Wednesday, 24 October 2012


Life has been a little busy of late, so I apologise for not writing anything until now.  I have managed to squeeze in a walking holiday in Gran Canaria, and a trip to my old haunts in Cornwall.  I have also started rehearsing for the Stables Theatre's production of  "A Christmas Carol".  I have several lines in the Chorus, and two small parts as Scrooge's headmaster, and a dealer in rags and second-hand goods called Old Joe.  This latter character is describes as grey-haired and seventy, so why did I get the part?  My great acting skills, I guess.
In between all this, I am still making my way towards the end of the last Falconer.  I seem reluctant to finish, but I am getting there.  Of course Falconer may still figure in the stories I write with the Medieval Murderers.  Who knows?  We have a contract for our tenth book due in 2014, and being the tenth it will be based on the Ten Commandments.  With five or maybe six of us writing, it means two stories each, especially with a prologue and an epilogue to write.  So there is ample scope for two of my regular characters to appear.Who will it be?
What I also have in mind is to write a full-length novel using my Regency characters, Joe Malinferno and Doll Pocket.  They are a little bit more fun to write about than either Falconer or Zuliani, and there's plenty of new historical facts to mine for stories.  Malinferno was imagined after my reading of the engineer and Egyptologist Giovanni Belzoni.  He was no 'toff' like most people involved in mining Egypt for relics at the time, but a simple working man with a background as a circus strong man.  He worked for the British Museum, figuring out how to move vast statues in impossible conditions, and was responsible for digging out Abu Simbel.  In the end he was badly treated by the establishment - I suspect because of his lowly origins.  I have only written short stories so far using Malinferno and Pocket, and want to expand their lives into full-length books.  Go to my website to discover the books where they have appeared.
Ah well, back to Falconer.

Friday, 24 August 2012

A K Benedict

I have just spent two weeks of evenings buried in the dark of a theatre.  My favourite pastime is amateur drama, and recently the theatre I am involved with had a blank space due to an illness of a member of the cast of a play in rehearsal.  It was decided to revive a production of "The 39 Steps", last put on a year ago, to fill the gap.  From a standing start to first night took just over a week, and I was working backstage changing the set.  It is an hilarious spoof of the film and book, and involves lots of quick scene changes, so I was very busy along with the rest of the crew.  All the many parts are played by only four actors, who worked their socks off to put on an amazing show.
One of the actors is also the author and composer A K Benedict.  We know her by her real first name, but as there is another author with the same name, she goes by the initials A K as a writer.  She has written a lot of great material, but her first full-length novel is due out Feb 2013 from Orion.  It's called "The Beauty of Murder".  Look out for it, buy it, read it and enjoy.

Uncanny coincidences

I will shortly be coming to the end of my first draft of the ninth William Falconer book.  The first one was published in 1994, but I started writing it long before that.  Perhaps as early as 1990.  So I have been living with William for 22 years, and for the life of me can't recall how I came about his name.  I think Falconer was just a wry comment on the fact he was going to be short-sighted, and William was an arbitrary choice.  Imagine my surprise then, when I was working on some family history and discovered that my great-great-great-great-grandfather was called William Faulkner!  OK, it's not quite Falconer, but it's close enough to raise the hairs on the back of my neck.
My ancestor William was not an Oxford master however.  He was a sawyer, who was born, lived and died in Derby.  His daughter Mary married a Stevens, and their daughter married a Brownhill (a family of people who ran narrowboats on the canals of England).  Their daughter married a Withey (another family of boat people), whose daughter married a Lear (not King Lear!), whose daughter was my mother.  I would love to hear from anyone who thinks they are related.  In the mean time, I ponder on the possibility that William Faulkner/Falconer had always been lurking in the back of my mind somehow, just waiting to come out.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Backing up

