All of a sudden, we are living in extraordinary and uncertain times. I suppose it's true that throughout my life I've found reading and telling stories a means of escape from the real world, as well as a way of trying to make sense of it. So I'm absorbing myself in the reading and writing life at present, and what better way to so so than by attending a book festival in an agreeable and unfamiliar part of the country?
I was delighted to be invited to speak at Felixstowe Book Festival this year. The Suffolk resort is at the other end of the country from where I live and I've never been there before. A very long train journey culminated in my arrival, quite literally, at the end of the line, and I undertook a short reconnaissance of the resort before the day came to an end.
During the morning, I enjoyed visiting the town's very good bookshops, and walking along the lengthy promenade. past the old Martello tower, to Landguard Peninsula and the old fort there. It all seemed quintessentially English, and very pleasant. Then it was back to the hotel for a talk about Golden Age detective fiction with Rob Davies of the British Library. The organisers had done a great job in achieving as sell-out of all 50 tickets, and we enjoyed chatting with ace blogger Elaine Simpson-Long about the astonishing revival of interest in traditional crime fiction from the Golden Age.
Saturday had begun with an enjoyable breakfast with Julia Jones, Margery Allingham's biographer,and Daniel Hahn, who was responsible for the Oxford Companion to Children's Literature and is a former chair of the Society of Authors. One of the topics we talked about was the writing life - and how social media, and taking part in events,occupies so much time these days. My trip to Felixstowe,for instance, really took up three days in all that could otherwise have been devoted to writing. It's fun to do such events (especially for me, given that I could hardly ever manage such things in the days when I was a full-time lawyer), but of course one needs to strike a balance.
Daniel said some writers do a hundred or more events a year,but I'd never be able to manage anything like that - it would interfere too much with the writing. But at least on the lengthy journey back home the trains were less like crowded cattle trucks than was the case on Friday, and I was able to get plenty of reading done - one book for which I've been asked to write an intro, and a yet-to-be-published Kate Ellis, of which more at a later date. All in all, an excellent week-end of escapism.