#Blog Tour #Extract : The Blue Bench by Paul Marriner. @marriner_p @annecater #TheBlueBench #RandomThingsTours

Blurb:  Margate 1920. The Great War is over but Britain is still to find peace and its spirit is not yet mended. Edward and William have returned from the front as changed men. Together they have survived grotesque horrors and remain haunted by memories of comrades who did not come home. The summer season in Margate is a chance for them to rebuild their lives and reconcile the past. Evelyn and Catherine are young women ready to live to live life to the full. Their independence has been hard won and, with little knowledge of the cost of their freedom, they are ready to face new challenges side by side. Can they define their own future and open their hearts to the prospect of finding love? Will the summer of 1920 be a turning point for these new friends and the country?

Amazon UK https://www.amazon.co.uk/Blue-Bench-Paul-Marriner/dp/0992964881/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1534257740&sr=1-1&keywords=the+blue+bench+paul+marriner


Hi and thanks for joining me at BookLoverWorm for the final article as part of the blog tour for The Blue Bench, based around an extract from the book.

When considering a suitable extract from I thought to take into account that it needed to be entertaining and representative but shouldn’t give away too much and certainly no spoilers.

But, in isolation, how entertaining could an extract be? So I thought some context would help and then wondered if you might be interested to know what I’d hoped to achieve when writing that particular scene. What was its purpose within the narrative and what did I hope for the reader to take from it.

So, hoping it’s of interest, here goes.

Scene: Sunday 1st August 1920 – Edward and William


It is Edward and William’s third day in Margate. They are there because Edward is a musician playing the summer season. We know the two men fought together in the Great War and that Edward was injured, but the extent of the injury is not yet known. After breakfast they are in the drawing room of the guest house where they have taken rooms.


‘Look at this. The nineteen sixteen Christmas edition.’ Edward had been hunting through the magazine rack in the guest house drawing room. There were several issues of Tit–Bits which he passed over, initially choosing an issue of Nash’s And Pall Mall Magazine, but changing his mind on seeing the magazine underneath – Blighty, Christmas 1916 issue. ‘Where were we?’ He held it up to show William.

‘Hadn’t we just finished up at Ancre? Were we resting behind lines?’

‘I think so. That was the last Christmas we were over there.’

‘Your last Christmas. I had one other.’ William reminded him.

‘I’d have swapped, given the … circumstances.’ Edward lisped the last word and flicked through the magazine. ‘I remember this one. Didn’t one of the men receive a couple of copies from his brother up at HQ, together with some French postcards?’

‘That’s so, though the ladies in the postcards didn’t look particularly French, seeings ‘ow they had no clothes on.’

‘Still, brightened Christmas that year.’

‘Though you wouldn’t let the younger lads share round the postcards, as I recall. You made me confiscate them. Didn’t young Kayst in particular have a right moan?’

‘He did. You wanted to put him on a charge, insubordination or some such rubbish. I should have let all the lads see them. What happened to those postcards?’

‘I’ve still got them,’ said William.

‘Those postcards were probably the closest young Kayst ever came to a fuck, before …’ Edward’s voice tailed away.

‘Poor Kayst,’ said William.

‘And I remember we had to explain a lot of the jokes in the magazine to him. Not the brightest lad, but a good heart.’

‘I suppose.’ William acknowledged. Edward flicked further through the magazine without paying attention and, after a minute, asked,

‘Do you ever wonder if perhaps Kayst made it out?’

William shook his head. ‘What? No, of course not. Don’t be daft. He didn’t. We saw.’

‘Did we? See him? I don’t think I did. One second he was there, then I looked away, to you, then looked back and he was gone. In a second … less.’

‘I saw.’

‘Did you? You were looking at me, waving and shouting. Then I turned back and he was … just gone, not there.’

‘Does it matter?’

‘No. But sometimes, I wonder, it might be easier, mightn’t it? If I’d seen him … go … knew for sure …’

‘What, you mean maybe he somehow survived, hid, escaped and is living the life of Riley somewhere?’

