Guest Post – Remembering 9/11 – Laura Bloom

Welcome Australian author Laura Bloom to my blog. Laura is sharing some very personal moments with us as she reflects on an event that changed and influenced the lives of so many.

aura-bloom

REMEMBERING 9/11

On 9.11 my new husband Geoff and I were talking about breaking up. We had both grown up in Sydney but were living in London at the time, and had been very happy for a number of years. Then we married, and it mysteriously brought up issues for us that began to seem intractable. The morning of 9.11 we both called in sick to work, and walked around our neighbourhood, hashing out our problems. We went into a pub at one stage, to escape the bitter cold, but the blaring TVs and weird atmosphere among the other patrons put us off. We decided to break up, and my husband had packed his bag and just left our flat when a friend phoned and told me to turn on the TV.

It seemed to take ages for her to convince me it wasn’t an action movie, and that this TV footage of planes flying into buildings exploding into flames was real. ‘The authorities are warning people to stay at home and not to take public transport if possible,’ she told me. ‘Just in case there are more attacks here.’ London has long been a centre of terrorist activity. ‘You should tell Geoff not to come home from work on the tube.’ I hung up quickly and went running up the street. I caught up to him just as he was about to disappear into the Kilburn Station’s dark maw. ‘You can’t go on the underground,’ I told him, the thought of him being in any kind of danger reminding me of my love for him that dwarfed any consideration of the problems we’d been having. ‘Come back to the flat with me.’

We spent that evening sitting on the couch in front of the TV, watching the Twin Towers falling, over and over again. We decided to go to relationship counselling, before breaking up for good, and with the help of the wonderful British charity Relate, we decided to stay together. Which we still are, fifteen years and a wonderful son, later.

This is the scene I thought of when I came to write about 9.11 in my new novel, THE CLEANSKIN. In what is one of the two most autobiographical scenes in the novel, one of the main characters, Aidan, and his girlfriend Anne, also almost break up that day. They also go into a pub, and Anne also goes running up the road to stop Aidan taking the Tube. And 9.11 also saves them, temporarily at least.

Aidan experiences it even more intensely, however, because that was when Northern Ireland and the Troubles stopped hogging the world’s centre stage. After that the attention of the US and anti terrorism forces everywhere pivoted towards Islam, and for a little while a number of people thought the era of the Troubles was over. It wasn’t, completely – perhaps it will never be. Particularly recently with the Brexit threatening the Belfast Peace Agreement, that in 1998 brought peace to one of the longest running wars in history. But on 9.11 it’s described in my novel – which I borrowed from a newspaper piece written at the time – as though a great wave left the beach and went sucking back out to sea, taking the era of The Troubles, and all the problems Aidan and Anne and the other characters in my novel had experienced who were caught up them, with it.

It didn’t, of course. War and peace don’t begin overnight, and they don’t end overnight, either. But it’s a pivotal moment in my story, because that’s when Aidan decides that one day he will go looking for Megan, his brother’s fiancé, who is living in a small town on the other side of the world in Australia, under a new identity …

The Cleanskin

 

Guest Post – BURLESQUE DANCING – Is it Naughty or Nice? Belinda Alexandra

Please welcome Belinda Alexandra to my blog .

Belinda has been published to wide acclaim in Australia, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Holland, Poland, Norway and Russia. She is the daughter of a Russian mother and an Australian father and has been an intrepid traveller since her youth. Her love of other cultures is matched by her passion for her home country, Australia, where she is a volunteer rescuer and carer for the NSW Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES)http://www.harpercollins.com.au/9780732296445/southern-ruby/

Author image Belinda_6456_credit Elizabeth Allnutt

Belinda’s new book Southern Ruby is out now.

Southern Ruby cover image

Southern Ruby

Belinda Alexandra

Harper Collins Australia

Forbidden love. Family secrets. A twist of fate. The stunning new generational saga from Belinda Alexandra, bestselling author of Tuscan Rose and White Gardenia. In New Orleans – the city of genteel old houses and ancient oak trees covered in Spanish moss, of seductive night life, of Creole culture, voodoo and jazz – two women separated by time and tragedy will find each other at last.Amanda, orphaned as a child and suffering the loss of her beloved grandmother, has left Sydney in search of a family she never knew. Ruby, constrained by the expectations of society and class, is carrying a lifetime of secrets. Amanda’s arrival sparks revelations long buried: a double life, a forbidden love, and a loss that cannot be forgotten.Southern Ruby is a sweeping story of love, passion, family and honour. Alternating in time between the 1950s and the eve of Hurricane Katrina, it is also a tribute to a city heady with mystery, music, and superstition, which has borne the tumults of race and class and the fury of nature, but has never given up hope

 

BURLESQUE DANCING – Is it Naughty or Nice?

Belinda Alexandra – Guest Blog

 

The Evangelist, Billy Graham, described Bourbon Street, New Orleans in the 1950s as the ‘middle of hell’. It would have certainly seemed that way to him with the port city’s notorious bars, jazz clubs, prostitution and mafia activity. Not to mention its burlesque clubs, where beautiful women in costumes of silk and feathers removed items of clothing piece by piece in a tantalising dance until they had stripped down to nothing more than jewelled pasties and rhinestone G-strings. Although it all seems innocent in comparison to today’s strip joints and hard core pornography, it was hot stuff in the sexually repressed 1950s.

