Dropping in again

As promised, my flash story ‘The Drop’ is appearing at Out of the Gutter Online right now.  Hurry along to find out what links a pervert and a mobile phone… and why everything is not as it first appears!

This story first saw the light of day as part of the peer review session at this year’s Crime and Publishment course – where the belly laugh it generated helped give me the courage to submit it to a couple of markets.  So thank you to all those people who inspired me.  You know who you are!

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Dropping in…

…to say that my flash fic ‘The Drop’ will be appearing (God and the editors willing!) over at Out of the Gutter Online this Thursday.

The story is a little something about a pervert and a mobile phone, which I came up with for the peer review session at this year’s Crime and Publishment event.  As usual, all is very much not as it seems.

I’ll pop back with a link and a few more details on the day but in the meantime, watch this space and don’t drop off.

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Running Late… again

shp-bbv3-locked-loaded-front-cover-c2I’ve just realised that I never got round to posting an excerpt from ‘Running Late’, the story I have in Shotgun Honey’s Locked & Loaded anthology.  So, better ‘Late’ than never, here it is.  Hope you enjoy, and if you want to read the rest of the story, plus all the other great stuff in the book, you can find out how here.

He scrambled through the gap, tearing a sleeve himself and nicking his arm.  It bled freely, spattering on the window frame, and he knew he was destroying potential evidence but didn’t care.  Finding Karen alive was what mattered now, not groping around after clues and DNA.  He didn’t know what he would do without her if she’d gone.  She was always the stronger of the pair.  She was the one who’d jumped him, at the last Christmas party.  She’d laughed because her nickname was a backwards version of his name, then dragged him into the stationery cupboard and stuck her hand down his pants.  She hadn’t even been particularly drunk.

“Why?” Zak had said afterwards, tucking himself away.  “Why now?  Why me?”

“If I’d left it to you I’d still have been waiting next year,” she’d said, and given his privates a pat.

She was the one who’d decided to keep the whole thing quiet, so they could go on working the same shift.  The rules said you had to notify the DI if you became ‘romantically involved’, but that would have meant different hours, or even a move to another division.  “Bugger that,” Karen had said.  “Don’t ask, don’t tell.”

“That’s the US Army,” Zak had said, but she just laughed.

He could do with the army now, or at least a few good well-trained men.  You couldn’t ask for back-up when you’d taken the law into your own hands, though.  He was on his own.

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Crime Novel of the Year

The Radio Times has recently added a book page to its ‘Your RT’ section (at the back of the magazine).  I don’t always have time to browse it, but this week’s caught my eye because it’s looking at the six books shortlisted for the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Novel of the Year award.

In case you haven’t seen the list, it comprises ‘The Facts of Life and Death’ by Belinda Bauer; ‘The Axeman’s Jazz’ by Ray Celestin; ‘The Outcast Dead’ by Elly Griffiths; ‘Someone Else’s Skin’ by Sarah Hilary; ‘The Devil in the Marshalsea’ by Antonia Hodgson; and Peter May’s ‘Entry Island’.  The books range from psychological noir to historical crime via slightly more standard whodunnits and police procedurals.  There’s a mini-review of each, and all sound thoroughly intriguing – although unusually for me, the one that stood out was Hodgson’s ‘Marshalsea’.  I don’t read a lot of historical crime but anything that involves a ‘charming layabout’ and an ‘enigmatic cellmate… known as ‘The Devil” certainly piques my interest!

This article doesn’t seem to be available online so if you’re interested in reading all the reviews, get hold of the 4-10th July issue and turn to page 138.  And if you’d like to vote for your favourite book, you apparently can, by visiting theakstons.co.uk any time up to 15th July.

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Getting the priorities right

I probably shouldn’t say it, but I rather like this guy’s style.  Released early (and wrongly) from prison, did he go on a rampage, hold up the nearest bank, or sneak off to the Costa del Sol to hide for the next ten years?


He went to his favourite pub and chilled out over a couple of pints, before handing himself back in.

If only all news stories ended as happily as that!

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The all-new New Street Station

So, the all-singing all-dancing brand new station-plus-shopping-centre, re-labelled ‘Grand Central’, is due to open on 20 September.  Great news for the city, no doubt, and for the thousands of commuters who use the station every day, and who have been shunted from pillar to post, from gantry to back alley, while the work has been grinding on.

Judging by the artists impression, the outside will be every bit as impressive as any massive new big-city development needs to be.  The inside, though, might be a different story.  Last time I saw it, a few months ago, it was all rather depressing.  Fair enough, the works hadn’t yet been finalised, but they were finished enough to see what the end result was likely to be.  And it wasn’t prepossessing.  In fact, the planners seem to have managed to take a dark, dingy, dated and desperately crowded 1970s concourse-cum-shopping centre, and suck all the charm and life out of it.

Yes.  That really is possible.  Where there were shops (albeit small and rather scruffy) there now seem to be miles of blank, empty, concrete corridors with nothing much travelling along them except an icy draught.  The lighting is stark, the signage poor to non-existent, and all landmarks have been swept away into a sterile open space that could exist at any airport in the world.  Except this isn’t an airport, it’s a city centre shopping mall.  It’s supposed to attract people indoors to, you know, shop.  If it stays like that, people won’t so much be flocking in to the shops as flocking outwards to find the nearest exit.

