March 25, 2018

Lost Treasures

Last week my friend joined the likes of TE Lawrence and Ernest Hemingway when he lost two crucial chapters of the book he’s writing.

This concerns me because I was helping with rewrites and editing. In my clumsy way I take a hard copy and on it write in pencil all my corrections, suggestions and lyrical pensées. Pencil notes can be erased and ignored but if they’re lost they’re gone forever. No copy exists, no carbon, no electronic trace on a memory stick.

You’d think, in the electronic age, that this kind of incident was a thing of the past. TE Lawrence lost the only copy of Seven Pillars of Wisdom at Reading Station. Hemingway claimed his wife, Hadley, lost all his stories and poems at Gare de Lyons in Paris. She’d packed them in a small valise but when she boarded the train to Switzerland the valise was gone.

My friend put my corrected copy of his chapters 34 and 35 in a plastic envelope and zipped it into his backpack. Then, somewhere on the course of three errands he undertook between my study and his home, the impossible happened: chapters 34 and 35 disappeared. He retraced his steps, made phonecalls, asked shopkeepers but nothing was found. Hemingway says Hadley cried for hours. I’ll concede my friend was gutted, but you’d think he could manage at least a few salties.

But I then tried to retrace my editing steps. You’d think that a job so technical would be easy to reproduce. It isn’t: on this second concentrated pass through my friend’s chapters my thoughts were quite different – proving that writing is a thing of the moment. It’s marks left in sand just before high tide. Truly, nothing you read is carved in stone.

Selected Works

Don't judge a book by its cover, or a bag lady by her appearance. "I didn't always look like this," she says. "Being barmy doesn't mean I'm stupid." Lady Bag does have her problems - her close relationship with cheap red wine, for example. When she gets hammered she talks to her dog. When she's extra-hammered her dog talks to her. Guess who makes better sense. She and her greyhound, Electra, wander through the streets of London, seeing a Dickensian side of the capital city that's only visible to the homeless. Together they accept the kindness or unkindness of strangers with the same wry patience. Until, on one dreadful day, they meet the Devil outside the National Portrait Gallery.
All Birdie Walker wants is some justice for her husband, Jack. But since Jack was a rock star and the justice has to come from the music business, Birdie absolutely has to take some extreme measures.Click on the title for more information.
Short stories
All my short stories up to 2003 are in this collection. It includes two written specially. Click on the title for a bit about how I came to write short stories and more information.
The Anna Lee series
I wrote six novels about Anna Lee. Click on the titles for more information.
The Bucket Nut Trilogy
Professional wrestler Eva Wylie appeared in three novels in the '90s. Click on the titles for more information.
Other stand-alone novels
RIFT is set in the Ethiopia of the 1970s. BALLAD is the story of a girl with a miraculous musical talent. MISS TERRY is the story of what happens to someone who looks different from her neighbours when a grisly discovery is made. Click on the titles for more information.
The story collections I co-edited for Britain's Crime Writers' Association.
In the early '90s I helped edit these three books - aiming them to be more annuals than anthologies. They include many things we're proud to have published. Click on the titles for more information.