Political movies

Maybe it’s because I’m preparing a talk on Politics and Prose for the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster Libraries ( it’s free and happening on 25th January if anyone is interested, see Eventbrite Politics and Prose ) or it may be coincidence; but over the holiday I’ve been watching a number of excellent films depicting the world of power and politics, some based on real events.

First was The Death of Stalin, Armando Ianucci’s 2017 very black political satire of the Stalinist Soviet Union. It is a fiction, but its characters are based on real people who were part of the Stalinist ruling elite. These are played by a stellar cast which includes Steve Buscemi, Simon Russell Beale, Jason Isaacs, Michael Palin and others. The crude and barbaric terror of the Stalinist period is shown, full throttle, where the answer to any problem was murder and truth was what the most powerful said it was.  It’s a mesmerising and very funny film, in an absurdist way, but it’s also not comfortable watching. If you haven’t seen it, I can definitely recommend it.

The second film was The Ides of March, (2011) a George Clooney contemporary political drama starring Ryan Gosling, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Paul Giamatti, himself and others. This was less of a hit than The Death of Stalin and my other choice, but it’s an efficient and, in its way, thought provoking film which captures the tight-knit nature of U.S. politics – the intern is the daughter of the Committee member, the rival campaign managers are well-known to each other (each trying to exploit the other’s known foibles ). It’s a quieter film which depicts an inhuman and corrupt world – hardly news – but does so through the prism of one man’s ambition and where it leads. Again, recommended.

My third film was The Trial of the Chicago Seven, Aaron Sorkin’s 2020 depiction of the trial which followed the anti-Vietnam War riots at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago. Directed by Sorkin after Stephen Spielberg, whose project this was, had to withdraw, the film was on restricted release in September, but, given the COVID pandemic, went onto Netflix only weeks later.  If I hadn’t known that this was based on real events ( and court transcripts ) I wouldn’t have believed it possible. The real Chicago Seven plus Bobby Searle, the eighth defendant (and only black man) and their lawyers are portrayed by another stellar ensemble cast, including Mark Rylance, Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen, Joseph Gordon Levitt, Frank Langella, Michael Keaton and others. Like The Death of Stalin, this has attracted criticism from academics about it’s veracity, but, again like The Death of Stalin, it has been critically very well received.  Anyone who remembers the wit of The West Wing won’t be surprised by that on show here, it made this viewer laugh out loud a few times, though with a bitter twist. This truly was a ‘political trial’.  It’s also a clever depiction of a moment in time rather in the way that the TV series Mrs America captured the spirit of the 1970s political backlash to the 60s. I strongly recommend you watch this film.

The real events in Trial, like the shooting by police of Fred Hampton, Black Panther supporter of Searle, in circumstances not dissimilar to the shooting of Breonna Taylor by police in 2020 Kentucky make it very relevant to today. As does the ‘truth is what I say it is’ attitude of the Soviet powerful in Death, not unlike that of Trump and other populists. Political stories have a gripping relevance and political storytelling deepens our understanding of our world.

The first two films were based on written stories; The Death of Stalin on La Mort de Staline, a two volume graphic novel by French writer Fabien Nury and artist Thierry Robin, The Ides of March on Farragut North, a play by Beau Willimon ( Farragut North being the Washington DC metro station at the heart of think tank and consultancy territory ). The Trial of the Chicago Seven was written as a screenplay by Sorkin. Incidentally the U.S. TV version of House of Cards had an executive producer by the name of Beau Willimon. Now there’s a book about politics and power which has been translated to the screens, small and large, to very good effect.

I’ll be exploring how politics is depicted in stories, as well as discussing what a ‘political novel’ is in my talk on 25th January.

Meanwhile, may I wish that 2021 be a year in which we return to life as we used to know it, but that we appreciate it more; that the vaccine is given to everyone and the dread COVID is either eradicated, or mutates into something much less dangerous. Happy New Year!


No, I didn’t know either. At least I knew nothing of it until I looked it up.

Zemiology is the study of social harms, from the Greek zemia, or harm. It’s a relatively new academic discipline, which grew out of critical criminology and it seeks to generate real world action in pursuit of justice.

