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.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Valentine thriller with "gut-twisting suspense"

Bit of a run in the Daily Record recently for A TASTE OF ASHES, which the paper says "delivers harrowing deeds, gut-twisting suspense and paranormal chills".

Well that sounds about right, at least it's what I was aiming for.

:: DI Bob Valentine (Book 1) ARTEFACTS OF THE DEAD is going cheap right now at: £0.78

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Media pimpage for A TASTE OF ASHES

Me - being a jakey in the Auld Toon.
A TASTE OF ASHES continues its media spree with a bunch of reviews and articles in the press of late.

First off was a fine piece in the Ayrshire Post, later pasted onto The Daily Record website in full. I nipped back to the Auld Toon for this interview, and posed as a rather convincing jakey for renowned snapper Alister Firth in the pic, left.

The Big Issue selected their Top 5 whodunnits this week and parachuted A TASTE OF ASHES into the No.2 slot. Not bad considering Gone Girl was No.3 and The Silence of the Lambs No.4!

And The Sunday Post featured a piece about my visits to Arran - the setting for the climax of A TASTE OF ASHES - on Sunday, like they do. 

:: A TASTE OF ASHES is still going for under a quid on Amazon right now.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

PUSH-UPS: Will Viharo

Will Viharo.
So, what you pushing right now?
My all-new detective novel, Hard-boiled Heart.

What’s the hook?
It’s my first Vic Valentine novel in 20 years, inspired by my real life experiences with Christian Slater and his option since 2001 of the first Vic Valentine novel Love Stories Are Too Violent For Me, first published by Wild Card Press in 1995, reissued by Gutter Books (which is publishing Hard-boiled Heart) in 2013. The four sequels in between were all written back to back circa 1994-1995, when I was being actively courted by celebrity New York editor Judith Regan, who later unceremoniously dumped me without explanation: Fate Is My Pimp, Romance Takes a Rain Check, I Lost My Heart in Hollywood, and Diary of a Dick, all eventually self published in “double bills” in 2011, and collected into a single omnibus called The Vic Valentine Classic Case Files to be published soon by Double Life Press, which also released The Thrillville Pulp Fiction Collection, Volumes 1-3, earlier this year.

And why’s that floating your boat?
Basically as a matter of personal pride and triumph, since I was suffering from severe depression when I wrote Hard-boiled Heart, and it was my proactive reaction to a series of setbacks, including the loss of several full time jobs in a row, but mainly the abrupt and unexpected collapse of the movie deal after coming so close I could touch and taste it. Christian actually flew me out to Miami in 2012 for location scouting, and I rewrote his adaptation. I had a contract and everything. I was on the verge of being a successful screenwriter, which would boost the appeal of my novels. Now I’m a dog walker in Seattle. I love animals so it’s my favorite non-writing gig, probably ever, since I’ve made money doing everything from bussing tables to delivering blood and bodily fluids to hospitals to working as a hotel/bookstore/video store clerk to programming a popular movie theater to booking bands and burlesque acts to bouncing in a tiki bar. I’m not really complaining, though this epic near-miss often makes me feel pretty blue, like my ship has sailed without me for the final time. At least I got a good book out of it, I think. In fact, I consider Hard-boiled Heart among my best (my personal favorite remains A Mermaid Drowns in the Midnight Lounge, with Chumpy Walnut coming in a sentimental second), and considering the challenging circumstances that inspired and engulfed it – even though I’d been planning on a sixth and final Vic Valentine novel for years – it’s a miracle it even exists. 

When did you turn to crime?
Decades ago, late ‘80s when I discovered the Black Lizard reprints of the great pulp guys By then I was getting tired of relatively mundane “literary” fiction and realized I could relate much more to the low class, low budget milieu of criminals, even though I didn’t have the balls to become one myself, though I’ve had my moments, which naturally I can’t share publicly. I have too strong a sense of morality to ever hurt anyone, though, even for the sake of my own survival. But as someone who has struggled to survive via crappy odd jobs since I was 16, I can understand the temptation to say fuck it and just steal shit for a living. Mainly I’m drawn to the desperate and often poetic voices of crime fiction, more so than the plots, which are mostly interchangeable. 

Hardboiled or Noir, classic or contemporary? 
There are so many amazing authors working in the field of crime fiction today that my contributions feel extraneous and unworthy. Joe Clifford, Tom Pitts, Mike Monson, T. Fox Dunham, Greg Barth, Rob Pierce, Danny Gardner, Kurt Reichenbaugh, Max Booth III, Josh Stalling, Michael Pool, Les Edgerton…the list is almost literally endless. It’s really intimidating and overwhelming. There is essentially a glut of great talent in that field. In fact, I doubt my next book will be a crime novel, probably magical realism. I never identified as a “crime writer” per se, anyway. Most of my stuff is hybrid pulp noir-horror-sci-fi, more in the idiosyncratic vein of David Lynch than in the established tradition of Dashiell Hammett. As for the classics, the usual suspects still inspire me, like Raymond Chandler, Charles Willeford, Jim Thompson, and David Goodis, along with more contemporary guys like Barry Gifford, Paul Auster, Richard Price, James Lee Burke, and Walter Mosley. 

