Saturday, 31 December 2011

Blood Tears The Cover

Hi peeps,

Just thought I would end my bloggy year by posting the cover of my debut crime novel "Blood Tears".


It's getting real now, folks !!!!!!

More info to follow.

In the meantime, I wish you everything in 2012 that you wish for yourself.

Michael

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

My Favourite "Crime" Reads of 2011




In no particular order, here are some my outstanding reads of the year. Well, everybody else is doing it ...

Megan Abbott – The End of Everything
Just WHO can you trust? Friends, family? Can you even trust yourself?
This is a book about sisters, fathers and daughters, family and friendships, truths dripping reluctantly from the owner, but more than that, it’s a book about two young girls on the verge of discovering the confusing and heady power of their gender. It’s “noir” fiction, but not as we know it.

R J Ellory – Bad Signs
Two brothers on a road trip to hell. A fascinating take on the nature/ nurture debate from one of my favourites, and one of the most consistently excellent writers in the field today.
Maybe I’m becoming a wimp as I grow older, but there were several times during the race to the end of this book that the tension became too much for me and I had to set it aside for a few minutes. Now, that is good writing!

Tony Black – Truth Lies Bleeding
Our Tone gives Gus Drury a well-deserved rest and turns his eagle-eye on the police procedural.
In my Crimesquad review in April I said, “Another area where Tony Black excels is in his depictions of those living on the edge of the law. There is no soft edge to these people. Every flaw is stripped of shadow and every bad deed gets punished. Truth Lies Bleeding is fast, sharp and brilliantly plotted. It’s only just turned spring but if I read a better example of the police procedural this year I will be amazed.”  
Nothing came across my desk to allow me to review that opinion. ‘Nuff said.

Tom Franklin - Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter
An old crime returns to haunt the town’s loner, allowing us, the reader to examine our judgement of others and ultimately, our own conscience. The writing is delicious, the pace sure and steady and the sense of place offers an atmosphere that is impossible not to be seduced by. There is much to admire about this novel and a whole lot more to love and if there is any justice in the world this will become a huge bestseller.

Sam Hawken – The Dead Women of Juarez
This has to me my favourite debut read of the year. Visceral and haunting. The real-life victims of the crimes that pervade this city are in the background, their tragedy highlighted by the simple but effective ploy of showing the effect that their deaths have had on the people left behind. Time and again we see them draped in black, crushed under the weight of their grief: a much more effective device than a passage of torture. REALLY looking forward to seeing what Sam comes up with next.

Declan Burke – Absolute Zero Cool
Trying to describe this book adequately is like trying to grab a bar of soap in the bath. Just believe me when I say it is frickin’ brilliant. I'm totally in awe of Burke’s ability to craft a sentence and to unleash the bon mot. This a brave book, both in context and content. It has brains, wit and heart and the ending was pitch-perfect. Gave me a wee lump in my throat. This has got cult classic written all over it. Just off now to re-read. It’s that good!

Bill Kirton – The Sparrow Conundrum
Ahh, Bill. The man. In the interests of full disclosure I have to say that Bill is a friend (as are a few others on this list – but I knew Bill before I knew his writing) nonetheless, he has fully earned his place here. Besides, my list: my rules.

The characters that Bill Kirton serves up in award-winning, The Sparrow Conundrum are a continuous delight. My favourites were the sociopathic detective, Lodgedale and the crime boss, Eagle who surely had his head turned by a gang of bullies at a private school. Kirton is a master of the comic. If you like a change from the normal mystery/ thriller fare and you don't take your crime fiction too seriously you owe it to yourself to get a copy of The Sparrow Conundrum.

James Lee Burke – Feast Day of Fools
We’re in the Texan landscape with Hack Holland and we’re hunting a psycho. Which is nice.
Flippancy aside, JLB is one man who deserves that much used word – “awesome” in respect of his work. There is richness to this man’s writing that cannot fail to delight. He specialises in imbuing his characters with certainty of action, even while their motives are conflicted. Burke is the master of an oblique dialogue that in the hands of someone less skilled would serve only to confuse, but with him it never fails to enlighten and engage. Biblical. Epic. Awesome.


Adrian McKinty – Falling Glass
This is an archetypal tale of a man who is sent to find a woman he then falls for. What keeps the story fresh and fascinating is the quick-fire pace, the insight into his characters and the quality of the prose. Adrian McKinty is a fine stylist who says much with a few carefully chosen words and he rounds this off with touches of mythology and whispers of the arcane. A writer who deserves to be more widely read.



Nick Stone – Voodoo Eyes
As a fan of Nick’s work, Voodoo Eyes was a book that was well overdue. This is Nick Stone’s first outing since King of Swords in 2007 and boy was it worth the wait. His private detective, Max Mingus is older, not necessarily wiser but still determined to bring down the bad guy. And they really don’t come much badder than Solomon Boukman. Max is a wonderful literary creation. He is washed thin by personal tragedy, partly because he feels he deserves most of it, but still he keeps on coming. The sympathetic but honest eye that Nick Stone used to chronicle the past of Haiti in his earlier work is now used to good effect on the neighbouring island of Cuba.  Stone observes with the skill of a journalist and paints a word picture as effectively as any poet. The sense of place in this piece is so vivid you leave the books pages feeling as if you had just spent a few hours on the island itself.


