Jim and Joslin, by Dennis Hamley
Jan and I were able to see him in Portsmouth before Christmas. We all went to the Royal Oak overlooking Langstone Harbour. He had a great day and so did we. And that’s how we’ll remember him.
Jan blogs tomorrow and he's going to give some of his own memories of Jim. We'll miss him very much and so will many other people.
Second. Before I heard that Jim had died I was going to devote this blog entirely to more about Of Dooms and Death and A Pact with Death. I was even going to upload the covers yet again but then decided that in the context of this blog they weren't quite suitable. But I'm definitely going to upload other covers later on.
I really care for these books. The whole sequence took me five years to write. It was a labour of love. I'm still angry with Scholastic about they treated the books. I was commissioned to write them by Julia Moffatt, editor of the old Point Horror and Point Crime lists. I had always told her that I wanted to write a medieval thriller. I'd written two Point Crimes already but she was very doubtful about the normal Point Crime's readership's possible relationship with the Middle Ages. Finally, we made a bargain. If I wrote her a Point Crime about horse racing then she would let me do my Cadfael for kids. Knowing nothing about the Sport of Kings and caring less, but armed with a copy of The Racegoers Encyclopedia which I bought on the way home, I wrote Dead Ringer (and was complimented by a reviewer on my 'profound knowledge of the sport"!)
'Now can I write my medieval mysatery?' I asked. Then Julia sprang a real surprise. 'I don't want just one,' she said. 'I want a series.' I was horrified. I knew about series. I'd met authors who were screaming to stop writing them but readers and editors insisted they carried on. I saw a long, weary treadmill in front of me. And that's when I realised what the overall structure would be. 'I won't write a series,' I said. 'I'll write a sequence.' Six separate, standalone books but with a single overarching theme. Six self-contained stories, one mega-story. And thus Joslin de Lay was born.
The first two, Dooms and Pact, were published together in 1998 - and published together this week on Kindle. They had a good reception then and sold pretty well. I was doing the third, Hell's Kitchen (I think the best) when the bombshell burst. Julia was leaving. Nobody would be put in charge of Point Crime. The series would die a natural death. And it did. David Fickling left not long afterwards. The old guard who had nurtured me - except one, the great Pam Royds, who sadly didn't call the shots any more -had gone. I was glad of my six-book contract because if I hadn't got it then Joslin would never have found his real destiny. But I knew the sequence was dead on its feet: it was only continued because I'd got a contract and they didn't want the aggro of reneging on it. But I knew they were just going through the motions. The False Father was the very last Point Crime. I suggested a farewell party. They looked at me as if I was mad and put all the Joslins of print within a year. I was very, very upset. But now the book can live again and I can even think, if they do well enough on Kindle to justify it (and even if they don't) of publishing them myself as good quality paper books, limited edition, probably boxed. An indulgence perhaps. But it wouldn't half make me feel good.
Why the Middle Ages? They have always held a fascination for me. I met them properly at school when I first read the Miracle Plays and read a marvellous book, English Drama from the Earliest Times to the Elizabethans by AP Rossiter, fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge. 'I want him to teach me,' I said and applied. He interviewed me, I was given a place, endured national service and finally arrived. But meanwhile he'd managed to kill himself by wrapping his 1000cc Norton motorbike round a telegraph pole on the A1 and the next I saw of him was his coffin in the college chapel.