Tag Archives: books

Back the book or the writer gets it!

I named this blog Blackwatertown after a book I was writing. Ta da! Finally, the book, Blackwatertown, is written, edited and on it’s way to publication with Unbound. But I need your help. (Yup, that’s me in the video, being held at gun point.)

Blackwatertown is a thriller set in a sleepy village on the Irish border in the 1950s – and tells what happens when a maverick cop goes looking for a killer. (More on the website.)

Unbound is a new kind of publisher. A hybrid taking the best of new approaches and traditional mainstream old-style publishing houses.

Old-style means books must pass a quality control test – are they good enough to publish? It means the finished product is professionally produced, whether in print or digital. It also means it goes into high street book shops as well as the likes of Amazon.

New-style means crowd funding. The book is good enough, but is there a market? Let’s prove it through advance sales. Once the funding target is hit, production begins (copy editing, proofing, cover design, printing, distribution.)

Iconic thriller writer Frederick Forsyth with his recent book The Fox

The book, Blackwatertown, is ready. It has some stellar reviews from readers and well known names – like Frederick Forsyth. Yes, the same fella who wrote The Day of the Jackal. That fella. It’s all on the book’s page on the publisher’s website – along with an excerpt, other reviews and details of how you can support it.

There are various ways to back it. Sharing it on social media, telling your mates, generally talking about it. All good. Pledging – an advance order in other words – for an ebook or paperback – even better. And every pledger gets their name in the book. This is where you do it
https://unbound.com/books/blackwatertown/

You can even sign up to extras like naming a character. But not the dog. Doggone it! A lovely person has already snapped up the right to name the daring dog that threatens to derail a political career at a pivotal plot point. (I do enjoy a little alliteration.)

So, for all of you who’ve urged me in the past to get on with it – I have. Or promised to support/pledge/buy it – now you can. Please do. And thanks for all the encouragement over the years gone by.

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Filed under art, blackwatertown, history, My Writing

Graham Norton – Can celebrities write good books?

Graham Norton is on the latest We’d Like A Word podcast and radio show that I present with Stevyn Colgan. We know that celebrity sells books, but do celebrities write good books? Books worth reading? I’m thinking fiction in particular.

I’m asking because although Graham Norton is well known as a comedian, a TV chat show host and forever immortalised as Fr Noel Furlong in Father Ted, he’s also an author. Two novels – Holding and A Keeper. I’ve read both. But are they any good? (Spoiler alert: They are. Especially A Keeper.)

Martine McCutcheon – yes, her off Love Actually

And even if Graham Norton can write, (he can), what about other celebs who’ve done it. Like Martine McCutcheon, who had a terrible public hammering for her efforts, and for whom I have a soft spot myself. And fair play to her for actually writing The Mistress herself. Unlike another celeb author who, when asked if she had written her novel herself, responded: “Write it? I didn’t even read it.”

There’s a celebrity authors subsection of Irish comedians who definitely can write fiction. As well as Graham Norton, you have Sean Hughes (The Detainees) and Ardal O’Hanlon (The Talk of the Town). But anyone else?

So you’ll be wanting to hear me and Stevyn Colgan and Graham Norton chatting about his books, how he writes them, the influence of Ireland and his Mum, and how linked they are to his public comedic personna. There’s a competition too, but you have to listen to hear about it. Click on the link here, or search for We’d Like A Word wherever you listen to podcasts.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear about your best and worst experiences of celebrity authored fiction.

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Creeps and how to use them to your advantage

Here’s a writing tip from an expert – Scandi Noir thriller writer Will Dean. He has what he calls a “creeps book”, in which he notes down anything odd, unsettling or eerie he encounters. Each time he writes a new book, he sifts through them and sprinkles them through the narrative. It works especially well with dialogue and things seen by characters – a distinctive scarecrow that gives ones one an uneasy feeling perhaps – something to set a tone without having to spell it out.

And the same applies to anything interesting and potentially useful that you see, hear, hear of or.. smell perhaps?

But enough of me – here’s Will himself. Have a look/listen. It’s about a minute long.

