I’m hoping to get into Birmingham over the bank holiday, to take some photos. Photos of Birmingham? I hear you say. But one, it’s not that bad (honest!) and two, these are special photos, because they’ll be of some of the locations in ‘Raise the Blade’.
I set the book in various places around the city, including a city centre garden, a suburban park, a canal bank, and even the local prison. Now what I’m hoping to do is capture those settings on film and develop an interactive map of some sort with photos of each different place.
Birmingham is quite a ‘closed book’ (forgive the pun) to many people, even here in the UK, and I’m hoping it’ll be interesting to show them just what’s out there – even if it is as a backdrop to multiple murders.
Now, where did I put my camera…?
It’s an appropriate time of year to be blogging about this topic. However in this case April Skies has nothing to do with the weather.
A couple of weeks ago I finished reading ‘Abide With Me’ by Ian Ayris, and thoroughly enjoyed the book, as this brief review on Goodreads shows. So I was delighted to see that Ian has a sequel to that book out now, and that sequel is ‘April Skies’.
Life has moved on for the protagonist of ‘Abide With Me’, John Sissons, but he’s still haunted by the horrors of his past. And when his sister goes missing, he realises that running away from his mistakes is no longer an option.
I haven’t read ‘April Skies’ yet but if the tone is anything like as brilliant as ‘Abide With Me’ then it should be firmly on all crime and noir lovers’ reading lists. It’s available from Caffeine Nights, and you can find it on Amazon as an e-book right now. Paperback, presumably, to follow.
We finally caught up on our recorded episodes of this latest Danish ‘scandi-drama’ last night and I have to say we really enjoyed it. The writing was sharp, the characters thoroughly believable and it was great to watch a crime drama that wasn’t completely hung up on murder for a change.
Yes, there were deaths during the 10-episode run, but they were almost incidental to the main storyline of corporate fraud and personal greed. The two main detectives, Mads and Alf, used their very different approaches (paper trail and rather more ‘hands on’) to chase down the CEO of a green energy company whose wealth was based on little more than air. Needless to say, because this was close to real life, they didn’t manage to tie up every loose end, but the perpetrators seemed to get their comeuppance in other, sometimes fateful ways. One killed himself, one was arrested, one was shot by the very fixer he thought he employed himself. Presumably on the orders of someone further, higher up the chain.
Mads and Alf were engaging characters, just maverick enough to be interesting without being unemployable, and it was also surprisingly nice to see Nicky and Bimse, the two bungling wannabe criminals, coming out of things relatively unscathed.
I’m not sure if there’s potential for further series in due course but I hope so. ‘Follow the Money’ has been one of the standout new programmes on telly, even amongst a rich selection of other great series for crime and drama fans.
I’ve just finished reading ‘Bad Samaritan’ by Michael J Malone and absolutely loved it. You can see my full review of the book over at Goodreads; as I say there, it’s been a very long time since I read any book so quickly because I just couldn’t put it down.
If you like your fiction dark and slightly challenging you’ll definitely like this one. I certainly did!
I’m jumping up and down with excitement because I can now share the cover artwork for my forthcoming novella ‘Raise the Blade’. I had quite a struggle with this because the art team at Caffeine Nights sent me two different versions and I liked both so much I couldn’t choose between them! Eventually, after much dithering in the undergrowth, I selected this one:
I think it’s amazing, and absolutely ‘right’ for the book. There’s a reason for all that duct tape, too, but I’m not going to say what it is. You’ll just have to read the book and find out for yourselves.
‘Raise the Blade’ is due out from Caffeine Nights in the coming months. You can bet I’ll let everyone know when I have the date!
This month’s award goes to this armed robber in Birmingham, who forgot that standing out from the crowd isn’t such a good thing when you’re committing a crime.
He remembered to wear a motorbike helmet to hide his face, but wore Minnie Mouse gloves, had a distinctive tattoo and a limp, and used an unusual duvet cover as a loot bag.
He could hardly have drawn more attention to himself if he’d painted his whole body with fluorescent yellow paint and had the words ‘armed robber’ stamped across his forehead.
Pure gold for any crime writers out there!
