Thursday, April 08, 2010


The same soothing tones that might be employed to induce calm in the event of nuclear holocaust, issued from the front of the car.

A soft, breathy, female voice with hints of both English and American accents. We call her Betty. She is, in fact, the voice of our TomTom GPS system, who incongruously calls the freeway a “modorway”.

Last night, she guided us up through the hills above the San Francisco Bay area to a high point above the town of Berkeley. We climbed, and climbed, then rounded a corner to have our collective breath immediately removed.

For there, laid out below us in all its early evening glory, was THE bay. The entire city of San Francisco, the Golden Gate bridge. The most stunning panorama I think I have ever seen. I might have stopped to take a photo, but it would never have done it justice. Your imagination will do a better job, though even that will never come close to the reality.

In any event, Betty wasn’t allowing us to linger. “Turn right. Then you have reached your destination.”

Our destination was the home of Janet Rudolph, book reviewer and editor of the magazine, Mystery Readers International. She traditionally holds “at-home” events in her house, with a regular group of attendees, and visiting authors from all over the world.

We made our way through a fairytale garden populated by peacocks, to be greeted by Janet herself, an attractive, energetic lady with a fantastic head of thick, curly hair. Others had already arrived. Some I knew - Bill and Toby - whom I had met at Left Coast Crime in Seattle in 2007. Some were new to me, but greeted me warmly with that wonderful, open, Californian hospitality.

We drank wine, nibbled cheese, then sat in a circle to discuss my books, writing in general, research, publishing, genres. We talked for almost two hours, at the end of which I signed the books which everyone had brought. I had brought some copies of The Firemaker, the first in the China series, a taster for the rest.

An elderly British couple, Stuart and Sheila, originally from Northern Ireland, are neighbours of Janet. Sheila came to me at the end of the evening and gave me a copy of The Firemaker to sign. She leaned forward and whispered confidentially, “You know, I’ve been coming to these events for years now. But this is the first book I’ve ever bought.”

A delightful end to a splendid evening, topped off by the gift of a bottle of wine whose label was the cover of my latest Enzo book, “Freeze Frame” - the work of Janet’s husband, Frank.

We headed out into the dark and turned the car back up the hill, Betty still breathing seductively from the windscreen. The lights of the Bay Area opened out like a firmament below us. But again Betty would not let us linger. “At the end of the road turn right. Then take the modorway.”

• I can finally announce, since we signed the contracts this morning, that the movie rights to “The Killing Room”, one of my China Thrillers, have been bought by a French production company. La Patronne and I have been commissioned to write the screenplay, which we will work on during our stay in Arizona. The story will be re-set in Hong Kong, and Margaret will become French. Vive La France!

1 comment:

mm said...

I think Margaret will be a wonderful French woman; maybe she should have been French from the beginning. Can't wait for the film.