The weather is hot now, and I'm sweating.  Though the cause of my excessive perspiration is not only to do with the current heatwave.  Last Saturday night  put my computer into hibernation mode, and on Sunday morning  pressed the power button to no effect.  My computer had gone into permanent hibernation - more like a coma really.  I began to sweat when I realised my lackadaisical attitude to backing up my work had come back to bite me.  How long was it since I did a back-up?  Maybe two weeks in all, I thought.  Fortunately (in one sense), I had not done a lot of work on my books in those two weeks as we are in the midst of updating our kitchen.  However, there was a significant amount of work that could be lost.  I do make hand-written notes of what I have done, so that I can look back to where I am with the storyline, but the actual text might be inaccessible.  Well, it was inaccessible inside my non-functioning computer.
I did have a diversion to take my mind off all that possibly lost work on Sunday.  In Hastings, the Guinness world record for the number of 'pirates' all in one place was comprehensively beaten with a total of 14, 231 pirates on Pelham Beach.  And I was one of those pirates.

Pirate Day in Hastings is a remarkable and fun day.  Come along yourself next year, and dress up as a pirate!
On Monday morning, I took my computer down to the repair shop, and had a day of nail-biting worry, until I was told everything was OK, and the laptop was up and running again.  I now have resolved to back-up my work every evening.

Thursday, 24 May 2012

Nick Zuliani

I have recently discovered that Nick Zuliani really exists!  For me, he is one of my main characters appearing in two novels and several short stories.  He began as follows.  My enthusiasm for Venice led me to want to create a character who lived in the medieval city, and who, like Marco Polo, travelled to the Far East.  There he would meet Kubilai Khan and became a solver of murders.  I made him a bit of a "wheeler-dealer", who got involved in all sorts of illegitimate business deals, and in the end was accused of murder himself.  This drove him from Venice, and he ended up in Xanadu, the summer palace of the Great Khan.
His name was made up from using the Italian first name Niccolo, which as he had an English mother, got shortened to Nick.  His surname was created in the following way.  There is a church in Venice called San Giuliano, which in Venetian dialect is called San Zulian.  At the time of writing the first novel, I was (and remain) a great admirer of Michael Dibdin's modern Venetian detective - Aurelio Zen.  So with a nod to that, I named my character Zuliani.  With such a random approach, I could not have imagined that I had landed on a real name! But recently, a fan in Italy (curiously with the same surname as myself) reported that a friend of her's was called Nick Zuliani.
I hope he forgives me for stealing his name.  My Nick Zuliani is a loveable rogue, and will appear again in the ninth Medieval Murderers anthology due in 2013.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Some personal bits and pieces

Those of you who look at my website, will know my enthusiasm for theatre, particularly amateur theatre.  Since moving to Hastings, on England's south coast (yes, that Hastings - famous Battle of etc), I have got involved with the Stables Theatre.  In order to learn how it works, I have been sitting in on, and helping with, a production of Terence Rattigan's 'The Winslow Boy'.  This is a retelling of an actual case in the UK from just before the First World War concerning a young boy at Osborne naval college who was accused of stealing a five shilling postal order ( a fairly small amount of money, even in those days).  As a military cadet, he was not entitled to defend himself in a civil court and was deemed guilty.  His father would not give up the case, however, and virtually bankrupted himself petitioning the government to exonerate his boy.  As the play puts it, the criterion finally was 'Let right be done.'  So it raises the subtle difference between right and justice - that is, if the legal concept of justice cannot be achieved, then right can prevail at least.  Ironically, the real-life 'Winslow Boy', George Archer-Shee was killed in the First World War age 19.

I am still working on the next, and possibly final, Falconer.  I know, that's what Conan Doyle said when he sent Holmes over the Reichenbach Falls, but I want to send my man off in a blaze of glory.  So a return would be a whimper.  Mind you, if the money was right...(wishful thinking, I know, in today's publishing climate).  That's not to say he may not reappear in a Medieval Murderers story some time.  I have the next two of those lined up, including a tenth anniversary volume.  The eighth Medieval Murderers book - 'The First Murder' - is due out soon.

