RIP Neil Armstrong

A Human Perspective

From space

The coast of Madagascar

Frills sweet lace

Across the cobalt

Of an ocean’s sway.

Daybreak over arced horizons

Light rims the curve

Rays split across the globe.

The world turns.


From space

The thin blue shell of atmosphere

Washes rose

Sudden sunrise

Bursts across the backbone of the Andes

Pours into lagoons

Paints atolls in coral

Warms the earth.

The world turns.


From space

Storms flash across

The Malaspina glacier

Dance down to Manitoba

Skate over the ice

Leap above forests

Traverse waters bright then deep

Tumble around the vast Pacific.

The world turns.


From space


The veined continent of Africa

Gold, green and brown.

Volcano, savannah,

The red-ribbed dunes of the Namib desert

Rocked on the cradle

Of steady blue waters.

The world turns.


The cosmonauts, the astronauts,

Have seen it all,

And weep.


©Cath Staincliffe   Originally published in No Earthly Reason (Crocus) 1989

Space Baby

He always wanted to be an astronaut.  Surf the final frontier.  Lifelong dream.  Did his will on the computer.  Wanted his ashes scattered in deep space.  Sod that for a game of soldiers, Dot said, be Jodrell Bank or nothing.

(Posted before but this seemed appropriate to re-post given the news that the first man on the moon died this week.)

Great Reads

I used to do some reviewing, initially for The Manchester Evening News and then for Tangled Web and Deadly Pleasures.  It’s wonderful to have a stream of books arriving and to discover new authors as well as catching up with favourites.  Recently pressure of work meant I had to give up reviews altogether and I must admit it was a real relief to read books without having one eye on what I was going to write about it.  (Although I’d done this with non crime titles all along.)  Anyway without the pressure of writing any actual reviews I’d like to recommend some books I’ve read recently to you.  Genre and style vary but what they all have in common is great storytelling, vivid settings,  fully rounded characters, quality prose.  They each have an individuality, a unique flavour which means they linger in the mind.  Enjoy.

In no particular order:

Song of Achilles – Madeline Miller

Shadow of the Rock – Thomas Mogford

Bring Up The Bodies – Hilary Mantel

Year of the Tiger – Lisa Brackman

The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry – Rachel Joyce

The Kings of Cool – Don Winslow

Rubbernecker – Belinda Bauer

The Child Who – Simon Lelic


Ideally I prefer to find a title once the book is written and that’s the way I’ve approached it with my private eye and police series.  Only at the end can I be sure what this particular book is about compared to the others and I’ve often found unexpected themes emerging in the process of writing.

I take a couple of weeks to mull over possible titles, write down any themes, topics, motifs from the novel along with anything about location, character or images that seem particularly strong.  Then I browse books of phrase and fable, proverbs, the dictionary and thesaurus.

I like to use phrases when I can find them and titles that can be interpreted in more than one way.  It helps if there’s something unusual or memorable in the title, to distinguish it from all the others on the shelves.  Once I’ve created a short-list I gradually whittle it down until I have a favourite. It’s a bit like choosing a name for a baby: a list of alternatives informed by the nature of the creature once you know what it’s like.  Sometimes I find the perfect title only to discover that another crime writer has beaten me to it (looking at you Mark Billingham).

More recently, with my stand-alone novels, I’ve had to come up with an idea for the theme of the book and its title at the start of the process – with an option to alter the name if I discover something better in the meantime.   And stashed away I’ve a couple of titles that I love the sound of but have never (yet) suited my stories.