Tuesday 16 April 2024

Sepulchre Street and the eDunnit award shortlist

I'm truly delighted by the announcement today of the shortlist for the eDunnit award at CrimeFest this year, which as you can see from the above graphic includes Sepulchre Street, the fourth book in the Rachel Savernake series. It's thrilling to achieve a degree of recognition for one's novels, and to be in a list alongside such other fine writers, including a number of international bestsellers, is truly an honour.

The award is for the best crime fiction first published in both hard copy and electronic format in the UK in 2023. I made the shortlist once before, with Gallows Court a few years ago, although I had to miss the awards ceremony because I'd committed to giving lectures on the Queen Mary 2 (yep, it's a tough life). Otherwise, I'd have moved heaven and earth to attend, because - win or lose - I think it's rather wonderful to be present at an event when your book, something you worked so hard for so long to create, receives a degree of acclaim. And in fact I booked to take part in CrimeFest and attend the awards dinner many months ago, not imagining for a moment that I'd get on to this shortlist.

I know some writers take a different view about attending awards ceremonies, usually in circumstances where they are pessimistic about the outcome and don't want to experience the disappointment of not winning. I understand that attitude, but I've never shared it, although there have been plenty of occasions when mine hasn't been the name in the winner's envelope. I've been present on more than one occasion when the winner of an award missed out on the pleasure of enjoying their success in person and that always strikes me as a pity. It's a cliche, but it's very true all the same, that it is an honour to make a shortlist (or a longlist, if there is one) and I'm all in favour of relishing the moment and not worrying too much about the ultimate outcome. The reality is, you never know if you'll ever have another chance to celebrate featuring on a list like this. 

Writing can be a very tough game - that's one of the themes of The Life of Crime - and these moments are precious and deserve to be cherished. Doing this can, I feel, be very beneficial on other occasions, when things aren't going well with the writing for whatever reason - believe me, it happens to everyone! It's great to be able to reflect on the good moments and feel encouraged and motivated to keep going as a result. And that's my approach.

So warm congratulations to the other five finalists and I must say that this great news is incredibly well-timed, coinciding as it does with my having sent off to my editor the copy-edited text of the next Rachel Savernake novel - Hemlock Bay.    

Monday 15 April 2024

Ripley - Netflix TV review

Do we really need another screen version of The Talented Mr Ripley? I have mixed views. Part of me thinks that it would be good for less well-known books to be given an airing on TV. Part of me recognises the commercial realities. Just as TV companies (and screenwriters) go for the easy option of recycling endless Agatha Christie stories because of the strength of the brand, so Patricia Highsmith is notable enough to draw viewers who might not give a less renowned author the time of day. And Tom Ripley is undoubtedly one of the great characters of twentieth century crime fiction. Anyway, for better or worse, Netflix have produced Ripley, an eight-part version of Highsmith's story, and I decided to take a look.

I was startled to realise that the entire show is shot in black and white. I wondered about that, I must admit. I was, however, reassured by the fact that the screenplay was written by Stephen Zaillian, a very accomplished writer who won an Oscar for Schindler's List; he has the ability to entertain while making serious points that keep you on your toes, and that isn't as easy as he makes it look. 

Andrew Scott, cast as Ripley, was an extremely interesting choice of lead actor. Scott is older than I imagine Ripley to be, and I feared that might affect his portrayal of the sociopathic charmer. I also worried that stretching the story out into eight episodes would mean that it became boring in places. This is the recurrent failing of modern television - there's too much padding, for purely commercial reasons, and it affects the quality of shows that might otherwise have worked really well.

So my reservations were numerous, but there was enough about the show to attract my attention, and I must say I was soon hooked. Even the slow pacing worked - to my surprise! There's something mesmeric and haunting about this adaptation of Highsmith's story. I liked the film version and the BBC radio version, but this take on the tale is, in my opinion, possibly even better. One or two of the changes to the story don't work too well, but most of them do. Scott is very good indeed and the visual quality of the whole series is stunning. Zaillian deserves a lot of credit, I think, and I'm very glad I set my doubts aside. Ripley is excellent television.

Friday 12 April 2024

Forgotten Book - Death at Hallows End

The starting point for Leo Bruce's 1965 Death at Hallows End is the mysterious disappearance of a solicitor. Duncan Humby seems to have vanished into thin air while visiting a remote village called Hallows End. There he intended to see a client called Grossiter, who wanted to change his will. In the time-honoured fashion of characters in detective novels who are about to disinherit people, Grossiter has also died, albeit apparently of natural causes.

The police have got nowhere as regards finding the missing lawyer so his partner, Thripp, asks Carolus Deene to help. When Carolus goes to Hallows End, he encounters - as usual in these novels - an entertaining range of individuals, including a pub landlord with a taste for trendy dialogue, and a chap called Stonegate who is determined to get as much publicity as he can for being the last man to see the missing solicitor. But is his evidence reliable?

Carolus believes that the best place to start making enquiries is the local pub, a nice idea, I think. There are a few interesting plot twists and in the end, Carolus explains everything as a sort of after-dinner entertainment for his headmaster, a policeman, and a few others who are connected in some way with the case. There's a slight element of anti-climax to this, but arguably it's a better way of ending a book than a contrived scene in which the hero's life is unnecessarily endangered by a decision to confront the villain without back-up.

I did feel, however, that there were some signs that Rupert Croft-Cooke (who wrote as Leo Bruce) was getting either a bit lazy or a bit bored with the Carolus Deene stories by the time he wrote this one - the fourteenth in the series. There are occasionally inelegant passages - and this from an author who could at his best be very stylish - for which one can possibly blame the proof reader or copy editor. There are also one or two devices that I recognised as reworked versions of ingredients from his earlier books. Perhaps he was in a rush to meet a deadline. Yet despite some shortcomings, this is a readable entertaining story which merits revival.   

Wednesday 10 April 2024

Basil Rathbone - and the Hollywood Baskervilles - guest post by Elizabeth Crowens

Today, a guest post from Elizabeth Crowens, whose new book (above) has just been published by an excellent American firm, Level Best Books.

'Growing up as a child in the Midwestern United States, we didn’t have cable channels with over one hundred channels or a variety of streaming services. All we had were the three major network stations on an analogue television set, and when my hometown had access to PBS programming, we set up an antenna to get a fourth channel. We got very few British shows except for old Hammer horror films during Saturday afternoon television after the cartoons were over or midnight showings. In short, a very limited viewing selection compared to now, and as a kid with a limited allowance, going to a matinee at a local theater entailed a car ride and didn’t happen all that often, especially without a parent chaperone.

