Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Christopher West

I first came across the name of Christopher West in 1994, through a copy of a book in the late lamented Collins Crime Club series, called Death of a Blue Lantern. It was set in China and featured a likeable cop called Wang Anzhuang. The background was highly authentic and the plotting sound; impressively so for a first novel. Not long afterwards, I met Chris West at a CWA annual conference in Scotland (Pitlochry was the venue, if memory serves) and found him a very agreeable companion.

After that we bumped into each other every now and then, at events such as the excellent Shots in the Dark convention which was held in Nottingham for several years in the 1990s. But we spent most time together when we both attended the Philadelphia Bouchercon ten years ago. By coincidence, we were both being published in the US for the very first time and over a pint or two we speculated what the future might hold for us in terms on international sales, and how best to go about marketing our work

When the Crime Club ceased to be, Chris moved to Allison & Busby, but after a mere four novels – the China quartet – featuring Wang, he gave up on the genre. He has a range of talents (for instance, he is an accomplished musician, and I learned only recently that he was once a member of the Oxcentrics band, which I remember from my younger days) and he discovered a taste for writing business books. His success in this field has caused him to shift away from fiction.

However, his first novel has just been reprinted by Allison & Busby, and I hope that this development will encourage Chris back to his old criminal ways at some point in the future. In the meantime, anyone with an interest in the extraordinary and fascinating country that has become an economic powerhouse with the capacity to affect all our lives could do a lot worse than learn a bit about it through the Wang novels.

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