More than ten years ago seven crime writers living and writing in the the north of England came together to form Murder Squad. It was the idea of the wonderful Margaret Murphy, who went on to chair the Crime Writers Association. She was getting good reviews, but sales were disappointing and in publishing, the marketing budget tends to follow success. So she decided it was vital to promote her own work and thought that it would be much easier to do that collectively than as an individual. I was delighted to join the group and my fellow squaddies have become great friends.
We produced a brochure, contacted libraries, bookshops and festivals and travelled all over the country to talk to readers. We published an anthology of short stories. Our careers have moved on since the group was formed - Cath Staincliffe developed work in TV and radio, devising Blue Murder, starring Caroline Quentin, for ITV, Martin Edwards changed the settings of his books from Liverpool to the Lake District, Chaz Brenchley developed a series of fantasy novels and John Baker stopped publishing altogether. But still we remain friends and most of us still feel that Murder Squad has an important role in our writing lives.
So where do we go from here? Well, exciting things are happening. Margaret has just signed a two book deal with Constable. She's been collaborating with forensic scientist Prof Dave Barclay, so you can expect a thriller with a truly authentic flavour. The pair will publish under the name A D Garrett. Cath has a couple of very exciting projects in development - secret at the moment but I'll tell you as soon as I can! And we have two new members to replace John and Stuart Pawson, who has decided to retire (though his fabulous Charlie Priest books are still available). Kate Ellis writes contemporary novels with a historical storyline. One series is set in Devon and one in a very spooky York. And Chris Simms has been described by the Guardian as one of the best of the new generation of crime writers.
We've come together again to promote our latest short story anthology, Best Eaten Cold. The launch was at Lingham's Bookshop in Heswall. It seemed fitting that the title should be taken from one of Stuart's stories and very unfortunate that a motorway pile-up prevented him from being there with us. Martin and I will be appearing at the Newcastle Winter Book Festival next weekend (24th-27th November). Martin will be hosting one of his hugely popular murder mysteries and I'll be back in the Lit and Phil library to talk about Vera and to hear one of of my stories from Best Eaten Cold read by actress Elizabeth Carling. Elizabeth is famous for Watching, Goodnight Sweetheart and has more recently played a lead role in the ITV adaptation of The Crow Trap. She was quite brilliant as a bereaved mother and I can't wait to hear her read The Habit of Silence, a Vera story set in the Lit and Phil. It promises to be a very special event. Do come along to meet us both.