Well, it’s been quite a year one way and another. In the UK we had a Royal Wedding and summer riots. On the one hand we all sat and witnessed a gaggle of workshy layabouts whose actions cost us all a lot of money. Then there were the riots. You see what I did there? Yes, quitting stand-up comedy may well have been a very good move. Aside from the makers of William & Kate commemorative tea cosies, it was not the best of years for a great many people, most notably some of the world’s leading tyrants. Several of those in the Top Ten International Despots (there’s no such chart, for those eager to see who’s made it to Christmas Number One) were either deposed or actually turned up their toes in 2011. Colonel Gadaffi won’t be troubling Santa this year and neither will Kim Jong Il, whose death – if nothing else – was fodder for many able to trot out the ever-reliable "I told you I was Il" gag. Not a particularly generous or festive thought I know, but let’s hope that good things come in threes and that Robert Mugabe can make it a pre-Christmas hat-trick…
And always lovely to see out the year watching Piers Morgan squirm. He claims total innocence as far as phone-hacking goes (of course he does) and has announced that he is "very proud" of some of the things that happened while he was in charge of the Daily Mirror. Now that’s a list I’d like to see. He is someone with one of those faces, don’t you think? The sort of face that you would have to punch more than once.
By comparison, my year was blissfully quiet and hugely enjoyable, not least due to those readers whose support saw GOOD AS DEAD go straight in to the Sunday Times bestseller list at Number One (now that chart really does exist!) I’m hugely grateful to all those who read the books and especially to those who take the trouble to write and tell me they have enjoyed doing so. In point of fact, I’m grateful to those (mercifully fewer) who write to tell me they have not enjoyed a book, as some of the… fruitier ones provide material for me to read out at festivals. So good or bad, keep ’em coming!
It was great to catch up with friends at this year’s Bouchercon in St Louis which was superbly organised by Jon and Ruth Jordan and I’m already looking forward to the 2012 gathering in Cleveland. I have tried to suppress the footage of my singing on the last night, but several people have pirate copies and I am paying out a substantial sum every month to keep it off You Tube. To anyone who has seen it, I can only apologise.
Another highlight was the ITV3 Crime & Thriller Awards and it was a huge honour to be inducted into the Hall of Fame alongside the likes of Arthur Conan-Doyle, Agatha Christie, Colin Dexter, PD James, Ian Rankin, George Pelecanos and Val McDermid. I think I managed to get to the stage and make my speech before the booze kicked in, but it was a close thing.
Less of a highlight was hitting 50, but it was a good excuse for a party which provided the year’s genuine highpoint for me, when my kids (who had, unbeknownst to me, been rehearsing for weeks) got up with the band, strapped on guitars and played a kick-ass version of "Paperback Writer". If Mr McCartney ever heard me destroying "I Saw Her Standing There" in Cleveland, he would have every right to hire a hit-squad, but he would certainly have enjoyed my kids’ efforts with another of his songs.
A memory to treasure…
Anyway, now the headlines…
• New book! Done and just about dusted.
• TV. Good news and bad news.
• A DJ Dream Fulfilled.
• World Book Night.
• A Busy Year Ahead.
• Billingham revealed as victim of phone-hacking. Dozens of calls to Indian restaurants and Domino’s Pizza intercepted.
One of the above headlines may not be entirely true…
THE NEW BOOK
My 11th novel will be published in the UK by Little, Brown in August 2012. It’s a standalone thriller, though as happened with my previous non-series offering, those who persevere may well be given a clue as to what Tom Thorne will be doing when the next book in that series appears the following year. This is a very different book, about which I am a little nervous. That’s not to say that I’m not pleased with it – I certainly am – but it’s always nerve-wracking to step out of your comfort zone, however much you know it’s the right thing to do.
I’m keeping the title to myself for the time being as these things are rarely set in stone, but the book is about three British couples who meet on holiday in the US and then make the terrible mistake of staying in touch when they get home. It starts by a sun-baked swimming pool and finishes – a body or two later – on the steps of the Old Bailey and is the first thing I’ve written in which some of the action takes place in the US. I hope my readers on both sides of the Atlantic will approve…
Talking of which…my wonderful US publisher, Mulholland Books, will be putting out THE DEMANDS in June. To be clear, this book was originally published in the UK as GOOD AS DEAD, but is coming out with a different title in the US. I hope this avoids confusion and will prevent a glut of emails complaining that my books are starting to feel the same. As they did with BLOODLINE, Mulholland have produced a beautiful looking book and there is a possibility that I may be doing some US events to support it.
THE LATEST TV NEWS
I am not best pleased about the fact that – for a variety of strange and infuriating reasons – a second series of Thorne will NOT be appearing on Sky One any time soon. It is really not worth going into the whys and wherefores, but the last few months have reminded me why I got out of television and started writing books. David Morrissey remains as committed to his continuing portrayal of Tom Thorne as I am, so we are hopeful that the fantastic script we have for LAZYBONES will see the light of day somewhere. More in the new year, hopefully. The good news is that the first series – somewhat ironically – has now been sold very widely around the world. It has been picked up by HBO Asia and by Starz in the US and I’m thrilled that viewers in both those territories will finally be able to see it. I’ll endeavour to get broadcast dates…
On a more positive note, IN THE DARK has been bought by the BBC who are looking towards a series featuring that book’s major character, Helen Weeks. I am hugely excited about this and as at least one brilliant actress has already expressed a desire to be involved, things are looking good. Again, more news to come, but needless to say my fingers and everything else are crossed!
