The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd (final part)

And so it ends. The final part of ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd’, and the reveal of the murderer.  If you’re casually clicking on this page, best to scroll back to part one and read from there.

This is the bit that I wanted to ‘live-tweet’ from the stage, but in the event I had to do it from a bus stop down the road, because of the lack of signal.  It was so patchy that one of the last tweets failed to send, and because the others went out, I couldn’t tweet it retro-spectively.  Thank goodness it wasn’t an important plot point.  I’ve inserted it back in here – it was a line about D.I.Wells looking pleased, if you’re interested.

Twenty-odd days and thousands of tweets later,  was it worth it?  Well I enjoyed it.  The white hot flurry of words begat several ideas that I would never have thought of otherwise.  Panic is a very underrated creative force.  I did think the duelling twitter feeds was cool, and Jennifer and her sinister nephew was great fun (inspired in part by my own Nan, and her glowering mono-syllabic son (My Uncle Adrian) who lived with her until he was well into his forties).

It was certainly a good exercise, if a little over-ambitious; not for me, but for the reader, many of whom found it clogging up their twitter feed and had to bow out.  Perhaps twitter isn’t built for such a major commitment.

Nonetheless, I did scoop up a few die-hard fans, who come up to me from time to time and tell me that this was why they bought the books; one of them transcribed what you read here and kept it, otherwise it would have been completely lost in the ether, and we’d be trying to piece it together with a restoration team.  Thanks again to Mike Bell for doing that.

If you liked this and want to buy the books and the new audio CD, they’re available from all over the place, but mainly from here:


 It’s all over. 

The hall has been cleared.

I told the audience the events of the last month. They start shifting uncomfortably; I think they want me to talk about old television…

But I pressed on regardless. I talked about the seemingly meaningless murders -Alistair bludgeoned with his own Perspex block…

Craig strangled with his own ‘communicator’, Dermot stabbed with his own neutron rapier…

‘The last murder was odd,’ I said. ‘It was slightly different. Dermot wasn’t left where he was killed like the others.’

‘He was driven several miles back to his shop. Why?’

No one had an answer for me. I didn’t expect them to have one. I already had a shrewd idea.

‘Then there’s the big question. Why? Is it a crime of passion? Three shop owners? Or was it really about some insane collector who didn’t get what he wanted? A collector who asks for an item, doesn’t get the item, and uses the item to kill the owner?’

‘So why didn’t the murderer just kill the owner and take the item?’

‘Are we supposed to accept that a mad collector is let loose in a shop of memorabilia, and yet doesn’t steal a thing?’

‘But then I realised. The murders were just smokescreens; designed to cover up a very clever series of thefts.’

I produced the Perspex brick from my satchel. I held it up close to Jennifer McLaird’s face. In his front row seat, Gus looked aghast.

Then the murderer makes his move.

I can see there’s a gun in his hand. It looks like it’s fitted with a silencer.

I suppose it’s the only thing he can do: shoot me and make a grab for the Perspex brick in the confusion.

And then slip away quietly before anyone realises what’s happened.

 But the Cyberman is ready for him.

He grabs the murderer from behind and wrestles him to the ground, scattering fans like skittles.

Good old D I Wells. I hope the costume wasn’t too hot. It’s no fun in this weather.

The commotion passes; no-one knows what’s happening, so no-one does anything. We are in England, after all.

I carry on. Why not?

‘Is this your autograph ‘Gertie’?’ I said. ‘Gertie’ looked slightly intimidated. ‘Erm…yes, that’s mine.’

‘Really?’ I said. Then I produced the hammer.

I set down the Perspex brick and brought the hammer down, smashing it into tiny pieces.

There was a gasp from the audience. The Guffin family gave a howl of outrage.

I picked up the autograph from the debris. ‘You said the stray apostrophe on this autograph was caused by a squashed fruit-fly.’

I handed it to her. ‘Can you tell me what that apostrophe is made of?’

She scraped it with her finger, and looked at me in astonishment, as if I had performed a magic trick. ‘It’s pen. It’s a wee pen mark.’

 ‘This isna my autograph.’

‘It’s a forgery.’

‘Exactly. It’s a forgery. Someone substituted the real thing for a forgery.’

 ‘Go back to that night. Alistair needed some to produce a pair of fake Chelsea boots quickly. Somewhat unwisely, he contacts a forger.’

‘I say unwisely, because it’s the same person who has been ringing up demanding your ‘Gertie’ autograph.’

‘So Alistair drugs me, to stall things until the forger arrives with the boots. The forger arrives, but I think the forger still wants the autograph. There’s an argument and Alistair is killed with the Perspex brick. The murderer considers taking his prize but then thinks… Why bother? It’s going to be delivered straight to him anyway.’

‘He can make a copy at his leisure, hand the copy back to the Guffins, and keep the original to gloat over in secret.’

‘And when he realises this, he can’t stop. He commits more murders using the objects he wants. Knowing he’ll be allowed to take them away.’

‘And no-one need ever know.’

‘And who takes them away? Clive the evidence man, of course.’

By the way, my twitter followers…

I lied to you. Sorry, I had to. Clive wouldn’t have hung around if he knew D I Wells believed my story, and stayed in the hotel.

Like me, he was puzzled by Dermot getting moved back to London to get murdered.

He’d actually had his own suspicions for some time.

Why do that, unless the murderer wanted the same investigative team to collect the evidence from the scene of the crime?

I leave the convention. Clive is being forced into a police car, spitting and swearing as the door is slammed shut.

Di Wells looks awfully chuffed.

It’s the third murderer he’s caught this year. 

Another one to add to his collection.



The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd (part fifteen)

Find enclosed another chunk of  ‘the Pen is Mightier than the Nerd’, my novel written exclusively for twitter, and now made slightly less exclusive by printing it here.

Life and art start to collide here; I was actually tweeting this on my way to a real convention pretending to be Mervyn, who was tweeting about going to a convention, both called ‘Act III’ and both run by someone called Derek…

Here’s the funniest thing; Mervyn Stone was REALLY at the convention, in the form of actor John Banks, the man who poses for Mervyn’s photos, and who brilliantly takes the part of Mervyn in the new audio ‘The Axeman Cometh’.

