Monthly Archives: November 2017

A podcast about Celebrating Grandmothers

As regular readers will know, I write a lot of blog posts for SixtyandMe, an excellent organisation for older women with a website and a Facebook page, where you can learn a lot.

Today, Margaret Manning, who runs SixtyandMe, put out a podcast about Celebrating Grandmothers.  It is about ten minutes and you can see it here:

It is titled ‘What kind of grandmother are you?’ and was broadcast today, 29 November 2017.

Review: Wise Before their Time has similar impact as Lionel Shriver


It was a sad book, something I wouldn’t dare to re-read but glad anyways that I have read it. I remember reading ‘We Need to Talk about Kevin’ by Lionel Shriver and having the same feelings; as a parent, the book was so hard for me to read and yet, I was awfully glad I had read it. Wise Before Their Time is totally different in context from Lionel Shriver’s. It is a difficult book to read not as a parent but as a sensitive person.

The first edition was published in the time when AIDS was still considered a tabooed subject; being tested HIV Positive was an automatic death sentence and a social stigma; no one wanted to get associated with HIV Positive people. To read the book at the time it was published for the first time would have been, an altogether, a different experience. Things today have changed so much. The patients can talk about it openly. Access to antiretroviral drugs has become easier. HIV Positive people can live a better, healthier and a normal life. So in that context, this second edition of Wise Before Their Time serves an altogether different purpose: The feelings: what the patients feels, what kind of impact being tested positive makes on them, how they come to term with living with the disease, how the fear of isolation, rejection haunts them? The following lines from the poem ‘If You Want to Love me’ from the book beautifully sum up all the emotions in a few words:

If you want to love me
Then love me now.
Don’t look for tomorrow
And don’t ask me how.
I can’t give you a guideline
It is your love,
Your life,
It is you.

Difficult times brings out either the strength or the weakness in a person. The person never stays same. He either becomes bigger or smaller. And it was heartening to learn that most patients after being tested positive came out stronger, wiser, and more mature.

The author, through interviews with patients, has presented an honest, moving picture which touches a reader’s heart. Do read this book. If not for anything else then just to understand and appreciate the beauty of being healthy and being alive!

Avira N, author of YOU left me, sweets, two legacies: Famous Love Poems


Do you sing? No, I don’t mean, are you an opera singer, because there are precious few of those. I just mean do you like to sing, for instance, in the shower or in the bath? Or perhaps to yourself as you potter around the house. It is a joyous activity, which can be done at any age.

Some Say They Can’t Sing

A few people will tell you that they can’t sing. And they may be right. Some say that everyone can sing, but I suspect there are a few people in this world who somehow lack a sense of tune or the ability to hit the right note. Not all that many, but I know some.

Singing as a Child

Most of us were expected to sing in childhood – whether at school or in church or within the family. It wasn’t something we were asked about, any more than anything else we did as children, but just another activity we did.

My mother, who was not a very good pianist at all, used to sit down at the piano and play folk songs for me and my siblings to sing with her. I quite enjoyed that and learned a lot of songs, particularly old folk songs.

I am told that I caused a bit of a stir when I proposed “What shall we do with the drunken sailor?” when asked what we would like to sing in nursery school. I thought it was a rousing good tune!

As an older child, I sang in the school choir and found that very satisfying. I sang alto and loved the challenge of not singing the tune, but thereby making the whole sound better. I still do.

Singing in a Choir

For the past 20 years I have sung in a choir. We generally sing serious music, like Brahms’ Requiem or a Mozart Mass or even Bach, but we do branch out to other things from time to time. We even sang Bohemian Rhapsody by Queen on one occasion.

Singing in a choir is the source of enormous pleasure. I highly recommend it.

The sense of singing with others somehow creates a real bond inside the group, because the whole is so much better than the sum of the parts.

You struggle with the hard parts together and triumph together when you get it right. It can be frustrating when things go wrong, but oh so wonderful when everyone is singing well.

Choirs are also a wonderful place to meet people of all ages. I don’t know the age of everyone in my choir, but I know we span from people in their 20s to at least one woman in her 90s. You develop friendships over break-time which often spill over to meetings on other occasions.

