Thursday 13 May 2010

Lindsey Davis and the Writer's Life

Lindsey Davis, author of the Falco novels, is someone I had the pleasure of getting to know a little when she was chair of the Crime Writers’ Association a few years back. In my capacity as editor of the CWA’s annual anthology, I need to liaise with the Chair on various practical matters, and I always find them kindly and supportive. That was certainly true of Lindsey.

I’ve read a few of the Falco stories, and their amiable wit is characteristic of their author. I was delighted, incidentally, when (although not a keen short story writer) she contributed a story to one of my anthologies. And now, I’ve received a review copy of her latest, a book that will delight many of her fans – Falco: The Official Companion. I shall be reviewing it fully after publication on 3 June.

In fact, it’s much more than a mere guide to the books. There is a good deal of autobiographical detail, much of it previously unknown to me. Lindsey has endured a number of heart-rending experiences. Her mother had a nervous breakdown, and her brother committed suicide. I did know that, recently, her partner died after a period of illness. Yet she writes about these tragedies with not a trace of self-pity.

One of the many interesting aspects of the book is this passage: ‘I don’t say a writer must live alone; that is clearly untrue. But it helps…Richard and I had the closest companionship for over thirty years, but I remained single. I did most of my creative writing at times when I was alone in a quiet house.’

Very thought-provoking, don’t you think? This is a subject on which it’s extremely difficult to generalise, but perhaps it’s true that most writers have solitary instincts. And my guess is that, of the writers I know personally, a higher percentage than the average population is childless. But in my own case, the distraction of children is certainly a pleasure, even if I don't always admit it to them. It’s the day job that really gets in the way!


Anonymous said...

Martin - I've enjoyed the Falco novels I've read, so it's good to hear that Lindsey Davis is as pleasant as she is talented. I had to laugh at your mention of the distraction of children. My own daughter is the delight of my life, and I hope she knows it. But there's nothing like children to provide distractions to writing....

You make an interesting point about writing as a solitary kind of pursuit. I have no data on this, but I'll be a lot of writers need solitude to write. They may have spouses, partners, children, and the like, but during "writing time," most writers I know like solitude.

Mary or Eric said...

That is interesting. And to prove that authors should not be confused with their characters Falco, of course, did marry. I just coincidentally read Alexandria in which he, and his wife and kids and other relatives are all involved in his work, albeit inadvertently since they were supposed to be on vacation when the murder got in the way.

Unknown said...

I love that quote! It's so true, I have others that live with me in the house but when I work, I need and find my solitary existence.


Martin Edwards said...

Thanks very much for these comments, Margot, Eric and Clarissa. It is an interesting discussion topic, I think.

Minnie said...

Ah, Cyril Connolly's 'pram in the hall' [the great enemy of creative enterprise] ... mostly for women, I'd guess.
Lindsey Davis deserves every bit of her success; but I'd describe her wit as 'biting' rather than 'amiable'.
The BBC Radio recordings of dramatisations of the first 4 of her Falco novels are all excellent. Sadly, the best Helena of all - the incomparable Fritha Goodey - died shortly into the series. But highly recommended just the same.
IMHO 'The Silver Pigs' is still the best of a very good collection (perhaps because it is the darkest).

Martin Edwards said...

Hi Minnie. I like The Silver Pigs a lot, too.

Martina said...

The new Falco novel comes out on the same day as the Companion, and the description on fantasticfiction suggests it may be another dark addition to the series. Even the title is ominous: Nemesis. It was also - I hope coincidentally! the the title of the last Miss Marple book.