Friday, May 27, 2016

Crimefest 2016

Although you might not think it from yesterday's blog, I too was at Crimefest. I had the ghostly dashing presence of one who is wayyyy behind with their book and has a deadline looming. As my lovely editor Kate said the minute she saw me 'So are you not due to deliver soon?'  Like I was in maternity somewhere.
Anyway here's what we were doing when that Zoe Sharp and the clever South Africans were next door. I had my spies out.

A full house for Conspiracies, Lies and Secrets. Why did they think I would be a natural chair for that?

Interviewing the rather lovely Matt Johnson, ex soldier, police officer, ex lots of things with guns. I am rather in awe of folk who can go there and do the dangerous stuff that keeps us safe in our beds at night. I wanted to ask him who would win in a fight between him and Andy McNab. I wanted to ask him if the SAS and Mossad ever played cricket, would anybody be allowed to watch. Matt even bought me a jar of honey from his own bees, trying to sweeten me up no doubt. For reasons of veganism,  his dastardly ploy failed.
Read Wicked Games... well just read the Amazon reviews and judge for yourself. Scarily real book.

Serving police officer Lisa talking about catching peadophiles and the dangers of conspiracies as explored in her book Mercy Killing. On the panel she explained that some people don't know the difference between a paedophile and a paediatrician. One of the big dangers of vigilantism is that some folk are not that bright.

After all my sensitive talk with Lisa and Matt, I have just asked Daniel what is Luxembourg famous for apart from Radio, the Eurovision Song Competition and It's a Knock out. His expression says it all. He wanted a new moderator. I read a novella of his called the Candidate ( set in Luxembourg, very good and kind of sexy Russian ladies all walking over bridges in strange moods- I can see the film in my head!)  but the new one is set in Amsterdam - The Harbour Master.
I think he should set his next book in Govan.

I asked the panel for a secret. Lisa had nearly arrested  Matt Lucas while he was filming 'Come Fly with me' for his very odd behaviour; in drag and throwing coffee cups around.

Daniel admitted to dressing in yellow at the London Olympic games opening ceremony. I watched it. making sure he was not keeping a bigger secret about him falling over but he stayed on his feet.

Pete Adams, at the end of the panel is consulting his lawyer as to who got him involved in this nonsense and how much can he sue for. His book, The Barrow Boys Cadenza is a book like no other I have ever read. Tom Sharpe meets Jane Austin. Meets Minder. Very funny. But not a little scary.
He has a trilogy of eight.
Matt admitting to turning down an auditioner for lead singer in  his rock band. It was Simon Le Bon.

Lisa wondering why my secret was being in a room with Frank Sinatra. Naked. Except for one piece of leather. Well, you should have been there!

Pete waiting for his lawyer to call back. He had gone into a hat shop in 1974.
 He came out with a hat.

Not the hat. But a hat. On his head.,

Now a panellist with Vassem, Suzette, Len and that Bendoris bloke. He invented the term 'Doing a Bendoris'. It means going to someone else's book launch and out selling them. He wrote Killing With Confidence. A self help book for serial killers. Like most things Scots it's funny and dangerous at the same time. Like Matt. 

On my panel, sitting next to Bendoris. Asking the good lord for help so I don't succumb  to smacking him  in the gob. Two Scots together. There will be trouble. 

On my secret spy phone, asking Matt if the SAS do homers.

Len Tyler trying to keep order
in a panel about detective duos. I had the true detectives. Suzette has cats and dogs, Matt has journalists, Len has crime writers and agents, Vassem  has a baby elephant called ganesh. Are you keeping up with all this? 

Suzette pondering how her life came to this.

Me paying attention to Len just to prove that I can.

At half seven the next morning I was outside,  doing some editing. Told you I was behind.

As Alan looked along the road out of Bristol, wistfully.

Caro Ramsay  27 05 2016

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Crimefest 2016

Michael and Stanley - Thursday

Several of our co-bloggers have asked about our experiences at Crimefest.  I’d like to give the scintillating definitive report here today, but having landed in Johannesburg a few hours ago after a packed overnight flight from London in sardine class, scintillating isn’t my word of the day.

As always it was great fun.  Being based in South Africa, it’s always a great treat when one has the opportunity to meet old friends at writing conventions and to make new ones.  And Crimefest really is one of the friendliest and most enjoyable of the bunch.  It’s in the hundreds of participants rather than in the thousands, and even though it now has three parallel panels on the Saturday instead of the usual two, almost all the panels are full and there are plenty of readers buying books.

Caroline Todd with Michael

Almost all the Orenda Books mystery authors were there and we had a great dinner together on the opening Thursday night.  I think they’ve all had their arms twisted to write a guest blog for us here, so you’ll be hearing more about them then.

Kati Hiekkapelto
Not really a big drinker...

