(That's a colour doodle I drew some time ago. It doesn't form part of the book (although it is a scene from the book) but I thought it would add some colour to an otherwise wordy post).
Crowdfunding a book is hard work. There's no denying it. It means tweeting about the book three or four times a day. It means creating Facebook pages and posting photos on Instagram. It means doing talks and making personal appearances and sending out targeted emails ... all of it aimed at pimping your wares in a most un-British way while shouting 'Give me some money!' at all and sundry.
As I said, it's hard work.
But, like most things in life, hard work pays off. And here's a quick reminder of what all of this work was for.
A Murder To Die For is a book that I've wanted to write for a while. As I explained in an interview on Jennie Ensor's excellent blog recently:
'The idea for a comedy murder mystery grew out of a pub discussion (as all the best ideas do) with some non-police friends (I was a cop in London for 30 years). I was explaining why I don’t watch cop shows – procedurally they are nonsense and their accuracy is usually appalling - things like ‘good cop/bad cop’ during interviews for example. That breaks the rules of evidence as any information gained under threat or duress will be inadmissible at court. However, I do love murder mystery because it’s a world removed from real life. It’s generally very silly and melodramatic, like a game of Cluedo made real. And it suddenly occurred to me that there might be a great deal of humour to be milked from throwing the two genres at each other – real policing versus murder mystery.
'One of my favourite TV shows is Midsomer Murders because it does just that; it straddles the two genres. It’s filmed around where I live on the South Bucks/South Oxon border so it’s fun to spot the locations. But what really attracts me to Midsomer is the ingenuity of the crimes. While Det Ch Insp Barnaby appears to be a modern cop investigating a homicide, the circumstances of the death are nearly always pure golden age murder mystery. My favourite ever is an episode called Hidden Depths where the murder is committed by a man being staked out on his croquet lawn and then being bludgeoned to death by his disabled wife firing his wine collection at him with a replica Roman trebuchet (a kind of catapult)! Or that great episode where Martine McCutcheon is crushed by a giant wheel of cheese. Or the episode where Phyllida Law is killed when a towering pile of newspapers is pushed on top of her by her dotty husband Edward Fox. Genius!'
I wanted to write a comedy because there simply isn't enough mainstream comedy in fiction these days. There's plenty on the sci-fi and fantasy shelves. And there's a lot on the women's fiction shelves too. People like Douglas Adams, Marian Keyes, Terry Pratchett, Helen Fielding, Jasper fforde, Sophie Kinsella etc. are some of our bestselling authors. But the middle ground has been somewhat sparse in novels since we lost some of the great humorists. In recent years we've said goodbye to Tom Sharpe, George MacDonald Fraser, David Nobbs, John Mortimer and so many more. There are people keeping the flame alive - John Niven and Jonathan Coe being two of my favourites - but there's room for a lot more comedy. We're particularly lacking in farce. I love a good farce, me. Farce is comedy that involves situations that are highly exaggerated, extravagant and improbable but grounded in the real world. Think Fawlty Towers, for example. What could be more mundane than a mid-range seaside hotel? But throw in a series of misunderstandings, some decent slapstick and a cast of eccentric characters and you have comedy gold. Tom Sharpe’s books are all classic farce. I guess the most famous is Wilt – the story of mild-mannered Henry Wilt who is so dominated by his wife Eva that he acts out a fantasy of murdering her by dumping a fully clothed sex doll down a hole on a building site. Unfortunately the doll is spotted just as thousands of tons of concrete is poured on top of it and, with perfect bad timing, Eva goes missing. A simple - if disturbing - drunken act quickly degenerates into delicious farce. Farce makes me laugh. And, with everything going on right now on both sides of the Atlantic, don't we all need more laughs?
The final thing to say about this book is that it's a tribute to my late father. Dad died in 1991 - 25 years ago this year - at the cruelly young age of just 51. A retired homicide detective and just turned pro writer, he was part way through writing his first novel, a murder mystery called The Chief Constable Regrets, when he suffered a massive and unexpected heart attack. My first thought was to try to finish the book off but, unfortunately, he didn't leave enough notes behind for me to do so. So I've done the next best thing; I've incorporated some of his book into my book.
A Murder To Die For is a murder mystery set during a murder mystery festival and the action takes place in the village of Nasely, home of the reclusive golden age crime fiction author Agnes Crabbe. The plot of one of her most celebrated novels, Swords Into Ploughshares, becomes relevant as the story progresses (no further spoilers will be issued!) so I used Dad's writing as Crabbe's writing. Therefore, whenever an extract or a quote from Crabbe's book is mentioned, it's actually from Dad's unfinished novel. It was a nice way to incorporate his writing within the context of my novel and I hope that I've done him justice.
So there you go. A murder mystery. A farce. A tribute to Dad. And now fully funded and ready to start its journey through the production process.
Thank you SO MUCH to all of you who took a chance on me and pledged your hard-earned money to make the book happen. You are the very best kind of people - true philanthropists and patrons of the arts - and I couldn't have done it without any of you, no matter how much or how little you could spare. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.
Oh, and in case the rest of you missed my subtle hyperlinks, you can pre-order A Murder To Die For here!