A Lover of Books

Blog Tour – ‘Revenge of the Malakim’ by Paul Harrison

I am absolutely thrilled to be taking part in this blog tour for which I have interviewed Paul Harrison.  ‘Revenge of the Malakim’ is Paul’s debut crime fiction novel and it is the first book in The Grooming Parlour Trilogy.

 

For the benefit of my readers can you tell me a bit about ‘Revenge of the Malakim’ please?

Its my debut crime fiction novel, based in Bridlington and surrounding area. A fast paced police procedural, with DCI Will Scott and his sidekick DI Daisy Wright, trying to identify and arrest a serial killer with a difference. Its a roller coaster of an investigation, taking the reader across the north of England, down to London and to the US. There’s lots of twists and turns throughout.

 

How long did it take you to write?

The planning of the story line and plot took the longest, since a common thread runs through the trilogy. It took several months planning, and two months to write.

 

What made you decide to write a series?

I cover a difficult subject, and there are so many different strands that I wanted to cover. The Grooming Parlour Trilogy of books, manages to encompass this without compromising the plot or hopefully, reader enjoyment.

 

When can we expect the next book in the series to be out?

The Dark Web will be out June/July 2017 I hope it will really hit the mark with readers, as the action and intrigue is non stop.

 

What would your reaction be if a character out of your book turned up on your doorstep?

Wow. Depends which one really. I would welcome them all, since Its up to me what they do and how they react. Though there are a couple I would avoid. Cannot say much more, if you get my drift.

 

Would you like to see this series made into a TV programme? 

Definitely yes, I think it lends itself to a television series perfectly.

 

How long were you a police officer for? 

My police career spans three decades. I saw huge changes during that time (1970s through to the late 1990s). I was medically pensioned out of the force after sustaining a serious injury on duty.

 

What sort of cases have you been involved in?

Everything, from murder, to child abduction, kidnapping. Its wrong that murder investigations are super interesting. They are difficult and often monotonous. In fiction, it is the thrill of the chase, and the mystery. You do not get that in day to day police investigations.

 

What was it like interviewing serial killers?

Well, at first it was exciting, being face to face with them. My first serial killer was Ron DeFeo, of Amityville horror fame. He was charming, yet deluded, he continually changed his story.  Peter Sutcliffe, (Yorkshire Ripper) was cold and calculating. I felt uncomfortable with him.  Funnily enough, having interviewed over thirty of these killers, there is one thing they have in common, it isn’t that they are evil. They are insipid characters with weak personalities.

 

Where do you see yourself in five years time?

I would love to still be writing crime fiction and hopefully with Williams and Whiting publisher and Mike Linane. They are the best publisher I have worked for. Mike is amazingly supportive and knows his stuff. I have total respect for him. I think it is fair to say that I have penned my last true crime book now. I had a decent run at it, over thirty books. Fiction is far more interesting.

 

Will there be more books from you after this series?

Most definitely. I am discussing something very special, for later this year, with my publisher Williams and Whiting as we speak.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I watch football, Leeds United. I do try to go to as many games as I can. In addition, I have three dogs, German Shepherds, so do a lot of walking with them. Which helps me think and plan new plot lines.

 

About Paul Harrison

Paul Harrison is a retired police officer, with a successful career that spanned three decades.  During that time, he worked on some memorable high profile investigations, and interviewed countless criminals who operated within the darker side of humanity.  Paul began writing and had his first book published during his time in the police.  Since then, he has gone on to write 34 books, mainly in the field of true crime.  Now he has turned all that experience into writing crime fiction.

 

Links

‘Revenge of the Malakim’ is available from Amazon UK:-

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Revenge-Malakim-Grooming-Parlour-Trilogy/dp/1911266527/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1490123310&sr=1-1

Paul Harrison’s Website – http://www.paulharrisonbooks.co.uk

DCI Will Scott (character) Website – http://www.dciwillscott.com/

 

Book Trailer

Final Post – My Urbane Blog Event

Well, my Urbane Blog Event is over.  I have really enjoyed doing it and I really don’t know where these past two weeks have gone.  I’ll let you all into a little secret now.  Whilst organising this event I had a few doubts.  I thought I had lost the ability to organise another blog event.  As it goes, it all went very well.

I’d like to thank all my fellow book bloggers, authors and of course the Urbane authors for taking the time and trouble to share my posts.  I really was and still am totally overwhelmed at all the support I got.  You Urbane authors really are like one big happy family.  I’d also like to thank Matthew Smith for providing me with the book extracts.  Long may your publishing business continue.

I have decided that I would really like to feature Urbane authors on my blog on a monthly basis, about two or three posts a month.  If your book is due to be published do feel free to get in touch with me anytime.  I am always open to hosting guest posts and doing interviews.  I will also be reviewing lots more books.

