Saturday, 13 July 2019

SERIAL PUBLICATION: The Recalcitrant P.I. ~ Chapter 7


a Mac Armstrong mystery


T.F. Pruden

Copyright © 2018 by T.F. Pruden

All rights reserved. No part of this manuscript may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, including photocopying, recording, or other electronic or mechanical methods, without prior written permission of the author.



Bobbi turned from the stone-topped island to return to the open concept family room of the mansion overlooking the muddy Assiniboine River.  At the far end of a Bauhaus inspired sofa of less than comfortable proportion but stylish appearance sat her mother, resplendent in a suit of summer white.

"When do you leave, darling?"

"The ticket says next Friday afternoon," Bobbi replied, "at 2pm, so check-in an hour before that I guess."

"Well," her mother's voice feigned enthusiasm, "congratulations are certainly in order, my dear.  Congratulations to you!  I must say I'm not surprised.  Not in the least."

To avoid the risk of spilling it on a much-prized Persian carpet, Bobbi placed her tall glass on the coffee table before reaching to embrace her mother.  Her mother now stood waiting for a hollow gesture.

With perfunctory warmth it was soon completed.

"You'll leave contact information?"

"Yes, of course I will mom."

Her mother stood staring, wearing a look of silent discomfort.  Bobbi smiled.  Her mother looked away.  The older woman raised a hand to her face, holding it there a moment before turning to walk a few steps before standing next to the stone mantel of a white-painted brick fireplace.

It appeared a well-practiced performance, if lacking the ease provided by talent.

Bobbi took the opportunity to grab her glass from the table while taking a seat on the edge of the cool sofa.

"How long will you be gone?" her mother's voice was ethereal, seeming to drift in from a long distance, "Your father will want to know. Whenever he should happen to call."

The high ceilings crafted by a poorly chosen mid-century modern renovation of the Tudor Revival six-bedroom lent an unintended auditory effect.  Bobbi controlled the urge to snicker, but not without effort.

"We've got a few months of sessions scheduled," Bobbi's reply was practiced, "but if the record company likes the demos we could spend the next year and a half making an album.  Or so I've been told."

The length of the pause that followed would tell the tale, that's what she believed.  Bobbi waited, not daring to look at her mother.  With elaborate calm, she drank from the glass filled with cold water.

Her mother had once been a wealthy flower child of significant beauty.  Amid a summer fling, she married a career diplomat lost in a drug-addled stupor.  Upon restoring his sobriety, soon enough he ceased to find her amusing.  That was long ago.  At this point, the opposites no longer attracted so much as tolerated one another, with this best accomplished while residing on separate continents.

Divorce of course, remained out of the question.

Her mother considered married life delightful apart from the chore of raising the requisite children.  Which habit amounted largely to a never-ending series of ever pricier accommodations or increasingly inconvenient impositions, at least so far as she could tell.  With her husband's tacit approval, she responded by hiring nannies while enrolling both children in boarding school at first opportunity.

While the eldest turned out a quiet enough boy, the second proved a most difficult girl.

Her mother, though much like Bobbi's father an inattentive parent, was not an unkind one.

Treatments as necessary were soon enough delivered.  Need either proscribed by activity or necessary for comfort without grudge or delay in all cases was provided.  Both parents despite lengthy absence with consistency professed great affection for each child, including the shedding of appropriate tears on occasion of success or failure.

To their children in any case, it seemed what each parent most wanted was to be free of them.

Bobbi followed a lead provided by her brother, committed to making it so as soon as reason would allow.

 From somewhere far away, a clock chimed the hour of another slow passing afternoon to the reliably empty dining room.  Her mother started, looking off to the kitchen as though expecting someone to call for her attention.  Finding no one there, with a practiced smile she hid the embarrassment of a momentarily untended emotion.

She turned to face Bobbi.

"That sounds delightful, my dear!" her voice again feigned enthusiasm, "You must let me know what your expenses will be.  You know we're more than happy to fund your education, so don't feel your time is limited.  We know these things can take a while!  Remember your brother was seven years in school, another two finding his professional feet."

Bobbi struggled to hide her elation, instead drinking from the water glass while considering the appropriate allowance for which to ask.  She had not expected it to be this easy, though with relief came a fading disappointment she tried her best to deny.

This was after all, how her mother showed love.  Like her father, it was in most cases a matter of dollars, not sense.

Figuring the right amount to ask for was thus a means of evaluating the relative importance of either intention or appreciation.  Asking for too much meant stretching the bounds of the latter, while too little devalued the former to the point of questioning its relevance.

Bobbi considered herself a master of this equation, having learned it from her mother, who she acknowledged as the best.

With a relaxed nod, she smiled as she recalled the figures provided by the independent record producer for the cost of an apartment, transportation, plus musicians with plenty of studio time.  Her dream was close to coming true now; she heard it singing like a choir in her mind, calling her on to what could only be greatness.

