THE DEVIL'S MOON
THE FOURTH BRIGHTON NOVEL
Although the Brighton trilogy is complete in itself, my publisher and I were interested in taking some of the main characters further.
In consequence, I've been commissioned to write two more Brighton novels. The first of these, THE DEVIL'S MOON, is almost finished. I'm planning to do a Billingham - which is to say deliver this next novel to my publisher on the day the third part of the trilogy is published. Mr Billingham has a wonderful work ethic which means that he is always one book ahead of the publisher's publication schedule.
CATE BLANCHETT in BIG & SMALL
BARBICAN CENTRE, LONDON, APRIL/MAY
I'm not much of a theatre-goer (I'm more of a movie-buff) but I enjoyed this three hour surreal show at the Barbican - with a couple of reservations. CATE BLANCHETT, on stage pretty much all the time, was phenomenal - big, small, nuanced, utterly charismatic. I'm guessing most of the audience were there to see A Movie Star so she (presumably deliberately) undercut that right at the start by fidgeting with her knickers and spraying deodorant under her arm in character.
I bought her as a character all the way through - and it was a l-o-n-g way. The play could have been an hour shorter - although the movie version from a decade ago was an hour longer.
What I didn't understand was that Blanchett spent so much time establishing herself as the character not The Movie Star, then the production wrecked it by putting in a glib line when another character is persuading her character to try multivitamins. The line was "Gwyneth takes them." Some of the audience, suddenly feeling complicit with the movie star's world, laughed. The rest, presumably, like me, thought this was about the actress Cate Blanchett not about the character she was playing.
The other thing that blew it for me was the fact that most of the actors were Australian. It's a German play. They are performing in Britain. There was actually very little that was German about the play - references to the war and post-war coping obviously but not much. Why didn't they change the German references to Australian. Australians playing Germans in Birtain took me out of the play too. Back to the cinema for me...
A NICE TOUCH - FILM NOIR AND JAZZ
CHELTENHAM JAZZ FESTIVAL, 5 MAY 2012
A NICE TOUCH is a 12 minute short made by debut director Dick Jones, set in 1953 and starring DOUGRAY SCOTT as a sociopathic actor who, by telephone, persuades his long-distance lover to murder her husband. He is also having an affair with PALOMA FAITH, his co-star in an "I Love Lucy" style TV show. Yes, all that in 12 minutes.
The score is by GUY BARKER, trumpeter and composer, who arranged the jazz score for Anthony Minghella's The Talented Mr Ripley.
I was at Cheltenham Jazz Festival to orchestrate (see what I did there?) a panel discussion of the short after its screening. In addition to Jones, Faith and Barker the panel had neuroscientist Benedetto De Martino who was there to talk about the decision-making in the movie. (The event was sponsored by the wonderful Wellcome Trust - check out their gallery and library if you're ever in London near Euston.)
The event had a few hiccups: Paloma and Guy were keen to plug their next gig at the Festival (though they didn't need to - it was already selling out). Paloma was keen to plug another short film a friend of hers had made which might or might not be screened at the Festival. And we were all supposed to wear headphones because the event was being filmed - or maybe not for that reason because that definitely made the panel non-photogenic. Despite all that the four very different panellists were all good value and insightful about a whole range of stuff. Find the short if you can - it's worth a watch.
COLIN DEXTER & OTHER CRIMINAL MINDS
CHIPPING NORTON LITERARY FESTIVAL
My day at the inaugural Chipping Norton Literary was a lot of fun. I chaired MARK BILLINGHAM, SOPHIE HANNAH, DAN WADDELL AND S J BOLTON mid-Sunday morning and had a great time. They were all on good form but I don't think I'd realised before quite how off-the-wall funny SOPHIE HANNAH could be.
I posted a photo of the rest of us equal parts amused/bewildered by one of her comments on a blog at www.shots.co.uk
I then sat beside COLIN DEXTER on stage whilst he charmed and amused the audience for an hour.
He liked me asking him the odd question but used them as an excuse to talk about whatever he felt like. I minded not a whit - I've been lucky enough to interview him on several occasions and knew what to expect. It's just a treat to watch him work.
OPEN WEAVE EXHIBITION, BURNLEY
26-29 APRIL 2012
It seems a shame this wonderful exhibition is only on for four days. Open Weave is an exhibition in the crumbling, disused Victoria Mill by the canal in Burnley (my home town). It's a celebration of The Weaver's Triangle - a not-quite-triangular locus of canal and mills that during Burnley's high cotton days was the source of all wealth in the town. These days, a lot is in disrepair but the canal towpath is a great walk and the Inn On The Wharf pub, whilst a bit shabby, has a great view along the canal and its interior - which was part of a warehouse - is wonderfully evocative.
