Friday, 30 July 2010

We're all going on a summer holiday...

It started on day one of the holiday. We had just arrived in Blackpool – yeah I know, I spoil him– when the wee fella asked...

- See how you and Mum split up ...was it because you were sniffing coke?

I made the mistake of laughing. The wee fella knows the nearest I’ve been to drugs is washing paracetamol down with a slug of cola.

The next time he asked the question we were in public and he judged the question perfectly. Perfect, that is if you are going for maximum embarrassment factor.

- See how you and mum split up...was it because you were unfaithful?

I laughed again. And laughed some more when the shop assistant paused in the action of handing over my change, with an expression of outrage.

A day later, while a waiter served up breakfast...

- When you and mum split up was it because you are gay?

- No.

- Are you gay?


- Is mum a lesbian?

- No.

- Were you on crack?

- No.

- Is it because I is black?

- That’s enough, son I say forcing down a laugh. We’re both big fans of Outnumbered and he fancies himself as one of the characters.

Anywho, back to Blackpool. For any Johnny foreigners reading this, it is a holiday hotspot on the north-west of England renowned for dolloping up a chunk of cheese with your vacation. It is a six(?) mile stretch of beach with amusement arcades, junk food outlets and stands selling rock (a stick of candy) for its full length. Who buys all this shit? You need money, lots of it ...and the constitution of an ox. It’s brash with a stiff (ooh er, missus) breeze. It’s in your face, unapologetic and lots of fun. For a few days.

The nearest I got to my five a day while I was there was flicking a slice of mushroom from my pizza and swabbing up some raspberry sauce with a mouthful of cheesecake.

We did the Zoo, the circus, the Pleasure Beach and spent more than a few hours in the amusement arcades that line the shore front.

At the circus the wee fella sat beside me but leaning forward, facing me so that he could register his discontent any time I happened to gaze his way. Knowing what was on his mind I ignored him and laughed even louder than I needed to at the antics of the clowns. Eventually he realised I wasn’t reacting to the scowl and the body language.

- I hate circuses, he said.

- Since when?

- Since right now, they’re rubbish.

- Can you wait until you are actually a teenager before acting like a teenager?

- Hmmmfh. He crosses his arms.

The Chinese acrobats were amazing and still he wore his scowl like a badge of discontent. The clown – Mooky, in case you were wondering - brought 3 members of the public into the ring and had them act out a comedy sketch. It was genuinely the funniest thing I’ve seen for ages. The wee fella gave in and laughed. When he noticed I had spotted his mirth he quashed it down with another complaint.

- How lame is that?

- Why are you laughing then?

- I laugh at lame stuff.

I made the “whatever” sign in front of my forehead and he chewed on his bottom lip to stop his answering grin.

Next stop was the waxworks museum. Famous people rendered in wax is surprisingly entertaining. Who knew? It’s the staging that makes it work so well and we had our photos taken with Barack Obama, Michael Jackson and King Kong.

More amusement arcades. More junk food.

We finished off our week with a day at the Pleasure Beach. The wee fella lied about his age and saved me a few quid on the entrance fee. Did I say I was cheap?

I didn’t have a map of the park with me and knowing nothing about the rides that were available we just kinda saw a queue and joined it. The first queue was for a ride called Valhalla. “You will get soaked” the signs warned. And we did but it was well worth it. Great fun.

The next queue was for “River Caves”. Did I say the wee man hates queuing? Half an hour it took. Was it worth it? Hell no. This may have been the height of excitement in the 1950’s but today it has all the thrill of a rich tea biscuit.

Next was lunch. I decided that I hadn’t had my saturated fat intake for the day yet and ordered up some hot dogs. While waiting in the queue for my food a Glasgow wifie prodded my shoulder. By the way, just as a wee aside – does Glasgow completely empty out this week? Everywhere I went I was surrounded by weedgie accents.

- Ho, son, she said. A pigeon has just done one on your shoulder.

- Oh right. Thanks for letting me know.

- Want some babywipes to clean yourself?

- Yeah, thanks.

I take my jacket off and spot a pale slick of shit running down my back. I am momentarily put off my lunch. The babywipe makes short work of the pigeon’s best efforts.

- Good job it didn’t get me on the head, I say to the wifie.

