Friday 28 September 2012
Deliciously Dark, Superbly Seductive
For the first time in E Book since its bestselling publication over a year ago in paperback,
Apostle Rising is available in all formats, for all E readers
with some juicy extras, an excerpt from Mr. Glamour and four deliciously dark Noir stories, like the finest handmade chocolate. Here in the US for $3.24 Here in the UK for £2.05
On Xin Xii
Wednesday 26 September 2012
Life's funny. It is.
On the day my mum's been taken in to hospital, there's the resurrection of my novella Smoke. The release couldn't be better timed to give me something to occupy my time and my mind.
I'm going to stick to the book and let the family noise move to the background for a while.
It's been a while since the ill-fated experience with Trestle Press, but it's been a wait that's been worth it.
When Blasted Heath took on the book, I was absolutely thrilled. It was like I'd found a home.
What I didn't realise (and should have) was that it was only the beginning.
Allan Guthrie really put me through my paces with his suggestions from an editorial point of view and I learned a huge amount about some of my habits in the process of re-working.
As a consequence, the book's much sharper and better-written that it was originally and I know from the generous feedback that it was already pretty good back then.
What you'll get is the same story, just with tighter prose.
The other part of the package is the cover. I believe it took some working on to get it to the final version, but I think it's a real peach (thanks JT Lindroos).
The other good news is that you can buy it just now at the reduced introductory price of 99p or 99c via Amazon.
Now I'm off to hold on to my insides and to think about that Blasted Heath tattoo.
If I disappear for a while, I'll soon be back.
Saturday 22 September 2012
I loved everything about the novella ‘Ishmael Toffee’ (US). Was drawn in by the voice and the subject immediately.
Ishmael’s just out of prison. He’s a killer who suddenly tired of killing. Whilst watching his back in the cells, he discovered a new freedom in the form of gardening, a new connection with the earth and the way things might be. He’s hard, poor and covered in tattoos.
His rehabilitation is to be encouraged by work – a job in the garden of a rich, white man in the luxurious settings of a mightily secure house where only the help has colour to their skin.
There’s a snake in the garden, mind. Family life is not all it should be. Ishmael knows that what’s happening is wrong, but he also knows that trying to help will get him in to no end of trouble. It’s a question of whether the old or the new Ishmael is going to show up and I’m not going to tell you how it shapes up.
It’s a fantastic piece of fiction which deals with the injustices of poverty, the inequities of the world, the stark realities of life and death. The prose is sharp and clinical, yet there’s a heart beating through it all the way along, a hope that warmth and fairness might rise above the setting and the situation no matter how farfetched that seems at times. It does get tough – gruelling material at which the writer shows his class instead of flinching away.
By year’s end, this book is going to shine out as one of my favourites. There’s no doubt about it.
Very highly recommended.
Wednesday 19 September 2012
Given the rich tradition of Scottish crime fiction, it seems crazy to think that there’s not been a Crime-Writing Festival in Scotland. Not that such things are easy to spot until they’re pointed out. Thankfully, there are people who can identify gaps and then can work really hard to make sure that spaces are filled. The team at Bloody Scotland, I have to say, made a Stirling effort to pull things together, resulting in last weekend’s tremendous event in the middle of the country.
I spent my Saturday there and didn’t really know what to expect.
I’ve made many visits to the Hay Festival and the Edinburgh Book Festival over the years and have dipped my toe in at Lennoxlove, too. None of them have been crime-writing festivals though, and my ideas of what such a weekend might be like were formed by these previous experiences.
What I was delighted to find was that the events ran smoothly, that the ones I attended were excellent value for the entry-fee and that crime-writers and the crime-writing community offer something very different for the visitor than those broader –themed events to which I’ve been before.
At Hay, and even more-so at Edinburgh, the guests become practically invisible once their event and signing is done. The press/author tents look big and cosy and are obviously so enticing that most writers tend to hang around in there and in their hotel rooms while in town. I don’t blame them for that at all; I’d be inclined to do the same if I let my natural instincts take over. It just seems a shame. There have been exceptions over the years – Benjamin Zephaniah signing a book on the lawn; Brian Patten sharing a pint; Lawrence Block stopped in passing...
