Sunday, 24 July 2016

PUSH-UPS: Lesley Kelly

Sandstone's Lesley Kelly.
So, what you pushing right now?
I’ve got some Tartan Noir for your delight and delectation!  A Fine House in Trinity is a contemporary crime novel, set in the Leith and Trinity areas of Edinburgh.

What’s the hook?
Joseph Staines left town with a stolen tallybook, but two suspicious deaths and a surprise inheritance have lured him back home to Edinburgh.  No-one is pleased to see him.  The debtors want him gone.  The Police have some questions for him.  And a mysterious stranger has been asking about him down the pub. To survive Staines has to sober up, solve the murders, and stay one step ahead of the man who wants him dead.

And why’s that floating your boat?
Trinity, where I live, is full of big, old houses rumoured to have secret rooms, which were used either to avoid the press gang or to hide goods from the Revenues men in days of yore.   There are also whispers about hidden tunnels that led down to the shore to aid and abet local smugglers.  Frankly, the area was just crying out to be the setting for a crime novel.

When did you turn to crime?
It’s been a year or two now.  A Fine House started out as an entry for the Scotsman’s short story competition, celebrating 25 years of Rebus.  I won the comp, and have stuck with a life of crime (writing).

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?
Like a bit of them all, so long as there is a big dose of wit between the covers. I do like a protagonist with a snappy line in banter.

And, what’s blown you away lately?
I recently discovered the works of Yrsa Sigursdottir.  She’s quite annoyingly good.

See any books as movies waiting to happen?
Just finished Black-Eyed Susans by Julia Heaberlin.  Somebody must be planning to film it, possibly with a world-weary Winona Ryder as the main character.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
I always said that I would never get a Kindle, but after a ten-day walking holiday I’m beginning to think there might be a place for one in my rucksack.

Shout us a website worth visiting …
If you are looking for a good way to kill someone, check out Thrillwriting: Helping Writers Write it Right http://thrillwriting.blogspot.co.uk/ 

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
I had a brief stint as a stand up comedian in the mid-Noughties.  There’s less heckling in literature.



PUSHER VERDICT: A Fine House in Trinity

Plush Trinity isn't the usual haunt of a sometime resident of the east end of Edinburgh so the thought of picking up a book titled A Fine House in Trinity is a a bit of an odd choice. But after browsing a couple of pages in Waterstone's I was intrigued enough to want to read on.

At a guess, it was something about the style which attracted me. This isn't your normal crime novel; it's an edgy, witty read. Try this on for size, I think it proves my point, and the previous one:

Trinity's that kind of place; if you farted round there they'd be on the phone to the Council worrying about the impact on the ozone layer.

The author, a former stand-up comic who also dabbled in poetry, has created a style of writing that's a million miles away from the norm and the book stands out because of it.

The story moves along at a fair clip, too, delivering just the necessary substance the committed crime reader demands. A very fine addition to the Tartan Noir pack.


:: Buy A Fine House in Trinity on Amazon UK.



Wednesday, 20 July 2016

PUSH-UPS: Paul D. Brazill

Paul D. Brazill.
So, what you pushing right now?

What’s the hook?
A killer priest is on the rampage across London and an egotistical Hollywood action movie star is out for revenge when is his precious comic book collection is stolen. Meanwhile, gangster Marty Cook's dreams of going legit swiftly turn pear shaped when one of his bouncers accidentally kills one of his salsa club's regular customers. Razor sharp wisecracks, gaudy characters and even gaudier situations abound in Cold London Blues, a violent and pitch-black Brit Grit comedy of errors.’

And why’s that floating your boat?
It’s the follow up to my first book with Caffeine Nights Publishing, Guns Of Brixton. GOB was much more of an out and out farce - a couple of the characters were based on actors in the Carry On Films … with CLB I wanted to do something darker but also funnier. Equally absurd, of course. GOB was framed by The Clash’s songs and CLB uses Vic Godard’s songs.