Here he is, at the convention in question, posing with actress and writer Beth Chalmers:

There, now I’ve completely ruined the illusion, I now hand you over to the pre-pre-climactic segment of ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd’.


I’m on my way to the convention.

Typical daft bad luck; I live in Uxbridge. Which is very near to the hotel.

But I would choose to pick a fight with a homicidal maniac, which meant I couldn’t go home.

So I’m lurching along a tube line towards the convention.

‘And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Chalfont and Latimer to be born?’

So I’m in my room.

I’m uncomfortably aware the murderer knows I’m here. But then again, I know the murderer’s here.

And I know what you look like, don’t I?



I’ve waited most of the day in my room. Looks like my goading hasn’t worked.

I’ve felt a bit of a fool waiting behind the door with a baseball bat.

But you’re not that easily fooled are you? I might have guessed.

But soon you’ll have no choice. I’m on the first panel tomorrow and you’ll have no choice but to stop me

I venture out to socialise, my eyes roving round the hotel.

I try talking to a few guests, but I’m sure I look distracted, so I give up and go to the bar.

It really is very pleasant here. The building is very beautiful.

Well, the building we’re not in is very beautiful. We’re stuck round the conference centre at the back.

I see Derek, the conference organiser, and I slip into a quieter part of the hotel. I’m a bit embarrassed about missing my signing session today. Due to the hiding-behind-the-door-with-a-baseball-bat thing.

No-one here. A couple of fans enjoying the sun. A few unlucky types dressed up as monsters. God, they must be boiling in those suits…

Perhaps I should go back to my room and wait it out.

I’m just going back to my room now. Key in the door, and relax.


By by mervyn

To buzy looking for me

Should have kept an eye on the monsters

How else could I get near u?

As u said, u know what I look like

Poor mervyn what a way to go

Beaten 2 death by a cyberman

Delete! Delete!

Ha ha

Now 2 find that Perspex brick

I always said I’d step over the body of my mother 2 get a souvenir

Now I can practice with Mervyns body


They’ve called the police. They’re arriving now.

Funny things people get up to in conventions. There’s a thing they call ‘cosplay’…

Where fans dress up as their heroes. Doctors, companions, aliens, vampires…

But who in their right mind would want to dress up as me?

I thought I was being clever. I guessed the murderer must have been in some kind of monster costume.

So I fibbed on twitter, pretending to go to my room, while all the time I was watching my door from across the hall.

Unfortunately the murderer was following a different me. Some poor sod who admired me so much he put a cushion up his jumper, powdered his hair grey and put on a battered black corduroy jacket.

The poor chap was beaten to death with a ray gun.

Or, as I was quickly informed by the fan who found the body, a cyber gun.


Oh god, here comes D.I. Wells.

Why is he here? I’m practically in Middlesex. I’m sure this is completely out of his jurisdiction.

He assured me this is very much still his case, thank you very much. And of course he’d been following the whole thing via twitter.

I tell him I think I know who the murderer is. He laughs. Not interested, and leaves.

I suddenly feel very alone.

I get myself another room. It costs most of my fee for appearing at the convention, but I can’t take any chances.

He might look for me again.

From the state of that fan’s room, you were looking very hard.

You’re very keen to get hold of that autograph, aren’t you?

I look at my timetable. I have a panel tomorrow, with Jennifer McLaird at ten o clock.

So that’s when it ends. Try and stop me.

The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd (part fourteen)

Here is the fourteenth part of my Mervyn Stone novel, painstakingly tweeted for ‘da kids’ on ‘da internet’.

This is the bit when Mervyn fights back.  I think everyone enjoys those moments.  I certainly do.  It’s always nice when re-active, passive characters start to come out on top.  My favourite episode of ‘Yes Prime Minister’ is ‘The Key’, and my favourite ‘Prisoner’ is ‘Hammer into Anvil’ precisely because of that.  It’s cheap and it’s facile but it’s enormously satisfying.

I like Mervyn running too.  It’s a way of showing how serious things have got.  It’s amazing how you can generate tension in a novel, just by having a slightly overweight man break into a gallop.

The Act III convention mentioned at the end is, of course, real.  I was scheduled to go there myself to sign autographs and do some panels, and I thought it fun that Mervyn accompany me for the climax.  I had a scheme that was so crazy that it might just work, and in the end proved not crazy enough, so it fell flat on its arse.


That was four days ago, and this is now.

I’ve rung the shop. Nothing. Just casual staff who promise to pass on my message. But no-one calls back.

So I’m here.

I’m standing in ‘Buy the Gods!’. Where it all started.

I don’t know what I’m going to do. I was half hoping the shop would be closed. No such luck. It’s quite busy.

I’m looking around at the shop, all blissfully unaffected by the events that started to unfold on April the first.

Apart from a Gary-shaped space where he used to glower by the door, all is much the same.

It’s depressing to be back here, because it brings it home to me, how little progress I’ve made.

I’m no nearer to finding out who the murderer is. Oh sure, there are lots of people who could have done one murder…but who would want to kill all three?

The only reason why Gary, or Stacey, or Mary, or Gus, or even Jennifer might want to kill three cult shop owners was to confuse as to the reason for Alistair’s murder.

Like the tweets on my phone, to make it look like a nutty collector getting revenge for the owners not handing over his desired knick-knacks.

But if that was the case, why did the killer not take the knick-knacks? The Perspex brick? The phone cord? The sword?

That would have made it look much more convincing. It just doesn’t make sense.

So it’s either a series of murders with no motive, or a series of robberies with nothing taken.

Mary is by the till. She’s noticed me. She’s coming over.

‘I’m glad to see you’re up and recovering. Has Gary’s information helped you find my husband’s killer?’ she asks, straight to the point.

I smile unconvincingly. ‘It’s in hand. I’m working on several leads as we speak.’

‘So is that why you’re here?’ She unlocks a glass cabinet by the wall, stuffed with near-naked plastic figures fighting each other.

‘Not exactly. It’s about Jennifer’s autograph. Or as the police would call it: exhibit A.’

‘What about it?’ she says.

‘I wonder if there was any chance of you getting it back? I’d quite like to buy it.’

She laughs. ‘Not a chance.’

‘Why not?’ I ask. ‘I’m sure it was only Alistair’s pride and joy. What do you care about it?’