With regards to modern burlesque as performed by artists such as Dita Von Teese, there is an argument about whether burlesque is a an empowering feminist art form, or whether it is demeaning and objectifying. The answer to this seems to lie mainly in the eye of the beholder and what they define as either ‘feminist’ or ‘empowering’. Compared to mainstream media, burlesque does seem to be more welcoming to a variety of body types, sexual orientations, ethnicities and ages – with some of the earlier stars such as Tempest Storm still performing well into their seventies. Heterosexual women make up most of the audiences that go to see Dita Von Teese perform so if objectification is taking place, these days it’s by women.

From my point of view, the burlesque described in Southern Ruby is empowering, albeit in a very quotidian way. My character, Vivienne de Villeray – Ruby – is the daughter of an aristocratic French Creole family that has whittled away its fortune in lavish living and she is forced to find some means of supporting her ailing mother and their one remaining loyal but aging maid. Deeply in debt and with her mother requiring a serious operation, there are few financial options available for Ruby to help her family other than to marry for money. Women’s wages were low in the 1950s: a sales clerk earned sixty cents an hour; a telephone operator, twenty-five dollars a week. The average wage for an American woman was less than twenty dollars a week and it was lower still in the south and for unskilled positions. Burlesque, on the other hand, could offer performers anywhere from $100 a week to $5000 dollars a week for the big stars like Lili St. Cyr and Tempest Storm.

Most of the dancers of the 1950s saw their performing not in terms of whether it was objectifying or not but whether it would allow them to help their families and get them out of poverty. For many of these women, it took them out of small towns and backwaters where their only future was to be pregnant and married at fifteen.

As Blaze Starr described it in Leslie Zemeckis’s book Behind the Burly Q: The story of burlesque in America:

Burlesque provided an opportunity to many girls, like me, to escape poverty. I come from the rural hills of West Virginia. My daddy had black lung. We were lucky to get a new pair of shoes once a year. But burlesque got me out of the hills and I saw things most girls will never see. I met presidents and governors. I made a lot of money and I loved it. I made real good friends with the other performers, like Val Valentine. She’s been my friend for decades.

 

While many of us take our university degrees and the opportunities available to us for granted, it is easy to judge the women of burlesque without truly understanding the restrictions of the era they lived in. I admire them for trying to gain some power, if only financial power, outside of the institution of marriage.

But there was a stigma around burlesque dancing even though the nudity was more suggested than actual, with net bras and body stockings, and the dancers weren’t known for being particularly promiscuous. While the women were revered by their audiences and able to afford haute couture and Cadillacs, they were often snubbed by department store clerks earning only fifty cents an hour for being part of the demimonde. When their performing days were over, most of these women never spoke of their dancing days to their husbands and children as their pasts were considered shameful.

The exotic and secretive world of burlesque was the perfect setting for Ruby’s double life: respectable Vivienne de Villeray living in genteel poverty during the day; the glamorous dancer, Jewel, by night.

 

Belinda Alexandra’s latest novel, Southern Ruby, is a story of double lives, family secrets and forbidden love set in New Orleans.

For more information www.belinda-alexandra.com  or www.facebook.com/BelindaAlexandraAuthor

 

 

Dedicated to the Covert Operatives – Kate Kyriacou – Guest Post

The Sting

The Sting: The Undercover Operation That Caught Daniel Morcombe’s Killer

Kate Kyriacou

Echo Publishing

ISBN: 9781760067427

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Welcome Kate to my blog.

Kate Kyriacou is the Brisbane Courier-Mail‘s chief crime reporter. She has won awards, both at a state and national level, for her work as a crime writer.
 Dedicated to the Covert Operatives 

You see and hear a lot of things as a journalist. You sit in court, you stand at crime scenes. You talk to investigators, lawyers, witnesses. You talk to families, grieving families who have lost someone.

 

So many things stay with you. I once walked into a house set up for a kid’s 18th birthday party. There were balloons and streamers and presents. But he’d died that morning – along with two of his mates – in a car crash on a country road.

 

But there is nothing quite like the total immersion that comes with writing a book. Day after day I sat reading through research, court transcripts and articles on an eight-year investigation into the kidnapping and murder of a 13-year-old boy. Thousands of pages. Many, many phone calls.

 

I wrote The Sting after sitting through the trial into Daniel Morcombe’s murder. Covert police had spent months posing as members of a criminal gang, convincing their suspect, Brett Peter Cowan, that he was on his way to being one of them. Soon he would be earning big money, living a life of fast cars and parties – a brotherhood. He’d never been part of anything, so by the end, he was hooked.

 

It was incredibly rare to get such an insight into the workings of a covert operation. In court we heard recordings, testimony from covert officers and had access to pages and pages of transcripts. Later, I was given access to one of the covert officers and gained more insight through my own research.

 

It’s a horrible thing to enter that world. To listen to the things a man like Brett Cowan likes to talk about. It’s hard to imagine what it would have been like for those covert officers. I know they hated him, hated having to laugh along every day, join in on his jokes. And the secrecy of the operation meant they had nobody to talk to at the end of each day. The judge talked about it in court before some of the recordings were played. Just be aware, she told Daniel’s partners who sat in the public gallery, that these covert officers are saying things and responding to things in order to further the investigation. They don’t really find him funny. They don’t really mean the things that they say. This is not who they are.

 

I dedicated the book to those guys. Because of the work they do, their identities can’t be revealed. And that means they can’t get the public recognition they deserve for the incredible work they did.

 

But we can read about it…