Hello! And welcome to the be-slippered, un-made-up, what day is it again? world of the habitual home worker. Come on in! The kettle is nearly always on. Just kick the dog off the sofa. Sorry about the hairs.
Times are strange and a bit frightening right now, and I’m not ashamed to say that the first place I headed yesterday morning was straight into a book. Nose first into the new Marian Keyes. No apologies, right into a comforting place where people are funny and flawed, love conquers all and things work out fine in the end. Are you doing the same? I could do with some recommendations right now.
My own favourite escapes are often detective novels – there’s something about the satisfying clunk-click of the pieces falling into place that’s very soothing when nothing in the real world is making sense. I went through a serious Dalziel and Pascoe phase a few years back; I like a dash of vinegary humour on my crime chips, and Reginald Hill’s Andy Dalziel is darkly funny. If you like dark and funny, Caroline Graham‘s original Midsomer Murders novels are hilarious and surprisingly vicious; I was, back in the distant mists of time, an editorial assistant working on her titles and the arrival of a new ms was a national holiday for me. I wish wish wish she’d written more. If you haven’t investigated Tom Barnaby’s original cases, you might be pleasantly surprised by how very uncosy they are (and, actually, now I think about it, probably wildly politically incorrect these days too). PD James, Ruth Rendell, Colin Dexter – and of course, always Kate Atkinson: stack ’em up!
I’m also a sucker for any kind of period fiction when I’m struggling with the 5 o’clock Boris. PG Wodehouse is cheerfully comforting, with his witty one-liners and his parade of terrifying aunts (hurray! This is what I’m slowly evolving into!). Agatha Christie fits neatly into both camps. There’s something about afternoon tea as a plot point, or a world with chauffeurs, dining cars, cocktails at five, and gramophones that’s very soothing. (If you want a mad, dystopian nightmare version of this, I can recommend The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle heartily.)
And of course, I’m not ashamed to say that if you want to go somewhere with dogs, friends, cafes where you can meet friends with dogs, and the occasional vet, there’s always Longhampton, my own imaginary world. I’m there right now, in the Longhampton Wellness Centre and Therapy Clinic and it’s very warm. Very much looking forward to sharing this new story with you soon! Unexpected Lessons in Love is still out there, and of course my whole backlist is downloadable on Kindle or Kobo or whatever reading platform you like best.
You might notice that I’m not linking to books – that’s partly because with Amazon not shipping books as a ‘priority item’ right now, this really is a GLORIOUS OPPORTUNITY to give some love to your local high street bookshop. I’m lucky enough to live near the wonderful Ledbury Books and Maps, a proper Longhampton-ish place run by the friendly and knowledgeable Lindsay; she’s posting out orders, so ask her for a recommendation. Also near me – and always worth a trip in less virus-y times, is Bookish of Crickhowell (scene of my most mortifying parallel parking failure ever), and of course Waterstones in Hereford and Abergavenny. If you have any more to recommend, let me know and I’ll link them here. But PLEASE, please, please get in touch with your local bookshops – or even national ones online – and buy yourself some escapism for the next few weeks. And then tell me about it!
In these odd times, when we’re all sitting in our individual houses simmering with worry, human contact means more than ever before. So please don’t be shy – give me a wave on Twitter or Facebook or Instagram or in the comments below. It would make my day to know you’re out there!