Thanks again everyone!

 

Love from Sonya xx

 

Book Review – ‘Reunited’ by Daniel Gothard

‘Reunited’ is Daniel Gothard’s second book to be published by Urbane Publications. It came out in October of last year and seems to have been getting some very good reviews. I bought a copy for my kindle.

It’s 2012. Ben Tallis is thirty-six years old, has achieved his ambition of becoming a journalist and he’s engaged to a very ambitious lawyer. But there seem to be a couple of problems within the relationship. When Ben receives an invitation to a 20 year old school reunion he really doesn’t want to go. By mistake he mentions the reunion to his editor who smells a great feature article and insists that Ben returns home, faces his past, and writes a feature on how much we change and yet in so many ways we stay the same. It doesn’t look like Ben has much choice. So he reluctantly returns home, re-engages with his past and realises that you can never run from the truth or who you really are. The reunion gets Ben thinking back to 1992 when he was still at school and his best friends, including one he was secretly in love with. How will Ben get on at the reunion? Well, that’s for you to find out.

I started reading this book straight after ‘Simon says’. Again, the cover is very retro and bright which is a good thing as it stands out. Having read and enjoyed Daniel Gothard’s first book I was looking forward to ‘Reunited’, although to be honest I wasn’t entirely sure how I would get on with it. My school days aren’t exactly something I like to think about and I would never even consider going to a reunion. As it goes I really enjoyed this book.

I think going back between the past and present worked extremely well. I did on a couple of occasions get a bit confused though, as in I thought I was still reading about Ben’s school days when in actual fact the story was back in the present. Maybe this is because I got hooked and wanted to know what happened next in Ben’s past. Ben and one of his best friends had a really hard time because of bullies. I think going back home and meeting people from his past really helped Ben to put things into perspective.

I am looking forward to reading future books by Daniel Gothard and will definitely be buying a copy of ‘Reunited’ in paperback to add to my collection.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

Links

‘Reunited’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/reunited/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Reunited-Daniel-Gothard/dp/1911129546/ref=tmm_pap_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489950517&sr=8-1

 

Book Review – ‘Simon says’ by Daniel Gothard

‘Simon says’ was published by Urbane Publications at the beginning of last year. I read several different genres and as I liked the sound of this book I bought myself a copy.

Simon Templar was named after a suave and heroic man of action, but of course he’s nothing like him. Out with his future father-in-law who gets rather drunk, poor Simon really doesn’t expect the night to end the way it does. It seems his one chance of happiness has just been taken away from him. Everything has changed in an instant. Simon is determined however to rebuild his life, hopes and dreams.

With the help and support of his best friend Sean and some rather interesting dates, Simon goes on a personal journey of self-discovery. Can he learn to trust again and finally understand what the true meaning of love is?

I so like the cover for ‘Simon says’. It’s bright, it’s retro and it shouts out to you, saying “Buy Me!” This book is very different from any I have read in a while. I really liked Daniel Gothard’s style of writing and how text messages played a big part in the story. It did take me a bit of time to get into the story, but once in I found it enjoyable and couldn’t wait to get back to it. There were some really funny moments too. Surely only Simon could get into certain situations.

I really liked Simon and not just because he worked in a bookshop. When Simon learnt what he did from his soon to be father-in-law he was naturally angry and upset. There were two ways to look at things, but personally I didn’t blame Simon for feeling the way he did. He needed to go and lick his wounds, take some time out and decide what to do for the best. I was so glad that Simon had Sean to turn to.

‘Simon says’ takes an honest look at relationships, love, life, longing and friendship. It is proof that male authors can write really good rom-coms.

I give this book 4 out of 5.

 

‘Simon says’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/simon-says/

Amazon – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Simon-says-Daniel-Gothard/dp/1910692484/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1451671468&sr=1-1&keywords=simon+says+daniel+gothard

 

Interview with Daniel Gothard

I can’t believe this is the very last day of my Urbane Blog Event.  Where has the time gone?  Today I have for you an interview with Daniel Gothard and then later on there will be reviews of both of his books.

 

You have so far had two novels published by Urbane Publications. For the benefit of my readers can you tell me a bit about them please?

“Simon says” is a book about youth, love and the value of great friends – classic tenets of a lot of romantic comedy. I think what sets the novel apart, or so I’ve been told by various readers, is this type of story being from a male point-of-view – heartbreak, starting over, strong friendship … A few people have referred to the novel as “male chick-lit”.

“Reunited” is set in 1992 and 2012 – the story is told in a first-person narrative by Ben Tallis (aged 16 in ’92, at school, dealing with the death of his dad, and being in secret love with one of his best friends. And then in ’12, at 36, a journalist, going to a 20 year school reunion). The chapters go between the 2 time frames and seem to have worked well – reviews have been very positive (to date!)

