Wednesday, 31 August 2011

All Yours - review

All Yours, written by Claudia Pineiro and translated by Miranda France, is a new title from those enterprising publishers Bitter Lemon Press. First published in Spanish eight years ago, it is a short and snappy story about infidelity, obsession and murder.

In telling her tale, Claudia Pineiro makes clever use of shifting viewpoints. Most of the story is described from the point of view of Ines, the long-suffering wife of an errant businessman called Ernesto. But there are also segments dealing – mainly through dialogue – with the misadventures of their teenage daughter, and sections seen from an alternative perspective. The combination is effective, and the pace brisk.

Ines discovers that Ernesto has been having an affair. When she spies on him, she witnesses the accidental death of his secretary, who has been haranguing him. Stunned, and Ernesto dumps the body in a lake. His wife's reaction is to help him cover up his crime. But she does not fully understand what has been going on.

There are a number of pleasing plot developments as the story progresses. I enjoyed it, and look forward to reading more by this author. Oddly enough, I read this book in between re-reading a couple of novels by Anthony Berkeley, and I was struck by one or two similarities of approach between the author of those classic detective novels of the Golden Age and the cool and cynical approach of Claudia Pineiro to her characters. Of course, there are many differences between the two writers, but both of them strive for originality in constructing their entertaining mysteries.

Monday, 29 August 2011

20 Years on

Can it really be true? It is now twenty years since the publication of my first novel. Quite an astonishing thought – especially for someone who still learning his craft and determined to keep improving as a writer! But it is a fact.

All the Lonely People was the first Harry Devlin novel. Harry is a Liverpool lawyer who still carries a torch for the wife who left him to move in with local villain. When she returns unexpectedly to his flat on the waterfront, he can't help hoping that they can start again. But shortly afterwards, she is found murdered, and Harry is the prime suspect. He needs to clear his name, but is also desperate to see the real culprit found, and justice done.

The book was published at a very busy and exciting time in my life. Our first child – who later designed this very blog! – was only a few months old, and I was also heavily involved in work as a partner in my firm, as well as writing legal books and articles. But to have a novel published was something special, even so – it was the fulfilment of a dream I'd had since I was a small child.

The book was successful. Reviews were great, Transworld bought the paperback rights and the book was one of seven nominated for the John Creasey Memorial Dagger for best debut crime novel. Before long there was a TV deal, although nothing came of it.

But things like television, awards and reviews are outside the control of an author. All that a writer can do is write to the very best of his or her ability. I was very keen, having made the leap to published status, to keep going – and so, by the time the first book appeared, its successor, Suspicious Minds, was already written.

I wrote seven books about Harry Devlin before moving on to other things, but he's a character I've always liked and enjoyed writing about. So it was a real pleasure to re-introduce him three years ago in Waterloo Sunset. A couple of years back, All the Lonely People was published in the US for the very first time, much to my delight.

Over the past 20 years, I've been lucky enough to see the appearance of a number of editions of the Harry Devlin books, but the first seven have been out of print in the UK for quite some time. This strikes me as a pity, because, despite the passage of time, I like to think that the books hold up very well.

So I'm pleased to say that discussions are now taking place which may lead to the production of e-book versions of the early Harry Devlin books, perhaps with a number of brand-new "special features". I'm not yet sure this will happen, but I do hope so, as I would love to introduce Harry to a new generation of readers.

But in the meantime, I'm happy to look back on the last 20 years and reflect on how fortunate I've been to do something I love, and even get paid for it, for so long. Now I'm looking forward to the years ahead!

Friday, 26 August 2011

Forgotten Book - The Piccadilly Murder

My choice for today's Forgotten Book is yet another novel by that extraordinarily interesting crime writer Anthony Berkeley. The Piccadilly Murder, first published in 1929, is a good example of a high calibre traditional mystery which still makes an entertaining read today.

The central figure in the book is not Berkeley's regular amateur detective, Roger Sheringham, but rather Ambrose Chitterwick, the timid bachelor whose ability to solve mysteries was demonstrated so vividly in that wonderful novel The Poisoned Chocolates Case. Chitterwick is an appealing character, and his self-effacing demeanour conceals a sharp mind.

There taking afternoon refreshment at the Piccadilly Palace Hotel, Chitterwick witnesses (or believes he witnesses) a man committing a cold-blooded murder. As a result of his evidence, a Major Sinclair is arrested and charged with the murder by poisoning of his wealthy aunt. But a group of well-to-do people, including Major Sinclair's wife, try to persuade Chitterwick that all is not as it seemed.