When did you turn to crime?
I’d always liked crime films like The Godfather, Taxi Driver, Double Indemnity and Get Carter, for example, but when the splendid Charles Shaar Murray interviewed Elmore Leonard for the NME in the ‘70s, it was a revelation. Thanks to Hartlepool library, Swag and Stick were a great double bill. Here was writing that was both realistic and expressionistic, funny and dark, familiar and alien. After that Jim Thompson whose books were 35p in Woolworths at some point. 

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary? 
Well, I’ve peddled the line that crime fiction is about bringing order from chaos and noir is about bringing chaos to order and I’m definitely drawn to the chaotic. But I’m open to read anything. If I enjoy it then I do! 

And, what’s blown you away lately?
There is a lot of good stuff about but Ian Ayris’ April Skies, Nigel Bird’s The Shallows, and Quentin Bates’ Thin Ice. All are very much character driven novels and with a lot of heart in that Brit Grit.  

See any books as movies waiting to happen?
Telly is a better venue for crime writers, I think,  and Lesley Welsh’s Truth Lies Buried would make a great TV mini-series, as would Vincent Zandri’s Orchard Grove, although with very, very different approaches. 

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
All of the above to read but my stuff is surely and decidedly indie. 

Shout us a website worth visiting …
Paul Thompson’s British 60s Cinema is a rabbit hole well worth getting lost down.
Here’s the SP:
‘This website will celebrate the vitality and variety of British cinema in the 1960s (whilst straying back into the 1950s and on into the 1970s, and sometimes just covering interesting British films from any era). In general I have taken the definition of the 1960s from Dominic Sandbrook’s ‘Never had it so good’, which starts the era in 1956, and goes through to summer 1970. In cinematic terms, this is about right – although Room at the Top wasn’t released until 1959, the literary impetus for such films goes back a few years – and the early 1970s films such as A Clockwork Orange, Villain and of course Get Carter feel very different again.’

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
When I was in the band Halcyon Days, I was told off by the management of Black Cats club is Stockton for telling a dirty joke on stage. The act the night before had been Roy ‘Chubby’ Brown.



Paul D. Brazill
 is the author of The Last Laugh, Guns Of Brixton, Cold London Blues, and Kill Me Quick! He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, German and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime. He has even edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit – with Luca Veste. His blog is here.

Monday, 18 July 2016

PUSH-UPS: Shari Low

Shari Low.
So, what you pushing right now? 
The Story Of Our Life. It’s a relationship drama, told in a dual narrative, with one strand following Colm and Shauna from the moment they met, while the other, in the present day, reveals that their lives have just been dealt a devastating blow that has every chance of derailing their future. 

What’s the hook? 
Can a lifetime of love survive anything life throws at it? And can mitigating circumstances ever excuse betrayal and infidelity? Right at the outset, Shauna reveals that her husband has slept with someone else – but as we look back at what led to that point, can we find any compassion or understanding for his actions? 

And why’s that floating your boat? 
Because I’m obsessed with flaws and imperfections – in people, in relationships and in life. It seems to me that we’re all just one mistake away from detonating a catastrophic crapstorm in our own lives. Then there’s the other stuff, the disasters and misfortunes that we can’t control. I wanted to look at how the networks we build and the bonds that we form can endure that kind of unpredictability and turbulence. But it’s not all darkness and despair – there are some laughs in there too. More than anything I’ve written, I think this is the closest to real life in all its messed-up complexities.  

When did you start writing?
I didn’t pen a word of fiction until I was 30, when I decide to give that long-held ambition to be a writer a shot. Seventeen books later, no-one’s told me to stop yet, so I’m still two-finger typing.

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary?  
As a reader, all of the above. As a writer, there were strong elements of contemporary crime in the novels I wrote under a couple of my pseudonyms: Ronni Cooper and Shari King (the latter with writing partner, Ross King). 

And, what’s blown you away lately? 
I’ve just finished Irvine Welsh’s The Blade Artist. Hardcore, twisted and, I think, the most cinematic of all Welsh’s works. If there’s a God of Semi-Retired, Homicidal Psychopaths, his next act of duty should be to put this one on the screen. 

See any books as movies waiting to happen?
Ah, see above. And I’ll never stop hoping that some movie mogul with a bit of imagination sees that James Clavell’s Tai Pan would make a cinematic epic.

