Diary

This diary works the other way from most - newest entries are at the bottom. I have deleted many old entries, so it starts rather abruptly, as I make space for new entries by deleting early ones.

 

 10th April 2016

Much of the time since late January has been spent processing my mother's huge quantity of possessions, following her death in January. Her house was stuffed with it all. A great deal of it had become moth-eaten, rusty, damp, mildewed, so was fit for nothing but the bonfire. But we have been keeping a number of auction houses busy with books, craft materials, furniture, fabrics and pictures. One person can accumulate so much ovr a lifetime, and it does make one wonder about why we do it. She hadn't seen or touched most of it for decades.

But everything goes on as it always did. My latest book is GUILT IN THE COTSWOLDS, which had a big launch in Mickleton, where we sold over 50 copies.   THE HAWKSHEAD HOSTAGE will be out next month. New paperbacks as well.

However, the really big news is that I finally finished the biography of Sabine Baring-Gould, which I have been writing for so long. It is likely to be called SABINE BARING-GOULD: THE MAN WHO WROTE A THOUSAND STORIES. I am in discussion with a publisher in Devon and hope to have a publication date to announce before very long. It's a big book, and I am hugely proud of it.

Little Bunty is a year old now, and a delight. Gracie, the labrador, is slowing down a lot, in her thirteenth year. I am disposing of all the sheep, and will probably try to create a wildlife haven here, with a lot of trees and long gras for beasts to hide in. There are the usual selection of foreign trips in the diary.

 

 10th July 2016

A shameful three months since I last made an entry. No proper excuses, either.

So - what's been happening? I went to Argentina for three weeks with my friend Liz. We drove around the central part of the country, seeing cities such as San Juan and Cordoba, as well as some very beautiful mountains. The people everywhere were enormously friendly and patient with us. There were countless homeless dogs roaming the streets, looking healthy and well-fed, but desperate for a family. Reduced me to tears more than once.

A COTSWOLD CASEBOOK is in the pipeline, to be published this October. Twelve original short stories all featuring Thea, Drew or people close to them. A refreshing change for me, and I hope for the readers. But back to normal next year, with PERIL IN THE COTSWOLDS. Also THE BOWNESS BEQUEST will appear in the spring. So you see, I have not been idle. And another bit of boasting - this year I came 88th in the Most Borrowed Authors list. Will I ever manage the top 50??

My fields are now full of the expected long grass. Plus great swathes of yellow vetch, purple clover, bugle and buttercups. Also some thistles, which are less welcome. The garden is full of hedgehogs, which suffer annoyance and even persecution from Bunty. I found a dead baby one this morning. I fear she frightened it to death. Ironic, that the idiot dog should focus on these precious pricklies, when she could chase mice or pheasants as much as she likes.

Still plenty of travels in the diary for this year. France, New York and Australia are all coming up. I am also trying to transcribe my mother's memoirs, and get all her papers into some sort of order. To this end I bought a big new filing cabinet yesterday, at an auction. Managed to get it into the house, minus its drawers, and then took over an hour trying to get them in again. Finally achieved it. Going to auctions has become something of an obsession. But yesterday was tainted by someone making off with a lot that I had paid for. Snarl.

Finally, can't resist saying I am more than happy with the Leave victory in the referendum. So are nearly all my friends, as well as people I chat to in the street (and at the auctions). My offspring are not so chuffed, though. I attribute that to their living in the bubbles of London and Brighton, poor things. Out here we've got a real world going on, and the future looks wonderful.

 30th Auguat 2016

Finished THE BOWNESS BEQUEST and started PERIL IN THE COTSWOLDS this month, as well as spending almost every afternoon outside in the sun with a book and the dogs. The repetitive days can be very seductive, and I've been in no rush to go out and meet people, or travel abroad. However, I did go to this year's St Hilda's 'crime and mystery' conference. The topic was the various strands of crime fiction - cosy, historical, suspenseful, psychological, and so forth. A good many talks focused on the Goldan Age writers. My books were instantly labelled 'cosy' when I started writing, but I have never felt sure I qualified. During one talk, I learned that the heroine (and it always is a female) of a cosy has to be likeable. Oh dear!! So many reviews of my Cotswolds books refer to Thea's abrasive, intrusive and nosy personality. People complain that they don't like her, and I always wonder why that matters. I also wonder what's wrong with her, when she seems pretty average to me. Nobody's perfect, or consistently likeable - and if they are, don't we find them a bit disconcerting? But I had no idea that I was breaking a rule for cosy crime, probably because I never wanted to be a cosy crime writer anyway. So - do we change the label, or change Thea?? Fortunately, Simmy Brown in the Lake District books is really quite a nice person...

August has been tainted by the unreliability of my internet connection. There have been many days when I couldn't get online. It was probably good for my writing, as well as for the garden, but it was also horribly frustrating - and it's still not right now.

