The Return of Richard Nottingham

It’s been three and a half years since the last Richard Nottingham book, Fair and Tender Ladies, was published; it feels like much longer. But the six books in the series have a real, deep place in my heart. Not just because they were the first novels of mine to see print. Richard and the others became good friends. When one of them died I felt it inside. To me, they were all very real people. But when my publisher gently suggested that six was enough I waved them farewell – more or less; there were still a couple of short stories.

This year, though, things have changed a little. For reasons no-one understands, sales of those books have been growing, even though most are now only available on ebook. I honestly have no idea why, let alone why now – but I’m happy.

People still email asking if there will be any more in the series; I’ve received more of those in the last months than ever before.

And so I knew Richard and I had some unfinished business.

So, a few weeks ago I approached my publisher with an idea: a new Richard Nottingham book. If ever the time was right, it was now. I’m ready for a short – and I do mean short – break from Tom and Annabelle Harper. Returning to my first family for a spell would be perfect.

I’d asked the question but I had absolutely no idea what the answer might be.

It turned out to be yes. I was over the moon, especially as the news arrived on the day Modern Crimes was launch. Perfect timing.

And so I’m very, very happy to formally announce that Free From All Danger, the seventh Richard Nottingham novel, will be published in the UK in November 2017, then in the US and in ebook about four months later.

Who will be in it? Emily, Richard’s daughter, of course. Rob Lister, her man. Tom Finer, Tom Williamson, and others who will be familiar. As well as some new devils…

I’m grateful for the faith my publisher has in Richard, and even more to those who keep buying the books. To tease you a little, here’s the opening of the novel. I hope it whets your appetite for the rest. Only 13 months to wait!

 

Leeds, Autumn, 1736

 

Sometimes he believed he spent too much time in the past, he thought as he crossed Timble Bridge. It was where he spent most of his days now; its lanes and its byways were imprinted on his heart. Once he’d believed there was too much ahead to consider what had gone. But he was young then, eager and reckless and rushing into the future. Now the years had caught up with him. He moved a little more slowly, he preferred to walk with a stick; he was scarred inside and out. His hair was wispy and grey and his face looked creased and folded, with as many lines as a map when he saw it in the glass,

At the Parish Church he turned, following the path to the graves. Rose Waters, his older daughter, married and dead of fever before she could give birth. Mary Nottingham, his wife, murdered because of his own arrogance. Every day he missed her. Both of them. Awkwardly he stooped and picked a leaf from the grass by her headstone. September already. Soon there would be a river of dead leaves as the year tumbled to a close.

Most of the people he cared about were here. John Sedgwick, who’d been his deputy and his friend. Even Amos Worthy. The man had been a panderer, a killer, but they’d shared a curious relationship. Cancer had left him a husk before it too him.

And now there were just two left. Himself and his younger daughter. Richard and Emily Nottingham. She had her man, Rob Lister, now the deputy constable of Leeds, and the road wound out into the distance for them both.

There were more people in his life, of course there were. But so many of those who’d meant most rested here. He stood for a minute. With a sigh he straightened the stock around his neck and walked up Kirkgate. At the jail he glanced through the window. Empty inside, but that was no surprise. Simon Kirkstall, the constable, had died a fortnight before. Simply fallen down one night in the White Swan, a mug of ale in his hand, as his heart stopped beating. Now Rob and the others were working all the hours God sent to cover everything.

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Asking Your Indulgence

Forgive me. I hope you’ll indulge me for a minute or two. On Friday my publisher forward me a review of my new novel, Fair and Tender Ladies, from Publishers Weekly, a journal aimed at the publishing trade, including most bookseller and libraries, in the US.

The review itself (more of that at the end) was gratifying. But what lifted my heart more than anything was the fact that all six of the Richard Nottingham novels have received starred reviews there. I’d never expected that. No writer does. We sit at the computer and do our best, day after day and hope someone gets it. That’s all we can do.

I was lucky. Finally Lynne Patrick, then the publisher of Crème de la Crime and now my editor and friend, liked The Broken Token and too a chance of putting it out. Then Severn House, which bought the imprint, kept publishing the books.

