2017 has been a year of ups and, quite literally, downs. Ups in that I signed a two-book deal with the awesome Little, Brown imprint, Constable, and downs in that I fell and shattered my ankle in February which put me out of action for most of the year (more on that later).
Below, in chronological order, is a brief summary of each month.
In Dec 2016, my agent, David Headley, had told me that Little, Brown was interested in buying Welcome to the Puppet Show, the first in the Washington Poe series. This was the new series David had asked me to write when he signed me in 2016, and as Little, Brown are a major publisher in the UK and beyond, it was a huge deal. Long story short, the meeting in January went well and they made an offer. Two books, both in hardback followed by mass-market paperback.
I was also lucking enough to be one of the initial readers for the CWA Debut Dagger competition. Being shortlisted in 2013 pretty much gave me a career so it’s nice to give a little bit back. And this year, like last year, I picked the winner 🙂
In other, non-book news, S.4 of Sherlock aired and I thought it was great.
Good start to the year. Month rating: 10/10
Shit start to the year. Walking back from a punk gig in Carlisle, I fell (outside the biscuit factory – and for those of you who know Carlisle, you’ll know just how near to the hospital I was . . .). Tried to get up. Couldn’t. Tried again and managed it. Fell down immediately and banged my head. Ambulance. Morphine. A&E. Shattered ankle and a “you’re going nowhere, Mr Craven”. An operation and more metal in my leg than magnet man walking through a pin factory.
Things missed because I was in plaster: The Handsome Family (gig I was supposed to be going to) and Logan (film).
Month rating: 2/10 (I still had residual good feelings from the LB offer).
March was a mixed month. Mainly shit as I was in plaster for all of it, but I did sign the Little, Brown contract so the Washington Poe series was officially happening. The main thing March was known for was the catalogue of things Mrs C and I were forced to miss because I was in plaster: Stiff Little Fingers (a massive blow as it was their 40th anniversary tour and Mrs C was 40 this year), The Mahones, Pink Floydian (all gigs). I had booked two tickets to see the Peter James’ Roy Grace play at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. Couldn’t attend. Jo went with her friend but worried about her bed-ridden husband all day. Also missed Carlisle Comic Con and Crime & Publishment (for the first time since I started attending).
Month rating: 1/10
My plaster came off in April and I was given an air splint. Meant I could put some weight on it and I was, sort of, mobile again. I was able to attend Newcastle Noir for the first time but couldn’t make my friend Lucy Cameron’s book launch: Night Is Watching. I also missed Guardians of the Galaxy 2. Bummer.
Month rating: 5/10
My air splint and I were summoned to an exciting meeting in London. Back in February (the day I was discharged from hospital as it happens), a major TV production company had expressed interest in optioning the Washington Poe series and had asked me to send them what I’d written for book 2. I’d done what was asked and answered supplementary questions as best as my morphine addled mind had been able to. I’d kinda forgotten about it to be honest but in April the meeting was arranged for 2nd May. The trip to London was marked by two things: the meeting went very well and an offer was made, and I got lost trying to crutch my way back to the hotel. Jo had to come and find me. Felt a right knob.
Another positive: I finally got to see Iron Maiden.
And on May 25th, the second DI Fluke novel, Body Breaker, was published. Huge thanks to Caffeine Nights for the killer cover. Was thrilled to find out that the first print run was sold out pre-publication. On the hottest day of the year, over one hundred people crammed themselves into the Old Fire Station Arts Centre for the launch. I was still walking with a stick but it was a great evening. Michael J. Malone did a sterling job of interviewing me.
Month rating: 9/10
The first part of June was mostly taken up with Mrs C’s 40th birthday celebrations. We ate at some lovely restaurants and did some fun things together.
At the back end of the month there were a couple of writing events. The first was the inaugural Mystery Writers’ Weekend in Wigtown, SE Scotland and the second was one I’d wanted to go to for ages: Crime in the Court, hosted by Goldsboro Books. Great fun.
Month rating: 9/10 (inflated score as first month since January I was walking unaided . . .)
July means Harrogate. All crime writers and readers will know what I mean by this so I won’t embellish. This time we didn’t stay in one of the event hotels, we stayed in the town centre instead. Saw much more of it and ate properly for once. Met Mick Herron (proper fanboy moment) for the first time and stalked him for the rest of the (very drunken) weekend.
Non-book news: saw Bryan Adams and Fred McCauley, both in Carlisle. Also saw the new Spider-Man film.
And no word of a lie. This is the photo I took of Fred on stage . . .
Month rating: 10/10
Quiet month. Saw The Skids and went to a see a few Carlisle Fringe comedians. All good. Went to a wedding in the Cotswolds. On the bank holiday weekend. Took six and a half hours to get there and then we couldn’t find a cashpoint. Would have been a disastrous weekend if my agent hadn’t called on the way down to say he’d finalised a deal with Weltbild Publishing for the German language rights to The Puppet Show (The ‘Welcome To’ part of the title had been dropped by then).
