Wednesday, 19 December 2012

A May Contain Nuts Xmas Tradition ...

... is to re-post the (scarily) true story of how I found myself with a giant fecking Xmas tree.

I put my Xmas tree up the other night. Then I lay down for an hour to rest. Said tree is HUGE.I should have phoned in some people to help me wrestle it from the loft. Took me three trips up and down the stairs to get it through the doors and into the living room.
As I placed the tree in the middle of the floor and cleared the eagle’s nest from its branches I remembered the day it came into my possession. Just four short years ago...
......cue swirly music (violins and shit like that)....
....the phone rang. It was my twin sister. The Queen of Chaos (QC). For any newbies reading this, she’s a lovely lady. She’s four feet eleven inches, a size six, thinks tact is something you stick your posters on the wall with and enjoys a lifelong blonde moment.
 I had earlier been at the swimming pool with my son where he invented a new sport, Dad Surfing. (In case you don’t value your lungs and you’d like to try it, all you need is a swimming pool with a current and a child who is happy to stand on your back while you – and this is where it gets tricky - float) It was great fun ...and this explains my uncharacteristic willingness to step in and help. I was in a good mood.
Long story even longer, QC had been offered a free second-hand Xmas tree. It was seven feet tall, cost £190 new just 2 years ago and it was a cracker. Only thing is QC doesn’t have a car and is a master of the passive aggressive. I don’t have car, she says - like I don’t know this – and how am I going to get the tree home to my flat? In Troon? Like I’ve also forgotten where she stays.
I load the car with self and son and drive to meet her. She has a piece of paper in her hand with directions to the home of the tree. The directions to the home of said tree were lousy. We got lost in a housing estate with one road in and one road out. Several phone calls later, with shouted instructions from my backseat sister, me snapping at her and the wee fella giving me a row for being bossy with my twin, we made it.
A nice lady is standing by the door of her flat on the third floor wearing a look of relief. The look of someone who has just been told; yes it piles but yes, we can cure you. She directed us to a cupboard in the communal hall. And opened a door. The only thing I saw was a huge white box. You know those containers you see on the back of ships? Roughly the size of one of those.  
-that’s your tree, says nice lady and runs back indoors before we can say anything else.
I couldn’t lift the box off the ground, never mind lifting it out to the car, but with the wee fella pushing and me dragging and QC carrying a free box of 20,000 lights the tree owner no longer needed, we made it.
By which time my shirt was sticking to my back, my jacket was torn in three places and I was wishing I only had brothers.
I looked at the box. I looked at the boot. Not going to happen. I open up the boot (or as the wee fella calls; the trunk) in the vain hope that Doctor Who has been working nearby. Na. Not a chance. The tree box would never fit in the boot. There was a large green skip by the side of the road and it had some space. But the thought of dumping tree lady’s gift was too much and we resolved to try harder.
While all the pushing was going on QC was standing to the side wearing an expression of mild panic. It’s too big, she says. I don’t have big enough corners in my house, she says. You have it and I’ll take yours. It’ll be lovely for you and the wee man to have a nice big tree, she says trying to sell me the idea.
- Can we get it in the feckin’ car first, says I.
- Dad! says the wee fella.
Eventually I worked out that if I moved the front seats forward that there might be room in the back. With a lot more sweat, more pushing and some muttered curses, we made it. And bonus, we even managed to close the car doors.
 Of course we now didn’t have enough room for three people. So the wee fella (who’s nearly as tall as his aunt) sits on QC’s lap and I drive to my house, which is nearer– but I have to go the long way as the short way goes past the police station. We all hold our breath and look straight ahead for the ten minutes it takes to get to my house – because this is proven to make you invisible to the police. Fact.
 We get home safely – no blue flashing lights. I couldn’t possibly drive to QC’s like this. I can’t leave the wee man at home on his own while I take the tree to hers. Besides, I can’t face the thought of lifting this humongous box up the three flights of stairs to QC’s flat. I face the realisation that I’m going to have to accept this bloody tree.
 The next trick is to get the box out of my car. We all adopt the same activities as before – the wee fella pushes, I pull and QC stands wearing an expression of alarm. Eventually – presumably in the same time it takes a crane to lift a container from the ship on to the wharf, something gives – the car door handle- and the box is out the car and with more pushing, pulling and sweat, is in my front room.
 While my son and I catch our breath, QC tears the industrial tape from the box – you know the silver duct tape kind that serial killers use in all the movies – just to see how big this tree is.
 Think Norway’s annual gift to the British nation.
            -it’ll be lovely with lights on it, says QC prompted by the fact that the room is so dark because the tree is blocking out the light from the window. The expression of alarm on her face has deepened. She is by now desperate for me to take it off her hands. She paused, where are the lights? Did you leave the lights behind, she asks me?
-I was kinda busy with a big feckin’ box, sis, says I.
- Dad! says the wee man.
QC’s last memory of the lights was while standing watching me wrestle the tree container into the car. She must have put them down somewhere, she surmises. So we all jump back in the car and go back to the tree lady’s building …and there in a dark corner of the car park was our box of lights. Hurrah. Nobody had stolen them. No doubt any prospective thief had been put off by the thought of the increase to their electricity bill once they were switched on.
A wee guy was walking his wee dog past the scene as we screeched to a halt. QC jumped out of the car before I could pull on the handbrake.
-forgot my lights, she explained to the man as if it made perfect sense, while she swooped for the box. I caught a glimpse of him over my shoulder as I circled out of the car park – his chin was resting on the back of his dachshund.
 By this time we had all worked up an appetite so we decided to go to Pizza Hut. (Other restaurants focusing on saturated fat are available.) My stomach was saying, do not go home, do not pass “Go”, go straight to food. The unhealthier the better. The stomach was to be obeyed. QC generously offered to go halfers for any food.
 Relieved the worst of it was over, we had a wee laugh about our adventures on the way to the restaurant – but it was to be an illusory moment of calm for when we parked and climbed out of the car QC realised she didn’t have her handbag. I reasoned that it must be in my house and besides I was not driving another inch without throwing something down my throat. And it didn’t matter it if wasn’t a meal acceptable to polite society.
By the time we got a seat in Pizza Hut (see above) and ordered our food, QC had worked herself into a frenzy of worry. Her house keys. Her mobile phone. Her purse.
Oh my fucking god, she screeched. Maybe the handbag wasn’t in the house. It was on the backseat of the car while I was pushing the tree-box in. Maybe it got pushed out the other end. Maybe she left it in the same car park as the box of lights. Maybe it was in the tree lady’s house. Maybe the tree lady had emptied her purse, had been shopping on-line with her credit cards and was now happily phoning a porn phone line in Chile using her mobile phone.
 While QC borrowed my mobile and phoned all of her friends to try and find out the tree lady’s number, the wee fella gave me another row.
– you’re different with your sister, he said, much more bossy.
 Nobody had tree lady’s number. Cue more worry and more doomsday scenarios – her house keys were in her handbag, I would have to kick in her front door. No, I couldn’t do that as she has mental neighbours and while she was sleeping they would ransack her flat. She thought about it some more. NO, she couldn’t do that ‘cos she’d have to stay awake all night and she was a monster if she didn’t get her sleep. Could she even get a locksmith on a Saturday night? Shame she fell out with another neighbour – the witch-  ‘cos she used to keep a spare key for her.
The food arrived and was eaten in Guinness Book of Records time. The wee man didn’t even have time to get that tomato smear on his wee cheeks.
 There was a collective holding of breath all the way from Pizza Hut to my house. The wee fella worried that QC was going to have a rubbish Xmas. I worried that I was going to have a mad woman on my couch for the rest of the weekend and QC just worried.
 We pulled up in front of my house and all of us took a deep breath and paused in prayer before we get out of the car.
I unlocked the front door to my house and QC almost knocked me into next door’s garden in her rush to get past. The wee man and I looked at each other and waited at the door, afraid to look.
We heard a squeal. She’d found it. Care to guess where?
Under the tree.

