Friday, 27 December 2013

A selection of my favourite reads 2013

Well, everyone else is doing it.

In no particular order

Alex – Pierre Lemaitre
At first I was thinking, here we go, another book where a serial killer kidnaps and tortures a beautiful young woman. And then it wasn’t.  Amusing, original and demands you turn the page.

The Cry - Helen Fitzgerald
A striking “dilemma” novel, emotionally charged and brilliantly executed.

An Exquisite Sense of What is Beautiful – J. David Simon
I read this right at the start of the year and it has stayed with me.  Manages to be both exquisite and beautiful.  Need I say more?

Blood City – Douglas Skelton
Gangsters in Glasgow in the 80’s. A fast, furious and fascinating read. (I’m sure I could slip another “f” in there. Mmmm. Best not.)

Grim Company – Luke Scull
An excellent debut into a brand new fantasy series. Avoids the information dump a lot of new fantasy novelists feel they need to start off a series.  A great set up and a team of characters I want to spend time with. I was hooked from page one. (And the author has the best name, right?)

Norwegian By Night – Derek B. Miller
A hero in his 80s, in a foreign country, fighting to save a young boy’s life.  Manages to combine lyricism with pace.

Beautiful Ruins – Jess Walters
Cinematic, laugh out loud funny and utterly charming. You will fall in love with this book.

419 – Will Ferguson
Won the Giller Prize (Canada’s version of the MAN Booker). A prizewinner that’s readable!  An author who knows his way round a tasty sentence and a genuinely thrilling and fascinating plot. Also a reminder, if we need one, how the so-called developed world bowing at the altar of the god of profit has damaged Africa.

Nos4r2 – Joe Hill
Genuinely creep-inducing – gave me the shivers at several stages through the reading of the book. A chunky read with crisp writing, Hill gives his old man a run for his money.

I’m certain you’ll find something here to enjoy. So go, buy one or more, wontcha?


Thursday, 5 December 2013

Q and A with debut author Sara Bain

What’s the new book about then?
The Sleeping Warrior can be loosely described as an urban fantasy, for want of a better description. It’s a crime thriller with a subtle fantasy element thrown in.

Mixing up the genres of contemporary fiction has been quite a challenge and I hope that readers will approach it with their minds wide open and focus on the story as a whole. The title is well represented in the book: as a famous mountain vista from the Ayrshire coast; as the central heroic character of the story; and as the inherent dormant warrior spirit within us all that awakes in times of crises.

Describe your inspiration for the book?

I am a fantasy author and have been writing heroic fantasy for a few years. For some reason, I decided to take a break from the epic and write a contemporary novel as my debut.

Speculative and slipstream fiction is becoming more popular with readers and much of it is being serialised on the TV and finding its way into movies.

Since I started writing the book over five years ago, it’s obviously not my intention to jump on the bandwagon of consumer preference; I just liked the notion of placing a fantasy character into the real world and seeing what he’d do. That was the intention at the beginning and I loved the way he worked.

Talk to me about your main character/s.

The main protagonist is a self-centred, cynical young lawyer called Libby Butler who finds her life turned upside down after meeting Gabriel, a stranger in a south London police station’s custody suite. As she finds herself in more and more dangerous situations, she comes to terms what is really important in life and what is merely misguided aspiration.

I really admire honour as a human characteristic. Even though we know little about Gabriel, you have to respect his strength and self-control. He is a man who doesn’t abuse his powerful advantages over others and teaches solely by example.

Did any themes come out of the writing that surprised you?
Identity as a theme underpins the story. It must have been a subconscious thing because I never really thought of a main theme when writing the book. For some reason, I wrote a scene where Gabriel happened to be reading Umberto Eco’s Name of the Rose and everything suddenly came together as if it was always meant to happen. It was completely accidental. I tried to think of intelligent literature that he would be interested in and remembered that Eco said something to the effect that a name can be so rich in meaning that it has no meaning at all. I don’t want to give away any of the story, so will just say that a name can empower or deprive.