Now I have this body of work, and these reviews. I sometimes used to scoff at people who were humbled by praise. Not anymore. I feel humbled myself and not quite sure how it all happened.

Oh, the review…

“Effective portrayals of brutality and genuine emotion and loss distinguish Nickson’s well-crafted sixth Richard Nottingham novel (after 2013’s At the Dying of the Year). In 1734, Nottingham, Constable of the City of Leeds, carries out his duties despite his wife’s devastating death. His hopes for fulfillment now lie with his grown daughter, Emily, who has opened her own school for the poor, and who is seriously involved with Rob Lister, one of Nottingham’s assistants. He fears for Emily’s safety after vandals attack her school. Meanwhile, several people die unnaturally, including Jem Carter, a man who was searching for his 16-year-old sister. In addition, a former crime lord returns to town, and Nottingham again has to navigate a prickly relationship with his bosses. The author’s willingness to shake up the status quo marks this as one of the best historical series set in the first half of the 18th century.”

Thank you.

Leodensians And Unconvention

So we’re in. We’re Leodensians – in my case, again. After what turned out to be months of solicitors and leasehold companies taking their time, moving day arrived Friday and the completion and physical move went as smoothly as something like that could (I’m still missing a box of clothes but it’s probably with so many other boxes in the garage). The weather’s even co-operated, with glorious sunshine for the last couple of days. Thank you, Leeds.

Then yesterday saw the launch of my new novel Fair and Tender Ladies at the 2013 Book Crossing Unconvention. Taking the bus into town, down roads that were once so familiar, I realised that yes, I did live here now. The event was a great success – wonderful audience and such avid readers – and an extra frisson on the bus journey home as I realised the vehicle would go past the building that had once been the Victoria pub in Sheepscar, an important place in my next novel.

To top it all off, a fairly long walk through Roundhay. Not the park; we’ve been there several times on recent trips up here, and there will be many, many chances to explore it all. No, this took us to the stunning specialty gardens, with the Monet and Alhambra gardens being outstanding, then along Old Park Road, down the ginnel by Roundhay School that was my way home when I was a pupil there, back along Gledhow Lane and over Soldiers’ Field. Quite literally retracing so many steps of my youth, remembering when we threw cherry pits at a house and the owner chased us back to school, the trek every other week to the gold club (it was better than playing rugby) or the tennis courts (an interest that last for one summer term after I’d been knocked out by a cricket ball).

From the end of our drive, we look out over acres and acres of playing fields. If there tress weren’t there, my old school would be in sight. It’s strange to come full circle this way, to walk into the ghost of my teenage years. I’d never really expected it, but over the last few months my excitement at returning has risen. And now I’m so happy to be back.

In Praise Of The Editor

I try to avoid writing about writing. After all, what the hell do I know? And what works for me might not work for anyone else. But I do know one thing. While the act of writing might be a solitary occupation, bringing that writing to the printed page is a team effort.

A good editor makes a huge difference.

I’ve been lucky, I’ve had several. There was the guy in charge of The Rocket who offered me tips and chances 20 years ago before unleashing me on an unsuspecting Pacific Northwest. For his own safety, it’s better to leave him nameless, although I feel indebted to him.

In the late 1990s, well established, with well over a dozen non-fiction titles under my belt, as well as regular appearances in music magazines and on local National Public Radio, I began writing for a website called Sonicnet. It doesn’t exist any more – MTV bought it and I’ve no idea what happened after that. It was a music news site. I was a freelancer in the amorphous ‘World Music’ section, and it was demanding, writing and researching stories five days a week, tracking people down, interviewing first and second sources.

With my experience, I felt pretty confident when I turned in my first story. It came back torn apart by the editor. At first I felt affronted. I knew how to write, I’d been doing it a while. But he worked with me. Once I’d stopped raising my hackles in defence, I read, listened – and learned. Over the course of a year or more, he improved my writing 100 per cent. Again, I’m hugely grateful.

Starting review for national NPR in 2000, my producer was a perfectionist. I voice the script I write, and she’d have me going over it time after spending, spending up to an hour for what was little more than two minutes of text. But it helped me not only be better on air, but (hopefully) as a writer. I learned to write for voice, not for the page.

