Thursday, 24 July 2014

GUEST BLOG: Twelve rules, twelve weeks, and Twelve Mad Men.

By Ryan Bracha

Twelve Mad Men is the story of a night guard’s first shift at St David’s asylum for the criminally insane. Throughout the shift he meets the staff and residents there, and before long it soon becomes apparent that there’s something very wrong in the water. It is made up of several stories written by some of the finest indie talent on offer, and woven into the narrative by me, Ryan Bracha.

Lanarkshire-born wordsmith Mark Wilson probably hates me when I’m a bit tipsy. He probably hates me full stop. On Saturday nights, when the wife has gone to bed just around Match of the Day, or The Football League Show comes on, I get on the long bit of the corner sofa, with a beer in one hand, and my phone in the other. From this position, I scroll through Facebook contacts, find the bald bastard, and I hurl abuse (wrapped in the safe word of banter!) at his little bald head. In between this ‘banter’, we discuss books. We talk about other writers; who we admire, who’s doing something cool with their stuff, and who’s an absolute clown. It’s about these times that I come up with my best ideas. They start as throwaway comments about what it’d be cool to do, or what character I’d like to introduce into a book, or what I want to do to try to stand out from the crowd. Some of them are forgotten as quickly as they dribbled out of my brain, but others are left to fester upstairs. Whilst up there, they grow a fine layer of fuzzy mould, and begin to take on a life of their own. Twelve Mad Men was one of those ideas.

I wanted to write a set of rules that I would write a novel by, and I would beg a bunch of authors to get involved in the making of it. The set of rules eventually became what I have termed ‘The Rule of Twelve Manifesto 2014,’ which required twelve very loose guidelines to write a book by, for example it had to feature twelve different writers, all invited to participate by the lead writer. Or each story had to be so many words long. Or that the project would cost nothing but time, the writers between them must use the skills between them to make the project work, and for free. That kind of thing. I wanted it to be a literary equivalent of the Dogme 95 cinematic movement, led by Lars Von Trier.

So I began to ask around the writers whose work I’d discovered in my first eighteen months in the literary game. Gerard Brennan, whose work I adore. Keith Nixon and Mark Wilson, my original and best pals on the indie scene, they taught me at least 63% of what I know now. Paul Brazill, whose descriptive prose makes me sick with envy. The writer of my favourite book of 2013, Craig Furchtenicht. Lord of despair and darkness Allen Miles. Darren Sant because of his gritty urban collections. And Martin Stanley, the hard-boiled master. They all said yes, without hesitation. It blew my mind. From here I asked for suggestions, and Christ, I snagged the legendary Les Edgerton, the twisted fuck that is Richard Godwin, and the king of short, sharp fiction, Gareth Spark.

Once I’d got them, I told them what I wanted. The brief was pretty much simply this: I’m going to narrate the story from the point of view of a night guard on his first shift at St David’s asylum for the criminally insane.  Along this shift he’s going to meet fictional version of you. I want you to write me a story about your spiral into madness, and what acts led you to be incarcerated at St David’s. No more than six thousand words. I would improvise and react to the stories submitted, and this would shape how the book went. The stories came in and they blew me away. They were funny, dark, violent, sweary, intelligent, disgusting, witty and above all, brilliant. Everybody who’s read it so far has said something like ‘That Richard Godwin, he’s a damaged fuck, eh?’ and that’s what I wanted. I was sick of seeing the charts filled to the brim with rip-offs of the last big thing. I wanted to put a book out that had got some real balls, one that would make a reader admire the ambition that lay within, and I think I invited possibly the most perfect eleven to make it so. I wanted these guys to let loose. Take themselves out of their comfort zones, and simply go nuts, pun intended. They made me up my own game in response to the sheer brilliance of what they were sending me. They made me push harder to make the narrative of the book stand up alongside the stories included therein. They did me proud, each and every one of them.

For me, the highlight of the whole process was all of it. I’ve got to know some really cool fellas, and I’ve put out a work that I think they can all be proud of. The next project is already up in the mental attic gathering the mould it needs to come alive, and I’d be happy to have any one of them back for round two.



Ryan Bracha is the Yorkshire born best-selling author of several works of fiction, including Strangers are Just Friends you Haven’t Killed yet, Tomorrow’s Chip Paper, and Paul Carter is a Dead Man. His latest work, a novel of stories entitled Twelve Mad Men, is a ground breaking literary collaboration with some of the most talented Brit Grit and American talent currently working today. He lives in Barnsley with his wife, two cats, and their as-yet unborn, and unnamed, daughter.

:: Buy Twelve Mad Men on Amazon now.

Monday, 21 July 2014

Tiger trapper caught on film

Anyone who looks into the history of the Tasmanian tiger will tell you that the real experts were the old trappers. Turk Porteous - who features in this video - knew more about the nature of thylacines in the bush than any university professor, simply because he observed them at first hand. In his acclaimed book, Tiger Tales, Col Bailey talks about his experiences of dealing with the old bushmen and trappers of Tasmania, how they observed the tigers in their natural habitat, and comes to precisely the same conclusion. That there are no 'real experts' these days, because they have all died out, those bushmen with the experience to say they knew and understood the tigers.



:: For a limited time only, THE LAST TIGER, is available as part of Amazon's Summer Sale at the low price of £0.99.

"The Last Tiger presents the reader with a unique storyline that takes historical fiction to a new dimension."
                                 -Col Bailey, author of Shadow of the Thylacine
 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Launch week reviews for Artefacts of the Dead

It's only been out a week or so but my new crime novel is racking up some very pretty reviews.

It's an interesting one, Artefacts, a kind of existential thriller about a cop who has come back from the brink of death and starts to re-evaluate whether life is worth living. I once heard the answer to that question was 'it depends on the liver' but Bob Valentine will have to work that out for himself.

If you'd like to find out a little more about Artefacts, and its setting in the heart of Burns Country - the lovely town of Ayr - then I wrote a piece earlier in the week for Shots Mag about just that topic.

Meanwhile, over at Liz Loves Books, Artefacts was declared "another massive page turner of the highest order". Liz went on to declare Artefacts "absolutely superb" and how can I argue with that? I think I'll just drop in a chunk of her review and shut up now:

"This author never fails to remind me why I love Crime Fiction so much – the characters pretty much pop off the page, the fine line between dramatic license and realism is walked to perfection and whilst often violent and unrelenting there is also a finesse to it that means it is enough yet not too much."

Heather McD also reviewed over at her blog, calling it a "solid mystery" with "characters that stand out from the page". She went on too, and I wasn't gonna stop her:

"Solid story, great characters, and a great writing style!"

The Crime Thriller Fella declared me an old hand at putting characters under intense strain - hey, less of the old, mate! He did seem to enjoy his time with DI Bob Valentine, though, and he's bang on the money when he says that Artefacts is "part procedural, part existential reflection by a man who has been given a second chance at life – and isn’t sure if it’s worth having".