Month rating: 6/10
September is when all crime writers attend Bloody Scotland in Stirling, and when me and Mrs C, contrarily, go on holiday. This year we went to Madeira. Love it there. So peaceful, so beautiful. My friend Angela King also launched her debut novel: The Blood of Kings. She had a special launch and I was delighted I could attend. It’s an historical novel and is absolutely fabulous.
Jo and I also went to the soft opening of Mel Brooks’ Young Frankenstein at the Theatre Royal in Newcastle. Jo had bought me tickets for my birthday and it was even funnier than I had imagined. Ross Noble as Igor was the standout but all the cast were superb. There was even a technical blip where Ross came out to entertain the crowd whilst it was fixed. Only . . . it wasn’t a blip. I spoke to my friend John Langley, who’d also been to see it, and he said the same thing had happened when he’d been. There’d been a technical blip and, after the safety curtain had come down, Ross Noble came out and entertained the crowd for a minute or so. Once we’d established we were at different showings, we quickly realised Mel Brooks had duped us. Well played, sir . . .
Month rating: 8/10
October in Carlisle means Borderlines. This year I was asked if I would interview Sinclair McKay who’d written a non-fiction book about a murder in Victorian London: The Mile End Murder. I was sent an advance copy by the publisher and I was engrossed from the moment I read the first few lines. Sinclair is better known for his expertise and books on the code-breakers at Bletchley Park but this book proved he also knew what he was doing going back a hundred years earlier. Our event was a well-attended one at Tullie House and afterwards we all went to the Kings Head for a celebratory pint.
Non-book things we did were going to see Thor:Ragnorok (superb) and another band from my youth: The Angelic Upstarts.
Month rating: 7/10
The highlight of November was undoubtedly Hull Noir. Every other year Iceland Noir relocates to a UK venue, and this year the three day event helped Hull celebrate their City of Culture status. Met up with some old friends and made some new ones. Got drunk with Martina Cole (who asked me to sign one of my books for her) and did a bit more Mick Herron stalking. Learned loads about Ted Lewis and how the film Get Carter (adapted from Ted’s book Jack’s Return Home) was the beginning of the end for him. The film relocated to Newcastle and Ted was never really given the credit he deserved. In the film commentary, his name isn’t mentioned apparently. When the book was mentioned, he was referred to only as ‘the author’. The man died far younger than he should have, a lonely and bitter alcoholic. If you haven’t read any Ted Lewis, I would urge you too. His writing is simply beautiful. About as noiry as noir gets. The rain rained . . .
Other October highlights were the Carlisle Beer Festival, going to see another band from my youth (U.K. Subs) and having the second Poe novel, Black Summer, accepted by Little, Brown. Also we saw Justice League. It was OK.
Month rating: 8/10
The month hasn’t finished yet and I’m hard at work on Poe 3 – untitled as of now but provisionally going to be called Scav or Sinner. It’s the Crime & Publishment Christmas party tonight, which is always good fun and, other than going to see the new Star Wars, the rest of the year should be nice but uneventful.
Oh . . . and I was finally able to reveal the cover for The Puppet Show. Pretty cool if you ask me.
A serial killer is burning people alive in the Lake District’s prehistoric stone circles. He leaves no clues and the police are helpless.
When his name is found carved into the charred remains of the third victim, disgraced detective Washington Poe is brought back from suspension and into an investigation he wants no part of.
Reluctantly partnered with the brilliant, but socially awkward, civilian analyst, Tilly Bradshaw, the mismatched pair uncover a trail that only he is meant to see. The elusive killer has a plan and for some reason Poe is part of it.
As the body count rises, Poe discovers he has far more invested in the case than he could have possibly imagined. And in a shocking finale that will shatter everything he’s ever believed about himself, Poe will learn that there are things far worse than being burned alive . . .
Year rating: 9/10.
Cool things that happened to some of my friends. Just gonna rattle these off: Graham Smith became an international best seller with the first of his Jake Boulder books, Noelle Holten left probation for a dream job with Bookouture (she’s also penning her first novel . . .), Jackie Baldwin, Les Morris and Tess Mackovesky all got publishing contracts, A.A. Dhand’s second Harry Virdee novel, Girl Zero, was published and my beautiful wife, Jo, began proofreading professionally.
I’ve read almost 100 books this year. These are some of the ones that stood out.
Spook Street by Mick Herron
Want You Gone and Places in the Darkness both by Chris Brookmyre
Razor Girl by Carl Hiaasen
The Secrets She Keeps by Michael Robotham
House of Spines by Michael J. Malone
Mile End Murder by Sinclair McKay
Girl Zero by A. A. Dhand
Sleeper by J. D. Fennell
Jack’s Return Home by Ted Lewis
The Late Show by Michael Connelly
Dig Two Graves (Solomon Gray 1) by Keith Nixon
The Boy Who Saw by Simon Toyne
Executed (Book 2 of the Extracted trilogy) by RR Haywood.
Despite the broken ankle and the inevitable arthritis this will cause, 2017 was, all-in-all, a pretty decent year. Can’t wait to see what 2018 brings . . .
M. W. Craven.
10th December 2017.