Newsletter April 2006

This is a hurried note, typed up mainly because my very efficient website administrator has been beating me up about being a little overdue (again).

The trouble is, just when she wants the next version is usually when I'm in the middle of things. Just now I'm enjoying an appallingly busy year, what with one thing and another.

If you've been keeping an eye on the site itself, you'll see that I have been compiling a list of my bibliography. It's not extensive, by any means. I actually use any one of about 4,500 books for research - which means all the books at the Exeter University libraries, the Devon & Exeter Institution, the Devon & Cornwall Record Society and other wonderful places which still work to the benefit of the poor author. Just typing up my own list took an age, because I didn't want to have all the books which are utterly irrelevant, and I thought that if the list was to be meaningful, I may as well have all my own personal books catalogued by ISBN, author and title. So I did that... It took a long time, but at least now I have a full record for the insurance company in case of a disaster!

That kind of work makes a pleasant change, but sadly I'm also having to do the normal authorly things. It used to be the case that I would wander the country, amiably smiling at people who came out to meet me and talking to them. Then, for a couple of years, life grew more serious, while I was Chairman of the CWA, because I had to look after the interests of other writers for a while.

Well, I did it, and now that element of my life is over and I can concentrate on my own work again!

A typical Brescian view

So far this year, I've been to events in Wales, three of them; I've crossed the country east and west to talk to groups in shops and libraries, and I've even participated in literary events as far away as Brescia in Italy.

Magda, Luigi and Cecilia after the interview in Brescia

That was a marvellous trip. Three days in a delightful, friendly - and warm - country, was just what I needed. I enjoyed the food and wine enormously, particularly the generous and kind Luigi Sanvito of Hobby & Work Publishers, made a good friend in the delightful Cecilia Scerbanenco, who has translated my books into Italian, and was delighted to meet with the marvellous Norwegian writer, Tom Egeland.

All in all, a wonderful few days ... until I reached the departure gate to come home. As I got there, there was an announcement telling me that due to a wildcat strike, all flights were to be postponed or cancelled. Still, luckily I had plenty of reading material. Although it was late, I did get home eventually that night, so all wasn't lost!

Giving talks is great fun. For an author, the worst thing is, sitting at a desk and never meeting people. For me, there are few better jobs than hopping into the car and driving off to meet a new group of people to talk about books and writing.

However, the writing has to be done as well, of course. And that is what I am trying to do just now: get down to finishing book 22. Yes, that is the snappy little title it has currently. We're trying to figure out what to call it right now, and that's never easy. Give me a novel to write, and I'll concentrate and get it done fairly quickly. Give me a short story, and I'll take almost as long as if I were writing a novel. Concise? Me? No. And thinking up a little thing like a title drives me to distraction.

Fortunately most of the titles write themselves. Even more fortunately, the next books to come out will be collaborations, and someone else has thought up the names! There is the new Medieval Murderers book, Sword of Shame, which is to be published in June by Simon and Schuster; then there's a series of Jacobean Whodunnits edited by Mike Ashley which is coming out shortly with one of my short stories in it. Oh, and my coming-of-age book will be coming out in June too.

This one was great fun to write - in fact it's one of those which seemed to write itself and needed no intervention from agent or editor. It's going back to Dartmouth with Simon after his return from A Friar's Bloodfeud, and looking at his life as a customs officer for the Abbey of Tavistock in the days after the Abbot's death. I know that some readers were unhappy with the atmosphere of A Friar's Bloodfeud, because it was pretty unremittingly sad, but that seemed to suit the story, I'm afraid. Anyway, you'll be happy to hear that The Death Ship of Dartmouth will be much more upbeat. I've brought in some characters who made me laugh aloud to think of them - whether the paviours trying to fix a hole in the road, or the new Coroner, Sir Richard de Welles, a larger than life, bluff character who's going to be appearing in many more books in the future, I hope!

So, all this means that in the near future I'm going to be travelling even more. Keep an eye on my events page to see where I'll be going, and whether I'll be near you soon.

And for all those in America and Australia who keep asking when I'm going to be visiting your continents - well, just get in touch with the distributor of my books in your countries, and we'll see what can be arranged.

Apart from that, I am now desperately short of ale. As soon as this latest book is finished, I'm going to be off to my brewery to create some more of the essential stuff. If you're interested, my last attempts at Lager were delicious, the mild was magnificent, and the ale was the most effective cure for insomnia I've ever experienced.

Thanks to all of you who keep sending me emails about my work. I only hope you all continue to enjoy the books!
Michael Jecks
North Dartmoor

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Last update: 6th April 2006