was my real start, as I was on the Historical Crime Fiction panel, chaired eloquently by Andrew Taylor. Sharing the table were James McGee (whose Ratcatcher I’d just read and really enjoyed), Barbara Cleverly, and Robert Ryan. Not being one for all this public stuff, I was nervous, but it’s great to start off in the green room, where you can see that everyone else is as well, and that settles your nerves. But we had nothing to fear, since Andrew directed the conversation like a pro, knowing exactly when to cut in and move things along.

As mentioned, I finally met Kevin, clad in prescription sunglasses he mysteriously wore indoors. He introduced me to, well, everyone. Turns out my Nomad-in-arms is a master of the social sphere, and there’s not a single person he doesn’t know. He also knows his drinks and introduced Slavica and me to the leisurely pleasure of Pims and lemonade. Clutching onto that magical concoction, we met Mark Billingham, Jeffery Deaver, Alex Barclay, Charlie Williams, Stuart MacBride, Robert Wilson, John Rickards, and more. So many more. Enough so that I started to get dizzy. But I also started feeling warm & fuzzy, because there wasn’t a sour apple among the bunch. Weird, that. I always expect that in a crowd of this size you’re bound to have a couple bores and sourpusses, and I kept waiting for the moment I’d have to smile and nod stiffly while slowly backing away. Never happened. Not once.

Of course, the lesson I take from this is that crime writers rock. And that’s something you can take to school.

Speaking of school, a number of people had compliments for this little place, which surprised me. Declan Hughes had high praise, but pointed out that someone needed a higher degree to understand what we talk about here. Which pleased me, because I’ve always said that if the Contemporary Nomad helps a single wayward soul stay in school, it’ll all have been worth it.I generally find that when visiting a foreign country it helps to praise the place when you’re talking with the natives. So, after telling people I was from Texas, I proceeded to inform them that they had a charming, adorable little island, and suggested I might like to buy it. Of course, because of the airplane fiasco I didn’t have the resources to do this, but I think everyone appreciated my sentiments.That evening there was a brief HarperCollins party (they’re my UK publishers) that would’ve been great if the room wasn’t a complete oven. I stayed for about a quarter hour before realizing I was wearing one of “those” shirts—you know, the light green one that turns black wherever perspiration touches it? Yeah. That one. So I quickly made it to the bar again.

I think my sharpest move at Harrogate was bringing along my girlfriend, Slavica. When I enter a room, people glance up and think, “Oh, chubby bald guy.” But then when I’m accompanied by her, my stock suddenly triples, and we find ourselves surrounded by men. It might be the only reason Kevin talked to me, come to think of it…

One great benefit of being brought in for a panel is that your publisher (in this case, HarperCollins) likes to treat you to dinner, and treat they did. As Kevin mentioned, I kept disappearing in the evenings for these dinners, which were long and engaging affairs. Friday night, I had great talks with my editor, Julia, as well as CJ Sansom (who I’d previously met at the 2004 Dagger Award ceremony, when Andrew Taylor stole the prize from us). By the end of that, Slavica and I were knackered, as they say up there, and had to hurry back to the hotel.

(Give me a few hours for the last bit, the climax, as I’ve got to go mow the lawn.)