Robert Browning wrote of autumnal decay mutely appealing for sympathy, but as we tap out this newsletter great swathes of lime and lemon, scarlet and ruby, russet and gold (not to mention one or two remaining pockets of green) are rioting loudly all over the landscape. Our recent chillier nights have certainly worked their paintbox magic on leaves.

Upstate NY had its first major, and unexpected, blizzard a day or so ago. We have had other reminders that winter is coming down the pike. The groundhog we've occasionally seen loitering in the back garden has put on an enormous amount of weight since our last issue and migrating birds have been stitching arrows across the sky this past week or three.

A couple of days ago we learnt that October l5th is National Grouch Day -- but can we really be surprised since it's the very day Orphan Scrivener routinely swoops crow-like to darken your email in-box? So read on and let the grouching commence!


When I was eleven I started to collect stamps, an endeavour accomplished by nabbing any envelopes which arrived as well as the wild spending of pocket money at a newsagent and tobacconist a couple of streets away. Its proprietor sold -- among numerous necessary items not falling into those particular categories, such a cough sweets, writing pads, and bootlaces -- little packets of foreign stamps.

On one occasion, staring into the shop window at a set of triangular stamps from the Pacific (I seem to recall they were Tongan) I suddenly forgot how to pronounce foreign. I could hardly go in, put down a couple of pennies, and ask for stamps from countries that were abroad. On the other hand, hanging about the emporium door for ages trying to remember would run the risk of suspicious looks from the chap behind the counter. So in the end I plucked up courage, went in, and -- as will happen when a familiar phone number is temporarily forgotten but returns to us when we start dialing -- as soon as I began to make the request, the word came out correctly pronounced, albeit with a broader Geordie accent than the one I now possess.

In those days I didn't collect stamps with a particular topic, but if I ever take up the hobby again, my focus will be on matters mysterious, for I have discovered a fascinating website devoted to Detective Fiction On Stamps.

Its content covers philatelic images from about two dozen countries with the themes of mystery authors and their characters as well as actors who have portrayed the latter.

There's evidence of conflicting decisions on who gets the nod as one of the best-known sleuths. Nicaragua issued a set in l972 celebrating the 50th anniversary of Interpol, illustrated with their choices for The 12 Most Famous Fictional Detectives. In l996 Guernsey celebrated l00 Years of Cinema with a set depicting Five Classic Screen Detectives whereas Dominica's homage to the same event featured Ten Fictional Detectives.

The small screen is not forgotten either. To my delight, a British set about classic TV series features not only Inspector Morse and his scarlet buggy but also a stamp honouring Rising Damp, one of my favourite sitcoms. Most of us have rented from landlords like Rigsby! Avengers fans may also like to check that page

Alas, it appears Tonga has not yet obliged with a stamp honouring mysterious literature. I'd complain about it, but that would be foreign to my nature.


This time around the ticker tells subscribers about a fellow whose crimes were just not cricket as well as revealing hot news from Greece.


Mystery*File is home to a huge selection of articles about mysteries, reviews, author interviews, checklists, and more. Since the last Orphan Scrivener was issued, Mary's essay on A. J. Raffles, the gentleman burglar and amateur cricketer created by E. W. Hornung, has appeared on the M*F website. Want to read biographies of Raffles and his hapless friend and partner in crime Harry "Bunny" Manders? How was it Raffles was thought to have died twice? Is it possible Raffles finally redeemed himself after his life of crime? Bearing in mind there are extensive spoilers, if you wish to find the answers to these burning questions point your clicker at Raffles.


And speaking of burning, the Greek edition of Two For Joy has appeared under a title we recklessly -- and loosely -- translate as Byzantium Ablaze. Published by Govostis, its cover features drawings of three personages from the Ravenna mosaics. They are recognisable as the man we dubbed John, his arch enemy Empress Theodora, and a third person whose identity is uncertain though we have our suspicions, set against scarlet flames flowering in the background. If you'd like take a glance, pop over here to Govostis. Our thanks to Govostis for again bringing Ioannis back to his own country!


In a couple of weeks it will be Halloween. Nothing beats putting on a mask and prowling the streets at night.

Unfortunately I'm too old to do that without getting arrested.

I can only recall fondly the distant days when it was a thrill just to be out after dark. The crunch of desiccated leaves under my feet, the skeletal trees leaning out over the sidewalks, the way night transformed the familiar neighborhood into a eerie, alien landscape full of secrets.

Oh heck...I'd never have gone out in the cold except for the treats.

I hate the cold. That trick-or-treat bag used to get heavy and my hand would turn numb hanging onto it. But when I got back home, upended the bag over the table, and spilled out a mountain of chocolate and candy corn, that made the misery worthwhile.

Of course there were always apples. They fit in with the season. My friends and I hated people giving out apples. Apples were too heavy to cart around and anyway no one goes out in the cold for fruit. Our parents were always nagging us to eat fruit. Today fears about concealed razor blades have pretty much put an end to Halloween apples. I doubt kids are shedding any tears over that.

It was always the retired folks who had the bowl of apples in the hallway by the door and they were the ones who always insisted we come inside and perform for our treats. Back where I grew up the Puritans had got their oar in and so it was more like work-for-treats. We were required to sing a song or tell a joke or recite a poem. Somehow we never had the courage to explain things to these misguided adults. "I'm afraid we've got a little misunderstanding here. The way it works, see, is you hand over the treats or we come back and soap your windows, or smash a pumpkin on your porch."

We preferred householders who couldn't be bothered to get into the spirit of Halloween. The ones who opened the door a crack, tossed some money in our bags, and sent us on our way. Money was what we preferred. A quarter would buy more penny candy than most people would give out, not to mention being lighter to carry. We couldn't help noticing the bigger the house, the more likely we were to get money rather than candy. Some years my friends' parents drove us to a nearby upscale development. The people up on the hill put dollar bills in our bags.

Ever notice how tall kids are today? I wonder, if I put on a mask, and slouched...


This issue of Orphan Scrivener was written during an early cold snap. As he indicated above, Eric does not care for winter and vastly prefers the hot summer weather -- which Mary particularly dislikes -- so we both agree with Carol Bishop Hipps, who described October as the gap between the miseries of the two aforementioned seasons.

We're now at the end of this latest newsletter and so will be taking our leaves. However, after a gap of two months we'll be back to spread misery among subscribers again when our next Orphan Scrivener flaps in from the aether on December l5th.

See you in then!
Mary R and Eric

who invite you to visit their home page, hanging out on the virtual washing line at There you'll discover the usual suspects, including more personal essays, lists of author freebies and mystery- related newsletters, Doom Cat (an interactive game written by Eric), and a jigsaw featuring the handsome cover of Five For Silver. There's also an Orphan Scrivener archive, so don't say you weren't warned! Intrepid subscribers may also wish to pop over to visit Eric's blog.