It was all so very different in Stirling. The writers were milling around like everyone else. They seemed to make a point of making themselves accessible to their fans for short spells of the day, allowed themselves to be approached and took the time to listen. What a bonus that was, not that I had the guts to go up to anyone I hadn’t already met. How wonderfully open it made it all feel. How friendly and supportive. I loved it for that.
I attended 3 events in all.
First off was Downloading The Detectives. I’d been looking forward to this most of all because, not only would I be seeing Allan Guthrie in action, I’d be seeing the mightily talented John Rector. Sadly John wasn’t able to make it over. I’d been completely thrown by that when I found out the night before, but John was kind enough to get in touch and apologize for not being able to come over due to ill-health and offered me a signed book if I wanted. What a gentleman. I declined the book and didn’t need an apology, but it was very kind of him to contact me. John’s replacement was another very well-regarded and best-selling kindle author, Gordon Ferris. It was great to get some insight into the world of ebook sales, going back to 2010 and tracing the evolution of the Kindle phenomenon from there. Clearly what will be next for authors and readers remains a mystery, but change it will and we’ll all need to be on our toes if we’re interested in keeping up with the pace of that change.
Next event was a mind-blower. William McIlvanney. As a McIlvanney virgin, I wasn’t really sure what to expect. An old man was all I could picture. What I got was a vibrant, energetic, passionate speaker who has great eloquence and clearly is a major writing talent. All was helped by a smooth approach from Len Wanner (interviewer) who left Willie to his own devices and only added questions when it was time to change direction. I loved it. Would put it up there with my favourite events of all. Funny thing is he’s been out of print for a while. Thankfully, he’s about to be back on the shelves courtesy of Chapman. For me, having heard readings from 4 books, the waiting time is too long and I’ve already got hold of a couple of second-hand copies to enhance my library.
Last one for me was a debate on the Booker Prize and whether a crime-fiction novel would ever be a winner. Turns out there have been crime novels as winners already, if you’re prepared to stretch definitions only a little. It involved Peter James & Ian Rankin vs Stuart Kelly & Willy Maley, with Nick Barley in the chair. What they offered was an interesting and entertaining look at books and I came out feeling alive and well. Great points all and no real winners.
What I enjoyed most of all that day was the company I found myself in. I met up with friends of mine whom I’ve known in the flesh and some whom I’ve only known virtually until now. Spending time with such great people who have such enthusiasm about books and crime fiction and life in general is about as good as it gets. No, it’s not better than sex, but it’s still a fantastic experience. I felt blessed by life while I was there and proud to be part of such a warm community of folk.
To those who organised, I’d like to thank you for your hard work and the application of your expertise. You clearly know what you’re doing and I hope you have the will and the energy to repeat the event in some form next year. To let it die after such an impressive debut would be a travesty. Good on you all. Should you happen to want an up-and-comer to occupy a small event in a tepee or a camper van somewhere in 2013, you know where I am.
As a little aside, I’d like to mention that one of those big-hearted friends from the event, McDroll, has 5 of her kindle books up for grabs just now at Amazon and you don’t have to pay a penny or a cent for any of them. You have nothing to lose and much to gain, so why not take a chance?
And my little brother, Geoff, one of the stars of the world of radio production, had a programme about Richard Brautigan broadcast on Monday, which is available for a while at this link. It features the Lovely Eggs, Jarvis Cocker and (listen carefully) my dear friend Tom Ash as driver. Tom is the inspiration for the character Wolf in In Loco Parentis, though he’s no killer in real life.
Have a good week. Read books and prosper.
Wednesday 12 September 2012
It's true, that title. I really can't.
This week has been such a thrilling one for me.
I was giving away copies of In Loco Parentis as a promo and am absolutely delighted by the response.