According to this news item, Birmingham may well be echoing to the gentle screech of car tyres as it becomes the crash-for-cash capital of the UK. More deliberate insurance-scam crashes happen here than any other city, apparently, including London. And Coventry, just a few miles down the road, is also in the top ten.
I’m not sure what makes the West Midlands such an attractive target for crash-for-cashers. It could just be coincidence. It could be that the criminals who organise it happen to live round here. Or it could be just the right mix of heavy enough traffic but high enough speeds to make the crashes easier to stage.
Whatever the reason, I’m thinking I should really find a home for my short story ‘Easy Money’, which involves a crash-for-cash scheme, in Birmingham, that goes alarmingly wrong. If nothing else, I could always, er, cash in on the notoriety!
Another quick update, this time on the subject of cannibalism. Well, an anthology of cannibalism, to be precise – Kannibal Cookbook, edited by Dana Kabel.
I had a story called ‘Rabbit Stew’ accepted for the collection but ill-health has delayed the book’s release. Now the good news is that it’s all happening again, and Kannibal Cookbook should be available around Christmas this year.
As the title suggests, it’ll be an interesting antidote to the turkey.
Just a quick update today as I’m getting over flu, but I wanted to share the news that my short story ‘The Floor’s the Limit’ has been translated into Polish and is now appearing at Polski Noir magazine.
Those of you who remember the story from its original home at Out of the Gutter Online will know it’s a very tongue-in-cheek take on pride going before a fall. I’m indebted to Paul D Brazill and Sonja Block for the translation and the opportunity to share my work with a completely new audience.
This is (as far as I know) my first foray into the foreign translation world and I’m really excited. If you know anyone who reads Polish, do feel free to pass on the news (and the link). I don’t speak a word of the language myself, but I’m reliably informed by someone who does that the phrase Szczesliwy czytanie! is appropriate!
There’s a fascinating, if all-too-brief, snippet on the BBC website this morning about the Fewtrell brothers. This family of eight, led by Eddie Fewtrell, ran a series of nightclubs in Birmingham in the 1950s and 60s – and were apparently the main reason the Krays never managed to break into the city’s gangland culture.
The story is all set to be made into a film, and I hope it has more detail on who the Fewtrells were and how they operated. Were they every bit as dangerous in their own way as the Kray twins were in London? Did they engage in organised crime, or did they run their club empire ‘clean’? And just how true is the legend that Eddie Fewtrell kept the Krays out of an entire city more-or-less single-handed?
I’d heard remarkably little about the Fewtrells in spite of living in one area of Birmingham’s club-land (along the Hagley Road) for over three years. If nothing else, it’s fascinating to discover that a very similar celebrity-meets-organised-crime culture was growing up in another of Britain’s cities at exactly the same time. Crime, even violent crime, seems to have had a real aura of romance back then. I wonder how much that’s changed over the years…
I’ll be back in a day or two with a full report on the Noir at the Bar: Carlisle event, which was absolutely amazing.
In the meantime, I’ve finally got round to finishing ‘Drag Noir’, the anthology from Fox Spirit published a couple of years back, which I’ve been trying to find time for. It may have taken me ages but it was well worth the wait as these are stories to savour, not to rush through.
I’ve written a brief review of the anthology which you can read over at Goodreads. I hope it persuades you to try the book yourselves because it’s a really interesting collection and not what you’d expect at all.
Thursday night sees the inaugural Noir at the Bar Carlisle event with at least seven local crime authors reading from their work, plus surprise appearances, plus free books on the night. And I’ve been invited to take part.
It’s a fantastic opportunity (thanks to the three hosts Graham Smith, Mike Craven and Matt Hilton for including me) and one I wouldn’t dream of turning down. However, I am nervous. Shaking in my shoes, in fact. So how am I going to cope?
Well, you can pop along to Vic Watson’s excellent blog, where I’ve done a guest post on exactly this subject. It may not be terribly original, but it does sum up how I’m feeling about the whole thing – and includes one or two tips on how others might cope in a similar situation.
I hope you enjoy it, and if you get the chance, do zoom over to the Moo Bar in Carlisle tomorrow night from 7pm to join in the fun. As I say in the blog post, it’s going to be quite a night!