NEW YEAR IN THE BOOKSHOP

On the top of the bus on the way to work scanning the world going by I have a strange feeling of déjà vu. It’s as if I am myself and not myself at the same time. It’s odd and unsettling and I wonder if I’m coming down with flu. When I stop worrying about that I can’t help noticing  that many a new coat has been bought for Christmas and there is a lot of brightly coloured fake fur going on. New and frisky fake fur that looks as if it might slide off the edge of a hood and scamper up the nearest tree and  very unlike my dear old parka which looks as if rats have nested in the hood  for the last ten years.

There’s no queue in Caffé Nero which means that most of London isn’t back at work yet. I sit contemplating the top of my flat white and wondering what state the shop will be in and what the new year will bring.

The shop is in excellent shape! The window table that was full of Christmas books is now full of green Viragos. A very great improvement in my opinion. And even better we have some good quality books to put out. We have a steady stream of phone calls. Are you open? Yes! Do you take…? Yes! Obviously top of many people’s New Years Resolutions is taking books to a charity shop. Volunteers phone in ill.

The first Eleanor Oliphant is Fine comes into the shop. Last years massive bestseller. I read this over Christmas and loved it. It was funny, thought provoking and incredibly readable. I have a rather ambiguous relationship with the bestseller lists.  As a writer who does not sell vast amounts, I am susceptible to the green-eyed monster getting hold of me and throttling me till my eye balls pop out. It’s annoying and self-defeating but I daresay human. It amused me on holiday to find that I was absolutely certain that the title was Eleanor Oliphant is Unwell. Interesting given that I must have read the title many, many times since the book was published.

A very old bus ticket for the number 11 bus route falls out of a book. Ah, those were the days. Bus conductors! Annoyingly there’s no date on it but the fare paid was 5p.

I can’t help noticing that we seem to have vast numbers of Crime and Punishment. Well, if December is the crime I daresay January delivers the punishment.

On the bus home there is an interestingly diverse number of different types of coughs. Dry and tickly, phlegmy and fruity, a veritable petri dish of disease, and as I step off the bus  the first dry tickle hits the back of my throat.

Back home it comes to me why I was feeling so unsettled. Or a line comes to me at any rate.

London in January  – a city reeling from a million broken resolutions. 

It’s the opening line of the first chapter in my book Cutting Blades. In it my character Sam Falconer, a private investigator, is sitting on top of the same bus I was this morning. So in effect I was being haunted by a character that I wrote 13 years ago. Interesting. Rather bizarrely given all the lines I have written in my novels this line is one I am particularly proud of. As a scene setter it’s not bad at all, is it?  I mean it’s not a *bishop kicking a hole in a stained glass window, it’s not Chandler or McBain, but even so it has a nice noirish feel to it. I grab hold of a copy and begin to browse through it. God, there’s so much of me in this, I think. What was I thinking of? And I snap the book shut. I go on Amazon and check out the reviews of it. I haven’t done that for years (the book was published in 2005) and I read a review in which someone says they ‘almost liked it.’ Then another in which the reviewer states: ‘Like I said the book is good. But just that. Good … Ms Blake just needs to work at her art just a little bit more and then she’ll be a great writer.’ Well, hey, thanks for the encouragement honey. For some reason I then start sobbing with laughter. Being a writer is such a ridiculous thing sometimes. What on earth possessed me to ever think it was a good idea?

Recently, I’ve been thinking a lot about writing and memory and in particular what effect using personal memories and experiences for writing fiction has on the original memory. If for example I take a childhood memory and use it to write fiction and if I do that multiple times, can it end up, over time, altering and overriding the original memory? Does the fiction become more real to me than the reality and what effect does that have on my relationship with my past. Complicated, I know but that is what the journey on the bus delivered to me today, so I have delivered it to you.

I have made only one New Year’s Resolution. To go and see as many of the Laurel and Hardy films at the BFI as I can. Way Out West here I come. It is on with a ‘short’ titled Laughing Gravy, that’s the name of a dog. And here is a clip of Stan Laurel laughing. Maybe he’d just read a review of his most recent film on Amazon. Watch Sharon Lynn’s face. She is definitely having a hard time keeping it straight.

Happy New Year and if you’re looking for a book set in January in London can I recommend Cutting Blades it’s good. But just that. And there’s the chance you might almost like it.

*”It was a blonde. A blonde to make a bishop kick a hole in a stained glass window.”

Raymond Chandler – Farewell My Lovely

CRIME NOVELS

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/Bloodless-Shadow-Blood-Victoria-Blake/dp/0752863967

Samantha Falconer has always been pretty good at taking care of herself. Four times world judo champion, she now runs the Gentle Way detective agency in London. But when her brother Mark asks her to return to Oxford to investigate the disappearance of a young woman, Sam finds herself confronting a past she’d hoped she’d left behind.

‘Blake’s Sam Falconer joins the rank of strong but flawed female characters who have taken crime fiction by the throat and shaken it until its teeth rattle.’ STEPHEN BOOTH

‘Blake’s skill at depicting the dark and light side of her character, the smoothly interwoven plot lines and authentic settings makes this a strong first.’ PUBLISHERS WEEKLY

‘…a taut competent novel.’ SHERLOCK MAGAZINE

This striking debut introduces a rather distinctive investigator … gripping.’ LIBRARY JOURNAL

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/Cutting-Blades-Victoria-Blake/dp/0752876961

London is frozen in a January blizzard and everywhere she goes Sam has the creeping sensation of being watched. When Harry a talented young rower from Oxford University goes missing she hopes the case will take her mind off her increasing paranoia.

‘A pacy whodunnit… Gutsy female detectives are nothing new, but Blake’s heroine is an attractive addition to what seems a growing series. Some nicely deadpan humour and crisply detailed descriptions of place offset the obligatory punch-ups.’  THE TIMES

skin and blister

http://www.amazon.co.uk/Skin-Blister-Victoria-Blake/dp/0752881817

Oxford, May Morning. While the city rejoices life takes a sinister turn at St Barnabas College. Disturbing gifts have been sent, threatening letters posted and now events have taken a deadly turn. A student has been found dead in his rooms.

‘Move over Morse, PI Sam Falconer’s in town…Gripping…’ DAILY EXPRESS

‘… entertaining and enjoyable …’ LAW SOCIETY GAZETTE

‘Blake’s got something that keeps you turning the pages.’ REVIEWING THE EVIDENCE

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http://www.amazon.co.uk/Jumping-Cracks-Victoria-Blake/dp/0752874624

Oxford holds a lot of memories for Sam; few of them happy. When she’s asked to guard a collection of strange museum pieces, ranging from shrunken heads to bottled witches, she quickly realises that being back in Oxford means confronting her own demons, as well as those behind the glass cases.

‘Forgery and murder drive a fast-paced plot.’  FINANCIAL TIMES

‘Sam is an engaging and complex protagonist; her friends and family are convincing and well drawn … the city of Oxford is the really dominant character… this is an entertaining and well written book.’  THE GUARDIAN