Trains and boats and planes
Since the last diary entry I'm amazed at how much has happened. First there was the Read Regional announcement as part of the Hexham Book Festival. Read Regional is a scheme that celebrates writing in the North East and I was proud to be one of the chosen authors along with seven other novelists, poets and short story writers. It was fun to get the first reaction to VERA at a Read Regional event in a delightful Hexham art gallery - and to meet a reader with the same name as one of my suspects...
Then it was off to Shetland on the overnight ferry. I was heading to the islands to research the new Perez book and to introduce Andy Belshaw, the Pan Macmillan sales manager, to some of my favourite librarians and to the organizers of Wordplay, the Shetland Book Festival. We're hoping to bring more authors to the islands and I thought Andy needed to see for himself the passion Shetlanders have for reading and writing.
In Shetland I stayed with my great friends Ingirid and Jim in Brae and had my first trip out on Jim's boat. He's retired as harbour master at Sullom Voe and has recently set up a charter business. He's a great seaman. If you're heading north and you fancy a day's fishing or would like to see Shetland wildlife from the water, then get in touch with him at Shetland Marine Charters. The trip even includes some of Ingirid's homemade bannocks - and she's the best cook I know.
I flew south because I only had one night at home before getting the train to CrimeFest in Bristol. CrimeFest is a very relaxed and friendly festival, I think. Not as intimidating as the big US conventions or as adrenaline-fuelled as Harrogate, it's a chance to catch up with old friends. Paul Rutman was there to talk about the adaptation of VERA and again I had the opportunity to discuss the art of translation - this year with agent Isobel Dixon, editor Nick Sayers, the Independent's Boyd Tonkin and thriller writer Deon Meyer. On Friday night I was honoured to announce the shortlist of the International Dagger at the CWA reception. This is my last year as chair of judges and I'd like to thank Karen Meek, Ruth Morse and John Murray-Browne for their conscientious and detailed consideration of the submitted titles. And for making my role so easy.
After Bristol, there were a couple of free days at home to catch up with my family, then I was on the road again - this time just in the north east of England for a series of informal signings in W H Smith's. I'm grateful to Peter Day for acting as chauffeur in Northumberland and to his managers and staff who made me feel so welcome. And to the readers who came out to chat.
Now I have a two weeks to catch my breath (and write a few thousand words) before I'm away again. Next stop Nantwich and Oswestry. I look forward to seeing you there.
VERA, the moment of truth
We've been waiting for a transmission date for VERA for so long now that I can hardly believe that it'll be happening tonight. I'd been hoping for violent storms or freezing drizzle to keep people at home in front of their televisions and I'm probably one of the few people to wake up disappointed by a sunny bank holiday!
Since the transmission date was announced ten days ago Brenda and David have been tireless in promoting the series. From Paul O'Grady to Daybreak and Terry Wogan to Radio 4's Front Row, they've been talking about the show to the media. They obviously have a personal interest in VERA doing well, but I think that it's more than that. From the beginning, everyone involved in the project has been committed to the characters, the stories and more especially to the region where it's set. We all hope that ITV will commission another series to develop the relationships between the central figures and to explore new storylines. The team wants to be back in Northumberland in the summer, filming this fatastic part of the country and showing it to the world.
It was appropriate then that the publicity push ended with a screening at the beautiful Tyneside Cinema in Newcastle. I'd been expecting a small press launch - something similar was held in London a month ago. In fact, the event organised by Northern Film and Media, was a fantastic affair. We filled the big auditorium, the press was out in force and Brenda, David and Elaine Collins, who produced the final three episodes, made the trek up from London. There was a huge cheer as the stars entered the stage for a brief discussion chaired by Michael Chaplin (famous in his own right as a writer and producer of popular television). Brenda and David went into the circle for the start of the screening to gauge the audience reaction and came out satisfied.
So now there's nothing more that we can do. The previews have been good and the show has been well trailed. We just have to wait for the the ratings. If you like a traditional detective story, with interesting and original characters, brilliant acting (and a leading man with Hollywood good looks), then do tune in this evening. Sunday 8.00pm-10pm ITV1. And if you miss it tonight, watch it next week. Each episode forms its own story and the series just gets better over the four weeks.