Again, he elaborated:

"We could all learn a thing or two from Tony Black on how to crank up the pressure to eleven on our beloved characters."

I did a little Q&A with the Crime Thriller Fella this week too, where I talk about the creative cistern needing filling, among other scatological insights.

Finally, Killing Time Crime took a shuftie at Artefacts of the Dead and found plenty to praise about the characterisation of DI Bob Valentine, before stating:

"It’s also a good crime novel, and the plot more than holds its own. Black is also very good on social commentary, and the book is peppered with neat observations."

And on that note, it seems appropriate to tell you that Artefacts of the Dead is available from Black & White publishing, in all good bookstores, and on Amazon

:: My other Black & White title, His Father's Son, is currently part of the Amazon Summer Sale, available for £0.99 for a limited time only.

Thursday, 17 July 2014

FACE OFF: Keith Nixon and Douglas Jackson sort out publishing

Keith Nixon

Take two writers. Put them in one room (kinda, a cyber room in this instance) and let them share experiences - the results are always interesting. No two authors approach the work, the industry or the route to success in the same way. In the case of Keith Nixon, an indie writer who took the route to traditional publishing, everything seems to have worked out fine. The same can also be said of Doug Jackson, a gifted and successful author in more than one genre, who started his career with a dream deal from Transworld. Pulp Pusher decided to introduce the two of them, to hear how their experiences differed, and to get the run-down on new books from both men ... in traditional and digital formats.



Keith: You’ve a series of Roman historical fiction novels with a character called Gaius Valerius Verrens. Who is he?

Douglas Jackson

Doug: The Gaius Valerius Verrens series opens with Hero of Rome, when a 22-year-old Valerius is fighting his father's demands to return to Rome to resume his career in the law. Valerius wants to stay in Britannia with the XXth legion and join the campaign against the Druids on Mona, but filial duty means he can't refuse. Events, however, delay his departure and he's drawn into the fight to stop the rebel queen Boudicca, commanding a forlorn hope of two hundred odds and sods sent to reinforce Camulodunum (modern Colchester). The centrepiece of the book is the defence of Camulodunum against Boudicca's hordes, by the local militia, a Dad's Army of retired legionaries, and the last stand in the Temple of Claudius, which I think of as Rome's Alamo. The wonderful thing for me is how Valerius develops as a character over the following books; scarred by his past, a good man forced to fight and to kill to protect what he loves.


Keith: And Sword of Rome, the recently published fourth outing for Verrens?

Doug: It covers the opening months of the Year of the Four Emperors, the bloody civil war that cost tens, possibly hundreds, of thousands of lives and brought the Empire to the brink of ruin. As it opens, Valerius is on a mission for Servius Sulpicius Galba, accompanied by Marcus Salvius Otho, who will in a few short months be Galba's murderer. With his links to Aulus Vitellius and Vespasian, our hero finds himself uniquely placed to affect events and the protagonists take advantage. After a perilous journey across Europe hunted by the most implacable enemy he has ever faced, Valerius finds himself at the heart of the first Battle of Bedriacum, the bloody confrontation in the Po Valley that will decide the fate of the Empire.

The paperback of Sword of Rome is out in July, and the follow-up, Enemy of Rome, is published on August 28. Once more Bedriacum is the focus of the war, and Valerius joins the army of Vespasian in the campaign to oust his old friend Vitellius from the throne. When Vespasian's commander needs someone to negotiate the surrender of Rome there's only one man for the job. Once more he must put his head into the lion's mouth, but there are dark powers at work and when he discovers that Vitellius is no longer the master of his destiny, only one man stands between the city and its destruction.

Doug: I know you also write books on the Roman period. What's the subject and how did you get your inspiration?

Keith: Even though my first published work was crime (The Fix) I actually started with historical fiction. I felt I needed an event to write around to get me started. I went to Maiden Castle, the largest iron age fort in Europe, and read about how the Romans had sacked it. Quite an achievement given the size. So I started to dig into Roman history and realized that the invasion of AD43 started a few miles away from where I lived. I became intrigued by Caradoc, a British general who resisted the Romans for nearly a decade and now a largely forgotten military leader in history. After two years of many rewrites The Eagle’s Shadow was the result.
 

You've had a successful career over the last few years, Doug, how did you come to be published?


Doug: By quite an interesting route, actually. I'd completed The Emperor's Elephant and knew it was pretty good, but not quite good enough. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to go about starting a rewrite. A few weeks later I stumbled on an English Arts Council website called Youwriteon.com where you uploaded the first 10,000 words of your book and other people critiqued it, using a points system. To get critiques, you also had to critique other people's books. At first it was a chore, but very quickly I realised that by looking for flaws in other people's writing, it also gave me an insight into my own, and gradually I began to look at the book in a different way. I uploaded a second, improved version and won a book of the month award, which entitled me to a critique by a publishing professional. My beginning ended up with Sarah O'Keefe at Orion books, who specialised in historical novels. I knew she'd like it, and she did. She asked to see the rest of the book and I thought I had it made. I got a phone call a couple of week's later along the lines of 'We were going to offer you a deal , but ...' The but was that they wanted to focus on the first third of the book, which was based around intrigue in the palace of the Emperor Caligula. I could have said no, because there was no guarantee of a deal at the end of it, but I realised that if I could achieve this I'd have taken another step forward as a writer. I worked on it for three months and found an agent on the strength of her interest. He liked the result so much that he insisted on putting it out to seven mainstream publishers. Two or three were interested and one came back offering a pre-empt deal, which is an offer design dot scare off the opposition. I was on my way.

Keith: I see you've recently ventured into the crime genre with War Games, why the shift from historicals?

Doug: It was really a question of having a perfectly good book and wanting to see it published. When I finished my first novel (it became Caligula, but I didn't then have publisher) I had no idea what to do next, but I'd enjoyed it so much it seemed a pity not to write another. I could write a historical novel, but why not try something different? What came next was a crime novel written in the first person because the main character started talking to me in my sleep in a kind of Fifties Noir Sam Spade voiceover kind of way. The hero is a Falklands War veteran who returns home semi-traumatised, but with a gift that he thought he'd lost long ago. Glen Savage is a psychic, the last resort the cops call on after all the other last resorts have struck out. In War Games he's investigating the possible abduction of a young Asian girl when he finds himself crossing swords - almost literally - with a serial killer who thinks he's still fighting a war that ended seven hundred years ago. The action takes place in the Borders, my old stamping ground, and when I was writing it I wanted to make the place a character, in the way James Lee Burke does with New Orleans.

Keith: And War Games is self-published, how's that experience been for you?


