Wednesday, 25 May 2016

GUEST BLOG: Andrez Bergen


Adapting a quaint medieval romance into hardboiled noir might seem an odd match-up, yet in doing so over the past eighteen months I’ve come to realize – with much valued assistance from fellow writer Renee Asher Pickup – how surprisingly easy (and apt) it actually can be.

As 2014 drew to a close, I got an itch to do something with the thousand-year-old story of Tristan and Isolde (or Tristram and Iseult, depending on historical sources). You might recall the tale from dusty library tomes, Wagner’s over-the-top opera, or a fairly lame 2006 Hollywood potboiler starring James Franco and Rufus Sewell.

Think unequivocal adoration, betrayal, intrigue, lies, revenge and a tragic finale – all things that fit so well within film noir and hardboiled detective or crime fiction. The problem being the love dram, and that took some nutting out to squeeze into a novel set in more recent times (the 1970s).

Times have indeed changed, thus it seemed a given that we should switch gender roles for our two key protagonists. Trista Cornwall is rough, ready, loyal and skilled, Issy Holt verging on a spoiled princess-cum-playboy – yet ready to renounce everything for what he deems right.

Filtering through the original source material are the things true to form – repeated readings of Chandler, Hammett, Cain, Brubaker, Macdonald – along with the dozens of viewings of their spin-off cinema that I tend to salivate over. But equally vital in the context of this novel are the era recollections of the ‘70s, from the first Godfather film and Taxi Driver to TV nuggets like Starsky & Hutch, CHiPs and The Rockford Files; the decade’s atrocious fashion excesses and the arrival of punk and disco.

There’s a closet nostalgia for these things that I think both Renee and I shared. Being able to squeeze them all into a romantic legend that gave rise King Arthur and Guinevere and Romeo and Juliet?
A form of monochrome icing with martini chaser – and just a sprinkling of MDMA.

The Highland Times - Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

The Highland Times - Turn On, Tune In, Drop Out

Monday, 23 May 2016

PUSH-UPS: Nick Quantrill

So, what you pushing right now?

My new Hull-set crime novel, “The Dead Can’t Talk”. It’s the first in a new trilogy (series?) featuring Anna Stone and Luke Carver.

What’s the hook?

How far will Anna Stone, a disillusioned police officer on the brink of leaving her job, go to uncover the truth about her sister’s disappearance? Approached by Luke Carver, an ex-Army drifter she’s previously sent to prison, he claims to have new information, leaving her to decide if she can really trust a man who has his own reasons for helping.

And why’s that floating your boat?

Because it’s the start of something new. I’ve written three novels featuring small time PI, Joe Geraghty, and it felt like his race was run, certainly for the time being. I wanted to take the opportunity to create some new characters and explore new possibilities. I love reading a long-running character, but as a writer, that Pelecanos trick of hit them hard and fast with trilogies and quartets before exiting the stage makes a lot of sense.

When did you turn to crime?

It’s always been crime. From a young age and the crime writing cliché of The Famous Five and Sherlock Holmes, crime has always dominated my reading. When I eventually realised that even people from a downtrodden city like Hull are allowed to write, it was the only game in town for me.

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?

Only one? I’ll go contemporary (reluctantly). I try to read widely from the crime genre – partly just for fun, partly to keep up with what friends are doing. I lean to the more contemporary stuff because I’m interested in exploring and understanding what’s going on in society now. It often baffles me, but crime writing is the perfect medium to explore such issues.

And, what’s blown you away lately?
Nick Quantrill.

It’s always a struggle to keep with all the new stuff coming out. There’s just so much to love…”Fever City” by Tim Baker was a fresh take on the JFK assassination. “The Big Fear” by Andrew Case was an impulse buy I loved. Dipping into various Ted Lewis reissues is a treat. Ian Ayris is back with “April Skies”. I could take a year off to read and only scratch the surface.

See any books as movies waiting to happen?

Like with reading, there’s far too many to choose from and I’d be genuinely delighted to see something like “April Skies” given the TV treatments. Away from crime, my Hull pal, Brian Lavery’s book, “The Headscarf Revolutionaries” has been optioned by the BBC. With Mark Herman writing the script, it surely can’t fail.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?

