Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Those Post-Bouchercon Blues

Well, I'm back. Not just back but well and truly back. Did I leave my heart in San Francisco? My liver? My wallet, even? Not really. Well, perhaps my wallet. And a bit of my liver.

I was really looking forward to this year's Bouchercon. San Francisco, a city I've never been to but always wanted to visit, renewing friendships with people who I think an awful lot of but only get to physically see once a year, meeting new people . . . how could it go wrong?

I took care of the 'always wanted to come here' bit before the con started by having a week's family holiday. Great. Ticked it all off now - Alcatraz, Yosemite, Haight, Chinatown (and we seem to be the only people who had an awful meal there), Pier 39, MOMA, cable cars, streetcars, etc. It was OK. Some bits I loved, some where a bit meh. What I did notice, however, was just how much of the city had seeped into my cultural DNA even before I'd been there through TV, books and movies. I even stopped and stared at a house on Haight that I knew from somewhere but couldn't place but was sure I'd seen before (I eventually worked it out - it was in 'Eye of the Cat', a 1969 horror film starring Michael Serrazin and Gayle Hunnicutt that I haven't seen since I was a teenager. Yes, since you ask, my head is full of this kind of inconsequential shit.) But come Wednesday night it was time to ditch the family and become Martyn Waites crime novelist.

First impressions of the Hyatt Regency - Logan's Run. Instead of attending a crime fiction convention I felt more like I was renewing on carousel. And I wasn't the only one thinking that. However, I was excited about getting to the bar but found it quite empty. Still, the people who were there more than made up for it. Christa Faust, one of my best buddies, was there. As were Vince and Rosemary Keenan, Russel McLean, Steven Blackmore . . . so not really no one. We had a good time. But then they closed the bar. At 11.30. And every night following. This would be the time that things are in full swing. People have returned from dinner and want to catch up with friends. Not here. When we asked repeatedly bout keeping the bar open, the hotel staff told us to 'go to North Beach. You might find something open there.' So they didn't want paying, they didn't want tips. they also closed it in the afternoons. They wouldn't budge on it. We now had nowhere to gather. Brilliant.

Thursday was better. Christa and I set out for our long standing Thursday BCon lunch date. We ended up at the Tadich Grill, San Francisco's oldest restaurant. With oldest waiters, too, I think. It was great. Wood panelling, waiters in white jackets and bow ties, the whole thing. But authentic. You wouldn't have been surprised to see Sam Spade sitting next to you. Then another treat - Kayo Books. This is a bookshop specialising in old pulp paperbacks. Or in other words, heaven for me. Christa and I acted as each other's enablers and went hog wild. I picked up a few Day Keene (you can never have enough Day Keene), Gil Brewer, Lionel White, Bruno Fischer, Jim Nisbett . . . You get the idea. Christa contented herself with the vintage sleaze and the pick of her haul, a novelisation of John Boorman's 'Zardoz'. There was so much more I wanted but, conscious of my case's weight restriction, I limited myself.

Thursday evening was dinner and drinks with the Harrogate girls. Sharon and Erica who run the Harrogate festival were over to talk it up. We found (through Christa's recommendation) the Tonga Rooms, a Polynesian tiki bar/restaurant with a lagoon, rain and a band on a raft that play Polynesian covers of the Doobie Brothers and Gloria Estefan. There are photos on the internet of Mark Billingham and I sharing cocktails together (this was shortly before we were mistaken for a couple) and we topped it off with a very drunken cable car ride back down California. Brilliant fun. But of course, we got back to find the bar had closed and there was no one there.

I had intended to go on the Dashiell Hammett walking tour on Friday but didn't make it. I was stopped by some readers who wanted to chat. That was more important. Then I tried to find some of the people I had come there to see. With limited success. Friday night was the Mulholland Books party which was fun, then on to Lee Child's Reacher Creature party. Then, with prospect of the bar closing once more, a trip upstairs to Czar of Noir Eddie Muller's suite birthday party.

