26 July 2016

I've Got the Rhythm In Me

by Barb Goffman

Hell is freezing over. Anyone who knows me even slightly well will certainly think so when they realize that this week I am writing about .... yes, it's true ... sports.

I've never been into most sports. I don't like playing them. Or watching them. I've never had good hand-eye coordination, and every time a game comes on, I'm always itching to open a book.

But there are some exceptions. I like watching figure skating. (The beauty of the skaters gliding on the ice, combined with making flips and jumps and landing them with lightning precision--wow.)
And I'm a big fan of gymnastics too. Who doesn't remember Kerri Strug during the 1996 summer games, running on an injured ankle and vaulting herself and her USA teammates into Olympic gold?

There's one sport that mixes the beauty and athleticism of both skating and tumbling, and it has become a favorite of mine. Rhythmic gymnastics. And it's coming to a TV (or computer or other high-tech device) near you in just a few weeks, courtesy of the summer Olympics.
Never heard of rhythmic gymnastics? Maybe you've heard of it by its alternate name, something I've heard people sneer at: ribbon dancing. The entire sport was trolled during the last summer Olympics, with people declaring it's not a sport, that it's just dancing on a carpet with ribbons. The sport has been trolled so much that if you go to Team USA's website, they have a whole page explaining the athleticism involved in this sport. And yes, it is a sport. A beautiful one.

So what is it, for those who don't know? Picture a gymnast doing a tumbling routine, but at the same time, she has to keep a ribbon, hoop, ball, club, or rope constantly moving. The athletes perhaps are too good, making their routines look easy, which has encouraged
some people to declare rhythmic gymnastics to not be a sport. But these routines require skill and endurance, beauty and passion--sure sounds like a sport to me.

Not convinced? Check out Team USA's Laura Zeng compete with a ball during the 2015 World Rhythmic Gymnastics championships. 



So I'm excited for the rhythmic gymnastics portion of this summer's Olympics. The competition is scheduled near the end of the games, August 19 - 21st. Want to learn more in advance? NBC has some information about this year's USA team on their website. Click here to check it out.

If you've ever participated in rhythmic gymnastics, I'd love to hear from you in the comments. What's it really like? How hard it is to learn to do? Please share for those of us who love this sport. And for everyone else, what's your favorite part of the Olympics?

25 July 2016

Moderate What?

by Jan Grape

A few days ago, one of my nieces read in  one of my post on Facebook about moderating a panel a couple of years ago with Jonathan and Faye and Jesse Kellerman. My niece, Linda, wanted to know exactly what did I mean about moderating a panel? She enjoys reading my books but had no idea what I meant about the panels. It occurred to me that this would be a good topic since Bouchercon is coming up very soon and many of the folks here on Sleuthsayers will be attending. The non-author types might wonder a little about panels. And the author types who have probably been on many panels might not have ever moderated one.

Like I told Linda, every moderator does things their way. Here's how I moderate a panel. Believe it or not, I just received my panel for Bouchercon and was assigned as moderator for a discussion of PIs. Gumshoes, Shamus, Private Investigator, Private Eye. Whatever you may call a person who investigates a mystery and gets paid for that investigation but not paid by a law enforcement agency. The PI probably is licensed by the state and may have previously been employed by a police or law enforcement agency. The founder of Private Eye Writers of America or PWA, Robert J. Randisi has often explained it thusly: if it walks like a duck and talks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

Back to the panel. I have five authors on my panel for the upcoming mystery con. Two I know personally and three I've never met, although they may have been writing for some time. At any rate, I contacted each one via email and asked them to please send me a short bio, a list of their books and a hard copy of their latest book. I prefer to read each author's book prior to the panel if possible.

With the Kellermans I had read several of both Jonathan's and Faye's books. I had not read Jesse before. And the new one they were introducing was co-authored by Jonathan and Jesse, titled Golem of Hollywood. I had less than a two week window bu,t I got a copy of Golem and also a copy of Faye's latest. Her setting had changed but her characters were basically the same. I read the books and from that point was able to come up with what I hoped was some interesting questions or comments to ask each author. In the case of BCon, I'll try to send a couple of question to the panelist.

After a brief introduction of each author, which includes a brief bio of that person, and a short synopsis of their work, then perhaps hold up a copy of their book. Personally, I think the moderator is not there to promote their own work, the major object is for each panelist to shine. However, if the moderator has a new book they might want to mention it. It's usually nice to have one of the other panelist mention your very short bio and your book if that's possible. I've been a moderator when I've had a book and also when I have not.