This is a very well constructed mystery. I have to confess that even though I have read it before (admittedly more than 25 years ago) I had forgotten the solution, and Anthony Berkeley fooled me all over again. He was a clever writer, and any fan of traditional mysteries who seeks this book out will not, I think, be disappointed.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


Mirage is a 1965 film which, I must admit, I’d never heard of before, yet it comes from the same stable as the better known Charade and Arabesque, and is arguably an improvement upon both those movies as a suspenseful mystery. The book on which it was based was written by a notable author, Howard Fast, who wrote various thrillers (that I haven’t read) under the name E.V. Cunningham.

Mirage opens with a blackout in a New York skyscraper. David Stilwell (played by Gregory Peck) is accosted by an attractive woman who claims to know him, but he doesn’t recognise her. She disappears rather mysteriously, and shortly afterwards he leans that a famous man had plunged to his death from the skyscraper moments earlier.

The plot duly thickens as it becomes clear that Stilwell is suffering from amnesia. What is going on? He hires a private eye, played by Walter Matthau in his inimitable fashion, to find out, but the gumshoe meets an untimely end.

There are hints of Cornell Woolrich style paranoia in the story-line, but the overwhelming influence is that of Hitchcock. Diane Baker, who plays the female lead, is not quite as glamorous as the typical Hitchcock blonde, and more importantly does not play her part in an especially compelling way. Nor does Peck make quite such an impact as Cary Grant at his best. But despite some weaknesses, I thought this was a decent thriller and I’m glad I watched it.

Monday, 22 August 2011

St Hilda's

The 18th St Hilda's College Crime and Mystery conference was another triumph for organisers Kate Charles and Eileen Roberts, as well as for Natasha Cooper, who chaired the sessions with the unobtrusive excellence as well as efficiency that seem to come so naturally to her.

I was glad to share a platform with Andrew Taylor, who gave a very good talk about Wilkie Collins - my subject was the British lawyer-author, with special focus on Cyril Hare and Michael Gilbert. Among the highlights of a varied programme, Ayo Onatade gave fascinating insight into the world of the courts, while Val McDermid spoke very interestingly about justice, referring to one of her own excellent thrillers, A Place of Execution. What I didn't know was that the book was inspired by a true crime case - which she learned about from our mutual friend, the true crime expert Douglas Wynn.

As ever, there was the chance to meet pleasant people for the first tme as well as to renew old friendships. I was glad, for instance, to have a chat with Marcia Talley, who is in the foreground in the photo. Marcia is an accomplished American author who is a regular attendee at St Hilda's.

It was a real privilege to be invited to take part, and I'm very grateful to Kate and Eileen for all their hard work. After an excellent but very hectic week, I must admit I was pretty exhausted by the time I was driving home. But it was well worth it.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Forgotten Book - The Crime at Black Dudley

Margery Allingham is widely regarded as one of the great British crime writers, but although I like her short stories, I’ve had mixed feelings about her novels. But I decided to give her another go, and my choice for today’s Forgotten Book is the 1929 novel in which Albert Campion made his debut, The Crime at Black Dudley.

In reading the book, it’s vital to remember that Allingham was only 23 when she wrote it. The story is breezy, and begins very well, with a pleasingly mysterious ritual in a country house, and murder being done in the dark. But after that, I’m afraid, things fall apart.

A sinister gang commanded by a nasty German hold the house party hostage, and I felt it all became rather silly and tedious. Only when we get back to the main plot do things improve, but vital information is withheld from the reader; it’s not really a fair play whodunit at all.

Campion is presented as almost a rogue. Allingham’s main focus is on a pathologist called Abbershaw, who does the main detective work. The real merit of this book for modern readers lies not in the story-line but in its historic interest, as the apprentice work of a very interesting and unpredictable writer.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

A Happy Day

Life has been frenetic recently, but this has certainly been a great and memorable week as far as I'm concerned. With more to come, given that I'm heading off tomorrow for the St Hilda's Crime and Mystery Conference at Oxford, organised by that splendid writer Kate Charles, and Eileen Roberts. It's always a fun week-end. I missed it last year because of holidays, but a couple of years ago I had a terrific three days there. This time I'm giving a talk on 'The British Lawyer-Author'. Val McDermid and Frances Fyfield are among the other speakers.