Saturday was my work day. In at 8.30 for a rehearsal of the reading of Declan Hughes play, 'I Can't Get Started' about Dashiell Hammett and Lillian Hellman. I was reading Hammett. Interestingly, when we were both starting out, Declan and I wrote Hammett plays. Mine was awful and his won awards. Go figure. It was a long rehearsal. But I was looking forward to it. From there it was on to my panel. Mark Billingham, Karin Slaughter, Denise Mina, John Connolly and me talking about things we love and hate about crime fiction. The audience seemed to enjoy it. Then I got ready for Declan's play, the final piece of the day. It went down well. Me as Hammett, Alison Gaylin as Lillian, with other parts taken by Megan Abbott, Brett Battles, Christa Faust, Mark Billingham. And a creepy/hilarious turn by Declan himself. Clair Lamb did a sterling job of pulling it all together and I think we all acquitted ourselves very well. I want to do it properly now.

Then it was the disco at night. Not my kind of thing, but the kids enjoyed it. Mine I mean, not some generic, 'getting too old for this' phrase. It was worth going to witness the spectacle of Gary Phillips, Eddie Muller and Reed Farrell Coleman dancing to YMCA.

So that was that. I made some new friends there that I hope to keep in touch with but didn't see many of my old ones. I didn't seem to be part of my usual gang and that was quite sad. The trouble with BCon being in an exciting city with plenty to do is that people will go off and do it. I think it really works best in a dull city with little to do where we can pull up the wagons and develop a siege mentality in the hotel. Much more fun. And I know some of the people I was looking forward to seeing weren't there (especially one who was laid up on her back following a car accident. Hope you get well soon.) and some I couldn't find.

So that was Bouchercon for this year. Good fun as far as it went. Shit bar, could never find anyone. The rest was fine. But I'll be back next year.

And in the meantime I'd better get on with some work.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The truth about me and Tania Carver . . .

Well, first off, I didn't think it would take this long between blogs. But there's a reason for that. My last entry appeared just after last year's Harrogate Festival. And a fine time was had by all. After that I intended to keep going but it didn't work out. There are a few reasons for that but the main one is the reason I started blogging again.

Because I became a woman.

I'll explain. Although I'm sure most people know the story by now as the secret's out. But just in case you don't, here goes. A couple of years ago I was having a coffee with my old editor (now on his way to total domination of the publishing world), chatting about this and that and he mentioned that he was lacking a certain kind of writer on his list.

'That kind of high concept female American thriller writer,' he said. 'Like Karin Slaughter or Tess Gerritson. Lots of violence, lots of action. But from a female perspective.'

'I can do that,' I said.

Of course he laughed. As did I. I wasn't sure if I was being serious.

So he challenged me. Go off and do it. So I did. At the time I was coming to the end of my contract with my then publisher. I wanted to take the Joe Donovan series somewhere else as the publishers I had weren't . . . well let's just say I wasn't happy with them and leave it at that. I knew there would be a gap if the series went elsewhere so, being a professional writer I'd have to do something else in the meantime. This sounded like a laugh.

So I sat down to do it. I had a story in mind (female serial killer targets pregnant women and cuts out their unborn children to claim as her own). Where did that appear from? Well, my wife, actually. Sometimes I get a glimpse of just how far removed writers are from normal people and coming up with this premise was one indication. She was reading the paper and came across that story. In America, of course. Now, most normal people would say something like, 'how hideous', or 'that's gross' or even be sick. But writers - or people who share their lives with writers - don't seem to do that. We have that little chip of ice in our hearts, as Graham Greene once said. And, by extension, our partners develop it too. So instead of being horrified at the article she said, 'Here, that's got legs.'. And it did.

Except I didn't. Not on my own. Since a lot of the story involved pregnancy and I've never been as pregnant as my wife has, I kept asking her questions about it. And she was happy to help. Then I bombarded her with more questions. And she very patiently helped. Then more. Until she became so involved that she was the co-writer of the novel.

Now the next thing was, we couldn't put it out under two names. That would look cumbersome. So, taking bestselling husband and wife writing duo Nikki French as an example, we decided on a pseudonym. Or rather the publishers did. They liked the name Tania Carver. We couldn't come up with any objection to that. So Tania Carver it was.

