Showing posts with label Emma Peel. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Emma Peel. Show all posts

30 January 2020

Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered...


First of all, a big shout out to Janet Rudolph and her posting of one of the funniest - and truest - reads I've seen in a while:  "Your Guide to Not Getting Murdered in a Quaint English Village" by Maureen Johnson.  (Read the whole HERE)  Read it now, and then come back and  I'll continue on with some more handy tips.

When it comes to English Villages, I bow to her amazing expertise and only add one extra warning:  Don't be a spy.

Half of episodes of the 1960s TV show The Avengers were Mrs. Peel and John Steed tracking down dead / missing spies or each other in quaint English villages.  (The Town of No Return, Small Game for Big Hunters, The Living Dead, etc.)

My personal favorite was Epic (Season 5, Episode 11), where a bunch of has-been retired silent film stars kidnap Emma to make "The Death of Emma Peel" which was, from the scenes we see being filmed, a mish-mash of everything from Mourning Becomes Electra to The Perils of Pauline.  Absolutely hilarious.




When it comes to American small towns, the immediately obvious murder victims are:

The man/woman everyone hates.  And there is always at least one.

The town gossip.  These come in two types:  mean and relatively harmless.  In real life, the mean ones almost never get killed (mainly because they're very scary) while the harmless ones sometimes do when they get hold of the right information at the wrong time and pass it on to the wrong person.

The unknown ex-_________ of someone important who comes to town and pretends they're just passing through.  Next thing you know, they're dead.  If you're someone's ex, don't visit their small town unannounced.

The person on the phone who is just about to give valuable information about who / what / where / why.  (This was more fun back in the days when they got coshed on the head at a public phone booth, but cycling at the gym while on the smartphone works, too.)

There are no impoverished aristocrats.  However, there is always at least one Pioneer Family who by now has run to seed and drugs.  (See Neil Inveig, found shot to death in the opening of my own Public Immunity, who was Laskin's drug dealer among the upper crust.  There's still considerable argument in Laskin about who actually killed him, and it crops up every once in a while.)  Anyway, this feckless person is usually the catalyst, and occasionally the victim, of murder.

The pregnant girlfriend of the man everyone hates, the feckless Pioneer descendant, the sleazy politician / sheriff / officer.  This ties right into the basic American trope of:  if a woman wants to stay alive, she must not have sex with anyone outside of marriage, but even within marriage, don't marry the hero!  See my February column, Why There Always Has to Be a Virgin.

Don't be any of these.

As far as dangerous places in American small towns, there are some significant differences from English villages:

If you're in the High Plains and / or the West, "quaint" is not the term to use for many small towns.  Windswept, yes.  Desolate, even.  But not quaint.

The Last Picture Show (1971)
Shot of "Anarene, TX" main street  from The Last Picture Show, IMDB


Also, no American bar is as sacred in the same way as the English pub.  Murders happen.

On the other hand, not many people get murdered in American churches (gunned down by a mass shooter is another story), perhaps because that steeple is an obvious target for God's wrath in the form of a bolt of lightning, and most everyone truly believes in God's wrath.  After all, they've lived through floods, fires, tornadoes, (hurricanes on the coasts) massive thunderstorms, earthquakes, hail at harvest time, droughts, etc.  Most farmers and ranchers expect wrath to be unleashed at various intervals, so it's best not to anticipate it by downright blasphemy.

People are not nearly as fetishistic about trains in America as in Britain.  Oh, they have their fans, and most people enjoy a nostalgic ride on one, but the truth is when it comes to trains, Sheldon Cooper is far more British than American.

I think some of the reason is that Americans prefer individual transportation.  Fast cars.  Pick up trucks.  Small planes are popular.  Also ATVs, jetskis, motorcycles, snowmobiles, and anything else that can make a significant amount of noise and cover a lot of ground fast.

There are no marble busts in American small towns.  There are (more or less) bronze statues.

The varieties of death available to the average American increases dramatically as you head into the hinterlands.  Farms often have passels of hogs (which will eat anything), and other large animals that could be used to stomp someone to death, not to mention lots of heavy equipment.  Even in town, there are sheds stuffed to the gills with the odd stuff that could be used for nefarious purposes, from post-hole diggers to sledgehammers.  One of the reasons that English villages are quaint is that they apparently never need of any of these things.  Gardening shears seem to be as much as they ever use, at least on TV.

But the main difference, of course, between America and England is lots and lots and lots of guns.

'Nuff said.