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Interview with Deon Meyer ... Deel Twee

...according to Google translate, that is afrikaans for "part two".

MM – There will be, I imagine, a number of aspiring writers reading this interview ... could you describe your writing process for them?

DM – I have a very fixed schedule. I think that the first step in being a writer is writing often and writing regularly with discipline. I am usually sitting down to write about 5 o’clock in the morning. It’s an old habit, because when I started writing I had a proper day job, so the only time I could write was between 4 and 7 in the morning. ..

MM – 4 and 7?

DM – Yes, I was a single parent at the time so had to get the kids up and dressed and fed and take them off to school and then go to work. And in the evening the kids needed care and attention. So I got into the habit of getting up very early because that really was the only time I could write. And it is a fantastic time of the day. So quiet. No distractions. That became my habit and I now write between 5 and lunch.

MM – Who are your literary influences?

DM – I think I was probably influenced by Ed McBain and John B McDonald. I was reading them as a teen and into my twenties. They made a huge impression on me and I still admire their writing so much. One is influenced by so much ... I’m a huge John le Carre fan. And many others ... like Graham Greene.

MM – What are you reading at the moment?

DM – I’m reading a book on movie directing (laughs). We created a movie company. A friend and I. We made a movie a couple of years ago  - I wrote the script and he directed - and it was such a fun experience. And the movie did quite well in SA, so we thought, let’s do this more often. And I’ve just finished an original movie script and I really think I could direct it, but I have more to learn before I can get there. It’s something different.

MM – And, I guess, it’s a different part of the creative brain that you get to exercise ...

DM – Yeah, it’s still all about storytelling. This is a wonderful book by two female movie directors from the US and it’s by far the best guide I’ve come across on how to direct and what I find fascinating is that it is all about storytelling. There are many similarities in the writing process. When you write a book you consider: what is the best way to tell this story?  In a movie, you think about when do you start a scene, when do you end a scene. That’s the same in a novel when you think about your chapters. In essence it is all about telling a story.

MM – Yeah, you are just presenting your information in a different way. What would you say was your biggest lesson from that book so far, that it’s all about storytelling?

DM – No. My biggest lesson is that I still have a hell of a lot to learn. There is much that a director has to do. You take the script. You have the establishing shot. The medium shot. Where do you put the camera? How do you do the lighting? And so much more. When you write a book you don’t think about all that. The other interesting thing is that in a book you can write a scene where 100,000 people fill a city square, but if you want to do that in a movie it’s going to cost you millions of dollars to film that scene.
Filmmaking is a hugely collaborative process.  You have an art director, a cinematographer ...even the actors bring their talent to bear. To me that’s the magic of making movies. When you write a novel it’s just you and the story and it’s a world no-one else can enter.

MM – From your books’ perspective, where is your biggest market at the moment?

DM – France. My book sell well in France. But there’s also Germany, US and the UK. I was recently on the top ten list in Holland as well.

MM – Do you find a different reaction in some of the countries that you go to?

DM – Yeah, some countries just don’t get me. The Italians are just not into me. In Spain, we’re getting there. Slowly. I’ve just realised with this Dutch thing that it makes a difference if you get a good publisher who sticks with you. My first book sold dismally in the UK, but Hodder decided to stick with me and now we are making real progress. I am very fortunate to have that and in other markets it doesn’t always work that way.

MM – You write in Afrikaans, don’t you? Do you translate it yourself?

DM – I have a translator who I work with closely. When she’s finished I go through it closely, I spend maybe a month working through the translated work to make sure it is as close as possible to the Afrikaans version.

MM – And are you published in both languages in SA?

DM  - Yes, and my English version comes out a year after the Afrikaans version and my English readers are not so happy about this. But there’s nothing I can do about that. It takes so long to do the translation.

