I’m in the current issue of Mystery Readers Journal talking about my roots in the Midwest. Thanks are due to the fine hostess, Janet Rudolph. Although I’ve not lived in my home state in ages, something of that heritage remains. Pick up a copy!
Here’s Janez Grm, me, Funda Cinoglu, Vassilis Danellis, Avgust Demšar AKA Tomaš and Alibi mastermind Renato Bratkovič at the legendary Bar Grega. In Casablanca, everybody goes to Rick’s; in Slovenia, everybody goes to Bar Grega.
I was unprepared for just how amazing Slovenia would be. I thought it would be fun of course, as it usually is hanging out with other writers — but I had no idea how crazy beautiful this country is. Seriously, book your holiday today before everyone discovers it.
See the whole photo album here. There’s just too many wonderful pictures. Renato was a brilliant host: he took me to Lake Bled where we had their famous cream cake, then I got to nap a little at Hotel Jakec to get over my jet lag, then my first visit to Bar Grega to be greeted by the genial host Borut, who had the welcoming mat out:
The next day the other writers arrived (not having to come quite as far) and I met Janez, Vassilis and his lovely wife Funda — they live in Instanbul so it was fascinating to hear their perspective on current events, plus they’re both delightful. Avgust AKA Tomaš is quite a legend, like the Val McDermid of Slovenia. He has a wicked dry wit. We were lavished with attention at Bar Grega, then taken to dinner at the amazing Gora pod lipo, a stunning alpine restaurant set in a restored country house with all modern meeting rooms and the food — did I mention the food yet? Surrounded by vineyards and served the most tasty array of foods. When was I ever so spoiled?
As Renato said, nothing’s really free. He had us draw from potential titles because Saturday we would be back at Gora pod lipo to write the stories. Yes, we had most of the day to write, pampered with tea and wine and snacks like roasted pumpkin seeds covered in dark chocolate (oh, and I thought I hated pumpkin!). So of course I wrote about 6K — haahahaa! Imagine how much I’d write if I always lived like this.
Then we were whisked off to the cinema to see Psi brezčasja / Case: Osterberg, a noir film presented by writer Zoran Benčič and producer Tomi Matič. Zoran is also lead singer of Res Nullius, Slovenia’s premiere rock band (check them out). The film is based on his novel. Though we didn’t have a subtitles, it was pretty easy to follow the story (I’ll write a proper review over on Graham Wynd, maybe tomorrow). I was surprised to learn it was a no-budget film as it looked really good. The film premiered at the Festival of Slovenian Film in September 2015 and received unanimous critical acclaim while also winning the FIPRESCI Film Critics award for best film.
Then we all repaired to Bar Grega to chat and drink more Laško Noir — the official beer of Alibi — until everybody was too tired. So Renato drove us back up the winding mountain roads to Hotel Jakec (I think Janez probably still dreams of those drives and wakes up ill).
Sunday it was back to Gora pod lipo. I put the finishing touches on my story (would Borut live or die? 😉 following in Eddie Vega’s footsteps I put our Bar Grega host into my tale) then just enjoyed the beauty of the mountain and the bounty of our hosts. They took great care of us. Then it was time for the reading in the wine cellar. You can’t beat that for cool.
Then we had a wonderful dinner with Renato’s family to wind up the day and it was just the thing we needed. His daughter is a budding Evelyn Glennie and his wife Alenka made sure we were all eating enough. It’s a wonder I did not burst at some point during the weekend.
It was hard to say good-bye! Good thing I had Venice to entertain me — but more of that later.
It’s the little things that make a difference. I liked the attempt to give the authentic feel of a crime scene to the conference area.
Good thing I resisted the urge to call these posts “Gdansking Lessons” which I was temped to do, following in Vonnegut’s footsteps (“Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God.”). After the late night, I nonetheless managed to get up early and have a hearty breakfast before heading to campus one Paul short (I had already arranged the day before to change my name by deed poll to “Where’s Paul?” because that’s what everyone called me most of the time).
