Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Learning to read

Last night was the second of our 2 launch events for the Crime Express books. I arrived at Waterstones in Nottingham half an hour before the event was due to kick off. "I'm here for the book launch," I told the man at the desk. He pointed to the ceiling. "It's right up at the top," he said. So I started climbing. Floor after floor. Certainly the tallest Waterstones I've ever visited. And right up under the roof - I love attics - a delightful meeting room.

It takes time, I find, to learn how to read a piece of writing out loud to an audience. Writing that works off the page is not necessarily the same as writing that works when read out, in performance, as it were. First I choose the passage - something that takes no explanation and leaves the reader wanting more. Then I edit with a highlighting pen, choosing which sentences to read and which can be left out. Then I wait till the house is empty and I practice. Reading it aloud. Trying to find the pace and pauses that I think will make it work. That might get me close. But it is only when you read it in front of an audience that you find out.

Last night was my third time reading the opening of The Mentalist. I think I am starting to get it right. Hugely enjoyable.

All of which seems particularly ironic. One of my greatest nightmares as a child was being asked to read in front of the class at school.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

The Mentalist

I have a new book coming out this month. Fiction. But not a novel. Too short for that. It is published as part of a new series of one-sitting crime reads by Five Leaves Press, along with books by John Harvey and Stephen Booth.

My story is about a struggling stage psychic called Harry Gysel. Things aren't going well for Harry. His career as a performer may be about to founder before ever really getting going. Then one night he appears to predict the death of a member of one of his audiences. When she is found murdered the next day, he achieves instant celebrity status, but his troubles are just about to begin.

If you are near Leicester on the 18th October 07, do come along to the Adult Education College on Wellington Street and join John Harvey, Stephen Booth and myself for the launch of our books. The event starts at 7.00pm. There will be a second launch event the following Tuesday evening at Waterstones in Nottingham.

(And if you are in Derby on October 20th, do come along to my writing workshop at the museum).

Thursday, October 11, 2007


If you've followed this blog over the last couple of years, you'll probably have figured by now that I am fascinated by stories and what they mean to people. I've long wanted to spend some time on a creative project to do with narrative itself - as a subject.

The question people often ask when they have just been told a story is - 'is it true?'. Important though that question is, a simple answer, yes or no could well be misleading. Made up stories can contain truths. Apparently true stories often contain fiction - 'errors' we might call them. Especially the stories we tell about our own lives, which are hugely subjective. But these subjective stories still feel true. They are part of our identity, telling us who we are and where we came from.

Where am I going with this? To cut a long story short (so to speak) I am about to start on a journey around the East Midlands, speaking to people in libraries and other places, trying to find out about the stories they love and why they love them. As a record of my journey, I've started up another blog here

More of this in future postings.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Constitutionally Incapable of Tidiness

I seem to be constitutionally incapable of tidiness. I get papers out, focus on them for a time and then, perhaps distracted by some other more interesting task, I move on. The little detail of putting them away gets forgotten.

This need not be a problem because, like many dyslexics, I have a well developed spatial memory. Six months later when I realise I need those papers again, I can usually go back to the spot where I left them and pull them right out of the pile.

All is well, you might think. The problem comes when someone else tidies up. Six minutes, six days or six months later, I go back to look for my papers on that corner of the desk where I left them. But they are not there. They are there in my memory, but my hand finds only an empty space. I walk away to look somewhere else. But the memory of putting them on that corner of the desk is so tangible that I find myself going back to look in the same spot again. And, although I know it is illogical, again and again.

I have heard that many dyslexics tend towards untidiness. Whether this comes from being easily distracted, or from trusting our spatial memories, or from some other facet of the condition, I do not know.