Many people believe they have a novel inside them, but somehow never quite get round to writing it. Thinking about it can be intimidating. Writing a novel is a huge undertaking, and involves not only imagination in developing good characters and story-lines, but also hard work over an extended period of time in actually writing the book. It is, however, also an incredibly rewarding experience on many levels, and if you believe you have a book inside you, it is worthwhile trying to get it out. When I spoke at the inaugural Saddleworth Literary Festival earlier this month (see earlier post) I was asked to give a workshop for aspiring authors. It was the first time I had done this, and although I was initially nervous about the prospect, I found the workshop interesting and stimulating. I met some aspiring authors who are on their way to producing good work, but still struggling with some issues, and I was able to offer some advice and encouragement. As I was putting my thoughts together for the workshop, I jotted down some notes. They reflect some of the basic lessons I have learned both about writing a novel and about getting it published. After the Festival, it occurred to me that the notes might be useful to others generally. I wrote them up a little more formally. and they are now available, both in Word and PDF, via the link at the top right of the home page of this website. Feel free to download them, and I hope they help. I would like to do more workshops for aspiring writers. If you would like to contact me about this, please send a comment to this post. Good luck with your writing!
As I said in my last post, I’m just getting my breath back after a busy month. But I want to take a moment to update readers on what lies ahead. It’s an exciting time. As a result of new contracts with No Exit Press I will be publishing two more Ben Schroeder novels, and two very different volumes about which I’m very excited. Here’s a sneak preview.
In Calling Down the Storm, Ben defends Henry Lang, accused of the brutal murder of his wife Susan. The couple were involved in bitter child custody proceedings, and the circumstances seem to make a conviction for murder inevitable. But Ben faces an additional complication. His client claims to have lost his memory of the fateful occasion, and on the eve of trial, it has still not returned. It has also emerged that Susan had criminal connections, one of which will haunt the trial. The judge, Mr Justice Rainer, has dark secrets which are threatening to expose him to a career-ending scandal, and there is a sinister link to Henry and Susan Lang which comes clear as the trial proceeds. Both men have called down the storm, and it remains to be seen who will be swept away when the trial ends.
Next in the series will be One Law for the rest of Us, in which Ben confronts a high-ranking conspiracy to cover up child sexual abuse in a famous religious school.
I’m also taking my writing in another, quite different direction. I will soon be publishing Walden of Bermondsey, a collection of humorous short stories set in a fictitious Crown Court in London. Many readers will remember John Mortimer’s delightful character Horace Rumpole, played on TV by Leo McKern. A robust, irreverent fighter for his clients, who liked a glass of Chateau Thames Embankment, Rumpole delighted readers and TV audiences for many years. I have asked the question: could Rumple have become a judge, and if so, what might have happened? My answer is yes, and his name is Charles (‘Charlie’) Walden, Resident Judge of the Bermondsey Crown Court. In addition to trying all kinds of cases that come before him, which of course form the basis of each story, Charlie is engaged in a constant fight against the ‘Grey Smoothies’, the civil servants who run the courts and who always seem to want to take away their dwindling resources, and to bury Charlie in paperwork. Not only that, but he must keep the peace between his three fellow-judges – Hubert Drake, a devotee of the Garrick Club, who may have been a judge for a little too long; Marjorie Jenkins, non-stop career woman and super-mum married to a shining star in the City; and Rory ‘Legless’ Dunblane, former rugby player, still ‘one of the boys’, and a robust type of judge – who have a penchant for disagreeing. A second volume of Walden stories is also underway.
Many thanks to No Exit for allowing me to spread my wings with this new venture, I will keep you posted on this website about all these books, of course!
I’m only just now getting my breath back after a busy September/early October. The month’s main features were two very successful launches for The Heirs of Owain Gyndwr. But almost as soon as the second launch had finished I found myself on a train heading north for the first ever Saddleworth Literary Festival.