 

What led you to write them?

I’ve written in various genres – even a 16,000 word 2nd person Dystopian short story! – and I’ve always loved rom-coms: “When Harry Met Sally”, “Four Weddings And A Funeral”, et al. I had the ideas in quick succession and had a really good time writing the books. Writing can be genuinely hard work, but these were a pleasure and I found myself smiling and laughing at my own references and comedic scenes. It was a bit pathetic!?

 

Where did you get your ideas from?

Ah, the BIG question. Probably watching too much TV, too many films and listening to too much music in the 1970s and 1980s! My head is full of useless cultural markers – but they come in handy sometimes. The actual moment of inception, when the idea happens – for me – is just something I can create. That reads as a bit arrogant, but it’s just a thing I’ve done since childhood.

 

Would you like to see either of your books made into a film or TV programme?

Oh yeah! Money, money, money!! And for a wider audience. Artistically, of course, most books don’t translate that well on to the screen. But I love film and TV, and there are some brilliant actors and directors around these days. It would be fantastic

 

What would you do if a character from one of your books knocked on your door?

Pretend I wasn’t home! I mean that wholeheartedly … They are nice enough people, I’m the misanthrope.

 

Can we look forward to more books from you?

Yep. I’ve got 2 books out with literary agents and publishers, but the difficulty with success in the creative arts is always about ‘shifting product’. Quality naturally counts, but a publisher and/or a literary agent has to be VERY sure of you to take the financial risks. I’ve been hugely fortunate. YouGov found, in 2015, over 60% of the UK had writing as their dream-job. 98% of submissions are rejected – and there are, literally, thousands of submissions each week.

 

How easy was it to get published?

Not easy at all. 2013-present has been very busy and my publication rate looks very good. But I started learning the craft in 2000, got married, had a day job and have 3 kids. It’s been a very long process. You have to REALLY want to write, act, make music, etc. to succeed. And there are absolutely no guarantees.

 

Have you got any pearls of wisdom for anyone wanting to write a book?

Look at my answer from the last question. Keep writing, read great, ‘difficult’ books, learn from the best, take chances. Don’t give up. As one of my bosses used to say, “You’re a long time dead. So get on with getting on.” Morbid but true!

 

Has social media been of much benefit to you?

Undoubtedly. I wouldn’t have met Matthew Smith – MD of Urbane Publications – without it. I wrote, as an arts correspondent, for After Nyne Magazine and met the editor, Claire Meadows (another Urbane Publications author) through Twitter. It has changed everything for me.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

Watch great TV/films. Read those ‘difficult’ novels.

 

Describe your writing journey in three words.

Long. Tough. Fulfilling.

 

If you could do all this again, would you?

Absolutely!

 

Links

Twitter – @bookslifelove and @GOTHARDDANIEL

 

Interview with Guy Fraser-Sampson

It’s a pleasure to have Guy Fraser-Sampson on my blog.  Having read and thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the Hampstead Murders series, I was really happy when Guy agreed to be interviewed for this event.

 

I’ve really enjoyed the first two books in the Hampstead Murders series. For the benefit of my readers can you tell me a bit about your books please?

I’m glad you enjoyed the first two Hampstead Murders. They are intended more as a serial than a series, so it really is a great advantage to read them in the right order. The first, ‘Death in Profile’ describes the hunt for a serial killer. The second, ‘Miss Christie Regrets’ is partly about a cold case enquiry in which, it turns out, Agatha Christie may have been a key witness. The third, ‘A Whiff of Cyanide’, which features suspicious death at a convention of crime writers, is due out in June.

I am a great reader (up to about 200 books a year) but for a long time now I have found it difficult to read modern crime fiction as so much of it feels the same: either noir or cosy. So I deliberately set out to produce something “different”, and above all to write the sort of book I would like to read. Instead of a single central character there are various characters, who ebb and flow in prominence during the course of the series. Instead of a damaged character with drink, drugs or gambling problems these are likeable people about whom the reader will care “what happens next”. Instead of a bleak coastal location there is the sumptuously beautiful townscape of Hampstead.

The books have been described as quirky and intelligent. There are references, both overt and implied, to various Golden Age writers and detectives, most notably Lord Peter Wimsey. Without being in any way surreal, they do ask questions about the relationship between fiction and reality, as well as the role of synchronicity (extreme coincidence) in human affairs.

I have also given my characters real personal lives, with all the problems of love triangles, private tragedy, and police politics. The love triangle in particular is part of the “what happens next” syndrome!

 

Where did you get the idea for this series from?

