Archive for the ‘History’ Category

I’m more than happy today to be hosting my good friend and mentor Charlie Cochrane, general good egg and huge fun as well as being the wildly talented author of some of my favourite books. Her latest offering in the terrific Portkennack series was released recently and she has been kind enough to answer my questions about it.

Welcome, Charlie!

I’ve read all the Porthkennack books so far and have been delighted at how they paint a picture of the community, past and present. With each book a little more is added to the portrait. What do you like best about writing in the Porthkennack sandbox?

Where do I start? Playing with other people’s toys is always fun, as is working with their ideas. I confess to having had concerns about writing in a universe that had been invented by somebody else, but it’s been remarkably freeing. I guess all the hard work of world building has been done for us.

It’s also been good working with other authors who are also friends. In the early days be bounced lots of ideas of one another, from where the museum would be and who’d run it, to names for the local beer. These things are vitally important!

What non-spoilery plans do you have to add to the village or, on the other hand, is there anything you feel would be inappropriate to find in such a thriving community?

I’ve been fortunate to write one contemporary and one historical, so the different time settings has allowed me to write in a totally different way about the same place. The storylines haven’t had to interact, although there is a thread of buildings and locations which recur in the two stories. I think I’m the only author – so far – exploring Porthkennack in its immediately post Great War guise.

In terms of inappropriate, the thing which would worry me is if Porthkennack turned into a community where everyone was LGBT, a sort of fantasy land which would not be true to its geographical location. Avoiding that will mean a light touch from all those involved, but I’m sure we can deliver on that.

What one commemorative event do you feel has best encapsulated the tragedy and pathos of the “War to End All Wars”?

Oh, what a question. I’d have to say the poppies at the Tower of London. For me, it captured the sheer scale of the losses; every poppy was somebody’s child. Running those a close second would be the events commemorating the Battle of the Somme and the Third Battle of Ypres (Passchendale). Russell Tovey as Tubby Clayton was superb.

What are you working on now and can we have an excerpt, please?

I’m working on the second draft of another Cambridge Fellows mystery novella. This is very rough and ready! Orlando is trying to get two minutes of peace in the college garden.

“I wondered if I’d find you here.” Jonty’s voice sounded through the railings of the gate.

Orlando looked up, as though completely surprised. “Oh, hello. I was trying to find a moment’s peace.” He waved the papers.

“Sorry. Didn’t realise you were hard at work with your sums. I thought you might be sunbathing. Or resting your legs after the cricket.” Jonty plonked his backside two feet along the bench.

“And how exactly did you know I might be here?” Orlando asked, neatly sidestepping the aching legs issue.

“You were seen by Swann, that rather nice new porter. Limping along—you, not him and his words, not mine—in this general direction. I deduced,” Jonty grinned at the word, “that you’d not make it all the way home so would likely seek a few minutes of repose. And what nicer place could a man find to repose in than this?”

“That last point is indisputable,” Orlando conceded. “Although I’ll take issue with ‘limping’. I merely had a stone in my shoe and had to find a suitable place in which to remove it. I have killed two birds with the proverbial stone.” He brandished the papers again, having risked contradicting his earlier statement.

“You’re not very good at telling fibs, so I don’t know why you bother.” Jonty gazed up at the sky. “What a beautiful day. God’s in a very blue heaven and all is right with the world. Have you had a good day?”

“Excellent, thank you.” Orlando slipped the papers back into his briefcase—what was the use of pretence? “You?”

“Pretty good. All set for the arrival of the dreaded dunderheads. I see the college staff are fumigating the rooms and nailing down anything pawnable in preparation.” Jonty narrowed his eyes then sighed. “All we need now is a case. I think I’ve sufficiently recovered from the last one.”

“I’m not sure I’ll ever recover.” Orlando rolled his eyes. Being asked to defend one’s deadliest enemy on a charge of murder, and in circumstances where superficially he appeared to be as guilty as sin, would have tried the patience of any man. “But another case would be very gratifying.”

“And it would stop you moping.” Jonty gave a sly little sidelong grin.