Doug: I knew my agent was unlikely to convince my publisher to take War Games, and a second Glen Savage novel I had, because I was already writing parallel series for them (Valerius and the Jamie Saintclair series - as James Douglas - which blends contemporary action with historical mysteries). It's possible I could have found another publisher, but that would have been a scheduling nightmare. Eventually, after discussing it with my agent, he agreed to support it as a self-publishing project. If I'm being honest, I'm a little disappointed with the impact it's made so far. I priced it low and expected to get quite a few takers, especially among Douglas Jackson fans, but after a not bad first week it faded away. I guess I still have a lot to learn. I was very fortunate in getting some great advice on the technical side of Kindle from Simon Turney, who also writes Roman-era fiction, and is a real self-publishing phenomenon, but I haven't managed to turn the book into a paperback yet. I have a feeling that would add to the credibility. I also think that it helps a lot to have several books out with the same character, to get a bit of cross-pollination.

We're quite similar in that we write in different genres, Keith. Do you find it difficult to jump from one mindset to the other; from the past to the present and vice versa?


Keith: I guess so far I haven’t had to jump around between genres. The sequel to Eagle’s Shadow I started and put on hold about five years ago. I’ve another crime novel in process now, once that’s done I’ll jump back to historical. I suspect getting into the mindset of writing about two thousand year old events, versus modern-day crime, will be interesting! I do feel I’ve got to finish one, create a separation and then start in the other genre…

Can you expand on your experiences in self- and traditional publishing, Doug? There's an ongoing debate about which is best.

Doug: I don't think there's a best or a worst, they both have their good points and their downsides. The one thing that unites them is that you have to be very fortunate as well as very good to make any kind of breakthrough. A welcome upside of traditional publishing is that you get an advance, so you have some money to bankroll your efforts, which is particularly important when you write full time as I do. On the other hand what sounds like a big advance isn't quite as good as it sounds. For instance, an advance for a three book deal will be delivered in ten smaller increments over four years, so even the much trumpeted six figure advance will give you an average income of £25k, minus tax and your agent's cut, which isn't really much to shout about. And that advance has to be repaid by book sales. My last royalty statement averaged about 40p a book, paid three months in arrears every six months, so unless your sales are pretty enormous you'll take a long time to earn out a decent advance. Self-publishing at least has the potential to provide a monthly income if your book sells, and the Amazon royalty rate of 70 per cent for books priced £1.99 and over is a fair rate of return. It means your books can be keenly priced, which should generate more sales, and you still get a fair return. Of course, the downside of that is that everyone then thinks they should get all their books for next to nothing.

Keith: Yes, that’s a good point. There’s definitely a view with many readers that e-books must be low priced or even free.

Doug: It goes without saying that you have to sell books to make money in both self and traditional publishing. As a budding author you dream of seeing your name up in lights, posters at the station and your books in enormous piles in Waterstones and WH Smith. The reality is that even with a large mainstream publisher that will only happen if you become a best-seller. Of course, the most likely way to become a best-seller is to have your name up in lights, posters in the station ... you get the picture. If a traditional publisher decides to put their full resources behind you, you have a chance, but you only get one bite at the cherry and mostly they keep the big money for the big names. In my limited experience self-publishing can be equally frustrating. You've written a good book, you've put it out there on Kindle, you've asked your mates on Twitter and Facebook to tell the world, and then what? It either sells or it doesn't, and if it doesn't I'm not sure there's any guarantee you can change that.

I think the best thing about traditional publishing is that you're part of a team, and for an author who spends most of his life writing alone that can be a real encouragement and comfort. You have an editor who's put his career on the line because he believes in you and whose job it is to get the best out of you. You work with a copy editor, who is normally more expert in your genre than you are - mine have saved me from embarrassment any number of times. You have an enormously professional production team who make your books look stellar, even if they're sometimes not. You have legal oversight, which is important when you're about to defame a world leader as I was not that long ago. And you have professional proofreaders to spot those irritating little mistakes that hid themselves the last twenty times you read the manuscript. After that process you can just about guarantee your book is the best it can possibly be. In self-publishing you have to provide all these services yourself and it's much scarier to put out a book that only you and a few close friends have read.

Keith: Will you be self-publishing again?

Doug: Yes, almost certainly. I have a second Glen Savage novel on the stocks and the (few) people who've read the first one have really enjoyed it. The reality is that most authors will have to write two books a year to make a living. In future I see an author having a career with a traditional publisher, but perhaps dove-tailing it with self-publishing a second series of novels at his own pace and his own price. That will take goodwill on both sides, but I think the industry will eventually work it out.

Doug: What about you Keith? Self-publish or traditional?

Keith: I started as self-publish, then was picked up by Caffeine Nights and lost touch with the DIY process until putting out Eagle’s Shadow six weeks ago. It’s been a learning process all over again and I’ve loved it. Going forward I’ll carry on with both routes. I like the ability to move at pace in self-publish. Like you, Doug, I think there’s room for both. I know some authors who are indie or self-publish forever. I guess time will tell…


:: All the books above by Keith Nixon and Douglas Jackson are available on Amazon. 


Monday, 14 July 2014

Top 5 - A completely idiosyncratic list of football books

Well, that's the World Cup over for another four years and I can already feel the withdrawal symptoms setting in.

It was a fabulous tournament all round, with highlights aplenty.

The shock humbling of the once mighty Spain (a team whose style of play I was never a fan of) seemed to herald a return to a more attacking game all round. Though it was a disappointment Messi and Ronaldo didn't feature more heavily on the score-sheets.

Of those that did, Van Persie's athletic header was a favourite for me. As was the Rodriguez stunner, but my goal of the tourney goes to an Aussie, Tim Cahill, for a volley that was just an incredible piece of skill.

Low points have to be the Brits disappointing showing, of course would like to have seen Scotland there, but in their absence I was backing the England team. The lowest of the low points has to be Suarez's biting incident, shocking beyond belief, but the Uruguay reaction - blaming his actions on an English media conspiracy - was idiotic.

Germany, in the end, were deserved winners - though their keeper should have been red carded for the full-on assault that had eerie echos of Spain 82 when Schumacker recklessly lunged from his six-yard box. Still, great to see the legendary Klose managing to play nearly the whole final and a fitting swansong to see such an outstanding goalscorer go out on a high.

It's the German's 7-1 thrashing of the most disinterested and lacklustre Brazil team I've ever witnessed that will stay with me the most from this World Cup, however. I can't remember watching another match through slitted fingers so much. It was beyond embarrassing. I felt truly uneasy witnessing a side I'd worshipped from boyhood demolished in such fashion. Sad for Brazil, sad for the people who picked up the tab for such an enormously expensive spectacle to be left with those memories.