Once I had decided (after an approach from a publisher I knew) to write a detective series it took me about two years to work out what sort of books they should be and to work out the plot of the first one. Initially I was strongly tempted to write period crime but ended up settling upon this exciting idea of combining a contemporary narrative with a Golden Age writing style, which I don’t think anyone else is doing. Adverbs, for example, seem to have gone entirely out of fashion!

Hampstead was always going to be part of the equation. I’m a strong believer in the importance of a sense of place within a novel. I don’t think it’s a coincidence, for example, that two of my favourite novels are ‘Midnight’s Children’ and ‘The Alexandria Quartet’. So I knew I wanted something that could play the role of Oxford for Morse or Hastings Old Town for Foyle, and Hampstead was the obvious candidate, partly because it’s so beautiful and partly because I knew it so well.

 

Did you have to do any research at all?

I’ve always done a huge amount of research for my books. The Hampstead Murders, along with my Mapp and Lucia novels, feature real life people and events and it’s very important to get these absolutely right: Dorothy L Sayers made the point that if a reader spots a factual mistake then it weakens their suspension of disbelief so far as the plot is concerned. For ‘Miss Christie Regrets’, for example, I did a lot of research into the history of the Lawn Road Flats (the Isokon Building). A lot of real life people feature – Jack Pritchard and Wells Coates for instance – though I did change the name of the Oxbridge don who was recruiting foreign agents there …

 

Would you like to see your books made into a TV series and if so who would you choose to play the main parts?

Yes, I’ve always seen the Hampstead Murders as a TV series, which is partly why I chose the temporal format which I did. People love to watch period drama but it’s very costly to make. This way the production company gets the best of both worlds. It’s contemporary drama, so they don’t have to worry about covering up TV aerials or filming at four in the morning, but with themes like vintage clothing embedded within it, so we can still get to admire people in elegant outfits.

As for casting, I’m afraid the poor old author gets no say whatsoever in this. Look at the recent ‘Mapp and Lucia’ series for a perfect example. When you sign over the screen rights you’re essentially selling your children into slavery. You just have to walk away and not look back.

 

Do you have a favourite place where you do your writing?

Year round I write in my study, which overlooks Spike Milligan’s grave in the graveyard of St Thomas’s church in Winchelsea. During the summer I do like to get out into the garden whenever I can. Ambience is very important to me. I have always found it difficult to do work of any description in unsympathetic surroundings.

 

How did you come to be published by Urbane Publications?

It’s no great secret that the Hampstead Murders were originally going to be published by somebody else, but they pulled out of issuing any new fiction titles just before we were due to go to print. Naturally at the time I was not very amused by this, but in fact things worked out pretty well.

I spent about a year trying to find a new publisher, and had some interesting responses. One described it as ‘a love letter to the detective novel’ but then perversely went on to give this as a reason for turning it down. Ironically, the very unique positioning which I had decided upon worked against it rather than in its favour. Nobody was prepared to take a risk on publishing something “different” despite the fact that my last three novels had all been optioned by BBC television.

Then I met (or rather re-met) Matthew at Urbane and everything fell into place. He had run Kogan Page when they published a book for me, and as soon as he read ‘Death in Profile’ he instantly “got it” about what I was trying to do, and has just been the ideal publisher. He’s very supportive, and encourages his writers to do what feels right for them.

 

You’ve also written a number of non-fiction books. Can you tell me a bit about them please?

I fear many of them would not appeal to the general reader as the early ones tended to be about finance and investment. The ones I would recommend are:

‘Cricket at the Crossroads’: telling the human story of what happened to the English Test side between 1967 and 1977.

‘The Mess We’re In’: a darkly humorous analysis of recent British economic history.

‘No Fear Finance’: de-mystifying finance for the general reader and explaining it in conceptual terms rather than getting bogged down in mathematics.

 

What’s your advice for anyone wanting to write a book?

Go into it with your eyes open. Be prepared for a great deal of rejection, criticism and disappointment. If you can’t handle this then please don’t try, because you will end up just making yourself very unhappy and possibly even ill. Honestly, I know personally some writers who have ended up with severe depression and other mental illnesses as a result of what being a writer has put them through.

The perception is that you get your book published (a hugely difficult thing to accomplish in the first place) and then wake up famous. Sadly, it doesn’t work like that. The hard work hasn’t ended, it has only just begun. Now you have the task of promoting your book, because generally speaking if you don’t, then nobody else will.

Something else that people don’t appreciate is that you risk losing a lot of friends as well. Writers are obsessed with their book: they have to be. Our friends are not: it’s just a peripheral thing at best. We, understandably, expect them to buy copies of our book for themselves and their friends and family, to praise it fulsomely to complete strangers, to attend our events, and post reviews of it online. They, equally understandably, don’t see things that way; it just doesn’t occur to them how important it is to us. Although, a quick tip for any writers’ friends out there: please don’t ever, under any circumstances, say to a writer “I’d love to read your book – can you give me a copy?”