The first launch was the Welsh launch, held in Caernarfon at Palas Print book shop on 10 September. It was attended by a group of true book enthusiasts, who kindly agreed to depart from their usual practice by speaking English for the afternoon, and bombarded me with excellent questions, not only about my writing, but also about attitudes to the Investiture of Prince Charles and about Welsh politics generally. It was very stimulating, and I’m glad to say, resulted in the book selling well in North Wales. I would like to find a reason to go back. I felt very much at home in Caernarfon. As I was signing a book for one gentleman, he confided in me that they would not ‘put up with’ another investiture in Caernarfon, so perhaps a sequel beckons. I don’t think Ben is going to join chambers in Cardiff, but perhaps he could make another visit to Wales. Many thanks, a huge diolch yn fair iawn, to Eirian James at Palas Print, and to my Welsh mentor, Emrys Llewelyn who ‘interviewed’ me during the launch. Eirian seemed to like the fact that Palas Print was my model for the Siop Llyfrau’r Tywysog in the book, which she had read before the launch – a first in my experience for someone hosting a launch, and an indication of the fact that Palas Print is truly a haven for book lovers. Pictures below: top row, drawing attention to the nice display of Owain Glyndwr in Palas Print which the camera doesn’t quite pick up, in a gale force wind (see my hair); and the legendary Emrys Llewelyn meditating on his questions for my ‘interview’. Bottom row, the audience thinking up questions in Welsh to ask in English, and chatting with Eirian after signing the last books.
On 22 September, we convened in the elegant library at Middle Temple, my Inn of Court, for the London launch. The event was co-sponsored by the Association of London Welsh Lawyers. Advertised by the Middle Temple as well as the Welsh lawyers and No Exit Press,it was very well attended indeed. In fact we pretty much ran out of books by the end of the evening, and No Exit had brought quite a stock with them. The library was rather forced on us as the venue, because the other rooms in the Inn are currently being refurbished. It has its drawbacks. It is long and thin, and you can’t have red wine there – something to do with the carpeting. But the atmosphere of the room more than makes up for that. I had attended a launch there for the official history of Middle Temple a few years ago, and since then I always thought it was perfect for a book launch. I gave a reading, successful, and an attempted welcome in Welsh, somewhat less successful and perhaps on a par with Prince Charles in 1969. But with the aid of a good wine and delicious canapés, everyone seemed to have a good time. Many thanks to Ion, Clare and everyone at No Exit, to the wonderful Middle Temple Staff, and to Emyr Thomas and the Welsh lawyers, whose enthusiastic contribution to the evening was much appreciated. Picture shows a little of the ambience and yours truly, hopefully not while trying to speak in Welsh. Note the Welsh dragon bow tie, self tied, I would have you know.
The first Saddleworth Literary Festival was held on 1 and 2 October at Uppermill, which, according to who you ask, may be either in Lancashire or Yorkshire. The Wars of the Roses, it seems, haven’t quite subsided yet in this particular part of the world. Uppermill is beautiful, surrounded by luscious green hills, and is increasingly a tourist attraction, though a nightmare to get to by train, as I was to discover. The inaugural festival, held in the Civic Hall, was, for me, very enjoyable. I gave a talk and a workshop for aspiring authors. The workshop was very rewarding. Two authors sent me specimens of their work in advance, so we were able to discuss it in some detail, and two or three other authors attended. I wrote some notes on writing and finding a publisher for a novel specially for the occasion, and I will be making these notes available via this website shortly. The Festival was not entirely smooth. The Civic Hall was not an ideal venue, and the organisers will have learned some valuable scheduling lessons for next time, but it is great that this new festival got off the ground well, and will no doubt go from strength to strength in future. Thank you to Allan Graham for inviting me to the first of many. No pictures as yet, but if I am sent any I will post them.
Sadly, we had to cancel the Huntingdon dinner planned for 29 September when my co-speaker Emrys Llewelyn was unable to attend. But John Hoskins at the Old Bridge is determined that we will continue the literary dinner series before too long. Watch this space!