If, like me you're feeling a little starved of international footy action already then a little distraction might do the trick. Here's another completely idiosyncratic list of football books that I can recommend to while away the hours:

1- Pele: The Autobiography - by Edson Arantes do Nascimento
Does the legendary 'best player of all time' need any introduction? His autobiography has been around for a few years now and it's probably an indication of its quality that the book is still in print. It's a dramatic rags to riches story, littered with all the top names from the top teams, and a fascinating account of his early years in the game right through to the dubious move to Cosmos. There's nice accounts of things like his first bicycle kick and the retelling of the early hopes and dreams of a spirited lover of the beautiful game are priceless.  

2- Blessed - by George Best
The number of books written by, and about, George Best could fill a football stadium but this one is the pick of the crop. Part memoir, part confessional and part autobiographical testimony the book sparkles with Best's wit and wisdom. As quick off the lip as he was on the ball, Best, has an eye for an anecdote and a lovely humorous, self-deprecating way of delivering a tale. All the highlights of the life and loves of El Beatle are there, too, like the time he was asked how many Miss Worlds he'd dated? "Two or three, it would have been more but I stood some of them up!" For me, the greatest player the game has ever produced, blessed beyond belief, indeed.  

3- The Damned United - by David Peace
Forget the Carry On version you've seen on the telly or at the cinema, The Damned United is a damned fine book written by an equally fine writer. If you know British football, then you know it was impossible to ignore Brian Clough. Love him or loath him - and many did, objecting to his blunt-speaking - he was impossible to ignore. His achievements at Nottingham Forrest look like the stuff of fantasy league these days but this book doesn't reach that point in his past. It's his ill-fated time at Leeds, taking over from the dearly-loved Don Revie for a mere 44 days that Peace documents in the kind of warts and all way that only a near Shakespearean character of Clough's stature is fit to fill. 

4- The Lone Rangers - by Tom Maxwell
Edinburgh-writer Maxwell is well-known as the author of the recent football book, The Fabulous Baker Boys, but this earlier book is fast becoming a classic of the genre. As a committed Berwick Rangers fan, Maxwell, knows all about the highs and lows of the lower leagues. Interestingly, Berwick are the only English team to play in the Scottish league, however, and display a fiercely competitive streak, backed by a committed following. The book retells the team's story of the last hundred years, with cameo appearances for a host of household names whose early careers touched on the Lone Rangers. The Jock Wallace episodes are as entertaining a read as I've come across in a footy book, but you can expect similar from the likes of Gordon McQueen, Ally McCoist and Gary Linekar.

5- Scotland '74: A World Cup Story - by Richard Gordon
As a Scotland fan any retelling of our nation's exploits will be beset with mixed emotions. For all the highs, the lows can be heart-crushing. For those of us reveling in the glory days of old when World Cup qualification seemed like a foregone conclusion this book will be meat and drink. All the greats are there: Law, Bremner, a young Kenny Dalglish, Lorimer, and the plug-toothed Jaws, aka Joe Jordan. Forget about Archie Gemmill's exquisite goal in Argentina '78 or David Narey's thunderbolt in Spain '82 (it wisnae a toe-poke) the tournament where it looked like the Scots could do no wrong was West Germany '74. Of course, we did do wrong in the end, it's Scotland we're talking about here, but what a story we had to tell. Thrilling, immersive and packed with the stuff of revelry; and with a very nice foreword by Gordon Strachan as well.

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Top 5 - A completely idiosyncratic list of Aussie books

Publishing my second book with an Australian setting, THE LAST TIGER,  (the first was last year's HIS FATHER'S SON) has set me thinking about other books set in the Lucky Country.

A quick scan at my blog stats tells me most of you reading this are in the States and the UK, and only a few are from Oz - so it seems like a good idea to share some of the fruits of the Aussie writing mill with those of you who might not have come across the best and the brightest from Down Under.

So, here's my completely idiosyncratic list of books set in Australia. They're not all by Aussie authors, and there's at least one short story collection in the mix but I'm vouching for the quality of each and every one of them.

1. TRUE HISTORY OF THE KELLY GANG by Peter Carey. Where do I start with this one from the double Booker-winner. If you know the Ned Kelly story, or even have a passing familiarity with it, then you know it's a ripper of a yarn. Kelly, the son of poor Irish immigrants who were ruthlessly persecuted by the colonial government, took off on a crime spree that makes Dillinger's escapades look like a picnic. Throw in hand-made armour and numerous bank heists along the way and you get the picture. I've read a few of Carey's books and this is without doubt my favourite. An incredibly finely drawn character study of Australia's most infamous bushranger, told in glistening prose. Top class.

2. RED DOG by Louis de Bernieres.
He's more famous for Captain Corelli's Mandolin but Brit, de Berniers's little novel about an errant bush dog that can't stop picking up new owners is a must read slice of modern-day Australiana. De Berniers stumbled across the stories of the legendary Red Dog on a trip Down Under and felt compelled to commit them to print. I'm glad he did. I read this book when I was living in country Australia and it rings totally true to life. A raucous romp through the spinefex and dust of rural Oz that will leave you both laughing and smiling.

3. TIGER TALES by Col Bailey.
Australia's past is fertile ground for many a writer, they were hard times those early frontiersmen and women faced and nowhere fared worse than Tasmania. The small apple-shaped isle at the foot of the continent has a rich and varied history - Ned Kelly's family hailed from there - but perhaps even more interesting is the variety of wildlife, unique anywhere else in the world. Everyone has heard of the Tasmanian devil, but the isle also hosted, or should that be hosts, tigers. Bailey is a world-renowned authority on the Tasmanian tiger, a veteran bush explorer with nearly half-a-century's experience under his belt and a cast-iron belief that the tiger, although officially extinct, still survives. He should know - he's seen it twice. Tiger Tales is Bailey's collection of frontier tales from the time when tigers were plentiful and stalked the lands of the new European settlers. A brilliant, all-encompassing and beautifully told collection that is so all-Australian you'll be shoo-ing flies whilst you read it.

4. THE BROKEN SHORE by Peter Temple.
Crime fiction fans around the work are likely already familiar with Temple's work and the reason for that is his breakthrough novel, The Broken Shore. Essentially a detective yarn it rises above the standard fare in its depictions of a modern vibrant Australia coming to terms with its long journey from convict roots. Temple, a resident of the Victorian town of Ballarat, originally hails from South Africa but writes like a life-long native. The descriptions of the landscape and its inhabitants are crisply told; add in a rattling good crime plot and what more could you ask for from one of the world's most popular genres.

5. FAVOURITE AUSTRALIAN SHORT STORIES - edited by Harry Heseltine.
I'll admit to buying this book on the strength of the cover image - two larakins propping up a bar in a stereotypical Aussie ale house - but the contents were even more appealing. The book spans the country's cities and small towns and is the perfect companion to take on any outback adventure, though if you can't manage a trip Down Under, don't worry because the stories in this collection are so evocative by the end of it you'll feel like you've been there. Some great Aussie writers, contemporary and classic alike, fill the pages: people like, the double-Booker winner we mentioned earlier, Peter Carey, Henry Lawson - the colonial-era legend who is often called Australia's greatest short story writer - and the first Australian Nobel-winner, novelist Patrick White.


