Sunday, September 11, 2016

Great Expectations: preparing to travel in the States

I was intending to blog about today’s momentous date – September 11th – today, but Jeff Siger’s ‘Fifteen Years Later’ blog from yesterday has said it all in a far more moving and arresting way than I could. I can clearly recall watching events unfold on the TV news and thinking that things would never be quite the same again. He, on the other hand, was there.

So instead I’m going to look forward – for the next couple of weeks, at least.

Next week I’ll be on my way back to New Orleans for Bouchercon, and I can’t wait to see the place again. I went there last when I was researching DIE EASY: Charlie Fox book ten, which, as the title might suggest, has the Big Easy as its setting. Back then, I was lucky enough to spend some time with fellow mystery author Toni McGee Causey and her husband, Carl. Louisiana natives, they were brilliant guides, showing me the hidden parts of the city that proved invaluable when it came to background for that book, including the incredible giant scrapyard, Southern Recycling, where old school buses and the engine blocks from container ships go to die.

After Bouchercon I’m picking up a car and going on a road trip. Fellow Brit thriller author, John Lawton and I have just brought out our first joint project, called AN ITALIAN JOB, and teaming up to do some bookstore and library events together seemed a good way to celebrate.

I know at first glance we seem an unlikely combination for such a collaborative effort. Lawton’s books are meticulously researched historical espionage tales. I write contemporary crime thrillers. Our writing styles are very different. But that, in part, was the challenge of it – working on producing a story written by both of us, without people being able to see the joins.

And I confess it was fun to finish a scene and hand it over to Lawton, only for the story to come back heading in a direction I never would have thought of. It not only made me up my game and kept me constantly on my toes, but also filled me with even more respect for my collaborative colleagues at Murder is Everywhere, Michael and Stan.

The first stop for Lawton and myself is Houston, Texas, and Murder By The Book. The last time I was there it was summer. I had lunch at a restaurant just down the street from the bookstore and decided, perhaps foolishly, to walk from one to the other. It was hot, even by Texas standards, and the thing I remember most is how my shadow was little more than a shrunken puddle around my feet.

From there we go to Book People in Austin, who have organized a Noir @ The Bar at Threadgill’s South, which is a theme restaurant with the theme of Austin, apparently. I’ve never been to Austin, so I can’t wait to go there.

From Austin it’s up to Dallas, once famous as the home of the Ewing family. Indeed, I remember back when I was photographing for motoring magazines, borrowing an F150 Lightning pick-up truck from Ford’s Press Office. Where else could I take it other than to Southfork Ranch?

At that point we leave Texas and fly up to New England, or more precisely, to Cape Cod. I’ve never been to the Cape, and for someone who loves being near the sea, I confess I’m truly looking forward to experiencing what Provincetown has to offer.

The architecture alone makes it a must-see, and the Public Library building itself looks wonderful. I understand you can rent a bicycle to explore further. Sounds like a great way to see t   he place at a slower rate than normal. Expect photos next time. Of course, we’ll also be calling in at the Provincetown Bookshop, and at Truro Library while we’re there.

And the day I get back, September 30th, I’m at The Bakewell Bookshop in the Derbyshire Peak District, with fellow crime author Sarah Ward. It would seem that there is, indeed, no rest for the wicked.

So, this trip will include quite a few visits to places I’ve been before, and yet others to places I’ve heard about but never been. I have an image of Cape Cod in my head, and am curious to know if the reality lives up to it. After all, as writers, we can’t always use locations we’ve personally experienced. Sometimes we really do just have to make it up as we go along, looking at images on the internet and particularly reading weather reports, which can be a real eye-opener.

What are the places for you that were exactly as you imagined them, and what has taken you completely by surprise?

This week’s Word of the Week is logomachy, meaning an argument about words. It comes from the Greek logos, meaning word or speech, and machesthai, meaning to fight.


  1. In other words, "Them's FIGHTIN' words!"

    I've heard of book tours, of course, but I've never before heard of a novella tour. Of course, I HAVE led a sheltered and innocent life, so there are probably a few other things I've not heard of, too.

    Hope you have a great con and a great tour! (Already bought the Job, will let you know what I think as soon as I've read it. The first page certainly hooked me...)

    1. Not so much of a novella tour, as a general book tour. Felony & Mayhem Press have brought out new editions of all the Charlie Fox books, plus the standalone THE BLOOD WHISPERER this year.

      Hope you enjoy AN ITALIAN JOB, EvKa, and that you can't guess who wrote what too easily ...

  2. What an Odyssey! I love being on the road and this one--with a friend to share it wit--sounds wonderful. I hope you get writer's cramp from signing books!

  3. I hope so too, Annamaria! Did you know writer's cramp is also known as scrivener's palsy?

    A while since I've done a US tour, but I'm really looking forward to it.

  4. I could have sworn I posted a comment to this yesterday, because as I read it you were taking me down memory lane...Houston where my son lives, Southfork, which my ex's ex made famous, Austin of which I shall not speak, and Provincetown, New England's own little touch of Mykonos. I shall explain all when we meet in NOLA. CAN'T WAIT.

  5. I love the Cape and used to spend a fair bit of time in Truro. If you pass by East Falmouth, stop by Hatchville Pottery and say hello to my pal Hollis. I also have friends and family on the Vineyard if you go there. Just a ferry away.