MM - What would you say is the best thing and the worst thing about being a writer?

DM – I would say that the best thing is this huge privilege to be able to see the world. To meet book people. I’ve never met a book person I didn’t like and that to me is just a huge privilege. I wouldn’t have that honour if I didn’t write. Sometimes I have to pinch myself. You know, I come from a small South African mining town. I never thought when I started to write that I would get all these opportunities, that I would get to see so much of the world.
The worst thing is that you can only blame yourself for anything that goes wrong. You create the book. You write the book. There is always something that scares you: if you get it wrong then it’s all just your fault. I find the writing process a slow, tough one  ...

MM – It’s not getting any easier then?

DM – No, if anything it’s getting more and more difficult. I think you are obligated to keep on learning, to keep on improving. If you spend so much time and effort building a loyal audience, reader by reader then you owe it to them and to yourself not to do something stupid and spoil it all for them.

MM –Thinking back to the beginning, was there ever a “moment” when you thought to yourself, “I am a writer”?

DM – I still don’t think I’m a writer. The term of author or writer sounds so intelligent and arty and I think of myself more as a storyteller. My job is storytelling.

MM – And did you come to all of this “storytelling” early on in life?

DM – Yeah, I think I was nine or ten years old. Difficult to explain ... we were three brothers. We all read voraciously. We went to the library three times a week. But I was the only one who went from this to wanting to tell stories that would please, entertain other people. Why me? Why not one of the others? I 
simply had this urge – I knew this was what I wanted to do.

MM – And we are so glad you carried on. Deon, it’s been an absolute pleasure. Thank you.

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

The one about the 2 crime writers and the publicist stuck in a lift ...

During the Harrogate Crime Writing Festival in July this year, I had the good fortune to interview the charming and talented, Deon Meyer in advance of his September publication of "7 Days".

We met in the hotel lobby and on the way up to the media suite - we got stuck in the lift. Cue lots of gags. Thankfully, the lift had almost reached the right level. We managed to open the doors and step up and out onto the hotel landing. Mr Meyer demonstrated that he was a real gentleman by being the last person to exit the lift. I wasn't quite so courteous.

How did our conversation go? First, here's the blurb for 7 Days ...

“I'll shoot a policeman every day until you arrest the murderer of Hanneke Sloet.”

Shortly after the South African Police Services receive this threatening email, a policeman is shot by a sniper and recovering alcoholic Benny Griessel is ordered to reopen the Sloet case.

Hanneke Sloet was a sensual and ambitious lawyer. At the time of her murder she was working on one of the biggest Black Empowerment deals in South African history. She was found dead in her luxury Cape Town apartment, a single stab wound to her chest.

After forty days, the trail has gone cold. The first investigation could find no motive and no leads, only a set of nude photographs, an ex-boyfriend with a rock-solid alibi, conniving attorneys and financial double-dealing.

Benny has to deal with immense pressure from his superiors, the media and the unfathomable sniper, whose emails keep coming and who won't stop shooting. And then there's Benny's love interest, former pop sensation Alexa Barnard, who is also trying to rebuild her life after the ravages of alcohol, and Benny has to make sure she stays sober for her comeback.

At the same time, Benny's feisty colleague, Captain Mbali Kaleni, is hunting the shooter, trying desperately to find what connects him to Hanneke Sloet.
Both Benny and Mbali are about to endure seven days of hell.

And here's the first part of our interview ...

MM - How much of you is in Bennie Griessel?

DM – (laughs)Bennie was a side character in my first novel – and the main character  in that book was more like me. Bennie was supposed to be the comic relief in that book, but he was just such a fantastic character – he was a bit of a cliché – you know, the alcoholic cop –  but I enjoyed writing him and he found his way to being the main character.  And there is only a little of me in Benny.

MM - He is a finely nuanced character. How careful are you in depicting him, or do you run on instinct?

DM – I do a lot of thinking about my characters ...what are the emotional moments in their life – what possible genetic markers do they have. If you don’t know your character when you are writing them, you are going to make a lot of mistakes. I did spend a lot of time thinking about Benny and I tried to be very careful to get him right. It’s not difficult – once you know your character, once you know the pressure points that are going to drive him or her then it becomes and easier process. “7 Days”  is my third Benny Griessel novel and I’m getting to know him better and better

MM – I thought the counterpoint provided by his relationship with Alexa was interesting. He is off the demon drink and she’s going through that particular battle. AND it provides a nice piece of mental torture for Benny. He’s in love with this woman. He knows how she is suffering, but booze is always near...

DM – We have an expression in Afrikaans, to make the wolf the sheepherder. Benny is of course an alcoholic. His wife used to fight to keep him off the drink and now he’s got to do that. He has the other end of the stick. And that for me was an interesting tension to the story – how will Benny cope?
I think the whole idea of the genre is to create conflict. Conflict is the mother of suspense and to give Benny these challenges creates extra suspense.

MM – What do you think makes Benny such an endearing character?

DM – I dunno. You’re asking the right guy. I like him and I just hope the reader will like him. My approach is to make all my characters as human as possible and I think readers respond to humanity in characters; to frailty. Life is difficult for all of us and if you have a character who is finding it difficult to cope ... and as I said, readers respond. And Benny he does stupid things, but at heart he is a good man. He tries so hard, but he has so many failings.

MM – Roger Smith is another very fine writer to come out of South Africa, but if his books were the only reference to the modern state that is South Africa, you would never set foot in the place. Your books are much more balanced in that respect. Do you feel a responsibility to do so?