Of course it may all change once they get some more shops open, including a vast new John Lewis anchor store.  I really hope so.  Because at the moment it’s about as attractive as a concrete nuclear bunker.  And what a waste of £650 million that will have been….

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Hole in the heart

I really hope there’s more to this case than they’re letting on.  Because if there isn’t, then Essex police managed to treat a dying man for cardiac arrest, only to discover at the post-mortem stage that he’d actually been shot in the chest.

I’m slightly baffled by this.  I know from hearing scenes-of-crimes officers talk (most recently at Crime & Publishment earlier this year) just how painstakingly they examine the scene of any sudden or unexplained death.  So why not this one?  Did nobody notice that the victim had a hole in his chest?  Were there no bloodstains, or scorch-marks on his clothes?

Now, of course, the crime scene has gone ‘cold’ and vital clues could be lost for ever.  Essex police have referred themselves to the Independent Police Complaints Commission – as indeed they should if they really did miss spotting something significant (and I’d say a bullet in the chest was pretty significant).  If they didn’t miss it, and there’s something unusual going on, then it’ll be fascinating to hear in due course what that is.  I do feel sorry for his family, though.

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That crime weekend…

I’m muddling along on the old computer while my Other Half builds me a new one, and expecting any second for it to go up in smoke with a very loud bang.  So I’m going to have to keep this shorter than I’d like!

Last weekend I went along to the inaugural Crime Writing Weekend, held at the Old Fire Station in Carlisle, the UK’s second most northerly city (after Newcastle upon Tyne, but only by a mile or two!).

The venue was newly opened, still smelling faintly of paint, and very attractive with decent studio spaces, a larger hall for the talks, and a bistro/bar/coffee shop in the main foyer which did very nice food.

The talks were informative, with an impressive range of crime authors, most of whom had links to the area of northern England/Scottish borders in some way or another.  ‘Northern Noir’, ‘Cumbria: Cosy or Criminal?’, and ‘Tartan Noir’ were just some of the many subjects tackled by panels of between four and six authors including Ann Cleeves of ‘Vera’ and ‘Shetland’ fame, Martin Edwards who pens the Lake District series of crime novels, Graham Smith who bases his books in the Lake District, and many more.  Other subjects included forensics and Sherlock Holmes, plus conversations with well-known authors including Stuart MacBride and Allan Guthrie.

In the end I couldn’t stay for the whole weekend but managed four sessions on the Friday, a stop-over in a city centre hotel, dinner with three of my writing friends, and the book launch for Mike Craven’s debut crime novel ‘Born in a Burial Gown’ on the Saturday morning.  This was probably the best-attended and (no disrespect to the other sessions) most entertaining of the lot.  Mike is a good and amusing speaker and the quick-fire questions from host Graham Smith kept us all chuckling for well over an hour.

If this is what Carlisle can achieve in their very first year, I’m impressed.  I’m also sad to see the words ‘may be back next year’ on their website.  If they do repeat the exercise, I’ll almost certainly be back for more.

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…for the long silence.  I’m currently having major problems with my computer, and struggling to get connected with anything.  Like Arnie, though, I’ll be back, hopefully with an account of the excellent Crime Writing Weekend in Carlisle last weekend.  Please bear with me!

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As a quick update to my previous post, the Birmingham Evening Mail have run an article on the locations used in The Game, and sure enough, they’re in and around the city.  We missed a few they picked up on, and picked up on a few they missed, but it’s always nice to be proved right!  And it made a great series even more enjoyable.

Sad to hear they’re actually knocking the old library down now.  It might be hideously ugly but it was one of the first buildings I got to know when I first moved to the city so it harbours some nice memories.  Plus it’s pretty much ‘one of a kind’ and I can’t help thinking there’ll come a day when people will regret sweeping it away just because it wasn’t instantly fashionable.

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New game

We’re still enjoying every second of the new BBC drama The Game on Thursday evenings – and spotting the Birmingham locations is turning into something of a drinking game.  Well, okay, chocolate biscuit game.

Every episode so far has had its share of familiar nooks, crannies, streets, corners, doorways, buildings and even, I suspect, the odd interior – and whenever we spot a new one, we award ourselves a treat.  I can feel my waistline expanding a little more each week.

In the first episode (and as I’d already mentioned) we had Key Hill Cemetery, Spaghetti Junction and the old library.  Subsequently I’ve added the Victorian splendour of Moor Street station, the Edwardian splendour of the Moseley Road swimming baths, and quite blatantly last week, the entire length of Newhall Street, filmed street-sign and all behind a convenient telephone box.

Sadly there’s only one more episode to go.  I can’t wait to find out whodunnit, and I can’t wait to see if there are any more wonderful settings along the way.  It’s been great fun and quite a treat.

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Elephants galore

Anyone who’s read the ‘trivia’ on my webpage will know that I have a thing about elephants.  I love trying to squeeze new references to our trunked companions into my longer works (there isn’t much space for an elephant in most of my short stories).

So I was amused to find a plethora of the beasties on our recent holiday – in fact, they seemed to crop up everywhere we went!  First there was the elephant-shaped headland on the coast.  Then the complete fossilised elephant skeleton, dug out of the local strata, in a museum (and lots of cute cuddly elephants in the shop – it’s something of a local hero, apparently).  And then when we went to a nearby National Trust property, I’m blowed if one of the previous owners hadn’t put together an entire collection of elephant ornaments, of all shapes and sizes.

It’s amazing where mighty, four-footed ruminants can turn up…

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