I AM THE DJ, I AM WHAT I PLAY…
I think I now hold the record for the fastest email response in history. It took but nanoseconds for me to say ‘yes’ having been invited to host a show on BBC6 Music called "Paperback Writers", in which I would talk about the music that I love and that has influenced me and for which I would be able to choose fourteen…yes FOURTEEN songs! Kid in a sweet-shop or what? The whole experience was hugely enjoyable and made me realise just how much I would LOVE to do that kind of thing again. I don’t THINK I did that syrupy DJ voice, but I could be wrong. If you want to have a listen, I think the show might still be up on Listen Again, but for anyone interested, here is my song selection, in order. The first song may be unknown to many of you, but happened to be the first record I ever bought. Aged eleven, I think I just liked Tony Christie’s voice and the mariachi-style trumpets, but it surely can’t be a coincidence that even then I was drawn to a song telling the story of a man about to be executed for killing the man who had raped and murdered his wife. And, except for a quick burst of progressive rock and at least one glorious love song, the list only gets darker from there…
"I Did What I Did For Maria" by Tony Christie
"The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway" by Genesis
"London Calling" by The Clash
"This Charming Man" by The Smiths
"State Trooper" by Bruce Springsteen
"I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry" by Hank Williams
"Folsom Prison Blues" by Johnny Cash
"The Beast In Me" by Nick Lowe
"Ellis Unit One" by Steve Earle
"Ode To Billie Joe" by Bobbie Gentry
"Man Out Of Time" by Elvis Costello
"He Stopped Loving Her Today" by George Jones
"Does He Love You?" by Rilo Kiley
"Wichita Lineman" by Glen Campbell
APRIL 23RD, 2012
…is World Book Night, and I could not be more thrilled that my first novel, SLEEPYHEAD has been chosen as one of the books to be given away all across the UK. It’s some damn fine company I’m keeping, alongside Jane Austen (doesn’t so many events these days), Bill Bryson, Stephen King, Paulo Coelho, Roald Dahl, Kazuo Ishiguro, Cormac McCarthy and the like, and I’m proud to support such a worthwhile event.
I would encourage anyone who loves books to get involved with this initiative and if anyone would like to become a giver, they can register their interest here:
HARROGATE CRIME WRITING FESTIVAL
It’s fantastic to be once again chairing the programming committee for the biggest and best festival of crime writing in Europe as it reaches its tenth year. Each year the festival team strives to put together a weekend of events that can top previous years and this just gets harder and harder. Good job I like a challenge. We already have some amazing Special Guests in place: Harlan Coben, Charlaine Harris, John Connolly, Jo Nesbo. There are others whose names cannot yet be revealed. All number one bestsellers: A Stones-loving Scot; a Yorkshireman who lives in Toronto; a…OK, that’s enough clues. Suffice it to say, it’s an amazing line-up, with famous names, wonderful new writers from around the world and some real surprises, including a special TV event with cast and writer of one of TV’s most popular crime shows. For more info and details of packages, go to:
There will of course be events going into the diary for August and onwards to support the new book, but 2012 is already shaping up to be a busy one (never the mind the book that has to be written). Some things are still up in the air, but as of now, I will definitely be in these places on these dates.
•March 5-11th. Emirates International Festival of Literature, Dubai.
•March 16th. Aye Write Festival Glasgow.
•March 21st. Essex Book Festival.
•March 27th. Oxford Literary Festival.
•March 29th. Chatham Library
•March 30th. Chichester Writer’s Festival.
•April 13-15th. The Laugharne Weekend.
•April 20-22nd. Chipping Norton Literary Festival
•April 22nd. World Book Night Event. Trafalgar Square.
•July 19-22nd. Harrogate Crime Writing Festival.
•August. Edinburgh Book Festival
•September 8th. York Writer’s Conference.
•October 4-7th. Bouchercon. Cleveland, USA.
Please check the NEWS page of the website for full details of times, addresses, contact details for tickets etc.
I’m preparing myself for a glut of mince pies, sprouts and turkey sandwiches as we hurtle headlong into the season of peace, goodwill and unwanted socks to all men. Then, early in the new year, it will be time to knuckle down and start the next book, in which Tom Thorne is…well, you’ll have to read the book that’s coming in August to find that out.
The website’s forum is happily still busy, so if you fancy dropping by to talk about books, movies or anything else, feel free. The gang can be found here:
You can also pop along to my official book-related Facebook page here:
Or follow me on Twitter: @MarkBillingham
Happy Christmas/Chanukah/holidays….whatever lights your candle, and have a wonderful New Year.