That’s where I come in, as justice is the theme of Oracle. I found out more when I had a chat with Sharon Hartles, of the Open University’s  Harm & Evidence Research Collaborative (HER​C).  She is also a member of the British Society of Criminology (BSC) and a researcher and postgraduate with the University of Strathclyde. A published critical criminologist, Sharon is currently conducting research on Primodos.

As I understand it, too often the crimes of the powerful are difficult to address under our current law and legal system, referred to as ‘black letter law’.  Actions which have a harmful impact on  others in society, like ignoring safety regulations ( or watering them down ) in pursuit of profit, or despoiling the planet, are not ‘crimes’ in law ( though they may breach certain regulations ). As an example, even after the appalling events at Grenfell Tower there are still no prosecutions and, indeed, it is becoming difficult to find a ‘crime’ with which to prosecute anyone, individually or as representing an institution or corporation. Yet facts were known, the wishes of the residents were ignored and the likelihood of fire foreseen.

Thus, events like Grenfell become referred to as a ‘tragedy’ or a ‘tragic accident’, yet they were foreseeable and avoidable and these events and others like them will continue to occur until the law adapts to make punishment of those who enable such events both possible and direct. Zemiology presupposes that isn’t likely to happen, as the powerful have co-opted the law and the legal system to protect their power and interests. An idea not unfamiliar to readers of Plague.

Sharon was a mine of information about this new discipline. I think it’s going to have to feature somewhere in Oracle, probably among the young idealists protesting against environmental damage who Cassie encounters at Delphi. Perhaps the charismatic protest leader is a zemiologist? We shall see.

I await the return of the final edit of Oracle, which has to be fully revised and returned to Claret Press by 31st January, complete with drawn image. I sketched the Palace of Westminster for the pages showing the start of each ‘daily’ section in Plague and I have undertaken to do something similar for Oracle, as that too is organised over a small number of days. Something I’ll be thinking about over the Christmas period.

Good news from elsewhere, however, as I learn that the recording of the audiobook of Plague has begun. I will write separately about this as it nears completion, suffice to say for now that Essential Audiobooks of New York are producing the audio book which is being read by actress, voice coach and associate of the Royal Shakespeare Company, Alison Bomber.  Alison has just moved to the Czech Republic, but is already working on the recording.  More on this later.

For now, may I wish everyone reading this a happy and peaceful Christmastide, where ever and with whomever, you are managing to keep it. Here’s hoping for a much better 2021.


And rest…

Phew! I finally get to look forward to Christmas after the whirlwind of activity – talks, discussions, events, giveaways – which has accompanied the publication of my first crime thriller back in September. All something of an eye-opener to this writer, whose adventure books set in 13th century Spain never generated this much activity and interest. Even in a world reduced by COVID I’ve been very, very busy, almost always online. It’s been tremendous fun, by and large, and I’ve worked with and met some great people, online, on social media and, not least, the readers of my book.

I’ve learned what to avoid  – the number of ‘umms’ and ‘ers’ in my delivery when I was talking to my own slides, unable to see myself or others last Wednesday for the Libraries, was excruciatingly embarrassing. Nonetheless, it prompted contact from a U3A crime fiction reading book group who have chosen Plague as their book for March and want me to do a talk for them, which I’m happy to do.  The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea and Westminster people also seemed pleased, they have asked me to do another talk in January, this time about ‘Politics and Prose’ – political fiction in a time of increasing citizen journalism and social media commentary. That’s something I’ve blogged about in the past ( see Stories of Democracy on The Story Bazaar web-site ). The more one does, the more one is asked to do.

I’m beginning to realise that what works well is behaving naturally, and letting my genuine enthusiasm shine through. I’m definitely more comfortable when interacting, either with other speakers or with questioners.  That is, in part, why the Secrets of Subterranean London discussion worked so well. If you haven’t watched it, you can find a link here and on the Events page.

It is the first in a series which Claret Press hopes to produce and Claret’s number of subscribers increased after the broadcast. The second, on Crony Capitalism, is  scheduled for January and I’ll be taking part, with a well-known economist and an activist ( names cannot yet be revealed but I’ll be writing about them and it nearer to the event ). Siphoning public funds into the pockets of allies and associates is, of course, one of the corruptions taking place in Plague, as Cassie says to the villain on page 246 ‘You’re ensuring the contracts go to the right companies so you can reward your friends and allies…’  Its topicality astonishes me still.