 

Will you be doing more book signings?

I love doing book signings, particularly as part of book festivals, because it’s a wonderful opportunity to meet real life readers and get feedback about what they liked and (just as important) what they didn’t. In fact, I happen to believe that there is a lot of untapped potential out there for writers, readers, and booksellers to interact much more efficiently than they do at present.

Events I am particularly looking forward to are Deal Noir on 26 March, Southwold on 17/18 June, and a crime fiction evening at Heffer’s bookshop in Cambridge on 6 July. For lovers of my Mapp and Lucia books, I will be part of the Rye Festival in September. I mention these because they are open to the general public. I’m also doing various private functions including speaking to various London clubs as well as the Womens’ Institute.

Readers are welcome to contact me at any time to investigate a mutually convenient event. Ditto anyone who would like to organise something.

 

How have book bloggers helped you

Oh my word, massively. The big publishers have a very cosy arrangement with the traditional national media which means indie authors can’t get reviewed there no matter how good they may be. So social media such as book blogs are our life blood, our only real route to a wider readership.

The really great thing about book bloggers is that they are serious readers so their opinions really matter. Getting a recommendation from a book blogger always gives me a real buzz, particularly when they say something that makes me realise that they have absolutely understood exactly what I was trying to achieve.

 

Facebook or Twitter?

I disagree with various writers about Facebook. I think you have to be really careful not to push your books on it too frequently. For me, one mention every couple of days is plenty, although I don’t think anyone minds you posting about events, whether before, during or after. I think people will find anything more than that intrusive, and you risk them unfollowing you.

Twitter is different and I use it a lot, sending tweets to targeted users who have shown an interest in, say, Golden Age detective fiction (or Hampstead!).

So, Twitter for me, although a lady called Laura Stone (@minxlaura123) has recently got me thinking about video blogs. She recently reviewed ‘Miss Christie Regrets’ on a live video feed and had several thousand hits.

 

Wine or Champagne?

Wine, please, and lots of it – preferably new world reds. I have no intention of dying sober.

 

Links

‘Death in Profile’ is available from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/death-in-profile/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Death-Profile-Hampstead-Murders-no1/dp/191069293X/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1458486555&sr=1-1&keywords=death+in+profile

‘Miss Christie Regrets’ is available from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/miss-christie-regrets/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/d/Books/Miss-Christie-Regrets-Guy-Fraser-Sampson/1911331809/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1484164698&sr=1-1&keywords=miss+christie+regrets

‘A Whiff of Cyanide’ can be pre-ordered from:-

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Whiff-Cyanide-Book-Hampstead-Murders/dp/1911129767/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1489860093&sr=1-1&keywords=a+whiff+of+cyanide

 

Extract from ‘Glass Houses’ by Jackie Buxton

Following on from Jackie Buxton’s guest post, I now have an extract from ‘Glass Houses’.

 

Book Blurb

‘When she sent that text, all our lives changed for ever…’

51 year old Tori Williams’ life implodes when she sends a text while driving on the M62 motorway and allegedly causes the horrific crash in which three people die. Public and press are baying for her blood, but Tori is no wallflower and refuses to buckle under their pressure or be a pariah in society. Instead, she sets about saving the nation. But can she save Etta, the woman who saved her life? Or will Etta’s secret be her downfall?

This incredibly topical and contemporary morality tale appeals across generations and will find favour with fans of authors such as Liane Moriarty, Marian Keyes and Kathryn Croft.

 

Extract

Extract from ‘Glass Houses’

Guest Post by Jackie Buxton

Well, my Urbane Blog Event is almost over but I still have a few more posts.  Jackie Buxton took part in my event last year and I am thrilled to have her back on my blog again.  Jackie has written a guest post this time.

 

Glass Houses: the Unexpected Campaign

In the first chapter of Glass Houses, Tori Williams is slumped over the steering wheel after her Jeep has collided with the car in front. We quickly learn that moments before Tori crashed, she had sent a text to her husband reminding him to put the chicken in the oven.

Recently, I’ve taken to putting my phone in my bag on the back seat so that it’s totally out of reach when I’m driving. This is not because I consider myself some sort of model driver, nor is it because I’m some evangelical, holier-than-thou do-gooder, it’s because of the research I did for this novel.

Through the course of writing Glass Houses (where Tori Williams quickly becomes Public Enemy Number One, blamed for all the deaths in the collision, and has to fight to change public perception of her) I became consumed with the world of road traffic accidents. I spoke to police, other members of the emergency services, people who’d emerged from a coma and the loved ones of those who hadn’t. I read about victims of road traffic accidents and the stories of those behind the crash, and the more I read, the more I became convinced that there could never be a good reason to use a phone in the car. Your life, or someone else’s life, it just isn’t worth it, is it?