“I haven’t been moping! Have I?” Orlando added, guiltily. He couldn’t deny his thoughts had turned more than once to the intellectual stimulation of a case, and how much he had missed it through the summer months. Even when they’d holidayed on Jersey he’d occasionally wished a nice, juicy mystery might fall across their path. Not a murder, as he wouldn’t wish that on anyone, but perhaps a missing item to be located or a—

Jonty’s voice cut into his thoughts. “Are you listening? What do you think?”

Orlando, who’d learned it was pointless to pretend he’d been listening or to venture something like, “I need time to consider the matter,” said, “I think I’ve forgotten to pick up the post from my pigeon hole. I’ll need to go back to the porters’ lodge.”

About the Book

Michael Gray returned from World War One injured, but at least he returned. Others were not so fortunate, including his first and greatest love, Thomas Carter-Clemence, with whom Michael had parted bitterly before the conflict began.

Broch, the Carter-Clemence home in Porthkennack, was an integral part of pre-war holidays for the Grays, the two families drawn together in the wake of their sons’ friendship. Returning to the once-beloved Cornish coast for a break with his sister and her family, Michael has to find the courage to face old memories . . . and dare new relationships.

When Thomas’s brother Harry makes an unexpected appearance, Michael is surprised to find himself deeply attracted to Harry for his own sake. But as their relationship heats up, it unearths startling revelations and bitter truths. Michael must decide whether Harry is the answer to his prayers or the last straw to break an old soldier’s back.

Buy Links

Riptide Publishing | Amazon UK | Amazon US | Kobo | Smashwords | iTunes


About the Author

Photo by Templedragon

Because Charlie Cochrane couldn’t be trusted to do any of her jobs of choice—like managing a rugby team—she writes. Her mystery novels include the Edwardian era Cambridge Fellows series, and the contemporary Lindenshaw Mysteries, while her romances feature in the Portkennack series.

A member of the Romantic Novelists’ Association, Mystery People and International Thriller Writers Inc, Charlie regularly appears at literary festivals and at reader and author conferences with The Deadly Dames.



Website: http://www.charliecochrane.co.uk

Blog http://charliecochrane.livejournal.com/ and https://charliecochrane.wordpress.com/

FB: https://www.facebook.com/charlie.cochrane.18

Twitter: https://twitter.com/charliecochrane

GR: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2727135.Charlie_Cochrane



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Many many thanks to D P Denman for organising this blog hop to celebrate love in all its forms and fashions. Below you will find links to all the terrific authors who are taking part and also a link to a major Rafflecopter giveaway – enter it and you can win not only a Kindle but a whole load of ebooks to put on it.

Now I could just cut to the chase and provide the links to save the readers who are just here for the giveaways from having to scroll but nope! If you want to win a Kindle you can use that scroll bar, and for the people who stick around and read my post I’ve got a smaller private giveaway just for the fun of it.

First of all, a picture.

Not very impressive, is it? Until you consider that this is the oldest known depiction of two humans making love [or the oldest known piece of pornography if you have the kind of mind that insists on looking at everything that way]. This pebble has been painstakingly chipped to show the entwined limbs of lovers. It is thought to be over 13,000 years old, dating from the Ice Age, and was found in a cave in a desert area of Judea. Click the picture to go to the BBC website for more information on the carving and what it may represent.

What it represents to me is that the meeting of hearts, minds and sometimes of bodies, too, has been a major preoccupation for human beings since there WERE human beings. Lovers of all types, shapes, sizes and sexes have pledged to each other, sometimes fleetingly, for the heck of it, just for an hour, and sometimes with deep and abiding commitment.

This image dates to 500BC and shows part of a ceremony of union described by Herodotus at about that time, by Lucian in 50AD and, astonishingly, by Gerald of Wales writing of Ireland in the 12th century AD. Here is Lucian’s account of the ceremony in the words of a participant:

We consider appropriate to [these relationships] what you do in regard to marriage – wooing for a long time and doing everything similar so that we might not fail to obtain the friend, or be rejected. And when a friend has been preferred to all others, there are contracts for this and the most solemn oath, both to live together and to die, if necessary, for each other, which we do. From the point at which we have both cut our fingers and let the blood run into a chalice, dipped the tips of our swords in it, and both drunk it together, there is nothing that could dissolve what is between us.

