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Balance of Powers – coming soon – pre-order now

I have a new book coming out shortly – it’s a contemporary thriller (well, nearly contemporary – 2007), and it has a few points to make, and hopefully without being too heavy-handed about it. The paperback is available for pre-order at $3 off the final price, from Inknbeans Press. (click here) Powers2-01.png

Anyone who follows me on Facebook or knows me personally will realize that I am on the left of the political spectrum. It’s not something I am ashamed of, and I don’t try to hide it. If I take any of the “what sort of politics are you?” tests or quizzes, I come out as a “left libertarian” – strong for individual freedom, while recognizing that the state has a role to play in the protection and help of those unable to protect and help themselves.

Over the past few years, we have been seeing governments around the world removing this protection and help, and siphoning the money saved into the pockets of a very few. Such redirection is either done by “austerity programs” which take away basic protections, tax relief for the rich, while leaving the majority still paying the same taxes (or more), privatization of state programs, which supposedly result in savings and increased efficiency, but in practice usually turn out to be inefficient and/or corrupt, and outright fraudulent activity.

It’s the last of those that really makes me angry. There is sufficient evidence that the banks colluded in the first half 2000s to sell fraudulent products – subprime and no-doc home loans – and to get very rich out of it at the expense of the victims who were left homeless and broke.

But if I, a civilian living on the other side of the world, am angry about what happened some years ago and who was never personally touched by it, how much angrier would a trained killer be, whose sister lost her life as a result of this fraud?

Enter former US Marine Major Henry Gillette Powers – an Afghanistan vet, who comes home in 2007 and discovers the empty foreclosed house that his sister bought only a few years earlier. Shortly afterwards, he makes a more gruesome discovery: the mutilated bodies of his sister and her family. He sees red, and a trail of “double-tapped” corpses marks his path as he moves to New York in search of the Wall Street traders he deems ultimately responsible for his sister’s death, seeking to redress the balance of power.

Yes, this novel was written with a purpose, and with a sense of outrage. But I also think it has entertainment value. Even though his actions put him on the wrong side of the law, Henry Powers always believes he is acting for the best – he is a man who believes in justice, and his country, and is horrified by what has happened in his time away. His friend, Jeanine, who has lost her house in the same way as Henry’s sister, helps him discover some sort of peace as their relationship develops. There is violence and “bad” language in this book, but there is romance, there is some redemption, and even a little humor here and there.

As a writer, I scared myself writing this book – it explored depths I didn’t even know existed, and they weren’t pleasant. But I am proud of the characterization that I achieved, and of the plot that evolved out of my basic anger at the institutions that perpetrated the crimes. So, while the book definitely has a message, it’s also entertainment – and I think it succeeds on that level, whether or not you agree with the basic premises.

Remember, click here to pre-order the paperback for only $7.99 (how many Starbucks lattes is that?)

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Review: Rosanne Dingli’s “Camera Obscura”

Camera ObscuraCamera Obscura by Rosanne Dingli
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book with oodles (lovely word, that – I’ll say it again, just because I like the sound of it. Oodles.) of local colour. Dingli hails from Malta, and the island and its scenery and people play a large part in the story, adding another dimension to the complex and entertaining plot.

The story itself is interesting, and is definitely on the side of plausibility, but there were twists and turns at times that I found to be superfluous and confusing (this is a charge that has sometimes been levelled at some of my stories!). However, I could identify with the protagonist, whose character displayed the hesitations and doubts that beset us all at times. There was little physical description of the characters, but it was easy to picture them in my mind, thanks to the hints (”show, don’t tell”) dropped throughout the story.

There are two major technical threads running through the story – philately and photography. I wasn’t 100% sure about the accuracy of some of the details relating to the latter. I can’t speak for the former.

Whatever, this is a book that is well worth reading as a thriller that avoids clichés of plot and setting and is definitely worth the four stars I have given it here.

View all my reviews

“Are you famous?”

I was walking around Stowe Pool in Lichfield, when I came across a man feeding breadcrumbs, apparently to the fish (there were no ducks in sight).

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(photo by me, click to enlarge)

I asked him what sort of fish he was feeding, but he didn’t know. We got chatting, and he discovered that I am an author who writes Sherlock Holmes stories.

He stopped me with the question, “Are you famous?”

For a moment, I didn’t know what to reply. Eventually I came out with, “Slightly, and only in a very restricted circle.”

