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Sunday, 27 December 2009

Mussel Soup

I first ate mussels many years ago as a student in Granada, when a neighbour came over to prepare us a paella. While it was cooking we were given a tapa of fresh mussels, very simply prepared - just placed in a covered pan (if you like, with a dash of white wine), heated until the shells open (any that do not should be discarded), then eaten directly from the shells with a squeeze of lemon juice. They were absolutely delicious.

Excellent mussels are available from good fishmongers in many places in the UK but I think I’m right in saying that they are not widely prepared in British households - in spite of being extremely nutritious and pretty cheap. They must be very fresh and in their shells. I think they usually have a better texture when they are not too big. You will need to clean them before cooking - scrub and de-beard, then soak for a while in water with a dash of lemon juice to get out any grit.

Here are a couple of delicious, simple soups to try:

Mussel and Leek Soup

A Spanish friend often used to serve this at New Year - but you could also eat it cold on a hot summer day. It can be made the day before - keep the mussel meats to one side, and heat up before serving.

Ingredients (For four people)
1.5 kg mussels - only the freshest, from a good fishmonger
a splash of white wine
500 grams leeks
1 onion
a little olive oil
a pinch of flour
500 ml fish stock. If you want to make your own, salmon or monkfish heads are great for this. If you can’t be bothered, try a good delicatessen for a quality prepared stock.
a generous pinch of saffron (ground to a fine powder with a few grains of salt with a mortar and pestle)

Wash the mussels, pull out beards.
Place in large pan with a dash of wine and heat, shaking frequently, until the shells open.
Pull any remaining beards, and remove the meat from all but 4. Set aside.
Drain the mussel liquor through a sieve and keep.

Chop leeks and onion and add to a pan with a little olive oil. Cook on a low heat for about 3 mins. Stir in the flour until smooth.
Gradually add the mussel liquor, remaining wine and fish stock to the pan, stir until smooth. Bring to simmering point and then add the powdered saffron.
Cook for a further 25 mins.
Whizz the soup with a blender.
Heat through.

Just before serving, add the mussel meats and the mussels in their shells. Some people also add a swirl of cream.

Mussel Soup with Tomato and Chilli

A different kind of mussel soup can be made by making a sofrito with onion, garlic, some chopped red chillies, a couple of chopped ripe tomatoes and a cup of chopped fresh basil leaves. Then add the white wine and fish stock. Simmer for about 30 minutes, add the mussels and cook, covered, for 2-3 mins, until the shells have opened.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Something For My Christmas Stocking

Very nice to receive today, a cutting from The Mail on Sunday (December 6th) in which Simon Shaw, in his paperback reviews, says:

“Most promising newcomer this year was Aly Monroe, whose debut wartime thriller, The Maze of Cadiz is an atmospheric tour de force.”

Happy Christmas to all.

Sunday, 20 December 2009

Of Gardeners and Butlers.

About fifteen years ago, my husband came back from lunch with a publisher who had said he would be remiss in his job if he did not keep an eye on the business models used by pornographers – ‘because they are always the first to react to market conditions.’

Apparently the latest development in the business then was the death of the stars and the advent of ‘normal people’ as protagonists - what was called either ‘amateurism’ or ‘democratisation’. This was accompanied by a great expansion of what some call fetishes, others special interest groups, and marketing people term ‘genres’.

At the beginning I was, frankly, doubtful about all this. The use of the word ‘punters’ for book buyers struck me as more macho wistful than real, certainly in the mainstream of British publishing.

I was, of course, quite wrong. This argument - that where pornography points the rest follow - has now become commonplace. I remember reading a long article in the Guardian about it. More recently, the Financial Times had an alarmist report from the West Coast of the US, which said that even pornographers were struggling to survive with new technologies, and were experiencing the same problems that have afflicted music producers - how to make money when so much is freely available to download. There were other problems.

In his afterword to Lolita, Nabokov, suggests (remembering childhood fairy stories) that consumers of pornography needed what he called ‘sutures of sense’ so as not to feel cheated as they skip-read. He also suggested that pornographers were doomed to adding more and more characters and combinations. ‘In de Sade they call the gardener in.’

I suspect this argument shows Nabokov as an innocent moralist. Certainly this is no longer true. In the age of YouTube and YouPorn, no ‘sutures of sense’ are required. As I believe the director of the first Lara Croft film put it, ‘narrative is so last century.’

We might call this ‘instant effect’. I have to be careful using terms like shorthand – though shorthand descriptions have always existed. Lolita was after all first published, as Nabokov put it, ‘by a supplier of ‘one-handed literature’, before a mainstream publisher decided to cash in on scandal and greatness. In Spain, people sometimes referred to crime books as ‘el mayordomo’ – the butler.

I am not by nature censorious - certainly not when I have been charged with being akin to a pornographer myself.

Why? Genre, I was told, works on the same principles as old-fashioned (ie printed) pornography – ‘the manipulation of words to the satisfaction of the consumer’. The ‘consumer’ wants guaranteed satisfaction within narrow limits. P D James’ assertion that crime fiction is comparable to a sonnet shows that she does not know the difference between form and formula. And, to quote Nabokov again, ‘nobody wants to read a crime novel without any dialogue in it.’

In short, the crime reader wants consistency, a short cut to resolution or justice - usually of a conventional or atavistic sort that confirms and never challenges their presumptions and prejudices. Originality and curiosity are prohibited.

If you are reading this on this site you probably think the above case is, to put it politely, over stated. I was also told that I had ‘joined the herd. Romance was, Crime is – and there will be another shift in due course.’

I have to admit I found this stimulating. Apart from the obvious rejoinder - that this argument closes the arguer off behind dogmatic barricades and will probably leave him looking po-faced and wrong when future courses have taken their supple due - I found the argument too formulaic.

I will certainly not say that all crime books contribute to the well-being of humankind and advance our knowledge of human nature. But I would like to point out here - as I did at the time - that in Lolita, Nabokov had made use of ‘certain techniques’ – the confession, elderly pornographic novels – to spin a murder story of his own. Not his main intent? No. But he needed the readers’ familiarity with those conventions to work his magic. I also, probably unfairly, suggested that the genre-pornography argument given me was like accusing Nabokov of paedophilia, pseudo-taxonomy, and an inability to distinguish between real life and fiction. Hokum? You bet.

