THOUGHTS AS THE SUN RISES OVER MELBOURNE...
As I have commented before, this writing business is a strange one. Seems you spend half your life alone, sat in some room somewhere, hammering away at the keyboard creating your latest work, and the other half of the year in new and far-flung places explaining yourself to strangers.
This morning, a little after 6.30 am, I am in Melbourne. I arrived sometime yesterday morning – early, as far as I recall – after a series of three eight-hour flights, one from Birmingham to Dubai, the second from Dubai to Singapore, the last from Singapore to here. Upon arrival in Melbourne I was given a lift along with an Australian author and her husband. He is a Mexican research scientist. She has just published her first novel in Australia. Lovely people. And the driver was a volunteer for the Melbourne Writers’ Festival, and she’d been up since God knows what hour that morning, ferrying authors from the airport to their respective hotels.
So I was deposited at the Sofitel in Melbourne, a five-star hotel, one of those plush hotel rooms where they seem to have gone to the most extraordinary trouble to hide the light switches. There are a dozen lamps, and you spend twenty minutes trying to figure out how they illuminate. Some you have to clap your hands. Some you have to approach tentatively and then they light up suddenly like they want it to be a surprise. Some just have switches that are in corners too awkward to reach with normal human arms.
But I am ensconced. I unpack. I have eleven hours ahead of me before I meet my publicist. He’s flying in from Sydney. I won’t sleep. I know that much. I have already been up for twenty four hours as I can never sleep on planes. So I drink some wine, I watch French gangster movies (‘Mesrine’ Parts one and Two – excellent!), I consider reading but I don’t feel like it. I’ll make it through the day, go to dinner, crawl back to my hotel room, and then I will sleep the sleep of kings.
Except I don’t. I lie awake all night unable to find any comfort whatsoever. There is a leaflet by the bed. It explains to me that I have been provided with a Mybed, part of a unique sleep comfort service. With the Mybed comes a selection of five pillows, respectively a ‘Therapeutic Pillow’, a ‘Foam Pillow’, a ‘Tontine Latex Pillow’, a ‘Posture Support ‘V’ Pillow’, and a ‘Feather Pillow’. Apparently there is a ‘Housekeeping Team’ who will assist me to select a pillow. The Team is available on a twenty-four hour basis. I consider calling them. They will appear in midnight blue boiler suits, rather like a CSI Unit. They will have headsets, clipboards, they will stand outside my room , their backs against the wall waiting for the ‘all-clear’, and then they will descend – efficient, clinical, businesslike. It will be ‘Def-Con 5’ and they will count off ‘T minus 45, T minus 44...’ until the right pillow has been isolated for my needs.
I decide not to call them. I know I’ll go to sleep soon.
But I don’t.
I decide to get up and write a blog entry. I haven’t done this for a while. I decided, some while ago, that I would post a blog entry at least once a month every month. Then someone started responding to my blogs with nothing more than links to dodgy Japanese porn sites. That annoyed me. Combined with the staggering lack of responses from anyone else, I thought ‘To hell with it...’ and posted on facebook instead. That precipitated loads of responses, and I was suitably reassured. However, I do want to maintain a blog, and in my current state of mind – knowing I should have slept at some point during the last 72 or 96 hours, slightly irritable (as evidenced by the somewhat sarcastic tone of this missive) – I thought I should make the effort.
So here we are. The start of a long tour. I have a week in Australia, a week in New Zealand, a couple of days at home, then a residency for two days in Birmingham, and then out to Paris for a few days, and then home again, and then Hanley, and then back to the south of France, and then a residency in Oxford, and then a week in San Francisco, and onwards to Canada for a week or so, and then home. Aside from one further trip to France and Switzerland for a week or so, and then a week in Italy in December, that is me done on the touring for this year. Qatar was cancelled. That’ll happen next year now.
It doesn’t seem like a lot of travelling when you put it down on paper, but it has begun to feel like a lot. I have already done France twice, Dubai, Holland and New York. I do enjoy it, don’t get me wrong, and – as is always the case when you launch a new book – there is a rush of excitement, a sense of anticipation, a hope that people will enjoy it. And I really do hope that you enjoy it.
‘Saints of New York’ has already garnered a couple of great reviews, one from crimesquad.com in the UK, the second from the Sydney Morning Herald, but it is the real readers that concern me, the ones who read ‘A Quiet Belief In Angels’, the ones who voted for ‘A Simple Act of Violence’ for the Theakstons, the ones who e-mail me about ‘The Anniversary Man’. Those are the guys and gals that matter to me.
So we shall wait and see. I will be off soon, out to meet my publicist and start the first day of interviews and events.
I may yet call The Housekeeping Team to make sure I sleep tonight. I wonder if the Team Leader will be Gil Grissom or Doctor Langston. Hopefully Gil; he seems like the kind of guy with whom I could share a bottle of Jack and listen to forensic war stories until I drift off.
Until we speak again, best wishes, as always,