Riddle: Kings and Queens may cling to power
And the Jester's got his call
But, as you may all discover,
The Common One outranks them all.
What a weekend! Saturday my writers group, Creme de la Crime, held a one-day retreat after going on hiatus all summer. Everyone brought something to read, including a prospective new member. We met in the Party Room of the co-op I live in, which has a kitchen, so we ate breakfast, lunch and supper on site. We got caught up on what everyone has been doing, recent sales, prospects for sales, surgeries (we’re getting to be seniors, so that’s starting to occur), changes in the publishing business, etc., etc., etc. It was great to talk shop with people who really understand. The new member turned out to be not only a really good writer but a good critic who quickly caught on to our style. But we all agree that meeting once a week was not a good idea going forward. We also noted that it’s sometimes hard to follow the whole movement of a plot when it’s read in chunks. So we’re meeting once a month, holding an all-day session, and a member with a whole manuscript finished can offer one or more of us a chance to read it before the all-day session, while the rest of us can bring portions of what we working on to share. I read what I’d finished of the next Betsy Devonshire novel, the first three chapters, and I think I’ll continue doing that.
Sunday I took part in a murder game at our co-op. It was set up as if at a wine festival. We sold tickets and served really good wine, cheese, crackers, grapes and bread. The guests sat at tables scattered around the room. The rest of us pretended to be owners of the vinyard, the vinyard’s most important rival vintner, the man who tends the vines and harvests the grapes, a former “wine princess” who has become a (rather faded) movie star, the most important wholesale buyer of the wine, a police investigator, and a mystery writers who is an amateur sleuth. There was also a butler and four maids who kept the wine and treats flowing. The story went that original owner of the vinyards had mysteriously disappeared five years ago. Suddenly an “earthquake” (great sound effects, flashing lights, chairs overturned, screams) took place. One of the maids came in shouting that the floorboards in the basement were displaced and had uncovered the corpse of the original owner. Clues were disclosed orally and on scraps of paper, gossip was encouraged, loud arguments and accusations were flung by the actors, and at the end, each table was asked to write down the name of the person they thought was guilty. Then the police detective made his accusation and the culprit was taken into custody after a brief struggle during which the murder weapon (a “ring knife” used to cut bunches of grapes from the vine) fell out of his hat. The tables that guessed right – four of the fourteen – were awarded a bottle of wine, and we all sat down to plaudits and to finish the treats. It was great fun for the actors, with lots of scenery-chewing, and the guests declared they had a good time. One of the clues raised a legal question that was not addressed: If the current owner of the vinyard was, in fact, a long-time imposter, has he established a legal claim to the property? I’d like to do some follow up on that, and maybe I’ve got a plot point I can use in a future mystery.
Answer: The ace in a deck of cards.