Saturday, 29 March 2014


Godrevy Light is the title of the only piece of writing on which my husband, the archaeologist  Charles Thomas, and I have ever  collaborated. The book  was published  in 2009 and has done very well. Its subject is the story of this beautiful lighthouse, and the illustrations reproduce pictures of it that we had collected over the years since we first met in its shadow.

Godrevy  was not well known until relatively recently but in recent years it has become as much a symbol of Cornwall as St Michael's Mount, as you can see by looking at almost any website about Cornwall.

A few years ago Trinity House, which is in charge of all England's lighthouses, decided that Godrevy’s light was no longer needed. A lot of pressure was put on Trinity House not to turn off the regular beam of light.
Now Trinity House has decided to divest itself not simply of the obligation to itself keep the light on, but of the lighthouse itself. The inhabitants of Gwithian, the nearest village, and everyone else in the neighbourhood are desperate to save it. Of course I am too. But it seems inconceivable to me that this iconic structure will be permitted to fall down. Surely The National Trust, English Heritage, Cornwall Council or  some other organisation that protects ancient buildings will have to step in.

Friday, 7 March 2014


We're always being told about the crisis in publishing. The end of the net book agreement, the growth in  electronic reading,the competition from other entertainment media - whatever the reason, or combination of reasons,authors are receiving smaller advances and  traditional book publishers live in fear of being sacked. A sad situation, but one with a logic behind it - isn't it?

I'm not so sure. Because if all these pessimistic prognostications are accurate, how come that more crime novels than ever before in history are being published? During the last months I have received on average three book parcels a day. The fact that some are duplicates is cancelled out by the fact that there are quite a few crime novels I'm not sent - for example, I was spared from making a fool of myself by failing to identify J.K.Rowling as the true author of a book by "Robert Galbraith", because I never received it.

As I'm not only a reviewer, but this year also a judge for the Crime Writers' Association Steel Dagger Award,  I've been bombarded with books, and my tiny office (or study, or workroom) is filling up with them. A tiny  percentage of them will make enough   money for their author to live on, and consequently enough money for the publisher to show  a profit on. And yet  they come, three or  four a day, more and more and more.......But still, they say there's a crisis in publishing.

Friday, 14 February 2014


I've mentioned before that I am sent a great many books. There is space to mention about 8 or 9 of them  in my monthly column in  The Literary Review.
My little study (rather an old fashioned word - perhaps I should say office or workroom) fills up quickly, and I have to get rid of  paperbacks, hardbacks and proof copies. Hardbacks  go to a private subscription library in Penzance, and some paperbacks to  the  Oxfam bookshop in Truro, where  I'm told  "nobody wants to buy  hardback thrillers these days". But proof copies come with the injunction "Not for sale or distribution" and quite properly Oxfam won't sell them. Nor ought they to be put  on library shelves.  I can't bear the idea of chucking a book out with the garbage and the very idea of burning books - as they did in Nazi Germany - makes me feel quite sick. So what on earth should  I do with them? Any suggestions gratefully received!

Saturday, 8 February 2014



 This picture of "our" lighthouse shows the size of  the waves hitting the south-western coasts of Britain.And the photo of the railway line at Dawlish, dangling in the air because the storm swept its underpinning away, shows why Cornwall feels like an island today. This last was another week in which getting myself to London (as I'd planned) would be so difficult and slow that I cancelled all engagements. The same thing happened twice in 2013 (though the damage wasn't as bad as it is now) and in 2012 too. This time, it will be many weeks, not days, before trains can run west of Exeter. No wonder  so many businesses that start in or  or come to Cornwall leave again. No wonder conferences keep clear;  no wonder an influential medical seminar, started by a Cornish doctor and attended by people from all over the UK and abroad, moved to Bristol last year. Their participants won't come unless they are sure they can leave. And even when everything goes  according to plan, it's  a long,slow journey. It's quicker to get to Edinburgh  by train than to Truro, which  is exactly one hundred miles nearer London. 
What's the point of this whinge? Just to say how sickening that so much money is earmarked for the new high-speed link from London to Birmingham. Think how many miles of sea defence that money would buy!