You can hear more of Will Dean, me and Steve on the podcast at https://anchor.fm/wed-like-a-word/episodes/2–Will-Dean—the-author-leading-the-British-invasion-into-Scandi-Noir–Nordic-Noir-e3k730/a-acjt4q

The full podcast with Will Dean is here.

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We’d Like A Word…

We'd Like A Word - with Paul Waters and Stevyn Colgan

…about all sorts to do with authors, books, readers, editors, publishers, agents, lyricists, poets and script writers. We’d Like A Word is the title of the new fortnightly podcast and radio show I’m presenting with my mate Stevyn Colgan. Steve’s an interesting fella, ex cop, ex QI elf, ex Met Police Problem Solving Unit, cosy crime fiction writer with a wealth a odd personal anecdotes.

Our first episode is out today! The topic: Is Scandi Noir still Scandi Noir if the writer is a Brit? And the excellent star guest who is taking part in this episode is Will Dean, the author of Dark Pines and Red Snow, the first two books in the Tuva Moodyson thriller series. The books are set in the Swedish forest – which is also where Will lives in reality. He built himself a cabin in the woods with trees and moose for company.

106F1571-CD8F-4825-8C50-4E1AB0C15B29His books are gripping, atmospheric, convincing and refreshingly innovative. And he’s a very accomodating interviewee, revealing much about his technique and tricks. Watch out you don’t find yourself in his creep book.

You can hear the podcast by clicking on the link below or searching for it wherever you listen to your podcasts. (We’re also lucky enough to be broadcast on Wycombe Sound FM 106.6 in England.) You can find out more at the We’d Like A Word website or follow us on Twitter or Facebook @wedlikeaword

Your input, comments, questions or competition entries are welcome. You can email via wedlikeaword@gmail.com There’ll be a new episode every other Thursday.

We have some other great guests coming up too – Graham Norton (can celebs write good fiction?), Anthony Horowitz (giving life after death to characters once their original author is dead – James Bond, Sherlock Holmes), Adrian McKinty, Aidan Conway, Denise Mina, Brian McGilloway, Belinda Bauer, Dr Erica McAlister (The Secret Life of Flies), Eoin McNamee, David Quantick, Gerard Brennan, Alan Drew, John McCarthy, Shiulie Ghosh, Angela McMahon and many more.

We may be, ahem, a little rough around the edges to begin with, but I hope you give it a wee listen some time. (In the image link below won’t load, the Will Dean episode is here.)

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My favourite book

Sam "Remember the Alamo!" Houston - who used to be an American Indian, according to the Childcraft Encyclopedia.

Sam “Remember the Alamo!” Houston – who used to be an American Indian, according to the Childcraft Encyclopedia.

I think the sequence of my favourite books may have gone something like this…

The Biography volume of the Childcraft Encyclopedia (or was it Cyclopedia?) – the obscure pasts of famous Americans.

Followed by Ulster, A Sunday Times Insight Investigation – oh look, they’re writing about us.

For a while it was… The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I found it in an odd place. “It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard‘.”

Then it was… Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis – happy endings, but don’t read while hung over: “He lay sprawled, too wicked to move, spewed up like a broken spider-crab on the tarry shingle of morning. The light did him harm, but not as much as looking at things did; he resolved, having done it once, never to move his eyeballs again. A dusty thudding in his head made the scene before him beat like a pulse. His mouth had been used as a latrine by some small creature of the night, and then as its mausoleum. During the night, too, he’d somehow been on a cross-country run and then been expertly beaten up by secret police.”

It is (and has been for a while)… A Time of Gifts by Patrick Leigh Fermor – robust and exquisite. (And I want part 3 for Christmas.)

But the best books I’ve read lately are The Little Friend by Donna Tartt and We Need To Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver. I was late getting to both of them. Both arrestingly good. (Never mind the reviews to which I’ve linked.)

But if I really really have to choose one, from the very very many I value and return to, it would be Continue reading

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Retribution

No good deed goes unpunished…

good deed…but carry on anyway.

That sums up my thoughts on the topic of retribution today. But who said it and was it worth saying?

Two candidates for the first part. The late great Oscar Wilde – whose shoulder I pat whenever I pass his statue on Adelaide Street in London. (Other passersby keep him in fresh cigarettes.) And various Americans, including Clare Boothe Luce.

