Never Give Me Peace
It’s Saturday afternoon in Bath, one of the UK’s most beautiful cities, honey-coloured home of Jane Austen—and I’m writing about dead bodies. To be precise, I’m writing about the buzzing of a solitary bluebottle in an underground bunker where mould has grown in frail green flowers over everything.
‘How do you do it?’ I’m asked. And, ‘How do you switch off when it’s done?’
I’ll tell you a secret. I never really switch off.
I don’t like switching off. I’m always inventing friends and enemies, sending my detectives into battle against their demons, delving into the best and worst of human nature. I love white noise, and black noise, and the twinging heat of a new idea taking shape in my head.
I love monsters.
Of course I pop out for a coffee, or a martini at the Canary Gin Bar once in a while. I watch TV, and films. I go for long walks. But I’m happiest when I’m writing and besides—there’s always that niggling fear I might lose my touch, that my monsters might desert me.
Patricia Highsmith, one of my favourite writers, said something wonderful along these lines, toasting all her ‘… devils, lusts, passions, greeds, envies, loves, hates, strange desires, enemies ghostly and real, the army of memories, with which I battle—may they never give me peace.’
A mystery writer’s best friends are her worst enemies, and mine go everywhere with me. All the time I was writing NO OTHER DARKNESS I had two small boys in my head (and my heart). My detectives, Marnie and Noah, have taken up permanent residence there; a whole back lobe of my brain is their major incident room. Like Highsmith, I wish in earnest for my worst fears and best hopes — and all the strange, restless curiosity that is a writer’s blessing and curse — to stay with me, unsettle me, keep my fingers itching always for pen and paper.
So if you happen to spy me in Bath, enjoying a piano recital at The Pump Room or side-stepping the queue for the Thermae Spa, wave hello to me and my monsters. We might even wave back.