‘You’re right,’ she shrugs. ‘I think it’s a hideous thing. Pointless and obscure. At least Buffy signatures are on photos of pretty people.’

‘So you’re just being perverse,’ I say, my temper flaring. ‘You’re just going to stick it in a box and forget about it.’

‘Is that what you think?’

She snorts with derisive laughter and disappears into a back room. ‘The police have finished with it, actually.’

Sure enough, she’s holding the Perspex brick.

There’s still blood on it.

I struggle to say something, but she’s not really paying me much attention. She puts it in the cabinet, alongside a plaque.


A couple of the people in the shop were already gravitating to the cabinet, gawking at the contents.

‘Do you like the blood?’ she says casually. ‘I think it adds a touch of drama.’

I stare dumbly at her.

‘This is going to be a huge draw,’ she smiles. ‘With this and the money for your boots, we’ll probably be able to open a chain of shops’

‘This time next year we could be bigger than @ForbiddenPlanet .’

I’m wandering into the back of the shop now. I don’t quite know what to think.

Perhaps this was the plan all along? I wonder if there are special places reserved in Craig and Dexter’s shops?

Gruesome exhibits to draw the punters?

But who would contemplate such a ghastly plan? Mary? Why would she help the other shops? Would Stacey even care? The whole thing’s bonkers.

I’m wandering back to the murder weapon now.

The crowds have subsided a little. I stare at it long and hard. As if trying to unlock its secrets with the power of thought.

There was a lunatic who had my phone. A lunatic demanding Alistair sell the autograph.

Just like Gus.

But Gus didn’t take it – something in his twisted mind prevented him. Why didn’t the murderer take it either?

Why didn’t he or she take ANYTHING?

Or is that what we’re supposed to think?

Someone wants to look at the little semi-naked figures in the cabinet. A member of staff is unlocking it so the punter can cop a feel.

Now the punter wants to buy one of the figures.


Okay. That wasn’t very clever.

I’m running now.

Guess what I did?

The member of staff walked away with the punter to the till.

Leaving the keys to the cabinet hanging in the lock.

And I reached in and took the Perspex brick. I’ve stolen it, and I’m running.

Because I’ve worked it out. I know your game whoever-you-are.

And now you’re going to have to take it off me.


Come on out. Don’t be shy.

U shit. U fat shit. U r so dead mervyn. U r so going to die

There you are. I didn’t think it was that hard to work out my twitter password was ‘vixens’.

Fuck u

Don’t follow me home Mr Murderer. I’m not going home. I’m going to find a hotel.

Fuck u!!!!!

And then I’m going to the Act III convention tomorrow, as planned. I’ve been booked. And while I’m there I’m going to sign autographs…

Talk about old TV shows…

…and expose you to the world.

Because I think you’ve made a mistake. And if you’ve been reading all my tweets, you KNOW you’ve made a mistake.

So see you tomorrow! Unless you’re too scared to show up, of course…

Ta ta for now! Or should I say ‘Ta ta 4 now’? Best wishes, Mervyn.

The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd (part thirteen)

Herein enclosed ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd’, part thirteen.

Jennifer McLaird and her world took on a life of its own during this story – as I said, nothing was planned, and her past, her habits her ‘hoose’ and her glowering nephew bubbled out of expediency; which I think is pretty much the best way to create things.

I don’t know if this story belongs in the ‘proper’ world of Mervyn Stone.  I did the novel purely as an exercise to use ‘new media’, and I never assumed that I would keep any of the facts that grew out of it.  I threw things about with sheer abandon, because I felt completely free to contradict all, should I feature Jennifer in a ‘proper’ novel.

Nevertheless, Gus was such a splendidly fun character, though I do say so myself, I find it difficult to think of Jennifer without her angry bearded nephew standing behind her shoulder.


Finding Gus’s house wasn’t hard. He lived with Jennifer.

From making a few calls, I learned that Gus was a man who never quite grew up. He’d never married, lived with his parents, and when they died in a car accident, he’d ended up with his aunt.

He was a very moral and God-loving man, who seemed to have sprung forth on this Earth one day, fully formed, complete with beard, and gone through life neither adding nor taking away anything from it.

 His suits were eternal; he didn’t drive, he didn’t smoke, and he didn’t do anything else.

 He was the man with no carbon footprint.

 I rang the bell, but the door didn’t open. Instead there was a crackle from a speaker by the door. ‘Yes?’ It was Gus’s towering voice.

‘Mervyn Stone,’ I said crisply. ‘I’d like to talk to you about Alistair’s murder.’

There was a ponderous silence from the speaker. I could just hear the distorted whoosh of slow breathing from Gus.

‘Ah told you tae stay away frae this business,’ he rumbled at last. ‘Ah have nothing tae say tae you.’

‘I’m sorry. That’s not how it works, Gus,’ I lean very close to the speaker.

I hope the words he’s hearing convey some kind of sepulchral menace. At my end, all I can hear are my somewhat nasal tones, and they sound a bit weedy and pathetic.

‘A murder has been committed. You have given me proof that you were there that night. I believe our competing demands for my Chelsea boots precipitated a chain of events that ended with Alistair’s death.

‘All I want to know is if you were a catalyst for that death, like myself… Or you were ultimately responsible for that death.’

The speaker rumbled again, broadcasting a voice from a different age.

If he’d told me that we had just declared with Germany, I’d have believed him.

‘Ah am a righteous man. Ah had nothing tae dae with that man’s death.’

‘But you were there that night,’ I say. ‘You took the boots. You even paid the money you agreed directly into his bank account, even though he couldn’t spend it. Your conscience was clear.’

More static from the speaker.

‘Unless you explain to me what happened, I’ll just have to let the police talk to you. And they’re far less interested in ‘facts’ than me.’

‘You might get arrested. How will Jennifer cope without you?’

Another rumble from the speaker. ‘She will cope just fine.’

I changed tack. ‘Okay. But how will YOU cope without HER?’

That hit the spot. For a man who has devoted his life to protecting himself from the outside world, the idea of being in prison without his beloved aunt was an unbearable thought.

There was a buzz, and the door clicked open.




The inside of the house, was old; almost calcified. It was over-decorated and under-used, like a pub in the middle of nowhere.

