Tag Archives: book

An awkward encounter with The “other” Obituarist.

This could be awkward. In the period between me deciding to publish The Obituarist online and actually giving it the final go-ahead, someone else published a book of exactly the same name. Aargh!

I don’t know which of us thought of the title first – mine’s been lurking around for ages – getting its first mention in 2009. (Oh yes, that’s how fast I work! Speed of light we’re talking here.)

But annoyingly, it is clear who actually published his first. Him.

So what to do about it?

Well, I had already altered my name so as not to – and not appear to – claim credit off the back of another writer‘s success. So I didn’t fancy changing the title too.

But then – the author of The (Other) Obituarist got in touch! Cue dramatic music.

According to German folklore we should both have immediately dropped dead – or at least have our stories disappear. Isn’t that what happens when you encounter your doppelganger?

According to American Western custom, one of us should be growling that “this town ain’t big enough for the both of us. The stage leaves first thing tomorrow. Be under it.”

What actually happened was that I read his email, titled The Other Obituarist. You can read it for yourself: Continue reading

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The Obituarist: Early days for the ebook

Here’s the latest news for The Obituarist – that stupendously thrilling ebook written by me.

But first – if you’re wavering – how’s this for a review?

Really enjoyable ride! A page turner from the outset!

Beautifully insightful characterisation, delivered with a good helping of dry wit and with just the right amount of information for the book to play like a sumptuous film in your head!

Paul does justice to our wonderful World War II heroes, capturing perfectly the upstanding nature of their morals, together with their playful, youthful comradery. The Obituarist is a delicious juxtaposition of the pinnacle of our war heroes’ lives, perfectly ‘twisted’ with today’s unscrupulous media-crazed society.

There are some fabulous observations of human behaviour and thought processes, which are simply sublime and rather thought-provoking in their description.

This is not just a well written story which kicks along at a hell of a pace but also a clever multilayered observation of human behaviour, with a backdrop from two eras and what happens with the passing of time. The Obituarist certainly leaves you with something to think about.

Thank you to the most lovely and discerning Su Verhoeven who downloaded The Obituarist from Smashwords.

Thank you also to Speccy for her encouraging review at Me, Mine and other Bits.

And to Emma for “devouring” The Obituarist and writing a “small but perfectly formed” review on her Adventures of an Unfit Mother blog.

So this is what’s happening…

  1. The Obituarist is now available on various platforms, including here on Smashwords.
  2. And here at Amazon.co.uk
  3. And here at Amazon.com
  4. And for kobo devices here.
  5. So far only one typo – a very small one – seems to have sneaked through. Thank you to the spotter for letting me know.
  6. The Obituarist has been awarded “premium status” on the Smashwords site.
  7. People like the cover.
  8. Some people – who I love – have actually downloaded Continue reading

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And then finally, the Obituarist happened…

In a shock development, The Obituarist has now been published as an ebook.

You can download it from Smashwords here or from Amazon here and the cover looks like this…

I fiddled around with various design packages until the incomparable Clem said: “Here, wait a minute. What if I just do this, and then this and then… Ta Dah!” See him? See computers? And guitars. And keyboards. Smashing.

At the moment The Obituarist can be downloaded (from here)  for various devices, including kindles, or just your normal computer. But it’s not on Amazon yet, though I’m working on it. It’s on Amazon here.

What I really want to do is just frolic around smiling away to myself and getting the next one ready.

But your feedback would be welcome Continue reading

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Your advice on e-publishing please

This is not the cover image for The Obituarist. It's a bit too fantasy.

Any day/week/soon now I will publish one of my stories for e-readers and to download.

It’s called The Obituarist. It has been described as mordant, funny, dark, teasing and ironic.*

It involves a newspaper obituary writer and the aging members of an elite military unit who became famous for a particular heroic wartime exploit.

Without giving too much away, you can expect to find occasional handlebar moustaches, hyphenated surnames, stiff drinks, greed, treachery and death. Well, the latter is hardly a surprise given the title. But I hope the twists will be.

Before I press publish I need some help Continue reading

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It was THIS big…

Gregorio Fuentes. His rod was too big to fit in the picture.

My adventures with the fish of the sea (as per the topic chosen by the Loose Bloggers Consortium) in five casts.

1. Fishing off the north Antrim coast. In a proper boat. Made of wood. We run aground. Luckily my Dad can tow us off. It’s that shallow. And we’re very light.

