Wednesday, October 15, 2014

I promised myself that, once I reached page 100 of the latest Inspector Pekkala book, I would add another page to the blog. I hit that mark two days ago and now feel that particular sense of relief which comes from knowing that a new book is somehow anchored to the world, instead of just floating around inside my head. This is #7 of the series and it takes place during the Battle of Berlin in the spring of 1945. Compared to some of the other research projects I had to undertake in order to be complete the other books, this one has been relatively easy so far, since there is so much written about this final battle for the Third Reich. Most of the time, it is a question of piecing together parts of many different books, since none of them alone can provide me with what I need to know. Every once in a while, I manage to come across a book that is entirely relevant to my research. This has been one of those times, and I will forever be grateful to James p. O'Donnell for his book 'The Bunker', which chronicles Hitler's final days in his underground fortress beneath the Reichschancellery in Berlin. 
The autumn has been so beautiful these past few weeks - the red maples and the poison ivy and the squadrons of Canada geese flying overhead - that I find it hard to put in the usual amount of time at my desk. Soon enough, the winter will clamp down on this place like the hatch on a submarine and it will be easier to install myself at my desk every morning, in the dreary half light, turn on my desk lamp while I wait for the sun to come up and start writing on my bomb-proof Getac B300, which I bought, rather than something more elegant and svelte, because during the summer my desk is quite often a rock or a tree stump out in the woods, instead of the black cherry desk which was made for me many years ago by a company in the American midwest called Arhaus.
I have done a lot of traveling since I last posted a blog. In the winter, I was up in Maine quite a bit - there's a picture in this posting which I took of myself just before I set off across a frozen lake. I was wearing 1930's gear as an experiment - research, really - you can't google what it feels like to walk across a frozen lake in the 1920's (When you read the new Pekkala Book, #6, The Red Icon, which is due out in 2015 - you'll see where I put that research to use).
In the spring, I was down in Mexico doing research for a new book which I am writing under my own name, my real name that is - Paul Watkins - as opposed to the alter-ego of Sam Eastland, which has otherwise taken over my writing life. I was also up in Maine again for the summer, and I have posted a picture of the little hut in my garden, where I do a lot of my writing these days. My daughter has largely taken over my hut, decorating it with flashing Christmas lights and other things I find distracting.
Back in new Jersey, where I spent the majority of the academic year, I have just begun my 26th year of teaching at the Peddie School. So much time. I don't know whether to be proud or to burst into tears, Much to my own surprise, I still enjoy the work as much as ever and the school has been very kind to me and to my family over the years. One of the great perks of a writer's life is that you can live anywhere - in the early days, I had all kinds of places marked out on the map - Waimea on the island of Kauaii, Tulum down on the Yucatan Peninsula, Lipari in the Eolian Islands, Essaouira in Morocco, Trondheim up in Norway. New Jersey was not on the list. The fact that I am here, and enjoying it, it a testament to the loyalty I feel to Peddie. 
I have a new American publisher, Opus Books, and have very much enjoyed getting to know its founder and director, Glenn Young. It is almost scary how much we have in common.
Over in London, I continue to work with my editor at Faber & Faber, Walter Donohue, who I have now known more than half my life.
My agent, Deborah Rogers, passed away suddenly this year. I would meet with her in a little Italian restaurant near the Portobello Road every autumn as I passed through London on my way to wales to visit relatives. Some people you just can't imagine ever not being there, and Deborah was one of those. I still hear her voice in my head. I am going over to London again in a couple of weeks and I have tried, and failed, to imagine how it will be to walk into to the agency, which is tucked away on a side street on the edge of Ladbroke Grove, and to have her not be there. She had the messiest office I have ever seen. I wonder what it looks like now. 
Apart from that, this has been a very good year for me. I am 50 now and time has made me easier to live with than I used to be. I am more patient. I am a better listener. I was always good at pretending to listen, but now I actually do. I still run as many miles each week as I did when I was 25. I think that the person I needed to be to get started as a writer is not the same person I need to be to make a life of this discipline. I probably could have written that a little more clearly. Late, perhaps, I will figure out some better words. But you know what I mean. 
Thank you for reading the Inspector Pekkala books. You can write to me through the website and I am pretty good about responding. I always enjoy hearing from you.

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