- That might have been easier to clean up, she says with a grin eying up my bald head. See Glasgow people. Always with the humour.

Next was The Avalanche. A white-knuckle ride that aims to replicate the experience of a bobsleigh ride. I am SO impressed with myself that I went on it on account of the fact that I am such a wimp. And OHMYGOD it was good. Exhilarating.

They take photos of you while you are on these things and they show them to you as you leave.

The wee fella had an expression that managed to mix pure joy and terror. If you can imagine such a mix. I looked like I had fly caught in one eye while I was suppressing a fart.

While in the queue for the Ghost Train – which was as scary as playing Russian roulette with your index finger – we noticed some people running past. Then some more. All heading in the same direction and all wearing an expression of they had spotted someone famous. About 10 minutes later a man joined the woman and child in front of me. “That was Jordan,” he said. “Katie Price is in the park and everyone was hoping to catch a glimpse of her before she left.” I ventured the hope that each of them had a mouthful of phlegm and a good aim. This earned me a disgusted look.

And that was Blackpool.

The last word, as usual went to the wee man. As I was settling up my account at Reception at the head of a large queue I heard the voice at my shoulder...

- Dad?

- Yes, son?

- See when you and Mum split up was it because you’re an alcoholic?

Friday, 23 July 2010

Nut Newsly

yeah...look more are seeing things. Which bring me quite nicely to my first piece of triviality. It’s been a while since I indulged my sense of the whacky. So here’s some snippets of news guaranteed to make you smile...

British police are on the hunt for a man who is leaving pictures of a penis tied in a bow in town. (This is a direct quote from the article and is a great example of crap writing. It’s not the man’s penis that is tied in a bow – that would take something of elephantine proportions would it not – but it has a yellow bow tied around it. I read this in another article. I have no insider knowledge. So don’t be coming around for some comparisons Mr. Policeman.)

Officers in Sussex are baffled as to the culprit is who is leaving the X-rated images around Lewes, East Sussex, England. (In some settings this would be a work of art. Here it is X-rated.Just saying. It's only a penis, people.)

The photos have been left as A3 and A4-sized posters in car parks and other public areas and have been found in black and white and full colour.

A Sussex Police spokesman (a man who wears a helmet shaped like a nipple) said: "We are aware of these posters and a local community support officer has removed a few, but we have not received any formal complaints. However, we are concerned that they may well cause offence or distress. "However, from what we've seen, if this is a self-portrait, the artist won't be in a hurry to be identified." (That’s a wee bit snide – and one too many howevers for my liking. Do the people who write these articles not have an editor?)

Two French Nuns Go On The Run...

Sister Marie-Daniel, 86, and Sister Saint-Denis, 82, fled their convent two weeks ago after convent officials said they were being sent to a remote mountain retreat 250 miles away.

The pair vanished from the Sisters of Saint-Joseph convent in Roquebrune-Cap-Martin, on the French Riviera convent, on July 12 and have not been seen since.

A third 89-year-old nun, Sister Maurice-Marie, has revealed she also wanted to flee but broke her leg four days before the two elderly sisters disappeared.

A convent insider had told France-Soir newspaper that the nuns were furious at being "put out to grass" in a retirement home after 50 years at the nunnery. And who would blame them? I hope they’re in some night club in Nice, smoking weed, growing dreadlocks and giving everyone they see the finger.


A 26-year-old mechanic from West Bromwich, England has officially changed his name to Buzz Lightyear.

The man, formerly known as Steve Bolton, made the change to mark the opening of Toy Story 3 in the UK, according to that paragon of truthfulness and family values, The Sun.

Mr Lightyear is reported to have said: “I'm a massive fan of Toy Story. They are my favourite films, and I've always thought Buzz would be the ultimate action hero if he wasn't a toy.

"It's a great name, a great film and my girlfriend is going to love telling people she's going out with Buzz Lightyear.”

You keep telling yourself that mate.


This fella is a proven master of over-reaction. When attempting to check out at the Gainesville, Florida Sam's Club Michael Nadeau was so intoxicated he couldn't manage to get his membership card out of his wallet. When the manager attempted to help him the drunken man attacked. As you do when someone tries to help.

