By a series of strange coincidences, this year I've had a number of reminders of the past which I've found these both unexpected and welcome. A library talk in Winsford, for instance, led to my hearing from a contemporary who grew up with many of my friends. An interview that Leigh Russell conducted with me for Mystery People led to my hearing from someone with whom I was at university, but later lost touch. Very enjoyable discussions and catching-up have ensued.
And a few days ago, I received a mysterious parcel from France. It turned out to contain a nicely produced paperback book, a novel called Do Not Cross by Paul Clarke. Paul was a partner in my firm for a good many years, and definitely one of the good guys (not absolutely everyone else qualified for that description, but that's another story!) I used to enjoy chatting to Paul, and he was kind enough to read and comment on a couple of my early Harry Devlin books.
However, a decade or so ago, Paul decided to turn his back on the law, and emigrate to France with his teacher wife Sue. I was sorry to see him go, although I could easily see the attraction of giving up work for a more relaxing way of life. I suppose that in those days, I was personally very driven, not least for financial reasons, and although I dreamed of giving up work to write, I never got close to it. But I'm edging a bit closer now, and the example set by people like Paul is definitely encouraging.
Paul was kind enough to say that our conversations all those years ago had encouraged him to start writing himself, and I'm really delighted about this. So what of Do Not Cross? Well, it's an enjoyable light thriller, set in Liverpool, and the wry tone is set in the very first line: "He was born unlucky; his father died during childbirth."Paul's model is Donald E. Westlake, and Liverpool night life collides with Bin Laden-style terrorism in a lively read. Paul has published his novel both as an ebook and in print, and I hope that reader response encourages him to keep writing. In the meantime, I'm very glad to have read his story, and to have my own signed copy.