Gerald’s account is, naturally, scathing because he was a devout churchman and anything involving the letting and consuming of blood was considered to be a pagan mockery of communion. But even in Catholic France during the 16th century it was possible for lovers to make a life together through the legal act of affrèrement – ‘brothering’. Originally designed so that two brothers or other close relations could share a house and property equally, it was also applied to men who were not related to each other but who wished to become legal and equal partners. The new “brothers” pledged to live together sharing ‘un pain, un vin, et une bourse’ — one bread, one wine, and one purse. There are many historians who pooh-pooh any suggestion that some of the people who signed contracts might have been lovers but honestly! If there was a way to make your lover your heir, to live with him as a partner, both in business as well of the heart, wouldn’t you take it?

Buccaneers certainly did, changing the name of affrèrement to matelotage and settling areas of the Caribbean and Spanish Main in colonies of same sex couples with locally recognised and approved rights of inheritance and fidelity. Until death do us part was as important to them as to the men of Scythia or the people today who choose to marry.

There have been good times, bad times, times of acceptance and times of persecution but I believe things are getting better and I hope that they continue to do so.

Okay you’ve been very patient so here’s the link to the Rafflecopter and for those of you who’d like to enter the private giveaway please comment below with the name of the century in which affrèrement was practised in France for a chance to win an ebook from my backlist, and a unique sheep related product!!

Happy Valentines and don’t forget to follow the links below.

Kendall McKenna Anne Barwell Elin Gregory
Jennifer Wright Morticia Knight Ethan Stone
N.J. Nielsen Tara Lain Tali Spencer
Stephen del Mar Cecil Wilde H.B. Pattskyn
C. J. Anthony Catherine Lievens Karen Stivali
Lisabet Sarai TM Smith Lily G Blunt
Christopher Koehler Tracey Michael Sibley Jackson
Alexa Milne L M Somerton Megan Linden
Draven St. James Charlie Cochrane Eva Lefoy
Thianna Durston Aidee Ladnier M.A. Church
Brandon Shire Sue Brown Jessie G
David Connor Hayley B James J.M. Dabney
Julie Lynn Hayes April Kelley Elizabeth Noble
Amanda Young DP Denman Bronwyn Heeley
Annabeth Albert Neil Plakcy Shiloh Saddler
A.J. Marcus Kazy Reed


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A Taste of Copper by Elin Gregory

Your master has the field for today, but his name, whatever it might be, is without honour.

Olivier the squire worships the Black Knight and takes a fierce joy in his prowess as he defends a bridge against all comers. Olivier only wishes that his master loved him as much in return instead of treating him as a servant and occasional plaything.

Then word comes that the King desires to cross the bridge. With an army approaching, a bright eyed archer enticing Olivier to desert and the first cracks beginning to show in the Black Knight’s gruff demeanour, Olivier is left wondering if his honour is worth more than a chance for happiness.

Word count: 25,900
Cover Art: Meredith Russell
Editor: Erika Orrick
Copyright: Elin Gregory


Laden with a steaming bucket in one hand and a platter bearing bread, sausage and a jug of wine in the other, Olivier shouldered aside the entrance flap to enter the pavilion. Sir Maheris was still armoured but had removed his helmet and pushed back his coif. His short cap of black hair had spiked up with sweat, and deep lines bracketed his full lips. Maheris had fierce black eyes beneath frowning brows, but Olivier had seen his scowl ease into a gentle smile when he slept. Olivier wondered what dream could put that soft vulnerability on Maheris’s face and prayed one day to see such a smile turned towards him.

But now Sir Maheris was glowering. “You were delayed? Perhaps the horses ran off? Undo these buckles.”

“Sir?” Olivier put his burdens down and hurried to his side. “Did I fasten them too tightly? Your pardon, sir, I…”

Maheris grunted and raised his left hand, ungauntleted now, to show it bright with blood. “A lucky stroke,” he said. “Reihershof’s point caught a chink in my brassard.”