:: Discover more about the brightest and the best of Australian literature at Wikipedia.

Artefacts of the Dead is here

Less than a week to the official launch of my new crime novel ARTEFACTS OF THE DEAD but I suspect a few sneaky copies have made their way to bloggers and the media.

You can grab previews at Crime Time and Crime Fiction Lover.

And there's a few reviews up to:

"Tony Black is the new Scottish noir king you need on your bookshelf." -Shortlist

"Beautifully constructed and incredibly difficult to put aside ... Absolutely superb. As always." -Liz Loves Books

"Black's writing is on the button – great characterisation, strong set plays and a pin-sharp commentary on the current lack in society."-Michael Malone, author of The Guillotine Choice


:: Artefacts of the Dead, published by Black and White Publishing is available from Amazon now.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Capturing the last 'known' Tasmanian tiger

This disconsolate looking family group of tigers, crouched and cowering in the corner of a pen,  consists of a mother and three young. Trapped in the Florentine Valley it is believed they were part of a travelling exhibition that toured the island before being sold on to Beaumaris Zoo in Hobart. One of the sad family group was the tiger that was to become known as 'Benjamin' - the name now attributed to the last captive thylacine - who died in an extremely depressed and neglected state, in an unsuitable shelter, at the zoo on Spetember 7, 1936. The species was declared officially extinct 50-years later.

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Could this long-gone tiger pup bring back the Tasmanian tiger?


It might seem like a fanciful idea, but an Australian professor has spent more than a decade trying to clone the Tasmanian tiger. Using DNA recovered from a tiger pup that was found in a dusty specimen jar, Prof. Mike Archer of the University of NSW is confident that one day he will be ''patting a thylacine''. The work has attracted world-wide publicity but so far has only cleared the starting blocks with many thylacine researchers believing the funding could be better spent on preserving animals that may still be in the wild. For more information on Mike Archer's cloning plans: http://www.smh.com.au/national/waking-the-dead-20130617-2ocz4.html

Friday, 27 June 2014

Friday round up (an irregular slot, occuring mostly on a Friday)


With Chris Taylor, left, and readers this week. PIC: Ayr Play
It's been another one of those weeks at Pusher Towers, with shit-to-do competing with tasks-by-the-ton. At some stage, I may get to live up to my career description of 'writer' but not for a while anyway. Not that I'm complaining, it's been a bit of a blast this last week, with a readers' day in Galston, featuring among others Lisa Ballantyne, and then, a very boozy meet the author night at Ayr's Carnegie Library, pictured left.
 
My old bud, the Ayrshire actor, Chris Taylor was filling the Parkie slot in Ayr. From the photo you might notice it's the same bloke playing the Doug Michie role in The Ayrshire Post's new serial of THE INGLORIOUS DEAD. And, as Chris revealed to the audience, he'll be staring in the stage adaptation of THE RINGER which is coming out later in the year, on national tour no less. Incidentally the Edinburgh Evening News' serial of LONG WAY DOWN has now reached episode ten.

Ayr's own Doug Michie is back
Some very kind reviewers put their thoughts into words about THE LAST TIGER on Amazon this week and that's always nice to see; these reviews, these days, make all the difference and it's always a joy to know someone's liked your book, so muchas gracias to all concerned. One of my fav comments from the latest batch of Amazon reviews was "you'd be surprised if Spielberg and Dreamworks weren't already sniffing around The Last Tiger". Erm, actually, I'd be bloody surprised, but let's just throw that out there, eh.


New Post serial underway
Tiger is, however, winging its way to a certain Aussie actor - an A-lister no less - this week, via some out-of-the-blue contact from a mutual friend, so fingers crossed he likes it; the sad fate of the Tasmanian tiger is a story crying out for big screen treatment. And the book hits Aussie stores next month, there's been plenty of interest from the Aussie media, so I'm hoping that keeps up and I get to press the flesh with a few when I'm in Melbourne later in the year.  Hopefully will have picked up some more reviews like this one from Whichbook, who called THE LAST TIGER "extraordinary and an absolute treat" this week.

"extraordinary and an absolute treat"
THE LAST TIGER was a real labour of love for me, written over the course of about ten years, but I suppose that's nothing compared to Col Bailey's epic 46-six-year search for the Tasmanian tiger. I interviewed Col - a lovely gentleman - many years ago for an Aussie newspaper and I've caught up with him again this week for the blog; his new book SHADOW OF THE THYLACINE is already occupying top slot on my TBR pile.

£1.85 on Amazon eBook
My publishers, Black & White have been busy selling ancillary rights to the two books of mine that they are publishing. HIS FATHER'S SON came out this week in audio book - read by the man who used to be the voice of Gerry Adams on Channel 4 News, no less - and a large print version is on the way soon. B&W have also sold audio and large print editions of my new crime novel ARTEFACTS OF THE DEAD, which comes out next month, so outstanding efforts in the current publishing climate. If that wasn't enough, those hard-working folks at B&W have been gathering new reviews for my books. I loved this one from Book Addicted Shaun for HIS FATHER'S SON, where he declares the book a "masterpiece". Don't know about that, Shaun, but delighted you got on with Marti Driscol so well. (In other news HIS FATHER'S SON is on £1.85 on Amazon right now).

And finally - you'll be glad to hear it - if I'd known this was round-up malarkey was going to take so long I'd have just written another frickin book instead! Yes, finally, this week, but by no means least, I spoke to the ever lovely Julie McDowall from The Puffin Review about coffee and my admiration for the work of Gordon Legge, who, as it happens, has a gig in Falkirk next month as part of the For Falkirk's Sake festival.   

Wednesday, 25 June 2014

Today's daily Tasmanian tiger pic ...

This picture shows a rug made from Tasmanian tiger pelts. The trade in thylacine pelts was particularly macabre, with 3,500 tanned pelts shipped to London between 1878 and 1893. These pelts were made into waistcoats for the well-to-do with money to indulge the new fashion. As the tiger neared extinction, museums and private collectors increased their offerings with London Zoo paying £68 for a tiger in 1911 (the bounty scheme paid £1).
During 1909 local trappers well still advertising 'tiger shoots' in the press.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Col's 46-year tiger hunt

Col Bailey is a man in the know.

As someone who has spent the last 46-years of his life researching and searching for the Tasmanian tiger, it's unlikely anyone can hold a candle to Bailey's unique store of knowledge and insight. 

One of the most revered commentators on the existence of the thylacine today he has buried himself in the bush in pursuit of tigers and turned tracker on the old-time trappers to raid their stores of insight.

Along the way he has built an incredible understanding of not only the fascinating predator known as the thylacine, but of bush men who trapped tigers and their lost lore.

The author of two books on the subject and the go-to guy for both print and picture media his name and face are well known in all the eddying circles of thylacine obsessives.

