Continuing my crazy round of world travels, I barely got back from launching Dead Simple (Levande Begravd) in Sweden – when I had to go up to Worcester, with my silver tongue polished, to give an after-dinner speech to the Association of British Investigators, and then fly on to New York, to attend the Edgar Awards and to spend several days researching for my fourth Roy Grace novel.
Had an amusing coincidence in Sweden: My publishers there, Damm Forlag, had produced some 20,000 bound first chapters of Dead Simple, which they distributed around subway stations and railway stations. I got into a taxi with my wonderful Swedish editor, Marika Hemmell, and she was engaged in conversation immediately by the cab driver, who had picked up one of these first chapters and was asking her, as she was in publishing, whether she thought this book might be any good. She replied, “Don’t ask me, ask the guy sitting behind you, he wrote it!”
PJ’s Swedish toy
Then continuing my world schmooze of police forces, I tried to persuade the charming Swedish police to let me have a souvenir. Just a car would have been fine, I assured them. The one in the photo, perhaps? I even genuflected for them… And now I know the Swedish for “in your dreams ….”
I always like being in Sweden, they are great people, very good natured and good humoured. They’d have to be to create a building like this one! The Twisted Torso of Malmö is as good a 21st Century version of the Leaning Tower of Pisa as you are going to find. And they say crime writers have twisted minds…
Another coincidence in Worcester – the dinner was being held in the Fownes Hotel (highly recommended, full of character) which turned out to have originally been a glove factory, owned by Fownes, of Dents Fownes fame. As my family business is in gloves – my late mother, Cornelia James, was Glovemaker to the Queen – and the family firm still makes HM’s gloves, I felt very at home. Just as well – standing up in front of one hundred private eyes (or investigators as they are now called) is a daunting experience…. In fact, I was surprised that they were all in the room – I thought most of them would have been outside, listening to my speech through earphones via bugging devices and watching me from the darkness through long lenses…
One of them I wish had not been in the room – a very drunk Finn private detective who began heckling me. As he was heckling me in Finnish, neither I nor anyone else in the room knew what he was talking about. I suspect he didn’t, either. I put it down to spending over half the year in frozen darkness. Not much else to do up there, I guess, except drink, bonk, read and heckle. And he didn’t look like much of a bonker. More like he was into DIY.
Then on to New York (much more of which to follow), and tried out the pioneering new airline, SilverJet, whch flies a business-class only service from Luton to Newark. And what service! Quite apart from being incredible value – £879 return, with flat-bed seats, it is quite the nicest airline I have ever flown on. When you arrive at Luton here there is a friendly concierge to greet you instead of the usual horrible chaos of a departure lounge and ten miles of check-in desks, and within ninety seconds former Detective Chief Superintendent Dave Gaylor (my career role model for Roy Grace) and I were seating ourselves in the Silver lounge and having breakfast.
The only blot was that the all-smiles concierge for some unfathomable reason put us in seats in different rows. Duh! Maybe a brain transplant to this particular member of staff would help, Mr Silverjet….
Luton is a bit further for travellers in the South but as you only have to check in 30 mins (yes!) before your transatlantic flight (yes!!!) that more than compensates for the journey time. I’m told the airline is doing well and is planning to expand its routes. I really hope it get routes everywhere – and retains its culture. All the staff are delightful (including the concierge dimwit) and it is a true throwback to old, traditional values of what service should be all about. This must be what flying would have been like in the 1950s – a Life On Mars airline come true.