Back then, my only exposure to Sherlock Holmes was the Basil Rathbone films, co-starring Nigel Bruce as Doctor Watson. I’m almost embarrassed to admit that I wasn’t even aware of Jeremy Brett’s masterful interpretation of Holmes in the Granada Television series until years later. When I studied filmmaking and film history and lived in larger cities like New York and Los Angeles, did I realize that the fictional character of Sherlock Holmes won the Guinness Book of World Records for having more actors portray him in all media, including film, theater, television, and animation. The only other fictional character who surpassed Holmes was Dracula, but he is classified more as a supernatural creature rather than a fictional human.

When it came to developing the concept for Hounds of the Hollywood Baskervilles, my first book in the Babs Norman Golden Age of Hollywood Mystery series, I needed to give my rookie private detective partners their first big celebrity client. Since I had previously written three novels in an alternate history series exploring the Spirtualist and paranormal interests of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, I was familiar with the Sherlockian canon and many of Conan Doyle’s other works, including ghost stories, so it made sense that if I started my new series in 1940, I should carry over the Holmes theme and have Basil Rathbone hire my detectives.

Next, of course, I had to watch as many of Basil’s films as I could. Being as prolific as he was, he had quite a filmography, including a significant number of projects where he played the villain rather than the hero, such as The Adventures of Robin Hood, The Mark of Zorro, and Captain Blood. I discovered Basil had significant experience on the New York stage, preferring Shakespeare, before getting his lucky break in Hollywood.

When I made a deep dive into his biographical and autobiographical material, I soon discovered that Basil was also a serious animal lover. At any given time, he owned five dogs, several cats, and canaries. One of his dogs, a Cocker Spaniel named Leo, left an indelible imprint. Basil’s best friend, Jack Wiltern, was walking Leo along with two other Westies. While crossing a busy street in Los Angeles, a speeding car hit Jack and the dogs. Leo broke his leg. The Westies made it to the curb unharmed, but Jack later died of his injuries. Mentioning this true and tragic story in my novel, I also had Leo disappear. Basil became distraught every time he thought of his missing dog, because it also reminded him of his dear friend’s deadly incident. Thus my premise was born...'


Monday 8 April 2024

Bullets over Broadway - 1994 film review

At his best, Woody Allen is a witty and clever writer and the 1994 film Bullets over Broadway, which he scripted (and later turned into a jukebox musical) benefits from one of his strongest screenplays, co-written with Douglas McGrath. Woody Allen also directs, but he doesn't feature in the cast. The film was nominated for no fewer than seven Academy Awards, with one win, for Dianne Wiest's witty performance as the fading, alcoholic star Helen Sinclair.

The story is set in Prohibition-era New York and concerns God of Our Fathers, a play written by the earnest young idealist David Shayne (John Cusack). Desperate to see his lights (and Woody Allen's skewering of the hopes and dreams of authors is as effective as it is entertaining, no doubt because of his empathy for them), he allows himself to be persuaded to agree to the casting of a brash and talentless chorus girl Olive (Jennifer Tilly, also nominated for an Oscar, and also very good indeed) in a key role, in return for her gangster boyfriend putting up the money so that the play can have a run on Broadway.

The cast of the play includes the gluttonous British actor Warner Purcell (Jim Broadbent, enjoying himself hugely) and dog-loving Eden Brent (Tracey Ullman). Jack Warden and Rob Reiner are in the supporting cast and make the most of heir roles. Warner develops a dangerous interest in Olive, while David finds himself drawn to Helen, and the two affairs give rise to some very funny moments.

There's a lot of pleasure to be had in following the twists and turns of a very well-crafted storyline. There are plenty of jokes about the nature of the writing life and what it takes to make a play work on Broadway. This is a film which deserved its success; it's very good light entertainment indeed.   

Friday 5 April 2024

Forgotten Book - Murder in Full Flight

I wouldn't mind betting that quite a few of my knowledgeable blog readers have never heard of Marcus Magill, let alone read any of the books. Not so long ago, that was also true of me, but I was given the chance to acquire an inscribed (to a 'Mrs Sprott') copy of Murder in Full Flight, and I couldn't resist. But who was Marcus Magill? The answer is that this pen-name concealed the identity of a curious writing duo, Joanna Elder Giles and Brian Hill.

The best information about this pair is to be found in this article by Thomas Hawlery for the British Library. As is stated, Joanna was in 1930 one of only 40 women in Britain who owned their own private plane and the love of flying is abundantly evident in this novel. I also found a good account in a blog previously unknown to me, Speedy Mystery. Thanks to Clint Stacey, I have a letter from Magill, clearly Brian Hill rather than Joanna, and he reviewed under that name for a while. The fact that he associated himself so closely with the Magill name leads me to guess that he did most of the writing, while Joanna did the plotting, and amongst other things wrote or supplied the information for the various scenes which take place in the air.

The story is an odd one and is mildly amusing in tone. We're introduced to Simon Nicholson, who has come up with a very important invention and - foolish chap - failed to patent it. When we learn that his plans are much sought after, and only one copy exists, two things are fairly predictable. One, that Simon will be murdered. Two, that the plans will go missing.

The first part of the story is the best, while the airborne scenes are good but, I felt, over-done. And the book definitely goes on far too long, so that I lost interest long before the end in what turned to be as much a light-hearted thriller as a detective story. A pity. But the authors do sound to be very intriguing and I'd like to know more about them (and also to read their few short stories). One oddity is that this book is supposed to have been published in 1933, but the inscription in mine has a date from 1932. It's certainly a pretty rare book. I can't find an image of the UK dustjacket anywhere - I found the American jacket image on the internet. The pair seem to have co-written eight novels, but I think they were running out of steam by the time this one appeared.

Wednesday 3 April 2024

News about The Life of Crime and The Golden Age of Murder

I'm delighted to bring exciting news. Well, exciting to me, anyway! I'm happy to announce not one but two new editions of my most successful non-fiction books, both published by HarperCollins. First, I'm glad to say that the paperback edition of The Life of Crime, due to appear in May, has been expanded very significantly (not that it was a slim volume to begin with). The paperback is about 7000 words longer than the hardback, with the result that more than 200 additional authors and works have been included. 

