Welcome to the official website of the author Kate Ellis

Welcome to the official website of Kate Ellis

Kate Ellis is the author of two exciting series of crime novels, two historical novels and many short stories.

July 2016

Time’s passed so quickly since I last wrote this diary. I don’t know whether it’s a sign of incipient old age or because I’ve been so busy what with one thing and another.

In the middle of June I visited Middlesbrough Library to present my Murder Mystery, Death at the Dig, and a good time was had by all (with plenty of laughs and some wonderful, Oscar-worthy acting by the library staff). Since then I’ve been busy planning more events, including several book signings at branches of Waterstones to celebrate the paperback launch of THE HOUSE OF EYES – it’s out on 4th August!

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 An evening of fun at Middlesbrough Library

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I’ll be going down to Devon in early September where I’ll be presenting my new Sicilian Murder Mystery, Murder in the Lemon Grove, at Dartmouth and Salcombe libraries. It’s always great fun to do events in the places my books are set. I’m also doing a book signing at the excellent Torbay Bookshop at lunchtime on Friday 9th September so if you’re in the area do pop in to say hello.

After Devon I’m up in the North East for library events in Newcastle and Gateshead. I loved my trip up there last year so I’m really looking forward to it. As well as this I’m arranging more library talks for the autumn so please keep an eye of my events page for the latest news.

As far as writing’s concerned, the copy edit for The Mermaid’s Scream is now complete and the next stage is going through the proofs when they arrive. I’ve already started on my next Wesley Peterson novel (well, why wait if you have a good idea bursting to get out onto the page?) and, so far, it’s going well.

The thing I’m most excited about, however, is the publication of A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES in November. My editor has sent proof copies out to several well known authors and I’m delighted to say the verdicts and quotes that have come back are absolutely fantastic. I’m really thrilled with the response and feel that this is a very special book, written from the heart and inspired by some old letters I found when my father died. I’m trying to arrange a book launch at the moment so watch this space for details.

June 2016

When the weather improves like most people I gravitate toward the outdoors. And for a writer this means my ‘shed’. I suppose some people would call it a ‘summerhouse’ but that seems a little grand. Even so, it’s furnished (with paintings on the wall), carpeted and comfortable and when I work in there I write on the old oak gate leg table I inherited from my parents. That table has been part of my life since I was born (and used to stand in the front room of my home in Liverpool) so it holds many memories, from homework to Christmas dinners. Working on that table seems right somehow and I think I always work best in my shed at the bottom of the garden sealed off from the world (and the Internet). However, our short period of glorious weather has now been replaced by torrential rain so, disappointingly, I’m back indoors.

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This diary is rather late this month because I’ve been working flat out trying to get Wesley Peterson’s next case, The Mermaid’s Scream, to my publisher. My fantastic editor sent me his notes a couple of weeks ago and I’ve been rewriting my manuscript, thinking deeply about each character and every twist of the plot, making them as believable and dramatic as I possibly can. As I’ve probably said before, writing is rewriting and my advice to any aspiring writers out there would be to keep going over your work, honing it until it is as good as you can make it. Then put it away for a while, go back to it and work on it again.

Anyway, I sent the finished manuscript off late last Thursday and my editor has given the finished product his thumbs up so now I have to decide on the cover. As The Mermaid’s Scream features a reclusive author who lives by the sea, we’ve already decided on a dramatic seascape and we’re now tweaking the details. An eye-catching cover is important and I’ve been really lucky so far in that I’ve loved the covers to all my books. I think Little, Brown, my publisher do a really good job.

Since I last wrote this diary I’ve attended Crimefest in Bristol, a wonderful convention for anybody who writes or reads crime fiction. I was on two panels; one entitled Sending Shivers down the Spine and another entitled Writing Cops and Robbers. Both panels were right up my street: I love sending shivers down my readers’ spines and I’ve been told that I have a taste for the Gothic (especially in my Joe Plantagenet novels, although it tends to creep into my Wesley books as well) and I’ve been focussing on cops and robbers (or more usually, murderers) since I began writing. I’d certainly recommend CrimeFest to all avid crime fiction fans. It’s a friendly convention with fascinating panels and I always love meeting my readers there.