The second part is me.

But was it worth saying? Yes, back then, for the truth of it.

And now? Less so. But repeating it may let me escape retribution from Ramana, Delirious, gaelikaa, Grannymar, MaxiPadmumShackman and The Old Fossil  – the other members of the Loose Bloggers Consortium, for failing to post on this week’s set topic. But if you’re disappointed with this meagre offering, I have something exciting coming soon.

In the meantime – girls, music and books.

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Reading list: Tudors, Nazis and Detectives

reading in the showerTime off = reading. Though to be honest, with me, any time = reading. Including in the shower. (Aah, maybe that was an admission too far. Anyway…)

All this time reading, when I should be WRITING, DAMMIT! But hang on. All is not lost. Stephen King is riding to the rescue of my beaten, bedraggled, often ignored but unbowed writer’s conscience.

In his excellent and useful book ON WRITING – A MEMOIR OF THE CRAFT, Stephen King says this:

If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot. there’s no way round these two things thast I’m aware of, no shortcut.

I’m a slow reader, but I usually get through seventy or eighty books a year, mostly fiction. I don’t read in order to study the craft: I read because I like to read.

Phew! I’m at least halfway to being a writer. And this is what else I’ve been reading in the past fortnight and recommend to you.

ALONE IN BERLIN, first published in 1947 as JEDER STIRBT FUR SICH ALLEIN by Hans Fallada (real name Rudolph Wilhelm Adolf Ditzen). He died the same year. The story is of a couple who, when their son is killed on the Russian front, begin to write and drop postcards attacking Hitler across the city.

Be This Guy: August Friedrich Landmesser, a worker at the Hamburg shipyard Blohm + Voss, refusing in 1936 to make a Nazi salute at a mass party rally. (However, I can now reveal the true story of his so-called heroic gesture. Too stingy to buy deoderant. Underarm sweat stains. Too embarrassed to raise his arm. This story is really all about personal hygiene. Don't be this guy.)

Be This Guy: August Friedrich Landmesser, a worker at the Hamburg shipyard Blohm + Voss, refusing in 1936 to make a Nazi salute at a mass party rally. (However, I can now reveal the true story of his so-called heroic gesture. Too stingy to buy deoderant. Underarm sweat stains. Too embarrassed to raise his arm. This story is really all about personal hygiene. Don’t be this guy.)

An insignificant gesture of resistance perhaps, but one that provokes a concerted Gestapo campaign to find and kill them. It’s an exciting and moral story and paints a vivid picture of Berlin and Berliners during their days of complacency and then anxiety as the war begins to turn against Germany.

It also addresses those questions like – What would I do? What could anyone do? What did anyone do?

We don’t tend to hear much about the small ordinary acts of heroic resistance by Germans to Nazism. Perhaps because it conflicts with the idea that all Germans were complict – along the lines of Hitler’s Willing Executioners by Daniel Goldhagen. Or perhaps because it undermines the defence that the masses were swept along, ignorant and innocent of the evil deeds of a few – along the lines of the film The Nasty Girl (Das schreckliche Mädchen). People did know – some acted with honour and humanity. Bit like today.

An inspiring read.

I also enjoyed RATLINES by Stuart Neville, who also wrote the ingenious Ghosts of Belfast (published as The Twelve in the UK). I’ve clearly got Nazis on the brain, because this is about Nazis and their fellow travellers who have fled defeat and holed up in the Republic of Ireland. And now someone is hunting them done and killing them. It could wreck the upcoming visit of President John F Kennedy. It’s clever, imaginative and pacey.  The author’s note at the front had me hooked:

These things are known to be true: dozens of Nazis and Axis collaborators sought refuge in Ireland following the Second World War; in 1957, Otto Skorzeny [the German paratroop leader who dramatically rescued Mussolini]  was welcomed to a country club reception by the young politician Charles Haughey; Otto Skorzeny purchased Martinstown House in Kildare in 1959; in 1963, in response to a question by Dr Noel Browne TD, the Minister for Justice Charles Haughey told the Irish parliament that Otto Skorzeny had never been resident in Ireland.

The rest is just a story.

And it’s a good story Continue reading

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