The family holiday in France last month was a big success. Eleven of us drove right through the country in three cars, and fell in love with the Cevennes along the way. Wonderful hot weather and great food.

 

26th September 2016

The internet still isn't working properly, but the unexpected bonus has been better concentration on the writing, and a lot of time spent outside. It has been a wonderful summer for weather, travel, and general happiness.

I'm approaching halfway in PERIL IN THE COTSWOLDS and enjoying it very much. I think Thea's new way of life has been quite refreshing for me as well as for her.

My quick visit to New York earlier this month was a lovely interlude. I went to art galleries, antique shops and did a lot of walking in the heat.

I'm still working slowly through all the bundles and packets and boxes of papers rescued from my mother's house. It is all completely fascinating. Combined with all the letters I have kept from my own frinds and relations, it's a very big archive. One unexpected project to arise from it is a joint memoir with my oldest friend, Liz. Our friendship is close to 60 years in duration, and we still meet often and travel together, even though she lives in Australia. She has always been very keen on family history and is a published writer, so the obvious thing is for us to write a book together.

A COTSWOLD CASEBOOK will be out soon. Very excting.

 

 19th December 2016

A few friends have commented, in their Christmas cards, on how slack I've been with this Diary. Disgraceful! So a lengthy update is required. Firstly, the gathering of the Baring-Gould Appreciation Society in Bude went very well indeed. Great speakers, and some lovely socialising. The clifftop walk at Morwenstow was glorious. Two days later I flew off to Australia for the rest of October. While there I became intrigued by the life of a rather remote relative, who was the Bishop of Kalgoorlie from 1919 to 1950. I found a large archive of his papers in Perth, as well as material in the small towns of Williams and Kojonup. I became fascinated by his early life, and was very excited to find unknown letters to him from the poet Edward Thomas. They were good friends as students, at Lincoln College, Oxford. He didn't make much impact in Kalgoorlie itself, though. Not a single reference to him in the church there.

 Writing filled most of November. PERIL IN THE COTSWOLDS is now finished, and I'm pleased with it. THE BOWNESS BEQUEST is in production, and there will be a paperback version of the short story collection, in the spring. A COTSWOLD CASEBOOK.

SABINE BARING-GOULD; THE MAN WHO TOLD A THOUSAND STORIES is now to be published in March. I am hugely proud of it, a real Magnum Opus. 

  

 22nd February 2017

Another long gap, which has been filled almost entirely with preparing the Baring-Gould biography for publication. I have decided to do it myself, after all, through my small press, Praxis Books. It is 540 pages, with some pictures, and a full index. I have read it through countless times in recent months, and still feel proud of it. There will be a plug for it on my home page. It's a limited edition of 500 copies, initially. Hardback. Only available directly from me. I'm not paying Amazon to do it for me, nor Waterstones. That way, the cover price stays relatively low.

The winter flew by, and signs and smells of spring are now all around. Gardening is high priority now, but I am off to Staveley in Cumbria very soon, to get inspiration for the next Lake District whodunnit.

My daughter's adorable little dog is due to have puppies in two weeks' time. They will be three-quarters Shih Tzu one quarter Maltese, and will be looking for loving homes sometime in May. If they're like their mother, they will be the most marvellous pets. She's a real little darling. Meanwhile my Bunty refused advances from gentlemen dogs, and is unlikely every to become a mum. She doesn't seem to like the idea at all. She's coming to France with me in the summer, for walks in the Cevennes and visits to a lot of small village markets, I hope.

Next month sees publication of THE BOWNESS BEQUEST in hardback and A COTSWOLD CASEBOOK in paperback. PERIL IN THE COTSWOLDS is due later in the year.

 

 4th April 2017

My eldest 'child' is 42 today. Golly! Of course, I had him when I was 12...

Busy days. The Baring-Gould biography is now available in all its glory. Reaction has been surprised admiration in many cases. One woman said 'I expected it to be a sort of pamphlet.' It is in fact 540 pages, hardback, and very substantial. One review so far, extremely flattering, in 'The Western Morning News'. I've made it quite hard to obtain - you can only get it directly from me.

There are six enchanting little puppies at my daughter's house now. They were born on 11th March, and are all female. Three still have to find homes.

I'm halfway through THE STAVELEY SUSPECT, with a theme developing around mothers and daughters, for some reason. All the usual cast of characters are in it. I went to Staveley last month, and found it a most appealing 'normal' little village. No real claim to fame, so tourists overlook it. That's a good thing, because it means you can actually find a place to park the car.

Also making good progress on FOREVER FRIENDS with my friend Liz. Wallowing in nostalgic memories of the sixties and seventies at the moment. And trying to get a handle on the whole business of friendship and its place in our lives.

Some building work happening outside, which is distracting. Some much needed tidying up, with natural stone steps, will make the place look better.

THE BOWNESS BEQUEST will be out next month. Anyone interested in Simmy's love life is in for a nice surprise.