THREE LAUNCH EVENTS FOR OWAIN GLYNDWR!
My publishers and I are planning three events in September to launch the new novel in the Ben Schroeder series, The Heirs of Owain Glyndwr. I hope as many of my readers as possible will be able to come to one of them. They all promise to be great fun. The Heirs of Owain Glyndwr is now available in paperback from Amazon or No Exit Press, and will be available on Kindle from 25 August.
WELSH LAUNCH IN CAERNARFON
The Welsh Launch takes place on Saturday 10 September at the iconic Palas Print Bookshop, 10 Palace Street (Stryd y Plas) in Caernarfon at 3 p.m. I very much wanted to launch this book in Wales, and as Caernarfon plays such an important part in Owain Glyndwr, I was keen to hold the launch there. It is a particular joy to have it in Palas Print, as the shop was my model for the Prince Bookshop (Siop Llaufrau’r Tywysog) which features so much in the book. There will be drinks and light refreshments, a reading, an interview, and of course a signing for everyone who buys the book. Many thanks to Eirian James of Palas Print and to Town Guide Emrys Llewelyn for helping to arrange what promises to be a great afternoon. When you read the author’s note, you will see my enormous gratitude to Emrys, who, when I visited Caernarfon for my research, took me under his wing. He not only gave me a remarkable tour of the town, but put his encyclopaedic knowledge of Caernarfon and his personal experiences of being there in 1969 at my disposal. We have kept in touch ever since, and he even checked much of the Welsh in the book!
Please let Eirian know you’re coming. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Phone: 01286 674631.
LONDON LAUNCH IN MIDDLE TEMPLE LIBRARY WITH ASSOCIATION OF LONDON WELSH LAWYERS
There will be a special evening on Thursday 22 September in the historic Middle Temple Library in London, from 6.30 to 8.30 p.m. The library of the Middle Temple, one of the four Inns of Court, is in the Ashley Building in Middle Temple Lane, about mid-way between the Strand/Fleet Street entrance and the Embankment entrance to Middle Temple Lane, on the right going downhill. This launch evening will be a drinks reception, and will feature wine and canapés. The bargain admission price includes an autographed copy of the book, and is cheaper if you sign up in advance (details below). You pay only £10 as opposed to £15 at the door on the night. Suit or jacket and tie is preferred for this event, but smart casual is fine too. I am very proud to have this event in Middle Temple, as it is my Inn of Court. I joined as a student in 1963, and I am now a Master of the Bench (member of the governing body) of the Inn. This event is co-sponsored by the Association of London Welsh Lawyers, and I am very grateful to the Association’s secretary, Emyr Thomas, for his help in organising the evening, Thanks also to Richard Frost, Bench Events and Membership coordinator at Middle Temple and Lucy Stewart, one of the resident geniuses at No Exit Press, for their sterling efforts in promoting the evening.
The cost is £10 in advance, or £15 at the door, to include wine, canapés, and an autographed copy of the book.
Tickets in advance from: bit.ly/owainglyndwr; or e-mail email@example.com; or phone 01582 766348.
HUNTINGDON LITERARY DINNER: A WELCOME IN THE HILLSIDE
The third annual Huntingdon Literary dinner, entitled A Welcome in the Hillside, will be held at the Old Bridge Hotel on Thursday 29 September at 7 p.m. This event has sold out very quickly over the last two years, so book now (details below)! The Old Bridge is a wonderful hotel, nationally renowned for its food and superb wine cellar. Proprietor John Hoskins, a Master of Wine, personally supervises the menus and choice of wines, and acts as host for the evening. Caernarfon Town Guide Emrys Llewelyn joins me for this unique ‘fact and fiction’ account of the Investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales in Caernarfon Castle on 1 July 1969. Emrys, a life long resident of the town, was there, and will speak about the atmosphere and about Welsh resistance to the ceremony, the extent of which was under-reported in the press at the time. I will talk about my fictitious approach to this event in The Heirs of Owain Glyndwr, and we hope for some lively questions. Incidentally, Emrys will be bringing with him copies of his book Stagio Dre. It is currently available only in Welsh, though a translation is pending, and Emrys has kindly promised to speak in English for this one evening!
