Saturday, 30 December 2017

2017 - Places

This year, I've travelled to some wonderful places both in the UK and much further afield. Often these trips have been for specific writing-related reasons, sometimes also as a pleasing form of research. It's hard, when one has been so lucky, to pick out particular favourites, but my visit to Washington DC for Malice Domestic was especially memorable, as I was honoured with the Poirot award. This was, quite simply, one of the best moments of my career as a writer, and it was a delight to share the occasion with some very good friends, including Joni Langevoort, John Pugmire, Josh Pachter, Frances Brody, and Ann Cleeves. Six months later, in London, I had the chance to recall that moment when presenting Ann with the CWA Diamond Dagger. Another highlight was being interviewed by Cathy Ace, with the Chair of the Malice Board, Verena, dressed as a maid and serving us tea!

A number of these locations have found their way into my fiction. Travel often gives me ideas for short stories. I vary my approach: sometimes I visit a place with a particular story concept in mind, but more often I like to get a sense of a destination before trying to figure out what sort of story would work if set there. As I mentioned yesterday, one story to have been published so far was "The Repentance Wood", set in Sharjah and Dubai, My eight days in the UAE for the Emirates Literature Festival were wonderful, and an evening boat trip in the company of Kathy Reichs, Lucy Hawking, and others was utterly memorable. I've also written a story called "Catch of the Day", which was commissioned by someone I met in Dubai, and which will be released by Audible, as part of an innovative new book, some time in 2018. I'll post more details when I have them.

I really enjoyed writing "Catch of the Day". It's set in Kauai, which I visited as part of a trip to Hawaii which included but certainly wasn't limited to Left Coast Crime. We travelled around the islands of Oahu, Maui, and Kauai in the company of Steve Steinbock and his wife Sue, who were perfect travel companions. And on the way back, a stop-off allowed a couple of days in San Francisco, which is now my favourite American city. It's a superb location for a mystery story as many others have proved, and I continue to turn over possible ideas for a plot which takes full advantage of the evocative setting.

Another short story I've written, though I've yet to send it anywhere, is set in northern Italy, in the atmospheric city of Bergamo. It's called "Temptation Street". We went to the Italian lakes in the company of Kate Ellis and her husband, two more splendid holiday companions. The idea for the story came to me during a walking tour of Bergamo. I was very taken with Lake Como, and the villages on its shores, as well as St Moritz, Lugano, and Stresa. On a separate trip, I visited Milan and Trieste, and much as I liked Milan, with its magnificent cathedral, and Roman remains, I was even more smitten by Trieste. I've worked out the idea for a short story that makes use of both Lugano and Trieste as locations, but as yet it remains obstinately incomplete, and also lacking a title. I hope to finish it at some point next year.

When I visited northern France and Belgium with my son, I thought I'd be able to find a suitable setting for another story, and this proved to be Tournai, rather than somewhere like Lille or Arras, though I did like both those places. However, the idea hasn't really gelled as yet, and when that happens, it's often better not to force things. Again, it may be that time and reflection will get the story idea to where it needs to be.

A striking feature of the year was the extent of interest in classic crime fiction, and I didn't expect to be talking about it at the University of Madrid, that's for sure. But an invitation duly came, and it gave me the chance to meet up with Golden Fan Jose Ignacio Escribano, who took me around his home city - another day to remember. Equally memorable was my trip to Toronto Bouchercon, where again I had the chance to talk about classic crime among other things, as well as visiting Niagara Falls in the company of Chrissie Poulson, Shawn Reilly Simmons, and other intrepid travellers who survived a bizarre coach trip..

Of the British crime festivals, I enjoyed CrimeFest as usual, and had the added bonus of discovering that my story "Motives for Murder" was a contender for the CWA Short Story Dagger; it reached the shortlist of six. At the Harrogate festival, I moderated a panel including Denise Mina and Alafair Burke, while the CWA's annual conference offered many delights, including a chance to rub shoulders with Ian Rankin and Alexander McCall Smith. I was particularly happy with the success of Alibis in the Archives at Gladstone's Library, which sold out very quickly. Tickets for 2018's weekend will be going on sale soon, and I do hope to see some readers of this blog there. It should be another fun occasion. Among other talks, I travelled up to Grasmere to speak to a group of visiting Americans, including Charles and Caroline Todd, whose historical mysteries I strongly recommend. It's always good to get back to the Lakes, and that was a good trip which benefited from excellent weather. As I told the visitors, it isn't always so sunny in the Lakes...

Working with the British Library continued to keep me pleasurably occupied. The Story of Classic Crime in 100 Books sold in pleasing quantities at Bodies from the Library, and I also enjoyed conducting a "masterclass" week-end on Golden Age fiction at the Library last January. Again, this was a sell-out, and though it was quite tiring, I found it exhilarating too. The Library set up various talks and events for me at places ranging from Runcorn to York, Lancaster to Cambridge. As well as my work with the BL and with Gladstone's, I also took part in a number of library events, including a couple at the Lit and Phil in Newcastle. And one step I've taken as CWA Chair has been to appoint a Libraries' Champion, Ruth Dudley Edwards . It's part of our, and my, commitment to supporting public and independent libraries, which make such an invaluable contribution to our lives, and to the communities of which we form part. On that note, I mentioned earlier this year the campaign to save our local library in Lymm. And I'm very glad to report that the campaign has succeeded. The library will stay open, thank goodness. 


1 comment:

Jose Ignacio Escribano said...

Thanks for your kind mention Martín.