The trip to Oxford is all the more timely given that this morning was devoted to a trip to my daughter Catherine's sixth form college (once a grammar school, which I attended long ago, but now scarcely recognisable from the 70s buildings). The aim was to learn her A Level results, given that the UCAS website had crashed. Was it an omen? Fortunately not, as she did extremely well and secured her place at Lincoln College, Oxford, to read German and Italian. So I am a proud father, but proud most of all because she has worked hard and deserves the wonderful experiences that should accompany her time as a student. Whatever the media might suggest, not all teenagers are rioting looters, in fact those I know are all very good people: and thankfully they are in the vast majority.

Then it was a mad dash to Southport, to the resort's Flower Show, a major annual event. This year they were featuring books and writers as well as much else besides (which accounted for a burst of 'The Hallelujah Chorus' halfway through our gig.) I shared a platform with Kate Ellis, and we had plenty of books to sign, always good for morale. The photo shows us in the company of another Ellis (no relation). Ron is a crime writer I've known for many years, and he also published one of Kate's books a few years back. Kate, her husband Roger and I than wandered round the Show, which was quite fascinating. The second photo is of one of the show gardens. I do love gardens, and The Cipher Garden may not be the last book I write with a gardening backdrop.

There are times when it seems increasingly difficult to fit in the day job, I must admit! But I remind myself I'm lucky to have these two lives. And this week, also, I've moved office - for the first time in 31 years. As you can deduce, I'm not the most daring and adventurous person in the world! But it's all contributed to a remarkable few days.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Writing about Violence

I mentioned on Monday my delight at a very positive review of The Hanging Wood in The Times. I'm equally pleased with a very generous review of the book in The Literary Review. And again it's gratifying that the reviewer, Jessica Mann, is, like Marcel Berlins of The Times, one of the genre's most thoughtful critics. And fascinating – at least to me – that they make very similar points.

This review, which says the book is "an excellent example of the traditional British whodunnit", and is "interesting and enjoyable", makes the point that the story "has all the ingredients: an attractive setting, a dysfunctional posh family and ingenious murder methods, with the violence taking place off-stage."

There is no denying that some of those who die in The Hanging Wood meet their end in a very gruesome ways. There are reasons for this, connected with the nature of the storyline, but I didn't have any wish, when I was writing the book, to salivate over the unpleasantness of what happens. There are certainly some books where graphic descriptions of acts of violence are absolutely necessary, and key to the integrity of the story, but there are other books where, it may be argued, the gore is over-done. Each author has to decide what approach to take, and I don't think there is a "right" or "wrong" approach that can be easily defined. In the end, much is bound to depend on the personal taste of the author and reader.

Is it old-fashioned to write the way I do? I agree with Marcel Berlins that it isn't, and I like to think the books like mine, although written in the detective novel tradition, have plenty to say about contemporary life. But in any event, you can only really write in a way that suits you – chasing after fashion in fiction may work occasionally, but not very often. So I really am heartened when intelligent critics with high standards are sympathetic to my books. Even without reviews, I'd keep on writing, but there is no doubt that the hugely positive reaction to my last novel is helping to motivate me with the follow-up.

Monday, 15 August 2011

A Moment to Savour

I've mentioned how difficult it is these days for a writer like me, who is scarcely a bestseller, to get a mention in the review columns of the major national newspapers and magazines. So I was thrilled on Saturday when The Hanging Wood was reviewed in the Times by Marcel Berlins.

And I was even more thrilled by the content of the review. When I say that the other three novelists covered were Mark Billingham, Ruth Rendell, and George Pelecanos, you can see what I mean about bestsellers. It's great company to be in, flattering in itself.

A fortnight ago I told the story of my first bad review. So I hope I can be forgiven, in my delight, for quoting this good review – especially as it raises a couple of wider issues that I'd like to cover in future posts.

"Martin Edwards writes the kind of whodunnits too often labelled, utterly unfairly, old-fashioned – because they do not contain meticulous descriptions of bloodshed, rampant psychopaths or emotionally tormented coppers. The Hanging Wood is the fifth in his Lake District series. A woman whose brother disappeared 20 years ago, when she was seven, tries to persuade the police that their uncle, generally believed to have killed him, is innocent. No one takes seriously. Two days after her final plea, she is found suffocated in a grain silo on her family's farm. Other deaths follow. The main police character, Hannah Scarlett, head of the cold cases section, is appealingly normal; killings take place off-stage; there are many suspects; characters are drawn with insight. A lovely read."