DM – No I don’t. When I do interviews and people ask about South Africa, then I feel I have a responsibility to try and convince people that South Africa is a fantastic and safe country. An interesting fact is that the UK crime rate and the South African crime rate is not all that different.
     The thing to bear in mind about crime fiction is that it’s a small window into a very big world. And it’s usually a small window onto the dark underbelly of society. When I read a book set in Scandinavia or London, I don’t immediately think this is a very dangerous place. And I don’t think readers do either. So that’s why I don’t feel any responsibility. I do try to be honest and depict SA as it is but you can’t reflect reality. Crime fiction isn’t a mirror on society. It’s a prism. You set the light to suit the story.
     I think if you try to portray SA as it really is, which is a fantastic, beautiful and safe country, then you affect the story. Just trying to get the story right is difficult enough, I don’t any other pressures.

MM – Your responsibility is to the story?

DM – Yeah. When I do interviews; when I visit other countries, I do feel I should talk about the wonders of my country. Unfortunately, through the media, SA does have a reputation of being a violent society but I didn’t create that perception and it’s not up to me to alter it.

MM – Another element I found interesting in the story was a moment when Benny considered the new SA and how Afrikaaners have had to adapt to big changes ...

DM – Yeah, one of the great things about writing is that you get to see your country through the eyes of different characters. One of my characters is a Zulu cop. She looks at SA through Zulu eyes and that enriches me as an author and it enriches the reader because they get different points of view. There’s a scene when Benny thinks how unfair the media is when talking about cops. The police get too much attention from the media and politicians and the police authorities continually get hit with the political stick. They get an unfair deal and I wanted to portray that.

MM – What about the soccer World Cup, was that of benefit to the nation?

DM – Absolutely. We are still reaping the benefit of the World Cup. Tourism stats went up during the tournament and they have continued to rise. Every day, when I go into Cape Town I get to drive on the new highways that were built for the World Cup. The stadiums are being used for other sports events and for disadvantaged communities.  And also on a psychological level it really brought the people together. The pride we took, that we showed the world we can host a very successful world event. I must tell you that I found it very charming when I was in the UK before the World Cup a lot of journalists were saying how can you host a World Cup, it’s going to be a fiasco, there’s so much crime. And in the run up to the Olympics the UK had a problem with GS4. We never had such a mess.

MM – Back to the books. You are amassing an impressive backlist. Do you have a favourite?

DM – I don’t really, but there is always the last one. Because you have lived with it so long and you feel the relief. Devil’s Peak and Trackers are probably the ones that I’m proudest of. But there are other books and other characters that I am also proud of. It’s like asking which of my children I love the most. It’s a very difficult thing to answer.

Keep your eyes peeled for the rest of the interview ...

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Carnegie's Call - New Page on the Blog

Look up at the banner. See where it says "home"? Next to that it says "Carnegie's Call".

This is a new page to talk about a change of direction for me. In here I will be talking about what is happening with this new book.

Pop in. Say hi. Tell your pals.Watch out for new posts.

Or don't.

Saturday, 29 September 2012

Up The Tower ... at Bloody Scotland

(Lin Anderson)

This is my blog on the Saturday night at Bloody Scotland ...

So you’ll be wondering what a collective of crime writers get up to on conferences when the crowds dissipate? You’re not? I’ll tell you anyway. We go gazing at the stars. The shiny-in-the-sky-peeping-behind-clouds kinda stars. Not Katie Price.

We were sat sitting, after dinner on Saturday night, at the bar: Lin Anderson, Gillian Philip, Cathy MacPhail and me, when we were approached by a small dapper man.

“Want to see my observatory?” he asked.

“Makes a change from puppies,” said Gillian.

“Or kittens,” said Lin.

“Or tattoos,” said Cathy. “Oops, did I say that out loud?”

“At least tell me your name,” says I. “I don’t go to a strange man’s observatory without at least knowing their name.”

“Bert”, says he. “And here at the Stirling Highland Hotel we have an actual, real-life observatory.”

And before you know it, we were whisked off down a long, white corridor and up a steep, white staircase climbing up inside a dark tower.

“Ooh,” says Lin Anderson. “I could fair murder someone up here.”

“Me bagsies that,” says Gillian.

“Where’s my wine glass?” says Cathy.

 So, imagine an igloo. Except there’s no snow. And it’s made of wood. And there’s a fricking HUGE metal tube thing stretched across the ceiling. Those in the know – our Bert – call it a telescope.

As Bert describes how the telescope works Lin and Gillian are getting more and more excited. Lin is wondering when Doctor Who will appear and Gillian is staring at this giant metal tube thing making squealing noises that Meg Ryan would be envious of.

Bert is visibly growing before our eyes. His chest is about to burst with pride. And we haven’t even looked through the thing yet.

Sadly, the cloud cover is too thick – the moon has got its cloak on, so to speak – but our Bert has an alternative. The Wallace Tower is lit up in the distance like a beacon and the telescope brings it so close we can see every brick. Gillian’s squeals are so high pitched now that only dogs can hear it. Albeit, every dog within a twenty mile radius.

Back in the bar – pulses calmed, breathing normal, the conversation returns to more mundane matters.

“Can I borrow a red wig from anyone for tomorrow?” asks Cathy.

Friday, 28 September 2012

Its been a while ... I thought I'd warm you up with a blog I posted on the Bloody Scotland site (I was one of the official bloggers during the event).

The event was called, In the Beginning Was Laidlaw  and starred William McIlvanney in conversation with Len Wanner.

Len's introduction to the man himself was fulsome and considered. Comments such as ... created an archetype with an all access pass ... seen as the source for tartan noir ...the genre debt to him is remarkable.
When Len paused for a response, Willie joked he should now leave, that anything else would be an anti-climax.

Len’s first question, almost inevitably – because it’s what I wanted to know, was why did he turn to crime?
After writing his critically acclaimed novel, Docherty, Willie felt what he described as contemporary starvation. He want to connect with his peers and on further deliberation he said he heard a voice. This voice in his head was abrasive ... it was clearly Scottish and he deliberately made him a policeman because he wanted him to deal with the bad stuff in society.

