Friday, September 8, 2017

Touring the Isle of Man with Marcia Talley, Kate Charles, and Alan Bradley



DEBORAH CROMBIE: Ever wished you could pack yourself into someone's suitcase for a visit to a fascinating place? Well, here's your chance! Mystery writers (and two of my very best friends and writing buddies) Marcia Talley and Kate Charles take us along on their visit to the Isle of Man with Alan Bradley, author of the wonderful Flavia de Luce books, which I adore. As do Kate and Marcia!

KATE and MARCIA: When we first met Alan Bradley, best-selling author of the Flavia de Luce series, he and his wife, Shirley, were moving from Malta to the Isle of Man where they’d bought a house, a “fixer-upper” overlooking the harbor at Peel. They’d fallen in love with the island – situated in the Irish Sea halfway between England and Ireland – and after listening to their descriptions, we became enchanted, too. “You must come and visit some time,” Alan said.

Douglas Harbour
Three years later, to our surprise and delight, Alan made it happen. 

MARCIA: On Monday, August 14, after an all-night flight from the US, I landed at Manchester Airport where Kate and her husband, Rory, met my plane and whisked me off to Liverpool for the twenty-minute flight to the Isle of Man. We landed at the airport just south of Douglas, the capital, where I picked up the rental car and managed to drive everyone and their luggage to the self-catering flat we’d reserved on Hutchinson Square. 

Hutchinson Square
 
KATE: Marcia’s been visiting me in the UK every year for nearly 25 years, so driving on the “wrong” side of the road with a standard transmission on the “wrong” side of the car isn’t (theoretically) a problem. All went well until she nosed halfway into a parking space on a downhill street and realized it wasn’t at all apparent how to shift into reverse. Time to consult the book in the glove compartment! Nothing in the index under “gears” or “shift” or “transmission”, thank you very much.  By the time Rory located the information under “manual transmission” Marcia had already stumbled over the magic button and managed to park the car.

(DEBS:) That happened to me once with a hired car in England. Terrifying! I finally discovered that you had to pull up on the rubber ring on the gear shift. Who knew?

MARCIA: We later learned that Hutchinson Square – now a quiet enclave of terraced gardens and public art – had been used as an internment camp during World War II. 

KATE: By then we were starving, so after checking in with Alan by phone – we’re here! – we strolled down to the Esplanade for a fine pasta dinner at The Italian Job in the Villa Marina Arcade.

MARCIA: Early the following morning, after warding off the attempts of a persistent seagull to share my breakfast pastry, I got behind the wheel again and braved the narrow lanes and twisty, country roads – famed for the annual fast and extremely dangerous TTmotorcycle races – as we headed off across the island to Peel to meet Alan and Shirley for coffee at their delightful seafront house. We were joined there by radio personality Bob Harrison. Bob – a local institution, it soon became clear – would be our escort, tour guide and interviewer for the next several days.  

Bob Harrison
KATE: At lunch time, we were craving some of the seafood that the Isle of Man is famous for. Bob recommended the Little Fish Café on the quayside in Douglas, where Marcia got to compare the local oysters to those from the Chesapeake Bay, while I feasted on a scrumptious lobster roll and Rory went for the catch of the day.  

Marcia, Kate, and Rory Chase, Kate's lovely husband.

 After lunch, Bob accompanied us to RadioManx, a former radar tracking station high on a hill overlooking the harbour. We were featured on “Women Today”
in a lively hour-long interview with hosts Beth Espey and Michelle Jamieson.

MARCIA: That evening, in spite of a relentless drizzle, Alan, Kate and I drew a standing-room-only crowd at Waterstone’s bookshop in Douglas. Bob is an experienced interviewer who’d read our books, asked thought-provoking questions and managed a lively Q&A with an enthusiastic audience. The bookshop staff couldn’t have been more supportive! They kept the shop – and the coffee bar! – open late for the event.


The following day, Alan and Bob had arranged a surprise. Researching my book Dark Passage, I’d done a lot of reading on the history of magic and illusion.  Magic shows were big in 19th century England, and theaters had been designed to facilitate them, including the Gaiety in Douglas. 



We were given a VIP private tour of the theatre, which has recently been fully restored to its 1899 splendor.  Of special interest were the intricate mechanisms under the stage – the coffin trap, the Corsican Brothers trap – and the ropes, lifts and pulleys that made the stage magic happen.



KATE: The theatre’s manager told us that sailors stuck in the harbour for the winter were often hired as builders, so a lot of what we saw looked like we were aboard a ship.