Would writers like Ian Ayris or Ray Banks get a chance with a big publisher? Maybe not. Are they worth reading? Absolutely. I also enjoy a Lee Child novel as much as the next person, so I guess the conclusion is just read what you want to read. Anything else is just bullshit. I have a Kindle and I would say I split my reading pretty evenly between digital and paper. I don’t even think about it these days.

Shout us a website worth visiting.

It’s such a tough question as there are so many great websites covering the crime world. I really wouldn’t want to single one out, but so many offer a great service to readers and writers. Bottom line is we’re all readers and want to hear what others are enjoying. I head to the blogs I trust before the mainstream media.

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …

I lead a quiet life, battling my way through the school gate with my daughter, and plotting murder. Sometimes these two things are connected. I have a GCSE Grade G in Nautical Studies, so don’t get in a boat with me.

:: Find out more about Nick, at:   Buy The Dead Can't Talk at Amazon UK

Thursday, 12 May 2016

PUSH-UPS: Douglas Skelton

So, what you pushing right now?
The latest is 'Open Wounds', the final entry in the Davie McCall quartet which began with 'Blood City'
What’s the hook?

This time around Davie is drawn into investigating a possible miscarriage of justice, but it may have an impact on people around him, particularly his old pal, crime boss Rab McClymont and corrupt cop Jimmy Knight.
And why’s that floating your boat?

It's the final part of the story. Each of the books has a self-contained plotline but there are story arcs across the series. This is where a lot of them end. Also, as I was part of an investigation into a real miscarriage of justice a few years ago it has echoes for me. When did you turn to crime?

I'd been reading crime, or thrillers, since I was a teenager, when I discovered Ed McBain's 87th Precinct novels. But it really kicked off when I fell into the role of crime reporter with a weekly newspaper in Glasgow. Features with the Evening Times followed and they led to my first true crime book, 'Blood on the Thistle.' I always had a desire to write fiction - some lawyers and police officers say I was writing it all along - and after 11 titles I decided to concentrate solely on making shit up. 'Blood City' was the first.
Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary? 
Douglas Skelton.

I can appreciate them all. I look for prose that flows, dialogue that speaks to me and stories that have me turning the page. And good characters, of course. My own stuff is contemporary hardboiled noir. I've never had a real yen to write about obscure poisons in the muffins. And, what’s blown you away lately?

I'm currently reading Robert Crais's latest 'The Promise'. Another fabulous read. I've also read terrific upcoming books from pals Michael J. Malone, Neil Broadfoot and Matt Bendoris. One or all deserve the big-time. I've got a TBR pile that would have a librarian demanding extra pay, including the latest from Caro Ramsay and TF Muir. See any books as movies waiting to happen?

Apart from mine? Sorry, couldn't resist. I think it's high time someone gave the Robert Crais books a go, perhaps on TV. Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?

I have to say I'm a mainstream man when reading, although the indie publishers are the ones taking the risks and coming up with some great stuff. I'm very old-fashioned, though - I don't own a Kindle. Shout us a website worth visiting …

Apart from mine- Sorry again. Everyone hates a pushy author (but that was Seriously, there are a host of bloggers and crime sites and to choose one would be unfair. They do a terrific job for authors now that the mainstream press has cut back on reviews. Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …

I'm incredibly handsome. I'm like catnip to the ladies. I can run the mile in under two minutes. I write crime. Three of those statements are false.

:: Visit Douglas's site at:  Buy Open Wounds on Amazon UK

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Snow. I Shit You Not.

Signing in Dundee Waterstone's.

I shit you not.

In April.

The 28th.

Right, got that off my chest, now to recent and future happenings.

It's been an ony-offy sort of few weeks here at Pusher Towers, what with work on the new Bob Valentine book (number 3) SUMMONING THE DEAD taking over for a while. It's due out in October this year and we're looking good to hit that with more than 90% complete. There's a cracking cover too, but I can't reveal that yet, so you'll need to make-do with the blurb:

With his near-fatal stabbing almost a memory, DI Bob Valentine is settling back onto the force, until one of Ayrshire's darkest secrets is unearthed. The skeletal remains of a boy, his hands and feet cable-tied, turns up in a semi-foetal position during routine drainage works.The boy is soon identified as a missing child from the 1980s, re-opening a cold case that was previously thought unsolvable. When the remains of more children are unearthed, Valentine soon finds himself embroiled in a conspiracy linking the past and present through some of the most shocking crimes of his police career.

