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The Mystery Even Hal Westwood Cannot Solve

posted Feb 3, 2016, 1:25 PM by J Norton
I have been struggling with a mental block for the past few tell a lie - for nearly a year. Sometime last spring, having achieved a substantial amount of accumulated chapters and notes for the next book, I moved them to separate file and labelled it. This is something I automatically do. I then usually put the handwritten notes away carefully, in a good old fashioned cardboard file (just in case), and continue working on the file on my iPad until the book is finished, reviewed, rewritten, and submitted to my editor.

This system has worked for the past few years like clockwork. I could show you a stack of files languishing in a cupboard, all carefully stacked, labelled, in order - some a bit tattered round the edges - but safe. I even have a separate lot of typed notes in a fireproof file, but what I don't have, and despair of ever finding, are the notes of my latest novel - the one which in normal circumstances would be on sale now.

Where are they? Heaven only knows. Certainly not in the cupboard with its friends. Those notes are the maverick of notes - they have gone missing, and having searched an old house full of nooks and crannies, looking in all sorts of cupboards, I realised I had to give up and write it all again, secure in the knowledge that the moment I neared the finishing line of a rewrite, somebody would move something and the file of notes would be revealed, lurking, chucking, in a totally inexplicable place that I will have definitely looked in at least ten times and never seen before.

Yes, as you may have guessed, this is a thinly disguised apology for not having produced the latest Hal Westwood mystery in the usual timeframe. Hal is, of course, too polite to make any complaint, although I have had a few quizzical looks from him lately.

How, he obviously wonders, can he get on establishing law and order in the seventeenth century, a difficult achievement at the best of times, if he has no help but that of Sophie, who tends in her eagerness to be of assistance, to throw complications and danger in his way? How much more harassment is a hero expected to endure? Is it not enough that there is no efficient police force, an antiquated legal system and a set of villains forever at his elbow - that now the one person whose main task is to at least record his struggle against the forces of darkness, has come up with the feeble excuse of losing her notes?! Is he really to believe she has spent the whole winter season looking for her paperwork?

I can sense the advice hovering on his lips, so I make haste to assure him and it is being attended to even as we speak: the next in an exciting tale of his exploits of storms off the Cornish coast, being cast ashore in remote coves, followed by a ride through wild countryside, terminating with Sophie inevitably having to be rescued from a dangerous and complicated in the making as I write.