After a very, very long wait, I've finally enjoyed an in-person book launch once again. This was a highlight of a trip to the North East last week, and involved meeting up with my colleagues in Murder Squad to celebrate the publication of our fourth anthology. Many Deadly Returns celebrates our 21st year as a writers' collective. Margaret Murphy, our founder, Ann Cleeves, Cath Staincliffe, and I have been there since the beginning. John Baker and Chaz Brenchley have retired, while Stuart Pawson sadly died, but we've been joined by Chris Simms and Kate Ellis.
Many Deadly Returns includes three stories from each of the six current members, plus one from each of the former members. I've edited the book and my three stories are: 'The Other Ones', 'Lucky Liam', and 'Bad Friday'. Of this trio, 'The Other Ones' is brand new, while 'Bad Friday' has only previously appeared in the United States. The book is published by Severn House here and in the US, and there's been a very positive early review from Kirkus, which has put us in very good heart.
Our editor, Kate Lyall Grant from Severn House (who many moons ago published two of my Harry Devlin novels when she and I were with Hodder) was, happily, able to join us for dinner, followed by the launch, which was hosted by Forum Books in Whitley Bay. There was fizz to drink and a wonderful Murder Squad cake, all contributing to a very convivial evening in which our book flew off the shelves. How good it was to be able to take part in a live event again. Zoom is invaluable in many ways, but Zoom get-togethers, although definitely far better than nothing, are not quite the same.
I also got back into my habit of turning the visit into a sightseeing trip. Northumberland is a county I like a lot, and there are plenty of places I'd love to explore. I made a start by visiting Seaton Delaval Hall, a burnt-out husk designed on the grand scale by Vanbrugh, and with lovely grounds, and even better, taking a boat trip from Seahouses to the Farne Islands, which was really memorable: see the pictures below. Other stops included Alnwick (with its fantastic Barter Books) and Alnmouth and, on the way up to the north east, Sedbergh and Kirkby Stephen. As a whole, the trip felt like re-entering the real world after a long, dreamy slumber.