Friday, May 26, 2017

The Castle Of the Mad King

Mad King Ludwig probably wasn’t mad.

 I think he was my kind of guy. I would have asked him to do a guest blog. And he would have obliged.
                                              (2 minutes after car park at the castles opening)

He was an interesting dude. King of Bavaria at the age of 18. Bavaria was by then, part of the new Germany although it still retained much of its autonomy. Ludwig’s problem was that he wasn’t much interested in politics ( well that wasn’t a problem for him, it was more of a problem for those around him.) On his ascension to the throne, he let the ministers keep their jobs, he let the policies initiated by his father run and decided that a ‘hands off’ approach would leave him more time to do things he really liked. Like building castles. He avoided  the big formal occasions and all those stuffy meetings, preferring to go for long walks by himself, write poetry or ride through the country side chatting to farmers and peasants, often rewarding  them with lavish gifts if they had shown him any hospitality.

                                                            It's behind you!!
He was called, the swan king, the fairy tale king and ‘mad’ but to his people he was ‘the cherished one.’

The many castles he commissioned were not state  funded but paid for out of the royal revenue. And that probably led to his own family  trying to have him declared insane. They didn’t have the foresight to see that the Neuschswanstein itself would ensure Bavaria’s place in bucket list tourist attractions – it’s in the top thirty of the 100 things to see before you die ( and walking up the hill it sits on is enough to bring about an early demise).  It has over 1.5 million visitors  a year. And Loopy Ludwig oversaw its design, the decoration,   the furnishing, the central  heating, the electricity and the funny ceiling in the bedroom.

And it was the first castle in Germany to have a phone, begging the question, who did he call?

                                                           The one that dad built.
And that’s just one castle. He did the Linderhof and a few other palaces. As the money ran out, his architects designed more and more outrageous and elaborate designs, safe in the knowledge nobody could ever afford to build them.  His Dad, a distant man, had nothing to say to his son. But as he had built the Hoheschwangau, you’d think they could at least have a conversation about plumbing or something.

It was while Ludwig was a wee kid, about 5 years old , he had looked out  a window  of the Hoheschwangau onto  an nearby Alp,  and thought  ' that would be a great place to build a castle- a fancy castle with towers and spires'.

The telescope is still there, at that window. As the tourists walk round they are invited to take a peak at the ‘Fairy castle’ just as the young prince envisioned it.
                                               Something like the view from the palace to the castle.
Although Ludwig didn’t get on with his dad, he loved his Grand pappy, who is described as a diagnosed eccentric.  Ludwig loved growing up in the Hohenschwangau, he and his close pal, Prince Paul rode around re-enacting bits from Wagner’s operas and reciting poetry to each other.
 If it wasn’t for the patronage of  Ludwig, Richard Wagner would only have completed half the operas that he did… but those of us who have suffered the ring cycle might judge  that to be a mark against Ludo’s sanity. I mean if we were meant to sit still through that I think God would have designed our buttocks differently and made us able to turn our hearing off.
And Ludwig's bed? He  designed the ceiling above his bed to show the solar system and the stars as they were in the sky above him. He also liked to ask his servants to harness the ponies to the sledge, then stand in a line, illuminating his way with candles as he  dashed  down  an Alp at midnight. He ‘d often ask young children to share the fun.
He sounds like the Michael Jackson of his day.
(At the this point , I think I should point out just how bonkers many of the royals are. It's all that inbreeding and waving out car windows that does it. Our lot are part of the Goethe Sax Coburg  clan. At least now they are allowed to marry commoners to breed the madness out but for a few hundred years they have been swimming in the shallow end of the gene pool.)
But, and here’s where the story gets dark. if  I am ever at a loose end, I’d like to dig out some official papers about how Ludwig met his end at the age of 40. There are more conspiracy theories than there are castles ie a lot ! The official version, as told by the tourist guide was that Ludo had been diagnosed with depression and then drowned. I found out that where he drowned was only waist deep and that as a younger man, Ludwig had been an exceptional  swimmer, certainly enough to right himself in the water. If he was conscious. And even then there was no water in his lungs.
He was not alone as he went out for a walk that fateful day. He was with his  doctor, Dr Gudden.
Neither of them came back. Ludo was supposed to have been stabbed or shot but there were no marks on his body seemingly although his close female friend maintained she had his coat, complete with a bullet hole. The good Dr had been beaten and stabbed.

The king was in good spirits and there was no reason for him to commit suicide. He might however have suffered a heart attack, trying to swim or wade his way across the lake on a cold, cold night. And was he doing that to get away from a life he could endure no longer?
Or had Richard Wagner just phoned him and told him that he's just written a week long opera?

