Christina’s summer, aside from work!

09 +00002017-09-18T15:29:15+00:0030 2012 § 7 Comments

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Despite all my good intentions (and I’m very grateful to Lisette Brodey, Laura Zera, Val Poore, Sylvia Peadon and Tamara Ferguson for the supportive empathy they have shown me over my failure to keep up to date with social media generally!), the summer mostly slipped away without my posting on this blog. However, I met some great people at literary events over June, July, August and September and want to share those occasions with you before they become distant memories.
On 16th and 17th June, I attended the Winchester Literary Festival for the fourth time, partly to conduct one-to-ones with twelve new authors, partly to give an updated version of the talk I first delivered last year (‘Whodunnit: how it’s done’), which, as last time, attracted a large and enthusiastic audience. Winchester has now become one of the most important dates on my calendar: it’s a brilliant festival, thoughtfully and imaginatively created by Judith Heneghan, who lectures in creative writing at the university, and efficiently organised by Sara Gangai. The guest talk that takes place first thing on the Saturday morning is always a treat. This year’s speaker was Lemn Sissay, the performance poet.

Lemn Sissay

Lemn Sissay

Lemn’s talk was full of wit and unusual insights: for example, he said that every single day we are part of a privileged generation because we have the Internet. “We are at the most exciting time for words that there has ever been. So how can it be that the point of view that the Internet promotes rubbish is always held above that that says the Internet promotes beauty and genius?” And: “Every day I wake up and think of ways that I can promote writing other than the book. But the book is the greatest gift you can give any child or adult.” My own books were kindly stocked and sold, as always, by staff from P. & G. Wells at the festival book stall; they also gave me a signing session, when I met several new and a few old friends.
July 6th was the next big date for me, as the legendary bookseller Richard Reynolds had invited me and eleven other authors to participate in his summer evening of crime at Heffers bookshop in Cambridge.

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Reading at Heffers

I was particularly pleased to meet Barbara Nadel, whose books I have read with real enjoyment. We were each asked to describe ourselves and read, in not more than two minutes, a short extract from our latest novels (Richard’s assistant had a bell and said that she was “not afraid of using it”!). This actually worked very well: it’s surprising how much you can get across in two minutes if you think about it beforehand and try hard.

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Richard Reynolds, in rapt concentration during the readings

Afterwards, there was a drinks reception at which all of our books were on sale. The audience numbered more than one hundred (Cambridge is a real Mecca for crime enthusiasts!) and we all sold lots of copies.

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Busy at Heffers

Wednesday 12th July followed hard on the heels of the Heffers event. I had the good fortune to be invited to a Houses of Parliament reception (held by the Booksellers Association, Publishers Association and the charity, World Book Day) for authors and booksellers, with MPs and peers.

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Before the bell was silenced!

There I met several booksellers who have supported me by stocking my books, including Sam Buckley, from Bookmark in Spalding, who over the years has generously given me a launch event for each of them. The event was hosted by Dame Margaret Hodge, who emphasised the civilising influence of both books and booksellers on our society (a sentiment about which I need no persuading!).
Last but not least, on 15th July I was invited to give ‘A Morning with Christina James’ at Spalding town library. This was a round-table event, at which I read a couple of excerpts from In the Family and Rooted in Dishonour and then talked to the audience about how I came to write the novels, my own Lincolnshire roots and, most important of all, their views on fiction. I was delighted to be able at last to meet Sharman Morriss, the librarian, having been told at one of the Bookmark evenings that she tirelessly promotes my novels to her customers. Sharman then put me in touch with Alison Wade, her colleague at Boston town library,

Boston Stump

Boston Stump (the library is just the other side of it)

which has been holding a month-long crime-writing festival during September. Alison very kindly asked me to open this on the afternoon of September 1st, when I talked to the audience about my own books and what they like to read. I was really pleased to have been able to meet readers and new writers on this occasion.

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Alert readers at Boston!

Fair of Face, the sixth novel in the DI Yates series, will be published on 15th October.

I’ve diligently been updating my Twitter header and posting the new novel’s cover here and on Facebook! Bookmark in Spalding is providing a signing session on the afternoon of 16th October and an evening launch event on 19th October and I know both will be memorable moments for meeting friends old and new. If you would like me to come and talk at your local bookshop or library, or to your reading group, just let me know.
Oh, and hello again to all my readers here!
[An apology to Spalding Library – I’ve temporarily mislaid my SanDisk – a picture will follow!]

