I was driving in the country minding my own business when by chance I came upon a little church. It was only a shed really, but it had a cross on the gable and was parked on the edge of a large grass field and had a very large parking area. What interested me was the fact that there were no houses any where near this place. Instantly I thought ‘mystery’ and possibly intrigue.
As it happens I had just finished The first Bill Reyner book, ‘Fiend’s Gold’ which at that time was not intended as a series. But there it was, a mysterious church that begged Bill to investigate. The railway crossed the road just a little way beyond the church and at that moment a long and very boring train decided to block my progress. With nothing to do but wait for the lumbering freighter to clear the way I sat and dreamed. Before the train had passed, the plot and story line was clear in my head. It was obvious that this church housed a sinister and very dark collection of bizarre worshipers.
I could hardly wait to get home as the story was buzzing around in my brain and needed to be recorded – Bill was really going to be in for it this time, I could see the danger awaiting him. The week before encountering the church I had been to Tew Falls, it is a beautiful waterfall in a wild park run by the Niagara Escarpment Authority, as I left we decided to come home a different way and low and behold I passed an excavation right on the edge of the park. Someone was building their dream home with a view. The church and the new house just fitted together like hand in glove – the connection being a murder.
Mania is an exciting ramble through the unlikely but presented as very believable way. A lunatic fringe religion that ceremonially murder people. It’s a good mystery and Bill does his best to solve it. If you haven’t read it you should check out the first chapter on my website.
I see that some people found it exciting, there a couple of excellent reviews on Amazon.com and at Barns Noble. Why not pop over to Amazon and look up Mania by Wentworth M Johnson and read the reviews, it’s free and it’s fun.
I’ve made a few errors in my time and I’ve witnessed some doozies. Once when I worked in air traffic control we had a naval aircraft carrier come in for major repairs. The sea base or port had no facilities for aircraft – the obvious thing was to send the planes to us so the pilots could still fly while the ship was being fixed. The aircraft were anti-submarine Fairey Gannets. A strange looking thing with turbo prop contra-rotating propellers. I’ve nothing against the navy, except they have a rather stuck up attitude. Being the so called senior service they have this dream that other people are merely there for their benefit. We did get the last laugh as the commander thought his men should show off their prowess as fliers. But we had a concrete runway not a ship’s deck. Brilliant as the navy must be, they came up with a solution.
We used one meter square concrete blocks with rings in the top for planes to be tied to in high wind conditions. Sort of a way to stop the planes from blowing away. The sailors painted a section of the runway to look like the deck of a carrier, then they placed two rows of our concrete airplane anchors at about 75 meters apart and connected a steel cable along the top. With great interest we observed these diligent jolly Jack tars build this magnificent device. The last two blocks, one at the end of each row were joined with a cable representing the arresting wire on an aircraft carrier. The theory being that the plane would land between the two rows of concrete blocks and catch the wire on the first pair thus being brought to a stop as if aboard the ship. On first sight, this device looked as if it might well do the thing. Though now I’m sure air arm commanders have physics included their curriculum.
The very first Gannet approached making its strange sound as it gently lowered and levelled out for the landing. Flaps dawn, wheels down, arrester hook down. She teetered gracefully in the air then the hook hit the runway. Flames and sparks flew like the devil’s own grindstone. The hook caught the wire perfectly. At this point the experiment went awry. With sixteen thousand pounds of airplane coming in at a about seventy miles an hour the physics of the equation meant the concrete blocks took to the air like fleeing giant crows – well not so much fleeing as converging. They landed on top of the once pretty little aircraft and turned it into so much scrap metal. The pilot escaped with only minor injuries and major embarrassment. The experiment was not repeated.
The trick is to be there and make sure you don’t miss any of the action. I have always been “lucky,” and managed to be on time for the main event. For example:-
I took all three of my boys on a touring holiday of the British Isles and on this particular day we were at a place called Wells Next the Sea. Wells is a small port that takes fishing boats and some coastal tramps. On this occasion I had just stopped the car near the quayside which is also the main street of the town. The river is at a right angle to the main street and dock. I happened to look up and there was a ship speeding down the river towards the town.
Jokingly I said to the boys,” Wow! Look at that, at his speed he’s going to finish up on the highway.”
It certainly looked as though he would never make the 90 degree turn at the end of the river. We watched intently as this quite large ship came rushing down the river at a good thirty-five miles an hour. He did make the turn, but as he was running with the incoming tide he could not stop at the quayside. At the far end of the harbour is what the locals call the pool, a large open expanse of water where they are able to turn ships round and it also happens to be the place where hundreds of privately owned pleasure boats were parked and anchored. The ship dropped anchor and put the engine into full astern. Needless to say it could not stop and ploughed into the crowd of private boats. Most moved aside but two or three were damaged by the impact and one began sinking.
A woman standing beside me suddenly yelled, “I’m going to kill someone.”
The ship stopped and the engine was still at full throttle in reverse. She backed up dragging her anchor. Almost cartoon like one 30 foot private cruiser suddenly upended and then in seconds dived below the water. The ship’s anchor must have caught her mooring chain and pulled the thing to its doom. The private vessel vanished from sight.
“That’s my boat,” yelled the woman beside me.
The fiasco was not quite at it’s conclusion. A sailor coiled a rope and on the instructions of a very agitated dock worker attempted to throw it. His puny effort resulted in the rope dropping into the water as the ship ploughed helplessly into a reed bank on the far side of the harbour, there to remain for several days. That was an exciting demonstration of incompetence I would have happily paid to watch.
Later I spoke with a dock worker and he told me that the ship came in without the aid of a pilot and also came in with the running tide, apparently that’s a no, no.