Heads of animals with varying expressions of surprise adorned the walls.

A grandfather clock squatted under the stairway, like Gus, it was making a low rumbling noise that seemed too large for it – then it chimed, deep and mournful, emptying bongs into the air.

Gus appeared, still wearing his cheap suit and his tartan tie. Action figures changed their outfits more often than him.

‘You’d like some refreshment.’

It didn’t seem a request, more a statement of fact. This sense was re-enforced when he didn’t wait for my answer and left the room. 

He didn’t indicate that I should follow him either, but I assumed I should.

I entered a parlour, which was crowded with china artefacts; plates, bowls, kittens. I knew I would have to concentrate hard if I wasn’t going to break anything in the next few minutes.

The table was set. It was overburdened with tea making equipment; crowded with teapots, hot water pots, milk pots, cold water pots, white sugar pots, brown sugar pots, pots for sweetener, cups for tea, cups to rest the tea strainer…

It looked like an insane chess game. 

I thought they only did that kind of thing in posh hotels, in order to make the sight of a waitress huffing back and forth hauling saucers, pots, and cups across the room justify the extortionate cost of a cup of tea.

Gus poured tea into a cup from the pot, then poured water from a jug into the pot, and then poured milk from a jug to the cup.

‘Say your piece, ask your questions, and then go,’ he rumbled, adding cream from a pot into the jug of milk.

I looked around. ‘Where’s Jennifer?’

‘She is at rest,’ he said, sipping his tea.

I glanced at my watch. It was eight o’clock. A bit early to go to bed, I thought.

Perhaps she gets tired in the evenings.

I decided to come straight to the point. ‘You were there that night. The night of Alistair’s death.’

Gus looked at me impassively. A muscle in his jaw spasmed, twitching his cheek and causing his tangled mess of a beard to jump, like a rodent being rudely awoken from hibernation.

‘Ah cannae tell a lie,’ he said at last. ‘Ah was there that night.’

‘You were there to pick up my boots. I’ve been told you were buying them from Alistair. For a quite a bit of money.’

This time he didn’t speak. He inclined his head. The rodent on his chin moved lower, creeping towards the rich tea biscuits on the tray.

‘So what time did you get there?’

‘Late,’ he said. ‘Ah was late. Ah found the door open, and the lights on all over the hoose.’

‘Ah found Alistair wi’ his head caved in, bludgeoned to death, and you slumbering nearby, clutching that block of Perspex.’

My mind boggled, as did my eyes. ‘And you did…nothing?’

Gus slammed his cup on the table, rattling the tray. ‘Of course ah did something! Ah am a verra moral man. Whit do you tak me for?’

‘Ah phoned the police, and waited ootside in ma car until they came. Then ah drove away.’

I looked at him coldly. ‘But you didn’t think to wake me, or to discover what had happened?

‘For all ah know,’ he growled. ‘Ah could have been waking a dangerous murderer from his slumber. Far better tae alert the authorities, lock the door, and watch the building in case you wake up and escape the premises. That was the moral thing tae dae.’

I smiled coldly. ‘And did the – ahem – moral thing include taking my Chelsea boots from the scene of the crime?’

Gus made a snort. ‘The boots were not part of th’ crime scene. They were upstairs waitin’ for me to collect.’

We had made a gentleman’s agreement that he was tae sell th’ boots tae me. He had already taken ma shilling.’

‘Ah was there tae collect th’ boots, so collect them ah did. Oor transaction was not part of the man’s demise.’

‘So you say,’ I muttered acidly. ‘I happen to think it has a direct bearing on the crime.’

A thought struck me. ‘Were the bedrooms upstairs tidy when you went looking for the boots?’

‘They were, not’ Gus said. ‘They were messed up. Ah assumed a burglary and a fight had occurred.’

I sighed. ‘Pity. I hoped the murderer might have been still in the flat when you were there, hiding. You didn’t see anyone, did you?’

‘Ah did not,’ Gus shook his head slowly. The rodent on his chin jumped from one shoulder to the other.

He folded his arms. ‘So…If that’s all you have tae say to me, ah’ll thank you tae leave.’

‘No it’s not all I have to say,’ I snapped. ‘I haven’t even got started.’

I gestured around the room at the startled stags protruding from the walls, the china, the brass bed warmer dangling from the fire place.

‘It doesn’t strike me that you’re that much of a ‘Vixens’ memorabilia collector,’ I said. ‘I don’t see much evidence of it here.

‘No. Ah dae not approve of your television programme,’ he said. ‘Ah find the contents and subject matter licentious in th’ extreme.’

‘’Licentious in the extreme’ was the effect I was aiming for,’ I grinned.

‘So I can see you’re not even a fan, let alone a collector, but you were prepared to pay enough to keep Alistair’s shop out of debt… for a pair of my old Chelsea boots? Why?’

Gus said nothing. He stared into space, like a soldier from an old war movie who’d just delivered his name, rank and serial number.

‘Fine,’ I snapped. ‘I’ll just go to the police. I’m sure they’ll be interested in talking to you. And your aunt.’

‘Let them come,’ he growled. ‘It’s too late noo. You’re the cause of that.’

He came to a decision. ‘Ah will tell you, for noo it makes no difference tae her and I.’ He got up and walked around the room.

‘Mah auntie Jennifer is a paragon of virtue. A moral person, like myself. But it was not always thus.’

‘She cavorted with men, she drank tae access, but that was not the worst of it.’

‘She was a thief many times over.’ He scowled. ‘The doctors called her a ‘kleptomaniac’ but let us call it what it is.’

‘She stole thousands of poonds worth of goods from shops, libraries, public buildings…If it wasnae nailed doon she would take it.’

He wrinkled his brow. ‘Come to think of it…That carpet at McEwan hall. That was nailed doon, and she took that too.’

‘She was eventually arrested, charged and sent tae prison. Her photo was on the front of all the local newspapers.’

‘She brought shame on the name of McKnutt.’

‘That was the real reason why she changed her name from Gertie tae Jennifer.’

‘Tae expunge her own shame, and tae start again on the straight and righteous path.’

‘She did not want any of her employers from stage and television tae know of her compulsion – even though they all sin in their own ways.’

‘For ma part, ah helped her in her cause. Over the years, I retrieved every thing she stole and returned it tae the rightful owners and nothing more came of it.’