 

 5th June 2017

Finished THE STAVELEY SUSPECT, pretty much. Just a quick re-read and some tweaking and it's ready to go. It was interrupted by final checking of PERIL IN THE COTSWOLDS, which is due out at the end of August.

The building work took a lot longer than expected, but is now finished and it all loks magnificent. The builder had a very clever vision of how it would all look, and knew better than I did what was required. There's also a lot of new drainage, so I hope I won't be scared of floods from now on.

I'm away quite a lot this summer, assembling a big pile of books to read in the sunshine. At the moment I'm enjoying The Lamb's War by Jan de Hartog. He is a huge favourite of mine. I think he's a miraculously good writer.

Still inviting orders for SABINE BARING-GOULD: THE MAN WHO TOLD A THOUSAND STORIES. There's quite a large stack of boxes in my spare room, despite having sold an impressive number. Books do take up a lot of space.

The election is proving to be much more interesting than expected. I did one of my rash predictions, back in March - a win for Labour. I've been right over recent years, but this time seems even more reckless than usual. But wouldn't it be great!! Who doesn't love J. Corbyn?

Next project, starting in the autumn is CRISIS IN THE COTSWOLDS. Thea can no longer delay a decision on what she should do with the rest of her life.

 

 12th July 2017

A lazy summer so far, with better weather than usual. My deserted acres have turned into a breathtakingly lovely old-fashioned meadow, with a great variety of flowers, and far fewer nasty thistles and nettles than expected. Another long-dreamed-of project has finally been accomplished. There was a massive stone sitting in a ditch at the bottom of my big field. It weighs 1.5 tonnes, and measures five feet by six. Thanks to a brilliant stone expert it is now a huge garden table. No idea what to do with it, but it looks fantastic.

The election seems ages ago now, but I did enjoy it.

I finished THE STAVELEY SUSPECT and have just started CRISIS IN THE COTSWOLDS My Baring-Gould biography sells steadily and has been widely acclaimed. Other projects are on the stocks, but I'm spending some time in the Cevennes first with little Bunty (the dog). Towards the end of this year I'll probably settle down to THE GRASMERE GRIEVANCE. Thinking about crime in the auction rooms...

Had a most enjoyable event last night in Bromsgrove, as part of their festival. I attended a poetry reading of works by A.E.Housman in the afternoon, before doing a panel with two other crime writers. For a small town, Bromsgrove really aims high, and there's always something interesting and unusual going on. Housman is their local hero, and I learned a lot about his extremely compelling poetry.

PERIL IN THE COTSWOLDS is due out at the end of August. Thea and Drew are hoping for a normal family life in Broad Campden, but events conspire against them...

 

 17th October 2017

Something about the summer, evidently, that keeps me away from my poor website. I spent five weeks in France with Bunty, and then another six weeks or so catching up with all the jobs I'd neglected here. CRISIS IN THE COTSWOLDS has proceeded more slowly than usual, but the end is in sight, and I am enjoying it very much. 

France was magical. I was in a little-known area, far from any big towns or cities, close to the top of a mountain. Various friends and relations joined me for a few days, but I also had time there on my own. All very lazy and self-indulgent, but I did a lot of exploring local villages, reading and eating.

The annual Baring-Gould Gathering was in Princetown on Dartmoor this year. The weather was much worse than usual, but we sallied out onto the Moor regardless. Also heard folk songs, and entertaining accounts of the fascinating archaeology and the unusual geology of the area. Very good food and lovely company enhanced the weekend. But a few hours before I got home, my elderly labrador Gracie died unexpectedly. It has taken me two weeks to adjust to the empty space in the house, and Bunty feels strange as an only dog. Both my daughters have dogs, who come here quite often, which helps - but there is now a vacancy for a new little dog.

I've had quite a spate of aspiring writers asking me to look at their work. The usual mixture of promising and sadly unpromising. It has always been apparent to me that a writer is a very unreliable judge of his or her own work - myself included. And my critiques inevitably carry a degree of subjectivity - despite a pretty fair grasp of the various elements needed for a good strong story. Suffice it to say that once in a while an aspirant refuses to take my remarks as they're intended, for whatever reason. Hence the additional warning on the relevant page of this website. Fragile egos, or excessive belief in one's own abilities, can result in their taking my brutally honest comments rather badly. 

My friend Liz has been over here from Australia for several weeks, and we managed to get together for a discussion of our joint memoir, FOREVER FRIENDS. We lived together in London in the early seventies, and have travelled a lot together ever since. But our lives have diverged, and despite frequent long letters, there were areas that remained undisclosed to each other. This leads to questions as to exactly what should go into the book. We're approaching halfway and so far it has been great fun.

I think I'm renaming the next Lake District book, so it is now THE GRASMERE GRUDGE. I canvassed opinion at a talk I did a few days ago in Chester, and they were firmly in favour of the change. 

Once again, I am resolved to make entries here somewhat more regularly.