And then there’s Lynne Patrick, the editor of my novels. I’ve been lucky, and had the same one from The Broken Token to the about-to-be-published Fair and Tender Ladies (not that this is an ad, you understand). She’s become a friend, but also one who knows my writing and can call me on things I’ve missed. I almost always accept the changes she suggests, and they make the book better. I’ve even dedicated this book to her, for all she’s done to improve my writing.

She’s the direct link. But not to forget commissioning editors (the people who say ‘Yes, we’ll have that” – extremely important, the publishers themselves, designers and proofreaders. They all deserve their plaudits. Yet this one goes out in praise of editors. Thank you.

A Few Thoughts To End March

March has been an eventful month. Right at the tail end of February At the Dying of the Year came out, the fifth Richard Nottingham mystery, and a book I’m very proud to have written. It cut deep into my soul and drained me emotionally to write it.

Then, for March, my publisher scored a Kindle 100 deal in the US for The Constant Lovers. The upshot is that the book’s been featured on the Kindle 100 page and pushed by Amazon. And, to help, the publisher lowered the prices of the other ebooks in the series. Having kept track during the month (as well as pushed them on Twitter and Facebook – sorry!) it’s definitely had an effect. At one stage three out of the four books were in the Top 20 in the Kindle Historical Mystery section. I know, a small sub-genre, but it made me very, very happy.

As if that wasn’t enough, I finished the rewrite of the sixth Richard Nottingham book, Fair and Tender Ladies, and heard back from the publisher – within 48 hours, no less! – with an acceptance. The result of this is that I’ll end up with four novels out during 2013, a pair of Richard Nottinghams, The Crooked Spire, my medieval book set in Chesterfield, and the one we’re coming to next.

March 29 was the publication day for Emerald City. It’s a very different kind of book for me, and the only one to date that draws on the write what you know theory. It’s set in Seattle, where I lived for 20 years, set in the just pre-grunge (hate that word) music scene, and it’s a murder mystery featuring a music journalist (which I still am, although I’ve never actually murdered anyone. Yet). But it’s the closest to the present day that I’ve come, although the central character is female, a change suggested by the publisher for very practical reasons, as it meant that the excellent Lorelei King could narrate the audiobook, and she does a superb job of it.

There was also a week’s break in Whitby, no snow but a withering wind off the sea for most of the time. Yet it was curiously enjoyable, discovering a church with beautiful medieval wall paintings in Pickering and a day in Durham, where I’d never been before and seeing a Norman cathedral. I’m more familiar with the slightly later elegance of York and Lincoln, so airy and light. By comparison, this seemed somewhat oppressive. The city itself, however, was lovely. And, of course, a walk along the beach to Sandsend and a little time at the abbey.

Now I’m back where I should be, in the Leeds gas strike of 1890, trying to catch murderers and find a missing girl.

To any of you who bought one of these books this month, or at any time, thank you so much. It sounds trite, but I really do appreciate it.

That Rewrite Thing (Thank God)

At the beginning of February my publisher gently but firmly rejected the next Richard Nottingham novel. That happens; it wasn’t what they wanted, not what they thought would sell. And they’re the experts in that area.

Yes, of course my stomach lurched when I got the news. But, really, as a writer you have two choices at that point. Dump the book entirely or listen to what the publisher’s said and rewrite the thing.

I did the latter and you know what? I’m very glad I did. What I’d had before was a very fair tale, a yarn, perfectly fine for what it was but…it didn’t have the emotional depth. That’s probably because its predecessor, At the Dying of the Year, had been so draining to write. I was all emotioned out.

The new version is more of a whodunit, as my publisher wanted. But it’s also more, a deeper, darker book, a real Richard Nottingham book, the mood of melancholy carrying over from the end of the previous volume. I dug deep into myself, and I’m glad I did, glad that I’d been made to do so. It’s a much better book, too, if I do say so myself.

The moral? That out of bad news, something far more worthwhile can grow.

On Monday I sent the new version of Fair and Tender Ladies to my publisher. Today I heard from them. They love it and they’re going to publish it. It’ll be out in September.