Many people have either said or posted in reviews, that because of reading Glass Houses, they would never now pick up their phone when driving, whether to speak or to text. I hadn’t expected this when I wrote the first words of Glass Houses, nor when I’d finished the first draft, not even when I had the very first copies in my hands. But I am so happy to hear this now.

My eldest child passed her driving test last summer and my youngest is about to start learning. It occurred to me that if we could start this young generation of drivers off on the right foot, instil from the start that there is no place for the phone at the wheel, then they could carry this practice forward, set the right example, put other generations to shame, and change a nation’s attitudes to phones in cars for ever.

I’m not saying this will be easy. I hear it all on radio phone-ins: Impossible! Nobody will manage it! We need our phones for work, for emergencies, to call our loved ones!

But I think it is possible, because this kind of change in a nation’s thinking happens all the time.

Back in the glorious 1970s when children played outside until they were hungry and walked to school on their own as soon as they could tie their shoe laces, back when they ate frozen mousse in a pot full of chemicals and when Wagon Wheels were bigger, I remember my three sisters and I playing Moving Houses. This was our game of choice on any car journey longer than ten minutes or so. Indeed, my abiding memory of the vast stretch of the eight hour journey from Wylam in Northumberland to Bridgend in South Wales for our annual summer holiday with our welsh relatives, was of our feet hovering six inches above the footwell, hands in laps, in Moving Houses position.

It wasn’t until much later in life that I realised this wasn’t a game entirely confined to my family – in fact, most of my peers seemed to have played it – this game involving great whoops of laughter as our orange Skoda saloon, weighted down with children and luggage, took a corner a little tightly and one, if not all of us, would lose that particular round as a foot inevitably touched the floor.

It’s incredible to me that this falling about in the back of the car happened in my life time. When I’d looked back on it previously, before I’d done any research for Glass Houses, I’d surmised that four girls between the ages of 7 and 12, wedged so tightly on the back seat, wouldn’t be going anywhere in a crash; even getting out of the car once stopped, it was difficult to move until others had detached themselves from the line. However, I’ve since seen the videos of simulated accidents and know that come crash, we’d have been lucky if all of us hadn’t careered out of the front windscreen, killing our parents en route. I heard that an unrestrained child in the back of the car would have the force of a baby elephant as it propelled forward and through the screen.

We know this now. And thus, after many unsuccessful attempts, seatbelt wearing in the front and back of the car has been compulsory since 1983 and 1986. I’m surprised it was as late as that but still, it’s a long time since I’ve seen anybody who doesn’t Clunk Click Every Trip.

I was too young to notice, but there were clearly many people and organisations protesting against a legal obligation to wear seat belts in the seventies and eighties, and I’m sure there were many others who recognised the need but didn’t believe that a nation could change its thinking.

And yet it did.

I think that we can get rid of mobile phones from the front of cars. And if Glass Houses can help persuade people to do this, although that was never my original intention, nobody would be happier about that than me.

Are you with me?

 

Links

‘Glass Houses’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/glass-houses/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Glass-Houses-Jackie-

‘Tea & Chemo’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/tea-and-chemo-fighting-cancer-living-life/

Amazon UK – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tea-Chemo-Fighting-Cancer-Living-Life/dp/1910692395/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1448719909&sr=1-1&keywords=tea+and+chemo+by+jackie+buxton

Jackie Buxton’s Blog – http://jackiebuxton.blogspot.com

Jackie Buxton’s Website – http://www.jackiebuxton.com

Interview with Patrick Garratt

It’s time for another interview now.  Patrick Garratt’s debut novel, ‘Deg’ was published last year and I asked him all about it.

 

Can you tell me a bit about your book, ‘Deg’ please?

Deg is screen culture paranoia, anarchic politics and drug exploration written in an automatic, surrealist style. I wrote it in a fit of desperation I doubt I could ever replicate. The diary element to its method set the form of my further books, but it now seems that opinion and inspiration based on imaginary input will alway be subservient to reportage for me. Deg was likely a once in a lifetime event.

 

Is this a book you’ve always wanted to write?

In a way, I suppose. I’d been working on another novel called The Ooning, which I eventually canned after two rewrites, and was spending a lot of time reading twentieth century postmodernism. That these authors could write as they pleased, with little thought for the traditional notion of readability, was revelatory. In that sense I’d always wanted to write Deg. I was just ignorant of the fact.

 

Where did you get your ideas for it from?

