Thursday 27 February 2014


When I first put out Dirty Old Town, I approached the selling of the book with a zeal that was completely over the top. I felt it was good. When I felt good, I thought it was really good. I wanted everyone to know that and to help me on my way. 

Being blessed and cursed with Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, I went for it. My head didn't allow me to rest or hold back and I couldn't resist the pressure that built up. I dropped in everywhere and generally became an irritation. When people pointed out the irritation, I tried to argue back and the tale ended badly. It was just wrong.

In spite of that, the good people at the Kindle Users Forum just seemed to allow me to find my pace. To let me get it all out of my system until I realised what I was doing. It took a while, but I got it in the end. The good folk there have shown patience and kindness in numerous ways. Help has come in the form of consoling, soothing, editing out mistakes in my work, confidence boosting and understanding. I have a thread there that I add to fairly regularly. It's fun and allows me to communicate with the world without getting in anyone's face (or at least I hope so). 

I'd like to think I've given a little back from time to time. If I haven't, submitting work to the Off The Kuf series is my way of offering thanks. The funds raised will help to keep the forum going and I'm all for that. There's the full range of information for discussion from the technological side of things for readers or writers to author advice, suggestions of new and good reads and general fun and socialising. I'm all for the place and hope it can grow in terms of what it offers without losing it's pleasant vibe.

It's not a place that will work for everyone, but if you've not been over why not take a look here.

The other side of being part of an anthology is trying to find a few new readers for your work. I'm hoping that I might find one or two in the process. If you're here, I presume you've read something of mine before, so if you pick up this collection of novellas you'll find someone new. Something here will definitely grab you.

My story is The Rocks Below. You'll see in the margin here that it's on sale for 78p. Pick up the KUF 3 and you'll get 6 novellas for only £1.99. That seems like a bargain to me. A solid bargain.

My reasons for choosing The Rocks Below as a submission were varied. First of all, it has no swearing, killing or sex and that seemed to rule out potential controversy for the forum and this collection. Secondly, it's been a little neglected on the shelves and that makes me sad - it's a fine story and I just hope it's read. Third, I never really knew how to pitch it - it's got a dash of science fiction and it's suitable for a younger reader. Finally, it's about spreading word about environmental issues and getting people (young people, in particular) to think about what we do to our beautiful land in order to exploit resources - I'm sure the weather has done a pretty good job of spreading that message by itself. 

During the recent flooding catastrophes around Britain, it was interesting to hear some of the messages from the government. The good news (cheer here) is that they'll be doing everything they can to stop future flooding and will spend as much as they need to to sort it all out. The other news, they'd love to encourage Fracking in any way possible - extended reliance on fossil fuels, the risk of contaminating a rather precious water supply and spoiling areas of natural beauty in the process. For messages read mixed messages. 

Rant over (that wasn't supposed to be here). 

Basically, I'd like you to think about checking out the KU Forum and it's offerings and see how you like it. It'll never appeal to all, but if you're a lover of stories I'm pretty sure there'll be something there for you to enjoy at some level. 


Here's the blurb:

Off the KUF Volume 3 is an anthology of novellas, guaranteed to appeal to readers of all genres!

This book brings together six novellas into one 125,000-word collection. Each contains narratives of more depth and richness than a short story could handle, while delivering a punchier impact than a full-length novel. No matter what your tastes, there is plenty here to engage your imagination.

Volume 3 is edited by David Wailing and the contributing authors are Cecilia Peartree, Carl Ashmore, Nigel Bird, Jonathan Hill, David Wailing and Jennifer Hanning. The front cover is by Katie Stewart at Magic Owl Designs.

The Off the KUF trilogy of anthologies is brought to you by the Kindle Users Forum (KUF). All proceeds from ebook sales are used to maintain the forum. Join us at

Wednesday 26 February 2014

Here’s a great read for fans of the hit-man genre. Hell, here’s a great read for anyone who likes a good tale that’s well told.

Eric Beetner takes a number of clichés and twists them until they become new and fresh.

Lars has been working in the one hit for seventeen years. During that time he’s kept his killing skills sharp and has taken up yoga to keep his body keen. He’s been hanging around New Mexico in the hope that he’ll finally complete the contract put out by his employer Nikki Senior.

Unfortunately for Lars, Nikki Junior is in the process of taking over the family and he’s not showing his father the respect that he might. Nikki Junior hires a young buck, Trent, to get together with Lars so that the job can finally get done.

The relationship between Lars and Trent is a tricky one. Maybe that’s always the way when the next generation steps up. Thing is, Trent has his ways and means even if he is young, foolish and uncouth. He’s soon leading the way to Mitch the Snitch and the hit that Lars has been waiting to make for so many years of his life is finally about to happen.

Nothing plays out as might have be expected by this reader or by any of the characters involved. You’ll know what I mean when you get there (and get there you should).

The upshot is that Lars ends up on the run with Mitch’s daughter, being chased by Trent and all of Nikki Senior’s resources. Which is just the beginning of Lars’s problems. His past (and a very interesting one he has, too) is to catch up with him, the FBI poke in their noses and the relationship with the teenager (Shaine) is far from easy.

There are a number of layers to the story. I’d pick out the battle between the old and new as one strong theme and the relationship between parents and children as another. Most of all, I’d pick out the fast pace of the story and the way the characters and settings are so well handled. As an example, I’ll highlight the way the description of the heat and environment of the desert had me sweating and reaching for cold drinks. He really nails the atmosphere through his characters – Lars has grown used to it and has altered his pace accordingly, Shaine has never known anything else and Trent is hitting the wall for the first time. This means that the description flows within the story itself and never gets in the way, which takes some doing.

