The Puppet Show



Thanks to a lift to the nearest mainline station (and back) I made it to Carlisle on Sunday for author M.W. Craven’s launch party for his latest book, ‘The Puppet Show‘. And what a lovely day it was too.

Things kicked off with a gang of us meeting up for lunch at the Quarter Lounge, a nice bistro/bar in Carlisle city centre with friendly staff, a relaxed atmosphere, and yummy burgers to munch. After a good catch up with lots of my writer friends, we headed to the Old Firestation, another great venue, for the event itself. Here we were treated to an hour of repartee between Mike himself and guest ‘compere’ and fellow crime writer A. A. Dhand, who asked lots of questions about the book, the characters, the prospect of a TV series, and Mike’s writing processes.

‘The Puppet Show’ is the next installment in the Washington Poe series of crime novels and involves strange, dare-I-say-ritual killings in stone circles around Cumbria, which the murderer seems to actively want Poe to investigate. Mike has also introduced a brand new character, Tilly Bradshaw, a brilliant but socially inept analyst who’s become something of a favourite with readers already.

Mike kept us entertained with his usual stream of amusing anecdotes, plus some fascinating snippets about the history of stone circles in Cumbria (there are 63, apparently, more than anywhere else in the UK). And after that we all trooped into the bar for drinks, more chat, and a slice of cake. Well, all except me for the latter, as I suddenly realised I was late for my train back and had to dash before I got the cake! Here’s a pic of what I missed, courtesy of Linda Wright.



Body Breaker launch

Thursday was the hottest day of the year so far – 28c and hardly a day I’d choose to go travelling by train.  However, I piled on the sunscreen, wore my coolest clothes and set off for sunny Carlisle (not just a figure of speech for a change) for the launch of Mike Craven’s latest crime novel ‘Body Breaker’.

In spite of the heat, it was a great event.  The evening started with a meal for about 8 of us at the Old Bank pub in Carlisle city centre.  It’s a ‘gourmet’ pub doing a nice line in chops, steaks, grills, fish’n’chips etc; I hadn’t been before but thoroughly enjoyed my whale (sorry, haddock, the portions were huge) and chips.  I’d happily go back.

After that we all piled down the hill to the Old Firestation where Mike was holding his combined book-launch-and-birthday party.  The launch was really well attended – I’m hopeless at counting crowds but would estimate around 100 people had turned out – and was highly entertaining.  Mike’s an amusing speaker anyway, and he’d invited fellow crime writer Michael J Malone along to act as question-master.  The two are great friends, have a neat line in banter, and spent the rest of the evening quietly killing each other with quips.  The audience, myself included, loved it!

Mike answered a wide range of questions on everything from how old he was when he started writing, to researching golf courses in Cumbria.  (The novel opens with a grisly discovery on a golf course.)  And once all that was over, there was cake.  Birthday cake.  Or book launch cake.  Or, well, you decide.  Either way it was delicious. (Apologies for the blurring, by the way.  I wasn’t seeing double, but apparently my phone camera was!)


The only slight annoyance was getting to Carlisle station at the end of the evening and finding all the trains up sh*t creek, and absolutely nothing open – no shop, no café, no bar, no information desk, nowhere to get even a bottle of water, on a blisteringly warm night.  I thought I might have to book into a hotel in the city for the night, but luckily (and unusually) my train was one of a tiny handful still running, so I made it home after all.  And was really glad I’d gone, melting stickiness (and not just from the cake) or none.

Dark Side of the… cake?

floydcakeA friend of mine sent me this wonderful photo after a recent trip to London.  It’s cake, but not as we know it… from the Victoria & Albert museum, who are currently hosting an exhibition on Pink Floyd.

The exhibition takes in the history of the band, their sound, and their very iconic ‘look’, from their earliest Syd Barrett incarnation right through, presumably, to the present day.  It includes sound, vision, and interactive elements and sounds absolutely fascinating; although it’s not cheap at a minimum of £20 per head to get in, it’s on my list as a ‘must do’ later this year.

The event ends on 1 October, but I’m assuming the cake won’t last anything like as long.  Apparently it was orange cake with chocolate ganache, and quite delicious!  Ten out of ten to the V&A for a bit of additional, tongue in cheek, advertising for the occasion.

If we get there, I’ll try a bit for myself and let you know what it was like.  And many thanks to Andy for letting me use the photo.