I got some tea, got my Powerpoint slides up and then launched into my talk on Dorothy Hughes’ In A Lonely Place, a too-often overlooked classic of noir. I was surprised how many people turned up for the last day — and an early talk — but the audience was kind and I hoped I had a reasonable argument. David Malcolm put me in a good mood by saying he’d read “ASBO Bambi” the night before and really enjoyed it (and here’s the original headline that inspired it for those interested). With luck there will be a proceedings volume in the future, so you will all be able to read a better version of my paper.
After a brief break we were back for a catch-all panel that brought together very interesting topics. Wendy Jones Nakanishi spoke about Japanese crime fiction of which I knew not a jot and was captivated. I’m going to have to get a list from her as they were really fascinating. Natalia Palich talked about the ‘metaphysical’ detective story in Czech literature (maybe that’s what I should have called White Rabbit) and Janneke Rauscher looked at readers reading crime fiction in public, particularly how they review novels set in their own towns. People take it personally if you a) get anything wrong or b) fictionalise anything that’s not really there.
The last panel had Gill Jamieson talking about adaptating George V. Higgins and I don’t know how I’ve managed not to ever see The Friends of Eddie Coyle in all these years — especially as I love Robert Mitchum so much — but I will remedy that blindspot very soon because the dialogue is just so great. Dominika Kozera talked about Hoodwinked! which I’ve not seen at all but the opening riff on Red Riding Hood hooked me of course and I think this is a programme I ought to investigate.
The closing lunch gave us a chance to chat with folks for a while before the dispersing began. I had a Royale with Cheese and this beer which was very tasty. I sat on the end of the long table (I always choose liminal space) and chatted with Hector, Wendy and Maurice Fadel. Funny that Wendy turns out to be a Hoosier, so we were swapping “how I got where I am” stories. Fascinating woman! Then some folks left for a walking tour, but I took advantage of hitching a ride back to the Willa Marea so I could pack up before the evening’s activities and do quiet stuff like watch Adventure Time in Polish.
I love conferences, but it’s a drain being surrounded by people all the time when you’re accustomed to being alone a lot.
I chose the right moment to head out to the conference ‘cooling’ as it had been jokingly called because I ran into Paul J who was likewise heading out. I kept us from getting lost on our way to the pub 😉 even though he had said “women have no sense of direction”.
He also told me he had run into Mr B who was going to the Kinski pub. “He was supposed to take me!” I complained. So I texted him to give him a hard time and he said I should come by. It turns out the Kinski is just around the corner from the warming/cooling pub. So away I went. And fell in love!
It’s dark, quiet and full of little nooks. You could hold a conversation. How rare is that, where most pubs deafen you with noise — either music blaring or television screens. And the beer was good but you’ll have to ask Mr B what it was I got as he picked it knowing what I like. Tasty.
So we sat and chatted for a long while and after all the hubbub of the conference, it was great. The music was good, the beers were tasty and nothing better than yakking with an old friend. When they closed the downstairs bar, we went upstairs and while it’s more open — you could imagine a jazz trio playing there until dawn — it was still relatively quiet and peaceful and just the way to spend my last night in Sopot. And neither of us had to get up too early the next day.
Agnieszka and her husband (a Scot — so many Scottish connections at this conference!) took me to the airport when I checked out of the hotel, so we had a chance to talk over coffee for a while so I could thank her for this fantastic opportunity. Agnieszka did amazing work and so did Ula, Marta, Arco and the rune master tech guy (who’s name I missed!) and everyone else who had a hand in the conference. Well done, very well done.
The less said about being caught between the moon and New York City, the better (never fly Lot!). Thanks Bertie for picking me up at JFK and driving us back upstate. In bed by 2 am, up at 6 and away to campus to teach a 12 hour day. But that’s the price we pay for seizing great opportunities. Bring on the dancing lessons.
And I have my limited edition dishwasher unfriendly mug, which I am not allowed to wash!
Harrogate — or to give its proper name, Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival — is always full of shenanigans. Put a bunch of writers together at a vintage pub in a spa town in Yorkshire when it’s far too hot and well, what would you expect? While usually I’d call the cheeriest writers either romance writers or horror writers (yes, really and if you’ve sung showtunes at dawn on a Rhode Island beach, you’d know that) this is the year dubbed #happygate because there was no happier place to be (in your face, Disney).