Yet now I’m looking forward to relaxing over the holiday, I need a break and January is already filling up fast. Aside from anything else, I have to completely sign off on Oracle by 31st January and there’s all the work associated with the preparation of a book for publishing – meta data, Netgalley etc. and a whole new round of promotion and publicity to agree.

One piece of encouraging news is that I now have an Italian literary agent. Factotum, or Zecchin, Bellaciccio & Aragno have signed me, and other Claret authors, with a view to selling the Italian publication rights and having Plague ( and the next two Cassandra Fortune books ) translated into Italian. Katie, from Claret Press, told me half an hour before the live broadcast of Secrets, that a representative from Factotum would be watching, in order to decide whether or not they wanted to sign me up. No pressure there then. Fortunately, it worked out well.

But – bring on the mulled wine!

Wishing everyone a joyous and safe Christmastide – the year turns on Monday, as Saturn and Jupiter conjoin closer than for almost 400 years and Spring – Spring! – is on its way. Here’s hoping for a better year in 2021.

Going underground

Like any place inhabited by humans for centuries, London is a multi-layered city, its history piled up beneath the feet of the people who walk its streets. This was the subject of last night’s tremendous discussion with Dr Tom Ardill of the Museum of London and award-winning Blue Badge Guide Fiona Lukas.

Tom showed us just how Londoners from the Romans onwards had utilised the natural tributaries of the Thames. First the Walbrook in the Roman city, which soon became clogged with waste, then, later, the Fleet, which met the same fate, becoming notorious for its floating bodies of dead cats and dogs ( and sometimes humans, falling into the noxious Fleet was a death sentence ). It wasn’t surprising that, by the thirteenth century Londoners of the City were seeking for a fresh water supply further afield and they lighted upon the Tyburn. In order to bring its waters to the City they constructed the Great Conduit which ran south then east across London.

Engineers installing gas pipes along Oxford Street in the 19th century stumbled upon the remains of this and, in the 21st century, Crossrail again unearthed it. The Tyburn also supplied water, supposedly, to a set of Roman baths near North Audley Street and Oxford Street. There are references to these baths in a number of sources and a detailed description, but no physical evidence has yet been found. It is here, in ‘Plague’ where  crime is committed and where the detectives first meet George Bindel London sewer man extraordinaire.

Another fascinating element last night was Tom’s explanation about the plans of the Tyburn Angling Society, a quixotic enterprise which seeks to ‘daylight’ the River, bringing it back to the surface ( and destroying millions of pounds of Mayfair real estate, including Buckingham Palace, in the process ). As he pointed out, there are cities elsewhere in the world where this has been done, like Seoul in Korea and it is being done,  on a much smaller scale, with the River Quaggy in London.

Fiona’s description of the modern travails of London Transport with new London Underground stations was very interesting, especially the example of the new, very deep and very modern, Westminster station .  I never knew that the two District line tube tunnels were on top of one another not along side, but, when I thought about it, this made sense of the way the inside of the station was designed. I certainly wasn’t aware of the difficulties encountered because of the proximity of the station to the Houses of Parliament, not least the secrecy about why designs for the new station were repeatedly vetoed.

Learning about the ghost stations, often abandoned because too many stations had originally been built ( which meant that the tube journeys were taking too long, so often were the trains stopping and starting ) was also fascinating. Down Street, where Churchill’s wartime cabinet used to meet when the Cabinet Office War Rooms were unavailable, or Brompton Road. There is also Aldwych, formerly Strand, a station I used to walk past every day on my way to work in Bush House, close to, yes, a bona fide Roman Baths.

My own contribution was limited compared to the experts’ but I was able to talk about Whitehall, the formation of Thorney Island and its development into Westminster and cite a quote from Cassandra in ‘Plague’ about the concentration of power. My favourite contribution, however, related to a different exhumation, that of the remains in Old St Pancras Churchyard, removed to allow for construction of the London Midland Railway. A young Thomas Hardy oversaw the works and composed this piece of jolly doggerel ( which parodies, I think, the first of Wordsworth’s Lucy poems – any Hardy scholars reading this please tell ).