Bill and Toby Gottfried
Loyal to Kubu as always!
Apart from the general camaraderie and good cheer (usually of the alcoholic variety), there were a variety of highlights. Featured author interviews with great writers (and speakers) Ian Rankin, Peter James, and Norway’s Anne Holt. An excellent panel around real and fictional spying where James Naughtie talked about his fact-based fiction and Adam Sisman talked about his recent biography of John Le Carré. 

A highlight for us was meeting ‘Karen Perry,’ a successful thriller writing partnership from Dublin consisting of Karen Gillece and Paul Perry.
Paul Perry and Karen Gillece
The four of us made up a panel chaired by Jake Kerridge.  I hope the audience enjoyed it as much as we did.  It was amazing (or perhaps not) how closely the two teams felt about most issues. I’m looking forward to reading their books.

Probably if you care about these things, you already know all about the various Crime Writers Association Dagger shortlists.  Hearty congratulations to Jorn Horst on his nomination for THE CAVE MAN for the International Dagger. He’s written about it before here.  I’ve read it and it’s a very fine book.  He’s head to head with South African thriller master Deon Meyer (up for the award for the second or third time) for his latest book ICARUS. (You can read my interview with Deon about this excellent book here.)

Our farewell dinner
Michael with Peter Rozovsky
 while Adrian Muller has a well earned meal.

Stan with Alex Shaw
The Icelanders Cometh
Ragnar Jonasson and Yrsa Sigurdardottir (with grandson)
Of course the most important highlight for us was the release of DEADLY HARVEST for the first time in the UK. We really love that cover! 

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Cara on Tuesday What I really want to know AmAl did you enjoy Hamilton? Zoe, was CrimeFest great and where's the report from out South African boys? Susan, when is the next trip to Nihon, and will Jeff look happier in Greece? Enquiring minds want to know. Meanwhile on Saturday at the Litquake office I did a workshop on Villains, the architect of your story. My approach took the view of the villain/esse and how s/he engineered the story and events before page 1. How the view from the 'bad' side set the wheels in motion and going into depth about motive and the unmet desires of the antagonist. Preparing for this helped me in framing my new story, does that happen to any of you? More questions now. Here is the Cafe le Zimmer next to the Theatre de Chatelet in Paris. During the war the Alsatian owners hid their wine in one of the caves belowground. Turns out there are three underground levels of caves. In one of which members of the Police, who were sympathetic to the Resistance, met, plotted and hid people. According to Cafe Zimmer, several years ago a man from Israel visited. He kept asking if he could see the cave where he was hidden during the war and the staff had no idea. Turns out his hiding place had been bricked up their wine still in there? Enquiring minds want to know.

Monday, May 23, 2016


Annamaria on Monday

This title requires explanation.  It is not to describe current candidates for President of the United States, although in one case the pejorative term does apply.  I am using this word not as a condemnation, but as a literal description.  This is about people whose fathers were not lawfully married to their mothers.  First to my inspiration for writing on this topic.  It came from watching a movie and being addicted to the original cast album of a Broadway musical you might have heard of called "Hamilton."

Me and Emma, one week after opening night! Nonna scores big points!

Yes, I have seen “Hamilton.”  And I have done so I might add without paying a price that required mortgaging Manhattan real estate.  (Aside:  Last August, Ben Brantley began his New York Times review, “Yes, it really is that good.”  And goes on to say, “I am loath to tell people to mortgage their houses and lease their children to acquire tickets to a hit Broadway show.  But ‘Hamilton,’ … might just about be worth it”).  The show begins, “How does a bastard, orphan, son of whore and a Scotsman…”  I have happily listened to the cast sing that phrase many times in the past months.



Then last evening, while watching “Lawrence of Arabia,” I was reminded that T.E. Lawrence was also a bastard.  Which set me to musing about how important bastard children might have been in history.  It took a good night’s sleep for me to remember that I wrote a book about the fame of a bastard daughter: Evita Peron (nee Eva Ibarguren).   That hooked me on this subject. 

So I looked them up.  Here is a partial list of famous people whose parents never married.

K'ung-Fu-tzy, whom we call Confucius


Thomas Paine
Edith Piaf
Need I say?
Sir Alec
Billie Holiday



Steve Jobs, who by the way was the son of Syrian refugee from Homs!

Justin Bieber
It is interesting that four of these people grew up not to need a last name donated by their fathers: Evita, Leonardo, Fidel, and Oprah.  And one needs only the honorific he earned all by himself to be identified.  "Sir Alec" can only be one person.  No one one would ask Sir Alec who?