Police were, of course, called and the situation escalated rapidly. Before it was over Nadeau had fled police, attempted to run down an officer, hit a another police car and a fence, led a chase to his home and fled again ( this time displaying some common sense) on foot. He is charged with: attempted murder of a law enforcement officer, trespassing, hindering a 911 call, burglary, battery, leaving the scene of a crash, fleeing and attempting to elude, and DUI.

Next time just hand over your wallet, dude.

Saturday, 17 July 2010

Bare-arsed Banditti

Maggie Craig’s wonderful piece of living history, Bare Arsed Banditti has now been released on paperback by Mainstream.

Bare-arsed Banditti; The Men of the ’45, so the blurb goes were modern men: doctors and lawyers, students and teachers, shoemakers and shopkeepers, farmers, gardeners and weavers. Children of the Age of Reason, they wrote poetry, discussed the latest ideas in philosophy and science - and rose in armed rebellion against the might of the British crown and government.

Sons of a restless nation that had unwillingly surrendered its independence a mere generation before, some were bound by age-old ties of Highland kinship and loyalty. Others rallied to the cries of 'Prosperity to Scotland' and 'No Union!' Many faced agonising personal dilemmas before committing themselves to Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite Cause. Few had any illusions about the consequences of failure. Many met their date with destiny on Culloden Moor, players in a global conflict that shaped the world we live in today.

Combining meticulous research with entertaining and stylish delivery, Maggie Craig tells the dramatic and moving stories of the men who were willing to risk everything for their vision of a better future for themselves, their families and Scotland.

To celebrate the release into paperback I “invited” Maggie to answer some question on May Contain Nuts. The exchange went like this...

In three words describe Bare Arsed Banditti.

You've got them. Three more would be - gallant, passionate, heroic. That's the lads, not me!

I’m sure you’ve told me this before but I have a shocking memory...I LOVE the title, where does it come from and how much trouble did you have to get it past the publisher?

It was a phrase used at the time to denigrate the wild Highlanders, a way of trying to diminish these exotically-clad warriors who had swept down from their mountains almost to London itself. The insulting description indicates just how much panic they caused - included a run on the London banks - before Bonnie Prince Charlie was forced to accept the decision of the Highland chiefs that the Jacobite army should retreat back north.

It was the title which initially sold the book to my publishers. Then - four days before the books and the dust jackets were to be printed - someone took cold feet and said that the title had to be changed. I gave them four words then. OVER. MY. DEAD. BODY. And the title stayed as it was.

Which do you prefer to be known as: Historian or Novelist?

I can legitimately claim both those designations but I think of myself simply as a writer. I tell stories. For my historical non-fiction I put in the hours doing the research, loving nothing more than days spent in the history mines turning up exciting, poignant, happy and sad true stories. With my novels, I can allow my imagination to roam free, although my novels too always start with research into the times I'm writing about.

It does give me pleasure when people - rightly - describe me as an historian. Make that mischievous glee. I like to think it puts certain noses out of joint, mainly those academic historians who dismiss me as a "popular" historian. Why it's a hanging offence to do your research and then try your best to present it in a readable and entertaining way, I've never understood!

Yeah, dam those stuffy academics. If the history books I had access to in school had half the heart and wit of BAB the lessons would have gone down a lot easier. You mention the similarity between non-fiction and fiction in terms of your do you feel about the constraints when writing non-fiction by comparison?

I find writing non-fiction much easier than writing fiction, so for me it's a liberation rather than a constraint. Sure, you have to check your facts, check them again and then check them one last time but after you've assembled those facts you have them in your tool box and all you have to do is write them up in an interesting and hopefully entertaining way.
In fiction you're spinning something up out of nothing, great when the Muse is standing at your shoulder whispering in your ear, but if he's gone off for the day - my Muse resembles a handsome Australian dentist I once had who looked like a Greek God, better than an injection when I had fillings done - fiction can be a lot more difficult to create.

For the uninitiated - but I'm sure newly devoted MC fans - what other historical periods have you researched and which would have been your favourite time to have lived in?