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Enjoying the Cambridge Literary Festival at Heffers

09 +00002016-11-28T13:17:40+00:0030 2012 § 6 Comments

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Celebrating in 2016 its 140 years of selling books in Cambridge, Heffers is one of the nation’s great classic bookshops, a national treasure.  It’s always been a privilege to visit it.  Even better, from my point of view, it’s home to Richard Reynolds, perhaps the country’s best-known crime bookselling connoisseur.  I first met Richard five or six years ago, when he had just embarked on a crime classic reprint venture.  No doubt owing to Richard’s influence, classic crime is now big business: there are several excellent imprints, including the British Library’s own.

An honour to be welcomed by Richard Reynolds

An honour to be welcomed by Richard Reynolds

Richard is interested in all types of crime fiction, modern as well as classic, and I’m very proud to say that not only does he stock the DI Yates novels but he also invited me for a signing session on Saturday as part of the Cambridge Literary Festival.  There was a wonderful buzz in the shop, which was packed with people shopping all the time I was there.

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I had a glorious three hours, talking to old friends and many new acquaintances.  I can’t begin to tell them how much I appreciate that most bought Rooted in Dishonour.  There were lots of sales of the other books in the DI Yates series, too.

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I’d like to thank Richard and his colleagues for great hospitality and for extending a very generous invitation to me to return to the shop again as soon as I am ready.  Perhaps they should be careful what they wish for: I might turn up again next week!

You might like to share in some of the highlights of my day there with the photographs below:

 

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Criss-crossing Lincolnshire with DI Yates…

09 +00002016-11-21T20:21:14+00:0030 2012 § 2 Comments

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Walkers, Stamford

Walkers, Stamford

Last Saturday, as last year and the year before, I once again enjoyed a warm welcome in Stamford’s Walkers Bookshop, which hosted a signing session for the publication of the new DI Yates.

In spite of the cold (snow had arrived the previous day in the Pennines), Christmas was in the air and the shop looked very handsome, newly kitted out with its festive stock.  I enjoyed talking to customers as they came and went. I was particularly grateful to Anne’s daughter (who sent her husband back to the shop to buy the book, having herself first gone home to check that her mother didn’t have it), to the lady who bought a copy for her friend ‘Brig’ and with whom I had a fascinating conversation, to Brian, Vetta and Liam, a British/Scandinavian family, who took a huge amount of interest in all the books and how I’d come to write them and to the man who, after a great deal of deliberation, decided that he’d rather have Sausage Hall.  Several people wanted to buy the earlier DI Yates novels. I was very sorry to have missed ‘the man from Gainsborough’, who’d visited the shop about half an hour before I arrived and bought all the novels, but couldn’t wait long enough to have them signed – I do hope that you will read this blog post and, even more, enjoy the books!

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I’d like to extend special thanks to Jenny Pugh and Tim Walker, who invited me to the signing, and Lynne, Linda and Sophie, who looked after me so well on Saturday.  I hope to look forward to meeting you and some of your wonderful customers again next year.

Spalding does DI Yates proud!

09 +00002016-11-16T17:49:14+00:0030 2012 § 8 Comments

Bookmark 2016

Bookmark 2016

Yesterday was publication day for Rooted in Dishonour. As usual, I headed for Bookmark, Spalding’s lovely independent bookshop, which has kindly hosted the launch event for all of the DI Yates novels, beginning with In the Family in 2012. As always, I received a very warm welcome. For the past three years, Sam Buckley, the events manager, has arranged a dual event for me: a signing session in the afternoon and a talk and reading in the evening.

It was a cold, squally morning. I arrived at the shop about midday. It has recently changed hands and there was a major renovation going on in the café area; unfortunately, this meant that the café was closed, but I understand that it will be open again next week, ready for Christmas. I was privileged to meet Darren (twin brother of Jason, the new owner), who is in charge of the refurbishment work – he says Jason earns the money and he spends it!

Although the temporary lack of coffee was ruefully lamented by Bookmark’s clientele, the shop’s footfall (partly because it was market day) was excellent and there was a lot of interest in Rooted in Dishonour.  One lady, Helen, bought three copies for herself and friends and said that she’d read all the DI Yates books: ‘Each one is better than the last’ – sheer music to an author’s ears!