And, of course, there is the pleasure of performance – to sing beautiful music for the benefit of others is a wonderful activity, whether in a church or concert hall.

Singing in the Bath or Shower

I never went in for singing in the bath or shower, but I believe many find it a delightful way to enjoy two pleasing activities at the same time.

Singing and Your Health

The cherry on top of all the above is that singing, no matter the location – choir, bath or wherever – is very good for your health. It is good for your lungs and is also good exercise. Certainly, when you are feeling down, you will feel much better after a good singing session.

What’s not to like?

This was originally published with a different title by Sixty and Me ( and should not be re-blogged.

New Book: A Deadly Game of Hangman by Peter Mulraney

Stella Bruno Investigates is a series of quick reads – books designed to be read in one sitting. Each book in the series only takes around an hour and a half to two hours to read. So, there’s no waiting for days to find out who did it.

The series is set in and around Adelaide, South Australia, and centres on criminal investigations led by Detective Sergeant Stella Bruno. I have the inside information on Adelaide – it’s my home town.

Stella is assisted by Detective Constable Brian Rhodes, who’s approaching retirement, harassed by Detective Inspector Frank Williams, and distracted by Shaun Porter from the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

In addition to all the crime, the stories also follow Stella’s developing relationship with Shaun and provide insights into her life as a single mother with a fourteen-year old son. You’ll also discover some of the benefits she enjoys by being part of an extended Italian family.

If you’ve never been to Australia, these stories will give you a little taste of life ‘down under’ where you can experience the North Wind as hot and blustery and winters without snow and ice.

A Deadly Game of Hangman, Book 4 in the series, tells the story of Stella’s investigation into the murder of a young man whose body is found hanging from a tree in Adelaide’s famous Park Lands, which ring the city centre. The killer tried to disguise the murder as a suicide but there are some things about a hanging that you just can’t hide from a forensic pathologist, like Dr Steve Wright.

The case gets a little more interesting when the body of a friend of the first victim is found hanging from a tree in Morialta Park, in the foothills on the eastern edge of the Adelaide metropolitan area, and the similarities strongly suggest to Stella that she is dealing with a serial killer.

And, just to keep you up until you’ve finished, I’ve built in a little bit of suspense towards the end.

The other titles in the series published to date are:

  • The Identity Thief.
  • A Gun of Many Parts.
  • Bones in the Forest.

A Deadly Game of Hangman is available from Amazon. 

Author’s website:

New Review: “An Incredibly Important Read”- 5 stars

When Wise Before Their Time was first published in 1992, it served two purposes – to educate people on what life was like for the heartbreakingly large number of young people (and god, they were young) who were living with HIV and AIDS around the world, to try and beat the stigma and combat false information; and to directly speak to people who had the disease and who were feeling its often isolating and alienating consequences. I was born in 1995 and therefore missed out on a majority the horrors of the pandemic, but as Ann Richardson states in the foreword, my generation and the ones that come after it, are the reason why this book needs to be republished – so that people do not forget the horrors and fears of the past and, in some places in the world, the present; that we remain educated and continue to stand in solidarity with people who are HIV-positive and those living with AIDS.

I suppose I find some comfort in how much has changed in just my lifetime, a mere twenty years although to some it must feel like a millennia – HIV screenings have become commonplace with pre- and post-exposure drugs becoming far more readily available; the creation of needle exchange programmes in many countries around the world; and, more people than ever are engaged in an open and honest discussion about all aspects of the disease. Also, at least in my part of the world, living with HIV/AIDS is no longer seen as a negative on someone’s character and it is no longer solely talked about in hushed voices behind closed doors, moving into classrooms, university campuses and many other social arenas.

And I think that we have every person involved in the creation of this book to thank for a small part of that being made possible.

Each one of the voices in Wise Before Their Time is powerful and sobering. They show the everyday realities of living with a disease that people, including doctors as their tales repeatedly show, knew virtually nothing about. They talk honestly and incredibly openly about all aspects of the experience of living with HIV/AIDS – from how they got their diagnosis, to confront their own mortality, to telling friends and family members, to their hopes for the future. Expanding on the latter, there is a definite sense of hope that is forges the undercurrent for the entirety of the interviews as, no matter how long the person had had the disease or what part of the world they lived in, they refused to give up, every single one of them. And that is surely, the true definition of inspiring.


