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.

Late March 2014

This month a letter landed on my doormat, totally unexpected and very thrilling.  It told me that I’d been elected ‘by secret ballot’ to become a member of the Detection Club.  The Detection Club is a prestigious club for crime writers and membership is by invitation only.  It was founded in 1930 by a group of British mystery writers (including Agatha Christie and Dorothy L Sayers) and the first president was G K Chesterton (the creator of Father Brown).  There is a dramatic initiation ceremony which involves a skull called Eric – I can’t wait to make his acquaintance.  Here’s a link to Lucy Worsley’s encounter with the Club:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p01gw1f3  I must say, I’m very honoured to be invited – when I first started writing, I never thought I’d be in such august company. 

Spring has arrived at last which means that many authors’ thoughts turn to library appearances, conferences and conventions.  For me the past week has been great fun as my Murder Mystery Evening ‘Death at the Dig’ has been performed at two libraries, Flint in North Wales and Wilmslow in Cheshire.  These evenings are tremendous fun and the library staff and (in the case of Wilmslow) local actors who gallantly play the parts of the ‘suspects’ are invariably marvellous.  It’s great to see how much people enjoy themselves and enter into the spirit of the performance.  Another Murder Mystery Evening is currently being arranged for Kingsbridge in Devon in June – keep an eye on my Events page for details. 

Flint

The popularity of Murder Mystery events in general proves that the ‘Golden Age’ type of mystery is still as popular as ever.  A few weeks ago I was amused to learn that Midsomer Murders is one of the most popular programmes in Scandinavia whereas this country’s crime fiction fans go mad for Scandinavian ‘noir’.  Apparently a huge proportion of Scandinavian homes contain a Midsomer Murders DVD – it certainly makes you think! 

I’ve just sent my next Wesley Peterson novel to my editor and I’m awaiting her verdict.  Fingers crossed she enjoys it.

 

Late February 2014

Have you always dreamed of having your name immortalised in a book?  Well now’s your chance.  The children’s cancer charity, CLIC Sargent is holding an on-line auction and the winner will have a character in my next Wesley Peterson novel named after them.  Other authors are also taking part and I think it’s a fantastic way of raising much needed funds for a really good cause.  If you want to take part and support CLIC Sargent go to http://www.clicsargent.org.uk/getincharacter  Good luck!

February’s been a busy month.  I’ve been working on my next Wesley Peterson novel, THE DEATH SEASON as well as organizing various events for later in the year.  I’m very excited that my murder mystery Death at the Dig is due to be performed in three libraries – it’s my tribute to the so called ‘golden age of crime writing’ in the 1920s and 30s and is great fun (and played strictly for laughs).  I feel it’s important to support our libraries at this uncertain time of closures and cuts.  I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that libraries are a sign of civilization and we lose them at our peril.  If it wasn’t for visiting my local library in Liverpool (Allerton) from an early age, I’d never have become an avid reader - and, as a consequence, I doubt if I’d ever have become a writer.  There must be an awful lot of people in this country with good reason to be grateful to libraries and we really must support them.

When I haven’t been writing, I’ve been digging.  Last year I had a great time helping with the excavation of Agatha Christie’s sister’s garden.  There’s a possibility that I might have the opportunity to return there later this year, but in the meantime, I’ve taken part in a dig on our village green, once the location of a grand house.  The archaeology group (The South Manchester Archaeological Research Team, commonly known as SMART) excavated the hall itself a couple of years ago so this time we were concentrating on the outhouses.  It was a fruitful dig, uncovering some interesting floor surfaces, and, fortunately, the weather was kind to us…and in a Manchester February that’s something of a miracle.  Can’t wait to get back there in a couple of weeks.

Findigs

Better get back to work as I’ve left one of my characters in considerable peril!  Don’t forget about CLIC Sargent.

 

January 2014

A rather belated Happy New Year to everyone.  And what a start to the year it’s been. 

The launch of a brand new book is usually a cause for great celebration.  However, the publication of THE SHROUD MAKER at the start of the month was rather overshadowed by a very happy occasion – the wedding of my younger son, Olly to his lovely new wife, Sam, at Peckforton Castle in the wilds of Cheshire.  It was a wonderful, happy day that will stay in my memory for ever.