Funny thing is, in my mind I was never going to give it away. My reasons for changing direction were mainly that a couple of other promotions meant that my short story collection had a rise in sales. The hope was that it might happen again if I did it with the novel. The other reason was, basically, poor sales - it was difficult to know that I had a worthy book out there that was just not being read.
Anyway, I've really enjoyed watching the KDP sales clock up. Instead of the usual several hours between clocking up a sale, it turned to downloads by the minute which is much more fun.
As always, the movement was down to a lot of effort and a lot of support. Hence the thanks. I know that there were friends out there blogging, tweeting, Facebooking and downloading away and it means an awful lot. I've often talked about the strength of community and it's wonderful to feel the respect, warmth and friendship of each of those efforts. Bless you all.
Needless to say, when it's your time, let me know and I'll try and reciprocate. If you get in touch, it's much more likely that I can help than if you don't - I often miss promotions and releases just because life is busy and the social network thing seems enormous at times.
I'm also thrilled for some other reasons.
Crime Factory Issue 11 has been released. It's a bundle of stories and pieces that you should really have. They give you the option of free copies, but it can be bought at Amazon for a pittance via the link. I've not had time to read it yet, but the contents page is as impressive as ever. Check it out.
Delighted, too, to see the cover and to have proofed my story for the upcoming Shotgun Honey release. It'll be special. I was happy that as I read my work I was actually impressed and that doesn't always happen to me.
The roller-coaster of being part of the Protectors: Stories To Benefit Protect is still fun and is continuing to raise money for a great cause.
And there's something new from Beat To A Pulp that always brings a smile.
I'd also like to thank The Guardian for a little thread they put up for self-promotion of work. It was a good idea and I hop that they'll open up to the e-book-independent world in more and more ways; I'm sure they've seen some of the talent on offer and I hope that it will increase their enthusiasm. If you haven't done so, you might want to add a book to the list by following the link.
So it's been a good week. A fab week. A week to savour and to be grateful for and above all to be thankful to my friends. Hats off.
Wednesday 5 September 2012
Seventy Times Seven (US) is billed on the cover as ‘one of the finest debuts of the decade’. To my mind, it really isn’t that. It might be better seen as the debut of a writer who shows a fair amount of potential within the thriller genre.
It tells the story Danny Maguire who has worked in parallel with the IRA in the nineties, but never been one of their ranks. He’s a killer and has been since the death of his brother Sean. Danny’s resolved to revenge his brother’s death and the opportunity arises when information emerges about the identity of the key players from the time. It’s a journey that will take him to America, where we’ve already witnessed a number of attempts on the life of Danny’s new target.
The idea of the story is a strong one and it’s easy to see why Sinclair was offered a publishing deal on its basis.
The main positive of the book for me is the skeleton of the story; as a storyboard or in synopsis, there’s a lot to like about the way Sinclair plays things out. The way it keeps switching location and characters to reveal aspects of the plot is pretty well handled. It has some of the energy and the drive that one would want from such a book and the core issues are left well-disguised right up until the points at which they are revealed.
The book also describes violence in a realistic way and avoids creating any romantic notions of pain and death. It also has some pleasing humour running through it that provides a good deal of entertaining material.
I get the feeling that there’s also been a lot of research involved with this project and that creates a believable foundation to the piece, though at times the insertion of such information might be a little crude.
Where I think the work falls down a little and reveals the author’s lack of experience in novel writing is with the pacing, the dialogue and the way the key information is pointed out a little too boldly (at least for my taste).
Essentially the book could be shorter and, with a good edit, leaner and meaner (while still maintaining the warmer elements of the relationships and the very human perspective on ‘The Troubles).
Some of the description is heavy-handed. There are too many strings of adjectives which slow things down imperceptibly in a similar way that the friction caused by tiny air molecules will eventually bring a moving object to a halt.
Here’s a small illustration:
‘The bed looked deep and comfortable with large sky-blue satin pillows resting against its tall, pink-velvet button-fronted headrest.’
There’s nothing wrong in this, but the bed plays little or no part in the scene and it could be much plainer and slicker.
