It’s been a busy year for me. In 2016 I released two new Send for Octavius Guy novels: Octopus in March, which received great critical acclaim, and Big Bona Ogles, Boy!, which came out barely four weeks ago and is already beginning to attract some very good reviews. I gave my first interview to a book blog, Emma Hamilton’s Buried Under Books. Emma’s an English teacher currently on sabbatical and, as you might expect, her reviews are more in-depth than those that are usually on offer, and yet manage to remain surprisingly pithy. After teaching at Bede, a local charity, for over twenty-five years, I took voluntary redundancy in order to write full time. Since leaving, I have learnt of the deaths of two of my former students—one not yet thirty, the other only forty. This man’s mother was one of my General Duties Assistants when I worked at Southwark College many years ago. My heart goes out to both their families.
The Crimes & Thrillers reading group I attend at Canada Water Library has seen a huge transition. First we lost the services of Alice King, the member of staff who led the group so brilliantly for a number of years, then, due to poor attendance, we lost the staffing altogether. The three of us (now four) who formed the core of the group vowed to continue on, and in addition to our monthly meeting we have taken the group online. One of the great pleasures of attending a reading group is discovering books and authors you might never have otherwise come across. If you are a Crimes & Thrillers aficionado, why not join us online? If we happen to read a book by someone you rate highly, we would welcome your input and comments. At the very least you might be inspired to try out that author who you’ve always had your eye on!
So what do we read? This year we started off with Paula Hawkins’s The Girl on the Train (which I enjoyed more than I thought I would, if indeed “enjoyed” is the right word) and a number of rare and out-of-print titles that the British Library have resurrected as British Library Crime Classics from the Golden Age of Crime Writing. I was introduced to Andrea Camilleri’s Inspector Montalbano mysteries, and then came a slurry of titles that in all honesty I would rather forget. Once we’d established control over the group we chose what we would read more carefully. I was delighted by The Cuckoo’s Calling, the first Cormoran Strike mystery by J. K. Rowling writing as Robert Galbraith; we’ll be tackling the second in the series in the months to come. More recently we’ve gone back to basics with The Curse of the Pharaohs by Elizabeth Peters (fantastic!) and Venus in Copper by Lindsey Davis (fast-paced, wise-cracking swords & sandals stuff that the group adored). We’re currently ploughing through the almost scholarly Dissolution by C. J. Sansom, which I am thoroughly enjoying—corruption amongst the soon-to-be dissolved monasteries in Henry VIII’s time. We’ll be discussing this on January 26th. Join us to find out what the rest of the group thinks.
As a writer, I don’t get a lot of time to read books of my own choosing. This year, however, I picked up Moriarty by Anthony Horowitz. Take the Conan Doyle character Inspector Jones, the Scotland Yard detective who went up against Holmes in The Red-Headed League, then re-imagine him to be far more intelligent than Dr Watson describes. Throughout Horowitz refers to a second case where Inspector Jones crosses paths with the famous detective (The Case of the Three Monarchs; Horowitz’s own invention). In an act of supreme generosity, Horowitz provides us with Watson’s account of this story at the very end of the book, in an homage which is perfectly recounted in unimpeachable Conan Doyle style. It even goes so far as to elucidate the problem of how far the parsley had sunk into the butter! A real treat for any Sherlock Holmes fans.
And what does the coming year portend? I’ve begun work on Oh, No, Octavius! or Octavius Guy and the Case of the Quibbling Cleric. I already have a body—based on the Reverend Allaston Burgh, whose story I happened across whilst researching the latest book. His parishioners hated him so much they petitioned Queen Victoria to have him removed from his post. Their petition failed, which led me to ponder what might have happened next. Though it’s too early to speculate, I think the book might begin with the discovery of the Reverend’s body inside his church, his battered face an unrecognizable, bloody mess. Hmmm, as Gooseberry would say.
Finally, as a small token of my thanks for taking the trouble to find this page, I’d like to offer you a 50% discount off the list price of both Gooseberry (Send for Octavius Guy 1) and Octopus (Send for Octavius Guy 2). Purchase Gooseberry at Smashwords.com and, when it comes time to pay, use coupon code: RC23S. For Octopus use coupon code: GV88V. This offer is available until March 15th, 2017.