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Remembrance

Monday, April 7, 2014 - 17:24
 Just back from a research trip to Northern Germany.  The book is called Finisterre.  In essence it’s an off-piste excursion into the world of a U-boat Kapitan called Stefan Portish, and a renegade FBI agent – Hector Gomez.  Portisch and Gomez do their fictional business on separate sides of the Atlantic during the closing months of the Second World War, each tugging at separate ends of what turns out to be the same plot-line.  The idea came to me when Lin and I were wandering around Northern Spain in our camper.  One sunny afternoon in an...

Fifty Years On

Wednesday, February 19, 2014 - 12:33
  Fifty Years On Half a lifetime ago, back in my university days, I was debating how to take maximum advantage of the long summer vacations.  Three months was a long time.  The world was at my feet.  Where should I go?The problem, of course, was money.  Like every other student, I was skint.  A decent stretch of bar work would give me enough to get by for maybe a month but after that I’d be sleeping on the beach.  Then I happened on an ad for holiday contracts in Israel.  Sign up for six weeks apple-picking in a kibbutz and they’d...

Rockbusters

Monday, February 17, 2014 - 11:01
Here’s a thing.  It’s Sunday morning and sunshine invites us back on the water.  The wind has disappeared.  The last storm has tossed our boats around in the compound, damaging one of them,  but the beamy Safran is still intact.  We rig it up, stow the coffee and fruit cake, and head for the beach.The tide is high and last week’s storms haven’t quite finished with us.  Waves curl and break.  We need to plan this launch.Knee-deep in the surf, we keep tripping over mystery obstacles. Storm-tossed rocks.  Half-digested bits of...

Memento Mori

Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 19:03
Memento MoriWe live within sight of the sea.  Indeed, our view of the sea happily fills every window at the front of the house.  We also row twice a week on that same stretch of the ocean: beyond Dawlish and back, to Budleigh and back, or upriver when the gods of the deep are in a stroppy mood.  So we kid ourselves we’re on handshake terms with this stretch of coastline.  How wrong we were.Nothing could have prepared us for the last week or so.  First  the traffic jam of weather systems emerging from the storm nursery off Nova Scotia, then thundering east,...

Ecstasy

Thursday, February 6, 2014 - 10:08
I’ve just finished Olivia Laing’s excellent The Trip to Echo Spring, rightly shortlisted for last year’s Costa Biography Award.  It’s a beautifully written exploration of the swampy badlands between creative endeavour and the crutch some writers use to make it to the end of their journey.  Ms Laing takes the train and a couple of flights to criss-cross the US and try and figure out what happened inside the brains (and livers) of Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Tennessee Williams, John Cheever, Raymond Carver and poet John Berryman.  The travel...

The "M" Word

Wednesday, February 5, 2014 - 12:29
Writing is a strange game.  A contractual hiccough delayed the start of this year’s book until 2ndJanuary.  The Killing Stone will be the third in the D/S Jimmy Suttle series, and explores the onset – and the consequences – of madness.  This happens to be a hot topic just now, not least because the safety net we fondly believe to be in place is, to be polite, fraying.  There are holes through which potentially dangerous folk can easily slip.  Beneath lies the murderous netherworld inhabited by the seriously deranged with untold consequences for the...

Strange Stuff

Saturday, January 11, 2014 - 15:02
Writing can be a odd business.  You spend a sizeable chunk of the working day trying to conjure tension and credibility from characters you’ve hauled from the depths of your imagination.  You arrange them in interesting patterns, push them in this direction or that, and hope to God that the fictional chemistry works.  Then you check the e-mail or answer the phone, and begin to wonder about that strange no-man’s-land between reality and make-believe. The phone call first. It came from a woman called Peggy Harrison.  She’s the speaker secretary of a...

The Launch Pad

Saturday, November 23, 2013 - 17:37
Much as I hate round robins, or anything resembling the celebration of good news, I can’t resist a reflection or two on the launch of Touching Distance, a week rich in laughter, sales, and the glad company of strangers. Monday took me to a pub on the outskirts of Sidmouth for the weekly meeting of the Sid Valley Rotary Club.  These guys come from various corners of deepest East Devon, have busy busy lives, yet still find the time to put their collective energies at the service of the community.  Last weekend saw them mount a successful picket of the local branch of...

Cheating Pneumonia

Wednesday, November 20, 2013 - 17:51
You couldn’t invent last night.  The second gig in a super-busy launch week (Touching Distance…coming to a book shop near you) took me to Taunton School, an hour down the motorway.  This turned out to be the chilly climax of a couple of weeks of events that grace the Taunton Literary Festival, brainchild of indomitable independent bookseller Lionel Ward. Already, by the time I hit the motorway, the signs weren’t good: creamy full moon in a cloudless sky, gritter warnings on the overhead gantries, plus an alarming two degrees C registering on the...

The Perfect Christmas Pressie

Sunday, October 27, 2013 - 17:40
They say that luck runs in families.  I’m not sure about that except that we’re blessed with three exceptional boys, now men, all of whom have saved up the real surprises for their mid-life years.  Woodie has abandoned the comforts of Western capitalism for a berth in Bangkok.  He has a seventeenth floor view of the city, an empty pool to keep him fit, rock-bottom rent, and a delightful Thai girlfriend.  After longish spells in the UK and Sydney, this finally feels like real life. Jack has weathered nearly a decade at the sharpest end of mental health...

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