KILLED AT THE WHIM OF A HAT by Colin Cotterill

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By the time this blog is posted I will be well into writing the first book of a marvelous new series set right here on the Gulf of Siam.


Despite what you may think, there is actually no pressure at all when producing a new series; not even when the marketing people have already had a meeting to work out a budget for its promotion. Not even when you’re sent cover designs to approve or a timetable with suggestions as to what public appearances you should make to present the new series to the world. You wonder, perhaps, whether you should mention the fact that the new series doesn’t actually exist yet, that everything depends on what happens when you set your biro on the first page of the first notebook, that there is any number of reasons why the new series might not happen. You tentatively suggest that it might be rubbish. Everybody might hate it. You could have a mighty writer’s block. The red wine might take you over completely and leave you illiterate. But none of that seems to worry a publisher. No, no pressure at all.

Three weeks ago I put four blogs in a light blue hold-all and left it under the seat beneath the clock at Hualompong Station for the Moore bloke to pick up. It contained careful instructions that he was paid up now and that I wasn’t to be disturbed for another three weeks. “I’m not going anywhere near a computer,” I told him. “I can’t be contacted until further notice, so don’t try.”

No phone. No postal deliveries. No dog dramas. No wife. No gardening.

This isn’t one of those temperamental author, “I want to be alone” things. It’s all about age. If I don’t go away for three or four weeks and slap the thing down on paper there and then, I forget whom I’ve killed. The relationships between the characters, their names, even their genders tend to flip back and forth at the slightest distraction. All I need is for the neighbour to come over and yell, “Will you stop throwing rocks at my cow?” And all the writing karma I’ve built up throwing rocks at the cow is destroyed. Yes, I’m too sensitive but emotional dementia can be a beautiful thing. I need peace. I need a long undisturbed block of time where I can be allowed to stroll through the story with the characters.

When we lived in the north, we were three hundred kilometers from the nearest sea. It was a natural move for me to go to an island and write my books in a little bamboo cabin on the beach. I’d come home after a month with a tan, ten notebooks full of almost legible handwriting, and an interesting coconut sculpture to make the landlocked northerners go, “Ooh!” All my early books were written in the same bamboo hut on the same beach. I commissioned a plaque that says, “Colin Cotterill wrote his early books in this hut.” It’s here behind the cabinet waiting for me to get famous. But eighteen months ago, Jess and I moved south to a little fishing village on the gulf. We have our own coconut trees and can make no end of interesting sculptures and the first thing we see when we wake up is the sea. So, where do I go for inspiration?

Last year I took the ferry over to Ko Dtao, a tourist spot with lots of naked breasts and drunk Australians, not to mention drunk Australians with naked breasts. The most isolated beach I could find had reggae floating up the coast from the Bob Marley bar every night. By looking at the horizon I fancied I could see our house and wondered why the fork I was forking out twenty bucks a night for something I could see every day absolutely free. So, this year I’m off to an empty little house two kilometers down the beach. I can paddle home for lunch in the kayak. It seems a bit silly but, well, I’m easily distracted.

For reasons that I’m hoping will become apparent both to me and to the reading public, the first book, once it becomes a book, will be called, “Killed at the Whim of a Hat”. Right now, that’s all I’ve got.

No. No pressure at all.

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