The Sleeping and the Dead
I spent some of last week reading the proofs of THE SLEEPING AND THE DEAD for the Bloody Brits edition, which will come out in the States at the end of the year. Bloody Brits is the brainchild of Val McDermid and her partner Kelly Smith and itíll give people in the US the chance to catch up with British crime novels long out of print there, or books that were never taken up by American publishers. A great idea.
THE SLEEPING was first published in 2001, so I probably wrote it in 1999. Itís very bizarre going back to a novel written so long ago. Of course we all have different preoccupations at different times of our life and this is very definitely a book I would never write now. Itís not in any sense autobiographical Ė at least I never thought it was at the time. But the strong characters are teenagers, and in 1999 my daughters were 15 and 18. I spent my life waiting outside their friendsí houses to take them home after parties, waking up to strange lads sleeping on the sofa, listening to the gossip about men and music. Itís hardly surprising that material found its way into the novel. Thereís an edginess about the teenage relationships in the book that works well. Now, I think Iíd probably be too sentimental about them. Reading the book brings back some of the desperation and exhilaration that characterised that time of life. For me as well as for the girls.
The central character in the book is a prison librarian and prison was another preoccupation at the time of writing. I was working as reader-in-residence for 3 library authorities in the north of England. Cumbria wanted me to spend my time with them in Haverigg Prison. I had a brilliant time there, setting up camp in the library every fortnight. I still remember some of the men who came together to discuss books and try their hand at writing, and the dedication of the librarian who set it up the group. Itís the small detail of prison routine that triggers the memory and brings the book to life. I hope.