Newsletter November 2008

The year has flown past yet again.

This one has been a little busier than usual, though. Usually I spend the summer months sitting back and writing - first the Medieval Murderers latest, and then the next in the Templar series. These two have been great fun, but it's been very hard work because of so many other little factors getting in the way of normal life.

First there was the disruption due to my oldest brother coming over to visit. Great to see Alan, because he lives at the opposite side of the world in New Zealand. He moved out there ages ago now, and he's got children and grandchildren out there. Some day I'd love to go and see him - but I need to sell a lot of books to be able to afford that!

It was good to be able to join a family meeting in France when Alan and his wife came over. All the brothers and the old Fogies too, meant that a fun time was had by all. Especially me, because it meant that I could experience a little sun, rather than the constant rain we 'enjoyed' in Devon.

A family meeting in France

Then there was the thrill of my little Ridgie running in to see me. She always takes life at a gallop, and three weeks ago was no exception. She ran into my office, and leaped at me to prove she was still a lapdog. She isn't. I put out a hand to slow her, and consequently strained all the tendons in my shoulder. And it hurt. A lot.

The ridgie isn't a lap dog any more!

Still, I managed to finish both works, and just in time, too. The latest Templar arrived last week. More on that down below!


There have been plenty of events this year. Festivals all the way from deepest Devon up to Morley, near Leeds, and over from Wales to Reading and Lincoln. All in all, my poor old car is looking seriously tired. I only hope it's got a few more miles left in it. Somehow I don't think this is a good time to try to get a loan for a new one!

This year's been pretty tough on a number of levels. The credit crunch has bitten all of us, but it's the loss of old friends which hurts rather more. My latest book, The King Of Thieves, is dedicated to two great countrymen.

Martin Coombes was a man from this village who adored every aspect of country life. He was without a doubt the very best dog trainer I've ever met, and a damn good shot with shotgun or rifle. He left England quite young and travelled to Botswana, where he taught the people how to make the best of limited farming resources. After some years there, he went to America, Canada and Ireland, mainly running pig units, before returning to England to retire.

Brian Radford was a lovely man who spent all his working life on the same farm. A labourer for Middle Henstill Farm, he lived in the one house, and although he had little money, I've rarely known a kinder, gentler, more contented man. And as observant as any countryman could be.

Both of them are greatly missed - especially for their humour.


And so, back to the books, I guess.

I've just completed the book for next summer, which is due to be called No Law In The Land. This will take the series up to 1326 and the beginning of the invasion of Isabella and Mortimer. Exciting times ahead, folks!

The book which is out for Christmas is The King of Thieves, which is another of those curious books. There are two covers for it, for a start:

The King of Thieves cover 1 - with the crossbowThe King of Thieves cover 2 - new style cover design

One will have the crossbow, while the second cover will adorn the mass-market books. The covers are again going through a redesign, and future books will be given this treatment, apparently. So you have some new confusion to look forward to.

There is a second interesting detail, though, which is that The King of Thieves will be the first of my books to be released not only in hardback, but also in Trade Paperback. What is that? It's the large format paperback which is the same size as a hardback, but with soft covers.

I.D.: Crimes of Identity - the CWA anthologyAs happens so often, I've received a few copies of these books in hardback and trade-sized paperback, so if any readers want a signed copy, I'd be happy to sell them at the standard price plus postage. If you're interested in early copies, please let me know. Also there are some copies remaining of The Death Ship of Dartmouth and some other titles. If you are keen on any specific ones, do please .

And that is about that. I'm now working on the copyedited version of the next Medieval Murderers story, King Arthur's Bones, which is due out next summer, and also on a radio play for Radio 4 in the UK. I'm hoping that this may be sold as a collaboration with Martin Jarvis, a marvellous character actor. The story itself is a modern day thriller based on my short story in the CWA anthology I.D.: Crimes of Identity, which was published in 2006 by Comma Press. The story got a good deal of critical acclaim, so converting it into a play seems a good idea. And then I've an idea for a modern day thriller which I'm keen to explore, too. The only problem is, finding enough time to actually sit down and write.

At least next year my son goes to school (hooray!) and so I'll have most of every day to write (double hooray!). I think next year will grow much more easy for me in terms of work.

Although as I write there is a bored Rhodesian Ridgeback whining and complaining that it's now an hour late for her morning walk.


And that would have been that, were it not for another of those little generous acts which lighten the day!

Some years ago, I became infatuated with a Conway Stewart fountain pen. It was a gorgeous black pen, modelled on Edwardian pens, but was over-sized. And since this company knew that one of their pens had been the permanent companion of Winston Churchill, they named it after him.

Well, I've always revered Churchill, but the bonus to me was that the pen looked gorgeous to my eye. And then I learned that the pens are actually made here in Devon, too. That was all I needed. I saved up, and managed to acquire one of a limited edition run.

I adore that pen still, but I didn't realise how much. Last month it developed a fault, and the ink feed stopped working so well. Conway Stewart were good enough to take it back and overhaul it. Which was fine, but in the meantime I was like a smoker who's given up. My fingers needed something to fiddle with. I've used Cross pens for donkey's years, but now the darned things feel too damn thin in my hands. I needed a chunky pen.

This coincided with my deciding that my old sport of pistol shooting really wasn't any fun any more. It was a chore to get out of an evening to punch holes in paper targets - mainly because my sport was always practical pistol, using real guns to hit moving targets. No, not people, just steel plates and things that would fall over. But airguns, now that real shooting is banned in the UK, was just not the same. So, reluctantly, I sold off my airgun (an excellent pistol, the Steyr LP-5) and with the money... bought a solid silver Drake fountain pen by Conway Stewart.

My Conway Stewart pens

The people at Conway Stewart couldn't have been more helpful, either. They helped me to change nibs and pick the one that appealed most to me, they offered to change the nib on my old Churchill to whichever style I preferred, which really was unnecessary, and then even gave my family and me a tour around the factory when I went to collect my Churchill.

To cap it all, as we were leaving, me with my two pens and a happy smile on my face, the marketing manager, Sean, gave my children two leather wallets, both with two little "Dinky" pens inside - these are tiny little biro-style pens.

So if anyone out there needs a new pen, I can thoroughly recommend the very nice people at Conway Stewart. And I certainly recommend the Drake and the Churchill if you like a meaty pen!


That's all for now, folks. I hope you've not been too badly affected by the credit crunch.

And two quick messages:

A view of Devon

Best regards
Mike Jecks

Northern Dartmoor
November 2008