Please don’t try this at home

I should probably treat this issue with a dignified silence, but being neither silent nor dignified, here goes…

The following was recently posted on a filesharing website above a copy of the audio jacket for ‘Ruso and the Demented Doctor’:

“Ah – I have been fooled, by once again the publishers ‘renaming’ a book – this is in fact the same as Terra Incognita! I thought I have found the third in the series, as nowhere on the cover does it mention Terra Incognita!! However, having gone to the bother of ripping it etc, here it is – it is unabridged and read by Sean Barrett – who is a different narrator from the earlier upload, which was Simon Vance.

Thank you to the original uploader of Terra Incognita who introduced me to the series”

Aargh! It’s nice to know that people like the books enough to want to share illegal copies with total strangers across the internet.  BUT…

If they can’t afford to buy it, couldn’t they at least get themselves down to the local library and shell out the very small sum that’s required to borrow the audio and listen to it legally? (If the library hasn’t got it, the staff can usually get it from somewhere that has.) Writers don’t make any money out of audio loans, but most public libraries desperately need cash, and more bodies through the door will help put their visitor numbers up and support them in the scramble for public money.

Moreover, just to reiterate the obvious… the companies who go to the bother and expense of making the recordings do it in order for their staff to earn a living. More piracy means less revenue for them, and less revenue can tip the balance so that a marginally profitable recording becomes a loss-making one. That’s not a great incentive for the company to record the writer’s next book, is it?

I know there are people who will argue for file-sharing far more fluently and indignantly than I can argue against it. I don’t imagine any of the above will make any difference to them.  I just feel better for saying it. Thanks for listening. Legally.

Well done, your Imperial Majesty

Good grief, even Antoninus Pius has a blog now. It’s been a fine year for him: he’s currently celebrating the designation of his Wall across Scotland as a World Heritage Site and the rediscovery of his wife at Sagalassos (in sculpture form, that is.  She died over 1800 years ago but no doubt has a blog of her own somewhere).

I haven’t read his entire online opus, so don’t know if he records the reactions of his loyal troops on being told that Hadrian’s Wall was in the wrong place and they were going to have to start building all over again further north. It must have been interesting.

Anyway, many congratulations to him on finally getting the recognition he deserves.

Crime and Inspiration

Well, I’ve finally given a talk at a literary festival – and survived. I’ve been on a panel before, but never had to fly solo. For some reason I was convinced everyone would be very scary, but in fact the organisers, the audience and the other authors at the first-ever Reading Festival of Crime Writing were lovely.  A surprising number of people kindly turned up to listen and laughed in all the right places. Thanks to Madeleine and Jackie who looked after me and to whoever provided those huge tasty blackberries at lunchtime.

The festival was held in the same building as the Museum of Reading, which houses two treasures I particularly wanted to see. First, homage had to be paid to the battered Roman eagle that inspired Rosemary Sutcliff to write ‘The Eagle of the Ninth’. (There’s a picture of it here.) Then an all-too-brief stroll around the Victorian replica of the Bayeux Tapestry.  I’ve wanted to see this ever since reading Sarah Bower’s excellent novel ‘The Needle in the Blood‘, (‘a powerful tale of sex, lies and embroidery’). The replica is a work of art in its own right and is well worth a visit.

The Revenge of the Weather Gods

Who was it who wrote, ‘For days on end, instead of falling, [British rain] simply hung around in the air like a wife waiting for you to notice she was sulking.’ ? Ah. Yes. Me, in the opening pages of the second Ruso book, set in Corbridge.

As if to make a point, the rain fell on Corbridge last weekend. ‘Fall’ is perhaps the wrong word as for two days and nights, the rain was lashing sideways. Water gushed out of the drains instead of flowing down them. Dips in roads became muddy rivers as one field flooded into the next. As if this didn’t make travelling difficult enough, there were plenty of fallen trees. A little further north in Morpeth, hundreds of people had to flee as the river flowed through their homes.

Obviously, a book-signing wasn’t the first thing on anyone’s mind. Nevertheless, some lovely (and determined) visitors made it to the museum and several of them even went home armed with Ruso novels – hopefully before the police closed the roads. I’m hugely grateful both to them and to the staff at the museum who’d worked hard to set up the event – but couldn’t set up the weather.

For us, it was an adventure. For the families flooded out, the farmers now assessing the damage, and all the people who depend on tourism for a living, this summer has been truly grim. If this is a temperate climate, heaven knows what it must be like to live in a hurricane zone.

No photos of the floods – we were too busy negotiating them and besides, a wet camera is not a happy camera. Here’s a shot taken further south, before the weather turned nasty.

Spot the Roman Road
Spot the Roman Road

Wheeldale Moor in North Yorkshire. That’s definitely a road, and thirty years ago it was definitely Roman, but fashions change. Now it might be older. Or younger.  More knowledge = less certainty. At this rate we’ll know nothing at all in a few years’ time.

Back at the scene of the crime

Very much looking forward to spending the day at Corbridge Roman Site this Saturday (6th September). This is where Book 2 is set, and it’s always a joy to visit.

If you’re near Hadrian’s Wall this weekend, come over and say hello any time between 11 and 4. The Roman site and museum are brilliant, so I won’t be the only interesting old thing to look at when you get there.

Dug (the reconstructed Iron Age Man) is also hoping to make the trip. Who knows? Maybe it’ll cheer him up a bit.

Facial reconstruction of Iron Age man