I’m truly thrilled to say that my early Harry Devlin books, set in Liverpool, are now enjoying a new life. They are available as ebooks, in new editions with some very special features that I hope readers will find fascinating. For me, it’s all very exciting. And the books are also being made available again, for those who prefer hard copies, in paperback editions.
Andrews UK, who specialise in ebooks and print on demand editions, have now produced six of the eight titles in this way – the whole series, that is, with the exception at present of Eve of Destruction and the much more recent Waterloo Sunset.
The most notable of the special features is that each book benefits from a brand new introduction by a leading crime writer. I’ve been extraordinarily lucky here – this original material, only available in these editions, comes from some of the most gifted and renowned of modern British writers.
CWA Gold Dagger Winner Frances Fyfield introduces my debut novel, All the Lonely People. Frances reviewed my earliest work in legal magazines (she and I, like Harry, are solicitors) and I have long felt an enormous debt of gratitude to her for her encouragement.
The same is true of Val McDermid, the CWA Diamond Dagger winner who has written a new introduction to the second book in the series, Suspicious Minds. Val reviewed one or two of the early Devlins very favourably, and her generous remarks in this new edition made me glow with pride.
I Remember You, the third book in the series, has an introduction from Margaret Murphy – the current joint winner of the CWA Short Story Dagger. Margaret is not only an old friend, but someone who knows Harry Devlin’s Liverpool better than most.
Yesterday’s Papers, perhaps my favourite Devlin book, has an introduction from another CWA Diamond Dagger winner, Peter Lovesey. Again, Peter is a superstar of the genre who has supported me generously for many years. He and I share an enthusiasm for classic, twisty plots, and it seemed to me appropriate that this particularly elaborate mystery should include an intro from such a master of the genre.
A third CWA Diamond Dagger winner, Andrew Taylor, kindly wrote the introduction to The Devil in Disguise. This was a book I really enjoyed writing, though I remember being mortified when my original publisher didn’t care for it. As a result, I moved to Hodder, with increased sales as a result. Andrew was a Hodder author too, and we launched this book, and one of his Lydmouth titles, at the same enjoyable event in the late lamented Mysterious Press bookshop in London.
Finally, there is First Cut is the Deepest, with an introduction from Kate Ellis, twice shortlisted for the CWA Short Story Dagger. This was the last Devlin story I wrote before taking a ten-year break, and it is also the longest and perhaps the most complex entry in the series. Kate, like Margaret, is a Liverpudlian with a deep love for Harry’s home city.
For each book, I have written a detailed new “Making of” feature, along the lines that you find in DVDs. There is also a biographical note, and an appreciation of my work which has most generously been contributed by former CWA Chair, Michael Jecks.
Each book includes a “preview chapter” for the next book in the sequence, a device that I hope will encourage people who dip into the series for the first time to return to it.
As we all know, the world of publishing is changing rapidly. With all change, there are advantages and drawbacks. But I am very optimistic that for writers like myself, who do not have massive publicity teams or budgets at their disposal, that digital publishing will help to make the books available to a new and wider readership. We shall see. One thing is for sure: it’s enormously gratifying to see these early books given a fresh life.
I can’t close this post without expressing my profound gratitude to Frances, Val, Margaret, Peter, Andrew, Kate and Michael, all of whom offered their contributions without the slightest degree of arm-twisting! (The same is true of CWA Gold Dagger winner Ann Cleeves, whose introduction to Eve of Destruction is at present unfortunately unavailable because of the frustrating and unhelpful attitude of the rights owner.) Generous people, as well as terrific writers, and I am proud to call them friends.