There's also another crime series on the way, which I'm co-authoring with an outstanding Australian writer; more about that soon. I know, I'm not giving much away.

On the events side, I'm just back from Dundee where I opened a new library for the prison service up there. Great city and met some great people. I dropped in to do a bit of a signing at Waterstone's there too, so there's a fair stockpile of signed books in store now.

By far the toughest gig of my life so far was at a nursery group in Lamlash, Arran. The average age was three but thankfully there was no harsh critics among them and it turned out just fine. If you're wondering, no, I didn't read any Gus Dury: it was some Gruffalow books (in Scots) supplied by my publisher, Black & White, for the occasion.

Next stop looks like being Stirling, where I'm reading at Bannockburn Library as part of the book festival. Another great town so looking forward to that on Tues, May 10, at 7pm.

I'm doing a school visit in deepest, darkest Ayrshire next month too. Fortunately, it's not my old school, though. I think they still remember me, ahem.

The Highland Times column continues, with very little affect on my blood pressure despite numerous anti-Tory rants, and you can catch the latest piece online now.

And finally. Painting. Yes, the move to the island continues to inspire me to mess about with paint; I won't be compiling these in a calendar at the end of year, you'll be pleased to hear, but you can take a swatch at a couple of recent examples:

Holy Isle Cottage.
Arran Rambler.

Monday, 28 March 2016

GUEST BLOG: Nigel Bird

Out Of My Depth? by Nigel Bird
For many years, I’ve held the dream that one day I’ll be able to earn a living as a writer of fiction. Sadly, though I’m writing harder and better than ever, that dream seems to get further away instead of closer. It’s something I’m coming to terms with.  Not that the dream has vanished. It still appears as a small speck on the horizon every now and then, especially after a particularly challenging day in the classroom. 
In order to turn things around in the sales department, among the pieces of advice I’ve been given has been the suggestion that I turn my attention to something with a larger market. A police procedural for example. 
That advice has always made a lot of sense and I’ve never had an issue about working in a variety of writing styles in order to hone the craft or widen my audience. The only reason I didn’t take the path was that the ideas just weren’t there. My muse has ADHD and tends to flit about between genres, which has probably been a part of my problem all along. 
When the idea for The Shallows took root some time after reading Chuck Palahniuk’s Non-Fiction, things began to change. 
For the first time I had a story to write that actually needed police involvement. Two lots of police involvement, in fact, as it required the Navy to work alongside the civilian force. As soon as I realised that, I became rather excited. Maybe this would be the springboard to the new pastures I’ve been seeking. One has to hope. 
To explain. Brad Heap has gone AWOL from his position on one of Faslane’s nuclear submarines. He’s on the run with his family and is looking forward to a bright future and a new life. Unfortunately, they inadvertently stumble upon a drugs operation and this wrong turn lands them in dire straits. What ensues is a chase between the authorities and the Heaps that I hope thrills and entertains from start to finish. 
I had no difficulty working with the family on the run. As I followed them from one tight spot to another, I felt I was on familiar ground. 
The writing of the police angle, however, was a nightmare. 
It had never occurred to me that I might not have touched upon a police drama before because I didn’t fully understand how to construct one. And how ridiculous that seems. I grew up on a diet of police heroes on television (Kojak, Bluey Hills, The Sweeney, Five 0, Hill Street Blues, Starsky and Hutch et al). I’ve been reading detective fiction forever. Spent hours at the cinema soaking up double and triple bills of the stuff.  Live in a country with a rich history in police novels as well as a thriving contemporary scene. Surely I had all the foundations and flavours I could ever need. 
Not so. 
Even now I’ve completed and published the book, I can’t really explain why it was so tough to work through. Partly it was a lack of understanding of real procedure, not helped by a total absence of desire to do bury myself in months of research. Maybe it was the fear of setting out trails of clues and evidence that didn’t properly stack up. It could have been because when I looked up to find the pinnacle of the genre it was so high up I needed binoculars to see it. I was scared to set foot on the mountain for fear of having to give up on the gentle slopes at the bottom. Of all things, crisis of confidence was probably the greatest issue. 
In the end, I decided not to let it get to me. I ignored the worry and ploughed on regardless. I decided to work in the way I usually do – to let the characters take shape and come to life, then to take me where they needed to go. That and a little bit of fudging. And John Locke was a great help. He kept disappearing off to work as a lone wolf like all the best detectives, which meant the stations and the meeting scenes were cut down to a minimum.  
And all of that’s okay, mainly because the police aren’t the real meat of the story. At its heart is the family. It’s their struggle to keep going through adversity and their attempts to remain one step ahead of their pursuers that I was wrapped up in. It was Brad and Molly and Shem who kept me going and their plight that had me rooting for them to the end.  
To help reduce the anxieties on the police front, I set the book in places I’ve come to love over the years – Eyemouth, Berwick-Upon-Tweed, Alnwick and Grange-Over-Sands. I may not have created exact copies of the towns, but working with the familiar helped to balance out the things I didn’t get. 
I’m sure I’ve learned a thing or two about story telling with this one. I hope that some of that knowledge is woven into The Shallows. I’m also pretty sure that I should probably leave the telling of police stories to those who know what they’re doing. Not that I’d rule out another visit. The truth is, I became rather fond of John Locke and wouldn’t mind spending more time in his company at some point in the future.
If you ever do get to take a look, I’d value your opinion. Tell me what works, what doesn’t and why and I’ll be a happy man. 
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll get back to writing the first person/present tense/female perspective/urban fantasy/new adult paranormal romance/Florence set novella I’ve been hammering out. I wish I could say that it’s a breeze after those police guys. I can promise you, it really isn’t.  