I first spoke to Bailey when I was investigating thylacine sightings in SW Victoria in my role as a newspaper reporter and found him to be an interesting character. Both knowledgeable and forthright in his beliefs Bailey speaks with the authority of a man who not only knows his subject inside out but someone who, through long years of rumination, has learnt to spot cranks a mile off.

I caught up with Bailey who - ever the gentleman - agreed to respond to some of my questions on his extraordinary life in pursuit of the Tasmanian tiger.

TONY BLACK: Col, when I first ran into you at the very early stages of my research into the Tasmanian tiger it was clear that you knew what you were talking about, but then it's 46-years you've been at this.  

COL BAILEY: My quest actually commenced in January 1967 with a possible sighting along the shores of the Coorong lagoon in south eastern South Australia. To this day I am uncertain whether the animal was actually a thylacine, but regardless, that unforgettable event encouraged a curiosity that led to my ascertaining everything I could about this strange and unusual creature that many believed extinct.

Can you tell us a little about how you first heard about the tiger, I believe you were a very young lad.

My father shared stories of the Tasmanian tiger when, as a 10-year-old, my curiosity in the natural world prompted me to ask many and varied questions. Although my interest in the tiger was at that time minimal, those early discussions came home to roost following the Coorong episode, and especially so were articles that dad had shared concerning the search conducted by Victorian naturalist, David Fleay in Western Tasmania in 1945-46. 

In the 1980s you met an old fur-trapper called Reg Trigg, he had a profound impact on you, didn't he.

Yes, Reg Trigg was a fountain of knowledge concerning the thylacine, and in sharing a multitude of information laid the foundations for ‘Tiger Tales’. His impact was not only philosophical but all revealing, mainly because of his hands-on experience with a Tasmanian tiger.
 

How would you describe that collection of stories in Tiger Tales?

The book was actually inspired by my column of the same name that The Mercury newspaper published in the Derwent Valley Gazette during the 1990’s. This was a collection of stories gathered along the way, primarily from old bushmen and trappers. Because of an ever- widening interest in the Tasmanian tiger, I sensed the need to meet a niche that was to that time largely unexploited.

The tiger had an enormous impact on those early settlers, and right up to the mid-1930s when it became very scarce, people knew it was a bit special.


The Tasmanian tiger has always been a mystery animal, right from the commencement of white settlement in Tasmania, and over the years its almost covert presence has expanded beyond all probability. With the advent of the bounty scheme it became a despised and derided adversary throughout the island, hunted and destroyed to the very brink of extinction, and as a result its latter-day adulation is remarkable in itself

It's clear that the tiger occupies a particular place in the hearts and minds of people to this day, isn't it?

Because of its amazing battle to survive, the thylacine has endeared itself to the populace to such an extent that today, it takes its place in the top echelon of the world’s most revered rare species. The most hardened sceptic would hope for its survival, but this possibility diminishes with each passing year as the ranks of true believers in an extant population shrink accordingly.

You're fully committed to the belief that it survives, aren't you?

Yes, fully committed, and not without good reason. Over the past twenty years I have seen, heard and smelt the thylacine in wild and isolated wilderness areas of Tasmania.

Why do you think there is so much fevered opposition to the claims of the tiger's existence?

There is little doubting that much of the rank scepticism surrounding the thylacine’s continued existence has been brought about by the scientific opinion that the last of its species died in the Hobart Zoo in 1936. However unsubstantiated this claim may be, for we cannot put a date on extinction, it is an assertion that has grown in prominence over ensuing years. It must be understood that scepticism is contagious and the majority of such people have little perception of the actual animal, preferring to run with the tide of public opinion rather than form an honest conclusion of the true situation.

When I first spoke to you, some years ago now, I was working as a newspaper reporter in SW Victoria where we'd had numerous tiger sightings - do you think some early environmentalists released tigers on the mainland? Or, do you have another explanation for those very plausible claims I encountered?

Some years ago after giving a thylacine talk at Mt Field National Park, I was approached by two men claiming their fisherman grandfather had traded Tasmanian tigers from his boat at Port Welshpool in Gippsland to people connected with a Victorian Acclimatisation Society. Their response was prompted by my mention of Tasmanian tiger sightings in South Gippsland and querying how these animals could have possibly arrived there, short of a remnant population – an extremely remote possibility.  Were these sightings imaginary or did they have a plausible explanation? [I realised that my own sighting along the Coorong also fell into this category]  This got me thinking that perhaps such a possibility existed and the tiger had somehow hung on over the ensuing 100 years. Were these traded animals eventually released into the Victorian countryside? Rumours abound of a release into Wilson’s Promontory National Park by private collectors in the early years of the 20th century but the story has no substance.


Your latest book, Shadow of the Thylacine, is winging its way to me and I'm looking forward to reading and reviewing - can you tell us a little about it?

This is the story of my prolonged pursuit of the Tasmanian tiger; a quest to prove to the world that this animal does still exist. It has been an extensive and challenging journey of research and discovery that has taken me to many far-flung areas of the island. I take the reader from my earliest days to the present, endeavouring to focus on the many high points along the way as my fascination with the natural world gradually took shape. Of integral influences that shaped my quest in the form of the true experts, the old bushmen and trappers that knew the thylacine first hand. And of my personal accomplishments in visual, audio and scent sightings that spurred me on in the face of adversity.

In your new book you detail how you came face-to-face with a tiger in March 1995 ... your heart must have been in your mouth! 

My coming face to face with a living, breathing thylacine deep in the wilderness of the Weld Valley in South West Tasmania was an almost surreal experience. I was there with the precise intention of locating a thylacine after having received covert information from an unlikely source. But it was actually the last thing I expected to see, my belief of an extant population by that time hanging by a thread after much unproductive searching over many years. On fully realising what the animal was, my whole body went into lockdown as the shock of seeing it hit home. The tiger stood staring at me and I stood staring back, now totally consumed by this incredulous situation. The fact that I was unable to move likely bided me more time to fully take advantage of this truly unique circumstance. There was absolutely no doubting what the animal was. To merely stand and watch on as the tiger disappeared into surrounding scrub was something I will never forget, but owing to my circumstances at the time I could do little about it.

Do you believe it's just a matter of time until the Tasmanian tiger is actually proven to be extant, how do you think that will be greeted by the public and do you think it will be good for the remaining number of tigers?