Then it started to get serious. The book, THE SURROGATE, came out September 2009. It was decided that the real names of Tania Carver would be kept secret. Now, anyone who knows me knows how bad I am at keeping secrets. Just buy me a drink (or several) and my tongue is immediately loosened. So it was hard. Really, really hard not to tell anyone. Or everyone, depending how much I'd had to drink. But I managed. Sort of. It was also really difficult going into bookshops and seeing the book there and not being able to directly relate to it. I even stood in WH Smiths one day (where it was book of the week) watching people buy it. I really wanted to walk up to them and say, 'I'm Tania Carver' but I knew that at best I'd not be believed and at worse, arrested.

So it was difficult. But I managed it. We just kept our heads down and worked on a sequel. In the meantime THE SURROGATE went on to be a huge bestseller in Europe. We told the Europeans that it was a husband and wife team but news didn't really filter back over here. And then THE SURROGATE was shortlisted for the Theakstons Award to be presented at this summer's Harrogate Festival.

Now. I have to say I helped. To go from longlist to shortlist it had to be voted for by the public. So we phoned and emailed everyone to ask them to vote for it. I even sent out messages through Facebook. Unfortunately because the name was still embargoed at this point, I had to say it was a friend of mine (which it was really - my wife) who had written it. But enough people voted for it and it was shortlisted. It didn't win (That was RJ Ellory) but Mark Lawson had a hell of a lot of fun with me at the award ceremony and Tania Carver's identity was publicly revealed.

So now it's great to be able to actually admit it. I've been on radio silence for over a year, not answering emails, not daring to speak in case I gave something away. I apologise to all of the people who sent me emails and didn't get a response. This was why. I couldn't say anything.

But now I can. Tania is out and proud. I'm even doing public events for the new novel - check the News page on my site for where and when. My wife will be joining me for some of them but she doesn't really like the public aspect of the job so they'll be rationed. On the other hand, I love being on stage and even more, talking about myself. So I have no such compunction.

The new novel, THE CREEPER, is out today. September 16th. I've heard that it's supposed to have gone in at No. 1 in the fiction chart at WH Smiths Travel (that's airports and train stations) but I'll believe it when I see it. Still, it's exciting. The third in the series, CAGE OF BONES is currently being written.

THE CREEPER actually came to me in a dream. My wife thought it was a very scary premise. So, naturally, instead of calling me a sick bastard (chip of ice and all that), we got to work.

So where's Martyn Waites in all this? Where's Joe Donovan? He will return. I haven't lined up a new publisher yet as being half of Tania Carver has taken up more time that I thought it would. But he'll be back. Donovan's story isn't finished yet. There's lots more to happen to him. You haven't heard the last of him. Or Martyn Waites. But for now, I'm half of Tania Carver. And I can't even say I'm the good looking half or the half that comes up with most of the good ideas. But we're having fun. And hopefully so are the readers.

THE CREEPER by Tania Carver out 16th September. Buy it here or here.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Harrogate Part Two

Saturday. Up and around, down for George Pelecanos's event at 9am. Ungodly hour, especially for one of the big name guests but still. You've got to do it. And he was on top form. Pleasure to listen to.

I kept up the panl going for a couple of hours after that since I didn't have anything of my own to do until later. Lunchtime was spent at yet another chi chi Harrogate eaterie with Declan Hughes and Paul Johnston. Charming, if unprintable, company. And uproarious. Afterwards, the woman in the Oxfam second hand bookshop said it was nice to see grown men enjoying themselves so much. Not sure the rest of the customers agreed with her, though. I remember Zoe Sharp once saying to me that when crime writers go anywhere en masse, to a restaurant or something, we all turn into the kind of people you'd hate to sit next to. And we think we're just being entertaining. You have to remember, we don't get out much. Literally.

After a run in the afternoon, it was time for the murder mystery dinner. Mark Billingham had been murdered and I was one of the suspects. Ann Cleeves, the Reader in Residence, had written it all. Me, Natasha 'NJ' Cooper, Stuart MacBride and Cath Staincliffe were all suspects. We had to go in, give our little speeches and the diners had to work out whodunnit. And it was me. Complete surprise - I genuinely didn't know. I'd been telling everyone it was Natasha. And so I was called back in to make my final speech. Apparently it was memorable. Mark said later that he thought I'd been a bit too pleased about it. I was just acting, darling.