Deg is my life story, a psychedelic diary. Thematically it’s a product of my family’s environment at the time of writing. Roughly three years before I wrote Deg we’d emigrated from the UK to Corrèze, a rural department in the Limousin region of southwest France. My wife and I lived in a huge house surrounded by forests with our three small children. Corrèze is so sparsely populated that it’s possible to get back to nature in a way I didn’t realise still existed in western Europe, and I allowed myself to start using cannabis again after a long abstinence from any drugs at all, including alcohol. The result was explosive. I just let it come out.

 

How long did it take you to write?

I wrote the first draft in around three months. It was a little like vomiting.

 

Do you see yourself in any of your characters?

Absolutely, yeah. As I said, it’s a thinly-veiled diary.

 

What was the publication process like for you?

A little bizarre, but ultimately amazing. I tried to get Deg published via the traditional route of finding an agent, but, unsurprisingly, it got rejected everywhere. I’d moved onto writing the next book, and had given up reasonable hope of seeing Deg published at all. On the advice of a friend I approached video game artist Ste Pickford to draw the cover as a precursor to self-publication, and he liked it so much he decided to illustrate every chapter. I saw Matthew Smith, Urbane’s boss, requesting book pitches on Twitter, and he showed immediate interest.

From then the process was incredibly relaxed. Matthew is eminently professional and I couldn’t be happier with the result. The hardback really is a thing of beauty, from the physical materials to the reproduction of Ste’s drawings, and that’s all I could have hoped for. Being published by Urbane was a great experience.

 

Have you got any good advice for anyone wishing to write a novel?

Jeepers. So much of this depends on your goals. Many people approach writing as a career, as a job. There’s a financial element to it, as in they want to make money from novels. They attend seminars and buy places on courses and do degrees in creative writing and whatever else, eventually (hopefully) becoming trained in the creation of commercial fiction. If that’s what you want, then off you go. There’s an entire coaching industry waiting for your cash.

I always wanted to be a literary author, meaning the route to success is far muddier. The truth is that if you “want to be a writer” then you must write. Write anything, everything, in any way you want, but you must be productive. Embrace your fear and write your brain, not someone else’s. Don’t worry about making money or getting published or getting an agent. Just be as good as you can be, and that means a constant striving for personal betterment, for self-tuition and the overcoming of internal struggle. If you want to create art then learn art. Allowing yourself to be the person you want to be, to be you, could well be the hardest thing you ever do, but you’ll only reach your core by remorselessly breaching personal barriers. Stop giving a shit about the opinions of others. You won’t be recognised for replication.

To give an example. While I was working on the book following Deg, I lapsed into quite a serious period of self-doubt (yes, this is normal: few people are more pitiable than unpublished novelists), and signed myself up for a distance learning course in novel-writing. After I’d completed the first lesson, part of which was to outline my goals as a writer, the tutor told me I would never secure an agent or a deal if my work wasn’t “accessible”. Urbane signed Deg the following week. I never got round to lesson two.

 

Are you working on any other writing projects?

It never stops. I’ve written two full novels since Deg and I’m about to start another.

 

Have any authors influenced your work and if so, who?

The more experimental twentieth century postmodernists, such as Gaddis, Burroughs, Ballard, Acker and Pynchon, have heavily influenced me. Ballard’s The Atrocity Exhibition (it’s noteworthy as I read it just before starting writing Deg) showed me how strange fiction could be, that writing could be powerful as a result of being simultaneously formless and structured. It had a strong impact on my work.

I’m starting to read more theatre and poetry. Fiona, my wife, just passed a Masters in translation studies (with distinction, I should add: I’m very proud to be married to a genius), and she focused on Peter Weiss’s Holocaust play The Investigation for her dissertation. This type of experimental form is currently interesting me as I’ve been fixated with novel-length fiction up to now. I’ve also just finished a collection of Daniil Kharms’s poems and plays, something completely different from my usual reading. Some of his pieces are so beautiful, so insightful. It’s hard to not be influenced by him.

 

How long have you been a journalist for?

Forever. I started working as a video gaming journalist in 1998.

 

What do you like to do in your spare time?

We now live in the Vosges, a mountain region in the northeast of France, so I’m able to ski when there’s snow and go mountain biking when there isn’t. I work out a lot. Travelling is becoming a lot more important to me, and, obviously, I love to read.

 

If you were only allowed to own two books what would they be?

Probably Infinite Jest and Journey to the River Sea by Eva Ibbotson. Ibbotson’s my children’s’ favourite author, so it’d always remind me of when they were young. I’d take Infinite Jest because I still haven’t read the endnotes. I’m such a fraud.