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
Again, all of the above. My only gripe is that in the digital age, you can’t look around and see what others are reading. That’s one of my favourite opportunities for curiosity and rash judgement lost forever…

Shout us a website worth visiting … 
I’d love to come up with something super-cool and erudite, but as a travel-junkie, my most-visited website is tripadvisor.co.uk 

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
I’m a near-50 year old woman who is basketball-obsessed (watching it, not playing – my knees couldn’t cope). I know, random, right? In my defense, both my sons play for Scotland, but that aside, I only have to conjure up memories of those old ladies going berserk at the ringside of 70’s wrestling bouts to see a snapshot of my future. 

:: Visit Shari's website at: http://www.sharilow.com

Tuesday, 21 June 2016

PUSH-UPS: u.v.ray

So, what you pushing right now?

Black Cradle. It's another of my drug-fuelled stories set around the bars and nightclubs of mid-eighties Birmingham. It's a book that people with a dose of Aspergers in them might understand. The coldness, the isolation. Seeing everyone moving around you but feeling no connection with any of them. You're only observing events. Black Cradle is how life feels to someone who cannot find love, cannot unearth the feelings buried deep inside them, and life becomes like staring at a blank television screen.  

What’s the hook?

Billy Zero walks out of hospital after trying to kill himself at the age of 23. The story backtracks the series of brutal events, fused with the grim omens of his childhood that led to his suicide attempt.  

And why’s that floating your boat?

It doesn't float my boat at all. Although there's fiction in it, the book, like all my stories so far, is a visceral and demented autobiographical document. I am an outsider. I was an outsider from the start. I write for 3 things: to be accepted, to be understood, to be loved. But when the oyster opens up the crab takes its meat. It's the same being a writer. You open yourself up and the world takes its pound of flesh and each time you open up you become weaker and weaker. But you can't do anything else; much like the oyster, you open up by nature. 

When did you turn to crime?

Oh, I've been arrested a few times. I did see in the papers once a report damning the cells in Birmingham's Steelhouse Lane police station.  I have to disagree. I mean, credit where it's due; I found them to be amongst the most comfortable police cells I've ever been in!  Though I would describe Black Cradle as more of a Noir aesthetic. But there isn't much separation between my life and the book. There's no plot-line. I am essentially a memoirist, that's why all my stories are ugly at times. I've lived an ugly life and I'm not here to entertain people, I'm here to tell them the truth about the world I have seen and lived in. What I write is never going to be marketed by mainstream publishing houses -- it has to be slipped in via the back alley. u.v.ray is a brand name but it's not a brand that wants to teach the world to sing like Coca-Cola. My intention was always to write blistering, raw stories that are like 2 minute punk songs. I thought people might like them but I suppose no one likes looking at their own dirty laundry. 

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary? 

Contemporary Noir. Hard as it gets. Derek Raymond's Factory series of books are pretty hard-core. 

And, what’s blown you away lately?

Blown away is a high bar. But I really enjoyed Tyler Keevil's Fireball. And Arthur Nersesian's The Fuck-Up. Two very entertaining books. Such books provide me with a respite from my own work and neurosis. 

See any books as movies waiting to happen?

I wish someone would make a good film of Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero. Great work of modern literature but no one has made a worthy film adaption yet. And Chuck Palahniuk's Survivor should be made into one. 

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?

Indie. Paper. Obviously.  

Shout us a website worth visiting …

I don't know. Get yourself down the boozer, for Christ's sake. 

Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …

I started drinking at the age of 8. My parents sold me off to a travelling circus where I gained employment  in a drinking booth. A little bit like the old circus boxing booths where anyone out the crowd can challenge you to a contest. I was billed as Ursulas Raymondo -- the Marvellous Drinking Child.



:: Visit u.v.ray's website at: www.uvray.moonfruit.com

:: Black Cradle by u.v.ray is available on Amazon UK and Amazon.com  

:: Or direct from Murder Slim Press: www.murderslim.com

Monday, 30 May 2016

PUSH-UPS: Julie Morrigan

So, what you pushing right now?

