Newsletter December 2004
It seems as though the work never stops.
This year, because I'm Chairman of the Crime Writers' Association, I've had to chair the Dagger Awards lunch, which has taken an inordinate amount of time.
It's not that there aren't loads of people helping and arranging things, it's just that the whole thing is so big now, that there are a huge number of areas which can go wrong. Much of the time is spent anticipating all the pitfalls and avoiding them.
At least on 10th November it was all over for another year and I could sit back and relax with several large whiskies. Now, I thought, I can rest a while. Poor fool!
As soon as the Daggers were over, I had a call from my editor to plot out book 20, which is due next Christmas. That means more research, thank goodness, and more rereading of books of crimes and violence in the thirteen hundreds. Much more fun than tedious modern books!
Thinking of which, many thanks to the fans who have written in with comments on various scenes in my books recently.
At present the most alarming problem troubling many of you seems to be Baldwin's behaviour in The Outlaws of Ennor. I won't say why, to protect those who haven't read the book yet, but several women readers have contacted me to say that his behaviour was out of character.
I found that very interesting. Especially since all the men who've read the book tend to agree with me that he seems to have behaved perfectly normally, for someone away from home after a long and arduous journey, who had thought he had been kidnapped, and who thought his only friend had just been killed. Thanks in particular to Dolores and Jane for their thoughts on Baldwin and the Church, which were very thought-provoking for me. And to all the others who've written in the last month.
There have been many fascinating emails this year. Some were very touching, some confrontational, but all have, I hope been replied to. If I have missed someone's email while I was abroad, please accept my apologies. I look forward to more of them in the future.
For now, though, you may be interested to know a little of what's coming up for Baldwin and Simon.
The next book will be The Butcher of St Peter's, and for this, following on from The Chapel of Bones, the two will remain in Exeter. There has been a homicide, but this time it's the murder of a senior law officer, and Simon and Baldwin soon become embroiled in a dispute between the Dominican Friary and the Cathedral's Chapter. However, it's a book which studies how felons used to live, and delves more deeply into how a criminal gang of the time would have operated.
As usual, I've taken many contemporary records to make the story as accurate as possible for its time. It's having the result that the stories are growing ever more dark, I think. I suppose that's a natural enough result, looking at the period they lived in, and the subject matter, but I'd like to know what you think as well. .
It's a terrible thing, starting a new book.
Every time one book is ready to launch, I have to plan the next to be written. And at the same time, of course, I'm receiving the next to be published so that I can go through the copy editor's notes. That's why at any time of the year I tend to be working on three different titles simultaneously, and it's also why authors should always reread their most recently published books before being interviewed about them.
Apologies to those who've heard this little anecdote, but it's worth retelling: the idea of rereading my work before talking about it was drummed into me during my first radio interview in Devon.
I was asked to go in to talk about my first paperback, The Last Templar. The presenter was the delightful Janet Kipling. She was very enthusiastic and kind, and soon I forgot my nervousness as she asked questions about me and how I worked. The interview went swimmingly for the first few minutes, and then it suddenly sank. She asked me about my plot and what a particular character was doing on a certain page.
I didn't know who she was talking about.
I finished writing that book in March 1994. It was published in hardback in March 1995, and came out in paperback in November of that year. The interview was being held in February the year after, 1996.
In the two years between writing the book and the interview, I had written The Merchant's Partner, A Moorland Hanging, and synopses for two more books. I had scarcely thought about The Last Templar, beyond being glad that it was in print and selling well. I couldn't remember the names of the victims, the perpetrators, or the motives for their crimes. It was a salutary experience, and one I won't forget in a hurry.
This past year has been enormously busy. We've been kept going by the arrival of our son, but my election as Chairman of the Crime Writers' Association for the year increased my workload, as did our Bernese Mountain pup. She was very small at the beginning of the year, but less so now. At least she's causing less damage now she's older!
Now, in the run-up to Christmas, we're looking forward to a more peaceful time. The children are excited; the dog's growing desperate, wondering what's happened to her long walks; the local delivery men have become morose, wondering how to cope with the increased mail-order business that the internet has created; my builder's currently wondering how to put in a staircase in my workshop; and I'm wondering when I'll have time to get my hedge laid ready for the spring.
But I do at least know what the new book will be about, which is a huge relief.
Anyway, to all of you, I have only one message: I hope you have a very merry Christmas, and a thoroughly happy and prosperous New Year.
With all best wishes
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Last update: 23rd December 2004