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Endings and beginnings

Last week I sent the first draft of my third Shetland novel away to my agent. Odd to finish a book that's about birth and beginnings. It's a weird feeling anyway to come to the end of a story when you've lived with it for so long.

There's elation of course, relief that the strands of the plot have come together at least. I've been worrying away at the final chapters for a couple of months, checking factual details and attempting to bring more tension into the structure.

Then there's fear. The great thing about a good agent is that she gives an honest, if tactful, response to a book. What if she hates it? What - and this is even more scary because Moses does honesty more than he does tact - if my American agent hates it? Luckily there have been distractions: plans for the launch of WHITE NIGHTS in April, a beautiful new grand daughter, work on the house.

The most unsettling thing about finishing a book is the gap that's left. For nearly a year all my spare time has been spent on it. Now I have no excuse for the mucky kitchen, the piles of ironing, my unsocial behaviour. I should be getting on the phone to friends, washing the kitchen floor, but instead I've been reading. Reading is the only thing that really fills the gap. Trouble is that the two books I've read recently are so good that they have only fuelled my insecurities.

NAKED TO THE HANGMAN by Andrew Taylor is the latest in his Lydmouth series, set in 1950s Forest of Dean. I love Andrew's writing, the quiet assurance, the subtlety, the space he gives readers to make up their own minds about his characters. I specially enjoyed the tender and under-stated relationship between two middle-aged women. This is a writer who doesn't resort to graphic violence to build suspense, but at times the tension is almost unbearable.

The next book is by another favourite - Robert Wilson. I first read him when I was sent a proof copy of A SMALL DEATH IN LISBON to give to reading groups. I thought it was a brilliant novel and and was delighted when it went on to win the Dagger. I'm reading BLOOD IS DIRT at the moment. This is one of Robert's African novels. Set in Benin and Nigeria, it follows the fortune of PI and debt collector Bruce Medway. Again the writing is astonishing. I've never been to West Africa, but here I have a sense of the heat, the casual violence, the chaos. The dialogue and one-liners could have come straight from Chandler.

At some point, I suppose, I should make a start on the ironing. But not yet. I've got a book to read.

Posted by Ann on Sunday, January 20th 2008 @ 05:41 PM GMT [link]

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