‘Bliss’ - which was Nabokov’s aim in writing - is a tall order, and varies from reader to reader. Ask a pornographer and he’ll probably say – you mean a happy ending? And for a pornographer, that is a balance sheet.

Yes, publishing involves money. Huge quantities of novels appear every year in the hope of acquiring some. And this hope is not just the publishers’ - some writers do find themselves, more or less planned, more or less willingly, in the grip of a formula to attempt to achieve this.

It may be that reflective, intrinsically slow prose will be twittered away, but I suspect that independent book stores and ‘boutique’ markets will persist for some time yet.

Honestly? If I could afford it I’d love to examine the possibilities in the new. (The e-books seem to me old mind set in a new technology – rather like early photographers slavishly referring to Old Master paintings.)

Finally, someone else has recently used the crime, thriller, spy genre for his own purposes: Javier Marías, who I have mentioned in earlier blog posts. I will be posting on him a little later.

In the meantime, have a supple and exciting Christmas and New Year.

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Lionel Davidson (1922-2009)

Last year (Sunday 30 November 2008) I wrote a blog on Lionel Davidson, pleased that Faber and Faber had brought out a collection of all eight of his books for adults published between 1960 and 1994.

Lionel Davidson died at the age of 87 on 21 October 2009. You can check the obituaries in the Guardian, Times and Daily Telegraph but here I’ll repeat that he was the youngest of nine children of a poor Polish-Jewish tailor (who died when he was two), that later, when the family moved from Hull to Streatham, he taught his Lithuanian-Jewish mother to read and that, on leaving school at fourteen, he got a job as an office boy at the Spectator and by the age of seventeen was writing syndicated features for the Morley Adams Group, including a column for children and advice to the lovelorn.

He served as a telegraphist in submarines during World War 2 (though he never used the experience directly), freelanced his way to Czechoslovakia in 1947 and later worked for the Keystone press agency and as fiction editor of John Bull Magazine. His first novel, The Night of Wenceslas – set in Prague – was published in 1960.

I should declare a tenuous connection. Lionel’s lovely brother Cyril and wife Kathleen were my family’s close friends. We’d see Lionel, his first wife Fay Jacobs and their two children on Boxing Day and later, when Lionel and family moved to Israel for about ten years, hear how they were getting on.

I always seem to have known that Lionel Davidson suffered from depression. The death of his wife Fay in 1988 did not help.

His second wife, however, the author Frances Ullman, encouraged him to write again. This was not easy. Lionel Davidson always said he did not enjoy writing. Working on films made him feel ‘like a road digger’, he finished novels feeling like the loser in a boxing match.

At one time, in a spectacular effort to solve writer’s block, he bought a lighthouse on Beachy Head. I don’t believe he ever moved in. The lighthouse is now apparently owned by the BBC.
What turned out to be his last book, Kolymsky Heights, was published in 1994, sixteen years after the seventh.

In memory of a writer who, after all, was in the business of entertainment, this may all seem a little grim. Far from it. This is a thank you note for the life of a charming, witty and inventive writer of excellent thrillers. Apart from also working on films, he wrote a number of children’s books under a pseudonym and his own name.

One last confession. My father always bought Lionel Davidson’s books when they came out and would give them as presents. This worked very well until The Chelsea Murders. An elderly recipient wrote back to say that she was not going to read the book because she had heard it was ‘pornographic’. (I believe there is an allusion Swinburne). But the kerfuffle meant I never did read that novel. I have just ordered it.

Monday, 7 December 2009

The Seas South of Gaudi

When, on his way back home from Australia in 2003, Manuel Vazquez Montalbán died at the age of 64, at least half (the left-wing half) of Spain went into mourning. Television and newspapers went into overdrive. Spain had just lost a prolific journalist and writer who had provided frequently waspish and funny, always acute commentary, up to, through and beyond what is called the Transition – the movement out of dictatorship and into democracy.

Vazquez Montalbán was from Barcelona, born in the poor Barrio Chino (the Chinese Quarter, Chinese in Franco’s Spanish meaning Red Light), which was subsequently flattened for the '92 Olympics. Mediterranean, Catalan, he grew up as a Left-wing, gourmet workaholic, who said the only slavery he could countenance was his own. Articles, essays, poems and books in many genres poured out of him.

Amongst all his other activities Vazquez Montalbán was one of the very first crime writers in Spain.

You may think this an odd thing to remark on.

But when I first went to Spain I was struck by how popular English crime writers like Agatha Christie were. On asking for Spanish writers in this genre I learnt there were indeed a few thriller writers – they wrote macho adventures, usually set abroad. It soon got through to me that ‘perfect societies’ – also known as societies with censors –have no place for crime novels because they involve investigations and uncovering truths. Spain at that time did not need that.

The Pepe Carvalho novels actually began in 1972 (Franco had three years to go). It is difficult now to understand the limitations imposed on Spanish writers at that time. For example, the newspaper El País could not have started while Franco was alive. The name was regarded as insulting by the old guard. El Pais means, simply, The Country. Not nearly grand enough. Where was the Fatherland, the grandeur of Spain?

Likewise the censors would not allow ‘bad Spaniards’ in fiction unless they met an exemplary end. But they looked superficially: Is Carvalho a Spanish surname? No, it is Portugese. So it was passed.

‘Biscuter’ is the nickname of Carvalho”s sidekick. I saw people howling with laughter at this. Apart from being a description of the character’s sexual orientation(s), the name refers to the Biscuter (Bi-Scooter), a tiny vehicle with a two stroke engine and drive to one wheel, that was produced when Spain was excluded from the UN and licensing agreements. It became a byword for ugliness, the tatty pretensions of the dictatorship, and the diminutive size of the dictator.

Does this matter now? Probably only in the sense that things date, and names, expressions and attitudes are left alone, looking orphaned, long after a dictatorship has gone.

Freed from forty years of Franco, the Spanish leapt to ‘join Europe again.’ There were some odd conjunctures. Political and sexual liberation came together in what was called the destape' (uncovering). One of my favourite memories is being handed a magazine, a garish buffet of naked women, to find the centerfold was a long, closely argued article by the man called ‘the old professor’ - Enrique Tierno Galván, a mild-mannered, very serious, somewhat self-conscious intellectual who would become Mayor of Madrid.

The Spanish sum up this climate now by pointing to a photograph of the amiable old professor, quite unaware that a porn actress is flashing beside him.

