Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Lakeland Books

I was delighted to have the chance yesterday to squeeze in the lunch at which the Lakeland Book of the Year award was made. The event took place in the Langdale Chase, a hotel with a wonderful outlook over Windermere. As someone said, the scene was drenched, rather than sun-drenched, but of course that is nothing new in the Lakes.

The judging panel was headed by Hunter Davies, who told me that these are the leading regional book awards in Britain, and included biographer Kathleen Jones and the very polished broadcaster Fiona Armstrong. Almost all of the books in contention for the award were non-fiction, but fellow novelist Sarah Hall was also in the running; her debut novel, the acclaimed Haweswater, won the main prize five years ago. It’s a sign of the enormous popularity of Cumbria as a setting for books of all kinds that there were more than sixty entries for the award. All the more surprising (though nice for me) that British detective novelists have not used it as a setting for a detective series until now.

This time around, the overall winner was a lavishly produced book about the gardens, small and large, were are one of the many attractions of the Lake District; I certainly enjoyed researching them when writing The Cipher Garden and perhaps my favourite was Stagshaw, a National Trust garden not far away from the Langdale Chase.

Among the other short-listed titles, I also really liked the look of a book (boasting a foreword by the Duke of Edinburgh, no less) about the enticing but often dangerous pathways across Morecambe Bay – these feature memorably, by the way, in a Golden Age detective novel by E.C.R. Lorac.

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