I was starting to realise where this was going. ‘But she didn’t stop stealing. Not completely,’ I said.

‘I’m guessing on the odd occasion she helped herself to things, probably completely random things…

‘Ridiculous things she didn’t have a use for…’

‘Say…my Chelsea boots..?’

Gus didn’t say anything, but I knew I was right.

The irony of it was staggering. There’s Alistair, pulling his hair out and working his sweaty socks off, trying to forge my boots…

So I would get a pair and shut up…

But the first thing the purchaser of the REAL boots would do the moment he got them…was hand them over to me!

If only Alistair had asked Gus what he intended to do with my boots, the whole mess would have been averted, and who knows?

Alistair might still be alive.

‘So…’ I continued. ‘Was that why you wanted to get back the autograph in the Perspex? Because it was a reminder of her old identity?’

‘Indeed so,’ said Gus. ‘These people have nae business raking up th’ past.’

‘Even though it matters not tae her career now that people know she used tae be Gertie McKnutt, she still brought shame on the McKnutts.’

‘I hadn’t heard of Jennifer’s past life, and I knew her for years,’ I said gently.

‘It is not well known. Not yet,’ he scowled. ‘Only a handful have become aware of it. Alistair and his family. A few of his friends…’

‘But they see only an interesting piece of the past. They do not see it as a secret shame to be hidden…’

‘But ah can see they are all fallen sinners, each and every one of them.’

‘The Perspex brick was there, in my hand, while I was unconscious,’ `I said. ‘Why did you not take it when you had the chance?’

‘Because ah am NOT a thief!’ Thundered Gus. ‘Have you learnt nothing here today?

‘Alistair bought it from a man who bought it from another, and so on. Mah auntie is correct in what she said; once she gave her signature away it was nae longer hers tae take back.’

‘Alistair refused tae sell it tae me. Not frae any price. And I cannot take it, so there is nothing I can dae aboot it.’

‘Nothing anyone can dae, but tae avoid the shame of it all.’

‘We as the McKnutts can only dae the moral thing.’

I frowned. ‘I don’t know what the moral thing is. I don’t understand.’

‘Mah auntie understands. She understands that shame cannot come oot. That was why she lies at peace upstairs.’

I went cold. I suddenly realised the wording Gus used when I entered. At rest.

‘What have you done!’ I said, springing to my feet.

‘Just something in her bedtime milk tae help her passing. Ah gave it to her before ah opened the door to you.’

‘As ah said. It’s too late. Her guilt has been expunged.’

‘You bloody lunatic!’ I screamed. I was already running up the stairs, three at a time, my ribs throbbing like a jet engine.

I was in danger of blacking out.

I threw open the doors, one at a time. At the third attempt I saw her, lying in bed, her milky face protruding from a massive eiderdown.

I pelted in, staring at her. ‘Oh bloody hell, no’ I said. ‘Oh Jenny. Oh bloody, bloody hell, no.’

I sagged beside the bed, grabbing the edges of the eiderdown, sinking into it.

Then her eyes snapped open.


I stared at her.

‘Mervyn?’ What are you doing in my bedroom, you naughty wee man?’

‘Och, I’ve heard stories, but I never thought you’d come knocking at MY door!’

‘He poisoned your milk. Gus. Your milk. He did that,’ I gibbered. ‘He wanted you expunged.’

I look at her, then at Gus, staring impassively from the landing.

‘Erm…What?’ she crinkled her little face up.

‘Your nephew was trying to kill you. He poisoned your milk.’

‘My milk?’ she looked at her bedside table. But there was nothing there. ‘What milk?’

Gus was holding the milk.

‘Ah think Mr Stone has misunderstood me,’ he growled. ‘Ah was just mentioning that, as you’d fallen asleep, ah’d better put your milk back in the fridge. We dinnae want it tae go off an’ poison you.’

I looked at Jennifer, to Gus, and back again. I couldn’t say a thing. If this was a cartoon I would probably be going ‘but…but…but…’

But I couldn’t even manage that.

‘Mervyn,’ Jennifer said, with a trace of pity. ‘You puir wee man. You’ve been doing so much sleuthing of late you’re starting tae see murderers under the bed. Literally!’

She chuckled amiably and struggled out of bed, despite Gus’s protestations. 

She foisted more tea on me, this time with sugary biscuits, while Gus lurked in the background like a hairy wall.

It’s an odd sensation, having a potential murderer offering me custard creams, but I often feel like I’m in a ‘surreal meets slapstick’ movie.

‘Dada Day Care’ would be a good name for it.

So what to talk about? I could hardly keep on accusing her nephew of trying to kill her, so I just laughed off my silly impulsiveness.

She took it in good humour, as she takes everything in good humour. She certainly agreed Gus looked very murderous at first glance.

‘Och, he’s a pussycat!’ She cackled. ‘He wouldna hurt me. He looks after me so well. My goodness, he tried so hard to buy my autograph back from Alistair. The money he offered, but Alistair wouldna budge.’

‘All he did with it was lock it away. What’s the point of having something that precious and locking it away in a wee cupboard? I’d show it to the world!’ 

Gus flinched, and dropped a tray. Jennifer didn’t exactly sound very ashamed of her dark past. I was getting the impression that Gus’s moral absolutism wasn’t exactly shared by his aunt.

I smiled at Jennifer. ‘For some collectors, simply the knowledge they have it is enough. That’s how art thieves prosper.’

‘There’s always some character who’s happy to hide a priceless treasure away so they can look at it in secret.’

She folded her face into a smile, and the full force of her twinkle hit me. She really was – is – a lovely woman.

I passed a Gus on the way out. I gave him my best glare. The squinty one. ‘Don’t touch a hair on her head,’ I hissed.

Gus looked at me for a long, long time – and then said something incredible.

‘Get them tae part with that autograph…and ah’ll think aboot it.’



The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd (part twelve)

Find enclosed part eleven of my Mervyn Stone novel ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd’, a book written a tweet at a time, specially tailored for the twitterverse.

As you’ll see I’m incorporating the idea that everyone in the story would have also been able to read Mervyn’s tweets; the killer, the suspects, potential victims, etc, and using it to create plot points.  The fact that twitter is a public way of communicating is a pretty obvious assumption you might say, but not one that occurred to me when I started tweeting.