Was that the right answer?

Coming soon: Massive Sherlock Holmes collection

With the aim of helping the restoration of Undershaw, the house built by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, where he wrote The Hound of the Baskervilles, a collection of Sherlock Holmes short stories is to be published – the largest such in the world.

Yours truly has contributed (you’ll find The Lichfield Murder in Volume 1), and there are many other stories by talented writers, following in the footsteps of Sir Arthur.

There are three volumes, to be made available in hardcover, initially:

Volume 1 covers stories set from 1881 – 1889

Volume 2 from 1890 – 1995

Volume 3 from 1896 – 1929

All of these will be made available in lower-cost editions later on. David Marcum has been responsible for putting these stories together and he has done a fantastic job. The proof copies have arrived at his house already. Here they are:

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No royalties will go to the publisher or author – all will go to helping preserve the important parts of Undershaw (such as ACD’s sudy), almost certainly through Stepping Stones, the school for special needs children who will be using Undershaw for their work.

Strange & Norrell – Review

Jonathan Strange & Mr NorrellJonathan Strange & Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

One of those books that I really didn’t want to end. Not just because of the plot, though that in itself is fascinating, but because of the world created in which the fascinating (very real) characters live and move and have their being.

In some ways it is like the The Gormenghast Novels in that a layer of mystical medievalism lies over an Enlightenment England (and this is a very English – as opposed to British – book). There are also comparisons to be made with Moonlight, Murder, and Machinery – the combination of magic and Romanticism. I’m not sure about the comparison to Jane Austen, though it is definitely of that time. The language is elegant, and understatedly witty (hence comparisons to Austen).

One of the most interesting twists to the book, as far as I am concerned, are the long footnotes, which posit a world that is well documented, and absolutely convincing. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, I’m sure, but for those who like a long, well-constructed adventure which combines history and imagination, it’s perfect. A book I wish I’d written.

View all my reviews

A step into the unknown

In a few days, my new book, Leo’s Luck, will be published. And in some ways, I am more nervous about this book than I have been about any of my others.

Why should that be so? I have to confess, I can’t even remember how many books I have out there now. A new book should be a routine event, and yet, in this case, it isn’t.

Leo is not autobiographical. Let me get that out of the way to start with. Yes, I have lived in Japan, and I know Japanese society reasonably well. Yes, I have played in rock bands (though not professionally) and I can tell you the difference between a Telecaster and a Stratocaster sound. And yes, I have actually been involved in parapsychology, and have experienced some things that I can’t explain.

But some of Leo is fictional. Leo is in many ways a rather nasty selfish piece of work. And though I may be selfish at times, I do at least try to put things right if I catch myself at it. I don’t hang around with gangsters, and I don’t embezzle money. Leo does.

But even so, people are going to identify Leo with me. He starts out by leaving his wife for his girlfriend. People will thereby assume things about my marriage. They shouldn’t – how many people reading Macbeth feel that Shakespeare was a regicide and mass murderer? It seems, though, that people do have these feelings about writers now – there are so many “confessional” books out there, and we writers are constantly being exhorted to write about what we know, that apart from the obvious fantasy fiction, a writer’s work is often taken as being autobiographical.

But my main reason for concern is that I am stepping way outside my comfort zone here. I haven’t lived in the UK for over quarter of a century. What is my description of the UK like? Accurate? Inaccurate? I am typically more at home in the late 19th century of Baker Street and the streets of Paris. More difficult to check whether I am accurate or not there. How real is my rock band? Even the sex scenes contain elements of fantasy – and that’s another cause for disquiet – writing sex scenes at all.

But at the same time, it’s been liberating – as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle discovered, Sherlock Holmes can be more of a burden than an asset at times. And though I do not share Sir Arthur’s dislike of Sherlock Holmes that developed later in his career, it’s been fun to get away from Baker Street, and hit the mean streets of Tokyo with the Killer Rabbits.

It’s a very different side to me and my writing, and I’m excited to see how it will be received, as well as being nervous.

I enjoyed writing it, anyway. I hope you enjoy reading it.

Leo’s Luck first chapter online


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Leo’s Luck, described as “deep fried sushi” by Jake Adelstein, is available for pre-order through Amazon and through Inknbeans Press.

The first chapter is now available online as a PDF. Here’s the link: Leo’s Luck Chapter 1.