2. Best place for fish in Ireland? The Cook Inn off Tates Avenue, Belfast. Also very good for chips.

3. Some people hate fish. Like a housemate in Cardiff. She’s a vegetarian biker, but eats fish. Because she hates the slimy scaley beasties. They deserve to die.

4. Best place for fish in London? Continue reading

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Smile (for the Loose Bloggers Consortium)

Smiling has got me into a lot of trouble. It made me look guilty at school. Which is mad, because if I’d been guilty I’d have taken care to look innocently serious and preoccupied with work.

But maybe that’s why I wrote this take on smiling and how if you do smile, the whole world will not necessarily smile with you.

It’s an excerpt from my book Blackwatertown.

Here’s the context. Jolly Macken (Jolly being his ironic nickname) is a Royal Ulster Constabulary sergeant in Northern Ireland in the 1950s. He’s been walking a tightrope. He’s viewed with suspicion by his colleagues because he’s a Catholic – nominally anyway – in a mainly Protestant pro-British force. He’s not trusted by his co-religionists because he is in the employ of the Protestant-ruled state. Macken has just, with bad grace, led a baton charge of police and Protestant marchers to clear a Nationalist barricade and so let an Orange parade proceed through a Catholic village. Though the police action was successful, Macken himself was embarrassingly entangled in a bicycle thrown at him by a protestor.

The main players in this wee bit include Jolly Macken, the District Inspector (Macken’s superior officer, in attendance as a civilian and member of the Orange Order), the Worshipful Master (boss of the local branch of the Orange Order) and Big Jim (Lambeg drummer in the Orange band). Oh, and the word “Fenian” is used as a derogatory term for Catholic.

Macken came to with a start, his face full of pedals and handlebars. During the seconds he had been stunned, the rest of the attackers had surged over the barricade and were now coming to blows with the defenders. It didn’t last long. The fewer Catholics were soon put to flight by the combined forces of law and Orange Order.

Soon beefy-faced farmers had planted themselves on top of the barricade, and were leaning forward with their hands on their thighs, catching their breath. The general back slapping began. They gathered in excited chatter round Big Jim, who now sat panting on a boulder, his vast girth quivering. The sight of that alone would be enough to send me running for the hills, thought Macken, still knotted up with the bicycle.

After a few moments watching the world from ground level, Macken began to try to shift the bike from on top of him. That brought the other pedal, the one not pointing skywards over his face, sharply into his side. He hissed at the pain and let the bike settle back on top of him for a moment.

By now his efforts had caught the eye of the victorious mob. The Worshipful Master was taking control of the celebrations now, quietening down the war whoops. He led three cheers and a prayer of thanks. He also managed to find time to thank the loyal officers of Her Majesty for helping to preserve the integrity of Her highways. And to draw attention to one person in particular: “Sergeant Macken there. Sadly, he does not have the stamina of people who are proud to walk the Queen’s highway. He’s found himself a bike to get himself home.”

The taunts began. “Come on you monkey!”

“Sure yon’s more of an old goat. He got his head stuck in the fence going for the pasture beyond. Can’t you hear him bleating?”

Realising that no-one was rushing to help untangle him, Macken summoned all his annoyance to turn on his side and pull his legs underneath himself. Then he was able to stagger, crab-like, to his feet, a walking deckchair. This delighted his audience all the more.

“Look at Jolly. He’s belongs in the circus.”

Macken gingerly extricated himself and slowly straightened up, leaning on the dented bike with one hand, rubbing his back with the other. But the scorn in the District Inspector’s look was far more withering.

“Come on Sergeant, stop horsing around! You’ll not be catching them on that pile of junk. They’re away off over the bog. Let’s take control of the situation here.”

Macken clenched his teeth and angrily dashed the bent and buckled bicycle to the ground.

The routed defenders were by now disappearing over the bog and hills in the distance. The Worshipful Master was attempting to calm his warriors back into walkers, and corral them into some sort of order in preparation for the resumption of the triumphal procession.

The District Inspector meanwhile was close shouldered in muttered conference with the man mountain that was Big Jim. Macken noticed the red piping on his band uniform trousers, but realised he had never seen him wearing the military style jacket. Maybe he couldn’t find one to fit. The shirt sleeves rolled up over his broad arms revealed dull flecks of blood drying on the skin. Looks like Big Jim has bloodied a few noses, thought Macken.

As he took in the scene, other band members joined in, making a circle, remonstrating in raised voices. Macken thought he had better give the District Inspector his support. What now, he sighed to himself. Isn’t winning enough for them?