The complexity of this question overrules a satisfactory answer. It is in the realm of the unknown. It may never happen. However, hypothetically, the answer may be as follows: Public reaction to such a momentous event may be unbelievably perceptive, considering its importance. Nevertheless, there will be those who would seek to fully exploit the situation by way of media publicity and personal gain. There may also be those who seek to destroy the animal. For this reason it is imperative that such an event be kept highly covert until such time as the animal/s can be successfully rehabilitated and safely released back into a semi-captive environment from where breeding can commence. There is little doubting the public interest, and were the above to be successfully implemented, the eyes of the world would be firmly centred on Tasmania. Therefore the significant question remains; who could be entrusted with such a vital programme? There are no experts alive today, no experience in the field, no hands-on skill or understanding of the living thylacine. There is unfortunately so much we don’t know about this animal that it will be all trial and error. For this reason the right people must be chosen to carry out what will undoubtedly be one of the most challenging and far-reaching wild life programmes of the 21st century. There are far too many questions to answer here for there to be a quick and easy solution. It is after all in the realm of the unknown. But having said that, it may well happen in the foreseeable future.


:: Shadow of the Thylacine is available on Amazon now, or from Five Mile Press. Watch a detailed online review on YouTube










Sunday, 22 June 2014

Today's daily Tasmanian tiger pic

This picture of a smiling Wilfred Batty, gun in hand, typifies much of the hysteria that surrounded a thylacine kill, even as late as 1930 when this trophy photograph was taken. Batty, a farmer from Mawbanna shot the half-starved young thylacine after observing it sniffing around his home for several weeks. A road gang working in the area had claimed to have fed the desperate-looking tiger scraps. It's interesting how Batty's dog warily recoils from the deceased tiger. Batty sold the carcass for £4 and this tiger was later declared to be the last to be shot in the wild.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Today's daily Tasmanian tiger pic

This picture shows a beautiful young tiger, positioned as a trophy on the lap of hunter Albert Quarrell. The animal was cornered and shot near Fitzgerald in December 1911 after putting up a brave struggle against bush men. Quarrell claimed to have wanted to take the tiger alive - being more valuable to zoos by then - but was forced to seek the help of other bush men after receiving a bite from the animal. Notorious thylacine trapper, Herb Pearce, is seen in the background. Pearce claimed bounties on 46 tigers and his extended family claimed bounties on a further 25.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

The Last Tiger (1933)




The last known Tasmanian tiger died in Beumaris Zoo, Hobart on September 7, 1936. The tiger has since come to be known as 'Benjamin' but some doubt remains as to whether zoo keepers actually used this name. The name Benjamin originates from Frank Darby - who claimed to have been the animal's keeper at the zoo - however the zoo owners asserted never to have heard of him. Some uncertainty also remains over the tiger's sex and origins. The most prominent claim is that a female tiger and three pups were trapped by Walter 'Jack' Mullins in the Florentine Valley in June, 1932, and sold on to the zoo. 'Benjamin' would have been one of these three pups.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

Today's daily Tasmanian tiger pic ...

A campaign of whispers against the thylacine, including the creation of imaginary folklore and branding the animal a sheep and poultry thief, helped secure its sad fate. This picture taken by naturalist Harry J. Burrell (1873-1945) shows a tiger with a chicken it has supposedly snatched from a farm. The image was widely circulated and appeared in Australian Museum Magazine in 1921, but is a fake. Far from being shown in the wild, the un-cropped image shows a tiger to be in a fenced run, later thought to be the property of animal dealer James Harrison, in Waynard, Tasmania. Further research concluded the tiger in the picture to be a mounted specimen that was manipulated into position for the shot.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Today's daily Tasmanian tiger pic ...

The Tasmanian tiger had been around for approximately four million years when European exploration began. Earlier, smaller species related to the tiger are dated much older with some fossils found to be 23 million years old. Thylacine rock art - like this one in the Ubirr region of the Kakadu National Park, 253 kms East of Darwin - date back to 1,000 BC. Originally spread throughout mainland Australia and New Guinea, the tigers lost territory to incoming dogs, who, as carrion eaters were less choosy feeders than the nocturnal prey-hunting thylacine. The tigers became extinct on the mainland around 2,000 years ago but survived on the remote island of Tasmania until the last one died in Hobart Zoo in 1936. With tiger bounties being paid as early as 1830, an animal that had been on the planet for 23 million years was wiped out by man in little more than a century.

Friday, 13 June 2014

Today's daily Tasmanian tiger pic ...

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Tasmania was gripped by tiger fever. Backed by a government bounty of £1 (roughly £750 today) the records show that 2,184 bounties were claimed between 1888 and 1909 on thylacine kills.  The killing didn't stop at adult tigers and the government even paid a bounty of ten shillings on pups - the official figures are likely to be an underestimate of the massive count which wiped out the breed. Aristocratic graziers and farm settlers blamed the tiger for sheep kills but it is unlikely the tigers were able to tackle animals of this size. Subsequent studies have shown that, despite the large 120 degree gape of the tiger bite, the animal's jaws were very weak and far more suited to hunting smaller prey.

Thursday, 12 June 2014

The Big Issue calls The Last Tiger 'poignant and moving'

Great review for The Last Tiger in The Big Issue:
 
"Black is best known for a string of brutal, urban crime thrillers, so this change of pace into historical fiction is unexpected but very well executed. Set in Tasmania in 1910, the story is told by 12-year-old Myko, a newly arrived Lithuanian immigrant. Myko is entranced by the legendary status of the local Tasmanian tigers but is set along a path of conflict when his father has to take a job trapping the majestic animals. Delivered with insight, this tale of 
society’s outsiders is poignant and moving."   -The Big Issue

The Last Tiger in the Ayrshire Post


Ayrshire's premier newspaper, The Post, kicks off this week's arts coverage with a piece on The Last Tiger. Post readers can also keep an eye out for the serialisation of my new Ayr-set crime novel, The Inglorious Dead, which will start in the coming weeks.

Today's daily Tasmanian tiger pic ...

This picture was taken in Hobart Zoo, where the last tiger (thylacine) officially died in 1936. The unknown zoo keeper in the picture would have known the last of the species as 'Benjamin'. In 1938 the Royal Zoological Society let a search for evidence of the tiger in western Tasmania and found some proof of the animal's continued existence, bringing back casts of footprints, but never spotted an actual tiger. The expedition's leader, Michael Sharland, even went as far as to recommend that an area in the NW of the island be reserved for tigers.

Wednesday, 11 June 2014

On the publicity trail for The Last Tiger

So chuffed to finally have this book in my hot little hands.

It's been a real labour of love getting to this stage with THE LAST TIGER; I started writing the novel when I was living in SW Victoria and working as a hack for the local paper. And that was about ten years ago.

It took numerous re-writes, numerous agents and numerous publishers to finally find its way into print with Glasgow-based Cargo. It felt like an endless trail of pit-falls but I am confident Tiger's found its way to the right man.

On the publicity trail for The Last Tiger this week.
Mark Buckland of Cargo displayed an interest in the book almost straight away, and, unusually for this business, put his money where his mouth was soon after. When he introduced me at the launch in Blackwell's, Edinburgh, last week he made the point that rarely did a submission land on a publisher's desk and make the sort of impression Tiger did  ... music to any writer's ears!