I'll talk about these issues of fashion in crime, and the depiction of violence, on another day. For the moment, I'm not only savouring this review, but getting on with my fiction at last after too long a gap because of day job commitments.

Saturday, 13 August 2011

Robert Robinson R.I.P.

Robert Robinson has just died, news I was sorry to learn. In my youth, he seemed to be a fixture on TV, often as a quizmaster, but sometimes involved with documentaries. He was also a very regular presence on radio, both on news programmes and the 'Brain of Britain' quiz.

I only came across him once in person, when he was guest speaker at a CWA annual conference. However, one thing that many people didn't know about him was that, at the tender age of 29, in 1956, he published a detective novel, called Landscape with Dead Dons.

Robinson was born in Liverpool (you'd never guess from his accent) and educated at Exeter College, Oxford, where no doubt he had plenty of opportunities to develop the confident and urbane persona that was to become so familiar. His novel is rather in the school of Michael Innes and Edmund Crispin, both of whom lavished praise on it.

As a mystery, it's not exactly The ABC Murders, but it was a high-spirited and amusing debut, and my old green Penguin copy has a blurb which says: 'May he write more.' But although he produced one or two further novels, he never returned to the detective genre, although perhaps he'd have been well suited to it, had he been at work during the Golden Age. So his book remains an agreeable curiosity, a small part of the legacy of a highly successful man.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Enid Schantz

I'd intended to cover a forgotten book by Anthony Berkeley today, but I've heard the sad news of the death of Enid Schantz, and so I've decided instead to pay a small tribute to her.

Enid and her husband Tom were American book-dealers, whom I met several times over the years. Charming and considerate people, with a great passion for mysteries. They ran a store called Rue Morgue, although in recent years they focused on online selling.

They also set up an imprint, Rue Morgue Press, which I've mentioned before on this blog, and which specialised in forgotten books - by such unlikely names as Maureen Sarsfield, as well as the better known Pamela Branch. I bought one of their Branch titles recently, when I was last in Oxford.

They also revived the complete works of Dorothy Bowers, a splendid writer, and their research on Bowers' short life was fascinating. When I last met them, they recommended me to try Clyde Clason, a very interesting writer I'd never heard of before. And their research on H.C. Bailey led to my pilgrimage to his home in North Wales a few months back. I tried to persuade them to republish Henry Wade, but alas to no avail; they weren't Wade fans. But if you check the Rue Morgue catalogue, you'll find plenty of little known gems.

Enid was a lovely lady, and I shall miss her, but I'll remember her not just with affection, but with admiration. I only wish I had been able to spend more time in her company.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Murder! - review

I have just watched a DVD of an Alfred Hitchcock rarity - a whodunit, rather than a thriller. Murder! was an early talkie from 1930, and it was based on a novel by Detection Club members Clemence Dane and Helen Simpson, Enter Sir John. In the film, Sir John Samaurez, an actor-manager, is renamed Sir John Menier, and is played by Herbert Marshall.

Sir John is a member of a jury which convicts an actress of murdering a colleague. However, he repents of his part in the verdict and sets about finding out what really happened. Suffice to say that the mystery is easily solved, but that there is a memorable finale involving a half-caste transvestite trapeze artist, the kind of character you don't find everyday in crime stories.

Marshall's performance is not very compelling, but the film, despite creakiness, does show us some of the Master's touches at a formative stage in his career. He didn't really care for whodunits, reasoning that they didn't work as well in film as thrillers, and probably he was right.

I haven't read the book, so I'm not sure how faithful the film was to the plot. But Dane and Simpson were interesting characters and I hope to write some more about them in the future. Simpson, by the way, was a very glamorous woman who also became a close friend of Dorothy L. Sayers before her death at a young age from cancer.

The Website

My website has been updated in various respects and my webmaster is aiming to dispense with the rather irritating pop-ups that accompany the webstat program.