The sexual revolution at that time in Spain, certainly in print in magazines and in S cinemas now long gone, was decidedly male orientated. The word ‘macho’ is after all a Spanish export. Yes, I think there was definitely an element of women as food, probably best expressed by the Jack Lemmon character in Some Like it Hot when, surrounded by the members of the female band, he recounts to Tony Curtis his dream of being locked in a cake shop - though most of the stuff was not as charming or as funny.

My point here? Manuel Vazquez Montalbán was what the Spanish call ‘extremely well prepared’ – that is, he was very intelligent, highly educated and well-read. Un hombre culto – a cultured man – meant a lot in Spanish politics then. He represented the left in this respect, could take on the right-wing intellectuals as a man who had had academic success and knew about Schrödinger’s cat, Philip Glass or Ubu Roi.

But he was not as innocent as the old professor, and some of his writing reflects the greasy nature of some ‘cake shops’, and an appetite that does not think much, if at all, about the cake herself. I suspect this is why he is popular in Italy.

One more thing. There is a ritual in Spain. Every year since 1952, on October 15, the winner of the Premio Planeta is announced. Though books are submitted under pseudonyms ,the winner tends to be well known already. The list of winners is a veritable roll call of Spanish cultural life. The money is so big that one winner, Juan Marsé I think it was (he has also written crime novels) called it ‘la casa’ – the house. He meant that the money was big enough to buy one and, after years of scraping a living, it meant security. Juan Marsé, a recent recipient of the Cervantes prize and the prize in honour of the wonderful Juan Rulfo, won the Planeta in 1978 with his La Muchacha de las Bragas de Oro – literally The girl with the gold knickers - published in English with the title Girl with Golden Panties. It is not actually a prize but an advance and is currently 601,000 euros.

The Planeta is now a tradition, like cologne and socks at Christmas, a popular present and in some ways the book of the year, ie the one book bought, usually for Papa or Dad. Sales are enormous, the marketing at saturation level. It is very tempting. And to win it, the writer is asked to be accessible --- and to reflect society.

The Southern Seas (Los Mares del Sur) won the Planeta in 1979.

Friday, 20 November 2009

Talking to Readers at The Edinburgh Bookshop

On Wednesday I went to the Edinburgh Bookshop in Bruntsfield Place to read from and talk about the first two books of the Peter Cotton series, The Maze of Cadiz and Washington Shadow. It was a lovely responsive audience and I’d like to say thank you to all for coming, and for your interesting questions and comments, which made it a very enjoyable evening for me.

Thanks, of course, to Vanessa and Andrew for inviting me and for making the evening possible. If you haven’t visited the shop yet, do. It’s a lovely place to browse.

Their Book of the Week this week is a double offer of The Maze of Cadiz and Washington Shadow, both signed.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Visit to Goldsboro Books

I went down to London from Edinburgh on Thursday - a somewhat fraught trip as the train broke down and we all had to get out at Durham and wait to be transferred to another train. I found my agent was travelling on the same train so we travelled the rest of the way together and met up with my editor.

From there I went on to Goldsboro Books in Cecil Court to sign copies of Washington Shadow.

Goldsboro is a wonderful bookshop specialising in signed first editions and has clients from all over the world. The owner, David Headley, is, deservedly, becoming an important reference in the book world. He has a great eye and works generously to promote authors.

I was welcomed by all the team, then signed, lined and dated a big pile of books accompanied by enjoyable conversation with David. They also asked me to do a brief video recording my visit to them to sign the books:

My thanks to David and everyone at Goldsboro.

Saturday, 7 November 2009


November 5th was official publication day for Washington Shadow and I have been taking a break from the gruesome winter of 1946-47, the background of the next Peter Cotton book, to answer a number of questions I have received from would-be writers and/or the curious.

These questions have ranged from how long a book should be and where did I learn to write, to how much control I have over shoutlines/taglines and book covers, and one from Bookhugger that asked me directly whether or not I have received pressure to change my ‘creative vision’ for commercial reasons. See the previous post.

For the record, my contract asks for a minimum 70,000 words and I have never had a writing class but, if I may borrow from Jorge Luis Borges, ‘writers start as readers’ and at my age, as I have explained to some enquirers, my biggest difficulty was acquiring confidence.

There are some writers – I know one very well – who will fight over a comma. I have just published my second book, however, and have no trouble admitting that, particularly with my first book, I needed to establish a kind of dialogue with my editor. No, she did not tell me what to write but I needed another view.

The dialogue was necessary, not just for me, but because of the genre I found myself in. There are some writers who are very market orientated. Others, I am one, who start by examining certain possibilities, and go on from there. I am by no means alone in this. Recently I had coffee with another writer in Edinburgh and both of us have had moments of puzzlement at being so very firmly pigeon-holed. I even found the same at Crimefest.

Aren’t we an innocent crowd? Of course. We all sweat over what we produce and then, ouch, publishers, marketing people and, of course, readers break in with their perceptions of the world. So to answer that shoutline and cover question – no, most writers - don’t get that much of a say, certainly not when starting out. There are art departments and marketing departments who deal with that. Honestly? I have only heard of Ian Rankin having a strong influence on his.

The reason for this is something called ‘the process’. This ‘process’ is the publisher’s production schedule. The cover is fixed early and when I say fixed I mean settled. It is needed for the catalogue and it is all the marketing and sales people initially have to work on. It takes time to introduce a writer and it takes time to introduce a book. The publishers’ job is to think quickly and clearly about what they are investing in - this sometimes works better than others, of course, but they too need, particularly for a first book, the consumers’ feedback and reaction and are only too happy to change and to work hard at it.

From the first time writer’s point of view, if someone has had the courage to take you on and you are trying to get the content right, the packaging becomes not your business but that of those professionals with a lot more experience than you have.

I consider that publishing a book is a collaborative process but that there will always be some readers who hold the writer entirely responsible not just for the story but for what publishers call the product as well. This is not a complaint. The reader is an absolute monarch of their own opinion.

This brings me on to the last question. ‘Do you ever reply to reviews’? I know of some authors who do so – A L Kennedy, a truly excellent writer, is one. Ms Kennedy is also a stand-up or, with some reviewers, a knock-down, comedian. But the publisher’s advice is clear – don’t.

