Sunday, 23 March 2008

Tim Heald

On Maundy Thursday, I had the pleasure of meeting someone with whom I’ve been in contact for a few years, but never actually encountered in person until now. Tim Heald lives in Cornwall, and I live in Cheshire, so it wasn’t easy to arrange a get-together, but the combination of a series of speaking events (to a number of cricket societies) and an interest in visiting Liverpool during Capital of Culture Year lured him up to the North West and we had a very enjoyable conversation over lunch at the Liverpool Athenaeum.

Tim is a man of many parts. He’s a highly experienced journalist, contributing on a freelance basis to national newspapers and magazines, a well-known public speaker (often engaged for Cunard cruises – a fantastic way of spending one’s time, I’d say!) and the author of several royal biographies and books about cricket – a game he loves at least as much as I do. But he’s also a crime writer of some renown and a former Chairman of the Crime Writers Association

His series of books about Simon Bognor are sadly difficult to track down now, so I was very glad when Tim presented me with a couple of inscribed copies and I shall hunt for the other titles in months to come. Tim had the pleasure of seeing Bognor reach the small screen, but the television series was not quite as successful as he might have hoped. Apparently, Derek Fowlds, who was so popular in ‘Yes, Minister’ and ‘Heartbeat’ was a strong candidate for the part of Bognor, and I can’t resist thinking that this casting would have helped the televised version to achieve greater viewing figures. Nevertheless, it’s a real achievement to see your work on the box – something that for many of us remains only a dream.

Tim’s current series features Dr Tudor Cornwall, reader in criminal studies at the University of Wessex and I recently read A Death on the Ocean Wave, in which Tudor is guest speaker on a transatlantic crossing. And I’d also like to mention an anthology he edited way back in 1990, to celebrate the Agatha Christie Centenary. A Classic English Crime is full of good stories and is one of the most entertaining compilations of traditional detective fiction of the past twenty years.


Steve Lewis said...

That would have a most interesting lunch to have been able to eavesdrop on. You wouldn't have thought of tape recording it, would you?

I did not know that Heald was still writing, and a new series character, too. I'll have to see if the new books have been published in the US, though I suspect not.

Martin Edwards said...

I suspect not, too, Steve, though I don't know for certain. What I do know is that there are a considerable number of experienced crime writers (I think the same is as true in the US as in the UK) who are either getting relatively little publicity, like Tim, or are not even getting published nowadays. The spectre of being 'dropped' is more common now than ever before and, though likea any writer I am not impartial on this, I think it is a Bad Thing.

Steve Lewis said...

It is a problem, and a serious one. There are some small independent presses in the US that pick up authors who've been dropped by their larger publishers, which is the good news.

The bad news is that they probably don't pay as much -- if I'm wrong, I'd like to hear otherwise! If it is the case, it's better than not being published at all, but it would seem to put writing mysteries into the category of a pastime for hobbyists.