A book as wide-ranging as The Life of Crime ,which covers the whole history of crime fiction across the globe, can never cover every single author of note, of course, but I've always been keen that it should be as representative as possible. So I'm hugely grateful to my editor David Brawn for agreeing to the update as well as for his splendid work on updating the indexes (a big task, believe me). 

You may wonder why I've undertaken this extra work. The hardback received a fantastic reception, in terms of reviews, sales, and awards, and I'm deeply appreciative. Of course, it's tempting to say, 'If it ain't broke, why fix it?' but the fact is that I want all of my books to be the best they can possibly be - it is never possible to achieve perfection, but there's no harm in striving for it. 

This is what David says about the book in the press release: '‘For an author as prolific as Martin Edwards, it can be hard to identify their magnum opus. The Life of Crime, however, is an extraordinary feat of both scholarship and readability, the culmination of a lifetime devotion to studying the genre, and was deservedly selected in the books of the year by publications as widespread as the New York Times and the Spectator. The Times rightly described Martin as “the closest thing there has been to a philosopher of crime writing”, and I’ve no doubt that this is indeed a genuine magnum opus – and now will be even more magnum in paperback!’

And there is more news. HarperCollins have commissioned me to write a new edition of The Golden Age of Murder to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the book's publication next year. This is another book that means a great deal to me, and I'm looking forward to developing it further - again, mainly by way of including more material about the Detection Club and the Golden Age of detective fiction between the wars. So if there's anything relevant to the existing book that you think could usefully be developed in the new edition, feel free to let me know, so that I can take feedback into account before starting work...

Monday 1 April 2024

In Search of John Ferguson - and Ferguson's Gang

Writing this blog continues to give me great pleasure. That would be so even if hardly anyone ever looked at it, but in fact I've gained immeasurably by hearing from many people who read the blog or my other writings, some of whom I've enjoyed meeting, some of whom I may never meet, but all of whom have something interesting to say. Their messages, as well as their comments on the blog, are always fascinating.

Someone who got in touch with me recently is Hilary Tolputt. She is interested in John Ferguson, whose books - such as Death of Mr Dodsley and Death Comes to Perigord - I find appealing. She told me she ' became interested in John Alexander Ferguson when I was researching schools in Folkestone including Eversley, the private girls’ school where Ferguson was Chaplain from 1915 to 1938. The school was at Lymington between1935-38 and Ferguson oved there with the school. The search widened and I found more about Ferguson’s life in Callander, Glasgow, Guernsey, Drumtochty, Culross and Lymington.'

Hilary pointed out an interesting apparent connection between Ferguson and 'the women who were involved in raising and presenting money to the National Trust in the late 1920’s and 1930’s. Known as Ferguson’s Gang, they indulged in somewhat strange rituals and had bizarre ways of presenting the cash which gave considerable publicity to the National Trust projects which they supported.' Did Ferguson give his name to the gang? One possible clue is that the leader of the gang was Peggy Pollard (nee Margaret Gladstone), who attended Eversley School.

Hilary asked me if I knew anything about Ferguson's papers that might cast light on this. I'm afraid I am not aware of any John Ferguson archive (his full name was John Alexander Ferguson, by the way). However, I know that a great many people who read this blog are very well-informed about all manner of things. So if any of you can offer any clues, Hilary and I would be delighted to hear from you!

Friday 29 March 2024

Forgotten Book - Tea on Sunday

This has been quite a month for the blog. March isn't over yet, and there have already been over 120,000 pageviews, by some distance the highest monthly figure since 'Do You Write Under Your Own Name?' began, way back in 2007. I'm very grateful for this level of interest, and it seems clear that Friday's Forgotten Book is a popular feature. Rest assured, I have plenty more obscure titles lined up for discussion!

Today's pick is Tea on Sunday. A low-key title for an equally low-key crime novel published in 1973, the only venture into classic detective fiction by Lettice Cooper, a mainstream novelist and critic; my copy is inscribed by her to another critic, Margery Fisher. This book was published by Gollancz, and the dust jacket suggests that it's a locked room mystery - but it isn't. What it is is a well-made, character-driven story that I found very readable.

I'd never heard of Cooper, I must admit, but it turns out that she was a well-regarded writer who lived to a ripe old age, dying in 1994 at the age of 96. She was born in Eccles, grew up in Leeds, studied at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, and then went back to Yorkshire to work in her father's engineering firm. Suffice to say that I think she mined a lot of personal experiences for her portrayal of the murder victim in this story, Alberta Mansbridge. We meet Alberta in a prologue, just before a tea party to which she's invited eight people. One of them arrives early - and strangles her.

The investigation is conducted by a very likeable detective, Inspector Corby, and the suspects are well-rounded, especially Alberta's nephew, Anthony. There is a touch of P.D. James about the writing, and my interest was maintained throughout. Corby's investigations take him to Yorkshire, and again one has a sense of Cooper drawing on places she knew well for the background.

The murder plot is not exceptional - I figured out the culprit's identity at a relatively early stage. My guess is that Cooper felt inhibited by a desire to present credible characters, so that although there are eight suspects, some of them are pretty obviously not realistic candidates for the role of murderer. The book doesn't seem to have made much impact, with no paperback edition, and Cooper went back to writing mainstream fiction. But this solitary detective story is significantly better and more enjoyable than many a genre debut and in my opinion deserves better than the total obscurity into which it has fallen.

Wednesday 27 March 2024

Burnt Offerings - 1976 film review

This is a blog about crime writing and crime fiction in its various forms, but of course the boundaries between crime and other genres, such as the ghost story and the horror story, both of which I'm keen on, are blurred. As a teenager I used to read the short horror story anthologies published by Faber, Fontana, and Pan, and I still think that (with various exceptions) the short form is the best medium for horror fiction - but of course there are many good horror films too.

A fairly good example is the 1976 film Burnt Offerings. I watched it a day after watching the very recent Brandon Cronenberg film Infinity Pool, which I felt began well but deteriorated badly. Burnt Offerings is subtler and, I think, much more effective, even if though it has some flaws. Interestingly, the screenplay was co-written by William F. Nolan, who also wrote a great deal of crime fiction and was once nominated for an Edgar award. He was a very capable storyteller, and this is evident in the film.

Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Burnt Offerings is that Oliver Reed is cast as a normal family man. Not a drunk, for once, nor a sexually depraved monster. He and his wife (Karen Black) and their son are offered the chance to rent an atmospheric but dilapidated house in the middle of nowhere for a pittance by the creepy owners who - even more creepily - say that the old lady who lives at the top of the house will continue to live there. The warning klaxon really should be sounding at this point, but of course our protagonists find this an offer that is too good to refuse. Big mistake.

