True Crime Book Review

Operation Julie – the Inside Story by Stephen Bentley

I don’t usually publish book reviews, but this one is just too good not to share.

Stephen Bentley is an undercover cop. Steve Jackson is a hippie drug dealer – or is he? In order to infiltrate a global drug ring – the characters manufacturing and distributing LSD in the UK, a clandestine group of detectives need to live a double life. This raw, captivating account of working deep undercover in 1970s UK is told by a detective who lived it.

This true story describes not only the intricacies of an undercover operation but also the difficulties detectives experience in adjusting to “normal” life after the project is completed. The author does not hold back in describing the toll it took on his personal life, especially the effects on his mental health at a time when there was little understanding from superiors during an undercover operation and no support afterwards. And, to this day, the author remains conflicted about relationships he established in the past as he asks himself, “who am I?”

As someone who lived in the UK and Ireland while this investigation was going on, I wonder how close some of my acquaintances at that time were to Operation Julie detectives. One of the addresses given in the book was a stone’s throw away from a London squat I lived in.

A great read, but I think it could have ended sooner. All the rambling points at the end sound more like the author trying to convince himself. We, the readers already get it. Case closed. 5 Stars

Cyber Week Book Discounts

It may still be Cyber Monday for a short while, but these books, including A Squatter in London, are discounted all week! Sale ends December 8th. Get your Christmas shopping done early. Buy now!

My memoir, A Squatter in London, is only $0.99US. The paperback is also available for only $11.99 – and you get the added benefit of laughing at photos taken of me in the 1970s!

Of course, my short (very short!) story, Farmers’ Daughters is always FREE just by joining my mailing list.

Just click on this link to see the fine selection of biographies and memoirs written by ordinary people who have lived extraordinary lives.

Online Selling Culture

Part 1: The Wood Wardrobe

I did it! After nearly 30 years, I moved from my “forever home”. Because the move was over 600 km to another province, I wasn’t keen on moving ALL my stuff, especially the heavy furniture. What to do?

Family members expressed interest in a couple of antique heirlooms, but the issue of the old wardrobe remained. This clunky, old piece of furniture was a permanent fixture (or so I thought!) in my parent’s bedroom on a farm in small-town Saskatchewan. It housed not only my parent’s clothing but my and my brother’s clothes as well. Not to mention a box of chocolates at Christmas and a bottle of Martini & Rossi vermouth that my uncle would bring every summer my city cousins came to visit. My parents did not imbibe in alcoholic beverages. Yet, for some reason, when my uncle brought a new bottle of vermouth at the next visit, he was surprised that the level in the previous bottle had not dropped.

When my parents moved to town, the old wardrobe did not find its way to their new residence. So, when I bought my forever home, I was keen on taking possession of this piece of furniture. I had my own graphic design business at the time, and it was the perfect size for storing my paper samples, trade magazines and art supplies.

A trip to the vacant farmhouse revealed squatters had invaded the old wardrobe; a family of mice made it their home. They were given their walking papers whilst I thoroughly cleaned and disinfected my prize possession. A trip to the hardware store resulted in a purchase of several boards, l-brackets and screws which I immediately put to good use by creating several shelves within the top portion of the wardrobe. I also installed some corkboard on which to tack memos and inspirational quotes to one end of the unit.

When the time came to move from my forever home, I was torn about what to do with the wardrobe. On the one hand it was utilitarian and a sentimental piece to part with. On the other, it was old, clunky and heavy. I toyed with the idea of removing the handles and getting it hauled to the dump. But then I remembered Kijiji. That’s it! I’ll post it on the online selling site and maybe someone will find a new purpose for it.

Rapidly, I took photos of the unit from several angles, including the inside, and placed an ad. After three days, Sahid (not his real name) is the only person who seems interested.

“Is this still available?” he asks.

“Yes.” I respond.

“What are the dimensions?”

That is posted in the ad, but I repeat the information.

“Will you take $40 for it?” he asks, quoting a price under the amount I’m asking.

“Why don’t you come to view it first to ensure you really want it?”

“I can tell what it looks like by the picture. But I want to see the complete inside. Can you take a picture of the other half?”

I explain that the other half is exactly the same as the photographed half.

“Do you deliver?”


“How heavy is it? I need to know so I can hire a truck.”

I explain that I have never lifted it myself and suggest, once again that he come by to have a look at it.

“I can come today. 7 pm?”

I have another potential buyer stopping by to view another sales item at 6:30 pm. I agree with the scheduled arrangement and await his arrival. I wait. And wait. I haven’t had dinner yet and I’m starting to get really hungry and more than a little frustrated. Plus, it will be dark soon and I’m not crazy about letting strangers into my house after dark.

At 8pm, I message him, “Are you coming to view the wardrobe tonight?”

“I’m still at the office. Tomorrow at 7pm?”

He better be here tomorrow, I grumble inwardly.

Tomorrow comes and goes and still no Sahid.

“Are you still interested in the wardrobe?” I message him.

“Bought another one.”

A lovely couple, Connie (not her real name), with teenage son and driver in tow, arrive to view the wardrobe a few days later. Well, at least the wife was lovely. She fawns at the wardrobe.