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Alex, who attends Spalding Grammar School and works in Bookmark on Saturdays, popped in at lunchtime and became one of my customers.

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The evening event took place in the bookshop itself for the first time, as the café was out of bounds.  As a speaker, I preferred the atmosphere there (though not the absence of cake!). Spalding audiences are always excellent, but this was my best ever!

A warm welcome from Sam Buckley

A warm welcome from Sam Buckley

I met some old friends and made many new ones. The discussion following my talk was a lively one and I was asked lots of searching questions about my writing. Several of the audience generously bought the new novel and some of the previous ones as well.

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I’d like to thank Sam and the rest of the staff at Bookmark for working so hard to make the event a success, and all my wonderful Spalding readers for giving me a day to remember.

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Murder comes to Pontefract again, baa gum.

09 +00002016-11-07T19:03:45+00:0030 2012 § 11 Comments

The Pontefract Fleece Force

The Pontefract Fleece Force

Saturday November 5th was a cold, squally day, a fitting atmosphere for Bonfire Night. I was probably feeling the cold more than most, having just returned from some time away on business, first in Quito and then in Charleston, South Carolina (more about both on these pages very soon). The temperature in each of these places was around twenty-five degrees.

I was in Pontefract, a historic Yorkshire town, scene of gruesome murders during the Wars of the Roses and, almost two centuries later, in the English Civil War. Pontefract library is a light and airy building with lots of glass and invitingly-arranged bookshelves that fan out from the centre as well as lining the walls. I’d been very kindly invited by Alison Cassels, the Officer for Reading at Wakefield Library Services, with whom I have several times participated in crime fiction events in West Yorkshire; she had asked me to speak about Rooted in Dishonour, which will be published on 15th November, read one of the chapters and then host a more general literary event, which included asking the audience to name their favourite novels and take part in a short ‘whodunnit’ play written by Ann Cleeves.

It was a long time since I’d last visited Pontefract Library and I enjoyed going back. A small flock of helmeted sheep occupied the ‘Fleece Station’ and busied itself with a murder scene just outside. The corpse had been already removed, having first been outlined by Eweno Hugh, the soco. I noted the chalked heels and deduced that the victim had been female. I heard that DI Tup, who had been protecting some productive grass from persecution by local thieves, would soon be on the case. I felt quite at home. Furthermore, as the Ann Cleeves playlet was set in Shetland, refreshments included shortbread and Tunnock’s teacakes, a treat that I’ve rarely seen since I worked in Scotland some twenty years ago.

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The audience consisted of about twenty-five people, a few of whom I’d already met at events in Wakefield in previous years.  They were truly one of the liveliest, most receptive audiences I’ve ever encountered.  They gave Rooted in Dishonour a wonderful debut and asked so many questions that the event lasted two hours, instead of the hour that had been scheduled. If anyone who came on Saturday is reading this, I’d like to thank you very much indeed.

Huge thanks also to Alison, Lynne, Liz and Lynne and their colleagues, who made me feel as welcome and special as they always do.

Rooted in Dishonour’s launch event will take place at Bookmark in Spalding on Tuesday 15th November, the publication date; I’ll be signing books in the afternoon and talking about the novel and giving readings in the evening.  More details may be found at http://bookmarkspalding.co.uk/.  On Saturday 19th November, I’m signing copies of the novel from 11 am – 2 pm at Walker’s Bookshop in Stamford (http://www.walkersbookshops.co.uk/) and on Saturday 26th November, starting at 12.30 pm,  I have a signing session at Heffer’s Bookshop in Cambridge (http://bookshop.blackwell.co.uk/stores/heffers), as part of the Cambridge Literary Festival.

With Alison Cassels

With Alison Cassels

I’m also hoping to be able to spend rather more time blogging and catching up with many good friends on the social networks; they have been very, very kind to me on Twitter and Facebook whilst I have been caught up in work. Many sincere thanks to them all.

Mine is the dishonour…

09 +00002016-07-29T12:42:11+00:0031 2012 § 9 Comments

Rooted in Dishonour
I must apologise for my long silence to all the readers of this blog and to those very, very wonderful Twitter and FB friends (You know who you are!) who have continued to tweet out for me – I’ll be doing my best to make amends very soon now. Your kindness is phenomenal!