I've also researched Edinburgh in the 1820s, taking me into low oyster cellars in the Cowgate and the nearby underground vaults, bodysnatching, prostitution and catastrophic fires, you can see why I tend to describe my love stories as romance noir. I''ve also done a lot of research into Glasgow and Clydebank during World War II and at the beginning of the 20th century. I think all of the times I've researched were exciting but I like living now. I love the modern world.

One of my favourite vignettes (can I call it that?) was when you quote from a letter Duncan McGillis wrote to his lover before he went off to join the Jacobites - "Nothing ails me but the wanting of you." The book is full of such wonders. Describe to us the feeling you have when you come across a gem like this?

Och well, you've hit on one of my all-time favourite research discoveries. There I was sitting in the Public Record Office at Kew after a hard day's research, needing a hot bath, a cold glass of wine and an episode of Neighbours, when I requested one final box of documents for the day. Jacobite Correspondence. I think that was all it said. Inside this anonymous cardboard box I found all these letters from Jacobite soldiers writing home to their wives, children, families and lovers as they followed BPC into England. When I realized that I had stumbled upon expressions of love and longing written over two and a half centuries before, I felt first of all excited, and then the tears came to my eyes. It was so moving, so eloquent, so touching. That's the sort of discovery that keeps me researching.

Oooh - that last answer gave me goosebumps. Most people will use the internet to do their research nowadays and from what you were saying it sounds like they are missing out on the real thing. Can you give me a visual on the research materials you found? What did the papers look like, smell like, feel like?

Those letters from Jacobite soldiers were written on odd scraps of paper, just what came to hand at the time, I imagine. Odd sizes, thicker than modern paper, the handwriting and spelling often not very good - although 18th century spelling was generally atrocious. You try to touch the paper as little as possible, of course, in order to preserve it for future generations but it is terribly moving to have it under your hand and think of the connection that it provides between you and the person who wrote it so long ago.

They say the purpose of history is to teach us, here, in the present - what lessons can we learn from the characters you write about in BAB?

I think some of them stood up with great bravery for what they believed in. I think others were devastated that Scotland was plunged into fighting and bloodshed and just did their best to keep their heads above water. The people I really admire are the ones who took what fate was throwing at them and somehow managed to help other people and deal with great humanity with friend and foe alike.

And to finish off I'll need to think of something off the wall to ask you...mmmm...I read recently about a writer (I think he was French) who used to write using the naked back of his lover as his desk; what writing peccadilloes do you have?

Can't match that one, I'm afraid! I just try to get to my computer as early in the morning as possible, when I'm still close to my dreams, still lost in the creative dwam. I write straight onto the computer but will write by hand if I'm stuck, on a train or whatever and I always think it's best not to get precious about when and where you do it.

So there you go people...if you are a lover of history, a lover of Scotland, a lover of good writing and excellent storytelling, then you need to get yourself a copy of this book. Don’t delay – hie yourself to your local bookshop, crack open your wallet and get shopping!

If you want to know more about Maggie and her books below is a link to her amazon page and a link to her website.
Maggie's homepage

Sunday, 11 July 2010

Long Time Dead

Hat tip to Paul D. Brazil - his blog is over there on the right, no, the other right. (You do that everytime, Michael, you say. I say, I know but it makes me laugh everytime.) Anywho the hat-tip is for the link to Tony Black's promo on you tube.

I just received a review copy of Tony's latest, Long Time Dead. Irvine Welsh says he's his favourite Scottish crime writer. Go get a copy and judge for yourself.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Fun Friday

So there was I having a laugh on a Friday and I thought I should share it with you...

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

It was a dark and stormy night...

"It was a dark and stormy night; the rain fell in torrents--except at occasional intervals, when it was checked by a violent gust of wind which swept up the streets (for it is in London that our scene lies), rattling along the housetops, and fiercely agitating the scanty flame of the lamps that struggled against the darkness."

--Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, Paul Clifford (1830)

The Bulwer-Lytton competition sprung from such worthy nonsense and has become one of the literary world’s highlights for spoof bad writing. The website is  HERE  and has just announced this year’s winners.

Winners from last year included...

Folks say that if you listen real close at the height of the full moon, when the wind is blowin' off Nantucket Sound from the nor' east and the dogs are howlin' for no earthly reason, you can hear the awful screams of the crew of the “Ellie May," a sturdy whaler Captained by John McTavish; for it was on just such a night when the rum was flowin' and, Davey Jones be damned, big John brought his men on deck for the first of several screaming contests.