Then you ask your intriguing questions and hope each author has an intriguing answer or comment to make. I always suggest to them that if they are able to inject some humor that's helpful. But also to keep their answers short because we have a set amount of time and I want everyone to be able to speak. If I have someone who wants to monopolize the time, I will try to nicely interrupt and keep the session moving along. I have been on a panel when that has happened and if the moderator doesn't interrupt, then I'm hopeful that a wonderful other panelist will do that.

Then if we have time the last 10 minutes or so, I will take questions from the audience. Then tell the audience where the book signing will take place. At most mystery cons there is a special place set up for author autographing.

When I wrote to the authors on my panel I sort of mentioned most of this except in a briefer form. The audience is there to hear the authors and it's important for the moderator to allow that to happen. Also if you have an author who is shy and hasn't had a chance to speak then the moderator needs to be sure that author gets a chance by asking something along the lines of "when did you first come up with your character or is your character based on anyone you know?" And the moderator guides the question and answer session.

That's more or less how I do it and I've probably done a hundred or more panels, counting both moderating and as an author. But as I mentioned earlier, every person does these things their own way, I'm only telling more or less how I do it.



Brief Personal Note
Some of you may have heard through Facebook that one of our very good friends and terrific writers, Bill Crider just found out this week that he has an aggressive carcinoma. Please keep Bill in your prayers and healing thoughts and send him positive energy. Thanks all.

24 July 2016

Albert 3: Gator on Vacation

Albert and Pogo
Albert and Pogo © Walt Kelly
by Leigh Lundin

Two weeks ago we told how Albert the Alligator came to live with a family in an Indiana farmhouse. Last week, we related his successes upon the stage and in public appearances. But, like many celebrities, Albert needed time away from his adoring fans.

Albert Takes a Vacation

Anyone could tell a teenage Albert was the product of a university environment. Each summer he’d clamor for the 5Bs: beach, babes, bikinis, beer and bratwurst. After intense negotiations, Dad compromised by giving him outdoor baths that the gator loved— hosed down then scrubbed belly and back with a stiff-bristled brush.

One day, Dad became distracted by a phone call. Never before had Albert shown any inclination to do a Kerouac, but when Dad returned, Albert was gone. Vanished. Poof. Without a trace.

My parents searched the yard, then the barnyard. The farm dogs, who hadn’t been trained to track overgrown reptiles, stood around looking bewildered and chatting among themselves. Like many teens, Albert failed to call home. My parents worried that if he returned, his little dinosaur arms weren’t long enough to reach the doorbell.

As evening approached, my parents had to admit the gator was decidedly missing.

The sheriff was known as a gossip, but my mother put aside her qualms and phoned his office, begging for discretion. Her concerns were this: An alligator in the house made them feel safe. See, knowledge that Mom and Dad kept a cold-blooded carnivore might have given a typical burglar or home invader pause. My parents felt his absence, both as a pet and as a guard dog.

Did I mention the sheriff wasn't known for discretion? Within two minutes, the sheriff issued an all-points bulletin, a BOLO:
Be on the lookout for a scaly renegade who answers to the name of Albert. Height between five and fifteen feet. Dark green, yellow eyes. Charming smile, big teeth. Known associates, the Lundin family and childhood friends. Subject is known to carry an alligator leather wallet. Suspect is considered armed and dangerous.
And as you might suspect, neighboring counties circulated the bulletin. Local newspapers picked up the story. A farmer in Hancock County called his sheriff to report an alligator had killed his sheep. A Shelby County rancher claimed a huge varmint– most probably a loose gator– had killed cattle and attacked his dogs. Word got out amongst door-to-door salesmen that pedlars known for wearing alligator belts and shoes had inexplicably disappeared without a trace. Talk started circulating about bringing in a professional tracker and hired gunslingers.

At that time, Albert was 40-inches long (a metre for you Pokémon Go participants) but about the diameter of the average cat, assuming either creature could be bribed to stand still long enough to apply a tape measure. Even by hitchhiking, Albert would have been hard-pressed to roam a dozen miles into Shelby County and another ten to Hancock.

Initially we fretted some hunter might shoot our Albert, but as the weeks dragged by, we guessed Albert had gone to ground. As autumn settled in, we grew concerned about winter, knowing Albert couldn’t survive a Midwestern freeze.

Our farm supported a small grove of fruit trees near the house. Sometimes Dad mowed the orchard and sometimes he didn’t. He’d neglected it that season but near the end of summer, he fired up the mower and attacked the tall grass between the trees.