A couple of weeks ago I visited my local Waterstones in Stockport to celebrate the store’s twentieth anniversary with some other local authors. I hope to be back there soon (and at other bookshops too) when the paperback of THE HOUSE OF EYES comes out at the beginning of August. The way the weather is at the moment, my readers will be glad of the sliver of Sicilian sunshine that features in the book.

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Later this week I’m visiting Middlesbrough Library to present a Murder Mystery (with an archaeological theme). It’ll be great fun and I really hope to meet some of you there.

May 2016

First of all major congratulations to Martin Edwards who has just won an Edgar award for his fantastic history of the Detection Club, The Golden Age of Murder. I know writing The Golden Age of Murder has been a true labour of love for Martin and the resulting book is a comprehensive and fascinating account of the different characters responsible for making crime fiction the popular genre it is today. The award is richly deserved.

In April I was lucky enough to attend the annual Crime Writers’ Association conference in Norwich. I’d never been to Norwich before, an omission I was keen to rectify, and as it’s such a long way from my home we went a day early and stopped off at Stamford in Lincolnshire on the way. Stamford is a beautiful town and I’ve wanted to go there for some time so I was glad the conference gave me the opportunity. Also, before the conference began, my husband was able to fulfil his ambition to sail on the Norfolk Broads. The conference was held in the Maids Head Hotel next to Norwich cathedral. It was great to meet my fellow crime writers there and explore the city (and its gorgeous cathedral). As well as a guided walk around the historic city centre and a visit to the castle (which served as a prison for centuries and was the site of many public executions) we were treated to some fantastic talks by experts in many subjects ranging from forensic science to terrorism.

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One talk that particularly fascinated me was author, Lindsay Siviter’s account of the famous Lord Lucan case. The ins and outs of the investigation were certainly intriguing and the ultimate fate of the notorious peer remains uncertain (although it’s possible that he fled to Africa where he later died – his brother even told Lindsay that he knows where he’s buried). There are so many unexplained aspects to the case and what looked like a simple matter of mistaken identity (it appeared the nanny was killed in mistake for Lucan’s estranged wife) might not have been so straightforward after all. One particular treat for me was holding Lord Lucan’s cheque book (something to tell the grandchildren!). It was a perfectly ordinary cheque book (Lloyds Bank as I recall - not the exclusive private bank I would have expected) but it still provided a tantalising link to a case that continues to capture the public imagination.

After the conference it was back to work and I’m about to tackle the final draft of Wesley Peterson’s twenty first case – The Mermaid’s Scream but I won’t say any more about that until nearer the publication date.

One recent treat for me was a visit to Write Blend – a new book shop in Waterloo, Liverpool (my home city) with a lovely cafe attached. In the short time it’s been open Write Blend has become a centre for the arts in the area and I spoke (along with writer Sally-Anne Tapia Bowes) to a lovely and enthusiastic audience  at its ‘Blend of Words’ Festival.

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I hope to visit Write Blend again soon and, if anybody finds themselves in the Waterloo/Crosby area, I’d certainly recommend a visit...you can even combine it with a trip to see Anthony Gomley’s famous iron men! 

Do keep an eye on my events page as I’ll soon be busy celebrating the paperback publication of THE HOUSE OF EYES.

April 2016

There’s no rest for the wicked, as the saying goes – which makes me think I must have been very wicked indeed because I’ve been working really hard getting my next Wesley Peterson novel, The Mermaid’s Scream, in a fit condition to be read and commented on by my friend (a great crime fan who can be trusted to tell me if something’s not working or doesn’t seem quite right). She’s given her verdict now and the next stage will be acting upon her criticisms and suggestions. However, in the meantime, I’m giving myself a week’s break which I’ll celebrate by meeting friends for lunch, catching up with some of those little jobs that have been annoying me for ages and attending the Crime Writers’ Association Annual Conference in Norwich at the weekend.

In March I spoke at Bingham Library in Nottinghamshire to a lovely and enthusiastic audience (I even met a lady there who’d been to my old junior school!) I always enjoy getting out and meeting readers so I really enjoyed the day (and many thanks to everyone who helped to organise the event). As well as working on The Mermaid’s Scream as I’ve said, I’ve also been busy arranging events to mark to paperback publication of The House of Eyes in August. There’ll be signings arranged nearer the time but I’ve already fixed up some library events in the North East and Devon – see my events page for details.

