Travelling the world (and Oldham) to talk about books
It's been a hectic couple of months. The Quick Read title Too Good to be True was published in February. Quick Reads are books for adults new to reading for pleasure. The language needs to be simple but the content has to be sophisticated enough to hold a grown up's interest. I did a mini-tour of the north west to promote the scheme, visiting prisons, bookshops and libraries. Great fun but a bit tiring. Definitely worth doing though, not least because one of the prison visits sparked an idea for the first scene of the book I've just started. Then it was to Islay for a book event with James Grieve, my forensic pathology friend. We all found time to sample whisky as well as speak to a packed hall. Then it was to Phoenix for Left Coast Crime.
US crime conventions follow a pattern. There are panels, signings and a banquet, which usually includes an awards ceremony and a charity auction. (At the charity auction in Phoenix my donation - including some photos of Vera locations, a character name in the next Vera book and a copy of The Moth Catcher signed by Brenda Blethyn and me - raised $2000!) But at LCC this time the format allowed some very special moments. At one panel I moderated four women spoke very honestly about events in their personal lives that had triggered a change in their writing. And I made friendships that I know will last a lifetime.
I was only back in the UK for just over a week when it was time to fly off again - this time to the Emirates Literature Festival in Dubai. There'd been some controversy before we set off and one writer decided to boycott the event, but I'd thought carefully before accepting the invitation; I knew the UAE was nothing like a western democracy and had severe human rights issues. The Festival attracts writers from all over the world and I was looking forward to finding out more about the region and to share ideas. There were some truly magical moments - we drove out into the desert to hear poets read their work at a camp set up just for the occasion. The Brits were Simon Armitage, John Aguard, Grace Nicholls and a hugely entertaining young performance poet called Harry Barker. We were beautifully looked after by the Festival volunteers throughout the week and it was easy to see why it attracts such stars. It's a surreal place though, a city created almost out of nothing, a place of soaring towers, shining like gold in the sunshine and a driver-less metro with spaceship like stations. It's hard to believe it's all real and it won't just crumble into the sand.