A ‘wheel’ man?

webdrag-noirThose of you with long memories may remember my short story ‘Wheel Man’, published in the fantastic Drag Noir anthology from Fox Spirit Books.

Well, now it’s in the news again, for two reasons.

First, this is where the story first started for car thief Justine and her on-off lover Fred from my novel ‘Gravy Train’. So if you enjoyed reading about them in that, you might be interested to find out more. Like how their boss Symons’ dislike of women affected them, why they weren’t even on speaking terms by the start of ‘Gravy Train’, and why the story’s title is so appropriate for Justine.

And the even better news is that you can now buy the e-book of Drag Noir, hassle-free and for the incredibly good value price of only £3.99, direct from the Fox Spirit catalogue. Just follow this link to find Justine and Fred, plus a whole bunch of really terrific drag-tinged noir stories. And happy reading!

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New reviews

There’s a couple of really nice mentions for my stuff turned up in the last few days.

Raise the Blade FrontFirst, Graham Wynd has included ‘Raise the Blade’ in his list of favourite books of 2016, with a great write-up that had me glowing.  You can find the list here; do take time to read all the entries because there’s some other great books featured, including titles by Richard Godwin and Renato Bratkovic, and the Dark Minds anthology.

Second, and rather a long time after publication but still a very welcome surprise, there’s this from the British Fantasy Society about the Drag Noir anthology, which featured my story ‘Wheel Man’ amongst many others.  The reviewer has some nice things to say about the story, although there’s a spoiler alert if you haven’t yet read it yourself because they do rather give away the plot!

 

Definitely not a drag

100Drag NoirI’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.

Quick round-up

I should be busy packing since I’m heading off tomorrow to this year’s Crime & Publishment weekend at The Mill Forge in Gretna Green, Scotland.  I went last year, had an absolute blast, met some wonderful people, and picked up all sorts of weird and wonderful facts about crime writing, so I’m really looking forward to repeating the experience.

However, there is just time to round up a few bits and pieces of news before I bury myself in a heap of suitcases.

First, a couple more reviews of anthologies I have stories in.  This one, very thoughtful, about Exiles: An Outsider Anthology; and this one about Drag Noir.  I’m especially pleased with the latter because the reviewer has been so kind about my story, ‘Wheel Man’.

Second, it’s now less than a month until the Rogue anthology hits the streets.  This collection of stories featuring a flawed central character includes work from some of the (literary!) heavyweights of the genre, including Paul D Brazill, Ryan Bracha, Aidan Thorn and Gareth Spark.  And, er, me.  My story ‘Singing From the Same Sheet’ explores the differences between good and evil, and how they may be closer than we think.  The book’s due out on April 2nd so keep watching this space.

Another great review

I haven’t been posting as much on here lately because I’ve had my head down, writing furiously, trying to finish my latest novella by Easter if at all possible.

I’m still scribbling today, but thought I would just dash in to share this super review of Drag Noir which featured in Starburst Magazine the other day.  As well as the overall write-up there are well-deserved mentions for several of the authors and their stories.

Right, back to that novella.  Well, it won’t write itself…

Watching the wheels come off…

100Drag NoirMy ears pricked up when I first heard about the Drag Noir anthology because it was such an interesting combination. I immediately started to think about story ideas, mostly involving the typical boy-meets-girl, boy-finds-girl-isn’t-a-girl-after-all scenario. Then I had second thoughts. Other people would probably go down that route, and go down it a lot more skilfully than me. What I wanted was something different, something that delved into why a character would don drag, rather than just the fallout when he or she did.

Nothing really sprang to mind until a chance remark by Stephen Fry on, of all things, the BBC tv quiz show QI. This is an entertaining mix of humour and weird knowledge, and always worth a watch for the laughs, and the esoteric facts you can pick up. During one particular exchange with the contestants, Fry revealed that car theft is, as he put it, “the last great bastion of sexism in British crime”, and explained that the organised gangs running it will simply not accept cars stolen by women.

