Why I can’t live in the UK.

Sometimes in order to fully appreciate something one needs to go without it for a while. That’s how it is with me and my home. I’m talking about Romney Marsh. Six years I’ve lived abroad and I’m finally coming round to the idea that the place I left has a lot going for it. (That’s probably just as much a reflection of Istanbul as it is anything.) Regarding home, I think that familiarity bred, not contempt, but something approaching it. Shame on me. And so it is with no small amount of sadness and irony that I say, even though I quite like it here these days I don’t think I can live here again.

My ‘About Me’ page on this blog says: When I lived in the UK, I tried a couple of times to write, but with the responsibility of property and family and work and the distractions of television and radio and newspapers and people I never got anywhere with it. Nothing’s changed, I’ve found. I’m here on holiday at the moment. Been here just over two weeks. A couple to go. And I haven’t stopped. Mostly, I haven’t stopped enjoying myself. Having a four year old who loves the outdoors helps. If we’re not enjoying the miles of Dymchurch’s golden sands we’re down the local park or on the RHDR or in a rowing boat on the Royal Military Canal or in the garden playing a ball game. We spent a fantastic today at Port Lympne wildlife reserve. Tomorrow he’s having a party.

I’m playing tennis. (I got to go to Wimbledon this year – as a spectator.) I play football once a week and then we hit the pub afterwards. Tomorrow I’m digging out the push-bike for a cycle. I run on the beach. Too many evenings I’m spending working my way through five seasons of Breaking Bad and bottled ale.

I’m cooking because I want to. I’m eating for pleasure. I’m enjoying some decent booze. I can’t remember the last time I shaved or wore a pair of long trousers. As a retirement present I bought myself that watch I was looking at a few months ago. (No one else was going to buy it for me and I reckoned that the time I put in at the chalk face deserved something special by way of commemoration.) I’ve stopped wearing it. Who cares what the time is when you’re on holiday and enjoying life?

I’m also gutting a flat in preparation for refurbishment. I’m enjoying that physical graft too.

About the only thing I don’t have time for is writing. And these days, after jacking in the day job, I’m supposed to be writing for a living. I repeat: I don’t think I can live back home again – too many distractions.

I have read two books since I’ve been back. To be precise, I’ve read the same book twice. It’s called Particular Stupidities. It’s my next release in the Romney and Marsh Files, just in case you’re new to this blog. Each read-through led to a number of revisions – mostly just ‘better’ ways to put things. I’ve also lost a few hundred words more. Two days ago, after having done the formatting and got it Kindle-ready, I decided that two read-throughs was enough and I uploaded it to Amazon. (In all honesty I believe that if I read it another ten times I’d find things to change every time.)

It was quite a relief to get it off my hands, especially with Amazon’s deadline for the submission fast approaching. (The book is out on the 30th July but Amazon wanted the final copy ten days before that date: no later than the 20th July. If you miss their deadline you forfeit the right to make use of the pre-order facility for a year. Yikes! I quite understand why Amazon can’t afford to be buggered about by publishers, self or traditional, but they sure made me anxious as the date approached – they were emailing reminders more frequently and the language was becoming a little more… insistent with each email. Or that may have been my imagination.)

This is the first title of mine that I have made available for pre-order. Until publication day a copy can be snapped up for 99p. Then it’ll go up to £1.99 like the others. I think that the current price has been a major factor that has kept the book hovering around the top twenty of the British Detective chart. Whatever, it’s had plenty of visibility, which has to be a good thing. I don’t know how many copies have been pre-ordered because Amazon doesn’t seem to make that information available on my sales account page until the day of release. I’m guessing that on release day, when everyone who has pre-ordered gets their copy the grand total will be revealed to me.

I like to catch up on some reading during the summer. I made a start on that resolution today by opening up a copy of A Touch of Frost by RF Wingfield. (A few readers of my books have mentioned the Frosts as good reads with some laughs.) I’m a hundred pages in and it’s OK. Of its time (1990) I think it would be fair to say. (Some of my more critical readers have expressed disapproval for aspects of DI Romney’s character and behaviour, especially  towards women. If you haven’t read any Frost books, take my word for it – Frost makes Romney look like a feminist. Even I’m cringing at some of the things he says and ‘thinks’. [I do understand that twenty-five years ago things would have been a lot different and that Frost is probably representative of the policing and cultural times.])

