Monday, 23 November 2009


Cormac’s FFF four starter words were: PATER, PEST, PERPENDICULAR AND SCHLEMIEL.


Arnold Barnes read through the Private Investigator’s report. Despite the somewhat seedy first impression, Valentine had provided a discrete and efficient service. The two typed pages were succinct and the enclosed photographs damning evidence of his young wife’s infidelity.

Arnold sighed and drank some more tea. Maybe he should have listened to his dear old father. The old man had warned him that a marriage to a woman thirty years his junior was doomed from the very beginning and would only lead to heartache.

“Arnie, you’re a fool,” the old man had barked and then insulted him coarsely using his native New York slang. “You SCHLEMIEL!

His father had never lived to see the outcome of his prognosis, passing away shortly before Arnold’s nuptials to the waiflike Cheryl.

Arnold’s firm specialised in long term bonds and financial investments. Succeeding his father as Chairman had made him a wealthy man and the subsequent inheritance had increased his personal fortune threefold.

Despite her new luxurious lifestyle and the many exotic holidays it soon became apparent that Cheryl needed to fill her days. Arnold happily funded her many hobbies; Yoga positions moved onto Pilates, Aerobic fitness classes sashayed towards Salsa dancing and the Piano lessons segued into her latest passion, the Flute.

Cheryl would waffle on and on each evening. Telling Arnold how James, her private instructor, was coaching her on the rudiments of the woodwind instrument; how to hold the flute PERPENDICULAR to her body, helping her to develop the correct mouth shape and to control her breathing.

Arnold was sure that, given time, Cheryl’s prized golden flute would become another shrewd investment.

The intercom buzzed and broke his reverie, “Doc is here for your three thirty appointment Mr Barnes.”

“Thank you Rebecca”. Arnold closed the file and moved it to one side of the polished walnut desk. “Show him in please.”

The enigmatic Doc sat down opposite Arnold and declined the offer of refreshments. His eyes behind the steel rimmed spectacles were a piercing, vibrant blue and a little unsettling.

Arnold waited until Rebecca had closed the office door. He then opened a drawer of the desk and slid an A4 size manila envelope across the desk.

“Doc, you are an expert, how shall I put this... in PEST control,” Arnold paused to take a sip of tea. “All the details for your assignment are in the envelope.” He put his china cup down on the saucer, then added, “Naturally I would like this matter facilitated at the earliest opportunity.”

Doc broke the seal on the envelope and thumbed through the contents. “I can expect payment on the balance of my fee on completion of the assignment?”

“Agreed,” Arnold straightened his MCC necktie. “My word is my bond sir.”

“Then our business today is concluded.” Doc gave him a killer smile and extended his right hand.

Arnold felt a shiver run down his spine as he shook hands. He consoled himself with the thought that although Doc was a cold fish he was simply the best hit man that money could buy.

Later that afternoon Arnold wheeled the shredding machine over to his desk. He picked up the PI’s report and flicked through it. The photographs were quite graphic; the mouth shaping tuition appeared to be paying dividends. One by one the crude, glossy prints were eaten by the shredder. He glanced at the letter once again before feeding it into the machine.

Cheryl’s indiscretions were nothing new to Arnold and he had no doubts that they would continue. With each new pastime there would be another handsome tutor to help her while away the hours.

He went over to the drinks cabinet by the window and poured himself a whisky, adding two ice cubes. Savouring his drink he looked upon the vista that was the City of London. Arnold felt that he could almost smell the old money radiating from it.

The letter was a clumsy attempt at extortion. Blackmail was going to be a costly mistake for the flutist and one that James would pay for with his life.

When the time was right Arnold would make an appointment for the inscrutable Doc to meet the beautiful Cheryl, as he had done so with dear old PATER.

For now Arnold Barnes was contented to turn a blind eye. The hefty insurance policy on his wife’s life was too new and too obvious.

It was all about calculating the long term investments.

© 2009 Alan Griffiths

Monday, 16 November 2009


Beach Bum provided the starter sentence (in bold) for Friday Flash Fiction. The rest is me.


"The old camera had been in a box for decades, the pictures never developed, and now with the prints in his hand his blood ran cold from looking at the images that came from it."

“Sit down Pork Pie,” said Valentine. “You’ve gone a funny colour.”

Pork Pie, ferocious South London, criminal kingpin, was seldom short of words. The sepia images had rendered him speechless and he had almost bitten through the cigar butt in his mouth.

Valentine went over to the drinks cabinet and poured malt whiskey.

“Drink that squire.” Valentine sat down on a leather chesterfield couch. The walls of Pork Pie’s study were covered in prints and pictures celebrating Ska music. Shelves held books, records, CD’s and memorabilia.

The two drank in silence until Pork Pie spat, in a low gravel voice, “From the beginning.”


“Mr Valentine?”

Valentine stopped watching the blonde gyrate around a shiny pole on the stage and turned on his barstool; she was late twenties, mixed race with smooth coffee coloured skin and brown eyes. She smiled and took his breath away.