Amanda Kyle Williams – The Stranger You Seek
Serial killers are (to borrow the cliché) ten-a-penny in crime fiction and it takes something a little bit special to grab and hold my attention. The Stranger You Seek has got “special” in bucketloads. Keye Street is my new favourite character and it’s her voice that takes us through this cracking read.  She is spunky, sparky (he feverishly seeks another word beginning with “sp”) and (goes for) sassy. (I didn’t get the “p” in there. So sue me.)

Aspiring writers who are struggling with the concept of “voice” should read this book and they’ll receive the message loud and clear. The author uses this to great effect not only giving the reader everything they would be looking for in such a novel, but with added warmth and wit. And this (despite the tension and body count) makes The Stranger You Seek such a joy to read.


Can’t wait to see what 2012 has in store!
Laters,
M

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Merry Xmas ... (and tartan underpants)



... to my three regulars. You're persistence in popping by May Contain Nuts in the face of my paltry and pathetic efforts these days is truly inspiring. (Wondering where I could possible stick more "p"s in this sentence.)

By way of thanks, I'm going to be as lazy as I've been for most of the last year and replay a blog I posted  a long time ago, but dinnae worry, it's a goodie.

Remember the Tartan Underpants?


Some of you may already know that as a lad I was a dervish in a kilt, a demon at the sword dance, yes people, I was a Highland Dancer.
I can’t remember the age I was when I started (4, 5 or 6) but I stopped as soon as I grew out of my tartan underpants. Twenty one. No, I’m joking, I was around about 11 years, 3 months and 2 days. But who was counting?
Blame the nuns. They thought it was character forming. There was one issue that the nuns didn’t foresee when they took steps to mould the future me.  The wee fella Malone had the knack. He was doing well with the highland dancing and being asked to perform at Burns Suppers, St Andrew’s Nights and Christmas parties for geriatrics around the country (well, North Ayrshire).  
The problem? Tradition was a big thing in all of this. I danced with real swords, to a real bagpipe player while wearing a real kilt.  How far could the nuns allow me to take tradition? Many non-Scots reading this will surely be fascinated to know that “a real Scotsman” wearing a kilt does so without underwear. Yes, we were going commando long before anyone else. (Apparently this was a military thing and men in Scottish regiments were banned from wearing kilts. To ensure this rule was not broken Sergeant Majors were known to fix a mirror to the end of a golf club and walk along the line scanning for visible danglies )
Could the nuns afford to make this eight/ nine/ ten year old lad a true Scotsman? If there was a mishap, male specific body parts (MSBP) would be on show. What if the lad slipped? Group shudder. What if when he slipped his kilt ended up over his head, Holy Mary, Mudder of Jaysus?!
This was a major concern. The sight of, the thought of, the mention of MSBP was enough to bring on group hysteria, much gripping of rosary beads and rapid and repeated signs of the cross. They could not, would not allow private parts to be on display. The world could not, would not face such an evil and depraved display, Jaysus, Mary and Joseph.
A compromise was found. I was to be made a pair of underpants from the same tartan as my kilt. This meant that if I kicked too high the MSBP would not be displayed. They would in fact be invisible. All the audience would be faced with was a pair of disembodied legs.
Said knickers were made. Not only were they the same tartan – they were of the same rough, heavy woollen material. However, before you all wince, they were lined. So not only would tradition be maintained (sort of) and dignity preserved (praise be to God), there would be efforts made to keep chafing to a minimum (awww, bless).
From a distance of time I can smile, rub the scars (yes, there was chafing. I remember tucking my shirt into the pants around my thighs) and wonder if the “seamstress” was told that these knickers were for a boy. There were tight, flat and there was absolutely no room for MSBP. Thankfully these parts were pre-pubescent and yet to reach their...ehm... full potential (TMI?) but "stuffing" was nevertheless still required.
I’m betting the maker of the tartan undies went on to bigger and better things. Didn’t you ever wonder where Drag Queens stick their man-stuff?  Under the sequin and lace panties, I'm willing to bet you they’re wearing a pair of tartan underpants.

I'd like to adapt an old Scots greeting and offer you this - Lang may your lum reek and your danglies dangle. 
Here's to a Merry (and inclusive) Christmas (ooo, controversial) to each and every one of you!

Laters,
M

Thursday, 22 December 2011

James Lee Burke - FDOF



I'm coming over all fanboy on the subject of the above book at CRIMESQUAD

Here's a wee taster ...


"There is richness to this man’s writing that cannot fail to delight. He specialises in imbuing his characters with certainty of action, even while their motives are conflicted - and he is the master of an oblique dialogue that in the hands of someone less skilled would serve only to confuse, but with Burke it never fails to enlighten and engage."


Eeesh, sounds like I almost know what I'm talking about. For the full bhoona go click on the above link. You know you want to.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Xmas in NZ

If you don't crack a smile at this, you should visit a hospital quicksmart and ask them to split open your ribs to see if their's a heart in your chest cavity -

CLICK HERE

Friday, 16 December 2011

Some Friday Fun

I love the expression on this guy's face ...


He's so absurdly pleased with himself.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

born under a bad sign ...





I recently reviewed Bad Signs by R J Ellory over at CRIMESQUAD

Here's how it went.

