In 1974, top UK band Figgis Green was riding high in the charts with their blend of traditional Celtic ballads mixed with catchy, folky pop. One of their biggest fans was sixteen-year old Pippa Gladstone, who mysteriously vanished while she was on holiday with her parents in Spain in March that same year.
Now it’s 2018, and founding member Mandy Green has reunited the Figs for their last-ever Lost Time Tour. Her partner, Tony Figgis, passed away in 1995, so his place has been taken by their son, professional jazz guitarist (and amateur sleuth) Jason Davey.
As the band meets in a small village on the south coast of England for pre-tour rehearsals, Jason’s approached by Duncan Stopher, a diehard Figs fan, who brings him a photo of the band performing at the Wiltshire Folk Festival. Standing in the foreground is Pippa Gladstone. The only problem is the Wiltshire Folk Festival was held in August 1974, five months after Pippa disappeared. Duncan offers Jason a substantial sum of money to try and find out what really happened to the young woman, whose mother had her declared officially dead in 1981.
When Duncan is murdered, it becomes increasingly clear to Jason that his investigation into Pippa’s disappearance is not welcome, especially after he follows a series of clues which lead him straight back to the girl’s immediate family.
But nothing can prepare Jason for the truth about Pippa, which he discovers just as Figgis Green is about to take to the stage on opening night—with or without him.
I woke up at half-past six experiencing mild panic. It was Monday and our start was scheduled for 9 a.m., which meant I had plenty of time to make myself look presentable and have breakfast. And the manor, where we were rehearsing, was only a five-minute walk up the hill from The Dog’s Watch.
But I hadn’t toured in nearly ten years. The last time I’d gigged around England was 2009, the year Em died. I’d been on the road with my own band, desperate to “make it” playing concerts in pubs and clubs and converted churches and renovated city halls and repurposed corn exchanges. And staging late night turns at so many music festivals I’d lost count.
I really wasn’t sure I was up to it.
I made myself a cup of tea with the clever all-in-one device on my writing table and tried to force myself to think past it. I wasn’t at all the same person I was back then. I was ten years older. I’d settled. I was far more confident now, and much happier. And “making it” wasn’t even in my lexicon anymore. I had “made it”—at the Blue Devil.
This tour was icing on the cake. And the feeling of apprehension was, I assured myself, temporary. It would pass.
I had a shower and a shave, and then I went downstairs for breakfast.
It was half past seven.
Mum and Bob were already there and had saved me a seat at their table in the dining room.
“‘Morning,” I said, trying to do my best impression of “awake”. It was a challenge.
“Bucks Fizz?” Bob inquired, offering me the menu. “To celebrate our first day on the job?”
“It’s a bit early for me,” mum said.
“I don’t drink,” I said. “But a straight-up orange juice would go down nicely.”
“Ah,” said Bob, in that tone of voice that people revert to when they find they need to express an understanding of alcoholic recovery.
“By choice,” I added. “Not any particular adherence to higher powers or staircases.”
“Well done,” said Bob, acknowledging that my willpower had control over the broken “off-switch” that many of my friends who actually have embraced AA enthusiastically own up to.
The menu offered a fresh fruit salad with berries, or yogurt, or porridge, or cereals. And the ever-popular Full English, which all three of us decided to order. There’s nothing like going to work on two free-range eggs, sausage, mushroom, baked beans and a roasted tomato. Even when you’re showered and shaved but your brain’s still upstairs buried underneath the pillow.
“I trust you solved the smoking issue?” mum inquired, conversationally, as I took the mandatory photo for Instagram.
“You know me too well.”
“I should think so,” she said, pouring out a cup of her favourite Yorkshire tea.
“A chuffer?” Bob inquired.
“I’m trying to quit.”
“He’s always trying to quit,” mum replied, humorously, stirring in some milk. “I don’t know where he got it from. Neither Tony nor I ever smoked.”
“Cigarettes, anyway,” I said.
I know it’s difficult to imagine a Shale and Lace granny regularly toking up. But when she was younger, she did. And so did my dad. Along with the rest of the band. There’s a wonderful ornate hookah from India somewhere in her loft and I can attest to the fact that it was exceptionally well-used.
“I reckon,” I said, “that as long as you keep trying, you’ve never actually thrown in the towel.”
Since The Dog’s Watch was a non-smoking establishment, last night’s bedtime ciggie had forced me to become inventive: take the battery out of the smoke alarm (not an option—it was hard-wired—I checked); open a window and aim the smoke outside (a possibility—if I’d been able to figure out how to unlatch the bloody thing) or retreat into the loo, shut the door and blow it down the—
“Sink drain?” mum guessed.
“I won’t tell Arthur if you don’t,” I said, embracing my first coffee of the day. Very strong. With cream and two sugars.