The cat finally let go of his tongue. “Just Valentine. Ms....?”

“Agnes Ryan.” She sat down next to him. “I prefer Agie.”

The punters roared approval as the blonde smoothly unclipped her sparkly bikini top and tossed it across the stage.

Valentine drained his glass. “Let’s find somewhere a little quieter Agie.”

On the way out he admired her curvy figure. Her backside, he decided, could crack walnuts. A glimpse of a sexy Celtic cross tattoo on her lower back had his stomach turning nine point nine somersaults.

The coffee shop, Pascucci, was towards the better end of Clapham Junction. Valentine ordered and they moved towards the back. Settled in comfy armchairs she began to tell her story.

Agie wanted him to find her parents. Not the two people who had brought her up in East Anglia. She learnt at an early age that she had been adopted.

“It’s been an annoying itch that just won’t go away,” she said.


Pork Pie picked up the bottle of 12 year old malt. “She’s definitely my daughter?”

“I wouldn’t be here unless I was sure.” Valentine sipped his malt. “You recognize the lady in the photo?”

“Her name was Lola”. Pork Pie poured more whisky. “She was a showgirl.”

Valentine resisted the urge to break into song. “You had a relationship with her?”

Pork Pie nodded, “She couldn’t take the gangster lifestyle.”

“She was pregnant with your child.”

“I had no idea.” There was raw emotion in Pork Pie’s voice and he quickly swallowed whisky.

“What happened to Lola?”

“Drugs.” Valentine hesitated then continued. “She died eleven years ago in a hospice.”

The crystal tumbler in Pork Pie’s hand shattered. Glass splintered and expensive whisky soaked into the thick Persian rug. “Where’s the girl?” Blood trickled through his fingers like spilt claret wine.

“She’s waiting outside in my Saab.”

Pork Pie wrapped a handkerchief around his fingers. He snapped a Zippo and put the end of a fresh cigar into the flame. “Go and get her,” he said between plumes of blue smoke. “Then piss off.”

The study door clicked open. Agie’s face was wet from tears. Her braided, pony tailed hair was a sophisticated mess. Her right hand held a small silver pistol. She pointed it at Pork Pie and clicked off the safety.

“You killed her.” Her tone was almost a whisper.

“Agie no!” Valentine stepped forward.

Pork Pie looked her in the eye. “She was the only woman I ever loved.”

“My mother ended her days as a penniless junky.” She sniffed back tears. “You drove her too it.”

“I found something else out,” said Valentine, urgency in his voice. “Pull that trigger and you’ll regret it.”

Pork Pie pulled the snub nosed .45 from under his suit jacket with one slick movement.

“Put it down Pork Pie.” Valentine stayed in the centre as the three began to slowly circle the room in a Mexican standoff.

“Out of the way private eye or I’ll plug you as well.” Pork Pie had regained his swagger. “Let the lady have a shot at the title.”

Valentine raised his palms. “Put the guns down!”

Agie put her left hand over her right and steadied her hold on the pistol. “Valentine, you’re job's done.”

“No! Not yet.” Valentine turned to Pork Pie. “Let me tell you the rest.”

“Spit it out gumshoe.” Pork Pie looked at him along the barrel of the .45. “While you still can.”

“Agie’s not your only child.” Valentine spun round. “You have a brother”.

One, two, three beats passed before Valentine turned slowly towards Pork Pie. “Dad. This is the dawning of a new era.”

This time Pork Pie bit clean through the fat Cuban.

© 2009 Alan Griffiths

Monday, 9 November 2009


Cormac decided to change the Friday Flash Fiction rules this week.

In lieu of a starter sentence, he posted four words, the idea being that you must incorporate the words into a story. It does not matter in what order they are used but all four have to be in there somewhere.


With words like that then it could only lead to another case for Valentine, my hapless South London PI to investigate…


Things might have turned out a lot different if I’d found Mickey Fallon when I was paid to.

The guy with the floppy hair sat down and pushed a folded copy of The Daily Mail across the table.

Maybe he had me down as a Tory in DISGUISE or had been reading too much Philip Marlowe.

I was in The Winchester and about to watch the football. I supped my pint of Stella. It wasn’t called ‘the old wife beater’ for nothing. I didn’t have a wife and after a couple more wouldn’t be able to beat the skin off a rice pudding.

“Mr Valentine?” Floppy hair cleared his throat nervously, “My name’s Frank Fields. You were recommended by a friend of a friend.”

I spend a small fortune, one I don’t have, on advertising but it’s always a friend of a friend.

I drained my glass. “Same again squire. Knock yourself out and have one as well.”

Frank returned with my pint and for him a small scotch with too much water.

Chelsea was already one nil down and The Daily Mail was still unopened. It’s a newspaper best left that way.

Frank’s sob story was his wife, Barbara, and how he suspected an affair with her boss. Frank said he wanted to save his marriage but he had to be sure.

It’s the small things that giveaway the LIES.

