Newsletter June 2007

Just for once, I am on time with a newsletter. Not that it's actually planned that way, it's more to do with my website administrators doing a terrible thing. They are going away on holiday. That gave a little spur to get something down on paper in a hurry. Thanks, Jean and Roger!

And there is plenty for me to write about.

Starting, I guess, with finishing the London to Brighton cycle ride. There's a lot more on it on my photo diary pages and on Flickr, so go and look at them if you want the unedifying experience of seeing pictures of me holding up my bike in glee, displaying large(ish) quantities of stomach. Not pretty, I'm afraid.

It was hard work, but made much more difficult by the fact that I had no training for it for a month or so. Why? Nope, not because I am a complete twit, it's much more due to the injury that blasted puppy gave me.

You see we went off for a weekend break with the Rector of Crediton and his wife (lovely family). While there, I took the dogs for a run. And true to form, the darned hound refused to listen and come to order. So what can you do? I suddenly had an inspiration: I remembered that puppies hate to be deserted, and I read once that if you want a dog to come to you, the best thing to do is to turn away, call them, and walk off.

It worked. Boy, did it ever!

The flaming pooch saw me going, thought: "Oi, oi, he's leaving me," and took off after me like a bullet. Being a little deficient in the steering department down a narrow footpath, she took the easiest line. Which was where I was. Imagine being clobbered from behind, at lower thigh level, by nearly seven stone of solid muscle (and bone where her brain ought to be). I was thrown back down onto my ankle, which promptly swelled up like a small pumpkin. If I'd been able to do more than grit my teeth and hobble painfully, that dog would have been smacked very hard. Mind you, if I tried that, the blasted creature would probably have been fine, and my hand would have been equally damaged. She is very solid indeed.

Anyway, that is why I couldn't do much training. Dear old "Mad Mark" Bazely was very kind, and came out with me for sixteen miles in the week before the ride. It was a relief to learn that I could still pedal with my ankle heavily strapped up, but it was very hard to go uphill or put the ankle under any stress. It was still badly swollen. And since I hadn't expected him to call me that afternoon, I'd just had a large lunch. Oddly enough I almost saw it again, that lunch, while going up a particularly vicious hill near Spreyton. (God, that was awful!)

The ankle held up on the day, though, and I completed the fifty four miles without mishap.

It did have a deleterious effect on my Morrissing, though. I had to miss dancing at the Royal Cornwall Show, which was something I'd been looking forward to for ages. Still, the ride was more important, because with the help of loads of sponsors (you know who you are) I was able to gather together a cool £1,200 so far, with more still to collect. Many thanks to all of you who helped sponsor me.

Other news is still more astonishing - well, it is, so far as I am concerned.

In my last newsletter I was able to announce that I'd been longlisted for the Theakston's Old Peculier Crime Award, which is an annual prize for the best crime book of the year, and is selected, not by a panel of "experts", but by anyone who wants to vote. Waterstone's are involved in gathering up all the votes, and from that a short list is compiled.

Well, I am delighted to be able to say that I've been picked as one of the six shortlisted authors. The voting now moves on, and I am trying to find out how the selection of the winner is decided. I believe it has something to do with reading groups putting in their own five-penn'orth, and the audience at the Harrogate Festival get a vote as well. Goodness only knows what'll happen there - but I rather anticipate a contemporary story winning. It's hard to believe that a medievalist could win a prize like this one. Still. You never know...

And then of course there are the other little things that get in the way of work. I've a pair of new books our - The Malice of Unnatural Death is out in paperback, and Dispensation of Death in hardcover. Dispensation is the first of my London/political stories, based around the true events of 1325/6 when Queen Isabella finally left her husband, took Mortimer as her lover, and eventually forced the King to abdicate before (arguably, and boy do they argue about it!) having him killed. It was great fun to write, and I hope you enjoy reading it.

The Medieval Murderers have just published book III in our set of anthologies. This one is called House of Shadows, and it takes you through a completely invented and bogus history of Bermondsey Priory and Abbey. What with ghosts on the marshes, the sight of the Tower, the new house planned on the riverbanks which was later owned by the celebrated knight, Sir John Fastolf, it was a marvellous book to work on with the others. I'm very lucky to have so many mates to work with.

But apart from all that, now I'm plotting out book 25. A strange thing, realising that I'm embarked on my quarter century! And I've also got the Medieval Murderers book IV to work on. Now that'll be fun - it's all about a Nostradamus-type of character, with a set of unpleasant forecasts. Great fun - even for someone like me who's lousy at poetry!

So that is the Jecks summer. Anthology novella and novel, and meanwhile trying to keep my sanity while training a Ridgeback to be a little more dog-like and less ruddy human. She is beautiful, I hasten to add, and she has a wonderful temperament. Hopefully I may be able to take her along to signings - I can't do that with the Bernese. Poor old girl is calmer, quieter, easier, and has a tail that can clear a shelf of books at a yard's distance. Much though I adore Berneses, I've experienced trying to clear up a Waterstone's after she's welcomed her fans. It took a long while.

I hope you have a great summer and that you stay in good health. All best wishes.
Mike Jecks

Northern Dartmoor
June 2007