‘No, but, I didn’t actually see him … go. And sometimes I just … I don’t know.’ Edward looked away, turned a few pages of the magazine then tossed it over to William, saying, ‘I’m bored.’

‘It’s a beautiful day, we should go and explore Margate.’ William stubbed out his cigarette and stood as if that might persuade Edward. The drawing room overlooked the back of the house where a gardener weeded the flower beds. The garden was partly in the shade of the house itself but the sun bathed the bottom half where a patch had been left to untended grass and wild flowers.

‘We explored yesterday. And, while Margate is a nice town, I’m still bored.’

‘You don’t mean bored. You’re missing your practise.’ William sat back down.

That was nearer the truth and Edward nodded acknowledgement. ‘All right. It is a beautiful day. We don’t need to be at the auditorium until four this afternoon. What shall we do?’

‘Five this afternoon will be plenty early enough.’

‘I know, but I want to be there at four …’

‘… in case the piano is free.’

‘And I want to know if Mr. Taylor has resolved that problem. I told him there’s something not right about the A six key, but I can’t tell if it’s a tuning issue or something wrong with the mechanism.’

‘I’m sure he’ll sort it.’

‘And I do need the practise.’

‘No, you don’t.’ William lit another cigarette as the maid entered. He caught her eye before she could begin plumping cushions on the settee in the window bay. ‘Now, Georgette, I expect you know Margate. What should we do today? How can we entertain my friend on this fine Sunday morning?’

They had first met the maid on the Friday, when they arrived, then on the Saturday and Sunday mornings, when serving breakfast. Knowing they would be there for a while William had made introductions but Edward guessed she was not yet accustomed to his face as she looked away to answer. ‘There is a new …’ she hesitated over the unfamiliar words, ‘… scenic railway … at Dreamland. The ride opened a few weeks past. They say it is the biggest outside America. Maybe two kilometre long. I hear it’s very … exciting.’ Georgette’s English was good and the French accent charming.

‘There you are Edward. Scenic railway, Dreamland. Two kilometres, a proper mile, at least. Though I believe the ride would be more exciting with a French lass alongside.’ He turned to Georgette. ‘Your English is excellent. You’ve been here long?’

Georgette smiled. ‘Oui, a long time. Or Monsieur might like the shell grotto. It is hundreds of years old, they say.’

‘Edward, a shell grotto. We should see for ourselves. Or perhaps Georgette could show us.’

‘Perhaps another day Monsieur.’ She was still smiling and Edward thought the smile promised mischief. And there was no doubting the allure in her accent.

‘Could we have a cup of tea, here in the drawing room?’ Edward asked Georgette, looking down as he spoke.

‘I am sorry Monsieur. There is no … refreshing … after breakfast and before lunchtime.’

‘See Edward, no reason to sit here.’ William stood again and this time Edward joined him.
Behind the scene:

Though only a short  scene I recall spending a lot of time trying to provide a lot of information in a concise but natural way, at the same time as showing a little more about how three of the main protagonists interact. Much of the information included is essential and is the first time it has been referenced. In simple terms … 

… there is confirmation that Edward and William fought together, Edward had the superior rank but did not see out the war at the front.

… we learn that their platoon included a young man called Kayst who didn’t survive the war and there are glimpses of the manner of his death.

… Kayst was not the smartest lad in the platoon and we can infer from Edward’s attitude that Kayst’s dying affected him deeply – he is dwelling on it. Kayst will become essential to the narrative both as an individual and as a symbol of a lost generation.

… we hear about the saucy postcards and that William kept them for himself – a small indicator to his personality. The postcards will play a greater part in the story later on.

… Edward is a musician and a perfectionist and that William understands him well.

… later in the scene we are introduced to Georgette for the first time and can see already that she is mor confortable with William than Edward. Georgette will be essential to the narrative.

In addition to the information I‘m hoping the reader take away indicators to the symbiotic nature of Edward and William’s relationship and Edward’s sadness and confusion at how one of his men died.

So, although not a big scene it is one of the most important foundation scenes in the book.

I hope this is of interest and, if after reading the book, readers have any particular scenes they’d like me to look at in similar detail then I’d be happy to do so – perhaps contact BookLoverWorm and suggest a scene.

