Missing out…

Last week I was invited to two separate writing events, both of which looked fantastic. Annoyingly, I didn’t manage to get to either of them.

The first was the latest in the series of Noir at the Bar: North East, held every few months at the Town Wall bar in Newcastle. I’ve been to one there (and another in Carlisle) and it was excellent – high quality readings, great fun, a really good night out. I’d have loved to go along again, not necessarily to read this time but just to soak up the atmosphere, listen to some great crime writing, and enjoy putting faces to the names I meet every day on social media.

But it wasn’t to be, because it more-or-less clashed with my good friend Les Morris’s book launch, held in Carlisle the very next night. Newcastle is a three-hour train journey away from home which means having to stop in the city overnight, and I simply wouldn’t have had time to travel home, get everything ready, and set out for the next event again. So, regretfully, I said no.

51uWmD4CEPLI was determined to get to Les’s launch. He’s a good mate from early Facebook days; it’s thanks to him that I discovered Crime and Publishment, and you might even say because of that it’s thanks to him that I’m published at all. ‘Desperate Ground’ is his debut novel so all the more exciting, and I really wanted to be there to help him celebrate.

But that wasn’t to be either. I’d had a bug all week which meant I lost my voice (no cheering, please) and then on the day the local trains decided not to run. Actually, they’ve been deciding not to run, on and off (but mostly off) for several weeks, and it’s starting to get annoying. The train company run replacement buses, but there’s virtually no schedule, they take twice as long to get anywhere, and they only run one 60-seat bus to take up to 300 train passengers at a time. Needless to say, it descends into chaos. I couldn’t see how to get to the mainline station in time to make my connection, and more worryingly, I couldn’t see how to get home again. Especially as I wasn’t feeling a hundred percent. So, even more regretfully, I had to send Les my apologies.

I’m sure he had a fantastic time (I still remember the excitement and sheer terror of my own launch party for ‘Raise the Blade’) and I hope that he’ll forgive me eventually. As for his book, you can find all the details here. Do go and check it out, because it sounds like a real page-turner. In fact, it’s described as explosive. So if you order a copy, just be careful when you’re opening up the parcel from Amazon!

Good night had by all

I’m back from Newcastle after Noir at the Bar: NE on Wednesday evening, and what a great event it was.  Thirteen authors reading from their work, plus a wildcard from the audience on the night, and the choice and quality of readings was excellent.  Everything from hilarious (Jay Stringer’s wonderful tale of koi carp) to totally chilling (an extract from KA Richardson’s novel), with police procedurals, dark short stories, and urban fantasy crime thrown in between.

The event was organised with military precision by Jacky Collins and Vic Watson, and the venue was a dream.  The Town Wall is a stunning pub near Newcastle’s main station, converted from two floors of a wonderful old building and serving tasters of real ale and some amazing, home-cooked food.  Sadly, the food was my downfall.  Having survived the train journey and actually got to the place in one piece, I thought I’d be healthy and order salad with my meal.  Which I really enjoyed… right up to the moment it tried to kill me.  I had a nasty allergic reaction which put me, more or less literally, on the floor.  I honestly think this event is jinxed for me!

I recovered enough to do my reading (from the first main section of ‘Raise the Blade’, where a body is found) and if I struggled in places I’m hoping nobody noticed!  I also stayed on and listened to as many of the other authors as I could (about nine, I think) and enjoyed them very much indeed.  But after that I had to admit defeat and totter back to my hotel, which was very disappointing.  I ended up missing the last four or five ‘acts’ and didn’t get to meet all the people I was hoping to.  So if I didn’t stop to chat, this is why.  I’m very sorry, and hope to have another chance soon.

And here’s a group photo to give you some idea of the night:


Noir at the Bar x2

noirnewcastleTomorrow sees me and my Other Half heading for Newcastle, for the second Noir at the Bar: NE event.

This will be my second attempt at getting there, after an unfortunate tussle with some furniture last time round.  This time, I’m hoping for an accident-free day so I can get there in one piece, have a meal, meet lots of my Facebook and Twitter friends, and read another piece from ‘Raise the Blade’.