‘We late-lamented, resting here, Are mixed to human jam, And each to each exclaims in fear, ‘I know not which I am!”

The whole of ‘Secrets of Subterranean London’ will be posted on Youtube next week and I will post the link to it here when it is. In the meanwhile I’ll be talking about ‘Plague – A Novel of London’ for the Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea and Westminster Libraries at 6.30 p.m. GMT on Wednesday 16th December, if anyone is interested in hearing more. It’s another FREE event, but to attend you must register on Eventbrite.

And the lucky winner is…

Actually, there were twelve of them, all members of the UK Crime Book Club, from Perth to Hampshire, Denbighshire to London and many points in between. Twelve signed copies of Plague have been parcelled up and despatched.

I announced the Giveaway over a week ago and promoted it during my live streamed Author Chat with Caroline Maston, one of the co-founders of the Book Club last Sunday.  Our discussion ranged from whether or not ‘Plague’ could be turned into a graphic novel – answer ‘Yes, but I’m not sure I’d want it to be’ – to what I considered to be the most important element when starting to plan out a novel – my answer was the theme or idea behind it.

Two major surprises during the interview. The first was a failure of technology, which left me on screen on my own, sans interviewer. Caroline had just asked me a question, about the underground aspects of the novel, when her image disappeared. I was able, fortunately, to carry on, there’s a lot to cover – the Tyburn, the War Rooms, mediaeval London, the Underground – and Sam, another administrator, slotted another question up on screen when I was obviously coming to a close. I’d only just begun to answer that when Caroline reappeared (phew).

The second surprise was a question from Mike Craven, better known as M.W. Craven, former CWA Dagger winner, who is currently sitting atop the Best Seller lists with his latest crime thriller ‘The Curator’. A darling of the UK Crime Book Club, ‘The Curator’ has just been voted the Club’s Book of 2020. Good fortune again that it was an easy question for me to answer ( so not about writing best sellers then ) and something of an honour for this crime writing debutante.  The whole hour whizzed by, with people sending in questions via Facebook – and telling me that they’d bought the book, which was very good news.

The Author Chat prompted a few more entries in the Giveaway, but, on Tuesday morning I put the names – approximately two hundred of them – into a hat, closed my eyes and chose. The nicest bit of the whole exercise followed, telling the winners that they had won. I know, it’s only a book, but who doesn’t like to get a pleasant surprise?

There was one small problem, one individual, a gentleman from Wales, didn’t respond to my messages of congratulation, indeed, didn’t respond at all. I left it a couple of days and then contacted the Facebook site administrator and said that I would try once more but might need their help. Fortunately, my message yielded a result, though not the expected one. A few minutes after I put up my plea I received a reply from a woman – ‘Dad! You won!’.

Needless to add, she prompted her father and the book is, even now, on its way.

Caroline asked me, during the interview, what was my most memorable moment as an author. She had told me in advance that she would ask this question  and I had given it some thought. My answer surprised her, I think, because I said that my most memorable moments are happening now. Like getting the surprised and pleased message from the daughter of the man from Caerphilly, or the question from an eminent crime writer, or a review in the Literary Review, or supportive responses from a book club that’s reading my book.

Right now, the lucky winner is me.

Secrets of Subterranean London

Claret Press is organising an online event which may be of interest to readers of this website. On 11th December, from 7 – 8 in the evening, I will be speaking with Tom Ardill, Curator at the Museum of London and Fiona Lukas, award-winning Blue Badge guide and expert on the London Underground.

Tom curated, with Kate Sumnall, the fascinating 2019 exhibition on London’s ‘Secret Rivers’ at the Museum of London in Docklands, which I blogged about at the time. Did you know, for example, that there is a Tyburn Angling Society, set up to try and ‘restore’ the river so as to fish in it ( an almost impossible task since it has been subsumed into Bazalgette’s wonderful London sewer system, but a charming, if quixotic, idea  )?  He is also a fellow river traveller, having followed the course of the Tyburn, as I did, but taking the southernmost arm, down to Pimlico and he ran it, rather than walked. You can read about his run here. Tom is curator for Paintings, Drawings and other artworks held by the Museum too. Of course, as readers of Plague will know, a Museum of London archaeologist appears at the beginning of the book. He bears no relation to Tom.