There is more information on the Lakes books for readers' groups, as well as more links in relation to e-books. But I'm interested in your views as to whether there are any features or pieces of information missing from the site that would, you think, appeal to readers. If you have any thoughts on this, please do drop me an email.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

The TV Book Club

One of the interesting features of having a blog about books is that sometimes there are unexpected benefits. For instance, you might be sent a book to review that is excellent but which you wouldn't otherwise have encountered. Sometimes, the approach relates to a book that has no appeal at all, of course, usually because the publicist in question hasn't done his or her homework and has simply sent out a scattergun email. But the pros far outweigh the cons.

From time to time I receive invitations to literary events in London which I can't attend because of my commitments back home. But out of the blue, I was invited to a TV recording recently, and by chance it coincided with my working in the capital. So I was able to squeeze it in. But I didn't really know what to expect.

The recording took place at Cactus TV studios in London, and featured two half-hour programmes of the TV Book Club, sponsored by Specsavers - a show which, I confess, I'd never encountered before. There wasn't a conventional studio audience, but the organisers had invited members of a reading group and also a small gang of bloggers. I was one, and I was glad to meet a number of fellow online scribes for the first time - very pleasant company they proved to be.

The show involves a book discussion between Jo Brand, Rory McGrath and assorted luminaries. These were the last two shows in a series of eight, covering eight books. The books discussed on the day were not crime fiction, and one, a misery memoir, sounded worthy but not really my cup of tea. But the other sounded very good, and I'll say more about it when I've finally read it - as the show encouraged me to do!

The show features a guest celebrity every week. On my visit, the celebs were Andrea Corr and Celia Imrie, two ladies of different generations but both glamorous and charismatic. I enjoyed this little jaunt a good deal, and it made me think quite hard not only about books but also about blogging and other forms of marketing.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Libel and fiction

When launching The Hanging Wood recently, I answered a few questions about the thorny topic of libel and fiction. Of course, given that (for instance) I have written a book featuring a library influenced by a real life model, it’s something that occupies my thoughts. And even if I were not a lawyer, I think it’s a very good idea not to be cavalier about the law of libel. Because one of its nasty features is that it is possible to libel someone unintentionally.

The risks are perhaps greater in crime fiction than in other types of book. After all, almost by definition, a crime novel will include a number of dodgy characters. Even the innocent among the suspects are likely to be flawed characters. Having said that, I do think that in practice, writers need to get things into perspective and not be too paranoiac. Taking sensible precautions by not using names or descriptions that you know to be mirrored in real life is advisable. But it’s simply impossible to eliminate all potential resemblances and coincidences.

One tactic I use might seem contrary to the idea of precise research. You might call my method ‘related research’. In The Hanging Wood, for instance, which features a caravan park, I talked to someone who owns such a park – but based in Wales, not the Lake District. And St Herbert’s Library is also based on a Welsh, rather than Cumbrian model. There is plenty of action on a farm, but the farm I visited to research the book was in Lancashire, not Lakeland. I talked to a veteran police officer to get the police procedure (more or less!) right, but he’s someone who works in Lincolnshire, not in the same area as Hannah Scarlett and her team. The historian who helps me is a retired Oxford don, not someone who has ever moved away to live the dream, as Daniel Kind did. The idea, in short, is to capture the elements that will create an impression of realism without turning the book into a pseudo-documentary.

I really would hate anyone to think that I’d depicted them, or their company, negatively in a novel. For me, fiction is in part about escaping from real life, not about using it to take pot shots at people (much though most of us writers may joke about so doing). I did take a very different approach with Dancing for the Hangman, which is the story of Dr Crippen’s life. But not only is poor old Crippen long in his grave, so are all the other characters. Just as well, really.

Friday, 5 August 2011

Forgotten Book - I'll be Judge, I'll Be Jury

Continuing with my Milward Kennedy binge, I've chosen for today's Forgotten Book a novel from 1937, I'll Be Judge, I'll Be Jury. Despite the title, there is no real Lewis Carroll theme. But it's still an unusual piece of work.

The book’s opening is daring for its date, with none of the sluggish build-up often found with Kennedy. Mary Dallas sneaks out from the hotel where she is staying with her husband very early one morning for a tryst in a beach hut. Under her short beach-coat, she is topless. But before encountering her lover, George Needham, she stumbles over the corpse of her guardian, while the murderer hides behind a curtain.

In a panic, Mary and George contrive to make the death look like an accident, and their hurried interference with the crime scene succeeds in confusing the police. All very foolish, and almost inevitably their behaviour leads inexorably to disaster.

