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  • Barbara Copperthwaite


I’d never get away with it. Not now, not with them here.

As soon as I saw the sweet elderly couple enter the cafe, I froze. What the heck was I going to do now? All my well-laid plans were in ruins! I looked at them again, just to be sure. No, no, I’d never get away with it. Not now, not with them here. As I looked across the room, I met the eye of my fellow plotter, and saw my own fears reflected in her face…

Perhaps I should explain. Yesterday, I was the guest author at the book club held regularly at Mims Cafe and Coffee Bar in Cannock. Good books, delicious cakes and great company: what more could anyone ask for?

This isn’t the first time I’ve been there, so the nerves were under control. Instead, I felt as though I was returning to be with old friends. As soon as I walked through the door I was hugged by the owner, Mim Deakin, and we had a little catch up (honestly, if anyone is in the Cannock area, they really should pop in to Mim’s. It’s lovely!). Soon I was chatting away to everyone, from those I’d met back in December, when I’d attended the evening book club, to those who were new acquaintances.

I was lucky enough to bag a place opposite a lovely lady called Jo Smith, who I’m very proud to say has probably become my biggest fan. She and her pal Beth (who sadly wasn’t able to attend because of pesky work) apparently tell pretty much everyone they meet that they must buy my novel, Flowers For The Dead. I promise you, they’re not on commission! I’m so very grateful to them for their passion, though, and Jo and I had a brilliant chat.

Soon it was time for the book club proper to start. Cue much chat about the latest great reads the group have devoured – and what a voracious bunch they are! Romances, comedies, historical fictions, and (even better) crime. What I love about this book club is their enthusiasm, and all pitch in, chatting about their favourites, or giving their thoughts on what the others have read.

A quick break for some frankly delicious scones and a hot chocolate, and it was my time to step up to the mark. I was all set. I’d got paperback copies of my books, in case anyone wanted me to sign them; I’d thought about what I wanted to say and made notes; and I’d read the opening scene from Flowers For The Dead out loud at home several times to ensure I wouldn’t stumble.

I opened my mouth…took a deep breath…and the cafe door opened. Enter the sweetest elderly couple ever, holding hands and leaning on their respective walking sticks.

Heck, they were far too lovely to want to hear my story of murder! The last thing I wanted to do was freak them out!

When I looked across at the organiser, the wonderful Kim Nash, I could see she was thinking exactly the same thing as me.

All my plans flew out of the window. I decided immediately against doing the reading, as Flowers For The Dead starts with a murder. Instead I started talking about my background…but again I hit a few problems. The fact is, that as a journalist with twenty years’ experience of heart-rending, blood-curdling stories, its quite hard for me to keep things PG. Soon I slipped up and realised I was talking about the time an interviewee told me how she had come across her husband dismembering a body in their kitchen.

“I’m so sorry,” I blushed to the couple. “This is the last thing you expected to hear when you came in.”

“Oh, don’t worry dear,” replied the lady, who introduced herself as Jill. “I love crime books!”

Phew! What a relief!

I felt so much better after that, and was able to talk more freely. Jill even bought a signed copy of my book! But it just goes to show that, even now, I can still sometimes be guilty of judging a book by its cover.

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