:: Nigel blogs at Sea Minor

GUEST BLOG: Matt Hilton

Shy Bairns Get Nowt by Matt Hilton

I think, in a similar fashion to a number of other mid-list authors these days, I’ve become a bit of a hybrid beast when it comes to my out put. I have had the support of various traditional publishers (Hodder, Harper Collins, and Severn House) and one independent (Down and Out Books). But I’ve also self-published some of my genre fiction through my own independent arm (Sempre Vigile Press). So my books appear across various platforms, to varying degrees of success.

Because of having different publishers, it’s not uncommon for a number of my books to be published in any one year, and 2016 is no different.

Probably the most imminent, is the publication of ‘The Devil’s Anvil’ by my US publisher, Down and Out Books, this April. It is the tenth in my Joe Hunter thriller series, and this time sees Hunter trying to protect a woman from professional killers who need her in order to spring a trap for her missing husband who has stolen a bundle of money. As with all the Hunter books, all is not as it might at first seem, and Hunter is caught between various factions, with no real idea who he can and can’t trust.  
Then…after a successful ten books run with Hodder, I’m about to embark on a scary new route with my Joe Hunter thriller series. Although I have amicably split with my publisher, and a few smaller publishers were keen to pick up the reins, I have decided to bite the bullet and use my own indie publishing arm to publish the next Joe Hunter thriller. It is called ‘No Safe Place’, and this time sees Hunter in the familiar role of protector, but he also gets an opportunity to exercise his detective skills this time out. After a violent home invasion, where his mother is killed, young Cole Clayton is now under threat by hostile forces, and Hunter agrees to protect the boy. But it’s soon apparent that Andrew Clayton, Cole’s father, knows more about the killer than he’s letting on, and his silence soon places the boy in the killer’s sights. The book will be released simultaneously in hardback, paperback and ebook on 31st May 2016.

Up next will be the second in my Tess Grey and Nicolas ‘Po’ Villere series, due for publication by Severn House Publishers on 28th August 2016, and this time finds the mismatched pair hunting for a missing woman who – while trying to avoid one danger – has fallen into a worse situation. 

So…the next few months are going to be busy ones for me as I try to juggle the various dates and obligations to each of the books. But I think that of them all, it’s probably my new venture that shall bring me most work. Setting out on a independent venture can be fraught with plenty of headaches, and trying to negotiate all the different things an indie author must do simply to get their books in readers’ hands has been a huge (but mostly satisfying) learning curve. There’ll be some of you that think I must be insane to try to do it myself, and you could very well be correct. But it’s something I’ve wanted to have a go at for a while – I’ve self-published some of my other genre work, but never taking the process too seriously, just intending getting the books ‘out there’. With the ever-changing face of publishing, I hope to get on the front foot, and learn what I need to know for the future. Who knows where it will lead any of us next? 