And, what’s blown you away lately?
Mostly incredibly well-written/shot/acted TV shows like The Walking Dead, Fargo, Ash vs. Evil Dead, The Leftovers, Mr. Robot, Masters of Sex, and Archer. I already really miss Mad Men. Really looking forward to the reboots of Twin Peaks and The X-Files, too, since those are two of my all-time favorite series. TV is the new cinema, though I still watch two movies a night on average, from my vast DVD/Blu Ray collection. Movies remain my biggest influence as a fiction writer, which is why my books are so cinematic. 

See any books as movies waiting to happen?
Yeah, mine. My long delayed movie deal with Christian Slater remains on “indefinite hiatus.” Other than that, it’s hard for me to care, frankly. 

Mainstream or indie - paper or digital?
I can’t relate much to most modern pop culture, particularly fashion and music (I’m a jazz cat, though I dig all types of music depending on my mood, except rap and country). As I’ve said many times, when it comes to contemporary society and me, it’s a case of mutual apathy. There are major exceptions in the fields of television and literature, as I’ve mentioned, both of which are enjoying golden eras. As for format, I think both have their advantages – print is more aesthetically pleasing, digital frankly more convenient. No reason they can’t peacefully co-exist. 

Shout us a website worth visiting …  - once the virtual headquarters for my long running live “cult movie cabaret,” now the online home base for my pulp fiction.

Cover art:
Finally, tell us any old shit about yourself …
I’m a very happy and lucky husband (my wife Monica is in her second year of the PhD program at the University of Washington’s School of Drama), passionate cat daddy, devoted dog walker, grindhouse cinema fiend, pulp fiction pimp, tiki lounge lizard, and serenely content Seattleite. I moved to the Emerald City from the Bay Area a year and half ago to escape the incessant heat and drought, plus, since I was raised in New Jersey, I’ve always missed the change of the seasons, particularly autumn. I’ve always hated the sun (as does my wife, luckily) and while I’ve ironically endured back to back record hot summers since our relocation, overall Seattle is my cool, green, and gray progressive paradise on Earth – culturally, atmospherically, politically, and aesthetically, it’s the city of my soul. Much like the Bay Area, only colder with more rain. I’ve found inner and outer peace at least. I still want that fucking movie to get made some day, though. Cheers.

:: Buy Will's books on Amazon

Wednesday, 28 October 2015


John Shepphird.
By John Shepphird 
As a crime writer, the theme in all of my fiction boils down to "deception." As director of low budget TV movies (25 year career in Hollywood) I've seen plenty of blind ambition. That's the inherent flaw in my character Jane Innes. The blemish sets her on her dark and twisted journey. 
KILL THE SHILL is part #2 of a trilogy from Down & Out Books (part #1 THE SHILL).     

Set in L.A., Jane is seduced by a handsome new arrival in her acting class, Cooper makes a proposition. He admits he’s a con man and needs Jane to pose as a rich, carefree heiress to fulfill her part in his intricate scam.

All goes as planned until the scam explodes in bloody violence. Discarded, sacrificed like a pawn, Jane is left holding the bag. The swindlers left a murderous trail and millions of dollars are missing. But Jane knows too much -- a liability they can’t afford to keep around. But the con artists underestimated the actress. They miscalculated Jane's tenacity and will-to-survive. Her plan is to use their own weapon, the “art of deception,” against them. Facing insurmountable odds Jane sets out to settle the score with fierce determination, and a few tricks up her sleeve.

Inspired by George Bernard Shaw's PYGMALION (and the raw crime fiction of noir master James M. Cain) THE SHILL trilogy is a caper, a love story, and a tale of deception.

I've been an amateur magician since I was gifted my first magic set at nine years old. I've studied the craft over the years and have come to the conclusion that great magic, jokes, and narratives share both unpredictability and twists. Not everything is at it appears, and it shouldn't be. So pour yourself a beverage, sit back, and enjoy the series -- THE SHILL, KILL THE SHILL, and coming soon BEWARE THE SHILL.

A big thanks to the talented and prolific author Tony Black for allowing me to guest blog on his site.  Cheers! 

:: John Shepphird is a Shamus Award winning author and consummate ne'er-do-well. To learn more about his work visit

Friday, 23 October 2015

GUEST BLOG: Jimmy Vargas on Striptease in Noir

Jimmy Vargas.
Striptease in Noir by Jimmy Vargas

Usher the word on your tongue like a forbidden invocation.

Strrrrriiiiiiippppppp......An morticious and torturous peel of skin.  

Teeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaasssssse...A viper bite, that delights with its poisonous invective, hitting the blood stream invoking one's Kundalini to shimmy.

Noir......A Dark, Holy, Moist Underworld. A catacomb where both crucifixion of flesh and psyche unfolds.