There are a lot of haunted house movies, but this is above average fare and in recent years, critics have seen it as offering sly comment on modern day materialism. I'm not sure how far I go along with that, but given a choice between Burnt Offerings and Infinity Pool, I know which film I'd rather watch. Incidentally, Bette Davis features in the cast, but really, the old house is the star. 

Monday 25 March 2024

Making an Exhibition of...All the Lonely People

When I walked into Cambridge University Library's new 'Murder by the Book' exhibition for a preview last Thursday evening, I didn't expect to have one of the most gratifying experiences a crime novelist could possibly hope for, but so it proved. I was greeted by the sight of my very first novel, All the Lonely People, included in a selection of 100 landmark titles in 20th century British crime writing, in a display case alongside the likes of Dorothy L. Sayers' Murder Must Advertise, Cyril Hare's Tragedy at Law, Nicholas Blakes' The Beast Must Die, and Celia Fremlin's The Hours Before Dawn. Blimey! A truly memorable moment. 

This wow-factor experience was enhanced when I later discovered that the photo at the top of this post has accompanied various news stories about the exhibition here and overseas. Moments like this really do make all the challenges that accompany any writer's career from time to time seem utterly worthwhile. Seeing the book in such exalted company was something I could never have imagined when I first wrote it.  

I was also pleased to see copies of my anthology Murder by the Book and also Howdunit on sale by the door to the exhibition, but that was only the start of a very good evening, studying a cleverly conceived and fascinating exhibition. Nicola Upson who has curated the exhibition, gave an excellent speech and I was also glad to catch up with a number of friends including Ayo Onatade, Christina Koning and Richard Reynolds. The exhibition runs for three months and features amongst other delights Agatha Christie's typewriter and dictaphone, as well as the manuscript for Curtain. I was especially fascinated by the correspondence relating to P.D. James's first novel. It goes without saying that I strongly recommend Murder by the Book!

This made a wonderful start to a short but exhilarating trip to the East Midlands. Madingley Hall, which I discovered eighteen months ago when invited to give a lecture there by Sophie Hannah, was an excellent base: it's a study centre but also a delightful hotel. Friday was spent on my first ever visit to Rutland, England's smallest country, in the company of local resident David Whittle, Edmund Crispin's biographer. Luckily the weather stayed fine and we started with a lovely walk at Rutland Water - I was intrigued by Normanton Church, which was preserved when this massive lake/reservoir was created. Then came lunch at Uppingham, a busy little market town (and site of the school attended by E.W. Hornung, creator of Raffles) and a visit to Oakham, including the fascinating and truly ancient hall that is Oakham. Finally, a look at Welland Viaduct, which is much less well-known that the Ribblehead Viaduct, but even longer.

Saturday was devoted to a visit to ace book collector Clint Stacey and his family in Stamford. Clint has a great fund of knowledge about classic crime fiction and his collection is quite wonderful. I really enjoy seeing other people's book collections and this was a great way to round off a brief visit to a lovely part of the world. Here is a rare R.T. Campbell/Ruthven Todd signature and a nice inscription from George Hardinge (aka author George Milner) to Anthony Berkeley:

Friday 22 March 2024

Forgotten Book - The Siege of Trencher's Farm

Crime fiction is almost inevitably linked to violence of one kind or another. There aren't many truly victimless crimes and violence takes many forms, psychological as well as physical. For those of us who find violence horrific, crime fiction - when it is well written - offers readers, among other things, a means of coming to terms with a better understanding of violence and its well-springs. And I think it's good for writers to think about the way they deal with violence in their books; that is not in any way to suggest that violence should be excluded or sanitised, although personally, as a writer and as a reader I have no real interest in graphic descriptions of acts of violence.

Many years ago I watched the film Straw Dogs. I tend not to like Sam Peckinpah's films (all I can now recall of Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia, which I watched as a student, was that it was particularly dreadful), but anything starring Dustin Hoffman and Susan George had to be worth watching. However, the graphic violence in the movie didn't appeal to me at all. So I steered well clear of the source novel, The Siege of Trencher's Farm by Gordon Williams.

However, I liked Williams' Hazell stories, written with Terry Venables under the name P.B. Yuill and his stand-alone Yuill horror novel with criminous elements The Bornless Keeper, was interesting. I discovered that one of his novels was shortlisted for the very first Booker Prize and that Ian Rankin has a high regard for The Siege of Trencher's Farm. I was deterred by the fact that Williams supposedly wrote the novel in just nine days, but encouraged by the fact that he hated Straw Dogs and that for his part Peckinpah described the book as 'rotten'. So I've given it a go.

The novel was published in 1969 and is, I think, significantly different from the film. It's a flawed novel, but the account of a group of local men rising up in anger against an American and his English wife who give shelter to an escaped child killer in an isolated Dartmoor village cut off by snow has a great deal of tension. There's a Lord of the Flies feeling to the story. There is still quite a lot of violence, and the book might have benefited from more work, but it has a visceral power. I have no doubt that Williams was making valid and perfectly arguable points about our darker instincts, even if one wouldn't agree with all of his attitudes. I don't think it's a masterpiece, but it's definitely an improvement on the film. 

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Paul Charles - Adventures in Wonderland - review

Paul Charles has combined a highly successful career in music as an agent, promoter, manager, and songwriter (one of his numbers was covered by Norah Jones) with a distinct career as a crime writer. He and I first met in Philadelphia, of all places, at a Bouchercon in the late 90s and we hit it off right away. We don't manage to meet up too often, because of our other commitments, but I always enjoy his company. We had a very enjoyable afternoon together in London recently, when Paul told me about his recently published memoir Adventures in Wonderland.

I've now devoured the book. As you'd expect from a very experienced novelist, it's as readable as it's entertaining. Paul has had many famous clients, ranging from Van Morrison and Elvis Costello to Ray Davies and Tanita Tikaram, and there are plenty of fun anecdotes about his encounters with the great and the good (and also the not-so-good) of the music business.

It's clear that Paul's a very shrewd businessman, but his humility and wisdom shine through the pages. I know that some people do well, at least in the short term, by behaving ruthlessly, but the most successful business people I've met over the years - and I've met quite a few - are neither arrogant nor exploitative. Paul is a very good example and some of his anecdotes illustrate the merit of one of his other strengths - persistence. 

