Already Here And Coming In The Next 12 Months.

Just this week, my publisher put up a blog interview with me about what these last 10 years of publishing books has been like. You can read it right here. It touched on a few things, book things, but to my amazement, the decade has stretched beyond that.

There have been a couple of plays, The Empress On The Corner, a one-women play about Annabelle Harper and her life, with scenes performed at various places in Leeds. One was filmed at the Hark To Rover pub in Abbey House Museum.

New Briggate Blues was commissioned by Leeds Jazz Fest in 2018. It featured Dan Markham (Dark Briggate Blues) and revolved around memories of Studio 20 Jazz Club in Leeds. Two characters plus a live jazz quintet, and both performances sold out.

 

The biggest thing, though, came with my involvement in The Vote Before The Vote, an exhibition at Leeds Libraries about the Victorian Leeds women who worked towards suffrage. It coincided with the publication of The Tin God, when Annabelle Harper runs to become a Poor Law Guardian. I wasn’t the historian who did most of the work, but I helped, and I’m hugely proud to be have been part of it – and that Annabelle wrote herself into Leeds history.

Of the books, perhaps the thing that truly blew me away happened in 2011, when Cold Cruel Winter, my second novel, was named one of the 10 best mysteries of the year by Library Journal. I was quite literally speechless for a while.

So what lies ahead? Here’s a taster:

“The end of this year brings the third Simon Westow novel, To The Dark, then a new Tom Harper, Brass Lives, sometime next summer. I’ve just finished writing A Dark Steel Death, the tenth Harper mystery. I couldn’t comment on rumours that I’m making headway in the final Harper book…”

And here’s the cover for TO THE DARK. What do you think?

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Finally, a bit of micro fiction.

He poured hot water into the bowl, watching the soap bubble. Pushed the masks down with a spoon. Once it cooled he’d rinse them off, wring them out and hang them to dry. This is how we live now, he thought. This is how we stay alive.

The Empress on the Corner – Some Thoughts

After a long time, it happened.

The Empress on the Corner appeared in public. In part, anyway. As part of Leeds Big Bookend festival, Carolyn Eden became Annabelle Harper. She’d done it briefly, at the launch for Skin Like Silver. But this was longer, more intense, as she recounted some of the scenes from Annabelle’s life.

It wasn’t the entire play, and there were different formats – a couple of scenes performed live, script-in-hand, two recorded on audio, like a radio play, and one on video, filmed in the Victorian pub at Abbey House Museum in Leeds.

A sharing, to explore the possibilities for the future.

Pretty much a full house, about 50 people, more than I could have hoped, really. And we’d had a good build-up. Friday brought this piece in the Yorkshire Post.

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Then, Saturday morning, we were on BBC Radio Leeds with Nick Ahad. Listen here; it starts about 40 minutes in – plus you’ll hear a fragment of one of the audio scenes.

The play tells the story of Annabelle’s life, as you’ll have gathered. The compressed version from yesterday is very much a work in progress. The festival believed in the idea enough to put it on, and Leeds Libraries believes in it enough to give us a grant, for which we’re very grateful (not a royal we; this has become very much a joint enterprise between myself and Carolyn, who’s also teaching me a lot about theatre. It’s very different from the publishing end of things). And there are plenty of others to thank, too, who’ve helped us – more than I can name here. But I hope you know who you are and that we’re grateful.

From the feedback forms, people enjoyed it. And that, of course, was the whole intention. But with a performance as good as this, that’s understandable.

One of the highlights for many was the performance of the suffragist speech from Skin Like Silver. While we didn’t film the Bookend performance, this was Carolyn’s first outing as Annabelle from the book launch, just as a reminder.

We intend to do more with the play. Quite what directions remain to be seen. But for an author, it’s so wonderful to see someone come to such perfect life. I don’t feel I created Annabelle. She found me. Maybe she found Carolyn, but that would be a silly idea, wouldn’t it? But I feel lucky to have found someone who is Annabelle.