It’s twelve days until release day of Particular Stupidities. Like each of the other books I’ve put out, as publication day looms I’m experiencing a creeping nervousness over whether the book will please readers of the R&M Files. Reflecting on the book led me to consider what I hope to deliver to my readers with this one. My answer is this: a murder mystery, a few laughs, a worthy addition to the Romney and Marsh Files and maybe a bit of food for thought. Ambitious? We’ll see.

I hope that everyone is having a great summer.

Particular Stupidities (R&M File #5)



At last! Some proper writing news to report.

This week I have sent Particular Stupidities (R&M File #5) off to the gentleman who proofreads my books. I wasn’t sorry to see it go. It’s been hanging around at home for a few weeks – or is it months? – while I’ve dithered over things, left it, gone back to it, read it again, left it, gone back to it, read it again ad nauseum. But I am happy with it. That’s the main thing. I really am happy with it.

This is my tenth book. With the other nine I have just released them with a bit of blogging and tweetiing and posting on Facebook – wiped their bums and hoped for the best. I’m determined to make more of an effort shouting about this one prior to its release. I need to DO something by way of promotion over and above the usual. Every week – make that every day – there are dozens of new books being released as well as back catalogues of older books that have been brought out as ebooks from the original print version. The competition to be noticed has never been fiercer.

I have not tried the pre-order option with Amazon, but this time I think I might. As I understand it, the advantage for authors with this scheme is that an interested reader can click on a button – job done – and then get the ebook automatically delivered on the day of release as opposed to trying to remember the publication date and forgetting all about it. This way authors don’t lose readers and downloads. When I tweet and blog and post on Facebook readers who notice and are interested will be able to click that pre-order button and forget about it until the day the book shows up on their Kindle. Everyone’s happy.

Something else that occurs to me – why didn’t I consider using the pre-order function before? Dunce.


I was contacted by a very nice lady last week to see if I would be interested in completing an online interview for a magazine that has an interest in writers living and working outside their home nations.


Naturally, I agreed. I spent much of the weekend staring at the blank screen trying to answer the questions. It was the closest I’ve come to experiencing writer’s block. I had no idea that I knew so little about my writing process. It was a bit of an eye-opener.

Here are the questions. I have a couple of writing buddies. I wonder how they would have tackled these.

Which came first, story or location? 

What’s your technique for evoking the atmosphere of a place? 

Which particular features create a sense of location? Landscape, culture, food? 

Can you give a brief example of your work which illustrates place? 

How well do you need to know the place before using it as a setting? 

Which writers do you admire for the way they use location?


So… what now? I remember reporting here recently that I was twenty-five thousand words into R&M#6 before I broke off for something I’ve forgotten. And then I started B&C #3 with an idea for an opening chapter. (I since took that up to ten-thousand words with a bit of a spurt. Another good start in the bank, I feel.) For now back to Romney and Marsh.


In B&C #3 David Booker laments the anti-social nature of jet-skis, which are permitted by local bylaws to spoil everything for everyone who wants to sit in peace and quiet and enjoy the view from Dymchurch seawall. As luck would have it, I was out with my son walking by the seaside in Istanbul last weekend when a couple of jet-skis came skimming noisily over the water in our general direction. They are an uncommon sight here. My son and I had been throwing stones at a football that was floating in the sea about twenty yards out. No one seemed to be claiming it. One of the jet-ski pilots saw the ball, diverted to it, stopped, fished it out of the sea, motored over to us and threw the ball to us with a smile. He thought we’d lost it. It was a good ball. And new. How kind that was.

Life is a bit strange sometimes.

The Cuckoo’s Calling

Last week I blogged about writing a Romney and Marsh File as a script for the stage. I’ve spent this week turning that script into a short story. It’s the first short story I’ve written. As last week, the breaking of new writing ground has been an interesting and enjoyable process. Perhaps they’ll be more short stories (I hope so) but I don’t have any ideas at the moment. I would like to add a collection of short stories to my writer’s portfolio. At this rate I should finish it around my seventieth birthday. (I can just hear my children’s sharp inhalations as they contemplate me lasting that long and denying them speedier access to their inheritance, such as it is.)

