Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Robert Barnard - A Talent to Entertain

The response to my blog post last week-end about the death of Robert Barnard really shows how popular were both the man and his books. I'm not sure how many of you read the comments on blog posts, but among the numerous very welcome comment, I'd particularly like to highlight the little anecdote told by Bob's old friend Peter Lovesey. It really captures the man and his sense of humour perfectly.

The last time I saw Bob, he presented me with copies of his two final books, as well as a very interesting article about his writing. This prompted me to write a piece about him for Mystery Scene, and Bob's fans might like to know that I've now had it uploaded on to my website.

I also thought I'd share a memory of an occasion in Bob's company more than twenty years ago. The Northern Chapter of the CWA agreed that we would produce an anthology of our crime writing (including one or two pieces of true crime) and everybody offered to chip in. It was decided that I would edit the book - a touching demonstration of faith, given that I'd never edited a book in my life at that point.

Several of us gathered, as I remember, at Ann and Tim Cleeves' house in Whitley Bay. Those also present were Bob, Val McDermid and Chaz Brenchley, as I recall. We debated issues like the book's title, and mulled over the choice of artwork offered by the publishers (ah, those were the days!) And I recall Bob entertaining us with a very good story about his late father's battles with the taxman. He was great company, and I think it says a lot that, as a very well established author at that time, he was willing to put in time and effort to a project that was enjoyable but certainly never made us any money. The book that resulted was called Northern Blood, and Bob's contribution was an entertaining story called "A Sure-Fire Speculation". From the first paragraph, which introduces us to a member of the Young Conservatives (not an organisation Bob admired greatly, it's fair to say), you knew that you were in for some fun, and so it proved.

And thanks to the efforts of people like Bob, Val, Ann and Reg Hill, Northern Blood started me off on my strange but very satisfying career as a crime anthologist. Tweny-one anthologies later, I remain grateful to them.

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