Caroline Lawrence began signing books on stage before her event on Friday afternoon. That’s how keen her fans were. Or maybe they couldn’t make it to the signing afterwards? She wore glasses, which might be how she saw us hiding on the back row as usual. She waved. And then I suspect Caroline came up with her little idea on how to ‘include’ us in her talk.
‘Be careful what you read. A book could change your life.’ That’s how Caroline introduced this talk on how to write, and she admitted to having been no good at history at school. Mary Renault inspired her to write the Roman Mysteries, and later heroes include Sherlock Holmes (or was that just so Caroline could show us a photo of Benedict Cumberbatch?)
That brought the conversation round to films, and she asked the audience if they could name the best Western film ever. They named plenty, and since Daughter and I refrained from showing off, no one got it right. (The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, if you must know.) Cowboys are often portrayed the same, except Woody in Toy Story is not allowed to carry a gun (I should think so!).
Then Caroline read the first chapter about P K Pinkerton in the Western Mysteries, and it does work very well as a taster, and ought to have left anyone in the audience who hadn’t read the book wanting to. And after some brief explanations on Pinky’s world Caroline decided to tell the audience about scalpings. She did so while referring to the famous Bookwitch nerves, and caused the photographer to stick her fingers in her ears for the 60 seconds Caroline needed to talk in-depth about scalping, including showing pictures.
That was very naughty.
And did you know they didn’t actually have double swinging doors in the Wild West? Very disappointing. You are advised to spit leeward if you’re travelling by Stagecoach. Or it will all come back.
That brought things neatly to Caroline’s Roman sponge on a stick, and her Western equivalent, the spittoon. It took people some time to guess what it was. Not a chamberpot. (Would be a bit hard to aim, I’d have thought.)
Being a writer is the best job in the world for someone who wants to work wearing their pyjamas, eating chocolate and watching television a lot, and getting paid for it. The photo she showed us of her London riverside study didn’t exactly make the job look any less attractive.
Caroline promised us ten Western Mysteries in ten years, saying that she needs time in between for her Roman Mystery Scrolls, the first of which is the Case of the Sewer Demon. Coming soon.