Stoneford Manor has an interesting history. It was built in the early 1800s by a widower, Augustus Duran, who’d arrived in the village after hurriedly abandoning a very draughty chateau in Amiens in the midst of the French Revolution. He’d remarried and set about raising a second family. But it turned out his new wife preferred to live in a far less ostentatious cottage at the bottom of the hill, and so the manor had been sold to the Boswell-Thorpes, who owned three other stately country homes and a townhouse in Eaton Square in London.
Notes On a Missing G-String
Jason Davey Mysteries Book 1
“A highly entertaining caper set in a sleazy London underworld…Jason is a well-crafted reluctant hero, and Kent’s writing is slick and engaging throughout.” – Kirkus Reviews
The first time we met Jason Davey, he was entertaining passengers aboard the Alaska cruise ship Star Sapphire, Eight ‘til Late in the TopDeck Lounge.
Then he came ashore, got a gig playing lead guitar at London’s Blue Devil jazz club, and gained a certain amount of notoriety tracking down missing musician Ben Quigley in the Canadian north.
Now Jason’s back again, this time investigating the theft of £10,000 from a dancer’s locker at a Soho gentlemen’s club.
Jason initially considers the case unsolvable. But the victim, Holly Medford, owes a lot of money to London crime boss Arthur Braskey and, fearing for her life, has gone into hiding at a posh London hotel.
Jason’s investigation takes him from Cha-Cha’s and Satin & Silk (two Soho lapdancing clubs) to Moonlight Desires (an agency featuring high class escorts) and finally to a charity firewalking event, where he comes face to face with Braskey and discovers not everything Holly’s been telling him is the complete truth.
As he becomes increasingly drawn into the seamy underside of Soho, Jason tries to save Gracie, his band-mate’s 14-year-old runaway daughter, from Holly’s brother Radu, a ruthless pimp, while at the same time protecting Holly herself from a vengeful Braskey—nearly losing his life, and Gracie’s—in the process.
Notes on a Missing G-String is the first novel in a new mystery series featuring jazz musican-turned-sleuth Jason Davey.
Cha-Cha’s is housed in an old brick building which, so far, seems to have escaped developers’ attentions. It was put up around 1883 as part of a scheme to replace a collection of ramshackle houses and decaying alleys. The idea was to provide tradesmen with shops that would occupy the basements and ground floors, while the floors above would have rooms to let for those who wanted to live nearby.
The original building was four windows wide and five storeys high, including a garret at the top, three intermediate floors, and the cellar. Over the years, though, the structure’s been divided vertically, so that it now appears to be two completely separate properties. But once you go inside and downstairs to the cellar, you can see where the common wall’s been removed to allow the nightclub to fill the entire space below street level.
There are no garish signs and no flashing lights marking Cha- Cha’s presence on the road. The entrance, on the ground floor, is painted deep burgundy and has a matching canopy. At night, the double doors are kept open and guarded by a burly-looking bouncer behind a velvet rope. During the day, the doors are locked shut and it actually looks quite forlorn.
I waited outside as I rang the club’s owner, Roly Barfield, to let him know I was there. He appeared almost instantly, unlocking the door, extending his hand and greeting me with a genuine smile.
“Nice to see you again, Jason,” he said. We’d been introduced once before, when he’d slipped over to the Blue Devil to catch one of my shows. He’d popped by a few times more after that—I’d spotted him in the audience. “Come inside.”
Inside smelled like dirty carpets and last night’s cocktails. Cha- Cha’s definitely isn’t on par with places like Stringfellows. It tries to be classy, but it’s really a bit seedy once you get past the scuffed leather seats and the overpriced bottles lining the backlit mirror bar and the dancers who always seemed to me to be thinking about
doing the washing up while they were persuading us to part with our cash.
Roly’s office was a few steps away from the cashier’s booth (£20 to be admitted and a good deal more once you were inside and shelling out for drinks, dances and the privacy of the VIP room or the booths), next to a newish-looking staircase that took you down to the venue in the cellar. I’m certain the stairs were never a part of the original plans for the building—they’re too wide and in the wrong place (in the front, not in the back or off to the side).
“Drink?” Roly offered. He had a nice collection of bottles behind a small private bar.
“No thanks,” I said. “I don’t.”
“Not one of ‘those’, are you?” His question was curious, not depreciating.
“Personal choice,” I said, “though I have friends who are. I’ve got the Serenity Prayer on a bookmark and the Twelve Steps memorized. In three different languages.”
“I wouldn’t mind a smoke, though,” I said.
“If you were anybody else I’d make you stand outside. Go on then.”
I got out my pack of Benson and Hedges Gold and lit up. It was my third of the day, which was an improvement. I’m cutting down gradually, not being a fan of the cold turkey school of misery and deprivation. I refuse to wear one of those patches. And if you’re going to vape you might as well inhale the real thing.
Roly took a glass ashtray out of his desk drawer and slid it over to me.
“What can I do for you? You said something about a robbery…?”