Wednesday evening, another standing-room-only crowd – and a fire in the fireplace! – greeted us at DalbyChurch, on the wet and wild west side of the Isle of Man. The church is famous on the island for offering hospitality, including wonderful home-made cakes, and they did us proud. For the price of admission (£5, benefiting the Dalby Restoration Fund and the Family and Mobile Library), another enthusiastic audience was treated to three authors in conversation, sandwiches, tea, and all the cake they could eat!  Once again, Bob MC’d the event. The BridgeBookshop from Port Erin provided the books.

MARCIA: You’re probably wondering by now if we had any time to play tourist. On Thursday Alan had planned a little down time. We met him for lunch in Peel, prowled around the shops (two second-hand book shops!) and spent some time touring the Cathedral.
KATE: A former parish church, the Cathedral at Peel is the seat of the Diocese of Sodor and Man. We took advantage of its most recent addition with a contemplative stroll around the new labyrinth, a replica of the medieval labyrinth at the Chartres Cathedral in France carved by Balinese stone mason Ongky Wijana. 
 
Later that afternoon, back at Alan and Shirley’s home, we were privileged to ‘ride’ (or at least pose for photos with) Gladys, Flavia de Luce’s intrepid bicycle.

Marcia and Gladys!
 MARCIA: Dinner that night was a special treat for all of us, especially me. I spent a good part of my growing up years in China and in Taiwan – and dinner at Mrs. Yang’s in Douglas was the best Chinese food I’ve had since Taipei. 

Yum!
It was worth the whole price of my airline ticket!

KATE: On Friday, we were back on the road, dodging speeding motorbikes as we crossed the extinct volcano at the heart of the island to catch up with the Mobile Library on its route north to Andreas/Jurby. The librarian in charge, Sandra Henderson, made us feel welcome as we greeted patrons (and their dogs!). 

Kate and Rory in the mobile library.

MARCIA: We’d planned to have lunch at a nearby pub, but around noon, just as we were getting hungry, we smelled smoke. James, the mobile van driver, ran down the road and around the corner and came back to report that, “Lunch is off the menu.”

KATE: The pub was on fire! Sandra recommended a diversion to the canteen at the RAF airbase near Jurby, where they were hosting a 1940s-style weekend. This was an added bonus for me – if I’d known it was happening, I would have packed my vintage 1940s dress and joined in with the fun. 


That said, the War itself wasn’t much fun for the many airmen stationed there. Following lunch, we paid a sobering visit to Jurbychurchyard, where a number of US and Canadian pilots were buried after their planes crashed short of the runway.



MARCIA: I could have spent several weeks exploring the wonderful Isle of Man, but we had to rush off to catch our plane.

KATE:  I know! So many things yet to explore. The three steam railways, for example. The castle! The Great Laxey Wheel! We visited two churches – including one at Maughold where there’s an ancient collection of Celtic Crosses – but there’s so much more we missed.

MARCIA:  We’ll have to go back some day. In the meantime, thanks to Alan, Shirley, Bob, Sandra and all the wonderful citizens of the Isle of Man who made our visit so special.

KATE: I’ll second that.

DEBS: I'll third that!! Seriously, next time I'm coming along. Thank you, thank you, Kate and Marcia, for the whirlwind tour. I almost feel I've been to the Isle of Man, and now I certainly want to visit! You two are the best ever tour guides (and Marcia is much better at driving on the "wrong" side of the road than I am...) and I am green with envy. 

Kate and Marcia will be dropping in to chat, so here's your chance to find out more about their fabulous visit!

Alan Bradley is the NYTimes best-selling author of the Flavia de Luce mystery series.  Look for The Grave's a Fine and Silent Place in January 2018.
http://alanbradleyauthor.com

Acclaimed as the Queen of Clerical Crime, Kate Charles is the author of more than a dozen crime novels. The latest, False Tongues, is fourth in the Callie Anson series.

Marcia Talley is the Anthony and Agatha-award winning author of Footprints to Murder and fourteen previous novels featuring survivor and sleuth, Hannah Ives.

REDS ALERT! Kait is the winner of Laura DiSilverio's THAT LAST WEEKEND. You can contact her at ldisilverio AT gmail DOT com



53 comments:

  1. Your trip sounds positively marvelous . . . so much to see and enjoy. Thanks for sharing it with us.
    I wonder . . . is there any one place you visited that you would recommend to others or that you would return to yourselves?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We loved it all, but would have liked to have spent more time in Peel, exploring the castle and the harbour front area. - Kate

      Delete
    2. We missed the steam railways and the southern end of the island like Port Erin. Would definitely rectify that next time!