31 January 2013

Role Models


by Eve Fisher



           "...the magnificent Spade, with whom, after reading 'The Maltese Falcon', I went
           mooning about in a daze of love such as I had not known for any character in
           literature since I encountered Sir Launcelot at the age of nine.  (Launcelot and
           Spade - they're pretty far apart, yet I played Elaine to both of them, and in that
           lies a life-story.)"  Dorothy Parker, The New Yorker, April 25, 1931, p. 92

Me and Dorothy have a lot in common.  I, too have mooned after Sam Spade, Simon Templar, Nick Charles, James Bond (I'm a Sean Connery gal), Lord Peter Wimsey, Sir Gawain, Prince Valiant, Rhett Butler, and Thomas Hewlitt Edward Cat.  See Robert Loggia below - I loved that show.  I watched every episode for its two year run.  Besides the fact that I thought Mr. Loggia was pretty darned hot, it was set mostly at night, with lots of cool jazz music - he owned his own jazz bar - and references to gypsies and jewel thieves, and I thought that was pretty much the kind of life I wanted to lead.  Note to Netflix:  get this show on DVD!

But none of these were role models.  For that I needed women, and strong, interesting women were hard to find back in the 1960's, when Donna Reed et al were still vacuuming wearing high heels and pearls.  Here are some of the women whom I admired and modeled myself after when I was a child:

Elizabeth I.  The original great leader, sharp and witty, supremely well educated, steely, manipulative, able to get and keep her throne in an age of beheadings, able to keep her country out of almost all wars, dignified, bawdy, athletic, musical, and poetic.  Do not even get me started on her antithesis, Mary, Queen of Scots.  Anyone stupid enough to marry the chief suspect in her husband's murder deserves whatever she gets.  Elizabeth had the good sense to stay single, both because it was to her taste and because she knew that no husband would ever please her countrymen.  "I would rather be a beggar woman and single than to be a Queen and married." (But I personally don't believe she was a virgin...)

Anyway, she managed to keep her country free, her ministers subordinate, and live pretty much as she wanted to live for almost 50 years.  On top of that, she was one of the first to realize that religion was a lousy excuse for burning a man, and pursued the first "don't ask, don't tell" policy (re religion) in history.  "I have no desire to make windows into men's souls."  (Eventually she did have to send some people to the fire, but they did keep trying to kill her.)  Yes, she was overdressed.  Yes, she was vain.  Yes, she was an autocrat.  But she also said, and I believe she meant it, "There will never Queen sit in my seat with more zeal to my country, care to my subjects and that will sooner with willingness venture her life for your good and safety than myself. For it is my desire to live nor reign no longer than my life and reign shall be for your good. And though you have had, and may have, many princes more mighty and wise sitting in this seat, yet you never had nor shall have, any that will be more careful and loving."  She made GREAT speeches. 

Okay, on to pop culture.

Emma Peel.  In an age when most women were running screaming from villains and tripping at the first available opportunity, or huddling in fear, waiting to be rescued, Mrs. Peel was the first woman I ever saw who rescued the guy.  She was beautiful, well-educated, athletic, musical, stylish, witty, and could kick some serious butt.  And she had class.  Whatever happened between her and Steed or her and anyone else was private.  The double-entendres were subtle (and oh, how I miss those days!). I admit that the plots of "The Avengers" ranged from clever to just plain stupid, but I never missed an episode.


Harriet Vane.  I hear that some people feel about her the way I feel about Susan Silverman although I don't understand why.  To me, Harriet was an intelligent, well-educated, witty, musical, athletic woman who could solve a murder just as well as her would-be lover and future husband, Lord Peter Wimsey.  I also liked that she wasn't physically beautiful - not all of us are - and it didn't matter, to Peter or to herself.  She had a wonderful voice, could look striking, was passionate and intellectual and liked a good wine.  And she had a successful writing career, supporting herself so that she was dependent on no one but herself.  I liked all of it.

Nora Charles.  (Note to Dorothy, I changed my mind:  I'll take Nick over Sam any day.)  Fun.  Smart.  Witty.  Great marriage.  Good times.  Can't ask for much more than that...



NOTE:  During the next 3-4 weeks, my husband and I will be moving to the bottom floor of an old school in Madison - lots of room, so we're not downsizing too much.  Anyway, this means chaos, heartburn, aching backs, and not too much writing.  I've logged ahead my blog posts for the month, but I may not be checking in as much as usual.  Forgive me, and I will say hi when I can!