Friday, 1 August 2014

Writing Bursary

I'm delighted to have won first prize and a cash sum of £500 in the Writers' Village International Novel Award for my novel The Belfast Boy. Here is what principal judge Michelle Spring - Royal Literary Fellow at Magdalene College, Cambridge - said about The Belfast Boy:
The set-up to this novel in the opening chapters is terrific, delicately setting out question after question to which readers will crave an answer, indicating inside knowledge (in this case of drugs gangs) without burying readers in a landslide of factual details, and vividly conveying the impression of complex relationships among equally complex characters. And what follows doesn’t disappoint. Deft writing and sure-footed prose completes the bundle of writerly qualities that makes this book a winner.
 Next step - find another publisher (hopefully one that doesn't go bust this time!).

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Daggers

The Crime Writers Association handed out a few Daggers at their Awards dinner yesterday (30th June). Here’s a summary of the results:

The CWA Historical Dagger went to Little, Brown editor-in-chief Antonia Hodgson for her debut novel The Devil in Marshalsea (Hodder), a crime thriller set in the infamous London debtor's prison in 1727.

The CWA International Dagger went to Arturo Perez-Reverte for The Siege (Weidenfeld), a novel set during the siege of Cadiz (1810-1812), translated by Frank Wynne.

The CWA Non-Fiction Dagger went to Adrian Levy and Cathy Scott-Clark for their account of the three days when terrorists held hostages in the Taj hotel in Mumbai, also called The Siege (Viking).

The CWA Short Story Dagger went to John Harvey for his story Fedora, published in Deadly Pleasures (Severn House).

The CWA Debut Dagger for an unpublished work went to Jody Sabral, a journalist, for her novel The Movement, set in Turkey.

The CWA Diamond Dagger award was awarded to Simon Brett for his contribution to crime fiction. 

Longlists for other awards were also announced:

The CWA Goldsboro Gold Dagger prize for best crime book of the year: 
Stone Bruises by Simon Beckett (Bantam), 
The Dark Road to Mercy by Wiley Cash (Doubleday), 
Keep Your Friends Close by Paula Daly (Bantam), 
First Rule of Survival by Paul Mendelson (Constable), 
How the Light Gets In by Louise Penny (Sphere), 
What She Saw by Mark Roberts (Corvus), 
The Verdict by Nick Stone (Sphere) and 
The Corporal's Wife by Gerald Seymour (Hodder).

The CWA Ian Fleming Steel Dagger for thriller of the year:
Never Go Back by Lee Child (Transworld), 
Apple Tree Yard by Louise Doughty (Faber), 
419 by Will Ferguson (Head of Zeus), 
An Officer and a Spy by Robert Harris (Random House), 
I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes (Bantam), 
The Abduction by Jonathan Hold (Head of Zeus), 
Natchez Burning by Greg Isles (HarperCollins) and 
The Corporal's Wife by Gerald Seymour (Hodder).

The CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger for the best novel by a first time author of any nationality, published in English: 
Night Heron by Adam Brookes (Sphere), 
The Strangler Vine by M J Carter (Fig Tree), 
The Axeman Jazz by Ray Celestin (Mantle), 
I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hates (Bantam), 
The Silent Wife by A S A Harrison (Headline), 
The Devil in Marshalsea by Antonia Hodgson (Hodder), 
Shovel Ready by Adam Sternbergh (Headline) and 
Black Chalk by Christopher J Yates (Harvill Secker).

There’s a couple there that made me raise my eyebrows, I have to say (and one in particular that I thought was a terrible novel). But there are also a few to add to my ‘to read’ list.


How many of them have you read? 

Monday, 30 June 2014

Story Box

Some good reviews of "Story Box" on Amazon:

“An eclectic mix of fascinating stories from a skilful writer.”

“…the whole collection is a consistently very good read.”

“The writing is assured and concise with clever plotting and realistic dialogue.”

“The characters are so real they jump off the pages …”

“There really is something for everyone in here.”


Find out what they’re talking about. The Kindle edition of “Story Box” currently available for just £2.00!

Friday, 2 May 2014

Special Offer!

To celebrate being shortlisted for the CWA Margery Allingham Short Story Competition, the Kindle edition of my collection of 19 short stories, Story Box, is currently available for the ridiculously cheap price of just 99p! That's a saving of 65% on the usual Kindle price - but it's only available for a limited time. So to download your 99p copy go to https://tinyurl.com/lqy2qh5 within the next five days. This offer expires on Wednesday 7th May 2014.



Tuesday, 29 April 2014


I’m delighted to announce that one of my stories has been shortlisted for the prestigious Crime Writers Association Margery Allingham Short Story Competition. The winner will be announced in two and a half weeks’ time at CrimeFest, the international crime fiction festival held in Bristol from 15th to 18th May 2014. 

