Newsletter October 2009

My latest book 'The Bishop Must Die'


The latest book in the Templar Series will be published on 12th November. Be sure to book a copy urgently, because I have no idea what the print run was, and since it's often quite small for a new hardback, they do sell out fast.

This is a really exciting story, set during the disastrous end of King Edward II's reign, with the sudden invasion of Queen Isabella's army and the rapid decline of royal authority. The action moves from Devon, along the coast, to France, to Kent, and finally to London, through those awful times when all law and order in the kingdom collapsed.

I think it may be my favourite of all the series so far!

NEW PUBLISHER - Jecks is on the move!

Simon & Schuster

Well, in the past I've been longer between newsletters, but this one's had a long gestation because I didn't want to write while there were negotiations going on.

I've had a rather quiet year. It started well, with book 28 looking and reading very well, but then I fell into the normal writers' hiatus of waiting for the next contract. Although Headline were very happy to continue with my books, I'm afraid we just couldn't agree on the terms of the contract, because there were some aspects Headline wanted that I really wasn't very happy with. So, we've been haggling since March or so, and it's gradually become clear that we weren't going to agree.

It's a shame, because I do tend to prize loyalty - I don't think upping sticks and running to another publisher is sensible or professional generally in a writer - after all, I'd probably not be a published author, were it not for Headline. But I have been with them for fifteen years now, which is twenty eight books. I reckon that the requirements of loyalty have been satisfied.

As a result, I am now becoming a Simon & Schuster author. And I am hugely enthused by the prospect, not only because they have been a delight to work with so far, but also because I know the firm from the Medieval Murderers' books. They've always been professional and reliable.

However, readers are intrigued when such things happen. The questions that have started flying in have all been about the series and whether Baldwin and Simon are to be excluded from the shelves in future. Well, the happy answer is, no. Simon and Baldwin will continue: Simon & Schuster's immediate interest is in continuing the series. The contract is for books 29 and 30 in the series, with their publication running at the same sort of period as always, with the first in May/June 2010, the second in October/November.

There has been some concern in America that my books may be more difficult to get hold of in future - but this shouldn't be the case. For one thing, Simon & Schuster in the UK will export to the US and distribute through the same company which distributes for Headline. One thing Headline told me this year is that I am their best export to the US - I sell more of my books there than any other Headline author. So the distributor has an interest in keeping up the flow of the whole series. Then again, it is quite possible that Simon & Schuster in America could like the series too, and decide to publish direct for US consumption. So whatever happens, I hope that there will be no adverse impact on readers in America.

It is particularly great to work with Simon & Schuster because I have several other ideas I want to explore, and with them there is the possibility that some of these ideas may also reach fruition.

There will be more on all this in future, so keep an eye open for newsletters. Naturally, if you have any questions or concerns, do please write to me .

Tinners' Morris in action

Now to other things. I wouldn't want anyone to think I've been idle, after all.

Dancing with Tinners' Morris has been busy, what with invitations to dance at The Royal Cornwall Show and Okehampton Show, among others. We've had a great time, drunk an awful lot of beer, and generally made loud nuisances of ourselves all over the west country.

Best of all, we're learning a new, rather intricate dance (that means dancing before the third pint) from some guys who used to dance with Ockington Morris. These are the lunatics who originally did our iron bar dance. Now they're showing us some stick dances which are pretty much guaranteed to end in tears. Soon as I can, I'll get a video link to show it.


Shortly after the Cornwall show, my wife and I went to Surrey to join a very old mate, Jerry Webb, in a fund raising ball in aid of the Air Ambulance. There are a few of these charitable groups across the UK, and their speed in getting to an incident, collecting the injured and transporting them quickly to the hospital that can best deal with them, have saved many lives. I was very grateful to be invited as one of the guests of Chandler & Co and had a great time. They raised a fortune, guaranteeing the ambulance will continue saving lives for some time to come.

Two brothers walking

After so much excitement, it was time to do a little research on the hoof - and for this, I needed my brother, Keith, to wander over the moors. This was interesting, because it largely ended up as a race to see whose machine was the more effective on the moors - Keith's iPhone, or my Blackberry. I think that the result was inconclusive, largely because we couldn't be bothered to check too often. It was too much fun. We were walking for three days - and the first was hideous. We only managed about ten miles, in driving rain, on a sodden moor that was a pain to walk on. However, the evening, thank God, was clear and warm, and we found a little site on the banks of a stream that was beautiful. A delicious supper of instant mashed spuds and thick stew washed down with some excellent vintage whisky (Keith brought the wrong hip flask!) set the scene for the next couple of days.

Three days walking was great, especially since it was probably the longest period we have spent together in the last thirty years! In fact, it was so good, we're going to try five days in November. Keith's bought a new rucksack and Trangia set in anticipation. Me? I'm getting a new cold-weather sleeping bag. I plan to sleep out at least one night per month next year - I say this every year, but perhaps this time I'll manage it! - and then, hopefully, Keith and I will either walk or cycle around some of the WWI, WWII and Hundred Years War battlefields. It'll be a splendid break for us, and if we can, we may be able to raise money for a charity too. That would make it very worthwhile.


And now, I do have to get back to the next book.

In the last six months I've change my agent, moved publisher, spent time with Keith, and even tidied my office. I've learned fly fishing and sea fishing, with an equal total lack of success, but enjoyed it immensely. Now we're starting the run to Christmas. That means clearing the vegetable patch, hopefully moving the greenhouse, and some other works in the house, before getting started on book 30. That one will be interesting: the abdication of the king and the strange tale of the Dunheved gang.

All good, clean, deadly, fun!

Have a good few months, folks. And if any of you are on Facebook, look me up as Michael Jecks. The more friends there, the merrier!

Mike Jecks
North Dartmoor

P.S. This photo shows how sometimes it's hard to fight free of a bivvy bag first thing in the morning - and shows how sadistic one's brothers can be when they have cameras ready!

Mike in his bivvy bag