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My books can be purchased as e-books for only $1.99. If interested, just click here: Books.
Match Play is a golf/suspense novel. Dust of Autumn is a bloody one set in upstate New York. Prairie View is set in South Dakota, with a final scene atop Rattlesnake Butte. Life is the Arbor is a children's book about Rollie Rabbit and his friends (on about a fourth grade level). The Black Widow involves an elaborate extortion scheme. Doggy-Dog World is my memoir. And ES3 is a description of my method for examining English sentence structure.
In case anyone is interested in any of my past posts, you can find an archive list at the bottom of this page.

Friday, September 19

Belinda Baur & ES3

Now it’s time to talk about Belinda Baur and her oh so well-crafted tales set in the little English village of Shipcott. Shipcott may be tiny but any number of horrific murders take place there, beginning in the first novel, Blacklands, in which a young boy tries to find the buried body of his Uncle Billy, who was killed along with six other children and buried somewhere in the moors around that part of England. Steven Lamb makes it his mission to find Uncle Billy so that his grandma can find peace. He spends several years digging haphazardly in the hills of Exmoor, hoping to unearth the body. Arnold Avery, the man who killed Billy and the other children, is in prison but refuses to reveal where he has buried the bodies of the slain children. Steven then engages in a letter campaign to Avery to get him to tell him where Billy’s body is located. And a game of cat and mouse between them begins. The tension builds, somewhat relieved by an undercurrent of humor that seems typical of her writing.

Darkside, the second in the Shipcott saga, introduces us to Jonas Holly and his ill wife Lucy. Jonas is the local policeman in Shipcott, and when someone smothers an old woman, Detective Chief Inspector Marvel and his crew are called in from Taunton to take over the investigation. Jonas feels that he should be included but Marvel, an abrasive, insensitive man, dismisses him and makes him feel foolish. Then six others are killed, two seriously ill women living at home and four others in the Sunset Lodge Retirement Home. The hunt for the killer goes on. So many killing in one little village.

In the third part of the Shipcott trilogy, Finders Keepers, children are disappearing from the village, and two of the characters from the other novels are back, Steven Lamb, the boy in Blacklands, and Jonas Holly, the local policeman in Darkside. From the number of violent crimes committed here, I think I’d simply move away. So long, Shipcott, I’d say. Even more than the plot suspense, though, is the writing style. Let me show you several examples.

“The first flakes wandered down from the black velvet sky like little stars that had lost their way, and within minutes the galaxies themselves were raining down on Exmoor. Without a breath of breeze to divert or delay them, a million billion points of fractured light poured from the heavens, to be finally reunited under the moon in a brilliant carpet of silent white.”

“The heat of embarrassment was leaving Jonas and being replaced by a cool and distant anger, which he found easy to hide but which he knew he would nurture forever in that very small and stony corner where he kept all that was not kind, responsible, and selfless in his heart.”

I’ll use this last quotation to once again show off my system for examining sentence structure, not that this sentence is structurally unusual, just that I want to make a case for it to any would-be or current teachers of English. I don’t want this system to die along with me. It’s too valuable a tool for that to happen. My book, ES³, is available at lulu.com as an e-book, with a price around $3.00, a bargain for something as useful as this.
For any who think this is just a fancy way of diagramming sentences, I say, okay, try to diagram the sentence above and you wouldn’t have enough room on a 100-foot-square blackboard. This system simply eliminates all the old pedagogical grammatical terms, the stuff that always got in the way of understanding for the students who were trying to make sense of it. It uses s, v, and o for the obvious elements, and numbers for the not-so obvious. If I were to describe the sentence above in traditional terms, we have the subject “heat” followed by a prepositional phrase that describes that heat, then the verb phrase “was leaving” and the noun object of the verb, “Jonas.” Then another verb phrase “being replaced” followed by an adverbial prepositional phrase explaining how it was replaced. Then two adjective clauses describing “anger.” In the first, the relative pronoun “which” is pointing to “anger.” The adjective “easy” is a predicate adjective working with the understood infinitive ‘to be” and the infinitive “to hide” is an adverb describing “easy.” See how easy this is to describe in traditional terms? Hah! My students would be staring glassy-eyed out the window by this time. Some of you may also have that glassy look by now. But to continue, the second adjective clause “which he knew” has the noun clause “he would nurture forever” working as the object of “knew” and the prepositional phrase “in that very small and stony corner” working as an adverb telling where he would nurture that anger. Finally, the word “corner” is followed by an adjective clause introduced unusually by the subordinating conjunction “where” instead of the usual relative pronoun “that” or “which.” Are you still with me? And last, the word “all” is described by an adjective clause with the linking verb “was” followed by a series of three predicate adjectives “kind,” “responsible,” and “selfless” with a concluding adverb prepositional phrase telling where he kept the “all.” And here’s what it would look like without the words:
The pattern shows how we often (maybe too often) begin a sentence with a simple main thought and then tail off with subordinate ideas in a variety of structures. ES³ has the advantage of showing students how various word groups can be used in different places for variety and an avoidance of ambiguity. Please, any English teachers out there who might be reading this, consider going to lulu.com to buy ES³. Also, please find Belinda Baur and read her. You won’t be disappointed.

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