The blurb - 

Orphaned by an act of senseless violence that took their mother from them, half-brothers Clarence Luckman and Elliott Danziger have been raised in state institutions, unaware of any world outside.

Their lives take a sudden turn when they are seized as hostages by a convicted killer en route to death row. Earl Sheridan is a psychopath of the worst kind, but he has the potential to change the boys' lives forever. 

As the trio set off on a frenetic escape from the law through California and Texas, the two brothers must come to terms with the ever-growing tide of violence that follows in their wake - something that forces them to make a choice about their lives, and their relationship to one another.

What did I make of it?

Bad Signs is a road trip novel that sweeps you up and haunts you long after you have finished the book and set it aside.  As with all of Ellory’s oeuvre, we are treated to an experience that is rich with detail and heightened with emotion.  In fact, so convincing is his sense of time and place that you feel you are holding a chunk of 60’s Americana in your hand.

The two brothers are an examination of our best and worst impulses. Why do we act the way we do? Nature or nurture? Are some people really born under a bad sign, or are those who give in to their darkest inclinations forced to do so by circumstance?

The boys share different fathers, but the same mother. One brother maintains his innocence despite all of the external and internal pressures, while the other travels down a path that has only two destinations at the end: a chair wired to the national grid or a bullet.

Here, in this brother’s gradual deterioration, R J Ellory displays his skill as a writer. We experience the boy’s influences, his neurosis and his insecurities and we are there as fully engaged observers while he takes his first tentative step into violence and his shaking, puking, terrified delight. From there, he simply can’t turn back.

The other brother’s journey is equally compelling and the writer racks up the tension by the simple but hugely effective expedient of introducing a mix-up of identities.  The “good” brother becomes the guileless prey hunted by every law-enforcement agency in the country, while his brother glee-fully goes on the hunt and punishes every imagined slight in increasingly violent ways. Will the truth become known before a “shoot to kill” order is carried out?

Will your fingernails ever grow back?

Maybe I’m becoming a wimp as I grow older, but there were several times during the race to the end that the tension became too much for me and I had to set the book aside for a few minutes. Now, that is good writing. 



This is a stellar work of fiction that deserves to be on everyone’s reading list. Loved it. 5/5 

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Mikey Goes on a Rant and Gets Salty With The Language.




It has now been a year since I bought my Kindle, so I thought I would take stock of my reading experience with it thus far.

I have downloaded 33 books. Which is not too shabby. How many have I read? Any guesses?

3.

Yup, you up the back, that wasn’t a typo. 3.

There are about 4 or 5 others that I have read too halfway, some I looked at briefly and some that have never been opened.

How does that compare with the hard copies of books I’ve bought, borrowed from my local library and books I’ve been given to review? I haven’t noted the empirical data – so sue me – but I would guesstimate that I read anything from 1 to 3 books per week. So, a light approximate would be that in the time I have read 3 e-books, I’ve read anything from 100 - 200 paper books.

It’s not that the books on my Kindle are crap. They’re not. 

I’m thinking that there are two things at play here.

#thing 1 – see me, I love the feel of a paper book.

#thing 2 – when I’ve paid anything from £3 to 0.99p for an e-book I feel less inclined to follow up my purchase. There is little perceived value there so I don’t bother reading it once the initial impulse has flown. (So how does that tie up with the fact that you get a lot of free paper books, bozo?)

#thing 3 – so, there’s more than 2 things, quit moaning – ahem, thing 3 – It mostly doesn’t even occur to me to look out my Kindle and read from it. I forget where I’ve put it most of the time.

Is it just me? We’re all reading e-books aren’t we? Am I so out of step with the rest of the reading world?

Bloggers and journalists out there often use the changes in the music industry to highlight the eventual death of the book. The techies among them doing it with a certain degree of glee, it has to be said. It has been reported so often that the download has killed off the CD that it has almost become fact. And repeated till Pinocchio’s beak circumvents the globe. So I thought I would check it out.

I read some research carried out by the UK music industry – not sure what the situation is in the US – but here are the figures for 2010...

Sales of digital single tracks represented 98.0% of overall singles sales, with CD singles only accounting for 1.9m sales (down on last year’s total of 2.5m).

So that seems to bear out what “everyone” is saying, right? But is that the whole picture? Nope.

98.5 million CD albums were sold against a figure of 21 million digital albums.

So, it seems for a single track we’re loving a download, but for an album the CD still rules the roost.

Side-bar, your honour - Interestingly, this allows me to draw a correlation between novels and short stories. It seems that the e-book is allowing the short story to flourish. After all, the e-reader is the perfect tool to read a short story on the to-and-from from work etc.

The one movement in the music industry that worries me is the overall downward trend of sales caused by the illegal download. Let’s hope the book peeps get to keep control of that particular nastiness. It has been calculated that the total number of people in the UK illegally downloading music on a regular basis is 7.7m.  It is likely to be even larger given other methods by which music can be illegally obtained, such as e-mail, instant messaging and newsgroups.

That’s a concern, innit? If it happened to that degree in the book world it would be nothing short of disastrous.

And what is it about people who think that its fair game to obtain creative content for free? They wouldn’t dream of popping into Tesco and knicking a CD/ book/ movie or fresh fruit and veg off the shelves, so why is it ok to steal digital content?