Cutter’s Fall, the final novella in a three-part north-east gangster series. (I think the last time I was here I was pushing Cutter’s Deal, which was book one.) It’s an extremely violent, sweary tale, with high stakes and an even higher body count.

I’ve also put out the combined Cutter Trilogy, and I’m currently pulling together a paperback edition, which will be out soon.


What’s the hook?

Gordon Cutter is a monster. He doesn’t care who he hurts – or destroys – just so long as he gets his own way. He’s relentless, cruel, and violent, but he’s also supremely arrogant, and that’s his Achilles’ heel.

The Armstrong family have been brutalised by Cutter and his gang, and young Jack wants revenge. Cutter damages everyone he comes into contact with, then just moves on without giving them a second thought, but in this final part of the Cutter story, even the untouchable crime boss learns that actions have consequences as his past actions threaten to catch up with him.


And why’s that floating your boat?

It’s the clash between the little people – normal, everyday folk who just want to get on with their lives – and the big, scary ones who will do anything to gain power … and to hold on to that power once they have it.

I try to balance things out by finding room for a bit of dark humour in amongst all the torture and murder – whether it’s Dennis on his allotment who disposes of the bodies and feeds the victims’ blood to his award-winning tomatoes, or the local reality TV stars who make the mistake of crossing Cutter (to the cost of their dental veneers and breast implants), or Cutter’s wife, who with her orange tan and duck face selfies is starting to look like ‘a world shortage of fake tan has been announced and she’s taken the news badly’. I think that light and shade is important.


When did you turn to crime?

As a reader, long ago – I started out with Nancy Drew, the Hardy Boys, the Famous Five and the Three Investigators, and just kept going, right through to Ian Rankin, Mo Hayder and beyond.

Knowing that, it probably comes as no surprise that when I started writing fiction, it was crime that I tended towards. The first stories I sold were published in Bullet magazine, and my first novel was about a missing child.


Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary? 

As a reader, as long as the story keeps me hooked, I don’t really give too much thought to genres, subgenres or style. A good plot, interesting characters, high stakes, conflict and drama … those are the things that capture my interest and keep me reading.

As a writer my most successful books and short stories have been at the more brutal end of the noir crime spectrum, but other stuff I’ve written has veered into police procedural, occult horror, science fiction and even magical realism.


And, what’s blown you away lately?

I really enjoyed Jeremy Bates’ Suicide Forest. It’s one of a series of stories set in real locations, and this one is set in Aokigahara, just outside of Tokyo. It’s arguably the most famous suicide location in the world.


See any books as movies waiting to happen?

I recently read While My Eyes Were Closed, by Linda Green. I think that would make a good film – there’s some nice imagery in it alongside the high-stakes drama.


Mainstream or indie – paper or digital?

Again, as a reader I don’t care about the format or the source so much as the story. If it’s entertaining, then it’s all good. As a writer I appreciate the speed and ease with which an ebook can be published and immediately made available to readers, compared to traditional print publishing – and I say that from the perspective of someone who worked for years with a traditional publisher as a non-fiction author.

While it may take months or even years to write, rewrite, edit and polish a book to publishable standard, the actual process of publishing now is so much more streamlined and accessible. Needless to say, I’m a big advocate of indie and self-publishing. It’s not right for everyone, but I’m grateful for the opportunities that I’ve been afforded by the rise of digital self-publishing.


Shout us a website worth visiting …

Well, for anyone with too much time on their hands, there’s this: http://www.websudoku.com/. Beware, though – those evil puzzles are addictive!


Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …


I used to be a Sunday school teacher. Hard to believe (even for me) and yet it’s true.




:: Visit Julie's website at: http://www.juliemorrigan.co.uk


Wednesday, 25 May 2016

GUEST BLOG: Andrez Bergen

BLACK SAILS, DISCO INFERNO: EVERYTHING OLD BEING (RELATIVELY) NEW

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: http://nickquantrill.co.uk   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- douglasskelton.com? Sorry again. Everyone hates a pushy author (but that was douglasskelton.com). 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: www.douglasskelton.com  Buy Open Wounds on Amazon UK

Thursday, 28 April 2016

Snow. I Shit You Not.

Signing in Dundee Waterstone's.
Snow.

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