I had a smooth ride across the Pennines and up A1 until the mystical, and somewhat eerie-looking, sculpture 'The Angel of the North' jumped out of the trees at me as I cruised through Gateshead and into Newcastle for my maiden visit.
After booking into the old half-star 'hotel' I met up with writing buddy Matt Hilton and his adorable wife Denise - on our reconnaisance mission to locate the venue - where I was introduced to an unassuming chap, crime author, Adrian Magson and his lovely wife, Anne. So being wife-less on this excursion, the joke was: Col 'Goose' Bury!
It was great to finally meet Adrian having been in contact with him via email for a while now and I appreciated hearing his invaluable insights into the writing world.
The main event was at the spooky Masonic Temple on Maple Terrace. I met Sheila Quigley outside (faggin' it!) and, having heard a helluva lot about her (all good) I found her to be just up my street: a gritty, salt-of-the-earth Northerner with wicked wit and a contagious laugh. Inside it was packed and a cool band played swing-style in the background, and I was extreeeemely pleased to see that there was a bar!
Among the many well-wishers in attendance were the publisher, Stuart Wheatman (pictured with Sheila n I) of Tonto Books and author, Ken McCoy, both of whom I was pleased to briefly meet.
The book itself, The Road To Hell' had me hooked from the first page (I started it on the hotel bog - sorry, too much info') and one chap must've thought the same as he was sat at the back (not in the hotel bog - at the launch) flicking page after page, totally engrossed.
The night was topped off with a nice Italian (down boy) n good writing chat sliced with smart-arse banter (that'll be me then) with Denise, Anne, Matt n Adrian.
The next day we all met up with Sheila again then hogged Blakes coffee shop in Newcastle centre and had a jolly good chin-wag mixed with a plethora of chuckles. Laugh? I nearly bought a round!
A thoroughly enjoyable sojourn, despite my 'brisk' walk through a dodgy council estate while searching for the elusive Masonic Temple that none of the locals had even heard of - when I asked one chap he looked at me as if I was from the moon. When he replied, I returned the same look! Plus, the return trip: bumper-to-bumper M62, driving rain, glaring headlights n baggy eyes...grr.
Look out for a forthcoming Q&A with the inimitable Sheila right here, and her road to success is a heart-rending story in itself so watch this space. And if you've not read any of Sheila's gritty stuff yet then you're missing a treat.
The Road to Hell by Sheila Quigley - hardback published by Tonto Books.