After the wedding, Olly and Sam took a short holiday and while they were away we found ourselves sharing our house with a character from my last book THE SHADOW COLLECTOR.  No, it wasn’t one of the suspects – it was their sheep dog, Fin.  I don’t often use real people (or in Fin’s case, dogs) in my books but Fin just had to be an exception.  Fortunately, unlike in the book, the only bones he found while he was with us were ones that we gave him!

As you can imagine, our festive season was pretty busy this year but I did find time to watch the latest SHERLOCK series on the BBC (I always find time for Mr Holmes).  Now so far I’ve absolutely loved this new version of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s stories, starring Benedict Cumberbach and Martin Freeman and I think that bringing Holmes’s world into the present day has worked brilliantly.  However, this third series left me a little disappointed.  Okay, the production was fantastic, together with the special effects...but perhaps that’s what was wrong.  Like some recent Doctor Who episodes, the narrative has been neglected in favour of in jokes, tangled relationships and super-fast back stories.  Sometimes it felt almost like fan-fiction and the strong Holmes stories (which were handled so cleverly and wittily in the first two series) became little more than an afterthought.  Perhaps with the return of Moriarty, things will improve.  I do hope so.

December 2013

First of all, as a festive treat, Wesley Peterson’s first case The Merchant’s House is, for a short time, only £2.07 from Amazon as part of 12 Days of Kindle.  And to think his 18th investigation is about to hit the bookshelves (and your e-books of course).

The publication of a new book is always an exciting event.  There’s nothing quite like that moment when a delivery van screeches to a halt outside and someone hands over a brown cardboard box filled with crisp copies of your latest novel.  This happened to me about a week ago when my author copies of THE SHROUD MAKER arrived.  My publisher, Piatkus, has done me proud with the wonderfully sinister cover – hope you agree.  The official publication date for the hardback and e-book is 2nd January – a new book for a new year.

shroudcopies

As I write this Christmas is approaching fast.  Apart from the usual seasonal goodies such as decorations, food and carol singing, one Christmas traditions I love is sitting by a roaring fire with a good ghost story.  When I was growing up, the reading of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol was an annual fixture in our house.  But soon I moved on to something much more horrifying.  I’ve always eagerly devoured the ghost stories of M R James, which range from the disturbingly sinister to the truly horrifying (Lost Hearts is particularly grisly in my opinion).  I’m very pleased to see that M R James’s story The Tractate Middoth has been adapted by Mark Gatiss for television and will be broadcast on BBC2 on Christmas Day.  For many years the BBC has had a proud tradition of showing supernatural stories each Christmas, either adapted from M R James’s stories or created by other writers.  Many of these, such as Whistle and I’ll Come to You, have become classics but one production that particularly stuck in my memory was The Stone Tape – I know some people complain about repeats on TV but this is really one programme I’d like to see again.

Something else to look forward to over the next couple of weeks is a brand new Sherlock episode on New Year’s Day.  I can’t wait to see the explanation of how Holmes escaped death (in the modern day equivalent of the Reichenbach Falls) – I have my theory, of course, but it’s probably wrong.

Anyway, I hope all of you have a wonderful Festive Season.  All the best for 2014 and Happy Reading.

Late November 2013

I admit I cheated.  I kept an episode of Poirot back (Dead Man’s Folly) so that Curtain wouldn’t be the last I saw of the fantastic David Suchet.  It’s many years since I read Curtain and I sometimes feel a little guilty at not re-reading many of the Agatha Christie books I loved as a teenager.  After all, it was reading them that gave me an appetite for crime and mystery which, in turn led me to become a writer.

The plot of Curtain is certainly original for a crime novel, even though Shakespeare used something very similar in Othello.  It has to be said that Shakespeare himself wasn’t averse to adapting other people’s plots and ideas in his own special way.  They say there are only a certain number of stories in the world (I’m not sure, but I think it might be seven) so true originality, although that’s what most writers (including myself) strive for when they begin a book, is probably more difficult to achieve than most people think.  

