Last week was Independent Bookshop Week and it seems to me that there’s no better way to celebrate it than to attend an event at one of my very favourite Indies – Goldsboro Books. Located in the rather lovely Cecil Court near Trafalgar Square in London, it is the perfect source for first editions, usually signed, of some of the best books published to day. It is awash with good historical fiction and thrillers so that keeps me happy. Every few months, there’s an event that inevitably spills into the street outside, bringing together authors, publishers, readers and bloggers in big wine-supping numbers. Last September, I had a brilliant time at History in the Court (you can read all about that here), last week on 4 July, it was the turn of Crime in the Court, fitting considering that the building that houses Goldsboro Books was once the scene of a murder…As this blog shows, I’m not the biggest reader of crime fiction but I am a huge fan of a good thriller and among the authors attending were some people I was very keen to meet. It being the way of these events, there was such a crush on this hot and muggy night that I didn’t see them all, but it was so good to see Lloyd Shepherd and D.E. Meredith again (whose books you’ll find reviewed in these pages, including The Poisoned Island and The Devil’s Ribbon) as well as meet new authors such as William Ryan (I’ll be reviewing The Twelfth Department later this summer). A big draw for me was to meet in person Simon Toyne, the master author of the Sanctus trilogy, the first of which (Sanctus) was the first fiction book I ever reviewed and the third, The Tower, featured me in a cameo, ensuring a grin across my face for at least a month! Simon is a fabulous writer, one of my favourites of any genre, and it’s been a privilege of this blog to have been able to follow the development of the Sanctus trilogy over the last few years. He is also an extremely nice chap and it was so good to meet him. It was also fabulous to get the chance to meet one third of the original KillerReads team from HarperCollins, Kate. It’s thanks to KillerReads that I’ve been able to enjoy Simon’s novels (and others) at such early stages of the publication process.
It was so good to meet finally and at last Ben Willis and Sam Eades from Headline, Rachel Raynor ‘the crime desk’ and Patsy Irwin and her amazing team from Transworld. It has taken far too long. I must also mention how pleasant it was to chat to Twitter Sue and her husband among many others. Thanks especially to David Headley for his hospitality and for organising yet another tremendous event.
History in the Valley
Last weekend – another hot weekend – it was time for the Chalke Valley History Festival, an event which is to be found at the end of long country tree-sheltered lanes in deepest Wiltshire. A veritable host of leading historical authorities gave talks, signed books and mingled at this rather awe-inspiring week-long event. Unfortunately, the appeal of such an event, combined with spectacular weather, ensured that we spent much of last Saturday’s visit queuing in the car to get in – seeking glimpses of the event’s air show’s World War 1 dog fight through the treetop canopy. Finally, we did emerge into the sunlight and we were able to poke our heads into talks containing such luminaries as Michael Wood, Jackie McKinley (Time Team and Wessex Archaeology) and Alex Langlands (Victorian Farm). Also spotted was Neil Oliver – Viking and prehistoric expert who has featured in these pages before.We weren’t able to see any of the talks – although we were able to sample the prosecco and tea -but it was great to say hello to historian Tom Holland. We then saw him signing books alongside Dan Snow and Boris.
A big highlight of the festival was having a chat with Mike Arnold (review of his latest Assassin’s Reign here). It was also good to see briefly Diane from Twitter.