So it all remains a mystery. Maybe he was just spending too much money.
But the castles  and the good will of his people have kept King Ludwig in the memory long after those that may have brought about his demise have slipped into eternity without anybody really noticing.
Here’s a few pics of him,  handsome, a cool kind of guy. He has very charismatic eyes and a fine pair of britches. Do Americans even have a word for britches?

Caro Ramsay Von Ludoblogger  May 26th 2017

Thursday, May 25, 2017


Michael - Thursday

If you really have to spend your time with great authors, entertaining panels, and interesting books, Franschhoek isn't a terrible choice of place to do it.

In 1688, 176 protestant Huguenot refugees settled in what was then called the Olifantshoek valley (Elephant’s corner). It soon became le Coin Français (the French corner), and later Franschhoek (the same thing in Dutch). The French settlers found themselves in the middle of excellent grape growing country and rapidly set to work, adding some expertise to the Dutch enthusiasm. Their arrival marked the true beginning of the South African wine industry.

The Franschhoek Literary Festival had to wait until 2007 to kick off, but in ten years it’s become the premier book event in the country. Franschhoek is an easy drive from Cape Town so the writers and readers from that part of the world pop over for the day, while the people from up north are only too delighted to spend a few days enjoying the quaint village life, excellent wine, and first class food. A marriage made in heaven.

The view from Haute Cabriere wine estate
With the new Detective Kubu mystery launched this month in South Africa, we were delighted to receive an invitation to participate, but there was a problem. Crimefest in Bristol was exactly the same weekend, and the great team from Orenda Books would make that a highlight of the UK crime fiction year. We had no choice but to use our duality to head for one festival a piece. As I stood with a glass of sparkling wine in hand looking out to the sun setting behind the mountains from Haute Cabriere, several people asked me which of us drew the short straw. I just smiled.

Paige with Mike, Francois, and Martin
I attended half a dozen excellent panels. Paige Nick quizzed Mike Nicol, Francois Bloemhof, and Martin Steyn about Finding the Plot. Mike, who claims he battles to get 250 worthwhile words on the page each day, nearly fell over when Francois airily announced that he usually writes about ten pages! And he has some eighty novels to his name to prove it. And it was great to meet Martin who has just published his debut (in English) thriller, Dark Traces.

Joanne with Karin, Irna, and Sally
To balance the three gents on Finding the Plot, Joanne Hichens found out about Killer Women from Irna van Zyl, Karin Brynard, and Sally Andrew. Some interesting issues about men writing women and women writing men came up.

Diane and Alex
My panels weren’t mystery focused. It was a great pleasure to meet Diane Awerbuck and Alex Latimer who write together as Frank Owen on One Voice, Two Authors. Their writing system is a bit different from ours – Alex does a draft and then Diane does the second, or as she put it: “I fix it.” Their first book South is very different from Detective Kubu, too. More of that later; I’ve persuaded them to do a guest blog for us one of these days.
Helen Moffett kindly stepped in at the last minute when our scheduled moderator had to pull out, and her perspective as one of a writing trio (Helena S. Paige) made the panel triply interesting.

Ekow, Michael, Joanne, and moderator, Ann Donald
My final event was a real treat sharing a panel with Ekow Duker, who is making an impact on the South African literary fiction scene, and Joanne Harris of Chocolat fame, who came out from the UK especially for the festival. Joanne is incredibly versatile, writing her French village stories, a series of crime fiction set in a fictional grammar school in England, and a series of fantasy novels based on Norse mythology. She’s also a delightful person, and we all had great fun together on the panel. The title - The Author as Chemist - seemed a bit daunting, but wasn’t.

Everything at the festival ran smoothly and seamlessly thanks to the backstage efforts of Sheila Foster and her team. I really hope the two events don’t clash again next year…

Murder Is Everywhere
Author Recognitions and Events


Thursday May 25, 6PM
Orinda Books
Orinda, California.

Wednesday May 31
Janet Rudolph Literary Salon:
"The History of Hot Places: Clashes between Colonialism and Local Cultures”
Joint appearance with Michael Cooper

June 11
Books NJ Festival
Grounds of the Paramus Public Library
Paramus, New Jersey

June 16-18
Deadly Ink Conference
Hilton Garden Inn
Rockaway, New Jersey


Murder in Saint Germain, Aimée Leduc’s next investigation, comes out June 6, 2017.

           The Assassination in SUNSHINE NOIR longlisted for the CWA Dagger for best short            story of 2016.

           Ovidia Yu's story in SUNSHINE NOIR - Snake Skin - also on the list!


Dying to Live (Kubu #6) to be released in May in UK & South Africa and in October in USA

Tuesday June 13, 6PM
South African launch of Dying to Live 
Love Books, Melville, Johannesburg