With Frank, it was his floppy hair, which was too long, too highlighted and the cut too fashionable. But his cash, between the folds of The Daily Mail, was cold, hard and much needed.

Frank was away for the week, on a training course in Warwickshire, while I snooped on Barbara.

After four days there was no sign of her amorous boss and I was thinking about those lies.

On the Thursday evening I boarded a number thirty eight bus behind Barbara. That was when I spotted Mickey, a fifteen year old runaway. When Mickey got off I followed.

Six months ago Mickey’s mother had paid me her government single parent allowance to find him. I miserably failed but lady luck had given me a chance of REDEMPTION. I trailed him across London to a seedy squat.

Curiosity then got the better of me. It usually does.

Early the next morning I was plotted up in my Saab. Four hours passed and my Farmers were starting to play up. Then Mickey and two other teenagers left the squat.

It was lunchtime and all hell let loose when Mickey’s gang snatched the handbag of an orange haired young lady and scarpered.

I should have given chase but I was more interested in the middle aged lothario consoling the redhead. Why was Floppy Frank sitting outside a trendy Tapas bar, looking too much too young in a tanned bomber jacket, stonewashed Levis’ and loafers?

Orange hair finally stopped blubbing and the manager waived the bill. I tailed Frank and his flame haired floozy back to a swanky apartment block.

I snapped away with my Sony Cybershot and waited until Frank left; carrying a suitcase and a guilty conscience.

Frank’s game, I was sure, was to use me to get some dirt on Barbara so that he could hit her with a quickie divorce and rob her of the family home.

Then move his young bit of crumpet in.

I put my foot through the backdoor of the squat and retrieved the handbag. Orange hair was Sally Reynolds a Learning & Development Executive at Frank’s Insurance Company. Sally’s mobile had enough steamy text messages to fill a Mills and Boon romance.

They’d been planning their weeklong session of hanky-panky for a while.

I confronted Frank at his office and he bleated like a lamb before the slaughter. There was more cold, hard cash on offer, to help me forget, but I was in no mood to COMPROMISE.

On the way out I slipped a piccie onto Sally’s desk. Her face turned the same shade as her hair, quicker than it took me to say, “How’s Yer Father!”

Barbara had asked me, over and over, “Why would Frank betray forty years of marriage?”

I couldn’t answer but had given her enough evidence that, with the help of a shit hot lawyer, would keep her in the four bed semi for the rest of her days and a hefty chunk of Frank’s money for good company.

Mickey was back at home but it was only a matter of time before he broke Mrs Fallon’s heart again. It’s what boys do and something we never grow out of.

Barbara was being consoled by her boss. Hannah seems to be a very nice boss and she’s discreet but, as I said, it’s the small things...

© 2009 Alan Griffiths

Friday, 6 November 2009


This blogging lark has got me thinking about my own influences and inspirations within the crime genre.

First and foremost I’m a fan of the genre and this has lead to my own sporadic amateur writing. I’ve always been an avid reader but film and television has inevitably played a part.

I started giving some thought to my earliest, British TV crime drama, memories and came up with such names as Public Eye, Callan, Special Branch, Hazell, Fox and of course, The Sweeney.

Another vivid memory from my teenage years (and the original reason for this post) was a one-off miniseries called OUT.

I have OUT on DVD and watching it again has underlined, in my opinion, what an outstanding piece of television it is.

Out was first broadcast in 1978 and was produced by Thames Television (Euston Films). A basic plot summary of OUT: Frank Ross (played by the excellent Tom Bell) returns to London after an eight-year prison sentence for robbery. The robbery was thwarted by the police because persons unknown had 'grassed'. Ross is determined to find out who the informant is and take his revenge. Over six episodes Frank Ross pieces things together...

I knew OUT was written by Trevor Preston who also worked on The Sweeney and later Minder but after I started to do a little bit of research for this post I soon realised that Trevor Preston also contributed to the other names listed at the beginning of this piece – Public Eye, Callan, Special Branch, Hazell and Fox.

As far as I am aware, Trevor Preston has only one published novel to his name, The Judas Crew, a paperback published by The No Exit Press. I said I was a fan and yes I have this in my collection. I read and enjoyed it a good few years ago when I first purchased it (oh how I miss Maxim Jakubowski’s Murder One bookshop on Charing Cross Road) but The Judas Crew will definitely now go back on my TBR pile so that I can refresh my memory once again.

If you remember these TV shows then please double digit on the links above folks and get some insightful information on all of this, which is much better than my off the cuff ramblings.

Trevor Preston is, in my opinion, a very talented, award winning writer. The following is from The No Exit Press website...

Trevor Preston has been involved with film and TV since the early sixties when he worked with Orson Welles, John Cage, Buckminster Fuller, Juliette Greco, Jean-Luc Godard, Jacques Tati and Alain Robbe-Grillet. He has written scripts for Callan, The Sweeney and Minder as well as for Ruth Rendell's work, and was the creator of Out and Fox. He has won many awards including a BAFTA.