A big part of that is due to the surprise proposal Scott made to Jo at the end of the “In Space, No-one Can Hear You Scream” panel — but the screams were all of joy. Sly boots all: a happy couple even before the surprise, and it was pulled off with aplomb, champagne arriving on cue and a speechless Jo quite overwhelmed. Since Scott made it the last question from the audience, I think people were looking expectant at the end of every panel when the moderators queried, “Are there any final questions?” Congratulations!
The panel itself was an interesting one, hosted by program chair Steve Mosby and discussing with Lauren Beukes, Sharon Bolton, James Smythe and Lavie Tidhar the mixing of other genres with crime, which always seems to get sneers — yet also seems to enliven the genre each time there’s another cross-genre hit (I may be biased here). Since we no longer have to face the tyranny of the genre bookshelf, why stick to one label?
The interview with Denise Mina had kicked off the morning. I never get tired of hearing her speak. She’s funny and frank, and so inspiring. I loved how she talked about the pull of politics as someone who adamantly fights for change, but also realising the cost of political work — and the horror of the people who are often drawn to that life. She called them men with “suits too expensive for their faces” which seemed perfect. Politics will eat artists alive.
Martyn Waites hosted a panel of folks who represented the range of publishing paths out there: James Oswald (without his coos), Mark Edwards, Mari Hannah and Mel Sherratt. The upshot of the discussion is what William Goldman wrote long ago: Nobody knows anything. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket because we’re still in the midst of change.
I went to see ‘Robert Galbraith’ better known as J. K. Rowling because I figured I’d not get another chance to see her in quite so intimate surroundings. Although the event was held ‘off campus’ the town hall was still rather small and I was in the 4th row. Val McDermid had us laughing from the start (as usual) by teasing her about the name and declaring she would call her Bob. Although Rowling seems quite polished these days, the eager enthusiasm remains plain. She loves what she does — and she loves her audience. And she says there’s no limit to the Galbraith books.
Although out late, I steeled myself to get up early to see Lynda La Plante and I am so very glad that I did. Like Rowling, here’s someone who’s had a lot of success and yet the thing that came through was how happy she is to know people read her and watch her stories. Her RADA training shows in her seasoned persona, though she made sure to play down her acting as “lots of prostitutes” and of course that appearance on Rentaghost. La Plante is a hoot and a half; if you get a chance to see her, do. Someone asked what she does when she procrastinates, but she said she can’t wait to write. I think she felt the air leave the room then, but before all the writers could faint she added that she knew herself to be in a very fortunate place where people were waiting on her words. “I keep a sign over my desk that reads ‘Rejection does not mean NO!'” Nobody knows anything: to seize luck, you have to be in a position to do so.
Sophie Hannah and S.J. Watson talked a lot about the mysteries that other people are to us (and we to them). The film of Watson’s Before I Go to Sleep looked rather good. The new blood panel with Val McDermid was fascinating to see just how different all the new stars she’d picked were — from a Chastity Flame-like secret assassin, to migrant workers in the UK to a novel on the Axeman murderer in New Orleans and a dead child in a Irish convent school (which won the Dundee prize).
As usual, most of the fest was spend wandering around and chatting, passing out promo things for my own books (the Extricate chocolates went very fast) and apparently missing more people than I found. Some of that may have to do with disappearing to eat and play with Adele, Vince, Kat and others because they had a flat across the road.
The town was still full of Tour de France decorations — everything rather yellow. Harrogate’s a pretty town. I think I saw more of it last time, at least the lovely gardens. I always mean to try the Turkish baths. I did have a quiet lunch at the pub where P. G. Wodehouse used to drink on my way out of town.
The only problem with going away is trying to catch up again with all the things. Bit by bit…
I’ve been a bit off kilter of late, but slowly catching up with things. Here are some links to places I have been flogging my latest book with all my puny might (have to work on that upper body strength).
I’m over at Richard Godwin’s for a Quick Fire at the Slaugherhouse where I talk about the genesis of White Rabbit, a bit about Extricate/Throw the Bones and the forthcoming Drag Noir collection that features Richard and a host of fine writers. Richard’s also got a really lovely remembrance of AJ Hayes over at All Due Respect.
