Normal service interrupted

I’m heading into hospital for fairly major surgery later today.  Although it’s not life-threatening, it may be a few days (or even a couple of weeks) before I feel like blogging, so please bear with me.  I’ll be back as soon as I can, with more hair raising tales!

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Money laundering

Some of you may remember my daft little flash ficlet ‘Money Laundering’, which appeared on the 81Words.net site and put a new, er, spin on the subject of laundering cash.  Well, I’ve just heard that it’s all set to feature in their first ever anthology, chosen from the highest rated stories on the site!

I’m absolutely delighted about this, and very grateful to everyone who voted for the story as you’ve helped to make this happen.  I’ll post updates as soon as I know where/when/how the anthology will be published.  In the meantime, why not pop over to 81Words and check out some of their other stories, all of which are exactly 81 words long…

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More dumb criminals

This one was so drunk he managed to leave one of his socks at the scene of the crime.  Better still, he was so drunk he obviously didn’t realise that the tv he was stealing (from a show home on a new development) was actually fake.  The entire value of the stuff he nicked was £30, which is hardly going to buy another round of drinks at the local pub, let alone funding a life of luxury or whatever it was he was hoping for when he committed the crime.

The sock is slightly less bonkers than it sounds.  Apparently he took it off to wrap round his hand while breaking a window.  Leaving it behind wasn’t quite so clever, though…

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First anniversary

02-banksy-pulp-fictionActually I’m a little older than one year old, as you might have guessed.  But I suddenly realised that yesterday marked the anniversary of Shotgun Honey publishing my first ever story under this pen name, which ought to call for a celebration of some sort.  So, break out the bubbly!  Let off a few fireworks!  And if you missed the story the first time round, you can still find it here.  Enjoy the trip.  You’ll probably never feel quite the same way about bananas again…

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Lunch in the fast lane

This snippet of news about two speeding van drivers passing a drink across, mid-carriageway, on the motorway, caught my eye… and made me blink.  It’s not exactly ‘dumbest criminals’ territory, but it is pretty dangerous, and pretty conspicuous.  Not the sort of thing witnesses are going to forget in a hurry once they’ve seen it.  All I can say is, one of those drivers must have been awfully thirsty!

Must admit it’s putting ideas in my head for crime stories, though.  Imagine if it wasn’t a drink at all, but smuggled goods…  Although thinking you can get away with such a public ‘drop’ in broad daylight with dashboard cameras everywhere might just qualify for ‘dumb criminal’ status after all.

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Literary snippets

A bit of a writerly smorgasbord today.

First off, there’s a fascinating article in New Scientist magazine about the benefits of hand-writing over typing, which suggests, amongst other things, that we understand more of what we read or hear when we make hand-written notes rather than typing.  This could have unforeseen consequences; as the magazine puts it, “typing rather than writing by hand may alter the way we think”.  I’m digging out my fountain pen as I speak.

Second, the Arthur Ransome Trust are busy fund-raising for their ultimate aim – to provide a permanent centre dedicated to the author’s work in the area that inspired him so much, the south Lakes.  This would hopefully be based somewhere around the Windermere/Coniston area which provided such a colourful backdrop to his Swallows & Amazons series, which in turn helped to instil a life-long love of the area in thousands of children, including me.  I wish them luck; if you want to check out their upcoming events, fund-raisers etc then look no further than their nicely illustrated website.

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Drag Noir released

Exciting news from Friday, which I didn’t get a chance to share until now thanks to a frantic weekend.

100Drag NoirFox Spirit have released the latest in their noir series of anthologies, Drag Noir, “where glamour meets grit, where everyone’s wearing a disguise (whether they know it or not) and knowing the players takes a lot more than simply reading the score cards…”

This is a terrific collection of 15 short stories and (of course!) includes my own story ‘Wheel Man’, set in the dark and dubious world of car theft.  Hurry over to Fox Spirit for more details, or grab your copy (Kindle or paperback) from Amazon now.

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Ordinary family immortalised

There’s a brand new statue/sculpture being unveiled in Birmingham today.  The piece, which will stand outside the new library in Centenary Square, celebrates an ‘ordinary’ family from the city, two sisters who are also single mums.

As with so much public art, it’s already provoked quite a storm of reaction, judging by the comments in The Guardian.  Then again, some of the comments are rather one-sided to say the least (consisting of variations on a theme of ‘there’s too much art in Birmingham and it’s all crap’), and it’s worth bearing in mind that earlier statues (such as the ‘Forward‘ one mentioned several times in the comments) were also extremely unpopular when first erected.

