IF I HAD TEN DAYS IN A WEEK AND SEVEN WEEKS IN A MONTH, THERE'D STILL BE TOO LITTLE TIME...
Seems merely a few days since I last posted a blog, and with my determination to write at least once a month, I am finding myself having to sit down and just do it amidst all the other things that have to be done ‘yesterday, if not the day before…’. Such is the nature of things at the moment.
Well, since we last spoke I have been to Dubai. Dubai was remarkable. The Emirates International Literary Festival held right there in Festival City. A great hotel, the most amazing events, sharing events with the likes of Mark Billingham, Jeffrey Deaver, and my great friend Paul Blezard. Greg and Kate Mosse were there as well, and though we speak often and see one another as frequently as we can, it’s always a real pleasure to spend some time with them. One of the highlights for me was a trip with Mark out to the Indian High School. This is the largest school in the Gulf, catering for over nine thousand students. We were met by several of the teachers and governors, and the lady who had organised the event began by explaining that the IHS exam period had just ended, and thus the vast majority of students were not in school. ‘Therefore,’ she went on to say, ‘I have to apologise sincerely as we only have four hundred and fifty students for you to talk to.’ Mark and I – used to talking to thirty or forty students in an English school - were suitably impressed. ‘Okay,’ we said. ‘Four hundred and fifty is just fine’. And thus we were escorted through to the main hall, and there – in an arena that could seat over two and a half thousand people – we were greeted with a standing ovation from four hundred and fifty students and about a hundred parents and teachers, presented with bouquets, and introduced by the organiser of the event while a slide show of our book covers was played on a vast screen behind the stage.
We spoke for an hour or so, we answered questions provided by the students, and – as I have always maintained – children invariably ask questions that are so much more demanding than adults. Each child, when presented with the roving microphone, began the question with ‘Good morning Sir, and thank you for your kind attendance here…’ or something of that nature. Quite, quite remarkable. The children were happy. They wanted to learn. They wanted to know everything we could tell them about reading and writing and travelling, and who we were and what we did, and how our days began and ended. It was an enlightening and sobering experience. The largest school in the Gulf. Nine thousand, two hundred students. No drugs, no crime, no bullying…nothing but a vigorous and enthusiastic desire to learn.
At the end of the event, after having signed books for an hour or more, I was presented with a drawing, executed by the Head of the Art Department himself. It was a picture of me on the stage, beautifully done, and at the bottom it read, ‘Token of love from students and staff of IHS – DXB’, and then signed and dated by the artist. I am having it framed for my study wall.
Aside from this wonderful experience, there was the desert trip, organised by Emirates, the falconry exhibition, the camel rides, the Sufi dancers at a Bedouin encampment where we ate the most remarkable food, the wonderful hospitality of Isobel, Vivienne, Georgina and Maryann – the organisers and administrators of the festival itself, and on the final evening we were all driven out in buses to the home of Maurice Flanagan, Executive Vice-Chairman of the Emirates Group, and here – in the stunning surroundings of his garden – he hosted a ‘Thank you’ dinner for all the authors who had attended the festival. Here I shared some time with Jacqueline Wilson, Roger McGough, Martin Amis, Mark Billingham, Jeffrey Deaver, Kate Mosse, Kate Adie, Joe Abercrombie, Tim Butcher, Garth Nix, Alexander McCall Smith, Gervase Phinn, Michelle Paver, Darren Shan, Francis Wheen, Yann Martel and a host of other world-renowned and celebrated authors, biographers, playwrights, poets and social commentators.
It was a truly remarkable event, and one I will remember for the rest of my life.
And then I came home! I was home for a few days, and then I had to fly out to Amsterdam for a couple of days. The first book published by De Fontein in Holland (‘A Quiet Belief In Angels’) was successful, voted ‘Best Thriller of 2009’ by one of their leading newspapers, Volksrant. Now they have just published ‘A Quiet Vendetta’ and this is also selling well. Amsterdam is a beautiful city, similarly old and charming in many places – much like Paris, but with canals. I arrived at about 11.00am on the first morning, did half a dozen newspaper and magazine interviews in the Hotel Ambassade (renowned for its hospitality for authors, and possessive of a hotel library in which there is a signed copy of one book by every author that has ever stayed there…quite a sight to behold!), and then in the evening there was a celebratory dinner in one of Amsterdam’s finest Italian restaurants (‘a ‘Vendetta’ themed dinner, you see…how could we have eaten anything but Italian food?), and here I spent a couple of hours in the company of the wonderful people from De Fontein, the Dutch publisher, and some of the key sellers and buyers in the book industry. I have to say a huge thank you to Susan, Catrien and Genevieve for organising everything, and for making the brief trip to Holland so enjoyable and productive. The following day there were more interviews, more photographers, and then a flight home in the late afternoon.
I have now posted many of the events I will be doing later in the year on the website calendar. There are three trips to France – St. Malo, Villeneuve lez Avignon and Montpellier. I will be doing Swanwick for four days, also the Lincoln Book Festival, and though I’m not doing any panels at Harrogate I will be there regardless. I am out to New York in July, and I’ll be travelling to Connecticut and Massachusetts as far as I know. San Francisco is in October, but I have just agreed to do the Melbourne Literary Festival in September, and then a further week of touring in Australia. This has not been confirmed solidly, but it looks likely. There is also a strong possibility of a Canadian tour before the year is out, and as soon as I have any more details I’ll get them posted on the site. Additionally, I will be in Derby, Steyning, Hampton in Middlesex, Lichfield and Lord knows where else.
On the music front, my bass player and I have met a couple of times, and we keep trying to nail the drummer down to the punishing rehearsal schedule we intend to maintain. But, as I always say, ‘You gotta have a big heart and a strong backbone to play with kids like us’. I’ll keep you posted on that front as well.
As far as new books are concerned, we have finally found the right image for the cover of ‘Saints of New York’ and we are releasing that on September 15th. ‘Bad Signs’ is done, and will be out in June 2011. I am currently writing the book for 2012, untitled as yet, and beyond that I have news that this book will be the first of a further four that I have now been contracted to write. Therefore, there will be books for 2012, 2013, 2014 and 2015. Great news. I am toying with the idea of writing the last three as a trilogy. A vast crime epic spanning three generations of the same family perhaps. We shall see. That is quite a way away, and I have no pressure to decide at the moment. If nothing else, I have a tendency to change my mind rather quickly about what I shall write next!
So there we have it. A brief synopsis of where I have been and what I have been doing. I really did intend to post every week, but it just doesn’t happen, and then we reach the end of the month and I have to try and cram everything into one blog.
Regardless, it has been a busy month, and the way the rest of the year is looking, well I think it’s going to get busier. Oh, and ‘Vendetta’ was shortlisted for the Le Point European Crime Novel of the Year, and it came second! Seems always to be the way of things, n’est ce pas?
Until we speak again, all my very best wishes, and stay in touch through the website, okay?