Margery Allingham (1904–1966) was one of the Golden Age “Queens of Crime” along with Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers and Ngaio Marsh. She is probably best known for her detective stories featuring the gentleman sleuth Albert Campion. 

The competition bearing her name had a particular requirement: that the winning entry should fit Margery Allingham’s definition of a mystery:

“The Mystery remains box-shaped, at once a prison and a refuge. Its four walls are, roughly, a Crime, a Mystery, an Enquiry and a Conclusion with an Element of Satisfaction in it.”

The winning author will receive a prize, sponsored by the Margery Allingham Society, of £1,000. Regardless of whether I win the prize or not, it’s an honour to have been shortlisted, and to have my work recognised in this way.


Tuesday, 18 February 2014

New Crime Writing Prize

Literary Agents A M Heath have launched a new crime writing prize, called Criminal Lines, in association with writers' consultancy The Writers’ Workshop. The prize is open to debut authors born or resident in the UK and Ireland who do not yet have agents. Self-published authors can also enter. Any kind of crime, suspense or thriller novel is eligible, unless it has already been submitted to AM Heath.

The winner of the prize will receive £1,000 and the runner-up will receive entry into the Festival of Writing 2014, three-day event to help writers get published being held at York University in September. The prize will be judged by AM Heath agents Euan Thorneycroft and Oli Munson, and crime authors Harry Bingham, Mari Hannah and Samantha Hayes. All shortlisted writers will have the chance to meet Thorneycroft and Munson to discuss their work and may be offered representation.

Writers can enter the competition by sending the first 15,000 words of their novel and a synopsis of a maximum 800 words to criminallines@amheath.com by midnight on 5th May.

A shortlist of five novels will be announced on 2nd June, and the winner will be revealed on 1st July.

Thursday, 30 January 2014

Anton Chekhov on Writing


I’m playing Dorn in a production of Chekhov’s ‘The Seagull’ that goes up next week in Margate. Every actor wants to play Chekhov, but every writer can learn from him, too. In this passage from the play (translated by Elisaveta Fen), Constantine Trepliov, the young novice writer, compares his work to that of his mother’s lover, the famous author Trigorin:

TREPLIOV (preparing to write, reads through what he has already written)... This won't do at all! (Crosses out.) I'll start with the passage where the hero is woken by the noise of the rain. The rest will have to come out. The description of the moonlit evening is too long and rather precious. Trigorin has worked out his own methods - it comes easily to him. ... He will just mention the neck of a broken bottle glistening on the dam and the black shadow of a mill-wheel - and there you'd have a moonlit night. But I have to put in the tremulous light, the soft twinkling of the stars, and the distant sounds of a piano dying away in the still, fragrant air. ... And then it's excruciating!

Chekhov obviously thought this was important advice, for he had previously included it in a letter of 1886 to Alexander P. Chekhov (Translated by Constance Garnett):
In my opinion a true description of Nature should be very brief and have a character of relevance. Commonplaces such as, ‘the setting sun bathing in the waves of the darkening sea, poured its purple gold, etc.’ – ‘the swallows flying over the surface of the water twittered merrily’ – such commonplaces one ought to abandon. In descriptions of Nature one ought to seize upon the little particulars, grouping them in such a way that, in reading, when you shut your eyes, you get a picture.

For instance, you will get the full effect of a moonlight night if you write that on the mill-dam a little glowing star-point flashed from the neck of a broken bottle, and the round, black shadow of a dog, or a wolf, emerged and ran, etc. Nature becomes animated if you are not squeamish about employing comparisons of her phenomena with ordinary human activities, etc.           

Is this nineteenth century advice still relevant in the twenty-first century? I think it is...

Monday, 27 January 2014

Story Box

My collection of short stories, Story Box’, was published at the end of last week.

Story Box’ is a collection of short stories about people struggling to get by in a world where the line between right and wrong is no longer certain. With a cast list ranging from fatherless children to lonely old ladies, from teenage poisoners to reformed hit-men, many of the stories in this book have been previously published in magazines in the UK or Scandinavia. Sometimes the morality of the men and women depicted here is opaque, to say the least, but even the perpetrators are themselves the victims of circumstance. As are we all.

 It's available in paperback and as a Kindle download on Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.com and other Amazon sites.

Friday, 22 February 2013

Write what you know

Good advice from Nathan Englander It took me a long time, too, to understand what this advice really meant.



Wednesday, 7 December 2011

How to be a Sensitive Poet

You've probably already seen this elsewhere, but just in case...


by Matt Groening