Dad stopped the mower to pick up a thick branch and– you’re way ahead of me– it wasn’t a tree limb at all but Albert himself nestled deep in the high grass. The critter had dozed the entire summer no more than fifty feet from the house.

All parties celebrated the return of the prodigal son. Dad hugged the rascal and Mom cried. Albert croaked happily and asked about dinner. With Albert over 18, we broke out the champagne.

To be accurate, some ranchers still believed he stole a Dodge pickup truck to gallivant around in a tri-county crime spree slaughtering livestock, then sharing his ill-gotten ribs and roasts with hobos down by the railroad tracks. If so, nobody was talking.

Albert the Mighty Dragon

The years passed. Kids moved out and moved on, and Albert stopped appearing in public. He gave up saloons and dance halls and even church picnics. Worse, Dad, his best pal, became terminally ill, slowly dying of a rare lung disease. Albert spent hours listening to an old song popular when he first came to live in the house.
A dragon lives forever but not so little boys.
Painted wings and giant rings make way for other toys.
Winter came once again. Albert’s best friend, our dad, faded fast, succumbing to a rare, incurable cousin of tuberculosis.
One grey night it happened, his best friend came no more.
And Puff that mighty dragon, he ceased his fearless roar.
The now-grown children had long since dispersed, the rooms echoed emptily. Mom soldiered on, caring for the household. Albert felt bereft.
His head was bent in sorrow, green scales fell like rain,
Puff no longer went to play along the cherry lane.
Without his life-long friend, Puff could not be brave,
So Puff that mighty dragon sadly slipped into his cave.
That’s how he died. An old bedroom led off the living room, a cold, unheated chamber my parents used for storage since my departure. Mom had gone to and fro, fetching odds-and-ends with the door propped open. Unbeknownst to Mom, Albert crawled under the bed. He was still there when she closed the door.

As a blizzard blanketed the region with snow, it took Mother a day or so to realize Albert had disappeared. Initially she wasn’t too worried… He occasionally hid behind the sofa when my father wasn’t around. He’d come out when he was hungry.

Except this time he didn’t.

In an echo of his first winter on the farm, Albert froze, only this time there would be no recovery, no artificial respiration, no heat lamps or restorative massages. Albert had joined his ancestors in that big bayou in the sky, that place where the days are always balmy and June bugs a’plenty await.

23 July 2016

Comedy and the Older Woman


Today, I’m writing a serious blog.  (‘NO!  Don’t do it!  Don’t’ <sounds of heels screeching on floor as body dragged offstage>)

I write comedy.  I wrote stand-up, and had a regular column gig for many years.  My published crime books and most of my short stories are (hopefully) humorous.  My blog…well, that sometimes goes off the wall.

But I’m noticing that as I get older, the comedy seems to become more shocking.  Or rather, I am shocking people more.  They don’t know how to take it.  I see them gasp and act confused.  Did I really mean what I said just then?  Was it meant to be funny?

I don’t believe it’s because I’m writing a different level of material.  Nope. 

So why?  Why does my comedy seem to shock readers more than it did twenty years ago?

It’s not the readers.  It’s my age.

Writing comedy when you are thirty is ‘cute’.  I can’t tell you how many people told me that I ‘looked cute on stage’ as I innocently said some outrageous things that made people laugh. 

Saying outrageous things on stage when you are over 50 is not ‘cute’.  Women over 50 are never described as ‘cute’ (unless they are silly and feeble and quite old. Not to mention petite.)  Women over 50 cannot carry off ‘innocent’ (unless portraying someone very dumb.)  Women over 50 are expected to be dignified.

Phyllis Diller was a wonderful comic.  She did outrageous things on stage, and we laughed with her.  But she dressed like a crazy-woman and had us laughing AT her as well as with her.  Some women I know dislike the fact that Diller made herself ridiculous in front of an audience.  I don’t, because I know why she did it.

Forgive me while I pull a Pagliacci.  Yes, I still write comedy.  But I don’t do stand-up anymore.  I’ve found that women my age are not well received by crowds (especially liquored-up crowds). 

Women who are young and pretty can get away with murder.  Even better, they can get away with comedy.

But this is what I've found: A woman over 50 who makes fun of younger women is (often) seen as jealous.  A woman over 50 who makes fun of men is (often) viewed as bitter. A woman over 50 who makes fun of other women over 50 can get away with it, but the big audience isn’t there.