He went on to say that he was more than pleasantly surprised with the impact. Willie argued that he shouldn’t take sole credit for beginning a genre. What he experienced was a hunger for contemporary life and Laidlaw gave him a vehicle for re-connecting. He loved Glasgow and he wanted to write without restriction, to bring his writing into the then present.

The book was of course a huge success and his agent counselled him saying that that if he wrote one of these each year he would soon become a millionaire. Of course, he didn’t and one sensed that any regret that flavoured the words was simply playing to the gallery.

The previous night, Ian Rankin cited McIlvanney as one of his early influences a comment that humbled and delighted him. He said, “Crime writers are a generous species, at other more literary  gatherings, he joked, you can often see the glint of knives in the shadows.”

He went on to say that as he explored Laidlaw on the page the character fascinated him. He is of course from Kilmarnock, but a convert to Glasgow and a big part of the element of the Laidlaw books for him is it allows him to demonstrate his respect for Glasgow, "You don’t pay homage to the city," he said, "you meet it on equal terms."

Len asked if his achievement was equal to his ambition.

After a pause, Willie answered by saying that he wanted to write a genealogy of the Scottish working class. He decided early on in life that he wanted to write about ordinary people. He came from a talkative family, he lived in what he described as a “verbal house” and he savoured the stories he heard from everyone around him. He was tired of literature that talked about the ruling classes and he wanted to commemorate the ordinary citizen. For him there is a serious historical tradition in the working class that deserves enormous respect and with his work he wanted to celebrate where he came from.

Someone asked – it may have been Len - what do you think is the artists role? His answer was that this comes down to the choice of the artist. In his view politics have always mattered, in his view the world has become a monopoly board for the world of finance – capital rules the world and governments are secondary and he wants to understand that.

A question from the floor – what advice would you give to students?

He answered, “Write about what you love – to thine oneself be true, as the quote says. Try to sustain the energy of your commitment.” He went on to say that publication should not be viewed as the be all and end all. “It’s perfectly valid to write and clarify your own thoughts and feelings, even if you don’t achieve publication. You can understand yourself, your own nature and impulses. Do it for yourself ... and if publication happens good on you.”

The last question was from Len and he asked was there going to be another Laidlaw?

Willie told us that Canongate are going to re-publish his Laidlaw books and since this has been agreed he feels like a born again writer. Laidlaw has been spinning around his head again and he thinks he would like to write another one.

Here’s one McIlvanney fan waiting with bated breath.

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Everyone's a Critic

So, in among the positive reviews for BLOOD TEARS there are a handful of less than positive ones. So dry your eyes, no biggie. I’m fine with it. You can’t please everybody and rare is the book that doesn’t attract dissenting voices - a friend told me that To Kill a Mockingbird has over 20,000 1 star reviews on Goodreads. How’s that for perspective?

The thing is that now more than ever we live in a world of opinions. A world where opinions are easily uploaded onto public forums so everyone can read how we felt about something.

Which got me thinking.

I’ve always preferred to spread the love. If I enjoy something I want everyone to know about it. I want that author to be read by everyone. So, I’ll blog, tweet, FB, stop people on the street etc. But when I don’t like something I keep it to myself. It’s hard enough for writers to get an audience, why should I try and put someone off another writer’s hard work? Just because it didn’t do it for me, doesn’t mean there’s not an audience for it somewhere. My ego doesn’t demand that people sit up and PAY ATTENTION TO WHAT I THINK.

Is that what it’s about? Feeding the ego? Some of these people must have fearsome, hungry egos.

There’s one reviewer of BLOOD TEARS who has given it a 1 star on several review sites. That takes a lot of energy. She must have really hated it. Who could be arsed to pop in and out of different web pages to say the same thing again and again?

Growing up, I adopted the mantra, if I don’t have something good to say, then say nothing. Seems the internet has bred into us a different perspective. Just click on the comments thread of any newspaper article, sit back and wonder at the vitriol some people are happy to spew.

Now, it seems everyone is a critic. But of course, criticism is not a new thing. Those in the creative field have been complaining about them for a long time  ...

“Critics! Those cut-throat bandits in the paths of fame.” Robert Burns

“Don’t pay any attention to the critics - don't even ignore them”. Samuel Goldwyn

“If you have no critics you'll likely have no success.” Malcolm X

“Nature, when she invented, manufactured, and patented her authors, contrived to make critics out of the chips that were left.” Oliver Wendell Holmes

“Pay no attention to what the critics say; no statue has ever been put up to a critic.” Jean Sibelius

“When my time on earth is gone, and my activities here are passed, I want they bury me upside down, and my critics can kiss my ass!” Bobby Knight.

“As soon as you concern yourself with the 'good' and 'bad' of your fellows, you create an opening in your heart for maliciousness to enter. Testing, competing with, and criticizing others weaken and defeat you.” Morihei Ueshiba

Want to share your favourite quote about critics?

Sunday, 5 August 2012

What's the Story?

Just taking a wee break from my Olympic Viewing Fest to talk about the latest BLOOD TEARS news. (And no, this post has nothing to do with Jessica Ennis, I just wanted an excuse to post a photo of this remarkable young woman.)

At the start of the 'lympics my publisher decided that he would offer the ebook for free on kindle for the first 5 days of the games. A kind of  - Sick of sport? Buy this! - approach. And it only worked.

My peeps got tweeting and blogging and posting on Facebook and before you could say What An Opening Ceremony, BLOOD TEARS was charging up the chart. Over the weekend, the book moved in to the No 1 slot on both the general fiction chart and the crime/ mystery chart.

The number of downloads?

Over 18,000.

Yup, you read that right. Over 18,000. That's mental, mental I tells you.

