The publication of The Frozen Shroud, my sixth Lake District Mystery, more or less coincided with Crimefest 2013. Whilst I was more than happy, of course, to talk about the new book at the convention, I was also glad to play a part in the arrangements for the H.R.F. Keating Award for the best book about the genre published between 2008 and 2012.
The award was set up by Adrian Muller, one of the lead organizers of Crimefest. Adrian feels strongly that, in the UK, non-fiction books about the genre don’t get the attention they deserve at awards ceremonies. I agree, and so he asked me to help with making arrangements to help give proper recognition to some fine books. The award was named after Harry Keating, not only a terrific novelist but also the author of several notable reference books, and a nice touch was that Harry’s widow, the delightful Sheila Mitchell, came to Bristol to present the award.
A shortlist was drawn up which included some of my all-time favourite books about the genre. I’m a great fan of John Curran, whose first book about the Christie notebooks was on the list, and also of P.D. James and Chris Fowler, authors of very enjoyable studies. But there were two books I love where I did feel a touch of conflict. One was Following the Detectives, edited by Maxim Jakubowski, to which I contributed essays about Colin Dexter and Ellis Peters, and the other was British Crime Writing: an Encyclopaedia, edited by the esteemed editor of Crime Time, Barry Forshaw. I wrote quite a number of essays for Barry’s two-volume opus, and also featured in various entries written by others. So I decided it was best just to sit back and let the delegates decide what to vote for. Any of the shortlisted books, Barry has already and rightly said, would be a worthy winner, but I was certainly thrilled when Sheila announced that British Crime Writing had won out.
Apart from my own essays about others, Michael Jecks wrote a very generous and lengthy piece about my work for Barry’s book. So gratified was I by his praise for my evocation of people and place that I asked Mike and Barry for permission to include the essay as one of the special features in the new ebook editions of my first series, featuring Liverpool lawyer Harry Devlin. Another essay, about rural crime fiction, written by Philip Scowcroft, talked very kindly about the plots and locations of my Lake District Mysteries.
In The Frozen Shroud, I’ve set out to capture the atmosphere of a gorgeous but lonely part of Cumbria, around the fells at the back of Ullswater, where dark and mysterious crimes are committed on Hallowe’en – over the time span of one hundred years. The story links the old killings with a new and terrible murder, and also sees a dramatic change in the lives of DCI Hannah Scarlett and those close to her. As for the relationship between Hannah and her old sparring partner, Daniel Kind, will they get together at last? It’s a question I was asked at Crimefest time and again. And as with any of the usual questions about whodunit, the answer is you’ll have to read the book to find out!
The Frozen Shroud is published by Allison & Busby