I love your Peculiar Crimes Unit stories, especially the social commentary that is sprinkled throughout. However, I don't know what purpose Mr John May serves other than as a sort of human bubble wrap for Arthur Bryant and an occasional sniffing after women 30 years younger than himself. He is supposedly a senior detective but he never does any more detecting that does Raymond Land. Anyway, your other characters are all and always wonderful. I'm up to book number 14 in the series and anxious for more. You are a great writer. Thanks for many hours of reading enjoyment.
Writer's Block? Let's Call It Something Else.
Thursday 14th April 2022 at 09:08
I've no doubt that writers' block is real but the name covers a host of symptoms.As someone who has been linguistically incontinent since age six I was never able to understand how some writers could complain of bunged-up word pipes. It seems such a vague condition. Block just means you're unable to write for any number of reasons. Edmund Crispin, one of my favourite Golden Age authors, stopped writing for a quarter of a century. He was a talented composer under his real name of Bruce Montgomery, besides being by all accounts such a convivial host that it shaded into serious alcoholism. Still, he finally returned with one more Gervase Fen novel that suffers by comparison with early novels, although it's by no means a failure. Did Crispin suffer a block? Did alcohol rob him of his muse? To me the idea of the hard-drinking writer was more damaging than inspiring. I'd happily raise a glass but always preferred a cup of tea. In the nineties it was fashionable for younger authors to be seen as party animals. The press tried to foster an image of me as a cad-about-town nursing a hangover at interviews, but it didn't stick for the simple reason that it wasn't remotely true. If I left a dinner it was to go to bed, not to an afterparty. That's not to say I didn't schmooze the odd journo. Here's Suzi Feay and I at a gallery opening. Suzi is a good friend and a living example of the Scorpion & the Frog parable, which makes her dangerous but a terrific journalist. In her years she's taken on virtually every literary task you can find in a national newspaper. We're the same, the early leavers at 'glittering' events. Her subject range is so diverse that I don't think she ever runs out of something to write, even if it was once to refer to my father as 'Fred West' in print (a step she admits was beyond the pale).Writers' block could be described as a loss of inspiration. Two years of the pandemic certainly reduced writers' horizons, but we don't need to travel far to find fresh influences. Alan Bennett always seemed a homebody to me and it hasn't hurt his prose. Lately, though, I've been thinking of writers' block as something else; a loss of mojo. Having to spend a great part of your life dealing with hospitals takes away a substantial amount of your joie de vivre.
Is writer's block another term for depression?I've been delaying making decisions about writing for a while. Do I have the stamina for another novel? Hell, yes, even though treatment-induced foggy thinking tries to steal away my language and things are not going as I'd hoped, healthwise. Writing lightly is a skill, although it may not seem like one. You have to be in a Wodehouse frame of mind to lift the mood of the reader. If I do write, will the work be affected by my rapidly darkening worldview? Some of my younger readers (you get to an age where everyone is younger) have berated me for the cruel twists of fate in my novel 'Hot Water'. I never saw it as a black comedy, a satire or anything other than a straightforward dramatic novel. When I look back at it now - as you do when something is finally in print - I can see that the end chapter refocuses all you've read before. The story suddenly makes more fundamental sense. Last week another reader wrote; 'Thank you for such a tragic love story', and I thought My God, she's the first person to see it the other way around. I was thrilled by the thought, but recognised that it came not from writers' block exactly, but from a change in my attitude to writing, something I can't even see in myself. When you're stuck, refocus. The Bryant & May books require a delicate touch that I need to locate once more. To do that I have to shut the real world out. But to ensure that I still have some modicum of mojo, I've been writing a few new short stories just for fun. 'I just do it for my own amusement,' said Kenneth Williams in an old radio show. 'Obviously,' Tony Hancock replied. Maybe I'll publish them, but in the meantime I'm itching to be working with Mr Bryant & Mr May once more. But this might be the toughest case they ever have to solve; hunting down their creator's purpose and finding a way to go on.