Tuesday, 22 April 2014

New editions coming out.

For those who prefer their reading (1) in paper and (2) in a weight guaranteed not to strain their wrist or their travel weight allowance, a new paperback issue comes in in two days time - on the 24th April.

'Death at the Clos du Lac' - the 4th in the Inspector Lucas Rocco series set in France in the 1960s, and originally issued in hardback, this one now hits the shelves in paperback format. (Unfortunately, that doesn't happen in the US until July - sorry).

 Set against the backdrop of French trade negotiations with China, and the kidnap of the wife of a top-level French industrialist, Rocco has to figure out who murdered a man in a private sanatorium - and why the Interior Ministry seems strangely reluctant to let him investigate the killing or the identity of other inmates in the building. He also has to contend with the knowledge that a trained assassin has him in his sights, and that being a cop will not protect him.

"A pure joy - deserves to be ranked with the best." Daily Mail.

And not long after, on the 1st May, for those who like their reading even lighter to carry, 'The Watchman' comes out as an ebook. This the first in a new contemporary spy thriller series featuring Marc Portman, a specialist in close (but not too close) protection work for spies in hostile situations.

Set on the Kenya-Somali border, the story draws Portman into acting as a covert back-stop for two British MI6 officers - one a woman - sent to negotiate for the release of two UN hostages taken by pirates. However, he soon learns that the negotiations are a trap set by terrorists and that there are no plans for the two officers to return home. And Portman is their only hope of rescue.

A deliberate departure from the Harry Tate thrillers, this is darker in tone, and while I enjoy writing all my books, this one was great fun, with all the bangs and weaponry and the use of a microlight to drop Portman right where he needed to be.

"Adrenalin-fuelled action thriller... packed with adventure, danger, bravery and shocking violence. A gripping read." Booklist

"A convincingly formidable one-man army... an action-filled adventure..." Publishers Weekly

Two very different books. If you haven't yet, why not give one a try?


Monday, 21 April 2014

Update to 'Why I Wrote This...' tab (see above)

Why I wrote 'The Watchman' - the first in a new series.

"action-filled... a convincingly formidable one-man army..."
Publishers Weekly

"...adrenalin-fuelled action thriller... packed with danger, ingenuity, bravery, horror and shocking violence. A gripping read..."

"Thrilling read"... "hard to put down" ... "a great action hero"
The Crime Scene

"... dramatic page turning suspense... Strongly recommended."
Euro Crime Reviews

"Insanely atmospheric... just begs to be read."
Milorambles Review - http://www.milorambles.com

"...contains some of the most explosive opening chapters I have read in a long time. Give this man a Bond film script to play with!"
Crime Fiction Lover - http://www.crimefictionlover.com/2014/01/the-watchman/


Friday, 11 April 2014

The Lost Patrol


Living next to a cemetery can have a fairly profound effect on a boy with a vivid imagination. Living next to a WW1 war cemetery in France even more so.

When I was 9 years old I moved to France with my parents when my father got a job as a gardener with the War Graves Commission, looking after allied cemeteries from two world wars. We ended up living next to a large military cemetery on a hill, miles from anywhere, which meant spending lots of time mooching around trying to find trouble in which to get. Not that easy when all you can see is empty rolling fields… and endless lines of headstones in neat rows, with strict orders to leave alone.

It was actually a lovely place, quiet and serene - if you could appreciate it for what it was. Unfortunately, prompted by boredom, I think my brain eventually slipped into juvenile fiction mode, and saw ghosts where there were none, with vague images of battles and trenches and feats of great courage. Maybe this was the first time I was to experience the beginnings of an idea lifted from fact  that would one day transition into a story. 


Whatever it was, for years afterwards I retained the memory of shadows moving among the headstones in the evening, of men in WW1 uniform standing chatting, exchanging cigarettes and whiling away their time – of which they had a lot, of course.
This stayed with me, teasing at the edges of my imagination, until I decided to do something about it. That something became ‘The Lost Patrol’, a novel for young adults (and even old adults), about a group of soldiers lost in limbo after being caught in an artillery barrage and vaporised, presumed by their regiment to have deserted.

What might happen to these men if they couldn’t move on, trapped by rumour and dishonour? Could they effect their own transition to a final resting place? And would it work so long the event?