There are a number of references to Paul's crime writing, and a good chapter about Colin Dexter. For those of you who don't know Paul's fiction, I can recommend it. And I'm equally enthusiastic about Adventures in Wonderland

Monday 18 March 2024

An eventful week


Last week was eventful in more ways than one. This blog raced past a total of 3.5 million views - current figures are running at over 3000 views a day, which is atypical, to say the least. Not quite sure what has prompted all this traffic, but I've been very glad to receive plenty of good comments as well, not just on current posts but also on some of the older ones. 

As spring approaches, I've started doing a variety of events - three very enjoyable ones last week, all with an added appeal because they offered a chance to give some support to worthy endeavours. I began with a trip to Royal Lancaster Grammar School, whose A-level students, lucky things, are studying crime fiction. How education has changed! A different sort of audience for me - probably the youngest since the days when I had a year or two as writer in residence at the Heath Comprehensive School in Runcorn - and a very good one. 

I was impressed by the range and number of questions the students asked and it was wonderful to see these young people taking such an interest. Afterwards, the teacher who arranged the event told me one student had already said they felt inspired to write a crime novel - a lovely reaction.

Later in the week I had the chance to return to the Wirral peninsula, where I lived for eight years in the 80s. It wasn't simply about nostalgia, although there was a bit of that. Ann Cleeves was launching her latest paperback, The Raging Storm, and the two events were organised by Linghams, a very good bookshop in Heswall, and designed to support the RNLI, the dedicatees of the book. I was asked to chair the two events, both held in an excellent venue, a church in Hoylake, only a mile or two from my old flat. Also taking part was Chris Williams, whom Ann has known for many years, and who is closely involved with the RNLI.

There were two events because the first one, on Thursday evening, quickly sold out all 200 tickets. With two engaging speakers, my job was very easy and then there was a pleasant evening meal and conversation in the bar with Ann and her colleagues Emma and Steve in the pub/hotel where we were all staying on the banks of the Dee.

Next morning there was a chance to catch up with Murder Squad founder Margaret Murphy before we headed back to Hoylake. Chris took us on a guided tour of the lifeboat station and showed us round the very impressive lifeboat - it cost about £3 million and really is state-of-the-art. It's worth noting that the RNLI is funded entirely by public donations. 

The second event was just as enjoyable as the first, with Chris proving to be a natural raconteur. Sue Porter of Linghams made sure everything went very smoothly and it was a real pleasure to be associated with events that were not only fun but also helped to raise money and awareness for a marvellous cause.


Friday 15 March 2024

Forgotten Book - Lion in the Cellar

Pamela Branch's career as a crime writer was cut short by her early death from cancer in 1967, but although she only published four novels, they earned the approval of such expert judges as Francis Iles, to whom she dedicated one of her books. I think it's probably fair to say that her books may be an acquired taste - Julian Symons, first instance, was impervious to her charms - but I like her zany humour.

Her second novel, Lion in the Cellar, first appeared in 1951. Her publisher was Robert Hale, who are generally associated with the library market - so first editions are scarce, although happily there have been paperbacks, including a green Penguin edition from 1962, which mentions that she was working on a fifth book. Perhaps illness prevented her from finishing it. Her writing style strikes me as very concentrated, and perhaps the intense effort that, I suspect, she had to expend on making each story work explains why she produced relatively little. The late Tom and Enid Schantz admired her work and their Rue Morgue Press reprinted all four titles.

The main setting of this story is a disreputable London pub called the Carp, overseen by the formidable landlady, Mrs Filby. We are quickly introduced to a large cast of characters - her regulars and people who live nearby. Among them is George Heap, an amiable-seeming chap who happens to be a serial killer. His niece Sukie, who is charming and naive but incurably dishonest, is married to a hapless young barrister. Her grandmother too was a serial killer, while her mother was an arsonist. So what chance does poor Sukie have?

I enjoyed this book. At times the convolutions are excessive, and it's not always easy to keep track of what is going on, but there is ample compensation in some very funny lines and situations. Branch really was very witty and I think her work deserves to be better known.

Wednesday 13 March 2024

Sally Stevens - I Sang That

I'm no musician, but the music business has long fascinated me and it featured in a story called 'Eternally' that I wrote about twenty years ago. As a student, although I had a burning desire to write crime fiction, I spent more time on other types of writing and wrote song lyrics with a couple of friends of mine. One of the songs, 'Easy Come, Easy Go', was set to music by an Italian physics student, Giovanni Carrea, who produced his own album. Thanks to Giv, for the one and only time in my life I featured in the Pop Page of the Oxford Mail. The album occasionally surfaces on eBay and has been known to sell for over £100 so perhaps it counts as a cult classic! Anyway, here is the song, (the second track, four minutes into the recording) so you can judge for yourself why I never became the new Bernie Taupin or Hal David...

At about the same time as the album was made, I saw on television a memorable concert featuring Burt Bacharach conducting the Edmonton Symphony Orchestra in Canada. Among the stand-out moments were two songs sung by the leader of the backup singers. One of the songs, 'Charlie', has a quite lovely melody. I later discovered that the singer's name was Sally Stevens and she went on to co-write a song with Burt which featured on his album Woman, a project undertaken with the Houston Symphony Orchestra which was a commercial flop but which features some of his finest orchestral work.

To cut a very long story short, in recent years I've been in occasional touch with Sally via social media and I was delighted to learn that she'd published a memoir about her remarkable career. I Sang That is a fascinating record of Sally's contribution to musical (and film) history. She has worked with so many legendary figures, including John Barry, Henry Mancini, and Michel Legrand. I am particularly fond of her performance on the soundtrack of the suspense film La Piscine of 'Ask Yourself Why' , one of Legrand's finest melodies. 

I Sang That brims with anecdotes, and I was naturally fascinated by Sally's account of touring the world with Burt Bacharach during the Seventies. Despite the fact that he was famously a hard taskmaster, it's clear that like other musicians he worked with, she admired his perfectionism and professionalism, as well as finding him a generous colleague. Sally's description of the work she has done over the years - and continues to do - is consistently engaging. Her literary talents certainly aren't confined to writing lyrics - this is an absorbing narrative which casts fresh light on the world of backup singers, among many other things.