New Book: Forests of the Mist by Haylie Machado Hanson

“Forests of Mist” Launch

Hello, readers! I’d like to apologize in advance if this blog is incoherent. I’m bone-tired from being up all hours of the night feeding Girl Spawn, who coincidentally came early on launch week. Two October babies for me, what a lucky gal I am!

The biggest news I have (writing-wise, I happen to think Girl Spawn joining the world is pretty big news) is that Calliope Jones and The Forests of Mist launched on Amazon on October 21st!* I’m so excited for you guys to be able to download it and read it. I hope you love it. I know I do, but I’m biased. So please, download it, read it, review it! Beta feedback was this book is better than the first, and I tend to agree.

And with that, I’m off, since Girl Spawn forgot I just fed her, like, 15 minutes ago. My literary baby is far less demanding. And doesn’t keep me up all night. Well, I can’t promise my literary baby won’t keep you up all might until you finish it. In fact, I wish you many sleepless nights as you Dive into Callie’s exciting new adventure!
You can find Forsests of Mist here.

New Book: A View from Memory Hill by Paul Toolan

‘Where do your stories come from?’

If only I received royalties every time a reader asks me this!

Here, there and everywhere is the true but unhelpful answer. In ‘A View from Memory Hill’, there’s a story called Old Man, Young Pub that was triggered by seeing…an old man in a young pub!

I was at the Brighton Festival [Brighton, England – I used to live there] with old friends/fellow retirees. We dropped in to a wonderful, low-ceilinged pub called The Basketmakers, whose decor has barely been touched since it opened. I remember thinking we were the oldest people there, among many young and lively folk, some dressed in the trendiest fashion, some so far ahead they were next year.

It was a hot day, but as I looked around I spotted an old gentleman in a tweed jacket and tie, standing at the bar, quietly sipping his pint. All around him, bright young things were loud and full of energy. They squatted on bar stools, but no-one offered a seat to the old guy, and his legs could have used one. I wondered about his silent thoughts.

His anonymity, mine too, amongst this colourful crowd threw up a name: Smith. With the conscious germ of a story now in my head, I called him Frank Smith in hope he would eventually be frank enough to tell some sort of tale. I never spoke to this old man, but later when I sat at my keyboard, I spoke to Frank Smith, or he to me. I really don’t know which came first.

What I had was a character and a setting. No plot, no events, no history. Yet. But Frank Smith travelled with me, later in the Arts Festival, to a shabby-chic little theatre where, on hard seats, we watched a trio of skilled actors on a bare, dark stage. Magically, they brought to life some of Damon Runyan’s New York Prohibition stories.

Shortly after, inside that inexplicable swirl called a writer’s head, two separate experiences merged. Frank Smith went to his local pub; and he went to see a play. To keep the story structure tight, I made the theatre a blacked-out room at his pub, and had him go out of sheer boredom. Frank would have liked the Damon Runyan stories, but there’s insufficient conflict in what characters enjoy. I needed to change the play, to find one that Frank Smith liked less, that triggered something of his history, his demons or regrets.

On my bookshelves I have ‘Samuel Beckett: The Complete Dramatic Works’. I browsed through it. ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’ seemed ideal. It featured an old man’s memories, recalled with the aid of an old reel-to-reel tape recorder. Krapp is a drinker too, which resonated with Frank. While flicking through, I revisited ‘Rockaby’, a short Beckett play featuring an old woman in a rocking chair, remembering her past. Within moments, Frank Smith had a wife.

A day or two later, I named her Lucy. Then killed her off. The story would have become a novel if I hadn’t, and I wanted to balance Frank’s ageing memories – of Lucy and others – with voices of youth. So along came the young woman who ushers the audience to their seats in ‘the long thin dark theatre’ where Krapp’s Last Tape is performed. Her surprise that Frank turned up at all, among so many young people, releases the demons that rumbled as Frank watched the play. Short stories need a moment of realisation or change, and the clash between her enthusiasm for the play’s use of the past and Frank’s disturbed memories provided this.

