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Tuesday, 18 February 2020

An Englishman Abroad

...or, Fool, Interrupted. The appearance online of an interview prompts me to a long-overdue blog post about one of the highlights of my 2019. The interview's further down this post and, be warned, I do go on a bit. It was filmed by Magnus Edgarsson on the deck of a floating hotel on the Fyris River, just a short stroll from the centre of Sweden's oldest university town.  The interruptions came courtesy of distant dogs, other residents trucking through, a passing ambulance, and a far-off football match where things seemed to be going well for one side or the other.


I was in Uppsala at the invitation of The English Bookshop along with fellow writers Juliet McKenna, Steven Savile, and R J Barker. Together we played two panels to a packed house on Saturday evening. One was on crime and the other on fantasy, with the audience switching seats around in between.


It's a terrific bookstore, a proper readers' paradise with a deep selection of new and backlist titles and tremendous support from its customer base. As a panel I felt we made a good lineup with a variety of angles and, dare I say it, what felt like a good team chemistry. On the Friday evening we were welcomed into the home of our hosts Jan and Isabella - old-style Swedish elegance and bookshelves to die for - and on the Saturday before the session we had a guided tour of the town. It has a long history but for me this comparatively recent feature resonated the most:


Saturday afternoon found us back on the boat taking our turns in front of Magnus' camera. The range of interviews can be found on his dedicated channel here, but this is mine:


On the Sunday before flying home, RJ was off signing stuff while Julia and I were given a walking tour of Stockholm by Swedish adoptee Steve Savile; all the main sights plus the bank where a siege gave rise to the term 'Stockholm Syndrome' and the stairs up which Olaf Palme's killer fled. I can't think of a better way to make a first-time visit.



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