"I can't get on with this book, Hamish," she complained. "When the first one was published, I thought I was all set. But the words won't come."
"Maybe you're trying too hard."
"Maybe. Let's have coffee."
Angela's first novel had been published the previous autumn. Reviews were good, but sales were modest.
"The trouble is I am damned as a 'literary writer,'" said Angela, "which usually means praise and no money."
"Perhaps something in the village will spark your imagination," said Hamish, covertly shooing two of her cats off the table where they were trying to drink the milk out of the jug.
"Like this artist fellow. Seems to be a big hit with the ladies."
"Oh, he jokes and teases them. But I can't see anyone falling for him."
"In a funny kind of way, there's nothing about him that gives any of them the come-on. He's just a thoroughly nice man."
"Painting any good?"
"He's just started, but I looked his name up on the Internet. He's considered to be a very good landscape painter. He paints pictures in the old-fashioned way, and people are going for that. I think they're moving away from elephant dung and unmade beds or whatever the modern artist has been exhibiting at the Tate. I don't think he's going to cause any dramas. Where are your animals?"
"I left them playing in the garden."
"Don't you find it odd that a dog and a wild cat should get on so well?"
"Not really. A relief, if you ask me. If Lugs hadn't taken to the cat, I'd need to have got rid of it."
"Be careful, Hamish. It is a wild cat, and they can be savage."
"Maybe it just got caught in a trap."
"Here's your coffee. Is Effie Garrard still around?"
"Yes. I visited her the other day and asked around about her. Patel is selling her stuff, and so is the gift shop up at the Tommel Castle Hotel. She does charge awfully high prices."
"Are you going to the ceilidh on Saturday?"
"I might drop in."
"You'll need a ticket. Five pounds."
"Five pounds! What on earth for?"
"The church hall needs repainting."
"I thought some of the locals would have done that for free."
"Oh, they are. But it's to raise money for repairs to the roof, paint, and new curtains."
"And what would I be getting for five pounds?"
"A buffet supper. The Italian restaurant is doing the catering."
"That's decent of them. I'll go."
"You must be getting very bored," said Angela, putting a mug of coffee in front of him. "No crime."
Copyright © 2006 by Marion Chesney
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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