I’m very proud to say that my younger son has just had two books published (history text books rather than fiction) with a third in the pipeline. His third is about seventeenth century witchcraft, a subject I dealt with in The Shadow Collector, so he was able to borrow some of my reference books and share some of my original sources. It amused me when he complained with a heavy sigh that I’d never warned him that writing was such hard work!

I’ve taken on one extra job that’s been an absolute pleasure. As a member of the Detection Club I was asked to write a short story in honour of a very special author. An anthology is to be published to mark the eightieth birthday of Peter Lovesey, one of my all time favourite writers and a wonderful man. My story, The Mole Catcher’s Daughter, is set in the reign of Queen Victoria and was inspired by Peter’s fantastic Sergeant Cribb series (many of you will remember it on TV starring Alan Dobie) and I do hope it’s a worthy tribute to his work.

 

March 2016

I’ve just realised I haven’t updated this diary since January and I feel guilty. I’ve just been reading something about writer’s guilt; guilt that you’re not keeping up with your writing output; guilt that you’re not constantly arranging events and guilt that you might be neglecting your duty...which is your writing.

I’m a guilt ridden sort of person, a worrier by nature, and I’m not sure whether this is a good trait in a writer. Okay, it means I sit down dutifully to write every day and I always meet deadlines but the piece I was reading suggests that writers need to be kind to themselves and relax a bit. Now that’s a tricky one because I love writing. I can’t think of anything I’d rather do (although writing has probably made me pretty unemployable in any other field because no employer is going to put up with someone who daydreams about plots and characters all day and thinking up clever ways to murder people!) This means that I’m constantly ‘on duty’ and on the lookout for ideas. Brilliantly constructed sentences often flit through my head when I’m doing something else – the trick is to remember them when you sit down at your computer: not always easy but that’s where notebooks come in. So next time I feel guilty about knocking off early to have a coffee with friends or a cuddle with my new granddaughter, I can try to convince myself I’m still working. But I think a tiny glimmer of our old friend guilt will always be there.

February saw the publication of THE HOUSE OF EYES and it’s been really well received. From all the people who’ve already emailed me saying how much they loved it, the consensus of opinion seems to be that it’s one of the creepiest of my books – which is hardly surprising with its sinister theme stretching back to thirteenth century Sicily. Buy it here 

I’ve just finished the third draft of 2017’s Wesley Peterson mystery. The working title is The Mermaid’s Scream and it centres around a reclusive author. That’s all I can say for the moment but watch this space for  further details. IF YOU GO TO http://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/201528081552 YOU CAN BID TO HAVE YOUR NAME IN THE BOOK IN AID OF CLIC SARGENT, THE CHILDREN’S CANCER CHARITY – a really good cause. Who will win? The auction ends on Sunday 6th March!

January 2016

First of all I’d like to wish everyone a very belated Happy New Year.

Now all the festivities are over for another year and the decorations were taken down weeks ago, life seems a little grey and I’m spending every day in my office, working on next year’s Wesley Peterson mystery. All I can say at the moment is that it features a reclusive author and was inspired by a real life Devon ghost story. But watch this space later in the year for more details. I’ve only just finished the first draft which needs an awful lot of work. Writing is re-writing as Ernest Hemingway once said. How right he was. I’m still wrestling with possible titles but as soon as I have a definite one, I’ll let you know.

Over the past couple of weeks there’s been a lot of discussion about writers getting paid for their appearances. Perhaps because I’m polite and British and was brought up never to push myself forward, I’ve always felt awkward about asking for payment. However, I know it’s wrong to feel like this because, as a professional writer, that’s how you make your living and put food on the table. The plumber analogy is used a lot – try asking a plumber to come and mend your boiler solely for the promise that it will raise his (or her) profile in the area and he might (or might not) get more business from your recommendation. I think the plumber’s reply would probably be unprintable! I always prepare for events conscientiously and never like to short change my audience so events tend to take up a lot of working time. Having said that, I love meeting readers and I often don’t charge a fee to speak in libraries that are local or in places I’m visiting anyway (where travel and loss of working time is minimal). Incidentally, I intend to tweet like mad on National Libraries Day on February 6th. We really need to support our libraries.