Oh, don’t get me started. On one blog I visited the other day; where they were debating the price and therefore the perceived value of ebooks, one numpty came on to leave a message saying, why pay when you can get it for free?

Because someone has spilt their life blood on to the page, they’ve studied their craft, they’ve put in hour upon hour upon hour, day after month after year to try and entertain you, you asshole. That’s why. Music, literature, the arts – it all enriches our lives - this stuff doesn’t and shouldn’t come free – or the well will eventually run dry. And what a horrible world that would be.

Eeesh, I’m going to have to go and lie down or have a camomile tea or SOMETHIN’.

Fuckin’ free.

Fuckin’ A-hole.



Thursday, 24 November 2011

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott



You may have already read my review of the above book over at www.crimesquad.com but it's worth repeating for all you lovely peeps here at May Contain Nuts.

This is - despite the cover - what were they thinking!?! - one of my favourite reads of the year so far and I suspect will make it in to the top 10 of most reviewers faves for 2011. If it doesn't, I'll eat my hair.

Anyway, what's the script? The blurby bit say this ...


"Lizzie and Evie are inseparable. They walk home from school together, have sleepovers at each other’s houses, even tease boys together. Most importantly, they have no secrets from each other.
Or at least, that’s what Lizzie thinks – until Evie goes missing and suddenly Lizzie is questioning everything she ever thought about her best friend."

Michael says this ...

There are books you rip through. There are books you savour by the page and run your hand lightly across the cover with wonder each time you set it aside, safely, for the next time. Megan Abbott has conjured up one of the latter.

The experiences of a teenage girl are far removed from those of a man approaching (cough) middle-age. Therefore I initially questioned my ability to engage and empathise with a novel narrated from the viewpoint of such a child, but thankfully I quickly set aside any misconceptions I might have had. From the first page; the first sentence, Abbott had me.

The End of Everything is a book about sisters, fathers and daughters, family and friendships, truths dripping reluctantly from the owner, but more than that, it’s a book about two young girls on the verge of discovering the confusing and heady power of their gender.

Megan Abbott has done something few of us can dream of. She’s taken everything we know about noir fiction and re-framed it in a world almost alien to the genre. She has imbued it with a command and grace that compels while meeting our expectation of entering the dark and forbidding places of the human psyche.
Each character is drawn with care and given breath with just a few well-chosen words and the prose has a dream-like, captivating quality you can’t fail to fall in love with.

This is quite frankly, wonderful stuff and I am in awe of this writer’s skill. A modern classic. Go buy it. Like, now.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Absolute Zero Cool... and the winner is...

... dah, dah, DAAAAAAH! (that's them thar trumpets, people.)

Gill Stewart, come on down. Or, send me an email with your postal address so I can send you the signed copy of Declan Burke's piece of literary class.

(You have my email address?)

For the rest of you, abject apologies. And you really should go HERE and HERE  to see what you've missed.

Michael

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Absolute Zero Cool - Win a Copy!




The time has now run out to vote for Declan Burke’s (simply wonderful) Absolute Zero Cool in the Irish Book Awards.

This is a novel of extraordinary skill that is eliciting nothing but praise from the great and the good in literature.

Ken Bruen has this to say – “ AZC is unlike anything else you’ll read this year ... laugh-out-loud funny ...this is writing at its dazzling, cleverest zenith. Think John Fowles, via Paul Auster and Rolling Stone ... a feat of extraordinary alchemy.”

And the good news for you lucky readers of May Contain Nuts is that I have a free, signed copy to give 
away.

How do you win this much sought after item? Just leave a message and tell me your favourite read of the year and why.

Laters,
M

Monday, 14 November 2011

A Pittance of Time

Many thanks to my buddy, Rab (aka Numptyheid) who alerted me to this video/ song following my mini-rantette about intolerance the other day.

HERE's a link to a website that gives you more detail.

Enjoy.


Friday, 11 November 2011

Pause to remember ...




Disappearing With a Tie

He puts a tie on to read his papers.
Checks the knot in his hall mirror and then
does his National Service quick-march
down to the library where he leans over the broadsheet,
elbows of his jacket secured with extra padding.

It’s warmer here in the bucket seats, he might say
should you ask. And there’s company of a sort,
although everyone obeys the rule and no one speaks.
A nod to the familiar is sufficient. And maybe
a twitch of a smile on a good day.

I don’t know, he might say
should you ask what he’s looking for.
But finds himself pulled to the casualties.
The role-call of young lives severed
in the war of I am More Right Than You Are.

I know this, he might say should you ask,
the past is locked into the present,
holding the future to ransom
and the weapons may change
but the blood
slick on a different patch of earth,
stains just the same.

Michael Malone

Thursday, 10 November 2011

What price tolerance?




In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
(John McCrae)

Here in the UK and many other parts of the world, mid-November becomes a time to remember our war-dead by pinning a poppy on to our clothing. (Apparently the British Legion send 3 million of them around the globe and sell upwards of 45 million in the UK, earning the charity around £40M)

The poppy has become a powerful symbol of remembrance and a hopeful prayer for peace. And you know what - it ticks me off when I hear people complaining that some people don’t wear one, or that they don’t wear it for enough days, or that they wear it too early, or that the one that is sold isn’t botanically correct, or even that the angle of the leaf should be worn at a different angle.