Sally has just published a novel, The Odyssey of Mrs Naomi Billingsley, which sounds very interesting. It's not a crime novel, but she tells me she is a fan of the genre, and her favourite authors include Michael Connolly and P.D. James - excellent taste! As for I Sang That, it's extremely readable and if you fancy an insight into an important part of the music scene that hasn't, as far as I know, been discussed too extensively in print, you certainly won't be disappointed. Recommended.

Monday 11 March 2024

John Pugmire R.I.P.

I was very sorry to hear on Friday of the death of my friend John Pugmire. John's wife Helen told me he passed away on Thursday morning. I knew he'd had health problems, but the news came as a shock and I shall miss John greatly. He was a great fan of the Golden Age and since the death of Bob Adey nobody has done more than John to advance the cause of locked room mysteries. He championed the likes of Paul Halter as well as a number of interesting Japanese writers including Alice Arisugawa.

John was a Brit who lived in New York, but I enjoyed his company on a number of trips to the States. He attended the Edgar awards back in 2016 and was one of the very first to congratulate me when The Golden Age of Murder won. Next morning he and I travelled back together on the train from New York City to Washington DC and he was also with me the following day when the book won the Agatha. The next year, he was on my table at the Gala Dinner at Malice Domestic when I received the Poirot award. John is second right in the photo below.

He and I kept in regular touch and I was impressed by his work in developing Locked Room International, a small press which revived a great many unknown impossible crime stories. He asked me to write an intro for Stacey Bishop's Death in the Dark and he proved just as good to work with as he was to chat to. 

John was one of the group of trusted crime fiction history experts I asked to take a look at the manuscript of The Life of Crime and of course his comments were invaluable. He was a lovely man and I treasure the memories of the times we shared together.

Friday 8 March 2024

Forgotten Book - Death of Cold

Death of Cold, which dates from 1956, was Leo Bruce's second novel about Carolus Deene (and I fear it rather crazily and unnecessarily gives away the solution to the first, which I haven't read - aaaagh!) and although the actual title isn't one of his better ones, the story itself is extremely enjoyable. Now that I've read several Deene books, I see that numerous ingredients crop up in one book after another, but here they are handled with freshness and vim.

The mayor of Oldhaven has disappeared from the pier at Oldhaven, where he was fishing while awaiting news of the birth of his first grandchild. A few days later, his body is found. The coroner establishes that he was drowned and the police aren't interested (Bruce's disdain for the police is evident throughout this novel). Deene, who knows the dead man's daughter and son-in-law, gets involved.

The usual pattern of interviews is followed. There is a very, very funny one involving a sleazy pornographic bookseller and his long-suffering wife, and several other scenes contain great lines. The seaside setting (quite common in Bruce's books) is very nicely done, although I agree with this review on the excellent The Grandest Game in the World blog that a map (or two) would have been beneficial, but there's a lot of entertainment along the way before Carolus reveals all.

There are two features, and, arguably, weaknesses, of the Carolus Deene books that are evident here. First, Carolus detects mainly by intuition rather than by hard evidence. On the whole, I think this is handled well enough for it not to be problematic. Second, the psychological motivation of the culprit is inadequately foreshadowed. This is, I think, a more serious flaw and in this book it could have been remedied without giving the game away. Overall, though, this book is highly enjoyable. 

Wednesday 6 March 2024

Eyes of Laura Mars - 1978 film review

Eyes of Laura Mars is an offbeat serial killer film that has a great deal going for it. For a start, the trendy fashion photographer Laura Mars is played by Faye Dunaway, while the role of a troubled cop gave a good part to Tommy Lee Jones quite early in his career. The cast also includes Raul Julia, while the title song, 'Prisoner', was sung by Barbra Streisand. And the original version of the story (and an early draft of the screenplay) was written by John Carpenter.

There's a strong 70s feel to the movie, which probably made it seem daring at the time but is now rather too dated for comfort. It's been compared to the Italian giallo films, and it does have something in common with them. Laura's photography emphasises stylish violence, and this courts controversy. Things soon take a dark turn when Laura dreams of a home intrusion and attack, in circumstances quickly replicated when her photo editor is murdered rather horribly.

Neville, the cop, points out to Laura the previous unsolved killings which seem to mirror her fashion shoots. Laura continues to have visions, and the body count continues to rise. The story material is promising, but after a while I felt the film lost its way. We don't care as much for the characters as we should. This is partly because of Laura's glacial personality, partly because (spoiler alert!) the visions are never explained, which I found pretty unsatisfactory.

There are moments when one senses that the film's makers are trying to comment on the nature of the fashion business, but the balance between plot, character, and situation seems to me to be unsatisfactory. I came to the film with quite high expectations, and although it's not a bad movie, it's certainly not as good as it could have been. And that, I gather, was very much John Carpenter's view too.

Monday 4 March 2024

Books and Book News


The sun is shining and there's definitely a touch of spring in the air. After a winter of writing, I'm looking forward to various book activities and associated trips. Today I've sent in the fruit of my winter labours, the manuscript of Hemlock Bay, to my publisher, after it received the seal of approval from my agent. So it was timely as well as gratifying to learn that the extremely well-read Kate Jackson has chosen Sepulchre Street, the previous Rachel Savernake novel, as her February book of the month

I mentioned Bill Knox and The Lazarus Widow the other day and was pleased to be name-checked in a BBC website article about Bill  I'm also delighted that this month sees the first two books in the series, Gallows Court and Mortmain Hall, published in Taiwan. This is the very first time I've ever been published in Taiwan and I'm grateful to Tymo Lin and everyone else who has made this possible. Here are the covers:

Yesterday I was glad to catch up with a number of friends at an excellent CWA Northern Chapter Sunday lunch in Knutsford. I took along the gorgeous, specially bound copy of Eileen Dewhurst's The House That Jack Built, which celebrates Eileen's joy in membership of the CWA. Here's a photo of Jean Briggs and me with the book, taken by Jason Monaghan:

File on Fenton and Farr by Q. Patrick

File on Fenton and Farr isn't a Forgotten Book but a Forgotten Crime Dossier. It was written by Q. Patrick (Richard Webb and Hugh Wheeler) and appeared in 1938. The dossiers compiled by Dennis Wheatley and J.G. Links, starting with Murder off Miami, had proved a big hit, and so - as often happens in the publishing world - the bandwagon soon found others clambering aboard. Helen Reilly produced File on Rufus Ray (which I hope to read soon) while Q.Patrick turned out this one and then File on Claudia Cragge, before war intervened to put the dampener on the dossier craze for a good many years - although not forever.

