Review of 2016 – Books and Tools

It’s always interesting to review a year that has just passed. 2015 was not a good year for me – with 14 friends and family dying, it was never going to be a happy year. However, at least there are people who help distract me. And first amongst these are authors, of course.

dsc_0378.jpgLast year was a good year for new books and new discoveries for me. With excellent stories from writers like William Ryan (they are immensely readable, and draw you into the grim harshness of Stalin’s Russia), from Daniel Silva’s superb THE ENGLISH SPY, to the late and hugely missed Terry Pratchett and his RAISING STEAM (a wonderful read).

Then there were some wonderful surprises. Simon Scarrow is known for his really brilliant series of Roman warrior stories, but his HEARTS OF STONEwpid-dsc_0162.jpg last year is a wonderful evocation of the impact of war on 1940s Greece which I would recommend to everyone, and I was deeply impressed by THE DEVIL’S SANCTUARY by Marie Hermanson. It is rare to find a book that has been translated and yet is so atmospheric and readable. This is superb.

Tom Harper’s latest, BLACK RIVER, however, I think takes my personal prize for the best book of last year. It’s written with elegance, with enthusiasm, and with enormous verve. I feel almost as if I had travelled along the Amazon with Tom’s collection of misfits. If you buy nothing else from last year, do buy that.

DSC_0074If you haven’t tried Manda Scott’s INTO THE FIRE, you have missed a fabulous treat. A story split between the life of Joan of Arc and a modern crime story based on arson and modern politics, this is one of my highest recommended books of the year.

Finally, Deon Meyer’s latest book, COBRA, I found an absolute joy to read. It’s a fast, action-packed thriller, but I loved the interplay between older, white police trying to work alongside their younger counterparts who are black and have only known independence. A wonderful story, but with fabulous back stories, this was a treat.

So, those are the highlights of my reading year.

2015 began badly in my household, because it started with my laptop having an unscheduled wash. That led to a replacement machine and for a while all seemed well. But then, as readers of this blog will know, I had another disaster when one of my back up disks developed a fault that ended up wiping my entire computer disk. That cost some weeks of effort, renewing software, reloading passwords and photos. It was very time-consuming and deeply irritating since the only issue was caused by my careful and meticulous back up routines to the local drive. Fortunately almost all my data could be recovered. Which was good. Until that computer suffered a catastrophic failure that meant my computer had to be replaced. So another computer was purchased, and I had to go through the process of reloading software and finding passwords again … And people ask why I will handwrite the next novel …

Of course my main work is not reading, but writing. I have been enormously fortunate to have made many new friends in the past year. Dante del Vecchio of Visconti has been enormously generous and he has made for me a special version of his amazing Homo Sapiens pen. This pen has a massive ink reservoir, and is all but indestructible, because it is made of lava from Mount Etna. It also happens to write like a dream, with its 23 carat Palladium nib. This pen will be used to write my next book (hopefully starting next week).

 

 

Look at all those luscious inks!

Look at all those luscious inks! 103 colours and shades of Diamine!

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My new Homo Sapiens with my old one in Bronze. New viewing windows mean I can always see how much ink is left. Ideal!

 

 

 

 

A pen is little good without inks, of course. And there I have been fortunate too. Diamine inks heard that I was going to write a new book, and they have given me samples of all their main range of inks. That means 103 different shades and colours of all different types of ink. With that, I can write every day for three months and more, never using the same ink twice. I’m really looking forward to trying them all out. So far I’ve been very good and haven’t broken the seal on a single bottle!

 

Black leather Atoma

Black leather Atoma

Finally, Atoma have supplied me with hundreds of sheets of paper to write on, and one of their beautiful notepads in leather. These are made by Ruitertassen in Belgium. These pads are ideal for writers. The paper is held in place by a series of rings. Pages can be removed and reinserted elsewhere. It means that while working on a manuscript, I can write outlines of scenes, characters, plans, and then move them into the pad in which I am keeping the main story.

So, what will 2016 hold? Apart from writing a lot. What will I be writing?

Well, January has already seen the publication of BLOOD ON THE SAND in paperback. This is the follow up to FIELDS OF GLORY, and takes my Vintaine of disgruntled and complaining English archers from the victory at Crécy to the siege of Calais and beyond. in April my first book set in the reign of Bloody Mary, REBELLION’S MESSAGE, will come out. It’s a fun crime series, published by Severn House, which will hopefully make readers chuckle in the right places. Then, in May, there is the third in my Vintener trilogy, BLOOD OF THE INNOCENTS, which will round off the Hundred Years War for my characters by following the Poitiers campaign. It’s sad to lose my vintaine – I’ve enjoyed their company for the last few years – but I am already thinking about other projects. Oh, and in June HarperCollins will publish THE SINKING ADMIRAL from The Detection Club. This is a collaborative book ably edited by Simon Brett, and cowritten by me and a number of members of the club. It’s great fun, and I hope many people will want to buy a book that has been written by the top crime writers in the country.

In addition, many readers will be glad to hear that three books that were only available previously as ebooks are to be published by Endeavour Press. Endeavour are keen to publish books for the electronic market, but they are competent (unlike me) to move these books across different electronic platforms. The two collections of short stories will go live very soon, and in a month or so ACT OF VENGEANCE will join them. There is a good reason for moving these titles: the three books can also be printed on demand, which means that those readers who have been clamouring for ACT to be printed will, at last, be able to get a copy in non-electronic format!

But the main work this year will be the writing. First up is finishing a book I began writing a year ago. At last I will finish it. A modern crime story that is less dependent on research than most of my books, this is a pleasant diversion for me. I hope to find a home for it with a mainstream publisher. After that, I must start scribbling to write a new story set in the Crusades. This is looking to be a great start to a series that will look at the lives, loves, fears and deaths of families during that incredible period of religious expansion. I’m really looking forward to starting that one. Then I’ll have to write the next BLOODY MARY story, and after that I am desperate to start writing the follow up to ACT OF VENGEANCE.

So, this is to be another very busy year. I hope you enjoy the books I’ve recommended, and I hope that the new books appeal.

Finally, I hope that 2016 turns out to be a happier, more prosperous and exciting year for you (and me).

Best wishes

Mike Jecks

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Comments
3 Responses to “Review of 2016 – Books and Tools”
  1. Best wishes for a prosperous 2016 – I had no idea you were contributing a chapter to The SInking Admiral. It’s shaping up to be a who’s who of my favourite writers!

    Like

  2. Jack Eason says:

    Reblogged this on Have We Had Help? and commented:
    More from Michael :D

    Like

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