I found news in le Parisien newspaper that the grand-daughter of Marie Curie - yes that woman who won two Nobel prizes - invited a visit to her home in Antony - outside Paris.
In early March a team from ANDRA - National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management visited Hélène Langevin-Joliot, daughter of Irene and Frédéric Joliot-Curie and granddaughter of Pierre and Marie Curie, to deal with radioactive objects. (L-R Marie Curie, daughter and grand-daughter Hélène w/bob)
These radioactive objects were broadly listed as Marie Curie's personal clothing in an armoire.
Did Hélène, her grand-daughter and physicist herself, decide that these legacies are best left out of the Curie legacy? The uranium ores and bulbs containing radium salts that are supposed to be on the personal effects were entrusted to ANDRA so according to Hélène, "it won't be a problem later".
I found this fascinating that Hélène, now in her 90's had left this until now. In the 2000's when I researched Marie Curie's lab for a scene in Murder in the Latin Quarter, it had only been recently been de-radioactivized - if that's a word - by ANDRA. Marie Curie's papers held in the National Archives were still radioactive and if you wished to consult them you had to sign a waiver acknowledging the danger and wear gloves. Maybe Hélène, who knew her grandmother, hadn't been able to let go of her things. I inherited my grandmothers chest of things: Nancy Drew mysteries from the 30s, motheaten silk beaded flapper dresses of the 20s, sagging photo albums of figures in sepia who remain a mystery. Nothing radioactive as far as I know.
Hélène's mother Isabel, also a Nobel winner, Marie and Hélene.
Hélène, a doctor of Physics today.
Annamaria on Monday
I know you have seen this before. (Thanks again, Stan.)As far as I am concerned, it cannot be seen enough,
Ask around with this question, and many of the answers you discover will blame the current sad state of journalism on the dawn of digital media. This is only partially true. Spreading lies, as you would imagine, long predated the invention of the iPhone. Digital information did however make it much easier to spread misinformation.
I was inspired to look into and cogitate about this subject by a shock I received. An email from the progressive organization MoveOn contained this statement about the Trump administration: “So he and his cronies have begun pushing dangerous conspiracy theories to explain his failures—and, as usual, the media is playing right into his hands.”
What I thought? It’s the right-wing that usually makes this sort of statement. They are the ones who have, in the USA anyway, turned the words “the media” into a pejorative, as in the statement above. Imagine if it said, “the free press is playing right into his hands.” No one would seek to condemn journalism in general by calling it “the free press.” If one is finding fault with it, it is “the media.”
Problem is these days it is hard to tell the difference between journalism based on facts and other forms of writing.
True journalism, in other words the reporting of the truth, follows rules. It does not pass off lies as the truth. It shares fact checked information. It does not intermix it with questionable statements or opinions and make them all look like the same thing.
Let’s take a quick look at some definitions:
Fact: a thing that is known or proved to be true.
News: newly received or noteworthy information, especially about recent or important events. Note: In professional news reporting this “information” must be based on assurances that the report contains facts. Where such reports offer opinions, they are given as such and attributed to the holder of the opinion along with his or her credentials to opine on the subject at hand.
In the old days, when the news came printed on paper, reliable publications let readers know the difference between the news and their editors' opinions by what page they put them on. They kept their opinions for a special “editorial” section. Broadcast, tabloid, and especially digital reporting seem to have blurred these boundaries until they have just about disappeared.
Then there are the black sheep of journalism:
Propaganda: information, especially of a biased or misleading nature, used to promote or publicize a particular political cause or point of view.
Yellow Journalism: journalism that is based upon sensationalism and crude exaggeration. This dastardly technique has been around for a long time.
These are techniques meant, not to inform the public so people can make their own judgments, but to manipulate them into thinking the way some power grabbers want them to think.
The latest addition to these enemies of an informed electorate is Fake News.