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The big event of February will be the launch of THE HOUSE OF EYES, Wesley Peterson’s twentieth mystery (sometimes I can’t believe I’ve written so many books). I’m particularly pleased with THE HOUSE OF EYES and I think my readers will enjoy the dose of Sicilian sunshine I’ve injected into the mix!

I’m about to embark on going through the copy edited version of my stand alone novel, A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES. I’m so pleased with it and I hope everyone will be enthralled when it’s out in November.

Enjoy!  

December 2015

I apologise for neglecting this diary in November – however, the truth is, it was rather an eventful month. 

First of all my wonderful editor asked me to make some changes to A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES. It may be interesting for those of you not involved in the publishing industry to learn that the publication process takes so long. Even though the book won’t be out until next November, everything such as getting the story perfect, copy editing the manuscript, writing the jacket copy, designing the cover and proof reading takes an awfully long time!

 At the same time as I was wrestling with these changes, my son, his wife and their cat and dog came to stay with us as they’d just bought a house that badly needed renovation. It was lovely to have them here (and help them with their work...painting cupboards, cleaning etc) but it proved to be a bit of a distraction from writing. And the one thing you need when you’re writing a book is time to think and concentrate.

Here is one of our house guests (gorgeous apart from the muddy paws!!): 

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The third event that threw me off course was my husband’s accident – he lost part of a finger while he was cutting wood and had to be rushed to hospital. So, all in all November was...er...busy! (Incidentally, he’s making a good recovery.) 

Having said all this, I did manage to fit in a night in London to attend a meeting of the Detection Club where Martin Edwards (author of the Lake District mysteries and the excellent Golden Age of Murder) was inaugurated as President, replacing Simon Brett. With his great knowledge and passion for the traditions of the crime genre, I can’t think of a better person than Martin to take on the role and follow in the footsteps (and don the robe) of G K Chesterton, Dorothy L Sayers and Agatha Christie. Here's one of me at the ceremony:

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I also took part in a lovely crime evening at York Library with Mari Hannah. It was great to be in York again, the setting for my Joe Plantagenet books, and it was lovely to meet the readers and library staff. I’m also grateful to Chris Titley, editor of York Mix, who interviewed Mari and I so capably. 

Now I have to announce a special treat – a little Christmas present for all my readers. THE CHRISTMAS CARD LIST - a seasonal locked room mystery for Wesley Peterson to solve - can be found at The Crime Vault:  http://www.thecrimevault.com/exclusives/the-christmas-card-list-an-exclusive-short-story-from-kate-ellis/

 Happy reading and may I wish everybody a very happy Christmas and a wonderful New Year.

October 2015

At last I’ve got round to catching up with my diary. However, I have an excuse for the delay, the best excuse of all in fact. I’ve finished a new book and started writing another (along with another extremely exciting event that I’ll reveal later).

First of all I’ve been itching to say something about my brand new project but I had to maintain my silence until I received the go ahead from my agent and my publisher. Now everything is definite and my brand new stand alone (well, I say stand alone but it could very well develop into a trilogy) is going to be published, although I haven’t got a date yet. I’m really excited about it as it’s a completely new departure for me, entirely different from both of my regular series. It tells the story of a Scotland Yard detective wounded in the Great War who is summoned to a small Derbyshire village in 1919 to investigate a series of bizarre murders. The book’s called A HIGH MORTALITY OF DOVES and I can promise my readers some stunning surprises! Watch this space.

Even though I’ve branched out, Wesley won’t be neglected. Having finished THE HOUSE OF EYES, I’ve just started work on his next case but, as with all first drafts, it can only be described as terrible ‘pig’s breakfast’ at the moment (full of inconsistencies and dead ends). To all aspiring writers who despair when their work seems to be going wrong, I’d give this piece of advice – don’t worry if your first draft’s rubbish (most people’s are!) because a first draft is only the raw material you can then work on and rewrite until it’s reshaped into a book you’re happy with. Then give it to an honest reader who’ll probably see things you missed...then rewrite it again a couple of times before you finally send it off. I rewrite all my books about five or six times before they’re ‘fit for human consumption’. Ernest Hemingway said ‘writing is rewriting’ and he was absolutely right.

