Title: TICKET TO RIDE
Author: Winona Kent
Publisher: Blue Devil Books
Genre: Mystery / Amateur Sleuth
In Lost Time, the third book in Winona’s Jason Davey Mystery series, professional musician / amateur sleuth Jason Davey was rehearsing for Figgis Green’s 50th Anniversary Tour of England. Now they’re on the road in Ms. Kent’s fourth book in the series, Ticket To Ride.
But when a fortune-teller in Sheffield warns them of impending danger, the band is suddenly plagued by a series of seemingly-unrelated mishaps.
After Jason is attacked and nearly killed in Cambridge, and a fire alarm results in a very personal theft from Mandy’s hotel room, it becomes clear they’re being targeted by someone with a serious grudge.
And when Figgis Green plays a gig at a private estate in Tunbridge Wells, that person finally makes their deadly intentions known.
Jason must rely on his instincts, his Instagram “guardian angel,” and a wartime ghost who might possibly share his DNA, in order to survive.
Release Date: March 26, 2022
Publisher: Blue Devil Books
Soft Cover: 978-1777329433; 230 pages; $15.70; E-Book, $3.93
My parents were the founding members of Figgis Green.
I’ll forgive you if you don’t remember them. But an amazing number of people do—and still refer to them, fondly, as the Figs.
The Figs were a folky pop group that was huge in the 1960s and ‘70s and less huge—but still touring regularly and putting out albums—in the ‘80s and early ‘90s.
Mandy Green—my mum—was the main singer and my dad, Tony Figgis, shared vocals and played lead guitar.
Their best-known song was “Roving Minstrel,” a catchy thing about a faithless suitor and his careworn lady, tormented hearts, lessons learned and a really fortunate ending. It was their anthem, and they always closed their shows with it.
It was Mitch Green—mum’s brother and the Figs’ bass guitarist—who’d first floated the idea of a 50th Anniversary Tour.
“There’s something wrong with your maths,” said my mother. “We first got together in 1965.”
“The 50th Anniversary Three Years Late Tour,” Mitch said, cleverly.
“The Lost Time Tour,” I said.
And the name stuck.
The only trouble was, my dad, Tony, had died in 1995.
“You can take his place,” said Mitch. “If Mandy doesn’t mind.”
I am actually a musician and I do actually play the guitar. Quite well, in fact. I have a regular gig at a jazz club in Soho—the Blue Devil—with three mates who join me on tenor sax, organ and drums. My professional name is Jason Davey.
Plus, I had the added bonus of being completely familiar with the Figgis Green catalogue—I grew up with it.
“I don’t mind,” said my mother. “As long as no one else does.”
There were no objections.
And so, in September 2018, we started rehearsals for our thirty-four-day, eighteen-stop Lost Time Tour of England.
My uncle Mitch was younger than my mother by two years, with a shock of untidy white hair that always made me think of Albert Einstein. He’d taken to wearing spectacles to help him read, and his waistline was somewhat more portly than when he was with the original Figs. But, like everyone in the group, he’d never allowed himself to appear unremarkable. And he’d never really stopped performing. After the Figs broke up, he and my Auntie Jo took over a well-appointed pub in Hampshire, and Mitch played in a band that offered once-a-week live entertainment to its customers—much of it featuring Figgis Green standards. Once a showman, always a showman.
In the twenty years since the Figs had last performed, Rolly Black—my dad’s cousin and the group’s drummer—had moved to the States and built his own studio and filled it with instruments and had made a second career for himself scoring music for films and TV. He’d always had exceptionally long hair—which was now salt-and-pepper grey—and to mark his return, he’d braided it down his back and tied it up with a green velvet ribbon. He’d also arranged for his original silver Ludwig touring kit to be flown over, complete with its customized bass drum featuring the Figs’ leafy logo.
The original Figs had two rhythm guitarists. The first was Rick Redding, who was hired after mum and dad put an ad in NME. Rick was easily the buccaneer of the group, a romantic hero, rough in both reputation and demeanour. He’d been thrown out of the band in 1968 after he’d assaulted my dad.
After Rick left, Ben Quigley came on board. Ben’s life was similar to Gerry Rafferty’s, but without the six haunting minutes of “Baker Street.” He was a sensitive soul who always shied away from the attention Figgis Green brought him. Ben wasn’t interested in joining our Lost Time tour. So Mitch recruited Bob Chaplin, a “friend of the band.”
I found Bob to be rather ordinary and no-nonsense, though he was an excellent player. He favoured white short-sleeved shirts and jeans, and his hair was short and on the curly side. He reminded me a lot of Bruce Springsteen in his “Dancing in the Dark” days.
A week-and-a-half into rehearsals, our fiddle player, Keith Reader, walked out, claiming “philosophical differences.” He’d done it before, in 1989, for the same reason, so I’m not really sure why anyone was surprised.
