It's great to be back at Inkspot on the day my Midnight Ink stand-alone AS SHE LEFT IT is published. What a long and winding road! But finally I get to make my little book a sandwich, check that it's got a clean hanky and send it off out into the world with a pat on the bottom and an almost soundless sob.
As you might guess from the jacket:
She sets out to solve the mystery, but she also gets work in a supermarket, like people do. Someone asked me why she has such a terrible job. I answered politely but inside I was thinking: don’t watch any more Sandra Bullock rom-coms; not everyone is a paediatrician.
Also, the book’s set in a place that is not . . . how can I put it? Okay, try this: when I moved from Edinburgh to Leeds, where the book takes place, one of my colleagues who was staying in Edinburgh took great pleasure in reading out two entries from a Guidebook to Britain. “Edinburgh is one of the cultural, historical and architectural gems of Europe.” And “Leeds is a large city in the north of England.” Simon Kirby, this means you. If you’ve ever seen The Full Monty, Brassed Off and/or Billy Elliot (and there’s triple feature for you!) you’ve got a fair idea of what Leeds looks like.
However, the people are the warmest and funniest in the world. The accent feels like a cuddle. And the fish and chips are to die for.
Also, if I hadn’t had that five years in Leeds I wouldn’t have this book and I’m very proud of this book. It’s not completely “light, bright and sparkling” but it’s far from grim. My fondest hope is to make people laugh and cry (and maybe choke if they laugh and cry in quick enough succession).
The events in the novel take place during a heat wave. So I thought I’d share an excerpt especially chosen for summer.
“That Saturday was the hottest day yet, the hottest day ever, since records began. Opal woke at five o’clock with the sun already throbbing in at the bedroom window and the air still thick and damp from the heat of the day before. She went for her bus and no one in the queue had a jacket over their arm or an umbrella folded up along the top of their handbag. Everyone – even the men – was wearing sandals. And out at the store two of the assistant managers were putting up parasols next to the doorway. Round in the warehouse, Dave and a supervisor from Wet Fish were dragging an open-front chiller on a trolley towards the flap doors.
‘Email from Head Office,’ Dave said. It’s going to the door for water. We’ve to fill it with chipped ice off of Fish and hand out bottled water.’
‘Whole bottles,’ said the Wet Fish supervisor. He was already in his white coat and trilby. ‘Not like samples. Not plastic beakers like a tasting.’
‘Because we asked them,’ Dave said. ‘Whole bottles. For free.’
That was the start of the day’s madness. The barbecue hordes came early. Usually it was gone eleven before they started drifting in, tattooed and topless, filling deep trolleys with charcoal and Polish lager, but that day the first of them arrived before nine and some of the very first bought all of the ice, then the later ones wanted to know where the chipped ice in the open front chiller by the door had come from and why couldn’t they get some too. And one of the assistant managers had to be beeped to come and explain that it wasn’t edible ice and couldn’t be used in drinks, but then Charlotte had a mother complaining that one of the girls giving out the water had said to her little boy that he could have a scoop of it in his empty slushy-cup and he’d eaten the lot.
And there was no cream in the dairy drop at ten o’clock – none at all: double, single, whipping, clotted, even Chantilly – and the UHT and aerosol ran out and after that everyone who had picked up strawberries on a twofer started putting them back again, only hardly anyone bothered to go back and dump them with the rest of the strawberries; they just shoved them onto the nearest shelf and the store started to fill up with cartons of sweating strawberries and Kate and Rhianne, detailed to seek them out and bring them home couldn’t do it because the warehouse boys had brought out more and there was nowhere to put them, so they got stickered down and piled up in Reduced but that only started the whole strawberries-cream-no-cream-no-strawberries cycle all over again until, as Rhianne said:
“I’m starting to recognise some of these buggers. This is the third time I’ve moved the carton with that big one like Santa’s nose.’”
If any of that makes you think you’d like to know more about Opal Jones and Mote Street and what happened to little Craig Southgate, I’m giving away a signed copy in celebration of publication day. Just leave comment (I always say “Gimme a book” is fine) and I’ll put your name in the cauldron.