Well, anything’s possible, so I placed a teenage boy, Robbie Greene, on a reluctant holiday in the area and bored out of his brain, as the only person who can see these spirits wandering among the headstones and looking for somebody to help them get away before the ‘Dark Ones’ come for them and drag them down into a place where there is nothing; no Heaven and no hell... and no salvation or peace.
He has trouble believing his own eyes at first, of course, because as everyone knows, ghosts don't exist, do they?
‘The Lost Patrol’ (which has a fair bit of dark humour) is all about coming of age, of finding something deep inside, of courage and fears and facing up to something you really can't believe.
But mostly it’s about that thing we all think about from time to time: what if… ?
In a way, I'd like to think this book was conceived and written as a tribute to all those men who were lost in the misery of battle and never found, their precise fate never established.
But not in every case. As we keep hearing, some men do turn up again, their remains discovered in a forgotten corner of a foreign field. 

And maybe, in this centenary year of that war, that's something to hang onto.
'The Lost Patrol' - available on Kindle wherever you are .

Thursday, 10 April 2014

New Writing Articles

I seem to have taken my eye off the ball recently regarding my regular monthly articles in Writing Magazine.

In April's issue, my 'Beginners' page is a blunt call for writers not to imitate existing authors, and the title - 'Write Like You!' - says it all.

Yes, you might like the fame and money gained by top authors, but don't be fooled into copying their style. Being compared to an existing author might turn out to be less of a compliment that you think.

And the New Author this month is Eva Dolan ('Long Way Home').


In May's issue (already out and ready to read), the 'Beginners' topic is 'The Tale and Detail', and suggests using backdrop to bring some real colour to your story.

In the hot flush of creativity, it's easy to rush into the action and emotion. But a little background detail can add depth and atmosphere to what might otherwise turn out to be a fairly flat scene.

Films use the technique as a matter of course, feeding viewers the backdrop without fanfare. It's there to see, but we take it in subconsciously, as part of the deal, while focussing on the characters.

And it works.

Happy and productive writing!


Sunday, 6 April 2014

I hate spiders. And crawling around in the 4ft void beneath our circa 1868 house is not exactly a clever way of avoiding them.

The UK only has one species of spider which bites, and it's called the False Widow (Steatoda nobilis), so we're very lucky. As far as I know the experts say that there are no recorded deaths from its bite, although I know one man who spent  several days in hospital after being bitten, and had an allergic reaction resulting in a balloon-shaped leg.

But having to trace a fuel line the other day through the house meant accompanying a plumber beneath the floorboards to see where it ran. (Okay, maybe I didn't have to... but after taking a quick look and seeing the passageways and voids, there was no way I was not going to investigate further).

I mean, this is history beneath our feet, and absolute food for thought for a crime writer.

When Danny (the plumber) asked me to pop down and take a few measurements, I put on my head lamp (a treasured bit of man kit not used often enough) and down I went. I glanced at Ann, my wife, and gave her a cavalier wave, the way you have to when departing on a mission. Well, it's the thing to do, isn't it?

Which is when I saw the cobwebs. Dozens of them, great hanging curtains of Victoriana with lots of little faces looking back at me from behind the strands of sticky stuff. Maybe the faces was an exaggeration, but there was lots of moving bodies, so the rest was hardly imagination. I shiver you not.

Anyway, I'd committed myself by then, so forward was the only way to go. Or should I say, downwards. Convincing myself that my head lamp and my sheer size was deterrent enough, I dropped through the hole with the agility of a cat and brushed aside the webs (yuk), scuttling across the rubbish-strewn floor. I say rubbish, it seemed to be mostly Victorian-era builder's crap, proving that builders haven't changed much over the years. And when I say scuttled, it was a sort of monkey-crawl to avoid the low-hanging webs infesting the joists above me.

Writers have to posses a vivid imagination; it comes with the job description. Unfortunately, in the presence of spiders, mine goes into overdrive. Expecting at any moment to feel the pitter-patter of tiny feet down the back of my neck, I reached the designated spot and took out my tape measure, then got on with checking numbers, all to the accompaniment of Danny shouting instructions from where he was nice and safe on the outside.

I didn't stay down there very long. But as soon as I was back topside (a technical term), I began wondering where the various spaces I'd spotted went to. Some disappeared round corners, others seemed to end in blank walls. The trouble is, most of them had even more colonies of spiders, which was a bit off-putting. I'm tempted to go down again with the vacuum cleaner. That would clear them double-quick. But it might also tick them off enough to prove the so-called experts wrong.

I hope to God they stay down there and don't develop aspirations to join us upstairs, that's all I can say.

In the meantime, I keep looking at the trap door in the corner and wondering...