Is indie publishing the next book in a successful series the right way to go? It’s a question I’ve asked myself numerous times, and to be honest, I don’t know the answer yet. But I won’t know the answer until I give it a try, I guess. Despite how my intro might sound, I’m not the best when it comes to marketing myself, and am a bit shy in coming forward. But one thing I’ve learned is that the old adage that ‘shy bairns get nowt’ is true. Unless I throw myself at this project, it is destined to fail. So I guess it’s time to put on my game face.

Thankfully the next Hunter won’t wholly be indie published by me. I’m only taking the UK and associated market. My US publisher – Down and Out Books – will be publishing a US edition later this year (possibly in December). The rest though, as they say, is down to me. Wish me luck.

:: Visit Matt's website at

Matt Hilton is the author of the high-octane Joe Hunter thriller series, including his most recent novels ‘The Devil’s Anvil’ – Joe Hunter 10 - published in June 2015 by Hodder and Stoughton and Blood Tracks, the first in anew series from Severn House publishers in November 2015. Joe Hunter 11 – No Safe Place - will be published by Sempre Vigile Press May 2016; Tess and Po 2 – Painted Skins - will be published by Severn House in August 2016. Matt’s first book, ‘Dead Men’s Dust’, was shortlisted for the International Thriller Writers’ Debut Book of 2009 Award, and was a Sunday Times bestseller, also being named as a ‘thriller of the year 2009’ by The Daily Telegraph. Dead Men’s Dust was also a top ten Kindle bestseller in 2013. 

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Push-Ups: Ian Ayris

Ian Ayris.
So, what you pushing right now? 
My second novel, April Skies, is released on April 7th through Caffeine Nights Publishing. It is the sequel to my debut novel – Abide with Me, carrying on the story two years later. Abide with Me received such a phenomenal response, I’ve sort of got everything crossed for April Skies. Writing a sequel, trying to meet the expectations of the readers of Abide with Me, whilst also meeting the expectations of brand new readers has been a real struggle. In the end, I just wrote it for myself. I’m really happy with it, and sort of sad I won’t be revisiting the characters again.
What’s the hook? 
Here’s the blurb for April Skies:
Sometimes, you don’t know what sort of man you are until you are called upon to protect your family.