My thought on the dialogue is that the characters need to be more distinctive. Everyone has a very witty repartee that shows off that talent for humour and this might be worthy of attention. There’s also rather a lot of exposition through the conversation and it’s a little clunky in that way:
‘God that seems like it was about two weeks ago,’ replied Marie. ‘It’s hard to believe that was only two days ago.’
With a little attention Sinclair’s dialogue could be a real strength – there’s a thin line here that shouldn’t take much to get across it.
Here’s another example of something that could be ironed out in an edit. It identifies a lot of things that are stated as obvious when they’re not – a little show-not-tell might not go amiss:
‘It was obvious from her expression that checking people in and out of the Lakeshore Hotel didn’t require too many qualifications.’
I wonder what the expression actually was – I’ve been practising in the mirror, but don’t think I’ve mastered it yet.
All-in-all, it’s a mixed bag. Lots to please a reader and enough room for improvement to suggest that Sinclair has what it takes to make it as a thriller writer if he’s prepared to work on a thing or two. I know that there’s a second novel on its way at some point and do feel that is likely to step up on this. Writing is a craft and those skills can only be learned through the doing and by being well-mentored and with these things in place I think that Sinclair can move on up the ladder at a fair rate.
Sunday 2 September 2012
Protectors came out yesterday. I haven't yet got over the pride I feel for being part of it.
Many thanks to Thomas Pluck for his energy and time on this, as well as to everyone else who has contributed.
I could paste the info here, but maybe it's easier to follow the link over to the Lost Children site and it will tell you all you need to know.
You can buy this to make your ebook collection all the better or you can just think of it as a donation. My way of thinking is that it's a way to support a charity (and many young lives) and get a hell of a read into the bargain.
I'm not going to beg, but I would if I knew it would make a difference.
Please take a few minutes to pop over and see what you think. That's what I'm asking.
Thanks for stopping by.
Saturday 1 September 2012
Muscle For The Wing (US) opens in the middle of a piece of action – a bunch of interlopers rip off a protected gambling get-together and kill a cop in the process. The killers, led by the intelligent, ruthless Emil Jaddick, are part of a right-wing prison organisation that has tentacles which are reaching into legitimate spheres of society. With The Wing behind them, they feel indestructible. What they’re not prepared for is the might of the old-school crime-lord they’re up against.
Meanwhile, local cop Shade is chilling with his woman. At least he starts off chilling, for things heat up pretty quickly. After a night of passion, a week of camping the couple have planned is called off so that Shade can work the case.
Because the town’s mayor was at the card-game from the opening and because the mayor has strings he can pull, Shade is put out to work with an ex running mate from younger and darker times. The objective isn’t so much to apprehend the gang, but to destroy it.
So, ‘Shade and his woman’; what’s that about? It might not be a phrase I’d normally use, but here it’s completely apt. The society of Frogtown where the book is set, is interestingly structured. There’s an interesting contrast between a matriarchal world and one where women are regarded as objects to admire, have fun with and keep in line. The women are able to use this to their advantage much of the time, but when things get tough it’s the rule of a male fist that comes out on top.
There are so many things to love about the book.
It has an easy style that’s efficient with words and yet is full of wonder in the description of people and place. Here are a few to get the saliva going:
Willie Dastillon. Could he be behind the robbery and the murder? ‘Willie might steal a hen, but he wouldn’t break an egg.’ Brilliant.
Hard man and crime-lord Beaurain. Described in one phrase – ‘measured five foot seven standing on your neck.’
Frogtown: ‘Where the sideburns were longer, the fuses shorter, the skirts higher and the expectations lower.’
And Wanda has a behind that’s ‘harder’married life.’
It’s a sexy book. An action-packed one. It’s beautiful, violent, interesting and superbly paced. The characters rule the pages and their lives have damaged each of them.
I hope I’ve learned a thing or two about writing with this one. It’s quite superb. As well as a lot of positives, I’ve picked up that I should never call a character How – that can cause more than a few confusions for a reader with a memory like mine. How? Check that one out for yourself.