I rather liked Forward.  It was unusual (pink and slightly lumpy) but it was full of detail and the message it portrayed, of ordinary working people moving forward through the industry the city is so famous for, was inspiring.  Do I like the new statue as much?  Possibly not.  I do like the pose, the naturalness of the family, and the idea that they might easily have just wandered out of the library.  In that respect it’s rather like the Eleanor Rigby statue in Liverpool, which sits quietly on a bench and looks so real you expect to see it get up or throw some crumbs to the pigeons.  I’m less keen on the too-shiny finish, and the bump on the pregnant sister does look a little… strange.

What does everyone else think?

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Great timing

The timing of this article on the BBC website could hardly have been better, coming as it does just days before the release of Drag Noir.

The article explains that car thieves are increasingly targeting more expensive cars – those with supposedly thief-proof keyless locking and ignition – by using computers to hack the systems.

Believe it or not, the heroine of my story ‘Wheel Man’, Justine, has developed an app to do exactly that.  And believe it or not again, but I’d already written the story some six months before this story appeared.  So I didn’t copy the idea… nor am I psychic, nor did I pay the journalist to run the thing right before the launch.  In the end, it just seemed like a sensible solution to a modern ‘problem’ for criminals – how to break into the unbreakable.

Mind you, expecting computer software ‘intended only for mechanics’ to stay secure in the face of losses, forgetfulness, hacking or plain corruption was perhaps a tad naïve.  Great background for a story, though.

Oh – and the picture is every bit as appropriate to ‘Wheel Man’ as the news article… but you’ll have to read the story to find out why!

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Shelfie of the Week #6

A bit of a cheat this week: one, it’s me.  And two, I don’t actually have a photo of my shelf.  There’s a good reason for that, though – the shelf I have in mind no longer exists.  It was hidden away in a cupboard in the spare room in my grandparents’ house, and sadly went the way of all things when they died many years ago.

I have fond memories of that shelf, though.  As a kid I read voraciously, often finishing a book in two or three days.  I needed a lot of reading matter to keep the fire stoked, and that shelf provided some of it.  The books on it weren’t just any old books, but pile after pile of crime classics by some of the biggest names in the genre.  Agatha Christie of course, but also Ngaio Marsh, Dorothy L Sayers, Georgette Heyer, and one or two other gems I can’t now remember.  Something about Dead of Winter, for instance, by an author whose name might have been Nigel something.  I’ve tried searching for that one but never been able to track it down.

The books weren’t stacked neatly on the shelf, but piled in haphazardly one on top of the other, so rooting through the heap quite often revealed new, as-yet-unseen treasure, which I would grab and dash off to consume, rather like a squirrel with a particularly luscious acorn.

Although the shelf is long gone, my love of crime fiction has survived the decades and influenced both what I read, and what I write.  I’ve a lot to thank my grandparents for.

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Good news, bad news

The good news is that according to the new issue of Radio Times, Broadchurch is definitely returning to our screens.

The bad news is, we’ll have to wait until next year to see it…

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Dark and stormy night

No, I’m not talking about last night and the remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo, although I could easily be since things got quite lively about six o’clock this morning.

This is actually a theatrical ‘thing’ we went to on Saturday night at the Old Laundry Theatre in Bowness.  We’d seen it advertised a few weeks ago and thought it looked interesting, although thanks to a distinct lack of detail in the programme we weren’t sure what to expect.  All we knew was the title (A Dark and Stormy Night), the fact that it featured “sinister stories by eminent Victorians”, and that it would apparently involve “an experience for the eyes and ears”.

What we got, in its broadest possible terms, was two blokes reading out Victorian ghost stories to the accompaniment of appropriate lighting and sound effects.  That makes it sound very dull but it wasn’t at all.  For one thing, the stories speak for themselves.  Dickens’ ‘The Signalman’, H G Wells’ ‘The Inexperienced Ghost’, ‘The Ghost of the Blue Chamber’ by Jerome K Jerome, and M R James’ masterly ‘Whistle and I’ll Come to You’ are all classics of their time.  Back in the day, before television and cinema inured us to the shocks of a good ghost story, they’d have been frightening indeed.  Even today, with the addition of those sound and light effects and some good acting, they raised the hairs on the back of your neck.  It was all very atmospheric and jolly good fun.

Our only criticism was that the effects weren’t, at times, effective enough.  There were opportunities to add other sounds or lights which were missed, and the mesh cage the stage was encased in suggested it should have had something (ghostly images, perhaps?) projected onto it.  At the same time, having the actors read from bundles of A4 printed pages rather got in the way of some of their actions.  We’ll probably never know, but we were left wondering whether some of the effects (including the actors’ prompts) had gone ‘paf’ on the night.  If so, they soldiered on wonderfully well and provided a good and very unusual night’s entertainment.

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