Paul Marriner

About the author:

Paul grew up in a west London suburb and now lives in Berkshire with his wife and two children. He is passionate about music, sport and, most of all, writing, on which he now concentrates full-time. Paul has written four novels and his primary literary ambition is that you enjoy reading them while he is hard at work on the next one (but still finding time to play drums with Redlands and Rags 2 Riches).

Twitter :  @marriner_p


#BlogTour #Spotlight. Some Kind of Wonderful by Giovanna Fletcher.

I was meant to be reviewing this book but unfortunately my new job, other commitments and then becoming ill have meant that I’ve not been able to finish reading the book. Once I have finished it I will do a few review but for the monent I’m doing a spotlight post to highlight this book as it’s started really well and promises to be an interesting read.

Blurb:  When the love of your life says you’re not The One, what next?

After celebrating a decade together, everyone thinks Lizzy and Ian are about to get engaged.

Instead, a romantic escape to Dubai leaves Lizzy with no ring, no fiancé and no future.

Lizzy is heartbroken – but through the tears, she sees an opportunity. This is her moment to discover what she’s been missing while playing Ian’s ‘better half’.

But how much has Ian changed her, and who is she without him?

Lizzy sets out to rediscover the girl she was before – and, in the meantime, have a little fun . . .

About the author:

Essex-born Giovanna is an actress, blogger, vlogger and presenter. She is married to Tom Fletcher from McFly/McBusted and is mum to their two boys Buzz and Buddy. She lives in Middlesex with her family and is a patron of CoppaFeel! as well as a Number OneSunday Times bestselling author. Together with her husband, she wrote the Sunday Times bestselling novel EVE OF MAN.

#BlogTour #MeettheAuthor : Chris Brookmyre. @BloodyScotland @cbrookmyre #BloodyScotland

Today it’s my turn on the Meet the Author blog tour, in advance of Bloody Scotland which is on 21st-23rd September this year. For my stop I’m overjoyed to have Chris Brookmyre whose most recent book, Places in the Darkness, has been shortlisted for the 2018 McIlvanney Prize. It’s not long now till the festival itself, which I am looking forward to, but to keep you going till then, dive in and enjoy what Chris said in response to my questions. 

Blurb:  “This is as close to a city without crime as mankind has ever seen.”

Ciudad de Cielo is the ‘city in the sky’, a space station where hundreds of scientists and engineers work in earth’s orbit, building the colony ship that will one day take humanity to the stars.
When a mutilated body is found on the CdC, the eyes of the world are watching. Top-of the-class investigator, Alice Blake, is sent from Earth to team up with CdC’s Freeman – a jaded cop with more reason than most to distrust such planetside interference.

As the death toll climbs and factions aboard the station become more and more fractious, Freeman and Blake will discover clues to a conspiracy that threatens not only their own lives, but the future of humanity itself.

Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am the author of twenty-two novels, beginning with Quite Ugly One Morning in 1996, and including A Big Boy Did It And Ran Away, All Fun And Games Until Somebody Loses An Eye, Bedlam, which was adapted into a videogame, and Black Widow, which won the 2016 McIlvanney Prize and the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the year 2017. I have also recently published the historical crime novel The Way Of All Flesh, co-written with my wife Marisa Haetzman, under the pseudonym Ambrose Parry.

What got you into writing?

It is something I have done since I was able to write words and sentences. I started writing short stories when I was about six or seven, and have remained compelled to write ever since. 

You’ve now written more than twenty books under your own name. Do you think your writing has evolved over the years?

I like to think that the twenty-six-year-old who wrote Quite Ugly One Morning would be quite impressed by Black Widow, Places In The Darkness and The Way Of All Flesh. However, there is a part of the fifty-year-old me who is jealous of the younger man who was able to write an action comedy such as One Fine Day In The Middle Of The Night.

Can you tell us why you chose to set a crime novel on a space station?

