The Leaden Heart On Tour (And A Video)

32 days…just over four weeks and The Leaden Heart will be leaping out of the publisher’s hands and into the shops.

It’s the seventh Tom Harper book. Over the course of the series he’s risen from Detective Inspector to Detective Superintendent, in charge of ‘A’ Division, Leeds City Police, based at Millgarth. It’s 1899, and that promotion happened four years earlier, but he’s still the same Tom. He and Annabelle still live at the Victoria public house in Sheepscar, which she owns. She’s two years into a term as Poor Law Guardian, very involved in her work.

But Tom’s life is about to undergo seismic changes, when his old colleague Billy Reed telephones from Whitby. His brother has died, he’s coming to Leeds and needs a place to stay for a few days.

Going through his brother’s papers, Billy discovers more than he wanted to know. And Tom Harper learns that crimes have been going on in Leeds that he never even knew about. As he tries to put an end to it, the violence becomes ever more brutal.

That’s the essence, and I’ve put together a video trailer. I think it gives some of the atmosphere of the novel and the time…

The Leaden Heart will be available for reviewers and bloggers on NetGalley from the beginning of March. If you’re on there, please request a copy (or drop me a line if you need help).

You can pre-order on Amazon, although both Speedy Hen and Hive are much cheaper and don’t charge postage. And the ebook will be available globally from May 1.

Finally…The Leaden Heart is going on tour over the next couple of months. These are the dates and it looks as if there may be more to come. If you can, why not come along? All the events are free….no tour tee shirts I’m afraid – but there will be merchandise (books!)

Thursday, March 7, 2019, 1:10pm-1:50pm, Holy Trinity Church, Boar Lane, Leeds. Part of Leeds Literature Festival.

Saturday, May 11, Leeds Central Library, (time tbc) #foundfiction festival.

Thursday, May 16, 2019, the Leeds Library, Commercial St., Leeds, 6.30-8pm. In conversation with Candace Robb and Sara Porter (editor, Severn House)

Tuesday, May 21, 2019, De Grey Lecture Theatre, York St. John’s University 6-8pm. In conversation with Candace Robb and Kate Lyall Grant (publisher, Severn House)

Saturday, June 8, 2019, Yorkshire Archaelogical Society, Swarthmore  Education Centre, Clarendon Rd, Leeds, 11 am

large old paper or parchment background texture

Whitby, the Fog and Other worlds

There’s nothing like a good destination to make the trip worthwhile. Yesterday was Whitby, a lovely seaside town – it’s not a resort, thank goodness – about an hour and a half from our new home. Easy striking distance.

It’s a glorious place, a former fishing village that grew up the steep hills on either side of the harbour. Home to the ruins of a wonderful abbey perched on a cliff and, of course, where Dracula made his landfall, which has given rise to the twice-yearly Goth conventions there.

A day in Whitby needs no excuse, but we had one. Musicport, a little gem of a roots music festival, and particularly the Danish band, Himmerland, who turned in a glowing performance, a group that’s grown a great deal since their first CD. The guitarist is a good friend, and this was our first chance to meet up in four years, a truly pleasurable experience, as well as taking him to the tea room at Botham’s – how can you not treat someone to something so quintessentially English?

Setting off, the weather was grey and dry. It’s a lovely drive out to the Yorkshire coast, thought Pickering, with its lovely church full of old wall paintings, then up on to the beautiful bleakness of the North Yorks Moors, where the Fylingdales early warning system stands like some strange monolith, somewhere between science fiction on Ozymandias.

But not yesterday. The fog had socked in, turning the landscape into something more ghostlike. Up on the moors proper there are few trees, and rolling higher and higher, the fog grew thicker and thicker, until there was only a ribbon of road and about 50 metres of visibility. If not quite white knuckle time, it was still tense, not even seeing the tail lights of the car in front.

Fierce concentration, glancing between windscreen and mirrors, cutting down on the speed. And a few thoughts about insignificance and mortality. They’re wonderful things to flicker through the mind where you might as well exist only in the vacuum of the car. Only a tiny portion of the world is there. Soon enough you’ll come out the other side, but where will that be? The usual, familiar place, or could you have vanished through some portal to exit in another dimension where everything’s off kilter.

Stupid, of course. The real answer’s always going to be mundane, although at the top of Blue Bank, the coast spread out ahead, the view and clarity is welcome. But some journeys contain a little more than others.

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.

Thinking About History And Richard III

I thought the news that researchers were able to say that the skeleton dug up in Leicester was ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ that of Richard III was absolutely wonderful. All the buildup, the forensics, the DNA testing to connect him with a woman descended from the monarch’s sister. Remarkable that the results of an archaeological dig could command such international attention.

Now, 1485 and the Plantagenets and Tudors aren’t my period of history, nor do I corner myself with kings and queens. My business is much more with the common people. But it’s impossible not be fascinated by this body with its scoliosis and its battle wounds, under the ground for more than 500 years.

The legends about Richard paint him in a very dark light, the murderer of the princes in the tower, the man who lost out to Henry at Bosworth field, the last of the Plantaganets, but at this remove he’s just a fascination, another piece in the jigsaw puzzle that’s English history (mind you, I was amused by the comment from the person from the Richard III society after seeing the facial reconstruction, something along the lines of ‘Looking like that, he couldn’t have been a tyrant!). Yes, I’ll go to Leicester and see where Greyfriars stood, I’ll go through the exhibition in the museum and have a look in the cathedral to see where they’ll inter his remains. I’m a sucker for it in the same way that I go through old castles, abbeys, churches, museums and stately homes. They all open the window on the past a little wider. If I hadn’t gone to Temple Newsam in Leeds I wouldn’t have known there was a silversmith in Leeds who worked in the late 17th century and used the initial BB – grist for my fictional mill, so don’t be surprised if it shows up in a Richard Nottingham novel. At St. Mary’s in Whitby I discovered gravestones adorned with skulls and crossbones. Not pirates but mementos mori. If you have eyes to see, the past is there. With the skeleton of Richard III it’s simply writ in larger, bolder letters.