Olivier’s heart thumped fast as he assisted Maheris. Blood was still dripping, the sharp scent of it mingling with the stench of iron and old sweat from the padded doublet. He set the pieces of armour aside to clean later and eased the doublet over Maheris’s head. The left sleeve of it weighed heavy with blood, and the shirt beneath was sodden. Olivier bit his lip as he eased the clotted fabric away and saw the bright trickle that followed.

“That will do,” Maheris said once he was bare to the waist. His heavy shoulders and chest gleamed with sweat, his skin goosefleshing in the chill air, but he waved Olivier away when he brought Maheris a towel. “Time for that when the wound is sealed,” he said as he took a seat. “You know what to do.”

The wound in his bicep gaped like a hot, wet mouth.

“Is it clean?” Maheris demanded. “Get on with it, boy.”

Read the whole of the first chapter here.

Buy Links

Many thanks to Love Lane Books for organising a Rafflecopter giveaway with a very generous prize. Check it out!

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I can’t begin to describe how excited and apprehensive I am to hear that HM Pickle is up for sale – on Ebay no less! There’s no reserve and only 5 days left in the auction.

Of course it’s not the real one. This is an excellent replica of the 1799 top sail schooner, known at the time as a Bermuda sloop. The original Pickle was 73 feet long with a 20 foot beam, displaced 127 tons and was armed with 8 12 pounder carronades with a crew of approximately 40 to man the guns and trim the sails.

Pickle served in the French Revolutionary War, firstly in the Caribbean, fighting pirivateers, pirates and the French squadrons, then in the Channel and the Mediterranean. Pickle was the vessel chosen to carry news of the victory at Trafalgar, and the death of Nelson, back to England. During th battle itself, Pickle had hung back with the other small ships, darting in to rescue survivors from stricken vessels and carrying messages where safe to do so. While assisting a French vessel that had caught fire and exploded one of Pickle’s boats picked up a woman from the French ship. She was clinging to a floating oar and had been blown right out of her clothes. She described how she had had to fight off French sailors who had tied to take the oar for themselves. One of the Pickles gallantly took of his trousers and gave them to her to wear. It seems a bizarre story until you consider that the Navy wasn’t nearly as ‘stag’ as the history books lead us to believe. I suspect that there’s a really good story in this anecdote but I don’t think I’m the one to write it.

I have a mini Pickle at home, built over three long cold winters by my husband, and very fine she is too. The Cat loves to sleep on top of her case.

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My guest today is award winning playwright Vanda, who is currently working on her first novel, Juliana.


Madame Spivy

Who Was She?

I wonder how many LGBT folks today know who Madame Spivy was. Well, Spivy was an early pioneer in the gay rights movement, although I doubt she would’ve seen herself that way. She was a nightclub owner and entertainer who from the early 40s to the mid 50s kept Spivy’s Roof going despite her poor money management skills. Spivey’s Roof was a nightclub where gay men and women could go and be “almost” out. This meant it wasn’t a gay club, most of the patrons were straight, but gays could openly gather there if they didn’t call too much attention to themselves. According to Gavin (2006) Spivy wanted her various girlfriends to come into the club, and she didn’t think it would be fair to let them in while leaving out the men. Each night gay men lined the bar in their white tuxedos. Spivy’s was a good place for the men to meet each other and a little “fumbling around in the dark” was not uncommon. But Spivy, a short, stout woman in a black dress and black hair combed into a stiff pompadour with a white streak going from front to back (Gavin, 2006, p 30), could be moody. Every once in awhile she would stand up in the middle of the dining area and yell, “Get all the fairies out of here.” Gavin doesn’t say whether this was a joke or whether she actually pushed the gay men out. I rather think not. As one patron put it Spivy was the “patron saint of fags.”

Spivy’s Roof

Spivy’s Roof was located in the penthouse of 139 East 57 Street in New York City. To get there you rode up in a rickety elevator, which opened into a world of glitter and chrome and tightly packed tables and chairs. On the walls were paper sculptures of “stars” such as Katherine Cornell and Gypsy Rose Lee.

Madame Spivy had her devoted fans who came to hear her perform a set of 15 “sophisticated” or “blue” songs. She was supposed to do two shows a night on the weekend, but she paid no attention to time or scheduling. Often she still hadn’t begun the ten o’clock show at 11:30. It wasn’t uncommon for her fans to begin chanting “Spivy! Spivy!” to try to coax her onto the stage. But Madame Spivy was in the back talking to one or more of her girlfriends, among them Tallulah Bankhead or Patsy Kelly.

