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It's now nine days until The Balance of Guilt is published, a good time I think to respond to the question - what's it like when a book comes out?

Incredibly exciting is the answer!

The only comparison I can make is like being a child at Xmas time.  You know the big day's coming, you know something special is going to happen and you find yourself counting off the days to get there.  And often impatiently so.

I thought the excitement might dim a little as The Balance of Guilt is the fifth in the tvdetective series, but it hasn't at all.  If anything, it's heightened. It still feels like the heady culmination of a very large amount of work, the chance to actually hold the end product in your hand.

And believe me, I do - when a new book is published, I adopt one copy and carry it around with me, like a new and favourite friend.

As if that wasn't enough, the excitment doesn't stop on publication day, by no means.  Actually seeing the book on the shelves of a shop, or in a library is an even bigger back shiverer. 

The next stage is a little more daunting, and that's when I start to get feedback and reviews on the new book.  That can be very nerve wracking, the thought of people actually reading it and forming an opinion as to its quality. 

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A very flattering question has arrived, and it's this - do I come up with the ideas for the covers of the tvdetective books myself?

I wish I could say yes and take the credit - and indeed I'm tempted to do so - but the answer is a simple no.  They're the work of some very fine graphic artists, who are so creative and talented  as to be well outside of the Hall thinking range.

All they get is a summary of the book - some read the whole thing, but not many - and from that comes the idea.  They produce a draft cover, it's batted over to the publishers who add their comments, then me, then back and forth a few more times until we reach some kind of agreement.  This can take a considerable time...

Which is not surprising, as the cover is so very important in drawing the eye and getting a potential reader interested.  It's often one of the most hotly debated parts of the publishing process.

I think I'm lucky in that the jackets of all the tvdetective books have been eye catching, which is a testament to the skill of the designers.  But I'm particularly impressed with the cover for The Balance of Guilt.  For me, it conveys in one glance the horror and pathos of the atrocity at the heart of the book.

If you want to have a look at the jacket, it's now up on the books page -

Just 12 days until it comes out...  Not that I'm counting, or anything!

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I was having a chat with another author this week, and we got talking about titles of books.

It's something I've never really thought about, which is odd, when you consider how important they are.  It must be the title and jacket which first attracts a browser to a book, followed by the blurb, then a dip inside to sample some of the writing.

I was surprised to hear that quite a few authors only come up with the title of their book when it's finished, and even then often with the input of their editor and publishers.  I hope it's not me being my usual awkward self, but I tend to do things the other way around.

With The TV Detective, the whole premise of the tvdetective series seemed to flow from that first title.  The Death Pictures sets up the idea of the riddle - the entirety of the book came from that one, central puzzle and its title.  The idea for Evil Valley grew from seeing on a map the Dartmoor Valley where much of the action is set - Evil Coombe. I thought you just couldn't have a place with such a great name and not write a book about it!

Again, with The Judgement Book, the novel follows on from the title.  Which leads us onto The Balance of Guilt, and a departure from the Hall norm, if that's not a contradiction in terms.

It's the first of my books where I'm hoping you won't know - or at least not with any degree of certainty - what the title refers to until the very last page. And more I won't say, because I've probably suffered the usual Hall problem and said more than I should anyway.

What I can tell you is that, having just finished the editing, it's 340 pages long, and will be out on Sept 6th, as planned.  If you'd care to take a look at the cover and a little precis of the plot, it's now up on the books page -

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The weather

For an English author, given our preoccupation with the elements, a little musing about the weather can hardly fail.  So, here we go...

The apparent cancellation of summer - in mid August, naturally - has set me thinking about the place of the weather in the tvdetective books. Working through the editing for The Balance of Guilt, I've noticed that in just about every sequence I write I make some mention of it.

I suppose it's an obvious part of setting a scene, but I suspect there's more to it than that.  Sometimes, I just have a feeling that certain weather conditions are better for a part of a book than others.  A happy time is often set in the sunshine, difficult, emotional moments come amidst dark skies, and a bit of rain is always useful to heighten the tension of a little drama.

With the books being set in Devon, the weather takes on an added importance.  So very exposed as we are in the south west to the prevailing westerlies, we often suffer extremes of weather before the rest of the country. 

Thinking back on my career (the day job part!), some of the biggest stories I've ever covered have stemmed from the weather, and that must have had an influence on me.

And as if on cue, as I write, on the radio comes the weather forecast, and today I'm in for a soaking.  Serves me right to blogging about the weather!

Don't forget, if you'd like to pose a question about the books, you can get in touch via the contact page of the site -  and I'll do my best to answer it.

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Blogging the blog

Behind the odd (although perhaps very Hall title) is that I wanted to say something about the blog, as it's been just over a year now since I started this new fangled internet diary / confessional thing.