I do have excuses for not having posted much recently (a year like no other for me), but I realise I can’t justify my silence when so many of you manage to keep up your own posts and timelines and support me and others on top of doing your ‘day jobs’.  However, by way of explanation, my own day job has taken me abroad several times this year (to the USA, twice, Seoul, Barcelona and Dubai), and whilst I realise how incredibly privileged I am to have visited all these places, I know that some of you will understand that long-haul travel is very disruptive to a writing routine, and the work resulting from those trips even more so.  There have been some family challenges, too. As a result of all this, I was way behind with the latest DI Yates, the deadline for which was also brought forward slightly and I’ve been both-candle-ends burning for quite some time.  Anyway, I’ve now finished the novel and should like to tell you a little bit about it, as well as, to start with, some landmarks of my writing year so far.

First and foremost, I’m delighted to be able to tell you that Salt has a wonderful new team to support its books.  Chris and Jen Hamilton-Emery and all Salt authors are now being supported by Adrian Weston (selling rights), Hannah Corbett (in charge of PR) and Medwyn Hughes and Julian Ball, of PG Distributors.  I had the privilege of meeting everyone at a lunch in June.  It is the most stellar team Salt has ever had and I’m sure will do a wonderful job.

The Salt team

The Salt team

For the third year running, I attended the Winchester Literary Festival at the end of June.  This year, as well as giving as yet unpublished authors some one-to-one advice, I gave a talk on crime writing (Whodunnit: how it’s done), which attracted a much bigger audience than I’d anticipated and I think was probably a success.
Winchester Writers' Festival

A couple of weekends ago, I was invited back to Harlow Carr Gardens to participate in a series of signing sessions which Juliet Allard, the lovely bookshop manager, had organised to celebrate the summer.  As on the last occasion, I really enjoyed the ambience there and the buzz of being in a really good bookshop – one that is supported not only by the local community, but by visitors who come from many miles away to see the gardens.
Harlow Carr signing

Juliet Allard has invited me back for another signing session after Rooted in Dishonour, the next DI Yates, is published in November.  I’ve been offered a launch signing session/evening event for the novel at Bookmark, in Spalding, a bookshop with which I have a very special relationship and which has supported all the Yates novels magnificently ever since In the Family was published, and another signing session at Walkers Bookshop in Stamford.  I’ll post and tweet the dates nearer the time.  At present, I’m taking bookings for other events around the publication date, including library and bookshop events and talks to reading groups, so if you are interested I should be delighted to hear from you.

So, on to the novel.  This is what it’s about (apologies for using the publisher’s blurb, but I did write it myself):

Eighteen-year-old Ayesha Verma disappears from her home in Spalding just a few days after her parents have introduced her to the cousin they’ve arranged for her to marry.  There has been a nation-wide police campaign to raise awareness of ‘honour killings’.  Conditioned by this, DI Tim Yates and Superintendent Thornton are convinced that Ayesha has been murdered for refusing the arranged marriage.  Tim throws himself enthusiastically into preparations for a trip to India to interview the cousin.  He first travels to London to visit his rather louche old friend, DI Derry Hacker, at the Met.  Hacker introduces Tim to DC Nancy Chappell, an unconventional expert on honour killings.     

When Tim arrives at King’s Cross he thinks that he hears the voice of Peter Prance, a confidence trickster whom he last encountered when he was investigating the murder of Kathryn Sheppard several years before.  He’s unable to follow the man because he’s suddenly taken ill.

Tim’s wife, Katrin, has just returned to work as a police researcher after the birth of their daughter Sophia. DC Juliet Armstrong, who is far from convinced that Tim is right about the reason for Ayesha’s disappearance, arranges for Katrin to meet Fi Vickers, a social worker who helps women to escape from forced marriages and violent male relatives.  She hopes that Fi will introduce Katrin to some of the women in her care so that Katrin can build a picture of the likely circumstances of ‘honour killings’.  Juliet herself is feeling aggrieved because she thinks her career is going nowhere.  Tim and Superintendent Thornton have announced their intention to appoint a Detective Sergeant to the team, but Juliet is convinced that she won’t get the job.

