently.  In the trees a night bird called and was answered from a distance.

“Sorry.”  Another apology.  Why would this woman need to keep apologising.  Insecure?  Looks like her self-esteem takes a bit of a pounding from her husband.

“It’s not a problem.  You have been very clear with your statement.  It is appreciated.”  Formality over, he felt oddly compelled to add,  “Your concern is natural.  We all feel it.  We always do.”  Then returning to formal mode, “We will need your statement written and signed.  Can you come tomorrow to the Police Cantonment Complex?  It’s 391 New Bridge Road, Block C.”

“Yes. of course. Taxi drivers would know where it is, wouldn’t they?  What time should I come?”

“In the morning would be good, so we have it at the start of the investigation.”

Troy scowled.  “What about me?  Do I have to come too?  I have to be at the shipyards at seven.”

“No.  But if you could come in on your way home to add a small statement from when your wife arrived home till we arrived that would be appreciated.”

“So you really mean ‘Yes.'” Troy grinned suddenly, unexpectedly.  “No problems.  I’ll come after work.  Thanks.”  As Lim nodded then turned away, Troy asked, “Can we go now?  I think my wife needs some dinner.”

“Yes.  You can go.  Thank you.”

Dismissed, the couple hurried away to begin their climb up their steep driveway.

“What have you found?” Lim asked his Detective Sergeant, Lee Ong, who was squatting over the body, now that the SOCO team had moved away to pack up their equipment.

As Lim joined him beside the girl, Lee said, “Not a lot, Sir.  There’s no ID on her, no purse, no jewellery.  It could have been a robbery, Sir.  Maybe she resisted too much.”  He shook his head.  “But I don’t really think so.  Her clothes have been disturbed.  SOCO found semen, Sir.  In her hair.”

They looked down sadly at what had been a pretty girl – glossy black hair cut in a long bob just below shoulder-length.  Her full lips were parted in a grimace, her eyes wide open, still staring.  Her once lithe body flung like a discarded ragdoll, with legs spread but turned in at the knees, and her arms out and away from her sides, her delicate wrists kinked, her palms up, with lotus-petal nails.  Her feet were bare.  And clean.  And seemed to be placed exactly neatly on the pavement beneath the bottom step.  Lim raised his eyebrows.

“Did SOCO get a snap of that,” he asked, pointing at the feet.

“Yes, Sir.  We all noticed that.  It’s like it’s the only tidy thing about her.”   He reached down and lifted her foot gently in his palm.  Beneath it, the pavement was also clean and dry.  Lim widened his eyes, then looked into Lee’s expectant face.  “I know, Sir.”

“Well done, Lee.  Call the photographer back to take some snaps of that also, please.”  He straightened up.  “They can take her away now.  Did the search of the steps, walls, street, undergrowth and gateway find anything?  We’ll need to get that checked in the daylight, thoroughly.  And maybe into the grounds of the Shangri-La.  I’ll have to talk to the management so that they know what is happening.”

They stood together watching as the body of the pretty girl was loaded into the mortuary van and quietly driven away up the hill towards Orange Grove Road/Orchard Road/Tanglin Road corner.

(C) Jud House  5/11/2012

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