Tuesday 29 June 2010

Murder in Middlesbrough

One of the drawbacks of combining a full-time job with writing is that it’s far from easy to fit in events where one can meet readers (and prospective readers!) But it’s something I enjoy a good deal when I can manage it, and I had a bumper day last Saturday.

I’d been invited to take part in the Middlesbrough Literary Festival, and I drove up during the morning to Acklam Library to give a talk about Dr Crippen’s life and misadventures. I’ve given this talk several times, and there are usually plenty of questions – but never as many as on Saturday afternoon. Tremendous fun.

Then it was over to the centre of town, where I stopped off at my hotel and had a quick wander round before heading for the impressive Central Library to host a Victorian murder mystery evening. The cast of suspects included Alex, from Southside Broadcasting – and I hope to include podcasts of the interviews we did on my website in due course – and the husband of Gill Appleton, who organised both events. The audience was enthusiastic and the top prize was won by Allison Rae.

I was pretty weary by the end of the day, so much so that I didn’t make much progress with the novel I’m reading – the new one by Reg Hill – but the effort was absolutely worthwhile. Two pleasant and very different events with a good audience vibe on each occasion. I really do hope that public sector spending cuts don’t reduce the scope for libraries to hold events and festivals. They are great for writers – but even more importantly, they are great for bringing readers together, and fostering a sense of community.


Anonymous said...

Martin - It sounds as though you had quite a nice day, and that's terrific! I agree with you that events that bring readers and writers together really can be wonderful.

Uriah Robinson said...

That must have been very appropriate a Victorian murder mystery in Middlesbrough.
Wasn't it Gladstone who called Middlesbrough the infant hercules of the Victorian age, or something like that?

Paul Beech said...

Hi Martin,

Your post has reminded me of that letter sent by T.H.White to his old Cambridge tutor on New Year’s Eve 1947, in which he wrote: “I spend my time like this – half the day mixing concrete, half the day writing books, half the day abusing plumbers, half the day writing to people in Italy or Sweden, half the day taking Killie [his dog] for walks and half the day getting drunk. You may think there are not so many halves, but in my day there are.” And White didn’t have a daily blog to keep up!

Oh well, I’m looking forward to your Crippen talk in Lymm on Thursday night.

With Lymm Festival on, I called on my way back from Stockport on Sunday and found the village centre jolly with bunting but baking under the glare of the sun. Enjoyed the local artists’ exhibition at the Village Hall again, especially Will Swindlehurst’s pen and ink drawings of ‘Honfleur: The Old Harbour’ and ‘Dinan’, also Janet Grimes’ brilliant batik ‘Felix 4’ (a nude in blue, purple and white). Afterwards sauntered in the green shade of the waterside trail at Lymm Dam followed by a half of Theakston’s Old Peculiar in the beer garden at Ye Olde No 3 before heading home to witness our humiliating 4-1 defeat by Germany in Bloemfontein. It occurred to me that putting together a football team is a very different enterprise from putting together an anthology of short stories or poetry, where an assembly of the talents is likely to produce a good result.

I’ve just finished reading ‘Dancing for the Hangman’ and am lost in admiration for this truly engrossing, brilliant ‘faction’, hilarious in places (HHC caught in women’s clothing when Adeline Harrison came thundering on the door!), gruesome in others (the bath scene – yuck!), and a touching love story too, with Ethel Le Neve emerging as quite an intriguing character – was “the little typewriter” really as sweet and innocent as she seemed? (There’s surely a novel to be written about her later life in Canada as Ethel Nelson.)

It’ll be fascinating to learn more about the good doctor (!) and how you came to write his story – whether your legal background assisted in marshalling the material, how you were able to so successfully adopt the contemporary idiom, etc.

I’ve got sick grandchildren at the moment (one of them lying on the settee as I write) and only hope I don’t pick up anything nasty before Thursday night. If I don’t make it to the United Reformed Church, you’ll know why!

By the way, are there likely to be copies of ‘The Serpent Pool’ for sale? I’d like to buy one from you.



Unknown said...

That sounds like a wonderful experience. I would love to see those places and have a chance to mingle with other writers.


aguja said...

Here, here to your library comments! They are the bedrock of a community and a city. I am glad that you had a successful weekend in, near enough, my own neck of the woods.

Martin Edwards said...

Uriah - I don't know the Gladstone quote, but I do know they once had a football team called the Ironopolis!

Martin Edwards said...

Paul - hope the illness is soon cured! I'm delighted you liked Dancing for the Hangman and hope to see you on Thursday. I'll bring along copies of The Serpent Pool!

Martin Edwards said...

Margot, Clarissa, Aguja - the bond between writers, and with readers, is a strong one, I think, and events which bring us together tend to be very enjoyable.