I suppose I was still setting the goalposts as to how realistic the story would be and my conscience wouldn’t allow me to wave my fingers and go ‘oh, let’s just say nobody’s reading Mervyn’s tweets’.  I reluctantly conceded that would be a bit of a push.

As I reprint this book here, It’s constantly amazing me how little of this story has sunk into my memory; the hysterical method of tweeting a book seems to prevent my brain retaining most of it.  As I re-read this section, I had absolutely NO IDEA why Gus wanted Mervyn’s boots, and Jennifer’s McLaird’s dark secret.  I read on out of interest, just to find that out…


My next visitor is Stacey. She sits down by my bed gracelessly.

 The clatter from her bracelets alone is enough to win a nasty look from bag-of-bones.

 ‘Sorry,’ she says. She doesn’t follow it up with anything, so I guess that’s pretty much all she wanted to say.

 I counter-apologise like a good Englishman. ‘That’s alright. I’m sorry Gary caused you so much trouble.’

‘I’ve had it with him,’ she fumed. ‘I’ve told the police everything I know about him. I hope they lock him up and throw away the key.’

‘Do you have any idea where he is?’ I ask.

She throws her hands in the air, eliciting a further clatter from the bracelets. ‘God knows. Not a clue.’

‘What about your mum?’ I say innocently. ‘Does she have any idea?’

She gives me a look, like she’s taking me seriously for the first time during the whole sorry episode.

‘Why should she? And I’ve read your tweets by the way, and you’re full of shit. He did not fancy my mum.’

I shrug. Which hurts like buggery.

 ‘It’s bollocks,’ she adds for extra emphasis.

There’s really nothing more to say, so I close my eyes and wait for her to leave.




I open them and she’s still there.

Only I realise that it’s not Stacey. It’s Mary. I’ve been asleep for hours.

‘Are you still tweeting?’ Mary asks. ‘I mean, will our conversation end up in likely chunks on everybody’s laptop?’

‘Probably. I guess so,’ I start to shrug again, but remember the pain. ‘The police want me to continue, to see if the killer reacts.’

‘Good,’ she says fiercely. ‘Then write this down.’

‘Gary came to me right after he stabbed you. He told me he knew why Alistair drugged you.’

‘He bugged the phone in our home. You were right. He told me he was crazy about me. Got a huge kick out of listening to my voice, and me not knowing nothing about it.’

‘He heard a phone call he shouldn’t have. About you.’

‘That weird looking guy with the beard – Jennifer McLaird’s nephew – had been visiting the shop for weeks, wanting to buy your boots. God knows why. But he’d finally made an offer Alistair couldn’t refuse. Silly, silly money.

The shop is always hanging by its fingernails onto solvency, and the money meant he wouldn’t have to worry for a whole year. Imagine how pissed off he was when you asked for them back.’

‘Alistair was stuck. He couldn’t risk you making a fuss, and things going all litigious, but he couldn’t say no to this cash.’

‘So he made a deal…’

‘He made a deal with someone to make a copy of your boots. He found someone who would forge stuff.’

‘He thought he could give you your boots back, and sell Gus the fake ones. He’d get his money, and everyone would get their boots.’

‘Everyone would be happy.’

I sank deeper into my pillow. It did cross my mind that Gary found out a hell of a lot from eavesdropping on a couple of phone calls.

But I didn’t press the matter. Perhaps Gary’s eavesdropping was more than mere lovesick tomfoolery.

But that wasn’t important right now. What was obvious was that something had gone badly wrong with Alistair’s plan – and I had got caught right in the middle of it.

 She was looking at me expectantly, with her black rimmed eyes and round face, she looked like a lovesick panda.

She was waiting for me to do some detective work; to sort this mess out. I had nothing to offer her.

At last I said: ‘You said Gary knew why I was drugged…’

‘Oh yeah,’ she said. ‘The last thing he heard was Alistair on the phone panicking, because you were coming over and the fake boots weren’t ready. This forger still had the originals, and he was still ‘roughing up’ the copies to match them up.’

 That made sense to me; it explained why the soles were scuffed wrongly.

She continued. ‘Alistair panicked, rang his forger, and the forger rushed both sets of boots over to the house.’

‘In the meantime, Alistair said he would ‘stall’ you somehow…’

I knew what THAT meant. I could still feel the ache in my head. But that was due to confusion rather than the trace of drugs in my system.

She asked me if I could make any sense of it all but I said I was as confused as the man in the next bed; the one who likes wearing his hospital dinners(the sanest one here, in my opinion).

She looked disappointed, and left. I watched her go. I waited until she was completely out of sight, and then I hauled myself out of bed.

I don’t know what exactly happened while I was unconscious in Alistair’s flat…

… But at least I knew there was one other person who had reason to be there that night.

Gus McKnutt.

That’s why I’m standing outside a rather dilapidated house in Chiswick, holding my ribs and whistling through the pain.

I’m not going in to see him.

Because I’ve already been in there. I’ve talked to him.

And I know Jennifer McLaird’s dark secret.

I feel so utterly violated and betrayed. But I have to continue, otherwise, none of this stuff will mean anything to anybody.

And this sadness is just a worthless hobby.

I’ll tell you later, but first to bed…


The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd (part eleven)

Here is part eleven of ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd’, my twitter novel starring Mervyn Stone.

Not only was it necessary to put Mervyn out of action to allow the killer to tweet his murder, it was also a bloody useful way to slow down the amount of tweets I had to do per day.  If I had better things to do with my time, I could always put Mervyn into a sleep, or contrive it so he was unable to use a phone.

Dominic, Mervyn’s breezy happy-go-lucky son was introduced in book three, ‘Cursed Among Sequels’, and I instantly took a liking to him.   I was glad to find an opportunity to use him again so soon.

It helps the drama/comedy enormously to surround Mervyn with completely contrasting personalities to his own, and as I like Mervyn, the other personalities usually lean on the negative side.   I’d already done arrogant (Vanity Mycroft), aggressive (Policewoman Mick), complacent (Nicholas Everett) and annoyingly enthusiastic (Stuart Coulson).  Dominic was the ‘carefree’ to Mervyn’s worrier, and it was nice to have a contrast, and yet completely sympathise with both points of view for a change.


