Words in Their Mouths

The lowlight of my recent visit to the UK was when the Yeoman Warder tour of the Tower of London which my granddaughter and I had so looked forward to was cancelled for reasons of health and safety (rain, basically). I guess even the Royal Palaces have to be risk-averse in these litigious times. But we did enjoy the ravens who are good value whatever the weather.

The high point of my trip, indeed its main purpose, was to appear at the Hampshire Festival of Book Clubs. It was a superbly curated event and though it probably isn’t my place to praise the quality of the speakers I can certainly vouch for the quality of the cake. Dear literary event organisers, I am a low-maintenance, moderately successful novelist and available all dates in 2019. If you’re offering cake, count me in.

I had just one unsettling encounter. A reader approached me to tell me that though she had quite enjoyed one of my historical novels she was uncomfortable with the way I put words in the mouths of real people, now deceased.

My own mouth was momentarily lost for words. I then recovered my composure sufficiently to say that I always think very carefully about what my characters say, that I tried in my historical novels, to recount familiar events from a different angle and perhaps give the dead a fairer hearing and that, as far I recall, I’ve never done anyone a terrible injustice with my pen. Still, makes you think though. At least I’m back on safer ground with my return to current times and invented characters.

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