‘Peter Murphy tells us what makes him write’
Shots Mag – Shots Magazine
My Life in Books by Peter Murphy
Anne Cater, Random Things Through My Letter Box – My Life in Books
The folks at Heffers in Cambridge certainly know how to throw a party, and they did it again on the evening of Thursday 6 July. This was the summer Whats your Poison? event, which brings together a number of authors to read from and talk about their work, and sign books for those who buy them. I’ve been fortunate enough to be invited to this event several times, and have always found it enormous fun and hugely rewarding. This year, each of the fourteen authors present was asked to read, and I must blow a collective trumpet for all of us. In the interests of time, we were limited to three minutes each, to introduce ourselves and read. It was quite a challenge, but every one of the fourteen of us kept to the allotted time! Catherine, filling in for Kate, who couldn’t be with us this time, didn’t have to blow her whistle once – and believe me, she had a loud whistle ready and was perfectly prepared to use it! I don’t recall any similar occasion on which speakers have been so disciplined, and indeed I do recall various occasions during my legal career, when lawyers were utterly unable to keep to their allotted times! So I think we did well. Both before and after the readings, those present were able to talk to the authors and buy books, while enjoying a glass or two of wine. Judging from the reaction of the goodly crowd that attended, they thoroughly enjoyed the evening, as did the authors. Congratulations to Richard, Kate and Catherine on yet another great party, and thank you for inviting me!
I’m pleased to announce two forthcoming books!
CALLING DOWN THE STORM
Towards the end of June, the latest Ben Schroeder novel, Calling down the Storm, will be out in paperback and as an ebook. This is a story of two separate but strangely parallel lives: the life of a defendant on trial for murder, and the life of the judge who presides over his trial. When DI Webb and DS Raymond respond to a 999 call in Bloomsbury, they stumble on to a bizarre scene. A young woman is bleeding to death. The man who appears to have killed her is sitting motionless nearby, still holding the blood-stained knife. He does not resist arrest, says not a word, and later claims to be suffering from shock and amnesia. These claims cause his barrister, Ben Schroeder, huge problems in preparing his defence. Unbeknownst to his strict Baptist wife, the judge, Mr Justice Conrad Rainer, has a predilection for beautiful women and high-stakes gambling, which he can afford only as long as he wins. As his luck runs out, he crosses lines in his effort to fund his habit, but to his horror he learns that there is a sinister connection between his own underworld contacts and those involved in the trial of Ben’s client. His career and life hang in the balance. And then there’s the awkward matter of the body in the closet of his expensive Barbican flat. Both defendant and judge have called down the storm on to their heads, and time is running out.
WALDEN OF BERMONDSEY
I’ve always been a huge fan of John Mortimer’s immortal Rumpole of the Bailey, both the books and the wonderful TV series starring Leo McKern. During my legal career, and particularly my time as a judge, I accumulated a number of good stories and characters, as lawyers do, and it occurred to me to write a series of short stories in the Rumpole tradition, told from the perspective of the judge rather than the barrister. The result is Walden of Bermondsey, which will be published at the end of November, in time for the Holidays. It is an unapologetic homage to Mortimer and Rumpole. The Stories are entitled: Where there’s Smoke; First past the Post; Until the Real Thing comes Along; Artistic Differences; Uneasy lies the Head; and For Whom the Belles Troll. No Exit have produced a limited number of FREE copies of Where there’s Smoke, and I hope to have some available for my forthcoming appearances at St. Ives Library (6 June) and Heffers, Cambridge (6 July) – see earlier post.
My friend and former colleague His Honour Judge Nicholas Hilliard QC, the Recorder of London, kindly agreed to contribute a foreword, in which he writes that my protagonist, Judge Charles (‘Charlie’) Walden, ‘deserves a place in the pantheon of legal figures’. Pre-publication reviewers have been very kind.
Playwright and novelist David Ambrose describes the book as an ‘unputdownable delight’ and writes –
‘No one writes with more wit, warmth and insight about the law and its practitioners than Peter Murphy. He has no equal since the great John “Rumpole” Mortimer.’
Reviewer Paul Magrath says –
‘It is the humour that makes Walden of Bermondsey such a delightful read … Add a dash of Henry Cecil for his situation and AP Herbert for the fun he has with the law, and you get a sense of [Peter’s] literary precedents.’
I hope you enjoy them!
