When you publish a book, it's usually far from easy to predict how it will be received. You've done your best with it, your agent and editor are happy with it (bad news if they aren't!), but you can never quite be sure how others will react. Authors are often said not to be the best judges of their own work. My most commercially successful novel is The Coffin Trail, and in sales terms, my least commercially successful, is Dancing for the Hangman. Yet my own feeling is that the latter book is possibly, in literary terms, my best. Who knows? All these judgments are subjective, like all reviews.
So I was unsure about how people would respond to The Golden Age of Murder. It's 25 years (even I find this hard to believe) since I pitched the idea of an Oxford Companion about the crime genre to the late Michael Cox, then a senior editor at Oxford University Press, and later a successful novelist, so people can see how long it's taken me to reach this point. When you've worked long and hard on a project, you hope the results will justify the effort. But there are no guarantees; life isn't like that.
I realised over time that I wanted to write a book that was ambitious, wide-ranging, very personal, and... different. Rash of me, really. I don't even know for sure if it is, as some have said, a reference book. A quarter of a century ago, I did want to write a reference book, but my priorities have evolved as I've developed as a novelist. Above all, I wanted to tell a story, and the more I researched it, the more I felt that the story of the early years of the Detection Club deserved to be told. And it was important to me to tell the story with a degree of empathy with the writers, and also with humour .
To say that I've been thrilled by readers' reaction to this book to date is true, but it hardly conveys the excitement I feel about the number of people who have "got" what I was trying to do. It's a long book, with a tight structure that is not very obvious, although each chapter does have a distinct theme. So I thought that the readers most likely to appreciate it might be those who read it more than once, and then found they enjoyed going back to it. And since I was aiming to interest Golden Age fans but also to intrigue and entertain those who had little or no real interest in GA books, I was expecting quite a lot of scepticism. That may still come, of course. But the reviews so far have been fantastic, beyond my wildest dreams..I've been lucky throughout my career to have been reviewed in national newspapers as well as specialist magazines and more recently blogs, but I've never had so many great reviews in such a short space of time
One or two extremely interesting projects have already been mooted as a result of the book's appearance, and if anything comes of them, that will certainly be a bonus. In my own mind, I am primarily a novelist and short story writer, rather than a writer of non-fiction, but I care about, and take care over, all my books, and I certainly care very much about the story told in The Golden Age of Murder. I'm so pleased that plenty of other people seem to care too.