Then the price went up to a whole 99p - and BLOOD TEARS had to start all over in the charts, but this time in the paid ones. And it quickly moved up there as well. At one point we were at no 25 in the general book chart and no 5 in the crime/ mystery chart. And this chart HERE currently has me at number 10. Yesterday, I was at no 5, sandwiched in among all the porn books.

Which was nice.

So, a BIG, HUGE thank you to everyone who has posted reviews, posted on facebook, blogged and tweeted. You have all played a part in bringing BLOOD TEARS to a bigger audience.

Now I just need to make a wee bit of cash, so the publisher will continue to publish me.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

Oopsie ... Its free, free, I tell you (cont'd)

I posted yesterday about BLOOD TEARS being free on kindle for a few days.

And I forgot to add the link so you could whiz straight through and download a copy. (Thanks Carol.)

So, go UK or U.S. and knock yourself out.

The book is free, so how about we do a deal? If you enjoy the book leave a review on Amazon. If you don't, a polite silence will be expected.


Friday, 27 July 2012

Its free, free, I tell you ...

My peeps at Five Leaves Publishing are having a wee experiment these next few days. BLOOD TEARS, that wonderful debut novel from whatsisname (who me?) is free to download on Kindle.

To be honest, I have mixed views about how we are all complicit in helping Amazon to become a monopoly BUT, if its free at least they're not making any cash. Or is that naive?

Anywho, its free. And if you are already bored with The Olympics and looking for a diversion BLOOD TEARS is it!

Download and then tell your mates. And then tell them not to be so fecking stingy and buy the actual fecking book!


Sunday, 15 July 2012

Gadding about ...

In my efforts to get BLOOD TEARS to the masses I've been talking to anyone who is stoopid enough to make eye contact.

Here are a few online places where peeps have been good enough to give me the time of day. Why don'tcha pop in and say hi.

Tony Black's Pulp Pusher

Paul D Brazill

Rosemary Gemmell's blog

Damien Seaman

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

In Defence of ... Andy Murray

As a strategy to attract attention to your website, it has merits.  Have your “journalists”  - and I use the term advisedly –  write thoughtless, opinionated pieces – earn the ire of every right thinking person online - stand back, wait for them to tweet, blog and post to their Facebook page and then tote up the numbers as thousands of people join the outrage and come to your site to see for themselves. Meanwhile, the advertising revenue stacks up because of the number of hits your website is earning.

Yes, dear friends, I’m talking about the Daily Mail.

Yesterday’s fuckwittery came from Jan Moir and her “thoughts” following Andy Murray coming in as runner-up in the Wimbledon final.

She’s “talking” about the serious side of Andy’s nature – his unwillingness, if you will, to play the part as expected by the masses, of the smiling, charming sports “personality”. He’s miserable, we are told and it’s because he’s Scottish. Moir goes on to say “we are all like that”.

First of all, let me address the complaint of many who say that Andy is too miserable - not that I necessarily agree - with three words. So fucking what! He’s a WORLD-CLASS athlete, not an empty-headed, talentless TV celebrity. His career is in sport and it is something he does extremely well. To be at the top of his game with such consistency – he’s not been out of the top 4 in his sport for years – takes hard work, talent , dedication and a focus that is beyond most of us. He deserves our admiration, not childish and petty comments about his “likeability”.

Now let me turn my attention to Ms Moir. Good for you, missus. Show us your lack of talent, hard work and dedication by trumpeting out an argument based on empty cliché.

I know LOTS of Scottish people, (having lived here all my life) and I can truly only think of 1 or 2 who merit inclusion in the cliché of the “dour Scot”. Where does that come from anyway? Two-dimensional Scottish characters on Eastenders or Coronation Street?

Lazy writing, Ms Moir. You have a national forum, why don’t you take cognisance of that and write with some consideration.

 Right. #coff I'm away for a wee lie down now.


Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Pants on Fire ...

While doing signings recently I have met some amazing people and have had some very interesting conversations that you don't necessarily foresee having at noon on a wet afternoon in Ayrshire. One of them got me thinking about my writing process. The conversation went like this. Kinda.

‘So you tell lies for a living then?’ she arched an eyebrow and offered a half-smile.

'Well...’ I answered and wondered if she was looking down on me, or looking up to me. ‘ You could say that.’

Fair enough. Professional liar, that’s me.  I spend hours making stuff up and let me tell you it’s great fun. Sometimes, when the lies aren’t flowing – not so much.

I looked it up in the dictionary to be sure.

Liar – noun - someone who tells lies.  Yup, that’s me.

Lie -  noun – a false statement made with deliberate intent to deceive.  Fair enough. Guilty as charged. As a crime writer I often make such statements, but we call it misdirection. You look there, but I’m really going over here.

On the other hand if I didn’t also include the truth, the lies wouldn’t be quite so convincing. Every character I write about, I write about them in a manner that is true to them. Their actions and reactions are completely true to the person they are.  

I work at finding the truth of my characters’ emotions. How do they feel and why do they feel it? I hitch on to that and you, the reader (hopefully) take up their cause. Then for the crime writer those other truths are required. Whodunnit and more importantly in my view, why they did it. As a human being myself (I know – hard to believe) I am fascinated by other human beings and what makes them tick and in my humble opinion no genre gets to the heart of this more than crime fiction.

The trick, as a writer, is to leave yourself out of it. How often have you read something where it reads like the author is venting? Where you are removed from the story while thinking, who’s talking here? The character or the author?

So, hands up. I make up lies and give them a core of honesty. And as all the best fibbers know, the most convincing lies are the ones that stick most closely to the truth.

BTW – just so you know – BLOOD TEARS will shortly be available on e-book. And there will be all kinds of events throughout the country.

Be sure to stay tuned for more exciting news. Kinda.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

May Contain Joined up Thinking ...

I think it was Gore Vidal who said that every time someone else was successful a little piece of him died. This was also a view espoused on Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird."