Spivy was always the star at Spivy’s Roof despite, allowing others to perform on her stages, such as Mabel Mercer, and the then unknown Carol Channing.

strong>An Unknown Piano Player You May Know

Spivy always had two pianos, one under the spotlight and another in the back covered in shadows. The pianist in the back played the ambient music and also backed up Spivy’s own playing when she sang. The word was that she kept that shadowy pianist in the back, because she wasn’t very good. Still she had no intention of sharing the spotlight with anyone else.

Walter Liberace, c 1943

One of her early pianists, hidden in shadows, was 21year old Walter Liberace. Imagine him being stuck in the back and in shadow. Well, that didn’t last long, but to find out what happened between Spivy and Walter I hope you’ll read my novel, JULIANA. There’s a chapter on Spivy’s Roof in which the scene with the young Liberace gets played out.

The times these people lived in were very different from ours in some significant ways. One commentator who was a regular at Spivy’s Roof when he was sixteen—they didn’t seem to be quite so fussy about legal drinking age back then—said “I was probably too innocent to think of Spivy’s sexuality. The concept of women loving women just didn’t exist in the groupthink of the era…” (www.ralphmag.org/DJ/spivy2.html)
Spivy’s Roof was so successful in New York that Spivy thought she could expand into London, Paris and Rome. These clubs all failed. (www.ralphmag.org/DJ/spivy2.html)

So What Happened to Her?

Spivy established a small acting career and you can see her in The Manchurian Candidate and Requiem for a Heavyweight. She also starred in some TV episodes of Hitchcock Presents.


Gavin, J (2006). Intimate nights. New York: Back Stage Books
Ralph (n.d). The Bearded Lady on Spivy’s Roof, Part I. http://www.ralphmag.org/DJ/spivy1.html
Blog: http://www.Julianathenovel.com

Based on research for my novel, JULIANA: It’s 1941 in New York City
where gay men and women live secretly among straights.


Many thanks, Vanda, for such a fascinating article. Madame Spivy was quite a lady! Good luck with your novel, Juliana, and please let us know when it’s available.

Club owner, actress, bon viveur AND song writer. Spivy was a talented lady!

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I haven’t been blogging much lately. Most of my blog posts used to be written during my lunch breaks at work but things have changed big time and  now there’s not only no time to do that but when I get home I go to sleep on the sofa. I quite like sleeping on the sofa but it’s not time well spent blog-wise. Time for an update, I think

First of all – the Humpday Hook giveaway. Four people provided links so I put their names in the hat and drew Savannah Miller. Congratulations, I’ll be in touch.

Comfy Chair interviews and guest posts – I have some nice ones lined up including Julian Griffith, Ciaran Dwynvil and Chris Delyani. If you would like an interview or guest spot, please use the contact form on the Comfy Chair page.

General writing news : nothing much.  I submitted a story in February but it’s still in the slush pile – not actually rejected yet but waiting for the axe to drop. I’m adding slowly to WIPs by getting up ridiculously early. I get at least one new story idea a week.

Ummm – that’s it for the personal stuff so here’s some interesting historical randomness as a reward.

Popularity – a painting of over 100 music hall artists by comedian and ventriloquist Walter Lambert. He has painted himself into the picture – you can see him immediately above the sandwich board man on the left. Very nice frock Walter. If, like me, you’re interested in knowing who all these performers are there’s a large scale image with a key on the Arthur Lloyd website

Another picture of Walter. He performed in female dress, his stage name was Lydia Dreams. This was taken during his most popular skit, where he played a nurse and his figure, Sammy, played the patient

I would love to show you a better picture of Sammy but there’s only one image available and I’d have to wait for permission to use it. Sammy’s head is in a vent museum in the US. He is made from papier mache, leather and plaster and has real hair and teeth! You can see him here if you dare.

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Click the picture for the long list of participants.



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For a number of reasons that seemed good at the time – it looked fun, or it seemed a nice thing to do, or being scared stiff because I’m not writing and might never write again – I’ve committed to doing far too much in April.