The other contributor is Fiona Lukas, an award-winning Blue Badge Guide, (  she was Guide of the Year for the City of Westminster and City of London ) whose speciality is London Underground. She regularly hosts the popular tour The Lure of the Underground ( listen to her podcast about it here ) and is coming with interesting facts aplenty, including about the ghost lines and stations no longer in use. I had used to walk passed the old Aldwych station everyday on my way to work and have come across others, like that at Marble Arch.  There are many other little known LU-owned places, like the Bakerloo Line depot at London Road, south of the river, which features in Plague.

My contribution will be about those bits of subterranean London which feature in the novel, although I expect Tom to have far more knowledge than I about the Tyburn itself. I’ll be touching on Plague Pits, Roman Remains – like the baths at North Audley Street, completely unmarked on the surface, the Great Conduit which runs along Oxford Street and, of course, the Palace of Westminster, with all its idiosyncrasies.

I can’t wait to ask Tom about some of the historical sites and Fiona knows all about the engineering, which is of particular interest to me. We will, doubtless, touch on the brilliant Bazalgette and his sewers. By the way, those who have read Plague will understand the reference to sewers and the ‘sewer walk’ undertaken by some of the main characters, but they may not know that the book contains a small homage to another book in which sewer scenes appear, which was made into an even more famous, not to say iconic, feature film. To find out what this homage is, or make your guess at it, come along and join us on 11th December.

Tickets are, astonishingly, FREE on Eventbrite HERE. It’s already proving very popular. See you there.

For more on Plague and the River Tyburn try        Walking a Book, Walking a River      or   The Book Walk Continues

Crime Fiction

Since Plague was published in September I have been working hard to promote it and it is only now, two months later, that I think I begin to realise that I am actually now considered to be a ‘crime writer’. Although I knew that crime was the most popular genre in the UK ( in the States it’s romance, apparently ) I was unprepared for the number of websites, festivals, clubs, societies and sub-sets of same devoted to crime fiction. I am just beginning to appreciate how many fans of crime writing there are ( for whom I am most grateful ) and just how knowledgeable and how much fun they are.

There are any number of crime fiction book clubs and I’ve joined several. I regularly engage with and post items on the Facebook page of one of the largest, the UK Crime Book Club, which has fourteen thousand members!

Next week I will be running a giveaway of a dozen signed, pre-publication copies of Plague exclusively for UKCFBC members in  conjunction with an Author Chat, one of the regular features on that Facebook page in which crime fiction authors are interviewed and take live questions from members. ( You can find a link on the Events page of this website. )

Last Tuesday I was intrigued by the technology ( something called Be.Live ) when I recorded a short promo for that event and got familiar with how everything worked in preparation for my Chat. Past UKCFBC events include interviews with Ian Rankin, William Shaw and Elly Griffiths, so I’m in elevated company. I’m also looking forward to participating in the UKCFBC Pub Quiz ( Just Not In A Pub ).

UKCBC has also furnished me with a number of volunteers to test out the leaflet of the Book Walk for Plague, starting at Bond Street Tube Station and ending at the River Thames. Once its been tested I will make it available on this website for anyone who wants it. Unfortunately because of COVID any book walking is delayed.

I’ve also learned all sorts of interesting things. There is a current debate about the length of crime books, or example, many UKCBC members saying that they wouldn’t consider buying a book of less than 300 pages, which was a bit of a surprise, especially as Plague is only 288 pages! The good news, however, is that crime fiction lovers adore a series and Cassandra is scheduled to appear in at least two more books ( and possibly more ). I am pleased to say that readers are already asking me when the second is due out ( which keeps my publisher happy ).

I was also very surprised and extremely pleased to find Plague featured in this month’s edition of the Literary Review Crime Round-Up, even the literary establishment has to recognise the popularity of the genre. It has also been reviewed in The Yorkshire Times, Time & Leisure magazine and a number of other regional newspapers and regional radio stations ( you can find links to interviews and reviews on the Events page of this web-site ). No nationals so far, but I’m not complaining.

