Digging up the dirt

Yet another amusing little snippet from the West Midlands, where the Canal and Rivers Trust are about to start work on dredging some of the vast network of old canals. You might remember some of my previous posts about Birmingham having more miles of canal than Venice, so obviously they’ve got their work cut out. And I’m sure it will all be much pleasanter and better for the environment and the local wildlife as a result.

The crime writer in me can’t help thinking, though, that there are scores of criminals across the region having serious panic attacks at the thought of what those dredgers might bring up out of the depths. Drugs stashes, stolen money, loot, dead bodies… The results could help with half the unsolved crimes in the Midlands!

‘Badge of Honour’

My latest short story, ‘Badge of Honour’, has hit the streets over at Pulp Metal Magazine today.

This is a savage, even grisly tale of a young man coming of age amongst the gangs and grime of a modern estate, which has been likened to Mike Leigh’s work. It’s very much not for the faint-hearted, but if your stomach is feeling suitably strong then head on over to Pulp Metal to read it and weep.

Wot, no ladders?

A fun little story from the brand new, all-singing all-dancing library in Birmingham city centre, which opened in a blaze of lights and glory a few short months ago.

Apparently, staff can’t reach some of the books because they’re on shelves so far above the ground that they can’t reach without special ladders. And, um, nobody thought to order the ladders.

Luckily, the books are “low-use, academic titles” that aren’t taken out very often. Just as well, really, that it isn’t Dan Brown or Fifty Shades, or the staff might have to resort to hot air balloons…

Crashing good plot

I just love this story from Birmingham City University, who staged a fake accident between a coach and two cars on their grounds the other day.

The aim was to provide training for some of their medical students – nurses, radiolographers and paramedics – and very worthy it is too. After all, there are specialist training centres (like the Fire Service one near Moreton-in-Marsh) which do that sort of thing, day in day out.

The crime writer in me couldn’t help thinking, though, that it was the most fantastic basis for a crime story. Just imagine, if one of the fake bodies planted in the smashed-up vehicles turned out to be real…!

The dreaded apostrophe

The grammatical rules covering apostrophes are so arcane they could practically be found chiselled on the walls of a ruined temple – or within the pages of a Dan Brown novel. I had them dinned into me with great regularity at school, but still find certain aspects as baffling as everyone else.

You do, however, expect the experts to get them right.

Which is why I was a little surprised to see this tagline on the front cover of the esteemed UK women’s writing magazine Mslexia the other day:

Writers’ partners: how does your’s shape up?

I imagine there were some red faces in the copy-editing department after that went out. But if even they can’t get it right, what hope do the rest of us have?

Pictures of… Birmingham

Birmingham may not have quite the romantic cachet of Paris, New York or Prague, but it’s a fine city in its own right with a rich multi-cultural society and many interesting buildings, both old and new. Now, according to this BBC article, the Some Cities website have developed a new image-sharing facility for photos of the city, where folks can post their pictures, share stories, keep a record of daily life, and browse the archive to see what Birmingham is really like.

This sounds like a brilliant resource, not just for anyone remotely interested in the city, but also for writers wanting to set their books there. I’ll definitely be popping in for a rummage.


The last few days I’ve been beavering away on a new crime story, which was inspired by the little dialogue scene I quoted in my last post. I liked the characters so much, and particularly the main female character, that I decided to keep running with it and see where I ended up. If nothing else, there seemed to be potential to have some fun with a feisty young woman and her rather sheep-like brother. And if I can turn it into a much longer work, perhaps even another novella, then that will be a bonus.

Progress was really good the first couple of days; inevitably it’s slowed down as I’ve hit the reality of making it all work. There’s the plot to get straight, other characters to dream up and introduce, the setting to finalise and describe. I’m still scribbling, though, and still determined to Do Something with it, conclusively.

It’s set at least partly in a hair salon, and I couldn’t resist. I’ve called both the salon, and the story, ‘Curl Up and Dye’. Apologies in advance for the dreadful pun!