Saturday, 23 August 2014

Books and Bookmen

Since I last posted, I have (of course) been very busy.

Partly having fun at Theakston’s Old Peculier Festival of Crime-Writing at Harrogate in July, where I caught up with friends from the Crime Writers’ Association. Highlights of the Festival were the zany Lynda La Plante; the delicious combo of ace writers Laura Lippman and Belinda Bauer (who carried off the Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year Award with a book I gasped at even if I didn’t exactly enjoy, Rubbernecker); the forum I attended on Keeping It Real; Sophie Hannah; Peter May; and JK Rowling aka Robert Galbraith being interviewed by Val McDermid in the sold-out-in-minutes event of the show. The Festival was, as usual, a wonderful occasion with insights into what makes crime-writers tick, what makes crime novels work and what crime readers like most of all (apart from queueing up to get new books signed.)

I’d popped two books onto my Audible account in advance of author appearances at Harrogate, one The Murder Bag, which I thought was Tony Parsons aspiring to the style and depth of Robert Galbraith and succeeding to a degree, and The Bookman by Lavie Tidhar. I didn’t get a chance to hear any of that one before Harrogate, which is a great pity, because there are a host of questions I’d have asked him as a result; like, what made you think of mixing Victorian personalities, twenty-first century technology, singing whales, poet prime ministers, pirate ships, disappearing islands and an alien lizard race in a novel that’s also a paean to practically every book I’ve ever loved?? It’s a staggering tour de force and I’m thrilled to say I haven’t finished it yet. I want it to go on for ever.

One of those CWA friends I caught up with at Harrogate is Martin Edwards. Martin is probably one of the most under-appreciated crime novelists writing today – though not within the CWA – and has recently (and deservedly, oh yes) won the Margery Allingham Short Story prize for Acknowledgements. His latest Scarlett Hannah/Daniel Kind Lake District Mystery The Frozen Shroud is probably his best yet, though it has tough competition from earlier books in the series, with some very sneaky yet successful plotting and atmosphere by the bucketload. I notice the ebook is currently on special offer with Amazon – a good bet for your Kindle at 99p.

Finally I have to say a word in respectful tribute to David St John Thomas, who passed away last week at the age of 85. In his sleep, on a cruise – wouldn’t we all like to go that way? He had an inspiring life, creating his own publishing house (speciality: books on trains) and publishing magazines like the excellent Writers’ News. That magazine brought me into the writing world – I started subscribing not long after its inception in the late Eighties – and while it’s now published by Warners, it’s still one I’d recommend to the serious would-be writer. David St John Thomas was keen to encourage writers and good writing and did a lot of charitable work in this arena. He made a career of his passions, and passed on his passions to others: a life well lived.