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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
The 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!)
The 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.
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!
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.
This 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.
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!
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!
Since 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).
On 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.
Well 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!
One 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.
I 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.
I’ve just returned from a wonderful weekend spent at the annual Crime Writers’ Association conference. This year was rather special as it’s the 60th anniversary of the founding of the CWA by the renowned and prolific author John Creasy. John Creasy was a man guaranteed to make authors like me (with my mere 2,000 words a day) feel like an idle slacker as rumour has it that his daily word count approached 26,000…all that and founding the CWA too. What a man! Our fantastic conference certainly honoured him in style with fascinating speakers, good food (and drink) and congenial company.
This significant anniversary in the CWA’s history was celebrated at the lovely Belsfield Hotel on the shore of Lake Windermere and a great time was had by all. The hotel itself has spectacular views and it was quite an experience to wine and dine overlooking the beauty of the lake and the mountains beyond. And we didn’t only look at all that water. When we arrived on the Friday night we were taken on a cruise around the lake and on Saturday afternoon I managed to do something I’ve never had the opportunity to do before – I went sailing.
Research is vital to my books and even though they’re set in a location where yachts are almost as common as cars, I’ve never really included sailing in the stories. But that couldn’t last for ever. Sooner or later I’d have to include a scene on board one of those yachts parked (sorry, moored) in Tradmouth harbour and, in the interests of accuracy, I’d have to discover what sailing felt like for myself.
Five of us boarded a 35 foot yacht and set sail under the command of experienced skipper, Neil. Once the sails were raised we each took a turn at the wheel. After a while I got used to the way the wind affected the vessel and was soon steering her. We also learned to tack, the skipper assuring us that however much the boat leaned, she wouldn’t capsize. Then we went below for a well earned cup of tea before the engine took over and we chugged back to the jetty. It was great fun and I hope the research will add a touch of authenticity to the book I’m working on now, THE SHROUD MAKER.
I returned home on Sunday, looking forward to meeting up with my writing friends again at CRIMEFEST in Bristol in late May…and I very much hope to meet a lot of my readers there as well. If you’re a crime fiction fan, CRIMEFEST is highly recommended.
After a busy weekend I put my feet up last night and watched ENDEAVOUR. I think it’s brilliant…almost as good as the original MORSE.
I do hope you had a lovely Easter.
I have a guilty conscience – I’ve been meaning to update this diary for ages but I’ve been so preoccupied with finishing my next Wesley Peterson novel that I haven’t had a chance. However the fifth draft is now completed and has just been handed to an honest, crime fiction-loving friend who will read it and give her verdict in due course, so I’m finally catching up.
I must confess that being busy hasn’t stopped me relaxing in the evenings by watching a good detective programme on the TV (with a glass of wine to hand, of course). And recently there’s been a wonderful crop of home grown crime programmes to enjoy. My own particular favourite is Broadchurch on ITV. A boy is found dead on a beach in Broadchurch, a small coastal town in Dorset (which is a working town rather than a pretty holiday destination) and the programme captures perfectly the claustrophobic atmosphere of a small community coming to terms with the fact that one of its own is a child killer. I particularly like the pairing of David Tennant and Olivia Coleman as the two detectives and I love the awkwardness between the female officer who expected to be in charge of the case and the rather mysterious and damaged man brought in over her head to lead the investigation. All in all it’s a real treat for crime fiction fans. Highly recommended. As is Sunday’s Foyle’s War and Wednesday’s Scott and Bailey – a superb series with great female leads and a gritty northern setting. I feel I’ve been spoiled!
Last week’s Broadchurch unfortunately clashed with one of my own guilty pleasures, Jonathan Creek…however, it’s recorded and I’ll be watching it over the weekend. Of course it’s much lighter fare than Broadchurch but sometimes this isn’t necessarily a bad thing after a hard day’s work. Being a sucker for a good locked room mystery, I’ve really enjoyed Jonathan Creek over the years and I do hope this won’t be his last outing.
I’ve also been busy organising events for the coming months. At the beginning of March I signed copies of THE SHADOW COLLECTOR at Formby Books on Merseyside – it was lovely to meet and chat with some of my readers there. The bookshop has now moved to smart new premises but the marvellous Tony Higginson is still very much in charge. I hope to be visiting Formby again later in the year when THE SHADOW COLLECTOR is released in paperback.
They say if you give a monkey a typewriter it will eventually come up with the works of Shakespeare – well here’s me at Formby Books with a new assistant hoping that the same works for crime fiction!
On Saturday 4th May I’m speaking at Poulton Library in Lancashire (billed as a Coffee & Crime morning) which I’m really looking forward to. Do keep an eye on my events page which I’ll update as soon as all my future engagements are finalised.
Well the hardback edition of THE SHADOW COLLECTOR (as well as the Kindle edition) is out on 7th February. I’ve already received my author copies and they look fantastic. I was talking to a bookseller about the factors that attract readers to a certain book and without hesitation he said it was the cover. In the case of THE SHADOW COLLECTOR my publisher, Piatkus, has certainly done me proud.
I do hope everyone enjoys THE SHADOW COLLECTOR and its background of Civil War and seventeenth century witchcraft (as well as a reality TV show called Celebrity Farm) I certainly enjoyed writing it and found the main character, Lilith Benley, stayed with me long after the book was finished. Strange how some characters you create can seem so real.
Forgetting writing for the moment, I was very excited on Monday 4th February about the announcement from Leicester that bones found in an uninspiring car park have been confirmed as those of Richard III. Normally archaeologists labour long and hard and important discoveries can be elusive, but in the case of Richard they just opened up the first trench and there he was. If I put that in a book, my editor would tell me it wasn’t very believable!!
I first read THE DAUGHTER OF TIME by Josephine Tey (one of my favourite crime writers) a long time ago and since then I’ve read a good deal about the Wars of the Roses and the various theories about Richard’s nature. As far as killing the princes in the Tower is concerned, I consider Henry VII (or maybe loyal Lancastrians in the tower under the orders of Henry’s mother, Margaret Beaufort) to be a more likely culprit. After all, Richard had already declared the princes illegitimate (and produced proof that their father Edward IV had already had a wife when he married their mother Elizabeth Woodville). However, Henry VII intended to marry the prince’s sister, Elizabeth of York so it was important to him that she was legitimate, which in turn would mean her brothers were legitimate and the legal claimants to the throne. For Henry to become king he had to get rid of the boys whereas Richard had no real reason to dispose of his nephews.
I was very impressed by the University of Dundee’s reconstruction of Richard’s face – Professor Caroline Wilkinson and artist Janice Aitken did a fantastic job. Of course Professor Wilkinson is an expert in facial reconstruction and her work has been used in many murder investigations. It turns out that Richard was very good looking and slightly built with one shoulder a little higher than the other because of a deformity of the spine known as scoliosis which would have developed at puberty. I suppose I can claim a special interest as my Yorkshire based detective, Joe Plantagenet is reputed to be descended from one of Richard’s illegitimate children. The Plantagenet name lives on.
I’ve been working very hard on my next Wesley book…but I’m not ready to reveal anything about it yet. Watch this space.