"I've got everything laid out for you to review, Mom," Bobbi's voice was crushed velvet on polished glass, "I know you wouldn't want me to overlook anything."

It was a bold play, but necessary.

"Oh honey, you know I'm no good with figures," her mother's voice was a protest, "just tell me how much to send monthly, and I'll have the bank deposit it to your account."

Bobbi allowed herself a triumphant grin but hid it with a look to the hardwood floor at her feet as she nodded.

"Sounds good, Mom," Bobbi's voice reflected perfect teenaged sincerity, "and thanks ever so much to you and daddy!"


Monday, 27 May 2019

The Twelve Rules For Writing Literature

The Twelve Rules For Writing Literature


T.F. Pruden
1. Literature must provide questions, not answers.

The writer's job is sharing experiences, not telling readers what to think about them.  As the fundamental responsibility of art, music and literature is illuminating the condition of society, neither personal opinions nor rhetorical positions are acceptable for inclusion within literary work.  Specifically, the writer must share a story, while keeping both opinions and answers out of it.

2. Literature must be known by experience, not reported as bystander.

A writer may factually document only that which individual temporal experience personally reveals.  Specifically, third-party information must be identified in first-person narratives, with omniscient narration based on science, observed, or related behavior employed only when or if judged necessary to best serve the story.

3. Literature must respect the rules of grammar, not serve them.

The writer must demonstrate mastery of the craft.  As such, basic guidelines of mid-twentieth century English grammar are to be observed, aside from within dialogue.  While splitting the infinitive for reasons of style is approved meanwhile, use of the vernacular must always be limited to either first-person narratives or dialogue.  Specifically, this rule prohibits sentences from ending with prepositions, while those begun with prepositional phrases require use of a comma. 

4. Literature must provide only facts, not beliefs.

As science is fact while history but opinion, so genre fiction is entertainment and not to be confused with literature.  For a work to be literary, the facts of temporal reality must compose and provide the entirety of theme, plot and characterization.  Specifically, this rule identifies that while opinions are certainly as common as assholes, they have no place in literature.

5. Literature must be written individually, not by committee.

A writer must work alone, from a project's start to its completion. The writer's work is not finished when either draft or manuscript is completed. While editorial feedback is encouraged prior to engaging the revision process, neither line editing nor collaboration of any kind is allowed at any time. Specifically, this rule approves the use of word processing and editing software but limits third-party assistance to feedback, proofreading and copy editing.

6. Literature must provide historical perspective, not timely reportage.

Experience while most often the best teacher, must be allowed the benefit of time's perspective to be appreciated. The writer must not allow emotions or desire for timeliness to limit the perspective achieved only by distance and time. Specifically, this rule prevents the damning of a work to either period or emotional influence by requiring writing driven by fashions, fads or favorites be avoided.

7. Literature must be grammatically constrained, not mutilated.

While appropriate for the writer to incorporate specific language constraints to demonstrate literary mastery, such constraints must always be near invisible to the reader and incorporated throughout a work.  Specifically, this rule identifies either loss of grammatical consistency or stylistic readability in support of constraint as not acceptable.

8. Literature must be thematically defined, not limited.

While multiple thematic elements are acceptable within a single work, each must be effectively represented within its context.  Specifically, this rule recognizes broad implementation of either symbolism or metaphor as suitable but requires single-sentence thematic statements provided in explanation for a work be suggested within the text.

9. Literature must respect tradition, not deny it.

Defending traditional literary forms requires an understanding of the difference between influence and respect.  Those either hidebound by conformity or blindly devoted to innovation miss the point of not only literature, but also music and art.  The timeless secrets of form and function valuable to writers from all ages meanwhile, are most reliably discovered within classical works.  Specifically, this rule confirms those who don't read good books suffer a far greater loss than they who can't and requires the writer to read and implement the lessons found there.

10. Literature must be stylistically consistent, not obtrusive.

No matter what is being written, literature must incorporate a narrative voice appropriate to the writer's taste, not that of either desired audience or treasured results. Consistency of literary style builds trust between reader and writer, and from that rises verisimilitude. Specifically, this rule identifies the intellectual and emotional bond created by consistent and unobtrusive style as necessary to a believable and lasting literary experience.

11. Literature must serve the story, not its writer.

The point of writing novels is neither enriching nor ennobling writers but documenting the ever-evolving conditions of life on earth.  As talking about and promoting the work might damage or affect its process, a writer must avoid intrusions related to fame, fortune and notoriety.  Specifically, to achieve success a writer must choose to write, not speak.

12. The writer must write, not make excuses for it.

As a wise man said long ago, to be, one must do.  Thus, to earn the authentic title of writer requires the act of writing be an undeniable and lifelong habit bordering on obsessive compulsion.  To those who must, the work produced should then and ever be allowed to speak for itself.  Specifically, this rule prohibits the writer from either written response to critics and criticism or seeking of awards and plaudits.