It terrifies me to have to say that, these days, what is available for public consumption is a complete mishmash of all of the above. Worst of all, those in power have so manipulated public opinion against "the media" that even the most trustworthy outlets of factual, reliable journalism are mistrusted and disregarded, while a large segment of the population have become addicted to propaganda purveyors, who slant everything in the direction of what they want to hear. This hardens their belief in propaganda and fake news.
As the enemies of professional journalism fully intend, this turns any democracy into a pale, frail, moribund version of the sinewy, vital form of government that it used to be.
If you care about this, I urge you to check out these two ways of learning about journalism:
A greatly entertaining TV series that shows what it takes to cover the news well and how it can go awry.
A podcast that discusses current events and how the media is covering them. Fascinating in every way.
As we speak, I am in the midst of a Blog Tour for the publication of my new book, the second in the Lakes Crime Thriller trilogy, BONES IN THE RIVER. I should have been talking about the book at Newcastle Noir and CrimeFest as well.
Current circumstances—UK lockdown for Covid-19 coronavirus—have put paid to any physical festivals or conventions. So, everything has moved online, with panels and interviews and readings. I took part in the recent Virtual Noir At The Bar (Episode 5 on April 29, from about 44:00min to 51:00min) instead of actually meeting up, in an actual bar, to do actual readings from our works.
As well as keeping on top of the Blog Tour, I’m also deeply into the planning of the next two books. And that’s where I run into the biggest questions of all.
How are we going to write about the events of 2020 in the future?
If I look at BONES IN THE RIVER, for instance, the events of the story occur at the annual Appleby Horse Fair, held in the Cumbrian market town for hundreds of years and famous as being the largest gathering of Gypsies and Travellers in Europe.
This year it has been cancelled.
The opening scene, in which a man accidentally runs down and kills a child on a deserted country road at night, could still happen in lockdown—but not after he’d just spent an evening having a meal with friends where they were undoubtedly all sitting around a dinner table—inside—in close proximity.
My CSI, Grace McColl, goes from crime scene to office and out into the field again, mixing with both the public and her colleagues. My detective, Nick Weston, goes to interview suspects and potential witnesses in person rather than by phone or Zoom, because how can you really get a feel for the reactions of the people you’re talking to unless you can see them while you talk.
People are brought in for questioning—their legal representatives sitting alongside them. What will happen in future? Zoom again, or will this cause a major leap forwards in projection hologram technology?
Grace visits her mother, Eleanor, who has moved back from the south coast up to Appleby. Grace’s ex-husband, Max, has been making himself useful around Eleanor’s new house and garden, perhaps as a way of trying to reinsert himself into Grace’s life. Even with the slight easing of lockdown due to take place in the UK from June 1, this is dubious behaviour. They have a barbecue—which as it’s outside would probably be allowed. But Nick also attends and he doesn’t count as family. Not sure he and Grace stay the full six feet apart at all times there, either…
Besides, Nick’s a father with a young daughter, Sophie. Would he risk her health by associating with others more than he absolutely had to for his job? And what about Nick’s partner, Lisa, who has been working suspiciously late at a hair and beauty salon that wouldn’t be open for business yet anyway.
Meanwhile, one of the other CSIs is suspended for a supposed error. He’s staying at home in his scruffs, watching the TV and playing video games—perfectly feasible in these lockdown times! But then he gets a visit from one of his colleagues and, instead of insisting the man stays on the doorstep so they can chat (no garden available in a little terraced house in Workington) he invites the man inside his home—without hand sanitiser, gloves or face mask.
The Travelling community at the Fair live in close proximity inside their vardo and bow-top horse-drawn caravans, and spend their time largely out of doors, but at the Fair they all mix and mingle with no thought to cross-contamination. There’s plenty of washing goes on, but it’s mostly of horses in the River Eden, as fits with tradition rather than to prevent the spread of Covid-19 infection.
