The joy of books.

'Real' books.

‘Real’ books.

Writer’s diary: 12.06.2014

Life can throw up some surprises. Last Saturday I commented on Facebook that I’d just read The Old Man and the Sea again. (I read it on my kindle.) It’s one of my favourite books by an author who I enjoy reading.

Later that afternoon I went into Kadikoy, the big town down the road from me. I felt like a change of scene and a beer and something to eat out. Oh, and I needed a haircut.

So I had the haircut (no dog story this time) and thought I’d mooch about the back streets a bit. There are a few second hand bookshops round there. I found one I hadn’t been in before and asked in my broken Turkish if he had any English books – ‘Ingilizce kitap, varma?’

The man was very friendly and led me over to a bookcase of moth eaten paperbacks. I had a look anyway. I was there and I’ve learnt never to judge a bookcase full of second hand books by the first spine you see.

I found two great books. One was a superb copy of The Old Man and the Sea. Really. Hardback, dust-jacket, fine condition, not price clipped, tight copy.

Now, I’m a book collector. I collect first editions. And when I saw the unfaded spine of this book sticking out from the dross my heart missed a beat. Was it a first edition, first impression? No. It’s actually a much later edition. But I don’t care because it’s beautiful. And when I fan the pages under my nose I get a whiff of old musty paper. It’s a delight to hold and see and smell. I haven’t licked it yet, but I might.

I also picked up a copy of a Ross MacDonald, Lew Archer book, The Underground Man, see photo. Not read any Ross MacDonald before but I’ve heard great things about him. And this was a fortuitous acquisition for another reason.

I’m writing B&C#2. I wrote B&C#1 after a brief but intense fling with a Raymond Chandler book. Reading Chandler inspired me to have a go at first-person hard-boiled detective fiction. With Bad Sons I reckon I pulled off first-person soft-boiled detective fiction. No problem. It works for me. I’m going to read this Lew Acher and hope it will inspire me similarly with my prose for this second in the B&C series.

Actually, I already started it. The flat was empty on Sunday afternoon. I got a cold beer and flopped on the sofa for an hour with it. You cannot beat a ‘real’ book for the multi-sensory pleasure that reading can be.

Update: I finished it today. Brilliant. I have a new author to look out for.

It might be remembered that Rope Enough had a very nice review from a ‘real’ author recently. (I linked to it here a couple of weeks ago.) The lady in question asked if I’d like to do an interview for her website and, of course, I was thrilled to accept. It went live today and here is the link.

A Good Start.

A Dog's Life Final (Medium)

Writer’s diary: stardate: 11.04.2014

A Dog’s Life (R&M#4) was released last week. So far, so good. Sales have gone well. For a few days it hovered around the top twenty for the ‘British Detective’ category. (Nothing to get over-excited about. As Amazon categories go, it’s a very distant, mentally deficient, locked in the attic, bastard cousin twice removed of the ‘Police Procedural’ category.) And there’s been a ripple of benefit for the other three in the series.

Sales of my R&M Files always, every single month, without fail (to stress a point), outsell my other three books by a long way. I don’t think that the R&M Files are better than Acer or B&C. I just think that the ‘Police Procedural’ genre attracts more interest from more readers. It makes me think that if I concentrated on just churning out R&Ms I could make half-a-living. But that’s not me. I’m writing different characters in different series because I enjoy writing different characters in different series. Last night I was looking for something and I came across my ‘False Starts’ folder. I’ve got the first two or three chapters of five books that I’ve started and left to cool. I ended up reading them all (of course) and each one I finished I wanted to put everything else aside and crack on with it. They’re not bad. Really.

Amazon uploaded A Dog’s Life very quickly – it took about two hours instead of the scheduled twelve. That saw the book in the store and available for download on Monday evening. (I wanted to get it out April 1st.) After I’d wrestled the ipad off the screaming-in-protest infant when I woke up Tuesday morning I discovered to my great amazement that there was already a review! I was staggered. Since then I’ve had a few more reviews. These are from readers who have taken an interest in the series and were obviously looking out for the release of the next in it. (Once again, that makes me almost want to pinch myself. This time last year I was an absolute no one on Amazon. Now, readers are anticipating a new release. Not in their trillions, of course. JKR, I’m not, but still…) All reviews received thus far have been favourable, very kind and positive. I would like to express my sincere and heartfelt thanks to all who have downloaded a copy, thereby demonstrating their continuing support for my writing. I mean it. Thanks a lot. Readers are to writers what horse is to carriage; what butter is to bread and what Romney is to Marsh (the place, not the duo. I’m quite sure Tom could function just fine without Joy.)

I had a comment on from a reader who believed I’d made a mistake in R&M#4. In it Romney is moved to discuss his dead mother. In R&M#3, Romney told DS Marsh that his mum and dad were sunning themselves in the Algarve. It was my intention with the Algarve remark that Romney just made it up off the cuff, so to speak, to make Marsh feel a little foolish for her remarks after ‘that’ interview and to deflect further discussion of, and to slam the door shut on, an aspect of his personal life – Tom doesn’t like talking about his personal life with his subordinates (not unless he’s drunk). This is the way I saw it. And it didn’t occur to me that readers might not have taken it that way, or at least questioned the veracity of his remarks. But I can see now how the confusion has arisen. It’s bothered me.