The murderer. Evil, insane and waiting for his gin and tonic.

And then the quiz. After a little mess up about who's team I was supposed to be on, I ended up with Declan, Paul, Stella Duffy, David Simon and Laura Lippman. And we won. And no one was more surprised than me. Mark Lawson was very gracious in defeat, I have to say. We were called on stage and presented with the cup which has now gone to the States with Laura and David and will feature in an episode of Treme, David's new TV series. That's one for the DVD extras.

And here's the winning team. Not gloating at all.

Then to the bar where much downing of gin and celebrating occurred. And when David Simon started to perform 'Sit Down You're Rockin' The Boat', I knew it was time for bed.

Sunday and The Wire special event. I've never seen the hall so full. Or so hot. Laura was interviewing David and George and it was standing room only. Great hour. Could have been longer and I wouldn't have noticed. Then goodbye for another year and off home.

Cracking event. One of the best this year, I think. Lots of people I didn't get to see and the ones I did get to talk to it didn't seem like long enough. But it was good. Of course that's just my version of the festival. There are as many festivals as there are people attending them. And I'll be attending next year's. I'm taking over from Ann Cleeves as Reader in Residence.

And the meetings have started already . . .

Sunday, August 02, 2009

I know this is probably late as everyone else has scribbled about it and I doubt I've anything particularly original or inspiring to add, but here's my bit on this year's Harrogate Festival. Or, to give it its full, official title: the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival Harrogate. Bit of a mouthful and hard to swallow, I know, but then some would say the beer's like that too. (Not me, I hasten to add. I like it.)

So yeah, there we have it for another year. I was there for the whole time and I loved it. The figures will tell you that this year was the biggest and best attended and that it's now Europe's premier crime fiction festival but it what they won't tell you is just how much fun it is. And this year is no exception. In the last couple of years there's been a bit of a backlash against the festival, usually from people who haven't been invited, trotting out false figures, reporting inaccuracies and, to be honest, making up lies about it. It's exclusive. It's snobbish. Only writers that the publishers pay for can attend. The writers ignore the readers.

What bollocks.

Anyone coming along this year will have seen a hugely representative selection of crime writers mingling in the bar with readers, publishers, agents, booksellers, festival staff . . . everyone together, basically. And no egos. Everyone all talking. And the publishers don't pay to get their writers on. So with that all out of the way, what was it like?

Well, this was - for me - one of the best years yet. The 2007 festival was always my favourite but this one certainly equalled it and may have even topped it. Again, this is just my opinion, remember. I didn't want to write a kind of 'and then there was this panel and it was really interesting and then that happened and it was funny' chronological kind of thing but I might have to, I suppose, just to get the whole thing down before I forget. So here it is.

I arrived there on the Thursday, leaving behind glorious weather at home, arriving during a huge downpour into Harrogate. Checked into the Crown Hotel, the festival hotel, and then hit the ground running. Big hellos to Sharon and Erica and the rest of their team who, as always, do a sterling job to get the festival going and keep it running. Why, it felt like only days since I'd last seem them. And it was. I was up the week before doing some educational work in Ripon. Anyway, I had a couple of hours before my agent's author dinner so instead of hitting the bar I went straight into the first event. Thursdays at the festival are 'Creative Thursdays' where aspiring writers can attend talks, seminars, masterclasses about any aspect of crime fiction with actual writers, editors and agents. I was just in time for Dragon's Pen, (geddit?) where aspirant writers were given two minutes to pitch their novel to a panel of agents and editors (including mine) with the prize being a readers report. I was surprised by how many pitches were successful and wondered just how I would have fared under that kind of pressure. Badly, probably. It also brought home just how subjective the whole publishing business is - David Shelley of Little, Brown saying he wouldn't consider a book set in the diplomatic service, Australia or, indeed, Warwickshire. Something to bear in mind.

Then off to my agent's dinner. This has become something of a tradition at the festival. We have it in the hotel restaurant now for expediency's sake so we can get to the Theakston's Award straight afterwards. And of course it was great just to sit and catch up. Also admire this year's programming chair, Laura Wilson's stunning new Grace Kelly dress, hear Mo Hayder's rather alarmist take on the eventual outcome of swine flu and just see if Dreda Say Mitchell and I could come up with anything interesting to say on the panel we were doing the next day.