I recently appeared at two great events. They involved a good deal of work and travel, which taxed me after my recent illness (see earlier post, Hello, I’m Back!). But they were both very worthwhile.
On Friday 19 May I spoke on a panel at CrimeFest, held as ever at Bristol’s Marriott on College Green. This has become an annual event for me, and as ever it was lively and wonderfully chaotic, but with everything somehow coming together. The rather forbidding title of the panel was: Bring Lawyers, Guns and Money: It might be Legal, but is it Just? That might have been enough to put some moderators off, but not Thomas Mogford, who effortlessly led me and my fellow-panellists, WHS (‘Willie’) McIntyre, Simon Michael, and David Thorne, through details of our legal thrillers (a good number of which he had read), while also doing justice to his own writing. It was an excellent panel, in the course of which Thomas also opened the door to some good serious discussion about racial and other discrimination in the legal profession, a subject about which Simon and I have both written. Signed a few books and had a great time!
One of the features of my former life as a judge is a gig I’ve had for several years now. L’Ecole Nationale de la Magistrature (ENM) is the college that trains all French judges and prosecutors. Basic training takes place at the college’s HQ in Bordeaux, and continuing education at its Paris premises. For reasons I don’t completely understand, but for which I’m very grateful, ENM requires all its students and graduates to be capable of reading and speaking English to a reasonable level, and to learn at least in outline about the English and American legal systems. I have had the privilege of being one of a group of judges and lawyers who assist in teaching this part of the curriculum, and I generally make two or three trips to France each year for this purpose. Recently, my ENM contact Amanda Gedge-Wallace, also a Ben Schroeder fan (!) invited me to pioneer a Law and Literature class in Paris in the week of 22 May. In advance of the class, the delegates were assigned to read A Matter for the Jury, which became our teaching vehicle for the English trial process. I was very nervous about the prospect, but the twenty judges and prosecutors who attended seemed to have enjoyed the book, and went on to Amazon to buy more as we went along! Most importantly, they did seem to learn through the detailed discussions we held in English. ENM have now decided to continue this theme, and we will be repeating with the same book next year!
I am thrilled and honoured to announce that Guy Rose of FRA Literary Agents has become my literary agent, effective from the end of April of this year. I was formerly represented by Annette Crossland of the A for Authors Agency. I am grateful to Annette for all the work she did on my behalf. and wish her well in her future endeavours. But signing with Guy offers me some great opportunities.
Guy studied English with novelist Tom Sharpe, whose Times obituary he co-authored. Joining Vernon Futerman’s agency in 1993, and becoming a name partner, Guy has since represented a wide variety of authors in both fiction and non-fiction. They include writers as diverse as reformed criminal John McVicar; Second World War triple agent Eddie Chapman (the subject of the film Triple Cross, starring Christopher Plummer); and former Conservative leader Iain Duncan Smith.
I met Guy last year at a literary festival at which we were both speaking. He is representing me first in relation to a novel I haven’t posted about yet: a story for the American market, a partly historical novel which begins with events occurring during the War of Independence and continuing into events occurring in contemporary times, in which I was involved as a lawyer. It’s a work I recently completed after trying to get it into a format I like for more than twenty years. Watch this space for further information. For now, all I will say is that I’m excited with the results, and excited that I have Guy’s considerable experience behind me. Guy’s contact details are;
FRA literary Agents
91 St. Leonards Road
London SW14 7BL
Phone: 0208 8255 7755
Many readers have noticed that this website has been a quiet over the past few months. Sadly, after a lifetime of good health, I have finally had to confront some serious medical problems. These problems involved serious surgery and considerable medication and it has taken me a long time to recover. Fortunately, I am now emerging from the gloom, having been effectively been out of action since November. I am slowly getting back to active duty as an author as the following posts will show, though I am rationing appearances for now, Fortunately, I have been able to continue writing for almost all of the time!
My forthcoming appearances are:
Tuesday 6 June, St, Ives (Cambs) Library, from 2 to 3.30.
Thursday 6 July, Heffers, Cambridge summer crime festival ‘What’s your poison?’ from 6.30 to 8.00.
I do hope to see some of my readers at these events, where I will be talking about the latest Ben Schroeder novel, Calling down the Storm, and my forthcoming collection of humorous short stories in the Rumpole tradition, based in part on my experiences as a judge, and entitled Walden of Bermondsey. I hope to have some FREE copies of the first story, Where There’s Smoke, produced by my publisher, No Exit Press!
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: email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org; 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: email@example.com.