We even have a newsreader, John Snow who objected to, what he called “poppy fascism” and reserved the right to wear his poppy only on Remembrance Day – and caused a stushie (this is a crackin’ Scots word meaning a fuss) throughout the country.

And so a symbol of peace and hope becomes an article that people bitch and complain about. What happened to tolerance? I know it’s a matter of degree, but it’s this very type of human behaviour – I’m right and you’re fuckin’ wrong – that causes strife in the first place.

We’re all different, we all hold different views and we all have a human right to continue to do so. Those who want to come together in this way and show a strength of community and purpose – go in peace. And hope. Those who want to remember in their own way, or even not at all – go in peace. And hope.

As the Dalai Lama said, “Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.”

Enough of the bickering.

Right, that’s me off my soapbox.
Laters
M

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Blasted Heath





Innovations continue apace in the world of publishing. One of the most interesting I’ve come across recently is down to the first Scottish e-publisher: BLASTED HEATH.

This is the creation of uber agent, crime writer and good guy, Allan Guthrie with his mucker, social media expert (whatever that is) Kyle McRae. They have launched with five titles – including Dead Money by Ray Banks, and The Man in the Seventh Row, a debut novel by Edinburgh journalist Brian Pendreigh.

So far, so commendable – and this is where it gets interesting.

Blasted Heath have come up with a boxed set of all five books in three file formats on a branded USB stick in a gift presentation pack. The whole thing is about the size of a tobacco tin and comes complete with fold-out cards describing the accompanying books. Genius or what? I hope this can be patented cos I see this being copied big time.

The USB stick costs £12.99, and at the moment (as far as I can see) it is only available on mail order from their website, www.blastedheath.com, but there’s been interest from independent bookshops. There are discounts on the website this weekend. See what you can pick up as taster. 

You can thank me later.

M

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Vote for Absolute Zero Cool by Declan Burke



Friend of this blog, all-round good guy and fantastic author, Declan Burke has his book shortlisted on the 2011 Irish Book Awards.

The blurb?


Absolute Zero Cool is a post-modern take on the crime thriller genre. Adrift in the half-life limbo of an unpublished novel, hospital porter Billy needs to up the stakes. Euthanasia simply isn't shocking anymore; would blowing up his hospital be enough to see Billy published, or be damned? What follows is a gripping tale that subverts the crime genre's grand tradition of liberal sadism, a novel that both excites and disturbs in equal measure. Absolute Zero Cool is not only an example of Irish crime writing at its best; it is an innovative, self-reflexive piece that turns every convention of crime fiction on its head. Declan Burke's latest book is an imaginative story that explores the human mind's ability to both create and destroy, with equally devastating effects.


I had the pleasure of reading this book in draft form and this is a quote from the email I sent to Declan after I read it ...




"I think you have an amazing book here. I'm totally in awe of your ability to craft a sentence. It's a brave book, both in context and content. It has brains, wit and heart and the ending was pitch-perfect. Gave me a wee lump in my throat. This has got cult classic written all over it.



Why "cult"? The aforementioned brains. Sadly - and I'm certain you're aware of this - not everyone is going to get it. And this is the only constructive criticism I can offer. Some people - and this is not my opinion - might see the "brains" part as being self-indulgent - but fuck 'em - I thoroughly enjoyed the challenge of it. Made me pause and consider what you were saying. Made me think of my own life in places and as a writer you can't have more power than that. You managed to philosophise without lecturing your reader and your observations were incisive and absolutely on the button.

This deserves plaudits. I sincerely hope you get them."


And by jove, the plaudits arrived by the bucketload. The great and the good of crime fiction are queuing up to praise this book.

You can vote for Declan here

And if you haven't yet read the book, you can get it from all the usual suspects or You can buy the book here.

Laters,

Michael

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Wincey on Harry



Harry Moseley was an 11 year boy with a heart of solid gold. He died recently after fighting a brain tumour. His funeral was today.


Harry became well-known through his charity work after being diagnosed with the tumour in 2007.
Harry, passed away on the 8th October.
During his illness Harry raised funds of more than £500,000, for the charity Cancer Research UK by speaking at events and selling hand-made bracelets.

His Help Harry Help Others campaign gained widespread celebrity admiration from celebs including Dragons' Den tycoon Duncan Bannatyne and England captain John Terry.

To learn more about Harry go to my mate, Wincey's Blog.

Saturday, 15 October 2011

Weird Writing





How do you write? Any weird habits?  A favourite position (ooo, er missus)? Do you need complete silence, or do you rock out to Black Sabbath? Or can’t you even think about it until you have 3 coffees, melba toast and a wee dod of caviar? (Aye, right.)

Truman Capote, who arguably wrote the best true crime “novel” ever, couldn’t write unless he was lying down, in bed or on a couch with a cigarette and a coffee. As the day progressed he moved from coffee to mint tea to martinis. As he described it, he had to be puffing and sipping.

Hemingway used to write 500 words every morning, to avoid the heat. Living in Scotland, I SO don’t have that problem.  He is quoted as saying he wrote one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit and that he aimed to put the shit in the wastebasket. I’m thinking the toilet would have been preferable.