So then there was the awards, well presented by Mark Lawson, won by Mark Billingham for 'Death Message' - congrats for that, and on to the post awards party. Well, it was a party, what can I say? Lot's of chatting and drinking, more chatting, more drinking. I remember at one point serenading the bar with Mark Billingham and Declan Hughes at some unholy hour and the night culminated with me threatening to tie Cathi Unsworth to a chair and force her to listen to Neil Young until she liked him. She declined, needless to say. Very vociferously.

But I had to get my head together because Friday was going to be busy. Panels, interviews, book groups, etc. I had to be in my game, as we say. Apparently I'd agreed to go running at eight o'clock this morning with Claire and Gemma from my agents. I'd been very sincere when I made that promise, at half two the previous morning, but somehow it never worked out. I woke up at quarter to eight, decided to have five more minutes then eventually emerged at about tennish to find that not only had I missed not only my run but breakfast too. And Claire wasn't happy. I avoided her all day.

I managed to be up and around by lunchtime and met up with Laura Lippman and David Simon for lunch in one of Harrogate's many quaint little cafes. I know Laura but this was the first time I'd met her husband, the creator and exec producer of The Wire. And a smashing bloke. Did you know Ray Winstone was first choice for McNulty? Me neither. Great actor and all that, but how wrong would that have been?

I made my first panel at two in the afternoon. The influence of Edgar Allan Poe. Barry Forshaw was chairing, Laura L was on it, alongside Peter James, Andrew Taylor and Martin Wilson. I thought I should be there since I was going to be interviewed about Poe later than afternoon. I should have been making notes. Then off for my Front Row interview. Robyn Read, the producer, had already told me it was going to be Poe, Chandler and a couple of other things. Her and Mark Lawson were taking the opportunity at the festival to stockpile as many interviews as possible. I was there alongside Laura and Peter James and we talked about all manner of stuff for the best part of an hour. I've done some Front Row stuff before but it's only up close that you realise just how good Mark L actually is. Totally in the moment as an interviewer, picking up on anything you say. He flatters you, really. And Robyn's great - her dad was in attendance and a great crime fiction fan and it was his birthday so she was getting everyone who did an interview to sign a book for him. He spoke to me the night after. Having a great time.

Straight after the interview I was off for my panel, Music To Murder By, all about the importance of music in crime fiction. Me, Cathi U, Dreda Say Mitchell and John Harvey being corralled by Andrew Male. I'd met Andrew a few years before in Gerry's club in Soho. He was squiring his mother around as she was an afficienado of Old Soho. She's bought one of my novels, The White Room, and asked me to sign it. She then told me what a thrill it was for her to meet a real writer. Her son Andrew, the deputy editor of Mojo, looked suitably aggrieved.

So on to the panel. To be honest, I have no idea what I said. It was my turn to be in the moment, responding to questions, chatting with the others, raising or contributing to points that I thought I had something to contribute to. But no idea what I actually said. We all had to choose pieces of music too. Mine was 'Good Love' by Isaac Hayes. Because it ticks all the boxes for good music and good writing - witty, literate, intelligent and emotional. The panel went down well, I think. Certainly, judging by the response. And it was good to see that Cathi was speaking to me again. Apparently she'd gone to bed and had nightmares of being tied to a chair and forced to listen to Neil Young. I apologised. And said I still had my iPod with me if she was interested.

Then after the signing on to my next event. The Raymond Chandler Mixer. Supposed to be in the bar it was quickly moved to one of the empty function rooms when that proved unworkable. It was basically an extension of the Chandler library events I did in June and I think it went OK. Very grateful for the attendance of John Harvey too. There was also a woman sitting next to me who seemed to know as much, if not more, about Chandler than I did. She introduced herself afterwards. She was from the Chandler estate. Oh shit. Luckily she thought I did a good job. There was also a guy there who used to live in Chandler's house in Waterford, Ireland. It's incredible (or it is to me, anyway) that you think of someone like Chandler who was huge influence on me, as being somehow separate or untouchable. And the I meet people like that and he's suddenly as real as I am. He was just another writer, after all. Like all of us. Touched with genius, yes, but just another writer.