As well as writing I’ve been busy visiting libraries and bookshops. As well as signing copies of THE DEATH SEASON at various local bookshops, I’ve visited wonderful libraries in Mansfield and Thorne where I received a very warm welcome. I also spend a few lovely days up in Northumberland visiting Killingworth and North Shields Libraries. I enjoyed the North East so much (and the fantastic libraries I visited) that I hope to go back next year. While I was up there I managed to visit Alnwick and Bamburgh Castles and Holy Island (where the strange moaning cries of the seals provided a suitably sinister soundtrack). On the way home I treated myself to a visit to Vindolanda on Hadrian’s Wall where the famous Vindolanda tablets (http://www.vindolanda.com/roman-vindolanda/writing-tablets) were found, giving an insight into the everyday life of the people stationed up there on the edge of the Roman Empire. It was a thrilling visit and a must for any archaeology lover!

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In November I’m going to speak to students in Crewe about the process of writing on the 18th and on the 24th I’m in York for a discussion on crime fiction with fellow writer Mari Hannah (see my Events page for details). I’m really looking forward to visiting one of my favourite cities again.

In my first paragraph I mentioned exciting events...and I’ve kept the most exciting until last. My first grandchild (a gorgeous little girl called Eloise) was born a couple of weeks ago. Nothing can beat that!!!

August 2015

Last Sunday I became Cinderella. How, you may ask, as I have no ugly sisters (or sisters of any kind, come to that) and I’m not in the habit of going to balls in pumpkins? Well I’ll explain. I went to the annual Crime and Mystery Weekend at St Hilda’s College Oxford and after a pleasant weekend listening to interesting talks, meeting lots of old friends and fans from both this country and the States (and even punting on the Cherwell) I decided to take the healthy option and walk to the station. 

 However, little did I know that the zip on the outside pocket of my case (where I’d packed my shoes) had failed and popped open as I dragged the case behind me. I think you can probably guess the rest. I lost my favourite pair of brown ballerina pumps along with a pair of slippers from a hotel on Lake Garda (tatty but a souvenir of a happy holiday). But worst of all I lost one of my posh platform sole sandals – the ones I last wore for a Detection Club dinner – the ones I’d probably wear to a ball (in the unlikely event that I was ever invited to one).  Oxford was crowded with tourists but nobody alerted me to the fact that I was leaving a trail of shoes behind me (mind you, I had to catch my train so I was probably moving at a fair old pace) so now I’m just waiting for Prince Charming to turn up with my missing shoe...but I think I’ll have a long wait!!! 

Have you noticed that book titles and covers seem to be very prone to fashion? At the moment every successful crime novel seems to have ‘girl’ in the title – The Girl on the Train, The Girl who Wouldn’t Die etc, etc. I suppose Stieg Larssen started it but I’m just hoping that the next fashion is for books to have ‘House’ or ‘Eyes’ in the title, in which case my next book THE HOUSE OF EYES should be a great hit!

 The trouble with being a writer is that you’re never off duty. This year I’ve visited various places but I always find myself assessing the murderous potential of each location, if only for a short story. I always take notebooks with me wherever I go and it’s always great to find one I’ve forgotten about (that’s been left in a case for months) that contains some ideas for plots that went out of my head when I was working on something else.  You just never know when inspiration will strike. I’m away on holiday at the end of the month and looking forward to returning refreshed to tackle the next book.

 Happy holidays and happy reading!

July 2015

Life has been hectic since I last wrote this diary!  In late June I travelled down to Devon, staying in lovely Dartmouth for a week and soaking in the atmosphere.  While I was there I must say I found plenty of new ideas for future Wesley Peterson books...including a long (and steep) walk through some thick woodland on the way to Agatha Christie’s summer home, Greenway.  I signed copies of THE DEATH SEASON at Torbay Bookshop and talked at Totnes Bookshop while I was there as well as paying a visit to Dartmouth Library (where the librarians are plotting another of my Murder Mysteries for 2016 – keep an eye on my events page for details closer to the time).