Anyways, the reason I mention it is because the exhibition celebrates the area (did I say that?) and I'm in it. The middle section of my fifth novel, FOILED AGAIN, is set there and a short quote features in the exhibition. Can't wait.
SCARBOROUGH BOOK FESTIVAL
12-14 APRIL 2012
What a buzz the festival was, despite the hailstones. PHILIP EADE made me more interested than I could have imagined being in the YOUNG PRINCE PHILIP on Thursday. Chums VAL MCDERMID, ANN CLEEVES and S.J.BOLTON invited me to dinner, to be joined by PETER JAMES and the wonderful CYNTHIA HARROD-EAGLES. Great evening. ANDY KERSHAW was a force of nature (again - after Folkestone) the next day. Can't help but like the guy and be impressed by his achievements but, goodness, he's hard to handle on stage.
JOAN BAKEWELL was terrific though I got bit confused when she was talking with the audience about sex in the Sixties with the advent of the Pill and avoiding getting pregnant and she and they started talking about using curtain rings. They meant wearing them to be able to get the Pill from the doctor but I thought...well, never mind.
My QUIZ that night was fun - the library team won - genuinely - they didn't know the questions beforehand because, ahem, I didn't until the last minute.
I wallowed in history on the Sunday - the sinking of the Titanic (Frances WIlson was great) and Downton Abbey (ditto).
And then a middle of the night rush down to London for the Book Fair.
PROMENADE DU CRIME
Pleased to hear that PROMENADE DU CRIME, the French edition of CITY OF DREADFUL NIGHT, is already causing something of a buzz. In the US and the UK some readers didn't quite get some of the unresolved issues at the end of book one of a trilogy. So far, the French totally get it.
PROMENADE DU CRIME
MARCH 2012 - French edition of City of Dreadful Night
Just heard from my distinguished French translator, JEAN-RENE DASTUGUE, that the French edition of CITY OF DREADFUL NIGHT, the first of the Brighton trilogy, goes to the printers on 29 February. The title is PROMENADE DU CRIME, which has a certain logic. I'll be in France doing various promotional things once I've worked on my Lancashire/French accent a bit.
14-16 SEPTEMBER 2012
My Scottish crime-writing friends have kept me up-to-date on plans to launch the first Scottish crime-fiction festival. Now, it's official, taking place in September in Stirling. The programme will be revealed on 17 May at the Stirling Smith Museum and Art Gallery. In the meantime. check out the website on www.bloodyscotland.com
RIP REGINALD HILL
Very sorry to hear that warm and witty man, Reginald Hill, has died of a brain tumour, at the age of 75. Above is the link to the obituary I did for the Independent .
I didn't know him well but I knew him a bit. I first met Reg in 1993 when I was doing a feature on him for the Indie. I liked him a lot: intelligent, acute, friendly and very, very funny. At the time Yorkshire Television were filming the first Dalziel and Pascoe adaptation as a star vehicle for dire comics Hale and Pace. I asked him about it and saw this wonderful disjunction between the diplomatic words coming out of his mouth and the expression on his face.
I got in touch a couple of years later when I was looking for preview quotes for my first comic crime novel, No Laughing Matter. He read the novel. I’m not sure he really liked it but he was nice enough to give me a quote.
He also sent me a postcard referring to an incident in the book in which a family cat comes out the loser in an encounter with a python. He pointed out that crime readers will forgive any violence perpetrated on humans but you mess with their pets at your peril. He signed the card with a formulation I’d never seen before – Yours Aye - although since I’ve seen it often in communications with Scottish writers.
I saw him give an uproariously funny Toastmaster speech at a crime convention in Manchester. RUTH RENDELL was another guest of honour. He teased her affectionately but she was NOT amused. In my limited experience of her she is not a barrel of laughs. She glowered as he made his light jokes but I suspect he quite enjoyed her discomfort because a po-face was not something he could identify with.
Reg seemed to love life. He and his wife, Pat, were keen ballroom dancers and I can imagine him being deft and light on his feet - he was a lean, trim man.
It’s a few years since I last saw him – we did an event together one balmy evening in Edinburgh and after had a pleasant couple of beers and a chat sitting outside one of the side-alley pubs. He was peeved about the TV production company wanting to get rid of the characters Ellie and Sgt Wield from the series. "So I wrote the last book from Ellie's point of view," he said with a big grin on his face.
Reg, RIP. Yours Aye.