He pushed his way through to beside his senior officer. They were all gathered round the Lambeg Drum, sat squat like a broad round table on the roadway. Laid parallel across it like an extra long knife and fork, were two Malacca canes – tapered and thinly splintered at one end, the fatter ends pointing to Big Jim’s brawny reddened arms.

You have to admire the sheer brute will it takes to lug that huge drum along the road for miles, thought Macken, whacking it with such furious abandon that the hillsides themselves flinch.

There was a scattering of red dots on the goat skin of the drum, near where the drummer was pointing a finger aggressively towards the District Inspector. Macken smiled ruefully to himself at his mistake – the blood had come from the drummer’s own wrists, from repeated contact with the wooden rim of the big drum. No matter how bad the situation was, he reminded himself, jumping to conclusions could always make it seem more blood thirsty than it really was.

Macken realised too late, he had just made another, worse mistake. In some cultures, a smile may be disarming. In Ulster, a nod will do just as well. In fact, far better. You nod in acknowledgement, respect or agreement. A smile may be devious, deceitful, ridiculing or weak.

“Funny, is it? Now we have this friend of the Fenians rubbing it in too!”

Spit from the irate drummer shot across the face of the drum hitting both Macken and his senior officer.

“Thank you Macken,” said the District Inspector under his breath. “I was half way to persuading them not to worry about it – until your helpful intervention.”

“But what…”

The District Inspector looked up the hillside. Macken followed his gaze, to where a couple of small figures were jigging about on top of a large flat rock. What they were shouting, Macken couldn’t tell from this distance, but he presumed it had something to do with the piece of cloth they had hung from the front edge of the projecting rock.

Macken closed his eyes for a moment and cursed silently. It was the green, white and orange flag of the Irish Republic. An affront the Orangemen were not willing to let go, even if it was but a pinprick in the hide of an elephant.

“Sort it out, will you, Macken.”

“Sir?”

“Just get up there and get the bloody flag and let’s be on our way.”

What happens next? Well Continue reading

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Is this what being a dog lover is about?

Not sure which end of the lead is in charge.

It’s hard for someone who has a real bond with an animal, especially a dog, to explain the nature and strength of the connection to someone who has never experienced it. Or to convey the sense of loss if the animal dies or is taken away.

But Ninni Holmqvist may have managed it Continue reading

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What do you listen to when you write?

The Siren by John William Waterhouse. She's saying: "Ah come on, have a break, have a wee cup of tea. And would you like a biscuit to dip in it too?"

In an effort to keep myself in my seat, at my keyboard and editing the latest draft of Blackwatertown, I put on some music.

It’s been one of those days. The outside world was calling – fresh air, sunshine, forest. In other words – that four letter word distraction was singing its siren song. So I needed to drown it out.

I’m all for getting outside. But with the paying job on hold today, it was an opportunity to do some necessary book editing. Hence the music to keep me tapping along.

But is music a good idea? If I cast my mind back through the mists of time to the prehistoric age when I was revising for school exams, I doubt the late great John Peel‘s contribution helped at all. (Helped me be more human perhaps, but not to remember chemical formulae.)

And does a desire for musical accompaniment suggest that my book is insufficient in itself to hold my attention? Anyone’s attention? Aargh, I’m doomed. Though, to be fair, I have read it a few times. And I tend to multitask anyway – lots going on at once.

But if music be the food of editing – what tunes? Continue reading

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Why is it easier to teach kids about Hitler than Stalin?

I’m telling my children about Hitler. But how do I teach them about Stalin?

Looking back to when I was at primary school, I was appallingly ignorant about the Holocaust.

I don’t want my children to be as in the dark. Continue reading

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Three crime writers spill the beans

Deep inside the perfect secondhand bookshop, the sign above an enticing locked door says Mysteries. Above that again are crime novels and a Thompson sub machine gun. You cant beat Westsider Books on Manhattans Upper West Side for atmosphere.

I shouldn’t really be telling you this, because I’m about to flit the country again and I’m unprepared. But SamHenry from On My Watch insisted. So here goes.

The other night I sat down with three award-winning or nominated crime writers who opened up (in a non-machine gun way) about their trade. Among the secrets they laid bare were:

1. What’s the point of crime writing?
2. The difference between crime writing and literary fiction?
3. Crime writing v. noir?
4. Does crime writing change anything?
5. Does it work in colonial or post-colonial societies?
6. Can you have a whodunnit in a developing economy?
7. Should put your friends and neighbours into the story?
8. Is there too much graphic violence against women?
9. Is Nordic Noir for wimps?
10. And – What they think you should read next (apart from themselves)?

The three writers were Continue reading

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