As soon as I arrived home, I launched into another Murder Mystery evening at a local library and a book signing at Stockport Waterstones.  It was lovely to chat to so many readers there about my books and copies of THE DEATH SEASON were selling fast.

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Not long after that I had a few days’ break in Tallinn and I must say I fell in love with the city.  The old town was stunning, the people friendly, food and drink excellent...in fact I couldn’t fault it with its Scandinavian atmosphere and its well preserved medieval heart.  There was a medieval festival going on while we were there with early music and a market with everyone in costume.  We discovered a wonderful bar called Hell Hunt and a fantastic little restaurant called Porgu in an ancient cellar which I’d recommend highly to anyone thinking of goingMy first words when we touched down again in Manchester were ‘when can we go back?’  As always I was looking for inspiration (for a short story at least) so you never know, Tallinn might feature in a future work.

One of the most exciting events of the month was my visit to Harrogate for the annual Theakston’s Crime Writing Festival.  It was my job this year to write and present the Murder Mystery Dinner (on a Sicilian theme in honour of Montalbano’s creator, Andrea Camilleri).  As I’m a Montalbano fan, I found this great fun and devised a mystery entitled Murder in the Lemon Grove which featured four potentially murderous characters – a formidable Sicilian widow, her impressionable son, a glamorous archaeologist and a dodgy tourist guide.  I was blessed with four brilliant actors – Daphne Wright (Natasha Cooper) who deserves at least one Oscar for her performance!; Cath Staincliffe who excelled as the glamorous Francesca; Stewart Bain (of Orkney Library) who was wonderful as the Signora’s son; and Jeremy Trevathan (of Pan Macmillan) who gave a bravura performance as Marco, the nefarious guide.  Many thanks to the actors who brought my script to life in such a fantastic way and great thanks to Ann Cleeves for organising the whole weekend!

On 18th August I’ll be repeating Murder in the Lemon Grove at Waterstones in Wilmslow, Cheshire so if you missed Harrogate, tickets will be available soon (see the events page for details).

June 2015

The paperback of THE DEATH SEASON is now out and it’s earned some great reviews.  I know a lot of my readers like to wait for the paperback so I hope you’re all enjoying the mystery.  I’ve written a piece about the inspiration behind the book on my publisher’s website  It was certainly a fantastic book to write and I found the period of the First World War particularly fascinating to research as the war brought about so many social changes and challenged long held attitudes.

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Since I last wrote this diary I’ve been to CrimeFest in Bristol.  This year I was on a panel about Writing the Other (ably moderated by Alison Joseph) – what are the challenges of writing about a character very different from yourself?  This proved to be an interesting subject and one I’d never given much thought to because when you’re working on a book you tend to write about your characters instinctively, almost as if you know them as people.  I also moderated a panel entitled Secrets and Lies with authors Stuart Neville, Jenny Blackhurst, Julia Crouch and Tom Harper.  How do we all deal with secrets and lies in our novels?  As all crime novels deal with secrets and lies (if it wasn’t for hidden secrets my own books would be extremely short!) the subject was a challenging one but we managed to have an interesting and lively discussion about the different ways we tackle the hidden aspects of our characters’ lives.

June is National Crime Reading Month so it’s always a busy one for me.  Last Friday I spoke, along with my fellow members of the Murder Squad (Ann Cleeves, Cath Staincliffe, Martin Edwards, Margaret Murphy and Chris Simms), at the first Carlisle Crime Writing Festival held at the Old Fire Station (Carlisle’s lovely new arts centre).  We spoke about our books and our characters and answered a lot of interesting questions from the audience.  It was my very first visit to Carlisle and I must say I was very impressed.  We stayed at the excellent Crown and Mitre Hotel and it was great to get together with my fellow Squaddies over a convivial dinner after our event and catch up on all the news.  It would be really good if the weekend became an annual feature on the crime writing calendar.

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On Saturday I’m off to Devon to do more research and some events including two talks and a book signing.  I’m really looking forward to being in the South West again and when I get home there’s a Murder Mystery Evening in Stockport on 29th June and I’ll be signing copies of THE DEATH SEASON at Stockport Waterstones on 4th July.  I do hope to meet some of you at one or more of these events – please check out my Events page for all the details.