I’m afraid I have some very sad news to impart. Our lovely cat, Vivaldi, has passed away, aged 20. She suffered a sudden bleed to the brain and was put to sleep by the vet. I’m glad she made it to a venerable age and was enjoying life (and ordering her staff about) until the end. The house seems rather empty without her and once I start my next book, I know I’ll miss her snoozing on the sofa in my office.
Shortly after Vivaldi’s death we went on holiday to Italy (my neighbour, a great cat lover, had been looking forward to caring for her in our absence and was almost as upset as I was). At least the change of scene took our minds off our loss and we ended up having a busy and enjoyable time. As an archaeology enthusiast, I’ve always wanted to visit Pompeii and Herculaneum and at last I was able to fulfil this ambition.
I’ve visited Roman ruins in this country and in Provence but I was quite unprepared for the scale of Pompeii and Herculaneum and the feeling that I was actually walking through the well paved streets of a bustling town, peeping into people’s houses, stopping at their shops and strolling into their temples and bath houses. The mosaic floor at the entrance to the house of the Tragic Poet in Pompeii (excavated around 1824) instructed me to Cave Canem (beware of the dog). In Herculaneum I saw the remains of a bed in an upstairs room, still in place after almost two thousand years along with wooden sliding doors and window frames. There were even bollards at the entrance to Pompeii’s forum to prevent carts entering the pedestrianised area – I wonder if they even had traffic wardens (wouldn’t surprise me!).
I felt somehow that I’d come close to the lives of the unfortunate inhabitants which, quite possibly, weren’t too far removed from our own hectic urban lives. I’ve always loved the books of Lindsey Davis and it wasn’t hard to imagine Marcus Didius Falco strutting through the streets, meeting a potential witness at a public drinking fountain and stopping by at one of the many wine bars for some well-earned refreshment. And then, of course, there was Pompeii’s brothel with its rather explicit menu of services…but perhaps the least said about that the better!
It’s not long now until THE SHADOW COLLECTOR is out in paperback (7th August) and I’ve just had the pleasure of spending the weekend with one of the characters! I went to Anglesey to stay with my son and his fiancée and their lovely border collie Fin (who happens to have a starring role in THE SHADOW COLLECTOR). While I was away I even managed to get hold of an original green Penguin copy to E C Bentley’s Trent’s Last Case in a wonderful second hand bookshop in Beaumaris. G. K. Chesterton (creator of Father Brown) challenged E. C. Bentley to write a story about a fallible, realistic detective who was the antithesis to Sherlock Holmes. Trent’s Last Case was extremely popular and is often described as the first modern detective novel. Dorothy L Sayers herself said that every detective writer owes something, consciously or unconsciously, to its liberating, inspiring influence.
I’m looking forward to visiting Formby this week to take part in a talk, barbecue and quiz at Formby Books with fellow authors Martin Edwards and Sheila Quigley (details on my events page). Should be great fun!