An interesting feature of this book is that it references the classic Francis Iles novel, Before the Fact, and gives a fresh slant to the situation Iles devised. But whereas the Iles book was filmed by Hitchcock, Kennedy's really is well and truly forgotten. Undeservedly, I suggest.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Crimefest Memories

I'm very grateful to Roberta Rood for sending me a link to her generous account of the Forgotten Authors panel at Crimefest in Bristol ten weeks back.

Especially good to see that she's tracked down some of those elusive book covers. Thanks, Roberta!

I'm pleased to say that I've been asked by the organisers to moderate the same panel again next year - this will be the fourth year we've done it, and it's always highly enjoyable for me as well, I hope, as for the audience.

Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Cath Stainclife - Guest Blog

My Murder Squad mate Cath Staincliffe is the hugely successful creator of the TV series 'Blue Murder', as well as a varied and accomplished novelist. I'm delighted she has found time to contribute a guest post about her latest book.

'Back when I first started writing novels I only had a few hours a week to write and that became sacrosanct – I ignored anything else clamouring for attention (chores, I mean – the kids were safely off at playgroup and school) and knuckled down. I knew it was the only way I’d get anything finished. The limit on time meant it took me something like eighteen months to write a book and that novel was the sole focus of my writing time.

Years on and now working full-time writing television scripts and radio drama as well as novels and short stories, I find myself jumping between projects like a grasshopper. I still get things finished but I’ve had to develop the ability to switch from one story, one set of characters, one form to another, on a regular basis. Though I only ever have one novel on the go; I don’t think I’d be able to do that hopping about between books but it’s easier moving from a book to a radio play or a television treatment and back. Writing two novels at the same time would cause my brain to melt, I think – like reading two books at once, something I can’t countenance.

At present I’m delivering a novel each year and that leads to some overlap of tasks: so for example I’m now busy promoting my latest publication WITNESS while I’m simultaneously re-reading and copy-editing SPLIT SECOND which will come out next year and also discussing new ideas for the book for 2013 with my agent and publisher.

Alongside that I’ve been proof-reading my contributions to BEST EATEN COLD (ed. Martin Edwards) a Murder Squad anthology, developing and pitching new television drama ideas, writing the script for a radio play in Danny Brocklehurst’s STONE series, drawing up an entry for a scriptwriting competition and researching ideas for LEGACY, my own radio drama series. I like the variety. But it’s interesting talking to other writers who much prefer to concentrate on one medium and would hate the mix I have. Novelists who say they couldn’t cope with the collaborative nature of working in television or radio, with everybody chipping in and shaping the script and changing it beyond all recognition or scriptwriters who imagine the life of a novelist to be unremitting loneliness and isolation, with no-one to bounce ideas off and the tedium of working on one book for years on end. I think I’m lucky to have the best of both worlds. Though now and again there will be a lull after deadlines have been met when I have a few weeks to concentrate solely on one piece of work – and that does feel like a luxury. So maybe a bit of me hankers after the old days when it was one thing at a time – but it’s just a bit. Honest.'

Monday, 1 August 2011

Launching The Hanging Wood

I enjoyed enormously the launch of The Hanging Wood last Thursday evening. The setting was both delightful and appropriate – the historic, atmospheric and tranquil Gladstone’s Library, which gave me the idea for St Herbert’s Residential Library, which plays a central part in the novel.

I gave a talk on the writing of a crime series, focusing not only on how I came to write the novel, but also the pros and cons of writing a series. I wanted to develop a theme I’d touched on in my panel at Harrogate the previous week-end. It is this: how do you write a book in the middle of a series that appeals to someone who hasn’t read you before, without repeating information that will irritate your loyal and regular following? It’s a topic to which I give a good deal of thought each time I write a series novel, yet I’ve never seen much discussion about it.

There was an excellent crowd, and I signed lots of books. Among many pleasant conversations, I was delighted to chat to the former Dean of Liverpool Cathedral, who helped me with some aspects of my last Harry Devlin book, Waterloo Sunset.

The staff of the Library were marvellous, as always. I had a pleasant dinner in the ‘Food for Thought’ restaurant before the launch – a place I strongly recommend for good meals. And then after a relaxing end to the day, reading an old Margery Allingham in my very well-appointed room, I enjoyed breakfast with some of the other residents the next morning. If you are ever in the North West, and looking for somewhere to stay, I’m sure that Gladstone’s Library will fit the bill. It’s quite unique.