Nabokov wrote his novels on index cards – they would then be paper-clipped together and stored in wee boxes. In the Paris Review he said he liked lined Bristol cards and well-sharpened, not too hard, pencils capped with erasers. We call erasers rubbers in these here parts. Which could cause all kinds of confusion and does cause all kinds of sniggering in classrooms around the country.

Thomas Clayton Wolfe, the early 20th century novelist (no, I’ve never heard of him either) was so tall he used to write leaning over a refrigerator.

Ben Franklin liked to write in the bath.

Voltaire used to place his parchment on the back of his naked lover.

John Cheever only had one suit, so he would go to his writing space, hang his suit up and write in his boxers.

So go on, fess up – when your (creative) juices start flowing what weird habits do you have?


Saturday, 8 October 2011

Of Tattoos and Things.





I was being served in a local clothes shop (I've lost 45 pounds now - new jeans, 32 inch waist – just saying) and I noticed the young fella – I’m a poor judge of age, but I’d say he was in his late teens - serving me had a tattoo just below his neckline. It was a string of words – and I don’t know about you, but when I see words I have to know what they say.

(See me reading the same cereal box at breakfast every day for YEARS. It's got thiamine and riboflavin)

Me – Excuse my nosiness but what does the tattoo say?

Him – That’s alright – he grins – It says, everybody dies, but not everybody lives.

Me – cool. What prompted you to get that done?

Him – It’s kinda my thing, my mantra – I think it’s important not to just, like, let life happen to you.


How often do you hear that the young of this country are like the lost generation? It was great to meet a living example that proves that it ain’t necessarily so.

What’s your thing/mantra?

Go on, spill. You know you want to.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

It's National Poetry Day!







So here's one wot I wrote earlier.

(I was commissioned by my friend Margaret Thomson Davis, to write a series of poems for her novel, "Red Alert". The brief she gave me for this character was that she was in her late teens and about to go off to art school. She lived alone with her mother who had Victorian attitudes - and who believed her daughter was going to be drawing bowls of fruit and embroidering lace. Wrong! The young female character expressed herself through a series of poems in her diary - and Margaret asked me to produce the poems.)




Rule of Thumb

She hides behind her thumb
under the guise of the first
lesson in perspective. She stretches
her arm out like a thin, pale promontory
her thumb as beacon,
rigid at the far end
warning of the rocks beyond. 

Her first life model, on the first day
of life classes is naked. And male.
Wearing nothing
but an everyday expression.

The statues that line the hall didn’t prepare her.
Smooth and cold and lifelike no comparison
for smooth and warm and life. With hair.
She didn’t know there would be so much hair.

Dark against the celtic pale of his skin,
it marked him with a t-shape. The crossbar
waved and curled across the tight muscle of his chest
meeting in the middle
where it warmed his heart.

Her eyes trace the line as it narrows
on its path to the navel, before
swelling in a dark tattoo at the groin.
The man must have read her line of sight.
His cheeks bunch with a suppressed smile.

Hers burn as bright as a lighthouse.
She withdraws from his scrutiny
and finds sanctuary behind her thumb.




(NB. This poem doesn't feature in the above collection. I wanted an image to go with the poem and I couldn't be bothered trawling the net for drawings of naked men. Sorry, ladies.)

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

"Blood Tears" update



It seems that small publishers are having problems with a certain book-chain which means a delay in the publication of my debut crime novel.

Put it in your diaries, people ...

July 1st, 2012

We're currently talking cover designs (not the above image) and final edits so it's all coming together. At frickin' last.

We're also hoping that advance copies will be made available for those events I've committed to - so some lucky people will get in there first.

In the meantime, I've been busy as a wee bee on another very different project. Which will mean a new publication direction for me. It's all VERY exciting, but I don't want to say too much until details are finalised.

Don't worry, my MCN friends (all three of you) will be the first to know.

Laters,

M

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Review - The Sparrow Conundrum by Bill Kirton




The Sparrow Conundrum by Bill Kirton

The blurby bit -

Chris Machin isn’t his name, at least not to the bottom feeders in Aberdeen squabbling over North Sea oil and gas contracts. Chris has a code name, and when his garden explodes, The Sparrow takes flight, plunging everyone involved into chaos and violence.

A sociopathic cop and an interfering ex-girlfriend don’t exactly make for clarity of thinking, not when the one fancies a bit of violence to add spice to an arrest. The ex adds other, more interesting dimensions to Chris’ already complicated life.

The bodies pile up—some whole, some in fragments—and two wrestlers join the fray. A road trip seems just the solution but then so do Inverness, a fishing trawler and a Russian factory ship as the players face … The Sparrow Conundrum.


The review -

The Sparrow Conundrum is a laugh-a-paragraph comic crime caper set against the backdrop of the oil industry in Aberdeen. A full range of funny-bone tickling is on offer for the discerning reader; from a grin sparked by a witty comment, to a chuckle ... to a hefty belly-laugh when a delightful set piece reaches its hilarious conclusion.

The characters that Bill Kirton serves up in The Sparrow Conundrum are a continuous delight throughout the book. My favourites were the sociopathic detective Lodgedale and the crime boss Eagle who surely had his head turned by a gang of bullies at a private school.

Kirton is a master of the comic. His scenes are carefully orchestrated for maximum laughs and his language carefully chosen to tickle.