The cost is £45 per person to include aperitif, dinner and wine, the talks and the book signing. The Old Bridge offers a £40 discount on double bedroom rates if booked with the event: see www.huntsbridge.com.
To book, call the wine shop: 01480 458410 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Huge thanks to everyone at No Exit Press for their hard work in making The Heirs of Owain Glyndwr available in time for the Heffers What’s your Poison? summer crime festival. The event at Heffers book shop in Cambridge on Thursday 14 July was, as ever, a huge success, with numerous authors assembled to talk about their books and sign copies. There was a good attendance on a fine summer evening of people out to to enjoy books and drinks, including a number of familiar faces of Ben Schroeder fans. Aided by the presence of some book fans of Welsh ancestry, and I suspect, the recent enthusiasm for Wales generated by the magnificent efforts of the Welsh football team in France, it did a brisk trade. Owain Glyndwr is the fourth in the Ben Schroeder series, but I’m pleased to say that there was also continuing enthusiasm for the earlier books, all of which sold some copies too. Get your copy now! Thanks to Richard Reynolds and Kate Fleet at Heffers for their assured planning and organisation of another great evening, and to my publisher, Ion Mills of No Exit Press, for bringing my copy of OG personally for the occasion – I saw the book in print for the first time myself when I arrived in Cambridge – and for treating me to a fine summer salad to boot! Ion, you are a star!
The Heffers summer crime festival, What’s your Poison? will take place on Thursday 14 July between 6.30 and 8 pm. Those of you who have been to such events at Heffers before will know that it is great fun, with drinks, and lots of authors in attendance with their books. This summer, it coincides neatly with the publication of the latest in my Ben Schroeder series, The Heirs of Owain Glyndwr (see previous posts). My publishers, No Exit Press, have been working very hard to make sure it is out on time, and as this is a book set in, and about, Wales, it is marvellous to see it come out just when the Welsh football team has been amazing the world in France. I hope as many of my old and new fans as possible will come to enjoy a good night out, and get their autographed copy of Owain Glyndwr. I look forward to seeing you all! For any first-timers at the event, Heffers is in Cambridge City Centre, in Trinity Street, immediately opposite Trinity College. You can’t miss it.
You may have noticed that there is a new novel page on my website! The next book in the Ben Schroeder series, The Heirs of Owain Glyndwr, will be published soon, in July or August. Apologies to Welsh readers that I can’t find a way to put the circumflex ^ over the W in Glyndwr for this post, but I can assure you that it is there in the book – see cover, below! Following his adventures in the cases of Billy Cottage (A Matter for the Jury) and Sir James Digby (And is there Honey still for Tea?) Ben is called on to defend Arianwen Hughes, who is caught up in a conspiracy to cause a potentially lethal explosion at the time of the investiture of the Prince of Wales at Caernarfon Castle in 1969 – an event not universally popular in Wales. Arianwen’s brother Caradog and their friend Dafydd Prosser – Dai Bach- seem to be at the heart of the conspiracy. Her husband, Trevor Hughes, also seems to have been involved. Trevor may hold the key to saving Arianwen from a long prison sentence, but he mysteriously disappeared on the eve of the investiture, and Arianwen doesn’t even know whether he is dead or alive. It’s going to take all Ben’s skills and perhaps more to get to the truth this time. Pre-order now! I hope you enjoy it.
