New Year's Eve is a good time to reflect on the year just coming to an end, as well as looking ahead. First things first - I'd like to wish all of you a happy and healthy 2014, and to thank you for all your support during the past twelve months. For me, the past year has been a lucky one, with lots of interesting things happening. So today I'm going to indulge myself by recalling some of the crime-fiction related activities I've got up to in during the year - a reminder, perhaps, that one doesn't need to be a best-seller to enjoy the good life through crime writing. And I hope in the process of picking out some personal highlights to persuade myself that, despite relatively limited time spent novel writing. I've really not frittered 2013 away after all!
* The launch of The Frozen Shroud at Gladstone's Library was a trememdous evening in a truly atmospheric location. The reviewer reaction to the book has really gratified me. Plenty of people have said it's my best book to date. Whether that's so, I don't know, but I'm pleased that the result of my taking a slightly different approach to the writing process has gone down well.
* Publishing Deadly Pleasures, the CWA's Diamond Jubilee crime anthology, was also very satisfying. It's a privilege to be the first person to read wonderful stories by the likes of Lindsey Davis, John Harvery, Ann Cleeves, and Peter Lovesey.
* I was delighted that Arcturus reissued Yesterday's Papers as a "crime classic" and equally thrilled to find that their edition of All the Lonely People not only featured prominently in a display of classics in the British Library shop, but also earned a rave review in The Daily Mail, more than 20 years after its first appearnce.
* Speaking of the British Library, I've enjoyed writing introductions for a total of three of their Golden Age reprints, to appear in 2014, along with an intro for an ebook reissue of a legendary American crime novel. I've also written essays for Morphologies, and for a crime reference book due to be published next year.
* While I've under-achieved in terms of writing novels this year, at least I've produced quite a few short stories, including one inspired by a steam train trip to Whitby which appeared in Margot Kinberg's anthology, In a Word, Murder, and another inspired by a holiday visit to Grand Cayman, due out next year.
* One especially memorable holiday trip was on the Orient Express, from Venice to London. An exhilarating, once in a lifetime experience -shades of Agatha and Poirot...
* I never imagined when I wrote a paper on Golden Age fiction for the St Hilda's conference that as I delivered it, P. D. James would be sitting in the front row of the audience. But so it proved...
* I also had the great pleasure of sitting next to Baroness James at a dinner when she gave me a heads-up on her forthcoming article on the Wallace case, and this was followed by further conversation with her during a taxi ride through London's West End. An unforgettable night at the Detection Club, that was for sure, and so was a subsequent Club dinner at which I acted as Torchbearer...
* I discovered a fresh pastime as a tour guide, leading a group of international crime writers on a literary tour of Oxford. This led, quite unexpectedly, to a commission to write a crime story for a new international anthology which should appear within the next twelve months.
* My first ever after dinner speech, to the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, proved to be a painless experience, and led to my meeting a very pleasant Society member who arranged for me to see Charles Dickens' legendary final manuscript at the National Art Library
* I was invited on to BBC Breakfast to talk about Agatha Christie, which was fun, and was interviewed on BBC radio about Broadchurch, the year's stand-out crime drama on TV.
* It's more of a challenge to give a talk or lecture to one's fellow authors, I find - rather more nerve-wracking than the typical talk. So I approached my talk about the Golden Age at the CWA conference in Windemere with some trepidation, but in the end, all was well. Diane Janes organised the week-end brilliantly, and a boat trip on the lake was just one of the highlights. A trip to Wray Castle was another, while later in the year, a research trip to Ravenglass gave me lots of story ideas (I just need to write them up....)
* Among other events, I took part in Gladfest, when Gladstone's Library proved to be the perfect setting for a performance of my Victorian murder mystery event.
* Crimefest was, if anything, better than ever, and I enjoyed moderating the Forgotten Books panel as well as being a member of the team that won the pub quiz, alongside old friends like Kate Ellis and new ones like Alexandra Benedict.
* This year saw the centenary of the birth of another notable Ellis, Ellis Peters, and I enjoyed taking part in the festival to mark the occasion. On the other other hand, I found it rather odd that the centenary of that great book Trent's Last Case was almost universally ignored.
* The CWA Dagger Awards was an excellent evening, very well organised by Alison Joseph and Lucy Santos. I've now spent a year on the CWA committee - my colleagues are a really good bunch of people.
* I've read some terrific books, old and new, during the course of the yeat - it's almost impossible to pick out a favourite, but Andrew Taylor's latest was definitely up there with the best.
* And finally, this blog has prompted a great many very welcome comments and emails, introducing me - yet again - to some generous and really interesting people. Quite honestly, I gain much more from this blog than I put into it. I'm very grateful to you all for reading it, and making it such a pleasurable and interactive way of deferring the hard graft of writing the new novel! Sounds like a cue for a new year's resolution...
See you in 2014!