I have to admit this hasn’t been a huge problem. I was lucky enough to get some favourable reviews by usually respected reviewers like Mike Ripley, Marcel Berlins, Natasha Cooper, Joan Smith, Andrew Taylor and others. Did I always agree with some of their opinions and comparisons? Of course not. But it seems to me elementary respect for that to remain private. I get to publish over seventy thousand words. They get to give their impressions to other possible readers in very many less. It is also interesting and instructive to see different readers’ reactions to your work.

Likewise with unfavourable reviews. Absolutely the reviewer’s right. But there was one reviewer who has gone on and on - for example, to Amazon to join the one star patrol, not something usually respected reviewers tend to do. They give an opinion and move on.

So no, I don’t reply directly to reviews. But there is, I have to admit, an advantage to writing books. Some time ago the late literary agent Giles Gordon, a truly charming, wonderfully indiscreet and normally most amiable of men, took against Michel Faber’s work. Reasonableness had nothing to do with it or, as publishers like to say ‘it is all so subjective.’ So Michel Faber included him as an umbrella carrying client of a brothel in his next book, The Crimson Petal, I think.

A few days ago when I was told of what was probably yet another reference from the same source to The Maze of Cadiz - a year after publication - I remembered (yes, time does move on and I forget things) that I had, around the time of that one star Amazon review, done something similar, though involving a patrolman, in Washington Shadow and that it is, probably, only fair to say so now.

Giles, at least, laughed uproariously.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Book Hugger Author Panel

I was recently invited by Book Hugger - the excellent online magazine that started back in June - to take part in one of their author panels together with Helen Walsh and Armand Cabasson. The panels are a great idea and I enjoyed the opportunity to exchange thoughts with these writers. The subject of the panel was Writing From Life. You can read this and lots more by clicking on the following link:

Monday, 19 October 2009

The Edinburgh Bookshop

The Edinburgh Bookshop in Bruntsfield, owned by Malcolm and Vanessa Robertson- who are also the owners of the fantastic Children's Bookshop - only opened in September this year but is already making its mark on the city. I was delighted, then, when Andrew, the manager of the shop, said they would like to host an author event for the release of Washington Shadow, which is due out on 5th November.

If you want to know why we should support independent bookshops, look no further. Take a look at their website. It's a pleasure to see how much care they take and the energy and enthusiasm they put into everything. And how professional they are.

On the evening of Wednesday 18th November, I will be there, talking about the Peter Cotton series, reading from the books and talking to readers. If you are in the area and would like to come, click here more information.

Hope to see you there.

Monday, 5 October 2009

Sabores de Cádiz - Comfort Food Cadiz Style

Since I started this blog, I have, every now and then, been including some recipes for food Peter Cotton eats in The Maze of Cadiz. Some of the other dishes described - such as the delicious grilled snippets of calves liver, tiny fried squid (puntillitas) and sizzling prawns in garlic (gambas al ajillo) that Cotton watches Ramirez eat after viewing that gruesome body found in the underwater caves, are all hard to replicate - much better eaten as tapas in a good bar in Cadiz than cooked at home.

One of the dishes Cotton eats is Urta a la Roteña - made with a local fish cooked in a sauce of onions, garlic, green pepper, fresh ripe tomatoes, bay leaf, white wine and a little flat leafed parsley. What makes this dish so special is the urta itself, which is found only in the bay of Cadiz - so the best way to try this too, is to go there.

There are loads of places to eat and drink in Cadiz today. After many years away, my son recently returned there for a holiday with his wife and found that two of our local haunts were still going strong. One is a restaurant/mesón called ‘El Candil’ - very well known amongst the gaditanos and a great place to eat, and the other is a tiny bar/restaurant called ‘La Cuesta’. It’s in a narrow street called Calle Sacramento, and is run by Juan, who is a fantastic cook. Both well worth a visit. If you’re looking for somewhere to stay, you could try the Hotel Argantonio. Extremely pleasant and comfortable (great beds, apparently), and great value for money. It’s right in the centre of Cadiz old town, which can be quite noisy, but this is tucked away in a quiet little pocket down a side street.

Here, since autumn has arrived (in Edinburgh, at least), I am going to give you something that Peter Cotton would certainly have tasted if he had stayed in Cadiz a little longer, until the weather cooled down: lentejas. Lentils are one of the staple pulses of Spanish home cooking and, like all classic dishes, there are probably as many variations as people who cook them.

I originally started cooking lentejas (the ‘j’ is pronounced rather like the Scottish ‘ch’ in loch ) because of my son. When he was a small boy, he was invited by a school friend to go home with him for lunch. The boy was the tenth of thirteen children belonging to the local notary, and lived in a large chalet not far from the Hotel Playa Victoria (where Peter Cotton meets Deidre Carrol in The Maze of Cadiz). The children ran wild. Their mother and five maids in uniforms failed to keep any discernible order. My son told me they had eaten lentejas as a first course, followed by a rabbit stew, and pronounced it all to be delicious.

This recipe was originally given to me by my neighbour, whose cousin had a taberna and, according to her, made the best lentils in Cadiz. She insisted that only small brown lentils should be used - and I totally agree. You can find them in health food shops or specialist greengrocers. The red lentils most commonly found in supermarkets will go mushy in this recipe and not have the same flavour. And puy lentils work better in other recipes.

Lentejas - Spanish Lentils

Ingredients (for 3-4 servings)
A cup and a half of small brown lentils
Some good virgin olive oil
A decent sized onion/two or three shallots, finely chopped
A couple of cloves of garlic
Some chopped green pepper
The tip of a chilly pepper chopped as finely as possible (optional)
A medium sized carrot chopped very small
A couple of fresh, ripe, medium sized tomatoes, skinned and chopped
A couple of bay leaves
Generous grindings of black pepper
A good sprig of fresh thyme (or a generous sprinkling of dried)
Some good stock/ 1-2 stock cubes
A good slurp of red wine - only use wine you like to drink

Soak the lentils for three or four hours (unless the instructions on the packet say they don't need to be soaked). Then rinse well and pick out any small bits of grit there might be.

The trick with this recipe is to cook everything very, very slowly to allow the flavours to develop and the lentils to retain their shape and have a silky consistency.