I’m in an internet cafe. It’s in a real cafe, in a real hospital.

The computer I’m working from has ‘prop: Charles Babbage’ on the side, so you’ll have to forgive me things go wobbly. It’s a bit ancient.

I’m Mervyn Stone. The real Mervyn Stone. I hope I am, anyway.

If I suddenly start mashing my punctuation into a fine paste, you’ll know the murderer is still playing with my twitter feed.

 I should change my passwords, but the police don’t want me to. They’re hoping that the murderer is so cocky he/she’ll carry on being me.

 This is also the reason why they’re letting me tweet.

 It took me half an hour to struggle out of bed and carry myself down here. The ache in my ribs is agony.

 Gary’s knife glanced off my ribcage and broke one of my ribs, so I’m finding little things like breathing and moving a bit of a chore.

 It was one of those bloody Klingon knife things they sell in ‘Forbidden Planet’. I’m really glad he didn’t kill me with it.

 Imagine the shame. A writer murdered with a weapon he couldn’t even spell.

 Gary got away, by the way. He struggled out of the police car. He’s very fit and very fast. There are policemen protecting me here.

 Or are they just guarding me?

 I suppose I’d better tell you what happened.

 I wake up in hospital, in agony. D.I Wells is standing over me. He’s not pleased, as usual.

 The reason why they were raiding my house was simple. The notes in Alistair’s safe were numbered and marked.

 He was worried about burglary, funnily enough…

 When I used the twenty pound for the tube it set off all sorts of alarms, and by scouring the CCTV footage at the station they just realised it was me.

D.I Wells had come after me, and it was only when they got there that one of his officers (probably Clive) pointed out I was on twitter…

And I was actually there watching them.

Just in time, as it happens, because Gary was making his move.

So here I am. I’ve been interrogated, and once again D.I.Wells has grudgingly accepted my account of events on twitter, about how I found the money and other things in the bin. He’s itching to lock me away for obstruction and concealing evidence, but now he has bigger fish to fry.



It’s late. I’m back in bed. No more visits to the cafe, thank God.

Not that I’ve got my phone back yet. My son Dominic has popped in to lend me his.

Yes, I have a son. Don’t ask, it’s a long embarrassing story. I believe it was recounted in technicolour by my biographer Nev in his book ‘Cursed Among Sequels’.

Anyway, Dominic is on twitter (in fact, he rarely talks for more than 140 characters himself) and he’s come to my rescue.

He doesn’t need his phone much, on account of him driving a train on the London Underground and never having any signal.

So I’ve got his phone with his blessing, with just two conditions. Don’t go through the photo library, and if ‘Jodi’ rings I’m to tell her he’s left the country to work on an oil rig, and he won’t be back until 2015.

My actual phone is with the police. They got very excited when the murderer started tweeting on my phone.

They can find out a phone’s location very easily, and were eagerly preparing for a mad, race-against-time to stop a murderer….

…only to find the murderer had taken no chances. He/she had committed the murder the previous day and tweeted from London, throwing the phone in a bin when he/she’d finished.

It’s probably now in one of Clive’s little plastic bags, waiting to be examined for fingerprints, bits of skin and the like.

I allow myself to doze, listening to the faint gurgles of the patients and the click of the nurse’s shoes in the corridor outside.

I rest my eyes for a second.

When I open them, forty minutes later, Gus is sitting by my bed, watching me.

I just about manage not to scream. I make noises, but thankfully they’re not that loud.

‘Ah hear you’re helping the polis now,’ he growls in a deep baritone.

It’s the first time I hear him speak, and it’s an odd noise, like the voice is too large for his head.

‘Take mah advice. Don’t.’ He rumbles. ‘Not if you want tae destroy mah Auntie Gertie.’

‘And ah dinnae ken you want tae dae that…’

He throws a package on my bed, making me wince with the pain.

‘Here,’ he says. ‘Ah believe you’re looking for these. Now take them and stay oot o’ things that dinnae concern you.’

And he leaves without another word.

I look in the package. It contains Chelsea boots.

And from a quick examination, they look like the genuine article. They’re mine. The ones that Alistair promised to return to me.

Something’s afoot…



I spend the day in bed. Every time I bring my phone out I get dirty looks from the bag of bones opposite.

So I sleep.


The Pen is Mightier than the Nerd (part nine)

Herein enclosed the ninth bit of ‘The Pen is Mightier than the Sword’.

It really is fascinating, throwing these chunks into my blog, because it’s been two years since I did this experiment, and it was such an hysterical blur, no drafts or rewriting, it’s really not stayed in the memory like books and plays I wrote in the normal way.

The practical upshot is, I genuinely don’t remember what some of the little details mean.  Does the fact that the ‘Retropolitan’ convention is called the same name as a comic shop mentioned earlier in the story mean anything?  Or did I just forget I’d used the name and used it twice?  I’m utterly on tenterhooks here.


So that was what happened on Friday.

‘So how was your weekend, Mervyn?’ I hear you ask.

Well I’m just coming to that.

I’d love to tell you I immediately used my considerable detecting powers to find Dermot.

I’d love to tell you I immediately starting scraping bits off the fake Chelsea boots to find out where they came from.

I’d love to tell you I spent the whole of Saturday solving two grisly murders…

But, to turn a well-known phrase inside-out, ‘man cannot live on the dead alone’.

I had a prior engagement in Middlesex. A little convention called ‘Retropolitan 2011’, and I couldn’t afford to say no to the cash.

That’s why I’m sitting in a hotel room, typing this and listening to the music of the motorway, as it sings to me outside my window.

I got up early to type this, because I don’t want to wake the woman in my bed.

But I can see she’s awake. Stacey has her eyes open and she’s staring at me.

I wonder if Gary is still roaming the corridors looking for her, or he’s gone back to his room to sleep on his tyre-on-a-rope.

I think the next murder I have to investigate will be my own.

I’ve gone into the bathroom, and I’m typing this on my phone. I’m hoping she’ll go back to sleep.

Actually, I’m sort of hoping she’ll contract a sudden burst of amnesia which scrubs the last six hours from her memory…

But I think sleep is the best I can hope for.