I wanted to write a crime story that would explore aspects of what it is to be human in a way that would be impossible in a contemporary setting. The book deals with the ways that technology affects our humanity, and just as importantly the ways in which it does not. Optogenic mesh technology allowing the upload of non-native memories is a fun concept for crime fiction, but we are a long way from making it real.

Do you have any plans for more crime stories set in space?

I do intend to return to Ciudad De Cielo, the City In the Sky, as there are more stories to be told about Alice Blake and Nikki Freeman, but I have a few other projects ahead of that in the queue.

If you had a time machine, where would you travel in it and why?

The far future. Every writer, like every reader, primarily wants to know what happens next.

Is there a question you wished someone would ask but no-one has?

“I have a lifetime supply of Punk IPA I’d like to give you for free. Can you please sign here?”

What are your plans for the next few years?

I have a new stand-alone novel coming out next June, and a second Ambrose Parry novel following close on its heels.

Bloody Scotland established itself as the leading Scottish International Crime Writing Festival in 2012 with acclaimed writers Lin Anderson and Alex Gray at the helm, then joined by Craig Robertson and Gordon Brown. Based in Stirling, Bloody Scotland has brought hundreds of crime writers new and established to the stage with always enthusiastic attendees who make the festival every bit as much as the writers do.

Priding ourselves as the literary festival where you can let down your hair and enjoy a drink at the bar with your favourite crime writer, we strive to put on entertaining as well as informative events during a weekend in September, covering a range of criminal subjects from fictional forensics, psychological thrillers, tartan noir, cosy crime and many more. With an international focus at the heart of Bloody Scotland, we are always looking to bring in crime writing talent from outside of Scotland whom you may not have heard about. You might, however, knows us for our annual Scotland vs England football cup which always draws a crowd and inevitably ends in tears for someone…

The Bloody Scotland Team 2018: Lin Anderson, Gordon Brown, Craig Robertson, Jenny Brown, Muriel Binnie, Catriona Reynolds, Bob McDevitt, Laura Jones, Abir Mukherjee, Fiona Brownlee & Tim Donald


#Blog Tour #Review : The Angel’s Mark by S.W. Perry. @swperry_history @CorvusBooks @annecater 

I am thrilled today to be on the blog tour for The Angel’s Mark. Many thanks to Anne of Random Things Tours and Corvus books for having me on the tour. 

Blurb:   LONDON, 1590. Queen Elizabeth I’s control over her kingdom is wavering. Amidst a tumultuous backdrop of Spanish plotters, Catholic heretics and foreign wars threatening the country’s fragile stability, the body of a small boy is found in the City of London, with strange marks that no one can explain.

When idealistic physician Nicholas Shelby finds another body displaying the same marks only days later, he becomes convinced that a killer is at work, preying on the weak and destitute of London.

Determined to find out who is behind these terrible murders, Nicholas is joined in his investigations by Bianca, a spirited tavern keeper. But when their inquiries lead them to the fearsome attentions of the powerful Robert Cecil, Nicholas is forced into playing to Cecil’s agenda, and becoming a spy… 

As more bodies are discovered, the pair find themselves caught in the middle of a sinister plot. With the killer still at large, and Bianca in terrible danger, Nicholas’s choice seems impossible – to save Bianca, or save himself…

My Review:  I enjoy reading historical crime and have read books set in various time periods but, for me, the stand out books set prior to the 19th Century are those of Paul Doherty and his Brother Athelstan series. They are absolutely stunning in their detail and story-telling so anything else from pre 1800 is automatically compared to those and most books don’t match up. This one, however, came very, very close. 

This is an excellent story of one man and his journey through Elizabethan London, dealing with his own personal challenges and also those of living in such an un-trusting time. The perils of being living in that time came across really clearly. Basically if someone didn’t like you they could make accusations and even though you were innocent you wouldn’t be believed, there was so much doubt and mistrust then. 

The other thing that comes across really well, that some authors struggle with, is the descriptions. The author really brings the city to life and you can almost hear and smell the sounds of everyday living. This level of rich descriptiveness from what I believe is a debut author is amazing and I haven’t even mentioned the characters yet. I loved the characters, particularly Nicholas for whom I have a soft spot now. He deals with so much and his journey is so well written that it just makes you root for him the whole way through. 