The original idea was that I’d get well ahead of myself by working hard in March, but March has been so bloody miserable I’ve spent much of it under a blanket and have only poked the social media sites that I felt I should poke and have done the things I feel I should do.

Anyhow, over the next few weeks I should be posting daily for the A to Z challenge. Since I’m one of the people who need a theme to write to, I’ll be pointing out the value of primary sources of all kinds, for finding out cool stuff to put in books, although I can’t promise I won’t just post about things that I find interesting or annoying as well.

The first week should cover written, textile, vegetable, mineral, animal and historical information, plus a bit of a rant. 🙂

I also, in a moment of madness, signed up to do Camp Nanowrimo with the intention of writing 30k over the month. A thousand words a day – should be doable, right? *sigh*

From a less self serving POV I have quite a lot of nice people schedule for interviews/ promotion slots too – more on those as the posts roll around.

So what are you lot doing in April?

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The Princes in the Tower

“The Princes in the Tower” 1878, by John Everett Millais

I’ve spent a lot of time the past few days thinking about my post on Monday about Richard III and the whole concept of otherwise excellent people committing real atrocities that seem to be completely out of character.

Then I wondered if a bit of an overview might be useful, again, for people who might be interested in the period and how everything fits together.

Ricardians, please note: I’m approaching this subject with as little bias, one way or the other, as i can manage so please don’t be offended at anything that may seem like a slur on Richard’s character The position of King of England in the 15th century was not open to wimps, as I shall explain.

Bit of background – the princes, Edward, 12, and Richard, 9, had been left in the care of their uncle, Richard the Duke of Gloucester when their father died suddenly. Richard moved them both to the Tower of London, then a royal palace, where they could be kept safe. The following year a rumor circulated that they had been murdered and, inexplicably, Richard did not allow them out to be seen, which would have scotched the rumour.

Why might a kind and loving uncle order, or have accepted, the murder of his two nephews?


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And now they have identified the poor soul’s body in a skeleton discovered under a car park in Leicester.

How excited you are about this really depends on your familiarity with British history and, if familiar, where you stand on the whole “Richard was a hunchbacked murderer of children/Richard was an excellent king and good caring uncle much maligned by the devilish Tudors” discussion.

Antony Cher’s Richard was a monster with no redeeming qualities. Shakespeare has a lot to answer for.

Just a little catch up for those who don’t know but do care. Edward IV was a superb warrior king and at 6ft 4 one of the tallest men to ever rule in England. His reign brought a terrible civil war to an end and promised a period of peace and prosperity. He was young and had 2 small sons so the succession was assured. When he died suddenly in April 1483, he left his sons and the country in the hands of his younger brother, Richard of York, a man he trusted implicitly and a very able warrior and administrator. Richard had a firm grasp on the country but regencies are always problematical and he knew that the two small boys could be used as tokens in a power play. For their safety, and that of the country, he had them taken to the reasonably luxurious but very secure royal quarters in the Tower, where they had their own household and tutors. Richard visited them often and is reputed to have been very fond of his nephews.

Contemporary accounts describe Richard as small and scholarly yet a doughty fighter on the battlefield. He proved himself as a war leader several times over before the death of his brother and his accession as Regent seems to have been greeted with relief – a steady hand at the helm until 12 yr old Edward V came of age. Richard may not have been universally loved but he was respected.

Yet, somehow between April 1483 and his death in August 1485 this small scholarly man is reputed to have turned into a ravening monster.

At this distance I don’t suppose we will ever know exactly what happened to the Princes in the tower. The usual story is that Richard, desperate to be king in his own name, firstly had them illegitimised then had them murdered in late 1483. The rumour that they were dead circulated and outraged the British aristocracy so much that they invited Harri Tudur, most influential member of the house of Lancaster and reputed to be a descendant of Cadwaladr, the last British king. Or maybe Harri remembered the reign of a previous Richard and how it was brought to an end by another ambitious man – Henry Bolingbroke who became Henry IV.

The skeleton of Richard III, showing the curvature of th spine that would have only caused an uneveness of his shoulders rather than an actual hunch.

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