I’m going to creep out now, and hide in the breakfast lounge.

I have a breakfast appointment with Jennifer McLaird at nine, so I might as well wait there and read the papers.


Here she comes, right on time.

But as usual, she’s been waylaid by fans. She’s going to have to spend at least five minutes being adorable for them.

Behind her shoulder is a sullen-looking young man in a too-tight cheap suit and a tartan tie.

He has a drooping ginger beard that makes him look like he’s being savaged by a tribble.

After the fan’s tummies have been well and truly tickled, she bustles towards me with a cheery wave, and we sit down to a traditional British hotel breakfast of reheated porridge, cold eggs and congealed sausage.

‘It’s lovely to see you again, Mervyn,’ she clucks. ‘So soon after our little signing. It’s so nice to keep bumping into old friends.’

The man has eaten a microwaved croissant, and taken his leave after barely saying a word.

Jennifer has introduced him as ‘Gus’, her nephew/manager.

I’ve waited until he leaves before I bring the subject round to Alistair; thankfully Gus seemed extremely keen to get away.

‘Yes, I enjoyed that signing. I always thought Alistair was a very nice man,’ I lie. ‘By the way, did you hear about Alistair?’

‘Och yes, I did indeed’ she says, assuming a serious expression that looks odd on her face. ‘So shocking.’

‘Tae think that someone could do such a thing tae puir Alistair. A family man who wouldna hurt a soul.’

She shakes her head, as if to erase the dark thoughts from her head like an ‘etch-a-sketch’.

I’m certain she’s already refilling her mind with images of kittens, shortbread and china pots of tea.

‘Did you know him well?’ I press on, peppering my conversation with little white lies. ‘He talked about you all the time, after you left.’

‘He brought out an autograph in a piece of Perspex, and showed it to me. An autograph…signed by ‘Gertie McKnutt’..?’

‘Och, did he bring that old thing out? Such memories. I was a beautiful wee girl in those days, when I was just little Gertie…’

‘But we all had to change our names in those days, and I wasnae going tae get far as a Gertie…’

‘Gertrude Stein..?’ I volunteer.

She twinkles at me, and nudges me in the ribs. ‘Och, away with you and drink your tea!’

She sips her own. ‘It’s amazing a piece of tatty old paper with my wee signature is so highly prized…The money he spent on it!’

‘Gus was all for demanding he give it back to me.’

‘Really?’ I say, my ears pricking up.

‘Oh yes. But he doesn’t know how these things work, not like us.’ She starts attacking a mountain of offal on her plate.

‘You do a fan autograph, it’s theirs. Even if they’re cheeky enough to nab a free one out the back of a theatre, well, fair play to them.’

‘Okay Gertie,’ I grin, and push a napkin towards her. ‘Can I have your autograph, then?’

She laughs, and like the loose flesh under her neck wobbles like a panicked turkey. ‘Why certainly, young man!’

She takes out a pen and writes ‘LOT’S OF LOVE, GERTIE XXX’ on it.

I hold it up, admire it, and I raise my eyebrows politely. ‘Thank you.’

‘Now before you say anything, Mr Writer,’ she says. ‘I do know my ABCs, Mervyn. That stray apostrophe is my own wee private joke.’

‘When I signed that piece of paper many years ago, a wee fruit fly landed on the newspaper and I squashed it with my thumb.’

‘I laughed when I saw it, and apologised to the man for my appalling punctuation error, but I don’t think the puir wee boy even understood what I was talking about. I don’t think he would have noticed a stray apostrophe if one landed in his soup!’

‘Ever since then, I’ve put a stray apostrophe in my signature and do you know what? Not one single person has pointed it out!’

‘Ah, the power of fame! It does go to my head!’

I laugh, and I join in. Of all the stars of ‘Vixens’, the most self-effacing and grounded amongst them was Jennifer.

To Jennifer, ‘star power’ meant the battery in her bike light.

‘Yes, you certainly were a diva, Jennifer, with those unreasonable demands of yours – biscuits in your dressing room, your own kettle…’

We both have a good laugh. She really is a nice lady.


I go back to my room. Stacey is getting dressed.

‘Make sure you’re not seen when you leave,’ I say, a little too brutally.

But I’m terrified of Gary. There’s no telling what he might do. I must be insane.

‘I’m sorry, but you were the only person I could think of. Well, the only person with their own room, anyway.’

She’s finished getting dressed. It hardly seemed worth the effort, as the t-shirt she slept in (my t-shirt) covered more of her body.

‘Thanks for letting me stay,’ she says. ‘When Gary gets mad, he gets a bit…Carried away.’

I feel my stomach, which is still tender from the punch. I believe her.

‘What was the row about?’ I ask. ‘You weren’t very coherent when you barged in last night.’

‘Oh, nothing. Everything. It started about him covering up that note from dad, and I kinda accused him of doing it deliberately…’

‘Then it went on to all sorts of stuff. Mainly about my dad. Gary didn’t like him. He doesn’t like anyone much.’

‘Then I accused him of chatting up my mum, right after we came back. He said he was just being nice and thoughtful to a bereaved person.’

‘But he doesn’t do nice and thoughtful. He was chatting her up. I bloody know it, because I heard the same shit when he picked me up.’

‘Anyway, I’ve taken up enough of your time. Thanks for letting me stay.’

She throws her bag over her shoulder, and heads for the door.

‘Can I just ask…’ I say, as her hand rests on the door. ‘Your new look. The dark hair. The make up. It’s very striking…’

‘Thanks,’ she says, taking my weasel words as a compliment.

‘Does Gary approve?’ My voice is as innocent as it can possibly be.

‘Oh yeah, he’s got no complaints about this. He likes the grungy goth stuff.’ Stacey opens the door. ‘In fact, he suggested it.’

The door clicks shut behind her, and I’m already adding Gary into my mental file of suspects.

Something tells me Gary is only with Stacey because he likes her mum. I wonder at what lengths this violent hothead would go to to get her?

Mikegbell: @mervynstone So who are our suspects? Gary, Jennifer, Gus and Dermot who’s made a well timed exit…

@mikegbell all those, and maybe Stacey too?

Mikegbell: @mervynstone if Gary likes Mary, are we sure it wasnt HER name he was calling out last week?

@mikegbell good thought!