Do come along if you’re anywhere near the area, as these events are great fun and the quality of the readings from the authors involved is very high.  Other Half was really impressed by Noir at the Bar: Carlisle a few months back.  This one is at the Town Wall bar on Pink Lane in Newcastle (where they apparently serve excellent food) and starts at 7.00 pm.  Thirteen different authors are booked to speak, plus a “wild card” from the audience, so it sounds like being quite a lively night.

As ever I’ll post a report once I’m back.  In the meantime, if you can come along then I’ll look forward to meeting you.  Oh – and I’ll have a few signed copies of ‘Raise the Blade’ in my bag, just in case.  So if you’d like to get your sticky paws on one of those, for the special discount price of only £4.00, then you’ll have to see me there!

Second time lucky

Those nice people at Noir at the Bar: NE have been very forgiving.  Not only have they invited me to the next one, they’re even going to let me read at it.

You may remember (since it was only about ten days ago) that I was all set to read at the first ever Newcastle event, but had to pull out at the last minute after I fell and badly bruised my arm.

Now, I get another chance.  So stand by on Wednesday 7th September, when (disasters permitting) I’ll be at the Town Wall bar in Newcastle to try again.  This time, I hope to get further than my own front door.  This time, I hope to regale you all with five minutes of something suitably nasty from ‘Raise the Blade’.

And if I have to live in a plastic bubble for the next three months to stop myself hurting anything else, I bloomin’ well will.

There’ll be further details in due course, especially about who else will be appearing at the event.  But in the meantime, you might want to pencil me into your diaries.  Just in case I break, sprain or twist anything else.

What we missed…

For anyone else who couldn’t get to Noir at the Bar: NE in Newcastle on Wednesday, you can now read a full review of the event over at Vic Watson’s blog.  Vic is the tireless organiser/supporter and general hand-holder of the event, so who better to report on the triumphs of the evening.  It sounds as though it was entertaining, fun, and thoroughly evil.  Which is just what you need for a noir event.

And there are pictures.  Lots and lots of pictures, of all the authors taking part, and of venue the Town Wall bar, which looks very smart.

I’m still very disappointed to have missed the whole thing, but have been reliably informed that I’m welcome to take part in the next one.  I just have to refrain from hurling myself at the furniture in the meantime!


I’m a bit miserable this morning because I can’t make Noir at the Bar: NE after all.  I was really looking forward to meeting everyone and joining in the fun, but yesterday I had a silly accident at home and fell heavily on my right arm.  I don’t think anything is broken, but I have a lump the size of a duck egg, lots of spectacular bruising, a wrenched shoulder, and very little movement in my fingers.

None of that would have affected me reading, of course, but there was the little matter of lugging a suitcase three quarters of a mile uphill to the station, and on and off three different trains, and as I couldn’t pick up my breakfast cuppa this morning I really didn’t fancy my chances.

I’m gutted to have to let everyone down, and just hope they’ll let me back in for another go once I have two working arms again!

Shouting from the… town walls

newcastlenoirOr Town Wall to be precise.  Tomorrow night I’ll be appearing, along with a bunch of brilliant crime and noir writers, at the Town Wall bar in Newcastle for the latest Noir at the Bar event.

This one is tagged ‘Noir at the Bar: North East’ and will be the first of (hopefully!) many to be held in Newcastle, the latest venue in the popular format which kicked off in the US but has travelled to the UK via Glasgow and Carlisle.

Organised by Vic Watson and Jackeeta Collins, tomorrow’s session features nine authors reading from their work as well as a lucky dip member of the audience.  The nine lined up are: Eileen Wharton, Patrick Welsh, me, Graham Smith, Sheila Quigley, Bea Davenport, Martyn Taylor, Danielle Ramsay and Janet O’Kane.  If it’s anything like the Carlisle version a few weeks back it’s going to be an absolute blast, so if you’re anywhere near Newcastle tomorrow evening then do pop along to the Town Wall (Pink Street, Newcastle) from 7pm.  It’s free, it’s a great chance to meet the authors, chat, and hear their work.  We’d all love to see you and you’ll be kicking yourselves if you miss the fun.

