Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Short story, long story by Cathy Ace

Q: Tell us about the first story/stories you ever wrote. First book, published or no.

Okey dokey, here comes a long story about a short story...

After all the usual school essays, and poems for our Eisteddfods etc., the first short story with a criminal bent I ever wrote was called “Dear George”. It was written in a car park in 1987, in about an hour and a half.


Well, I’d been waiting to collect my sister at the airport, and her flight was delayed. I bought a magazine to read to fill the time (I’d forgotten to carry a book – what an admission!) and the one I chose was a magazine called “Company”. The reason I chose that one was because there was a bold encouragement to do so on the cover: “Murder, and be published!” it shouted at me, so I read the article about a short story competition, and thought, I might enter that.

Fast forward a few months: I rediscovered the magazine, only to realize that the deadline for the competition was a few days away. I’d been cogitating about what I would write (you know, when I got around to writing it!) and was a bit annoyed I hadn’t pulled my finger out…so, the next day, in the middle of my work day as a sales person for a label-printing company, I left the HQ office of my client – Marks & Spencer on Baker Street (yes, that Baker Street) in London – and sat in my car in the multi-storey car park adjacent to Baker Street and wrote the story (by hand, of course) on a notepad. A friend of mine at the office typed it up for me that afternoon, I read it through once and made a few copy changes by hand, and delivered the “manuscript” to the office of the magazine the next day when I was back in central London again.

Fast forward another few months, and I was somewhat taken aback when I received a letter to say the story would, indeed, be published in an anthology called “Murder & Company” alongside stories by “real” authors. I was pleased, excited a little, but – to be honest – not overly so: I’d just remortgaged my flat to be able to set up my own business, and it was tough going, so it was a bit of a frisson rather than a “this could change my life” moment…I had to make my new business work well enough to pay my bills, and the salaries of my freshly-minted employees. The book launch in 1988 was quite an experience, held, as it was, in a fabulous then-new book shop on the Charing Cross Road called Murder One, owned by the legendary Maxim Jakubowski (with whom I am now Friends on FB – ain’t life wonderful!?).

The story was then (in 1990) included in another anthology called “Thrillers”, which was created to become a book for the England & Wales GCSE English Language syllabus (the exam taken at 16 years of age) which blew me away! The list of authors whose work was also included reads like a Who’s Who of crime writing…I’d heard of, and had read, everyone except me! (Side bar: when I first met the wonderful Peter Lovesey in 2017 he was kind enough to sign my copy of this anthology…to which he’d written the introduction, and in which he had two stories…and Felix Frances signed his father’s short story in it for me too!)

By the time I was approached by Martin Jarvis and Rosalind Ayres in 2007 asking if they could produce the story for BBC Radio 4, I had sold my business, migrated to Canada, and had written nine marketing textbooks. The recording of the fabulous Alex Kingston (she of ER and Doctor Who fame) reading “Dear George” isn’t currently available to listen to online but I know that sitting in Canada listening to the broadcast, as Mum and Dad, and my sister Sue, did the same in Wales, was one of my proudest moments. My story, on the BBC! WOW! It was July 9
th 2007.

My father died soon after that broadcast, and I decided that, if I was going to write fiction, I’d better get on with it. So I wrote eleven more short/long stories to accompany “Dear George” and self-published “MURDER: Month by Month”. “Dear George” appeared as the story for January, and it filled that same role in my 2017 publication “Murder Keeps No Calendar”.

For one short story it’s worked hard...and it DID change my life, after all! It features DI Evan Glover, who also appeared in another short story in those aforementioned collections, as well as a novella in “Murder Knows No Season” and in my standalone novel “The Wrong Boy”. He was my very first police character…and he gained not only the #1 amazon bestseller spot with “The Wrong Boy” but that book’s also now been optioned to become a TV mini-series, to be produced and broadcast in Welsh and English by the same UK indie production company that makes the wonderful Agatha Raisin series, Free@LastTV.

Little did I know that all these murders would result from me picking up a magazine to "kill a few hours" at an airport…!

I sent the print copies of those two, original, collections of short stories and novellas to a publisher on Vancouver Island, and they asked me to write what turned out to be the first Cait Morgan Mystery. There are now nine books in that series, which has also been optioned for a series of TV movies by Free@Last TV. 

You can read about all my books – including the collection which includes “Dear George” - at my website, here:

If you’d like to read “Dear George” (FREE!!!!) you can do that by using the “Look Inside” feature at amazon, here: Link to MURDER KEEPS NO CALENDAR


Paul D. Marks said...

And they say crime doesn't pay, Cathy. Seems like it paid off for you :-) .

Catriona McPherson said...

This ust be the best origin story for a crimewriter ever! How did I not know any of this until now?

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Paul...thank "goodness"??? ;-) LOL!!

Cathy Ace said...

Hi Catriona - LOL!! I shall forever be grateful for the flight my sister took being delayed...and maybe a butterfly beat its wings in the Brazilian jungle at the same time too - who knows? We just never know how things will turn out, do we? Ain't life grand ;-)

Susan C Shea said...

That's a wonderful story, Cathy! If ever a short fiction piece had a long tail, that piece you write sitting in a car park did (and does)!

Cathy Ace said...

You're right Susan - short story, long tale/tail ;-)