Recently all my time has been taken up with writing my next Wesley Peterson novel and I’m pleased to say that I’ve just completed the first draft.  However, this is only the beginning of a long process and my lovely editor won’t be seeing it for a few months yet.  I view the first draft as a sculptor views a block of stone.  It’s the raw material of a book to be shaped and chiselled away until I am happy to allow someone else to read it.  At the moment only I know what’s in the manuscript sitting there on my desk but I can reveal that the title on the front is THE DEATH SEASON. 

I’ve just had the news that the publication date of my next novel THE SHROUD MAKER has been brought forward and the hardback (and e-book) will be available in January – not long to go now – and the paperback in June 2014. 

TheShroudMaker

Another exciting development is that copies of THE SHADOW COLLECTOR have been put on the London Underground by Books on the Underground.  The idea is that people pick up the books, read them (and possibly blog about them and recommend them to their friends), and then return them to the Underground so that they can be read by someone else.  It’s a great idea and I’m really thrilled that my book has been chosen.  I do hope everyone who picks it up enjoys it!

TheShadowCollector

November 2013

 I’m afraid this diary has been rather delayed but there is a good reason:  I now have a new and much improved website and I have been waiting for it to be ready.  I hope it’s easier to navigate than the old one and will tell you more about me and my books.

I have always thought that autumn is a sad time of the year and for the world of crime writing 2013 has been particularly sad with the loss of a much loved and distinguished author.  CWA Diamond Dagger winner Robert Barnard died on 19th September this year.  Bob was the author of an array of brilliant and witty novels as well as being a leading authority on Agatha Christie and the Brontes. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/10340639/Robert-Barnard.html

I have very fond memories of Bob’s kindness to me when I was a new writer.  I was alone at my very first crime convention and even though he was a star author he took a lot of time to speak to me and tell me about the ins and outs of the crime writing world.  RIP, Bob, you’re sadly missed.

Now that the summer is over and autumn is well and truly here it’s back to work.  Sometimes writers just have to take a deep breath, put their heads down and write and that’s what I’ve been doing throughout October.  With THE SHROUD MAKER out in January (not long to go now) you might think I’d have plenty of time to write the next book in the series.  However, books have very long lead times and 2015’s novel has to be ready for printing long before the publication date.  I must say that so far the first draft is going well.  It always seems strange when life follows art but I can reveal that the recent violent storms reflect a major part of the plot I’m working on.

One of the highlights of the year for many crime fans is the return to our TV screens of the wonderful David Suchet in the role of Hercule Poirot.  As I write this I have viewed just one of the final series, The Big Four (Dead Man’s Folly has been recorded because I was at an Archaeology Society meeting and is being looked forward to with great anticipation).  The plot of The Big Four was a little far fetched at times and many aspects wouldn’t get past my own editor, but it made for a deliciously over the top and entertaining two hours of viewing.  The best part, of course is David Suchet’s performance as the Great Detective.  It is well known that Agatha Christie didn’t much like the character she had created and in the books Poirot’s character lacks depth and development.  But in David Suchet’s capable hands, Hercule has matured since the first episodes and, as he ages, we see him increasingly weighed down by his encounters with murder, examining questions of justice and faith in a depth that is lacking in the novels.  The series is an absolute treat.  I can’t wait for the next episode and I will be facing the final Curtain with much sadness.

September 2013

Yate

I love holidays, the chance to sit reading a good book without that nagging feeling of guilt that I should be doing something else (like working on my own book and persuading my characters to do what I want them to do). I’ve just returned from a beautiful week in Devon where I was royally entertained by Peter Lovesey’s latest Diamond mystery, The Tooth Tattoo. It really is a fascinating read, delving into the lives of the varied members of an elite string quartet and probing their connection with a young Japanese girl found dead in the lovely city of Bath. Highly recommended.


On the way down to Devon I stopped off in Gloucestershire to speak at Yate Library, just north of Bristol. It was good to meet everyone there and many thanks to the library staff for making me so welcome.