This is a brilliant read and I genuinely want to see more from this author. My only question is when??? 
About the author:

S. W. Perry was a journalist and broadcaster before retraining as an airline pilot. He lives in Worcestershire with his wife and two spaniels. 

#BlogTour #Review : Dark Paradise by Gene Desrochers. @rararesources @problemsolverge 

Blurb:   Boise Montague’s life in Los Angeles has fallen apart. After his wife dies, he returns to the tiny island where he grew up. 

Unfortunately, coming home doesn’t bring him the peace he’s looking for.  Things have changed drastically since his last visit. The island has moved on and so have the people he once knew. When Boise tries to find the one friend he thinks he can count on to be there for him, he’s confronted with another death. A murder. A murder that the police did not think important enough to investigate thoroughly.  Boise wants answers. He enlists a local reporter named Dana, who has theories of her own, to help him dig deeper.  With not much left to lose, a bone to pick with the justice system, and a relentless partner, Boise sets out to do what the police would not: solve the murder of Jeffrey Black. 

The island of St. Thomas is a gleaming tropical paradise. Welcome to the Caribbean, where murder is as common as sunshine. 

Purchase Links





My Review: One of the goals I had with this blog was to open up my reading, try new authors and new locations and this book ticks both of those. The blurb intrigued me and having watched Death in Paradise I was, naively, expecting something similar. What I got was quite different. 

This book does not shy away from giving you a more rounded picture of a Caribbean island, it’s not all palm trees and sunshine. The story deals with the other side of these islands, it highlights the poverty and impact that loss of business (for example) can have on a small community.  

I found the story written in a slightly different style from what I’m used to and there was a level of humour in the book that I didn’t always get. This is nothing new, I’ve noticed this before. But because I missed that I feel I missed an extra layer to what was a very good story. That’s not a criticism of the writing or the author, it’s just an explanation for why I’m not sounding more enthusiastic about this book. It’s a really good story as I’ve said, with lots of depth and a good sense of place. I got a really good feel for the characters and found overall, the story to be a page turner. I wanted to know what happened next and whether Boise would find the peace he was looking for. 

If you want a really solid read, set somewhere different from your usual books then this is an excellent choice.

About the author:

Gene Desrochers hails from a dot in the Caribbean Sea called St. Thomas. He grew up with minimal supervision and free-roaming animals in a guesthouse that also served as a hospital during wartime. He has spent his life steadily migrating west, and now finds himself in Los Angeles with a beautiful wife, cats, and kids. After a lifetime of writing and telling short stories, he ventured into the deep end, publishing his first novel, Dark Paradise in 2018. If you ask, he will regale you with his Caribbean accent and tennis prowess.

Social Media Links – 






#Blog Tour #Review: The Oddest Little Chocolate Shop and The Oddest Little Cornish Tea Shop by Beth Good. @BethGoodWriter @rararesources

Today I’m taking part in a blog tour with a difference. I’m reviewing two of the five books in this series, The Oddest Little Chocolate Shop and The Oddest Little Cornish Tea Shop.


The Oddest Little Chocolate Shop

Treat yourself to something delicious . . .

‘I love Beth Good’s quirky style!’ – bestselling author Katie Fforde

When Clementine discovers that Monsieur Ravel’s beloved chocolaterie is about to close, she rushes to rescue it – without thinking through the consequences.

A lost Persian cat, a depressed but utterly gorgeous French chocolatier, an allergic shop assistant in search of true love, the oddest little chocolate shop Clementine has ever seen . . .

Can Clementine save them all, or has she bitten off more than she can chew?

A delicious, feel-good novella set in the world of chocolate-making from popular romantic comedy writer Beth Good.

Purchase Link – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Oddest-Little-Chocolate-Shop-feel-good-ebook/dp/B07D2FSQ7M

My Review: This is a lovely, quirky story which, isn’t actually set in the countryside as the cover picture suggests. However, that aside, this is a lovely quirky read that will fill your senses with chocolate and have you wishing this chocolate shop was just round the corner from you. 