Of crime and cows…

Many weeks ago now I promised to blog about the Noir at the Bar: Carlisle event… and then forgot.  ::headdesk::

I’ve finally dug out the piece I wrote afterwards, and hope it’s not too late to share my thoughts on what was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.  And don’t forget – if you missed that one but would like to join in, then you can.  Just pop along to the Town Wall bar on Pink Street, Newcastle upon Tyne, at 7pm on Wednesday 1st June when another collection of crime writers will be strutting their stuff.  But for now… here’s Carlisle, and my apologies for the delay.

The 10th of March seems like ages ago but it’s really less than a month since I, Other Half and a whole heap of authors, friends, relations and interested parties headed to Carlisle for the first ever English ‘Noir at the Bar’ event.

This was held at the Moo Bar on Devonshire Street, a perfect venue in terms of size, facilities, and the sheer friendly welcoming attitude of the staff. Thanks to them for helping to make the evening such a success.

In the end there were nine performing seals, otherwise known as authors reading their work. On the night, Hull-based writer David Mark gatecrashed the party to read a thoroughly entertaining and atmospheric extract from one of his crime novels set in Hull. My Other Half thoroughly enjoyed that because he knows the city reasonably well and could immediately conjure up the locations from David’s words.

After that, in no particular order, it was the turn of Neil White, Zoe Sharp, Lucy Cameron, Jay Stringer, James Hilton, Paul Finch, and yours truly to read bits of our latest or greatest work. My personal favourites were part of a hilarious short story about carp (sorry, Koi) from Jay Stringer, and a slightly surreal offering from Zoe Sharp featuring a bunch of dead celebrities, but all the readings were skilful and entertaining. There’s no beating an author reading their own work out because they know it, and the intonations and intentions, better than anybody.

The final reading of the night came from a willing victim, oops I mean volunteer, plucked from the audience. Hats off to crime writer Linda Wright for having the guts to come out and do her bit with a whole lot less notice and practice time than the rest of us.

My own piece was an excerpt from my forthcoming novella ‘Raise the Blade’ (due from Caffeine Nights in the next few months), where the first of a series of murder victims is discovered… except that as I explained, it may not be the first body after all! I’d been terribly nervous about speaking in public, not least because I’d never used a microphone before, but in the event I needn’t have worried. The mic behaved itself (although the less said about me the better) and the audience were lovely, paying attention and listening to every word.

In that respect the format helped. Four speakers doing around five minutes each, followed by a break of half an hour, followed by the remaining speakers. It meant there were no long gaps and the evening rattled along, with the audience able to get caught up in the action and stay there.

A special thanks goes to the three hosts on the night – Matt Hilton, Graham Smith and Mike Craven – for their organisation, their compering and their general hand-holding and support. And for inviting me to take part in the first place. I know I couldn’t have done it without them and I’m sure most of the other seals would agree.

Finally I leave you with two photos. One of muggins lurking behind a microphone (taken by fellow Caffeine Nights author Lucy Cameron) and one of a cow on the wall. I leave you to decide which is which.

small cow     verysmallnoirgroup1

Nervously noir

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!

Good, er, moos

noirprofilepicTwo bits of good news in one, in fact.  One, Noir at the Bar, the popular and successful event series held regularly in the US, is now coming to Britain.  To Carlisle, in fact, on 10 March at the brilliantly-named Moo Bar.

And two, I’ll be taking part.  Only a very small part, alongside a raft of other well (better!) known crime, noir and thriller authors, hailing from the Far North of England and southern Scotland.  Names booked so far include Graham Smith, Mike Craven, Matt Hilton, Zoe Sharp, Neil White, Paul Finch, Jay Stringer, James Hilton, Lucy Cameron, and yours truly.  There’ll also be a guest slot on the night which members of the audience can compete for.  Less ‘Gladiators’ than ‘the Sorting Hat’, I hasten to add.

So, why not come along to the Moo Bar (3-5 Devonshire St, Carlisle) at 7pm on the 10th, to hear these authors reading from their work, and hanging round for a chat afterwards.  There’ll even be free books on offer.  And drinks.  It is a bar after all!

My own freebie is a copy of Shotgun Honey presents: Locked and Loaded (Both Barrels #3), which includes my short story ‘Running Late’, about a less-than-pure cop who’s running out of time.

Noir at the Bar looks set to turn into a regular fixture over here as well, but you’d be a silly moo to miss this inaugural event, which should be absolutely brilliant.  I hope to see you there.