I've never seen any online review of File on Fenton and Farr, which is a testament to the dossier's rarity. I'm fairly sure that the basic premise was inspired by the real-life Hall-Mills case, which has interested a number of crime writers over the years, including Antony Abbot and Mary-Carter Roberts. But the Q. Patrick storyline soon deviates sharply from the real-life situation.

I would hazard a guess that Webb and Wilson may have conceived this story as a novel before turning it into a dossier. I say this because there is a lot of text in the story, while the visual clues (which include a lipstick!) seem, for the most part, to be incidental to the main elements of the story. There is one visual clue relevant to an alibi which struck me as unconvincing, to say the least. Well, perhaps I say this simply because I didn't figure it out, but I'm not sure how anyone would figure it out.

Another reason why I think this began life (at least in the planning stage) as a novel is that the characterisation is less superficial than that of the Wheatley-Links dossiers, the first two of which are probably my favourites among all the dossiers. One interesting ingredient is that I'm fairly sure that the photograph of one of the suspects in the story was actually of Hugh Wheeler, while it's possible that one of the others showed Webb. Overall, quite an entertaining mystery, with a number of clever touches.

Friday 1 March 2024

Forgotten Book - Strip Death Naked

Strip Death Naked, first published in 1959, is a rather odd murder mystery. The author, Norman Longmate, worked for the BBC as a senior administrator, but wrote in his spare time. A versatile author, he was best-known as a historian, several of whose books achieved considerable acclaim. He wrote five detective novels in as many years, starting with Death Won't Wash in 1957; the first four were published by Cassell, and the fifth by Robert Hale, a sign of declining fortunes, which is probably why he abandoned the genre.

As the title hints, the setting of the story is a naturist camp. More than twenty years earlier, a nudist colony featured in E.R. Punshon's Death among the Sunbathers, a pretty dreary mystery by any standards, and the weakest Punshon that I've read. Punshon tackled naturism satirically and yet in a rather decorous way. Longmate's writing reflects the attitudes of the late 50s. In other words, it's much franker and less twee than Punshon's book, but by modern standards old-fashioned and in some respects sexist.  

Longmate's series detective, Superintendent Bradshaw, is consulted when patrons of Sunways are photographed naked and the photos are sent to their employers. This happens on several occasions over a period of time, but somehow a great Press scandal is avoided. A small group of potential suspects is identified and when they conveniently stay at Sunways at the same time, Sergeant Chris Raymond is sent to join the happy campers and investigate.

Longmate writes pretty well and there are some good touches in this story. The pace doesn't flag and a key aspect of the killer's M.O. is very fairly clued. However, I simply didn't believe the motive, which I didn't think was properly foreshadowed, and the killer's objective could have been achieved much more easily by adopting a more direct approach. And that wasn't the only aspect of the story that I simply couldn't buy into. Overall, I'd rate this novel as a curiosity, more notable for reflecting social attitudes of the time (a subject that Longmate was very interested in) than for its eventful yet somewhat wayward plot.

Wednesday 28 February 2024

Felicia's Journey - 1999 film review

I first came across the name of William Trevor as a teenager, when a rave review of his novel The Children of Dynmouth prompted me to borrow the book from the local library. I was greatly impressed, and the final paragraphs have stayed with me ever since, which I can't say about many books. I then discovered Trevor's admirable short stories. I've not read him for a while, but he remains my favourite Irish writer.

When I discovered that Felicia's Journey, directed by the estimable Atom Egoyan, was based on a novel by Trevor, I decided to watch it, and I wasn't disappointed. It's a slow-burn, subtle film, but I found it thoughtful, mysterious (although not in a detective puzzle way) and gripping.

We're introduced to a man called Hilditch, who is in charge of the works canteen at a factory in Birmingham. He's fussy but pleasant and well-respected by the people who work for him - always a good sign. But there are one or two things about him that strike a slightly odd note, especially when he goes home in his Morris Mini Minor and cooks elaborate meals for himself while watching an old cooking programme on television. Meanwhile, Felicia, a naive but lovely teenager, travels from Ireland to England in search of Johnny, a boy she's fallen in love with. She bumps into Hilditch a couple of times, and he takes pity on her, offering to help her find Johnny. But all is not as it seems...

The cast is excellent, and is led by Bob Hoskins, who had an unrivalled ability to combine menace with genuine pathos. The role of Hilditch is challenging, to say the least, but he handles it with aplomb. Elaine Cassidy is excellent as Felicia, and there's a smallish role for Brid Brennan, who plays Johnny's mother. I watched Brid Brennan recently in a newish film, the Irish language suspense movie Doineann, where she carries a slight story with a great performance in the role of a veteran detective. Doineann is a decent enough film, but it isn't (perhaps because the script lacks Trevor's quality) in the same league as Felicia's Journey, which explore the relationships between parents and children, and between innocence and guilt, with a sophistication that is never dull, never irritating. 

Monday 26 February 2024

Crippen & Landru's 30th birthday

Long before the British Library (and its many followers) started publishing Crime Classics, there was Crippen & Landru, a small press based in the United States which quickly established a splendid reputation for quality of book production matched with high-calibre content. It's a reputation which has been burnished over the years and I'm delighted that this year sees the press's 30th anniversary since it came into being. A remarkable achievement, well worth celebrating.

Crippen & Landru were founded by Douglas G. Greene, who was already well-established as an authority on classic detective fiction. His biography of John Dickson Carr is a model of its kind and he had done some great work in helping to shepherd deserving books back into print. The main focus of his imprint was short stories and this has remained the case through the years. There have been many wonderful single author collections, some of them from contemporary writers, many from notable authors of the past.

When Doug was ready to take a step back from the intensive demands of running Crippen & Landru, Jeffrey Marks took over at the helm (although Doug is still involved). Jeff was the ideal man for the job; he too has published significant books about the genre, including bios of Craig Rice and Anthony Boucher, and the very interesting Atomic Renaissance about female post-war crime writers.

Although I'm based on the other side of the Atlantic, I've had the pleasure of working with Crippen & Landru on a number of occasions, starting with editorial work on The Trinity Cat, a collection of stories by Ellis Peters for the 'Lost Classics' series - was it really 18 years ago?  It's always a pleasure to spend in the company of Doug and Jeff and this anniversary is as good a moment as any to thank them for their contribution to the genre. And if you like good mysteries, Crippen & Landru have plenty of books to keep you royally entertained.