A confession first - I had to be hard persuaded that blogging was worthwhile.  Originally, I wondered whether I'd have enough of interest to say, let alone the discipline to do so. 

I suspect that came partly from my younger years, of trying to write a diary (one of those hideously old fashioned paper and pen types) and miserably failing, and partly from seeing the sort of blogs/tweets that some people seem determined to fill the net with.  I'm really not interested in what coffee you've just bought, the socks you're wearing, etc...

However, if you are interested, I've just made myself a cup of very ordinary tea (tea bag, in a mug, fairly strong, dab of milk, no sugar), and I'm about to put on my very off-white gym socks and go to a circuits class - how's that for impressive dedication for a Saturday morning?!

Anyway, as I was saying, this blogging lark.  The odd thing is that it seems to be popular.  The majority of the feedback I get from the tvdetective site is about the blog, what I've been up to, and what I'm planning.  So, I'm glad you like it, and I will try to keep posting regularly. 

One thing the blog's particularly good for is answering any queries you might have about the tvdetective books. If you do have a question, you can get in touch via the contact page -  and I shall do my best to answer it.

Final bit to say - the edits on The Balance of Guilt are almost done, all is still on track for publication on Mon, Sept 6th (sorry if I put 8th on a previous post, finger or brain trouble, or a mix of both, knowing me).

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Summer stuff

A mix of blogging news this time.

Firstly, I'm on the final edits of The Balance of Guilt, which is good (for me, at least), because it means the book should be out on time; Mon, Sept 8th. Such is the degree of conviction - or perhaps hopefulness - more details have now gone up on the books page, including the cover, which I rather like.  If you're interested, have a look -

Secondly, a big thanks to the people who run and all those who visited the Dartmoor Folk Festival.  I very much enjoyed my visit at the weekend - great beer, fab music, wonderful dancing, a terrific and very friendly event.  Apologies again for the ode I wrote to the festival - it wasn't my finest literary hour, but at least it gave you a laugh!

Finally for now, the smart people who run this website have set up an alert system, to let you know when I've posted a new blog.  Technically they call it an RSS feed - I just call it clever and useful.  You can sign up on the blog page -

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I've been asked about some of the walks featured in the tvdetective books.

I suppose if I was a true modern writer, I'd now have to go into a long legal waffle about being in no way liable for any injury anyone whatsoever may sustain if taking on - entirely at their own risk, naturally - any of the treks I mention in the books, which is no way implies authorisation or promotion on the part of the author etc etc.

But as I can't abide all that stuff, I'll say this instead.  The walks are all described from personal experience and I'd throroughly recommend any of them.

My questioner goes on to ask why Dan and Rutherford favour Dartmoor when there are so many other great walks to try in Devon and Cornwall.  

The reason is, simply, that Dan finds the moor in keeping with his outlook on life.  It's true, there are plenty of wonderful walks in the south west, the coastal path being chief amongst them.  But it can be a tad too cheery for Dan.  He likes the bleakness and solitude of Dartmoor. And Rutherford just loves the rivers and streams for a dip!

If you want a particular recommendation for a walk, try the Ted Hughes memorial, as featured in The TV Detective.  It's close to my heart, partly as I discovered it (after many years searching), but mostly because the scenery is fantastic.  It's all of Dartmoor in one jaunt, with the added bonus of a pub when you get back to Belstone.  If you're interested in the book, it's featured on the Books page

Finally for this post, I'm off to the Dartmoor Folk Festival later.  If you're looking for something to do today or tomorrow, I'd highly recommend it.  Great music, dancing, traditional arts and crafts, a fine day out for a whole family.  I've been honoured to be asked to open it, but don't worry - I'll keep that bit very short, no more than 5 mins, so you won't have anything to get in the way of the entertainment!

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It's been pointed out to me that I have a tendency to put some odd acknowledgements in my books.

Looking back on the past novels, I must say guilty as charged, I fear!

To me, they're an important part of a book which are often overlooked.  Go on, ask yourself honestly - how often do you read acknowledgements, and indeed the dedication, if at all?

When I write a book, the idea might be mine, the characters, the plot too, but to actually make it work, I need an enormous amount of help.  Be it the usual experts of the detective and medical worlds, or sometimes particularly specialist assistance - for example, in The Balance of Guilt, I enlisted the assistance of a historian for some analysis about a famous story of the Second World.

As to why - you'll have to wait and see!  And not long now - all is still looking favourable for publication on Sept 6th.

But, back to the point of this post - the acknowledgements and dedication do mean a lot to me, particularly as I've been through some difficult times on the family front lately.  So if you can spare a second or two, do please have a look....

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