Begin by making a sofrito:
Heat some olive oil in a deep pan and add the chopped onion together with the chopped pepper. Cook gently for a couple of minutes until beginning to go soft. Add the crushed/finely chopped garlic together with the chopped chilly and give it a stir. Add the chopped carrot and bay leaves, and cook gently for a minute or so, stirring. Add the chopped tomato. Stir and leave to cook on a very low heat for a few minutes, stirring occasionally, to allow the flavour to develop. (You will know by the smell) Add a little bit of water/ stock at this stage if necessary.
Add the soaked lentils and stir well to mix with the sofrito
Add the wine and stir for a moment as the alcohol evaporates
Add the stock, or water and stock cubes. The mixture should be well covered as the lentils swell as they cook.
Turn up the heat to warm the mixture, then turn right down until it is barely simmering, and cover.

You will need to simmer this as gently as possible for around one and a half hours (cooking times will vary depending on the lentils) checking and stirring every now and then, and adding more water when necessary to keep it a bit soupy. Make sure you cook them long enough or lentils will be indigestible. They should be soft but not mushy.

When the lentils are cooked check the seasoning and serve in bowls.

Good, Spanish comfort food.

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Bulls and Bells

Further to my last blog, I have been thinking more about the use of language and the perceived exoticism of foreign settings.

I suppose the most famous novel in English involving the Spanish is For Whom the Bell Tolls, Ernest Hemingway’s take on the Spanish civil war. ‘Bells, bulls and balls’ was Nabokov’s brisk summary of Hemingway’s interest in Spain. And I have some sympathy for that.

A little less dismissive was the complaint of an absurdly archaic tone given by Hemingway’s use of ‘thou’ for the Spanish ‘tú’, that Edmund Wilson described as a ‘a strange atmosphere of literary medievalism.’ See
(Scroll down the following page to ‘Language’) for more on this.

False exoticism is not new. Look at Byron’s introduction to Don Juan where he lampoons the romantic fantasy of Spain, or the whole storks drunk on sherry fumes from the bodegas approach, including barefoot children with voices like angels and of course a gypsy dancing girl or two (no, I’m not just talking about Laurie Lee).

I was anxious to avoid that. This has nothing to do with ‘expat pedantry’. It is about doing justice to people.

The Peter Cotton series is really about the end of imperialism and I want it to include respect both for the people of the countries I am writing about, and also respect for the reader.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The Language of Character

I don’t as a general rule respond to other people’s comments about my books, but Fiction Desk’s review of The Maze of Cadiz, and the subsequent thread of comments which I came across recently, raised some interesting questions that confront any author who writes a story with a foreign setting, where many of the conversations are actually taking place in another language that will not be understood by the majority of readers. Should you simply put everything in English - thereby making no distinction between the English and non-English speaking characters? If not, how much foreign language are you going to use?

When I embarked on the Peter Cotton series, I was clear that each of the books should aim to reflect, as faithfully as possible, the flavour of the particular time and place in which the story was set. Context is like a pre-biotic soup from which the characters and actions emerge. And language is an essential part of this - as much as climate, or landscape, or food, or political regimes.

I have spoken to a lot of bilingual or multilingual people who, independently, have made the same point: that their manner and even their personality takes on changes according to the language they are speaking - an interesting phenomenon, which I have observed with some amusement myself as my bilingual children were growing up. Spanish can have a raw, energetic directness in comparison with the rather polished, polite cadences of English. We are what we eat? Yes, in part. But even more, we are what we speak, and our speech reflects what we are.

The inclusion of some Spanish language was, for me, not a question of adding exoticism but of reflecting reality. I lived in Spain for over twenty five years and as I was writing The Maze of Cadiz, just as an English writer might hear a character speaking with a Glasgow accent, I was hearing the words of the Spanish characters not just in Spanish, but in gaditano, that is, the Spanish of Cadiz, with its curious, rich and sometimes quirky turns of phrase. To deprive characters entirely of their mother tongue is to deprive them of an important part of who they are.

Peter Cotton was brought up in Mexico and does speak Spanish - but not gaditano, and he sometimes has to think and work out what people are saying. That’s what happens when you are dropped in a foreign environment, and the inclusion of Spanish gives the reader some flavour of what it was like for him to find out what was going on.

The comments left on the Fiction Desk review soon turned to Javier Marias - a writer I greatly admire. He is perhaps the best Spanish writer writing today. He speaks excellent English and in fact taught at Oxford during the eighties (his experiences of this are reflected in All Souls). The book that made him internationally famous was A Heart so White, for which he was awarded the IMPAC prize in 1997. The protagonist of the book is a translator. Javier Marias himself translated a lot of English works into Spanish when he was younger, most notably Tristram Shandy - a great labour of love.

Would-be Spanish purists say that his writing sounds like English. Absurd. He is a fine and inventive writer. Fortunately for non-Spanish speakers, he has an excellent translator in Margaret Jull Costa.

In this weekend’s FT (12/13 Sept 2009) there is an interesting interview with the Russian-born conductor Semyon Bychkov (about to conduct Verdi’s Don Carlo at the Royal Opera House) who emigrated to the US in 1975 and now lives in France. He speaks five languages and says:

“You can only truly get to know a people through the subtleties of their language. Language is the mirror of national character.”

I don’t know about national character, but it is certainly true of characters in novels.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

The Maze of Cadiz, Paperback Now Available

The paperback of The Maze of Cadiz , official publication date 17th September, is now available on

You can read an extract from the book, and a Q&A on my website -

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Broad from Badsville

If you haven't come across Donna Moore's blog, dedicated to Scottish crime fiction, take a look. It's much more than that - entertaining and well written. Good fun. I like her tales of the 62 bus!
Here is the link:

Apart from her blog, Donna is the author of Go To Helena Handbasket and Old Dogs, due out in June 2010.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Audiobook of The Maze of Cadiz now available

The Audiobook of The Maze of Cadiz
read by Johnathan Keeble
is now available for purchase direct from

Monday, 27 July 2009

Cotton’s Tastes of Cadiz: Poor Man’s Lobster - or Gato por Liebre

I first ate monkfish in Cadiz over twenty years ago, long before it was a desirable dish in fine restaurants. At the time, this was not a typically ‘gaditano’ dish - the cook was actually from Asturias. The Spanish name for monkfish is rape (pronounced ‘rappay’) but it was popularly known as Langosta de Pobre - Poor Man’s Lobster.