Despite being a novella, the characters are all really well written. There’s a few that appear only for a few pages and even they are incredibly realistic. It’s one of those books where you get the sense that what happens in it genuinely could be happening somewhere, you just don’t know about it. 

If you want a shorter read and/or to escape from life for a while then this book would be perfect for you. 


The Oddest Little Cornish Tea Shop

It’s a big day for Charlie Bell – the grand reopening of her Aunt Pansy’s long-closed tea rooms in Tremevissey, a quaint Cornish seaside resort. But not everyone is happy for Charlie. The locals say the tea rooms are cursed. For Pansy was cruelly jilted by her lover, and walked out into the ocean, never to return.

Charlie dismisses the ‘curse’ as superstitious nonsense, but by the end of the first day, her world is in tatters, and she’s not even sure the tea rooms can open again. 

Then in walks a rugged, taciturn man with a sexy smile and everything he owns on his back, looking for a summer job . . .

Is Gideon Petherick an angel in disguise? Or is history about to repeat itself?  The latest novella in Beth Good’s quirky and popular ‘Oddest Little Shop’ romcom series.

Purchase Link – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Oddest-Little-Cornish-Tea-Shop-ebook/dp/B07D2FR32B/

My Review: As with The Oddest Little Chocolate Shop I really enjoyed this book. It’s a lovely, easy read but one which has you caring about the characters and hoping that, in this case, the tea rooms survive. Being novellas there is a lot crammed into a short number of chapters. It doesn’t feel forced but things move quicker in the stories than they would in real life. Having said that it does mean you get the satisfaction of an ending which doesn’t leave you hanging (I really don’t like it when that happens!). 

This one is set in a village in Cornwall. It’s a place I’ve not yet been but I got a real sense of it from the writing. The characters were as well written as I’ve mentioned in the above review but in this story there were quite a few emotions and they came across really well too. 

This is another short but perfectly formed story which is ideal for escaping from the real world for a while and, although I haven’t read the other three books in the series I expect they will also be perfect escapist reads. 

About the author:

Born and raised in Essex, England, Beth Good was whisked away to an island tax haven at the age of eleven to attend an exclusive public school and rub shoulders with the rich and famous. Sadly, she never became rich or famous herself, so had to settle for infamy as a writer of dubious novels. She writes under several different names, mainly to avoid confusing her readers – and herself! As Beth Good she writes romantic comedy and feel-good fiction. She also writes thrillers as Jane Holland, historicals as Victoria Lamb and Elizabeth Moss, and feel-good fiction as Hannah Coates.  Beth currently lives in the West Country where she spends a great deal of time thinking romantic thoughts while staring out of her window at sheep. (These two actions are unrelated.)   You can find her most days on Twitter as @BethGoodWriter where she occasionally indulges in pointless banter about chocolate making and the Great British Bake Off. Due to a basic inability to say no, she has too many children and not enough money, which means she needs as many readers as she can get.

Social Media Links – 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BethGoodAuthor

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/BethGoodWriter

#Blog Tour #Extract : The Spy’s Gamble by Howard Kaplan. @kaplanhow @LoveBooksGroup #TheSpysGamble 

Today I am taking part in the blog tour for The Spy’s Gamble and have an extract for you. Many thanks to LoveBooksGroupTours for having me as part of this tour.

Blurb:  When the Israeli Prime Minister boards a new stealth submarine in Norfolk, Virginia intending a celebratory ride and the sub vanishes, it sets in motion a suspenseful story that intertwines the history of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict with a story of what could be.

Shai Shaham—an Israeli intelligence officer—contacts old friend and adversary Ramzy Awwad—a former PLO intelligence officer and one of the great writers of his people—for help in locating the missing prime minister. But can they trust each other? Can their friendship withstand the turbulent political landscape?

Eli Bardin—an agent who is feeling the strain of being away from his wife and children for so long in the field—is also tasked to contact Ramzy for the help in finding the missing sub. It seems the Russian have great interest in the technology, and he must locate the prime minister…because losing him is a national calamity that threatens to upset a delicate political balance in the most terrifying ways.