David McKenzie of Federal Way, WA


The wind dry-shaved the cracked earth like a dull razor--the double edge kind from the plastic bag that you shouldn't use more than twice, but you do; but Trevor Earp had to face it as he started the second morning of his hopeless search for Drover, the Irish Wolfhound he had found as a pup near death from a fight with a prairie dog and nursed back to health, stolen by a traveling circus so that the monkey would have something to ride.

Warren Blair, Ashburn, VA


Winner: Fantasy Fiction

A quest is not to be undertaken lightly--or at all!--pondered Hlothgar, Thrag of the Western Boglands, son of Glothar, nephew of Garthol, known far and wide as Skull Dunker, as he wielded his chesty stallion Hralgoth through the ever-darkening Thlargwood, beyond which, if he survived its horrors and if Hroglath the royal spittle reader spoke true, his destiny awaited--all this though his years numbered but fourteen.

Stuart Greenman of Seattle, WA


Anybody fancy having a go? There might even be a prize for the best one posted in the comments box. An example of some good writing to compensate for the bad.

Go on, go on, go know you want to.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

No Sex We're an English Team

As the world gets crazier by the day music legend Mick Jagger is being blamed for Brazil's World Cup exit.

Brazilian internet sites point out that Jagger had backed the five-time champions to beat the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, but the Dutch won, aided by the Curse of Jagger and some horrific defending.

The rock star had previously lent his support to the United States and England. And we all know what happened to them. (For those who find football as interesting as toe-nail clippings both the USA and England crashed out in the last 16.)

Spotting Jagger's appearance with Lucas, his Brazilian son by Luciana Gimenez, at Friday's game against the Dutch, the media made him an easy target.

"Who will the Rolling Stones singer support next?" several websites worried themselves into a frenzy.

"The curse of Mick Jagger continues," said sports daily Lance: "With his support for the United States and England and Brazil the leader of the Rolling Stones has been collecting only defeats at the World Cup."

O Estado de Sao Paulo speculated: "After putting out the USA, England and Brazil - which will be the next team that Mick Jagger throws his support behind?"

Crazy as it seems I get this way of thinking. See me and Andy Murray? Every time I turn the TV on to his match he loses the next game. So I protected his Wimbledon efforts by only watching the highlights of games...until the semi with Nadal. And we all know what happened there. I’m afraid after a very close game – Rafa won 96 points and Andy won 91 – the deciding factor could only have been me.

Meanwhile back in Blighty and the footie - the “investigation” continues as to why England failed so abjectly. Wayne Rooney says he was NOT injured despite being forgiven for looking for an excuse after being voted No. 1 on most people’s blame-list. Did these people forget that Rooney is a striker and therefore by definition dependant on team-mates getting the ball to him. No ball= no goals. To be fair on the rare occasion he did get it he was as hapless as the rest of the team. Joe Cole blames their crap-ness on the success of the English league and it’s over-reliance on non-English players. Steven Gerrard along with everybody and their granny are claiming that we need technology in the game. Clearly that disallowed goal would have stopped the whole German team from getting anywhere near the English goal line for the entire second half. And the Mirror blames Ashley Cole and his 100 plus sex-pest texts on the eve of the Germany game. Don’t you just love a Sunday headline? What The Mirror has conveniently forgotten in their rush to demonize is that Ashley was easily one of England’s best players.

Just a thought; maybe they all needed to be giving their thumbs and febrile imaginations a workout? Wives and girlfriends (WAGS) were forbidden for this competition after they stole all the attention at the last world cup.

Perhaps on this occasion the whole “no sex we’re in a competition” thing was the real culprit. If they’d been allowed a wee bit of houghmagandie (it’s Old Scots – look it up) maybe they’d be in the semi-final against Spain.

I really must draw up a memo to Fabio Capella (for the uninterested he’s allegedly their manager). It’ll come with the title: Let the Boys Have Their Nookie and They’ll Be Champs Not Chumps. And this will tie in well with our preferred style of newspaper reporting, meaning the spy in the camp can sell it on to the tabloids saving the wee lambs the effort of thinking up any real stories.