This put me in mind of the Spanish picaresque tradition prevalent during the Golden Age of Spanish literature (sixteenth and early seventeenth century). The protagonists of these stories - the most famous of which are probably El Lazarillo de Tormes (anonymous) and El Buscón (Quevedo) - were from the lowest levels of a highly stratified and immobile society, and in order to survive or medrar (prosper), they had to resort to all kinds of ingenious subterfuge. An essential part of the education of the ‘picaro’ was to learn how to aparentar lo que no eres - in other words, to pass yourself off as something you are not, in order to gain access to people, places and possibilities otherwise barred to you.

A wealth of vocabulary and expressions remain in modern Spanish from this time - the verb aparentar with its connotations of pretending to be more than you are is frequently used. Another common expression - which I used in The Maze of Cadiz - is gato por liebre (literally, cat for hare) which originated in the tabernas serving up a dish of ‘hare which was actually cat. The expression now is commonly used to pass anything off as something else.

People no longer try to pass monkfish off as lobster - it is a recognized delicacy in its own right - and it is certainly not the food of the poor. This is how I first ate it in Spain, how I often cook it, and how Peter Cotton ate it in The Maze of Cadiz:

Monkfish with Mussels and Saffron


  • 1 kilo of monkfish tail cut into diagonal slices about an inch thick. Get your fishmonger to prepare this for you. When you are home, any grey membrane still covering the fish should be carefully removed before cooking.
  • 1/2 kilo mussels (or clams)
  • some good virgin olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 2 shallots/ a handful of spring onions (green stalks included)
  • A little chopped green pepper (a small slice)
  • A pinch of saffron (or turmeric if that is what you have at hand)
  • A little flour
  • some chopped flat leaf parsley
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • Salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

  • Scrub and de-beard the mussels. (If using clams, simply wash in a few changes of water). Leave to soak for a while in cold water with a squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Lightly coat the monkfish in flour seasoned with a little salt and pepper.
  • On a gentle heat, fry the chopped shallots/spring onions and chopped green pepper in a little olive oil until soft. Add the crushed garlic and cook very little more, taking care not to brown the garlic as it will go bitter. Then remove from the pan, drain and set aside.
  • Gently fry the monkfish pieces until beginning to take on a golden colour. Depending on the quantity, fry a few pieces at a time, and reserve.
  • Drain the oil from the pan and make sure there is no burnt residue that will make the sauce bitter. (If necessary, clean out the pan carefully with kitchen paper.)
  • Return the monkfish to the pan with the onions etc. Add the saffron/ pinch of turmeric, a squeeze of lemon juice and a little water/ stock.
  • Shake the pan and stir gently to allow the flour coating the monkfish to thicken the sauce slightly.
  • Simmer gently, adding a little more water if necessary, for about ten minutes or until the fish is nearly cooked through.
  • Add the mussels/clams and a little more water if necessary. Cover the pan and turn up the heat, shaking gently until the mussels/clams have opened. Then immediately turn off the heat. (Overcooking mussels and clams makes them go rubbery and lose flavour).
  • Stir in the chopped flat leaf parsley and adjust seasoning if necessary.

    This is more filling than it looks. It can be served as it is for a first course or with fried potato slices added to the dish for a main, accompanied by a simple, dressed green salad.

    Today you will often find Brochetas de Rape (Monkfish Kebabs) served as a simple tapa or starter:

You will need:

  • 1 Monkfish tail
  • 2 Sprigs fresh thyme
  • 12 - 14 slices of serrano ham


  • Take one monkfish tail and chop in half.
  • Sprinkle the fresh thyme over the fish.
  • Wrap the tail in strips of thinly sliced serrano ham and secure in place with cocktail sticks.
  • Place under the grill for 8 - 10 minutes.
  • Cut into medallions.
  • Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil.

Serve with a fresh tomato salad.

Monday, 6 July 2009

Gothic Science

I am reading an excellent book called A Natural History of Seeing by Simon Ings. His website is similarly amenable and wide-ranging and includes, for example his astute review of The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale.

In Simon Ings's book - which is subtitled The Art & Science of Vision - there is, in Chapter Two, a delightful account of the fantastic combination of two nineteenth century inventions – photography and the ophthalmoscope - for fictional (and other) purposes.

It’s possible to read this section online – Simon Ings has a list of what he calls ‘eye-openers’ – and this one is called ‘The Tell-Tale Eye’.

I recommend it.

Monday, 29 June 2009

Linda Fairstein

I was delighted to have it drawn to my attention recently that Linda Fairstein, best-selling author of the Alex Cooper novels had mentioned in an interview that The Maze of Cadiz was the last book she had read:

Apart from her lovely comment, this article makes fascinating reading for all those interested in this writer and her books. Particularly interesting is her advice on how writers can take an active role and use the web for spreading awareness of their work.

Linda’s own website is well worth a look. You can see a video of her in the New York Public Library, which provides the setting for her latest book, Lethal Legacy She also blogs regularly and generously on different writers she’s enjoyed.

Monday, 22 June 2009

Ratiocination and Other Horrors or The Art of Playing Ball.

At the recent Crimefest, I was surprised to hear an attack on Edgar Allan Poe for using a word like ‘ratiocination’. I was surprised, first because Poe died 160 years ago in 1849, and second because the poor man pioneered a genre without knowing it would come to be called ‘detective fiction’.

Undoubtedly Poe’s ‘Tales of Ratiocination’ would now be re-named by the marketing department. This is partly because the word is difficult to pronounce – “rashio-sin-ayshun” – and partly because its meaning – rational deduction – is not immediately and confidently recognized outside certain philosophy and literature departments.

Another example, just in time for Wimbledon, of a word that did not become popular is Sphairistike, the first name given to the sport by Major Walter Wingfield in 1874 when he drew up the rules of Lawn Tennis. I am not aware that the Major has been attacked for his desire to trace the game back to the Ancient Greek ‘art of playing ball’.

As it happens Poe rapidly lost interest in the genre. “These tales of ratiocination owe most of their popularity to being something in a new key. I do not mean to say that they are not ingenious – but people think they are more ingenious than they are on account of their method and air of method.”

It turns out that 'ratiocination' was indeed good marketing in the 1840’s. In effect, Poe was playing up that air of method by choosing a problematic word precisely to impress the reader with apparent science and the detective’s almost ‘inhuman’ powers of deduction.