If you like a change from the normal mystery/ thriller fare and you don’t take your crime fiction too seriously you owe it to yourself to get a copy of The-Sparrow-Conundrum. Hiaasen, Bateman and Moore should be looking over their shoulder, 'cos Kirton has arrived.

(The above link takes you to Amazon - it should be noted there are plenty of other ways to buy this -bloody good - book)


Monday, 19 September 2011

The Stranger You Seek - Amanda Kyle Williams






What have I been reading recently, I hear you ask? Sit back and I’ll tell you.

Sitting comfortably? Cast your peepers over this...

The Stranger You Seek by Amanda Kyle Williams

 The blurb goes thus -
“In the sweltering heat of an Atlanta summer a killer is pushing the city to breaking point, preying on the unsuspecting and writing taunting letters to the media which promise more death.

Desperate to stop the Wishbone Killer before another victim is murdered, A.P.D. lieutenant Aaron Rauser turns to the one person he knows can penetrate a deranged mind, ex–FBI profiler Keye Street.

Keye was a rising young star at the Bureau until addiction derailed her career and her life. Now sober and fighting to stay so, Keye picks up jobs where she can get them: catching adulterers, serving subpoenas, chasing down bailjumpers and dodging the occasional bullet.

With multiple victims, little to go on and an entire police force looking for direction, the last thing Keye wants is to be pulled into the firestorm of Atlanta’s worst nightmare.

And then it suddenly becomes clear that the hunter has become the hunted - and the stranger she seeks is far closer than she ever dared imagine.”

My take on it?

This was the Fresh Blood read over at Crimesquad.com last month and deservedly so. Serial killers are (to borrow the cliché) ten-a-penny in crime fiction and it takes something a little bit special to grab and hold my attention. The Stranger You Seek has got “special” in bucketloads.

Keye Street is my new favourite character and it’s her voice that takes us through this cracking read.  She is spunky, sparky (he feverishly seeks another word beginning with “sp”) and (goes for) sassy. (I didn’t get the “p” in there. So sue me.)

Aspiring writers who are struggling with the concept of “voice” should read this book and they’ll receive the message loud and clear. The author uses this to great effect not only giving the reader everything they would be looking for in such a novel, but with added warmth and wit. And this (despite the tension and body count) makes The Stranger You Seek such a joy to read. 

I will admit to quick roll of the eyes when I realised Keye was a recovering alcholic, but this well-worn device never felt tired thanks to the zip Williams injects into her writing.

REALLY looking forward to see what Amanda Kyle Williams comes up with next. She’s a rising star people – get her book on your shelf now so you can brag to your mates that you were one of the first to spot her.


Monday, 12 September 2011

Random Acts of Kindness





It was my birthday last week – and that’s my excuse for not blogging for a wee while – and YES, it took me all week to celebrate.

Anywho, on the afternoon of my birthday I was sat sitting in my car in a queue for fuel. The petrol station was VERY busy.

As busy as a one legged man in an arse kicking contest.

And if you know me, you’ll know that I hate waiting in queues.

Eventually, after much huffing and drumming of fingers on the steering wheel, there was just one car between me and some diesel satisfaction. A young woman climbed out of her car and filled up. (Haven’t you noticed that everyone in front of you fills their tank, while in the other queues they are only topping up with about ten pounds worth? What’s that all about?)

At last, she moved as if to pull the nozzle out of her car. Nothing happened. She pulled again. The nozzle didn’t move. The girl blew hair out of her eyes, shifted her grip and pulled some more. Nothing.

C’mon, missus – I mumbled.

Her handbag was over her shoulder. She adjusted it – pulled some more. No movement. She shook it about. Nothing.

She looked over at me and made a small grimace of apology.

I smiled back and muttered – awfurfucksake.

She adjusted her handbag again, pushed her fringe away from her eyeline, took a deep breath and PULLED. Nada, zip, zilch. She pulled, pulled and PULLED. With the same result.

I caught myself about to swear again and gave myself a lecture. What was I getting annoyed about? She wasn’t doing this deliberately. I didn’t have to be anywhere in a hurry –  and the poor woman was getting really flustered. I’m always telling the wee fella “its nice to be nice”. Time to live up to the lecture, Mikey-boy.

Then I wondered if I should offer to help. Maybe she was a rampant feminist and would knee me in the danglies and tell me to go do myself. Maybe she would dislodge it just as I walked up and I would end up looking like an eejit. Or maybe I would end up struggling just as much as she was.

While I indulged in my pointless internal debate she was still tugging at it, so I got out of the car and walked towards her.

Want me to try, I asked?

Oh yes please, she answered.

The nozzle was fully inserted into the – don’t know what to call it – fuel-hole? I went through the same pantomime she had been performing with the inevitable result. It was well and truly stuck.

It’s really stuck, innit? I said helpfully. I pulled some more. It’s a really tight fit – I continued – your hole is awfy tight.

Realising what I had just said, I coughed and fought down a blush.

I gave the nozzle a wee jiggle (I give good jiggle) and I could see that the curved pipe inside her fuel-(ahem) hole had a row of ridges on the underside and one of these was getting caught in a lip inside her - , no, I’m not going there.