Now that the book is out and it’s been read I think I will indulge myself by saying that there was only one scene in it that I worried slightly over whether to include. I feared readers might think it was too much. And I’ve not heard a peep about it. That surprises me. I won’t spoil my own book for anyone who hasn’t had the ‘pleasure’ yet. Suffice it to say, it’s the last very last scene. Did DI Romney go too far for anyone, I wonder?

I’m still writing – Acer #3. He’s certainly getting about in this one.

I’m also reading. A book I discovered in our school library. I’m having a job putting it down. It’s making me hoot and I’m simply relishing the language therein. It’s called the Oxford Book of Humorous Prose, edited by Frank Muir, who was quite a wit himself, I seem to remember. It’s a weighty tome. Probably why it was being used to keep the fire door open. It’s filled with absolute gems of amusing writing by the great and good of writers in the English language. And it’s made me want to hunt them out in their fullest forms. I think this book will end up in my book rescue centre. They’ll have to find something else to wedge the fire door open. That big useless lump from 2D, perhaps.


It’s a bit of a relief, actually.


Horsemen in the Pantheaic Procession

Writer’s blog – stardate – 14.01.2013

Late last night (too late for me to commemorate the occasion with a post, as has been my custom on self-publishing my previous two books) I waved bye-bye to Joint Enterprise – The Third (and final?) Romney and Marsh File. And as the drunken archaeologist once said after urinating up against a fresco of antiquity, ‘What a relief it was.’ I pinged it off into cyber space towards the planets of Amazon and Smashwords, powered off the laptop and burst into…the kitchen looking for alcohol.

The Romney and Marsh Files have plagued, amused, frustrated, consumed, entertained and owned me for longer than I care to remember. And now, like the three little pigs, they have all left home. Yesterday, I sent the last little pig of a book into the big-wide-world to get on with it.

And all day it has felt like a great weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I feel like I’ve just wandered out of out a dark, musty, damp, labyrinth of confinement after years of aimless incarceration into crystal clear light and fresh clean air. I feel like…..enough. I’m just pleased that I can move on.

I don’t want to forget what a wonderful and interesting and educational and emotional experience the whole process has been. (That’s why I just wrote it down.)

What will I do now? Well, I have two other novels in a different series written that I feel I can do something with. I feel that they have some potential to be something better than they are.  I’m going to have to work on them. I’m going to change a few things that I’ve come to realise could be better. I might even re-write them from the third person into the first person. I’m almost certainly going to change the name of the central protagonist.

But before I do any of that, I’m going to get stuck into some serious reading for pleasure. I have two Raymond Chandlers, two Gerald Seymours, The Mosquito Coast (I read the first couple of pages yesterday and understood something more about what it is to write well), an Elmore Leonard and I’m sorely tempted to re-read the Patrick O’Brians, or at least a couple, before I do anything else.

Life is good.

Is it just me?




Is it just me or do other/all writers find that after they’ve gone through the drawn-out process/slog/torture/life-altering experience of writing a novel and then editing/correcting/proof-reading it over and over again they develop a nose for (shouldn’t that be an eye for?) and heightened intolerance of shite writing?

I’ve got a Kindle. I think that I should have, really. Last week, in preparation for a flight and a week away, I downloaded some free books (I expect people to buy mine when the time comes, but I’m not spending my money on other people’s plop). In the past I’d have stuck with some of them and hoped that they might buck up. In the past I wouldn’t have been so critical. In the past I probably wouldn’t have paid so much attention to grammar, syntax, semantics, punctuation, plot development and layout. Now I do. And it’s refining my reading experience to the point of ruining it.

I tried three books put up on Kindle by wanna-bes like me and after a couple of chapters all three ended up being filed away in my Kindle shite folder. And then I unwittingly found that I’d done the same with an author who had a real publisher and hard-copies of his books out there. All the time that I was reading these I was thinking, ‘my books are better than this rubbish’. They were appalling; painful and depressing (owing to the quality or rather the lack of it). The guy with the publisher had a plot development that made no sense and saved his hero from drowning. I went back and read the build up four times and was still none the wiser. He just copped out and waved a magic wand and up to then it hadn’t been that bad, actually.

But that’s not good enough. The book has got to be very good in every respect and without flaws in the plot or it’s sunk.

I suppose that I’ve been learning from all this too, but, man, it’s sure sullying my reading for pleasure. One of my few.

So, what to do to get over it? What’s the antidote? Download a free classic. Enter The Thirty-Nine Steps. I’m two chapters in and finally I can relax and immerse myself in the reading experience. It might be dated, but, like Conan-Doyle for example, Mr Buchan’s writing has a timeless quality. No complaints here. Sometimes it’s true that the old’ns are the best. That’s him up the top by the way.

Mind you, now that’s reminded me of that awful BBC adaptation of the book a few years ago starring Rupert Penry-Jones, who I rather fancy for the lead in my Patrick Sansom books when they are optioned by Hollywood. Alas, so much to do.