RegattaThe next day I travelled to Dartmouth, calling in at The Torbay Bookshop en route to sign copies of THE SHADOW COLLECTOR. The Torbay Bookshop is a lovely independent bookshop, named as one of the three best small bookshops in Britain by Daily Telegraph readers and shortlisted for Independent Bookseller of the Year in 2013.



When I arrived in Dartmouth, the town was packed with revellers celebrating the final day of the Royal Regatta. What with a fly past by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight and a fantastic firework display (as well as excellent weather) it was certainly an evening to remember. I also had an ulterior motive for taking a special interest – my next Wesley Peterson mystery, The Shroud Maker (out in hardback in February) features a regatta-like festival (the big difference being that in my fictional festival, everyone dresses up in medieval costume…and murder is never far away!)

4actorsThe next day Regatta was over and everything suddenly returned to normal. But I had one more engagement before I could put my feet up – on Monday afternoon Dartmouth Library became a hotbed of (light-hearted) crime and murder when four courageous volunteers performed my Murder Mystery, Death at the Dig. They were brilliant and I’d really like to say a big thank you to the actors and to Library Supervisor, Rowena Marshall, for entering into the spirit of the 1920s so enthusiastically. Also congratulations to Alan Leach who won a signed copy of The Shadow Collector.

 

winner
For the rest of the week Dartmouth was bathed in glorious sunshine and I had a wonderful time going for long walks (and getting inspiration for future books). Hope you enjoy the pictures!

 

 

August 2013

THE SHADOW COLLECTOR is now out in paperback and it’s been a busy month. It’s been great to meet readers and sign books at Formby Books (I mentioned last time that I was going there) where Sheila Quigley, Martin Edwards and I had a great evening talking about our books and hosting a crime fiction quiz. A fantastic barbecue was also provided by Tony Higginson who runs Formby Books with impressive enthusiasm and expertise – it was pouring with rain but, with true British spirit, we ignored the weather and had a good time anyway! Last Saturday I was signing copies of my books at Waterstones in Stockport and it was really good to chat with my readers, both established and new. Many thanks to Nick, Paul and all the team at the Stockport branch for making me so welcome.

formbyquigleyThis coming weekend I’ll be down in the South West researching for my next Wesley Peterson book. On the way down I’ll be visiting Yate Library in Gloucestershire (see events) and then I’ll be signing books at the Torbay bookshop in Paignton on the afternoon of Saturday 31st August. On Monday 2nd September at 2.30pm Dartmouth Library will be the scene of a Murder Mystery – see my events page for reassurance that it’ll be safe to be in the vicinity!

One of the delights of an author’s life is getting together with other authors and keen readers, and on 16th August I travelled to Oxford for the twentieth Mystery and Crime Weekend at St Hilda’s College. The theme of the weekend was ‘From Here to Eternity: The Present and Future of Crime Fiction’ and the speakers included P D James, Val McDermid, Andrew Taylor and Peter Robinson. Penelope Evans recounted some fascinating (and inspiring) stories of deception, Tom Harper reflected on Plato’s and Aristotle’s influence on detective fiction and Jill Paton Walsh reminded us that the first detective story is to be found in the Old Testament (Daniel’s quest for the truth in the case of Susanna and the elders). Although I really enjoy speaking at St Hilda’s, it was lovely to just sit back, relax and listen this time. In addition, the food was fantastic (likewise the wine) but the main thing I’ll remember about the weekend was the company. Can’t wait for next year.

Late July 2013

viv bwI’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. 

bollardsI’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!). 

hercI 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!

FinsIt’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!

July 2013

Today is my cat, Vivaldi’s 20th birthday and she’s celebrating in style with some of her favourite treats and a busy afternoon sleeping in the conservatory. I had hoped the occasion might be marked with a telegram from the Queen…or at least the royal corgis (although, as dogs, it might be against their principles to congratulate a cat)…or possibly from the Prime Minister’s cat, Larry.  But nothing’s arrived yet.  Maybe later!