      Delete
  2. Sounds like a wonderful trip. Thanks for taking us along.

    ReplyDelete
  3. What a wonderful trip and great pictures. Thanks for sharing.

    Mary/Liz

    ReplyDelete
  4. That is so overwhelmingly wonderful in every way I cannot believe it. Each paragraph is a treasure- and worth an entire blog. The most exotic book tour ever.
    Did you just take carry-on luggage? Were you exhausted when you got home? Where the questions you got at your events different from the questions you get in the states?
    thank you for a fantastic blog!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Hank! We really had a good time writing the blog, re-living a wonderful trip.
      We flew on EasyJet (aka SleazyJet) and paid a fortune (more than the actual fare!) to check one bag each. Unfortunately they managed to destroy mine on the return flight. Am still battling for compensation.
      Exhausted - yes!
      The questions were quite different - not a single 'where do you get your ideas from?'! Challenging but fun - we were fortunate to have such an excellent MC directing the Q&A as well as the interviews.
      - Kate

      Delete
    2. Hank, on SleazyJet you can take only one carry on. I stuffed everything into my "purse." Haha.

      Delete
  5. Such an adventure! Thank you for taking us along.

    ReplyDelete
  6. I love everything about this post! You had great company, good conversation, tasty food, fascinating adventures and, because of the signing events, it was all a tax-deductible business trip. Excellent way to plan, ladies! You make the Isle of Man sound like the ultimate vacation destination. You could have just left me at the Gaiety Theatre, and I would have been completely satisfied. But then you got to meet Gladys! Too much fun. Did you walk away with lots of new story ideas? Or simply a burning desire to retire to the Isle of Man?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right, Gigi, who could ask for anything more - and tax-deductible on top of it! We definitely want to go back, though it may take Alan and Shirley a bit of time to recover. Story ideas? Time will tell!
      - Kate

      Delete
    2. I did some excellent brainstorming with Kate on the trip and see a new plot for Hannah taking shape, although not on IoM.

      Delete
  7. Wonderful travelogue, Marcia and Kate! Thanks for sharing it.

    Marcia, I hope you and your husband are someplace safe right now, or on your way there. Best good luck weathering Irma.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're welcome, Karen - we loved doing it.
      - Kate

      Delete
    2. Karen I'm in bed with a horrible cold, watching the storm on TV. Our cottage in the Bahamas is all boarded up and it looks like we'll escape the worst of Irma's wrath. Praying hard for the southern Bahamas and FL.

      Delete
    3. Downgraded to Category 4, as if that helps much.

      Delete
  8. This sounds like so much fun! The food! The places! And Alan Bradley (huge fan here, too). And a new destination to put on my list of places I need to go. Thanks, Marcia and Kate!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You should definitely go, Hallie. It's a great place. Not sure we managed to convey in the blog how old-fashioned it is - rather like going back in time to the 1950s. Perfect for Flavia; I can see why Alan loves it.
      - Kate

      Delete
    2. Folks have compared it to New Zealand. Like the 50s but with all mod cons.

      Delete
  9. Waving at my friend, Kate. Good to see you this morning. Now please take your turn! (Juuust kidding)

    Wonderful travelogue Marcia and Kate. Thank you.

    Now I want to go there. My daughter will be in Chester for the next three years, and this trip to the Isle of Man is a distinct possibility, especially if we can hope for an Alan Bradley sighting!

    I have to admit, Kate, that seeing your name here today made me hope for a new book?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi, Ann! ���� Good to see you here.
      The Isle of Man should be easily accessible from Chester. You can take the train from Chester to Liverpool, and either fly or take the ferry to the IOM from there.

      New book - as of today, I consider myself exactly halfway there. So hang on, Ann!

      Delete
    2. Great news Kate. I'll look forward to it. Xox

      Delete
  10. Wonderful post this morning! I enjoyed reading about your travels to Isle of Man and I felt as if I was there with you. Thank you for introducing a new author to me, Kate Charles. I will look for her books! I started reading Alan Bradley's Flavia de Luce series and I am surprised they are not YA books, since Flavia is 11 years old, unless I am mistaken? I met Marcia Talley at Malice Domestic last year. I actually met one of the people mentioned in this post!

    Agree with Ann that this is a wonderful travelogue.

    Love the photos. Although I travelled to Scotland several times, I have never been to Isle of Man. One of these days I would like to visit Gigha and Isle of Man.