I won’t be blogging next week. I’ll be on holiday. I’m off to Canada to visit my daughter. She’s promised to take me hiking in the wilderness. I just hope she intends bringing me safely back. (Maybe it was a mistake to make her executor of my will and then to tell her that.)

It’s going to be a long old return flight. But I have plans to use the ‘dead’ time productively. The first draft of R&M#5 Particular Stupidities has been sitting in the bottom drawer for a few weeks – long enough for me to feel that the time is right to get it out and set to with the highlighters. So that’s what I envisage spending most of my fourteen hours each way in the air doing. Here’s hoping the travellers with screaming infants aren’t sitting within ten rows of me and that DVT isn’t something I actually suffer from on long haul flights. (Could kind of spoil things to touch down in Canada for a walking holiday only to be rushed off to hospital for an amputation or two. [Note to self: keep receipt for walking boots.])

When I return home I expect to be able to send it off to the gentleman who fixes my English mistakes. And then I’ll be back to R&M#6 Happy Families which was going rather well until I decided to put it on hold for the play script and accompanying short story. It’s good to know that when Particular Stupidities is off my hands I don’t have a blank page to look forward to but a good start to familiarise myself with.


A while ago it was suggested to me that Rope Enough (Romney & Marsh File#1) is the odd one out among the four currently published R&M Files – the bastard child, the cuckoo in the nest. I don’t disagree with this. I think, like the mother who stares wistfully at the child she’s never quite sure is hers (or her husband’s), I’ve always known that RE is different to its siblings. And the more of them I give birth to the further removed from the ‘R&M Files family’ RE becomes.

RE is not representative of the evolved concept of the R&M Files. (Notice that evolved. There was nothing planned about the R&M Files and I can think of one gent who drops by the blog from time to time who will smile wryly at that as he thinks and therein lies the root of the matter.)

One reason RE not being representative of the writing of the rest of the series bothers me is that it’s not representative of the writing of the rest of the series. Another reason it bothers me is that it’s RE that I give away in the try-before-you-buy initiative on Amazon. It’s just possible that RE puts more readers off downloading the second in the series than encouraging them to go for more. And those that do (I don’t know) might just finish the second feeling that it wasn’t what they bargained for after the first. Mmmm… sometimes, like now, I wonder if I might be better off removing RE from Amazon and just kicking off the R&M Files with book two. Or maybe inserting a foreword to RE that covers what I’m struggling to get at here.

So what is different about RE? For a start it’s quite dark, it’s quite serious and it’s almost entirely without humour. That sentence alone is enough to set the book apart from the others and sums up the biggest difference between them. (Remember I have the advantage of being familiar with book #5, a good chunk of book #6 as well as a ten thousand word short story, so I have much more material to back up my assertions with.)

I didn’t discover the R&M Files’ identity until halfway through book two. I have commented before in this blog that it was in book two, Making a Killing, that it occurred to me to start introducing some of my own brand of humour. I started having fun with my characters and I enjoyed it. I’m not sure that I enjoyed writing Rope Enough. (There were just one or two incidental moments where something of my humour slipped out and I remember feeling I should keep a lid on it. I was writing a crime book after all and I don’t think I’d ever read crime novel that was written for laughs.) But I have enjoyed writing the others in the series. Enjoyed as in had a lot of fun and laughs. I see the R&M Files, the concept (post book#1), as light entertainment. Rope Enough is not that.

I can’t know exactly how many readers have been really put off by Romney’s character in RE but I know that there are at least some. I regret that I wasn’t more aware of what I was doing with him. That same person that called RE a cuckoo told me: you may think that Marsh was “unfairly” treated but Romney was your major “victim” in the first book. For anyone that doubts that here is a link to a Goodreads comment that’s worth a look. For the record I don’t resent the feedback. In fact I find it perversely both amusing and dispiriting. (Amusing because Romney provoked such a strong reaction, and in some ways that’s a good thing. Dispiriting because Romney provoked such a strong negative reaction, which encouraged the reader in question to not finish the book and ‘rant’.) The only person who is really hurt by putting off readers is me.


Maybe that’s part of the risk for the novice writer, unless you are someone prepared to sit down and plan a series of books to avoid such eventualities, or an experienced writer. I’m not a planner and when I wrote RE I was very naive as a writer. And I didn’t know I was going to end up writing a series. And even if I had known I’m not sure I’d have been capable of doing things differently. I am very much a make it up as I go along type of writer. It’s the only thing that works for me.

So what? you might say: RE is different. And? The ‘so what?’ is one of the reasons I’ve titled this post The Cuckoo’s Calling. (The other reason is that ‘The Cuckoo’s Calling‘ is the title of the first crime book written by JKR Rowling and by linking this post to the search term I might get some crumbs from her table. Internet browsers who click the wrong button. Every little helps!) Apart from that try-before-you-buy reference above being a so what? when I wrote R&M#4, R&M#5, the start of R&M#6 and the short story, I heard Rope Enough calling out to me across the hundreds of thousands of words, like the call of summer’s cuckoo carrying on the still, balmy evening air across the flat fields and dykes of Romney Marsh. And, like summer’s cuckoo, I can’t understand a word it says, but I get the gist of the noise: here I am the black sheep of the family (cuckoos now sheep?) doing the R&M Files wrong.

Am I sounding like RE has been a bit of a cross to bear? It really hasn’t. And a lot of Amazon readers have liked it. But there’s this nagging compulsion to deal with (particularly) the Romney of RE by focussing on those same elements of his character that some readers didn’t like – the narcissism, the vanity, his views on women of a certain age (There is one passage in particular that I regret including and might one day remove, although with the number of downloads the book has had it’s really going to be stable door time.) – and doing something about them through, for example, the reactions of those he interacts with.

At times (particularly in the latter books) I’ve tried to use his behaviour to make him more of a figure of fun than someone to be taken seriously. Through the series he has evolved into someone that I hope the reader can laugh at for his pomposity, his erroneous thinking, his mistakes, the events that befall him. I want readers to be in on the anachronistic ‘joke’ that he is, to see him more through the eyes of DS Marsh, his patient and more (I hope) likeable sidekick, and her colleagues.

That said, I don’t want him to become a farcical character. He is a policeman who strives for justice. He is incorruptible. He is loyal to his team. He does want to get the bad guys. It just so happens that sometimes he’s a bit of a dick. Well who isn’t in real life?

Bottom line: I don’t want readers to take DI Romney too seriously and in RE I didn’t do enough towards ensuring that, because I hadn’t worked it out for myself.


Here it is.

Here it is.

Writer’s diary: stardate: 01.04.2014

(Amazon were supposed to take twelve hours to process the book. That would have been tomorrow morning. It took an hour. So I might as well get cracking now and then I can go to bed. It’s nearly April 1st in my time zone.)

As Roy Wood might be tempted to sing, were he into self-publishing novels these days (although why would he be? With the abundance of seasonal gravy he spoons up every year off that Christmas turkey of a song he probably spends most of his time fishing. Git!)

Well here it is merry release day everybody’s grabbing one! Look to the future now it’s only just begu…u…uuu…uuuun.

Just before you rush off to download your copy of A Dog’s Life (The Fourth Romney and Marsh File) to give it its full and proper title (links to Amazon.co.uk and Amazon.com at the end of this post) allow me to share something with you.

A virtual acquaintance of mine recently related to me something the late and great Truman Capote claimed about writing. (I have since confirmed his words with my own Internet research, so there is no need for you to doubt me…this time.)

Mr Capote is reported to have said: Finishing a book is like you took a child out in the back yard and shot it.

Let me tell you this is not true. It is my experience that shooting a child in the back yard involves a lot more police and media attention. It was also a lot messier than uploading a simple ebook, although I’d have to admit to similar levels of anguish when both tasks were completed.

Anyway, here’s hoping that the newsworthiness of my little experiment encourages a healthy impact on sales figures. Who knows, it might even catch on as a form of self-promotion, something all us aspiring wanna-bes are constantly trying to be innovative regarding. I’m just pushing the boundaries. It’s what innovators do.

Please buy my book because my legal fees look like being quite high for this one and I’m already getting a strong sense that my defence is not going to be as sympathetically received as I might have expected. Let’s just hope that the jury has at least seven people on it who’ve self-published a book on Amazon. Actually, looking at the number of self-published books on Amazon these days I’d be surprised if there weren’t…at least.

Here’s to a speedy acquittal.

Dear reader,

The R&M Files now number four. They don’t have to be read in order. They do all work as stand-alone novels. However, to get the most out of each it is recommended that they are consumed in the sequence in which they were prepared, a bit like the courses of a good meal. (Who wants to eat ice-cream before a bowl of soup?)

The first Romney and Marsh File Rope Enough is perma-free to download here on Amazon and other major ebook outlets across the globe as a try before you buy.

So, to the blurb for this one:

He’s alive! Oh, in the name of God! Now I know what it feels like to be God!

Contrary to vicious Internet rumours, DI Romney is not dead. He returns in this, the fourth Romney and Marsh File, to lead his team of Dover detectives in the hunt for doers of dirty deeds. He’s also looking for answers to more personal mysteries.

The wind of change is blowing through this town. Whether we like it or not, this growth of local crime is a complete fiction.

Broken homes, broken dreams and broken bodies are just some of the cheerier aspects of the R&M Files that goes to show sometimes it’s a dog’s life.

Full money back guarantee if you don’t enjoy this book. (T&C apply)




A Dog’s Life (part 3)

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the bathroom...

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the bathroom…

Writer’s diary: stardate: 21.03.2014

I thought I’d kick off this week by sharing a true story.

As part of my job, teaching English as a foreign language to young learners, I do a phonics lesson each week. This week it was the ‘ch’ sound.

When I teach a phoneme I like to complement my lesson with a Power Point presentation using appropriate and useful vocabulary and pictures to inform and consolidate understanding. In my experience, using PPT also acts as something of a technological sedative for the little blighters. Great when they come in from killing each other for fifteen minutes at break-time.

As part of this week’s vocabulary bank I chose the word ‘rich’. I accompanied the word on the PPT slide with a Google image of piles of cash. I explained as best I could that having lots of money is one way of being ‘rich’. (No good talking to this lot about how having great friends and cultural interests makes one ‘rich’. Just appeal to their basic interests.) I joked with them about how rich I am thanks to the money their parents give me each week for teaching them. Just a little harmless banter I thought. Until this seven year old girl, who is normally so sweet and respectful, sprang up out of her chair, pointed at me and shouted ‘Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!’

I was quite taken aback by this outburst. I was also quite disappointed to note that several of her colleagues started laughing and took up the chanting and pointing. ‘Fuck you! Fuck you! Fuck you!’

What was I to do? I couldn’t ignore it. I mean, where would we all be? This is the kind of thing I left my kindergarten job in the UK over.

Sensing that my authority was being challenged and that to let it go would see my reputation as ‘school tough guy’ irrecoverably damaged, I acted. I was also a bit cross. I had her out of the chair by her pigtails and on the tips of her toes down to the Vice-Principal’s office quick enough to make her cry. Good. One to me. I thumped on the VP’s door. Two minutes later she opened it wiping the sleep from her eyes with one hand and smoothing down her bed-hair with the other. (A quick scan of the interior showed the tell-tale signs of recent horizontal occupation of her ‘meeting sofa’.)

I propelled the girl into the office and proceeded to explain events that had led us to this point.

A flurry of gabbled Turkish followed, of which I understood nothing. Par for the course. (It’s only been five years. These things take time.) A few more tears. And the girl was dismissed. The VP shut the door and turned to me. She then patiently explained to me that ‘fakir’ in Turkish, which sounds very much like ‘fuck you’ when pronounced by a native, means ‘poor’ as in the opposite to ‘rich’. The little girl had been calling me ‘poor’ for a joke, not inviting me to go and fuck myself, she said.

Live and learn.

I always thought build-ups to a book’s publication day were supposed to create a buzz of positive excitement and feverish anticipation. Churn out a couple of titillating blog-posts, engage in a Facebook frenzy, tweet like a summer dawn chorus and readers will be queuing round the virtual block with all their mates to snap up a copy. All I’ve got this week is grief – messages telling me to stop idling, pull my finger out, bloody well get on with it and release the thing.

I came across an interesting gimmick this week for increasing revenue via a new book release. Chap called Andrew Gross released his thriller in three parts on to Amazon. He might have even pulled this stroke more than once. Readers had to pay for each instalment. At first I thought that was a bit too cheeky of him. Then I realised it’s nothing new – Dickens and Conan Doyle, to mention but two, sold stories in instalments in weekly newspapers. And more recently, Stephen King did something virtually similar (or should that be similarly virtual?) with his story The Plant. I began to toy with the idea of releasing A Dog’s Life chapter by chapter to be made available weekly on Amazon as a download. There are twenty-one chapters in the book. I thought I could release them one a week at a mere £0.77 per chapter. That would net me an incredible £5.25 in Amazon royalties per whole book sold. I distinctly remember licking my lips at this realisation. I remember thinking that if I could shift ten copies that way it would pay for me to go out on the lash for the evening. Then I realised I’d have to wait twenty-one weeks to see the full profit from such a scam (surely business initiative? Ed) actually make that eighty weeks – Amazon don’t see monthly royalty payments as something to fall over themselves about.

Then I thought to have a look at Mr Gross’s feedback on Amazon, see how things went for him. And I quickly abandoned the idea. Readers were not impressed with his jolly japes. I almost felt sorry for him. He’s probably changed his name and has had cosmetic surgery by now. A Dog’s Life will be released in its entirety at the ridiculously low price of £1.99.

Every now and again, I manage to claw my way up the Amazon free charts with Rope Enough and just when I feel on the cusp of a whiff of an inkling of breaking into the Amazon top one hundred free books chart  (the promised land for self-published authors) Amazon go and make the book £1.99. I think they do it deliberately. No rhyme or reason for it. It’s like playing snakes and ladders and getting to ninety-nine and finding myself on a snake’s head whose tail is on two. Two days later they put it back to free and there I am teetering around the ten thousand mark in the  free charts once again.

I’m writing Acer #3. It’s not easy. When I write, I like to sit and let the bilge flow through my fingertips, but I’m spending more time on Google maps, Google satellite, Google images and Google normal than I am writing. It’s killing my creativity. I haven’t sworn on this blog for a while but fucking hell…Iran…what was I fucking thinking? If it wasn’t Iran, I’d go there and try to soak up some of the ambience of the place. Maybe take a week to go where Acer has to go so that I get it right. Actually, no I wouldn’t because it’s not like I’d ever even make the bus fare back in sales. I’ve got half a mind to make it a short story and have Acer stoned to death by an angry mob. The End. Move on. Get back to a location that I have a vague idea about.

Acer#3 – Page 2:

The UN inspectors’ convoy came to an abrupt halt on the outskirts of Tehran. They were still lost. ‘Fuck this shit,’ said Acer. He adjusted his Raybans, stepped out of the vehicle and hailed a gaggle of old men taking their ease in the shade of a cafe awning. ‘Oi, where do you hide your WMDs?’

‘Didn’t you lot learn anything from Iraq?’ answered one of them who, judging from his accent, had been educated at an English private school. His cronies laughed. Maybe they were all old Etonians.

A nearby group of young men in traditional Iranian dress turned their attention to the exchange. Sensing a rare opportunity to strike a blow for his country, one of them bent down to pick up a pebble. He weighed it in his hand, never taking his eyes off the white man who had come as part of an international delegation to discredit the country that he would give his life for…I’d better stop now. I’m beginning to like the idea too much.

Oh yeah, I’m aiming for a release date of April 1st for A Dog’s Life. Is that symbolic? Time will tell.

A Dog’s Life – Romney and Marsh File #4

A Dog's Life Final (Medium)

Writer’s diary: Stardate: 07.03.2014

There’s only one thing on my mind this week: A Dog’s Life – The Fourth Romney and Marsh File.

As you can see, I have the cover – I like it a lot. Slots right in with the rest of the series – and the emanuscript is with the gentleman who does my proofreading these days.

I am terrifically excited and excitedly terrified in equal and opposite measure.

I feel a weight of expectation for this title unlike anything I felt for my two Acer Sansom books and the Booker and Cash title. They were new directions – virgin territory for me as a writer. Romney and Marsh are semi-established, like a Russian military presence in Ukraine without the laughs.

I understand that the R&M Files have a small fan base (this knowledge makes me so proud). There are readers who are looking forward to the next in the series – they’ve told me so. It is inevitable that readers of the series are going to judge it against the others. It’s what we do when we’re into characters and a series of books. Nothing wrong with that. It’s natural. It’s the way of things.

I’m a student of Amazon charts, readers’ comments, other crime writers’ feedback. All the big guns who have a decent crime series going attract a large number of comments that often have something to say on a particular title’s merits when compared to what’s gone before. But now I’m the other side of the inkwell, I can tell you, it makes me nervous.

Even with only the three R&M Files that are out, I’ve had a fair few comments comparing them. Readers have their favourites. A few readers have voiced disappointment when comparing one title (usually the third) to others. I didn’t have a problem with those comments because I took the series in a direction that was not planned from the start and if one was reading the books in order, I can accept that one might feel the difference and not warm to it.

Let me explain. I never set out to write a series of crime books. It just happened. I wrote Rope Enough and when I finished I thought that there might be another book in those characters. I enjoyed the writing experience. It was about halfway through writing Making A Killing that I realised the direction I wanted to take the characters in. Followers of this blog will know that I think I’m funny sometimes. Halfway through Making A Killing I serendipitously arrived at an opportunity to try a bit of humour. I liked it. I enjoyed it. I tried a bit more and then I went back and looked for anywhere I could fish for a smirk from my reader. In Joint Enterprise I went looking for funny with a net. It was a large part of my thinking whenever I sat down to write. That first one, Rope Enough, was altogether more serious, although I do remember just one or two very small occurrences that cropped up and made me smile. But I kept a lid on it. It was a crime novel after all, a police procedural. They’re not supposed to be humorous.

Humour is such a personal thing. It’s dangerous to try in a crime book. Risky. But for me it’s utterly worth it if it can be pulled off. However, as a series goes on it must become more and more difficult to be originally funny with the same characters and the same locations.

And then there’s the crime and it’s solving. Crime writing has a rich and illustrious history. It must be one of the most popular reading and writing genres. There are so many great classic crime novels and contemporary ones and then there are thousands that are still very good. And what they must all have is a good crime that is well solved. If that criterion isn’t fulfilled readers are going to get tetchy. When readers of crime pick up a crime book it’s like a contract has been entered into. They have a right to their expectations regarding the writer’s ability to craft a believable criminal yarn. Everything else is secondary.

The Romney and Marsh Files are not great police procedural novels. I do not have the background or the knowledge or the time and energy to make them totally authentic and detailed by deep research or driving around in the back of my local police patrol car as an observer. (Wouldn’t work here anyway because Istanbul’s nothing like Dover. They drive on the wrong side of the road for a start.) So what I try to do is skate around the minutiae of the procedure. My R&M Files are about my characters. They are about how I imagine a bunch of local detectives might go about trying to solve crime. One comment that really sticks in my mind is from a lady who said Dover CID in my books is how she’d like all CIDs to be. Me too (unless I was a victim of crime. Then I wouldn’t  want Dover CID anywhere near it.)

I’m hoping A Dog’s Life can be out in a month or so. But don’t hold me to it. Things happen. Price – £1.99, just like #2 & #3 after my try before you buy offer of £0.00 for Rope Enough.

The White Cliffs of Dover


Writer’s blog: Stardate: 01.11.2013

As anyone who has ever been interfered with by the Scouts knows, ‘Be Prepared’ is the motto of the movement founded by the late great Baden-Powell. (Incidentally, has anyone else seen that Internet rumour that BP was the great, great, grandfather of Jimmy Savile? I wonder if there is any truth in it.) ‘Be Prepared’ is a motto that has stood me in good stead throughout my life. Like the time it looked like gran was going to come and live with us – and share my room. Being prepared put a stop to that.

Being prepared is all about forward thinking. I like to look forward with my writing. (My wife calls it day-dreaming. Her faith in my purpose is so painfully underwhelming.) This week I have been looking forward, preparing for the day I am playing ennie, meenie, mynie, mo with the offers of television companies for the rights to serialise the Romney and Marsh Files on the haunted fish tank.

All TV detective series need a good theme tune – something instantly recognisable, suggestive, evocative. The theme tune to ‘Morse’ springs to mind as one of the most memorable. Quite inspired.

(Give yourself a pat on the back if you know what’s coming.)

Not a lot of people know that as well as fancying myself as a bit of an author I also harbour delusions about my musical ability. I write songs and I play guitar. Before my son learnt to cry to indicate his displeasure I would play and sing to him. These days, my crooning and strumming episodes have become useful for clearing the flat of all those who are able-bodied enough to do so. My two year old only has to hear the metallic catch released on my guitar case two rooms away to start howling for the park in a sort of – and oddly appropriate – Pavlov’s dogs reaction. (Mostly, when they leave I don’t play anyway. It’s just nice to have the place to myself.)

This week I’ve put my song-writing ‘skills’ to what I believe is excellent use. I’ve written the theme tune to the forthcoming television series of the Romney and Marsh Files. It will be a contractual obligation of any production company interested in televising the books that my song is used. I am being prepared.

I had to think long and hard to find something that would provide an immediate association for listeners, something that would very quickly suggest images, ideas and links with Dover – the setting for the books – and the particular representation of it that I have chosen to present.

The result is something of a ‘pasty’ – a new term of my own devising (I am indeed truly creative) that I am gifting to the English language (add altruistic to my plus column for this week). ‘Pasty’ suggests a creative offering somewhere between a pastiche and a parody.

I am confident that readers across generations with the necessary cultural background will find the basis for the lyrics instantly recognisable and that they will then be unable to resist forming those crucial images and associations I was on about. (A word to the wise: the tune that accompanies my lyrics is not the one you’re going to want to fit the lyrics to. I believe that would be copyright infringement and therefore actionable in law.)

Romney and Marsh Song

There’ll be no bluebirds over
The grey cliffs of Dover
Not today, nor tomorrow
They took fright and flew.

So forget what you heard
From that hopeful old bird
And resign yourself to
A bluebirdless view.

The love and the laughter
And peace ever after
That was forecast to last
In a world that was freed

Didn’t wash on these shores
Where we’re fighting old wars
Against hate, crime and prejudice
Anger and greed.

So the next time you’re over
In dark, dirty Dover
Spare a thought for the police
At crime’s chalk face.

Think of Romney and Marsh
Mostly fair sometimes harsh
They’re a crime fighting duo
Not a flat windswept place.

Of course, the lyrics are only half the deal. The tune that goes with them is in the key of A minor and goes like this:

dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah,
Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah,
Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah, dah,
Dah, dah, dah, dah, dah.
(Rpt. X 3)

For those who will feel moved to trawl the Internet looking for the original lyrics to ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’ I have copied and pasted them below. And I have to say what sentimental rubbish I find them to be. I think it’s safe to say it was the accompanying melody that made this ditty the success it was – that and a world war, of course.

(There’ll be bluebirds over) The White Cliffs of Dover

There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Just you wait and see
I’ll never forget the people I met
Braving those angry skies
I remember well as the shadows fell
The light of hope in their eyes
And though I’m far away
I still can hear them say
Bombs up…
But when the dawn comes up
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Just you wait and see
There’ll be love and laughter
And peace ever after
When the world is free
The shepherd will tend his sheep
The valley will bloom again
And Jimmy will go to sleep
In his own little room again
(After reading the previous
four lines I had to check
that I hadn’t been duped
into reading a piss-take)
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Just you wait and see
There’ll be bluebirds over
The white cliffs of Dover
Just you wait and see… 

We’re still waiting, Gracie.