It’s been a very difficult few weeks because, sadly, my dear father, David Ellis, passed away just before Easter. I can honestly say that, whereas my mother gave me love of reading and creating mysteries, my father and his life-long interest in literature gave me my passion for writing.
David Ellis 1923 - 2014
David was born in Liverpool to an émigré Welsh family in 1923, attending Quarry Bank High School (the alma mater of John Lennon along with a host of other Liverpool notables). In his younger years he hung round with the city’s artistic set (even having his own tankard in that famed Liverpool pub, The Crack). He had ambitions to become a writer and had articles published in Punch. I was touched to receive a letter from his old friend, the famous true crime author (and leading authority on Jack the Ripper) Richard Whittington Egan, telling me how he remembers my dad sitting in Sefton Park with a note pad, scribbling away. Like me, Richard particularly remembers David’s wit and wonderful sense of humour. For the last two years of his life my dad endured terrible illness but now I’m trying to remember him as he was...and I know I’ll always be grateful for the inspiration he gave me and proud of the lovely gentleman he was.
After the trauma of my dad’s death, it was good to get away to Guernsey to meet up with my fellow crime writers for the Crime Writers’ Association annual conference. There was certainly a lot to do to take my mind off things and it was great to meet up with old friends again. The conference was brilliantly organised by Jason Monaghan who, as well as writing crime novels under the name of Jason Foss, is also an archaeologist and Director of Guernsey Museums.
Guernsey is an island steeped in history with a rich supply of archaeology from castles to Roman shipwrecks (if you get a chance to go don’t forget to visit Guernsey Museum in Candie Gardens and the Maritime Museum in Castle Cornet). There’s also much evidence of dramatic events in the more recent past: the Channel Islands were the only parts of Great Britain to be occupied by the Germans during the Second World War and that occupation has left scars both physical (in the form of concrete fortifications and underground tunnels) and psychological. It was easy to envisage an island living in fear and we had a fascinating talk by Dr Gilly Carr about the oppressive occupation and its effects on the lives of the islanders.
On my arrival I was asked to take part in a panel event at Guernsey Museum hosted by the Guernsey Literary Festival. Martin Edwards, Edward Marston and I spent an enjoyable hour discussing our work and crime writing in general. One of the highlights of the conference for me was a visit to the house where Victor Hugo had lived in exile (and where he’d written Les Miserables – a book I studied for French A level...in French) I must say his taste in interior design was rather alarming to say the least! All in all it was a lovely conference and I thoroughly enjoyed the beautiful island with its fantastic food and hospitality.
I’m pleased to say that the new Crime Writers’ Association short story anthology, Guilty Parties is now out. My story The Confessions of Edward Prime is set in Liverpool (in the area I grew up) – I hope my dad would have been proud.