So my hat goes off to women like Rita Rudner, who do it still. I admire her so (and not just because she is slim and petite.)  I’ll stick to combining comedy and crime on the printed page.  At least that way, I won’t end up murdering my audience.

Postscript:  I paid a tribute to Phyllis Diller, at the launch of my latest book, The Goddaughter Caper.  I wore an outrageous hat and a sign that said, "Return to the Holy Cannoli Retirement Home."  Everyone laughed and loved it.  I made myself look silly.  Which demonstrates that when a woman over 50 engages in self-deprecating humour, it is approved by audiences. 

What do you think?  Yes, an older woman can make fun of herself and delight an audience.  But is there a similar acceptance if she makes fun of others?  Ageism or sexism?  Both?

On Amazon



22 July 2016

The Thin Man Called

By Art Taylor

It's rare these days that I reread a story or book simply for the pleasure of it.

I do reread a number of things, I should stress, but almost exclusively because they're texts that I'm teaching in one or another of my classes (though perhaps there's some blurriness here, since I'm obviously assigning books on my syllabi that I enjoy or admire). This past semester, for example, I revisited—and marked up anew—several dozen stories and several novels, including works by classic writers Poe, Conan Doyle, Hammett, Chandler, Goodis, Highsmith and McBain (among many others) and books by contemporary authors Megan Abbott, Tana French, Mark Haddon, Cormac McCarthy, China Miéville, and Steve Weddle (also among others).

But picking up a book I've already read and rereading it solely for fun? with no syllabi or lesson plans on the horizon? That's a luxury that seems tough to afford, when my TBR piles are towering with books I sometimes feel like I'll never get to enjoy. (It's a common problem for all writers and readers, I'd think, that we acquire books faster than we read them—something hopeful about it maybe.)

Given all that, a recent vacation brought a couple of treats. First, our good friends Barry and Meg Teasley passed along a very nice copy of the 1965 edition of Dashiell Hammett's complete novels, a terrific gift in so many ways. Barry and Meg hosted a baby shower for us nearly five years ago before our son, also named Dashiell, was born, and they'd given the book to my parents more recently, but I only got it myself when visiting over Fourth of July.

The second treat? Spur of the moment, I started reading The Thin Man again—a book I haven't taught and therefore haven't read in a long while. Just a couple of chapters, just to reacquaint myself, right? Then a couple led to a few, and a few led to a few more, and pretty soon I was engrossed again in the characters and the story while other books—new books, unread books, at least one I needed to read for the coming semester—fell at least briefly by the wayside.

It felt like playing hooky.

It felt good.

(And I should point out: I've recently been reading Karen Huston Karydes' provocative new study Hard-Boiled Anxiety: The Freudian Desires of Dashiell Hammett, Raymond Chandler, Ross Macdonald, and Their Detectives, and her analysis about The Thin Man opened up some new perspectives on the book during this rereading—particularly her comments on the "two leveled" nature of the book, where she measured out both its jauntiness and frivolity on the one hand against its undercurrent of sadness, loneliness, and dissipation on the other. Proof that rereading, especially with age and with greater contexts, can reward with enriched insights.) 

What's interesting about all this: While it's rare for me to reread books for fun, there are a number of movies that I've rewatched—and, in fact, several movies that when I've caught them while flipping the channels, I usually settle in to watch the rest of them. I think of Unforgiven, for example, and then a handful of Hitchcock movies—Vertigo, Rear Window, North by Northwest—and then a couple of silly comedies which never fail to please, both classic (Sabrina) and newer (Blast from the Past, Clueless, 10 Things I Hate About You). But books? I'd be hard-pressed on that count.

I'm curious about others here. How often do you reread books? under what circumstances? and which books? And are you—like me—more likely to rewatch films than reread books? If so, why and which ones? 

Surely, with questions like that, I'll be adding even more titles to my TBR list—and my TBW list too, I guess!


21 July 2016

Summer Bites


by Eve Fisher

Movie poster shows a woman in the ocean swimming to the right. Below her is a large shark, and only its head and open mouth with teeth can be seen. Within the image is the film's title and above it in a surrounding black background is the phrase "The most terrifying motion picture from the terrifying No. 1 best seller." The bottom of the image details the starring actors and lists credits and the MPAA rating.I believe that I have cracked the reason why summer brings out the apocalypse movies, not to mention movies and TV shows about killer sharks, vampires, zombies, serial killers, Animals Gone Wild, and (I'm still waiting) Batboy. It's a distraction from the fact that summer isn't all that it's cracked up to be.  What with mosquitoes (West Nile, anyone?  Zika?), ticks (Lyme, tularemia, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever), killer heat (more on that later), and trying to figure out what SPF actually works and what pesticide won't kill you as well as the bugs, we need something where humans eventually WIN.