T.F. Pruden

Thorsby, Alberta, Canada



“Do not seek perfection, which is death.  Let it seek you.” ~ William Saroyan, 1908-1981


Thursday, 21 March 2019

Cards on the table.

Because it needs doing, this writer does it.

A fellow somewhat renowned for lack of ambition, were someone else tending to it, you may rest assured a man would not persist with effort both thankless and difficult.

For to this writer, the well of whatever from which the words spring has ever been both mystery and necessity.  A man was also forced, long ago, to accept that a life-long struggle learning to master and control what ~ from the outside ~ amounts to little more than angst-ridden neuroses propped up by emotional immaturity, could lead to neither popularity nor riches.

Despite this knowledge and with serious intent, the writer kept the business to himself through what was a lengthy and often public life.  Not because he wanted to, but as result of knowing it should not be managed by any other means.

For to know, there is but a single way.  One must be.  This according to a man reckoned wise by minds brighter than this, who is claimed to have once said ~ paraphrased here ~ that to be, one must do.

Long ago, in a land far away, this writer drank of that beverage.

Everything since was as result.

To make sense of it, one must first accept that playing a part, like an actor, is not a substitute for living life.  Nor is reporting of its events, from any perspective, be it live or from a historical viewpoint, considered here a realistic documentation of facts suitable for fictional history.  For by now, we should all know most of the stuff that fills our textbooks, web searches and news sources was written by peons at work on behalf of history’s winners.

The paradox and failure of most writer’s work, after all, is a need to report third-hand information as first-hand knowledge.

So it is, and so it shall remain.

For this writer, even second-hand information is much like moral authority, a necessary evil considered best practiced by others.  In these parts, the job is telling the facts of how it was for a participant, not telling you what to think, believe or feel about it.

Like it or not, life remains short, brutal and dumb.  The long-term danger of whitewashing both history and diversity, though often convenient, has rarely been more apparent in western democracy than it is just now.  A society spoon-fed single-viewpoints in search of homogeneity without acknowledging the sometimes-bitter facts regarding alternative lifestyles or differing perspectives, eventually leads to repressive and stunted political regimes marked by divisive populism and tyranny of the masses.

These are facts of early twenty-first century life.

The challenge to writers and artists in all disciplines, everywhere but here in the west particularly, is responding to the times in which we live and create history together.

As the next man, this writer leaves the crumbs he can produce to mark a trail for those who might seek to find them.

That’s part of what it means to be a responsible individual around here.

As required by such a philosophy, the writer works to record what happened, not as observer, but as participant.  In each case, with a first goal of telling how it was.  That means including the hard stuff, and not dressing up or rationalizing any of it.

How it went, is all that’s been told.

The characters you meet in this writer’s work may not be beautiful or famous, but they reflect a shared time and common experiences lived not so long ago.  A man is also comfortable saying that like many of us, most of them do the best they can to get by, and that’s about all that can be asked of anyone.  Thus, though like a mirror easily distorted, literature provides a lingering reminder of the endlessly confounding and multi-dimensional nature of our shared temporal existence.  Able only to reflect that which might pass before it, the looking-glass yet reveals secrets we find near impossible to either resist or deny.

In that way, this writer’s work seeks to provide a reflection of the singular experience of a markedly small and decidedly underrepresented group of people from within the cultural and historical mosaic that composes life in modern Canada.  The goal is to create a recording of a rarely-told individual history, written neither from a need for apology nor desire for reconciliation, but rather as an unvarnished and uniquely Canadian history that reveals the facts of life in post-colonial society.

For here, just as people do everywhere, we recreate each other using images distorted by perspective, for better and for worse.  This writer’s sole purpose and art’s real societal value ~ the raison d’etre for each ~ is achieved only by revealing that fact.

To this writer, there can be nothing more.

As the reader, everything else is up to you.

Thanks for being here and thanks for sharing the blog.


  • TFP
    March 21, 2019

Monday, 11 February 2019

RIP Mr. Koko Pruden, December 5, 2002 - February 11, 2019

After a brief illness, with great sadness I must report the passing of my adorable, Mr. Koko Pruden.
The resolute dog has left the building.
A little man in a hair suit made completely of love, Mr. Koko was my best friend, ever and always. The last of the actual road dogs, Mr. Koko stood guard for Harwill at over 1500 show stops and traveled more than a million kilometers from coast-to-coast and throughout North America. We spent the best days of our lives together and my baby boy gave love to the end before passing away in the arms of his papa.
Beloved by all before circumstance brought him to live with me at age two, throughout his life Mr. Koko also found great joy loving and caring for his original and extended families. For the life we shared and all I learned from him, there can be no recompense other than to report he taught me how to live. The subject of 2015 #1 hit song 'I love my dog (the ballad of Mr. Koko)' on the US Americana charts, there never was, nor could there ever be, another like him.
Though our tears must fall, the love and wisdom of his teachings lives in our hearts forever.
So long pard, it's been good to know you.

   Feb 11, 2019