This was extraordinary enough to set my mind racing. What better reason for someone to take drastic measures if the life they loved, the work they loved, was threatened in this way? Soon Justine was born, and developed into a feisty young woman with an important skill – the ability to hack into modern, keyless cars. Add in weakling Fred, her sometime lover, sometime partner in crime; and archetypal thug Sy who dislikes women and isn’t afraid to let it show; and you have all the elements of a plot about covering up, in more ways than one.

And a tragedy as the wheels come off, of course. Because the other thing to remember is that this is noir, and in noir there is no happy ever after, or even a happy for now. Justine and Fred don’t get to drive off into the sunset in one of their stolen cars. But you’ll have to read the story to find out why. All I’ll say is that it’s no coincidence the story’s title, ‘Wheel Man’, is a bad pun on ‘real man’, and one that’s appropriate in a number of different ways…

Stocking fillers

There are some great deals and fun little extras on offer at the moment.  If you’re looking for something that little bit different as a seasonal gift, here’s a handful to tempt you:

1.  Fox Spirit, who published Drag Noir earlier in the year, have various free stories from their published authors available on their website.  The latest, Jingle Bells by Vincent Holland-Keen, has a Christmassy theme, but there are others to suit every taste.

2.  If you loved the cover art for Drag Noir, then artist Stephanie Johnson has a whole page of goodies featuring Lola herself over at Café Press: everything from t-shirts to hip flasks.

3.  And One Eye Press, the people behind Shotgun Honey and the Both Barrels anthologies, have a special Christmas sale with all their Kindle editions reduced to 99c for the whole of December.

I hope everyone finds something they like amongst the goodies!

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.

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!

Wheel Man taster

100Drag NoirTo whet your appetite, here’s a brief excerpt from my latest short story ‘Wheel Man’, which is due out in ‘Drag Noir’ from Fox Spirit at the end of the month.  Hope you like it!

Clear of the city streets, she buzzed the electric window down to feel the wind stirring her hair, and shifted to sixth gear. The last few dregs of the suburbs reeled past in a smear of street lights and rain; soon the bungalows would be replaced by hedges, fields and trees. She shouldn’t be this far out, of course. Fred’s place was back in the suburbs, tucked into a courtyard where hardly anyone went. This was a twenty mile detour; this was wasting fuel. But she could never resist the urge to put her foot down, to try the car for size. There wasn’t much point nicking cars if you didn’t get the chance to drive them for yourself.

And this one was a gem, if she did say so herself. Sleek, fast, built like a tank. The sort of car that young men dreamed of owning, and old men drove, too fast for their waning reflexes, once they’d made their pile.

Somewhere out beyond the airport she sighed, slowed down, and used a handy roundabout to turn for home. This was a good car, but there’d be others, better, more expensive, faster even than this. She’d hand this one over, get her cut, and do the whole thing again another night. At least Fred would like this one. He’d been weird about her cars lately, but one look at this and not even he could say no.

***

“What the fuck d’you mean, you can’t take it? It’s a great car.”

Free Drag Noir story

Heard about Drag Noir and wondering what all the fuss is about?  Then head over to the Fox Spirit website, where Fox author Graham Wynd (‘Extricate’, ‘Throw the Bones’) has donated a free story as an introduction to the anthology.  ‘Smallbany’ gives a great flavour of the collection and some of the character types you’re likely to meet, as a bumbling blagger caught in a trap finds a dinstinctly unusual way out.  The story features ‘salty language’ and ‘sexual shenanigans’, no less, and rather like a bonus album track released on YouTube, it’s a great way to whet your appetite for the main event.

Pop along to Fox Spirit to read ‘Smallbany’ here.

One month to go…

webDrag NoirIn fact, slightly less than a month now because ‘Drag Noir’, the anthology from Fox Spirit containing my short story ‘Wheel Man’, is set for release at the end of October.  I’m thoroughly excited, and even more happy to discover that my story is going to be the second one into the collection!

Thieving cars was the last great bastion of sexism in UK crime and there was no getting over that fact.  Sy’s henchmen had made it all too clear the last time they came round…

You can find more details, including a full contents list, over at the Fox Spirit website.  And don’t forget to start crossing off the days in your diary.