Just to update you on Facebook Timeline, I have got it working and I haven't had any of my life erased!  Well, that's a relief.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Facebook Timeline? It's a bit bent!

Ah Facebook, how I love it...not.  So useful to keep in touch, and to use to pass on information about myself and my books.  Or so I thought.  Then I saw this new Timeline option, and thought I could add some old pictures of myself to it.  Vanity, I know, but...
It all started so well, until I wanted to go back and amend some stuff.  I noticed at first that sometimes pictures and events on the timeline were there, and then sometimes they weren't.  Then an event for 1953 appeared in 1968.  Finally, a whole chunk of my life disappeared between 1951 and 1958!  I know I had put in some events, and then amended them, but Facebook had wiped them out and wouldn't let me open that section.  Help!  My life between those dates has been obliterated, or at least rendered secret even from me, and feel bereft.  Am I some human version  of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia where events were changed regularly and amendments sent out, often obliterating people from Soviet history altogether?  Have I become an un-person in a  modern version of a Kafka story?
If this blog disappears, you will know the worst has happ....

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Hostage to Fortune

My comments in January about Falconer ageing in the stories at more or less the same rate as real time, reminded me of the incautious way I ended the first Falconer story in 1994.  As an epilogue, I wanted to give readers the feeling that all the characters in the story were real by telling them what happened to the main protagonists after the story finished.
Of course, some of my characters were real people.  Thomas de Cantilupe did exist, and after being Chancellor of Oxford University, became Chancellor of the Realm.  Sadly, his association with Simon de Montfort brought that role to an end after Simon was defeated by Henry III.  However, Thomas survived and eventually was a trusted advisor to Edward I.  All that is made clear in my epilogue to Falconer's Crusade.  I continued to use the names of the actual Chancellors of the university at the relevant times in future stories.  So, Nicholas de Ewelme, Thomas Bek, and William de Bosco have put in appearances.  I have ascribed particular temperaments to each one, some not very flattering, though they were real people.  I apologise to their shades if they feel offended.
Other characters were made up by me, some only appeared in one story, some being recurring characters.  Peter Bullock is a case in point.  As constable of Oxford, he has been a particularly close friend of Falconer's.  And in my first novel, I stated in the epilogue that he died in 1274 in a very particular way.  At the time (1994), I little thought this would present me with a problem, not imagining the Falconer stories would have such longevity.  Or that I would stick to a realistic time-frame in writing more.
In my  latest Falconer (number 9), which I am writing at the moment, I have reached 1274.  In fact I have gone past it by a year. For various reasons, based on actual historical events, Rain of Blood is set in 1275.  Now my careless assertion in the first Falconer eighteen years ago has come back to haunt me.  I must kill Peter Bullock off...Or must I?  Will anyone notice?  What do you think?

Friday, 20 January 2012


I achieved that landmark age of 65 a couple of days ago.  Of course, in the future it may not be much of a landmark as in the past.  If the UK government continues to push forward the age of retirement - now planned for 66, and maybe 67 - the traditional retirement age of 65 will become meaningless.  In fact, I retired from full-time employment when I was 50 and concentrated on writing - and other pursuits.  To imagine the last fifteen event-filled years of my life as otherwise being filled with more work along the lines of that which I had been doing up to when I was 50 fills me with horror.  Nor can I imagine having to work until I am 67, or even 70, in order to have enough money to retire on.  I know, I know, I've been lucky in choosing a career (outside of writing) that gave me a good pension, and that many people aren't so fortunate.  But I would hate to have to work for the bulk of my life, and then only have a handful of years to relax or do other things.
As a writer, my long-running characters have aged more or less in line with the timing of the stories.  The William Falconer series began in 1994, and that first story was set in 1264.  The latest one I am writing is set in 1275, so there has been a slight time-slip, but Falconer is definitely older and more tired than when he began.  Will he leave Oxford at last?  You will have to wait until the ninth Falconer is published.