DI Hacker arranges dinner in a restaurant for Tim with a ‘surprise’ guest, who turns out to be Patti Gardner, the SOCO who was his girlfriend before he met Katrin.  Derry is called away to a reported gangland beating shortly after they’ve begun to eat. Tim remains à deux with Patti, escorting her back to her hotel at the end of the evening.  There he’s taken ill again, and is so incapacitated that he spends the night in Patti’s room.   The victim of the gangland beating has been spirited away by the men who attacked him, but from Tim’s description Hacker is convinced he is Peter Prance.

Katrin has received a visit earlier that evening from Margie Pocklington, a teenager working for her child-minder. Margie asks Katrin to employ her as a full-time nanny, and when she gets a cautious response flounces out of the house.  Next morning, she fails to turn up for work.  She has vanished.

Juliet Armstrong is convinced that Ayesha’s and Margie’s disappearances are linked.  She has begun to investigate when Tim returns to Spalding earlier than expected, with Nancy Chappell in tow. He puts her in joint charge of the investigation while he is in India.  Sparks fly.

I hope that you will find this intriguing. You’ll see that the ‘cast’ includes some old acquaintances, but, like all the Yates novels, it stands on its own: you don’t need to have read the others first.

Thank you again for all your support and interest. I have some amazing friends out there!

Ah, bitter chill it was…

09 +00002016-03-26T20:28:02+00:0031 2012 § 2 Comments

Dead of Winter 2

I’ve just had the privilege of reading Dead of Winter, by Gerri Brightwell, the most recent addition to Salt Publishing’s crime list.  Gerri Brightwell is an English academic who works in Canada.  The novel is set in Alaska and I’m certain it draws on her experiences of Canadian winters for some of its local colour.

The story is told in the third person, but through the eyes of Fisher, the (anti-) hero of Dead of Winter, a divorced taxi driver and born loser who is estranged from his only child, a teenage girl called Bree (short for Breehan); he has a barely-speaking relationship with his former wife Jan, who, years before the story begins, has tired of her drab and grubby life with Fisher, smartened herself up, turned estate agent and met and married the obnoxious but successful Brian.  Even the cab company (‘Bear Cabs’) that Fisher works for is second-rate and his life is filled with shifty characters who continually exploit him.  Two of these, Fisher’s step-mother Ada and Grisby, his on-off friend, are rare jewels of characterisation.  Both introduce black humour into the novel.  Ada manages to cheat him and make him feel guilty for not running her errands at the same time.  The depiction of Grisby is a compelling addition to the great tradition of literary scroungers: he could happily rub shoulders with Joxer Daly and hold his own.  Fisher knows that Grisby takes advantage of him, but he also recognises that the man is pathetically inadequate, even more of a loser than he is himself, and therefore feels unable to abandon him.  Grisby, for his part, turns to dross everything that he touches: to call him accident-prone would be a gross understatement.  He is motivated by a low cunning that attempts to be devious but doesn’t fool Fisher. The only solid-gold creature in Fisher’s life is Pax the dog, and he is growing old and incontinent.

It is because of the actions of Breehan, Jan and Brian and Grisby and Ada that Fisher not only stumbles upon the aftermath of a murder, but is in danger of being wrongly accused as the killer.  To protect his estranged family, he enlists Grisby’s aid to remove the corpse from the crime scene.  From this point, event piles on event to immerse Fisher ever deeper in lies and apparent guilt, a vicious circle from which he cannot break free because of his love for Bree and Jan.

The tense and fast-moving action is played out over a period of a few days.  The setting is a small Alaskan town in the grip of a vicious winter.  The winter itself becomes one of the villains of the novel, alternately endangering and thwarting Fisher as he pursues his desperate mission.  Fisher himself is by turns philosophical, funny, annoyed and depressed.  His is a complex character: he charms the reader, despite his shabby frowsiness, lack of self-respect and fatalistic approach to how his life has turned out, because fundamentally he is honest, showing an integrity that no-one else in the novel can match.

The plot of Dead of Winter is ingenious: I thoroughly recommend this novel if what you’re looking for is a page-turner.  What appeals to me even more is Gerri Brightwell’s clear prose and the deftly-observed characters that she creates.  If you decide to read it, you won’t be disappointed.

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