“This is perfect for the lake!” she enthuses. “My water can go here at the bottom and my blankets and extra clothes over here.”

Her husband, meanwhile, does not share her enthusiasm. He assesses the size of the wardrobe and the best way to exit the house. I recommend the back door as the most direct route. He grumbles and proceeds to pick up the heavy end of the wood wardrobe.

“What do you want this for, anyway?” he asks Connie as he grunts and farts from the effort.

“Excuse him,” says Connie to me in aside. And off the family of three trundle with their prized possession.

Stay tuned to part 2 of the online selling culture when I write about the sale of my barbeque.

If you enjoyed this story and want to read more, get your exclusive FREE short story Farmers’ Daughters just by joining our mailing list.

Book Reviews and Indie Authors

Ontario Canada Book Club

As an indie author, getting book reviews is very important. So when a book club in Ontario asked for a video conference with me at their monthly meeting, I was delighted to participate. Receiving honest feedback from these women helps me to grow as an author and I feel as if I’ve made some new friends in the process.

To read additional reviews, please go to Amazon and Goodreads or follow book bloggers Amy and Mari.

St. Patrick’s Day is in May

Ireland celebrates St. Patrick’s Day in May.

“Bollocks!” you say.

“It’s true,” I insist. “I was there.”

You see, in March of 2001, Ireland experienced its first outbreak of foot and mouth disease since 1941. And Ireland quickly set up measures to control the spread of this disease. As a result, many tourist attractions and outdoor festivals were closed, including the popular St. Patrick’s Day parade.

But my friend Chris and I felt that that spring was a perfect time to re-visit the Emerald Isle. Tourism to the UK and Ireland was down due to tourists being wary of exposure to the dreaded foot-and-mouth. That meant flights were bound to be much cheaper and there would be far fewer tourists getting in our way to view the same attractions. We were right on both counts.

We packed in as much as we could into our trip to Ireland, from strolling the south strand in Skerries, Co. Dublin to kissing the Blarney Stone in Co. Cork. From listening to traditional Irish music whilst imbibing Guinness in the sleepy but picturesque fishing town of Kinsale to exploring Cashel Rock in Co. Tipperary. We went from admiring centuries-old Celtic crosses to scratching our heads at Irish road signs attached haphazardly to a post with directions written only in Gaelic!

Although we weren’t anywhere near Dublin, I suggested to Chris that we back-track to the city to catch the St. Patrick’s Day Parade. Chris is reluctant to do so as we were well on our way to Galway on the opposite coast at this point.

“It’s just a parade,” says she.

“We have to go!” I plead. “What are the odds of us being in Ireland to see a St. Patrick’s Day parade ever again?

I’m able to convince her at length, and we catch the next train to the east coast. The train station in Dublin is about a 20-minute walk to the parade route. We still have plenty of time before the parade starts so we stop at the real Guinness Brewery gift shop, which just happens to be along the way, to purchase some souvenirs.

May 19 and 20, 2001 is dubbed the St. Patrick’s Day Festival and festivities have already begun. There is music. And there are street performers. And there are Elvis impersonators everywhere. But when the actual parade starts, we are pleasantly surprised. This is no ordinary parade. Sure, there are horses, a few floats and marching bands including one from New York that got to participate in two St. Patrick Day Parades in the same year but on different continents! But, for the most part, this parade is more like the Mardi Gras Carnival. Stilt walkers. Colourful, colourful costumes. And even elaborate, precision-engineered, human-controlled “pedestrian floats”.

When the parade ends, I’m anxious to partake in some pub grub and to raise a glass of Guinness to this amazing day. Chris, not so much. Not that she has anything against this activity, but she is worried that we might miss the last train leaving Dublin. If we do, our plans to explore the Ring of Kerry and the Dingle Peninsula are in danger of being delayed or even terminated.

“You know how long it takes to get to the train station from here and we’re already familiar with the route,” I remind her. “We have plenty of time.”

But she will not be swayed.

“OK. You go,” I tell her. “But I’m going to find me a pub.” Darkey Kelly’s sounds like a good choice and I squeeze past the revelers to order my pub food and Guinness. Lively traditional tunes fill the air, and everyone is in a celebratory mood including two couples who are pub-hopping.

“This is so much better,” says one of the women. “We were just at the Temple Bar and you can’t even move there.”

Wow. And I thought this place was packed! I eat my pub grub, drink my stout and visit with my new friends while listening to traditional Irish music. I imagine heaven to be just like this.

Two hours later, I arrive at the train station to find Chris patiently sitting on a bench waiting for boarding call. I think the past two hours might have been slightly more enjoyable for me than they were for her. Just a hunch.

This was one incredible human-powered “float”!

Paperback Sale

Only 3 days left to get my paperback memoir, A Squatter in London, on sale! On March 1st the price goes up. Check it out on:

Amazon Canada      Amazon US      Amazon UK

E-book also available for purchase but you’ll miss out on vintage 1970s photos. Be sure to tell your non-fiction, like-the-feel-of-paper, reader friends before it’s too late!