For more on Plague take a look at my earlier blogs, or follow the events coming up, which you can find on the Events page.

Location, location, location

There are so many ways in which place is important to writers – we explored the subject in the first Clapham Book Festival back in 2016 ( see Place and the Writer ).  One of the most common comments about Plague is that it is very much a London book, including as it does much about the city’s landscape, history and the forgotten subterranean world beneath it. The book certainly reminds those who have lived in or regularly visited London of a city they once knew ( I’ve received comments to this effect from other parts of the UK, from the US, from Australia  and Malaysia, from Austria and from South Africa ). So it must be evocative.

The locations in the book range from an elegant Mayfair townhouse to an Elephant & Castle tower block. The Victorian streets of Clapham are home to my protagonist, while homeless character, Spikey Fullman haunts Shepherd’s Market, but bemoans the recent changes there as not conducive to a good night’s sleep. The venerable Palace of Westminster is a focal point, as are the streets close by – the Georgian terraces as well as the concrete civil service buildings. There are vistas from and of towers and high rises as well as the scenes beneath the earth and the main players walk all the major Westminster thoroughfares between Whitehall, the Embankment and St James, Bond Street and Pimlico.

One point to make about Plague is how far it has travelled, only six weeks into its published life. I have received snapshots of it on the Isle of Skye, in deepest Dorset, in the flatlands of East Anglia and in various parts of the north of England. I have yet to see it in Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland (though I know it has been read there, because I have seen reviews on Goodreads and Amazon from readers who live there). Plague has also travelled internationally, from the lawn of a Normandy chateau (left) to a Californian balcony over-looking San Francisco Bay (above), from an American Naval Base to a tapas bar in Jerez  (admittedly, that one, below, was with me).

Nonetheless, I was surprised to learn that my publishers, Claret Press, has entered the novel for the Ondaatje Prize. This award from the Royal Society of Literature is for a work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place. The 2019 winner, Aida Edemariam, who wrote The Wife’s Tale, appeared at the Clapham Book Festival that year in conversation with Michele Roberts.  My book is commercial fiction and, while there’s nothing wrong with that, it is, after all, what Dickens would have claimed to write, I wonder if it’s really the sort of book the prize judges will be looking for. More promising, maybe, are entries in the Crime Writers Association Daggers, including the John Creasy (New Blood) Dagger and the Ian Fleming Steel Dagger. Watch this space, as they say in cliche-land.

I, meanwhile, am busy writing the sequel (earlier this week while awaiting a late flight at Sevilla airport, see left, which prompted the thoughts for this article ). Oracle takes place in a very different location to London, at an isolated cultural centre half-way up Mount Parnassus in Greece, close to the ancient site of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. It is a place both very dramatic and beautiful and is timeless. Its location is central to the novel, not just to the plot, but that’s because place is very important to me as a writer.

If you’re interested in the locations of Plague why not read about the Plague Book-Walk at                   Walking a book, walking a river                  The Bookwalk continues….          With an address like that you must be very wealthy           Bookwalk Out-takes 

What Next?

So, we’ve had the Plague Book walk and the Plague Blog Tour ( which finished on Friday ) and both have been fun to do and, I hope, brought the book to the attention of the book-buying public, or at least that section of it which exists on-line. This is the first time a book of mine has been part of a Blog Tour and it’s been an interesting and enjoyable experience. Emma from Damp Pebbles, a crime and horror specialist blog tour organiser, has been helpful and professional throughout, marshalling the book bloggers to produce and reveal their reviews day after day.

And the book got some lovely reviews, all five or four stars. It was so interesting reading what people made of it and there were some new insights too, which even this author hadn’t thought about. For example, thank you Karen Cole for pointing out just how often Cassie self-sabotages.  There is also some anticipation around Oracle, the next in the series ( many of the bloggers said they would like to review that one as well ).

In the absence of a physical launch and book shop signings, I’ve spoken about the book and the writing of it on radio and Youtube ( you can hear/see those interviews and events, if you’ve a mind to, on the Events page of this web-site ). There is more of this planned, with recordings and uploading to Youtube ( to both the Claret Press channel and my own ). For example, at some point before Christmas there will be a discussion with various experts on London and its history.