While I can see where the very human reaction might come from, this is a point of view that leaves me cold. I prefer the thought of Buddha who said (I'm paraphrasing here, people) if someone else's success costs me nothing why should I grudge them.

This is more akin to the reaction I have received from my peers when chatting online or at events. The genuine pleasure that my writerly friends have expressed at the early strong reaction to the launch of BLOOD TEARS has been a perfect counterpoint to Vidal's mealy-mouthed mindset.

So thank you, guys n gals. I appreciate all the messages and smiles (and the champagne).


Bearing in mind what I said before, I feel I should justify my reaction to the success of 50 Shades of Gray. Yes, I have been seen rolling my eyes and I've been heard moaning about the number of people who have flocked (as in sheep) to pick this up at their local bookshop.

I don't have a problem with erotica. If one handed reading is your thing, go for it.

I don't have a problem with the writer's success. Good on her.

What frustrates me is - where are all these people for the other 50 weeks of the year? If they enjoyed reading these books, there's a good chance they'll enjoy reading other books. Why don't they spend the rest of the year seeking out other stories that thrill/ amuse etc? But they won't will they?

That is all.

Monday, 11 June 2012

The Good Word on BLOOD TEARS ...

Far be it from me to blow my own trumpet, so here's other people doing it for me ...

"Blood Tears grips from the get-go. Like all the best crime novels, Malone weaves an intricate tapestry of past bad deeds and modern secrets. His protagonist, Ray McBain, possesses one of the most original and striking back-stories of any character I've come across for a long time. A furious pulse-pounding trip through the hidden alleyways of Glasgow. A tremendous read." 

– Stav Sherez, author of A Dark Redemption and editor with The Catholic Herald

"Michael Malone is one of those new writers that you feel you've known a long time. Blood Tears  blasts onto the Tartan Noir scene like a bullet. Big, bold themes and terrific humour amidst the darkness makes this my debut of the year."

 - Tony Black, author of MURDER MILE

“At once taut and expertly detailed with blistering prose, Blood Tears is an explosively cool and riveting crime novel introducing Glasgow Detective Ray McBain. This may well be a debut novel, but author Michael Malone writes likes an established pro. Tartan Noir has added another winner to its classy ranks.

Sam Millar – novelist 

“If you like Tony will love Michael J. Malone. Tough, funny, dark and so in your face it hurts, a superb piece of writing”

 – Ken Bruen, Novelist

“What is particularly impressive about Michael J Malone's first outing as a crime novelist is that his characters, and DI Ray McBain in particular, hit the ground running in fully developed and highly believable form. Add in a complex and compelling plot that has strong echoes with current media concerns about child abuse and the Catholic church and you have an outstanding novel and a "must read" for all lovers of really good crime drama.” 

– Undiscovered Scotland.

“Blood Tears is not for the faint-hearted but is an addictive thriller that has more twists, turns and blind alleys than a labyrinth. Malone is a strong newcomer to the Scottish crime scene and his fellow, McBain is a grand edition to the crime fiction genre. ‘Blood Tears’ is a bold and dazzling debut.”

Blood Tears is a banging debut. The subject matter is dark, real ripped-from-the-headlines stuff, and so much more affecting for that. It’s written in urgent, pacy prose and sharp dialogue shot through with the kind of gallows humour you want from fictional coppers. The secondary characters are well realised, with hints of some interesting back stories to come out in later instalments and they already feel like a solid unit – a rare thing in new police procedurals. It’s a tough ask, coming up with a new detective, but Malone has created genuinely attractive lead in Ray McBain. Credible and intriguingly flawed without, he’s a character you feel confident will only grow as the series continues.

Scotland has produced some amazing crime writers over the years and on the basis of Blood Tears Michael J.Malone looks set to join the top ranks. If you’re already a fan of Rankin, Black or MacBride, you’ll love this book.

Crime Fiction Lover

McBain is a fascinating character, haunted by a harsh upbringing and latent memories, he has risen to the top of his chosen profession, only to see the accolades of many successes slip away. But is he entirely innocent?
There is an eclectic supporting cast which includes career criminals, conflicted cops, and an old shrew of a Nun, all of whom help or hinder McBain in his quest.

Michael J Malone’s debut crime thriller features the controversial issue of child abuse within the Catholic Church but skilfully manages to avoid over-burdening the reader with a sense of gloom. The energetic pace helps the tale remain entertaining throughout and my home city is thankfully represented positively. The thoughtful descriptions of it’s sprawling Necropolis being a highlight.

A cool new voice in the increasingly popular Scottish crime fiction genre, Malone deserves a place alongside the likes of Stuart MacBride, Alex Grey and Ian Rankin.

Ric’s Reviews

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

A day in the life of a newly published author ...

I open my emails first thing to a message from my publisher to say that a review for BLOOD TEARS had just gone up on Undiscovered Scotland website. “An outstanding novel”, “Must-read” – were just two of the stand-outs. Modesty prevents me from detailing the rest, so HERE's the link and you can read it for yourself.

Oh and then there's the review on CRIMESQUAD and the five star ones on AMAZON that I check hourly to establish that this is not a fevered dream.

It’s a bank holiday –  I visit bookshops for a living – and what do I do on my day off? I visit my local bookshop. I’m standing chatting to the staff when I spot an old friend I haven’t seen for months. Before she can open her mouth and ask how I am, I take her by the elbow and guide her (frog-march, really) to the shelf where my new book was resting.

Of course, I’ll buy a copy, she said smiling. Her teeth were a little too tightly pressed together for my liking.
More chat and blethers before I walk out of the shop. I hadn’t taken more than 3 steps when I heard a voice behind me say, oh there’s Michael Malone’s book in the window!

I turned to see an old colleague.

So you’re book’s ... before she could finish the sentence I had taken her by the elbow and guided her (again with the frog-march) to the shelf with my book on it. She was going on holiday, people – she needed something to read. I was fulfilling a public service. Kinda.