‘We’ve all been something,’ was all he managed to say. ‘Known someone.’

The story might have ended there, but because the theme of age and youth was well-established I felt more could be done. I went back to the keyboard and jiggled the plot, making Frank inadvertently upset the ‘woman in black’, so her young hopes and dreams could quietly confront his regrets.
“In the half-dark, she looked squarely at him, black T-shirt and jeans appraising jacket and tie. A slight twitch flickered her lips. He thought there might be tears.

‘We all have dreams,’ she said, in the quietest voice he’d ever heard. ‘I’d rather dream than drift, any day.’ She pressed her lips together to control the twitch, but it continued. ‘What’s wrong with having dreams?’ she asked.”

This exchange then allowed a more positive development in Frank, making for a more satisfying conclusion [in my view, anyway, but I’d love to hear yours too].

So, a chance observation in a pub, a visit to a play, a book on a shelf, some musings and experiments at the keyboard – and before too long there’s a character’s voice, a felt situation, and a set of realisations. If it was as easy as I’ve made it sound…

I drop in to a pub maybe once week. I’m wondering if I should go more often. Pubs are full of people, and where there are people, there are stories.

You can find A View from the Memory Hill here:

Paul Toolan

Older women and the AIDS epidemic

Do you remember the terrible AIDS epidemic in the 1980s and 1990s? Were you directly affected by it? We older women are all old enough to remember. But for some, it may have passed by as an awful situation that happened to other people, with little impact on their family or friends.

And for others – more than is often recognised – it had a dreadful import. Many were reluctant to talk about it to anyone. It was a time of great stigma and shame.

AIDS and Women

Because HIV was most rife in the gay community, it was often thought that it did not have a big impact on women. Yet, there were some women who acquired HIV through other routes, such as needle-sharing or partners who brought it home to them.

But to limit discussion to these women is to misunderstand the nature of human relationships. Whether or not we had HIV ourselves, we were also mothers, sisters and friends. Some of us worked in professions, such as dance or theatre that were heavily implicated. Many of us were deeply affected.

Wise Before Their Time

In the late 1980s, I met – and became close friends with – a young man who had been living with AIDS for a long time and was very active in the HIV/AIDS community.

In 1991, he was organising an international conference in London of people with HIV and AIDS and we decided to write a book based on interviews with some of the participants. In all, we interviewed over 20 people from 15 different countries about their lives.

These mostly young men and women described their efforts to cope with the stigma, blame and guilt associated with the disease. They talked about their difficulties in telling their parents, partners and friends. Not to mention coming to terms with a very early death.

The book, Wise Before Their Time, was published in 1992. Sir Ian McKellen wrote a Foreword in which he said, “this collection of true stories is as powerful as any great classic of fiction.” My friend did not live to see its publication. See

Bringing the Significance Home

I always saw a major audience for this book to be the ‘hidden’ mothers all over the world. Some might be too ashamed to tell their friends or neighbours about their son with HIV, while others might be grieving for a son who died too early.

The significance of HIV for all sorts of women was brought home to me on one very memorable occasion.

My parents were living in a retirement community, which sometimes invited residents’ children to give public talks, based on their expertise. My father was keen for me to give a talk based on this book.

Since AIDS was not a disease discussed much by ‘respectable’ people, I suspected this was not likely to be a very popular event! But my father was very well liked, and he told everyone that they had to come. The hall was therefore packed.


I did readings from the book for half an hour or so. At the end, there was a short silence before any applause. One friend of my parents told me afterwards, “We were all stunned”. But there was enormous response, with active questions and discussion.

Afterwards, I was swamped with women wanting to talk to me about their own situation. They wanted to talk about their sons, their brothers, their friends.

One woman asked me to come to visit her, because her son had died of AIDS, and she had never told anyone at all. Another left some cash in my parents’ mailbox with a request that it be given to an AIDS charity.