Friday 23 February 2024

Forgotten Book - The Murders Near Mapleton

Steve Barge, who blogs as The Puzzle Doctor, has done Golden Age mystery fans a big favour by reviving interest in the books of Brian Flynn and working with Dean Street Press to reissue a good many of the novels. Steve's intros are a model of their kind: concise, informative, and readable. I've read several of the books now and I must say that they contain some excellent ideas, several of which are genuinely ingenious and definitely pleasing.

This is certainly true of The Murders Near Mapleton, which dates from 1929. The story gets off to a tremendous start. The setting of the first chapter, a country house dinner on Christmas Eve, is conventional enough, but there are interesting undercurrents in the dinner table conversation and Flynn wastes no time in getting down to action. By page 34, the master of the house has gone missing, a threatening message has been discovered in a Christmas cracker, two dead bodies have been found (one on a railway track) and one of the deceased, believed by everyone to be a man, turns out to be a woman. Oh, and quite apart from various other minor excitements, somehow the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Austin Kemble, has got involved. 

I was impressed by all of this and it's fair to say that, when all is revealed, there are some very clever touches indeed. But - you knew there was a 'but' coming, didn't you? - this book also displays Flynn's characteristic weaknesses. The first of these is that his brilliant amateur detective, Anthony Bathurst, is smug and (in this book more than the others I've read) frankly irritating. One also wonders how Sir Austin got such a plum job - he seems to be so useless as to make Francis Durbridge's Sir Graham Forbes seem like Poirot. Flynn's over-ornate writing style also makes me groan. For instance: 'The realisation flooded his brain with pellucid certainty that once again the clutch of circumstance had summoned him to cross swords with one who was undoubtedly a master criminal.' Steve wonders why Flynn was never elected to the Detection Club; I'm pretty sure the answer is to be found in Dorothy L.Sayers' reviews of two of his 1934 novels - she notes the ingenuity, but flays the prose. 

In any elaborate mystery of this type, the author hopes (believe me, I know!) that the reader will be generous in terms of suspending disbelief. Fair enough. However, I was completely baffled by the fact that the transvestism was almost ignored by the detectives, even though inevitably it played a - wholly unconvincing, I'm afraid - part in the story. Sir Austin and the almost equally hapless Inspector Craig hardly mention it and even Anthony seems to take the deception for granted. 

As Steve Barge points out, Gladys Mitchell used a very similar idea in a novel also published in 1929 - a notable coincidence, but I agree with him that there's no reason to suspect plagiarism; it's clearly just an idea that occurred to two writers at much the same time, something that happens in reality with quite depressing frequency, perhaps as a reaction to a topical news item. But I do think better use could be made of this idea than Flynn managed. For some time, inspired by the Mitchell novel, I've been wondering if the concept could become an ingredient in a Rachel Savernake mystery and used in a fresh way. Maybe reading this book is the spur I needed!

This novel has been widely discussed on the blogosphere, and although the review on The Grandest Game in the World is pretty crushing, the overall consensus of the reviews is definitely favourable - see, for instance, this one at Murder Ahoy! Despite my reservations, and my sense that this book could have been terrific and didn't live up to its early promise, I did enjoy reading it, something that without Steve's efforts and his advocacy for Brian Flynn simply wouldn't have been possible.

Wednesday 21 February 2024

The Usual Suspects - 1995 film review

I've mentioned The Usual Suspects a number of times on this blog over the years, although I've never discussed it in any detail. It's a film I enjoyed watching not too long after its release and I decided to take another look at it, to see how well it has held up, twenty-eight years on. The short answer is that it still seems pretty good to me.

Christopher McQuarrie won an Oscar for his screenplay, while Kevin Spacey won for 'best supporting actor'. Both Spacey and the director, Bryan Singer, have had well-documented issues in recent years, but I think it's fair to say that this movie remains a major highlight in their careers. Spacey plays the part of 'Verbal' Kint, a talkative guy with a limp who is a confidence trickster.

Most of the story is told via flashback and it's not always easy to follow. In essence, Kint is explaining to a sceptical cop the circumstances surrounding a fire on a ship in California, which followed a sequence of gangster killings of those on board. Kint and a severely injured Hungarian criminal are the only survivors. The tale unfolds suggests that the person responsible was a master-criminal called Keyser Soze whom nobody can identify.

There's a brilliant twist ending, which I enjoyed again even though I knew it was coming. Really, it's the twist that lifts the film out of the ordinary, even though there are excellent performances by Gabriel Byrne and Pete Postlethwaite as well as Spacey, and a number of good lines and visual images. A very clever idea, nicely executed. 

Monday 19 February 2024

Bill Knox, Sue Ward, and The Lazarus Widow

It's hard for me to believe, but twenty-five years have passed since I was commissioned to finish Bill Knox's last novel, The Lazarus Widow, which was published under our joint names way back in 1999. This was the final entry in his long-running and best-known series featuring the Scottish cops Thane and Moss.

It was an extremely interesting project to undertake and one of the lasting pleasures I've had from it is that I got to know his widow, Myra, and their daughter Sue. Myra died some years ago, but Sue and I are still in regular touch. She has kindly shared a couple of photos from the family album. The above picture dates from her 21st birthday and shows Bill, Myra and the three children. The one below is from the Knoxes' wedding day.

I'm delighted to say that Bill's books are now being made available again. There's a link to the very first Thane and Moss novel here. The big question in my mind with The Lazarus Widow was always: what will the family think about my effort? Sue has kindly shared her own thoughts, which are definitely reassuring from my point of view!

'My mum was with my dad for all her adult life. They experienced many ups and downs and moments of happiness and grief together.

When my father sadly died her practical nature chose to focus, in part, on the completion of his last book. He had dedicated his working life to journalism and it seemed unjust to her that a work of his should remain uncompleted. It was the ending or closure that she needed to see a job well done and to do his considerable talent justice.

That was not to be as easy a task as it seemed. The chosen writer would need a certain style and to be a fan of my dad’s work if the right feeling was to be present in the completed novel.

An additional challenge would be the lack of directional and plot planning evidence left for the brave creature who, once chosen, agreed to such a task. Not a single clue as to the intended ending or chain of events to reach that end was available. It was simply not the way he worked.

To read the completed work was a seamless and thrilling experience. A mixture of job extremely well done and a pleasing feeling of closure and completion.'  

Susan Ward MBE