Is it too violent, she asked as I guided her – my hand hadn’t left her elbow from the last frog-march – to the counter. No, says I. Apart from that bit at the beginning. Oh, and the bit in the middle. Then there’s that bit at the end. But you’ll be fine.

2 sales. Only 99,998 to go.

Friday, 1 June 2012

BLOOD TEARS ... A Taster

Wonder why it is called BLOOD TEARS? Here's the prologue.

He closed the door, his hand trembling. Walking across the floor, towards the desk, he removed all his clothes. He bent to retrieve the black costume from the floor, draped it on a perfumed hanger and hung it neatly in its place. His shoes were last. Ladies size 7. Black leather with a sensible heel, they were tucked under the chair. He massaged his toes, which had been stuffed into the neat fit. Blood stained his toe where the nail from the neighbouring pinkie had torn flesh.

            He sat before the mirror and, filling his lungs, flicked a switch. Lights framing the mirror blazed unkindly on to his face. He breathed again and closed his eyes.  And again, he breathed, revelling in the speed of his pulse. So this is what it means to be alive, he thought. Every nerve in his body thrummed with electricity. This is what it means to belong.

            Muscles along his shoulders and down through his arms and legs relaxed as if bathed in liquid and heat. Had his eyes been open, he would have seen the slow spread of a smile stretch his lips.
            It had begun.
            An eye for an eye, the Bible said. A life for a life. But how many lives were enough, he considered, to replace the one lost? As many as it takes.

            Breathe slowly, he told himself. In for a count of nine. And out for a count of nine. The old man had fought well, for his age. Who would have thought? Realisation that his life was about to end would have lent him strength. But he had been no real contest. A quick blow to the solar plexus, tighten the garrotte and it was all but over.
            Stopping at the right time was crucial. Keeping him alive along enough; easing pressure on the stranglehold before he passed from unconsciousness into death was key.
The old man barely stirred as the hoop of barbed wire was squeezed on to his head. The metal thorns slid into the pale flesh of his forehead as easily as communion wine slips down the throat.

 Reliving the moment when the man stirred and their eyes met, forced a flood of blood into his groin. The sweet ache that encapsulated sin. But the ache was even more pronounced in his heightened state. And all the more difficult to ignore.

Questions forced their way through the old man’s clenched teeth. His need to know, who and why, was such it acted as an anaesthetic.
            ‘Who... are you?’ He groaned. ‘Why are you... doing this to me? Please... please... please don’t hurt... me... anymore.’  Sweat diluted the colour of the blood on his forehead.
            ‘Hurt? You don’t know the meaning of the word. Yet.’
            Terror bloomed in the old man’s pupils. The iris all but swallowed in black, ‘Please.. .let me go... I can give you ... money.’
            ‘Money? I don’t want your money. I want your pain. I want your repentance.’
            ‘For what!’ he used all his remaining energy to ask, ‘Who are you?’
            ‘I am the avenging angel. I am he who will deliver you.’ He stifled a giggle. He’d rehearsed that part. It sounded even better out loud.
Again the old man asked, ‘Who are you?’
            ‘You have no idea, do you?’
            The old man coughed. Blood frothed from his mouth, ‘Whoever you are... I’m sorry...whatever I did... I’m sorry.’ Anguish coated every word.
            ‘Before you die, you at least deserve to know why.’ In truth, he wanted to delay the moment of completion.
He bent forward and whispered in the man’s ear.

He slid open the long, middle drawer under the desktop and pulled out two items, a white, featureless mask and a scalpel. The mask he placed over his face and regarded the eyes that looked back. They were brown and framed in long, black lashes that were the envy of any women who saw them.
But within them lay layers he could only guess at. The mask brought to play a distance; a distance between him and his actions. The mask could feel, while he could not. The mask could reason, while he dare not. The mask could mourn, while he should not.
The eyes within the mask flared as he remembered the moment before the nails went in.
‘You...are... practising on me?’ The old man asked.
            ‘Yes... and you’re the most... deserving candidate.’

Then came the score of a knife. Four six inch nails. A twist of the garrotte. 
And a last, withered exhalation.
‘Don’t worry,’ he whispered into the dead man’s ear, ‘there will be more.’

Long fingers picked up the scalpel and aimed the point towards the mask. While one hand held the mask carefully in place, the other pressed finely honed steel against the lower, right eyelid, until blood welled on to the blade. Then after placing the knife on the desktop, his right hand pressed the cheek of the mask so that blood slid onto its surface.
            As a single drop of blood glided down the white cheek of the mask, he considered the long dead, the newly deceased, those yet to die, and enjoyed the tear.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

An Alternative Bio ...

The lovely DONNA MOORE was chairing one of the events I was part of at last weekend's Crimefest in Bristol.

Part of her brief to the panellists - DOUGLAS LiNDSAY, DAMiAN SEAMAN, HELeN FiTZGERALD and moi - was to write an alternative biography to read out at the event.

Now, being a kind of whacky broad, I knew that Donna would be looking for something equally whacky. So this is what I came up with ...


"Its  fair to say that life has been less than kind to Michael J. Malone. He was reared by foster parents in a kibbutz on the west coast of Scotland, just south of Saltcoats, the estranged loved child of Alex Salmond and Dame Edna Everage.

Word got out about his parentage, so he was shunned by his peers. But he didn’t help himself, having a penchant for shouting “Freedom” in an antipodean falsetto at random strangers, while waving a large flower in the air.

A lonely child – (1, 2, 3 AWWWW) -  its sadder than that - everything he learned about life, he learned from books. He learned to approach emotion by reading Danielle Steel, how to avoid clowns from Stephen King, how to avoid prison from Jeffrey Archer and how to wiggle his eyebrows from Ian Fleming.  What he learned from Puppetry of the Penis is best left to the imagination.!

Is any of that true? What is truth? You can't handle the truth!