The big interview on the Friday evening was John Banville and Reginald Hill in conversation with Mark Lawson. I didn't get to see it as I was having dinner but there's been plenty written about it. Obviously controversy - and publicity - is good, and ultimately I think I agree with John Banville: there are only two kinds of books - good ones and bad ones. And it doesn't matter whether they're labeled crime, literary or what. Good or bad. That's it.

Secrets and Lies was the late night event. Mark B hosting, six others on stage telling secrets about ourselves, some of which were lies. I was crap. The audience spotted all my lies and I was nowhere near spotting anyone else's. Still it was fun. If over long and very, very hot on that stage. I was stuck to the chair at the end, my shirt soaked through.
It was midnight when that finished and I worked out I'd been going for over ten hours doing festival stuff. I was exhausted. I should have just gone to bed. But no. Instead I changed my shirt and hit the bar again. And god knows what time I went to bed.

End of part one.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

This is the funniest thing I've seen for a long time. I mean, fair enough. No one reads the Daily Mail for quality journalism and if anyone does they're a total ming mong. In fact, Lars Von Triers Antichrist, the film in question, is, if we're honest, the kind of film that no Daily Mail reader would go and see anyway. But to write a review of a film they haven't seen and have no intention of seeing is bad enough. To manage to use it to criticise not only the EU, the BBFC, this government and to concede that he doesn't blame 'our jihadist enemies' for wanting to destroy our decadent society is nothing short of comic genius. And then to confuse Dutch with Danish (it's been corrected now). This article should be used in journalism school as an example of satire at its pinnacle. If it's not satire then Christopher Hart, the writer, is a truly pathetic twat of the first order. A perfect writer for the Daily Mail then.

Here's the link: Read it. Laugh your intestines out. And read the replies. All of them. Some of them are quite sane (obviously stumbled across it by mistake and aren't regular readers) but some of them, particularly the one who thanks him for protecting the children, are priceless.

I wasn't that bothered about seeing this, to be honest. It's at the top of my list now. I was starting to get a bit apathetic about things but I've now been reminded in the best possible way that, to quote the wise Mr Lydon, anger is an energy. Thank you, Daily Mail!

Saturday, July 11, 2009

When I was chugging down the Tyne with Val McDermid a couple of months ago, we were, over a few bottles of red, putting the world to rights. Needless to say, Hazel Blears came up in the conversation. I reckoned that Blears would have been brilliant in the Nazi High Command. Val just looked at me. An explanation beckoned. Blears, I said, was the kind of person who would do well in any political administration, whether it was New Labour, Old Labour or even the Third Reich. Because her job was to be a cheerleader for that administration no matter what it was or what it stood for and she was bloody good at her job. Val saw my point.

And, if I needed even more ammunition against that dreadful woman (Blears, not Val) she was on Newsnight saying it was a writer's duty (or wordsmith's, as she patronisingly referred to us) not to offend anyone at all. Is that right, Blears? Not offend anyone? Even a squirrel-faced, twat-brained, punchable midget like yourself? There. That's better. Not that she'll be reading this. But still . . .

Which brings me to Torchwood. Or Torchwood:Children of Earth, to give it its full title. Because that's what my week seems to have consisted of or revolved round. And absolutely bloody brilliant it was too. I must confess, I've always had a soft spot for Torchwood. Even the first series when it was being loudly derided had its moments. The second series was damn good television. But this third one . . . I don't think I'll see a better piece of TV all year. To tell a story that has as its themes love and sacrifice, specifically the lengths you'd go to in the latter to protect the former, and how easy it is for a society to slip into fascism and anarchy, was brilliant. And to tell it all in an unashamedly science fiction format on prime time TV was nothing short of genius.

By the end of the week (or by the end of Thursday's episode, really) I was in tears. Either it was exceptionally moving or I'm emotionally fragile at the moment. But it was damned good stuff. The scenes in Number 10 with the cabinet deciding just which children should be sacrificed was chilling. No other word for it. Because you can imagine it happening. In fact, it already has. Records exist of a similar meeting of Nazi middle managers to decide what to do about the Jewish problem. They sat round a table discussing the most efficient and cost effective way of processing units (thats herding human beings into gas chambers to you and me) and came up with the concentration camps. Episode four of Torchwood echoed that very strongly. And yes, there was a Hazel Blears figure right in the middle of it, cheerleading. In fact, her character's rationalisation of the whole thing, of which children to sacrifice and why was brilliant, excruciating drama. And I wanted to punch her in the face.