Once again, CrimeFest has come and gone. This dynamic, sometimes chaotic, but always enjoyable literary event is the most important of its kind in the UK, and one of the most important in the world. Held in the majestic setting of Bristol’s Marriott Royal Hotel on College Green, CrimeFest is three days of non-stop panels, talks and interviews, with a plethora of authors, agents, and publishers in attendance, which provides a unique opportunity to find out what is going on the crime genre throughout the world. There is always some offering of particular interest, and the year it was the debut novel of actor Hugh Fraser, who has been familiar to us on stage and TV for many years now, perhaps most notably in the context of crime for his portrayal of Captain Hastings in the TV series based on Agatha Christie’s Hercule Poirot. His novel is entitled ‘Harm’. I haven’t read it yet, but Chris and I do have our autographed copy. My contribution this year was as a member of the ‘Swinging Sixties’ panel – a period of great interest to me as the decade in which Ben Schroeder begins his career. It was fascinating to have a panel and an audience split between those who remember the Sixties and those who don’t, although I felt obliged to remind everyone of the old adage that if you claim to remember the Sixties, you obviously weren’t there (I think the original quote may have referred specifically to Woodstock, but the principle is much the same!). I do remember the Sixties pretty well, as I was a student then. One thing we all agreed on is that crime novels set back then are more interesting than contemporary settings at least in one way: there was no DNA, there were no e-mails, no texts, no mobile phones to help the police investigate crime, or to help prosecutors convict the guilty. it was all about old-fashioned police work. I was delighted that this year, my publishers, No Exit Press, took their turn to host the Saturday evening reception before the Gala dinner. It was attended by a huge throng, and put us all in an exuberant mood (see exuberant photo below, for which credit goes to fellow No Exit author Leigh Russell). Barry Forshaw made an excellent speech of welcome for all the No Exit authors, who were there in force. Looking forward to Next Year!
I had a pleasant surprise recently in Huntingdon. I was unexpectedly invited to an evening for authors at the Niche bookshop in the High Street on Thursday 7 April. The casual observer walking past the Niche might not venture inside unless he or she had an interest in comics and games, which are obviously the bookshop’s speciality, and which occupy most of the space in its charming Tudor building. But when I ventured in, I found space dedicated to more general books, including copies of each of those in my my Ben Schroeder series! Of course, I gladly accepted the invitation. It was a splendid evening, well organised and well attended, with seven or eight local authors present. A good crowd came and went throughout the evening, and were treated to wine and delicious home-made cakes. Although not originally planned, each of the authors was invited to give a reading either upstairs or in the garden (until the rain intervened) as a result of which a number of books were purchased and autographed. I was impressed that some of the authors were as yet unpublished, or self-published, from which it was clear that the Niche has a serious interest in developing local writing talent. The Niche is also, as it proudly claims, Huntingdon’s only independent bookshop. A town the size of Huntingdon deserves a good bookshop, and I wish the Niche well. Many thanks to Angela for organising the evening and for inviting me. I have volunteered to return as often as invited!
The library tour continued on Wednesday 30 March with a visit to Harpenden. This is always a special occasion, as Harpenden is the base of my publisher, No Exit Press. No Exit is hugely supportive of the Hertfordshire libraries, which, like those in my county, Cambridgeshire, have continued to flourish despite the savage government cuts, and to provide such a valuable public service. As usual on these occasions, I was with fellow-No Exit authors Leigh Russell and Howard Linskey, who as ever were on fine form, but on this occasion there was a successful innovation. Fellow-author Daniel Pembrey acted as moderator for our panel, which kept us focused on questions the audience would most be interested in and so reduced our propensity to ramble on too much! This turned out to be an excellent idea, and the audience certainly seemed to appreciate it. This was apparently Daniei’s first experience in the role of moderator, but you would never have known it. He seemed ready to take on his own talk show, and effortlessly posed exactly the right questions, having done considerable research on our work beforehand. Thanks to No Exit – Ion, Claire, CQ and Alex – for this great evening, which drew a sizeable crowd. It was obvious that they enjoyed interacting with the authors over a glass or two of wine. I’m already looking forward to the next one!