Not our word choice today? Probably not. But just consider the sheer number of ‘human thinking machines’ that followed Poe, from Sherlock Holmes all the way to the current tv series that begins with a word and a definition – The Mentalist.

They were one reason we were all at Crimefest.

Sunday, 14 June 2009

Post CrimeFest

I’ve been busy editing recently, but I’m delighted to say that Washington Shadow, the second in the Peter Cotton series has now gone off to the copy editor. It is due out on November 5th this year. More information about this and the Peter Cotton series will be gradually added to the website over the next few weeks, so keep a look out for the new additions.

I got back from CrimeFest four weeks ago now. It was the first time I had taken part in one of these events and I found it very interesting. The Fest part means that there was a mix of writers, agents, editors, reviewers, bloggers and keen readers.

It was constantly repeated to me while I was there that crime writers (unlike romantic novelists, apparently, though I am in no position to corroborate this) are a very friendly lot, and from my experience in Bristol, this is certainly true.

A number of the writers I met (including some on my panels) had been initially surprised to be included in a festival for crime writers. But CrimeFest covers a wide variety of authors and books and, for me, this is definitely one of its strengths and attractions.

I met so many people over the weekend that it’s difficult to mention everyone here. In addition to my co-panellists, some of those I enjoyed speaking to included Dave Headley of Goldsboro Books, CrimeFest organiser Adrian Muller, Bill and Toby Gottfried from the US, Amanda Brown, Maxine (aka Petrona) Clarke and Karen Meek(Eurocrime); authors Suzette Hill, Chris Ewan, Donna Moore (who has just started a new blog featuring Scottish authors) and Ewan from Glasgow, and - what I was especially pleased about - a lot of keen and curious readers, including Sarah Williams, who was on the same table at the Gala Dinner.

On Friday evening I had dinner at a nearby restaurant called the Lido with Alison Bruce, Steven Hague, Eve Seymore and their agent Broo Doherty, Jane Grigson and Ruth Dudley Ellis. Good Mediterranean food and very enjoyable company.

I was speaking on two panels. The first, on Friday afternoon, was called SUSPICION: BUILDING THE SUSPENSE. Also on the panel were Ann Cleeves, Brian McGilloway and Yrsa Sigurdardottir. Our moderator was Margaret Murphy, who recently took over as chair of the Crime Writers Association.

The second, on Sunday morning, was the Debut Authors panel: PICK-UP ON SOUTH STREET moderated by Peter Guttridge. The other speakers on this panel were Alison Bruce, Steven Hague, M.R. Hall, Jenni Mills and Matt Hilton.

In each case we were fortunate to have an excellent moderator who had prepared well and really contributed to making the sessions relaxed, lively and interesting.

Thanks to everyone on these panels for making this so enjoyable. It was good to meet you all.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Beyond the Books

I don’t know about other authors but, while writing The Maze of Cadiz and Washington Shadow, my second Peter Cotton novel, due out later this year, I’ve spent a lot of time building background details - not always to add to the books, but to provide me with a consistent and solid foundation. I thought I’d share some of this back structure and gradually fill Peter Cotton out in other aspects.

So I’ve created a new page on my website called Beyond the Books, which I’ll add to over time. Within this page you can find Cotton’s biographical details and also letters written at different times of his life.

Friday, 24 April 2009

The Maze of Cadiz: Audio and Large Print Editions

ISIS Publishing recently acquired the Unabridged Audio and Large Print rights for The Maze of Cadiz.

The audio edition will be out this coming August and the Large Print edition in October.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Tenderloin, Garlic and Almonds - More Tastes of Cadiz

A recent blog entry by Spanish writer Miguel Aranguren, talking of the effect of the financial crisis on the Spanish, is entitled De Solomillo a Sopa de Ajo, From Tenderloin to Garlic Soup. This sparked off a number of memories.

The first was of Juan, my butcher in Cadiz, around the time Franco died. The poorer women who frequented his shop usually bought lumps of pork fat or cooking chorizo to add to their potajes of broad beans, chick peas or lentils. They were unhealthily fat, their children skinny with generations of deprivation engraved in their faces. Newly-confident, newly left-wing Juan would patiently explain that times were changing, and that they must give their children a better chance in life than they had had. To feed a child properly, he said, they must continue with the nourishing pulses but, several times a week they should also give them a good piece of steak - and, he added, “if you can afford it, el solomillo es rey” - tenderloin is king.

Given the eagerness of many of the women to be seen to be giving their children a better life, you might think that Juan’s business would be thriving. And for a time it was. Times were getting easier for a lot of people, and sales of steak shot up.

But there were still those souls who lived among the rubble in the nearby, ruined bull ring, who had no means of support. I remember one tiny bent old woman called Angelines. She would sometimes appear at the door of the butcher’s shop in her grimy black clothes and frayed slippers, and stand there until Juan called her in. He would then wrap something in paper - a marrow bone, a couple of sausages, perhaps a bit of cured ham. Angelines would extract a long tear of grey paper from somewhere among her clothes and Juan would add the amount ‘owed’ to the already long list. When the paper ran out he would tear it up and begin a new one.

Angelines did not eat solomillo. If she was lucky enough to have some oil, she might have eaten sopa de ajo, which consisted of gently frying some thinly sliced garlic cloves in a little olive oil until soft, adding hot water - or, if you had it, chicken stock - and some broken pieces of semi- stale country bread, and simmering gently.

One of the most famous Spanish soups is called Ajo Blanco (White Garlic). It’s really Cold Almond Soup - sometimes called white gazpacho - and was often served by some of my Spanish friends in Easter week.

In The Maze of Cadiz, following an over-rich meal at the house of an ex-pat couple, Peter Cotton suffers a violent bout of gastroenteritis. On his way to recovery – having drunk lots of camomile tea on the doctor’s orders – he is brought a bowl of almond soup followed by some lightly grilled chicken.

Now this soup might have been a simple Leche de Almendras - almond milk - which is often given to convalescents as a nutritious restorative, but I like to think it was Ajo Blanco. It makes a refreshing starter, or a simple supper served with strips of serrano or parma ham.

