Writing a novel involves spending an awful lot of time on one’s own. It can be difficult to meet other writers and that is where the Crime Writers’ Association is such a godsend. I joined in 2002 when my first novel came out and through the CWA I have made some very good friends. They have helped to keep me going through the inevitable ups and down of a writer’s life. And there’s the opportunity just to hang out with other writers at conferences – I have been to the Lake District, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Hereford, Shrewsbury, Lincoln. We are a famously convivial lot. But the stellar event in the UK crime-writers’ firmament is undoubtedly is the Daggers Dinner, held this year on 24th October at the Leonardo City Hotel in London. The photo shows me and my friends, Sarah Ward (left) and Kate Ellis (right) quaffing prosecco. Kate won the Dagger in the Library that evening. The winner of the Gold Dagger for best crime novel of the year was M C Craven for The Puppet Show.
The following week-end I headed up to Newcastle to hear my short story, ‘Safe as Houses,’ read brilliantly by Janine Birkett as one of three stories on the programme of Haunted: Ghost Story Readings for Halloween at the Lit and Phil (a Newcastle Institution – in every way). The other too were a Victorian shocker, ‘The Phantom Coach’ by Amelia B Edwards, and the disturbing ‘Three Miles Up’ by Elizabeth Jane Howard. It was all great fun. The other reader and the producer, Stephen Tomlin of Demiparadise Productions, is shown here with me and Janine.
So now it’s back to earth . . . But there’s the CWA Christmas Party and a spring conference in Torquay to look forward to.
If you are a crime writer, I hope you’ll consider joining us. If not, you could join our sister group, the Crime Readers’ Association, for free and receive news and reviews every month: http://thecra.co.uk.
There are times when I just don’t have the energy to tackle something new, and a return to old favourites is exactly what I need. Michael Gilbert is fitting the bill at the moment. To read his novels is to take a masterclass in crime fiction. He wrote a lot: over 400 short stories and around three dozen novels, as well as radio and TV plays. He wrote almost every type of crime novel: police procedurals, classic whodunits, thrillers. To all of them he brought a superb sense of pace, tight plotting and a dry sense of humour. What’s more he had a day job as a lawyer and wrote as he commuted into London. He was a founder member of the CWA. Rather wonderfully, he was Raymond Chandler’s UK lawyer. Rather less wonderfully he went to the same school as my husband, some considerable time before.
If he specialised in anything it might have been the one-honest-man-brings-down-corrupt-organisation plot. In The Crack in the Teacup, a small-town solicitor comes up against local government corruption. In The Long Journey Home it is an engineer who crosses swords with a corrupt international company in league with the Mafia. Of this sub genre I particularly like The Final Throw: corrupt financial empire brought down by – well, I’d better not disclose by whom in case you haven’t read it. Of the classic whodunits, The Black Seraphim, set in a cathedral close (a setting I plan to use myself one day) and the splendid Smallbone Deceased (set in a lawyers’ office in which a body is found in a deed box) are particular favourites.
Gilbert had a long career and died in 2006 aged 93. I bet he was great company and I am sorry I never met him.