It showed how many women were affected by the disease, yet were suffering in silence, perhaps not realising how many other people were in the same situation.

AIDS is no longer a fatal disease, and people diagnosed with HIV can expect to live a normal life span. But I recently decided that Wise Before Their Time would have historical interest and I have now reissued it.

If you were affected by AIDS – or even if you weren’t – I hope you will find it very powerful indeed.

This post was first published by SixtyandMe ( and should not be re-blogged

New book: Her Brother’s Keeper

Have you ever helped out a stranger only to have it turn your normal life into something that resembles a nightmare?

Arina did.

After a dead man is discovered in one of her motel units, his only relative, an older sister, asks Arina to help her. The sister believes her brother was murdered.

Despite being dissuaded from getting involved, true to form, Arina dives in. Head first.

Without knowing exactly what she was getting into, she inadvertently puts lives on the line. Including the life of her two-year-old son, Ben.

Money laundering and multi-million-dollar tax evasion scams are uncovered. Ruthless and desperate people will do all they can to avoid detection to protect their interests. Including murder.

Book Three ‘HER BROTHER’S KEEPER’ of the Arina Perry Series takes a psychological ride on the wild side.

Released in e-book late November 2017 and in paperback late December 2017.



New Book: Crime Fiction About An Undercover Cop By a Former Undercover Cop

This post is about a new book from a fellow writer, with the title ‘Who The F*ck Am I?’

The title may be a tad controversial to some, but it is part of the very fabric of an infiltrator. Identity confusion among undercover agents is a medically recognised condition.

It is Book One in a trilogy featuring Steve Regan, a fictional British undercover cop. The action takes place mainly in the United Kingdom but also takes the reader to Miami and Boston in the United States.

The book is available from October 31, 2017 in both Kindle and paperback through Amazon. It will also be available in other eBook formats through Smashwords and at most other online book stores.

This surely has to be a first! Crime fiction about an undercover cop written by a former undercover cop!

From Amazon UK bestselling author, Stephen Bentley, comes a fictional undercover cop, Steve Regan, following on the success of his true crime undercover cop memoir ‘Undercover: Operation Julie – The Inside Story.’

Steve Regan, undercover detective, is tempted by the riches of drug smuggling so he can be free of debt, police bureaucracy, and help a loved one. He wonders whether he can go ‘rogue’ and cross the line.

Regan gets involved in one deal with a Miami-based drug lord. But is everyone who they say they are?

Short, fast-paced, high-impact entertainment, from a bestselling author who knows how to suck you into a story.”

This novella was inspired by two gangsters I met in real life while undercover. I harboured thoughts about them for many years and felt obliged to deal with those thoughts in this fictional work. I believe I can safely say that is a first!

As the author and a former undercover cop, I do not profess to know with certainty if my claim about it being a “first” is fact. I mean the claim: This surely has to be a first! Crime fiction about an undercover cop written by a former undercover cop!

I could argue, in line with another former profession of mine (lawyer), that it isn’t a claim at all – merely a hypothesis. Pedants may argue there ought to be a question mark following “has to be first.” Possibly, they are correct.

But in any event, whether claim or hypothesis, it intrigues me. So, a challenge to all readers of this blog post – tell me if I am right or wrong about it being the first fictional work about an undercover cop written by a former undercover cop. At least I ask you to leave a comment letting us know your thoughts.

There is a reward for the best comment left – one free copy of the book featured here and a free copy of my bestselling memoir ‘Undercover: Operation Julie – The Inside Story.’

Please note there can only be one winner and the prizes will be provided in any eBook format of the winner’s choice.

The winner will be judged by the author on the basis of the insight provided by the commentator, the originality of the comment, and any tendency to humour gains extra marks J

Stephen Bentley BIO

Former UK Detective Sergeant, undercover cop, barrister (trial counsel). Now a writer, author, and blogs at HuffPost UK.

Author of ‘Undercover: Operation Julie – The Inside Story’ – an Amazon UK bestselling book about his undercover days on one of the world’s largest drug busts.

Lives in the Philippines, enjoys the beaches and a cold beer and follows “his team”, Liverpool Football Club from afar.

Amazon link: