Thursday, 13 November 2014

GUEST BLOG: June Gundlack on Insectipids

June Gundlack.
By June Gundlack

I live in Essex, with a quiet husband and noisy parrot.  During the day I work in the City of London.  At night, I sit in my turret and write...

It is said there is a book inside everyone.  Well it took a very long while for my first novel bravely go where novels go...

I have always loved writing and use people, locations and an inquisitive mind to create my short stories.  My escapades and other journeys have often appeared on The Daily Mail Letters Pages- accompanied by excellent cartoons from their artist, Phil Argent.  Even irritating situations can be entertaining.

After a Start Writing Fiction course at the Open University some years back and writing activity on writing websites I began writing short stories, some made it to print in magazines and charity anthologies.  

My dear old Dad encouraged me 'to write a book'.  An idea in 2007 inspired by my then young teen  nephew, Ben,  started its first draft  - Dad had liked the basic recipe, but it remained a recipe not quite ready.  It was always on the back boiler - waiting to be finished.  Over the years, and with declining health for dad, the book was forgotten - his memory - stolen by the evil Mr Alzheimer.   That is until just before last Christmas, when out of the blue dad asked, 'Did you write a book'?  That was the final push I needed.  I decided to tidy up my novel, INSECTIPIDS, and get it out there. 

In February I was offered a contract with Crooked Cat Publishing.  I knew many great authors from Twitter and Facebook who were represented by CCP and felt truly privileged to become one of their authors.  My novel, Insectipids, is set in part in Scotland  making representation by a Scottish publisher even more special for me.


Insectipids is aimed at teen/YA/and adults who like me, like to act their shoe-size.  I suppose there is a little bit of me in the story - I love to find some element of humour in most things and occasionally a little humour slips into the story - as does weird, bullies, scary, sci-fi, mystery and music.  

Often ridiculed for being different was normal for young James Allen.  He was used to it - until he found himself on the receiving end of a happy-slapping incident.  This turned out to be the spur he needed to change his life and, in doing so, for him to make a difference to the rest of the world.

Inspired by his secret childhood friend, Zoga, his decision takes him on adventures far and wide, introducing him to challenges most adults would cringe at or shy away from.

A short while before his 16th birthday, James develops an increase in physical and mental powers.  Energised by his drive and ability to think and act faster than most, he saves the world from the nemesis known as INSECTIPIDS.

"It's only a fly."  Those four simple words will forever be a reminder that 'only' could mean far worse...

When I received my first author copy - I delivered it to my parents - it was a proud moment for me.  Some members of staff  in their Nursing Home have also read it - proving  there's no upper age-limit for YA fiction.


:: Insectipids is available on Amazon (UK)  Visit June at: http://junegundlack.com/   www.facebook.com/june.gundlack/  JuneGundlack@Twitter.com








Monday, 10 November 2014

BULLET GAL: HARDBOILED WONDERLAND, AND THEN SOME

Andrez Bergen.
By Andrez Bergen

Most people would hardly think that a comic can hold a candle to quality hardboiled detective yarns or crime stories, but I beg to differ. In fact I’d even indulge in a round of Queensberry Rules-by-correspondence, or a willy-nilly digital slap (preferably two).

In the long history of the comic book there have been some stand-outs, like Will Eisner with The Spirit and Lee Falk in the earlier days of The Phantom. More recently writer Ed Brubaker has taken on impressive stature in his shake-downs of then-tired titles such as Captain America and Daredevil, as well as Iron Fist (with Matt Fraction). He’s also shone via his own comics Velvet, Fatale and the Criminal series.

So when I set out to write my own hardboiled monthly comic book this year, I was hardly setting a precedent.

Nor was I truly innovating via artwork, since the key influences here spanned from Dada a century ago to Terry Gilliam, Jim Steranko and Jack Kirby’s work in the 1960s.

Bullet Gal, therefore, set itself as a mash-up of stimuli my battered psyche had accrued over the past few decades - summoning moments of Eisner, Kirby, Gilliam, Steranko and Marcel Duchamp – that were stuffed into a shiny chrome art-deco cocktail shaker, jiggled, and infused with latter-day saints of the grime like Brubaker and Kenzo Kitakata.

But that doesn’t intimate the sum total of Bullet Gal.

Equally vital has been the over-saturation I’ve indulged in of 1940s and ‘50s film noir. Think of John Huston’s 1941 shoot of The Maltese Falcon, Carol Reed’s The Third Man (1949), Akira Kurosawa’s Stray Dog (1949), and the version of The Big Sleep directed by Howard Hawks in 1946 - all of which I watched dozens of times over. Alongside screenings, a repeated reading of Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett and Mickey Spillane is guaranteed to have caused some damage.

And let’s not forget science fiction, again especially cinematic, be it Christopher Nolan’s Inception, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Stalker, or Mamoru Oshii’s Avalon

Nor contemporary comic book artists. People I’m currently inclined toward include Steve Epting, David Aja, Sean Phillips, David Lloyd, Frank Miller, Matt Kyme and Michael Lark – all of whom have strong leanings of their own towards… noir.

Finally? The cultural baggage: heavily skewed in favour of Australia, where I was born and raised, yet corrupted by my past 13 years in Tokyo.

So what does all this really mean?

Likely that the twelve-issue cycle shaping up Bullet Gal addressed all these things, consciously… or not quite so much. That this is a comic book, yes, infused with elements of hardboiled noir, sci-fi/dystopia, and the collage-style, take-the-piss mentality of cut-up specialists from Duchamp to Brion Gysin. That there’s a sprinkling of Australia and Japan in there, and I carry the added burden of far too much cinema I cherish.

With all these disclaimers in mind, I’d like now to refer you to a particular Kickstarter campaign that’s currently being run.

The open-minded chaps at Under Belly Comics in Canada seem to think that this genre and cultural potpourri works - in and of itself – and they’ve decided to print all twelve issues of Bullet Gal as a 300-page trade paperback.

Artist Niagara Detroit also appears to believe in the project as she provides the painting for the front cover art.

Let’s hope you and the general public are equally like-minded.


BULLET GAL KICKSTARTER:

Thursday, 6 November 2014

New Barry Graham feature at the Highland Times


One of the great perks of writing journalism is getting to meet and question people that you admire. I've been a great fan of the American-based Scottish author Barry Graham since first reading his brilliant title, The Book of Man, and I've recently had the chance to interview him for that newspaper of note, The Highland Times.

I talked to Graham about his time in the Highland capital of Inverness, where he worked as a journalist for a while, and did some fiction writing. Interestingly, we both worked for the same newspaper, at different times, and even managed to settle in the same part of the city.

You can read the piece at The Highland Times.

Guest Blog: Douglas Skelton

By Douglas Skelton

They say there's a little bit of the writer in all their characters.
Then what part of me is in Davie McCall?
Davie's the hero – well, anti-hero – of my two crime thrillers 'Blood City' and 'Crow Bait' (both published by Luath Press).
He's a crook and a hard man. 
I can't even dodge my fare on the bus and I couldn't punch my way out of a wet paper bag. I'm a writer not a fighter, baby.
He's got clear blue eyes .
I've got brownish eyes and if I take my glasses off I stumble around like Mr Magoo.
He doesn't talk much.
I can go on like a broken record.
He's attractive to women.
So am I (I can't continue with that thought – laughing too much).
He's a hard guy to write. I like dialogue. I like dialogue a lot. And he says so little.
Everything about him is internal, which means that the reader knows more about him than the other characters. Which is the way it should be, of course.
I've tried to make him vulnerable without becoming a wimp. I'm enough of the latter for both of us. He's a hard man with feelings. Sure, step over a line and you'll end up using your teeth as castanets but he's not arbitrary with the punishment. Anyone he hurts has to deserve it. Well, mostly.
So what part of me is in him?
Okay, he likes dogs. He had one in the first book, gave it up in the second and – tiny spoiler alert – gets another one in the third.
We also share an aversion to crowded rooms (unless everyone is looking at me, as my spotlight-grabbing turns at author events will testify. I'm shy but can give it the old 'me, me, me' at the drop of a hat. I've been known to do a ten minute monologue when the wee light comes on in the fridge).
We both like music. 
He doesn't smoke, neither do I.
He doesn't drink or swear. Neither do I.
He doesn't lie.
Okay, I do – especially about the drinking and swearing.
And that's it, really. Not much, is it?
So if there really is a little bit of the writer in all their characters, I dread to think what part of me is in Jimmy Knight – the brutal, corrupt, misogynist of a cop who is one of the running villains of the Davie McCall quartet.
No – not going there. Some things are best left unexplored.

:: CROW BAIT is available from Amazon UK now.

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Guest Blog: Gerard Brennan on Undercover

Gerard Brennan, author of Undercover.
By Gerard Brennan

One of the coolest things I’ve read from the early reviewers of UNDERCOVER is that if the character, Rory Cullen (a fictional footballer who has recently signed with Manchester City), actually released an autobiography, they’d read it.

Now, in fairness, I’ve put those words in a few mouths simply by including snippets from Cullen: The Autobiography at the start of each chapter in UNDERCOVER. Here’s an example:

Money is killing this game. I'd play for three square meals a day and a roof over my head if that's all it paid. Fucking love those Ferraris, though.

At some points in the novel, the quotes are meant to provide a sense of foreboding. Others are just a wee bit of fun at the expense of the more notorious (in my mind) players in the Premier League. To be clear, UNDERCOVER is a crime thriller featuring Cormac Kelly who is working undercover to infiltrate a criminal gang (yes, the clue is in the title). One of the characters just happens to be a footballer. Another character, the victim of the criminal gang, in fact, is the footballer’s agent.

I feel like that distinction should be made, lest a few people who read this post pay for a copy only to discover that it’s not a Premiership satire. There are elements of that in there, I suppose, but that’s mostly me amusing myself as I try to shape a fast-paced thriller in the form of this novel.

It got me thinking, though ... could I write a fake autobiography? And would you call it an autobiography or a biography? There may be pen name issues if I pretend to be a footballer myself. Legal ones too, as I can’t resist having a poke at the Rooneys, Beckhams and Lampards of this world, and we live in a pretty litigious society. It’d have to be an out-and-out parody for me to get away with writing the kind of stuff that other people can chat about at the pub, the gym or on their chosen social media platform. I could change the names to protect the privileged, but where’s the fun in that?

Anyway, the long and short of it is, I think I could write a Cullen biography in the style of the snippets found in UNDERCOVER. Unfortunately, I don’t think it would be easy. Possible, yes, but not easy. And here, don’t get me wrong, I like to challenge myself, but there are enough challenges already out there for me at the moment. Like trying to build a life in which I can feed my family by writing for a living. I’m kind of doing that now, though I can see a very definite finish line to this lifestyle that I’ve worked towards for over a decade. Every writer can, I suppose, (even the likes of John Grisham can fuck their career through stupidity) and all I can do is write, write, write and hope that there are enough kind souls out there willing to pay to read my scribbles.

And if you’ve read me for free – I’m looking especially at you ebook pirates – maybe you could give a little back in the form of a review? I’d forgive your ‘theft’ if you did. At least it would prove that it was worth stealing.

Unlike Rory Cullen, I’ll never buy a Ferrari, never mind a bunch of them. But that’s okay. I’m lucky to own a Hyundai (it only took me five years to pay the fecker off) and a bus timetable. So long as the kids have been dropped off or picked up from school, I’m relatively free. Could I pretend to be the new George Best for long enough each day to write his *auto*biography? Probably not. But sure, I’d like to spend a little more time with Cormac Kelly instead. I just have about 60K words to write for another couple of projects before I can. 

And I think Kelly would rather spend his time hanging out with a boxer or a mixed martial artist this time around. I know I would.


:: Visit Gerard's website: http://www.gerardbrennan.co.uk Buy Undercover on Amazon UK and Amazon USA.




Sunday, 26 October 2014

Guest Blog: Dave Zeltserman on The Boy Who Killed Demons


By Dave Zeltserman
The prolific Dave Zeltserman.
When Tony offered me a guest spot on Pulp Pusher, I’d already done a number of interviews and articles about my latest book, The Boy Who Killed Demons, and was afraid I’d run out of anything new to say about it. Still, though, it was a damn generous offer on Tony’s part, and I didn’t want to turn him down, so I decided to do something that I’ve been very nervous about doing. Namely, tell the truth of how Demons came to be published.

Two years ago I was doing a book reading for Monster at a Newton, Massachusetts bookstore, and a kid who had sat in rapt attendance approached me afterwards. The kid  had his hair dyed bright green, and his all-black Goth attire made his pale face look almost ghostly. His name turned out to be Curt Tucker. He was 14, had aspirations to be a writer, and shared my love of H.P. Lovecraft’s weird tales. For four months following the reading, Curt and I traded emails where I attempted to do the mentoring thing and offer encouragement to a very young and fledgling author, and as often happens in situations like this the emails from Curt tailed off. Then 9 months later he surprised me by showing up at my door to hand me a package. He seemed scared and didn’t much want to talk, only asking me to read what was inside the package and to see if I could get it published, telling me that it was important that I do so.  Before I could ask him anything else, he was on his bike, peddling away. It was all very odd. While I was curious about this encounter, I was in the middle of writing a new horror novel that I was deeply into, and so all I did was give the contents of the package a quick cursory look, saw that it was some sort of journal, and stuck it in a pile of things to read. It wasn’t until five months later that I picked it up again and gave it a thorough reading. At that time the name on the journal, Henry Dudlow, seemed familiar to me, but I couldn’t place where I’d heard it before. As I read more of the journal, I remembered. About a month or so before Curt had delivered the package, a story had broken about a grisly murder outside of Boston that a 15 year-old Newton kid named Henry Dudlow was suspected of committing. The story, though, quickly died after that one day with no follow up stories, and like a lot of other people I’d forgotten about it. Here’s the strange thing about it: I could swear that this is all true—that I saw the story on at least two Boston newspaper websites—but when I tried searching these newspaper websites, there was nothing. The story has been scrubbed clean, unless I was somehow imagining it.


Here’s where the story gets odder. Any record of Henry Dudlow also appeared to be scrubbed clean. I tracked down his parents, and they insisted they never had a child named Henry or otherwise, but there was something very off in their expressions when they made their claims. After my short and bizarre meeting with them, I tracked Curt down again, and he was now insisting he never gave me anything, but he also seemed badly frightened as he did so.

"readers will fully believe
in both the madness and the greatness
of his tragic young hero
"
--Publishers Weekly 
At this point I wasn’t sure what to believe. I had this journal written by Henry Dudlow, except Henry supposedly never existed, and the kid who delivered the journal to me seemed almost desperate in his claims of not having done so. Was this a hoax or something else? I knew the journal physically existed—my wife and others verified it—so I wasn’t delusional about its existence. All in all I felt uneasy about the whole thing, and I had to keep digging into it. For several weeks I came up empty, and I started questioning my own sanity. If Henry Dudlow truly never existed, yet I vividly remembered that murder story breaking and now had in my possession what was supposed to be his journal, was it possible that I wrote the journal myself without ever realizing it, and fantasized all the rest of it? I wasn’t quite sure what to think until I found Sally Freeman. When I asked her about Henry I could see for a brief moment that she was going to deny his existence like everyone else had, but then tears welled up in her eyes, and rather grim-faced and defiantly she told me that Henry was real. “His journal is real,” she insisted, “don’t believe what they’re telling you.” I hadn’t told Sally about the journal, and fortunately I recorded her conversation, which allowed my wife to verify it, so at least I proved I wasn’t insane. At least I knew that much. But I was still left with the question whether the journal was real or a hoax. Shortly after meeting with Sally, something happened to tilt this answer more toward the former. While the same people (or demons??) who cleansed any record of Henry ever existing attempted to do the same with Henry’s neighbor, Mr. Hanley, they made one mistake. They forgot about the same newspaper photo that freaked Henry out so much—the one with Hanley in the background carrying a large bulky package wrapped in white butcher’s paper—and I now have it!

I still couldn’t claim the journal was legit—even if Henry Dudlow wrote it, it could still be a hoax or delusional fantasies—but I couldn’t shake the thought that it could be real and for the sake of the world it needed to be out there. For that reason I took it to my publisher and begged them to publish it. I wanted them to attribute the novel to Henry, but since they couldn’t find any record of him ever existing, for legal reasons they’d only publish it as a fictional novel with me as the author. While I felt a bit funny about those terms, getting Henry’s journal out into the world seemed too important not to agree. I just have to pray that this all turns out to be an elaborate hoax. I think we all have to pray for that.

:: The Boy Who Killed Demons is available on Amazon UK and USA

:: Dave blogs at Small Crimes  Visit his website at  www.davezeltserman.com

Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Guest blog: Alan Jones, author of ‘Blue Wicked’

I’ve just published my second book, ‘Blue Wicked’, for Kindle and on Smashwords, a year after publishing my first book, ‘The Cabinetmaker’. Both are gritty Glasgow crime stories, although the second one has more violence, and is not for the faint-hearted, as one reviewer commented. 
When I published The Cabinetmaker on Kindle in 2013, it got generally good reviews, although there was a significant amount of feedback suggesting that it maybe wandered a little for some readers and that there was a bit too much cabinetmaking and football content, which distracted a little from the central story. Then I got my first 3-star review, from one of the book blogging sites, Big Al’s books and pals. Keith Nixon, author of ‘The Fix’, said the book was ‘promising’ when he reviewed it but also gave it a bit of a pasting on the editorial front. Difficult to take, in a way, but I came to the conclusion that he was right, and that when I was writing my next book, I  would use the feedback from the first one to improve my writing, and also employ a freelance editor to make it error free.
I contacted Keith, and he couldn’t have been more helpful, suggesting a couple of editors that I could use, and when I emailed Julie Lewthwaite, she offered to edit a sample of the book to show me what she could do for me. I was pleased with the result and sent her the whole manuscript, which was very promptly returned to me covered in a mass of electronic red ink! And she told me I used too many adverbs!
I accepted all of her typo, punctuation and grammar corrections and 90% of her style and content suggestions. Even when I didn’t agree with her changes, her comments made me think of alternatives. I also removed a pile of unnecessary adverbs, and re-wrote one complete section on her advice. After she’d checked it again and we’d had another couple of rounds of polishing it, I felt that the process had been well worthwhile and anyway, the costs had been covered by the income from the moderate sales of ‘The Cabinetmaker’. The result, I hope, is a more focussed and pithy book with less distractions.
As the acid test, I sent ‘Blue Wicked’ to Keith Nixon, and this time he found no fault with the book, and gave it a 5-star rating. 
At some point, I’m going to go back and have a final go at re-editing The Cabinetmaker, and I’ll get Julie to do her stuff as well. I also have another book in the pipeline, and rough plots for a few more books after that. I love writing, and the beauty of it is that you can do it anywhere. About a third of ‘Blue Wicked’ was written on the iPad, on holiday, and also during the odd insomniac hour or two I sometimes have in the middle of the night. 
The other useful skill I forced myself to learn was to touch-type. I still ain’t fast, but I can watch the screen as I type, which really aids the writing process. I would advise anyone starting to write to do this as quickly as possible, and I wish I’d done it sooner.
'Blue Wicked' is a Gritty thriller set in the south side of Glasgow. Eddie Henderson finds himself as the unlikely investigator holding information that there's a serial killer targeting the substance dependent underclass that inhabits the notorious Glasgow housing estates. The police ignore his warnings but one young detective constable believes him and she helps him search for the truth, despite putting her own career at risk. Their desperate search for the killer eventually sparks off a massive manhunt, with Eddie and Catherine, the young detective, at the forefront of the investigation. The book contains a fair bit of strong language and Glasgow dialect, and has some very violent passages. 
I've been writing since 2003. I was born in Glasgow in 1960 and spent the first twenty-three years of my life there, but now live and work on the Ayrshire coast, in the animal health sector. I'm married with four grown up children and in my spare time I read, sail, make furniture, play football and watch films when I'm not writing.


Friday, 10 October 2014

Latest column for the Highland Times



My latest column for the Highland Times newspaper has just gone live.

This week it's about the dramatic downturn in author earnings - slumping to a low of £11,000 this year according to the latest figures by the ALCS.

There's also a bit of commentary in there from publishing legend Allan Guthrie, himself an award winning writer, a literary agent and a successful publisher in partnership with Kyle MacRae at Blasted Heath.

You can read the column now at the Highland Times.

Les Goes Back to Work

If there's one writer we look out for her on Pulp Pusher it's Les Edgerton. If you didn't realise the author of The Bitch and The Rapist has a new one out and it sounds like a classic piece of Edgerton genius....Here's the run-down:

A mix of Cajun gumbo, a couple tablespoons of kinky sex and a dash of unusual New Orleans settings and you wind up with Les Edgerton’s latest romp fest! 

Pete Halliday is busted out of baseball for gambling and travels to New Orleans to make his fortune hustling. Five years later, he’s deep in debt to bookie and in cahoots with Tommy LeClerc, a Cajun with a tiny bit of Indian blood who considers himself a red man. 

Tommy inveigles a reluctant Pete into one scheme after another, the latest a kidnapping scheme where they’ll snatch the Cajun Mafia King and hold his amputated hand for some serious jack. 

Along the way, Pete is double-crossed by Tommy and falls in love with part-time hooker and full-time waitress Cat Duplaisir. With both the Italian and Cajun mobs after them, a chase through Jazz Fest, a Tourette’s outbreak in a black bar and other zany adventures, all seems lost. 

Fans of Tim Dorsey’s character Serge Storms, and readers who enjoy Christopher Moore and Carl Hiaasen will enjoy this story. 

“A hard-driving, relentless story with grab-you-by-the-throat characters.”—Grant Blackwood, New York Times bestselling author 

“The Genuine, Imitation, Plastic Kidnaping is not for the faint of heart, and that’s just one of its selling points. If you like crime fiction that cracks wise while offering a peek into the darker recesses, this is the book for you.” —Bill Fitzhugh, author of Pest Control and The Exterminators 

“...a dark crime comedy that will have you laughing from page one. It crackles with manic energy and mad thrills. If you’re looking for a different kind of edgy crime novel, this is the one to grab.” —Bill Crider, author of the Sheriff Dan Rhodes Mysteries 

“Les Edgerton’s latest book is the real deal, and has everything to keep you turning the pages. It’s a caper, full of fun and high-jinx, but it’s also bitter-sweet, engendering a full range of emotions. You’ll smile, you’ll wince, you’ll laugh out loud, and sometimes you’ll even cringe, but you’ll come away from the read feeling thoroughly satisfied and entertained. A terrific read.” —Matt Hilton, author of the best-selling Joe Hunter thrillers.

:: Buy the book on Amazon

Tuesday, 7 October 2014

Not the Booker prize - the final vote

If you've been following the Not the Booker prize over at The Guardian's website then it can't have escaped you that the hotly-anticipated moment where the winner is announced will soon be upon us.

There's been a few weeks of voting and review - harsh but fair, in the main - under the excellent stewardship of the paper's Sam Jordison and now it's time for the judging panel to make a decision ... but not before the great British public get another chance to chip in their tuppence worth!

Until Monday, October 13, you can vote can vote for your fav' book on the shortlist by going to the comments section and leaving the words, 'Vote: The Last Tiger' (for, ahem, example) and a sentence or two (about 40-words or so) on the reasons behind your choice.

So, simple enough, and you can get voting here.

Saturday, 4 October 2014

The Ever-so Irregular Friday (I know it's not Friday) Round-up

I wrote a note to my young self for The Courier.
It's been a bit of a gig-arama recently with visits to the Inverness Book Festival, Bloody Scotland and the Spirit of Moray Festival in Elgin.

All good fun.

And next week, I'm off to prison, Shotts Prison, to talk to some of the inmates, who are always great sources of material and a good laugh.

The next stop is Tasmania, a former prison colony - a theme could be emerging here - to do some promotional events for THE LAST TIGER.

There's some more media stuff lined-up in Melbourne on the same trip and then it's the beach. For some time.

Some good news on the prize front, with ARTEFACTS OF THE DEAD picking up a CWA Dagger in the Library nomination. Huge congrats to my publishers Black & White for that. You can view the long list - some very stiff competition - here.

ARTEFACTS has also been picking up some very nice reviews, courtesy of some very nice people, like Maxim Jakubowski over at Love Reading.

"Tony Black was brought up in Scotland and his voice resounds powerful and authentic ... The plot and the writing are slick and assured and unfold like dark clockwork. Black is the veteran of two previous series, respectively featuring D.I. Rob Brennan, and private eye Gus Dury. Valentine is a welcome addition to his palette of troubled but fascinating sleuths." -Maxim Jakubowski

And the ever-observant Crime Squad crew turned their critical powers on ARTEFACTS too, delivering up a 5-star verdict.

"Tony Black’s novels are modern masterpieces which bear comparison with the works of notable noir authors such as Hammett and Chandler. ‘Artefacts for the Dead’ is a fantastically dark novel which follows DI Bob Valentine as he struggles to make his way back from injury in the line of duty. Each chapter, page and sentence is crafted with the care of a true artisan as Black tells his story." -Crime Squad

In a hat-trick of cracking reviews for ARTEFACTS OF THE DEAD The Scots Magazine gave the thumbs up like this:

'Another grim but great whodunnit, set in Ayr, and one for DI Bob Valentine to get to the bottom of. Tony Black's talent for the Scottish noir puts him up there with the best, as any who have read his previous books will testify to. This one in particular is hard to put down.' -The Scots Mag

And finally, the excellent blog The Rap Sheet has a little piece about 'The Story Behind the Story' of ARTEFACTS which I wrote recently; always great to be in such esteemed company as TRS folks.


:: In other news, THE LAST TIGER is nearing the final stages of The Guardian's Not The Booker Prize, all the reviews are in now but you can still add your comments. There'll be a final vote in the next week or so and if you have the chance - even if you voted in the first round - please do take the time to do so once more.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Guest Blog: The Wanderer by Timothy Jarvis

Timothy Jarvis
by Timothy Jarvis

My book, The Wanderer, was in part conceived as a spiritual successor to Charles Robert Maturin’s 1820 novel, Melmoth the Wanderer, a work which gripped me when I first read it in my mid-twenties. Melmoth is very odd text, which brings, to the violence of the Gothic, a high-Romantic sensibility, but also, and more incongruously, the comical, sceptical, and metatextual mood of Renaissance and Enlightenment satire: Rabelais, Cervantes, Swift, Sterne, and Diderot. I wished to emulate some of Melmoth’s strangeness: its awkward, but potent, blend of tones.

The seeds of The Wanderer were planted much earlier, though, when a childhood love of the Sherlock Holmes stories led me to Conan Doyle’s Professor Challenger tales. The 1912 novel, The Lost World, struck a particular chord, and I became obsessed with fantastical colonial romances. But, sometime in my early teens, I realized – to paraphrase McArdle, a newspaper editor in The Lost World – the big blank spaces on the map had all been filled in, that there was no room for romance left anywhere, and also that such imperial adventures belied darker truths. I turned away from them then.

Later in life, I discovered and was captivated by Edgar Allan Poe’s weird novel, The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket. Its strange story of exploration took me back to the tales I’d loved as a child, and got me wondering where a writer could set an adventure as bizarre as Pym’s in a world in which even the wildest and most desolate places have been explored and tamed, new means of transport and telecommunication technologies have elided distances, and globalized culture has eroded difference. That was when I came up with the central premise of The Wanderer. My solution was a dislocation, not in space, but in time. I made my protagonist immortal and set much of the story in the far-flung future, when civilization has collapsed and history is nearing its close. MP Shiel’s The Purple Cloud was a particular influence on me in thinking about the desolated world I wished to depict. And from Jorge Luis Borges’s short story, ‘The Immortal’, I took a sense of disaffection and amorality in the undying.


Interwoven with the post-civilization strand, is one with a present day setting; the deathless narrator recounting the events of the evening on which he first learnt of his immortality. The portmanteau horror story was a big influence on this. A hint as to the structure came from Arthur Machen’s The Three Imposters, while the mundane strangeness of the some of the short fiction of Shirley Jackson and Robert Aickman suggested the tone.

I also wished to present the novel as a found manuscript, to generate a sense it could be something real in the world, that its horror might seep, might bleed out. William Hope Hodgson’s The House on the Borderland, CaitlĂ­n R Kiernan’s The Red Tree, and Mark Z Danielewski’s House of Leaves were touchstones for this.

My attempt, when writing The Wanderer, was to fuse these various influences into a new whole, on the model of Melmoth, a whole that I hope would be both weird and pulpish, a chimera botched from incongruous parts, a Frankenstein’s monster…

There was one more key influence on the novel – eerily, a retrospective one. While editing the book, after completing my first draft, I came across a reference, in Iain Sinclair’s Dining on Stones, to a novel by one Walter Owen, titled, More Things in Heaven… Sinclair’s narrator describes this book as being a sequence of linked narratives about cursed manuscripts, manuscripts that cause readers to spontaneously combust, and warns that it is supposed to be itself cursed, supposed to confer, ‘malfate, paranoid delusions, death…’

Intrigued by a seeming resemblance to The Wanderer and undeterred by Sinclair’s narrator’s claims of malign influence, I ordered up More Things in Heaven… at the British Library. On opening it, I felt an eerie shock. The first line of Owen’s work runs: ‘On the 14th July 1935 Mr Cornelius Letherbotham, an English gentleman resident in Buenos Aires, died under extraordinary and distressing circumstances.’ The first line of The Wanderer was (and is): ‘On the 18th December 2010, Simon Peterkin, a British Library archivist and writer of weird tales with a small, if cultic, following, disappeared from his Highgate flat.’ I read on, gripped by a horrid fascination, and discovered more and more correspondences. Then I began dabbling, working more, this time intentional, allusions to More Things in Heaven… into my novel.


Then, in the block I was living in at the time, there was a bad fire. No one was hurt, but the building was gutted. I stopped tinkering after that.

:: The Wanderer is published by Perfect Edge Books. Find it on Amazon UK

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

From Dreams to Drivers and the Stark Reality



By Peter Carroll
I came to writing novels relatively late in life. As a kid I was a book-worm, excelled at English in school, and loved creative writing. But, as I got older, science, rock n roll, alcohol, work and other such delights distracted me. I lost my fascination with literature and never seriously considered being a writer. Then, about four years ago, a friend let me read a novel they’d written. It was really good and we chatted about what had inspired her. She believed lots of ideas for books are lost to people because they don’t write them down when they are struck by that Eureka moment.  I thought she might be right and found my interest in writing re-ignited; an ember of my childhood obsession began to glow.
One Saturday morning in 2010 I awoke at 6am, sun streaming through the curtains, surprised by how alert I was. I didn’t want to get up that early on a weekend and I tried to doze off. It didn’t work. However, as I lay there a scenario began to play out in my head; the interaction between two characters returning from the pub and a pivotal phrase. I remembered what my friend said about ideas and I got up, went downstairs, grabbed a pencil and a notepad, and began to write. At eight-thirty my wife and daughter came down to find me still writing. I’d knocked out about three thousand words. No structure, no plan, no idea where the story was going but I was buzzing. I was up and running as a writer and the ember burst into flames.
Fast forward to 2014 and I’ve had five novels published by a small independent called Raven Crest Books. I mainly write what’s often described as Tartan Noir. I prefer realism; if that means profanity and violence, then so be it. I enjoy taking the places and people I’ve known and exaggerating or embellishing them and, so far, I’ve had a pretty good reaction from readers. 
None of my output has troubled the upper reaches of the Amazon bestseller chart, and I haven’t been able to give up my real job, but it has been a brilliant experience. I write as and when I can fit it in. Sometimes, when work is slow (I’m a self-employed ecologist), I can hammer down great chunks of a book but in (Stark) contrast, when I’m busy with work and chauffeuring my ice-skating daughter about, I might struggle to get much done at all. In any case, my working method is probably more than a little against best practice. I write in bursts, allowing ideas to ping pong back and forward, letting the story evolve organically, adjusting and re-editing as I go when a new idea scuppers an old one. I rarely have a plan or a set structure. My novel Pandora’s Pitbull arose from a single line in my debut novel In Many Ways for instance. I think this is in part a symptom of not being a full-timer and in part a reflection of my personality.
Despite this apparent chaos, as I’ve gone along, I think I’ve become a much better writer. I’ve learned so much by reading others – Tony Black included – and by absorbing as much advice and feedback as I can. My latest novel is called Drivers and I’m really proud of it. It’s a tale of unrequited love and murderous revenge, set in gangland Glasgow. My publisher and I have decided to use it as a shop window to the rest of my work and offer it for free for the foreseeable future, allowing a risk-free introduction to my writing. I hope some of you might give it a go and maybe even spend some of your hard-earned on my other stuff. I’m always grateful when folks do. 
I would like to thank Tony for being so generous to an up and coming rookie and giving me this platform to tell you all a bit about myself. The support and encouragement of fellow authors like him has been one of the most rewarding aspects of this adventure so far. 
And what of the future? Well, I’m currently working on Stark Reality - the third instalment of a police procedural series featuring an Alloa-based cop called Adam Stark. With the flame burning brightly in me again, I intend to keep writing; searching for that elusive key that unlocks the door to big sales. Maybe one day I’ll even be able to give up that day job. 

:: You can find Peter at the following web hang-outs:  Website    Twitter    Facebook 

Friday, 29 August 2014

The ever-so irregular Friday (is it even Friday?) round up

I might have missed a Friday, or two, of round-ups but I think the 'irregular' bit covers me for that. So, without further blather, here's the, er, blather ...

The Last Tiger, shortlisted  for Not the Booker.
That newspaper of note, The Guardian still has The Last Tiger shortlisted for its Not the Booker prize at the moment and the latest step in the judging process is a very level-headed review from Sam Jordison. There's four more shortlisted books to be reviewed - all the very best of luck to the authors and their publishers - and readers can enter the debate via the comments box for the reviews during that time.

The Last Tiger continues to rack up the reviews - breaking the 20 five-star reviews mark on Amazon recently - and landing some very nice plaudits from the folks at Upcoming4.me.

"Poetically written, The Last Tiger is likely to make you very sad and melancholic but sometimes those books are the best kind there is. Black speaks about important things and through the tale of the final throes of this wild but wonderful species, he actually talks about humanity itself and the need to accept the very things we don't really understand." 

In the coming weeks I'll be talking about The Last Tiger - and other things - to students at Edinburgh Uni and I'll be doing a Hunting the Last Tiger event in Elgin.
Meanwhile Artefacts of the Dead, my new Ayr-set crime novel has been featured in the Cumnock Chronicle, where the origins of DI Bob Valentine get an airing for the first time. The book also picks up some very nice reviews at Undiscovered Scotland and Crime Review.

The Undiscovered Scotland reviewer pointed out I wasn't making too many friends at the Ayrshire Tourist board, and is probably right. But I liked this bit best: 

"Artefacts of the Dead is Tony Black's latest venture into Tartan Noir and deeply noir it is too… The result is a thoroughly enjoyable read that keeps you guessing right to the end."

Crime Review called Artefacts a "superbly told tale" and added that it: "treads the fine line between dramatic license and realism with a sure-footedness close to perfection with often unrelenting violence finessed by surprising emotion and compassion."

Hard Truths is out now in paperback.
In other news my compilation of crime writer interviews - Hard Truths - has now made its way into paperback.

This series was something of a labour of love, spanning about five years' worth of interviews with the likes of Irvine Welsh, Ian Rankin and Andrew Vachss. The interviews cover a host of topics from the writing process to more personal anecdotes and featured in a number of newspapers, magazines and on my own, now defunct website, Pulp Pusher.


You can catch an edited version of my interview with the legendary Godfather of Tartan Noir, William McIlvanney on YouTube now. 




 

Friday, 22 August 2014

Tasmanian tiger extinction doco

There's a lot of footage on YouTube about the Tasmanian tiger and its 'extinction' but most of it is pretty dire stuff. This is a detailed and well put-together account of the animal's demise and although it runs on a bit is worth the watch if you're keen to broaden your understanding of what went on down in Tassie.


Sunday, 17 August 2014

The Lost Australians: Fortean Times article from 90s

Very interesting article from the Fortean Times, published some time in the 90s, which was sent to me by J.T. Lindroos (who is also an excellent cover designer, just saying!). There's a curious discussion on the Queensland tiger, that sounds more big cat than thylacine, and an interesting guess at the current numbers of around 1,000; note the writer using the pseudonym Tigerman guesses at around 200, or less, extant thylacines now in Tasmania.


Page One

 Page Two









Thursday, 14 August 2014

Tasmanian tiger in New Guinea

The thylacine once roamed throughout Australia, and on New Guinea, the large island to the north of the continent. It's thought the tiger became extinct on mainland Australia about 2,000 years ago and possibly earlier on New Guinea. A number of theories account for this, including loss of habitat to incoming dingoes, who were far less choosy eaters, and hunting by indigenous peoples. What's far harder to explain away is continued sightings of thylacines on New Guinea. This short video gives a fascinating account of such sightings in West Papua Province (previously known as Irian Jaya). Locals say the thylacine, which they call dobsenga, lives in the region's high country.

Friday, 8 August 2014

The ever-so irregular Friday round-up

It's Friday, so time to round up some of the last week (-ish or so) of stuff that's been happening. Or not, as the case may be.

Shockeroonie, as Frank McAvennie might say, THE LAST TIGER has made it onto the shortlist for The Guardian's Not the Booker Prize. Voting closed last Sunday and the results show it was about as tight as a tight run thing, so thanks a million to all of you who voted, and double thanks to my excellent publishers Cargo for nominating.

The next round sees The Guardian reviewing all of the shortlisted titles before another vote and eventual decision by a judging panel. All the best of luck to those on the shortlist, I can't wait to delve into some of those books so props (see how street I am?) to The Guardian for bringing them to my attention.

THE LAST TIGER - currently 99p - has also been steadily picking up some nice reviews over at Amazon and some equally nice coverage in the press, with The Herald (almost) making my trip Down Under their splash today. There's also a great interview at The Inverness Courier, where I talk to journo of note Calum MacLeod. And, if you grab a copy of this month's Writing Magazine you'll find another interview with me in there.

Meanwhile back at the crime fiction ranch, ARTEFACTS OF THE DEAD, the novel Ayr-writer Michael Malone still believes is called Architects of the Dead (too much Grand Designs, Mick!) got a great reception at Weegie Words in Glasgow this week, where I read the section about a banker getting impaled on a wooden spike.


Artefacts - not Architects! - has also picked up some fine reviews lately, with the Daily Mail praising its "taut, heart-wrenchingly honest protagonist and impressive literary style".

They went on - and I for one wasn't about to stop them: 

"It is among the best of the new Tartan Noir, a story told with real poignancy amid the ugliness and fear."

This week Artefacts also kicked off a serialisation in the Aberdeen-based Press & Journal newspaper which will run till the end of the year and saw its book trailer - and my beard - aired to the world:

 

And finally, my novella THE RINGER has sneaked into print on Amazon and has had quite a few takers in its first week or so. It's a lovely edition, it must be said, with an excellent cover design by the ever-talented Jim Divine. You can grab a copy in the UK for £4.99 and in the USA for the dollar equivalent. Meanwhile in the Czech Republic DI Rob Brennan has made his way into print with Murder Mile. At least, I think that's what it says on the cover ...
Oh, one last thing, if you fancy the chance to win £200 worth of books then you can now nominate your favourite crime writer for the CWA Dagger in the Library Award. Simply visit the sponsor's website and list your three favs. It's an award for a body of work, so the writer needs to have published at least three books ... I've published way more than that, ahem, just saying.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Not the Booker Prize: The Last Tiger

After clawing its way up the charts, The Last Tiger (see what I did there?) has now found itself onto the Guardian's Not the Booker Prize longlist.

This is a great result for all at Cargo Publishing, especially my publisher, Mark Buckland, who has done an outstanding job getting the book noticed.

Voting is causing a wee bit of confusion for some folk, but it's a simple enough affair, really.

Here's how to vote:

1) Go to the Guardian page for the Not the Booker Prize.

2) Scroll down to the comments section, and state your vote, with a few words about why you've made that choice. You can list a second choice too, in the same fashion.

3) If you're not already registered with the Guardian to leave comments, then, at the same point on the page - just before the comments section - go to this bit:

Open for comments. or create your Guardian account to join the discussion. 

You'll have to give your email address and a username, but that's it. I've been registered for years and never had any spam so no need to worry.

Simples.

To all of you who have voted already, my huge thanks, it really means a great deal to see so many of you speaking up for The Last Tiger. Much appreciated, folks!

:: As part of Amazon's Summer Sale The Last Tiger is still only £0.99 right now.