Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Return of the North London Four

Last year I wrote a Rap Sheet post about a number of my fellow historical crime novelists who happen to be practically neighbors of mine, in the Highgate-Crouch End-Stoke Newington triangle of North London. The writers in question are Lee Jackson, Andrew Martin, and Frank Tallis. After that post went up, Andrew and I did a joint reading at a leading North London independent book store, the Muswell Hill Bookshop. Sometime later, the four of us met up at the annual Bodies in the Bookshop event in Heffers, Cambridge. I also met Frank for a drink at the famous Flask Pub in Highgate, just a short stroll from his millionaire mansion and within spitting distance of a house Sting was once reputed to inhabit.

That was last summer. In the months since, the vague idea of banding together for mutual support and warmth formed itself into something rather less vague, and we now find ourselves a collective, or a movement, or a mafia. Or whatever it is you call a grouping of crime writers. Probably a plot--yes, a plot of crime writers.

We currently have a Facebook page and are even a MySpace group. I’ll admit that was my doing. If anyone would like to join either entity, please feel free.

And we’re doing an event together, a discussion chaired by Barry Forshaw, author of The Rough Guide to Crime Fiction. It will take place in Waterstone’s Hampstead on the 7th of February, beginning at 7 p.m. It seems certain that the preparation for that event will involve some kind of meeting, likely as not in a pub.

Writing can be a lonely game. It’s just you and the espresso pot against the blank screen. It seems there is something about the very nature of the task that attracts and reinforces a solitary disposition. At the same time, writers can also be rather wary of one another, not to mention envious and jealous--especially those working in the same genre. On this subject, Andrew Martin told me a great story about a disastrous party he went to where no one seemed to be talking to anyone else. It was the most tight-lipped bunch of individuals he had ever encountered. The host, an author and literary journalist herself, explained that all the guests were writers.

Even so, we do desperately crave the companionship and camaraderie that come with proper jobs. So there is some comfort in coming together with fellow toilers over the keyboard, in recognition of our common pursuit. Naturally, we’re also hoping that it will help in marketing terms. Strength in numbers, and all that. We’re certainly lucky to have at our disposal the design and marketing skills of Lee Jackson, who put together the ad for our forthcoming event, pictured above. He’s also coined a new term for the kind of writing we do: “Gaslit,” modeled after Chicklit. I should also say that Frank Tallis has very much been the mastermind behind the plan, as well as the administrative driving force. Andrew and myself are more the foot soldiers of the group.

News from the four is that Frank Tallis’ Dr. Max Liebermann series of books has been optioned by the BBC, with a pilot script already written. He also has a new book, Fatal Lies, due out at any moment. Time to buy up those first editions, I think. Lee Jackson is now also writing as “L.M. Jackson,” with a new series featuring a female detective, Sarah Tanner. The opening novel, A Most Dangerous Woman, is soon to be released in paperback, whilst the second book, The Mesmerist’s Apprentice, is scheduled for April publication. Andrew Martin’s most recent Jim Stringer novel is Murder at Deviation Junction. My own new book, A Vengeful Longing--the second in my Porfiry Petrovich series--comes out on February 7.

If there are any Rap Sheet readers in the area, it would be lovely to see you in Hampstead on February 7. The subject under discussion will be “Gaslit Vices.”

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