May 25 2017
This photo was taken not long after the break-up of the relationship significant enough to have resulted in my being father to my two children. A traumatic time personally, professionally things were by direct contrast going well. The House of Lost Souls had recently been published and become a Times Book Club choice, introduced to that newspaper’s readers in a glowing full-page review. Translation rights were being sold at a rate that would see the book appear eventually in 14 languages. It had been optioned by a film company. And though my private life seemed like an ongoing catastrophe, I was making real progress with the novel that would not many months after come out as Dark Echo. Can writing ever be therapeutic? My answer to that rhetorical question has to be an emphatic yes.
I’m pictured here receiving the Dracula Society’s Children of the Night Award, which THOLS won for me that year. The prize-giving dinner was held at the opulent dining room of a Victorian pub on the Strand frequented in his day by Bram Stoker. I’d learned that the Society’s members (who turned out to be delightful people) were a picturesque lot and had been at a loss as to what to wear for the occasion. I’d moved into a basement flat in Surbiton at this point and become friendly with the manager of a neighbouring charity shop. He’d taken an interest in what I did and had read THOLS and enjoyed it. On hearing of my wardrobe dilemma he took me into the shop and showed me what I’m wearing here – a thorn-proof three-piece suit by Cordings of Piccadilly. It had been donated unworn and when I tried it on, could have been tailor-made for me. It became Julian Creed’s Van Helsing suit in The Waiting Room, but that didn’t happen until a few years later. Since Creed is entirely fictitious, the actual suit still hangs in my wardrobe, awaiting another suitable occasion to be worn.
It’s nice to get a prize, but there are more satisfying accolades. Two days ago I got a message from a woman whose life has been terribly diminished by mental health problems. She’s lost her job, home and relationship and fights an ongoing battle with severe anxiety. Reading, when well enough, is her main pleasure. She wrote to me saying that she very much enjoys my books. I’m on her, ‘Reliable good story teller’ list. What a compliment that is (even if the ending of Brodmaw Bay made her furious).