The three words are married by their psychic power and primal etymology.

This is my religion.

This is my culture.

This is my Heroin.

The great literalist H.L. Mencken of that famed 1930's New York salon of the Algonquin, defined the striptease as a 'A delicious terror'.

His term, is the template on which my new novel STRIPTEASE IN NOIR has been chiselled.

But it is more.

Striptease is an erotic and gnostic sacrament in which over twenty five years I have had the privelege to enact as low priest / entertainer in both the exotic and jazz entertainment industry. (I having always utilised an ecdysiast to act as muse / interpretor of all my songs I have crafted with my two combos: the crime jazz noir'd BLACK DAHLIAS with Liliana Scarlatta and the cocktail fused collective BLACK LIST with Mia Mortal).

Yet the art of the striptease in my narratives transcend the mere gaudy sporting of undulating serpentine flesh.

It is the invocation of woman's divine mystery.

A striptease can be an act of melancholic grief of a woman's loss and exposing of vulnerability.

It is an ritual of the ripping away of her own consciousness, to a greater dance with her darker psyche.

The fan dance, too, can be considered as a ceremony of the diabla godess Lilith, earth damned, who vainly flares her wings dying to raise herself to fly from the spoiled soil that her feet are not deigned to touch. 

An Exotic's lascivious immersion in an giant perspex cocktail glass, can be celebrated as a godess' self baptism. 
The striptease is an arcane rite birthed from the loins of the ancient temple dancers of Abysynnia.

She healed, she resurrected, she cursed.

Within the power (hermetical not political) of a woman's striptease declares a dance of eros and damnation to an underworld, that drags the male voyeur beyond the belly of La Urban-noir, into the psychic terror of not merely his own physical death but his potential soul extinction.

For woman's spiritual dna = psyche / underworld.

In my novel STRIPTEASE IN NOIR out now on New York publishers BEAR MANOR press, I run through the forgotten veil of nineteen Forties Lost Angeles. 

Mine is not a Hollywood hallmark postcard of a star riddled premiere at Graumanns Chinese, nor an hokey sepia vintage sponsored by Coca Cola, but a taxi dance through a crude brittle and bawdy neighbourhood.

Mine is the sordid vale of the cribs of Fifth and main, execution tanks in San Pedro warehouses, the front row throne in a downtown grindhouse, with the fug of desperate lust hanging like halitosis, sneering red velvet curtains with their labial denial, the stonk of poor boy tokay, Surrender Parfum, and the ubiquitous milk bottles placed strategically between the teeth of skid Joe's frustrated zippers, as Miss Strip sashays, towering on the catwalk above, offering bleak seduction, without copulation or tenderness. 

Got the vision?

Well now dig the subtitles: 

An ecdysiast, one Maya Lilitha, arriving out of TJ, becomes burley queen-headliner of a downtown Los Angeles grind-house. Her powerful ritual of pagan deshabille, draws in crime czar (Bugsy Siegel), a new age messiah, Avak Argopian, and a crooner / low priest Jay in a 'erotic roulette de noir'. Her affect on all three is charismatical and ends cataclysmical. 

The novel is not a tract of striptease as a flag for feminism empowerment, unlike the naive mantra heralded by the 'neo- burlesque' practitioners here on the West Coast, but returns the 'strip' back to its original gnostic roots.  Maya's tussle with the new messiah, may appear to be a set up that is going to play out like Salome and St John the B, yet there are other occult blinds. Where the ancient temptress Salome's strip and the decapitation of the prophets head, was a symbol of the destruction of the 'capo' of the new patriachal religion Christianity that was destroying the Godess worship cults, Maya's mid 20th century battle with her nemesis is more atomic in nature as forthcoming sequels in the S.I.N. series will reveal.

But enough of the girls already, as they don't say in burleycue.

Bring on the Guns!!!!

For birthing from all unrestrained female eroticism is the ministry of male violence.

And a number of other side characters from LA legend make their appearance. The overweight and unfortunately overlooked Jack Dragna, crime king of L.A.s Mickey mouse mafia makes a brief entrance and triumphant exit , alongside the vicious thug / Matinee idol Benjamin Bugsy Siegel.

The link between crime and religious charismaticism is very strong, particularly in the rackets of Los Angeles noir. Blood is not shed in the name of Jesus Christ but the illusory nature of redemption offered by a bulging pimp roll.

Heroin, Dead Sea Scrolls, and the Armenian Apostolic Church, all serve as foot-stools for the ascending Maya's dominatione heels. 

Los Angeles may well be the City of the Angels.

But this winged creature is not Gabriel's tribe.

She is a custodians of an L.A. which is little more than an slipstreamed dyna-flow Gehenna.

Simonized in sin.

And it is here in this scratch-house that you may well find salvation in a G string and redemption in a Stripper's veil.

Not the sort of resurrection however, offered every Sunday at St. Vibiana's over on Second Street.

:: Buy Striptease in Noir from Amazon

:: More from Jimmy Vargas at: and