    Diana

    ReplyDelete
  11. Marcia and Kate, this was so much fun! I loved the Gaiety Theatre, and the harbour, and Gladys! I loved everything! Did you like where you stayed? I think the driving would terrify me, though. I'm such a wimp compared to Marcia.

    And I want to know how you first met Alan. I know I'm probably the last reader in the world, but I only discovered his books a year or so ago, and haven't quite managed to work my way through the entire series, but I am a huge fan. It must have been such fun to do the Q&As together. Thank you both for being here!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Alan and I shared two halves of a session at a conference in Oxford a while back. We got to talking, and that led to emails, etc. Alan's a fascinating guy, and I'd like to recommend his wonderful autobiographal work, The Shoebox Bible, about growing up in wartime Canada. One of my favorite books.

      Delete
    2. Debs, the flat served the purpose. There are lots of grand seafront hotels in Douglas, but by the time we started looking, everything was booked up for the motorcycle races. We were happy to find a place where the three of us could stay together.
      Alan is one of the gentlest, sweetest people I have ever met. I love him to bits. And Shirley is a treasure as well. Ditto to what Marcia says about The Shoebox Bible - a beautiful book.

      Delete
  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Debs, the self-catering flat was basic, but comfortable. Location was excellent for walking to the Esplanade and the quayside. It was on the third floor with no lift, however.

    ReplyDelete
  14. Huge fan of Kate, Marcia, and Alan here - so needless to say this trip sounds divine.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Kristopher! You would have loved it.
      - Kate

      Delete
    2. We could have taken you in our checked luggage, Kristopher, but SleazyJet would have charged us extra! I'm a boat person, so I'd like to try the ferry some time. The flight is 20 min, but the boat is 2 hours.

      Delete
    3. From your description of the airlines, would much prefer the ferry. Tossing ball to Kristopher. (Grin)

      Delete
  15. What a lovely trip! I'd love to visit the Isle of Man ~

    ReplyDelete
  16. Your trip sounds amazing, Marcia and Kate! You said that Marcia has been visiting for the past 25 years, and I wondered if you've taken other trips together, out of England? How nice you're such great travel companions!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. We did a wonderful US book tour about 10 years ago, Ingrid. Super fun. And we've toured VA and NC together, as well. We do seem to be simpatico!!

      Delete
  17. Wow, sometimes life is full of coincidences. Just this week I did some research on the Isle of Man for a novella I'm developing -- action to take place, ta-da, near Peel. :-) I'm curious about Peel Castle and the legends around it. The black ghost dog, Moddey Dhoo, and the belief by some that it's the legendary location of Avalon. Thanks for the virtual peek! I hope I get a chance to visit the island in the future.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Thank you for sharing! That was a wonderful "report" on your doings. I would love to visit there some day.

    ReplyDelete
  19. Thanks to all for your comments. Ingrid, Marcia and I have travelled a lot together in the US, as well as in England. We've had some great trips together.
    - Kate

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Don't forget I've shared some of those trips!

      Delete
    2. Indeed! I remember a super one in AZ.

      Delete
    3. Yes, indeed! And remember Glastonbury?

      Delete
  20. I would have been happy with a post just talking about Alan Bradley (been a fan since Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie), but then you two took us on a fantastic tour of Isle of Man, too. Wow! Thank you, Marcia and Kate. My future trip to England just had another destination added. And, you got to meet Gladys, too. Talk about perfect trips.

    The Gaiety Theatre would have been such an interesting tour. I'm a fan and friend of Elly Griffiths (Domenica de Rosa), and her new series The Magic Men, set in the early 1950s) features Max Mephisto, a famous magician in England and his friend and former army mate, Edgar Stephens, now a Detective Inspector in Brighton. The book just out, The Blood Card, deals with the beginning of television in offering entertainment and the feared demise of live variety shows. So, visiting a theatre such as The Gaiety would be high on my list of things to do.

    Thank you, Marcia and Kate for sharing this adventure with us.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Kathy, for the history of illusions, a fascinating book is Hiding the Elephant by Jim Steinmeyer. It goes into detail about how the theaters were designed to perform the illusions and keep the audience from catching on.

      Delete
  21. I don't travel anymore so thanks for the travelogue and pictures.

    ReplyDelete
  22. I just have to fangirl for a moment- Kate, I absolutely adore Callie Anson! And knowing the three of you (Kate, Deborah and Marcia) are writer/friends makes me want to go look for Marcia's books- as soon as this hurricane goes away, anyway.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Jennifer, how sweet of you! Hope you're not anywhere near the hurricane.
      - Kate

      Delete