Bethnal Green, East London. Nineteen-ninety-one. 
John Sissons is out of work, out of friends, and out of luck. Fortune soon smiles upon him, though, and he gets a job in a door factory.
It’s not much, but it’s something. 
But as the days go by in the factory, and the layers are peeled away, John realises he didn’t get this job by accident. 
His past is exploding in front of his eyes. And when you have a past like the one John has, he knows he’ll be lucky if he makes it out alive. 
Every fibre in his body is telling him to run. But John’s had a lifetime of running. Running is no longer an option. 
When his sister goes missing, John knows it’s only a matter of time before they come for him. 
But he won’t be going down without a fight. 
Not this time.
And why’s that floating your boat? 
I never planned to write a sequel to Abide with Me – even though so many readers urged me to do so. The original took so much out of me emotionally, I’d written off the prospect of ever doing it all again. But then, one day, the voice of John – the narrator of Abide with Me – entered my head once more, and began to speak. I’ve learnt over the years, that once a character inside your head begins to speak to you, as a writer, you better listen. So listen I did, although at times I really, really tried not to, and three years later, April Skies was winging it’s way to the publisher.
When did you turn to crime? 
I wrote my first ever short story way back in 2008. It began as a voice in my head coming back from Tescos. I listened, and I wrote down what the voice was telling me. It wasn’t a very pleasant voice – a bit angry and a bit sweary, you know, and somewhat psychotic. The story ended with the narrator bludgeoning someone with the bottom end of a fire extinguisher. Lovely, I thought. Not knowing what do with the story, I posted it on a website, completely unaware of how the publishing industry worked, and was fortunate enough to have the story picked up by Byker Books, and published in their inaugural Radgepacket series. I’ve since had about forty short stories published online and in print, as well as a novella – One Day in the Life of Jason Dean – originally published by Byker Books, now published by the brilliant Near to the Knuckle. 
Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary? 
I’m pretty much a traditional sort when it comes to my reading. Stuck in the 19th century, mostly. But I love the old hardboiled stuff. One of the best Christmas presents I ever got was last year from my girlfriend. She bought me the complete set of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett in old fifties paperbacks. Much as I love the old gumshoes, I am more naturally drawn to the downtrodden and the dispossessed – those just trying to get through a day the best they can. Which is why Runyon, Higgins, Goodis, and James M. Cain probably come out on top for me.
And, what’s blown you away lately? 
Just finished reading Tony Schumacher’s The Darkest Hour, and absolutely loved it. Currently getting stuck into Ways to Die in Glasgow, by Jay Stringer. Another fantastic book. First met Tony and Jay at the Theakston’s Crime Festival at Harrogate a couple of years back. Top blokes. Real privilege to know so many great authors in person – gives a real different dimension to reading their books.
Apart from the books I’ve already mentioned by Tony Schumacher and Jay Stringer, I re-read Maggie – a girl from the streets by Stephen Crane recently. Always blows me away, that does. Crane’s been dead over a hundred years now, so he’s unlikely to be at Harrogate this year. I’ll keep looking, though.
See any books as movies waiting to happen? 
Every book I read, and everything I write, I see as a film inside my head whilst in the process of reading or writing them. Would love to see Nick Quantrill’s Joe Geraghty books on the telly, mind.
Mainstream or indie - paper or digital? 
I tend to read more indie stuff, as that is the world I sort of inhabit. In terms of mainstream, like I said, I love the classics – Dickens, Dostoyevsky, even Jane Austen and the Brontes. It’s all fair game. As for the paper/digital thing? My first love is paper, and all my old hardback/paperback classics. But as I get older, and my eyes become old and bent, I am using the old Kindle more and more. I deplore fundamentalism in all its guises. There is always room for difference in this world.
Shout us a website worth visiting … Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
Apart from my own website – - Paul Brazill runs a fantastic website for all your Brit Grit and International Noir needs over at and the Near to the Knuckle website at is brilliant too.
Any old shit . . . well, I currently teach novel writing on an Arts Council funded project for Barking and Dagenham council, I am a qualified counsellor and I live with my lovely girlfriend, Karen, and my three lovely children – Mollie, Charlie, and Summer - in Harold Hill, Essex. I am also a lifelong Dagenham and Redbridge supporter.

That’s about it, really . . . 

Tuesday, 9 February 2016

PUSH-UPS: Paul McGoran

So, what you pushing right now?
My first novel, Made for Murder. It's a noir odyssey that lays a trail of blood and betrayal through a brace of destination cities in the U.S.—Las   Vegas, San Francisco, Miami Beach, and Newport. 

What’s the hook? 
I've always fancied the mix of highlife and lowlife in crime fiction. The logline for Made for Murder reads: A lethal ex-con romances and marries a San Francisco socialite in a bold bid for power and prestige—but forgets to suppress his killer instinct. 

And why’s that floating your boat?
Made for Murder has a considerable history behind it, and getting it published was a long-sought  justification of my writing life. I can't tell you how many agents and publishers turned it down over the years—thirty of each, probably. I came close with a Canadian publisher shortly after I finished it, but he passed and no one else showed even a flicker of interest. I had used an alternating first person point of view with eight narrators. To me, that was natural for the story, but nobody else saw it my way. When I finally gave in and rewrote it in the third person, New Pulp Press bought it. Lucky for me, the third-person narration worked—and I was able to retain the multiple points of view.

When did you turn to crime? 
In November 2005, I participated in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month). I had always wanted to write some kind of long form fiction, and grinding out 50K words in a month showed me I could do it. Why crime? Because it's always relevant and it seemed like fun. Unlike contemporary literary fiction, which strikes me as so much stale horseshit.

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary? 
My heart's in noir, but hardboiled runs a close second. I try to see stories in cinematic terms, which comes from a lifetime's immersion in classic film noir. Made for Murder, for example, was a filmscript—until it occurred to me that I had no one to pitch it to and no prospects of going to Hollywood.  

George Pelecanos, Ace Atkins and Robert Crais are contemporary favorites of mine. My old school faves are legion, but of the ones still in the game, I'll single out Lawrence Block and Max Allan Collins.

