Two unconnected things first, then I really will post about something interesting, at least to me.
One: today is my lovely sister’s birthday. A big, nasty one with a zero at the end, but we’re not talking about that, or even noticing it. The chances of her seeing this are small, since she’s already en route for a great day out, but happy birthday all the same, Jan. And the age thing... You kind of stop thinking about it after a while. Until the next big one approaches.
Two: When Microsoft updated all kinds of things last week whether I wanted it to or not, it swallowed up all my e-mail contacts. Or more accurately, when I switched the computer on the following day, all my e-mail contacts had disappeared, and the only thing out of the ordinary that had happened was those updates, but I suppose it’s not beyond possibility that the two aren’t connected, but I’m a natural sceptic. I’ve retrieved about half the contact details that went missing; if you think yours might be among the other half, send me an e-mail and I’ll put it back where it belongs.
Enough of that. Today’s real matter is the cold. More precisely, the way cold weather affects crime fiction – apart from making me reluctant to stray far from my beautifully warm home, and therefore giving me more time to read said crime fiction. I’m currently about three-quarters through a book set in Alaska, the part of it which is inside the Arctic Circle. And as I lay huddled under a normally cosy duvet last night, devouring a couple more chapters as husband watched football on TV downstairs, I found myself wondering if our heating system had broken down.
It hadn’t. Nor had I forgotten to put my pyjamas on. It was just that the author’s description of two people in the cab of an eighteen-wheeler without the engine running, when the temperature outside was minus forty-something, was so damn good.
And it got me thinking about other books set in sub-zero temperatures, though in general not Alaska. If it’s done well, you shiver as you read, even if it’s high summer in the real world.
Ann Cleeves’s Raven Black. One of Phil Rickman’s Merrily Watkins series, though without checking I can’t recall which. Chris Nickson’s Cold Cruel Winter, second in his Richard Nottingham series. Others which I could list, but you probably have your own favourites, so I’ll stop at three.
They all reminded me of a small-scale theatre production in which the first act was high summer, and second the depths of winter, and the real world was sweltering in a heatwave. Yes, guys, I shivered through that second act. And last night, when the radiator in the bedroom was hurling waves of warmth into the room so that it was seventy degrees plus, under my duvet it was cold.
It’s shivery-cold outside at the moment; winter seems to have arrived at last after weeks of perpetual cool, wet autumn. But sitting here in my lovely warm office, I’m positively toasty. I’m about to go and get some lunch, though, and will probably head off to Alaska (in a literary sense only) while I eat. So I’ll come back shivering.
And that, my friends, is the art of good writing.