Especially in the country.  I live in South Dakota.  We've got a lot of sloughs, lakes, and wetlands, not to mention feedlots, and up here we're well aware that "country fresh" isn't the dancing-wildflowers-in-a-can it's cracked up to be in air freshener/fabric softener ads or romantic movies.  The truth is, some days a good deep lungful of fresh country air will make your eyes water worse than a whiff of Junior's old sneakers.  And those summer cook-outs involve a lot of slapping yourself silly in between passing the potato salad.  It's one of the many reasons that beer was invented.

But this year is lusher, greener, wetter, and more infested than ever.  And hot.  It is very hot.  As you read this, it's 98 degrees outside, and the endless square miles of corn have increased our humidity to the point where we are outdoing Mississippi.  It's stiflingly hot.  Thank God for air-conditioning.
Willis Carrier 1915.jpg
Willis Carrier,
Our Hero
NOTE:  Let us all now give thanks and praise to Willis Carrier, who in 1902 invented the first air-conditioning system.  May his memory be eternally green.  And cool.  
But to get back to infestations.  We've seen them before, especially the Great Frog Infestation back in the 90s.  Personally, I didn't mind the frogs. They were small, they moved quickly, and they tried to stay hidden.  They only bothered me when I was mowing the lawn.  For one thing, they froze as I came near, hoping (as most of us do) that if they ignored the problem (me and the lawnmower), it would go away.  I got to the point where I'd carry a small broom and prod them into moving with it while I mowed. "What did you do Saturday?"  "Swept frogs." Sometimes when they still wouldn't budge, I'd just pick them up and move them, while they expressed their gratitude all over my hands. Frogs are not toilet trained.

Pseudacris maculata.jpg
Boreal Choral Frog
Photographer - Tnarg 12345 on Wikipedia
Still, I could deal with the frogs.  If nothing else, they weren't trying to feed on me.  They probably thought I was trying to feed on them, not knowing that I refuse to eat frogs' legs or anything else that someone tells me "tastes just like chicken."  (If that's true, what's the point?)  But the mosquitoes and ticks are trying to feed on me and every other mammal in the state.  (Do you think they ever tell each other that we "taste just like cow?")  Anyway, serious inquiries have been made - mostly by me - into how many mosquitoes it would take to drain a person dry, and in my objective conclusion it's only half of what we've got.

Healthywealthy.jpgThe mosquitoes alone would be bad enough, but they're getting serious competition from the gnats.  There aren't as many of them - at least, I hope there aren't - but their bites leave golf to softball sized swellings on ears, eyes, necks, etc.  It's getting unnerving to go out in public.  Half the people I see look like they've been in a fist fight, the other half are calomine-pink, and we're all in the same blithe mood the nation was in the night Orson Welles' "War of the Worlds" broadcast.  The air reeks of Deet, Skin-So-Soft, Off, and every other insect repellent known to man and we still can't stand outside more than two minutes without acting like Larry, Curly, and Moe.

So what do we do about this enemy invasion?  Some people are moving down South, where they think all they'll have to deal with is cockroaches and kudzu.  (There are also fire ants and even more mosquitoes.)  Kudzu, for those of you who haven't heard of it, is a Japanese plant that some idiot imported for ground cover on poor soil.  It can't be killed by drought, floods, fire, pestilence, or famine, and it grows a foot a day.  There's a theory that it was left by UFO's on one of their human-tagging trips, but I think it's just a vicious predator.  The one good thing about it is that it can't stand severe frost, and so South Dakota is free...  until we get warmer...
Kudzu growing on trees in Georgia
Photographer - Scott Ehardt, Wikipedia

Anyway, back to solutions:

(1) Buy a bee-keeper's hat or a surplus space suit.  You'll sweat to death, but you will be bug free.

(2)  Don't go outside.  Summer is highly overrated.  It's hot, it's buggy, and people keep expecting you to do things, most of which involve a lot of work, which involves a lot of sweating, while overheated and in full sun.  What we really love about summer is our nostalgia for the days when we were kids and didn't have to do anything except go swimming and eat watermelon.  (What we forget is how much time we spent whining about how there wasn't anything to DO.)  So turn on the AC, the blender, grab a stack of mysteries - I know some very good authors, many of whom are on this site, so check them out! - and stay indoors.  All the fun, a lot less danger.