And, what’s blown you away lately? 
A couple of movies and a book—none of them new. In 1997, Donald Westlake wrote The Ax, which I didn't read until last year. Totally knocked me over with its hook (the most lethal job search in history), and with the idea of noir thriving in the suburbs amidst everyday concerns over real estate values and the children's school work. 

Two film noirs I'm recommending to everybody who'll listen are The Outfit (1974) with Robert Duvall and Karen Black, and Tomorrow Is Another Day (1951) with Steve Cochran and Ruth Roman. The Outfit is tight and tough, while Tomorrow has a strong emotional component, something like Bonnie and Clyde meets The Grapes of Wrath.                            

See any books as movies waiting to happen?
Well, The Ax is one, for sure. And I'm hoping Quentin Tarantino gets in touch about Made for Murder. Maybe you could give him a poke.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital? 
I've never read an entire novel in digital format. Can't say I never will, but I like the feel and look of paper and glossy covers, and I like to be able to thumb back a few pages to figure out if Heather is the gal who offed her boyfriend or the one who gives great head.

As far as Indie is concerned, is there a standard definition? Are we talking about writers who self-publish and self-promote? How about a publisher with no bricks-and-mortar presence who assembles a team that puts out ebooks and POD paperbacks on a shoestring? In the latter case, I guess I'm an Indie guy—one who would rather be a mainstream author getting advances and being published in hardcover. Call me envious.

Shout us a website worth visiting. 
Hey, I'd love to see more traffic at  Comments welcome. Besides that one, I definitely recommend The Big Thrill magazine at  It's a monthly vehicle for the International Thriller Writers organization. I've contributed a couple of articles there and participated in a few of their roundtable discussions. And for fun, everybody should give a try.

… Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself .
Most important stuff first, my volume of short noir fiction, Paying for Pain (New Pulp Press), was published in December. The theme is the 'geography of noir,' and it features murder, blackmail and betrayal in four short stories and a one-hundred page novella. If that title has a familiar ring, Tony, I'm pretty sure your first novel had an influence on me when I was writing the title story in the collection.

My other big news is that my second novel, The Breastplate of Faith and Love, is under contract and should be out this spring. It continues the story of Made for Murder and introduces a series P. I. named Stafford Boyle. All this ends a long drought for me. I had given up on writing in 2010 and hadn't written a line until I rewrote Made for Murder in late 2014. Was I blocked? Fuck no. With no expectation of money or recognition, I just gave up. I'm not one of those guys who can write for his own satisfaction.

Right now, I'm about half way through my third novel, Sooner or Later, Delicate Death. It has  my P. I. going back to his old hometown to solve the murder of the bully who terrorized his childhood.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Highland Times - Class Act To Follow

Today's Highland Times column is live. Here's a few taster pars ...


A FEW years ago, when I was staying in Edinburgh, I joined a freelancers’ group. Whilst most of the folk were there to network it was primarily a social affair and on the website even went as far as offering a dress code: at least get out of your pyjamas!

It was a joke of course. And, no, I don't mean people did actually turn up in their pyjamas, though we're talking about freelancers here so presumably some did opt for the odd duvet day that could be classed as working from home.

And fair play to them if they did take the laptop to bed or balance the books at the kitchen table. Who am I to judge them any more than an office-bound colleague who objects to another’s two-day growth, Metallica T-shirt or penchant for red Kickers.

READ THE REST HERE: The Highland Times - Class Act To Follow

And, for one day only my short story anthology THE SIN BIN is also free on Amazon, worldwide. 

It's only going to be FREE for one day so snatch a copy today. 

And, please, remember to review on Amazon if you enjoyed these tales from the USA and UK.

THE SIN BIN is FREE on Amazon.

''If you haven't yet read Tony Black, you're missing out.'' - Crime Squad

For quite a few years now, as long as I've been a published author, Crime Squad has been one of the genre's leading review sites. They do a cracking job, every month, with the new releases so it's always great to see a review up there.

Crime Squad is run by Chris Simmons, who knows his stuff, and all the reviews are done by either writers in the genre or those with expert knowledge. 

