Is it just me or did this year pass in a blur? Seems like one moment I was starting a new book, the next I was touring with it. The book in question, A Heart Full of Headstones, took shape in my head in January and I started writing it in February. By June it was done, and it hit the shops in October, since when I’ve been on tour.
Basically, that was my 2022.
I’m not saying other things didn’t crop up. My Rebus stage play, A Game Called Malice, written during Covid, found a theatre and will have its world premiere in Hornchurch early in February. There has also been good news on the TV front and the streaming service ViaPlay hope to have Rebus on our screens some time in 2024 – filming is due to commence in the spring.
When I wasn’t busy writing, I managed to see some pretty good gigs – Midlake, Van der Graf Generator and Nick Mason stand out in my memory – and spent my birthday at the end of April in Istanbul. I also toured the paperback of my William McIlvanney novel, The Dark Remains, and enjoyed a summer break in Belgium – plenty of art and plenty of beer. I also moved into a new (larger) office which still doesn’t look big enough for all my records and books. Such is life.
The big event though was the launch of the latest Rebus novel in October. My hectic UK tour coincided with a large-scale train strike which made for a few tense days, but it was a great pleasure to share the book with fans and to gauge their eventual reaction to *that* ending. Alongside the book, there was also a jigsaw – and that was a particular delight for me as someone who has always done jigsaws during Christmas breaks and summer holidays. During lockdown we always had a jigsaw on the go, including literary ones featuring the worlds of Jane Austen, Dickens, Shakespeare and James Joyce. It was such a buzz when I was asked about a Rebus jigsaw and I think the result is amazing. The only thing I stipulated was that we not be shown Rebus’s face – I still want readers to feel he belongs to each and every one of them individually.
Hey, if you are looking for a last-minute stocking-filler, it’s not too late…
A Heart Full of Headstones has proved to be everything I hoped it would. It looks great, I think the story is one of my strongest, and fans seem to agree. As I type this letter, it is spending its ninth week in the UK top ten. I’m so grateful. A Canadian tour followed hot on the heels of the UK, after which I spent a week crossing the Atlantic as part of the Cheltenham/Times Cunard Literary Festival. I’ve been back a week and am still finding my land legs.
Have I mentioned this already – where did the year go?
I plan to decompress in 2023, which means you might not be hearing much from me. Meantime, here are some of my favourites of the year in books, albums and films.
My favourite read comes from early on in the year – Wrong Place, Wrong Time by Gillian McAllister. It’s a time-travelling murder mystery that breaks all the rules in thrilling fashion. My favourite reissue was Emeric Pressburger’s The Glass Pearls, the story of a quiet German in post-war London who definitely has a past he wants kept hidden. Shades of Hitchcock and Highsmith and utterly gripping.
I’m going to single out a couple of albums I think you might like. The first is Night Drives by Kathryn Williams. She’s a first-rate singer-songwriter but the production and arrangements here mark this out as her high-watermark. The second is Hearing the Water Before Seeing the Falls by Andrew Wasylysk. These are lush soundscapes from the edges of dream. Hard for me to believe their creator hails from gritty Dundee. Great for listening to while working. Film of the year for me is Hit The Road, which finds a quirky Iranian family driving towards the Turkish border, falling out with each other and then making up again as tensions rise and we learn the reason for their journey. It has warmth, tension and humanity.
Okay, that’s it. There’s a tree here that needs decorating and maybe I should even buy a few presents to place beneath it.
Wishing you all a happy end to the year and a wonderful 2023.