Why fantasy?
I like to go to places where I can escape for a while and immerse myself into completely different worlds. Fantasy has always been my preferred genre to both read and, therefore, to write.

Why write?
I suppose I have had a career in writing. I was an editor for a legal publishing company and then a newspaper journalist, so the written word has always been part of my day job. Some people paint to release creative imagination, others play music. I write because that is the means by which I can best convey my thoughts.
Why go it alone?

There is still quite a lot of stigma attached to self-published authors, despite the fact that even peasants can be king on Amazon. I even note that quite a few amateur book reviewers will only accept traditionally published authors, which suggests to me that even readers will turn their noses up to authors who have decided to go it alone.

The fact is that publishers, who have controlled what people read for so long, are fast losing business to the likes of Amazon and finding out that readers are perfectly capable of choosing what they want to read for themselves. You see time and time again, authors who could paper their walls with rejection letters, become best-sellers overnight.

I’m quite conventional in a way and, until recently, have always aspired to being a traditionally published author. I’ve thought long and hard about this and, when The Sleeping Warrior attracted the interest of three publishers, in a fit of defiance, I thought ‘why should I give it to them?’

I then decided to start up a publishing house which, although I am the first author to be published by it, I certainly won’t be the only one. I really don’t care if other writers or readers sniff at the fact I’m self-published. There is so much effort expended in the process and so much I have learned that I feel my achievement has been truly great. I am so proud to be able to hold a real and tangible paperback copy of my first novel in my hands and say ‘I wrote this and then I published this all by myself.’

 To buy Sara's captivating book go HERE

Thursday, 21 November 2013

An interview ...

You know how it is, no posts for months and now two in a matter of days. Do I spoil you people or wot?

Anywho, I've been busier than a one legged man in an arse kicking contest and I thought I'd share with you some of my goings ons (if that's not a real saying it should be) over the last wee while.

I had a blast at the Grantown crime festival with Caro Ramsay, Alex Gray, Lin Anderson, Malcolm Archibald, Marc Douglas Home - wonderfully organised by the might atom herself, the owner of one of the best wee bookshops in Scotland, The Bookmark - Marjorie Marshall.

On the Friday, Marjorie organised a Crime and Dine evening where we had two authors to a table and we moved to a different table for each course of the meal. It was an excellent evening. Good food and even better company. Here's a photo (lifted from Caro's website). 

Another fun night was an "In Conversation ..." evening I had at the University of the West of Scotland, chaired by Dave Manderson with Douglas Skelton and myself talking about our books.

Before they let us loose on the audience, we were interviewed for the University's radio station. The interview is HERE

Go on. You know you want to.

I don't. But that's another story.

There is a short film - very short - of the event on Youtube somewhere. But I can't inflict that on you.


Tuesday, 19 November 2013

MJM during Book Week Scotland

I'm out and about during Book Week Scotland - a week where the whole of Scotland goes book crazy.

Monday 25th November at 7:30pm I'm in the Dunfermline Library talking about "Carnegie's Call" - details HERE

Wednesday 27th I'll be appearing at Waterstones, Newton Mearns talking with Douglas Skelton about his excellent book, "Blood City". Details HERE

Thursday 28th November I'll be part of a part of Bloody Scotland on Tour, with Will Jordan, Bert Mitchell, Douglas Skelton and Craig Robertson. Details HERE

Sunday Ist December  at 4;30pm I'll be in Wigtown with yes, you've guessed it, Douglas Skelton talking crime and stuff.

Hope to see you there!


Saturday, 29 June 2013

May Contain Abusive Language

One of the most common questions I’m asked by newbie writers is whether or not to use sexual swear words in their fiction.

I didn’t give this much thought pre-publication, but I have since learned that lots of people do care about the use of this sort of language. It seems a bizarre double standard that you can portray any number of violent acts without comment, but have your character use the F word and you will receive all kinds of opprobrium. (I have all these big words in my head. Got to use them sometime.)