budSince I last wrote this diary I’ve had a break in Budapest with my husband, along with my oldest (not in years I hasten to add) friend and her husband.  We had hoped to do a river trip but the flooding of the (not-so-blue) Danube meant that all river traffic was suspended for the duration.  It was quite disturbing to see the riverside roads and tramways under water and the people with homes and businesses near the river preparing for the deluge with sandbags.  Luckily by the time we were leaving the water had subsided a little but it certainly brought home how destructive flooding can be.  However, in spite of this, we managed to explore the city, taking the funicular railway up to the old town of Buda and even taking the metro to a thermal spa on the outskirts (we didn’t go in, although if we went back we would definitely give it a try).  Apart from that, I can certainly recommend the beer (I think the English translation was Golden Pheasant).

abneyOn my return from Hungary I was in for a treat.  I have joined my local archaeological society SMART (the South Manchester Archaeological Research Team) and we were given permission to excavate in the grounds of Abney Hall, Agatha Christie’s sister’s old home.  The Watts family who lived at Abney had dismantled a medieval chapel and rebuilt it in their grounds as a garden folly (Agatha would certainly have seen it during her many stays at the hall).  When the local council took over the property in the 1960s they demolished the chapel (I know…unbelievable, isn’t it!!!)  Our mission (which we chose to accept) was to uncover anything that might remain of the chapel and this we did, finding the remnants of walls, the burned hinges of what was obviously an ancient door and a beautiful piece of carving which may have been a ceiling boss (or some other sort of decoration).  We’ve had permission to go back and investigate further and I can’t wait to get my trowel dirty again!

Incidentally, I was chatting to John Curran at CrimeFest (John published Agatha Christie’s Secret Notebooks) and he told me that Agatha went straight to Abney Hall to take refuge with her sister, Madge, immediately after she’d been found in Harrogate following those famous eleven days when she went missing…something I never knew.  It’s a pity the owners of Abney don’t make more of the Christie connection.

Last week I spoke at Wilmslow Library to a lovely audience.  I do enjoy getting out and about to meet the people who read my books.  And this Friday I’m travelling to Blackpool to talk at a lunch at the Central Library along with Martin Edwards.  We’ll be discussing our work and I do hope some of you can come along to meet us.

June 2013

greenhousesWell things have been incredibly busy since I returned from the CWA Conference.  The garden is blooming and all the vegetables we planted seem to be flourishing.  We’ve acquired a greenhouse and the tomatoes, courgettes, lettuces etc are growing well.  It’s very satisfying to eat what you’ve grown from seed.  However, as a crime writer I promise there’ll be no poisonous plants amongst the harvest.

But time in the garden has been limited.  The deadline for my next novel has been moved forward so I’ve been rising at unearthly hours to try and get the final draft finished.  My crime fiction loving friend really loved the book when she read it, which came as a great relief, and now I’ve just sent it off to my publisher and I’m awaiting the verdict with trepidation.  The new novel is called THE SHROUD MAKER.  My fellow Murder Squad member, Martin Edwards, has called his latest book The Frozen Shroud – seems shrouds are all the fashion at the moment!       

crimefest132One particularly welcome distraction was a weekend at CRIMEFEST in Bristol.  It was a great convention with loads of authors and fans from all over the world.  My panel was called Ask a Policeman and my fellow panellists were Kerry Wilkinson, Pauline Rowson and J.C. Martin, ably moderated by Ann Cleeves.  We discussed our detectives and why we chose to use a police officer as our main character rather than a private eye or similar.  I said that I chose a police detective because the chances of anyone in any other occupation (including private eyes these days) dealing with murder after murder were relatively slim and to sustain a crime series with a non-police character might be stretching credibility.  But there are some who might disagree with me and great crime writers in the past have built many a successful series on the deeds of amateur sleuths. 

crimefest13I attended a lot of panels at CRIMEFEST and was really interested to hear Robert Goddard talk about his work as I’ve enjoyed his page-turning books a great deal over the years.  It was really good to meet old friends again at CRIMEFEST and make new ones.  And it was particularly lovely to meet and chat to so many readers.  After all, they’re the people we write for…the people who make everything worthwhile.

I’ll soon be out and about to celebrate the CWA’s CRIME FICTION MONTH with events in Wilmslow and Blackpool and I’ll be arranging book signings to coincide with the paperback publication of THE SHADOW COLLECTOR on 6th August.  Check my events page for details.