Mollie Cox Bryan had me visit and yammer on a bit about ‘What is Noir?’
I talked about the history of Spiritualism, Fakes and Table Rapping — topics that figure in the novel — over at Charlene Raddon’s blog.
I was also in the spotlight over at Annie’s Book Stop in Worcester, where I talked about all kinds of things. Drop by and see for yourself.
Heh, and he gave me a lovely and extremely flattering review, too:
White Rabbit is a marvelous and potent cocktail of crime fiction, screwball comedy and the supernatural. A cracking yarn choc full of brilliant lines that reminds you of Wodehouse, Preston Sturges and the Coen Brothers and yet is like nothing you’ve ever read before. Fantastic stuff. More please!
Mr B is aces. And a fine one also from the QoE: “White Rabbit” is a fun, intriguing story that sucked me in, took me on a corkscrew ride and never let go until the end. A wonderful blend of magical, gritty noir fresh from K.A. Laity’s literary cauldron.
I know, you may think she’s prejudiced because she designed that superb cover, but look here at this review over at Tony’s Thoughts that recognises what a wonderful job she did:
I love this cover. It screams Art Deco like a bakelite phone (there is one mentioned in this book). Did I mention how much I love this cover? This needs to be a poster, with shell shaped up-lighters.
Just so this isn’t all about me, here’s a picture of Charlotte bouncing on a trampoline: cute as a button, isn’t she?
I suspect that 2014 is going to have a distinctively noir feel:
First, there’s still a chance to get stories by the DRUNK ON THE MOON crew for free! Hustle on over and pick up any Roman Dalton you’ve missed and of course, be sure to leave ratings and reviews (you’re getting them free, c’mon! It’s the least you could do — plus my reviews for It’s a Curse
didn’t carry over from the old edition so sob totally rock! Thanks for fixing that, Mr B.)
There’s the imminent release of Graham Wynd‘s Extricate novella from Fox Spirit Books. Graham’s brief noir tale, “Headless in Bury” will appear in the forthcoming Fox Pockets anthology, Missing Monarchs. Just to get you slavering for the novella, here’s my generous pull quotes:
‘EXTRICATE is a twisty-turny noir tale of dishonor amongst thieves that is skewered with hot lust and cold blooded murder.’
‘Crime meets erotica in a fevered novella. Graham Wynd has written a fluid and tight story with vivid characters in situations that are inextricably charged with a sexuality from which you will find it hard to extricate yourself.’
In September (creating a bit of havoc with teaching but how can I resist) I’ll be a featured speaker at the Crime Fiction Here and There, Now and Then conference in Gdansk, Poland. I’ll be talking about women writers of noir — yes, probably Elizabeth Sanxay Holding and Dorothy B. Hughes as you might guess. More in a few months time. I’m looking forward to seeing Agnieszka, Duffy and of course my pal Mr B at the conference.
Oooh: NOIR CARNIVAL made The Cult Den’s best of 2013 list. We’re there beside things like Alan Moore’s Fashion Beast (also on my best of list) and Film Crit Hulk’s Screenwriting 101 and lot of other cool stuff. Very pleased!
And coming out this Easter will be WHITE RABBIT my paranormal noir novel from Fox Spirit Books: with luck a cover reveal soon. The sketches have been wonderful!
And if you’re still feeling the pinch of the holiday spending, I should let you know I just added a page highlighting all the things of mine that you can read for *FREE* — free reads for you. There were more than I thought. Get stuck in!
I think of this as the “sabbatical year” but the truth is it’s only the second half that’s been that
delirious wild ride of freedom time for reflection, research and writing. I don’t tend to be the kind of person who spends much time looking back, but it’s helpful at times to assess where you’ve been the better to be sure you know where you’re going.
Like the man said, “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
So things that happened this year were not always easy to measure: laughing with friends, playing with kids, hanging out with my sweetie, travel, reading, all the idling that makes work that much more meaningful. Work hard, play harder. I’m conscious of ‘making the most’ of this flexible year, but I also believe making the most of it means lots of idling (including trips to Orkney and London). We did a lot of work on the house too; hey, I painted that fence! Bit by bit.