Support for Tiger, by Mark and everyone at Cargo, has been the stuff or a writer's dreams so to keep my end of the bargain up, I'll be blogging a little about the Tasmanian tiger, or Thylacine as it's known, over here for the next few weeks. It's an interesting story - the tiger was a fascinating creature - and the rapid, and extremely sad, demise of the animal is a tale that haunts me.

As a taster, here's a little piece I wrote for the Daily Record about the tiger, the book and its journey so far.


:: THE LAST TIGER is available in paperback and eBook now from Amazon UK.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

Tiger a roaring success with reviewers




It's not been out a week yet and THE LAST TIGER is already proving itself a roaring success with the critics. Yes, I thought of that all by myself, thank-you ...

Particularly gratified to have the praise of a Whitbread-winning novelist in there - if you haven't read Paul Sayer's The Comforts of Madness, I can't recommend it highly enough; if you're a crime fan, try The God Child, equally brilliant.

And the young and shockingly gifted Barry Graham likes Tiger too, a huge vote of confidence as he has shaped up to be one of my all-time fav writers in the last few years. The Book of Man is a masterpiece, try it. And read Barry's full review at his blog.

I could go on, but don't want to embarrass the likes of Emlyn Rees, Nick Barlay and Michael Malone with my slobbering praise. Great writers to a man and I am still in shock to have their support.

Here's their verdict on THE LAST TIGER:


"A rare and heartfelt fable of an immigrant boy torn between his fears for an endangered species and the father who's employed to kill off what remains of that breed."
- Paul Sayer, Whitbread-winning author

"The Last Tiger is Tony Black's most brilliant and resonant novel so far."
-Barry Graham, Winner of the American Library Association book of the year

'Unexpected, moving and magical. A new direction for Tony Black, and a bold one too.'
-Emlyn Rees, International bestseller

"It's great, a real departure from the dark arts of crime fiction but a successful one as it creates a genuinely engaging picture of strangers in a strange land, as well as carving a haunting space between historical reality and timeless fable."
-Nick Barlay, Granta 'Best of Young British Novelists'

"In this, his next book, Tony Black demonstrates what a talented and versatile writer he is. We're in Tasmania with a family of immigrants and the father is paid to hunt the very last Tasmanian tiger - and his son is horrified. His prose is at times spare and at times poetic as Tony delivers up a fascinating and moving novel about family ties and the truths we don't want to face."
-Michael Malone, author of The Guillotine Choice

:: THE LAST TIGER is available now from Cargo publishing. For review copies or press enquiries get in touch via their website or drop me a line via www.tonyblack.net



Saturday, 7 June 2014

Next stop on The Last Tiger trail is: AYR


Come along and ask me to doodle in your first-edition copy of THE LAST TIGER.

The Last Tiger at the BBC

I took a trip to The Culture Studio to meet Janice Forsyth this week and talk about The Last Tiger.

Saturday, 24 May 2014

GUEST BLOG: The Shill by John Shepphird

The talented and prolific Tony Black is gracious enough to shine a light on my Los Angeles noir.  It’s a caper and twisted love story inspired by noir master James M. Cain – tense, terse, and titillating.

Struggling actress Jane Innes is seduced by Cooper, the handsome arrival in her acting class. He makes a proposition. He needs Jane to play a role — to pose as his wife in an intricate scam. Her task is to befriend the fiancee’ of a ruthless, international tycoon so Cooper can leverage his brilliant swindle.  Jane agrees without realizing she’s entering into a tangled maze of deception, depravity, and murder. Assuming the persona of a carefree heiress, Jane’s true identity threatens to surface and their scheme cracks at the seams. It’s a pressure-cooker to close the deal and becomes all too clear; not everything is as it appears.

Admittedly, I don’t read best sellers. I read page-turning pulp, vintage titles mostly. With The Shill I set out to write the kind of paperback one might find on a wire rack at a roadside truck stop. I live in Los Angeles (and work in television) so figured I’d write about what I know, Hollywood’s boulevards of broken dreams, the bottom-feeders, the desperation and blind ambition.

My lit hero James M. Cain wrote back-to-back noir classics with The Postman Always Rings Twice and Double Indemnity back in the 1930s, in the middle of the Great Depression.  Why are these novellas such classics?  For me, it’s because his characters are so wonderfully flawed, his language so real.  I relate to them, and they do not feel dated. He sets them on a collision course and we get to hang on for the ride.

My hope is that readers “across the pond” find my homage to James M. Cain a fun and satisfying experience.  A special thanks goes out to Tony Black for featuring The Shill on his blog, brilliant commercial artist Roger Huyssen who designed the book cover, and my buddies who helped me make this book trailer.


:: John Shepphird is a Shamus Award winning crime writer & director of films for television including SyFy Channel originals “Jersey Shore Shark Attack” and “Chubacabra Terror.”  He serves as the Creative Director of On-Air Promotions for TVG, America’s television network devoted to horse racing.  Interests also include skiing, tennis, humor, close-up magic, mischief, and long lunches.





:: Buy on Amazon.

:: View the book trailer.










  







Sunday, 18 May 2014

GUEST BLOG: A Case of Noir by Paul D. Brazill

Have you ever walked out of the door and wanted to keep on walking? To get into your car and just drive, drive, drive? Or maybe wander down to the train station and get the next train to …well, anywhere? Anywhere but …here, of course. Because life is elsewhere. Real life is always somewhere else, isn’t it?

Luke Case – the hapless protagonist of A Case Of Noir - moves from city to city because he has to, though. He’s a man on the run, on the lam.

The five chapters of A Case Of Noir are as follows:

Red Esperanto (Warsaw)
Death On A Hot Afternoon (Madrid)
The Kelly Affair (Granada)
The Big Rain (Toulouse)
One Of Those Days In England (Cambridge)

And it goes a little like this:

In snow smothered Warsaw, Luke Case, a boozy English hack with a dark secret, starts a dangerous affair with a gangster’s wife. Case escapes to the sweltering Spanish heat where he meets a colourful cast of characters, including a mysterious torch singer and a former East End villain with a decidedly criminal business proposition. On a short trip to stormy Toulouse, he encounters a blast from the past that is positively seismic which forces him to return to England and confront his past.

'Blood, guts and menace cheek-by-jowl with laughs: what could be better?' K A Laity, author of White Rabbit.


:: Paul D. Brazill is the author of A Case Of Noir, Guns Of Brixton and Roman Dalton - Werewolf PI. He was born in England and lives in Poland. He is an International Thriller Writers Inc member whose writing has been translated into Italian, Polish and Slovene. He has had writing published in various magazines and anthologies, including The Mammoth Books of Best British Crime 8,10 and 11, alongside the likes of Ian Rankin, Neil Gaiman and Lee Child. He has edited a few anthologies, including the best-selling True Brit Grit – with Luca Veste. His blog is here.