And at the stand-off near the end of the book, the police are more concerned with the numbers involved than the risks of getting too close to the saliva of others.
If I’d been writing this book next year, and setting it this year, it might have been a very different story altogether.
So, what do I do about the third instalment? Do I mentally set the story pre-winter 2019, when Corona was still just a beer, and a virus was something more likely to be contracted by your computer than by your elderly relatives?
After all, I didn’t specify that BONES IN THE RIVER was set in any particularly year. It’s contemporary but not tied to any specific, non-transferrable event—the millennium, for instance.
But, in a few years’ time, the obvious setting of a book pre- or post-Covid-19 will undoubtedly date it. I went through my very first book recently, KILLER INSTINCT and UN-dated it. I didn’t change the story but I did take out references to minor things that I felt dated it badly. References to computer floppy disks, video cassette tapes—even public phone boxes, most of which have either disappeared from our streets or been turned into tiny libraries or stations for community defibrillators.
The next book I have planned is a bit more of an experiment, and therefore could be set at any time in the last few years. I don’t intend to make reference to Covid-19 in that story. It still feels too soon. Too raw.
This will give me time to see what’s going to change in societal behaviours in the slightly longer term before I start the next Charlie Fox book. If Charlie’s greatest threat to someone in the future is that if they don’t stop what they’re doing, she’ll cough on them, it’s going to change things in a big way…
What are your feelings, both as writers and readers about the inclusion of Covid-19 in books written right now, to be read in the next year or eighteen months? Do you want them to reflect these strange times in full and horrible detail, or do you read as more of an escape of what’s going on around you, and therefore not want to be reminded?
And will pre-2020 become seen as the new Golden Age—both of crime and of life?
This week’s Word of the Week is petrichor, meaning the smell of rain on dry earth. It comes from the Greek petra, which means stone and ichor, which means the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology. My thanks to EvKa for sending me this among a whole list of wonderful words. A gift to treasure for a logophile like me!
BONES IN THE RIVER, book No2 in the Lakes crime thriller trilogy, was published worldwide on May 26 2020by ZACE Ltd. You can grab a sneak peek at the first three chapters, and buy here from all the usual retailers.
Mass-market paperback: 978-1-909344-70-9
Hardcover Large Print: 978-1-909344-72-3
Driving on a country road late at night,
you hit a child.
There are no witnesses.
You have everythingto lose.
What do you do?
The traditional Appleby Horse Fair hosts the largest gathering of Gypsies and Travellers in Europe.
The sudden influx of more than 40,000 visitors into the small Lakeland town has always caused its share of problems, with strained relations between off-comers and locals.
But it’s also known as a good time to settle old scores.
This year, the Fair brings with it with the discovery of two bodies near the River Eden—one very recent and another a long time buried.
As CSI Grace McColl and Detective Nick Weston search for answers, old secrets are revealed, old wounds are reopened, and tensions threaten to erupt into violence.
While someone much closer to home is trying to get away with murder…
The follow-up to DANCING ON THE GRAVE, the first of the Lakes crime thriller series, BONES IN THE RIVER is a self-contained story featuring:
CSI Grace McColl. She is forty, amicably divorced from her husband, Max. Born in the Lakes, she was always a keen photographer, who trained as a crime scene investigator after her photographs were used to help acquit a man who later caused a woman’s death. Grace still feels she has much to make amends for. She hides her emotions behind a calm façade that can make her sometimes appear cold. She lives in Orton village, with a Weimaraner dog called Tallie.
Detective Constable Nick Weston. He is thirty-two, living with his partner, Lisa, a hairdresser, with whom he has a volatile relationship, and a young daughter, Sophie. Nick worked in Firearms in Manchester and then undercover for the Met in London. After he was compromised and almost beaten to death on an undercover op, Lisa persuaded him to transfer up to her native Cumbria, where he is considered an outsider among his colleagues. Nick is still coping with some of the mental and physical after-effects of his experiences.