Give them a try, and check out their latest review for A TASTE OF ASHES

Saturday, 23 January 2016

The Loneliness of the Long-Distance Writer


Steven Shwartz.
It started in grade school.  Obsessed with science-fiction, I scribbled short stories of astounding stupidity.  In high school I wrote for the literary magazine.  Later on I did one-act plays with my pal Kevin.  Other efforts included poetry and book and film reviews for suburban newspaper chains.  In college Kevin and I commandeered the school newspaper and wrote scatological poems and essays on Henry Miller and Jean Genet.  This led to our expulsion.  During this time and for decades afterwards I wanted to do something more substantial but life always seemed to get in the way.  It wasn’t until I was living in Arizona that the proper jolt was delivered.  This boost came from my newly found friend Barry Graham.  The noted Scottish author and Zen monk found my attempt at porn parody, “Sin-ema” to be in need of publication.  At his urging we formatted it and put it out.  Not wanting to be tainted by what I considered nonsense, I used a pen name, Steve Shadow.  I am now stuck with this name.
By the time this attempt at filthy teen-age humor came out I was in my 70’s.  Perhaps in a frenzy to do what I had not done when I was younger, I set out and wrote 8 more books in 3 years.  Lacking computer skills and any commercial sense, I had to rely on others for cover art and formatting.  Also being a stubborn fool, I only have one friend as a reader and grammar guru.  Scott McDonald, author of “Crossing the Blood Line” and a fine artist has proven a true friend.  For my last book he acted as both formatter and cover artist.  Prior to his involvement I was lucky enough to have the noted French graphic artist Vince Larue, do my covers.
Not wanting to wait for an agent or a book deal or to endure the endless rounds of uncertainty of traditional publishing, I followed the advice of Barry Graham and self-published.  This brings total control and almost instant gratification.  It also brings the burden of being ones own editor and a total lack of any promotion.  But those of you who write know all too well that it is an addiction without any cure.  While I do have a small local following I find that getting beyond this small group of readers is difficult.
I have received advice in terms of branding, etc.  As someone who writes for my own pleasure, I am glad not to be bound to any one genre.  This probably spells commercial failure but I am bound only by my imagination and ideas.  Thus I have some crime, some comedy, two short story collections, a western and a lot of unclassifiable scribbles.
These past three years have been an adventure and an object lesson in perseverance. It is never too late to begin a new adventure and to realize ones dreams.  I have drawn hugely from my own life.  I was lucky enough to have been born and raised in Chicago.  During my time there I was involved in everything from the political elite to the mafia sub-culture to show business to rock and roll.  This rich stew of life experience has provided me with endless material.  I write what comes to me and hopefully provide something for every taste.  I only wish I could do what Tony Black does but I am stuck with me.  Check out my titles on Amazon and maybe you will find something that resonates.  I am also in the new graphic collection called “southwest noir”.
I would also like to say that while writing is a lonely occupation when one does come in contact with other writers the kinship is palpable.  Writers, and especially crime writers, have proven to be the most generous, likable and fun loving bunch.  Even I, a loner by nature, have found nothing but fine and supportive people amongst the many writers I have met.

:: Steve Shadow is the pen name of Steven Schwartz.  He resides in Arizona where he pounds away at his old terminal.  You can reach him for questions, complaints, etc at and follow him at

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Tuesday, 12 January 2016

The Highland Times - Start of the School Daze

The Highland Times - Start of the School Daze

News, innit ...

Couple of bits of news to confirm. First off, I've signed on with Black & White Publishing to do another DI Bob Valentine Book. Delighted about this, B&W have done a tremendous job with all my titles so far and it's always a joy to work with them. SUMMONING THE DEAD is the name of the new Bob Valentine and it's coming in the second-half of 2016.

My column at The Highland Times has been confirmed in a regular Wednesday slot - though check Tuesday night too as Editor Donnie is a wee bit over efficient sometimes.

I've just put out a new Noir short called STONE GINGER. It's set in London this time and it's the first piece of short fiction I've managed to do for quite a wee while. Mega chuffed with it, might even bring Minty back for a longer run one of these days. You can find out more on Amazon, and pick up Stone Ginger for the measly sum of £0.99.

And, finally, The Arran Banner covered a little talk I gave to the Shiskine Book Club who have been reading my new DI Bob Valentine, A Taste of Ashes.

:: I did a lengthy interview over at Author Interviews. 

:: You can read my tribute to the much-missed Godfather of Tartan Noir, William McIlvanney at The Highland Times.