 

Links

‘Deg’ is available to buy from:-

Urbane Publications – http://urbanepublications.com/books/deg/

Amazon UK – https://www.amazon.co.uk/Deg-Patrick-Garratt/dp/1911129481/ref=tmm_hrd_swatch_0?_encoding=UTF8&qid=1489694327&sr=1-1

Patrick Garratt’s Personal Website – https://patrickgarratt.com/

Twitter – https://twitter.com/patlike

Deg Illustrator Ste Pickford’s Instagram account – https://www.instagram.com/stepickford/

Guest Post by Adam Steiner

I would like to introduce you all to Adam Steiner.  His debut novel, ‘Politics of The Asylum’ is out this autumn.   Adam has written a guest post for this event.

 

Notes From the Abyss

Politics of The Asylum (PoTA), forthcoming from Urbane (Autumn 2017), is a nightmare vision of the modern NHS. Based on the author’s own experiences, the novel tells the story of a hospital in decline through the eyes of a downtrodden cleaner, Nathan Finewax. As things fall apart accidents, mistakes and cover-ups are on the rise and Nathan becomes institutionalised by hospital routines, finding it harder to escape his circumstances and the inevitable fate of one day becoming a patient himself.

I wrote Politics of The Asylum with a clear goal in mind: I wanted to provide a critique of the NHS pushed to breaking point, based upon some of my own experiences working as a hospital cleaner. I started writing the book back in 2013, and it has become ever more prescient in the intervening years.

My pervading memory is a Proustian hangover of bleach. Endless bleach, washing and re-washing surfaces, day in and day out, life reduced to the mode of repetition – which ultimately made me question what the staff and patients were living for. This sounds very OTT, but at the time, I was trapped in a very debauched and damaging cycle of early-morning work and mad, wild evenings driving around country lanes of the Warwickshire hinterland, trying to find something to do and somewhere meaningful to go, with not enough sleep and steadily going out of my mind. Needless to say, there were many scrapes and much unpleasantness, but I’m glad to say I came through it, more or less undamaged, but I remember everything – and what I experienced went straight into the book. Names are changed, identities erased and the real fictionalised; in an ironic meta-sense, I’ve been as paranoiac and controlling as the NHS itself. And I’ve tried to be as respectful and secretive as I can to the dead and the damaged – but without pulling the teeth from the book.

From a political, that is to say, personal, standpoint – I believe that if we are to call ourselves a democratic society, one of our most important is to critique and question the political and civil state in which we live. So it should be with the NHS – it is an institution more meaningful to our daily lives than any monarchy could ever hope to perform – although I expect they go private – which makes them the enemy, or at least part of the problem.

The people who work as part of the NHS, dedicating their lives in order to help others, are, in my view, a form of civil servant – they have chosen this role, and with it comes certain expectations – the most crucial being the duty of care. This applies to frontline, hands-on staff, but also to all administrative bodies, up to the highest managers and directors – they would do well to remember this.

In any large organisation there is always corruption, maladjustment and the power of ego corrupted by power. And while I have to emphasise that the majority of NHS staff are excellent people with the right intentions; the purposeful dismantling of the NHS by the current occupying government is the major source of the rot which has created a climate of fear and decline in NHS behaviour and standards. I have experienced staff pushed to breaking point, attacked by the media and deliberately undermined by the state. Ultimately, this leads me to a wider philosophical concept, that undermines the unity of the NHS, the Death of Affect.

One of the major themes of my book is the nature of power relationships between individual beings; from the level of atomic exchanges of heat and energy, people pushing and shoving, and psychological manipulation of patients, staff and civilians – all of which reside in power – a preoccupation of the French philosopher, Michel Foucault. He argued that through completing an archaeological account of social and civic institutions, hospitals, asylums etc. we can draw an arrow of time through to the present, and re-evaluate how we live now. So far, so straight edge.

The minutiae of these day-to-day power relationships is embodied in the simplest of tasks; from handing a thirsty person a glass of water, listening to the lubb-dupp of their heartbeat or helping them to the toilet. These are acts of kindness, driven by duty and obligation of a role – but ultimately, these individuals are motivated by their ability to be affected by the plight and need of others. The NHS staff member is placed in an intimate position of power and responsibility, they are faced with options in their daily lives, hard choices to be made; and must make decisions of how and when to act – or not.

Death of affect is comparable to the lack of empathy present in sociopathic mindsets and psychopathological traits; where people see no need to act, let alone care, in order to help others. The pressure and pejorative scrutiny placed upon NHS staff creates this same deadening of affect – creates a failure to care or to act to the utmost of their abilities – engendering a return to the state of nature and sheer individualism – it is in this environment in which cruelty breeds and failure is accepted as a day-to-day occurrence. It is this schism in human nature, these internal tensions that are throttling the NHS that my novel explores, challenges and struggles to find the answers to.

Adam Steiner, 2017.

 

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