Saturday, February 11, 2012

@ The Poisoned Pen with Deborah Crombie!

The stage is set!

Denis and I arrived bright and early for Deborah Crombie's appearance at my very favorite bookstore, The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale, Arizona. An early arrival was a must because I had my shopping list in hand. I simply cannot go to this bookstore without buying something-- and I have plenty of witnesses who can create quite a windstorm just by nodding their heads in agreement!

I took a bit too long browsing and buying, though, because I was a bit late in getting a couple of prime seats. A group of friends got in just ahead of me and snagged almost all the best spots. Little did I know that this would have an effect on my photographer (Denis).

"I sold my first book twenty years ago this week."

From the outset, it felt as though we were all friends, bound together by the talented author sitting in front of us. Barbara Peters, founder of The Poisoned Pen, chatted away with Deborah, and we hung on their every word. I already felt as though this were a special evening, and when Deborah told us that she'd sold her very first book twenty years ago this week, my feeling was confirmed. (It also made me think of all the pleasure she's given me over those years.)

At the beginning, Barbara and Deborah chatted about the series in general. Ever since I read Leave the Grave Green, I've had trouble with that title-- more often than not calling it Leave the Grass Green. When Barbara mentioned Leave the Grass Green and then said, "Oh, you know-- the fertilizer book," we all broke into laughter. It's always nice to know you're not alone in your idiosyncrasies!

For a long time, Deborah had no intention of getting her characters, Duncan and Gemma, together. They were very different and quite prickly with each other. But by the time the third (fertilizer!) book was being written, Duncan and Gemma had plans, and as a writer, Deborah had to follow their lead and let the series evolve the way in which the characters wanted.

Barbara Peters (L) and Deborah Crombie
Deborah gave us a lot of insight into the way she writes. She likes to have a working title from the very beginning, and is happy that most of those titles stayed the course and have become the titles with which we are all familiar.

It takes, on average, fifteen to eighteen months for her to write a book because of the research she does. There have been times that she's traveled to England, done research and returned home to Texas to begin writing only to find that she has several more things she needs to check. And if you're curious about where she stays while in England, Deborah can always be found in her beloved Notting Hill, which is very familiar to anyone who's read the books.

While they chatted, Barbara put in another plug for her "pottery book." She'd love to have one of Crombie's books set in Stoke-on-Trent, so something tells me she's a Wedgewood fan.

"Did you see the Inspector Lewis episode where Hathaway is sculling?

Talk soon moved to Crombie's latest book, No Mark Upon Her, which has a lot to do with the sport of rowing. It's the first of her books to be released in the UK before it appeared in the US.  No Mark Upon Her is more of a straight procedural novel because, as Barbara Peters says, "You can't make 'em all personal dramas."

Crombie told us that the sport had always seemed beautiful to her, and mentioned the scene in an episode of "Inspector Lewis" when Hathaway is sculling down the river. She then made me smile when she admitted that she prefers the television series of "Inspector Morse" and "Inspector Lewis" to reading the novels of Colin Dexter, because I feel the very same way.

She talked a bit about the fact that the abuse of power is always present in long-entrenched organizations like the Metropolitan Police, but that she believes women in the police force have it a bit easier than, for example, the days of a character like Jane Tennison in "Prime Suspect."

"I didn't even tell you what to do if we fell in."

Deborah Crombie @ The Poisoned Pen
Rowing is a subject near and dear to Crombie's heart. She told us that she'd gone punting with author Laurie King, and that punting "isn't as easy as you might think!"

Crombie knew someone who got her into the prestigious Leander Club. A gentleman came in while she was there, and they began to talk. She told him about the book she was writing and that rowing played an important part.

The man immediately began asking her all sorts of questions about the part rowing played in the book and about the mechanics of the plot. As their conversation ended, he said that he would be more than happy to take her out on the river so she could experience what rowing was really like.

Naturally, Crombie jumped at the chance. When the man left, her friend asked her, "You know who that was, don't you?" Crombie had been speaking to Sir Stephen Williams OBE, twice winner of the Olympic gold medal in the coxless four.

"Sir Steve" did indeed take Deborah rowing on the Thames, at the precise time of day that the character in her book would be training. Deborah managed to get in and out of the tiny boat without falling in the river, and Sir Steve said, "I must not have been worried. I didn't even tell you what to do if we fell in." Deborah told us all, "If you are captivated by the first chapter, it's all due to Steve." I was captivated, Deborah. What a wonderful memory!

"...tromping around in the mud at night and hiding in hedgerows."

Crombie also told us about going out with the Berkshire Search and Rescue team on a few training runs, which involved a lot of "tromping around in the mud at night and hiding in hedgerows." Search and Rescue plays an important part in No Mark Upon Her, but she was surprised by just how important the characters of Kieran and Tavie-- as well as their dogs-- became. All of them demanded a larger share of the action!

We were allowed a sneak peak into the future when Crombie told us that she was hard at work on her next book, which involves the Crystal Palace and rock guitarists. (I can't wait!)

The evening came to an end much too soon to my liking, and it wasn't until Denis and I returned home that we realized that the hairdo of a lady sitting in front of us had encroached on almost every single one of the photographs Denis had taken. Ah well!

If you have a chance to attend one of Deborah Crombie's appearances on her book tour, please go. You'll have a very enjoyable time! And even if you don't have a chance to meet this talented writer, do the next best thing: get your hands on her books and read, read, read!

On Sale Now!


  1. What a fun event! How exciting that "Sir Steve" contributed to her research!

  2. I'm just so jealous of you and Lesa always getting to see all those fun people who come to The Poisoned Pen!

  3. Sounds like a great event and very interesting! I'm glad you had a good time :)

    1. Yes, we did, even though the woman who sat in front of us had hair straight out of a sci-fi novel! LOL

  4. The Poisoned Pen sounds like such a wonderful place to have on your doorstep. I've heard other bloggers mention it and am very envious.

    I adore Lewis... probably even more than I liked Morse... but have never read any of the Colin Dexter books either.

    1. The Poisoned Pen is a wonderful place to have close by, but I do have to exercise tremendous restraint.

      As for me, I much prefer Lewis to Morse. I don't know what that says about me exactly, but I don't care! :-)


Thank you for taking the time to make a comment. I really appreciate it!