I didn’t win, but it was – and still is – a thrill to have my story ‘Faceless Killer’ long-listed and then short-listed for the Margery Allingham Short Story Competition. It’s not quite the first time I’ve been short-listed for something – but it was the first time I’d been there when the winner was announced, this time at a reception at Crimefest in Bristol, and it did add a frisson of excitement to the week-end. In the end the winning story was ‘The Box-Shaped Mystery’ by Peter Guttridge. I’m looking forward to reading it when it goes on line. Meanwhile here are introductions to the short-listed stories: http://thecwa.co.uk/debuts/short-story-competition/.
Crimefest was a blast, as always, masses of friendly readers and writers, interesting panels, impeccably organised in a good hotel in a great city. I staggered home with a load of books, DVDs, and audio books, some of them the result of winning the Crimefest pub quiz, which I achieved by the simple ploy of making sure I was on the same team as Martin Edwards. I also won a book in a raffle at a terrific session on German crime fiction run by Kat Hall (aka Mrs Peabody). And then yesterday Captain Hastings (aka Hugh Fraser) politely opened a door for me – who would have thought it? So it was all good and I’ve already booked for next year.
These I rarely read a book in one sitting. Maybe sometimes on holiday, but otherwise it tends to be when I am not very well. Such a day came last week – just a cold, but I didn’t feel up to much. I retired to bed with Ellie Griffith’s The Outcast Dead, which I’d been saving for when I wanted a treat. There was no-one at home so I read it straight through without interruptions, including over lunch, and I enjoyed it hugely.
I used often to read like that – for hours on end. I remember as a teenager that a favourite place to read was sitting on the stairs, back against the wall, feet against the bannisters, while the sunlight through the stained glass of the front door of our between-the-wars semi sent shifting patterns moving across the hall carpet.
The great thing about a one-sitting reading is that you don’t forget who characters are or mislay bits of the plot. You get completely immersed in the book, sinking into it, leaving your ordinary life behind. Of course not everything can be read like this. Proust or Tolstoy demand a greater expenditure of time – the reading has to be spread over days, weeks, or maybe months – and that sense of living in a parallel universe is part of the experience of reading the book. But I like a crime novel to be short enough to read in one sitting – and if the writer has done their job, I should want to read it in one sitting, drawn on and on until at last the final page is reached, it’s over, and with a sigh of satisfaction, I close the book (and go online to download the next in the series).
It is always a slightly anxious moment when your publisher sends you the cover for your new book and asks for your comments. But when I saw the cover for Deep Water a couple of weeks ago, all I could say was ‘Wow!’ It’s simple, elegant, and striking. The novel begins with a death in a clinical trial so the image couldn’t be more appropriate. And I love the strap line, too.
It’s so important what your book wears to go out into the world. First impressions do count when someone is browsing in a bookshop or on-line. Publisher have the final say and sometimes they chose something that they think will sell even if it doesn’t reflect the content of the book. That’s not fair on author or reader. It happened to my friend Sue (over at SueHepworth.com) whose publishers picked a pink and frilly chick-lit cover for Zuzu’s Petals, her comedy of middle-aged love and loss. It wasn’t appropriate and she hated it.
I have been lucky on the whole with my covers – I especially liked the US editions of Murder is Academic and Stage Fright – but I really think this is the best so far.
Deep Water will be published by Lion Fiction in October in the UK and in January in the US.
Readers of this blog won’t be surprised to learn that I went shopping on Monday intending to buy a cardigan and came back with two books (and no cardigan). Worse: one of them was full of suggestions for more books to buy and read. But I couldn’t resist buying a copy of Barry Forshaw’s splendid Brit Noir: The Pocket Essential Guide to the Crime Fiction, Film and TV of the British Isles, not least because one of my books is in it. It is organised by region and I was thrilled to find Invisible in the West Country section.
I’d have bought it anyway to join Barry’s Euro Noir and Nordic Noir on my shelves. They are all great books for browsing and for planning future reading. There are dozens of books mentioned in Brit Noir that could go straight on my TBR pile. I can’t think of anyone who knows more about contemporary crime fiction than Barry and he also has an excellent web-site at crimetime.co.uk.
I am beginning to think that another moratorium might be in order in the autumn so that I can get through some of the books I’ve bought since the last moratorium ended.