My first lesson on this was when I was doing an event with Alex Gray and Craig Robertson last year in Dundee. A lady approached us at the signing table after the event and said she only had enough money to buy one of our books and to help her decide, she needed to know if we used swear words in our books.

My thought was, that’s me screwed and I pointed to Alex.

A mate of mine, Tony Black had a review on Amazon where the “reviewer” said that as a Christian she really objected to the foul language used by the characters. Presumably, as a Christian she didn’t mind the violence that befell the characters, because she didn’t mention any of that. Then she went on to question whether our fine officers in blue would use such language.

Re-arrange this sentence, missus.  Get to out you need more.

In any case who am I to say that you should get over it? I’m not the arbiter of all that is fine and wholesome and acceptable. But neither are they.

So, why does this language offend so much?  It’s just words, innit? Why does that syllable crash on to peoples’ ears with such impact? Words are a writer’s tool. Every word we use while communicating is part of that tool-kit and has a place in writing surely? It’s part of writer’s contract with the reader that you display with honesty the interaction between humans.  If a certain character would speak like that in the real world then by fuck, he’s going to speak like that in my book.

I remember meeting my agent for the first time. She was a small, polite lady of a certain age.  A gentlelady, if I can use the term. We were in a restaurant in an art gallery. We had been talking for about ten minutes when she pointed to a part of the text and said, “There’s too much fucking.”

I nearly spat out my mineral water.

She wasn’t referring to it as an action. (That would be a totally different book.) She was talking about my characters’ use of the word.  So we decided that it was fine if it was a verbal tic for McBain, but that the other characters should desist, in the main, so that people didn’t think that it was all me. Thing is, I don’t tend to swear much in everyday life, it’s just that when I started to write Blood Tears the swearie words flowed. What’s that all about?

I reckon it was because I was going through a divorce at the time. ‘Nuff said.

Anywho, the follow up is out now details  HERE– and my feeling – not that I’ve done a f-word count – is that there’s less of it this time around. Maybe I’m a lot calmer now? The ex and I are good pals. AND  in the book that comes out next spring only contains one f-bomb.

So, aspiring writers? Your question to swear or not to swear?  Fucked if I know.

Monday, 7 January 2013

A free sample ...

For a limited time only, the e-book of Carnegie's Call is on special offer. So if you fancy reading about some amazing people you should take advantage of it, like, now.

Follow THIS link for a free sample full of inspirational goodness.

Saturday, 5 January 2013

Fave Crime Reads of 2012

Everyone else is doing it, so I thought I would pitch in with some of my favourite reads of 2012. (They needn’t necessarily have been published last year, but they all came to my attention in the last 12 months.)

In no particular order ...

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn was the last book I read in 2012, but one that was on my radar for quite a few months - because so many people were talking about it. And if you’re one of the few who hasn’t read it, grab a copy, like, now. Thoroughly gripping. One of the strongest reactions I’ve had to a character in a long while. And that’s good writing, people.

The Cold, Cold Ground by Adrian McKinty was the first book I read in 2012 and it was a stormer. Set in Belfast in the 80’s it is a fascinating read, beautifully written and with a real sense of danger.

Abide With Me by Ian Ayris  - one of my favourite debuts of the year. Warm, engaging and affecting, with one of the most original voices I came across all year.

A Dark Redemption by Stav Sherez. This is Stav’s first venture into the police procedural and he’s taken to it like the proverbial duck to the local pond, but with, I would suggest, a good deal more grace. It’s classy, captivating and worth every penny I’m about to urge you to spend on it. 

A Dark and Broken Heart by R J Ellory - This book has quality written all over it – from the unforgettable characters, the see it and taste it sense of place and the punch in the gut ending.

The Healing of Luther Grove by Barry Gornell - If Daniel Woodrell had grown up in the West Highlands of Scotland rather than the Missouri Ozarks in the US, he might have written this book. I simply can’t give this debut novel any higher praise than that. Stunning.

Whataboutchoo? What floated your boat in 2012?