Of course, I measure my life in pages mostly. Here’s what I seem to have got published this year:
A Cut-Throat Business: A Chastity Flame Adventure
Tirgearr Publishing: October 2013.
Noir Carnival. Anthology from Fox Spirit Books, July 2013.
Lush Situation: a Chastity Flame Adventure. Tirgearr Publishing. 28 Mar 2013.
The Mangrove Legacy: a comic gothic novel about mystery, romance and pockets by ‘Kit Marlowe‘. Tirgearr Publishing (2013) [reprint]
“When Little Joe the Krampus Met.” Digital chapbook [reprint] 4 Dec 2013.
“Carlos.” Flash fiction. Shapeshifters: A Fox Pockets Anthology. Fox Spirit Books, Nov 2013.
It’s a Curse: A Roman Dalton, P.I. Yarn. Blackwitch Press, Nov 2013.
“Kiss Like a Fist.” Noir Nation 3. Sep 2013.
“Losing My Religion.” Kwik Krimes. Ed. Otto Penzler. Thomas & Mercer: August 2013.
“A la Mort Subite.” Short story. Atlantis eBooks/Lite Editions. July 2013. [English/Italian language editions]
“Kerttu.” Etemenanki July 2013 [reprint from Unikirja].
“Black Ethel’s Beast.” Flash fiction by ‘Kit Marlowe’. Piracy: A Fox Pocket Anthology. Fox Spirit Books, Jun 2013.
“Grotesque.” Short story. Thrillers, Killers ‘n’ Chillers. 21 Jan 2013.
“Proposal for a New Quiz Show: How to Catch a Millionaire.” Humour. The Short Humor Site. 15 Mar 2013.
“Growing a Thick Skin.” Women Writers, Women’s Books. 27 Nov 2013.
“No-Tears Outlining.” Savvy Authors. 21 Nov 2013.
“Awesome Women of the Middle Ages.” Jump Magazine for Girls. 27 Jun 2013.
“Writing is my haka.” Music of the Night. Ed. Frank Duffy. Horrifically Horrifying Horror Blog. 3 May 2013.
“Desert Island Comics, Episode 54: K. A. Laity.” Forbidden Planet International. 13 Apr 2013.
“‘Won’t Somebody Please Think of the Children?’: The Case for Terry Gilliam’s Tideland.” The Cinema of Terry Gilliam: It’s a Mad World. Eds. Anna Froula, et. al. Columbia UP: Mar 2013.
“A Raven’s Eye View: Teaching Scopophilia with Dario Argento.” Fear and Learning. Eds. Aalya Ahmad and Sean Moreland. McFarland. Apr 2013.
“There’s Got to be a Word for It.” Ms. Magazine. 25 Mar 2013.
“Noir Goddess: Ida Lupino.” Pulp Metal Magazine Jan 2013.
A found recording: to be featured in Girl at the End of the World, Vol 1
And of course —
COMING IN 2014:
White Rabbit. Novel. Fox Spirit Books, Easter 2014.
Drag Noir. Anthology. Fox Spirit Books, 2014.
The Big Splash, a jazz age novella by Kit Marlowe, Tirgearr Publishing, 2014.
“Rite Here: Ritual, Performance and the Magick of Place.” Alan Moore: Totems & Taboos (On/In Comics Vol. 2) Stephen R. Bissette, ed. SpiderBaby Grafix & Publications (ebook edition: Crossroad Press); forthcoming Winter 2013/4.
Knight of the White Hart. Novel by ‘Kit Marlowe’ — editing the NaNoWriMo medieval adventure for submission.
High Plains Lazarus: A Weird Western Novella. Expanded edition of the long short story (and may be on its way toward a novel…)
Also an untitled fairy tale project for the Fox Spirit Books Feral Tales series.
*The CHASTITY FLAME series will be coming out in print, Summer 2014! Tirgearr Publishing will be making selected titles available in print as a way of testing the waters.
And this is stuff I’ve mostly already written: let’s see how much I can get done before duty calls me back to teaching.
So watch this space, because you ain’t seen nuthin’ yet!