It’s been a an odd old year for many reasons, personal and professional. The professional highlight was, of course, the publication of ‘Trust No One’, my first book as my mysterious alter ago, Alex Walters, by those good people at Avon/HarperCollins. It seems to have done pretty well to date, as far as I can judge, including a slightly heady couple of weeks as the best selling book in the iTunes store. I finished the sequel just before Christmas. Delivering a new manuscript is always a rather nerve-wracking process for me, as I’m usually still too close to the book to judge it with any real objectivity. This time, I was more nervous than usual as I’d tried, with perhaps more ambition than good sense, to write a genuine sequel rather than simply another book in a series. In other words, while I hope that ‘Trust No One’ is entirely readable on its own, the new book not only continues the story but also casts some new light (or perhaps shadows) on characters and events in the previous book. It was fun to write, but I didn’t feel able to judge properly whether I’d pulled it off, so I was relieved when my editor, the terrific Sammia Rafique, called to say she was delighted with it. The sequel’s likely to be called ‘Nowhere to Hide’ and is due out in October next year, and I hope it’s as enjoyable to read as it was to write.
At a personal level, it’s been a more uneven year. Just over a year ago, for reasons that will be evident to anyone who’s read the interview tucked away in the back of ‘Trust No One’, my life changed dramatically (having already been changing fairly quickly for the last couple of years for related reasons). It’s now slightly back on an even keel, but this year has been one of stepping into what feels like unknown territory. At the same time, I’ve probably been out more in the last 12 months than for a good few years, in the company of both my sons and some good friends. There were some memorable evenings of music – the Decemberists at the Manchester Academy and Half Man Half Biscuit at the Ritz, for example. But the best two evenings were both in London. The most remarkable was the Nic Jones tribute concert at the Queen Elizabeth Hall, featuring a short but stunning set from Nic himself, very ably supported by his son Joe. That was Nic’s first solo performance for around 30 years, and I’m delighted to see that he and Joe are now playing at next year’s Warwick and Towersey Folk Festivals. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that he and Joe might consider making some recordings as well.
The other very different remarkable evening was the one off performance by Jerry Seinfeld at the O2. I went partly because No 2 son is a massive ‘Seinfeld’ fan, and partly because I thought it might be my one chance to see arguably the greatest stand-up comedian of his generation (more of that in a minute). Observational comedy has become a rather tiresome genre these days, but Seinfeld was not only the best live comedy craftsman I’ve seen (with the possible exception of the worlds-apart Frankie Howerd, many years ago) he was also consistently interesting and thought-provoking. A terrific evening.
My reading experiences have been rather more muted this year, maybe because I’ve spent so much of it writing (I tend to prefer not to read too much crime fiction while I’m trying to write it). The books that have stuck in my head are a fairly diverse bunch – Greil Marcus’s astonishing collection of writings on Bob Dylan, Michelle Paver’s atmospheric ghost story ‘Dark Matter’, Ted Lewis’s 1970s Northern noir, ‘Jacks’ Return Home’, Allan Brown’s exhaustive and often hilarious account of the making of the film, ‘The Wicker Man’, and – currently – a re-discovering after many years of Robert Aickman’s short stories.
The new year promises – well, work on the edits of the new book, thoughts about a next book (including possibly getting back to the unfinished Nergui book that’s been languishing while Alex Walters possessed me), and a whole series of interesting domestic and logistical challenges. Shouldn’t be boring, anyway. Hope it’s good for the rest of you.