In any case, the day was saved by Bob, who suggested his girlfriend, Beth Homewood, as a replacement. Beth had done folk, rock, country, classical… Weddings. Commercial functions. Studio sessions. And she was available. I was a bit sceptical, worrying about her formal training—not that it was compulsory, or even recommended. Keith was the only one of the reconstituted Figs who’d had any kind of lessons.
“Royal College of Music,” Bob said.
And Beth was in.
She turned out to be brilliant, learning the two set lists and two encores in less than a day.
Beth was a good twenty years younger than Bob. She’d begun rehearsals with long, light brown, wavy hair, which she’d plaited loosely behind her head. By the time we opened the tour, she’d morphed into Eileen from the Dexy’s Midnight Runners video that Julien Temple directed, with her hair tucked messily into a scrunched-around kerchief. She wouldn’t have looked amiss in the chopped-off blue-jean coveralls they all wore in the film, but onstage she went for a Judy Geeson To Sir With Love look—a crocheted white mini-dress with a flesh-coloured lining and matching flat white shoes.
My mother was seventy-seven and her hair was silver-white. She had essentially the same cut that she did when she was fronting the Figs all those years ago. Except, of course, that her hair was thinner now, and her face was fuller. She was a bit heavier than she’d been back in the day, too, but that was to be expected as well. She’d happily embraced a cushiony comfy grandmotherly look, and it suited her.
It turned out some of our songs had to be transposed to fit mum’s vocal range, which had diminished a bit over the five decades since she’d started singing them. But other than that, she was still in fine form.
As for me, I hadn’t toured in nearly ten years. The last time I’d gigged around England was 2009, the year my wife, Em, died. I’d been on the road with my own band, desperate to “make it,” playing concerts in pubs and clubs and converted churches and renovated city halls and repurposed Corn Exchanges. And staging late night turns at so many music festivals I’d lost count.
Between then, and now, I’d run away to sea and worked as an entertainer on board a cruise ship. After that, I’d gone travelling and then I’d come home to England and made a brief living as a busker while I tried to find a more permanent gig.
And then I’d landed the residency at the Blue Devil.
I arranged for a leave of absence from the club and found a temporary stand-in to keep my band employed and my post-tour career in safe hands.
My prep was pretty basic. I packed up my guitars and got a haircut. I’d just tiptoed over fifty, and I have to admit, I was very nearly talked into colouring the silver filaments that had begun to infiltrate my very untidy, dark brown hair. I resisted.
So that was the band: mum, me, Mitch, Rolly, Bob and Beth. Our venues were booked. Our faces were on the tea towels.
We rehearsed. We perfected our show.
On Friday, September 7, 2018, we went out on the road.
And two weeks later, on Friday, September 21, as mum and I were on our way in to the Duke of York Theatre in Leeds for our sound check, we were very nearly killed by a gargoyle.
The Duke of York, if you don’t know it, was built roundabout 1880 and is Grade II listed. Outside, it’s high Victorian red brick and stone and inside it’s red velvet and Gothic plasterwork and gold leaf, all lovingly restored to bring the old music hall up to modern-day standards.
The renovations were largely focused on the interior, which was probably why nobody’d bothered to double-check the stability of the three stone figureheads perched outside on the lintel over the stage door.
It was 4:30 in the afternoon when the middle one broke free and crashed to the pavement, narrowly missing me—I’d stopped to tie up a shoelace—and my mother, who was hunting in her bag for her security pass. The dislodged head sent out a spray of jagged stone shrapnel as it smashed into pieces at our feet.
Mum and I looked at one another.
“Bloody hell,” she said.
I knew what she was thinking, and she knew what I was thinking.
We made a point, after each show, of going out into the foyer to say hello to people from the audience and signing their programmes and whatever else they might have brought with them. It’s something the Figs always did, back in the day, and my mother wanted to continue doing it for our tour. The venues weren’t huge, and the fans—some of whom had travelled quite a long distance—loved us for it.
Two days earlier, in Sheffield, as the last of the autograph-seekers and well-wishers straggled out, I’d spotted a woman who seemed to be hanging back. She was tall, with long dark brown hair, and she was wearing a loose black top and a spectacular flowing ankle-length brown and black skirt. She had a gold chain hanging around her neck, at the end of which were a couple of gold medallions. It looked like she was waiting for a moment to talk to us alone.
“Hello,” she said, to me, and then to mum, who was on the point of going back to her dressing room. “Please—I wish you to stay for a moment. I would like a quiet word.”
I’m always a little bit leery of fans who want to have a “quiet word.” You never know what they might consider to be earth-shatteringly important—the fact that you played three wrong notes in the middle of one of their favourite songs or, God forbid, you decided to use a different guitar from the one that was on that recording in 1985. Or your input was required to settle a long-standing argument about why there were two versions of one particular tune—the one on the 1968 album and the one on the flip side of the Top Ten single that came out the following year. Because they sounded decidedly different and the general consensus was that the album version was far superior. And they wanted to know what you thought.