 The whole piece is very entertaining and the outcome ties everything up in a very satisfying (and rather unexpected) way. There’s also an opening for a sequel here. I can see this moving in to the territory of Leon by Luc Besson and doing something rather special. I wonder if Mr Besson’s busy just now.

Mr Besson? Mr Besson...

Wednesday 5 February 2014

The Clash: Why They Still Matter – To Authors by Rory Costello

Just a wee note before Rory's brilliant post. There are a couple of books available today for free and I think you should give them a try if you haven't already. The first is One Day In The Life Of Jason Dean, a wonderful novella that will hit you in the heart and, new from Blasted Heath, Gerard Brennan's Breaking Point. Mr Brennan's a great writer and it just needs to be downloaded.

End of public information.

Here's Rory...

It’s been more than a decade since Joe Strummer died. It’s close to 30 years since The Clash put out an album (if you want to remember Cut the Crap, that is).

Yet the legend of “The Only Band That Matters” lives on…and one of the less obvious ways it has done so in recent years is through crime/hard-boiled fiction. At least four authors – Paul D. Brazill, Nick Quantrill, Tony Black, and Martyn Waites – have used Clash song titles to name some of their works. Another, Josh Stallings, has made the band’s music a source of motivation for Moses McGuire, the star of three novels. Black’s star character (Gus Dury) and Quantrill’s (Joe Geraghty) are also clearly shown to be fans. Like Moses, Gus and Joe throw on their favorite Clash albums when they need a lift.

So what’s behind this homage?

In July 2013, shortly after he released Gunsof Brixton, Brazill wrote here, “When I decided to write a faux London gangster story, it seemed the sensible thing to take a title from a song by The Clash, that most London of all London bands.” You could get into a debate with Paul about whether The Jam were even more London – in subject matter at least – but there’s no arguing his main point: “There was something about the scary lyrics…and cod reggae feel that seemed to suit a faux London gangster story down to the ground.”

Just below on the same blog page, there’s one of Paul’s Short, Sharp Interviews – with Nick Quantrill, following the release of The Crooked Beat (Joe Geraghty #3). Nick observed, “It’s also a track on The Clash’s ‘Sandinista!’ album. It pains me to say it, but I wouldn’t go out of your way to track it down.” While the work was in progress, Nick did a close-up with Carol Bridgestock, noting that he too tends to use song titles for his books. Quite simply, “The Crooked Beat” fits the theme of the story nicely.

London Calling is the title cut from a collection of Tony Black’s short pieces. It’s an interesting choice in that much of Black’s work is steeped in Scottishness. But as a key line in the story puts it, “The Clash get me moving; London Calling sets the mood as I fire off the shots.” Gus Dury is an anti-authoritarian character, giving him much in common with Joe Strummer. It’s also interesting to note that the fourth of the Dury series, Long Time Dead, is being developed as a movie by director Richard Jobson. Jobson was once the frontman for The Skids, a Scottish rock band who supported The Clash back in October 1977 (one of the earliest gigs for the boys from Dunfermline).

Originally published in 2008, White Riot is an apt choice for Martyn Waites’ novel (#3 in his Joe Donovan series) about deadly ethnic conflict in Newcastle. After it came out, Tony Black conducted an interview with Waites for Shots, the crime and thriller ezine. The chat started off like this:

TONY BLACK: So, White Riot...bit of a Clash fan?

MARTYN WAITES: Absolutely. I think most right minded people are. And I don’t think it’s just a question of my age, my daughters love the Clash too. But all the books have been named after song titles, some, admittedly, more obscure than others. White Riot was such a perfect fit for this one that I couldn’t resist.

Among others, Waites has drawn upon the works of Nick Cave, Tom Waits, and Talking Heads for some of his other titles. He spoke more broadly here about how music has inspired and informed his writing.

“As for punk – what I loved about it was the same as what I loved about Hammett’s writing for Black Mask. Formulaic but when a great artist is using that formula, exciting as hell. Some people think that the strictures of crime writing…are too rigid. I disagree. Good practitioners can use those restrictions and create something truly unique. That’s what I thought crime writing and punk (and new wave and post-punk) had in common.”

Josh Stallings has also talked about how music influences him in both his professions. In a chat with author Thomas Pluck, he said, “Music drives my brain and my film cutting. Trailers are tightly condensed, highly rhythmic stories.” Josh likes and uses quite a variety of sounds, but when it comes down to it, he says, “More Clash, more Pogues. Can’t have enough of them lads. I have a copy of Josh Rouse doing ‘Straight To Hell’ as a ballad. Fucking blows my mind.”

Yet no author – in crime fiction or any other genre – is ever likely to take the Clash influence as far as Caryl Férey. This Frenchman’s novel La jambe gauche de Joe Strummer (Joe Strummer’s Left Leg) was published in 2007. Such is Férey’s passion that even the chapter titles are drawn from Clash songs. So far, only an excerpt from this book appears to have been translated into English (and just a few of Férey’s full works are available in translation). But this passage from a French-language interview with Férey, which I translate here, nicely captures the spirit that enlivens the works of the other authors discussed here.

“Like many people of my generation [Férey was born in 1967], the first chords of ‘London Calling’ turned my head upside down. I grew up with Strummer’s lyrics, his intransigence and his moral rectitude. A model of ethics, never called into question.”