Here is the recipe:

Ajo Blanco con Uvas - White Gazpacho


200 grams semi stale country-style bread, crusts removed
200 grams almonds, blanched and skinned
3 cloves garlic
150 ml extra virgin olive oil
5 tablespoons wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
1 litre water
150 grams crisp white grapes, seeded


Soak the bread in water until softened, squeeze it out and put in a blender or processor with the almonds and garlic. Blend to a smooth paste, adding a little water if necessary. With the motor running, add the oil in a slow stream, then the vinegar and salt. Beat in some of the water, then pour the mixture into a tureen, wooden bowl or pitcher and add the remaining water. Taste for seasoning, adding more salt or vinegar if needed. The soup should be fairly tangy. Chill. Stir before serving into bowls garnished with the grapes.
(Small chilled scoops of melon are sometimes used instead of the grapes)

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Date with CrimeFest 2009

The arrangements for this year’s CrimeFest (Bristol, 14th - 17th May) are well underway. I shall be attending this year - along with other John Murray writers, Giles Brandreth, Declan Hughes and Cassandra Clarke - and taking part in two panels.

The first, Suspicion: Building the Suspense, Friday 15th May at 3 p.m., will be moderated by Margaret Murphy. Also on the panel will be Ann Cleeves, Brian McGilloway and Yrsa Sigurdardottir.

The second panel is called Pick-Up on South Street: A Date with Debut Authors (after the 1953 film starring Richard Widmark and Thelma Ritter, in which a pickpocket unwittingly lifts from a woman’s handbag a message destined for enemy agents and becomes a target for a Communist spy ring. Lots of dark looks and turned up collars.) This panel is on Sunday 17th at 9.30 a.m. and will be moderated by Peter Guttridge. The other members of the panel are Alison Bruce, Steven Hague, M.R.Hall, Matt Hilton and Jenni Mills.

I know that CrimeFest, which is organized by Myles Allfrey and Adrian Muller, was a great success last year. I ’m looking forward to it.

First Shot Award, Debut Novel of the Year

I was delighted - and honoured - to find out recently that The Maze of Cadiz had been picked for the First Shot Award (for a debut novel) in Mike Ripley’s Shot of the Year Awards, 2008 ….

and also named by Nick Hay, in his Mysteries of the Year 2008, as Debut Novel of the Year.

Is there a smiley for such things?

Sunday, 15 February 2009

Are There Clams in Heaven? - More Tastes of Cadiz

Around fifty years ago, the peculiarly Spanish humourist Álvaro de Laiglesia published a collection of stories entitled En el cielo no hay almejas - In Heaven there are no Clams - the implication being that heaven must be a pretty boring place without them.

I love clams - much prefer them to mussels. They have a more delicate taste and texture. I enjoyed eating them out for years before I got around to making them myself and when I did, I wondered why it had taken me so long. They are very easy and quick to prepare, and taste wonderful.

In The Maze of Cadiz , before Peter Cotton eats his Atún Encebollado (see earlier blog entry) he has a dish of clams as a first course, and some fried green peppers - definitely part of the tapestry of smells of Cadiz.

The peppers are those small, long, thin-skinned ones that are so common in Spain but not readily available in the UK. I have seen them occasionally in specialist delis or greengrocers - usually called Italian peppers. The ones Cotton ate were deep-fried gently in olive oil - left whole with the stalk, (drain well on kitchen paper) and sprinkled with a little salt. They can be eaten with the fingers, holding them by the stalk. I don’t often cook them myself but occasionally taste them in Spain (they are delicious but quite rich),

The clams Cotton ate were almost certainly almejas a la marinera.

Clams must be very fresh. You need to go to a good fishmonger to buy them alive and in their shells. Nothing else will do. If any shells are damaged, discard them. If any are open, tap them. If the shell closes immediately the clam is alive and can be used. If not, you must discard it.

Clams are easier to clean than mussels - no shell scrubbing and bearding. When I get them home I rinse them carefully in a couple of changes of water and then, before cooking, soak them for a while in water with a squeeze of lemon juice to get rid of any grit. Again, watch for any shells that don’t close when tapped.

This is how almejas a la marinera are usually prepared in Cadiz:


  • 750 grms - 1k fresh clams - consult with your fishmonger for taste and texture
  • Good virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cloves garlic sliced thinly
  • A few spring onions ( or one if they are the large Spanish kind)
  • Tsp Spanish sweet paprika
  • A glass of dry sherry (fino or manzanilla) or dry white wine
  • a little salt and black pepper
  • chopped flat-leaf parsley (optional)
  • lemon quarters to garnish
  • some good crusty bread to eat with it


  • Heat the oil gently in a pan
  • Before it gets too hot (to prevent burning) add the chopped spring onion and the garlic and cook until soft
  • Turn the heat up and add the paprika, the clams, the white wine a little salt and black pepper
  • Shake the pan, cover and cook until the clams have opened - no longer or they will lose texture and flavour. (Any clam that has not opened should be discarded)
  • Stir in the finely chopped parsley (some gaditano cooks say parsley shouldn’t be added - it’s up to you)
  • Serve and eat immediately, garnished with lemon quarters.

Thursday, 15 January 2009

The Maids of Cadiz

Looking for a title is not always the easiest thing. The Maze of Cadiz owes something to Leo Delibes, most famous for the ballet Coppélia , who composed a song for ‘high voice’ called Les filles de Cadix. Versions of it are available on Youtube by Joan Sutherland, Deanna Durbin and quite a few others. Jeanette MacDonald sang it in a movie of 1942 called Cairo described as something on a spoof on spy stories.

For me, however, the real link is with an arrangement by the great Gil Evans for Miles Davis’ Miles Ahead, an album of 1957, called The Maids of Cadiz. It is purely instrumental, no voice, high or otherwise, and Miles Davis plays a flugelhorn. You can watch him in action on Youtube in a later version at a concert in Montreux, conducted by Quincy Jones. Fabulous.

Monday, 12 January 2009

Greetings to Readers in the USA

I’ve just realised that this is my first blog entry in 2009. New Year good wishes to everyone – and special greetings to readers in the USA.

I have recently received numerous emails from American readers wondering why The Maze of Cadiz is advertised but not properly available to buy on USA amazon. Many have read reviews - particularly the one by Adam LeBor in the Christmas edition of The Economist - and would like to know how they can buy it.

The reason the book is not available on is that the American rights have not, as yet, been acquired.

Readers in the USA can purchase a copy through or through - Canadian amazon (cheaper shipping costs)

Thanks again to all those who took the trouble to get in touch with me about this.