I waited. My mother waited.
“My name is Kezia Heron,” the woman said. “I have been following you for many, many years.”
There was something delightfully old-fashioned about her. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The Figs attracted all kinds of followers, and I suppose because of the sheer nature of most of their songs, those followers were bound to have one foot firmly planted in the distant past. This woman looked and sounded as if she’d embraced that particular concept hook, line and sinker.
“I have the gift,” she said, confidentially. “I am able to see into the future.”
“Are you,” said my mother, wholly unimpressed.
I knew her opinion of seaside amusements and end-of-pier fortune-tellers. I knew that opinion included, with very few exceptions, anything remotely to do with the word ‘psychic’.
“I am compelled to speak with you,” said Kezia, looking at me. “I bring a warning.”
My mother was exercising supreme patience. She would never say anything horrible to a fan, but she wanted very badly to leave. Our shows ended late and by the time we got back to our hotel, it was usually well past midnight.
I’m more open-minded about the occult and the paranormal than my mother. “What sort of warning?” I asked.
“There will be troubles. I am certain of the word ‘dropping’.”
“Dropping,” said my mother.
“As in, falling down?” I asked.
“I hear the word,” said Kezia. “Over and over again. And I feel it as it happens. A dropping.”
“Is this dropping going to kill us?” mum inquired. “Because if it is, perhaps we’d better cancel the rest of the tour and arrange for a refund on the hotel deposits and the transport.”
Kezia smiled. “I understand. Many people are unwilling to accept the words I offer. I am in your presence only to convey the message, which is extended with graciousness and humility and great caring.”
“Thank you,” I said. “We do appreciate the warning.”
“We are all wanderers on this earth,” Kezia replied. “Our hearts are full of wonder, and our souls are deep with dreams. I wish you a peaceful night.”
My mother maintained an amused silence as we went backstage to change out of our gigging clothes. We had two dressing rooms at our venues—one for mum and Beth, and the other for Mitch, Bob, Rolly and me.
“You don’t have to say it,” I said.
“And I shan’t,” she confirmed.
“I’ll keep an eye out for possible hazards.”
“I should think you would be doing that anyway,” my mother replied, deadpan, opening her door, “as the only reason I brought you along on this tour was to look after me.”
Beth, Bob and Rolly had repaired to our hotel’s bar—which stayed open late—for a nightcap with the crew. Mitch, mum and I went up to our rooms.
I made myself a mug of hot chocolate. A bonus when you’re touring is accommodations that come with electric kettles and packets of expensive tea and an equally-impressive array of coffee pods and packages of sugar and whitener and, if you’re lucky, hot cocoa mix.
I finished off the last of a G&B Dark Chocolate and Ginger I’d bought that morning and had a bedtime ciggie, blowing the smoke down the sink drain in the bathroom. I switched on the telly and read over the comments that my followers had contributed to my latest Instagram post. I “liked” them all, answered a couple of them, and then fell asleep watching Cliff Richard and the Shadows drive across continental Europe in a refurbished double-decker bus.
How do you conduct your life when someone’s told you to watch out for something that may or may not have anything to do with a vague premonition of “dropping”? Do you walk around staring at the sky, wondering if a large chunk of blue ice is going to detach itself from a passing jet, plummet to earth and impale itself in your skull? Conversely, do you keep your eyes permanently fixed to the ground in case a sink hole suddenly opens up and you end up tripping into a cavern created by a leaky water pipe dating from the Roman occupation?
If you’re my mother, you discard the entire thing as nonsense and carry on without a second thought.
If you’re me, you remember the guardian angel who saved your life six years earlier and you very definitely believe what you’ve been told.
About the Author
Winona’s writing breakthrough came many years ago when she won First Prize in the Flare Magazine Fiction Contest with her short story about an all-night radio newsman, Tower of Power.
Her spy novel Skywatcher was a finalist in the Seal Books First Novel Competition and was published in 1989. This was followed by a sequel, The Cilla Rose Affair, and her first mystery, Cold Play, set aboard a cruise ship in Alaska.
After three time-travel romances (Persistence of Memory, In Loving Memory and Marianne’s Memory), Winona returned to mysteries with Disturbing the Peace, a novella, in 2017 and the novel Notes on a Missing G-String in 2019, both featuring the character she first introduced in Cold Play, professional jazz musician / amateur sleuth Jason Davey.
The third book in Winona’s Jason Davey Mystery series, Lost Time, was published in 2020.
Ticket to Ride is the fourth book in Winona’s Jason Davey Mysteries.
Winona has been a temporary secretary, a travel agent, a screenwriter and the Managing Editor of a literary magazine. She’s currently the BC/YK/NWT rep for the Crime Writers of Canada and is also an active member of Sisters n Crime – Canada West. She recently retired from her full-time admin job at UBC’s School of Population and Public Health, and is now happily embracing life as a full-time author.