I had an email from my Swedish editor this morning to say that Thomas H Cook was announced as winner of the Martin Beck prize at the weekend. Congratulations to him. Heís a fantastic writer and itís well deserved.
Since my last entry Iíve set up meetings with two people to discuss archaeological digs. Yesterday I had a fascinating couple of hours with Dr Cathy Batt at Bradford University. The university is involved in the Shetland work at Scatness and Unst, so she understands just what I need to know. Cathy is an archaeological scientist, a physicist by training, who specialises in dating finds. She introduced me to colleagues in different fields and talking to the manager of the Scatness site it occurred to me that the role she plays is similar to that of a crime scene manager. Itís all about meticulous recording and setting objects in context.
On Friday I'm meeting Helen, a local archaeologist, and from her I hope to get more information about the hands-on experience of a dig.
I heard last week that RAVEN BLACK has been short listed for the Martin Beck award: the Swedish equivalent of the Duncan Lawrie translation dagger. Of course Iím delighted. I love Scandinavian crime fiction Ė just finished Jo Nesboís REDBREAST, a moody, gripping mainstream thriller with the sort of emotional depth you donít expect in a book that pacy. Itís brilliantly translated too. For the Martin Beck Iím up against two of my heroes, Leif Davidsen and Arlandur Indridason. Itís great just to be in the same list as them.
Iím celebrating the end of the first draft of the Shetland spring book too. Because I donít plan a book in advance, the first draft is nowhere near the completed novel. Itís a framework on which I can hang the details that will bring the place and the people alive. I donít do much advance research either; Iím more interested in the story than in the facts when I start writing. Now I know where the gaps are. I need to get more info on what itís like to have a difficult labour (that should be easy because my daughter is a student midwife), on killing a pig (I hope Jon whoís agriculture officer for Shetland can help with that, or my friend Ingirid who told me what a horrible job it is) and I need to know what itís like to take part in an archaeological dig.
Archaeology plays an important role in Shetland and in the third Perez book, but Iíve picked up everything I know about it from occasional episodes of TIME TEAM on the telly. Val Turner, Shetlandís archaeologist has been very helpful, but as sheís based in Lerwick and I live in the North of England, a regular chat is a bit tricky. So a serendipitous meeting at a drinks reception a few weeks ago is another cause for celebration. The party was at the Forensic Soil Conference in Edinburgh. It was mostly for scientists, but some crime writers had been invited along to the dinner too. I was there with my good friend Margaret Murphy, a scientist by training, who does proper research for her fine novels. As soon as we walked into the venue we met two young and scarily bright delegates.
One of the women, Anna Williams, is a forensic anthropologist and before weíd even sat down to eat sheíd answered a few of my questions about old bones. Since then sheís been even more helpful Ė I bet she regrets handing over her card!
Iím meeting Margaret Murphy tomorrow. Iím going to be guest speaker on the crime writing course sheís running at the Hurst Arvon Centre in Shropshire Ė another gig she set up for me. I definitely owe her a drinkÖ
Meeting readers - or not
Since the last diary entry Iíve been travelling around the north of England, meeting readers in libraries and bookshops. A mixed experience. Itís hard to work out why some gigs are brilliant Ė great audience and feedback, good sales Ė and others turn into a total nightmare.
Most library events are good. Highlights from the last month were the Bispham reading group in Blackpool, where I received a great welcome and cake, Brought to Book 2 in South Shields where we filled the library theatre (120 people) and the actors really entered into the spirit of the occasion and Scene of Crime in Whitley Bay, where I caught up with some old friends. The last two events benefited hugely from the presence of ex-CSI Helen Pepper. She has the audience laughing after a couple of minutes, but everyone I know would like her to investigate a crime in their home.
The most bizarre gig of the month took place in a town in the north-west. Four Murder Squad members turned up to an event organised by the local bookshop. Iím not sure exactly where we were Ė a working manís club perhaps, or a community centre. There was red wallpaper, a bar, and in the room behind us a lot of elderly people were line dancing. I had a fragile grip on reality anyway because Iíd been ill the night before and had spent four hours in an over-crowded train. We sat with the bookseller waiting for an audience. Every time the door opened, we smiled expectantly, and another couple walked through to join the dancing. No one turned up to hear us speak! Not one person!