There is a virtual and an actual Plague Book Walk in the offing, though I’m not sure how many members of the public would pay to come on either ( David, a London Walks specialist, thinks there may be people who would ). I have other events, interviews and talks, lined up and another twitter ‘giveaway’ too at the end of October.

Sales figures, Amazon’s vicissitudes notwithstanding, are healthy my publisher tells me, though she hasn’t had the Amazon figures yet. So, for this unknown writer’s debut crime novel, all is well.  Claret was pitching Plague, amongst other of their books, to literary agencies specialising in translations at last week’s virtual Frankfurt Book Fair and is talking to audio book specialists in the USA too.

Talking of audio, the latest review of Plague on Netgalley and Goodreads includes a playlist – what to listen to while reading it. I confess that these songs are unknown to me, though the titles sound appropriate. Thank you Jessica Haider! 

Hiding Tonight by Alex Turner
Knives Out by Radiohead
No Light, No Light by Florence + the Machine
Way down We Go by KALEO
Glory and Gore by Lorde
Lost River by Murder by Death
Blue Moon by Chromatics

If readers would like to read more about the Plague Book walk try     Walking a Book, Walking a River                    The Book walk continues                With an address like that…              Bookwalk Out-takes              Plague in Clapham        or about the Blogtour  try             Plague on Tour

Plague in Clapham

One area which features in Plague but which was not covered by our recent bookwalk is SW4, or Clapham, where I happen to live. It is here that the heroine, Cassandra Fortune, has her flat, where she lives with her cat, Spiggott. Like so much of Clapham this would have been built by Victorian and Edwardian pattern builders, so named because they used a template, or several, when constructing street after street during the nineteenth century and into the twentieth. I have placed the flat in a fictitious road within the little maze of roads off Clapham Common South Side, where the buildings are often elegant purpose built maisonettes.

One of the good things about living in Clapham – and there are many – is that most of the streets are leafy, retaining their trees even after the ridiculous insurance company purges of the early part of this century. Cassie’s road is a ‘tree-lined street of Victorian terraces’.  She has roses growing up the side of her bay window at the front and a small garden, mostly side return, at the back, with raised beds and french doors from the bedroom and the kitchen leading out on to it ( maybe something like this, right ). It is over the back fence that her neighbour hands her the roses and gift which have been delivered on Sunday morning in the novel.

Another of the aforementioned good things is Clapham Common, which sits in the middle of the Clapham area. It is a photograph of the Common and the ferris wheel of a travelling circus encamped there which alerts Cassie to a newspaper photographer having been snooping around. The photograph left was taken on 1st October 2020.

Clapham Common is also one of the three Clapham Tube stations, the others being Clapham South and Clapham North (and we have the Junction too, we’re well connected – this is beginning to sound like an advert for Clapham). At each of them are circular, pillbox style structures which mark the presence of the deep shelters, constructed during the second World War to house civilians during air raids. There were originally ten of these planned across London, though only eight were ever sunk, three of them in Clapham close to the Northern line.  Cassie notes the one next to Clapham Common tube station as Daljit, Sergeant Patel, drives her to the Golden Square crime scene. The image above is of the deep shelter at Clapham South, which was used, in the 1950s, to house those migrants arriving from Empire on the HMS Windrush and other similar, later, ships.

Clapham Common

Clapham is not, of course, the only part of south London which has a part in Plague, even if most of the action takes place in Westminster. The second victim is found at a London Underground depot off London Road in Lambeth and his high rise flat, in Elephant and Castle, is where Cassie and Detective Inspector Andrew Rowlands go to interview his grieving, pregnant partner. It is from her twelfth floor windows that they see this panorama. ‘Northwards sunlight sparkled on the Shard and the towers of the City and, to the east, the chunky skyscrapers of Canary Wharf jostled for space on the Isle of Dogs. To the south east Cassie could see Crystal Palace Hill rising, bedecked by strings of terraced streets, to the high transmitter mast at its summit.’

For more about Plague and London try           Walking a Book, Walking a River             The Book Walk Continues                ‘With an address like that, you must be very wealthy’                    Book Walk Out-takes