I’d been a bit sparse with the details when I’d rung him.
“I’m doing a favour for a friend,” I said. “Just making some inquiries. You had a dancer working here—Holly Medford.”
“Chanel,” Roly said.
“Holly Medford’s club name. Chanel.”
“Ah,” I said. Something I’d forgotten to ask her yesterday. My inexperience was showing. “You do remember her, then?”
“I remember all my girls. Mind like a steel trap, me.”
“Holly—Chanel—had some money stolen from her locker when she was here last week. Did she report the theft to you?”
“She did not,” Roly said. “This is the first I’ve heard of it.”
Yet another surprise.
“Did you know she was deeply in debt?” I asked, carefully.
“I know she borrowed a substantial amount of money from a certain gentleman who is anxious to have it repaid,” Roly said.
“Again, my familiarity with this situation is somewhat limited. I was only made aware of it recently.”
“Do you know the name of the gentleman who loaned her the money?”
“Arthur Braskey,” Roly replied. “You won’t be acquainted with him. You’ve got a respectable bank account.”
I smiled. “Has he been to see you?”
“In an informal capacity only. He wanted to know if I knew where he might find her. I was unable to help.”
“I’ve been told Holly’s money was taken from the dressing room where the dancers change their clothes before and after their shifts.
Do you mind if I have a look?”
“I wish she’d reported it,” Roly said. “If there’s a thief on the premises, word gets around. Lax security. Not good for business.”
Disturbing the Peace
Jason Davey Mysteries Prequel
Jason Davey’s last job was aboard the Star Sapphirecruising from Vancouver to Alaska. Hired as one of the ship’s entertainers, he played guitar in the TopDeck Lounge. You can read about those adventures in the novel Cold Playhere.
Now Jason’s back on shore, and he has a regular gig at a jazz club in London.
Jason’s son, Dominic, is studying film at university. When Dom asks his dad to help track down a missing musician for a documentary he’s making, Jason leaps at the chance.
Ben Quigley played rhythm guitar in Jason’s parents’ folk group Figgis Green in the late 1960s. And he dropped off the face of the earth four years ago.
Jason’s search ultimately takes him to Peace River, Alberta – 300 miles from Edmonton in the Canadian north. And what he discovers there is both intriguing – and disturbing.
Disturbing the Peaceis a novella which introduces readers to professional musician and amateur sleuth Jason Davey. Jason will soon feature in a new series of full-length mystery novels, beginning with Notes on a Missing G-String.
I have never, in my entire life, been so fundamentally freezing fucking cold.
I should have known what to expect when I looked out of the window of the plane and saw everything below completely covered in snow. I should have listened—really listened—when the Captain came over the PA to inform us we’d shortly be landing in Calgary, the local time was 2.55pm and the temperature on the ground was a balmy -26°C with a low that night expected to be in the vicinity of -30°C.
But it didn’t really sink in.
It’s one of those things you seriously cannot understand until you’ve actually experienced it.
I had a three hour layover in Calgary before my flight to Grande Prairie. I got myself through the CBSA Primary Inspection and Customs, and lugged my suitcase off the carousel, and my next order of business was to find the airport’s smoking area.
It was outside.
I was wearing a short padded winter jacket and lined hiking boots that looked and felt more like trainers. I had a pair of leather gloves stuffed into my pockets. I zipped up the jacket and put the gloves on and stepped through the airport doors.
I once had an uncle who worked for British Airways. He loved Canada. He flew there as often as he could for his holidays. He particularly loved the Canadian prairies in the winter. From Uncle Fred I learned that the winter weather in Canada was “exhilarantly bracing.”
Those are not the words I would have used to describe the moment Calgary’s -26°C winter chill met my woefully unprepared face, hands, feet and body. It was penetrating, aggressive and relentlessly unmerciful. I couldn’t see myself lasting two minutes outside, let alone the time it would take to smoke one cigarette.
I turned around and went back into the terminal and vowed, first, that my Uncle Fred was insane, and second, that I would give up my evil habit there and then.
Over the next couple of hours I chewed my way through three packages of gum and managed to distract myself with a Bento box and massive amounts of hot green tea at a Japanese restaurant on the Mezzanine level of Canadian Departures.
And then, after committing a further indignity to my unwinterized body by forcing it to walk across the tarmac to board a tiny, prop-driven Dash-8, I was on my way, at last, to Grande Prairie.
Winona Kent is an award-winning author who was born in London, England and grew up in Regina, Saskatchewan, where she completed her BA in English at the University of Regina. After moving to Vancouver, she graduated from UBC with an MFA in Creative Writing. More recently, she received her diploma in Writing for Screen and TV from Vancouver Film School.
After a career that’s included freelancing for magazines and newspapers, long and short fiction, screenplays and tv scripts, Winona has now returned to her first love, novels. She lives in Vancouver, Canada.