But there was so much more to commend it. Peter Capaldi was, as always, stunning. As was Nicholas Farrell. And the regular Torchwood team were, possibly for the last time, wonderful. Especially Eve Myles who can do no wrong.

Anyway, if anyone's reading this I'm sorry for banging on about it. It's nothing to do with crime fiction or any of the stuff I usually bleat on about but it's not often I see a piece of drama - in any format, TV, theatre, cinema, whatever - that moves me the way this has done. It's a Quatermass for the 21st Century, it's serious political issues delivered in a popular format, it's proper big sci-fi, it's drama that maps out the deficiencies and wonder of the human heart, it's brilliant. I can't praise it enough and I hope they bring it back.

But Russell T Davis has moved on now. Wonder if they want a new writer for it . . .

Monday, June 29, 2009

Well I said I'd be putting a new post on a week or so after the last one. But time, as any Doctor Who fan will tell you, is a wibbly wobbly, timey-wimey thing. So of course it's nearly two months.

Still, I'm here now. Here's all the things I meant to blog about:

My trip down the Tyne with Val McDermid. South Tyneside and North Tynside libraries wanted to do a joint event but couldn't think of a venue - hence a boat on the Tyne, right in the middle. And what a grand day it was too. I couldn't have wished for better company but I could have wished for a better microphone - the one I had would have made Norman Collier sound good. Still, great fun. And thank you to all those who took the time to come along. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

And while I was there I managed to spend a great afternoon with Ray Banks, who is not only one of the finest crime writers this country has, but also a truly great bloke. I hope we have many more such afternoons. And evenings. And days.

I've also been to Harrogate. This was a little warm up for the Festival in July as I went round lots of libraries in North Yorkshire giving talks and hosting Q & A sessions on Raymond Chandler's The Big Sleep. And my stuff, of course. Again, great fun and I hope I didn't bore Erica, the Festival Maven, too much as we sped round in her Mini, trying to think up awful puns.

I'm now back home and working on my new book. As I always am. But more importantly, I've just been to see one of the best gigs in my life. Neil Young at Hyde Park. Incredible. Like witnessing a huge sonic attack aimed directly at your emotions by Mount Rushmore. Fantastic. I've seen a few good gigs in my time (Flaming Lips, David Byrne, Elvis Costello when he still had the Attractions) but this one may have topped them all. Stunning. I was cheering, laughing, crying . . . and so was everyone around me. Yes, he did guitar solos that ended up as deconstructional avant garde composition and sometimes his songs were so long they crossed several time zones but he also did Cinnamon Girl and Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere and made them sound like they had been written last week and not forty years ago. And a stunning version of Rockin' In The Free World. And Unknown Legend. And Needle And The Damage Done. And loads more . . . And when Paul McCartney came to join him onstage for an encore of Day In The Life . . . well, I've never been a fan of his before and I may not be in the future, but that was something special. Really special.

And Michael Jackson died. Can't say much about that. His music never really meant anything to me. I bought Thriller to see what all the fuss was about and I don't think I even played it all the way through. Boring and soulless. May as well have been listening to Queen or Phil Collins. But people keep telling me he was a genius so I have to believe it. Anyway, as my wife says, you just had to look at him to see he would never make old bones. But I'm sure it won't be long before the Church Of Saint Michael Jackson is founded. People will see him in visions. They'll pray to him for guidance and he'll speak to them personally. And if they're really lucky, he'll interfere with their kids. Actually, let's think about that - asexual deity who suffered for being misunderstood, venerated mother and angry, vengeful father, not to mention child abuse . . . isn't that the Catholic Church?

Oh well, I'm off. I've got a book to write, a dog to walk and lots of Neil Young to listen to. Again.

And just in case you're interested - this week I've been reading House Dick by E Howard Hunt. Another lost gem from the fantastic Hard Case Crime. And listening to Neil Young. Did I mention that?