I twisted the nozzle and jiggled some more (see above) and the handle moved out of her car as smoothly as  if it had been coated in lube. (I’m at a bad age, let me go with this.)

Men and their hoses, eh?

Back in my car, feeling pleased with myself I waited for the woman to pay and move her car so I could drive mine into position. After paying and before she sat in her own car, she approached mine. I rolled down the window. She handed me a bar of chocolate – a yorkie bar – that’s for being a big strong man, she said grinning her thanks.

Ten minutes later and I was still smiling at this turn of events as I parked in a car park in town. I had birthday money melting in my wallet and I HAD to spend it. The car park is one of those where you pay at the machine; it prints a voucher and you display it prominently in your car. As I walked to the machine a young man moved towards me.

He asked me -you about to buy a ticket?

Aye.

Here ye go – he handed me his. I just bought this a minute ago and then I got a text saying I needed to be somewhere, you might as well have it – he smiled.

Well, you have this - I offered the man the pound coin I was about to slip into the machine.

Nah, you’re alright mate, he said and walked away with a wave.



See. Perform an act of kindness and it come right back atcha.


Saturday, 3 September 2011

Down These Green Streets - A review




The super-talented writer and all round nice guy, John Connolly was in my local bookshop yesterday so I popped in for a blether. 

This reminded me of a book I reviewed for Crimesquad recently - and here it is ...

Down These Green Streets: Irish crime writing in the 21st Century edited by Declan Burke

Synopsis

A generation of Irish crime writers has emerged onto the international stage in the last decade, among them John Connolly, Tana French, Eoin McNamee, Gene Kerrigan, Arlene Hunt, Alan Glynn, Declan Hughes, Jane Casey and Ken Bruen. Down These Green Streets: Irish crime writing in the 21st Century charts the evolution of the Irish crime novel since the inception of the Irish state through a series of essays, interviews, personal testimonies and short stories, offering the writers’ perspective on Irish crime writing in fiction, non-fiction, film and theatre.

Review

John Connolly was my introduction to Irish crime fiction some ten years ago – my gateway drug if you will, and he offers a fascinating essay detailing among other things, why he chose to set his novels in the US. Adrian McKinty and Brian McGilloway offer views from the north and the impact of the troubles on their desire to write. Declan Hughes talks about  Irish identity and links with America. Ken Bruen in “The Houston Room” has delivered a short story which will be an emotional punch in the gut to devotees of the genre.

There is however, more ...much more.

Throughout this process Declan Burke displays himself to be a very generous fellow indeed. A writer with talent to match anyone in the book, with his only contribution to the collection (introduction aside) he gives John Banville an opportunity to answer his critics who have accused him of literary snobbery. As a follower of his excellent blog,  Crime Always Pays. I know Declan to be an articulate and thoughtful advocate of the genre and I would have enjoyed some of his own thoughts to be included in the book (but then that’s the problem with being the editor).

Down these Green Streets is not a book to gallop through. It’s one to savour and ponder the points raised by some of the keenest minds writing in fiction today. It is in turns discursive, instructive and entertaining and is never less than fascinating. This needs to be in every crime writing fan’s library, regardless of the hue of their preferences. The Scandinavians need to have a good look at their royalty statements; the Irish are here! 

To buy (and you know you wanna) simply go HERE

Amazon also have availability, but they're getting too powerful for my liking. Spread your cash around, people.

Laters

Friday, 19 August 2011

Go on, go on, go on ...

Read this, you'll love it ...




Proof of Life by Karen Campbell

Here be the review wot I wrote for the good peeps over at crimesquad.com -

Synopsis
“The girl in the foyer could not hear them, could not possibly have heard Anna, or know that she was there through two thick doors, but her pale neck flexed and her head came up, longer and higher as her profile turned , as her face took form to stare directly at the camera.

And Anna's life, her future, froze.”


Chief Inspector Anna Cameron is a woman with everything to lose. Her life is finally back on track, but the mistakes she made in the past are about to come back to haunt her.

When a body is discovered in a Glasgow canal, the death proves to have an unexpected link to something Anna wants desperately to forget. As Glasgow pulses with the threat of terrorist attack and growing civil discontent, she realises everything she holds dear is at risk.


What did I make of it?

Verisimilitude is a very big word – and this book, and all the work of Karen Campbell just sings of it. You want to really know how a police investigation is carried out? Look no further than Ms Campbell if it is this kind of detail that sends your boat into a spin.

As well as all that detail you’ll get as fine a stylist as you’ll read this side of a poetry collection. Pick a page, any page and you’ll find an arresting phrase (pun intended) or a sentence that makes you go "ahhh". 

And then there’s the actual investigation, the need to know that carries the reader forward, and again with 
this element of fiction Karen Campbell comes up trumps. Simply said, she offers everything this reviewer looks for in a novel.

In Proof of Life we have multiple points of view, each invested with care and attention, each crucial to the story and each moving it on with delicious reveals at just the right point. And on this occasion Campbell works the successful trope of the detective and her loved ones being at risk, because of something she did in her past, providing a full-circle link to the first book in the series.

There’s an element to the story that I’m dying to talk about, but that would spoil it for you – I may just have to accost a total stranger in the street and demand they listen to me. Suffice to say when I finished the book and set it to the side, I said one word out loud...

... WOW!