Stay tuned to discover where it all goes.

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So, About That Play…

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Some of you (hopefully all of you) know that I have a play on soon. It’s called The Empress on the Corner, and it’s Annabelle Harper’s story. Yes, that Annabelle from Gods of Gold, Two Bronze Pennies, and Skin Like Silver. If you don’t know about the play, you can find out here – it’s on June 4 as part of Leeds Big Bookend festival, with Carolyn Eden as Annabelle.

We’re presenting part of it: a couple of scenes live, script-in-hand (you won’t even notice the script), one as an audio play, and one on video. It allows the audience to see the possibilities of the production. Each scene will be put in context, and you’ll come away feeling you know Annabelle.

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On Friday we recorded the audio section. Then, on Saturday, thanks to the people at Abbey House Museum and Bob Jordan of Obverse Films, we recorded the video.

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Magical? Absolutely. In costume, with the hair and makeup just so, it was Annabelle speaking. Once the video is edited it’ll be on YouTube, of course, as a teaser for the play or for the many things it might become in time.

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The Play’s The Thing

At the start of December, during the launch for Skin Like Silver, the latest Tom Harper novel, an actress took on the role of Annabelle Harper for a couple of minutes, delivering the Suffragist speech she gives in the book.

The idea ignited something in me. I’ve wanted to tell Annabelle’s story for a long time – she’s one of those characters who refuses to leave me alone. I’ve tried on the page but it’s never caught fire.

But on the stage, with actress Carolyn Eden reprising the role…that could work. And I started writing. I’m still writing, but the whole piece has a real shape  at this point. It’s alive.

And now I can tell you that The Empress on the Corner, the one-woman show about Annabelle Harper, will be staged at Leeds Big Bookend festival in early June. It’s a big step for me to move away from the page. But I do love a challenge.

It’s the story of a woman in life, love, politics. And it’s a story about Leeds, too. In Annabelle the two are interwined. How she grows and grabs life and independence.

Of course, I hope you’ll come….and to remind you of the catalyst, here’s Carolyn’s note-perfect portrayal of Annabelle

Thank You

2014 has been a very good year. My first full 12 months back in Leeds, so that it truly feels like home now. A book and the start of a new series with Gods of Gold, which has been receiving some lovely reviews and reader comments. I’m grateful.

Above all, my thanks go to you, the people who read what I write, whether in books or on the blog or in the serials I’ve begun on this site. If you write, you want people to read it, and you have. It means a lot, and when people email to tell me how much they like a book, or even with an historical quibble, I love it. Yes, of course I’d like to sell more books (what author wouldn’t?), but times are tight, and public libraries are free. Please, remember to support them.

So thanks to all of you. And to those you don’t see. I’m grateful to all my publishers, the wonderful staff at Severn House, Mystery Press, and Creative Content, all of whom believe in what I do enough to put it out there. Beyond them, friends and family who put up with me constantly at the computer, and whose support (and sometimes criticism) is vital.

What does 2015 hold? More books. January see the publication of Dark Briggate Blues, a 1950s noir set set in Leeds in 1954 and featuring enquiry agent and jazz lover Dan Markham. In April there’s Twp Bronze Pennies, the second Tom Harper Victorian novel (and yes, Annabelle has a larger role – she assures me that’s how it really was). July brings something different. I’m working with local publishers Armley Press on Leeds, The Biography, which is a history of Leeds in short stories (several of which have already been on my blog) running from 363 CE up to 1963. All of them based in things that really happened, or folk tales, and sometimes real people. I’m trying to put a human face on the history of my hometown.

Of course, I hope you’ll read them. And don’t forget the new serial, The Empress on the Corner. I hope you’ll enjoy them. But above all, thank you for being with me this far. Have a wonderful Christmas and a peaceful, prosperous and healthy 2015.