Anywho, back to the gratuitous seems our Ash is so devastated by the demise of his marriage to the nation’s favourite lollipop head, sorry, Nation’s Sweetheart, Cheryl (see how easily I pick up on tabloid cliché) that he’s developed an over-sized sexual appetite – nothing to do with the fact that he’s young, very fit, wealthy, in an all male environment and about to crawl up his own arse with boredom. An over-sized sexual appetite that demands he sends a random young woman texts (139) and pictures of his naked body, listing things he would like to do to her. (And no, ladies I don’t have the pictures.) The Mirror refuses to detail any of these texts because – get this – they are a family newspaper. They must think that reading sexual scandals and sensationalist crap over their cornflakes and semi-skimmed of a Sunday morning helps keep families together.

And finally...

To all my American visitors – Happy 4th of July. Ignore us nutters over this side of the pond and enjoy your party. Once you’ve sobered up, perhaps you’d like to leave a comment and let us know how you celebrated?

Saturday, 3 July 2010

Its the first of the month and that means...'s fresh reviews being posted over at Crimesquad

I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of Walter Mosely's new novel "Known to Evil" and here's how it appears over on the site. There are loads of other fantastic books being talked about over there, so click on the above link for a wee nosey,

Here's what I had to say about Walter...

Leonid McGill, P.I. is struggling to stick to his reformed ways while the people around him pull him in every direction. He has split up with the only woman he has ever loved, Aura, because his conscience won't let him leave his wife. Meanwhile, one of his sons seems to have found true love - but the girl has dangerous men in her past who are now threatening the whole McGill family. And his other son, the charming rogue Twilliam, is doing but facilitating the crisis.

Most worryingly of all, Alfonse Rinaldo, the mysterious power behind the throne at City Hall, the fixer who seems to control every little thing that happens in New York City, has a problem that even he can't fix - and he's come to Leonid for help. It seems a young woman has disappeared, leaving murder in her wake, and it means everything to Rinaldo to track her down. He won't tell McGill his motives - but turning down Rinaldo is almost impossible to even contemplate. To make matters even worse important people at the NYC police department want McGill to pay for past demeanours and it doesn’t matter how they get to put him behind bars, so long as that’s where he ends up.

Leonid McGill is an anti-hero, a fallen man who is working to redeem himself, but is constantly held back by the murk of his past. This is a device that has been worked well in the past by other writers and this does nothing to detract from Walter Mosely’s achievement with Known to Evil.

McGill’s actions were not mere misdemeanours but serious crimes against his fellow man that should earn our opprobrium, but because McGill is such an engaging character and because he is so serious in his intention to repent we are not only pulled onside, we are there with him shouting into his ear. Of course we want McGill to find the girl and then save her life, but we also want him to make the right choice between his wife and his mistress, to resolve matters with the men he has wronged in the past and to be there to be a positive influence on his children.

Following on from the much loved Easy Rawlins, Walter Mosely has created another serial character of complexity who, I’m certain, continued to breathe out of sight whenever I closed the book. Which I did often as I was keen to savour every sentence. For many writers I greedily consume their words as I anxiously race to the end, but with Mosely I find that I consciously slow down so that every insight, each description, every word is rubbed against the microscope of my thoughts.

Known to Evil has three plot strands and each one is worked with virtuosity. Threaded through the plotting, like delicate strands of silk Mosely offers up themes of guilt, atonement and ultimately, dissatisfaction. McGill deflects his own sense of this on to his fellow passengers on the New York underground describing them as going to a job they don’t want to do and leading a life they never wanted. As for McGill himself, no matter if he is making a choice that will lead to an unhappier existence, he will do whatever he thinks sits well within his strict moral code.

And then there are the words on the page. Mosely is keenly aware that a good story also has to be well written and his prose manages to be textured, rich, energetic... and at the same time economical. Descriptions are brief, layered with meaning and on the button; his dialogue has all the musicality of a jazz musician riffing among friends in a smoky filled club. There is no doubt about it, Walter Mosely has earned his place among the greats of modern fiction and Known to Evil is yet another work of excellence to cement his position there.

So what you waiting for? Get your lardy/ cute butts to a bookstore now and buy a copy. Tell them Michael sent you.