Starkly depicting the excesses of both sides and moving through actual events, THE SPY’S GAMBLE relies on in-depth research to weave a thrilling tale of suspense of reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. 

Buy Link: 





Khaled Fahmy sat at the far end of the bar in Washington, DC, listening to the two young men speaking Hebrew at the table behind him, wondering if they were soldiers. Though in civilian clothes they still looked military, maybe twenty, close-cropped hair, muscular beneath their short sleeved shirts despite the winter cold, two jackets casually tossed on an empty chair, one blonde, one dark haired.  Fahmy had been born in 1992, the twenty-fifth year of the Israeli occupation of tFhe West Bank, not long before these Israeli boys, he guessed. He had known nothing other than heartache under Israeli military rule, a vice on the neck of their daily life.  Next spring, June 10, 2017 would mark fifty years of the Israeli occupation.

 “My Mashakit Tash got me a pass to go see my mother before we left,” the blonde Israeli said. “I’m completely crazy for her.”

            Khaled knew each military unit had their own Mashakit tash, a girl social worker their age from the unit who underwent a few months training for the post. Each solider was assigned to one.

  “She’s incredible,” the blond continued. “Those legs, tall. In tight, white Navy pants they go on forever, and you know exactly how they look when you pull off the pants.”

            They dove into talking about girls. Khaled thought about his sister, Sumaya, dead at sixteen years old. Seeking the glory of martyrdom, she had thrust one of their mother’s old bent kitchen knives into a border guard at the Qalandia Checkpoint, a large crossing at the concrete and barbed wire topped Separation Wall between the West Bank and Jerusalem. Privately, Khaled thought she’d done it both for the cause and to escape the monotony and despair of the occupation.

            Four hundred and forty miles long, the Separation Wall ran mostly along the Green Line, the 1949 Israeli-Jordanian armistice border, but some Palestinian towns were nearly encircled, cut off from the rest of the Palestinian Territories.  Called the “security fence” by Israelis, the wall went up in 2003 in response to three years of consistent suicide bombings. Widely touted as an impenetrable success, the Separation Wall kept few out. At night, even a few meters from Qalandia, Palestinians hoisted ladders, snipped the barbed wire at the crown and shimmied down ropes dropped twenty-five feet into Israel. They found work with corrupt Israeli builders who let them sleep on worksites and paid below minimum wages, still far better than the pervasive unemployment in the West Bank. The Israeli military did not even bother to repair the barbed wire, knowing how easily it would be cut again. The Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) Chief of Staff Gadi Eisenkot estimated that fifty to sixty thousand West Bank Palestinians snuck into Israel each day. Fahmy believed the barrier was the long-persecuted Jews’ way of erasing their domination of the Palestinians; out of sight, out of mind.

The dark-haired Israeli was smiling at two college girls seated at the next table, both in towering high heel boots. The blonde with curls smiled back.

            “It’s so free here,” the Israeli said in Hebrew to his mate. “Nobody checking bags at the door. Girls back home are so full of themselves, won’t even let you buy them a drink cause they know what you want.” 

 “It’s wonderful,” his friend said. “Same game but these American girls have fun playing it.”

            The dark-haired soldier stood abruptly and walked over to the coeds’ table, his mate in tow. He stood over the curly blonde and spoke in heavily accented English. “Are you Jewish? Cause you is-raeli hot!”

She gave him half a smile. Across the table, her friend rolled her eyes. “I’ve heard about Israeli guys.”

            “What did you hear of us?”  

            “That I should never do business with an Israeli.”

            “Ah, maybe that is true but I promise you we are not in this bar for business.”    Without asking, both noisily pulled out chairs, startling the curly blonde as they sat at their table.

The second Israeli called to the bartender. “We are buying these girls another what they’re drinking.” He turned to the girls. “My people invented circumcision; you’re welcome.”

Despite herself, the curly blonde laughed. Her friend lifted her half-full Scotch rocks and said, “Indeed, a very old procedure.” She drained her glass. “Which means I can see the results easily anywhere.”