I have to add that in most cases, the fathers of these children took little or no interest in them.   It was their mothers who were left to raise and support them and live under the stigma of having borne them.  “Single mother” is a common phrase these days and no longer always carries with it the shame that plagued the mothers of almost all of the people you see here.   In researching Blood Tango, I learned that the young Evita—in the desolate town where she was born—could not walk to school without having people cross the street, to avoid walking on the same sidewalk with a bastarda. Many biographers of these people have theorized that it was their illegitimate status that drove these children born out of wedlock to the heights of their achievement.

Whatever it was, I am grateful for the existence of all of them.  Well, maybe not Justin Bieber.  But then again Alec Guiness all by himself more than makes up for that.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Still Calling Out My Name Redux: not many things crossed off the Bucket List

Roman columns at Jerash in Jordan
I hope you'll forgive me this week if I repost a blog from three years ago, as I'm at CrimeFest in Bristol (on which topic, more next time) and have an early morning panel! I will just say it's been marvellous to spend a little time with my blog-mates: the Michael StanleysCaro Ramsay, and former MiE blogger Yrsa Sigurðardóttir.

This blog sprang to mind recently because I was told it is now increasingly difficult to gain access to the Rose City of Petra in Jordan, and that in some cases the site was closed to visitors.

Some of my highlights of this year have involved travel. Like many people I have a bucket list of places I really want to see. And if I remember 2013 for no other reason, it will be because I managed to tick one-and-a-half things off that list.


Yeah, I know, but stick with me on this.

In some ways, I dislike the term ‘bucket list’ because a list implies a certain dismissive quality. As though you step off the plane and say, “OK, that’s another one out of the way,” before turning around and climbing right back onto the plane again.

My idea of a bucket list is not just a place, but an experience.

The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan was an experience. Watching the sun rise over the desert at Wadi Rum, or set over the Rose City of Petra was definitely an experience. The smell of fresh mint tea and cooked lamb, the distant sound of AK-fire.

The Monastery building at Petra

Wandering the Roman ruins at Jerash was the kind of experience that lingers, as was standing on a hilltop in northern Jordan looking out across both Syria and Israel at places named in the Bible, racing hell-for-leather across the shifting red sands of the Jordanian desert in knackered old Nissan Patrols (yup, they let me drive) on the way to stargaze at the Perseids meteor shower from our desert camp, and walking the walls of a mountain fortress built by the Knights Templar in the time of the Crusades.

Racing through the desert in elderly Nissan Patrols.

The half-a-one involves the Northern Lights. I wanted to see them from the magical landscape of Iceland. Sadly, although the landscape was certainly magical, the sky above it was not playing ball. But seeing the moon reflected in the midnight ice while we searched the heavens for a hint of green, that almost made up for it.

(And the following year, I did manage to catch a faint glimpse of the Northern Lights, as well as go snowmobiling on a glacier, float in the blue lagoon, and ride on Viking horses. The other ambitions, listed below, are still to be achieved. The difficulties in the Middle East remind me that I should not put them off much longer ...)

This has concentrated my mind on what else is on my bucket list—for want of a better term for it. At the moment—because these things are always evolving—this includes:

To watch another sunrise—this time over Angkor Wat in Cambodia. I want to put a hand on the tree roots that have enveloped these mystical ruins and feel the centuries unfurl beneath my fingers.

Part of the 500-acre temple complex at Angkor Wat

To feel the beat and passion of real flamenco guitar in its home in Seville in Andalusia, southern Spain, like this fabulous flamboyant piece Guajiras de Lucia by Paco de Lucia, considered one of the greatest flamenco guitarists.

To sail into harbour on the Amalfi coast. Arriving from the water gives you a totally different perspective on a new place. I’ve always wanted to see this area of the Italian coastline, but the idea of the crowds and the traffic involved in travelling there by conventional means does not appeal to me at all. Travelling by small yacht—one of those giant floating hotel cruise liners is my idea of hell—would be the perfect way to slip under the surface.

The Amalfi coastline in Italy.

Does exactly what it says on the sign ...
To ride the highest motorable pass in the Himalayas—the Khardung-La, which reaches 18,380 feet. I’ve even checked out the Enfield Bullets which seem to be the motorcycle of choice for this trip, and I can get both feet on the floor, although I’m sure that would be the least of my troubles.

These are just a few of the places and experiences on my wish-list.

So, where would you go? And, more importantly, why do you want to go there?

What is it about a particular place or experience that stirs your imagination?

This week’s Words of the Week are all about the senses:

Petrichor — the scent of rain on dry earth or the dust after rain has fallen.

Gymnophoria — the sensation that someone is mentally undressing you or that you are being viewed naked even though you are fully clothed.

Knismesis — light tickling, more often to arouse than to induce laughter.

Psithurism — the sound of rustling leaves or the wind in trees, a whispering sound.

Basorexia — the overwhelming urge to kiss.

Umami — a pleasant savoury taste—not sweet, sour, bitter or salty—found in meat, cheese and tomatoes.