Photographed by
Latorilla at Wikipedia
(3) Raise bats.  They're quiet, unobtrusive, much maligned creatures, and they eat mosquitoes.  True, they look spooky, they only come out at night, and there are all those vampire movies...

But even if one of them does happen to transform into an orthodontically-challenged count with a bad accent and receding hairline, a little garlic and a wooden stake will take care of the problem.

The odds are good: one count vs. the swarm.
One against many.
Think about it.


20 July 2016

A Wee Stroll in Auld Reekie

Me in Stromness, Orkney. I have no photographic evidence I was in Edinburgh.
by Robert Lopresti

Last time I talked a bit about our recent trip to Scotland.  Well, actually I ranted about a mobile phone company I encountered there.  But I didn't spend all my time in Britain whining - or as they would say, whinging.

We visited one of my favorite cities; one that has plenty of crime and crime fiction in its history.  Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland (and, considering how the Scots felt about Brexit, it may be the capital of an independent country soon).

I visited the Writer's Museum, a 500 year old house now dedicated to exhibits on three writers with strong connections to Auld Reekie, as the city is known: Walter Scott, Robert Louis Stevenson,  and Robert Burns.  (I had no idea so many photographs of Stevenson existed, and he died a young man, too, long before the selfie stick.)

Outside the museum an enterprising Scot named Allan Foster had set up the starting point for a Book Lover's Tour.  I didn't have time to take it but it promised to show you sites connected to the three gentlemen above as well as Arthur Conan Doyle, Ian Rankin,  Alexander McCall Smith, Ian Rankin, J.M. Barrie, and J.K. Rowling.  (Rowling dreamed up Harry Potter in Portugal, by the way, although several Edinburgh cafes might like to claim credit.)

We managed to have a drink in Deacon Brodie's Tavern, whose walls are decorated with scenes from the life of  the city's most famous civil servant. William Brodie was a distinguished tradesman and member of the city council, right up until 1788 when he was revealed to be leading a gang of burglars.  He hung for his crimes, but the story doesn't end there.  Some of the furniture he built resided in the house where Robert Louis Stevenson grew up, which led to a fascination that inspired him to write Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

But Brodie was probably not the city's most famous crook.  That honor belongs to  two Irishmen, William Burke and William Hare.  They are often remembered as grave-robbers, but that is a serious injustice.  It is true they provided the local medical school with cadavers for autopsy, but these entrepreneurs never sullied their hands in a graveyard.

Instead, they killed the potential corpses themselves, guaranteeing fresh product, which brought a better price.  Burke, who did the actual smothering, was hanged in 1829.  Hare gave state's evidence and got away uh, Scot free, as did Dr. Knox who apparently never noticed how fresh his subjects were.  (Oh, Burke was dissected.  Poetic justice.)

That same medical school featured, somewhat later, a professor named Dr. Joseph Bell, who taught diagnosis.  His uncanny ability to size a patient up at a glance made a big impression on one of his students, Arthur Conan Doyle, who transferred it to the world's first consulting detective. 

And while it isn't technically about a crime, I can't imagine any mystery writer who wouldn't be interested in Real Mary King's Close.  This is a seventeenth century street that was covered over, more or less intact, during the plague, and  which you can now tour.  Educational and chilling.

Fun fact: the city of Edinburgh hired so-called "plague doctors" who were actually just men paid to take out the corpses.  The wise old city council offered very good salaries, since they expected most of the "doctors"to croak before they could collect.  However, the bizarre and bulky outfits the men wore to keep out the "bad air" they thought caused the plague were actually extremely efficient for keeping out the fleas that actually did.  So most of them lived till payday, much to their employers' consternation.  Proving, I suppose that management-labor relations have not changed much.

Not Holyrood Palace.  Just a nice picture.
One more Edinburgh crime.   The city's Old Town rides on the spine of an extinct volcano.  At one end is the Castle, at the other is Holyrood Palace, the Queen's official residence in Scotland.  And it was there that we visited the very room where David Rizzio, the secretary of Mary, Queen of Scots, was murdered by her husband, Lord Darnley, and his followers.  A few months later Darnley left this world of trouble when the house he was sleeping in, also in Edinburgh, blew up.   Some say he was dead before the boom.  Some say his wife had a hand in it.

But we will have to give Mary the famous Scottish court verdict, Not Proven, which is said to mean "Not guilty, and don't do it again."

Those are some criminous highlights of Auld Reekie .Visiting it is something I do want to do again.